Behind the Scenes: UO Live White Lung
Singer, songwriter and Goddess Banks recently spoke to us about her writing process, her love of Greek myths and what we can expect to hear from her upcoming album Goddess. And after a whirlwind year of EP releases and festival performances, we're thrilled to see Banks embarking on her own headlining tour this Fall. If you'd like to meet Banks and get her debut LP signed, make sure to catch her at our next For The Record vinyl signing event on September 10 at Space Ninety 8 in Brooklyn, NY!
On preparing for shows:
For me, I get nervous, but it's kind of just funneled into adrenaline and the second I'm on stage, it turns into something else - maybe some sort of power. I definitely get nervous before the start of almost every show; I'm not sure that will ever go away.
On being a self-trained musician and how it affects the way she approaches music:
I've never used music any differently than what it means to me. It's honesty and it's truth. It's really just a tool for me that I use to survive, really. [Laughs] A way of letting things out and expressing things that I need to express. Whether that's really happy and bright things or dark things, it's really just another language for me that will always be there.
I taught myself to have my own way of doing everything. I developed my own style and my own point of view and way of structuring my songs because of being self-trained. I didn't have any voices in my head, so it's had a lot to do with how I write, I think.
On her other hobbies and what she'd be doing if she weren't a musician:
I used to love drawing and painting, and I mean... I love art, but music is like my entire heart. Even if I love doing other things, it's not the same as writing music for me. That's something that I need. The other things are fun for me, but music is like water to me.
Banks' US television debut performance on Kimmel
I played in so many different places! It's cool when you play in different countries, different cities, even different towns, because culturally the audience can interact differently with music and you really feel it when you're doing the festival circuit. When I was in Poland, the crowd was so juicy, they were just incredible. There was this staircase from the crowd into the audience, and I think you're supposed to tell security if you plan on entering the audience, which I'd never done before so I didn't think to plan out, but during "Goddess" I just wanted to be closer to everyone, so I went into the audience down these stairs, through this pathway. I was touching everybody as I walked and it's just one of my juiciest memories of performing.
You don't really get a day off when you're touring, but in every city I go to, I try to wander around for at least an hour or two, just to see things.
On what she's interested in right now:
I love all Greek stories, Greek mythology. I've been reading those when I've been on the road. I love moving my hands in hypnotic ways. Very smooth. And I love ginger. [Laughs] Any type of drink with ginger in it!
On her upcoming album Goddess:
Goddess is my whole heart. It's me 100%. I put everything into it. I feel like after you listen to it, you'll really know me – my layers and all my flavors.
I don't really think in terms of albums. I'm constantly writing because it's just a part of my life - I can't stop writing, so I don't really think of it in terms of albums. Goddess is a body of work that represents a time in my life, a really important time in my life. I'm always writing, I have more songs, and I'll always be writing more songs.
On what the rest of 2014 looks like for Banks:
I don't know! Lots of touring. My album is coming out so soon. There's so many things that I'm doing that I've never done before. Even when I hear that question, my heart starts beating really fast. [Laughs] It's just a mix of excitement and nerves. Everything is new - doing Jimmy Kimmel is new, so I guess I'll be doing more stuff like that and more collaborations. Right now my head's just on the Goddess tour in September. I'm really, really excited for that. It's crazy. I'm so happy and it's the most fulfilling feeling to know that people are connecting with the music. Every stage is exciting - playing for five people or thousands of people, it's all great.
This year, FYF Festival moved to a new location, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and spared no expense when it came to the vibes, food, and, of course, the artists playing. Last year, FYF expanded to a two day festival, making it an even bigger deal to us LA-natives. What’s better than a festival just twenty minutes from your house? Nothing, in our opinion. Sean Carlson, founder of FYF, stacked the lineup this year with favorites like Ty Segall and Mac Demarco, and even gave the fans huge comebacks from The Strokes, Interpol, and Slowdive. LA ladies Haim also played one of our favorite sets of the weekend, along with excellent solo sets from members of The Strokes, and a perfect daytime set from Real Estate.
We caught most of Interpol’s smashing set and they were totally shredding the whole time under beautiful red lights. We were most excited to see Grimes perform over the weekend, since it'd been a couple years since we caught her last. She closed out Friday night at The Lawn stage, with her incredible beats and dancers in tow. On Sunday, we spent the entire day at the Main Stage, anxiously awaiting The Strokes, but while waiting for the band that's influenced so many of us, we also got to see Kindness, Tanlines, Blood Orange, and Haim perform. Could there have been a better set of bands to “open” for The Strokes? Nope! All in all, FYF really honed in on the meaning of the music this weekend with an extraordinary lineup of bands and good people. Check out some of our favorite pics from this weekend below! Photos by Maddie Sensibile
If you're always on the hunt for new music, head here every Monday for five freshly picked tunes to start your work week off right!
Dntel - If I Stay a Minute
Happy Friday! Here are some of our favorite internet tidbits from the past week. Check 'em out and then go out and have a great weekend.
1. We cruised by The Picture Room last weekend in NY and had never noticed it before, but apparently it opened up back in May. The Picture Room is a new art gallery and shop space that’s owned by McNally bookstore, and it's a really nice hybrid of bookstore/gallery space. Here's a few pics over on Melting Butter that highlight the space.
2. HAIM’s new video for "My Song 5" came out this week and it features A$AP Ferg, Grimes and a ton of other famous people in a TV talk show themed video. Pretty sure these girls can do no wrong.
