Interview by Katie Gregory
Hi Thomas! How has the touring been going?
The tour was very stressful in the beginning because we started right away with big shows which we never did before, but it’s been the reward of two years we spent in the studio. It’s just nice to see the world with your friends and play music for people, it’s as basic as that. It’s the best way to travel the world. It’s very gratifying, very nice. I recommend it. [Laughs]
Do you guys like performing more for the big festival crowds, or do you like performing for the smaller, more intimate crowds?
I think on paper we like our own shows better, because there’s just a couple of things that are easier to bring some atmosphere, like some epic nights. Sometimes at a festival you play at daytime, and the attention of the crowd is elsewhere. But festivals also have this power, almost like a poetic, Roman Empire feel, like there’s so many people it’s just a sea of… you know, you never see the end of it. And it has some universal feel to it that is incredible but dangerous at the same time. It’s fascinating.
You said you love traveling for the festivals. Is there a favorite place that you’ve performed?
I think Lollapalooza was one of my favorite festivals this year. The crowd and the skyline. This festival never disappoints. It feels like a festival I could go to as a guest, like in the audience. There are some festivals we play where I could never picture myself attending. [Laughs] But Lollapalooza is one of the few where I really would like to be there.
But sometimes, the best shows, they’re usually not the ones in the big cities, they’re the ones in the middle, or on your way to somewhere, just because those places tend to see less shows, and they’re probably less jaded about shows or something. It’s more unique there. Some places in the U.S., like Salt Lake City, places like that, you wouldn’t bet on them, but then they become the most fun shows.
Since it’s music month here on the blog, can you tell us some albums you’ve been listening to lately?
I’ve been driving more than usual lately and the one CD I put on all the time is What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, because it’s exactly the length of my trip. More than a collection of songs, it’s one giant song. I think it’s my favorite album, because it’s very complex and the message is so pure. It sounds incredibly modern. It could have been made today and it wouldn’t be surprising. It wouldn’t feel old. What else? We’ve been touring with Mac DeMarco recently, and I really like his music. I love his album.
Do you guys collect records at all?
I have a few, yeah. Between the four of us in the band, we do have a semi-giant collection, but that’s between all four of us. Separately it’s not that impressive. [Laughs]
Do you guys have any rare albums that you can think of?
Yeah, we have… well, there’s one that we bought many, many times. It’s Kill City by Iggy Pop and James Williamson. It’s not that rare, but the vinyl comes in different colors – there’s a pink, there’s a green, I think there’s a transparent one. We have a strange relationship with this record. We had to buy it six or seven times because once it melted in the back of my car, and then things kept happening. I think we lost the precious one. I think the ones we have now are not the super limited edition anymore. [Laughs]
Do you have a favorite musician or band that you’re always in the mood to listen to?
Yes. What could it be? There’s a lot. Anything that I was listening to when I was a teenager, if I hear it anymore it’s very powerful. Anything from Prince or Joy Division or My Bloody Valentine or The Pixies, all these bands I grew up with. If I hear the same guitar or the drum machine that was used on "Little Red Corvette", I can burst into tears. [Laughs] That’s how powerful.
That’s amazing. Do you have a favorite Phoenix song?
No, no. I mean, I have favorites to play live, and it keeps changing, so it’s nice because we change the setlist pretty often. It depends on the mood we’re in. It’s really the only thing we fight for in the band, the setlist.
What’s your favorite song to play at the moment?
It’s one called “The Real Thing.” But it’s also the toughest to play, it’s the one we can mess up the most. And I can mess up the most. That’s why with my friends, it is not their favorite. [Laughs]
And once this tour wraps up, does the band have any new album plans?
No, we don’t. Well, right now we are doing our own tour, which is something we’ve been looking forward to because we mostly played festivals. You can play festivals from April to September, and now we are looking forward to playing our own shows, which starts [this week]. That’s something we’re all really looking forward to.
Okay, and I only have one more question for you. What’s the most common English phrase people ask you to translate into French? Are people always asking for curse words?
No, not that I can think of. But when we speak English, we don’t swear in English, but when we speak French we do swear pretty often, so I think sometimes we have to translate these, but nothing specific.
Have people ever asked you to translate the Kanye line, “Hurry up with my damn croissants”?
