After making Coachella history, Klangstof are blazing a trail for other Dutch indie bands

KlangstofPhoto by Jack McKain // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Those of us who have been attending Coachella for a while know how difficult it is for artists filling early-afternoon slots to draw large crowds at the Empire Polo Club. The sun, for one, is usually scorching hot by then, and most of the acts performing between the hours of 12 and 3 p.m. are still relatively unknown.

But for some on the come up like Klangstof, who this year became the first Dutch band to ever perform at Coachella, just the opportunity to play one of the oldest and biggest music festivals in the U.S. has already paid huge dividends back home.

“We’ve never really been big in our home country,” says bandleader Koen van de Wardt, who started Klangstof as a solo project when he was 14 years old and living in Norway at the time. “Being the first (Dutch) band to play Coachella gave us that boost.”

It’s only been a little more than a couple weeks since Klangstof hit the stage for Coachella’s second weekend, but since returning home to Amsterdam, van de Wardt says the response has been palpable.

“I hope it’s a start for more Dutch bands to play big U.S. festivals,” he adds. “We have a pretty cool indie scene. I hope we’re a band that can get things going for Dutch indie culture.”

So far, they’re off to a strong start. This month van de Wardt (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards) and his colleagues — Wannes Salome (keyboards, vocals), Jun Christian Villanueva (drums, programming) and Jobo Engh (guitar) — kick off a 21-date North American tour that will see them open for The Flaming Lips and Miike Snow and make appearances at other major U.S. festivals like Sasquatch!, Bonnaroo and Firefly along the way. That’s not bad for a new band with members who have only been playing together for a year.

As van de Wardt explains, turning Klangstof into a touring outfit wasn’t his intention. When he first started writing the demos for what would become — over a seven-year stretch — the group’s 2016 debut LP Close Eyes to Exit, it was simply “out of boredom.”

Yet, everything changed for van de Wardt when he uploaded “Hostage” as the first Klangstof song to his Soundcloud account in 2015. Two days later, he picked up the phone in the middle of the night to learn it was David Dann from Mind of a Genius, the London/Los Angeles-based indie label that has ZHU, Gallant, THEY. and KWAYE currently signed to its roster. Dann liked what he had heard and saw Klangstof as the next addition to his growing list of clients — and van de Wardt was more than happy to oblige to deals with Mind of a Genius and subsequently Warner Bros. Records months later.

“I never thought something like that would’ve happened,” the 24-year-old frontman admits.

It was from that point that van de Wardt had to consider something he hadn’t had to quite yet: How was he going to play his music live? He spent the next six months searching for the right musicians to join him before settling on Villanueva and Engh, two of his friends from Norway, as well as Salome, whom van de Wardt had only “met” through Facebook but knew to be one of the “top synth wizards in The Netherlands.”

“It has been a pretty weird journey because I never wrote the record as something that I was going to play live,” he says. “I just did everything myself.”

And while turning his solo project into a live band was an adjustment for van de Wardt, it’s not like he hadn’t played in bands before. In fact, just a few years prior, he had moved from Norway to The Netherlands to join Dutch indie band Moss, which he says ultimately helped him decide if he wanted to pursue music as a full-time profession or not. Even more, it gave van de Wardt the confidence to start his own project and eventually assemble his own band, the same one that he’ll bring this week to The Theatre at Ace Hotel in LA and Fox Theater in Oakland as opening support for the three-time Grammy-winning Flaming Lips.

“I feel now after one year with the band, I know what the Klangstof sound is,” he asserts.

Such a sound, with its alt-rock roots and electropop tinges, has drawn lofty comparisons to Radiohead, a group that van de Wardt cites as one of his major influences, but you can also hear hints of other prominent UK “indie” bands, from alt-J to Foals, in the finished product. Meanwhile, onstage it’s been an exhilarating experience for van de Wardt, who can’t wait to jump back in the studio with his bandmates once they’re off the road at the end of this year.

“I’m really excited to go in and record the second album because I feel like all four of us know what we’re doing and how it should be sounding now,” he says, and hearing that from van de Wardt should be music to any Klangstof fan’s ears.

As summer comes to an end, Viceroy tells us why it’s still ‘summertime all the time’ in his mind

ViceroyPhotos courtesy of Chubbies // Written by Jansen Granflor //

It’s not everyday that you get to interview someone whom you truly admire, but last month the opportunity presented itself while prepping for the second weekend of Splash House in Palm Springs (read our review here).

Viceroy, born Austen Afridi, is an unofficial ambassador for the twice-a-summer event that reigns supreme over all other California pool parties. Just close your eyes and imagine this: beautiful people sunbathing by the pool, clear blue skies, hot weather, ice-cold drinks and a thumping house beat. Viceroy, otherwise known as the “Sultan of Summer” as he playfully calls himself, has been painting this exact picture for years with his music, and it finally all makes sense now — Afridi, both literally and metaphorically, has become “a ruler exercising authority” over a kingdom he created.

Showbams spoke with Viceroy about his “summertime all the time” brand, his Jetlife side project and his affinity for Hawaiian shirts, among other topics.


Showbams: You are slowly becoming the unofficial face of Splash House as the color palette and beats match the Viceroy mentality. What do you think of Splash House? Have you been to one?

Viceroy: I love the vibe at Splash House. I’ve played every single one of them, and it’s always a blast. My friends come with me, so I stay the whole weekend.

Showbams: When did you first come up with your “summertime all the time” brand, and what influenced it?

Viceroy: I came up with it when I started Viceroy five years ago. It just came naturally to me as I love summer more than anything. It really speaks to who I am as a person.

Showbams: How about Jetlife? That side project seems like a nice alternate approach to the other music you create.

Viceroy: I love 90’s hip hop and R&B. It’s fun to throw my signature sound on something that originally is so different.

Viceroy

Showbams: Are you still bringing a saxophone player with you to your gigs? Is it the same guy every time or do you recruit them from different cities? Do you provide a Hawaiian shirt for them as well?

Viceroy: Yes, his name is Simon and I bring him around. I’m also building out a live show with more musicians. My homies at Chubbies provide Simon with fresh shirts and shorts!

Showbams: Speaking of Hawaiian shirts, I myself have built a small collection of Hawaiian shirts after seeing you perform in Orange County back in 2014 and now I notice them at thrift stores and buy/sell/trade places in Los Angeles. That said, how many do you own? Were they all purchased brand new or are some of them second-hand/vintage?

Viceroy: I have so many that I’ve lost count. I have a rad partnership with Chubbies, so all my shorts and shirts are from them.

Viceroy

Showbams: Being part of the early 2000’s house music generation, I fell in love with the “white label bootleg remixes” of the time. Are any of your remixes “bootlegs?”

Viceroy: When I started, some of my releases were bootlegs for sure, but now I get commissioned to do mine.

Showbams: Who are some of your favorite collaborators?

Viceroy: I loved working with Gavin Turek on my latest single “Fade Out”. K.Flay is rad, too!

Showbams: How do you feel about B2B sets?

Viceroy: I love them! Especially if it’s with the homies.

Viceroy

Showbams: A lot of your remixes add a very distinct layer of piano. Did you have any formal training growing up?

Viceroy: I grew up playing the piano for several years.

Showbams: Where do you call home now?

Viceroy: Good old San Francisco!

Showbams: What are you working on now? Any EP projects in mind? Any big tour dates ahead you’re prepping for?

Viceroy: I’m working on building the live show and just more music with a potential EP in the works.

Viceroy

RJD2 embodies the spirit of Philadelphia on his new album ‘Dame Fortune’

RJD2Photo by Nick Fancher // Written by Josh Herwitt //

When Ramble Jon Krohn, better known as “RJ” or the beat-making nerd/longtime cratedigger who calls himself RJD2, moved to Philadelphia more than a decade ago, the eclectic producer, DJ and singer-songwriter settled on the City of Brotherly Love for a few reasons.

One was its proximity to New York City, a place he frequently had to visit early in his career while being signed to indie hip-hop label Definitive Jux (“Def Jux”) that was co-founded by El-P, the Brooklyn rapper, producer and entrepreneur now of Run the Jewels fame. Another was its cost-effectiveness, where “real estate was criminally undervalued,” he says.

By this point in time, Krohn, who was born in Eugene, Ore., and grew up in Columbus, Ohio, had already garnered a considerable amount of critical acclaim from his debut LP Deadringer and his 2004 follow-up Since We Last Spoke. Layering soul and R&B samples on top of classic hip-hop beats, his early work bordered on trip-hop, falling in line with what other prominent instrumental hip-hop producers like DJ Shadow were fashioning in the late 90’s.

But what the brains behind the theme song for the hit TV series “Mad Men” hadn’t realized is that the cultural underbelly of Philadelphia’s music scene fit perfectly for the type of music he had already been making before moving there.

“It ended up being an ideal place,” he says over the phone from his home in Columbus, where he moved back to last year after spending the last 10-plus years in Philadelphia.

“Even outside of the music being made there, Philly is an extremely musical city amongst the general population,” the 39-year-old continues.

Krohn returned to Ohio permanently so that he and his wife can raise their son around the rest of their family, but he had made quite a few connections, both business and personal, while living in Philadelphia, helping him lay the foundation for his later albums, including 2010’s The Colossus in 2010 and 2013’s More Is Than Isn’t, that he released on his record label RJ’s Electrical Connections.

One of those friendships that Krohn forged during his time in southeastern Pennsylvania was with Aaron Livingston, the Philly-based vocalist whose contributions on both aforementioned albums would eventually lead to him and Krohn forming a separate side project that they call Icebird (the indie-funk duo unveiled their debut release The Abandoned Lullaby in 2011).

On his sixth RJD2 album Dame Fortune that came out less than two weeks ago, Krohn taps back into that well, as Livingston, who goes by the stage name Son Little, drops some silky-smooth vocals on “We Come Alive”, an R&B-flavored tune with a catchy “diamonds flashing all in my eyes” hook you could even find on one of Gary Clark Jr.’s two most recent albums.

It’s the third straight RJD2 record that Krohn has collaborated with Livingston on, and it’s no secret at this point that the two of them have developed quite a chemistry working together in the studio. But Krohn also enlists the help of some other reoccurring guests on Dame Fortune, including rapper/R&B singer Phonte Coleman and Columbus emcee Blueprint, who RJD2 fans might remember for the hard-hitting rhymes he spits on the Deadringer cut “Final Frontier”.

“So much of it is pursuing curiosity,” Krohn explains about his approach to songwriting, “and curiosity at its core is what you know and what you don’t know — what you have experienced and what you haven’t experienced. The threshold defines one’s curiosity.”

Yet, the track on Dame Fortune that might embody the spirit of Philadelphia better than any other is the album’s first single “Peace of What”, which features vocalist Jordan Brown, who sang on Krohn’s collaborative album with Atlanta-born/Philly-bred rapper STS last year.

“(Philly) has a very working-class, blue-collar spirit to it,” Krohn says. “It really does feel like a fleshed-out city that has a very sophisticated musical history. I feel lucky that I landed there and spent so much time there.”

Part of what makes Philadelphia’s music scene so unique, Krohn says, is that unlike New York and Los Angeles, where young, up-and-coming artists often flock to in hopes of fulfilling their dreams, it breeds mostly homegrown talent.

“Nobody really moves to Philly to make it in the music industry,” he adds bluntly. “That just doesn’t happen.”

Of course, neither did Krohn, who heads off to California this weekend to play back-to-back gigs Friday at Teragram Ballroom in LA and Saturday at The Independent in San Francisco. He’s making sure to do things a little bit differently this time around, whether it’s concocting and constructing this spinning, wireless MPC remote to play onstage or adding sidekicks like bassist Khari Mateen and drummer Chuck Palmer to create the full live-band experience for this tour. There’s even the possibility of a guest vocalist making an appearance at the shows.

Krohn, nevertheless, is quite familiar with Palmer and Mateen, the latter of which he met in Philadelphia while living there. Both are good friends of his and have helped elevate his live show into something more dynamic than his typical solo performances.

“It allows us to do songs and get completely off the grid,” he offers.

While he’s getting off the grid at his gigs, Krohn doesn’t have all that much time these days to get on the grid when it comes to touring. With his family in Columbus, Krohn has had to limit his tours to a select few cities despite knowing full well that he could be playing shows every night of the week. It’s something that Krohn simply says he doesn’t want to be doing with his life right now.

But in an industry ultimately driven more by ticket sales than album streams, taking the road less traveled can seem like a dangerous one, especially for musicians who gained prominence in the CD age like Krohn did. Still, he isn’t worried about making ends meet, telling me at one point that “you just make it work.”

Whether that means producing new music, running his label or devising remixes like the one he did of Tycho’s “Apogee” last year, Krohn’s dedication to his craft remains as blue collar as Philadelphia’s music scene stands today. It just doesn’t allow for a whole lot of time to sleep.

“I’m living proof that the work never stops until your head hits the pillow,” he says.

RJD2 - Dame Fortune

RAC is more than just a master remixer

RAC - André Allen AnjosPhotos by Jon Duenas // Written by Josh Herwitt //

André Allen Anjos remembers what it was like to be an undergraduate unsure of his future.

More than a decade ago, he left his home in Portugal to attend Greenville College, a private, Christian liberal arts school in southern Illinois with an enrollment of only 1,100 students. It was there that Anjos would pursue his love for music, learning about the ins and outs of the business after spending his teenage years studying piano and guitar in his home country.

But it was during his sophomore year in college that he also started to become worried about the career path he had chosen for himself.

“I was starting to freak out because I was applying to all these internships — any kind of position in a studio or at a record label that I could find — and I just couldn’t get anything,” he says by phone one day last month. “I applied for everything I possibly could.”

While Anjos was hoping to get a foot in the door any way he could, he realizes now that his résumé was likely just one among a stack of thousands. So, rather than filling out more job applications, he started to focus his efforts on something else: remixing.

At the time, remixing had largely been associated with electronic dance music, a world where both DJs and producers are regularly known for putting their own unique spin on their fellow colleagues’ work. But Anjos’ remixing interests didn’t lie with EDM. Rather, they aligned more with bands that fit under the indie-rock umbrella.

“I’d love to say I had some grand vision, but it was really me just trying to get by,” Anjos says.

What started as a “very casual thing” between Anjos and a couple of online friends quickly took off three months later when their remix of The Shins’ “Sleeping Lessons” went viral. With an upbeat, electro feel to it, the track would go on to earn a spot on the band’s B-side single release for “Australia” and immediately caught the collective ear of other established indie-rock bands like Tokyo Police Club, Bloc Party and Ra Ra Riot.

It wasn’t long after that Remix Artist Collective, or RAC for short, was born out of Anjos’ dorm room as he worked tirelessly over the next several years to expand his remix portfolio, which nowadays includes some of indie rock’s biggest names, whether it be Phoenix, Death Cab for Cutie, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Two Door Cinema Club or Lana Del Rey.

“I never thought that this would still be going,” Anjos admits as he thinks back to his initial goals and aspirations for the project. “It has sort of morphed into something completely different.”

Today, RAC is much more than simply a remix side project. With a full-length album to his name and his own set of touring members, Anjos has turned RAC into a legitimate band over the last few years. He has been releasing original material ever since 2012, when he dropped his first song “Hollywood” on the Mountain Dew-sponsored label Green Label Sound, and even more, he’s turned RAC into a commercially successful act with high-profile festivals stops at Ultra and Coachella — two large-scale U.S. music festivals with very different vibes — this past spring. For Anjos, who just entered the fourth decade of his life this year, playing both festivals is already one item he can cross off his bucket list.

“It’s been a bit of a goal to be in the middle of those two worlds,” he adds in discussing RAC’s appeal to both the electronic and indie crowds that Ultra and Coachella each foster.

Yet, after years of making a living on remixing some of his favorite artists, what made Anjos want to start writing his own songs?

RAC - André Allen Anjos

“It felt like the right time,” he says. “I had been writing original music for a while. It wasn’t necessarily foreign territory, but it just felt like the right time.”

Released on Interscope Records, RAC’s Strangers came out in early 2014 with singles featuring Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke and Matthew Koma, but what fans might not know is that most of the album’s songs were written in 2011 by Anjos, who employed many of the techniques he had learned from remixing to his songwriting process.

“The two go hand in hand,” he explains when it comes to creating remixes versus writing original songs. “When I sit down to write something, whether it has a vocal (part) or not, it’s still a very similar process for me.”

