san francisco

KEEPING THE MAGIK*MAGIK ALIVE
October 24, 2016 9:00 am

Minna Choi is one-of-a-kind. In addition to leading her own Magik*Magik Orchestra (who have performed as the backing orchestra for Death Cab for Cutie and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood), she is the choir director for City Church San Francisco, AND has just released a solo album as Magik*Magik with her own original orchestral work.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS caught up with Minna as she prepares to tour, and had a nice chat about the new album, traveling with an orchestra, and the terrifying state of the San Francisco housing market.

Does it make you more nervous to be out there on your own, versus backing another musician?
It’s a completely different level of fear and vulnerability playing your own songs than it is being a hired gun for someone else’s material. I didn’t anticipate it was going to be such a steep emotional learning curve. Magik*Magik Orchestra recently played at Outside Lands with me conducting in front of 40,000 people, backing up the band Third Eye Blind and I wasn’t nervous at all. But a month ago I played a little private show of my own songs in front of maybe 60 people at a club and my foot was uncontrollably shaking trying to press the piano sustain pedal. The nerves were on high alert. It’s amazing the difference.

How much input did you have in the creation of the video for “Weep”? 
My main input to Nathan (the director) was that it had to feature the orchestra, and that it had to be a live performance. I was adamant that the first video I put out as a solo artist pay homage to the orchestra because that experience directly led me here. So I told Nathan, it needs to have the orchestra, I need to be conducting and I’d like my friend Coco dancing in it. That’s all the prompt I gave him, and then he took that and came back with the story idea.

What do you see for the future of orchestral music in the mainstream?
I’ve always described an orchestra as a piano made out of people. If people can start thinking of the orchestra as simply another instrument, like a piano, that is capable of playing any type of music at any level, that will be healthy for the future of orchestral music. There are 4 year olds plinking away at pianos in homes everywhere, it’s “allowed” to be bad at piano and to be a beginner, learning as you go. That mechanism currently doesn’t exist in the orchestra world. If a bunch of really smart people could figure out how to change the mechanics of how orchestras are funded and programmed so that the experience of making music in orchestral formation was more approachable and everyday, it would be a good thing.

Are there any classical artists you feel deserve more attention?
I’m very biased and have a bit of tunnel vision on this topic to Bay Area artists. All of my closest friends are musicians and they are all in outstanding classical chamber groups. My favorite group is Delphi Trio, a piano trio based here. Their violinist is Magik*Magik Orchestra’s concertmaster and their cellist is our principle cellist. Their pianist is Jeff LaDeur, who may be the most intuitively advanced musician I know. He’s like the Gandalf of music or something. A local composer I’m also crazy about is Luciano Chessa. He was a teacher of mine at the conservatory and his work is joyful, sorrowful, human, funny all at once. Very theatrical. Also, my former boss Carla Kiihlstedt, the violinist, singer and composer is my musical hero. I used to be her personal assistant when she lived in the Bay Area. She is the best violinist I’ve ever heard. She writes music with her husband Matthias Bossi and have a subscription service named Rabbit Rabbit Radio. I highly encourage checking it out.

Do you still work with that church band during the day? How much freedom do you have to experiment with their sound?
I do still work at City Church San Francisco, it is my full time day job but they give me a lot of freedom to work from home when I need to. The church has 3 music directors and I focus mainly on the choir. The church had no choir when I started working there 6 years ago but they were always interested in starting one so I tried a few approaches and finally settled upon a more gospel choir type approach. The choir is always accompanying the band, we never sing like Bach or something. Lots of ooos and ahs and backup vocal type moves. The band is amazing. They are all jazz session musicians and can play anything. Wil Blades is our B3 player, and Jeff Marrs is our drummer who is also the drummer for Marcus Shelby. It’s like an all-star band. And yes, I have a lot of freedom musically with this job. My boss is Karl Digerness, who has been their main music director for over 10 years. He and I have an incredibly trusting musical relationship. He basically told me when he hired me that he loves how I write and arrange and that I could write whatever I wanted for the services. It’s a dream job.