No, what is that? It’s a Kanye song? Oh, yeah! We did something with the NME, and they asked us that, but I had no clue it was a Kanye song. They asked us something about “damn croissants,” but I wasn’t sure what they were talking about. [Laughs] I was asked how to translate “cronut” recently.
Can you translate cronut?!
No, I think there’s “cro” in it for croissant, so it’s already in there. I don’t think you can translate it more. [Laughs]
I think I'm in love but it makes me kind of nervous to say so...because it's with a record player. Is that weird? This Crosley Portable Record Player, printed in a purple calico pattern, is like something out of a Wes Anderson-directed dream, so naturally it fit perfectly into my super cute, weirdly violet-centric life. But this baby has more going for it than just its faux-vintage hot bod, because it sounds just as good as it looks, playing LPs at 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM. The sound from the built-in speakers is beautifully clear. And, of course, the player is portable so you can just snap it all up like a brief case and take it to wherever you want to go: your tree house, your college library where everybody is studying in silence or a party so you can DJ it with some Classixx or Justin Timberlake. Go crazy! —Hazel
Here's the player in action spinning the Dum Dum Girls flexi-disc from the Rookie Yearbook:
Movement – Us
This whisper-y, R&B style track is pretty great. Ben Khan (an artist whose track we chose for a Music Monday a few back) has a similar sound. It’s minimal, dark, and has some great vocals. It’s a good sound, and it has worked for a long time.
This is the first track I have discovered from this dude. It’s super retro and '70s sounding. The vocals have a nice effect that updates the whole sound quite a bit. It reminds me a lot of Ariel Pink. And speaking of Ariel Pink, check out this side project, The Samps and their track “Overnight Lo.”
This has a great flow to it. It’s reminiscent of Burial, who everyone's a fan of, and there's also a British guy rapping. Does it get any better?
"Unhappy" is a little out of character for Saint Pepsi. Their other releases are built of chopped funk and soul, almost giving you the idea that an MPC is in the mix primarily. This track is awesome, though: trap drums, good changes, and interesting structure.
Once you hear the snare in this, you know what you’re in for. That’s all there is to say.
So poised. An inspiration to us all.
Hi Ollie! Introduce yourself and tell us what you do at UO!
My full name is Oliver Twist, but everyone calls me Ollie! My mom just adopted me a few weeks ago, and she’s a buyer for UO housewares.
You're looking SO dapper today. What are you wearing?!
Thank you, miss! I just threw on this polka dot bow tie this morning with my everyday bling – nylon blue collar and custom dog tags.
Now that it's getting cold again, what are you most looking forward to wearing this Fall?
I’m trying to convince my mama to get me an argyle sweater vest and maybe a beanie or two. Layers, layers, layers!
When you're not at work, where can you usually be found?
I spend a lot of time people watching at coffee shops. PUMPKIN EVERYTHING.
What 5 things can you not live without?
Beyonce, pumpkin treats, big dogs, my stuffed Mickey Mouse, and snuggles.
Where can we find you online?
Instagram and Twitter! And Tumblr, if anyone cares!
Picture yourself lying on your high school's grass field. It's 1999 and school just got out. You go home to drink a bottle of Sunny D and dance around your kitchen, alone, while a spellbinding song plays from the Adult Alternative station. The song is "Charm Attack" by Leona Naess. Sadly, we haven't heard from her since, but imagine Fiona Apple during her Tidal-era swallowing a bottle of Tinker Bell's pixie dust.
The mystifying lyrics, the calming and heart-bursting nostalgic chorus - it's haunting and electrifying. Still as good in 2013 as it was in 1999. You should definitely consider adding this to the Fall playlist on your iPhone. —Alex
Get the look:
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BDG Mixed Panel Riding Boot
Jeffrey Campbell Meds Studded Over-The-Knee Boot
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Sleater-Kinney was formed in Olympia, Washington by musicians Corin Tucker (of the other Washington-based punk band Heavens To Betsy) and Carrie Brownstein (of Excuse 17). For those unfamiliar with SK, you might know Brownstein from the TV show Portlandia or her other insanely good band Wild Flag. She is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. God DAMN IT is there anything Carrie can't do?