But in many ways, Strangers, which also includes tracks with Tegan and Sara, St. Lucia, Penguin Prison and Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, has additionally served as Anjos’ musical coming of age, one that continues to offer him new and exciting opportunities much like this Friday night’s headlining show in LA at Club Nokia that boasts openers Big Data, Geographer, filous and Karl Kling.

And with new material planned for the performance and his backing band clicking on all cylinders after playing together for the last two years, it’s a chance for Anjos to not only show RAC fans what’s next for the group, but also to prove how far he has come as an artist since his early remixing days.

“I feel really lucky,” he says while reflecting on his career so far. “Hopefully it continues.”

Fruit Bats are back together and hitting the road this fall on My Morning Jacket’s latest U.S. tour

Fruit BatsPhotos by Annie Beedy // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Since their early beginnings in Louisville, My Morning Jacket have toed the line between the indie and jam worlds better than any other rock ‘n’ roll band out there. But they’re also now partially responsible for reviving an early pioneer of the post-millennial, folk-rock boom that stormed the U.S. music industry more than a decade ago.

Conceived by Eric Johnson while working as an instructor at The Old Town School of Folk Music in his native Chicago, Fruit Bats first served as an outlet for the 39-year-old singer-songwriter to experiment writing songs with his 4-track recording device.

“My ultimate goal was to play the local club on a Tuesday night,” Johnson tells me by phone. “I was coming from this very shrewd indie-rock era. My goal was just to have a couple people hear it, and I didn’t even think that would happen.”

Johnson, nevertheless, would go on to befriend James Mercer of The Shins and Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse while touring as a member of Califone, gaining the support of both bands before signing Fruit Bats to Sub Pop Records in 2002 and releasing a new LP on the Seattle label the following year.

“It took going on tour and seeing those guys do well to realize it doesn’t take magic,” Johnson says with regard to the role The Shins and Modest Mouse played in helping Fruit Bats reach a wider audience during the early 2000’s. “You get to see how the wheels start to turn and how it can work.”

Fruit Bats subsequently released three more studio albums on Sub Pop, with Johnson joining The Shins during part of that time as a multi-instrumentalist. But more than two years after putting the final touches on the band’s last full length Tripper, Johnson announced that Fruit Bats would be no more. He was set on taking his career solo, and if that meant calling it quits on the band he founded and led for more than 15 years, then that’s what he had to do.

It was a decision that Johnson still doesn’t regret making now almost two years later, largely because it has completely flipped his perspective on playing in a band, something he started to miss as a solo artist. And after much thought, he came up with a “new” concept for a band, only to realize that it was exactly what Fruit Bats had been all along.

“I formulated this whole plan in my head that seemed like such a great idea, and when I looked at it all on paper, I said, ‘I did that already,'” he says.

Around this same time, My Morning Jacket came calling, asking Johnson if he wanted to open for them as a solo act over a two-week stretch — starting on Sunday at the Santa Barbara Bowl and continuing Tuesday in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium before hitting San Francisco for three straight nights at The Masonic a couple days later — on their current U.S. tour.

“My Morning Jacket asked if I wanted to do the tour and open solo,” he says. “I thought, ‘That would suck to open solo for those guys.’ I felt like I would be swallowed up by those rooms.”

Fruit Bats

So, rather than turning them down, Johnson proposed another idea.

“I asked them, ‘What if I reunited Fruit Bats for these shows?'” he says. “And they were like, ‘That would rule! That would be awesome!’ So, I got the My Morning Jacket seal of approval.”

Shortly thereafter, Johnson wrote on the band’s Twitter page that he would be performing as Fruit Bats again, but the accomplished film scorer (his credentials include working on “Our Idiot Brother” in 2011 and “Smashed” in 2012) would also reveal two months later that he had begun writing the band’s next album, which is slated for release in early 2016.

Still, after 16 years fronting Fruit Bats, he never expected that he would be taking the band on the road as an opener.

“I don’t do opening tours ever,” says Johnson, who splits his time between Portland, where he now calls home, and LA, where he’s currently recording the latest Fruit Bats album. “I’ve said ‘No’ to a lot of them because it’s hard. It’s a bus-chasing tour as they call it.”

But opening for My Morning Jacket, even with the prospect of doing it while traveling from state to state on a bus, was an opportunity that Johnson, whom has been friends with Jim James for a number of years now, couldn’t pass up when the offer was presented to him.

“My Morning Jacket would be on the very short list of people I would chase around because talk about one of the great rock ‘n’ roll bands of our time that is making super relevant and timeless music,” he says. “It seemed like a no-brainer. If you want to talk about a big band with that reach that I would want to get in front of, they’re definitely one of them.”

From California to Arizona to Texas, Fruit Bats will take on some fairly large venues this month, even if it means doing it as an opener despite having been around the block like Johnson has by now.

“It can be a pretty thankless gig,” he says when it comes to opening shows.

If there’s one thing Johnson can be thankful for though, it’s that phone call he got earlier this year from My Morning Jacket.

Fruit Bats

We talk to Fat Wreck Chords’ Erin Burkett as the label celebrates 25 years of ‘destroying punk rock’

Erin BurkettPhotos by Kristen Wright & Alan Snodgrass // Written by Molly Kish //

Amidst the ever-changing creative landscape of the Bay Area, one independent record label has beaten the odds. Conceived out of DIY necessity and spearheaded to this day by the original founders, Fat Wreck Chords has not only become one of the most successfully owned and operated labels in the nation, but also inherently synonymous with an era of punk-rock history that’s still being written today.

While most people familiar with Fat Wreck Chords associate the brand with its flagship band NOFX and frontman/bassist Fat Mike (born Michael John Burkett), who serves as the label’s co-founder, his partner Erin Burkett still remains the binding glue behind Fat Wreck Chords.

Leading up to this weekend’s epic “Fat Wrecked for 25 Years” tour that will be taking over the streets of San Francisco, Showbams spoke with Burkett about what it took to start, sustain and succeed as an independent punk-rock label for more than a quarter century.

Fat Wrecked for 25 Years


Showbams: This year marks the 25th anniversary of Fat Wreck Chords, and this month you’re taking off on a month-long, multi-band tour to celebrate a quarter century of “destroying punk rock.” So, first and foremost, how are you feeling?

Burkett: I feel great! I’m super excited about the tour, and it makes me feel a little bit old — I can’t lie to you. I can’t believe it’s been 25 years, but I’m really proud of our bands and am really stoked on this tour, especially because I feel like in this past year, we had some really great releases from some of our core bands like Lagwagon, Good Riddance, Swingin’ Utters and Strung Out, who all came back after a little bit of a break in between records and just put out amazing albums. I think it’s going to be a big celebration, and I’m really excited for it!

Showbams: Being that this is the hometown show, we’re really excited for it, too. Also, this milestone is a big one. Was it something as the label’s co-founder that you ever imagined it would actually hit?

Burkett: No, never, not even close. We were surprised when we even started making money. We just started doing this as a hobby. It was something fun, and we wanted to put out some NOFX releases. We honestly never expected it to even turn a profit, and when it did, we thought, “Alright, let’s just give it a go.”

We’re from the old school. We had DIY punk ethics and just thought that we could do it — and it worked. Twenty-five years later, and I still am actually amazed that it did. It’s amazing to me we’re still relevant and that not only are we doing well, but we also just had the greatest year ever. I feel really, truly lucky and blessed to have been able to spend the past 25 years of my life doing this.

Showbams: Yeah, definitely not a bad day job.

Burkett: No, definitely not.

Showbams: Looking back at the legacy of the label, you’ve truly fashioned Fat Wreck as not only a brand, but also an entity and really an overall archetype in punk rock. Do you ever have any “holy shit” moments thinking about all the ground you guys have covered?

Burkett: Well, not really because I don’t ever step back and look at it like that. I just grew up running this label. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done and probably know how to do. It feels natural to me now, and all of these bands are like my family. People do ask me that question sometimes, and I just feel that I am unable to separate myself from Fat Wreck Chords. So, I don’t know that I can step outside myself and look at it from the outside. It just feels normal, like part of me.

Showbams: What do you feel has been the driving force behind the longevity of the label?

Burkett: I think it’s the family environment. I know it sounds cliché and I say it a lot, but it’s the truth. These band members are some of my closest friends. We vacation together, we go to each others’ birthday parties, our kids play together — we’ve built a family unit.

I think the fact that we only sign record deals probably is a huge factor as to why we’re successful because you have to think about it like this. If you’re in a relationship, like if you’re married and not happy, you should be able to get a divorce. I think of that as the same type of situation with the label and the bands. If the band isn’t stoked on us and they want to go somewhere else, they should be able to do that. I think that sort of builds a mutual trust and a mutual respect between the label and our bands. It feels great every time a new album comes along and they choose to give it to us because they want to and not because they signed a contract.

Showbams: Not a lot of labels feel comfortable to even offer that as an option, but that probably makes for a much happier work environment.

Burkett: Oh, absolutely! That is the thing. We care about these bands, and we want them to do well — not because were trying to make money off of them, but because they’re our friends! We want them to succeed because we give a crap.

Showbams: The label pretty much ushered in a post-hardcore era of punk, emerging as a revival of the quintessential ethos behind the genre while diversifying from the mainstream counterpart of radio-friendly alternative rock. What were some of your early influences that drew you into the punk culture and community?

Burkett: I grew up in a really small town. It’s a farming town outside of Sacramento, and up until my sophomore year of high school, there were no punk rockers at my school. I didn’t even really know what one was. Then, a girl named Jeannine transferred from Holland, and she was a foreign-exchange student from Amsterdam. I just remember looking at her and thinking she was the coolest thing I had ever seen. She had a partially shaved head, sort of a wide mohawk, wore really cool clothes and had all of these piercings — and everybody hated her. But I was in love with her. I thought she was the greatest thing I had ever seen.

So, I made it my quest to make sure that this girl liked me because I really wanted to be friends with her. I kind of forced myself on her, and she was into all of these amazing bands. She turned me on to punk rock, and I have been in love ever since. It has changed my whole entire life. I went from being totally unhappy and feeling like nobody understood me and I didn’t understand anybody — you know the typical teenage angst, but I couldn’t identify with it. Then, I met her, started going to punk shows and was like, “These are my people. This is what I’ve been looking for my whole life!” Suddenly, I just felt like I found people that got me, and I’ve just had a passion for it ever since my sophomore year of high school.

Showbams: What was the first show that you went to?

Burkett: The first show I went to was a 7 Seconds show in Sacramento at the Crest Theatre, which doesn’t exist anymore. It was really cool. It was an old theater that they turned into a club, but I heard from other people that they knocked it down, which is sad. It was really pretty.

I almost got a 7 Seconds tattoo as well, but the guy turned me down because I was 15 and it wasn’t legal. I was so mad.

Fat Mike


Fat Mike

Showbams: How did you end up meeting Fat Mike?

Burkett: Through the same girl, Jeannine. She ended up going to school in Santa Barbara, and I moved to San Francisco to go to school. At that time, everyone was broke and we didn’t have cars, so we were always trying to carpool or get rides back and forth between the two cities to see each other because we were best friends. At one point she said to me, “There’s this guy. He goes to your school and he’s in a band called NOFX, so find him because he’s always driving back and forth to rehearse or play shows with his band. Find him and get a ride with him next time.” I was like, “So, you want me to find some guy I don’t know in a school of about 50,000 people and randomly walk up to him?”

Then, one day I was randomly walking to school and I saw a van parked on the side of the street. It had NOFX gratified all over the side of it. I thought, “Well, this must be the guy.” I ripped off a piece of notebook paper, and I just wrote a note saying, “You don’t know me, but I want to go to Santa Barbara whenever you want to go. Call me and I’ll pay for gas money.” He called that weekend and said, “I’m going down if you want to go,” and it was a horrible experience.

He was with his girlfriend at the time, a girl named Wendy, and they were breaking up so they were fighting all the time. They were breaking up, but I don’t think they knew they were going to break up. They were just arguing about everything, and they blasted Rich Kids on LSD (R.K.L.) so loud in the back of the van that I actually thought one of my eardrums was going to pop. They yelled at each other and screamed at each other all the way down to Santa Barbara. It was just miserable.

I got out of the van and thought, “I don’t ever want to see those people ever, ever again. That was terrible.” Then, we became friends after that. We were friends for two years before we ever started dating, so then all of this happened.

Showbams: What made you want to go into a professional partnership together?

Burkett: I don’t think we really did. There wasn’t ever a conversation about it really. What happened was, we wanted to put out NOFX releases and Mike was always on tour. I had a full-time job at a public relations firm, but obviously you don’t start a business by hiring people. You do everything yourself, so he would sort of get excited about these projects, then he would leave and go on tour for three months. I would do everything. It wasn’t really a conversation where we said, “Let’s do this together.” It just sort of happened.

I would work all day long. Then, I would come home and ship orders, handle mail orders and eventually it was just too much. I was exhausted. I realized I can’t work, finish school and do this all night long.

It started in the kitchen of our one-bedroom apartment in The Mission until our whole kitchen was covered in boxes, invoices, product and cardboard. We finally said, “Alright, let’s just give it a try. We might go broke and we might lose our apartment, but let’s just see if we can actually do this full time. I quit (my full-time job), but when you’re young, you just do stuff like that.

Showbams: With over 157 albums released and a roster of 80-plus bands, was there ever a band that you passed on signing that you later regretted?

Burkett: Oh, absolutely. We could have signed The Lillingtons, and that was the stupidest thing we ever did — was not signing them. It’s so upsetting to me. I want that band on this label really badly. It’s a bummer to me. The other one, we had a chance. We’re really good friends with Matt Skiba (of Alkaline Trio), and at one point, we had a chance to put out some of his solo material, which we absolutely should have done. I don’t know why we didn’t.

Showbams: Is there distinct criteria a group needs to meet in order to make the cut to be considered for a record deal?

Burkett: Not really. We choose bands that put out music that we like and that we want to listen to. If you look at the roster of Fat Wreck Chords, you’re basically looking at my musical taste and Mike’s musical taste. It’s music we want to listen to and obviously by people that we want to hang out with because Fat Wreck Chords is a family. When we invite someone into the fold, we have to make sure that we get along and that these are the type of people that we want to spend our time with. So, for the most part, that’s the criteria.

Obviously, you need to be a hard-working band and willing to tour and put your efforts toward us as well. But for the most part, we just have to like you, want to hang out with you and like your music.

Showbams: As an independently operated and owned record label, you made a big point to never be involved with the Recording Industry Association of America. No matter how hard they tried, I know you even had to call to have them remove you off their roster.

Burkett: Yep, three times we’ve had to actually. I don’t even understand why.

Showbams: Can you explain your strong stance on not wanting them to include you?

Burkett: Well, this is the thing. Mike and I have always done this ourselves, and we want to keep it that way. If we get in bed with any major corporation, then they have the ability to tell us what to do, and from a very basic standpoint, I don’t want anybody telling me how to run my business. I don’t want anybody telling me that I have to make a decision. I also don’t ever want to have to make a decision based on money either. That sucks! It is a business, and obviously we need to stay profitable. I’m not trying to say that never factors in, but for the most part, we want to be able to run this company the way we want to run it. We don’t want anyone telling us what to do, and if you get in bed with other people, that’s what you have to do.

Showbams: Hand in hand with the old-school punk-rock ideology, Fat Wreck has been involved in politically charged, philanthropic efforts, working with Pets and Protect as well as campaigns addressing former President George W. Bush. What was the label’s motivation behind choosing these causes as its voice in the political mainstream?

Burkett: It was basically about a passion. I have been a vegetarian for 20 years, and I feel very strongly about animal rights and protecting them. I grew up on a farm and watched my father slaughter animals I considered to be my pets and then put them on the dinner table. It was traumatizing, just very horrible. At a very young age, I decided that I didn’t want to participate in this. So, the animal rights ones, those were mostly my passions.

Then, the Rock Against Bush (campaign), that was more of a Mike passion. Not that I didn’t support it — of course I do, but I honestly am not very political. Even though I think that he was an asshole, it’s not a passion that I would have undertook myself. That was really Mike’s thing.

Showbams: The label has touched upon topics of police brutality, racism, mental health, addiction and LGBT rights as hot topics over the past 25 years. Do you feel that it’s now easier for artists to address such issues creatively than it ever was in the past?

