TEARS FOR FEARS

BACKSTAGE WITH BROTHERTIGER
February 5, 2016 1:00 pm

It’s Saturday night and I’m at Rough Trade in Williamsburg. It’s about three hours before Brothertiger is set to play, and I find him onstage assembling his equipment. He shakes my hand and invites me backstage, and I do my best to keep my cool. I’m nervous–I’ve been a fan of his for awhile now–but I remain calm and follow him up and around the stage into a narrow, well-lit, concrete green-room. He offers me a beer–he likes beer too, can you believe it?!–and we sit down to chat.

“You mind if I record this?” I ask, recording this. He doesn’t mind.

“Excited about tonight? Gonna have a good show?”

“Yeah of course. I haven’t played in about a month though so I’m a little nervous.”

I’ve seen him live twice before, once at Webster Hall and once here at Rough Trade. “This is kind of old-hat for you, playing here?”

“Yeah, if I’m gonna play a show a month after touring this is where it’s gonna be. I love playing here, it’s an amazing sounding room. It’ll be a fun night.”

“Has there ever been a point where you felt like you had ‘made it’ somehow?”

“No, I definitely don’t think I’ve made it. I mean, my previous two records I put out on a label, and the first one was really awesome with a lot of hype, built up and stuff, but then the second one was kinda ‘eh,’ so that’s what made me want to make this third one on my own. Good press for me is really a big factor, you can get a lot more plays based off that.”

A man enters with a plate of hummus and pita bread. Standard procedure? I’m impressed. We continue without eating.

“But yeah, I mean I’m always reminded that I shouldn’t stop. I’m the kind of person who is always second guessing myself, and with this last record I was really nervous about it because I was doing it myself, and I was like ‘how am I gonna do this as well as it was on the label?’ But getting good press, seeing that there’s a response from people, that’s to me why I haven’t quit.”

“But do you think about quitting or the eventual end?”

“Right now no. There’s this constant battle like ‘is this the right decision? Is this dumb? Lame? I shouldn’t be doing this, what am I doing?’ But then I’ll play a good show or release an album people like and I’m okay. I don’t see it ending anytime soon. I want to expand it, more than anything. Build on it.”

That’s good to hear, as a fan. I add my two cents: “I think the new album does sound different, but like better and thicker and stuff.”

“Yeah, I mean that was the goal. I didn’t want it to sound like typical electronic stuff.”

“It all flows together well. How long did it take?”

He looks to the ceiling for his memory. “We started it at the beginning of last year–“

“Who’s we?”

“Me and my friend Jon who works at a studio with me. He’s an awesome punk/rock producer, so he comes from that background, but the two of us have worked together a lot and it’s always been really interesting. He co-produced it with me. I had all these demos and everything was sequenced out, we booked four days at this studio in Bed-Stuy, and then we spent about three weeks mixing it. So it was done around late March.”

“Of last year?!” That sandbagging son-of-a-bitch! “You were just sitting on it for nine months?!”

“Yeah I was sitting on it. I was seeing if there was potential for another label to pick it up, but finally I got sick of just waiting around, so I was like ‘screw it, I’ll release it myself.'”

“And it’s harder to get a crowd pumped if they haven’t heard it yet.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem. I never really played the new stuff until the tour with JR JR.”

I have to ask: “What are they like?”

“Very cool dudes from Detroit. We had quite a different vibe musically. I think it was a really cool blend, and they wanted me to come. They asked me to come on their tour which was very cool.”

“That must feel great.”

“Yeah it’s a really amazing feeling. I mean they’re on a big label with Warner Brothers, man. But yeah, they have this cool pop sound that’s really striking and different from me. It was really beneficial, I think I got a lot of new fans out of it, but some people were definitely like ‘whoa, this is interesting.'”

The hummus man returns, this time with chips and salsa. It looks delicious, but totally ruins our conversational flow. I change the subject.

“So, why here? Why New York?”

“So I’m originally from Ohio. I went to school for recording in Ohio. I moved here because I had previously interned here at a recording studio. Basically they said that I should move out here, they can give me work, and that I could actually live there too because it’s like an apartment/loft with the studio. So I lived there, which was great.”

