Beyond the commercial and mass produced sales hype that always happens after every turkey day, Impose's Week in Pop brings a closer view and series of perspectives on how the current wave of media-makers are affecting our lives and captivating our interests. Running down the headline feeds, we find news of a Daft Punk helmet documentary, Lana Del Rey's 27-minute flick “Tropico“, conversies over Stateside edits concerning a certain Jake Owen Walters photographer from Morrissey's Autobiography, noise complaints in Williamsburg pulling the plug on various Rought Trade NYC in-stores, Band of Horses go acoustic, and our buddy boy Drake is dropping out of the Grammy nominees program. So as the year winds down, we bring you the rising indie upstarts from today's coolest drummers, singers, songwriters, guitarists, svengalis, and more-in no particular order.
Like the saying goes, many are called and fewer are chosen. Such is the case with Bay Area drummer and multi-instrumentalist Daria 'Shani' Johnson who was just selected by Jonathan Richman himself to open for him this coming Thursday, December 12 at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall. Coinciding with this excitement, Daria has kept us posted in the recent weeks about the demos she's been recording leading toward an upcoming album she has in the works, and after weeks of our bothering, inquiring, nagging, haggling, and begging; Johnson gives us one of the first listens to four of her freshest cuts.
Snapping fingers with some of that stand-up bass thump; Daria transforms the 'Stripes ubiquitous “Seven Nation Army” into a smoky jazz club number. While this song has been covered ad nauseum by The Flaming Lips, Metallica, and college football marching bands all over the Pac-12 ; Daria's rendering takes it back to a kind of restrained rhythm and blues from another time more realized in classical senses than perhaps Jack White's original and old-timey preservationist endeavors at his Third Man Records label. “From Prince to Vince” gives a nod to the road progressions that stream forward from the gifts of Vince Guaraldi where piano scales and percolating percussion remind us that this type of jazz has lent more than just A Charlie Brown Christmas. What struck me about “Tension” was the mathematical element of note scales that take the spirit and mind into different calming chambers of thought, before we are brought to the closing attraction, “I Am Free”. In both today's and in our recent discussions, Daria expresses the cathartic transcendence of “Free” that is alive with a gospel congregational fervor with notes and an outlook that soars higher than Songs in the Key of Life. Keeping these notes, and musical sheets in mind; enjoy the following first listen and our lively discussion with Ms. Johnson after the jump.
Without further ado, we present to you our interview with Daria Johnson on the histories of her sound, her upcoming show with Jonathan Richman, activism, her forthcoming full-length, and lots more.
From rocking drums, vocals, and everything else, how and when did you get into performing and playing music?
Well, I’ve always loved music from a very early age. I would have to say that my first experience in performing was putting on little skits and musical numbers with my brothers performing for our mother. Man that was so much fun. We kinda had the vibe of The Little Rascals; we loved how they always had some sort or entertaining event going on and we as children harnessed that energy to create and perform. Because of that and my love of music I wanted to learn an instrument and that desire became really prevalent when one of my brothers came home from school with a trumpet. He was in the 5th grade at the time and I was on 3rd, so my grade was too young to take music classes at the school we attended. I tried to play his trumpet but he wouldn’t let me. Ha ha! I was sad about that because I knew that I could play an instrument too. So, my cousin, who played clarinet at that time said she would teach me how to play clarinet. And it was all over since then. All I wanted to do after that was play music; to play clarinet. And that’s what I did, in addition to many other instruments.
Earliest musical playing memories?
Oh man I have too many to count. I think the ones that stand out the most to me are the performances that my mother attended. There was the first little recital type thing I did with a small beginner clarinet group and after that when I was in orchestra and we had an in school performance for parents and my mom was there for both performances. But everything changed in my musical development: I saw the jazz band at my school perform and I heard the saxophone live for the first time. And the main one that caught my attention was the bari sax. I was determined to play bari sax. So to do that, I had to audition for the jazz band. So I did it. I auditioned…and I didn’t do so well. HAHAHAHAAA!! I just didn’t play that well, as I was auditioning on clarinet, playing some jazz tunes, the Bb tenor parts on the clarinet. I didn’t practice that much…I just couldn’t feel it on the clarinet I guess. But my teacher, Mrs. Nancy Ehrman…she looked at me and I know she knew that I didn’t do well. I can’t remember exactly what she said to me but I saw disappointment on her face with my performance as I was one of her best and fastest learning students. I was disappointed in myself too. But I expressed how much I wanted to be in jazz band. Then a miracle happened, Mrs. Ehrman said….if I let you in jazz band, do you promise to practice. I swore YES YES YES I promise! I’ll practice every day. I won’t let you down. Please Mrs. Ehrman. She sighed heavy and said all right. And that was it. And I kept my promise…even when I was told that I had to play tenor sax instead of bari because I didn’t have seniority in the band. Another classmate wanted to play bari and she was already in the band. So I took tenor and practiced like I promised I would. I liked it enough. Then…yet another miracle. That classmate decided she didn’t want to play bari anymore because it was too hard. The music teacher, who was now Mr. Honda asked the rest of the woodwind players if anyone else wanted to play it. No one said anything so I said, “I’ll do it!” And that, my friends, is history…I feel that’s when it all began for me. Accepting that challenge, one that I wanted from the start, embarked my quest to play as many instruments as I could and to just make sure I was playing, playing playing. I KILLED it on bari sax! No one could believe that I could get that much power and sound out of it. HA! So this helped to me to play and play and play because now in school I was in the orchestra, the concert band, and the jazz band. And we performed around the school district and at USC college, which adopted our school, hence the name of my elementary/jr. high school 32nd St/USC Magnet School. That was a fun performance on the USC performance theater stage. And that was just one of many memorable performance. At 32nd Street, we performed for the Duke and Duchess of York. Yes, we played for Sarah Ferguson herself. It was so much fun. Another fun time was when I was in high school and we performed with Lalo Schifrin. I played percussion for one of his pieces. I played the tom toms…and man of course I can’t remember the name of the piece but I was like….oh my God…Im’ playing the famous tom part of tune!! I also played the bongo part for Mission Impossible. And we also performed with James Ingram in high school. This was at Hamilton High Academy of Music. And of course all the band competitions that my high school participated in and won. Our drum line, Jazz band, and Concert Bands were outta sight! Our jazz band actually came to the Bay Area and performed at the Monterey Jazz festival back in the day. And it was here in the Bay Area that I won my scholarship to my alma matter, Berklee College of Music. Gee, there were so many good times had then..I don’t think there is enough time and digital paper to write about the fun musical times I had.
