Monday, 25 October 2010

Yeasayer Interview

(Interview with Ira Wolf Tuton, right)

With songs on computer games, slots in this years top festivals and now a headline tour across the world, we feel it only right to say 'we told you so' about Yeasayer.
2010 has been the kindest of years for the band since starting out in 2006, rapidly climbing from the basement venues (Sheffield Plug, check July's blog) to venues which have seen the likes of Crystal Castles and The Drums headlining in the last 12 months. However we are not here to discuss the rise and rise of Yeasayer, we are here to dig deeper. To ask the questions we hope they possess the answers to.

Its a grey in Manchester. The band are doing a sound check at Manchester Academy II, a venue twice the size of that experienced in Sheffield. Enter PULP.
We are greeted by the band manager, who then passes us on to the bands bass player; Ira Wolf Tuton. Ira stands in stark comparison to his band mates, tall, muscular with shaved back and sides accompanied by a mass of tight curls. He looks tired. When told that PULP saw the band back in early summer, he seems gratuitous and appreciates the admiration we hold for the Brooklyn three.
Ira answers the questions thrust at him modestly, often downplaying the hype which surrounds the outfit he is a part of. "I'm constantly surprised and my eyes are always opened as to why people listen to us" states the man from Philadelphia. He seems cautious and asks if I'm taking notes so no mis-quotes can occur, i reassure him my pen is working and carry on. I then ask Ira what was the main influence behind the obvious change Yeasayer undertook from the '2006 long hair, hippy moustaches and general All Our Cymbals' look to the '2010 short hair, alternative chic, general Oddblood' look. "Is our look meant to affect our sound" he sarcastically laughs, "stagnation leads to a very early grave" is shortly followed, giving us a clue that the 2011 Yeasayer may be completely different once again. Maybe the band will indulge is leather, feathers, neon? "Motivation comes when you continually change" finishes a philosophical bassist.
The mid point of the interview and the conversation is flowing. Ira is more relaxed and describes the differences between the creating and performing, more hidden side of the music industry; "Writing and creating are very different from performing, we are continually looking to challenge ourselves". Ira then jokes that his favourite Yeasayer song "is the ones we haven't written yet", more to come? Yes. Excellent.
Yeasayer first hit the music scene in the USA at the South by South West festivals (SXSW), but this year has seen them play Reading and Leeds, Latitude and T in the Park. Surely this must be more exciting? "No, its completely different" answers Ira almost immediately. "You start to see this as more than just a vacation from your job" with a "really intense emotional vibe as time passes". Ira cannot resist however to mention the experience of Leeds and Reading, stating that "it was the best thing, it was at a time when everyone was ending their summer tours, it felt like the end of summer camp" - adding to the argument that Leeds and Reading are replacing the summer classics as Britain's best festivals.
The whole interview has a feel that Yeasayer are set on moving. Not in a literal sense but in the context of music. Moving upwards and becoming recognised for what they are. Moving from a experimental to a more realistic and electronic sound. Growing up together as a band and enjoying the success this is bringing them. But what about 2011 Yeasayer? Can they recreate the beauty of 'Madder Red', can they bring the sound of 'ONE' to the dance floors of Manchester? I think everyone hopes so. We don't want to eat our words.

Keep your eyes open your ear hair ready for the word 'Yeasayer' in 2011.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Yeasayer Live 6/7/2010


With a hefty amount of radio air time, festival confirmations (Leeds&Reading, T in the Park, Lattitude) and hype surrounding Brooklyn's Yeasayer, a gig at a small
venue such as Sheffield Plug seemed like an opportunity not to be missed. Yeasayer have been creating atmospheric music dominated by synthesisers and harmonic vocals
since early 2006, but have only recently been thrust into the lime light of the British alternative scene. The latest album, ODD BLOOD, witnesses Yeasayer growing as a band. Songs including Ambling Alp, Madder Red and the heavily played ONE show Yeasayer to be moving on from their debut album All Hour Cymbals to a more playable rather than experimental level. Not that the debut is to be neglected any glory.