“At that point were you aware of your goals to be a headliner? Or just a producer?”

This one takes him a minute. “Well, not to be a headliner–I still don’t see myself as a headliner–but I knew I wanted to produce other people and also make music myself, and this is the best place for me to do that. So I did it and I’ve been here for about three years.”

“You ever get tired of New York?”

“Yeah all the time. I went on tour in October and I was gone for about a month and a half, and I took my friend who did sound for me. So it was just the two of us in this little Toyota Camry. We put twelve thousand miles on it.”

He’s gesturing as if there’s a map in front of him, but there is not. I make do. “Like in the Midwest and stuff?”

“Everywhere, the whole country. Well, except Texas.”

“Fuck Texas.”

“I know right? But yeah, the whole time I was thinking ‘man I fucking hate New York.’ I knew it was just because I was away and on this amazing experience touring, but I got back here and was like “God I just don’t wanna be here.’ But then after a week or two I was like ‘okay, this isn’t that bad.'”

“Like ‘this is where my fans are, so…'”

“Yeah, I mean I draw pretty well here and in a few other cities around the country.”

“What’s your other favorite city?”

“Well, Denver has been really good to me. My manager is from there. We met when he booked me on this festival out there, and I’ve been playing it for the past three years. I kind of half-convinced him to move to New York, and now he’s booking this new venue here and it all worked out. But yeah, Denver has always been a really good show, I like Denver, LA, New York…”

“Those are some solid cities, that’s awesome. So let’s talk about your music a little bit. How do you start writing a song? Start with the beat? Start with the melody?”

“Yeah, you know I was just asking myself the other day, ‘how do I come up with this shit?'” We laugh that one off for a minute, then he continues. “It always depends. Like sometimes it’ll start out with drums, I’ll get a drum loop going and then just play some chords or something. Or I’ll have a melody in my head or some lead or something and I’ll build around that. It really depends on the song. I usually do have a melody or a beat or a hook in mind that I’ll want to record quickly and build around. But I never set out being like ‘I’m gonna write a song about this.'”

“Well do you even think about the lyrics while you’re writing the music? Or that comes dead last.”

“Yeah, that’s the very last thing. I just read Brian Eno’s biography, and there was one thing that really hit home for me about how he wrote his lyrics. He would go into the studio and loop a section and just speak gibberish into a microphone, and then kind of work that until the consonants and all the sounds made sense and sounded good with the melody, and then form words around that, something that makes half-sorta sense. And that’s exactly how I do it.”

“Must have been good to read that in this book, from this legend.”

“Yeah, I thought I was one of the only people on Earth to do that, but the fact that he does–and he’s one of my biggest influences–it was just like ‘whoa man, fuck yeah!'” 

“Do you use Ableton?”

“Yeah, Ableton is my main thing for sequencing and building a song, but then I’ll mix it in Pro Tools. But yeah, onstage is Ableton. I got my two controllers hooked up to Ableton with a synth and drum pad.”

“How much of it is there already and you just press play, and how much of it are you actually doing?” 

“Yeah, I have it all sectioned out, the parts of each song, so I trigger stuff. But if I don’t trigger it, it stops. So there’s work involved, but it’s essentially just a bunch of loops, like the length of a verse or something. And I can modulate each track if I want to, which I do. But a lot of it’s there, ready to go, because…”

“…because you’re singing up there too, right?”

“Yeah, I mean if I had a band, and I did it that way, yeah I could definitely take away a lot of it from Ableton.”

“You could just press play, you know. It’d be a lot easier.”

“I could, and I know a lot of people who literally just have an ipod and sing on top of it.”

“But that’s not who you’re trying to be.”

“No, I try to make it interesting for myself. I try to break up a song in a certain way to make it fun for me to play, to make it to where I can change it up on every show. But yeah, pretty much everything is already recorded, broken up song-by-song, and it’s like this giant grid mess of colors.”

“So your show is never the same every night?”

