Out from under the Avalanche!

Hello All! Did you miss me, or even notice I was gone? Probably not, but as so often happens with life, we get caught up in its web and either narrowly escape the claws of the deadly spider or become paralyzed by its mercilessness. But good news everybody, I escaped and am doing quite well. The last couple months have been slow, but September should bring much excitement once again. Here is what I have in store for your viewing and listening pleasures.

Terry Malts @ Thee Parkside Friday September 5th. This fuzz rock trio has brought some edge to the standard lo-fi indie music that’s spreading like wildfire. Aggressive riffs reminiscent of Minor Threat meet idle and witty vocals of Devo make them easily likeable, and they just released their new album in over a year, “Nobody Realizes this is Nowhere.” Check out their first single on Sound Cloud, Walking Without.

Caged Animals @ The Bottom of the Hill Sunday September 15th. I’m really excited to cover this show. This Brooklyn based electro group led by Vincent Cacchione (Soft Black) might fall into the category of a James Blake with a bit more stable songwriting. The band includes Cacchione’s French Canadian classically trained partner, Magali Charron, his sister Tayla, and his oldest Friend, Pat Curry, on percussion. Think Postal Service meets John Lennon. They are supporting their new album, “In the Land of Giants.” You shouldn’t miss this show if you’re around.

Wax TailorWax Tailor @ Mezzanine Tuesday September 24th. Who says nothing cool happens on Tuesdays? Well, if you’re in search for something to do here’s your answer. Not only is this awesome French trip-hop DJ coming to San Francisco, he’s playing at Mezzanine, an intimate club located in the heart of downtown. From the likes of Bonobo and Tricky, Jean-Christophe Le Saoût, aka Wax Tailor, will bring his slow, sultry, and sexy beats to the bay. In support of his last album, The Dusty Rainbow Experience, a concept album which he worked with Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields, Lovage) and Ali Harter, he is sure to bring a bag plentiful of tricks and surprises. There will also be an interview coming soon!

True Widow @ Great American Music Hall Monday September 30th. This super group from Dallas, Texas, derived from members of Low, Concrete Blonde, and PJ Harvey ,brings their haunting sound to San Francisco. Pitchfork described them as “a vast bone-crunching slab of murky distortion,” and NPR included that”True Widow is a band that uses volume as an instrument.”  True Widow is like a marriage between Portishead and Neurosis, and for only three members this post-metal, experiment group promises to be loud.

These are just a few events/musicians you might not have heard about that you should be exposed to. Hopefully you can catch the shows, but if not and like what you hear, support them and purchase their music, or follow up with them online. Support Underground Music!

Q&A: Whitney Myers from NBC’s the Voice

Whitney Myers might be known for her stint on NBC’s the Voice, but with a new album she’s reinventing herself as one of the west coast’s premier solo artists.

After disbanding from her longtime family band, Myers recorded her debut, Articles of Luminous Nature, filled with catchy hooks and candid lyrics, and intertwined with electronic and tribal rhythms. We caught up with Myers to talk about her new album, her experience on The Voice, and coming full circle to where her journey all began, San Francisco, with a show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall on May 28th.

Let’s talk about your latest album, Articles of Luminous Nature, the first since your band dismembered. How did your writing process change?

It changed a lot because previously I wrote most the songs with my family. I’ve been writing with them since I was eleven, which was a pretty definable comfort zone. When I turned solo it was really freeing but a bit frightening, since there was no one to bounce ideas off of. I finally got to work with a professional producer too, which was nice.

Where was it recorded?

It was recorded in a couple different places. Nowadays you can make quality albums without spending thousands of dollars in a studio. I cut a couple vocal tracks with the drummer on the album in his closet, and then the producer had a studio at his house and we did quite a few track there- mostly the electronic stuff.

How come you branched out from the band?

It was a band with my dad, which was really cool and I learned a lot about being with mature players. It taught me to respect music and be passionate in the way I pursued it, but I wanted to pursue my own things personally, and experiment with the electronic side of things.

It was really hard at first because I didn’t realize how much of a comfort zone I was in. I thought I could totally do it, but as soon as I did I missed them a lot. It’s been big as an individual to grow. I always say the best lessons usually come from being uncomfortable in life.

The album seems to be pretty personal- sometimes referring to the pressures of national exposure. The line, “I will never be shrouded in mystery, knuckles white to make sure you’re looking right,” from the song “Crazy Making” especially stood out. What was your inspiration for that song?

That particular songs is kind of about being surrounded by artsy people, which is a lot of times inspiring, but there’s also a lot of false behavior. No one’s faulted for that, but for me I think we’re all creating stuff and speaking the same language so there’s no need for competing. So that song is speaking to those people who are “overly” artsy without being artsy. There’s a certain someone who inspired that song, and it was my way of calling them out. The reality is we make art to connect with each other, and when you make yourself seem better than others you limit that connection with your art.