“I Am Free” rocks like Gospel jazz spiritual that sounds like a progression from Songs in the Key of Life. What inspired this uplifting song?
Wow, that’s a good question. Well, this song came to me as I wanted to write something that spoke of where I am today as a result of where I just came from. To make it more detailed and less cliché sounding…this song is about my leaving a very long musical partnership of about 11 years. It was a very, very tough decision to make and I thought and agonized about it for years; literally years. And then, one day, and ‘til this day I do believe that it was God, The Universe, Yahweh, Goddess, or whatever you want to call it, I’m calling it God right now, laid out a situation that woke me up. It shook me up, bad. And it made me reassess what I was doing…where I was going. That musical relationship was draining every fiber of my being. I felt depleted and was shut down, shut out and completely depressed by it. I wasn’t able to create anymore. I was at a loss. I took a break from that band, then eventually made the decision to just leave for good. I cried about it for a long time because of the drama and because I believe that I also lost some friendships. Yet I do not regret my decision in anyway shape or form. I had to leave that non-nurturing environment so that I could grow. So that I could feel alive again. And this song 'I Am Free” speaks of the great joy that I feel now, after that dark period of despair for my loss, of my new gift of life that I was so happy to give to myself fearlessly. To be able to create my music and play with others who inspire, respect and like me. The lyrics speak directly of that experience. Completely. Wholeheartedly.
Are your songs birthed from jam sessions, or do you write them in advance?
All of my songs, so far, are pretty much written in advance. Lately, I’ve been starting with chord changes and then I come up with the melody and lyrics simultaneously. I have, however, written songs that started off with lyric and melody then I came up with the changes and groove. And then of course, there are songs that I’ve written where everything came at once: lyric, melody, changes, groove, the complete arrangement. Those songs I usually write in about 30 minutes. Some of the others take a little more time to develop.
Like the title and eclecticism of “From Prince To Vince”, you bring your own rhythm and blues to the modern jazz trio paradigm, ala Vince Guaraldi, et al. How do you bridge your approach to soul with classical standard sensibilities?
Ah, you have a good ear! You pretty much nailed what was happening in that tune. When I was sitting at the piano writing this tune, I came up with the changes first and then the melody began to sing to me from a distance. When it got close and I played the two together, the first thing out of my mouth, and I did say it out loud, was “This sounds like a Prince song.” Then as the form developed more and the melody also, then I said, again out loud “it sounds like a Vince Guaraldi tune. Like you would see the Peanuts dancing to it.” And a friend of mine said, you should call it From Prince to Vince. So it stuck… that’s what I called it. And to me it’s very fitting.
I am a HUGE Prince fan. He is my A man, #1 favorite. And with that, my musical foundation ins soul. That’s what I listened to all of my young life was R&B and soul music; folks like Aretha Franklin, Frankie Beverly and Maze, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Blue Bland, Earth, Wind and Fire, Isaac Hayes, Sam Cooke, Al Green…I mean I could go on and on. Most of the time in my young years my classmates would be listening to the popular radio station of the time. I was still listening to the records, yes LPs, that we had of these classic artists and occasionally listen to the radio. I think my approach to creating my music is to just see where my heart lies at any given time for a given tune and my understandings of music create this sound that mixes all these things together. I try to make things interesting to the ear but creating texture with all the elements available to me: melody, instrumentation, song key, groove and vocals and this keeps me reigned in so that I won’t get too heady but it also allows me freedom to explore, which is what I really feel from jazz. So I am very excited to be creating this idea that allows me to fulfill multiple parts of myself.
From “Tensions”, to covering White Stripes' “Seven Nation Army”, what are the challenges of developing rhythmic senses of momentum, creativity, along with interpreting percussion heavy pop songs?
For me one of the biggest challenges today in music is making people dance or getting them to dance, even without the help of alcohol, ha ha. That’s what most music venues seem to want of groups especially on weekend dates. And to me, that basically means folks need to be moved by the music. I feel that these tunes 'Tensions' and 'Seven Nation Army' get people to do just that, but in a different way. See, I don’t always have to dance to show that I’m enjoying music. I can enjoy it by sitting or standing, and listening. I feel that there a lot of folks out there like me who feel the same way. This can be created by giving the ear something to hold on to whether that be a melody or rhythm. With Tensions, I feel that the rhythm of the main hook gives you that. When it is first introduced you are intrigued…wondering what it’s all about. Wondering why it sounds like that. Wondering why it’s so sparse but also clustered. And as it goes on, you start to notice the other things around it dancing. So you then begin to dance in your mind. Your ears are dancing and your heart is swaying. You float in this song…and that is a beautiful dance. With Seven Nation Army…you have this bad ass song with a killer guitar riff. And man, did you ever pay attention to the drum part? It’s rough, in the pocket, loud and yet so delicate…its almost can’t hear the hi-hat rocking the quarter note at all. But the more you pay attention, the more you listen, the more your ear dances, and then your heart follows suit. It has too because what you’re hearing is so beautifully badass! That’s what I felt when I heard 'Seven Nation Army' for the first few times. I feel that these two tunes pique your interest and make you want to listen to them over and over and when you do, you notice something else awesome that you thought you missed before. But you didn’t really because that particular thing is what made you go back to listen again. It’s the happiness part of the equation.
In both of the tunes there is a start that keeps you interested and a middle that makes you smile and an ending that makes you go WHOA! Creating a sense of wonder and direction is key to making a having momentum. It’s a roller coaster ride and you gotta get on it! And I think the challenges in creating that are try not to be too simple nor advanced, yet make it groovy and personable so people can connect with it.