Sleater-Kinney's music was loud and unabashedly political, calling out the misogyny of the music industry to the confines of gender roles. Their angry lyricism is a feminist manifesto in itself, making this music for ladies to rage to. Tucker has a particularly distinctive style of singing; it is literally a warrior-call. Her shrieking, punk snarl is one of the reasons Sleater-Kinney's music is so satisfying. Because Sleater-Kinney is one of my favorite bands, picking just one album to write about is hard. Though their fifth album, All Hands On The Bad One is super good. Girl power 4-ever! [Insert Corin Tucker shriek here.]
This is one of my favorite Sleater-Kinney songs, though it's not their typical, mega-screamy sound. It's a fun song but also pretty snarky. If there's one thing you can count on with Sleater-Kinney it's brutal honesty. If you're a totally predictable buzzkill boy band who disses lady rockstars, they're going to call you out on it with insults veiled as catchy hooks in a glossed up song. And how good is "fill our Christmas socks / with whiskey drinks and chocolate bars?" Dudes, this is what your girlfriend wants for Christmas. She also wants you to shut up forever and help dismantle the patriarchy, but start off with the booze and treats.
Sleater-Kinney's "#1 Must Have" is a takedown of the hype riot grrrl was receiving from the media at the time. People were hating on SK for "selling out" and feminism had become a total commodity. "But they took our ideas to their marketing stars / and now I'm spending all my days at girlpower.com / trying to buy back a little piece of me," Tucker sings. Then the band went on this totally mainstream Oxygen talk show to perform this song and Tucker's attitude is sooo over it all. You can see it in her performance, it's great. Of course they would pick this song to play! Such a brilliant move. Ugh, I LOVE YOU SLEATER-KINNEY.
The fast-paced, mosh-worthy "Youth Decay" is about the widespread misunderstanding of young women and disorders. It's easier to silence a chick than help her. "I'm so good at playing dead / words just don't seem to come out," Tucker snarls. Playing dead and being silenced is a common theme in Sleater-Kinney's outspoken music. The music gets REAL.
Sleater-Kinney penned this tune which, in Tucker's words, mocks how people perceive women in rock. To some, a band with all women can't be just a rock band. It has to be a lady rock band with their own special brand of female music. It doesn't really matter though, what people think of SK, 'cause all of the members have not stopped kicking ass musically over the years and All Hands On The Bad One is a testimony to their lasting rock n' roll, feminist power. Buy this record and all of their records and just get your girlfriends together and dance wildly. —Hazel
But seriously, Pee-Wee's reaction to Dottie is amazing. Who needs dumb ol' relationships anyway?
NOT EVEN MOTORCYCLE GANGS ARE IMPERVIOUS TO HIS CHARMS! For some reason, there's just something totally delightful about a grown-ass man in a red bowtie, hunting for his bike, and livin' his life in the weirdest, most joyful way possible. Basically, everyone's takeaway from this movie should be that it's okay to be a little bit of a weirdo. You might not get a movie deal in the end, but you'll feel pretty okay. No sense in trying to tame your wacky personality! So you see? PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE GAVE US A DEEP AND IMPORTANT LESSON. Also, this snake .gif. Thanks, Pee-Wee! —Katie
Get the essence of Pee-Wee:
Sole The OFW Bike
You've gotta have a rad bike. Just don't let it get stolen.
Jeffrey Campbell Jagger Platform Oxford
Gotta have some platforms for when you feel the urge to dance to "TEQUILA!" in a bar.
Giant Googly Eyes
Because furniture should be fun, too.
And did we mention the dancing robots? It's a minimal vision of the future, but both the alien disco sounds and "video-game IRL" imagery are an exciting direction for 2014 pop. "I think your hair looks better to one side!" Charli admits. Could she be singing about Aaron Samuels?!
"SuperLove" will be released December 1 via Asylum/Atlantic. —Alex
Elliott Smith was a Portland-based singer-songwriter. Now, I have a pretty strict "no contemporary dudes with acoustic guitars" policy in my life (sorry, Jack Johnsons of the world) but Smith's music gets a major pass. His multi-tracked songs are complex, layering acoustics and vocals to make haunting melodies punctuated by his dark lyricism. Elliott Smith has such a distinctive style of singing as well. It's this light and whispery voice that is still so haunting. After a tortured life of depression, Smith died an untimely and oddly mysterious death at age 34. His music still lives on and on and on.