“No, no it’s not. In fact tonight I’m even playing a new song. At the very beginning, no less.” We laugh. Why would he do that to himself?! “I’m just gonna wing it and we’ll see what happens. If it sucks, it sucks.”

I’m getting toward the end of my cheat-sheet, but we’re having so much fun I just have to extend the conversation.

“What are you listening to these days? What do you listen to when you’re walking around the street or whatever?”

He thinks about this for a moment. “There’s this guy, and I don’t even know how to say his last name, but I’ve been listening to him constantly. He’s this ambient dude who used to be in the band Emeralds named Steve Hauschildt.” This last name is a doozie. We try to pronounce it, fail, but continue anyway. “He’s got this really awesome ambient album that I’ve been listening to religiously. I’m also pretty obsessed with the 80’s though. Tears For Fears all the time–I’m actually working on a cover album for Tears For Fears, doing the entire thing, so I’m just listening to it always like ‘oh I should do that, oh I should do that, etc.'”

“Wow, that feeds perfectly into my next question; ‘what was the best decade to be alive for music?'”

“Oh my God,” he begins, clearly having thought hard already about this exact question. “The 1980’s, specifically 1984-1985. If you could be 18 years old in 1984…”

“Wow, you really had that answer ready.”

“It was the greatest year in pop music. Like in the UK, and with new-wave American bands, Talking Heads, all that stuff. Just an amazing little era right there. 1984 is my favorite year and I didn’t even live in it.”

“You do that Talking Heads cover of ‘This Must Be The Place.’ Why? What made you do that?”

“Well, because it’s my favorite song of all time. I don’t remember why exactly I decided to cover it, but I think I had the idea in my mind for a few years. I tried it a few times and it didn’t work, but finally I got it to sound decent and just released it. So now I have it, and it’s a great thing to play at shows because everybody knows it and likes it.”

“It’s a dope song.”

He looks around like well obviously.

“What would you say is your biggest influence that a casual fan wouldn’t expect? Obviously Talking Heads, but I would expect that, you know?”

He thinks for a moment. “Ooo… Wow, that’s a good question.” Did he really just respond to the quality of that question? Unexpected. I have to come clean about it then.

“I actually crowdsourced that question. That was my friend’s question, I can’t take credit for it.”

“That’s a great question! ‘What influence do I have that people wouldn’t expect me to have?’ Boy, that’s a tough one. That’s a fucking tough question. But it’s good, it makes me think!” I can’t believe he likes this damn question so much. What about all of my questions?!

After much deliberation, he comes up with an answer: “Talk Talk, probably, because I love them and listen to them all the time. Talk Talk’s got a really dry, ambient, slow-going sort of sound, which is not at all what I’m going for. On this last album though I took a lot of influence from them. So, yeah. Gotta go with Talk Talk.”

“That’s a good answer.”

“Maybe people expect it, I don’t know, but that’s the one I can think of. I can’t think of anything too zany.”

“Is there any one musician that you’d like to do a collaboration with?”

“Probably M83. You mean modern music? M83. In the past either David Byrne or Tears For Fears.”

“Well obviously. I mean how bout the Beatles too, I mean come on.” I was thinking more realistically, more in the realm of possibility. He laughs.

“So you just went off tour, and then… now what? What’s the future hold for Brothertiger?”

“Well, there’s that cover album, Tears For Fears, and I’m starting to write some new stuff, so hopefully by the mid-to-end of this year I’ll have an EP. I haven’t done an EP in a long time and I think I need to have one, so there’s that. And hopefully touring again soon, maybe in the summer.”

“Do you like touring?”

“I love touring.”

“What’s your favorite part?”

“I think just going to places I haven’t been. I know a lot of people hate the driving, but I think driving is… just seeing the country for what it is is one of my favorite parts.”

“Is touring your favorite part of what you do?”

“I think recording is, but translating it to a live scene is fucking difficult. But I love touring and recording.”

I’m clearly grasping at straws with these questions, and he knows it. I surrender. 

“I’m all out of questions. Is there anything else you want to tell people?”

“Just that, to whoever is listening to my music and whoever likes it, thanks.”