Classical music is often stereotyped as a genre that appeals mainly to older people. How do you think classical music can be more relevant for a younger crowd?
That’s the million-dollar question facing pretty much every Symphony these days, except maybe the LA Phil, they seem to do a pretty good job with keeping their organization in the black with good ticket sales. I think younger audiences enjoy going to performances by their peers. That’s not 100% true of course, but generally speaking, young performers tend to have young audiences. And older performers tend to have older audiences. If every major symphony in the US started a chamber symphony of musicians with age ranges mirroring the age ranges of the audiences they are hoping to pull, I think that could potentially yield results. Maybe that’s too simplistic of a suggestion, but I feel like the other methods just aren’t really working.

The Bay Area has become notorious for its real estate prices. Have you noticed any major changes in the neighborhood you live in since the tech industry took over?
Yes. Every day someone is leaving. SF is bleeding musicians and working creative types every day. People are either moving to Oakland, to LA, to Portland, Seattle, Austin, NY even. And it’s not just musicians and artists. If I look at the friends I had when I first moved here in 2007, I think maybe like 30% of them are left. Many of these folks actually do work in Tech, but even then the housing prices are so ridiculous that they would rather move elsewhere and have a decent 2 bedroom to start a family in or whatnot. I live in a rent controlled studio that costs $2500/mo and that’s considered a steal for the neighborhood. I was only even able to get my place because my aunt and uncle lived in it before me and they pleaded with the building manager to let me take over their lease without raising the rent to market value, and that was back in 2013. I’m able to pay that and barely eek out a life here because I have a full time job at the church and I also do tons of freelance gigs on the side for the orchestra. If either one of those things went away, I’d have to move tomorrow because my yearly income would cut in half.

Are you looking forward to getting back to New York on your upcoming tour? Is there anything you miss about New York from your time at NYU?
I am SOOOOO excited. Scared yes because playing your original songs live just cuts you so deep but I’m proud of the live show and I can’t wait to see my friends. I lived in NY for 8 years from 99-07 and I became who I am there. It shapes you and forces you to stand up tall when you live in NY. I owe a lot of my tenacity to that city and I’m looking forward to returning in this new way. The first thing I will be doing is going to the Bagel Store on Metropolitan off Graham and getting an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese and tomato and an Orange/Tangerine Tropicana from the drink fridge to the left when you walk in. And maybe a bag of jalapeno kettle chips. That was my go to breakfast for years.

How do you prepare for a tour with so many musicians and instruments?
The live band for this is going to be myself on vocals and keys, James McAlister on drums (Sufjan’s drummer, he played on the record), and 6 piece string section. We are only traveling with 2 of the 6 and then we are going to be contracting local string players in each city. That’s tricky because you basically meet your new players on the day of the show, hand them the music, run the song once and then do the show. But really great string players can sight-read almost any Pop music perfectly. Magik*Magik Orchestra does that all the time for bands traveling through San Francisco so I know how that goes and it’s time to put some faith in players in other cities and enjoy the experience of having the tables turned.

10 TECH CITIES TO LOOK OUT FOR
June 29, 2016 6:28 pm

As a writer I always looked down on articles that focused on lists, I always thought it was lazy to do that. To base your writing around an arbitrary numeric countdown of biased information that is grounded in data that is not fully sound was just against my journalistic integrity. Without further ado, here is my countdown of the top ten tech-driven cities in the US of A.

Many know about California’s Silicon Valley that is synonymous with tech, it even has a show with its namesake, centered around Tech. But tech culture thrives elsewhere as well.

austin-at-night

AUSTIN, TX

Austin has been an up and coming mecca when it comes to all things music and tech recently. Hosting SXSW which has previewed everything from games to television shows, Austin is a city to look out for. It is one that was featured in over 5 “Top 10” articles and good reason to be. The city is the host to 3M, AMD, Apple, AT&T, Dell, Evernote, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Nvidia, and PayPal. An article on the city dons it “Silicon Hills”.

