Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Untitled Interview #10: Starring Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips)

I love Wooden Shjips for a multitude of reasons, not least of which because listening to them evokes a certain reaction unreachable by most bands. That unholy mess of tangled fuzz, dizzying drone, and intensity will most likely cause all sorts of confusion, disorientation, and loss of motor skills. The first time I heard the Shjips, I didn't know which way was up, my right from my left, or where I was. But hot damn, I don't know about you but I loved, and love, every second of it.

In mere hours I'll be seeing the Shjips at All Tomorrow's Parties here in the lovely Catskills, where the man, the myth, the legend Ripley Johnson will be kicking some sonic ass. Johnson was kind enough to answer my invasive questions, see below. And another reason I love the Shjips? Finally, someone answered the Beatles or Stones question correctly. If you're at ATP, make sure to see Wooden Shjips. If not, pretend you are by purchasing their music and turning it up nice and loud.


Les Enfants Terribles
: How the hell are you?

Ripley Johnson
: I'm great. Thanks.


LET
: What was the last song you listened to?

RJ
: "In the Kingdom #19", Sonic Youth. I'm listening to EVOL right now.


LET
: Playing music is _
RJ: sweaty fun_.

LET
:
What album most made you realize that you wanted to make music?
RJ
:
Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones. I wanted to live in a chateau in the south of France and party and make records in the basement.

LET
:
Beatles or Stones?
RJ: Stones, natch. I really don't care for the Beatles. Believe it, haters.

LET: What're your top 5 albums (of this minute, this year, or ever)?
RJ
:
I'll give you the 5 top records of this morning:
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - Strictly Personal

Vermonster - Holy Sound of American Pipe

Sic Alps - U.S. EZ

Suicide - Ghost Riders

Les Rallizes Denudes - some 80's boot with no name

LET
:
Favorite music-related movie?
RJ: "Psych Out" with Jack Nicholson as the leader of a band called Mumblin' Jim and the world's most ridiculous fake ponytail. It also has a cameo by the Seeds in a cemetary. Plus it has my second favorite actor, Bruce Dern.

LET
:
What city or venue would you like to play, but haven't yet been to?
RJ
:
Tokyo or somewhere on Ibiza.

LET
:
What's your favorite song to perform in concert?
RJ
:
We've been doing a cover of Neil Young's "Vampire Blues". That's my new favorite.

LET
:
Half-full or half-empty?
RJ
:
Half-full. Always.

LET
:
At how many festivals have you performed? And which festival has been your favorite, either in terms of performing or spectating?
RJ
:
We've done 6 or so I think. They've all been fun, but the first time we went to SXSW was probably my favorite just because it was so overwhelming and overwhelmingly fun.

LET
:
What are your initial impressions of the lineup for All Tomorrow's Parties?
RJ: Yes! That was my first impression. A lot of the bands I've never heard before. That's what I like about festivals, hearing bands for the first time. Though I've heard of them. I've never heard Shellac, Mogwai, Mercury Rev, Built To Spill, Tortoise, or about 80% of the other bands. It will be fun.

LET
:
Apart from your band, of course, who among your peers do you think is making the best music these days?
RJ
:
Los Llamarada, Sic Alps, Earthless, the Bad Trips, Expo 70, XYX, Fabulous Diamonds, Times New Viking, Der TPK, etc...

LET
:
What's the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
RJ
:
Cup o' joe, morning paper, cat get off me.

LET
:
The greatest record store in the world is:
RJ: Amoeba.

LET
:
What's the longest flight you've ever been on, and where were you going?
RJ
:
SF to Casablanca. I have a thing for Morocco.

LET
:
If you could share the stage with any musician, living or dead, who would it be, and how come?
RJ: Neil Young, because I respect him and he lives just down the peninsula. Maybe we could be friends and he would invite me over for BBQs.

LET
:
Shaken or stirred?
RJ
:
Whatever's quickest.

LET
:
If you were a wooden ship, you would be: a) a dinghy, b) a canoe, or c) a galleon.
RJ: Canoe.