Burkett: Oh, absolutely! But there are times when I travel where I feel like because I live in San Francisco and it’s kind of its own little bubble, there are times when I forget what the rest of the world is like. Then, when you travel and you experience certain types of racism, sexism and hatred from other people, it sometimes takes me aback where I’m actually surprised.

Basically, we’re about human rights in general. I don’t care what anybody else does with their life if it’s not affecting me, and I don’t understand why anybody else cares. It’s a very basic human perspective, and we’ve always felt that way. I am very proud of our bands that stand up, take a stance and put themselves out there. You have to be such a strong person and be willing to accept a lot of ridicule to do that. I think that is a huge part of Fat Wreck Chords and our bands. I love the fact that we have this catalog and roster of bands which includes people who are partying drug addicts, people who are straight edge, people who are sober, people who are vegetarians, people who are vegan and transgender. I love that! That’s what life is all about.

Showbams: What do you feel is the greatest threat to an independent record label operating today?

Burkett: The digital era was definitely something that we had to adjust to. I remember having a conversation with my sister’s teenage children, in which I realized there was a whole generation of people growing up who really didn’t think that they needed to pay for music. I remember feeling that that was kind of shocking from the perspective of — I get it if you don’t feel like record labels should be making any money, but how can you not support a band? How can you not support the music that makes you happy, that you know is a daily part of your life? That never made any sense to me.

So, I think that we’ve been working through that, and I see that as kind of the biggest challenge. Trying to come up with new ways to make sure that my artists are able to earn a living. They should be able to get paid for what they love and the artistry they produce. I think that’s always a challenge.

Hear the full interview with Burkett here.

Erin Burkett

Experimenting with the random: A raw conversation with Sam Amidon

Sam AmidonPhotos by Diana Cordero // Written by Molly Kish //

Getting a first glimpse of the newly remodeled, subterranean restaurant/bar of the Swedish American Hall (formerly Cafe Du Nord), Showbams sat down with Sam Amidon before his co-headlining show with Little Wings earlier this month. Before Amidon’s soundcheck, we talked to him about his early career and recording process over a meal that included craft beers, burger mishaps and a complimentary plate of thinly sliced cucumbers.


Showbams: You grew up in Brattleboro, Vt., and were in a family of folk artists and musicians, hence your multi-instrumentalist background (guitar, banjo and fiddle). Before your full-length debut, you released an album of fiddle … (Our waiter interjects with Amidon’s burger, which is too rare and gets sent back to the kitchen.)

Amidon: I can explain … my burger was so good, but it was extremely rare, which is cool, but I just don’t know. I’m just not that adventurous an hour before going on stage.

Showbams: So, before your full-length debut, you released an album of solo Irish traditional instrumentals on fiddle called Solo Fiddle. Were these songs that you picked up as you grew up or was this actually a more general direction you were trying to head in professionally?

Amidon: Solo Fiddle was a farewell album. It was the end of my life as somebody who was exclusively a fiddle player. I knew that I was going to start playing different kinds of music.

I was 18 years old. I had been a fiddle player since I was three, and I had been gigging professionally as a fiddle player since the age of 14. I had put out a bunch of albums with a band I had been in since high school and had played with a bunch of bands around New England. The fiddle style of New England is a mix of Irish, French Canadian and old-time tunes. I was like a New England fiddler because I was from Vermont. I’m not Irish at all, but I really gravitated toward the Irish tunes in the mix. As a teenage, I was obsessed with traditional Irish fiddle playing, and I thought about it and did it 24 hours a day. As a listener, I was listening to all different kinds of stuff, but as a player, I just played fiddle tunes.

So, when I was 18 and went to New York, I knew I was going to start playing all different types of music and trying out different stuff. I knew that there was this huge gap between my playing and my listening that I wanted to close. But at the same time, I was aware that would really affect my musicianship, so I wanted to kind of preserve my fiddling as it was at that point when I was just this kind of pure musician who just had done this one thing for all his life. That was Solo Fiddle.

Sam Amidon

Showbams: What spurred you to make the transition into more of a classic Americana and folk background then?

Amidon: Well, it was a mistake. I made a mistake, and what’s happened in the past 12 years has been the results of the mistake. My goal was to completely stop playing folk music because I had it around me and played it all growing up. I really wanted to experiment with all different types of music and just play something totally different.

So, I came to New York and studied free improvisation with a guy named Leroy Jenkins, and I started learning guitar and played in an indie-rock band called Doveman. I also played in a crazy experimental psych/indie-rock band called Stars Like Fleas. That was my whole thing. I was like, “I’m in New York, and I’m going to play in whatever kinds of settings and not do folk music anymore.”

Then, as a way to learn how to play guitar, I started learning folk songs because it was natural and I started writing guitar parts. Then, I started realizing that it was kind of fun to sing bits of the folk songs over these weird guitar parts I was writing. I realized I loved singing, and it was a really fun thing that I hadn’t done since I was a little kid, at least as a solo singer. I had sung in choruses and stuff. Then, I started playing those recordings I was making very quietly at my house for my friend Thomas, my friend Nico Muhly who was a composer and all these different musicians — all these people who played the kind of music I wanted to play. I started playing them my recordings of my weird versions of folk songs, and they loved them and started asking if they could play on them and adding stuff to the recordings. So, that just became this platform for what I did.

I don’t think of the albums I made as folk records. I know they sound like they are folk songs, but to me, I grew up with folk music being something where I would play fiddle tunes in a corner. It didn’t mean playing guitar and sitting on a stage with some weird electronic music going on. I think of this as a platform to make music with really interesting and strange musicians that I love and a chance to just sing and write music on the guitar but within the trappings of folk music.

Showbams: You also worked with other types of performance art with your live-media-installation-turned-series-of-lectures Home Alone Inside My Head back in 2003. Can you elaborate on that project?

Amidon: Well, in the folk music world, there’s this tradition of field recordings. Alan Lomax and other people went around and recorded people in their houses. When you listen to those recordings, there are a few qualities to them. One is the material, which is great. But another is that it is very strange to encounter that your main phenomenon is to listen to recorded artists who went into a studio together. You know these field recordings are somebody, him going into somebody’s house in the mountains in the 50’s when they didn’t just record themselves on tape recorders all the time. You know, it was not a thing.

The field recordings are like this crazy, weird document of somebody alone in their house who’s very, on the one hand, subconscious because they have a recording machine and on the other hand, are very unconscious because they have no tradition of recording. Home Alone Inside My Head, which I started doing as a recording in 2003 and then have done since then at different times as a performance (including comics, videos, stories and music) is like self-inflicted field recordings. It’s like me trying to explore that field-recording side of things but doing it to myself and removing the folk-song part. It’s like, “What is left?”

Sam Amidon

Showbams: You recorded your first full-length album But the Chicken Proved False Hearted with your friend and fellow Doveman bandmate Thomas Bartlett before taking off to Iceland, where you recorded All Is Well in 2008 with Valgeir Sigurðsson. Was the recording location simply one out of convenience in order to work with Sigurðsson or was Greenhouse Studios an actual recording destination for you personally?

Amidon: It was a community that Nico brought me to because he was working with Valgeir on a bunch of projects. When I got there, it was just this magical place with all of these wonderful people. You were feeling like you were kind of on the moon. I really loved the idea of working with Valgeir, who is an amazing engineer and producer, and it just happened very organically. Nico had brought me there for something else, and while I was there, Valgeir and I thought, “Oh, let’s do some recording.”

Showbams: You also recorded the album I See the Sign with production from Sigurðsson as well, then joined the record label collective out there. What made you want to sign with them as opposed to shopping around and recording your albums stateside?

Amidon: Well, the whole thing was one thing: the studio, the label, the friends, the community — it was a little world. That was what their whole idea was. You sleep in the studio upstairs, you eat together, you record whenever and you’re in this beautiful place, which Valgeir also hires out as a producer. But you can be there as long as you want, and it was just that exchange of playing on each others’ records for free and not charge, but to enjoy it.

Sam Amidon

Showbams: Eventually in 2013 and 2014, you released your third and fourth albums on Nonesuch Records, which brought you the chance to work with jazz legend Bill Frisell. How was that experience for you?

Amidon: It was beautiful! I made friends with Bill over the years. He was my hero since I was a teenager, and I would go see him play when I was a kid and as I got older. I gave him some of my records, and he just wrote to me one day about possibly playing. We had played together in different contexts over the past few years — sometimes in his ensemble, sometimes in mine or we would just duo. But I really loved the idea of bringing him to Iceland and having him play with my friends on the record. It was a beautiful experience, and it was so fun.

Showbams: Beyond surrounding yourself and collaborating throughout the years with some amazing talent amongst your fellow musicians and friends, you have managed to marry and have a beautiful son with “folktronica” powerhouse Beth Orton. How did you manage to pull that off?

Amidon: Everything in the world and in life happens randomly and without knowing what’s going to come next. I was touring in Europe about six years ago now, and I met Beth and now there’s a little Arthur. He’s on tour with me right now.

Sam Amidon

Showbams: You two also tour together. Is there any future collaborations you guys would want to work on? (The waiter interjects with “Here is your burger. I’m very sorry about that. These are compliments of the chef.”)

Amidon: No worries, that’s totally fine. Thank you! That’s a whole new burger! That’s amazing.

Showbams: (Pointing at the complimentary plate.) And a cucumber salad!

Amidon: And four pieces of very thinly sliced cucumber, as a complimentary dish … um.

We definitely will. I mean, we’ve done collaborations with each other. She’s sang on my record, and I’ve played on hers. We tour off and on, and I actually accompanied her a couple nights ago at a show, which was super fun. I’m sure one of these days we’ll get it together enough to just like jam.

Showbams: Having grown up in a family of musicians and now raising Arthur in one, do you guys encourage him to get into music and that kind of lifestyle?

Amidon: They’re inundated with it whether they like it or not and he has some instrument lessons, but I don’t force him to practice or anything. I’m just letting him see how into it he is. I’m sure he will be, but it’s up to him, which is the same thing that my parents did with me really. They kind of immersed us in it but never said, “You have to play.” But he’s a very deep music listener. He just turned four, and he can tell the difference between Bud Powell’s and Thelonius Monk’s piano styles, so I am very proud of that as a father.

Hear the full interview with Amidon here.

Sam Amidon

Beat Connection are embracing their next challenge

Beat Connection


Beat Connection (from left to right): Tom Eddy, Mark Hunter, Reed Juenger and Jarred Katz.

Photo by Avi Loud // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Reed Juenger isn’t one to shy away from a challenge.

Ever since he started Beat Connection with his fellow dormmate Jordan Koplowitz at the University of Washington, it has been one challenge after another to keep the musical project alive, let alone see it blossom into what it has become today.

“It’s certainly gone through quite a few changes,” says Juenger, who also oversees the graphic design and marketing for Capitol Hill Block Party, a three-day summer music festival over in Seattle’s hip Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Juenger was born and grew up in the greater Boston area before his parents moved cross-country to Washington when he was 12 years old. But it wasn’t until college, when he met Koplowitz on the first day of school and the two eventually began DJing house parties, that he considered making music for a living.

As Juenger illuminates, he and Koplowitz at the time were trying to learn how to “write music naïvely and spirited in a way,” an idea that the producer/keyboardist still believes remains paramount to Beat Connection’s identity (the group’s name serves as a direct reference to the LCD Soundsystem song) despite Koplowitz no longer being a part of the equation.

“A large part of Beat Connection is having an attitude of ‘I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, but I’m going to do it anyway,'” Juenger says. “That has been our guiding force.”

By the time Koplowitz had left the group in early 2013 to pursue other interests, Beat Connection had released 2010 EP Surf Noir and 2012 LP The Palace Garden while expanding to a four-piece band with Tom Eddy on guitar/vocals and Jarred Katz on drums. But Koplowitz’s departure left Juenger, Eddy and Katz with a crucial decision to make: should they continue as Beat Connection in their current iteration or should they start from scratch as a completely new project?

With little doubt in their minds, the three remaining members continued to work on new music while bringing in Mark Hunter, who had performed with Juenger and Koplowitz when Beat Connection was strictly an electronic music duo, to play bass. The shakeup signaled a major turning point for Juenger, but also one that he has no regrets about as he looks toward the future.

“To me, that’s when this band really started, which is counterintuitive because we have this body of work from the past under the same name,” he explains. “It’s a different thing now, and I feel like it’s what it was meant to be the whole time.”

Even with Koplowitz out of the picture, Beat Connection is still very much a college band — not when it comes to describing their sound per say, but simply in tracing their formation. All four members met at the University of Washington, and it’s at least in part why Juenger refers to his bandmates as his “best friends” now.

“Those guys, we’re a team,” he adds. “We are always trying to be the best version of a band that we can be and the best version of us that we can be when creating art.”

But for all the challenges that Juenger has endured since forming Beat Connection in 2010, he can finally breathe a sigh of relief after months of uncertainty regarding the band’s record label status. That’s because the group, despite releasing The Palace Garden through Moshi Moshi imprint Tender Age almost three years ago, had remained independent until late last month when it struck a deal with ANTI- Records, a sister label of Epitaph that will release Beat Connection’s forthcoming album this fall.

In the meantime, the Seattle quartet has already debuted four songs from what will be its second full-length record, including the synthpop-heavy “Illusion” and the funk-flavored “So Good” most recently. The new material has been a long time coming for Beat Connection, which has been writing and recording much of it since 2012. But despite finishing the album in November, there has been no rush by the band to put it out until its 100 percent ready.

“We are trying our best to deliver a work of art to an audience, which sounds pretentious — and it is,” says Juenger, who doesn’t mind calling himself a perfectionist when it comes to the creative process. “But we’re trying our best to make sure we have everything fully in line.”

What excites Juenger just as much as the prospect of releasing a new album, though, is the chance to finally get back on the road. Outside of performing at South by Southwest this past spring, it has been quite a while since Beat Connection has toured, with their last appearance in California coming in October at Culture Collide Festival (read our review of the festival here).

“I can’t believe it has been that long,” Juenger admits.

They’ll end that nearly 10-month drought on Thursday night in Los Angeles when they open for British art rockers Django Django at the El Rey Theatre amid an 11-date tour that saw them play Lollapalooza last weekend and includes upcoming festival appearances at MusicFestNW and Austin City Limits with an ever-important hometown date sandwiched in between.

And with those opportunities in place, the band knows now is the time to seize the moment and take its game to the next level.

“We have everything we need,” Juenger stresses. “There’s always a fear that there’s something better out there, but part of figuring things out is knowing that we are a team and these are my best friends.”

Little Wings’ Kyle Field ‘Explains’ why music is his life

Little WingsWritten by Molly Kish //

Fresh off the release of Little Wings‘ latest album Explains via Woodsist, Showbams caught up with the band’s frontman Kyle Field to discuss passions, performance and his lack of civic pride.

Enter below to win tickets to see Little Wings in San Francisco on Tuesday, July 28th.


Showbams: You were born in Alabama and at a young age moved to California, where you formed Little Wings in the 90’s. Whereas most artists will cite eclectic creative influences or cultural frames of reference for contributing to their sound, Little Wings is a project that is described to have pulled inspiration from the environment you have been surrounded by, but can you elaborate on that?

Field: I guess in an intimate way I kind of take pride in having no civic pride for wherever I’m living at the time. So, I think I was writing about California from Oregon part of the time, and I’m probably writing about California all the time in a sense. As far as the landscape you are talking about, not in a California pride level, but it was probably just the environment that turned me on the most.

Showbams: So, you’re more pulling from your experiences and what you’re surrounded by at the time.

Field: I think it’s just the ocean that is the biggest deal.

Showbams: Your well-known passions outside of songwriting are surfing, traveling and sketching. You got your BFA from UCLA and have even released a book of drawings titled Put It in a Nutshell. With such an accredited background in the visual arts, what made you want to focus predominately on a music career?

Field: As soon as I got my art degree, I was playing music at the same time and it felt more instantaneous that you could play a successful live musical performance, then have a successful art show. It seemed like with the art thing, it was like, “You’re not going to arrive for five years, and don’t worry about it.” So, I think the instantaneousness of it and us being able to call up someone and book our own show, that thing felt a little bit like … the art world felt adult, too adult in an un-cool way, like an established culture where you have to climb the rungs. So is everything and so is music some would say, but being able to appeal to a live audience is certainly a self-affirmation like, “Yeah, see … we can do this!”