BOSTON, MA

Boston is slowly becoming much more than just its odd accents and rampant Catholicism. The city has started this initiative to get tech companies to come over by starting their Innovation District, which aims to be a tech friendly environment for up and coming start-ups. Boston’s innovation district aims to make this once great, dangerous city into a thriving economic tech powerhouse.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN

Minneapolis is another one of these unexpected cities. Whenever I think Minnesota, I think of Fargo; a cold, accent heavy (again) city. Now, if you haven’t noticed, I get most of my point of references from television or movies, but for Minneapolis, there is a lot more than meets the ear. The city is a host to its “Twin Cities Startup Week.” think Fashion Week, but with actual importance. It is a way to advocate for tech in a city that is very much in the tech game.

ATLANTA, GA

Yesterday, the white house announced that it would fund two different grants. Both of which would total a 7.7 million dollar teaching program in Atlanta. One of these initiatives is set to train youth and young adults in Atlanta in all things tech. The program, aptly titled, ATL Tech Hire will enable kids to learn coding. A step into building a more tech savvy city.

washington-dc-skyline-photoWASHINGTON, DC

Washington DC has been called by many, the Silicon Valley of the east. It is the host to the Dulles Technology Corridor, a cluster in DC that contains many tech businesses. Washington DC can easily become not only the capitol of the country, but the tech capitol as well.

 

RALEIGH DURHAM, NC

For those of you who have never heard of Raleigh, you have some real research to do. Raleigh is home to companies such as Cisco, IBM, The Research Triangle, Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Red Hat and many others. The city is a hub of tech in the southeast region of this country and it is a force to be reckoned with.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

San Francisco is close enough to Silicon Valley to almost have been skipped out on my list, but it is distinct enough to not have been. San Fransisco’s tech culture is so evolved that it has affected real estateenough to give the city national attention. Zenefits and Dropbox are just two of the many unicorns that have led this city’s housing crisis on its in.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Seattle’s tech status can be summed up by the fact that Google is giving a third of a million in grants to the city, in order to bring Wi-Fi to low income residents and parks across the city. Seattle might become the first in its kind with city wide Wi-Fi. Seattle is also the home to T-Mobile, Boeing, F5 Networks, Qumulo, Redfin, Extrahop Networks, Socrata and Avvo to name a few.

NEW YORK, NY

My city, of course it is an up and coming tech city. With Tesla moving into our backyard, and it being home to ATYPICAL SOUNDS, a music meets tech magazine, New York has in the past few years to bring more tech jobs into the city. With Google and Amazon here, who knows what is next for the greatest city in the world.

BALTIMORE, MARYLANDseason 2 silicon valley

When you walk through the garden, you better watch your back since Baltimore has rounded out our list. Baltimore has come a long way since its crime-addled days of The Wire and has since shown potential to be a tech powerhouse. CUNY students will recognize one of Baltimore’s over 200 tech companies, Blackboard. The city is also rolling out IBM’s P-Tech education program that partners high school kids with mentors in the hopes of getting them more involved in IT.

Which cities will continue to rise to power in tech advancement? And which ones do you think will join this list? Tweet us @AtypicalBeasts!

BITTORRENT INTRODUCES NEW MUSIC STREAMING PLATFORM
June 27, 2016 1:19 pm

BitTorrent has been on the tech scene for a while now, and is seen by many as the go-to for peer-to-peer file-sharing. Users download a BitTorrent client (µTorrent, Vuze, Transmission, etc.), which are programs that use the BitTorrent protocol, to allow sharing of files over the internet and between users. 

Since the launch of the software in 2001, BitTorrent has vastly expanded its functionality. The development of tools like Sync, Bleep, BitTorrent Live and the upcoming Project Maelstrom have helped BitTorrent evolve. Now BitTorrent protocols “move as much as 40% of the world’s Internet traffic on a daily basis.” – BitTorrent.