LET
:
Best song ever written?
RJ
:
Really? "Song To Abe Lincoln" - Roky Erickson


Monday, September 15, 2008

The Untitled Interview #9: Starring David Klein (Birdmonster)

It’s funny, I quite can’t remember when I first became a Birdmonster afficianado. But one day, several years ago, I found myself rocking out (resistance was futile) at a Birdmonster show in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the rest was history. Fast forward a couple years and the band is celebrating the release of album numero dos (that’s number two for all you gringos) From the Mountain to the Sea, and are soon to be touring their pants off across this fair land of ours (and happily, there are several October dates across the Richmond/DC area, thanks guys).

Which brings me to the victim of this installment's interview. Birdmonster Guitarist David Klein (he of the shredding riffs and killer coif) always has pearls of wisdom to impart, the latest of which you can read below. Just remember, friends, that when you see Birdmonster on tour, there will not be any Don Henley covers in the set. And as a special treat, please enjoy the video for new song “The Iditarod.” It's rather fantastic, and I do believe you’ll love it.







Les Enfants Terribles: How the hell are you?
David Klein: I am doing quite well.

LET: What was the last song you listened to?
DK: That Ludacris song at the end of Tropic Thunder.

LET: Playing music is ___
DK: So tribal bro. Soooooo tribal.

LET: What album most made you realize that you wanted to make music?
DK: It was probably the first Iron Maiden record.

LET: Beatles or Stones?
DK: BEATLES.

LET: What're your top 5 albums?
DK: This changes all the time. Right now it is:
The Clash - London Calling
Crooked Fingers - Dignity and Shame
Paul Simon - Graceland
Radiohead - The Bends
Ryan Adams - Cold Roses
The Beatles - Let It Be
The Arcade Fire - Funeral

LET: Favorite music-related movie?
DK: Beethoven's 2nd.

LET: What city or venue would you like to play, but haven't yet been to?
DK: Berlin.

LET: Apart from your band, which of your peers do you think is making the best music these days?
DK: The new Ra Ra Riot record is great. Also, there are some amazing tracks on the new Dr. Dog album.

LET: What's the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
DK: If McCain gets elected I am going to shit my pants.

LET: The greatest record store in the world is:
DK: Fingerprints Records in Long Beach, California. Amoeba in SF is a close second.

LET: What's the longest flight you've ever been on, and where were you going?
DK: I'm like John Madden--I generally bus to Europe and Asia. Boom! I just drove across the Ocean.

LET: Shaken or stirred?
DK: I would not be able to tell the difference.

LET: If you weren't in a band, you'd be:
DK: Bereft of Taco Bell.

LET: Favorite song on the new album? And/or your favorite overall Birdmonster song?
DK: Again, this is something that changes everyday. “My Love For You” has been in my head recently.

LET: Which feels better: leaving to go on tour, or coming home from a tour?
DK: There is always a lot of excitement on the way out, but the surreal drive across the bridge gets me every time on the return.

LET: You once told me that you were planning to learn “Heart of the Matter.” Can we DC gig attendees expect to see that on the set list?
DK: I must have been drunk. Absolutely not.

LET: Best song ever written?
DK: “Heart of the Matter”.

[Photo by Megan Petty]



Live Review: Does It Offend You, Yeah? @ DC9, September 5

For those of you that have not yet had the pleasure of attending a show at DC9, I need to impress upon you one very, very important detail about this particular venue: it is small. Very small. Not the smallest venue ever, surely, but small enough to make you feel a wee bit claustrophobic on nights when a hugely, hotly, hyperly hyped band from foreign shores lands, selling out the venue in advance and ultimately pushing the fire code numbers to the limit.

Needless to say, when I ventured up 95 for the Does It Offend You, Yeah? show, the place was quite possibly more jammed than I've ever seen it. Great for the band, great for the venue, bad for any possible notions of personal space. It was a night of ceaseless sweat, endless dancing, and unstoppable awesomeness. Those little scamps came, saw, conquered, and left us wanting more all in the span of just about an hour.