I remember with 'Seven Nation', when telling folks that I wanted to cover that song in my band, they were skeptical. They’d say…hmmm…. But you’re doing a jazz thing, right? I’m like, yeah. They couldn’t get past the heavy guitar and the rock feel. They couldn’t fathom how I would do a song with such a raunchy, heavy guitar riff and that was so straight, you know? I’m sure they may have thought I would attack it like a jazz standard from the real book. And at first, I was a little apprehensive, trying to figure how I wanted it to work. But what I did was just throw all that doubt aside and I listened to the song. I listened to what the most prominent areas of the song were that made it a great song and I realized it wasn’t just the guitar sound, it was the notes he was playing, the melodic pattern of it. And it wasn’t the style that made it great but the overall tonality and intention of the song and the words, the lyrics and the rise and fall of that melody with the lyric. So, I chose to focus on that and when I did, the feel and arrangement literally leaped right out at me. I felt a retro kinda feel to it that would fit my style and I felt keyboard rocking that guitar riff in the low register and the bass walking around it. Like you’re struttin’ down the street and there’s something just boppin’ along with you, like lights flickering in time and counterpoint to our rhythm. Then all of a sudden a ‘like whoa’ screech comes outta nowhere and you look….that’s the melody comin’ in. I hope that makes sense.
How do you feel that adapting the works of others have contributed to your own array of performance styles?
Gee I dunno. Watching great performers like Prince and Michael Jackson and great bands like EWF and singing groups like The Temps and the O’Jays…I definitely have an idea of how I want things to be. But I also like the subtleness and explosiveness of an artist performing. One’s who don’t have all the flash or dance moves like the above mentioned artists. Folks like Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, India.Arie, Heart… they just have good old-fashioned pizazz baby! They got it going on!! And it’s their art that transcends. Not saying that Prince doesn’t have that, he MORE than has that. As do the others up there sharing that sentence with him. The point I’m getting at is this: my performance style is heavily influenced by the flash but deeply rooted in the pizazz of creating a great, open, harmonious and vibing stage feel. I want my player and myself to get lost in the songs we are playing, to get that look on their face and that body language of total surrender like Prince gets when he’s really in the moment and lost when playing a killin’ guitar solo. I strive for that feeling every single time I perform. You add this to a well-crafted song and voila, you got heaven.
Alright, I know we talked a bit before about this upcoming Thursday, December 12 gig at The Great American Music Hall with Jonathan Richman, but tell me a bit about the show, and how Jonathan selected you out of many to open.
Oh man, what an honor. I am still reelin’ from it all. Jonathan has some dates booked and of course there’s one here at the Music Hall. He plays there every year around this time. He needed a support act and I was contacted to see if I wanted to be included in submissions. I was honored. I said yeah sure, that would be great! And there was a caveat that my music was submitted with numerous others so there’s no guarantee that I would be selected and I was cool with that obviously. I was just grateful for the consideration, you know? So, I got things ready for submission and sent over my website. And literally the next evening I get a call telling me that Jonathan handpicked me himself to open for him. It felt so surreal to me. I was like, what at first but then it was repeated so I figured it was a good time to believe that I’ve been told. HA!
That's a heck of an honor, what's one of your favorite Jonathan Richman/Modern Lovers songs? Do you plan on covering anything from his repertoire Thursday?
To be completely honest I am not familiar with Jonathan’s complete catalog to know songs by name. I knew his name and I knew that he holds some serious clout in the music world, but alas, like with most cool artist that I like, I’m on the late freight. But when I was all giddy and bubbly over the selection for this gig right to my computer I ran to get even more acquainted with the man, the myth, the legend that is Jonathan Richman. And man, I am impressed and even more humbled by my being personally selected. And the songs that caught my attention right off the bat were “I Was Dancing at a Lesbian Bar” for obvious reasons, and Circle I and Since She Started to Ride. These songs make me want to hear a lot more, I needs to set aside some moolah to get all the tunes. Vampire Girl sticks out to me too, I think I would like to cover that tune in the blues band capacity. I think I’ll add it to my list of cover tune possibilities for my blues band project, sounds like it’ll be s fun one to do.
Unfortunately I will not be covering any of Jonathan Richman or Modern Lovers tunes at this particular performance. I’ll be doing my original songs and a few covers that I think people know. I’m really excited about it.
You have performed at SF's Pride and are very active in the LGBT communities. How do you think your work is informed by your beliefs, activism, and how do you think your beliefs and activism are affected and informed by your music?
Another good question. I believe my work speaks to a number of experiences that can relate to any and all. I speak from the heart in my songs and also from my funny bone and yes, at times from my angry bone. These experiences can be related to the LGBT community and beyond. In the music world, or at least being a woman is an interesting road, especially if you’re fronting a band or play a male dominated instrument. You’re treated with very little to no respect, you’re shunned or dismissed repeatedly and readily my your male counterparts so you have to go well beyond the extra mile to get the same respect a man would get. And even if that male musician isn’t as advanced as you are, he would get way more respect than a woman would get. This has happened to me on countless occasions. Guys talk to you differently to in the musician capacity. They either talk to you like you don’t know anything or they belittle you or they expect a whole helluva lot more from you than they would a guy. Now imagine all that and add lesbian to it. And while you’re at it, add black woman to that. And maybe a little nerd in there. It’s not a very comforting thought. So you either have to act like the stereotype they put you in, stay quiet and just say yes and “be thankful they let you in” or you gotta come out with a roar and stand your ground. I choose the later. This is why I feel that my work not only speaks to the LGBT community but to many many communities and peoples. My experiences being black, a woman and a lesbian shapes me and my music. I look forward to seeing what my experiences create.
Tell us a bit about what's next for you, The Daria Johnson Trio (or quartet, quintet, duo, etc), and 2014 plans.
Well, since I recorded my demo my desire and zest for recording my album is higher than it’s ever been. I have some ideas brewing and some collaborations I’m cultivating to add to the album as well. Booking more shows here in San Francisco and beyond is definitely on the horizon too with other acts that move me musically and personally. Because my arrangements sometimes call for more than three people, I began to find and feel that dubbing my project the Daria Johnson Trio was a bit limiting. And I tossed around ideas for a while. As much as I love the trio and love to rock it, sometimes I may want a horn or a guitar in the mix or both or all or..MORE! So now I’ve decided to just have my name be the moniker and if necessary, I’ll add a number to the end to give people an idea of what to expect. Especially since I plan on making the songs on the album complete, you know? So technically, on Dec. 12 it’ll be Daria Johnson Four. Now I have to decide if I want to use the word spelled out or just the number. Hmmm…decisions, decisions.