Most people may know you from singing on the second season of NBC’s the Voice. How did the idea of participating on this show come about?

That’s a non-typical story because I don’t even have a TV, not that I don’t watch it, but I didn’t have one when the show aired, so I went to my friends houses to watch the episodes. I was playing in a band and we were touring and the audition was in San Francisco. My friend’s band from Portland drove down and kept asking if I was going to the audition, so I just went down there to push myself and see how I was on the spot and take it as a growing experience, and it just took off as a whole chapter in my life. I went through the whole process and it was a crazy decision, but I’m glad I did it.

Dave Grohl made a statement- “When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or the Voice, they think ‘oh ok, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention center and then you sing your heart out for someone, and then they tell you it’s not fucking good enough. It’s destroying the next generation of musicians.” What are your thoughts on this?

I listened to that same speech at SXSW. I have mixed feelings about that whole thing, and it took me a long time to make peace with my decisions. It was great because it gave me publicity, and the music industry nowadays is all about hype. But I think he’s pretty much right. I thought I’d get on that show and huge amazing things would happen, but it wasn’t like that.

I wouldn’t say these shows are a great way to get famous, but it’s a great way to gain more fans. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying to get a record deal. And if you think about it there’s like ten others shows like the Voice, if they gave everyone on those shows a record deal, a quarter of America would have them.

So he’s right in that they’ve made it a game. There’s two ways you can try to make it- you can do the hard way by booking and touring, which I’ve done before and after the Voice, or you can rely on these shows. The type of career I want has more longevity and musical connections, which might be the harder way, but no one can tell me how to make my music.

It seems like there’s a level of superficiality when it comes to the “musicians,” or contestants on the show?

The Voice is a little different than the other shows. Most the contestants were actually touring musicians. Some have toured with big names and were already making a living, just not enough of it. I would say the Voice is an exception. If you’re in the industry and you have special connections then you don’t have to stand in line and such. I didn’t get that treatment. And after the show is over they sort of drop you, so I’m glad I already had a foundation.

Who was your favorite judge?

I got to meet all of them, but I didn’t kick it with them for very long. They seemed nice. Blake (Shelton) was probably my favorite, not musically, but as a person he seemed the most genuine.

How excited are you to play in San Francisco, the city where you auditioned for the Voice?

So excited, I want to make San Francisco my second home. I tour all over the US but San Francisco is so close to me and I grew up going High School there. It’s always been an inspiring place, and in terms of music I’ve been getting great feedback. I know it sounds cliché, but I’m just excited to share my music with the city.

Where would you ideally like to be ten years from now?

I would like to have two Grammy’s and have scored a major motion picture, and be able to sell out big theater venues like the Fillmore all across the world. I think music is one of those things that the possibilities are limitless, so long as you have the drive and a good product.

 

Matt Costa @ Slims- March 23rd, 2013

Matt Costa’s new self titled album is a conjunction of all his past efforts; a cohesive blend of dreamy surf pop with romanticized vocals and creative melodies.

Matt Costa

This is Costa’s most mature effort to date, really perfecting that vintage sound he adapted on Mobile Chateau blended with the masterful songwriting roots of Unfamiliar Faces and Songs We Sing.It’s big and bold, yet subtle and stripped down when it needs to be. Songs like “Loving You” and “Good Times” have that Beach Boys- surf pop feel, while “Eyes for You” and “Clipped Wings” have graduated to a Paul Simon type level- showcasing growth in his songwriting skills. Costa recorded this album in Glasgow with Belle and Sebastian, and the inspiration is heard. “Silver Sea” has perhaps the most recognizable influence of traditional Celtic music with tribal instrumentation and a chant like lyrical structure. The album as a whole is more experimental, utilizing orchestrations to round out the music. It’s not overbearing, but just the right amount to add another dimension to Matt Costa’s already crafty songs.

Matt Costa rushed the stage on a Saturday night in San Francisco with a smile on his face, quickly glancing over the eager audience of Slims. He headed straight to his keyboard where he sat down and waited for the rest of his band to get situated. Through cheers and jeers he plunged into perhaps his biggest single, “Mr. Pitiful.” It was almost as he was getting the song out of the way, but it really energized the crowd for the entirety of the show. Costa was on point, hitting every note with clarity and really brought his songs to life with his humble energy and excitement. Matt did a great job playing songs from all of his albums. Some of the highlights were when Costa played “Desires Only Fling” and the high energy “Behind the Moon” (Off Songs We Sing) with a twelve string guitar, in which he broke a string but continued to thrash his way through the set without changing it. During the song “Miss Magnolia,” Costa placed the Mic stand below the stage with the audience. He started the song with the crowd and slowly danced away from the Mic. At one point, he stopped to sing a verse acapella, which had the whole crowds attention. Even the band members on stage seemed to get a kick out of his theatrics.