3. The Simpsons is now playing continuously on FXX until September 1, so if you're totally ready to binge, check out how Vulture ranked the first 14 seasons, so you won't have to compromise your valuable time watching less than stellar seasons.
4. Lately we've been feeling inspired by Joe Silveira's Instagram, an account full of the everyday observations of Toronto graphic designer Joe Silveira— it's a smart study in color and shape. If you like what you see, Toronto publishing house Colour Code Printing released a collection of Silveira's images, entitled So So Tired.
5. Is anyone else as pumped as we are on the newest Ariana album, My Everything? No? Just us? In any case, this preview of the first four songs over on MTV has us feeling some kinda way.
If you’re in Los Angeles this weekend, you’ll definitely want to make sure you stop by Los Globos in Silverlake today, August 22, to catch Kindness and Ramona Lisa at Afterfest. The name Kindness may be familiar to you as he often tours and works with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, but now he’s on track to release his second studio album, Otherness, this October. Adam Bainbridge, aka Kindness, mixes dance, electronica, and a little disco to create his unique sound. Perfect for any Friday night dance party.
Ramona Lisa, the new solo project by Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, will join Kindness that evening in providing the grooves. Polachek calls Ramona Lisa’s genre “pastoral electronic,” which is realized through rich vocals and calming beats on her debut record Arcadia. Make sure to RSVP for Afterfest here. You know you don’t want to miss this one!
Washed Out, aka Ernest Greene, put out one of our favorite albums last year when he released Paracosm. Now, he joins the ranks of the many artists participating in our For The Record vinyl signing program. We've worked with Ernest before when we produced his "All I Know" video last year, and we're psyched to work with him again, especially in a setting where he gets to interact with his many fans.
Washed Out will be on tour this fall, so if he's heading to a city near you, make sure you catch the show. His live performance is just as incredible as his album, and hearing him in a live setting only makes the experience that more magical. Watch the video for "All I Know" below, read our interview with the video's director Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen, and check to see what cities he'll be visiting for For The Record!
If there’s one name to know in punk music today, it's that of Mish Way, frontwoman of White Lung. White Lung originally got their start in Vancouver, and just released their third record, Deep Fantasy, on Domino Records. We recently had a chat with Mish, discussing the resurgence of punk music, her style icons, and everything that contributed to the recording of their new record. Make sure you’re sitting down for this one - it’s a heck of a good read.
Interview by Maddie Sensibile
Hey Mish! How have you been lately?
Fuckin' great. We just played this festival called Fuji Rock, which is held out in the mountains in Mount Fuji. Huge festival, it was great. I was only there for like 36 hours, so we went out, they took us into the festival, we played, we did some press, we went back to Tokyo, we partied with our friends, and then we went home. It was crazy. Japanese crowds are amazing. Everyone who worked at that festival was so polite and respectful and on point. Every piece of gear was perfect, everything you wanted was perfect; it was just very, very lovely. I'm all about the professionalism and they just blew me away.
You recently released Deep Fantasy on Domino Records. Tell me a little bit about the recording process for the record and where you drew inspiration from.
Well, we recorded the record in Vancouver with Jessie Gander, he's our guy. We started writing this record, and recorded half of it in December before I moved down to LA for a bit. Half of the record was written in isolation, which was really beneficial for us. We never heard any of the songs live until Heather and I went up and tracked it. Our guitar player Kenny played both bass and guitar on the record because we kicked out our old bass player. He did both, because he's a genius. The record was done a lot in the studio because we were playing more with tone and trying to piece together a rock record with a missing member. But it actually worked in our benefit because everyone was only bringing their best material forward. When we did work as a group, we couldn't just jam things out live, it had to be a little more calculated, a lot more thought out, and it worked for us. And the inspiration for the record, I just didn't want as much sugar on this record as the last one. I'm not sure if I achieved that, but I personally really wanted to write really strong, accessible vocal melodies that were aggressive and strong but still really catchy.
Deep Fantasy is full of slick and fast punk tunes that sound like they are totally timeless. How do you feel about punk music coming back and being more popular again? What was your goal when creating this record?
To me, punk music never went anywhere because that's the scene that I grew up in. Maybe it's having a resurgence in a more mainstream fashion now, but for us, those are my peers and that's who I toured with. We always put ourselves out into the atmosphere, and that's the great thing about punk - you can do things on your own and you don't need anyone else. That's the whole point of it, you know? I think it's great that loud music is coming back in a more popular way. I think people need it. Our world right now, we're doing everything in subtweets, you know? Punk music brings out true excitement and anger and expression. Even when you're watching a punk show, that energy is exhilarating and exciting and I think in a world where we're all so concerned with feeling and doing things on the sly, it's so complicated, and such a mindfuck, to have a form of straightforward, direct, and confident true expression. That directness is maybe what's so appealing. It makes me happy. The more the merrier. We've never been one of those bands that's been like, Keep us secret. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot of people in the punk scene don't feel that way.
White Lung's shows are extremely energetic and clearly elicit a physical response. For you personally, what do you feel is the key to putting on a meaningful live show and connecting with the people in the audience?