A solid last answer for a solid interview. I stop recording so I can use my phone to take a selfie. I have got to get a selfie with my main man Brothertiger. I mean, pix or it didn’t happen, right?

BroTigerSelfie

But it did happen, and I’ll never forget it.

The Beast Recap of Bonnaroo 2015
June 23, 2015 4:56 pm

Every year, tens of thousands of festival lovers (to the heights of 80,000 to be exact) travel to Manchester, TN for one of America’s most well know festivals, Bonnaroo. This music and arts festival has a whirlwind of opportunities for its festival-goers, going way beyond the music itself. From the hammock haven found in the shadows of the only trees of the campgrounds, to the comedy tent hidden inside Centeroo, there is constant activity to please all likings. But with 125+ artists across 8 stages (including the silent disco) how can one decide their destiny in this 4-day chose-your-own-adventure festival? Here’s the run-down of what we saw, what we learned, and why we will ALWAYS be the first ones buying our tickets to Bonnaroo.

THURSDAY: DAY 1

BONNAROO ALABAMA SHAKES

First day on the farm is of course overwhelming. The campground is slowing filling, the Bonnarovians (the official name given to the inhabitants of the farm) are out and about and exploring what greatness this festival is about to provide for the next 4 days. Not to mention the spectacular line up in which Bonnaroo did not feel shy.

BONNAROO TEMPLES

Starting out our line up for the festival, we saw Temples. Their lights and 70’s inspired melodies (and hair) revved the crowd in preparation for the balance of the evening on the highly anticipated first day. Playing each of our favorites, Temples rocked their golden hour, and left us wishing they would play Shelter over and over again as the sound reverberated throughout the packed tent.

BONNAROO CENTEROO

Through the rest of the evening, we moved from space to space and were able to catch hints of The Growlers and Glass Animals, both pulling impressive crowds for a not yet fully populated festival. Courtney Barnett however, stole our attention as her femme fatal rock played into the crowd. Of course she played our favorite hits, History Eraser and Pedestrian at Best, and the crowd agreed with our taste as they screamed out the lyrics and swatted at the copious amounts of balloons soaring through the air. At this point, we couldn’t get enough of her kick ass energy and were left feeling ferocious and ready to be the next female ruler.

As the night continued, you would have to say that Mac Demarco and his trio of equally weird bandmates took the cake when they trekked all the way to Tennessee to camp in the excessive heat. Demarco proceeded to introduce each song with his famously creepy voice, like the one your parents told you to always run away from, while alternatively swooning the crowd with his latest hits; Salad Days, Blue Boy, and Freaking Out the Neighborhood being the stand out songs of the set. And just to top their night off, Demarco and band claimed to be on a mission to set the world record for the most crowd members on top of other crowd member’s shoulders. Like any beast would, I hopped onto of my neighbor’s shoulders to join in on the mission for Demarco’s claim to fame.

FRIDAY: DAY 2

BONNAROO BELLE AND SEBASTIAN

Day 2 on the farm welcomed us with a wave of heat, promptly at 7:30AM, and the only cure was to explore the vast campground and accompanying art scene. As mentioned before, the farm offers their Bonnarovians a hammock haven hidden in the only natural shade found on the festival grounds – but you better claim your hammock early, because they were a hot commodity (pun intended). Through the hammocks, we found tables for crafts. Yes crafts. All materials needed for bedazzling the official shoe of Bonnaroo, the Teva sandal. But if arts and crafts weren’t your jam, Centeroo offered a variety of art venders spanning from unique, one-of-a-kind prints, to specialized body art drawing.

BONNAROO CROWD

As the heat (sort of) let up, our impatience got the best of us and we headed off to the tents to start the day. Opening our lineup for the afternoon was Rustie, the Scottish electronic artist from Glasgow. His instrumental mix between electronic and hip-hop electrified the crowd as they jumped to each beat in unintentional synchronized fashion. A crowd pleaser to the max, he gave a performance that goes to show the variety of electronic we’ve come to recognize within the past couple of years. To keep the electro buzz strong, Unknown Mortal Orchestra hit our next chord as they overflowed the tent pleasing us with old hits and ending strong with one of their latest (and excellent) releases, Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.