It wasn't the best show I've been to all year, but it just might be the most entertaining. The super full club was enraptured, and jumped up and down so much and with such lustful abandon that on numerous occasions I was pretty sure the floor was about to collapse, killing us all. But hey, there certainly are worse ways to go. While I lost count of the number of times I was elbowed, poked, and kicked, I was just pleased to see people enjoying themselves as much as I was. And the gleeful performance given by Does It Offend You, Yeah? was most definitely worthy of our adulation. They rolled through bits and bobs from the album You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into, such as the synthily anthemic "Dawn of the Dead" and my pair of favorites (perfectly played back-to-back), "Being Bad Feels Pretty Good" and "Let's Make Out." It was as if we were witnessing modern day Pied Pipers, because the kids couldn't stop dancing. Each song was given a welcome you'd expect from a large venue, never mind a tiny one. It was the perfect Friday night show, the best way to kick off the weekend.

When it's all said and done, their song "We Are Rockstars" might be tongue-in-cheek, but on this night, the members of Does It Offend You, Yeah? were every bit the rock star.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Untitled Interview #8: Starring Will Canzoneri (Darker My Love)

My oh my how I do love me some Darker My Love. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you will too. Over the course of two albums they’ve honed a nice little sound indeed, all retrosexual with lots of fuzz and soul, soul, soul. And they sure do sound like California, though at this point that can mean so many things (most likely involving sun-related adjectives) I’ll let you interpret that as you will.

The thing you need to glean, my friends, is that Darker My Love is dynamite. They are also touring with the one and only Dandy Warhols, which is a cause for joy if ever there was one. Go and see them in your citay, I know I’ll be seeing them on September 22 (and yes, it is in fact marked on my calendar) at the 9:30 Club. In the spirit of the recent release of their second album, 2, and their potentially Bacchanalian tour with the Dandys, I contacted Camp Darker and was gifted with the following from lovely Will Canzoneri, he of much keyboard-tickling. Read on, and go to the show. As ever, you can thank me later.

Les Enfants Terribles: How the hell are you?
Will Canzoneri: Mortified.

LET: What was the last song you listened to?
WC: Well, right now I'm listening to this record by a band called Jelly. I found it in the dollar bin at Amoeba. It's from 1977. You know Amy Madigan, the actress? You know, the mom from “Uncle Buck”. Turns out she was a singer before all that, in a slick-ass late 70's L.A. Rickie Lee Jones/Nicolette Larson kinda studio thing. Tom Scott-arranged horns, cream-of-the-session-player crop. I picked it up because she looked real cute, and then I realized it was her. This is the only time I'll ever listen to it.

LET: What album most made you realize that you wanted to make music?
WC: All Summer Long by The Beach Boys. Probably the album cover more than the music. It looked like endless fun, frolicking on the beach with your bros and some babes in California. I was 9. Turns out, of course, I was right.

LET: Beatles or Stones?
WC: Really? One or the other?

LET: What're your top 5 albums (of this minute, this year, or ever)?
WC: Of lately:
Beau Brummels / Bradley's Barn
The Chills / Kaleidoscope World
NRBQ / Tiddlywinks
Rotary Connection / Aladdin
Dennis Wilson / Pacific Ocean Blue

LET: Favorite music-related movie?
WC: What's that old Richard Dreyfuss movie where he's an angsty classical pianist and he gets laid by his hot archrival in his motel room? Yeah, that one.

LET: What city or venue would you like to play, but haven't yet been to?
WC: Europe. That's a city, right?

LET: What's your favorite song to perform in concert?
WC: Our cover of Can's "Mother Sky," which we don't seem to play anymore.

LET: Half-full or half-empty?
WC: Whatever it was, I drank it.

LET: Apart from your band, of course, who among your peers do you think is making the best music these days?
WC: There's a guy here in LA we know named Aaron Embry who has a project with his wife, among others, called Amnion. Rob and I first saw him when he was playing keys for Daniel Lanois a few months ago, and we got them to play with us at our record release show here at the Troubadour. Amnion is my musical wet dream. I mean, literally, it's that amazing, perfect-in-every-way shit I hear in my dreams that I can't put together in my waking life. That show was the first time I'd seen ‘em live, and they fully infiltrated me in a way I haven't been in a good 5 years or so. I'd say it's kind of a cross between Donny Hathaway's live album and the New Radicals, with the songwriting intelligence quotient upped by 5. And if you haven't copped to the fact that New Radicals did some really sweet shit, then Amnion might not be for you.

LET: What's the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
WC: I shoulda gotten up earlier.

LET: The greatest record store in the world is:
WC: Can't deny that it's Amoeba.