As we play venues or bigger stages, like festivals where there's this complete disconnect, I really had to learn how to convey what I'm doing in a bigger way. Put a little more musical theatre into it, you know what I mean? I've never been one that looks people straight in the eye while we're performing. I like to touch people and get involved there, but I don't necessarily look at people. I like to lose myself and forget what I'm doing. That's what makes a good performance for me. I'm aware that there's people watching me, but if I'm hyper-aware, and I see someone's eyes or something, it takes me away from what I'm doing. In the past I would always have my hair in my face. For me to put on a really good show I need to be completely lost in what I'm doing. It's this completely unaware trance that's happening, and that's when I perform the best. That's when I act the craziest, and that's when I don't care. People like to see you lose control and like to see power. That's how I feel when I'm on stage. I feel really powerful, I feel really excited, I feel really nuts. That's just what the music my bandmates are playing evokes for me, and I think we build from each other. Everyone has their role, but I like my front people to be front people. If you're paying money, I want to put on a show for you. It's exhausting but it's the best thing in the world.
Who have you been listening to on your own lately, while on tour or just in general?
I actually just deleted everything that was on my iPhone and I'm getting all this new stuff. I'm listening to a lot of, and this is probably because of my boyfriend, David Allan Coe's first record called Penitentiary Blues. Pink Mountaintop's new record I'm really into. I'm also listening to this compilation of all these Turkish garage bands from the '70s that I listened to years ago rediscovered again. Also a lot of weird old soul stuff, like Helane Smith and Joanne Garrett; all these old Miami soul artists I'm really enjoying right now. As for new bands' records, Mormon Crosses are coming on tour with us in September, and there's this band Love from the UK that I'm really into. I'm so eclectic with my tastes, I'm always searching for new old music. That's what I was doing yesterday for hours, just scouring old blogspots. People still have all this great shit up they uploaded from super old albums; it's so good.
I know White Lung was originally based out of Vancouver, but I've noticed you've been spending a lot of time in LA lately! How has this city played a part in your music and writing?
Well, now we're even further spread; our guitarist just moved to Montreal. When I was in Vancouver writing that first half of the record, I was very unhappy and I knew I was making this big change and was gonna try and move. I'm back and forth between the two still. I just really needed a step away from what I was doing in Vancouver. I was extremely unhappy and coming here gave me kind of a breath of fresh air. The second half of the record is a lot more positive than the first, and of course all of the songs are mixed up, but LA just put me in a better headspace. Everyone's gotta escape from the place they grew up in. I grew up in Vancouver, and I've been fortunate enough to travel so much that it was okay for a home base for a while, but it finally got to that point where I was sitting here bored out of my mind. I was done. I didn't have any work anymore and I was being paid in all U.S. dollars so what was the point? I really am a lot happier here, I just needed a change of scene. You can't not be happy in LA. It's a city where if you're already established, it's a really good place to come, I love it. I'm a West Coast person.
Now let's take a minute to talk about style. You do a lot of writing on the subject and how it relates to music. Some say there wouldn't be one without the other. How do you feel about the two and how they constantly work together or can they be separate?
They can be separate things, for sure but I feel like at least for me, the way that I use style in my performing helps me get into my character. Being on stage, you're exposing one very specific extension of yourself. Style and fashion is a great way to embody that and amp that up and really give yourself that extra boost to feel good. People are staring at you on stage, so you want to look and feel good to bring out even more confidence and put on a better performance. I used to have a really big issue with fashion, because I never had any money and I had to be creative with it. I would just feel so frustrated with it. When you follow the rules you feel frustrated but then you realize no one who's got great style follows rules. And, as I got older and got more comfortable with myself, I embraced fashion in a different way. I love it now. Being a female, too, gave me this total leg up with style. It can be frustrating when we're all having those days where you wake up and you hate everything in your closet and you hate your body, whatever, but those are the best days because you've gotta figure out a way to get around that. That's like a weird female thing, but it's an interesting part of it. Style is really important to me and has become more and more important as I've gotten older and I think it has a lot to do with confidence. All the people that I know who I think have the best style, they're just wearing whatever the hell they want, and it looks good because they feel so confident. I think the person with the best style in rock and roll, hands down forever, and will be Jennifer Herrema. She dresses insane. It's because she's made this self and this character and no one can pull off what she does. She looks incredible.
Who would you call your #1 musical style icon?
Probably Jennifer Herrema. And Judy Cole of Dead Moon. She picks one outfit that she wears for an entire tour. It's so cool, she'll just wear that every night and it's like her uniform. It's so badass. I've always loved Courtney Love and '90s style. The whole babydoll Kinderwhore thing, that was great. I think Jennifer Herrema is probably the most inspiring to me because she found this really great stride of hitting the mark between sexy and kind of butch. She's got this real fear in her style, I don't know. Little funny things, you know. If you can pull butch and sexy together, those are my two favorite things I'm always drawn to.
If you're always on the hunt for new music, head here every Monday for five freshly picked tunes to start your work week off right!
Spooky Black - Pull (prod. Kid Hnrk)
Happy Friday! Here are some of our favorite internet tidbits from the past week. Check 'em out and then go out and have a great weekend.
1. This write-up on Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson in NYMag takes a look at her life post-high school, as well as her upcoming play This Is Our Youth that will be opening for previews on Broadway later on this month. As always, Tavi is extremely well-spoken and fascinating.
2. Recently, we've become very interested in the projects of Nicholas Gottlund. Gottlund is an artist who splits his time between LA and small-town Pennsylvania, where he runs a small publishing outpost called Gottlund Verlag out of a book bindery that's been in his family for generations. Along with publishing the work of other artists, Gottlund's own work is beautiful in its experimentation and versatility, and his current show, "Always," is at PLHK in Chicago. Check it out if you get the chance!