The Mission: to see if Yeasayer can take what they made so succesfully in New York to the stage in South Yorkshire successfully.

Before starting, it must be said that the support act for tonights show, Clock Opera, deserved their applause. Seriously, treat yourself to the songs; Belongings and A Piece of String if you fancy giving your ears a metaphorical massage.

Now, the main show. GO.

The stage is covered in a white sheet, instruments are rested upon white narrow tables and it all seems a touch blank for one of 2010s most hotly tipped acts.
Enter Yeasayer. The white tables become neon lit pillars as the white cloth covering the stage flashes with more colours than Joseph and that dream coat he loved.
More like it. The Children, song numero uno from the new album is how the band introduce themselves to Sheffield. Robotic vocals and lights to make a epileptic spasm for days create a surreal and futuristic vibe. As the songs fade out, another fades in. A superb blend of skill and musical euphoria. Grizelda, and older tracks such as 2080 are soon followed by I Remember, a slower song on the album, but more zesty and pop locking live. Lyrically its not as sound as the album, but give the track a listen and i think you would agree that such a feat would be hard to achieve.

Madder Red is a spectacular event in the night. The white columns and whole stage become lit with the colour mentioned in the title and the harmonic vocals are
if not better than on the album, perhaps aided by the voices within the venue. One thing lacks. The Plug dancefloor is as stiff and motionless as a steel once made in
Sheffield. Yeasayer then bring out the big guns. ONE gets the crowd bouncing a little more, before the final track Ambling Alp finishes the job. The live version
of the latter differs from that of the album. More twangy and guitar-based but with that familiar drum pounding still ever present. Definately worth a listen if you
ever run out of pointless piano playing cats to watch on Youtube (at the bottom for your pleasure just in case).

The band thank Sheffield, before "dying in Serbia" the next day explains joint frontman Chris Keating, having already asked the question; "they're not at war anymore right?".
Americans eh?

All in all a splendid spread.
Live sounds album quality? If not better.
Visually spectacular? Yes. If this was a DVD i could happily watch it in mute drunk.
Awesome crowd? No. Mild and tepid.
Worth £15? Without a doubt.

You can see Yeasayer on tour this summer:
LoveBox Victoria Park, London.17/7/2010
Lattitude Festival, Suffolk. 18/7/2010
Reading Festival: 27/8/2010
Leeds Festival: 28/8/2010

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Villagers: Ready for Towns.

The Villagers
27/5/2010 Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

If ever an opening record as suited its venue, it was the Villagers ‘Meaning of the Ritual’ at Leeds Brudenell Social Club on a pleasant summers eve in May. The room is dim lit with candles whilst pints of bitter and a faint smell of spirits enter the nostrils of those congregated to witness Conor O’Brien fronting his new outfit ;Villagers. The Irishman enters the stage to an awkward silence, plays a low chord on the synthesiser before beginning the hour long set with the lyric, “my love is selfish”.

O’Brien describes his word as “love poetry”, becoming evident as Villagers flow swiftly into their next few acoustic masterpieces including ‘Home’ and the title track of the debut album ‘Becoming the Jackal’. The latter of which begins brilliantly, melancholy and calm. “You might recognise this one” introduces the track, with the chorus “I was a dreamer, starring at windows” encompassing O’Brien’s style magnificently. However, as the drums begin to over-power this slow love poem, it becomes evident as to why the Villagers are yet to really escalate to great musical heights as of yet. It can be noted that O’Brien and his men must use their craft of calm and relaxation as a catalyst to send them soaring, leaving behind these pounding drums and unnecessary stage-swaggers.

‘Pieces’ is much the improvement, a song which would suit a long walk in a 1950s black and white world. “For a long long time, I’ve been in pieces” are whispered quiet at first with the tinkle of piano keys as the only background, this then climbs into wolf howls and symbol taps, a highlight of the show.