Showbams: Which out of your three passions — surfing, drawing and songwriting — do you think would give you the most satisfaction to do professionally for the rest of your life?

Field: Oh boy, I like music the best I think, at least in that boat. I like art shows, but you don’t really interact very much. You just stand around on an opening night and the work happened months ago, whereas in music, you get to work in front of people, which I think is cool.

Showbams: Conversely, if you had to give up one passion in a highly unlikely life-or-death situation, which would it be?

Field: I don’t want to curse any activities in my life, but maybe I would give up something that was like drawing. I would still keep drawing, but I guess I could most easily not draw.

Showbams: Throughout your time in Little Wings, you have had the opportunity to collaborate with several friends and fellow artists, such as Lee Baggett, Devendra Banhart, Grandaddy and Andre Herman Dune amongst others. Who in particular were you able to vibe with the most as an artist and in what ways?

Field: Lee Baggett and I have probably vibed the longest of anyone I’ve played with, since about 1999 or so. I would say he was like my kindred spirit in a musical way.

Showbams: Who would your dream collaboration be with?

Field: There’s a bunch of different ones, but maybe David Bowie.

Showbams: Leading up to the release of Explains this past May, you recorded a “Lagniappe Session” with Aquarium Drunkard that was a four-song set featuring personal covers of Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Lil’ Wayne and Van Morrisson. What was the motivation behind choosing those songs and artists?

Field: I picked songs that felt the way I like my songs to feel, or a feeling that I only ever learned through music. It’s hard to describe how songs work, how they feel or what they’re actually doing when we’re an active observer of them. So, I probably am just trying to create that listening experience for myself with songs in a sense. I think those songs are around the same vein as some of my own songs.

Showbams: At this point in your career with over a dozen releases under your belt, how do you feel as an artist about the current state of the recording industry, both distribution and licensing, and what has kept you throughout the years dedicated to the independent record label community?

Field: First and foremost, I’m just excited to have an audience still, or even an audience period. I’m pretty thankful for that. The thing I’m most concerned with or think about the most is whether I’m able to write or create. If that’s going well, then everything else just falls into place.

For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s a crummy gig or this or that. You kind of realize that’s only one part of it. I’m still going behind the scenes, songs are still coming and I still have some things that aren’t recorded yet and are in the works — and that’s where I’m at as far as how I think about it. I don’t think all that hard about the business side of it because my mind is just occupied with the rest of it. It’s not like, “Oh, what a great guy! He’s not thinking about how to get rich or money.” I’m just not thinking about that.

Generally speaking, the smaller the label, the more hands off they are. Having never experienced the other side, it sounded fun to have someone involved every step of the way or someone coming in from the outside. I just gravitated toward what seemed like the most sufficient way to do it.

Hear the full interview with Field here and catch Little Wings at Swedish American Hall with Sam Amidon on Tuesday, July 28th. Win a pair of tickets to the show by registering below.


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Miami Horror cover all bases on ‘All Possible Futures’ before a sold-out show in their new hometown

Miami HorrorPhoto by Dylan Reyes // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Growing up, Benjamin Plant had always seen Melbourne as his home. As a native of the Australian city, he immersed himself in its music scene at a young age, DJing at house parties and clubs around town.

But a lot changed for the Miami Horror founder and bandleader when he moved to Los Angeles nearly three years ago — and for the better.

“I think life is a lot groovier and easier,” he says about his LA lifestyle now. “People are just a lot nicer and happier, so it allows you to find your own space when you’re away from your scene.”

Plant wasn’t the only one in the band who chose to leave the dreary streets of Melbourne for the sunny beaches of Southern California. At this point, all but one member in Miami Horror lives in LA, where the majority of the quintet’s second full-length album All Possible Futures was recorded and where they’ll play to a sold-out crowd when they take the stage at The Roxy Theatre this Friday night (June 5th).

“This is our reintroduction tour,” Plant says about the 17-date run that ends in Chicago on June 30th and includes an appearance at Electric Forest. “It’s our opportunity to show what we’ve got and what we’ve become. We’re a lot more mature now.”

It’s been quite a bit of time — almost five years, in fact — since the indietronica outfit released its debut Illumination on British multinational label EMI, and things were much different back then.

Plant, for one, wrote most of the songs that appeared on the 12-track LP that came out in 2010, including “Sometimes”, the first single off Illumination that put Miami Horror on the map with frequent radio play and numerous remixes around the club circuit.

The songwriting process for All Possible Futures, on the other hand, was revamped. This time around, the entire band was involved rather than only Plant coming forward with song ideas. What results is a record that boasts plenty of futuristic pop and uniquely combines elements of both house and funk in a more traditional rock band setting.

“We wanted to make sure we made an album that covered all bases,” Plant says. “You have to keep fans, impress old fans, make new fans and be happy with yourself. There are so many things going on that you have to cover everything.”

It had Miami Horror — made up of Plant (production, synthesizers, bass), Josh Moriarty (guitars, vocals), Aaron Shanahan (co-production, guitar, synthesizer, vocals), Daniel Whitechurch (piano, synthesizer) and Kosta Theodosis (drums) — shedding their producer-centric approach to study bands like Talking Heads, as they aimed for the stars during the recording sessions in LA and Melbourne.

“We were definitely more inclined to writing a flashy kind of hit,” Plant admits. “We were almost imagining and hoping we could do that. For quite a while, every song we made was directed as a single.”

Coincidentally enough, two of the first three tracks on All Possible Futures were tabbed as singles, with “Real Slow” and “Love Like Mine” setting the stage for other dance-pop hits “Wild Motion (Set It Free)” and “Colours in the Sky” later on. That said, with 15 tracks and over an hour in run time, the finished product remains more comprehensive than one that simply will be remembered only for its singles.

“We wanted an album that you could listen to for five years rather than two months,” Plant says. “We focused a lot more on songwriting, like learning about chord progressions, changes and structures of songs. We just really wanted to push ourselves there.”

Looking toward the future, after all, is something that has always preoccupied Plant, to the point that it largely became the inspiration behind the band’s new studio effort.

“I’m constantly thinking about the future, every different direction you can go and every way your life can turn out,” he says in discussing the meaning of All Possible Futures. “There are always a million directions to go, and you have to choose what the right one is.”

So far for Plant, that direction has been east — Melbourne to LA while never looking back.

Feeling 50/50 with The Dodos at Great American Music Hall

The Dodos
Photos by Justin Yee & Diana Cordero // Written by Molly Kish //

As The Dodos‘ Meric Long (vocals, guitar) and Logan Kroeber (drums, percussion) prepare for their first hometown show as a duo since 2007, they seem collected yet express that their sentiment is anything but.

Performing and recording for nearly a decade together, the two have produced six albums as well as various special releases and have had several friends and musicians join them in the studio and on their worldwide tour. Starting off the West Coast leg of dates debuting songs from Individ, they seem just as excited as they are nervous to be embarking on a full-scale junket promoting the new album.

Taking some time to speak about their band history, momentary reservations and songwriting process, The Dodos caught up with Showbams before their show at the Great American Music Hall, giving us a look inside their 50/50 mindset.


Showbams: This is the second stop of your North American tour this winter, and it’s the first time you’re debuting the new material off Individ. How are you feeling about doing that in front of your hometown audience?

Kroeber: I’m nervous. I was excited when we first got here. Now I’m nervous.

Long: You just made me nervous by telling me that. I was fine before you said that, but now when you know that 50 percent of you is nervous then …

Kroeber: You know what I’m nervous about really? It’s less performing the songs, and it’s more getting the merch set up in time. But my concerns are trivial. When we get to playing the songs, it’s fine. Last night we got to play a bunch of new stuff for the first time, and it was a blast.

Showbams: Well, you got one down. Now you’re amongst friends and family, so you’ve got a lot of support and it’s less stress with each date.

Long: Well, you would think that, but actually hometown shows are much more stressful for that exact reason.

The Dodos

Showbams: This also marks the first North American tour that you guys have been on since 2007 while performing as a duo. Was it hard to adjust your show for this tour, especially considering the difficult circumstances that brought about the move to play again as just a two-piece? (Editor’s Note: Previous touring member Chris Reimer passed away in 2012.)

Long: It’s usually harder to have someone come along with us because you have to teach them everything. It’s easier getting ready for the tour, but during the actual tour, we have to do a lot more because now there is only two of us. So yeah, it’s easier, but it’s also harder. Not a very profound answer there. I’m really on the 50/50 thing right now.

Kroeber: The big advantage we have, like Meric said, is that there is a lot more work that we have to put in. But once we start doing the shows, we are able to play pretty much anything we want to. We could have done it in the past, but having somebody else with us, we want to play all the stuff we put in the hard work to get them to learn. Now that it’s just the two of us, we can play anything we want. Also, we have a lot of songs as I have come to realize by looking at all the ones that we want to play. There is no way that we can even play those selected songs in one concert — it would be like five hours long. The setlist is actually kind of sad because you have to cut away all this stuff that you would have fun doing, but cream of the crop I guess.

Showbams: You guys chose to record Individ at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone, which was also the same recording studio you laid down Carrier. Was there any other motivation besides the sound quality and production to record there again?

Long: Yeah, actually the guy who’s doing sound tonight recorded the record with his brother. We just became good buddies by the end of making Carrier. It was really about that good relationship that we just wanted to capitalize on. So, outside of it being a great studio, they obviously have a good thing going on over there. It was like, “Well, we just made some new friends, and we want to spend more time with them.”

The Dodos

Showbams: Speaking of friends, also present on the album are vocal contributions from Brigid Dawson of Thee Oh Sees and Mina Choi of Magik*Magik Orchestra. What prompted you to ask them to be involved in the album?

Kroeber: Well, their talents speak for themselves, but I think it’s super cool that we got Mina singing on the album because she is known as a composer and arranger. She was doing arrangement for our album Color, made demos vocally in GarageBand and she has just got an amazing voice. Meric arranged it I think. I don’t really remember the lead up to it. We were just like, “She’s coming in, and now she’s singing all this crazy stuff!” We knew she had a great voice back then, but she’s just not as well-known for it and I think she will start to be soon.

Showbams: How was it having their influence in the studio and bringing their talents to the table?

Long: It was a much-needed break in the sausage fest that is making a Dodos record. They were both really different. Mina is a real technical performer, like she writes all of her crazy parts in her head beforehand. She’s more of an instrument in the way that she sings. Then Brigid came in, and she is really funny because she has got like this crazy voice but is super modest. She is almost unaware of what she truly has. She would go in the recording room and be like, “Oh, hi. How does it sound?” in her British accent (laughs). That’s a terrible British accent, but yeah, she would sing this crazy part and come back in like, “Did I do OK?”

The Dodos

Showbams: Your sound is one that is incredibly unique and is solidified by your unique musical backgrounds as well as the alternative ways you guys play your instruments. Logan, you play a kit that is usually absent of a base drum and have a tambourine strapped to your foot. Meric, you play an array of modified guitars as well as have a background in West African drumming?

Long: Yeah, we don’t really like to talk about that.

Kroeber: Also, I hate to burst your bubble, whereas everything you did say about my drumming is true, but now they’ve been subsumed into this greater kit that looks very regular now. I still play weird, but the kit does include a kick drum and the tambourine foot has turned into a hi-hat with a tambourine. So, from a distance, it looks like any other boring drum set, which is kind of sad, but I can do more stuff with it now.

Showbams: How did you guys start playing your instruments that way, and is there any more odd instrumentation that you guys introduced into the songwriting process on the new record?

Kroeber: It started that way because Meric had his EP that he made back in 2005, when he had started messing around with clattery percussion on there. So, when I met him, he had those songs and I learned how to play them, but it was really minimal. I only had a snare drum and a floor tom, and I played shows with him like that, just like nothing. I got to where it is now by starting with almost nothing, and then I would add like another drum and tambourine just as needed. Until now, I need everything, just not on every song. So, mainly it started as serving the percussion needs of Meric’s songwriting. We don’t want to turn down any opportunity for a cool addition to that palette of sounds, but I’m also such a minimalist when it comes to touring, I don’t want to add a bunch of stuff to just have to take around with me. It’s hard. I don’t want to not add something just for the sake of keeping it minimal on stage, but on the other hand, I do want to do that completely. You just have to skirt that line like, “Do I really need this? Is it worth it? Can I just hit this instead?” In the studio, we bang on whatever we can get our hands on. That’s why it’s fun to do stuff with Magik*Magik. They just bring the kitchen sink with them, and we can do our thing.


The Dodos

Taking the stage that night, The Dodos were greeted by a packed house full of friends, family and fans alike. Following a strong opening set from Springtime Carnivor, aka singer-songwriter Greta Morgan, Meric and Logan rocked the headlining slot absent of any nerves we had touched upon before the show. Watching them run through their setlist of material spanning the band’s entire body of work, the two played off their noticeable excitement and natural chemistry together.

Peering over the crowd from the upstairs balcony, you could physically see how the audience was affected by each individual track. Reacting to the material both old and new, the audience’s reception was triggered by various songs, including a surprise “Competition” duet with Dawson to close out the evening. While the band communicated their insecurities before the show, acknowledging that touring North America as just a duo would be a daunting task at times, seeing them command the stage as a pair again was as refreshing as it was nostalgic and truly brought an intimacy to the performance that could have easily gotten overshadowed with a larger ensemble on stage.

The Dodos’ magnetism as songwriters and performers is truly exemplified as a duo, refocusing their audience’s attention on the skill and level of technical difficulty they master both as individuals and in their 50/50 mindset.

Ten years a Toddie: Reflecting on a decade of music and mischief with The Hot Toddies

The Hot ToddiesPhotos by Pedro Paredes & courtesy of The Hot Toddies // Written by Molly Kish //

Celebrating their 10-year “bandiversary” last month as part of the first all-female bill at the historic Fillmore, Showbams caught up with the ladies of Oakland’s The Hot Toddies for a whimsical retrospective on their past decade as a band.

Seamlessly navigating the challenges presented with changes to the band’s lineup as well as a worldwide touring schedule and record label relocation (among other day-to-day difficulties, such as managing work schedules in and outside the studio), Erin, Heidi and Sylvia have always found ways to keep their attitudes positive, hustle strong and friendship at the forefront of everything they do. Their adventures as a trio of Toddies have directly influenced their style, songwriting and relationships with each other, their friends and their fans over the past decade.

We got to hear about some of their favorite memories as a band and get a glimpse into what they have in store for us in the near future.


The Hot Toddies


A flyer for the band’s Liverpool show in 2009.

Favorite Show: Picking a favorite show over 10 years is very hard. One of our absolute favorites, though, was a time we played a fabulous show/costume/birthday party in Liverpool. Everyone was dressed up like politicians and celebrating. We got to sing “Happy Birthday” and lead a giant singalong of “Please Please Me” by The Beatles, which felt like the coolest thing possible to do in Liverpool.

Most Debated Song/Lyric: “That Ain’t Right” was the most controversial for the band because of the lyrics. It was written by a male friend for the band so we kind of loved the idea of a man’s perspective on lady issues. We hoped it would be a lighthearted song with our usual humor without being insensitive to the subject of teenage pregnancy.

Strangest Venue Ever Played: Probably the most unique venue we’ve ever played at was Ashbury Lanes in Ashbury Park, N.J. It’s a bowling alley with a stage in the middle of the lanes and people crowd around to watch the bands while some people keep bowling! The night we played there was Erin’s birthday, and the booker brought balloons, cupcakes and princess hats. A close runner-up would be the awesome haunted Gallery 5 in Richmond, Va. — a firehouse and police station way back during the Civil War and that is now an art and performance space with a haunted back room where criminals were hanged.

The Hot Toddies


At the Tropicana in Las Vegas, circa 2006.

Funniest Fan Moment: On our first tour in 2006, we played two nights at Mr. T’s Bowl in LA. The second night we recognized a guy sitting at the bar — it was Sean Gunn (a.k.a. Kurt from “Gilmore Girls” and recently “Guardians of the Galaxy”). We hung out with him and his awesome lady friend Rachel, and several days later, they surprised us by flying out to Las Vegas to see us play again and took us to a super fancy dinner. We were totally blown away by their kindness. We shared a bottle of whiskey and played guitar while getting kicked out of several hot tubs at the Tropicana. We still stay in touch with both of them to this day, and they are awesome people.