3. There's a new exhibit by the radio DJ group Chances with Wolves opening at Pioneer Works this weekend – if you're in the area, make sure you give it a look before it closes September 7th.
4. "Say You Love Me" is the newest song from Jessie Ware and it's kind of ripping our hearts out (in a good way).
5. Finally, we've been really into the Tumblr of Charlotte Audrey Owen-Meehan. Her aesthetic is super cool and very inspiring.
Now celebrating its 25th year, Merge Records is the unlikely success story of two young musicians that went on to put out some of the most prolific indie rock of our time. Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance met, formed a band, dated, didn’t date, toured together, started a business together, and forged their own way in the music industry. Decades later, the two entrepreneurs talked to us about the early days of Merge, Superchunk, and just what it takes to make it all work.
Hi Mac and Laura! How did you two meet?
Laura Ballance: I am pretty sure we met at Pepper's Pizza (R.I.P.) in Chapel Hill, NC, in 1987 or somewhere around there. Mac was working there, and I started working there too.
Mac McCaughan: We probably met at a show in Chapel Hill or Raleigh in 198…6 or 7? We had a lot of mutual friends and were probably at a lot of the same shows. Then we ended up working at Pepper’s Pizza at the same time (in Chapel Hill).
How would you describe yourselves in just one word? How would you describe each other in just one word?
LB: I would describe myself as stubborn. I might describe Mac that way too. Perhaps I should use the word “determined” for the both of us.
MM: Me right now? Stressed. In general…active. Laura in one word…this is too hard! No one should have to be described in one word.
How old were you when you started the label? What kind of sacrifices did you make in order to keep a business running at such a young age?
LB: I was 21 when we started the label. We worked hard to keep the business running. It took a lot of time and energy on top of touring with Superchunk, which we were doing a lot of at the time. We also kept other jobs for the first few years… I think Merge had been in business for about ten years before we were able to start paying ourselves.
MM: I was 21 turning 22 the summer we started Merge. Nothing felt like a sacrifice at that time because it was all for fun; it was what we wanted to do. We sold records and tapes but it didn’t feel like “now we are starting our business that will be our job for 25 years.” Laura sacrificed some space in her house where the boxes of records were.
Can you tell us about a funny/weird/memorable moment from the early days?
LB: For a long time the “Merge office” was in my house. We had a lot of great times having 7-inch stuffing parties, where people would come over and we would drink beer, watch movies, and assemble 7-inches. One time I was also rushing to get some packages made to send out right before I needed to head to Kinko’s where I worked, and the tape gun fell off the shelf. Without thinking, I reached out to catch it, and the serrated blade fell right on my thumb and gashed it pretty bad. I probably should have gone to get stitches, but I did not have time before I went to work. I still have a scar that looks like a cartoon shark’s mouth on my thumb.
MM: Putting the records together was memorable, bands coming over and stuffing records into sleeves and sleeves into plastic bags. Very satisfying.
When Merge Records began, did you have any idea it would turn out to be so prolific? What were your initial goals?
LB: When we started Merge, I had no idea it would last even a year. I really didn’t even think about it. It just seemed like a fun thing to do at the time. That said, some of our idols were Dischord and Sub Pop, and obviously they were in it for the long haul. Our goals at the time were to document the local music scene and also to put out our own records.
MM: Our initial goals were just to put out this music by ourselves and by our friends’ bands. It was to have a cool label like the cool labels we liked growing up: Dischord, 4AD, Factory, K, Sub Pop, Cherry Red, Rough Trade, Teen Beat.
Were there advantages/disadvantages to running a music label in North Carolina? Not exactly the hub of the music industry!
LB: I feel like there were plenty of advantages to running Merge out of North Carolina. The rent was cheap, not too much competition in terms of getting attention, and we had and have a strong vibrant local music scene complete with lots of bands, great college radio, awesome clubs and promoters, and excellent record stores. People used to ask us all the time when we were going to move to New York City or Los Angeles. I think we would not have lasted five years if we had done that. But maybe we would have gotten to work with Pussy Galore…
MM: People would often ask when we were moving to NYC or LA, which seemed like a backwards idea to us; one reason we could exist was because we lived in North Carolina, paying NC rents and having plenty of space to practice with the band and stack boxes.
What were the advantages/disadvantages of being artists yourselves and running Merge from a musician’s perspective?
LB: The main disadvantage of being artists and running the label was trying to pay attention to the label while being a band that toured a lot. Now that is all easier because Superchunk does not tour as much, and I don’t tour at all anymore because of hearing damage from too much loudness. The advantages of running a record label as an artist are myriad! I feel like we are more in tune with our artists and what they might be going through as artists since we too are artists. We have gotten to experience all aspects of the record business from the side of the artist as well as the side of the record label. It’s good for perspective. As touring artists, we also got to see and meet a lot of bands while we were on the road and make connections that we would not have made otherwise. I don’t think Merge would have grown the way it did if we had not also been in the band.
MM: I think the obvious advantage is that you can see things from both sides; this is good for us, and it’s something the bands we want to work with can recognize as well. The downside is when you have to put on the “business” hat and negotiate with bands, or their managers—that’s my least favorite part of doing this.
You’ve taken a lot of chances on unknown bands—is supporting entrepreneurs and emerging artists important to you?
LB: Supporting developing bands is really important to us. It’s the best thing we can do as a record label. Working with known bands is great and all, but helping to lift a new or unknown band out of obscurity is most rewarding for all involved.