The latter stages of the show see Villagers perform, ‘The Pact (I’ll be you fever)’, ‘Set the tigers free’ and ‘Ship of Promises’. All of which are performed with the tranquillity and style they deserve. O’Brien needs no Jagger Swagger to impress Brudenell Social Club. The inevitable encore bears witness to a piano dominated ‘On a sunlit stage’, a fine way to end the modest success of Villagers Leeds endeavour. The audience know they have encouraged the seed of something potentially huge, here’s to hoping it grows.

Villagers can be seen:
Glastonbury (Park Stage): 27/6/2010
Supporting Noah and the Whale (Somerset House) 10/7/2010D

Debut album; Becoming the Jackal OUT NOW

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Animal Collective ODDSAC

Animal Collective and Danny Perez

After its premier at the Sundance Film Festival back in late January, ODDSAC, a visual

album created by Animal Collective and Danny Perez found its way to Manchester’s Mint

Lounge on a grey Friday afternoon. A thirty minute wait only added to the excitement and

anticipation for what was waiting inside. Many associate Animal Collective with their most recent and ‘successful’ album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, ignorant perhaps to the older material such as Strawberry Jam and Sung Tongs. Such naivety would not bode well for what ODDSAC had in store. The film begins with rapid flashes cutting between three distinct frames. Behind the images of tribal fires and a trapped girl in a house with black paint oozing out of the wallpaper is the familiar sounds of Baltimore’s finest. The music coincides the pace of the film, with a bouncing drum beat and rhythmic synthesisers paving the way for Perez’s off set style of cinematography. Contrasting tones and effects fill the screen with an array of colour, as the lacking narrative becomes insignificant behind the musical and cinematic genius of both Perez, Panda Bear, and Co. Speaking to Avey Tare (Dave Portner) from Animal Collective we discover the drive and inspiration behind ODDSAC: “We wanted to link our music with the medium of film, we have worked with Danny Perez before and it really works between us”. This becomes apparent as many Animal Collective themes are present throughout ODDSAC, from tribal dancing to animal masks, all establishing a fantastic sense of all things weird, brilliantly encompassed by Perez. An example of such ‘weirdness’ is shown with a canoeing vampire entering a woodland scene (stick with it), this somewhat surreal character then stumbles across a family camping in the woods and roasting marshmallows on an open fire. The irony as the vampire looks at the unified family is spectacular. However, when the roasted marshmallows splurge out of the families faces, the vampire pounces and feasts upon the panic stricken folk. ODD cannot describe the footage which followed as sunlight crept up on the gluttonous canoeing vampire. Paint erupts from the vampires head as his fate becomes apparent and fails to mount his canoe one last time, Perez revealing “old school pyrotechnics” to be behind such wizardry. Highlights include Noah Lennox (known amongst Collective fans as Panda Bear) banging a set of drums and cymbal in a long white wig in an environment which can only be described as a mass grave for boulders with the backdrop of magnificent woodland. As the film draws to a close, a gratuitous round of applause fills the Mint Lounge. A Q&A session now unfolds, but this journalist already has the information he came for. The quick interview with Avey Tare prior to the show unwrapped the saddening news that there will be no more Animal Collective material or shows for the duration of 2010: “Me and Josh (Deakin from Animal Collective) have been working on our own, and Noah has been busy with Panda Bear. We all want to go away but without any studio work to think about”. Not to worry, with ODDSAC out July 26th on DVD and ITunes and material from Panda Bear to look forward to, not to mention the Animal Collective discography (not just Merriweather Post Pavilion), I remain certain we can keep ourselves occupied until 2011.