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BitTorrent is adding a new function to their roster with BitTorrent Now. The platform is a music streaming service that allows content creators to distribute their music and art. By signing up to be a BitTorrent Now Publisher, users can put their own music on the platform and then tag it with artists’ names to attract more traffic to their own pages. 

The BitTorrent Now main web page features several categories including collections that are ‘currently trending,’ ‘recently added’ and ‘featured.’ The site draws on the BitTorrent Bundle, a new approach to file-sharing which allows creators to offer some content for free as well as the option to purchase additional media at a price that the artist designates.

BitTorrent Now is ad-supported, similar to music streaming websites like Pandora, and users will have the option to skip the ads by paying a fee. According to BitTorrent, this is a step towards creating a “people-powered platform, in which creators can distribute content on their own terms and make some coin in the process.

We believe we can help artists harness a powerful medium – the Internet – in a meaningful way. In a way that they can profit from distributing their work. In a way that empowers creators with data ownership and transparency. –BitTorrent 

Given that BitTorrent Now was launched just a couple days ago on June 23, the program hasn’t had much of an opportunity to gain traction in the indie music and tech communities. Regardless, BitTorrent Now is certainly a step in a new direction when it comes to self-distribution and online music streaming platforms. 

The BitTorrent Now App is available for Android in the Google Play store, with iOS and Apple TV availability following soon.

OPEN GARDEN: THE INTERNET OF US
March 10, 2016 12:10 pm

The next revolution will not conspire in a dingy tavern. The jury’s out on whether or not the next revolution will be televised. More than likely though, the next mass protest will be orchestrated via text message.

Open Garden is an innovative little tech firm based in San Francisco that are tinkering with our very preconceived notions of the internet.

Their flagship product FireChat is a mobile application that allows you to communicate without access to the internet or a mobile network.

FireChat uses the radio inside your phone to connect directly with adjoining phones within a 210 foot radius, otherwise known as an off-the-grid mesh network. The more devices that are connected to the network, the larger the web gets. This makes it easy to build ad hoc networks to get the buzz going at conventions and music festivals like Burning Man and SXSW. But perhaps where FireChat has the most impact are in isolated areas where internet is limited, such as the tropical paradise of Tahiti, or situations in which conversations are being heavily monitored, such as the pro-democracy protests in Honk Kong.

Open Garden was founded by a group of renegade technologists, and ex-engineers of the file-sharing tool BitTorrent. CEO Micha Benoliel was instrumental in creating telecommunications mainstay Skype. The company has been backed by a handful of high-profile investors, including Mark Cuban. In total their investment capital amounts to over $12.8 million.

So you’re the one at the party that likes to share. You know who you are. Give yourself a pat on the back and keep doing you. Now you can share your internet access with outsiders as well. FireChat lets you dictate how much data you are willing to share, and with whom you are sharing it with.

For the most part accessing this app is fairly simple, just find it at the App Store or Google Play and download.

Next it’s time to create a profile: pick a username, add a photo and a short bio, you know the drill. Don’t fret too much over this step–you have the option of keeping your identity anonymous when you join a network. Once you’re up and running it’s time to join a chatroom. Like Twitter and Instagram, FireChat utilizes hashtags to denote various chatroom categories (#AtypicalBeasts). This also makes it a lot easier to share your chatroom or a chatroom you’re participating in with friends online.

Lastly, a few additional features to keep in mind. You can block nuisances or creeps. You can also disperse photos. You can even send private messages if you don’t want to engage the entire surround community into your conversation. it’s a simple tool with a lot of flexibility.

Open Garden has already inspired a host of new internet services. An emerging market abound with buzz on the blogosphere these days is the so-called Internet of Things, commonplace items like light bulbs and thermostats that will soon be part of our internet ecosystem. These items might run more efficiently and more cost-effectively if they could periodically key into a network emitted from a nearby device rather than have to constantly be connected to WiFi.

Another area of interest are emerging markets, such as Africa. Off-the-grid networks could be particularly useful in markets where cellular coverage and internet access is scarce, or where it might be more economical to share a single cellular service. Open Garden wants to help connect the next 1 billion devices to the internet and are actively seeking partners to help them deploy their FireChat MeshKits.

