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About A Band: Strand of Oaks


During the recent XPoNential Festival in Camden, NJ, which took place right across the river from Philadelphia, we spoke to Strand of Oaks frontman (and incredible hugger) Timothy Showalter about the band's upcoming tour, hometown pride and making an album his parents can be proud of. Interview by Katie Gregory



Hi Tim! Thanks for talking to us. Are you guys excited about your headlining tour?
Yes! We're gone until November. We have a couple Philly shows at Boot and Saddle in September, and then we go to Europe directly after. Like three days after the Philly shows, we're gone. And then we added two more weeks in Europe, so that's exciting.

Are you guys still headlining in Europe too?
Yeah, we actually have a lot of groundwork laid in Europe, so we've been headlining there for like a year or two now. We headlined Europe before we headlined the US. We wanted to wait. I was lucky enough to open up for killer bands in the states, like every band was so good. We got to open for them, see how it worked, and just took our time until it was the right moment to do it.

We were talking earlier about how you'd opened for Tallest Man on Earth.
Yeah, Kristian [Matsson, of Tallest Man] and I, we were only supposed to play four shows together and then it turned out to be two years of tour [laughs]. It was supposed to be four shows and then it turned into, like, five different tours together, all over the world. He's one of my best friends. I love that guy.

He seems like a great inspiration.
He's like my brother. We call each other warriors. He's my man, I love that guy. Man, I wish we lived closer.

Your newest album is a little different from your older ones. How has the reception been from the fans?
Surprisingly great. It helped being paired with Dead Oceans, because it's such an awesome label. They believed in it as much as I did and... well, they also believed enough in what I did to let me do whatever the fuck I wanted. Like, I made a record that was very different from my previous records, but they were totally open and just told me to do it. And that's the best thing you can get from a label, just to have someone 100% behind it. Plus, it paid off. I think listeners react to a record when they know the person loves the music that they're making, when they know that it's genuine. I think this is my first record that I genuinely loved making.

The videos that you've put out so far for this album have been amazing, very thoughtful. Did you put a lot of time into fleshing out their concepts?
I actually thought a lot more about the directors than the videos. Rick Alverson [directed "Goshen '97"], he's my hero. He did The Comedy with Tim & Eric and James Murphy. That movie is just bonkers. But yeah, I wanted to work with him forever. And then Zia Anger who did the other video ["Shut In"], she's worked with Angel Olsen and she's just fabulous. We lucked out. It's just a matter of choosing the best team of people to work with. I'm not inherently talented so it's a matter of choosing people who make me look more talented. I pick people who are better than me to be surrounded by [laughs]. You saw the band! They're so much better at music than me, that's why I work with them.



How long were you all recording the latest album?
I started writing and recording last September. I finished the record around Christmastime. It was a pretty quick process.

We love that it got great reception from so many publications and music blogs.
Yeah, which I just feel like... I think it's a good time to be making records. I'm proud of music. I'm proud of my contemporaries. I think right now some of the best records being put out in years are happening, as we speak. It's a really good year to be putting out a record, like there's a really good crop of things [laughs].

Do you have anything you're looking forward to?
Man. Well, those two Boot and Saddle shows. They're super intimate. We wanted to play smaller venues for the first round. They're going to be intense. Wild.

That venue is pretty perfect.
It's one of my favorites. We decided to play there because I've been there a few times and I was like, “Holy shit, this place is incredible.” I'm really excited to get back into it. We're playing some awesome gigs, cool rooms. Like The Independent in San Francisco is awesome. I'm actually playing my hometown in Goshen [Indiana]. I'm super nervous about that. It's gonna be people like family members. I'd rather play to thousands of people than to two family members [laughs]. You can't really be cool around people who used to change your diapers when you were a baby. It's hard to pull that off.

That's exciting, though! When's that one?
August. So it's coming up soon. Old girlfriends and old friends.



But now you have this cool new record so you can be like...
[Deep voice] Look what I've done! Look at me! Exactly! My goal is... well, I don't know how to use the internet, but I need to get on the Goshen Wikipedia page under notable people. I don't know how that happens, but I need to find a way to get on there.

Anyone can edit it! You should totally add it in.
I know [laughs]! That's my goal. We've been kind of everywhere with this record, but my local newspaper wrote about it and that was what did it for my parents. They were like, “You were in the NEWSPAPER.” And I was like, “I know, I was also in...” And they're like, “No, but YOU were in the NEWSPAPER.” [Laughs] I made it! There it is!

Do you feel more like Goshen is your home or Philly?
Philly. I mean, I moved in 2000, so like at this point, that's almost 15 years. Playing something like this [WXPN festival] is hometown. When you grow up, you can't consider where you're from your home. I lived in Goshen for my upbringing but I was never an adult there. I moved out when I was 18, so it's pretty much over [laughs]. I go there because my family is there but this is where I live. I love it here. Especially right now. I don't think there's a prettier city in the fuckin' world looking at this [gestures to skyline]. This is amazing.

It's great looking over from Camden.
Who woulda thought! The Camden view is the view to have.

[At this point a woman comes up and asks Tim if he is Dawes. When he explains who he is, she gets her picture taken with him before leaving.]