Most Memorable Critique/Review: This doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes the critics just get it all wrong. This review in particular from exclaim.ca was so far off it was almost funny: “the four-part harmonies, as sweet as they sound, fail to catch up with the gritty attitude so clearly laid out for them by their lyrics … ‘Only With You’ claims it wants Jameson, but actually means Smirnoff Ice — two bottles, at most.” Gross. Barf. Smirnoff Ice! We wished we could spend an evening at a bar with the writer to correct her mistaken impressions of our drink preferences. After all, suggesting that we don’t really drink whiskey is a major insult for The Hot Toddies! And really, if writing a pretty song with harmonies means you can’t like whiskey then a lot of musicians would be in trouble.

The Hot Toddies


The band stayed at this castle in Exeter, England.

Best & Worst Roadtrip Memory: Our best road trip memory was staying overnight in a castle in Exeter, England. The bathrooms were literally the size of bedrooms, and it had it’s own chapel with a functional organ that we got to play and sing on. It was definitely the most surprising and amazing place to stay on the road.

Worst memory would probably be the time some bleach/mold remover leaked onto Erin’s water bottle on the van floor and she accidentally drank a little. Obviously she survived, but it made her super sick and it was really scary.

Biggest Consensual Influence: NoFX.

Favorite Tourmate/Band to Play With: Our favorite tour buddies are Oakland babes Bam!Bam! Since we can fit all five of us into a single van, it means shared gear, loading, gas and driving duties makes tour easy breezy. Plus, they are badass ladies who like to drink champagne while riding duck boats and stay up late hanging out after a show. Our favorite bands that we’ve ever shared a stage with would be a tie between the time we got to rock with Alkaline Trio at Bottom of the Hill or opening for Smoking Popes at Great American music hall. We have a thing for Chicago bands apparently.

Craziest Afterparty: One of the most fun things about being on the road is seeing old friends and making new ones, and sometimes you even cross paths with your friends’ bands in a new city. While playing in Phoenix, Ariz., we happened to be touring through town the same night as our friends in RXBandits and DESA, so we arranged to meetup at a fan’s house for an afterparty. There were swimming pool games and singalongs until the sun came up. We made a LOT of noise and had a blast. Anyway, the girl’s parents were home and not super pleased, and we were definitely not invited back over next time we were in Phoenix.

The Hot Toddies


The band during its Northwest tour in 2007.

Most Awkward Live Moment: One time we played a nice, laid-back basement show in Bremerton, Wash., and we made the mistake of smoking weed at the backyard BBQ before our set. Our songs were a complete disaster, but at least it all seemed pretty funny at the time.

Band’s Biggest Guilty Pleasures: Salty nuts, $5 foot longs, chocolate malt balls and the Oakland A’s.

Band’s Favorite Karaoke Songs: Alanis Morisette’s “Ironic”, Natalie Embruglia’s “Torn” and No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs”.

Member Most Likely to Perform Hungover: Honestly, all of us.

The Hot Toddies


Heidi

Member Most Likely to Attract the Strangest Groupie: Heidi is the most likely to talk to creeps for free drinks.

Member Most Likely to Find Their Way Into Legal Trouble: Sylvia is most likely to bring weed along on a trip, so depending on what state we’re in, we may have to bail her out of jail one day.

Member Most Likely to Make Someone Cry: Sylvia is most likely to make someone cry, but hopefully it’s because we’re laughing so hard that were crying.

Member Most Likely to Take the Longest Time Prepping for the Show: Heidi takes a daily shower while Erin and Sylvia are more likely to go onstage with fresh deodorant, dry shampoo and a change of undies, of course.

Member Most Likely to Surprise/Catch Others Off Guard: “Say Anything Skidmore”, Erin tends to make comments that surprise.

Member Most Likely to Get Lost/Saunter Off: For those who’ve been following us for a while, you might remember our keyboard player Jessica who was famous for wandering off after a show. She left in 2012 to go on a world adventure and still hasn’t made it back which is why we’ve been playing as a three-piece for the past few years.

The Hot Toddies


Team Toddies

Member Most Likely to Take Over the World: Team Toddies — we’re planning world domination together! Right now we’re working on writing our next album, and when that is released, we’re hoping to continue touring the world, starting with returning to Europe and visiting Japan.


Here is a love note from the band to all of its fans and supporters throughout the years:

Hey guys,

You are truly the best fans in the whole world. Thank you for buying our songs, letting us crash on your floors, dancing at shows and sharing your whiskey. In the immortal words of Bill and Ted: “Be excellent to each other. And … party on, dudes!”

Love,

Heidi, Erin & Sylvia

The Hot Toddies play Brick and Mortar Music Hall with GODS, Annie Bacon and Her Oshen on Thursday, March 5th. 18+. Doors: 8 p.m. Show: 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

The Hot Toddies

Going inside the mind of a hip-hop hero with Cut Chemist

cut-chemist_postBy Josh Herwitt //

Lucas MacFadden has been collecting vinyl for more than 30 years. That is his job, after all.

The renowned turntablist, who his fans know better as Cut Chemist, has scratched and sampled his way to the top of the DJ world over the past 20 years, thanks in part to his work with Latin funk/hip-hop/rock outfit Ozomatli and 90’s alternative hip-hop pioneers Jurassic 5.

But neither MacFadden nor hip-hop would be anywhere near where they are today without the lifelong contributions of Afrika Bambaataa — and MacFadden would be the first to tell you that himself.

“It was all his vision for an entire culture,” he explained to me one day over the phone last week.

Afrika Bambaataa

That culture, hip-hop, would be characterized by more than just the music it fostered, as graffiti artists and break dancers found their calling during the late 70’s. But with street gangs and drug dealers also holding court in the South Bronx, it was Bambaataa’s hope for a different way of life, a peaceful way of life that transcended both its time and place.

“He was very active in the community in going from gangs to art, gangs to music and having that impact his community,” MacFadden continued on. “The groups that I’ve been involved with throughout my life have done the same thing. It’s no question why I gravitate toward people with those ethics.”

What ultimately lured MacFadden into Bambaataa’s world, though, was the legendary DJ’s fascination with the past and present — from royal space garbs to Native American headdresses — as strange as it may have seemed for a young, white boy first learning about hip-hop culture at the age of 12.

“He represented some other-worldly figure,” MacFadden remembered. “It was a representation of the past and the future in a way where it just seemed like he was in total control of the present. That was something I never experienced before, and I didn’t know how to comprehend that.”

Afrika Bambaataa

Just days after my interview with Cut Chemist, it’s nearly impossible to escape the net that Bambaattaa has cast wide over pop culture as I watch half chef, half television star Anthony Bourdain chat with “The Godfather” on the newest episode of his CNN show “Parts Unknown.” The brief exchange between Bourdain and Bambaattaa reminds me of some of the topics MacFadden and I discussed, including Bambaataa’s appreciation for Kraftwerk (he sampled the group in his 1982 hit “Planet Rock”) at a time when no one else in the U.S. even knew who they were.

“Just to take Kraftwerk and have the foresight to go, ‘You know, that’s a really cool song. I’m going to play that at the park,’” MacFadden said toward the end of our interview. “He brought Kraftwerk to the street. It’s crazy.”

It’s why when New York-based writer Johan Kugelberg first came to Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow (aka Josh Davis) with the idea of putting on a nationwide tour that would feature strictly Bambaataa’s historic archive of more than 40,000 records, the two beat makers didn’t think twice.

“I’ve already taken away more than I could have ever imagined,” MacFadden told me at one point during our conversation, even with more than a handful of shows to go on the 25-date “Renegades of Rhythm” tour that wrapped up October 9th in Vancouver.

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist

At the Hollywood Palladium on a Friday night, a crowd of mostly 30-40-year-olds packs the dance floor, soaking up everything that MacFadden and Davis throw its way — whether it’s the Latin, African, Calypso or Soca grooves that Bambaataa once introduced as leader of the famed Universal Zulu Nation — over the course of a 90-plus-minute set.

The performance, which eventually ventured deeper into Bambaataa’s extensive catalog, would serve as an important reminder that hip-hop music and the culture many of us associate with it now has changed quite a bit, for better or worse, since Bambaataa’s heyday. But that doesn’t mean Bambaataa’s impact still can’t be felt to this day.

“I want people to know about Afrika Bambaataa as a person and as a figure that has contributed more to modern music than anybody else I can think of,” MacFadden replied when I ask him what he wanted his fans to take away from the “Renegades of Rhythm” shows.

In all likelihood, there never will be another Afrika Bambaataa. As two of hip-hop’s most prominent DJs today, Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow understand that better than most people.

Yet, in paying the utmost respect to one of music’s greatest living legends over the last six weeks, they have proved to be worthy of at least some of the admiration and praise Bambaataa has warranted for almost 45 years. Because you never know — one day, two other talented DJs may just choose to honor MacFadden and Davis with a tribute tour of their own.

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DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist

Rupa & the April Fishes: Social activist, doctor and artist is a modern-day Renaissance woman

Rupa_postBy Bridget Stagnitto //

Rupa Marya is a passionate musical character with an opinion about the current state of affairs, and what can be done to improve the planet. She expresses her concerns through compositions which are deliberately elevating and multifaceted. Being raised by Punjabi immigrant parents in India, France, and the Bay Area, has given her the background to comfortably create well-informed world music she likes to call “Electric Gumbo Radio”. She calls her music a “mestizo” (defined as a person of mixed ancestry) to embody a more complex, post-national identity that would invite a more diverse audience to the music.

That’s just her life in music. Did I mention that she’s also a doctor? Between tours, Rupa works at the San Francisco Free Clinic and is a professor at UCSF. When she isn’t busy healing and teaching, she produces amazing projects like Catapulta. Coordinated along with PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights), Catapulta is a multi-disciplinary performance celebrating and documenting the courage of people enduring global migrations in search of work and opportunities. Held in 2010 at the Brava theatre in San Francisco’s Mission district, the goal was to inform the city’s undocumented workers of programs that offer free or low cost healthcare without fear of being deported.

The range of social activism that Rupa engages is broad but tangible. She strives to touch the souls of real people in every venture. Her voice and delivery carry the devotion she already expresses in her actions. Reminding us of the good that exists in the world, I find myself inspired to bring out those qualities within myself. I hope she can do the same for you.

Rupa3

Following the last show of their European tour, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Rupa & the April Fishes and ask a few questions over a delightful Hungarian style buffet.

Showbams: I love the song “L’elephant”. It is so dramatic in the way that the character of the elephant is depicted through the music, but it’s in French and I have no idea what it’s about.

Rupa: I wrote that song when I realized that I had really given my life to music. I made a conscious choice to allow music into my life in a certain way. I feel like I constantly remake that choice on different levels and it’s something I’m always in a relationship with. You can call it the muse or whatever you prefer. It’s very creative and destructive. It has both of those capacities to it. At least for me when I write I feel like I’m at the edge of myself. I feel like it is a possession of myself that is extremely intense and beautiful. Everything gets more beautiful, wild and crazy, and all of the beauty and terrifying nature of those things come out at the same time. I think that for me that dualism is part of the creative dialogue in my own life. So when I gave myself to music it feels like it was an elephant.

That song is about an elephant walking through the forest. It’s based on a poem by the Indian philosopher, Krishnamurti. He talks about an elephant walking through the forest and the trees are your ideas of what reality is and the truth is like an elephant that makes a path by knocking down the trees. Not out of any malice but just because that is how it walks. Then the light of the moon can shine on the ground and you can see what things really are when that force is there. Otherwise you’re obscured so much by your own ideas of what you think things are.

Showbams: I always thought about crazy elephants that come in and trample whole villages and run amok. It sounds like in that middle section that the elephant is running through the forest, but what if it just flattens everything and just lays waste to human civilization?

Rupa: Yeah, and also relationship to the ego and what you think you know and what you are so certain about. For example, there is something so liberating about death but when someone dies we focus on the mourning and terrible aspect of it. But there is another side of it that is extremely liberating that the thing you fear the most has come to pass that when that person is gone, now where are you? You are left here without that other person. So, it becomes a strange kind of liberating pain, and I see those two things as being very much hand in hand, the letting go of death as well as birth and creation. That song contains a lot of that.

Showbams: The encore and the song before the encore were so upbeat, what is that all about?

Rupa: The last song is a melding of two songs, “La Frontera”, which is along the border, “I’m going along the border, when I get there I don’t know what I’m going to do, I’m going along the border because the wind told me to, to see to see, that which I cannot believe, that a line is worth more than a life, how can a line be worth more than a life? And all along the highway I raise my voice I raise hell I’m going along the border because the wind told me to, to see to see that which I cannot believe, to see to see, a bitter truth, to see that a line is worth more than a life, how can a line be worth more than a life?” For me, that song is about the celebration of that which is natural living, as opposed to our constructions that create death and suffering for other people.

Rupa2

The last song, “La Espera Luna”, I see as an indication of the end of patriarchy so “I’m waiting for the moon” is a recount of the experience of a migrant crossing the border between Mexico and the U.S. The sun is so harsh and people die of exposure as they cross, so this woman is waiting in the desert on the Camino del Diablo, the Devils Highway, which is a historical footpath between Mexico and the U.S. even before the U.S. existed. This person is waiting for the moon to arrive so she can travel safely. For me, it’s the indication of the beginning of a different era and the end of patriarchy.

Showbams: What compels you write upbeat celebratory songs when the content is so heavy?

Rupa: That’s a good question. I feel like I am drawn to things that are positive. Like sex positive, or life positive, life affirming. I like things that make me feel elevated especially when I’m going to art and especially when it’s dealing with something heavy. I want to hear the message, but I also want to feel lifted. We are so susceptible as human beings and I feel like if I’m going to bring someone something I want to give them a way to feel elevated. I don’t want to leave them feeling like they want to hurt themselves or someone else. I feel like these things need to be discussed or brought into awareness, but they need to brought into awareness with a “we can do something” attitude. Too often our culture is so demoralizing of people’s spirits that even when you call AT&T to change your cellphone service or router you get this 50-minute experience of repression. There are so many daily demoralizing things that make people feel powerless. I feel like if you are going to talk about something that’s heavy, it’s important to do it in a way that’s uplifting.

Showbams: What has the journey of the band been like?

Rupa: The only one we chose was Misha because we wrote a Craigslist ad. We wrote a Craigslist ad looking for a new cellist, and Aaron and I wrote a Craigslist ad like we wanted to date someone. But everyone else has fallen in. When we were looking for a new trumpet player, we ran into Mario at the cigar bar and we auditioned him. Jhno, I was so lucky to play with him at a gig at Yoshi’s he was playing with Todd Sickafoose, and Todd introduced us to him. It’s all been so lucky. The Ditt (Aaron) was the original one. When I had a vision of the kind of drummer I wanted to play with, I had described it to Todd Brown, the guy who runs the Red Poppy (Art House), and he introduced me to him. We got together and jammed, and it was like meeting my soul mate of music and we just had so much fun. It’s been a learning process because we’ve been like a married couple with our issues and annoyances. He also has a pure heart and innocent approach to music that I really respect and I feel works really well with what we’re doing.

Showbams: How do you balance your life with your one-year-old baby, Bija?

Rupa: I have the most awesome family and network of supporters because this band could tell me to fuck off because I don’t tour enough, or we don’t want your kid on tour or to be around your husband. Bija is a whole new level of unknown, and I don’t know how it’s going to all work out. But he is so excited by the music and that feels really good right now.

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Bad Suns shed light on debut LP

Bad-Suns3By Steve Roby //

Bad Suns, an indie four-piece from Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, opened for Fitz and the Tantrums on April 3rd at the Fox Theater Oakland, describing the performance as “the biggest theater we’ve ever played.”

Showbams spoke with Christo Bowman (vocals), Gavin Bennett (bass), Ray Libby (guitar) and Miles Morris (drums) before the show about how the band formed, its musical influences, songwriting and touring on the strength of its debut, four-song EP Transpose.


Showbams: How did you guys meet, and how did the band form?

Bowman: It’s a terribly long and boring story, but essentially we met the way bands meet in Southern California, in the San Fernando Valley. We went to school together and eventually got together after a couple of years of doing our own thing. We’ve been doing Bad Suns since January of 2012, and it’s been great.

Showbams: Christo, can you tell me about your father’s record collection and the influence it had on you?