Open Garden is certainly proving to be a force in the telecommunications game and it seems the possibilities are endless.

HEALTH NUTS REJOICE, THISTLE IS HERE
January 22, 2016 10:16 am

YOU: Health-conscious Californian, tech savvy but unwilling to sacrifice flavor for price.

YOUR BUDGET: Your budget is tight. You can’t afford all those fancy foods featured in health magazines. Gotta be frugal, for sure.

YOUR DIET: Fashionable. You’re up on the trends, down on your luck, and all over the place with your diet(s). You count calories, cut carbs, and constantly cook costly or crummy cuisine. Why can’t you just get nutritious food delivered to your door for less than the cost of going out?

YOU CAN: Yes that’s right, you read that correctly. It’s called Thistle and it’s only 10 dollars and 500 calories per meal. It’s also gluten and dairy-free, with the option for (free-range) chicken/beef, vegetarian or vegan. Unfortunately it’s servicing only the San Francisco Bay area at this time, so you’ll just have to be patient for now (unless you live in SF, in which case get over it already. We heard you, it sounds great. Put it back in the deck).

WHAT KIND OF FOOD?: Ah, so glad you asked. I was just getting to that, thank you. The food is seasonal and diverse, with elaborate names like Cardamom Overnight Oats w/ D’anjou Pears & Strawberries or “Cheesy” Baby Lacinato Salad w/ Great Northern Beans & Lemon Vinaigrette (with the option to add a Sous-Vide Chili Masala Chicken Breast). Lunches and dinners come with a corresponding protein option. “Dairy” products are in fact non-dairy and labeled thusly with quotation marks. The menu is posted two weeks in advance, so you know what you’re getting beforehand. This is important because the whole idea is not to worry about your meals (other than whether they’ll be delicious and/or nutritious). You’re a busy person. You’re so tired of your local, mediocre eateries every single day. You just want it done, and Thistle’s got you covered. “Put your diet on autopilot” they propose, “and start feeling amazing.” Goddammit Thistle you read my mind.

BUT I DON’T LIVE IN SF: I know, me neither. But it still sounds awesome, right? There’s a lotta good food out there, gotta go out and live a little. Pile on those potatoes, baby! Gimme that quinoa! Only 476 calories?! FUCK YEAH!

NO BUT I CAN’T BECAUSE I’M NOT FROM THERE: Hey if you’re just gonna keep putting me down I’m not gonna put up with it anymore. You can check that attitude at the door, my friend. It’s not getting you anywhere.

OKAY I GUESS IT’S STILL COOL: Yeah that’s what I thought. Life is about cooperation, know what I mean? Humanity and stuff. We’re all in this together. I’m glad you can appreciate that now.

THE INFATUATION: AN EMPIRE OF FOOD ENTHUSIASTS
December 8, 2015 2:55 pm

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of local indie bands, old-school punk rock, electronic music, or One Direction. We all have one thing in common: We love food. If you don’t, you’re probably in denial and you should keep on reading this article because you’ll be craving a cheesy New York style slice of pizza in no time.

With the rise of social media people have been obsessing over writing yelp reviews, checking in at their favorite restaurant on foursquare, and capturing the perfect photo of their poached egg so they can upload it on Instagram and hashtag #yolkporn. With a crazy food fanatic world out there, The Infatuation has made its way to the top in the food blogging industry. Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal, just two guys who built an empire of food lovers out there. They now conquer 5 cities so far (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver) and have their own hashtag #EEEEEATS trending nationwide. It’s clear that these former music industry working people take food very seriously. I had a chance to chat with Andrew about The Infatuation, music, and pizza.

chris-stang-andrew-steinthal-the-infatuation-1

First of all, what do you guys call yourselves- Food critics, food bloggers, food enthusiast?

Mmm I would say that we’re just people who like food. Then again, everybody likes food. So I don’t know, I guess we are….Well, that’s a hard question. I’d say we like food like everybody else and just decided to write about it.