Nice. You're Dawes!
Usually I get like, “Are you in Skeleton Witch? Are you in a doom metal band?” Somebody asked me about Skeleton Witch like four times once, so I finally looked at their press photos and I was like holy shit, I look like I'm in Skeleton Witch [laughs]. Valiant Thor! If I didn't have my shirt on right now, I'd definitely be in Valiant Thor [laughs]. Doom metal.

Years ago, you played this small art gallery, Eckhaus, in Kutztown, PA, and now you're starting to get recognized and playing big shows.
I love [Lehigh Valley]. There were so many good shows there. It took a long time to do big things. It definitely didn't come fast. People still ask me if we're a new band and I tell them yeah, we played our first show in 2004, we're pretty new [laughs].



Do you feel like you're where you want to be now or...
No, I want to sell out stadiums. If you're from Indiana, you don't do something without doing it all the way. Basically, parents aren't instantly satisfied with you if you're a little successful. Like if you got an A- they'd be like, “You didn't get an A?” So, for me right now, it's not even for my own ego or anything, I just need to prove to my family that I'm making it. They don't understand under-the-radar stuff, so I need to get much bigger for them to understand what I'm doing. [Pauses] This is like a therapy session! But no, I love what we're doing now. I think it's exceeding my expectations, for sure. It's awesome.

Are you guys already working on the next record?
We'll be touring until, like, fall of 2015, so we're not too worried about it. I can make a record in two weeks. I can't do anything else in life except make music [laughs]. The best is when you tour for a long time and then you stop touring. You play the guitar on the road, but you're playing it for a purpose. You don't get a lot of time to just write on the road, for me at least, so it's so awesome to finally get done with touring. Like, then it's record time and your mind just opens up. I already have another record written, but I don't think I'll put it out. I like it, though. It's fun. I was writing R&B songs a lot, singing up in the falsetto range. Thinking, “I wonder if people would ever want to have sex to my music.”

You should definitely try that.
I was listening to that one Drake song that everybody likes, "Hold On We're Going Home," and I was like, “I wonder if I could write a song like this.” [Laughs] I think that song is so good. But no, I'm into playing the guitar. The next album will probably be even louder, more rock. I want to make records that sound good in stadiums. I'm kind of a scatterbrain, but I think it works out.

Strand of Oaks Tour Dates

About a Band: Summer Twins


All week long we'll be learning a little bit more about each of the bands in our Burger Records lookbook and feature. Up today: Summer Twins.

Summer Twins are my ideal girl group. Their music is perfect for swaying in the wind with your gal pals during the summer (or any time of year, really). This Burger Records band is made up of two sisters, Chelsea and Justine Brown, who have been playing music together for at least ten years now. These Southern California natives love good old rock 'n roll, warm summer evenings, and are dying to go to Hawaii. I caught up with Chelsea Brown to learn a little bit more about the band.
Maddie
Photograph by Joy Newell

Hi Chelsea! Tell me a little bit about Summer Twins and how you started the band. Have you always wanted to be in a band together since you're sisters?
We started our first all-girl band when we were 13 and 14. We didn't know how to play our instruments yet, but we just liked the idea of being in a band! We learned by playing covers of bands like The Ramones and The Donnas, then started writing our own songs. Years later, around 2008, we started Summer Twins. Now that we've been playing together for over 10 years, we can't image not being in a band together!

Who or what inspires your music most?
Our music is inspired by lots of old rock 'n roll: everything from '50s doo-wop to '60s garage/girl group to '70s punk.

Do you have plans to release a follow-up to your self-titled album soon?
We released an EP last year titled Forget Me. We're now working on new songs and hoping to record another full-length later this year.

Your band's name is pretty much the epitome of summertime. What is your favorite part about being in California in the summer that you can't get anywhere else?
Well, it gets really hot, especially in Riverside since we're farther from the coast, but summer nights are always great. When the sun goes down it starts to cool down, yet it's warm enough for shorts; it's perfect weather for hanging out on the porch or skating around downtown.

What songs are on your summer playlist?
"Sit Down I Think I Love You" by Buffalo Springfield has always been part of our summer soundtrack for years. Right now we're also into "Hawaii" by Naive Thieves, "Holiday" by Albert Hammond Jr., "How Long Do I Have to Wait for You" by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (our favorite song to listen to on tour), and "Tropical Birds" by Miniature Tigers.

What's your ideal vacation location?
As typical as it sounds, Hawaii! We've never been there before!

About a Band: Vision


All week long we'll be learning a little bit more about each of the bands in our Burger Records lookbook and feature. Up today: VISION.

Christopher Valer, Benjamin Nastase, and Phillip Dominick make up Burger Records outfit Vision. The LA-based band have been influenced by everything from Brit Pop to Nirvana's classic Nevermind, yet they have a sound all their own. Vision are a band that are truly loyal to the craft, working and sweating until the best product is done. Get to know Christopher Valer and the guys of Vision below.
Maddie

Hi guys! Tell me a little bit about how you guys formed.
All:
Christopher has always been in and out of bands in the LA music scene and he was just tired of playing other peoples' songs and he wanted to create his sound and form his own band.
Christopher: I couldn't find anybody who fit the band so I looked to my brother Phillip and our childhood friend Ben to fill in the slots and that's how it's been since.