Essential Collective:

Peacebone - Strawberry Jam

Fireworks - Strawberry Jam

Chores-Strawberry Jam

My Girls- Merriweather Post Pavilion

Summertime Clothes- Merriweather Post Pavilion

Brother Sport- Merriweather Post Pavilion

What would i want? Sky. - Fall Be Kind LP

Leaf house- Sung Tongs

The Purple Bottle - Feels

Water Curses - Water Curses LP

Saturday, 20 February 2010

A Night on Tour: The Drums


The Drums had just played their first gig of the night. Highlighted the #1 band for the next decade by NME they seem almost conservative as we sit and start to speak. The interview feels awkward as Alex and I start asking the first couple of questions. Talking about how they broke through the New York music scene strikes uncomfortable naivety from Jacob and Adam. “We played one gig, ermm.. In Brooklyn. We don’t know how it happened. The next day we were in a Brooklyn Vice blog.” We asked what this was. “It’s an insider’s blog in New York. Big following.”

As the conversation becomes slightly laid back and relaxed, we begin to speak of influences, the band stating their interest in artists such as; Field Mice, The Smiths and Joy division. They also state their disliking of other American artists such as the Dirty projectors. We speak more about New York City, The Strokes and their up and coming shows, two of which were in Manchester following their NME Shockwaves tour that same night. As the lead singer Jonathan Pierce enters hungry for noodles. We leave the bus. We enquire as to their next gig, Sound Control at midnight; they invited us along. They promise a full band interview. Looking forward to another interview with the whole band, we part in the direction of Sound Control.

We arrive at Sound Control full of questions and our inquisitive nature can barely contain itself as we watch the heavily tipped for 2010, Surfer Blood. They are poppy band with limited stand out material. They are tipped heavily for 2010 but the view remains that they lack what new acts such as ‘Bombay Bicycle Club, Big Pink and The Drums’ have – electricity and presence with the crowd barely shuffling for their set. The crowd were in suspense. Others views could be heard swinging overhead. The Drums had definitely over shadowed others playing before them. There was a long wait. Pause. Then background music, stopped and out stepped the band. More reassured than before. They pulled attention quickly with vicious dancing and tambourine. Jacob later showed us cuts on his hand. Haphazardly, we responded “you’re a modern day Bez.”

“Whose this Bez guy? I hear a lot about him. I’ll fight him”

The band, were all as enthusiastic. Jonathan’s Curtis-esque dancing was drawing crowds. He introduced his second song, new single, “Best Friend.” Not yet released it takes a strong personal angle. Lyrics are merged to tell a tale of the bands continuing friendship. “It’s about how John would feel if I died.” Surprisingly sentimental while airy, it takes an alternative step away from the bands other work. The performance of well known “let’s go surfing” jumbles up members of the crowd with pushing. Calmness resumes and the recent single retains the buzz. Played well and with ferocious esteem, “I felt so stupid” provokes singing from members of the audience. The band highlighted new work. Their reaction when asked about it was “We have finished the album. It’s actually getting mastered. Were always picky with what goes in. So we’ll probably see the album nearer summertime” The band finished their set on the remaining songs of Summertime E.P., released 2009.

Slinking off into the greenroom we are asked to follow.
Backstage the bands are surrounded by excited New Yorkers. The guys clearly appreciated their close associates and musical comrades being around. The beer fridge is empty with signs of its effects showing, everyone much more open than the previous encounter. When asked for a second interview the whole band takes us into an empty back room within the dingy innards of Sound Control. Swaying and laughing the band speak about life on tour. They announce that they were “shocked” by the monstrous support given by Manchester’s finest. When asked about what particular gig they are looking forward to on their epic tour, taking them all over Europe, they put forward that “we are really looking forward to Glasgow”, surprising to say the least as Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin are all on the agenda.