So you guys were in the music industry before The Infatuation.

For both of us music was our past. Since we were in high school even, that was the route we were headed down but by nature of the job. I was the VP of PR at Warner Bro’s Records and Chris was the VP of Marketing at Atlantic Records. By the fall when you’re in the music business for 13 years I would say the big part of it is that you’re out at shows all the time, consistently running around town going to see bands, entertaining bands, entertaining managers, and a big part of the job is out of the office. And obviously when you’re out to see a show at night, food plays a big role. Are we going to food before, are we going to food after…

Do you guys still keep up with the music scene?

For so long we went to so many shows and that was our entire life. We know what’s going on.

PizzalovesEmilyWere you into food as you were with music?

Would I say we liked it as much as music at the time? No. We started fielding calls from our friends who were finance guys, doctors, bankers, who weren’t out as much, and were looking for information because their parents are in town or want to take a girl out to impress them or whatever the situation was, we would get phone calls. Also at work they’d be like “K-Rock’s in town. He likes Mexican food, plan the night.” We were those planners and looked at each other and were like- people are coming to us for this information. Clearly, they’re not getting it elsewhere. There’s a need for a voice that speaks to people and real talk about restaurants.

Was YELP not a ‘thing’ yet?

We started in 2009 and Yelp was definitely a thing. I think we were kind of the anticipates of Yelp in a sense that you don’t know what opinion to trust on there. It’s a lot of white noise on that platform and it’s really hard to decipher what information to trust. It’s really useful for some things, but restaurants need some nuance that you really need a person you trust to guide you. The voice of a million people doesn’t really help a lot of times so we thought that there was a big opportunity to really try and make the expense of going to restaurants sort-able and divide it by category. Make it very real, honest and not pretentious. A lot of food media out there is very serious and very much representing of the chefs and the industry..We were just obviously not that and thought that there could be a real opportunity to become the voice of the people and make something super useful and help find restaurants. That was always kind of the goal. How can we help enrich people improve their lives by just having a good resource.

Who are some artists you dig currently?

Let me pull up our Spotify. We do a monthly Spotify Playlist! (Below). Hmm- I like Leon Else, The Japanese House, obviously the new Disclosure record. I’m all over the place. I just like good music. I’m a songs person so whether it’s dance, electronic, hiphop, alternative or indie- I’m all across the board. I’ve worked with artists in every range over my career, mainly because I was interested in everything and familiar with every kind of scene.

What’s your favorite post-concert food?

I’ve always been a post-show slice kinda guy. Especially if its a late one I’m like “alright I just need something before bed and I’m going to get a slice of pizza, so thats usually mine.

Since NYC is famous for their pizza- What are some underrated pizza restaurants here?

I mean it might not be underrated anymore but they’ve been getting a lot of attention in the past year. Pizza Loves Emily in Clinton Hill is fantastic! That’s my new favorite Brooklyn pizza by far. That place is absolutely worth the trip. I think Brooklyn Pizza is kind of underrated. I just like a classic slice pie and they have some of there other good stuff as well.

PizzalovesEmily-The-Colony-Pizza-1024x682-630x420

Are any pizza places worth lining up for anyway?

Yeah. I mean, pizza’s one of the very few things I would line up for. I mean not too long. If the line is 40 minutes long at Grimaldi’s they’ve got problems because that is not worth waiting for. If you go make a trip to Di Fara deep into Brooklyn, THAT is absolutely worth any amount of minutes you have to wait and all $5 for the slice. That’s just your quintessential New York pizzeria.

You guys were part of the food curration for GovBall this year! How cool was that?

We’ve been friends with those guys over the years. Our backgrounds with music and we have a lot of relationships and we know that world really well and we worked together a couple of years ago on the media front and we helped simply blow up the food a little extra via social networks. Last year we’ve been in discussion and were like look, I think we could really help improve the food lineup and represent New York better. Last year was our first year that we curated the food lineup and we’ll do it again next year and we’re really excited because we brought in stuff that they didn’t have previously like the Ramen Burger or Tacombi Tacos

Do you think Instagram has been a big game-changer for food bloggers/enthusaists?