As a band, who do you feel your ultimate influences are that carry through all of your material?
Christopher:
We all grew up together listening to The Doors and a lot of Nirvana. We feel we take the dark and serious part of The Doors with the aggressiveness and heaviness of Nirvana. Those two are our main influences but we take a lot of inspirations from a lot of Brit Pop bands like The Stone Roses, Blur, and Oasis.

What's the best part about performing live?
Christopher:
The fact that we're able to block out the world and our problems and be only in that moment.



Best summer memory ever?
Christopher:
Being in the garage, sweating, practicing drenched in sweat while everyone we know is at a pool party or a beach.

Who is your end all, be all favorite band or album to listen to in the summer?
Christopher:
Nirvana Nevermind. ALWAYS.

What's next for the band?
Christopher:
We just spent two years working on our first full-length album Inertia due to be released by Burger Records in January 2015. Aside from our new album, we're planning an east coast tour and traveling more up north and just wherever they'll have us. We just want to keep playing and sharing our music as long as we can.

About a Band: The Aquadolls

All week long we'll be learning a little bit more about each of the bands in our Burger Records lookbook and feature. Up today: The Aquadolls.

Just last year, The Aquadolls released Stoked On You with Burger Records. Lead singer Melissa Brooks, Ryan Frailich, and Josh Crawford make up the band, providing us with excellent Beach-Boys-esque riffs and vocals worthy of some of the best girl groups from the '60s. Below, get to know a little bit more about one of our favorite bands you should be listening to this summer.
Maddie

Hi Melissa! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your band, The Aquadolls.
I started this band in the summer of 2012. We released our debut album "Stoked On You" in November of last year, and now I'm working on my solo album!

As a musician, who would you say your biggest role model is and why?
My ultimate musical crush is Gwen Stefani. Her voice is so pure and she's a great lyricist. I can't tell you how many times I've screamed along to No Doubt's song "Don't Speak" at the top of my lungs while sobbing as a kid. Gwen is a powerhouse.

You have excellent on-stage style. What is your favorite thing to wear while performing?
My lucky leather jacket and a mini skirt.

Since summertime is near, what are three of your summer essentials?
Jelly sandals, sunglasses, and my tattoo chokers.

What song or album would you say is the epitome of summer?
“Summertime” by GIRLS.

What do you guys like doing when you're not playing music?
Ride skateboards by the beach!

Read our Summer Party with Burger Records feature

About a Band: Tomorrow's Tulips


All week long we'll be learning a little bit more about each of the bands in our Burger Records lookbook and feature. Up first: Tomorrow's Tulips.

If you could dream of the ultimate band to describe summer in California, who would it be? In my opinion, it would be Tomorrow's Tulips. Alex Knost and Ford Archbold, the duo that makes up the band, created some of the most perfectly "lo-fi"jams on their latest record Experimental Jelly that was just released on Burger Records last year. Knost and Archbold are just as sun-soaked as their music, both with bleach blonde hair and tan skin. Below, Alex tells me about why he started the band, his favorite spots to surf, and his top summer tunes.
Maddie
Photographs by Dominic Santos

Hi Alex! Tell me a little bit about how Tomorrow's Tulips formed.
I started Tomorrow's Tulips as a sort of refuge from the band I was currently in at the time. I needed a release from the frustration that was trying to make a "group work" and to play without over-analyzation or any premonition of what was needed to succeed. It was a fresh start to accept failure from a listener or onlooker, and simply create. I originally started the group with an ex-girlfriend playing drums.

You released Experimental Jelly just last year. Who or what were your main influences when recording the record?
Being in the open, having an exposed fragility; that is what binds humanity and emotion. Our world is masked by media, fashions, trends, and technology. The end result has been isolation, and that isolation stems insecurity and jealousy amongst a community. I wanted to write songs, or at least take a step towards being naked.



Do you feel living in California has a large influence on your music?
A person's environment is always a role in what they are producing. I think there's a mix of embracing that and also an effort to alienate it. It's the uncomfortable situation of staying where you know what's going on, much like living at your parents' house.

Aside from music, I know you are an avid surfer as well. What's your favorite place in California to surf?
I enjoy the beach breaks in between the track homes and parking meters.

What tunes are at the top of your summer playlist?
Television Personalities "Do You Know What They're Saying About Me Now" and Conspiracy of Owls "A Silver Song."

What's your favorite thing to do during the summer besides surfing and playing music?
Visit OCMA, ride a bicycle, and go to openings.

I'm With the Band: Cage the Elephant


It's no secret that Cage the Elephant are one of rock and roll's biggest names right now; they just released their third album, Melophobia, this past October, and have been on the move ever since. Melophobia is their strongest record yet, with ten solid tracks that will keep you listening over and over. I caught up with rhythm guitarist Brad Shultz last Friday in Ventura, CA just before the band hit the road to play Coachella's second weekend. Maddie

What were your primary influences when recording Melophobia?
I think, if there was any influence for me, it would be the local scene in Nashville. There’s a ton of awesome bands that are coming out of Nashville: Jeff the Brotherhood, Bad Cop, Plastic Visions, Ranch Ghost. There’s a really cool music scene in Nashville. I had some time off and I live in Nashville, so I really got into going to local shows and stuff.

What do you feel is different about this record from your previous records?
I think it's more in-depth, if that makes sense. It's the closest interpretation of what we envisioned in our minds, what we wanted to achieve musically of the three albums.