Bowman: I grew up with my parents playing world music, it wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll at all, but at a certain age, when I developed an interest in the guitar, my dad started to pull out records that he was listening to when he was a little bit younger. Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Police — that’s when I started to get excited about music and began playing it.

Showbams: Any particular Elvis Costello album?

Bowman: I’d have to say This Year’s Model.

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Showbams: Describe the band’s songwriting process.

Bowman: It’s fun because it varies. Some of the songs that will be on the album we’re working on right now can be a bunch of pieces of songs that came together and ended up as one song. An example of that would be “Cardiac Arrest”. We constantly change it up and are excited about it. I feel like the quality never changes. We always work on a song until it feels like it’s a Bad Suns song that we’re proud of.

Showbams: Why did you chose to release an EP, comprised of only four songs, and what is like touring behind such a limited amount of material?

Bowman: It’s the business these days. EPs are good way to get yourselves heard first. It’s better then releasing a 15-track album for a group that no one has heard of. It’s a good way for people to start talking about the band and get ready for the full-length album.

Libby: I think an EP is a good way to get some type of interest in the group, and that’s how it works now.

Showbams: How did your EP Transpose come together?

Bennett: We originally recorded five songs in the summer of 2012 and then went back again and did five more the next summer, then picked the four we liked the best to represent the band. It’s a long process. We’ve been working with the same producer since this band started and came up with the Transpose EP.

Bowman: We did this all without a manager, record company or any of that sort of stuff. So between the four of us and our producer, we developed those four songs and then did the second half. I think you’d have a hard time figuring out what was written first. I like that aspect of it.

Showbams: What’s next for the band as far as a release?

Bowman: We’re working on the album right now. We were in the studio yesterday and then drove up here to The Fox. We’re driving back tomorrow, and it’s another day in the studio. Hopefully it will be out in the summer.

Showbams: Can you tell us the title?

Bowman: I feel like if I did, I might get in trouble (laughs).

Showbams: How is the tour going?

Morris: We just got back from South by Southwest a few weeks ago, and this is our first one-off show since then. We have another show at the Hollywood Palladium on Saturday with Fitz and the Tantrums. On April 16th, we leave to go out on the road with The 1975 for two months.

Bowman: This is our warm-up show. It’s the biggest theater we’ve ever played.

Hear the full interview with Bad Suns here and catch them perform live April 8th on “Conan”.

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Working casually through the creative process with Delorean

Delorean1Photos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Molly Kish //

Barcelona-based four-piece electronic rock band Delorean were welcomed back to San Francisco on February 9th to enthusiastic fans as they played their makeup show from last year at The Independent.

Surviving a terrifying experience the night before their originally scheduled performance in September 2013, the Bay Area crowd was filled with anticipation for their return to the intimate venue. Regional Basque flags waved as the band nailed an energy-packed performance.

The band played songs spanning its past 14 years along with highlight tracks off its most recent full-length album Apar, keeping the crowd moving and elated throughout the entire performance.

Before the show, Showbams sat down with the band backstage to discuss the evolution of its sound, motivation and general serendipitous circumstances that has made Delorean the success story they are today.


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Showbams: Delorean started out in 2000, released two albums and an EP with the band’s original members, and in 2007 reformed with Guillermo before relocating to Barcelona. At that time, your overall sound shifted from punk and electro to more computer-based compositions. Was this a conscious effort to separate yourselves from the old lineup or something that kind of just naturally happened?

Delorean: Well, it was something that we always wanted to achieve. We were also into electronic music and dance music and were always wondering about how we can achieve that sound. At the same time, we were also scared of using the computer, but when we started doing so, we realized that it was super easy and we were excited. It ended up being one of the main things that helped to shape and develop our sound. In all honesty, I don’t see that much of a difference. I think that if you put all our records in a timeline you can hear our development.

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Showbams: During that time, the band started doing a lot more remixes, including songs from The xx, Cold Cave and Franz Ferdinand, which ended up bringing it to a larger audience internationally. Why did the band choose these artists to remix?

Delorean: It’s a mixture between us having some friends and getting the chance to remix some rarities that we liked and other artists who asked us to do remixes for them. Yeah, we were very lucky to be able to have worked with such big acts.

Showbams: Definitely! It also helped the band gain traction while evolving into the sound it currently has today. During all of this, you guys also ran a club night in Barcelona called Desparrame, with the idea to venture out beyond playing music and into event production?

Delorean: It was the idea of our friend, Kivo, who was our partner and friend in our blog and in that. Now it’s over though, we stopped doing the blog and the party. I’m (Igor) doing another party with him that’s similar — it’s called Calor — but we are super busy with the band, so we don’t pay that much attention to that. I mean it’s his thing and sometimes we DJ, but that’s it.

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Showbams: Do you feel that involvement with such a scene back then helped you gain traction as a band or was it more just something fun you wanted to help out with as a side project?

Delorean: It was fun and at the same time, made the excitement around the band grow a little bit. We were not only a band, but there was also a party and people that we were in touch with and invite to the parties. I guess there was more excitement for the band then just us having an album, but we had other things happening at the same time. It’s actually not something that we decided that we wanted “to be like that.” It was just, at that time, we were involved in so many things: remixes, new material, the parties and all that. So yeah, I guess it made people be more interested.

Showbams: Around 2007, the band played at South by Southwest and shortly thereafter, it released Transatlantic KK, which was a variation of its second album Into the Plateau. What made the band want to re-release a version of that album instead of something completely new?

Delorean: Our previous two albums were only released in Spain and Europe, so this was going to be our first American release. We tried to do something special with the original track list and completely new artwork and decided to do that.

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Showbams: In the years following 2007-09, the band released its second EP, toured with international artists jj and Miike Snow and landed a worldwide record distribution deal with the prolific New York-based True Panther Sounds, which also released your third studio album Subuiza. How did that partnership come about?

Delorean: We had friends in common and we … I don’t know, it happened very casually. We just had a lot of things and friends in common, and I think we were just all on the same page at that point in time. We were getting into things that were new for the both of us and were interested in the same things. We were friends with Dean and as we were writing the new material for Subuiza, we would show him the tracks and he would go like, “Oh, I like this one, I like that one,” making comments on the songs as they were being written. When the album was finished, we were like, “Hey Dean, do you want to put it out?” and he was like, “Yes,” so he just put it out. It was like we are friends and it just naturally worked out.

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Showbams: The label is also the one that you remain on today, the one you released your fourth and most recent studio album Apar, which you currently are on tour supporting. You actually have been on tour for a while now due to a minor hangup while playing a festival in Mexico, which prevented the band from making its original date at The Independent due to being held hostage or “virtually kidnapped” on your way to San Francisco. Can you elaborate on the situation?

Delorean: What happened, it happened and we don’t like talking about it much. It’s just like a bad experience.

Showbams: Yeah, that’s scary.

Delorean: It was scary and bad and happened really fast. Afterward, we just went back home and stayed with our families. We’re very thankful for the people who helped us, but what we all think the best thing to do is not talk about Mexico and to keep on working. That’s pretty much what we do — you don’t want anything to stop you.

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Showbams: At the end of this month, the band will be finishing its North American tour, during which it has been releasing a ton of guest DJ lists and new remixes. Are those a foreshadowing of the direction the band is going in or is there new material on the way as well?

Delorean: We’re working on new material and we did just put out a bunch of remixes and stuff, but I think it’s too early to say that I think it’s going to be the new sound or whatever. We’re just trying things and the more we work, the more clear we are on what the new direction is going to be. I don’t think those remixes can tell anybody anything because they still don’t tell us where they should go yet. But yes, we are doing new stuff!

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Challenging ‘the nature of man’ with Deltron 3030

Deltron-3030_postPhotos by Kory Thibeault // Written by Molly Kish //

Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala brought their brand-new album Event II to their hometown audience at The Fillmore last Saturday. They joined forces once again as Deltron 3030, and a full orchestra accompanied the Hieroglyphics labelmates.

Directly after the Joseph Gordon Levitt-narrated “Stargate” intro, the Deltron 3030 Orchestra, conducted by a maestro clad Dan the Automator, fittingly broke into “Return”. Bringing life to old classics with the help of top-notch turntabalism from DJ and local legend Kid Koala, the full band and vocal ensemble took the fully packed Fillmore to a whole new astral plane.

Smoke hung languidly in the air as the crowd rocked to the interstellar groove and futuristic lyrics brought hard by Dan and Del, whose undeniable chemistry commanded the stage and was backed by an all-star cast of bay area producers and immensely talented touring bandmates.

After a full set and two-song encore, Showbams got a chance to catch up with the hip-hop royalty. Kicking it amongst Bay Area friends and family in the legendary Fillmore balcony, we sat down with Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan the Automator to rap about the post-apocalyptic past, the “fucked up present” and the chicken-masked murdering future of Deltron 3030.


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Showbams: Del, I know today is kind of a big day for you. Twenty years ago your second album, No Need For Alarm came out, it was the first release after you parted creative ways with your cousin Ice Cube and ultimately was the official introduction of the Hieroglyphics crew. What ultimately was the reason you wanted to branch out on your own as an artist and producer?

Del: Um, it’s kind of funny but basically my peer group at the time with my first album, they kind of made fun of me. You know what I’m saying, because I guess in their minds it wasn’t like real hip hop or whatever. Because Cube was on board it was a shinier sound and I was using P-Funk, so I guess to them it meant that it wasn’t “real hip hop”.

So after some time it just kind of depressed me, you know what I mean. Because you know, you want your peer group to like what you’re doing and whatever. So from that came No Need For Alarm. Really, I was just trying to prove a point to people. Now looking back, it was just so foolish, it’s like, “Wow, I was depressed for years because of that.” Now it doesn’t even matter. They were probably just hating because I was on the scene at the time, and they weren’t doing nothing. Looking back at it now, that was pretty much what it was.

For Cube, it wasn’t like I just didn’t want to work with him, I actually really enjoyed doing so on that first album. It is still one of my favorite experiences in the studio ever. I learned a lot of stuff them. They taught me a lot and I had a lot of fun with them, they were hella funny. But on the second album, I just wanted to go back to what I was doing, like at the Onion Lab (shout out to Onion). I used to go to his house and make demos, basically. You know practice our craft before we came out, that’s how we started getting known around the Bay Area.

So, I went back to more of that style just to let people know, I’m still there. I didn’t sell out or whatever you think and I’ve just been going harder and harder ever since then.

Showbams: Did you always want to do something like Hieroglyphics, with a whole rap collective in the East Bay, or was this something that just kind of naturally transpired?

Del: You know what? It wasn’t really something that I made, that was something that just kind of happened. There was only so many people that were just about “really rapping” in the Bay Area anyways, it wasn’t like there was hella’ us you know? But really whoever was close knit and got together the most, I guess became the general band, Hieroglyphics. That’s just the way it was, it wasn’t really a creation of mine.

But if I want to be real about it, me, A-Plus and Tajai is pretty much Hieroglyphics, because we’ve know each other the longest since like second and third grade. We was always into hip-hop, so it was from the beginning never about money or nothing like that, because that wasn’t even a dream back then. It wasn’t even a thought in our mind that could ever happen. We were just doing it because we loved it so much.

Showbams: That whole album in general really helped to expose the regional sound of Bay Area hip-hop, the style of the era, and eventually in 1997 the formation of your own record label. As an artist in charge of their own label, what can you say are some of the positive aspects of assuming complete responsibility over your work and what you put out?

Del: I guess it’s like anything you take total control over, it’s all up to you. So, if you know what you’re doing and you’re good at it and can stay on top of it, it can be great! But, you know you’re still going to need help from other people, no matter what you do. You’re going to need distributors, somebody to press something up or to make something happen for you, or whatever. So, it’s never just on you, but your creative output is.

It’s up to you whether people buy it or not, whether you’re hip enough to really communicate with your fans and be able to translate that into something people are going to want to buy. If you sign to a label, they’ve definitely got the money and the power to make you omnipresent. You can be everywhere at once, you know. Which might help you sell records or might not help you sell records, but if you’ve got something going they can help you take it to the next level.

I’m not against major labels, it’s just that they have so much money and stakes behind whatever it is they feel like they can have a say in the creative process. That’s pretty much the basis of it, everything’s got it’s ups and downs, pros and cons, you just gotta take it the way you want to take it. If you want to be a real big star then go and do it. Personally, I need some of my freedom and my privacy so I’m not really going that route.

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Showbams: A few years later, you synced up with Dan and Kid Koala to form Deltron 3030. Dan, you had been on the local scene for a minute working with Kool Keith on the whole Dr. Octagon project and Prince Paul on Handsome Boy Modeling School, along with various other collaborations. How did you guys meet up and eventually start Deltron 3030?

Dan: I mean we’re both in the Bay Area, so we probably knew a little bit about each other before we started working together. I originally got Del to work with us on Handsome Boy Modeling School, he did a couple songs on there and Del has always been one of my favorite rappers because he approaches it his own way, which kind matches in a sense to what I do because I approach it in my own way. Then, we got together and we’re all doing it our own way, and it works out pretty well. I mean, it could not work out, but it happens to work out.

Showbams: You guys have obvious commonalities between you three (Del, Dan, Kid Koala) evident in your musical background — locality and expertise in your crafts. How did you ultimately come to the decision to release your debut album in 2007 (Deltron 3030), as a concept album, something really different from what was going on stylistically within the industry?

Del: The “concept,” if you want to call it that, the major characterizations and stuff I guess you can say I created but really the continuity of the record, that’s all Dan.

Dan: Yeah, but it’s always like that. Del’s got this creative mind, like Del’s a poet who comes up with these great ideas that I can bring to life musically and in some ways conceptually. But it’s like he comes up with this stuff, like all the Deltron lyrics, (I mean I guess I do some of the choruses), but all the lyrics, like the rhyme lyrics are all Del. When you listen to them, he paints this incredible dystopian or futuristic or whatever thing and I just try to hang on for dear life and run with it.

You know, I think we challenge each other in a good way. Particularly, I don’t think it’s hard I think it’s just challenging, you know what I mean? Then we go and make records that are just the same. Even the second Deltron record, that wasn’t a challenge from me to him, it was a challenge from us against the world. What science fiction represents and what we thought we were doing. What I mean by that is like our first record was kind of a fun futuristic romp, but because of Del’s nature he had a lot of poignant points in there. Some people kind of took those to heart and we realized really that’s kind of the basis of science fiction and all the stuff that you roll with.

So then all of the sudden we have to be a little bit more cognizant of not just current events, but all events in general to be able to address the record the way it should be addressed. Quite frankly for me, it’s not whether it’s easy or hard, but those particular issues don’t affect me, they affect him more because he’s the one who has to come up and say the stuff. So, it was a matter of getting that to work, whereas for me I’m just sort of continuing to advance the craft.

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Showbams: Del, we know you’re a big video game and comic book fan …

Del: Yep, I just got a new one! It’s called “Hotline Miami” and basically you’re a dude, I guess it takes place in the 80’s in Miami and it’s like hella criminal activity. It looks like top-down graphics, like the first “Grand Theft Auto” before it was 3D and all that shit, like an Atari game. That’s kind of what it looks like. You’re basically a killer, wearing these different animal masks, like a walrus mask, a tiger mask, a rabbit mask, a chicken mask, and you go in these places. Somebody calls you and they give you some cock-a-meme story like, “OK, you got a date waiting for you at this address, hurry up. Don’t be late, make sure you do it good,” or whatever. Then, you go down there and you gotta murder all these fools.

Showbams: In a chicken mask?

Del: Haha, yeah in a chicken mask. But if you get hit once, you’re dead basically! So, you’ve gotta get through a whole level without getting touched. You gotta sneak around, kill one person and make sure they dead. You gotta jump on top of them and beat ‘en to death. It’s crazy, it’s super crazy. The music is good, everything.

Showbams: Is this a common interest of yours, Dan? Are you into video games or no?

Dan: No, not at all. Haha! I actually like video games, but once they got a little too in terms of uh … (Del shows the video game interface), see I can play something like that. I can’t play like the new, fluid graphic shit. I can play it when it’s pix-elated, but not when it’s all smooth, because then it just doesn’t seem right to me, I don’t know.

Showbams: Yeah, it gets a little too intense at that point.

Del: Yeah, yeah, yeah! It can make some people have like seizures and shit. They like have warnings about that.

Dan: I don’t think I have that kind of fear, but I just don’t like the vibe.