I’d also like to create a video for a few songs. I have a great idea for Seven Nation Army so, I’d like to get all the squared away so that I can do that. There are so many things I am working on for 2014 and I can’t wait to get it going! Mainly, I want to create music that makes people want to listen, listen, listen and love. I want everyone to ride with me on this lovely journey of thankfulness.
Daria Johnson will be playing San Francisco's Great American Music Hall Thursday, December 12.
Teenager is the project of the Bay Area's Bevan Herbekian, taking command of a large sweeping sound that has been years in the making. Having finished his full-length, The Magic of True Love, we bring you an exclusive first-listen to the premiere of the big bold power-pop ballad, “Tuesday Still”. An artist who has played with numerous Bay Area luminaries over the years, he has sailed a variety of musical vessels, tireless performances, Noise Pop appearances, beginning and then stopping projects and releases before hunkering down at home with his own devices. Thus, Teenager was born, combining previously unfinished songs, and completing some of his most heartfelt work that for so long had been an item of unfinished business.
“Tuesday Still” is a testament to all of this. A gigantic number that shows you what happens when you set out to make the sound you have been seeking that leaves behind the big studio, trades in the big producer/engineer names for something even bigger. There is a “cans and strings” type of nostalgia at work that burns with the hunger and romanticism that abounds in the Bay Area musical art scenes. From Bevan's multi-talented and multi-dimensional approaches, his rhetorical “would we ever have a good time” owes as much to his own vision as it does to the inspirations from the thousands of vintage LPs found at Market and Octavia's Grooves, governed by Kelley Stoltz. It is precisely this kind of bottled magic that makes Teenager's The Magic of True Love a genuine Bay Area phenomenon and fascination.
“The Shadow (What Luck)” bursts out of the gates from the shadows with a howling optimism and a pinch of luck. “Two Timing Machines” glows with a big stage presence, as the title track gives a breath of new life from one of Bevan's older compositions of amour and enchantment, with “Diamonds Are Forever” hopping along to a sing along that expands out into the sky. “A Believer (40 Days & 40 Nights)” rolls along with the strums like walking home your old school crush, sentiment from the weekdays get carried over into the weekend on, “Sunday Afternoon”, as “Black is Back” rocks with the power-pop progression of a heart sewn tightly to the sleeve, before “Lost at the Gates” leaves open the ambiguous mysteries of life described in the 2013 transformation to 2014 like the lyrics, “winter waits at the window”. While these songs will be slowly released through Valentines Day 2014, enjoy the “you know I'm right” anthem of confidence and swagger, with the debut of “Tuesday Still”.
Bevan from Teenager caught up with us in a discussion about recording his latest album, the rocky roads travelled, and looking into the process of writing music in the present tense.
Your album The Magic of True Love brings over elements and concepts held over from various past EPs, starts and stops, and displays some of your most passionate pop baroque/post-baroque or however you configure the titles of this kind of undertaking. How did you go about laying the heart lead foundation for this album, in terms of song writing, pre-production, organization and all that?
I'm not going to lie, the album was a big undertaking. For the last album, there was a ton of pre-production and a ton of organization. It was done in a state-of-the-art studio with a veteran producer and it was supposed to be a huge sonic improvement from my previous home recorded albums…and I hated it. All the good stuff was polished right out of the record. So this time around, I decided I was going back to home recording and I was going to work on whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to. Nearly everything was done around my house. Most of the drums were tracked in the living room. Guitars, bass, Rhodes, and organ were done in my basement and I did the vocals in my bedroom. More than anything, I wanted a lot of time to work on this album until I felt good about it. That's all I kept going back to.
The songs had been written in a couple creative bursts so there was already a cohesive quality to them, at least in my mind, and I wanted to build on that. I liked the idea of trying to write a record where the songs were almost different snap shots of love and all the promise that comes at the beginning and all bleakness that comes at the end–almost like a kaleidoscope of a love story. The result was just a ton of trial and error. I'd try a guitar and blow it up with delay, then try a weird vocal harmony backwards, and then try something percussive cut up and pasted into a loop…then scrap whatever, wasn't working and try something else. My friend, drummer and general music companion–Peter Labberton–was a tremendous part of this, particularly in the mixing process. He worked tirelessly with me, experimenting with these recorded tracks. He brought it to life in a way that I had only hoped was possible. It was long, and if other people would have been involved, I'm sure they would have said it was tedious. But it let each song grow in a way I liked. The songs grew out of big feelings and I needed the songs to sound as big as I felt. That said, a few of them kept getting bigger and bigger until I finally had to say, “Alright, that's enough.”
I know you have spent years globe trotting and many songs feel like they are ripped from detailing these travels with songs about personal relationships both at home and abroad. How do you translate life experiences into your music?
As much as I try to obscure it, I generally write songs from real life experiences. The songs on The Magic of True Love are no different, but they're a bit more exposed, a bit more clearly autobiographical. Like I said, I found myself blown away by these big life moments and it wasn't the sort of thing to be playful or clever with. You don't need to be. With these sorts of things, the truer or clearer you can say it, the more you let the power of the moment or experience come through and say it for you.
The music of Teenager is also steeped in a kind of reflective nostalgia set to sweeping melodies and suites. How do you find these memory reverberations to inform the today and tomorrow in your own life and creative endeavors?
Man, now that's a real question. I don't know. The last couple years have been serious years for me. A lot of things have not worked out and those failures can really echo around in one's mind. I think creatively speaking, I just like writing songs that speak to where I'm at in the present so the largeness and sprawling quality of these songs exhibit those rough, echoing failures. Maybe, the next couple years will look up and I'll start writing three minute pop songs.
As a long time resident of the East Bay, and living amongst family band kind of environments, who and what have lent insight to you and your work in recent years?
Well, I led a nine person band for the last few years and I found it to be just about the most informative experience of my life. Forget grad school. Try running a big band. I'm not kidding. Musically speaking, it taught me so much. Being around talented and creative people pushes your own boundaries and forces you to throw out all the normal tricks you learn to rely on. It's amazing and at times, it's exhausting. Near the end, the experience clarified that, in many ways, I'm kind of a solitary guy who works best alone. I think particularly working on this album and these songs that were so personal, I needed to do it myself without the democracy of a band.