On several songs Costa had his wife come out and sing back up vocals. At one point, a girl from the crowd shouted- “I want you to sit on my face.” Matt chuckled and sheepishly retorted, “careful now, that’s my wife on stage.” The guitar player also scratched his head, “isn’t that illegal?” He chimed. The vibe of the show was very casual, even during songs like “Eyes for You” Costa always held the crowds attention. Though the crowd wasn’t too familiar with his latest album, which just dropped last month, they still danced to the songs they barely recognized. “Good Times,” and “Loving You” are catchy tunes that one doesn’t have to know to dance, or appreciate. Even during the eccentric song, “Next Time,” the crowd honored Matt’s talent and incredible backing band. With a new bass player and a slide guitarist, Costa’s sound was full and crisp.

One of my favorite moments was the encore, and I’m usually not to keen on those. Costa came out with just his guitar and played “Vienna,” a beautiful ballad. It was the first time we got to see just Matt and his guitar, and it proved his worth. At only thirty years old, he played like a veteran in his prime. He was happy that this was his show and eager to prove he belonged there. Like his music, he is constantly evolving and impressing. Although at times his songs resemble the Beatles or Bob Dylan, and he is widely linked to Jack Johnson, Costa is a musician that should stand alone without comparisons. He isn’t afraid of pushing boundaries, and his live show exemplifies how talented he is. I would highly recommend seeing him, especially while he’s still selling out smaller venues.

Check out the interview I did with Matt at SF Station!!!

http://pulse.sfstation.com/2013/03/21/matt-costa-interview-singer-songwriter/

Teenage Sweater Album Release

“Teenage Sweater reminds us that the 80’s and Napoleon Dynamite really were cool. An enigma of past and present, they hold the power of pleasing our every emotions. From sad or happy- disparaged or elated, their music will entertain all our intrinsic guilty pleasures provided with a soundtrack of danceable requiems. They uncover the death of a past musical decade, but they celebrate the current era we live; and they live the shit out of it. Don’t ignore this Teenage Sweater. Cherish it until it becomes another great heirloom.”

http://www.tricycle-records.com/artist/teenage-sweater/

After seeing this Bay Area duo live at Cafe Du Nord, I knew this electro band deserved credit for what they’ve become. I say “become” because they are like a niece or nephew that I’ve watched grow from afar. They once played a party at my house about five years ago and through breaks of dancing, people kept whispering, “who the hell is this”? Now people know, especially after just signing a deal with Bay Area’s Tricycle Records and adding new elements to their live show- live drums and synchronized lights. Their new album, Concentration, is layered with feel good electro rhythms but is also very intimate and contextualized, much like the efforts of their past heroes Joy Division and the Smiths. There is thought behind this album and it demands and deserves your concentration. Their live show is where the band shines with intricate drumming by Connor Alfaro and high powered energy rearing from the multi-talented frontman Mario Armando Ruiz. They sing in a style that would make Morrissey smile over hypnotizing electronic dream pop that would make the Grinch want to hop. Teenage Sweater

BIO

The formula contains notes of classic new wave‚ Joy Division and New Order are easily heard in the nuances of Teenage Sweater’s songs and a healthy dose of its modern incarnation, chillwave. Teenage Sweater is cheerful music for introverts. Indeed, everything about Teenage Sweater is somewhat light hearted, even the band name.

Teenage Sweater usually keeps things light, with songs like the diaphanous, waves-crashing-on-the-beach-while-you-snuggle-your-prom-date tune, “Coconut Water” and the slightly less upbeat ‚”Oceans and Seas,” which brings to mind a slightly overcast day at an amusement park, with it’s tinny synths and far away vocal mix. But the duo now prepares to step it up a notch, with a deeper and darker sound on their new LP, “Concentration” soon to be released on Tricycle Records on March 5th 2013.

Buke and Gase @ Cafe Dun Norde Monday February, 18

Buke and Gase- Café Du Nord (Monday, February 18)

The night was early and the show was slated to start punctually. Patrons were filling the tiny quarters of this swarthy venue, the Café Du Nord, reminiscent of an early jazz bar. I checked my watch and sure enough it was only 9 pm. Four people took to the stage and the house music slowly stiffened. Guitars rang and drums riveted the ears of a nearly packed venue. It was surprising to see such an attentive audience for the opening band, a clue that it would be a good night with appreciative guests.