It's hard to pick an Elliott Smith album that's my favorite, because I love them all so much, but his third studio album, Either/Or, is special to me. Either/Or was released right before Elliot Smith performed "Miss Misery" at the Oscars, a song he contributed to the soundtrack of Good Will Hunting. After that, Smith was on to bigger record labels that refined his sound in studios, so not to get all "his old stuff was better" but this is sort of the last truly lo-fi release Smith did, and it's the gritty nature of "Either/Or" that makes me love it so much.
"Ballad of Big Nothing" is so classically "pop" for Smith, with its strumming guitars and catchy choral hook. But the passive-aggressive lyrics of this ballad's chorus give it a much moodier tone than the average pop song vibe it seems to spit out. I think this was my Myspace song for more than a month, which is saying a lot 'cause I changed that baby on the daily. Luv u, Smith.
Ah, this song is so beautiful I could scream. Actually all the songs on this album are beautiful so I guess I'm doing a lot of internal screaming right now. Smith sings so softly, with each layered vocal track barely reaching louder than a whisper, and it only makes the delivery of these cryptically poetic lyrics more heart-breaking. Something about the line "in the cathedral with the glass stained black" alone has always given me chills. ALL OF IT gives me chills. Ooooh.
This is a seriously underrated Elliott Smith track. I just love the electric guitar work on this, especially that solo. It's like the whole album is this quiet, bubbling, anger and Smith sort of explodes in his own brooding way on this track at the end of the album. "IT'S MY LIEEEE"
Probably one of my favorite lyrics of Smith's: "You beat it in me, that part of you / But I'm going to split us back in two." Aaah?! Every line of this song is a wound, though I guess this entire album is a wound. A gorgeously, wispily, well-written diary of darkness. R.I.P. Elliott Smith. —Hazel
London Calling is a double album that may still fall into the punk rock category because of The Clash's roots, but in my eyes, it's actually a notable record because of all of the different styles it mixes. The album begins with the band's best known song ever, the title track of the record, "London Calling." Joe Strummer sets the mood with his dark lyrics about politics of the time, like "phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust," amongst other excellent rhymes. Next, the songs move into a more upbeat mood, with tracks like "Hateful," and "Rudie Can't Fail," that has a serious ska vibe to it. This is where you can really see the other influences the band had other than strictly hard, punk rock, which can be heard on their earlier material at that point.
Right in the middle of the record are another two of this album's most famous songs, "Lost in the Supermarket" and "Clampdown." "Lost in the Supermarket" is sung by fellow Clash member Mick Jones, lead guitarist and often vocalist as well. Similar to the title track, "Clampdown" contains lyrics that refer to things like conforming and one of the best lines, "Let fury have the hour, anger can be power/D'you know that you can use it?" It's an empowering song with a memorable main guitar riff, and that's why it's constantly stuck in my head!
On the second LP of the album, more styles are played with, like the serious reggae influence on "The Guns of Brixton." It's enlightening to see how a band like The Clash - who is pinned with having such a specific style - do things with other genres but still keep true to themselves as musicians. The second half of the album also includes lesser-known songs like "The Card Cheat,"where Joe Strummer sings his heart out to a catchy piano tune. "Revolution Rock," drifts into reggae territory like some of the other songs, and I personally think it's aptly named, because of what The Clash always strove to do with their music. They wanted to change what was going on in the world.
"Train in Vain" is London Calling's closer, and originally wasn't supposed to even be on the record. I'm happy the band included it because it has turned out to be my favorite Clash track. It always makes me feel like dancing because it's so energetic. The song is a far cry from punk rock, and features Mick Jones on vocals again, along with a blaring, harmonica and post-disco sound. I think it could be my favorite song ever, to be honest. London Calling is a magnificent record that lends more than just its famous title track. Grab this album on vinyl and discover another side of this band! - Maddie
Shop The Clash's London Calling.
Upcoming #URBANACCESS Soundcheck sessions:
10/1 Phosphorescent - Los Angeles, CA
10/3 Baths - Burlington, VT
10/10 Phosphorescent - EMO's in Austin, TX
*Please note the previously announced Delorean soundchecks in Minneapolis (10/14), NYC (10/23) and Bloomington (10/30) have all been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.
Get the look:
Girls can look just as pretty behind the camera as they do in front of it!
Check out some of our favorite shots from her official website and be sure to follow her on Instagram and Twitter. —Alex