MM: Yeah, I think one of the most satisfying things about having a label is working with a band from before anyone knows about them, and watching as people discover their music and come to love them like we do. It’s also great to get to work with bands that we’ve been fans of for a long time—e.g., getting to put out records by The Buzzcocks or The Clean (David Kilgour’s new solo album is out in August!)—which we never could have imagined when we started. But yeah, working with emerging artists is an important part of having a vital label for us.
Arcade Fire was unknown when you signed them, and turned out to be one of your biggest success stories. What was it about them that struck a chord with you?
LB: Arcade Fire write amazing songs, and that first demo we got from them was just full of great songs that were full of this incredible exciting raw emotion. What we look for in every artist we put out is the ability to write great songs, and they certainly have that in spades. Plus, they are a great live band.
MM: Well, as any fan of Funeral will tell you, it’s an incredibly immediate album, both emotionally and musically. Musically it reminded me of some bands that were very formative for me—New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen—but then with these epic pop songs that were clearly coming from their own universe. Seeing them live was another level altogether.
If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently, if anything?
LB: There are some small things, but across the board, in the big picture, I am happy with how we have run Merge.
MM: I’m sure mistakes have been made over the years, but in general it’s hard to imagine how things could have gone better. Of course there are albums or artists that we think have been overlooked and deserve more attention, but you can’t spend too much time regretting the things that didn’t go as planned. There’s too much work to do in the present.
What advice would you give to the young entrepreneurs out there today?
LB: Don’t expect anything to be handed to you on a platter. If you want to do something, you are going to have to go out there and work hard to make it happen. Social networking alone does not success make.
MM: Keep your day job! Seriously. We did, for quite awhile.
If you're always on the hunt for new music, head here every Monday for five freshly picked tunes to start your work week off right!
Cloud Castle Lake - Sync
As summer keeps rollin' on, so does the internet. Another week means another pile of tunes, good reads, and movie trailers. See a handful of our favorites from this past week below!
Merchandise "Green Lady"
This song is so good. Merchandise kicked it up a notch with the synth in this one, and man, is it working. Makes me feel like I'm starring in my very own melodramatic '80s movie. (via Stereogum)
"Everything Happens So Much"
This piece over on Pitchfork (yes, the title is a Horse ebooks reference) by Lindsay Zoladz about music being available all over the place, forever, because of the internet, was an interesting read, as well as The Atlantic piece she linked within it which talks about internet streaming and why it's so bananas. I felt very internet overwhelmed after reading these, so read at caution if you don't want to feel guilty for sitting on Buzzfeed three hours a day, endlessly refreshing.
Banks "Beggin For Thread"
We chatted with Banks earlier this week (interview coming soon!), right before she was set to perform on Fallon for her first television debut. She did absolutely amazing and was also wearing a cape, so if you don't love Banks even more now, then yikes.
Cayetana "Scott Get The Van, I'm Moving"
We've been loving everything we've heard from Cayetana and this newest one is no exception. Very, very excited for their LP Nervous Like Me. (via AV Club)
Saved By The Bell: The Unauthorized Story
Oh my god, what are you even doing, Lifetime? (via Vulture)
Remember how much the Garden State soundtrack meant to you back in high school? Us, too. That's why when we found out Zach Braff would be coming to our NYC store (1333 Broadway) on August 8th to sign vinyl soundtracks for both Garden State and his new film Wish I Was Here, we jumped at the chance to interview him ahead of the event. Read on to find out about what it was like for Zach to work with Donald Faison again, and how it feels to curate a Grammy-winning soundtrack.
You’re currently working in New York on Bullets Over Broadway. Can you tell us about how you became interested in musical theatre? Have you always had an important relationship with music?
I inherited my love of musical theatre from my dad. When I was growing up in New Jersey, my trial attorney father loved performing in community theater productions. The first one I remember watching him in was “Hello, Dolly!” and it inspired me. I was never into sports as a kid, so that helped me find my niche in the performing arts. Aside from theater, music has always been a big part of my life. It’s how I celebrate and cope with life's moments. And my only metric is whether or not I like how a song or artist makes me feel.
The Garden State Soundtrack won a Grammy and helped launch the careers of some of the musicians involved. What does it take to put together something so prolific? What were you looking for when you set out to make it?
It wasn’t intentional, and the timing was fortunate. I won a Grammy for making my favorite “mix tape” of all time. At that point, most indie music was slowly discovered through word-of-mouth, and Garden State introduced some lesser-known but amazing artists to a wide audience very quickly. The songs on the soundtrack are ordered chronologically by when they appear in the movie. I think the soundtrack works partly because it's a group of songs that people love and partly because it's a chance to relive the movie according to how you remembered it and how it made you feel.
Can you tell us about the soundtrack for your new movie, Wish I Was Here? What was the process like of creating it, and what are some of the most important points?
I knew I wanted to assemble a lineup of originals, covers, and rarities, along with a few classics. I also knew I wanted to stay true to my indie music preferences, which is the type of music I love and which, I think, best compliments my style of filmmaking. For the originals, I started out with my dream asks: James Mercer (The Shins), Coldplay, and Bon Iver. When they all said yes and their reactions to seeing the movie were so strong that an unbelievable new song emerged from of each of them, I was humbled and amazed. Then the rest of the album came together with a “may the best song win” approach. Each song had to give both my editor, Myron Kerstein, and me chills when we added it to a scene. I think Allie Moss’ cover of Imogen Heap is tender and beautiful, and Bon Iver's “Holocene” and Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child” are both timeless classics.