Today we're talking about “Tuesday Still”, is this kind of like your 'what if the Beach Boys beat the Beatles in '67' kind of fantasy?
Ha! I've never thought about it like that, but I like that idea! Clearly, the song nods to The Beatles. If you knew my father then you would know that I had no choice. I was indoctrinated! For the better part of my life, there have been entire dinner table conversations devoted to Beatles songs, Beatles recording techniques, British Beatles albums vs. American Beatles albums, even Beatles trivia. At this point, it's in my DNA.
“Tuesday Still” is a song about longing and desire and distance. It's about that rare spark you have with somebody that makes you want to do anything to see where it might lead. You know, it's not a new thing. Books and songs and bad poetry have been written about it for thousands of years. It's one of those big, bold, sobering and intoxicating feelings that hit you in that deep down place. So I guess as I dug around in that place, the music that accompanied it ended up being the ground-zero of my musical upbringing. The Beatles, The Beach Boys, so much of that era defines the heart of rock and pop to me. I didn't think about it at the time, but maybe that was the musical language that made the most sense for a powerful, heartfelt such as the one I was experiencing.
Interested in hearing about how this epic song was recorded.
Lots of tracks! It's ridiculous and almost embarrassing when I talk to my friends who are tracking everything live to tape. We tracked drums at home. Went out to a friends house in Mill Valley and tracked three pianos. Added electric and acoustic rhythm guitars. Most are double tracked or playing off of each other. Then there's lead guitar, bass, Rhodes and organ. Then came percussion with tambourines (yes multiple tambourines), shakers, guiro played incorrectly, and claps. A lot of claps. I gathered all my housemates together and we did it in our big living room. Then came the vocals. There are lead vocals, double tracked vocals, background vocals, oohs and ahhs, screams and shouts. When you look at the session, you can clearly see I was going mad. There's twenty tracks of different vocals alone! It's like a parody of a those legendary Brian Wilson sessions. But when was all said and done, I liked how it sounded. So crazy or not, I was happy when I heard the master.
What are some of your favorite things about the Bay Area, the arts, scenes, and all?
The folks I've met are just nice, good people. There's always a sense that people are happy to lend a hand or play together on a song. It doesn't feel cut throat or hyper-professional. When I moved back to San Francisco from New York, it kind of freaked me out. Where's everybody hustling and selling themselves and their work? That exists here too, but it's not as easy to find. I've come to feel like the Bay Area gives me the space to focus on my writing and my work at large.
What is next for Teenager?
Well, “Tuesday Still” is actually the very first sneak peak that anyone's getting to hear of “The Magic of True Love”. So the next big thing is its release. Initially, I'm doing a special online only release. I'm going to be releasing one song each Friday to all my online places, Facebook, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Twitter… all the songs will be free and downloadable. It's starting next week, Friday the 13th and if you keep up, you'll have the whole album come Valentine's Day 2014. I worked so long and hard on this one and I feel happy with it, so I'm hoping releasing it this way might help some more people give it a listen. After that, I'll be getting back to work. I've got another batch of songs waiting to be recorded. I don't know how it'll be done, but it'll hopefully be a quicker turn around that this one. We'll see.
The Magic of True Love will be available in early 2014. Keep an eye on Teenager's Soundcloud for further updates and additions.
Son of Stan is the project of Jordan Richardson, known for his drum work with Ben Harper, and lately has taken the solo road with the release of his Divorce Pop album. Check out the Daniel Stessen video for “Noxeema”, , that brings a dose of authentic baby-boomer radio pop throwbacks that is ripped from something akin to a Tim & Eric hallucinatory video short. Jordan celebrates as a divorce lawyer who hits the big 1,000 mark of consecutive break-ups administered, and sends off a stunned couple in a PT Cruiser with the top down and 'Just Divorced' plastered all over the vehicle. Making the whole scene even more surreal, Son of Stan rocks the “cut me off and cut me loose” chorus with a gang of youthful back up dancers. As those smooth 80s chords strum, our hero is truck by the speeding car of recently split couple where Richardson becomes born again in a pool party that looks like a religious baptismal program he calls The Grind. This Heavenly Grind poolside event offers “booties, booties, booties, all day”, closing out his slice of catchy parental pop he ordains as his own brand of divorce pop. This wild and display of suburban discontinuity of decay is closed out by his vintage television logo for WIZARDVISION, which Jordan explains to us in further detail after the video.
Jordan Richardson got into it with us about Son of Stan, the making of Divorce Pop, the video for “Noxeema”, taking his father's name on for a title, stories behind the songs, album title, and so much more.
Tell us about going from playing drums for Ben Harper to solo.
I've written songs for a really long time. Previous to playing drums with Ben, when I played drums in other bands or fronted a couple other bands, I have always been a main songwriter in lots of the bands I've been a part of. Songwriting has been a part of my musical makeup almost as long as just playing the drums has been. I spent over four years touring and playing with Ben, so those wild experiences around the world of seeing new places, meeting new people and hearing new musicians completely planted a whole new motivation in my head to focus even heavier on songwriting. A lot of the songs that made their way onto Divorce Pop happened over time-years even- while touring. I'd write ideas in hotel rooms or in even more exotic locations. For example, I wrote the song 'Corsica' while on the island of the same name, but it was so ridiculous and fancy that it was hard to have any real personal connection to the place, so in turn I just used the name but made it about a shitty 80's Chevy Corsica and that one idea sort of spurred the whole desperate low-rent suburban influence of the entire record. In my time off in between tours with Ben, I would go do late night sessions laying down these various song ideas at my friend/producer Adam Lasus' pool house in the valley in LA. We'd mostly just hang out and drank and recorded between 10pm and 5am. The album is really just portions of all of those late night hang out sessions put together into one collection..me playing everything and Adam recording it all. It wasn't until I made the decision to leave my drumming post with Ben in the fall of 2012 that I decided to try and do Son of Stan full time, touring and all that. But that's what I've been doing ever since. And I don't want to be doing anything else now.
(Jordan Richardson chillin' poolside, captured by Jenny Warren)
Son of Stan. Wordplay on Son of Sam?