I think every social media platform has made it easy for everyone, whether you’re in food or writing about music or trying to write about cars…Whatever it is, internet’s given you the opportunity to say whatever you want. And it’s kind of up to you to see if you can come up with something different, unique and compelling enough to make people give a fuck. Instagram for sure has enabled especially in food. Most of these kids on Instagram don’t have actual websites or blogs. They’re just Instagram photographers going out there taking pictures to get likes- which is fine. But it’s made this whole thing pretty crazy.

What’s this new app you guys made where I can text a dinosaur?

We have a text message recommendation service called Text Rex where you can text us directly for restaurant recommendations. We have a whole system set up, but it’s always a human. You’re always talking to somebody and it’s always open 8:30am to 11pm everyday so you’ll always get a response within 5 minutes. And if you text at 3am you’ll probably get a message saying ‘hey you’re probably hammered and  probably want pizza so here are your options.’ People want what they want now. We hear from people all the time- they don’t want to sit there and go through the website. Its also good for us. It’s like having an amazing focus group of thousands and thousands of people everyday telling you what they want, so we made a lot of content decisions based on hearing what people say through Text Rex.

I think what we can get out from this is that you can do whatever you want. Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not capable of doing it. And follow your dreams, even if it’s something as simple as taking artistic photos of your food.

Sink with Yassou
November 5, 2015 5:27 pm

San Francisco based band Yassou released a very ambitious video album this past month.  The third installment of the video series is “To Sink”.

‪#‎daydreampropaganda‬

the wind was a torrent of darkness
among the gusty trees
the moon was a ghostly galleon
tossed upon cloudy seas
the road was a ribbon of moonlight
over the purple moor,
and the highwayman came riding
riding
riding
the highwayman came riding
up to the old inn door

The words of vocalist and sometimes bassist, Lilie Bytheway-Hoy often leave you mystified and entangled into what she refers to as Daydream Propaganda.

The band began when they were teenagers in Hudson Valley, NY and has evolved immensely since they relocated to San Francisco, California a few years ago.  Their sound is often described as “haunting” and with good reason.  Once you watch the video above you will understand that better, since their music will be stuck in your head for days.

 

Panic Is Perfect Discover Their Lost Song
June 29, 2015 9:00 am

Panic is Perfect is a high-energy band hailing from San Francisco that blends infectious rhythms with a keen sense of melody to create a memorable musical experience. The band consists of a five piece setup with Jeremy Belzer and Mike Hoffman covering vocals and multiple instruments each, David Monzon locking it in on guitar, Joey Hassid on synths, and Ty Parker holding down the beat on drums.

Following a spirited show at The Knitting Factory as part of the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, NY, I had the chance to sit down and talk with with the gentlemen that are Panic Is Perfect.

Panic Is Perfect Live

After chatting about the ins and outs of living in San Francisco, the disappearance of hackerspaces in the city, and where the best taqueria is (still open to debate), we got to talking shop.

A well traveled band, with the founders Mike and Jeremy pulling stints in places as diverse as Ghana, Kansas City, Portland, Los Angeles, Thailand, Korea and China, Mike elaborated a bit on how these travels have informed the creation and performance of their music.

Panic Is Perfect

Mike, a drummer since the age of ten, studied traditional African drumming in Ghana. He talked about the differences in African drumming and Western percussion, noting in particular that:

“Over there drumming is like a language… all these different variations and parts, they all have meanings, it’s super complex, it is literally like a language, and people learn it like a language from a very young age…” he added, “People who are drummers over there… you don’t choose to a drummer, you start, like, as soon as you can walk.”

This proclivity for multi-layered and complex rhythmic arrangements really shows in their live performance set-up, with Mike out front on the stage dancing and beating on a floor tom (playing a “lead” drum part), while also playing guitar and sharing vocal duties with Jeremy.