The first band were San Francisco locals, Yassou Benedict. They delved into their set with slow melodic guitar riffs, layered with canny keyboards and astute drums. The singer sang in a high-pitched voice reminiscent to Bjork while playing her bass guitar, frequently letting it hang while she switched to the keys. The lead guitar player, clearly the leader of the band, would also alternate his fingers from strings to turning knobs and modulations on her keyboard. During the second song, the guitar player took off his guitar and grabbed a pair of drumsticks; lending side hits on a tom for a crafty percussive experience. While this band was captivating enough, including vocal loops and dreamy guitars, there weren’t many catchy hooks, and their music at times seemed slow and dull, like an emoted roller coaster that never seemed to go up or down.

The second band, Ahleuchatistas, was a cultural storm; a two-piece band derived of pedal laden guitars and a drum set with chimes that were only missing a Chinese Gong. Fast paced jazz style guitar through an octave pedal was backed by short spurts of tribal drumming. It was like members of Meshuggah playing African Jazz in the streets of China.

Buke and Gase, a duo from New York, took the stage wearing all black. The faithful crowd applauded, paying homage to a band that was on three weeks of touring and had about another three months ahead of them. They wasted no time, plunging into dark, fastidious algorithms that seared the soul. The band uses unique instrumentation. Lead singer and guitar player, Arone Dyer, plays a six-string former-baritone ukulel with a low tuning in D. The guitar itself looks very custom, with abalone shimmering the perimeter and hearts sketched where the neck meets the body. Her guitar seemed to be indicative of her character. The bass player, Aron Sanchez, held a solid black guitar with bass strings. The guitar/bass hybrid was very powerful and sounded like he strung instrument with nothing but low E-strings. Together they are very meticulous and calculated, and often starred at each other intimately for the next move, as if their set was intrinsically spontaneous.

While their instrumentation is dazzling, the rhythm is imperative to their music. Sanchez was in charge of the bass drum while Dyer simultaneously tapped on her self made “toe-bourine.” They playfully echoed back and forth, sometimes in unison and other times separately. There wasn’t any dissonance between the two. The music they play is choppy and sporadic, but it all makes sense. Their sound on “Misshaping Introduction” was articulated perfectly, matching that same ambient sound which can be hard to do with such electronic fundamentals. The bass drum hit hard and vibrated through one’s bones while the toe-bourine added an element of chamber music, sounding like heavy chains dropping to the floor from the petit foot of Dyer. The aura of the venue seemed like a dungeon, one that you don’t worry about escaping. Dyers vocals were perfect, simulated through an effects pedal that made her sound like a robotic angel.

The band didn’t address the audience until about four songs into their set. The seemingly shy Dyer sheepishly said hello as the crowd erupted. She stood up from her stool to see her fans. Throughout her performance a docile smile would form on her face, bestowing the gratitude they have to be playing music around the world.

Perhaps one of the best moments came when Dyer broke a string halfway through a song. When they finished, she promptly restrung her instrument but not before a humorous intermission. Dyer paid tribute to opening band, Yussou Benedict, who is from Hudson Bay, where Buke and Gase currently live. Meanwhile, Sanchez casually said, “I think we realized halfway through the tour that we were doing this so we could see Ahleuchatistas play every night.” There was clapping, and then an onslaught of questions, some relevant, some not.

“What do you think about the meteors”?

Sanchez: The one that hit Russia?

Crowd: One hit here!

Dyer: We’re all going to die.

“What’s your favorite city to play”?

Dyer: San Francisco, obviously!

Sanchez: Denver was pretty cool, too.

Dyer: I actually like it here so much I wanted to move here. But Denver was really cool. If I didn’t move here, I’d move to Denver.

The questions were quickly put to rest as Dyer complacently added, “last night I broke my G string.” The crowd smirked at her flirtatious banter. “Thank you for being so patient,” she complimented, and then one more question reigned from the audience. “What’s your favorite joke”? Dyer became giggly, and without hesitation asked- “Have you heard about the magic tractor?” No response. “It drove and turned into a field!” There was subtle laughter, mainly praise for her courage to tell that joke.

The duo raced into another song, bewildering minds once again. Afterwards the soundman interrupted, “five minutes left.” They were baffled, a clear distinction of cultural nightlife between New York and San Francisco. They plunged into three more songs, ending the night in blissful fashion. The duo came out to the crowd, giving hugs and talking to friends and fans. This really showed their modesty, coming from a band that has played around the world with musicians like Lou Reed and Deerhoof, and were critically acclaimed by The National and frequented on NPR. They could have stayed backstage after a long three week U.S. tour, but instead they paid their due diligence to the fans. Throughout the clatter I heard comparisons- “they reminded me of Tegan and Sara,” one girl said. Another guy added, “I heard Crystal Castles, that singer really laid it all out there.” I may have chimed in with Tori Amos (Dyer even kind of looks like her) or Pinback, but no one had a clear definition of this group, which is the best thing a band can do. Leave you with an experience so sublime that there aren’t even words to describe it.

http://www.bukeandgase.com