Quick introductions were made to the New York clique. They made sure we were happy with our interview. “What do you think so far? Give us another question. We like this.” Others such as Surfer Blood’s JP seemed intrigued. “Ask us all questions, what do you wanna know?” We enquired about why 3 Gig’s in one night. “Yea it’s awesome. We love the whole... Madchester scene. We couldn’t pass on the chance to play factory records. ” But how do the guys get the energy? They laugh “We have no energy” It was apparent it was taking strain on the band. Later on the tour bus Connor (Drummer) refused to get off. They also seemed reluctant to drink. Swilling drinks of water off stage. The tour manager entered the dingy backroom. “Guys it’s time to head to FAC 251.” The band ushered us with them. Outside on Wakefield Street, Connor pointed in the direction of the Tour bus. It seemed apparent we had joined the bands plans for the night.

Aboard the bus the band made us a feel at home, handing us cold beers stolen from backstage at Manchester Academy. Connor immediately takes control of the IPod dock. After much thought, The Strokes, Wigs and even the all time classic “Be My Little Baby” are played, portraying diversity and loyalty to the New York scene. Roots seem to be embedded in them. Their original plans in New York seem far away. But they talk of times of no money. “We had nothing. We all travelled to New York to play music” Quiet. He continues. “We had nothing, played gigs for different bands. Then.. We got together at a gig, wrote music together. It wasn’t long till we noticed we were playing something we felt extremely confident in. The jobs we flitted with were dropped. Then here we are now.”

To our left is a jar of peanut butter, smooth, and to the right is the rest of the band, sat down and relaxed. When enquired as to any pre-gig nerves, the whole band chuckle and dismiss any such ideas, embracing their success and flowing with it accordingly. Behind us the roadies and management organise the guest list for The Factory. We are named. Stepping off the bus we feel we are not the only strangers. Connor notices peanut butter has been thieved. His nature changed. Two lads holding the peanut butter stand by the doors. “What the fuck! It’s a laugh yeah. What are we meant to eat tomorrow” Yet another silence occurs. Things calm down, and we move in.

Inside the club, the atmosphere is one of eagerness as the alcohol and water consumption continues; the club have kindly donated a crate of Corona for the group within the VIP area. The band sits together, not worrying or showing any signs of nervousness at all. Talking to geeky guitarist Adam, we learn the 25 year old New Yorker is a graduate in furniture manufacture, when asked “could you build me a chair?”, he kindly responded “yeah sure, I could build you a chair”.

The band hit the stage; electricity fills the air as once again lead singer Jonathan flings himself about the stage, using all energy reserves to fill the ears of the Manchester youth with musical ecstasy. Backstage, a great sense of realisation of where we are hits us as Orlando; iconic lead singer of Maccabees enters the room. The man who fronts the headlining act of the Shockwaves NME Tour is greeted with open arms and slots straight into the mix of things.

When approached, Orlando appears relaxed and polite. Smaller than the images suggest and with his legendary silver hoop dangling from his ear, a brief interview begins. When asked about future plans for the year, he rejects any rumours of future tours stating “when we finish this tour, we are going to concentrate on our next album”, impressive to say the least as second album ‘Wall of Arms’ only hit the high street in the autumn of 09. Orlando is modest, declaring his belief that the Maccabees “will never be the type of band that sells millions of records”. Disagreeing with his views, he smiles and hugs me before dashing off to see fellow tour members
The Drums finish their set.

Their set amazes spectators. Tugging the last thread of energy the band leaves the stage. They are obviously exasperated. “What a journey.” Adam sighs and we nod. Their expectations of themselves drag them thin. They obviously show grand effort. It’s easy to see why other journalists speak highly. There reaction to tired bodies was to retreat to the bus. Adam continues while parting “Tomorrow were in Leeds.” This was said still with enthusiasm. How is unbeknown.

Expectation is monumental on these plucky New Yorkers. Their earlier reaction to this “We don’t see the hype. We have played from gig to gig noticing bigger crowds.” It’s apparent that maybe the hype is missed as they deserve their rewards. 3 unwavering performances in Manchester, warrants its publicity. If you don’t like them, you can’t knock them. Willpower from America’s latest breakthrough band means you’re surely going to hear more about them.