What was it like working with your brother on the movie?
It was a bonding experience that brought us closer than ever. It provided us with a lot of opportunities to discuss our family and our personal beliefs. And it was great to witness his writing process and learn from his strengths as an artist and storyteller.
You’ve said you like writing strong female characters. Can you talk to us about some of the characters you wrote for Wish I Was Here and the casting choices?
In script form, my brother and I envisioned the characters of my wife and daughter to be dynamic, strong, and intelligent yet entirely different women. When we wrote them, I dreamed of getting Kate Hudson and Joey King to play those respective roles, but I never imaged I’d end up with both of them. They brought their best work to these archetype females, and it elevated our movie family’s entire dynamic. It was so hard to edit the film down to its theatrical running time because every time they appeared onscreen their performances were so genuine and such a pleasure to watch.
We’re excited to see you reunite with Donald Faison–is it fun to work together again?
Of course! We jump at any chance we get to work together. And even though we love riffing and improvising during a scene just to make the other laugh, it’s even more fun to see our Scrubs fans go crazy any time we collaborate. Our fans are definitely the best part.
Can you talk to us about some of the advantages or disadvantages of being an actor yourself when directing? If you had to choose to do only one for the rest of your life, would you act or write/direct?
It can be difficult and all-consuming to be an actor-director, but it’s also one of most rewarding feelings I’ve ever experienced. To be able to make art and tell a story the way I want all the way from the script to a final, edited movie is such a privilege. It's difficult to pick which I prefer but it’d probably be writing/directing.
What if you could not be in the entertainment industry at all?
I love to fly and have my pilot’s license. And I love dogs. So I’d probably be a K9 aviation specialist.
Jenny Lewis is no stranger to collaboration. She began her musical career with Rilo Kiley and has worked with more musicians than we can count, including The Postal Service, Bright Eyes, The Watson Twins, Johnathan Rice, and most recently, Ryan Adams and Beck for her newest album, The Voyager, out now. Celebrating the release of The Voyager and gearing up for a few For The Record vinyl signings, she chatted with us about her many collaborations, her fashion sense, and growing up in the desert. Photography by Autumn de Wilde
Hi Jenny! Thanks so much for chatting with us. How are ya?
Doing well, thank you!
We’ve been big fans for years and years!
Well, thank you!
So, how excited are you about The Voyager finally coming out?
I’m pretty excited considering it took quite a while to complete. I feel like I can relax a little bit now that it’s done.
You worked with Ryan Adams on the album. What was that like?
It was wild! I reached out to him directly, via Twitter. I think I DM-ed him! I was on tour with The Postal Service and we were wrapping it up after Lollapalooza last year. And so I reached out to him because I had a new song that I wanted to record. And he said, “Yeah, come on down to Pax-Am, come check it out, and we’ll record your song.” And by the end of the day, we recorded two songs, and then he asked if I wanted to come make my whole record at Pax.
Yeah, it was exactly what I needed to get over the hump of this record. I didn’t want to be the captain of the ship anymore. I was happy to be the skipper.
That was the 10 year reunion tour with The Postal Service, right?
It was. It was really exciting, so fun! It’s like a rock and roll dream come true, where you disappear for a decade and come back and play two sold out shows at Barclays Center. That shit never happens!
Are there any songs that will always feel extra special to you?
My songs are like my kids in a way, so it is hard to choose. But I think I’m drawn to a song over time when it can exist in different ways. If you can strip a song back and play it on an acoustic guitar in a room with your friends, then it’s something that sticks around for a little while. Some songs are tricky and I can’t play them outside of Rilo Kiley, they just don’t make sense. I feel like "Silver Lining" is a song that’s really flexible in that way.
I feel like I’ve witnessed something very rare in your musical history. I’ve seen The Frug live.
Oh my gosh! Oh wow, that is a really rare thing. Did I do the dance?
You did! It was incredible!
[laughs] How embarrassing! It’s funny, because I didn’t even realize when we were writing that song that I was referencing Troop Beverly Hills. It didn’t occur to me, and then someone was like, “Yeah, don’t you remember? You did The Frug in Troop Beverly Hills with Shelley Long?” And I was like, “Ohhh, that’s where I got that from!”
If they did a remake of Troop Beverly Hills, would you do it?
Would I play like the older, wiser one?
Yeah, like they get the old gang back together.
You know, I would seriously consider it.
In addition to your acting history and musical prowess, you’ve also become quite a fashion icon. Is that something you identify with?
Oh, well that’s so nice to say! I certainly have never set out to be an example or a trend, I just wear what feels appropriate at the time. But I have noticed over the years when I look out into the crowd, that the fashions are always just a little bit behind what I’m doing. You know, when I was touring Acid Tongue, for example, the kids were dressed like I was for Under The Blacklight, like hot pants and glitter and gold lamè! And by the time Acid Tongue was finished and we were doing Jenny and Johnny, I had moved on to like a ‘50s greaser kind of thing, and the kids were dressed like I was on the cover of Acid Tongue, in bellbottoms and a hat, out there flashing peace signs!
Will you ever put out another one under Jenny and Johnny?
I’d like to! We shall see. Johnathan [Rice] and I continue to write together for my records, his records, and we wrote a bunch of songs for an Anne Hathaway movie. We’re always collaborating on stuff, and I’m sure that when we write something that feels really ‘us’ it will inspire another J & J record.