BONNAROO PHOX 2

The show stopper of the day was of course, Alabama Shakes. Lead singer Brittney Howard owned the stage immediately as she stepped foot into the crowd’s sight. Playing hits from their latest album, Sound and Color, Alabama Shakes could not disappoint, and their appreciation of the massive crowd presence did not fall unseen. Mid performance, Howard pauses, “I don’t even know what to say,” as she scans the crowd in amazement. After a long silence and a soulful sigh, she proceeds with “thank you. Now we can move on” and continues the set to play everything, but their original hit Hold On.

The rest of Day 2 was spent idolizing our past, listening to Tears for Fears and replaying Donnie Darko over and over in our heads. Standing behind the crowd you couldn’t tell what was clearer, the band’s voices or the crowd belting out Everyone Wants to Rule the World.

SATURDAY: DAY 3

BONNAROO PHOX 1

The third day of Bonnaroo was by far the most loaded of the weekend. (So many artists, with so few hours in the day.) Being the mid west gal that I am, seeing PHOX was first on our list. Having the chance to see a familiar face on stage was a breath of fresh air, just like the band itself. The eclectic group, made up of lead singer Monica Martin along with 5 other Baraboo, Wisconsin friends, I like to label as a mix between Beirut, Alabama Shakes and Amy Winehouse. Their soulful sound and quirky character gives a whole new take on indie pop. After their performance, with a special cover of Blink 182’s I Miss You, I was able to sit down with Ms. Martin and uncover her thoughts on Bonnaroo and festival life itself.

BONNAROO MONICA INTERVIEW

You guys have played at so many festivals this year, so far what has been your favorite?

Sasquatch is perfect, Newport Folk Festival is perfect, Coachella is a whole different animal and it’s a scary one to me but I also acknowledge that people really get into it.

And how do you feel about Bonnaroo?

Oh right, I should talk about this one. It’s great, it’s really really great. I like it.

Since you’re not able to hang out long, what artists are you most disappointed to miss?

Not just because he’s sitting right here, but Shakey Graves. I would love to see them play. I’m also sad that we’re missing Bahamas, they’re great. But we are playing a one off show with them soon, so I’m excited for that. Umm, D’Angelo. I really wish I could see D’Angelo. I mean who I really wanted to see I got to see and that was Kendrick Lamar last night.

Oh so you guys stayed last night, did you camp?

I did, I stayed, I camped! That was weird. That was a new experience.

Camping can be sort of terrible.

It’s a thing. It was weird. Part of me would rather just go camping.

OK, and one last question- If you could describe PHOX in three words what would it be?

Oh man. Three words. Confused eighth grader. I would elaborate more, but I’ve only got three words.

BONNAROO TRAMPLED BY TURTLES

As Monica and I parted ways, Atypical Sounds kept up on the folk inspired trend and watched Woods, the folk rock band from Brooklyn take over the tent and wow the crowd with Shepherd and Moving to the Left from their latest album ‘With Light and Love’. From there we saw Trampled by Turtles (another mid west favorite) lure in the crowd at the main stage, and we danced away the afternoon to the feet tapping, head bobbing blue grass perfection.

Changing gears for the balance of the afternoon to some synth-pop, we had the chance to catch Phoebe Ryan at her first ever performance at Bonnaroo. Playing at the smallest of the spaces Ms. Ryan surely did not disappoint as she owned the stage and kept the crowd singing along with her biggest hit Ignition/Do You.. (Mashup). Later in the weekend we had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan and talk about her latest EP released Tuesday, June 9th , and her thoughts on her very first performance at the farm.

BONNAROO PHOEBE RYAN 2

You released your first EP last week. How does it feel to have all that hard work finally out there?

It feels amazing! It’s literally been a year in the making. A year ago I flew down to Nashville for the summer and started writing the EP, and now here I am back in Tennesee. It’s mind-blowing.

BONNAROO PHOEBE RYAN INTERVIEW

This is your first year at Bonnaroo! How did you feel?