Left, Nick Bockrath and Matt Shultz during the band's encore. Right, Matt Shultz and Brad Shultz backtsage.

What made you guys want to call it something that means "fear of music"?
It’s not really a literal use of the word, it's just based on being afraid of creating music under any kind of false pretense.

What are your three tour essentials?
Internet [laughs], that’s for sure. And clean socks and underwear.

What do you guys do to prepare for a gig?
There’s no kind of ritual that we do, we kind of just hang out and create a good environment as far as just chilling and vibing out and listening to music, just being as relaxed as we can.

Okay, now tell me three songs you recommend listening to right now:
Yeah, Broken Bells “Holding on for Life,” Bad Cop “Light On,” and Plastic Visions “Little String.”

Okay, now choose! East Coast or West Coast?
I’m going to say central. No coast! Middle of the country, Nashville, TN!

Crushed or cubed?
Oh, Sonic ice. The sphere ice, that’s the best.

Old or new, in terms of music?
I’ll say new because new is influenced by old, but still pushing forward.

Clean or dirty?
What are we talking about?

Anything!
Clean. I’m gonna go with clean. I like to be showered and fresh.

Morning or night?
Late evening, I like the late evening.

I'm With the Band: Drowners

Drowners are currently making their way around the West Coast in support of their debut self-titled record. In their downtime between Coachella weekends, they made a stop in Los Angeles to bring their melodic, jumpy jams to The Roxy. Drowners are made up of Matt Hitt, Jack Ridley, Erik Lee Snyder, and Joe Brodie. I had a chat with Matt and Jack to talk about where the band is at right now, their favorite songs to play while DJing, and more. Maddie

Since we last talked you had your debut record come out. How was the recording process and putting it out?
Matt: We finished it about nine months before we actually released it, like a human pregnancy, so when it came out, we were ready for it to come out. It was kinda sitting on the shelf a bit. We did it over three weeks last May in a basement under a bar and Gus Oberg and Johnny T produced it. My 25th birthday passed as we were recording it, and that’s pretty much all I remember about it.

Matt, you've been part of other projects in the past. What's different about Drowners as opposed to your previous projects?
Matt: Literally only that I sing in this one. I do Threats with Jack. I kinda stopped doing all the other shit before Drowners started, so it's really just Threats and Drowners. The only differences are that I sing in one and Jack sings in the other, and he writes all Threats and I write all Drowners. Basically the only thing that switches between the two is who stands in the middle of the stage.

Tell us a little bit about the influences that went into your self-titled.
Matt:
The things we were influenced by to record were like, The Vapors, Gun Club, and we were inspired vocally by like, when you listen to '50s and '60s shit, like when they scream and the mic blanks out. That was kind of a main point of it. Slickness of Vapors, energy of Buzzcocks, yeah.
Jack:
I would say for me, since he obviously wrote the thing in his bedroom, I think it was done with a lot of pain and fun and late nights and such. You play in a different way when all that is going on around. Depending on how you feel you play a bit different. I feel like a lot of long nights and mild suffering in different ways led itself to a nice product.
Matt:
There’s like twenty different versions of the same song, depending on how we feel. Particularly live, it completely changes. Like how hard you want to play or how much you want to scream or how much you want to move, that’s just night to night. When we were doing the record, it was like Jack said, fun and pain; basically two sides of the same coin, where you’re like one or the other.

How would you describe Drowners in three words to someone who has never heard you before?

Matt: “I’d hit it.”
Jack: “Totally fucking awesome.”
Matt: Yeah, do that one.

What is your dream venue or city to play in?
Matt:
I’m gonna sound biased in L.A., but this is only the second time in L.A. and I’ve fucking had a right laugh both times I’ve come here. There’s not like ideal size or whatever. I like playing in front of people who give a shit, because that’s not always the case. That’s my favorite thing. When people give a shit it makes us get hyped on it.



If you could have a tour with anyone, who would it be? Dead or alive.
Matt:
On the top of my head, we did four gigs with Cage the Elephant and I’d want to do another tour with them that was longer. I only had four days of ultimate bliss and I’d like to have like, a month with it.

When you're not playing music, what are you usually up to?
Matt: Sleeping.
Jack: Drawing or skating and walking around. Cuddling with puppies. Cuddling with puppies and watching Law and Order SVU.

What are your go-to tracks when DJing?
Matt: I want to preface this with like, we DJ a lot because we’re absolutely broke and we all need to make money. It’s a job and shit. I started DJing after I moved to New York because I'd sit and listen to Jack and some other people DJ. My favorite three to play I stole completely off Jack. Gun Club "Sex Beat," "Red Hot" by Billy Lee Riley, and "Train Kept A Rollin'" by the Johnny Burnette Trio.
Jack: I would agree with that as well.
Matt: ‘Cause I stole it off you!
Jack: “Love and Desperation" is creeping up on me. That’s a sexy song.
Matt: That is my new absolute favorite song! It’s the singer of Gun Club.
Jack: Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
Matt: It’s the best shit I’ve heard since “Stoned and Starving” by Parquet Courts.