That’s the second movie you’ve worked on a score for, that’s very cool.
Yeah, that is the second one. The first one I did by myself, and then exactly a year later we were asked for Song One and I was so relieved to have Johnathan and Nate Walcott from Bright Eyes. It’s a big responsibility, it’s a lot of hard work and homework. There are a lot of revisions when you’re working on a film because it’s so collaborative.
How does that differ than making songs for your own album?
Well, you’re not writing for yourself, which is a really fun exercise. You’re writing for a character, and in the case of Song One, we were writing for a male singer/songwriter. To flip the gender roles like that was really exciting for me. Although I think we created a very sensitive man [laughs]. The sweetest, most thoughtful guy ever.
You seem to really collaborate a lot on your solo work.
Yes, I need a lot of help [laughs]! I come from a band, so I’m used to sharing the responsibility and I’m used to collaborating with people. I love it. When I first got into music, I knew nothing about music. I just knew how to write words and put them to simple chord progression. I learned everything being in a band. Standing alone and being a solitary solo artist isn’t as comfortable for me, so I try to be as inclusive as possible.
You were actually born in Las Vegas, but do you identify with that at all?
I’m pretty much a Valley girl, I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. But I do go back to Vegas on occasion. I mean, none of my family stayed in Vegas. But when I do go back, I feel a certain kinship with Las Vegas. I feel very comfortable in a desert mini mall out in the middle of nowhere. For whatever reason, that’s like when I’m in my element.
Vegas is a kind of weird place.
Kind of weird?! It’s the weirdest place on Earth! It’s so strange. You can stay indoors for three days in the AC and never see the real Vegas, but the way I grew up when I was a kid–we lived in an apartment complex and my parents worked in the casinos–our life was very separate from that.
Back to fashion a little bit, tell us about your amazing rainbow airbrushed suit!
Oh, man! Well, for every record since Rabbit Fur Coat, I’ve collaborated with Autumn De Wilde and her amazing team in Los Angeles. So we always get together and pow-wow about what the look is gonna be of the record I’m about to put out. So for The Voyager, we wanted something slightly cosmic. I was referencing Gram Parsons and those famed nudie suits he wore. They’re beautiful! It’s kind of a nod to country western music, but I also wanted it to be more modern and reflect when I grew up, which was in the ’90s in Los Angeles. So it has kind of a graffiti element to it.
Are you wearing it on tour?
Yes, I’m going to wear it as much as I can! But I’m playing a lot of summer festivals so I may have to rethink the three-piece polyester suit. You know, if you wear a suit like that, it does like half of the work for you. You’re like, “here I am! I’m in this rainbow suit!” and everyone’s like “Hey! Who cares about the music!”
I’ve heard you also love wearing tracksuits!
[laughs] It makes me happy, it keeps me very comfortable when I travel. I used to wear oversized tracksuits when I was a kid and so lately I’ve opted for a kids medium, that’s the size that fits me! I’m a total shrimp. They’re a little high-water, which I like. I’m dying to do a collaboration with adidas where we cop my rainbow airbrushed suit and make that design on a tracksuit. It would look really cool.
I would totally buy that!
The next up in our newly-premiered UO Live series, Jungle takes a break from their first US tour to perform "Busy Earnin’" to an intimate audience. On the heels of a breakout TV appearance and releasing the much-anticipated self-titled album, Jungle’s T talks to us about the secrets behind the mysterious group’s process, working and touring with his best friends, and never taking any of it for granted.
Hi T, can you tell us about yourself?
I’m T, from Jungle. I guess there’s not much else to say, really (laughs).
You guys have known each other for a long time, right?
Yeah, I’ve known J since I was 10 years old.
What’s that like, to now be traveling the world and working and making music together?
It’s really good, it’s our relationship that keeps us grounded. It helps in the studio as well, because when we’re creating together I’m not afraid to tell him an idea is bad. We’ve known each other so long and we know each other so well that I’m not afraid of hurting his feelings and we’re always honest with each other like that, rather than spending three weeks working on an idea that isn’t good. We can immediately nip it in the bud.
Do you ever fight?
Yeah, of course! I think it’s actually a good thing that we do that, because then we can take our frustrations and our fears out on each other. We know that we don’t mean it and we know we can be there for each other and kind of be an emotional punching bag.
Your recent performance on Jimmy Kimmel was incredible. What was that experience like?
That was a really cool experience, it was a completely new experience. I think with the project, the great thing about it is that we take each day as it comes and I don’t think we’re scared of anything because we’re all in it together. There’s such a great team of people behind it. We’re so lucky to have been able to come to the United States in the first place that I think we’re not taking it for granted. We’re really focused and energized.
Had you been to the US before this tour?
I’ve been to New York once. Yeah, it’s a bit of a dream! When you get to LA and you see all those palm trees.. there are too many palm trees! And we’re touring with Beat Connection, which has been great. It’s been really special.
So now you’re traveling all over the States, seeing everything.
Yeah, that’s the beauty of it!
Are there any cities or shows on this tour that stand out to you?
The El Ray in LA was the first show, and that was pretty special because it was an amazing theatre. It was really full and everyone was really happy. I got all the nervous energy out of my system and I think that was a really great place to do it. Everyone has been really amazing, and the response in all the cities has been overwhelming and surprising.
Tell us about the new album.