Panic Is Perfect Live

Many of band members are multi-instrumentalists, and their unique approach to composition is really defined in their 2015 EP Behind Your Eyelids. The first track on the album “Go Go Go” starts out with a clever “false start” in French and dives into an infectious anthemic piece with soaring vocal melodies, rolling deep drum lines, and string embellishments.

Panic Is Perfect Go Go Go

The rest of the well-composed album utilizes a skilled balance of sparse guitar riffs contrasted against tight melodies and large instrumental swells and climaxes. The final two tracks “Mailman” and “Bobby Black” really show the bands diversity as they dive into a much deeper, darker, and groove oriented sound filled with darker vocal mixes and deep percussion.

As the discussion continued, some odd synchronicities appeared that were a surprise to both me and the band.

In asking about the band’s formation and the origins of the name, the band cited one song in particular, a song that Jeremy had written years ago, that had played a major role in many aspects of creating Panic Is Perfect.

Reflecting on it they filled in the pieces realizing that “A lot of things came from that song.” “The name of our EP, the name of the band, and the name of another song.” “We, like, harvested the lyrics of that song…” said Mike.

It turns out that Jeremy had written that song in Mike’s studio years before the formation or even idea of the band existed and had gotten Mike to drum the track.

When asked where this song is now, Jeremy said that it was not on their set, or on any of their recorded material. “I’m going to make it someday. I’m gonna to finish it.” he added

I certainly hope they do.  On that note, I can’t wait to hear what these guys lay down for the years ahead. As they so eloquently put it, Go Go Go!

 

 

CATCHING BATTLEHOOCH UNDERGROUND
May 15, 2015 3:24 pm

While taking the train back home, I spotted a hoard of people crowding around a band that was playing underground at Union Square. Originating from San Francisco, six-piece band BattleHooch were stopping people from their teens to their 60’s with their energetic vibes and loud sound. They describe their music as “tropical” and “psychedelic” with an influence from the BeeGees, Barbie Girl, and Mortal Combat. It’s not often that you see middle aged New Yorkers going up to a young hip band like BattleHooch and buying t-shirts and CD’s from them. It was apparent that I had been standing there for 10 minutes hypnotized by their sound, so immediately got in touch with them for an interview.

What’s the meaning behind the name BattleHooch?

Nothing really (laughs). It was just a name we had for the bass player. We didn’t necessarily agree with it, but that’s what we went with. We were lucky to get a monopoly name!

How was it busking around the streets of New York?

Usually we have a big van so we can bring as much nonsense as we want, but we had to be a lot more stooped down and bare-boned this time around, so there was borrowed gear. Our drummer usually has a bucket drum set with a kick drum. He puts a bucket on that, then a snare drum and he usually has a high hat. It was a very haphazard approach. He didn’t even bring a chair. It was different this time because last time it was during the summer, but this time we had to contend a little bit with the cold weather. It was really cool seeing New Yorkers coming out of their winter time cocoons.

Do you guys usually see a lot of older audiences like there were at Union Square?

Yeah we do have older audiences! We probably have fans starting from the mid 20s up to people all the way through the 60s. It’s pretty cool to see such wide range. We need more kids. And maybe more of the 70-100 year-old category. We need the baby boomers and their great grand children!

While you were in the city, did you get to do anything aside from playing music?

We went to the MET which was pretty fun. A little bit of Central Park too. It was mostly a business trip so we didn’t have much time for pleasure. We did more touristy stuff in our other tour that we did in 2010. It was all business this time round…We were not having fun! It looked like we were having fun but that was all a lie! (laughs)

Are you guys planning to come back anytime soon?

Totally! We play with a bunch of our friends, but they’re a bunch of slackers…Just kidding, our friends are rad!

Any exciting news you want to share with the world?

Yeah! We have two new singles coming imminently. We just have to get a couple details worked out and then we’re gonna put them out. We’ve played two songs a lot at our street performing gigs and our shows. Other than that, we’re headlining at a pretty large venue in San Francisco called Independence which is going to be a huge crazy extravaganza. It’s gonna be the show of the summer!