I'm With the Band: The Orwells feat. Criminal Hygiene


For the latest installment of this column, I interviewed The Orwells and Criminal Hygiene when they made a stop in Los Angeles at the Troubadour this past weekend. The Orwells are a relatively young band based out of Chicago, Illinois, while Criminal Hygiene are based out of L.A. Both bands have deep roots in punk and garage, and have a clear goal to make rock and roll stand on its own again. See what the boys had to say below.
Interview and photos by Maddie Sensibile


The Orwells featuring their pal Jack from Twin Peaks.

Introduce yourselves!

Henry: I’m Henry Brinner.
Mario: I’m Mario Cuomo.
Grant: I’m Grant Brinner.
Matt: I’m Matt O'Keefe.
Mario: We are the Orwells!

You released Remember When in 2012, then Other Voices and Who Needs You. What can we expect from the new record?

Mario: It’s more soulful. There’s some soul on it, there’s some swingin’ beats. You’ll like it.

What record or records have influenced you guys most as a band? I know you mention Is This It a lot on your Twitter.
Mario: Yeah, we talk about it. I love soul. I love like, Sam Cooke and really soulful stuff.
Grant: It’s all different for everybody. Everybody has different taste in music.
Mario: Lyrically, I love like, “Ooooh!” when you feel it in your heart. Pretty much just Kendrick.

If your music was made up of three ingredients, what would they be?
Entire band: Sugar, spice and everything nice.

Favorite festival you've ever played?

Mario: FYF!

If you could put on your own music festival, who would your dream headliners be?
Mario: Day one would be Waka Flocka for me.
Henry: Everybody’s dead, it sucks.
UO: They can be dead.
Mario: Oh, what the hell. Well, let me reiterate: Waka Flocka.
Henry: I think T. Rex, though.
Mario: Okay, T. Rex, Waka Flocka, and Har Mar Super Star.

If you could bring three things on tour and nothing else, what would they be?
Henry: Headphones.
Mario: Condoms, money and beef jerky.
Henry: My drums.

Now choose:
Taco Bell or Del Taco?
Henry & Mario: Taco Bell.

Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper?
Henry & Mario: Mountain Dew

Boxers or Briefs?
Henry & Mario: Boxers
Mario: We’re so similar.

High or low?
Henry & Mario: High.

Saturday or Sunday?

Henry & Mario: Saturday.


Criminal Hygiene.

Hi guys! Introduce yourselves.
Michael F: I’m Michael Fiore.
Michael H: Michael Hiller.
Sean E: Hello, I’m Sean Erickson! We met Fiore at an Italian restaurant; turns out he was pretty good at guitar.

You just released the "Withdrawn" 7". Can you tell me a little more about who has influenced your sound?
Michael F: Actually, I wrote that song the day... well, I stayed up all night because one of my best friends went to jail for a DUI. It’s about that general mindset and feeling. So, that was influential. I was trying to be Rod Stewart when I was singing; it’s true, that’s what I was going for.

What's your favorite record to listen to while on the road?
Sean: Unfortunately, we have one of those stupid radio hookups. We’ve just been around the L.A. area so far, so we can’t really listen to it. It’s all static.
Michael F: When I’m driving places I like to listen to The Faces, and I’ve been playing the Mac DeMarco album a lot.

If you could put on your own music festival, who would your dream headliners be?
Michael H: I can answer for Sean and say it’s probably gonna be Jimmy Buffett.
Sean: ZZ Top would be one of them. KISS.
Michael F: The Shins, Replacements, Fugazi, and The Cigarette Bums.

Now choose:
Pepsi or coke?
Sean: Pepsi
Michel H: Coke
Michael F: Coke. Cherry Coke.

Scrambled or fried?
Michael F: Fried over medium.
Sean: Scramble it, cheese it, sauce it.

Stones or the Beatles?
Michael F: Beatles, for the most part.
Michael H: Can you pick both?
Michael F: What era? That’s where it gets fishy.
Michael H: There’s more shitty Stones albums than Beatles albums.
Sean: They’ve been around longer. They’ve had their chance.
Michael F: I like Exile more than I like Let It Be. But I like Sgt. Pepper’s more than I like Satanic - whatever that shit is.

Since it's festival season, real shower or fake a shower?
Sean: Oh yeah, bum shower. Baby wipes and McDonald’s sink.
Michael H: Real shower.
Sean: Real showers are beautiful, but they’re not always available. You gotta make do with the hand driers.
Michael H: Both.
Sean: I’d prefer to be on tour where you have to take showers in weird places.

I'm With the Band: Johnny Jewel


Over the weekend Chromatics and Glass Candy played the Converse Rubber Tracks Live x UO event at the Tower Theater in Los Angeles. Before the gig, I interviewed Johnny Jewel, a man who wears many different hats. The L.A.-based musician is a member of both Glass Candy and Chromatics, and is currently scoring a television show and an upcoming Ryan Gosling-directed film. Needless to say, Johnny is one busy guy. Interview by Maddie Sensibile

Hey Johnny! What have you been up to lately?

I just had my first vacation ever for Christmas, and it was really cool. I went to Mexico. I never end up taking vacations during Christmas or New Year's, and if I'm traveling or try to take an extra day off, some work always comes up. This time of year everyone is on vacation, so nothing happened, and I didn't take a computer or a phone. I didn't listen to music for two weeks. It was pretty crazy. I was a little scared at first. I view myself as being okay with that, but I was worried I was going to have withdrawals and be embarrassed by myself. So, I did that, and since then I've been scoring a TV show that I've been working on for 20 hours a day. With film and TV, the music is important, and it's always the last thing. They don't think about the fact that music has to be made in real time. It's crazy cross-training for making pop music! 