I love it. The vibes are so great, people are getting weird here, I love it

There is definitely a little bit of everything here!

Yea it’s wild, I’m a supporter! A supporter of the weirdness.

Have you been able to see any other performances while you’re here?

I haven’t been able to see as many as I wanted to, but I did get to catch Tove Lo’s set and I saw my friend Kevin Garrett. It’s been pretty great.

Anyone you regret not being able to see?

Haha everyone! Everyone is so cool, I wish I had more time to observe.

We definitely will keep an eye out for Ryan as she’s working on a new album this summer and just released a new single, We Won’t, with Jaymes Young. We are pretty sure that although her set at Bonnaroo was killer, the best is definitely yet to come.

Another indie-pop band that grabbed our attention was Belle and Sebastian. Their happy-go-lucky sound gave the crowd an extra jump of energy on the day, and when we least expected, lead Stuart Murdoch hopped onto the corner amp to shout out his jealousy that in the comedy tent, someone was fed fake gummy bears by a celebrity. His dreams came true (and so did ours) when Jon Hamm waltzed onto the stage to fulfill Murdoch’s fantasy.

The balance of the evening was overtaken by Childish Gambino, playing a variety of hip-hop and soulful power ballads. From was the EDM take over, where Bassnectar lit up the sky with glow stick showers and Flume defined the perfect ending for Bonnaroo Day 3 by playing our favorites Sleepless and Insane and ensuring we dance until the sun comes up on the final and last day of our festival adventure.

BONNAROO CHILDISH GAMBINOBONNAROO CHILDISH GAMBINO

SUNDAY: Day 4

The 4th and final day of Bonnaroo. We never thought it would come, nor did we ever want it to. It had been a long hot week and the perfect remedy was to lay low; our blanket game was on point.

Starting out our day we basked in the sun for Spoon. Lead singer and guitarist Britt Daniel captivated the crowd starting the set with old time classics, like The Way We Get By. The band continued to play from their newest album ‘They Want My Soul’ as they threw in old time favorites and ended the set with I Turn My Camera On.

To continue the lounging experience of the day, we sat through parts of Punch Brothers, and Florence and the Machine (knowing she would have an amazing performance after watching her glide across the stage this past Governor’s Ball). We caught Florence just in time to bring a guest from the crowd to the stage (as she had done for past sets), and to get chased by her own security as she continuously ran through the open areas of the venue. Surprisingly quick for having just recently broken her ankle at Coachella this past spring.

A highlight of our evening was Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters. As a music community we’ve grown to love Robert Plant from his role as lead singer of Led Zeppelin, and although he’s at the age of 66, Plant still fully understands how to rock and roll with his crowd. We sang along and watched from afar as Plant played some of Zeppelin’s best hits, which unfortunately did not include Stairway to Heaven.

As all good things must end, it came to be this sad time for Bonnaroo. One last artist and our 4-day adventure was over. We had highly anticipated this performance as not only was Billy Joel the only set of the night, but was also was slotted for a magical 2 and half hours. At the age 66, this New York native vocally amazed us. The field was filled with Bonnaroovians of all sorts and all ages, but somehow Billy Joel pulled everyone together to appreciate these last few moments. Joel played his classic hits, Piano Man, Uptown Girl, and We Didn’t Start the Fire, although we had secretly hoped Vienna would grace the set list. The disappointment set in early, when Joel walked off the stage at 10:15pm, only to be followed by a 20 minute encore and confusing delay before fireworks (his set time was slated for 9pm-11:30pm). Do we wish he played longer, of course. But was this early ending a blessing in disguise, absolutely.

Bonnarovians slowly left Centeroo, forming a mass of walking zombies as they all made their way back to their camps to either pack or pass out before the long (or short) journey home the next day. Despite the heat, and the massive crowds, Bonnaroo holds a dear place in our hearts. It’s not until after you leave, that you realize life on the farm is (debatably) better than life in reality itself.

BONNAROO RADIATE POSITIVITY

BONNAROO THAT TENT

BONNAROO THE GROWLERS