The name is a true story. Stan is my dad. He's the reason I began playing music as a three year old in Crowley, TX. My grandmother gave me my dad's drums from when he was in high school and had a band called The Barbecued Armpits. You know. He gave me lessons when I was little and also showed me some stuff on the guitar. We have a really good relationship, so its sort of the opposite of Limp Bizkit or Staind. Instead of hating my dad and writing aggressive army songs about it, I just named my band after him because he's actually pretty cool. He showed me Steely Dan also. It's obviously a little bit of wordplay and also maybe plays in to the whole suburban thing too. To be the son of someone named Stanley, I think plays right into the Divorce Pop universe.
“Noxeema” is a beautiful song, was it inspired by a facial cleanser? How did this song come about?
Thanks. I wrote that song out of frustration, witnessing some entitled people act stupid around me in life. The song is about coming clean and also figuratively cleansing yourself of those around you that think you are absurd for going for your dreams, you know, people that poo poo the idea that its actually possible to enjoy life. Imagine that. It's sort of an angry song but plays out in a Huey Lewis-esque pop format. I remembered always seeing my sister's Noxzema in the cabinet and it always having a super intense smell, but it was something you put on your face: a weird notion to me, so I find it kind of a good symbol for what the song is about and how it feels. I spelled the title differently than the product because it doesn't sound very fun to be sued by a giant chemical company. So instead I spelled it the same way that Wesley Snipes' character spells her name in To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar. Cat's out of the bag on that one.
What brought about the heavenly poolside party video? How did it all happen?
The entire concept for the video was dreamt up by my longtime friend and roommate, Daniel Stessen. Danny is super talented. He's been nominated for an Emmy and he's developing a show for Adult Swim, but more importantly he enjoys getting weird when it comes to making things. It's really handy to have such an accomplished director literally downstairs from you. I was driving from Austin to Dallas (I split time between LA and Texas) and he called me and laid out the concept, and we laughed about it for almost the entire drive. He knew that, when possible, I want to be dancing in a music video, that was a crucial part. We didn't have a lot of time to make it so the brilliance his crew making half of the video one continuous shot was not only cool creatively, but also a necessity for getting it done. We filled the video with super talented friends and family and roommates as extras and on the crew. My sister, Natalie, is the really good dancer in suspenders on 'The Grind' part. We cast it and invited people out to be a part and only a very small group of people even knew what they were a part of. To me, looking cool is to wear pleated giant khakis and white tennis shoes and get a PT Cruiser to dance around. The thing may look absurd but felt totally normal and awesome to me while we were making it, so it was easy. The kid at the end of the video is Ben, my producer Adam Lasus' son. He totally steals the show.
Your album Divorce Pop, is this a record built on moving on? The discontinuity of relationships? Familial narratives?
Divorce Pop is absolutely a record about all of those things. There were breakups of all sorts during the last few years of my life, you know, all the time that these little ideas and nuggets are gestating inside my head and so when it came time where there was an entire collection of ideas all documented and ready to be released to the world, it really felt like a theme of both separation and of moving on. There were girlfriend breakups, band breakups-which are totally like marriages with several people…anyways, family crises that you would never think could happen to you, and the loss of friendships during this whole process…which is pretty much just normal life if you think about it….the same shit that happens to everyone. So, where a lot of people would approach that stuff from an outlook of despair, I choose to tackle it head on in the form of a soundtrack to a middle school birthday party at a water park.
There again, also, is the shitty low-rent suburban aesthetic to the record, that familiar feeling of being driven around without any control when you're eight years old, going to pick up your sister from gymnastics class and going to JC Penney to get a suit for your dad. That's also 'Divorce Pop'.
What's next for Son of Stan?
I want it all. I want to spend most of 2014 on the road touring, playing my own shows and opening for other bands that I admire and there's a lot of fun stuff on the horizon when it comes to that. I have another album's worth of songs ready to record for the dustiness of the pool house, so I'm sure record number two is on the way soon. I'm going to call it Georgia, which is my mom's name. It's only fair. I also spend a lot of time producing other bands with my main homie Steve Steward. We have a label together called WIZARDVIZION. Ultimately though, my two main goals for Son of Stan are to have a Saturday morning show a la Pee Wee's Playhouse or just to get off of planet earth altogether and head somewhere else. Like no shit. I'm not kidding. Maybe Neil Degrasse Tyson is looking to sign some bands.
Divorce Pop is available now on Bandcamp.
High end art pop concepts take the fidelity nose dive in the incredible “Red's Dead” song and vintage chic b/w video from MammaBear. Brought to you by frontman Kyle Gordon with directorial assistance from Patrick Davis, George Dunlap, the video further works “Red's” even deeper inside the amplifier blown recesses of your mind from their recent Vol. 1 Birds of Paradise album.
“Red's Dead” is all about taking it back from the man. In a video made up like it was shot from a grainy 16 mm Bell & Howell; you are treated to a rollicking performance from Kyle and the crew. Kicking out timeless rock and roll with images of b-movie clips interjected in quick screen cuts and overlays; MammaBear gets you to think down deep about your own contentment. “Are you happy with your life? Are you happy deep inside?” Between chanting down life's controllers, confusions, corporate overlords, and mental blocks and blaring a big noise; MammaBear assert autonomy with repetitions of the big take-back of, “this is my life”. The hot licks and Vox vacuum tube terrains showcase everything we love about the cluster of indie movements rising from the underground between the Southern interstate cities of Atlanta, Nashville, and Austin respectively. MammaBear is here to help you take back your life, change your life, and maybe make your whole week worthwhile.
MammaBear's Kyle Gordon talks with us for a bit about the making of both the single and video for “Red's Dead”, ATL faves, and the making of Vol. 1 Birds of Paradise, Vol. 2 set in the future, his imprint No Ego Records, amongst other items.
How has MammaBear been influenced by living in Atlanta?
My biggest influences are my friends and the music they create. I've always thought that Atlanta has a wonderful rock scene, well at least as long as I've been around to exist in it, like 2005ish.. I guess Atlanta is like any other big city, lot's of diversity in terms of people, and culture. I love how beautiful Atlanta is. Nature is very inspiring. History too, chalk full of it down here.
What's the indie scene been down there for the bulk of 2013?