You performed twice at the Urban Outfitters Rialto launch party, with Glass Candy and Chromatics. What do you enjoy most about being part of two groups?


The bands are really similar in certain ways. We sound more like each other than Bon Jovi and Garth Brooks or something. Live, Chromatics is...there's more people, so it's more choreographed. Glass Candy is kind of a loose cannon. I never know what Ida is going to do. For me, it's fun to have the improvisational aspect of Glass Candy, which is always after Chromatics. Chromatics builds up this thick mood, and Glass Candy is like this huge explosion. Chromatics is more suspenseful and disciplined in a way, and Glass Candy is really punk. It's just me and Ida, so anything goes. Emotionally they are really different, too. I enjoy playing with Glass Candy more after I've played a Chromatics set, and I enjoy Chromatics better when I'm on tour with Glass Candy.

Regardless of what band you're playing in, who are some artists or eras that have long influenced you? 

Well, I grew up in Texas, like in the '80s, pre-internet. You kind of felt that you were really alienated because all of the action was on the coasts. Now it's different, because everybody travels everywhere. It was hard to even get certain records in our town. You would just see things on MTV or in magazines, and you lived vicariously through that. My relationship with music and art has always been through a distant looking glass. That's just the way I learned to interact with art. That hasn't changed, but I developed a kind of fixation for climates or regions. I'm really into tropical. Like I just went to Cancun, you know! I didn't do anything but build sandcastles and chill out. I've always been really fascinated with bodies of water and things like that. I like fashion photography from the '70s and '80s, like Helmut Newton: Really tropical fantasies. We're all huge fans of Andy Warhol and the whole Pop Art era.



Do you create all the art for your releases?

I do. It's not silk screened, and a lot of it's photocopied and cut paper, whatever I could do at Kinko's. I was trying to emulate Andy Warhol and Interview Magazine in the '80s, all those pencil drawing faces and stuff like that. To me, it was a cross between Art Deco and Punk. Again, growing up so isolated, ideas were everything. You'd see a photo and sort of fixate on it, and you didn't know anything about that place or time. I didn't know what New York was, and I didn't know what Paris was. I was in Texas and that's the center of the universe if you're Texan.

I know, I've grown up out here in L.A. my whole life, so everything is kind of happening here. I don't have that smaller town viewpoint.

What's weird is that I moved here in March, because I have to come out here so much for film [work]. And now I live here and I don't do anything. I stay in my house and my studio. I kind of live like a bird on a hill. I travel so much, I have more weekends in a year than most people because of touring, you know. So when I'm at home, I don't do anything. It's ironic. I'm in L.A., a big city, and it's a great city for music and art, and I find myself just kind of being at home almost like a hermit. And this would've been my dream growing up, like Los Angeles! Crazy! 

What's your favorite part about having your own record label, Italians Do It Better?

I'm not a perfectionist, but I refuse to answer to deadlines, which makes me kind of annoying in Hollywood, but they put up with it. The best thing about running your own label is that you can do whatever kind of packaging you want, and I can release any artist I want, any song I want. There's no fiscal pressure, none of the bands have deadlines, none of the bands have contracts, no employees, no overhead, no office. It's really cool. I call this guy, like, "Hey, I want to press 10,000 records," then I wire him the money and they disperse internationally. You can do anything with a phone and computer. It's cool to have this huge indie label and to have that freedom.


After Dark 2 artwork.


Since the new year has just begun, have you got any music related resolutions?

I want Chromatics to start practicing. We all live in different cities and haven't practiced in, like, five years. I'm excited about getting a tour space and doing a tour in the spring. I also have a few records I want to finish this year, so that's a resolution, and finally I want to commit to this poet from Texas, Farrah. I want to finish her album. Obviously there's a new Chromatics record, too. The project I'm most excited for outside of the bands is this film I'm scoring that was written by Ryan Gosling [How to Catch a Monster]. It's his first feature-length as a director. He's not in it. It stars Christina Hendricks, Saorise Ronin, Ben Mendelsohn, and the dude that plays Doctor Who [Matt Smith]. He's crazy, he's the villain. He's really disturbing, and psychotic. He has a shaved head, and he wears this gold lamé jacket and drives around with a beat up chair on top of a convertible in dying Detroit. The soundtrack is incredible. We've been working on it since February. It's gonna come out in October, and it's gonna be really cool. This French cinematographer shot it, so it's absolutely gorgeous if you like beautiful but strange cinema. 

I'm With The Band: Kate Nash

Ahead of the last gig on her recent tour of the United States, I caught up with singer-songwriter Kate Nash at The Fonda in Los Angeles to talk (amongst other things) about the release of her third record, Girl Talk, which came out earlier this year. Kate told me about her biggest role model, her experience at Reading Festival, and what she is most looking forward to about the holidays. Interview and photos by Maddie Sensibile

Maddie: You released your third record, Girl Talk, earlier this year. What was your mission when creating this album?
Kate:
When I was actually writing the record, I wasn't really thinking at all, because I was going through a lot of emotional crap. I didn't have any other way of being powerful, so I just wrote songs. I would go into my house and just explode how I was feeling. It was the only way I could be that honest when I was writing songs. 