Del: I got an Xbox at the house though, I’m about to get the Playstation 4 and I’m about to get the Xbox 1. Playstation 4 is like, “Woah, I didn’t think games could get any better, right? Then I’ve seen the graphics and I was like, “Oh, oh okay.” It’s ridiculous, actually.

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Showbams: Now over a decade later, the long-awaited follow0up to your self-titled album, Event II finally dropped, the production of which has been rumored to have started as far back as around 2004.

Dan: It’s possible, yeah!

Del: I had the music for a long time.

Dan: But it’s changed a lot of course!

Del: The lyrics changed because pretty much everything I wrote got destroyed on a disc drive.

Dan: What we did was like we tried, but it wasn’t the right time. We tried and then it became the right time, but then the right time happened to be a lot longer than we thought it was going to be. When the fact of the matter is, not like it was better to take long but I got to say those years between doing it, a lot of shit happened in society that really … not like it gave us something to write about because we were planning on writing and talking about it anyway. But it kind of eventually, not proved what we were thinking but was really very illustrated points to what we were thinking.

Del: We had time to sit on it and think about it. Kind of reflect on that and the world. Let me say this too, it gave me a chance to really think about how I wanted to present this album. From my experience, sequels just really don’t come off that well. People always have a tendency to feel like their first experience was the best and nothing can ever top it no matter how good it is. So, I’m thinking about that and I’m like, “OK, I really want to make it to where people are going to really dig this.” Also, I wanted to think about how to come with it and how to write it.

I actually had to study how to write science fiction, and I just really thought about it because I noticed a lot of people who are really into sci-fi and may not even be into rap or music like that at all, but they were into Deltron. I wanted to come with it and kind of appeal to them as well. I recognize it’s kind of like a different thing that I’m challenged with and am glad that it took that amount of time. Then, when we really sat down and got to work and I lost my raps or whatever, he was coming with new music. It was so much more incredible than what he had before, so I was like, “OK, I’m going to write some more now!”

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Dan: The thing about Del is, it really only takes him about 10-15 minutes to come up with these incredible thoughts. Maybe you have to hone them or whatever, but it’s like me to where the genesis of getting to the point where you can do it is what takes a long time. The actual “doing it” part is just doing it. At the time, there’s always moments where you say, “I wish we could finish this or get started.” But in the big picture, you realize how complicated it is, especially when you see the final results. You realize how … it’s funny because he explained something to me, not that I didn’t think it was true, I just never really thought about it, in that everything’s not really that complicated. It’s all just the nature of man, you know? The basic tendencies — greed, power, money — and when you get down to that, it’s kind of like the crux of everything that happens.

I mean, even historically speaking, from England taking over 70 percent of the world, it’s the nature of man. Conquer, power, greed, destroy and the thing is, I always thought it was more of a complex thing. But really, it always comes down to that. When we’re thinking about this stuff and writing about this stuff, all these various things are coming true.

Then, when it actually came out, even stuff we wrote about that we had on the record came true after the record was released. It’s one of those things that’s a constant. It’s great to see that and get it. To be able to go, “Ahhh, I got this. I understand. This is the nature of man.” I feel like I became smarter making these records and that smarter isn’t unfortunately always good. It’s more like street smarts, where you realize everything’s fucked up.

Del: Nah, but it makes you appreciate the good things, though.

Dan: But you get what I’m saying, though. Like, as the layers unfold from shit, you realize it’s all the same fucked-up shit all over again. That’s all I’m saying.

Del: Now you see why I’m so dark with my shit. He was real helpful in keeping the project from getting like very dark and morbid. Even early on in the writing, he was like, “That’s cool, but you know maybe we should try to balance it with something a little bit less … ” You know what I mean?

Dan: And it is a balance and that was even proven, too. You got countries like Egypt having revolutions and you know Twitter is having a part of that. The man can’t shut down the information, or like Wikipedia, information is that power and the people have it because they can’t be subverted. You see all that. It all takes place. But although you have that power, you don’t necessarily have that money or that other kind of power, so you see the … well, not the negative because it’s all negative. It’s just, you see the hope, you know.

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Showbams: What’s interesting about your records is that there are sci-fi, fantasy and surrealistic themes running throughout the content. Do you feel like it’s easier to convey those messages and sociopolitical commentary through such mediums?

Del: I’ll tell you this, because last night after the show somebody came up to me and said, “You know, Del. I appreciate this album coming out, and I really dig the message that you have. I feel you, and I’m glad you’re getting it out to the people.” And in my mind, I’m thinking, “OK, I’m really glad you liked that message, but I’m not really even trying to put that out there.” Whatever you think the message is, I’m glad you love it so much. I wasn’t really trying to relay no message.

Dan: I think you’re right and that’s all true, what you’re saying I mean. But I think you do have a message in there and what I mean by that, you’re shit is not random thought. I think it ties together and when I say that … see the funny thing about Del is that this guy, doesn’t even own a TV.

Showbams: That’s good, that’s good.

Dan: Well, whatever. I own a TV, I watch a lot of TV so fuck you (laughs). Nah, just playing.

Showbams: You’re the first official “fuck you” I’ve had in an interview, I like it.

Dan: Nah, but like what I was saying is that he’s so astute with what’s going on. I don’t know how you get your information or where it trickles or siphons in from, there’s just tons. You know what I mean and I’m into that, I’m just saying.

Showbams: It does come through in a serious way, but like you were saying, not too dark.

Del: Yeah, I’m not trying to preach to nobody. I’m just getting my view out there and how I view it. I feel like I’m being correct, you know what I’m saying? Maybe other people don’t look at it the same way I do. But it’s out there for however you think, to interpret it any way you want to. I’m just trying to make it entertaining for people.

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Showbams: You’ve been on record saying that this album, especially Event II, is an album that has a full story to it. Can you give us a little “cliff notes” version if possible?

Del: Well, it basically has to do with what Dan was saying about power and corruption and how at the very essence it makes people do crazy stuff. In this situation, it just happens to be planetary cataclysmic, you know what I mean? It’s bigger than just a war on Planet Earth, they fucking everything up all over the galaxy. It’s like the stakes are higher, but still at the very essence, what we’ve always had to deal with. That’s pretty much what I want to try to illustrate. I want to get away from so much of the laser fire and super big whatever, all the technical stuff.

I wanted to get down to more the humane part of it so that anybody can listen to it and kind of feel it even if you aren’t a sci-fi fan. That’s one thing that I really wanted to get there, that the first one didn’t have. I’m not going to say it was “techno babble” because some people, I’ve read some reviews for it and they were kind of alluding to it as “techno babble,” which it isn’t. I was just kind of stream of consciousness using the vocabulary of science fiction and just having fun with it.

Dan: But see, there’s where I don’t … I mean, I was there and I’m not going to say that’s not all true, but the thing that’s different about it is just because of the way Del thinks the message gets in there. He may not be going, “Alright, I’m writing the message now,” but it works its way in there. Then, some stuff like “Virus”, where you’re right on top of things and even though you might be having fun with it, the fun you’re having is very profound. That’s what put us in our own trap. We trapped ourselves in the way that there’s a lot of message in this record, so we need to address the message, you know what I’m saying?

Showbams: On that note, what are your predictions for the future of Deltron 3030 and your role in the music industry within the next few years?

Del: Well, you know what at first I kind of was like “naaaahhh” because it takes too much work. But now, I kind of realize and I got this from skateboarding. I’m learning how to skate and trying to learn how to ollie, which takes a helluva lot of work! I kind of learned from that, that once you do “that,” you’ve done all the preliminary work. You don’t have to start over again. So you know, who knows? I like working with Dan a lot, though. I even like being on the road with Dan for this length of time, the whole band really. I’ve hella enjoyed it. I’ve been having hella fun with these guys. I would definitely like to work on some more stuff with them.

Dan: Yeah, you know me and Del have been around each other for a long time and I always feel good when we do stuff. It’s always good stuff, you know quality wise, but also there’s a certain … I mean, I’m a record producer and I work with a lot of people and you get what you get out of enjoyment or whatever. But we have a really good group of guys and we’re going out and having a great time. We’re smashing places, it’s a good combination, you know?

I think also the other thing is that we finally know what we need to do. I think it’s not that complicated on one level, it’s complicated on other levels, but on one level, we’re good. I think we had a lot of trouble breaking through on the second record, just understanding your place of what it means and what it is. I think that’s all done now. From that point, it could continue that way, it could jump off that way, but we now understand what it was.

If we did another record and everything blew up and we were all starting over, that’s a fantasy record again. But at least you know where you were standing to get to the next place. You know just taking what was the original Deltron 3030 that had a lot of thoughts in it, to where it is now and it really does have a moment and you get to where you are. You now have a solid platform to jump off of.

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Andrew W.K. finds party inspiration via the ‘spirit of amplification’

Andrew-WKPhotos by Marc Fong // Written by Molly Kish //

When we found out Andrew W.K. was going to be in town to provide lead vocals for Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg at The Independent, we knew we couldn’t miss it. Thirty-five essential Ramones tracks played back to back, in a balls-out set fronted by none other than the “king of party” himself. What do you ask the man who has managed to turn his passion for partying into a profession? How can we contend, let alone breakthrough to someone as notoriously enigmatic as Andrew W.K? Will we make it out of this interview alive, are we worthy enough to?

Walking into The Independent before the show, I knew I’d likely have my work cut out for me but felt confident and excited nonetheless. Ironically to my surprise, our main subject displayed quite the opposite sentiment. Upon meeting the self-proposed party animal, I immediately was taken aback by his subdued nature, and his incognito garb even more so. Wearing a pull over sweatshirt, hood up with the bill of his trucker hat peeking out the front, he remained bundled and timid throughout our interview, hiding behind his reflective, blue tinted sunglasses with his hands in his front pocket.

He slowly got comfortable with the idea of having a conversational interview, and he elaborated on some intimate details (some of which I never could’ve anticipated). Far from the over the top personality I expected, Andrew W.K. instead surprised me with an in depth dialogue more appropriate for a slumber party than the “full-scale rager” persona I anticipated.


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Showbams: I know growing up you studied classical and jazz piano and were in a ton of bands before releasing your solo EP in 2000. How do you feel like this type of training musically influenced your current sound and direction as an artist?

AWK: That’s a great question, you know it really is and thank you so much for having me as your guest. I really do just feel, the importance that was put on music at all in my younger years is the only reason I am standing here with you and having this talk. If my parents didn’t know everything about music or have the most encyclopedic knowledge of classical, modern music, rock, pop amongst many other genres…you know God love em.’ But, the point is that they set me up with this idea that music counted and that it was something important and worthwhile. I’m just thankful every day. Every day that I get to do what I have been doing with Marky here, it’s mind blowing. There’s no way that I would be able to do this if when I was born my parents didn’t have this idea. They’re not even the greatest music fans in the world or anything; they just understand that music counted. It mattered, it mattered a lot, as much as math, science, reading, or anything else, the idea to have music in your soul. They never thought that I would make a career out of it, neither did I. But, it was like reading, learning how to read or learning how to spell, add numbers up, etc. Learning how to do music, that’s a fundamental skill and that’s why I’m able to be partying here today.

Showbams: After years of playing in groups, what made you want to branch out as a solo act?

AWK: I started as a solo act actually. It was very hard to find band members when I first began. A lot of folks didn’t I guess, like the music I was doing, you know with all due respect to them. Also I didn’t have a lot of resources to offer them. I always liked the idea of being able to play by yourself as well as play with other people. I tried to generate the skills as a solo musician and also appreciate the power that comes from playing with people other than yourself.

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Showbams: Your first full-length album I Get Wet was released on Island Records in 2001 to enormous critical acclaim. Not only because it featured so many giant party rock anthems, but also due to the jarring and unforgettable cover art. What was the inspiration behind choosing that photo of yourself?

AWK: I don’t know. I felt very strongly about that photo for reasons that I’m still trying to understand myself. Sometimes your instincts go beyond your very own experience; they go beyond your consciousness. You’re compelled by forces beyond yourself and that was one of those moments. I just felt very passionate about that photo, that no one else had ever used a bloody nose photo in that way as their thing. For whatever reason, that was meant to be my thing. I’m happy, I’m still entertained by my own experiences. A bloody nose, it’s painful but it can also be joyful and it can also be just kind of nothing. A lot of people get bloody noses just because of dry air or high altitude.

Showbams: The material on that album, being so incredibly diverse from the top 40 artists of that era, were you surprised at the amount of commercial success it received?

AWK: Yes, I was very surprised and also at the same time no because again there was a sort of holy guardian angel…I’ve always just felt kind of pulled along a path, kind of like if you had sled dogs dragging you across the tundra of nothingness, you know that’s a very formidable and frightening landscape to be in. But when you have a powerful pack leader, like a strong hound or whatever, you trust in them. You hand yourself over to them and that’s a great feeling as well. To be able to know what you have to offer as well as to lay down that offering at the feet of a great beast like these hounds that would pull someone to safety. That’s how I feel about my life. I’m not in control of it and I hand myself over to this destiny.

Showbams: Over ten years later, I still hear tracks off of this album in the most random situations and places. What are the weirdest places or products you can think of that have wanted to use your material as a soundtrack?

AWK: Not too many weird places, they’ve been mostly in my opinion very normal and places that I had hoped the song’s would be appreciated and dreamed of them being used. I’m very thankful for anyone that’s ever used any of these songs to energize whatever they have to offer or energize their audience, energize viewers, energize people. I’m someone who also has been energized by it. I didn’t make this, you know what I mean? I’m a fan as well. Monsters University, that was the last big movie that used one of our songs, I can’t believe it myself. When that movie comes on or I see those trailers, I’m just amazed. I get to be in that proximity with John Goodman and Billy Crystal, for real.

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Showbams: While on tour promoting your second album Wolf, you broke your foot then proceeded to finish the remainder of those dates in a wheelchair. Have you ever had any other major “party fouls” since that happen while on tour?

AWK: I’ve had some other injuries, but nothing that bad yeah. I may have been hit by flying objects and things at shows. In Australia last year I had a really bad injury and I’ve been hit by some bottles and things like that. But, it’s never really that bad. For people that are really injured, what they’re able to deal with, I’m always inspired by them. Soldiers, of course and their frame of mind to carry on through much more severe injuries let alone athletes and things like that.

Showbams: Your various full lengths and EP’s have catapulted your celebrity to an international status. You’re especially popular overseas where you released a few albums distinctly in Japan, Japan Covers and Gundam Rock. Both revolve highly around the county’s pop culture, music and anime. What about Japanese culture developed your interest in creating these pieces?

AWK: I was very lucky to go to Japan when I was a lot younger. My dad, he’s a law professor at The University of Michigan and he was invited to be a professor in Japan in Kyoto. So we got to go with him when I was thirteen and my brother was like nine-ten years old, it was really great. We had a lot of fun memories from that time and I fell in love with Japan actually before that. I was always just appreciative of the enthusiasm they approach cultural concepts with and creativity in general. There’s a spirit of amplification in a lot of the Japanese people. They are able to identify something that they enjoy and amplify that many times over. If you’re a fan of culture and of entertainment, then you gotta be hip on Japan. You’ve got to keep up with what’s going on there, because if you like something go to Japan. It’ll be amplified ten times over!

Showbams: Speaking of Japanese culture, can you elaborate on your part or interest in cosplay. Especially, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Would you consider yourself a “bronie”?

AWK: I would like to consider myself a “bronie,” but only with all due respect to every “bronie” that’s been there before me and has dedicated so much time and energy to this passion. This phenomenon, this is very unique and that’s what attracted me to it, the unique space that this occupies. I always liked My Little Pony was the thing. I just really liked the ponies, the way they looked…

Showbams: …the way they smelled.

AWK: They smelled like, you know, fresh fruit plastic or something. It’s hard to pin down exactly what appeals to people about this particular beast. But, a pony is small, it’s approachable. If it were to kick you with its hoof, it’s not as bad as a moose or something. I mean God forbid an elk, I mean that’s pretty formidable. You could die from that! But a pony, with all their strength, it’s a smaller more docile creature. You can cradle its head, try to pet its jaw, things like that. That always appealed to me, I didn’t have a lot of strength to try to fight a full-grown horse, you know a pony is just easier to engage with. As an older person in the scene and by that I mean someone who remembers the earlier series, I was physically attracted to some of the pony characters that were portrayed in the earlier animations. There was just something very endearing about them that made you want to wrap yourself around them and have them wrap around you. It was kind of beyond sexual in a way. It was just very pure affection. I wish everyone to have that kind of feeling about anything. If you can find affection in the world at all, that’s better than not finding it. That makes people feel better about being alive. It’s hard enough just to exist, so why not have some affection while you do it?