Well, in all honesty it's all the same shit, some good bands, mostly crappy bands, and a few terrific bands are playing shows, chasing our small bits of cheese and trying to get our names in the papers. If I were to recommend some cool bands that I like here in Cold-Lanta, I'd say Gringo Star, Lightnin' Ray and the Mystics and Baby Baby are worth checking out. Also, the Carnivores and the N.E.C. are great.
So your name MammaBear, how did you dub yourselves this title?
I just thought it sounded cool. Also, I like to mush words together, it looks right to me. I usually mush band names together. Super mushy.
Red's Dead” is one helluva single. What were the test developments like in creating those massive guitars and far away vocals and hooks?
Working in the studio with Cyrus Shahmir of The N.E.C [Natural Extension Concept], who engineered and co-produced the album means two things; finding and achieving classic tones from all the instruments recorded and using real tape machines, tape echos, delay units and such. We recorded the album onto an Ampex 440-8 1inch 8 track and did the over dubs with various tape delays and basically just experimented. One cool note, the delay on the singing for 'Red's Dead' was done live while I was cutting the song, Cyrus had my vocals running through a tape delay and while I was singing used his fingers to slightly slow the tape out of it's timing. It's unique and cannot be recreated.
Like the way the sound jogs the mind in that kind of throwback way, what was it like making a video to fit the sort of olden but timeless era of your sound?
I felt like MammaBear's first video should be a 'performance' piece, those are the videos that usually grab me. Two good buddies of mine, Patrick Davis and George Dunlap were looking to do a project together and i approached them and asked if they'd be interested in working with me and the single, to which they said yes. What makes this video worth watching is the lighting and camera work. George knows his stuff and had the lights looking amazing and Patrick was fantastic at finding interesting angles. The bulk of the video was shot on a K-3 16mm camera. George had a role of black and white film, so we shot with that and another digital camera. The astronaut in the begging and end were on the role of film already, I suppose from a film George and another buddy had shot previously. I call him, 'the sexy astronaut'.
Tell us about No Ego Records, and what plans are next in the cards for MammaBear.
As f or right now, No Ego Records is the home to my first and only album for MammaBear, Vol. 1 Birds of Paradise. As for MammaBear's future, I'm currently working on my second video for the album, a ballad called 'Raven Falls'. I will make another record when i have enough money, currently I'm like half way there with the funds. I can't wait to get back in the studio and make Vol. 2. We are playing shows in and around Atlanta and have aspirations of touring….NONSTOP.
MammaBear's Vol. 1 Birds of Paradise is available now from No Ego Records.
We just got the Blicker.tv video for Athens, Greece duo The Noise Figures who take the garage rocker “Out Of Your Mind” on a campervan RV tour with Japanese subtitles. The Grecian duo of drummer and vocalist George Nikas with guitarist Stamos Bamparis combine their clamor and clout from their other bands Zebra Tracks and Keyser Soze for a new kind of noise. As the coldness of winter is upon us, and holiday plans are practically being made for us; The Noise Figures take you out to the middle of nowhere, out to the sea, out of your head and out of your mind.
France's Anna Jean makes music under the name Juniore with friends, and released their recent “Danse Le Noir” 7″ from Enterprise that brings vintage Franco girl group pop into the night time corners of the twenty-first century.
Peep the Eamon O'Rourke video for Walking Shapes' “Horse” of playground battles and bullies, taken from their Mixtape (Volume 1), available now from their website.
Take a look at the Harley Weir video for Jaakko Eino Kalevi's “No End” Video, with the Dreamzone EP available now from Weird World. Run alongside the roads, fields, and understated zones of dreams through the pathways and passages that continue onward without end.
Pesaro's Be Forest presents another listen from their forthcoming Earthbeat full-length, with multi-flourescent hues of, “Colours”. Costanza Delle Rose, Erica Terenzi, and Nicola Lampredi spin a kind of sonic audio thread gathered from nature to spell out a type of ethereal sound that surrounds the existences of globes, worlds, middle worlds, middle earths, and only continues to beguile upon further listening. Check out our premiere of the single “Captured Heart” and interview with the band, as Earthbeat will be available February 4, 2014 from We Were Never Being Boring.
Off her Waajeed and Parks produced album Automatic, we got your listen to Oddisee's remix of “Diamonds”, doing it for the love and not the money with super sparkling production.
Having brought one of the best albums from November and 2013 as a whole; Nashville's mavericks Austin and Elvis of Jensen Sportag return with a Obey City remix of their gorgeous “After Gardens”, from their much lauded Stealth of Days album from Cascine. Listen as those vocal snippets get setup with some new synths, and new floral garden adornments like secret pastures found through enchanted and magical portals disguised as doors of the deceptively ordinary and natural. Obey City's Champagne Sounds EP is available now from LuckyMe. Like the vocal stem that sings “stay in my arms” through the digital foliage and brush; embrace this new rendering for as long as you possibly can hold it close to your heart.
Check out the Alice Glenn video for Banoffee's “Reign Down”, rocking it, making it rain, and just plain reigning all around. Their debut EP is slated for release early next year from Two Bright Lakes.
Kelly Gallagher's animated video for “Long Island Iced Tea, Neat” brings together The Coup's legendary Boots Riley with Japanther's Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly who rallied together after a show to bring some spotlight matters to the table of consciousness. Taken from The Coup's Sorry To Bother You album, this cut collides the super real uprising that was Occupy Oakland, the Fruitvale Station legacy of Oscar Grant, the ubiquitous Trayvon Martin case, and addressing injustice that is treated like business as usual in an increasingly heartless world.
Leeds' Adult Jazz are prepping their Am Gone/Springful 12″ fore release January 13 from their Spare Thought imprint, and we got their creative sporadic slice of inspired pop with a listen to the spriteful elaborations of “Springful”. This is a soundtrack for doing things around the house, mending coffee tables, assembling canvases, and plenty other activities you can dream up to this multi-suited beauty.
Jess Williamson continues to mess with your emotions with “Blood Song” from her forthcoming Native State available January 28, 2014 from Brutal Honest. Jess's touch of strings reaches out and then in, touching the mainline vein with songs of earnest givings and earthy depictions of family ties stretched across county lines, years gone by, through tears, and tumbling rows of fields.