I knew what the attitude of the record was going to be, but I didn't know how I was gonna make it until I started writing the songs. Playing bass made it sound really different. I wanted it to be an indie version of Destiny's Child's Survivor album, and bring together all the work I've been doing over the past couple of years… a really empowering album for young girls.

Maddie: Your opinions on feminism are definitely clear and very positive for young women. Growing up, did you have a role model, or is there one that is still important to you?
Kate:
Yeah, I would say my mum, really. I've got two sisters, they're both here [in L.A.] actually. My mum and dad were very open-minded. My mum was very much a debater, and taught us to argue and be challenged. She would always open debates and discussions growing up. That had a really massive effect on me. She's just a really strong woman. She's a nurse and she worked in a cancer unit when she had cancer [herself]. She's so strong, but really motherly and nurturing as well. She's my biggest role model.

Maddie: Speaking of being a role model, you're very close with your fans. Why do you think its so important to maintain this relationship?
Kate:
 Because you can. It's so easy now, it almost feels pretentious if you don't. There's a line where you should be able to switch off and have time to chill out and zone out or whatever, but there are so many opportunities now to connect with your fans, and it's a really nice thing. I have the sweetest fans as well. They're so nice, its ridiculous. They're just really nice to each other, and [have] become best friends across the globe.

It's also been really cool because I got dropped from my record label last year, and to see how supportive my fans are...it's great. As an artist nowadays, you don't have to rely on a record label or a radio hit. With things like Twitter and Instagram, and just meeting your fans, they'll always support you for that. I feel like I'm not just writing songs to be cool or to be a musician. I've always believed in revolution and change, and connection with an audience. 

Maddie: Your Girl Talk tour shows have gained some serious notoriety, stage raids included. What's the best gig you've had this year?
Kate:
I guess Reading [festival] was crazy. I was so nervous about it because I haven't played a UK festival for a few years. When I went to the tent, I was like, No one's going to be there! I'm really scared! And then the tent was packed. I could see people in the audience, either friends or fans that I've recognized from shows on the tours we've been to.

There's this band called The Tuts from the UK that have opened up for us a bunch. They're insane. Really, really fun. Nadia [Javed, vocals] will, like, crowd surf and get dropped. She doesn't care about looking stupid or anything. I've seen her slam down trying to crowd surf and failing, being stuck over the barrier. At festivals it's really hard to get over the barrier, there's like ten men lined up, and everyone was trying and getting carried off, but somehow Nadia managed to run on stage. We were all laughing so much while we were playing.


Me and Kate

Maddie: Who are your favorite artists or songs to dance to at parties?
Kate:
Mariah, first of all, is my queen. I love Mariah Carey so much. Beyonce, "Countdown," when I saw how many times I played that on my laptop, I was like, in shock. I have literally played that the most out of every song on my iTunes. Eminem, a bit of Slim Shady, you can't go wrong. Usher, R&B, Ashanti, maybe some N*SYNC, some Britney. P!NK. I love that Missundaztood album.

Maddie: You always wear the coolest outfits for every performance. What's the best thing you've worn on stage?
Kate:
Recently, I wore this costume by this designer called Bas Kosters, and it's literally made of, like, a thousand tutus. It's insane. You look at it and think, How could that be flattering? But somehow, it is. I went down on the floor after one of my songs, and one of my guitarists was just cracking up. It was just like tutus and a head. I want him to design something for me. He's from Amsterdam, he's always dressed up in crazy makeup and outfits.

Maddie: What's on your Holiday wishlist? 
Kate:
I'm obsessed with space at the moment. All I want are presents to do with space. It could be, like, pajamas that have planets on them, or one of those planet things that spins around, and a telescope. I'm so into Chris Hadfield. I've got his book and I'm going to his book signing in London.

Maddie: And the best gift you've ever received? 
Kate: It was the weirdest Christmas ever. I was 14. I had food poisoning, and I wanted these jeans from this store River Island. They were, like, bootcut jeans that were blue down the side and white down the middle, and covered in glitter. I was so excited for these jeans. We were opening presents and I was, like, puking in a bucket, and opening presents. My family was trying to still include me in the day, and I was just sitting there pretending to have a good time, even though I was destroying the atmosphere. Those bootcut jeans were like my favorite thing ever.

Maddie: Are there any family holiday traditions you're looking forward to?
Kate:
My mum makes the best Christmas dinner ever. My dad cooks the turkey on the barbecue outside. He wears a chef's hat in the garden. My mum is really obsessed with decorating the house as well--there are baskets of pine cones that have been spray-painted with silver and gold, and decorations everywhere. My dogs are like the kids now. We have Max and Molly, two Labradors, and Max, his face on Christmas! He smiles! He puked last year from excitement before anyone had opened presents. I just like going and eating and drinking during the day, and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Since The Hobbit Two is out this year, I'm really excited.

Maddie: Tonight is the last gig of you tour. What do you have next on the books?
Kate:
I'm releasing a Christmas EP called Have Faith with Kate Nash this Christmas. I'm just going to go home [to the U.K.], and maybe do a Christmas show around that. I was in a movie last year, and that's coming out this week, so I'm going to go home for the premiere of that. As soon as I've done that stuff, I'm just gonna slob out, watch Lord of the Rings and get my mum to feed me.