I’m really excited about it. I think it’s been inside our heads for so long, it’s a really special thing to be able to release it and give it to people to make judgment on, to form their own opinions. It’s kind of beautiful; we have the control on the stage or in the studio, and it’s nice to now put it out there and not have any control whatsoever. You free yourself of that worry.
How long did you work on it?
It took about 12 months in total. A lot of that was interrupted by the early days of forming the live band. That took a lot of time. So maybe 3 months, solid focus, day in and day out.
When you first went into the studio to make the new album, did you go in with a clear idea of what you wanted it to sound like, or do you feel it out as you go?
I think with me and J, we literally just sat down, and our mantra was that whatever feels good, we go with. Whatever sounds cool and whatever sounds unique is where we start from, and then our influences and subconscious takes over a little bit. When you’re being so conscious about creating–being very focused on the task at hand and trying to create something new–you completely free your subconscious of negative thoughts. The what if, or why, when, how. That’s the really interesting thing about it, the whole record has kind of been a battle between our conscious and subconscious.
Jungle has been shrouded in mystery until recently–was this intentional?
Being mysterious was never the intention. I think the intention was to remove our egos from the process of creativity and the idea of a front man, someone who has to be the alpha. It’s quite a negative thing in my eyes. A shared experience that is more focused on a group mentality and a set of ideals rather than a set of individuals, that’s much more important to us. In a way, it’s sort of the old way of going about things. We’re not after Instagram or Facebook likes. People used to not know anything about musicians. We’ve chosen to communicate with the world through our music.
You’ve still cultivated a generous following, which is really refreshing in this technology age.
Yeah, I guess you don’t see it as a bigger picture. We don’t have that same sense of scale. Every night is a surprise, selling so many tickets. We don’t expect it, how popular we are, because we don’t tend to focus on that aspect of it.
You worked so hard to make the album, do you feel like you’re celebrating it over and over each night when you perform?
Yeah, I think what we really love is making the connection with audiences. Sharing that energy and experience with as many people as possible.
What’s it like to travel the world, live your dream, and experience so many things with a crew of your best friends?
It’s amazing! It’s a real privilege, I don’t think we’ll ever take it for granted. Each day is different; we’re in a different place, or on a different road, in different circumstances. It’s very exciting.
If you're always on the hunt for new music, head here every Monday for five freshly picked tunes to start your work week off right!
Gap Dream - Strong Love
Happy Friday, everyone! There's so much beautiful garbage on the internet every week that I want nothing more than to share every special moment in this one post, but I've (somehow) managed to narrow it down to five favorites this week. Read on to see my favorite internet gems of the week. —Katie
Janelle Monae "Electric Lady"
Janelle Monae is literally the only person in the world who can make those little Samsung watch phones look cool (re: the first 30 seconds of this video), and I now want one to take pics of all my cute friends. ("I saw Janelle wearing a bulky Samsung phone watch so I bought a bulky Samsung phone watch.") But forreal, this video rules.
A new little boppy song from Sophie! I was curious to see what would be the next big internet tune after "Bipp," and I think I still like "Bipp" more, but for weird electronic jams, this one is pretty catchy.
Running Wild with Bear Grylls
Somehow I had no idea that this "Running Wild" show was happening this week, which seems like a real shame because Zac Efron is probably, like, #4 on the list of things I love. In this episode with Zac Efron, Bear and Zefron repel shirtless down a mountain together and Zac even kisses Bear on his sweet face after Bear farts in his sleep. (Zefron also has a long laugh by himself over the whole thing, because he is an angel and gets humor.) If that's not true friendship, then I don't know what is. Watch the whole episode here.
(Photo via NYDN)
Stuff Drake Does Twitter
Boy, this Twitter account Stuff Drake Does only has 22 tweets so far, but they're all gold. I just reread them for a second time and laughed aloud, again, and that's truly something special. IDK what we all did to deserve Drake, but thank you, universe.
Twin Shadow "Locked and Loaded"
A new Twin Shadow song was premiered in the most recent episode of Comedy Bang Bang and it's totally buried close to the end (start playing around the 1:02:00 mark), but it's so good and so beautiful. Emotions. :(
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.
To celebrate the launch of our collection of exclusive Jansport backpacks available only at UO, we teamed up with Jansport to throw a little party in NYC last week with performances from Phosphorescent and Strand of Oaks. In the midst of all the craziness, we grabbed some pictures of everyone jammin' and a quick interview with Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent. Check it out below! Photos by Jonathon Bernstein // Interview by Jessica Louise Dye
Hi Matthew! Tell us a little bit about how you got started as a musician.
I wanted to pick up a guitar probably just like every other kid - by listening to Nevermind by Nirvana. That’s definitely what made me wanna try and learn some tunes.
How would you describe your sound?
Oh, yeah. I would generally have to try to dodge that question, about describing sound. Hopefully it does that job by itself!
What would you most like for people to take away from your music?
I would want people to take away... just some sense of something beautiful I think is what we’re aiming for, some sense of beauty.
A show is a success when we all make it out alive.
I know you just became a father, congratulations!
Thanks! She’s just a little baby still.
What do you hope her first record will be?
Well, it better be a Phosphorescent record.
The best part about touring is the shows, and playing music all over.
The worst thing about touring is the transit. The transitioning between places can be the thing that really weighs you down.
What does the future hold for you?
Yeah, I don’t know. I am going to be getting back into the studio after getting off the road and seeing what comes from that. We’ve been on the road for about a year and a half, so it will be good to get back into the studio and see what we can make of it.