Lord Echo dropped his album Curiosities on Bastard Jazz the other week, gave us a rad interview, and now we are pleased to bring you his video for “Digital Haircut”. Jam out as Navarro Stark presents you a visual, year book/screen test of rogues-pin-up-gallery of vintage beauties to the constant and unstoppable beat of one of New Zealand's coolest producers around.
Classic Drug References Vol. 1 saw release this week, that features performances from Danny Brown, Blu, KNX, Ras G, Zeroh, Pablo Ygal, Quelle Chris, and Mike Chav. Get it on Bandcamp, and get a listen here now.
You Blew It! present hot pop rocks with an annual self-congratulating accolade of “Award of the Year Award” ahead of their forthcoming Keep Doing What You're Doing January 14, 2014 from the top notch folks at Topshelf Records.
Brooklyn visual artists Billy J and vocalist Lindsay Mound are Color War, and send out a synthed out/spaced out cut with “SOS” off their upcoming album, It Could Only Be This Way, from Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse available March 4, 2014.
“Strangle The Shadows” is the latest from our Vancouver favorites, Mode Moderne, taken from their upcoming Occult Delight available January 21 from Light Organ Records. Phillip Intilé rocks with a heart of night, and makes it feels as if the Modernes live every day as if the post-punk-pop permeates every cell within their being. And from the sound of things, it probably does. Check out our premiere of the video for “She, Untamed”, here.
Vaadat Charigim dropped the live video performance vide for “Kezef Al Hamayim”, as their debut album will be pressed on vinyl January 21 from Warm Ratio, with the The World Is Well Lost already available from Burger Records/ANOVA. Hear and listen to one of our favorites from the year, from Tel Aviv with love.
In case you missed it, it's the summer jam of Ghost Beach's “Moon Over Japan” that is being bumped about ahead of the announcement of their 2014 LP. Get into the synthed up pop now.
Campbell Hooper for Special Problems presents the video for Little Daylight's “Overdose”, taken off their Tunnel Vision EP. Hitting the big time by making the big signing move to Capitol Records, the Daylighters do it big with an o.d. of every bit of computer enhanced imagery to bring one wild, hallucinatory trip home to your very screen. Watch these distortions and effects trip up everything, best experienced by itself or with your own personal 'favorite high'.
Public Service Broadcasting dropped some old school propaganda clips in this live video mix for, “Signal 30” off thier album, Inform – Educate – Entertain.
Zara McFarlane gives an inside the studio glimpse at Metropolis Studio in a sneak peek at her forthcoming album, If You Knew Her, available January 20, 2014 from Brownswood Recordings.
The Northwest and Midwest meet together with the jangly strum of banjo heaven with Olympia's Kendl Winter Minnesota's Palmer T. Lee who strum along with some rustic sounds of holistic, head held high and upward, and happy living. This is the sound of The Lowest Pair, as they give us a listen to “Living Is Dying” off their upcoming Team Love Records album, 36¢ available on January 14.
KES is blowing up lately, and drops some One Thousand and One Nights with “Arabian Paradise” from the upcoming Audio Justice mixtape available on Thursday, December 12 with his first official single “Gimme Your Luv” available in January 2014.
Jus Post Bellum's released their album Oh July, and we got the video for “Sharp Was The River Bending” from Oscar Hudson that keeps the old timey outlaw sentiment swimming.
Get into the Tom Haines raved out and raved up video for Jon Hopkins' “Collider”, off the super talked up and talked about album Immunity from Domino Records.
Get destructive with Ezra Furman, in the Dan King video for “I Wanna Destory Myself” off his Bar None album, Day Of The Dog available now.
With This Hopeful available now from Inflated Records, peep the video of meditation and moods from Zula's Henry and Nate Terepka in the visualization for “Twin Loss”.
Gang Gang Dance's Brian DeGraw, aka bEEdEEgEE, released his debut solo album SUM/ONE on 4AD, and you can check out the video for “Flowers” that features Lovefoxxx in time for his December tour with Animal Collective. Watch as the trippy visuals immerse you in a world of analog realms and night calls that reach out to those lonely places that loom before the 3am hour strikes.
Com Truise brings the synth pop art of decline with the cool cut, “Declination”, that features none other than like-minded electro mastermind Joel Ford. Look for more of these future waves on Truise's forthcoming Wave 1 EP out February 18 from Ghostly.
Austin's Orthy is prepping the E.M.I.L.Y. EP for release in January 21, 2014 for Dither Down, and you can check out the Silent Diane directed video from Eli Welbourne for the title track that mixes VHS distortions with friends and lovers sentiments.
Their / They’re / There bring you an advance listen to their Analog Weekend EP ahead of it's release on December 10 from Polyvinyl Records / Topshelf Records. Featuring members of Owen and Into. Over It., dig the instant infectious favorites like “Curtain Call”, “New Blood”, and “Travelers Insurance”.
Taken from the December 17 slated free EP Just For Love from Cascine, Wildarms, aka Duncan Cooper, brings more strong driving rhythms wrapped up in the winter blankets of choice samples and vocal bits. This is a listen to “U Don't Understand”, that treads through the waters, the blurry photos, and helps us to close out one of the most trying years in recent memory with a sound that is the equivalent of audio therapy for tired and forlorn soles. Like one sample sections says, “baby, baby, baby…you don't understand”, so let the push toward a new understanding begin now.
Throw Me The Statue bro Scott Reitherman brings his creative Bay Area sensibilities to his project Pillar Point (a harbor in San Mateo county), where he brings some snazzy synths to the equation of the perception shattering track, “Eyeballs” that deserves to be played on a loop. The Pillar Point self-titled will be available February 25 from Polyvinyl Records.
After 44 years, Linda Perhac is to release The Soul Of All Natural Things March 4, 2014 from Asthmatic Kitty, her first since the 70s disc, Parallelograms. Check out the Kyle Safieh video for “Freely”, now, and let yourself fly as free as you like.
Beat Culture just hit up the Cameo Gallery with our buddy Mister Lies and Saint Pepsi, and we got your listen to “Drifter” featuring Psychic Twin ahead of the January releae of the Drifter / Shibuya 7″ from B3SCI Records. Listen to some of the best beat and vocal drifts you might have heard all week.
Hauschka takes you on an instrumental journey on “Elizabeth Bay”, off the Abandoned City LP slated for release March 18 from Temporary Residence. Let the D