I'm With the Band: Albert Hammond Jr.


You may know Albert Hammond Jr. as long time member of The Strokes, but he also has a totally noteworthy solo career. Albert recently released his new EP, AHJ, on his friend and bandmate Julian Casablancas' new label Cult Records, and it's a solid, five piece collection with some of AHJ's best and catchiest tracks. We sat down with Albert to talk about his musical process, what it's like working with Julian, and whether or not he's ever gotten carried away with his tour rider. Interview by Maddie Sensibile

Maddie: Hey Albert! How has your solo tour been going so far?

Albert: It's been wonderful. I've had a lot of really great turnouts.

Maddie: Let's talk about your new EP, AHJ. What does it feel like to have both your own material and new music from The Strokes out this year?
Albert: To be honest, I didn't even really think about it. I enjoy all the processes that it takes to make music, from the studio to playing live, so it's always good when you're working and having fun.

Maddie: Growing up, what made you want to become involved in music?
Albert:
I never really wanted to do music - I only got into music around twelve or thirteen. I just kind of fell in love with Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. There's no real reason; it's hard to explain that feeling of falling in love with something. It's not really an emotion that has a reason. It just exists.

Maddie: This is your third release as a solo artist. What do you like most about being able to create everything yourself?
Albert: I don't feel like I'm on my own. I work with Gus [Oberg] quite closely, and we usually bounce ideas. It's not something I wanted or I craved. When I have breaks, I write new music, and I just get so excited about something that it ends up getting recorded. It's kind of a funny thing to get really excited about something in your bedroom, or a new idea you're coming up with, and then continue that excitement through the recording process. It becomes so fulfilling that you can't wait to show people and then you're in this cycle.



Maddie: Did you enjoy being able to work with Strokes bandmate Julian Casablancas in releasing the EP?

Albert: There's nothing like working with your best friend. As soon as he had a label, I kept on having these ideas of wanting to do different stuff, but he wasn't ready for it yet. Then he came back and he was like I'm ready, and I was like Let me show you something new, and then it just built up. It's really exciting to be like that. It kind of feels like when we used to live together back in the early days, you know. We end up talking the same way we would when we're working together. It's more of a conversation, less of anything else.

Maddie: How did you come up with the cover art for the EP, the growling Rottweiler?
Albert:
We had one beforehand that we all liked that we didn't use, so we were looking at other ones, and it just kind of came together. It just felt so fitting. There's no big reason or statement. The way I view work is that you look at stuff and everyone has different ideas, and then all of a sudden something just comes together, and it's better than everything else and everyone likes it.

Maddie: Yeah, you just know it's right.

Albert: Yeah, it's the same way you do music. The best idea is the one that wins and floats to the top.

Maddie: What is your favorite thing to do in Los Angeles?
Albert: I'm so bad with these lists. I don't like favorites - it's like tying you down to something. It's so weird because I could say something and never go back there again! One of my favorite things to do when I come to L.A. is to see Nick [Valensi] and his kids.

Maddie: If you weren't playing and creating music, what do you think you'd be doing with yourself?
Albert: That's a beautifully hypothetical question. If I could say anything... I remember the stuff I like. I like the idea of learning how to fly, and I love to cook, so maybe I would do something with that. I went to film school and I love movies, so maybe I would do something with that, too. I also like using my hands, so maybe I'd do construction or something. Hypothetically there are a million things. I would've loved to have been an athlete.

Maddie: What's a song you've been feeling lately, or a favorite song of all time?
Albert:
"Goodbye Girl" by Squeeze.

Maddie: Best vinyl record you own?
Albert: One of my favorite records is Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon.

Maddie: What's the craziest thing you've ever put on your tour rider, on your own or with The Strokes?
Albert: It's gotta be crazier with The Strokes. It's going to be so boring, but when it gets crazy, you bring what you need yourself. By the time you can afford crazy things, you don't even need a rider, and that's what's so funny about it. By the time you make money, people are bringing you free clothes. But we don't ask for anything crazy. Lots of ice. For some reason, when we're in New York, people can't believe how much ice we ask for.

I'm With The Band: Maddie



Our L.A.-based freelancer Maddie is so in love with music we were like "Why don't you marry it" and gave her her very own column, "I'm With The Band." Whenever a cool band rolls into town, Maddie will be there to chat to them - and she'll get the pictures to prove it. We'll be putting up Maddie's most recent interviews in the coming days, so stay tuned.

To find out a little bit more about our favorite fanatic, read on!




First concert attended: NSYNC.

First big band crush: Green Day when I was 11.

Favorite concert experience: Seeing The Rolling Stones in May was THE BEST EXPERIENCE EVER!

Favorite album of 2013: Arcade Fire Reflektor.

Most BFF-worthy band: Haim.

Most exciting 2014 tour: Apparently Outkast are reuniting at Coachella next year...

Guiltiest pleasure: ONE DIRECTION. (Also want to see them next year.)

Favorite shows ever: Arcade Fire at Coachella 2011 (first time I legitimately cried seeing a band), Franz Ferdinand at the Fonda April 2013, Palma Violets Echoplex August 2013, The Vaccines at the Troubadour Sept 2012, Arctic Monkeys Ventura, CA May 2013, New Order Coachella 2013, and Stone Roses Coachella 2013. There are so many more but those are the biggies!