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Showbams: Outside of your music, you’re a man of many hats. You’re a motivational speaker, television host, producer, nightclub owner, record label manager and even an international party ambassador. Whatever happened with that last role, can you elaborate?

AWK: Yeah, and you’ve been so fantastic. I’m too tired actually after that last answer to say anything about anything anymore.

You know when you get invited to go out into the world and do anything, you try to do your best! I mean you try to find some kind of inspiration or some kind of cause to put behind yourself. Even if the cause is your own point of view, or the cause is yourself, or the cause is just not being dead. You want to have something to propel you, to inspire you. Partying was my cause, I don’t really know what else to say.

And I am sorry, you’ve done great. You’re so great, that and I really mean this and I wasn’t going to say it and I hope that you have the confidence to hear this and not take it as an insult and not take it the wrong way…you don’t even need questions. You know what I mean, you could start with one question and just have a conversation. You’re on that level and anyone would be lucky to talk with you about anything, let alone record it for an interview. I really mean that and I thought twice about saying it and then I just said it because I thought that maybe somewhere deep down inside you, it could be with something.

Showbams: Thank you, that’s your motivational speaker coming out in you right there. Would you want to answer one more question, are you OK with that?

AWK: Of course, anything you want. I’m sorry about that maybe I shouldn’t have … you’re just doing really good and I’ve interviewed people as well and I get very, VERY … a lot more than you. Most people that have interviewed me, I get very scared. Very, very scared, and all I’m thinking about leading up to the interview is, “I hope they cancel the interview.” I’m just completely terrified of everything.

Showbams: Am I scary? I’m not scary …

AWK: It’s pretty scary for me, but I’ve learned you know, just you do it anyways.

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Showbams: Well, what you have going on right now, why we’re here and talking is because you’re on tour with Marky Ramone. You’ve been keeping yourself really busy beyond this with lectures, breaking world records and touring with the whole Blitzerkrieg thing. How does it feel first off to hold a world record for drumming for 24 hours?

AWK: It’s sort of a false record really. It was drumming for 24 hours in a retail store, which I think has already been broken since then. The real point was to just put me in a situation where I had to drum for a long time. Setting a world record, that’s in the realm of a different kind of athlete. I’m not a professional drummer, I’m not very good at drumming. I’m certainly not a record holder in the traditional sense. If you look up Guinness Book record holders, again these are professionals that identify records that haven’t been broken and they go and break them. That’s a level of dedication, of concentration, of focus, of physical endurance and of declaration. When you declare yourself a Guinness Book record holder, that’s very different from what I was doing. All I was doing was trying to appease MTV, VH1, CMT — they said, “This was the O Music Awards, you’ve been invited, you’ve been nominated as a Twitter award contestant, would you like to drum for twenty four hours?” I said, “of course, I’ll try my best.” It was very hard, but I had great drummers with me. At the same time I feel pretty confident, with all do respect to endurance people out there and record holders and real athletes, because I‘m not an athlete, I will give everything I have. If they want to call me out, I will give everything I have to try to do my best at one of those events. I’ll probably fail and you know what, it’ll be very humiliating.

Showbams: Before this current tour, were you and Marky friends? How did this even all come about?

AWK: A friend of ours named Steve Lewis, who is a legend in his own right. He really is, he’s a king of the nighttime world in New York City, especially Manhattan. He was involved with Studio 54, he was involved with The Limelight, have you ever heard of the club Limelight? This is the legendary New York City nightlife … I mean, you know Max’s, Kansas City. I mean, we’re going way back. Marky was friends with him from that era. Now, I myself, I wasn’t even born until 1979, so it took me a while to get into that era, but once I did, I learned as well about Steve Lewis and he was actually very instrumental in helping my friends and I open our own club in New York City called Santos Party House. This is a downtown club here in Manhattan, in the Chinatown area. So, if you go onto Canal St. and LaFayette, go down two blocks NS there is Santos Party House. First brand-new club that’s ever been open in Lower Manhattan in 20 years. I mean a brand-new club and that’s how hard they make it!

Showbams: Were you a big Ramones fan growing up? Is it a little nerve-wracking playing such legendary material? How has the crowd response been?

AWK: Absolutely and yes. It’s extremely, extremely stressful. I’d say 99.93331 percent of the crowds have been fantastic.

Showbams: Beyond finishing up the tour and your solo dates that you’ve got booked, you’re finishing up a Party Bible. Can you tell us a little more about it?

AWK: It’s going to be a book about having some fun.

Showbams: Do you have any advice for us from said book?

AWK: Yeah, try not to die.

Showbams: Fair enough.

Wild Belle discuss sound development and rocking the electric kalimba

Wild_Belle2Photos by Eldon Christenson // Written by Molly Kish //

I found myself standing outside The Independent trying to figure out why I felt so odd. It was a pretty typical evening, waiting to enter the venue I frequent most often, in a neighborhood filled with friends and familiar faces.

Peering at the line that was growing in size and audible volume, I noticed there was a staggering amount of females in attendance. In fact, more women than I have ever seen in one line, entering any establishment, in my entire 10 years of living in the Bay Area. Dressed to the nines and emulating the headlining act’s fashionista frontwoman Natalie Bergman, the crowd was a sea of giddy females ready to get their Wild Belle groove on. All the male counterparts seemed like an accessory, getting drowned out by the sea of estrogen.

Waiting to interview the creative duo behind Wild Belle outside the venue, I caught a glimpse of Ms. Bergman floating through the crowd. Nearly camouflaged by the abundance of doppelgangers in attendance, she remained amusingly unnoticed as she hopped in line with her crew. The self-consumed throng of fans remained completely unaware of her presence until she discreetly meandered her way to the front of the line. Even the bouncers questioned her authenticity amongst the crowd! After her failed attempt to convince the flustered male door staff to allow her guests to enter with her, she summoned her manager to come out and personally escorted both myself and her party through the door. Humbling her detractors while flashing her provocatively coy smile, we followed Natalie inside.

We were all brought backstage, where you could literally hear the band’s excitement emanating from their dressing room. The artist area was filled with uproarious laughter, enthusiastic cheering and green room banter — final set picks and details for the evening were being solidified.

As opening act Saint Rich were wrapping up their set, Natalie emerged with her brother and bandmate Elliot, vocally expressing his confusion with how early of a call time they had for that evening’s performance and apologizing for their tardiness. Natalie and Elliot Bergman joined us for a conversation before their first headlining set at The Independent in San Francisco, flashing their impeccably sunny disposition with cocktails in hand.

READ THE FULL REVIEW FROM THEIR SHOW AT THE INDEPENDENT HERE.


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Showbams: Last year we were able to catch you at Treasure Island Music Festival and Mezzanine, have you ever played The Independent before?

Natalie: This is actually our second time performing here, but our first time headlining. So it’s really exciting for us!

Elliot: It’s a great room to play and the feeling, the vibes are really great in here.

Showbams: I know that you’re brother and sister and come from a very musically inclined family of four. Both of your parents were also musicians, what kind of background did they have?

Natalie: My dad grew up with a lot of classical music. His mom was always playing that and gospel on the piano. Same with my mom, they both grew up in the church so there was lots of choral music. My mom was also really rooted in jazz, which she got both of us interested in at a young age, and we picked up piano from her.

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Showbams: You guys also played together before Wild Belle. Elliot, you had something in college, a sort of Afrobeat band that you were toying around with, which is when you Natalie came in on vocals. Was playing together in a group something you always wanted to do or a fate that naturally transpired?

Elliot: Yeah, it just kind of came together. I was in the studio working on some stuff and Natalie kept bringing in these songs, saying “hey check this out.” So we sort of started trading ideas, saying, “Oh, what about this? What if you wrote lyrics for this …” and that was kind of all how it came together. It was just kind of a natural evolution of us experimenting together in the studio.

Natalie: I think, we started recording demos at our friend’s studio in Benton Harbor called Key Club. We had a bunch of demos we were weeding through, and then once we developed an actual sound, we were excited about it. We recorded “Keep You”, which is one of our first tracks we documented and we were just excited. Then, we booked a show and we called ourselves The Runes, like the rune stones, and played a set with our songs, which was kind of the first little seed we planted with this band, and it just developed and bloomed from there.

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Showbams: Your debut album dropped in March of 2013 and you released singles leading up to it, garnishing a lot of traction showed by the following you currently have. It’s titled Isles and is said to be in reference to each track resembling its own distinct culture and sound. What drew you in about island music and made you want to incorporate such an influence into the songwriting of Wild Belle?

Natalie: Well, yes, we love island music. We love rock steady, ska and early Jamaican music. There is a whole tropical sound that we’re drawn to. We like Tropicalia from Brazil, we like Highlife from Africa and that’s just been in our book growing up. Our mother taught us about some cool African musicians, and we all just sort of branched off from there. It’s definitely in our repertoire, but making the record, we definitely weren’t thinking it was going to be island-oriented. We were just kind of like, “Alright, let’s make a rock ‘n’ roll record!” Yes, there were some reggae influences, but just as much as there was reggae, there’s also lots of soul and Motown and rock and blues and so on.

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Showbams: Included in said sound, you guys have something really unique in your band that Elliot personally came up with called the electric kalimba. Where did this idea sprout from, and how did it come to fruition?

Elliot: That was just something that … I think maybe my mom bought me my first one as a little toy thumb piano type thing, which I was always kind of kicking around the house. But then as I got a little older, I started realizing that you could electrify it and put it through effects pedals and play with it. It could sound like an electric guitar or steel drums or orchestral chimes or …

Natalie: Frogs, crickets, tigers (laughs).

Elliot: It’s a very pure sound that can be manipulated in a lot of different ways. It can even sound like a pipe organ if you want. It’s just kind of a fun way to approach making a record, you build some instruments and figure out what they sound like and where you can fit those sounds. It’s not like plugging in a drum machine and pressing play. It’s something that’s weird and broken and has different overtones than any other instrument. So, it can lend a bit of a distinct sound and is a little bit of a chance procedure, but usually yields some interesting results.

Showbams: It’s been quite a whirlwind of a past year for you, with your rigorous tour schedule where you hit tons of festivals, had a Daytrotter session, filmed numerous videos and have received tons of accolades along the way. What’s next on the agenda for Wild Belle?

Elliot: We have to make a new record! It’s funny, we really didn’t know what this would be when we started making the music at first. Now, the more we work, the more we become clearly defined, know what we want to do and the easier it is to execute things. We’re just excited to get back into the studio. To keep writing music, looking for sounds and continuing to make new things happen. I think we have another four or five weeks on the road, and then we’re planning on maybe taking a week where we don’t have to do anything. Just relax, maybe have some time to sleep and then start working on the new record. We’ll see you guys again real soon, though. This has always been one of our favorite places to play and any time we can, we’re very happy to be here.

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SF locals Cool Ghouls add horn section at Phono del Sol

Cool-Ghouls By Nikki DeMartini //

Phono del Sol Music Festival //
Potrero del Sol Park – San Francisco
July 13th, 2013 //

This past Saturday was a picture-perfect day to catch some rays, see local bands and grub on fare from food trucks at the third annual Phono del Sol Music and Food Festival. The festivities started at noon, and by the time Bay Area natives Cool Ghouls hit The Potrero Stage at 12:50 p.m. a small, yet-good sized crowd had gathered to catch their act. Though most people who went to watch Cool Ghouls enjoyed the set from afar atop one of the grassy knolls in Phono del Sol Park, a handful of fans got right up front where the sound quality was way better.

Coll Ghouls’ usual four-piece ensemble had an additional three-piece horn section, and after all the guys got situated, bassist Pat Thomas, lead guitarist Ryan Wong and Pat McDonald each said hello to the crowd before opening with the track most likely to be found on a summertime playlist, “Natural Life”.

The guys of Cool Ghouls are young and they look it, which is sort of surprising since their sound in is undeniably retro with a modern surf-rock twist. Within the first three songs of their set, Thomas, McDonald and Wong each took over lead vocals while their sweet harmonies highlighted every song.

Cool Ghouls filled the afternoon air with seven cool tracks off their self-titled debut EP, including “Grace” and “Queen Sophie”, in their own youthful retro fashion. Their performance paired perfectly with the unseasonably warm SF weather while their laid-back, inviting vibe created that sought-after feel festivalgoers appreciate at the beginning of a long day of music. Well played, Cool Ghouls.

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Nikki de Martini spoke with Pat Thomas, bassist and singer for Cool Ghouls before their Phono del Sol set.


Showbams: I understand that the name Cool Ghouls is derived from George Clinton’s funky banter. Can you elaborate on why you chose the name Cool Ghouls and what the name means to you collectively as a band?

Thomas: Well, Pat McDonald came up with the idea. I dunno. We thought it had a nice ring to it. It rhymes. It’s ghastly. I like ghosts. I wrote a song called “Ghost Song”.

Showbams: Do you consider yourselves ghouls? Do you consider yourselves cool?

Thomas: Yes and yes.

Showbams: Are you fans of George Clinton? His music? Fashion sense? What he stands for?

Thomas: I don’t have a lot of George Clinton knowledge really. I like the whole far-out vibe that Parliament had/has. Maggot Brain is a killer album. On every road trip “Can You Get to That” gets bumped at least once.

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Showbams: Congratulations on releasing your self-titled debut EP this past April. Some reviews that I’ve come across consider your sound as rather retro circa a 60’s psychedelic sound. I personally picked up on a throwback to old-school surf-rock with a modern twist. How would you say you perceive the sound of Cool Ghouls and why?

Thomas: Well, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine what other people’s ears are gonna hear when your music hits them. We just play the kind of music we’ve always played. When I’m writing or playing a Cool Ghouls song, I’m not thinking within a framework like “garage” or “60’s.” I’m just trying to channel the sounds and vibes in my brain. Certainly 60’s-type shit finds its way into what I do because all that shit is somewhere in there, in my brain. Especially with bass, Motown subconsciously finds its way into my fingers.

Showbams: I dig the cover artwork on the LP — it looks part hand-drawn/painted with a some photography up in there…who’s the artist who did the work?

Thomas: Thanks! I did the cover art myself! Yeah, it’s a canvas that I painted with watercolors. Then I taped all the other images on top. They’re all found pieces, except the rooster, which I painted. Oh, and the picture of us up in the clouds was taken by my friend Matt at one of our shows.

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Showbams: Did all three of you grow up in San Francisco? If so what area of SF, and how did you meet each other?

Thomas: Well, there are four of us. None of us grew up in SF. Both Pats and Ryan grew up in Benicia, which is in the East Bay, about 40 minutes outside the city. Alex is from Sacramento. We met Alex through SF State. The other Pat, Ryan and Alex all went to SF State.

Showbams: Were your parents hippies?

Thomas: Definitely not! My parents were born about 15 years too late to be a part of the proper baby-boomer hippy generation. They went to college in the 80’s and were into Reagan. Suburban family folk. I don’t think any of our parents were what you’d call hippies. Pat McDonald’s dad probably comes the closest. He fought in Vietnam. But I don’t think he was a long-hair or anything. He had and has a passion for rock ‘n’ roll, though.

Showbams: Do you consider yourself hippies?

Thomas: I don’t think so. Although I could imagine someone might look at us and call us hippies. I like the Grateful Dead. But no, I wouldn’t call myself a hippie. I don’t really use the word “hippie” at all actually.

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Showbams: What is your favorite album of 2013 so far?

Thomas: Finding the Meaning in Deference by The Mallard!

Showbams: How stoked, on a scale from 1 -10, are you guys to be on a bill with the likes of YACHT, Thee Oh Sees, K-Flay and a bunch of other independent local acts at the 3rd Annual Phono del Sol Music Festival this Saturday? Is this the first music festival Cool Ghouls has played?

Thomas: 10! Just to play a festival of this caliber … is definitely a first for us. Totally stoked. We will have a lot of family and friends there.

Showbams: If you could play with one band/artist who would it be?

Thomas: Can I choose four? Wyatt Blair, Meat Market, Corners and Froth. And if I could play with them at Brick & Mortar Music Hall, it would be a dream come true!