LET: What's the longest flight you've ever been on?
WC: The longest I was on a plane was when I flew Continental from Boston to Phoenix. We had a stop in Cleveland, where it was sleeting, and I was stuck on the plane at the gate for - I kid you not - 7 hours. 7 hours of "we should be pushing off from the gate any minute now." They wouldn't let us off, and they wouldn't feed us. Nothing. Stale-ass air, miserable passengers, deadbeat flight attendants... and I got nothing for it.

LET: This one's for Rob. What's your favorite and least favorite thing about Richmond, and why did you leave?
WC: I'm putting Rob on speakerphone here:
"I actually lived in Midlothian, which is just outside Richmond... but I used to love going to the Richmond Braves games when I was younger... I saw a lot of great players play before they were in the majors. Worst thing is the humidity. The reason I left was cause my dad got a new job in Massachusetts. I then got made fun of for saying "yes ma'am" and "yes sir" to all my teachers so I conformed to a "wicked vocab" after that."

LET: You are all about to embark on a nation-wide tour with the Dandy Warhols. Please list five words describing what the experience of this tour could be like.
WC: Courtney Taylor-Taylor-Taylor-Taylor.

LET: If you could share the stage with any musician, living or dead, who would it be, and how come?
WC: I dunno, probably some Beach Boy. Pick one.

LET: Shaken or stirred?
WC: I've always wondered if I'd start drinking martinis when I'm older.

LET: Best song ever written?
WC: The chorus to Billy Joel's "The Stranger." The sheer skin-crawling awfulness of the verse - so sleazy and plain bad it makes you feel like the slimiest slime ball piece-of-shit there ever was - makes the chorus sound like the pinnacle of human achievement.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

At the Cinema: Control

"Control" is a band biopic, a love story, a tragedy. It is uber director Anton Corbijn's homage to and interpretation of the myth of Joy Division, a stark black and white opus powerful in its bleak austerity. Mostly, it is the story of Ian Curtis, whose tragically brief story is fairly well-known at this point, though Corbijn's thoughtful flick gives new insight into the troubled, doomed Curtis.

"Control" is a fitting name for the film, because in addition to the song "She's Lost Control" being one of Joy Division's best-known songs, the theme of control is central. Be it Ian's control over his destiny, his lack of control over his health and his fate, the control Curtis' familial obligations have over him as his story unfolds, and ultimately the lack of control anyone has in saving Curtis from himself.

We first see Curtis, played brilliantly by Sam Riley, as a teenager, nicking pills from elderly ladies and swanning about in his bedroom to David Bowie. After proposing in a sun-dappled pastoral scene, young Ian marries his school sweetheart Debbie (Samantha Morton), and they move into a small house together. At this point, the movie sunlit and bright, as was Curtis' future. Inevitably, darkness begins creeping in with Ian's diagnosis of epilepsy and subsequent prescription-related problems. Cracks also appear in Ian and Debbie's marriage, despite the birth of a daughter. Curtis meets and falls in love with Belgian fanzine writer Annik, who seems to represent the opposite of Ian's safe, predictable life in gray Macclesfield. As with most, this love triangle doesn't end well.

It's all there, Joy Division's first television appearance, the contract with Factory Records written in blood by Tony Wilson, the announcement of the U.S. tour, and Curtis' dark final few hours watching Werner Herzog. But in addition to what we already knew, Corbijn deftly presents a portrait of an artist as a young man, a troubled soul in turmoil, and a gifted singer with incredible talent. It's an incredibly sad story, and the glimpses of happiness are rendered that much more acute when pitted against so much gloom and doom. It's perfectly acted, perfectly shot, and just about flat-out perfect. "Closer" is a must for anyone who loves Joy Division, and pretty much anyone who likes great movies. If you're anything like me, though, make sure you've got some tissues handy.

Live Review: Yndi Halda @ Ghostprint Gallery, August 18

It started off like any other Monday, that is to say inauspiciously and perhaps even somewhat badly. By the time the end of the working day arrived, I was in need of some serious soul-soothing. Thankfully, two things happened to completely turn the day around (and make me a very happy girl indeed): a friend told me about a show going on at the Ghostprint Gallery, and a band called Yndi Halda was one of the bands on the bill. It was to be a very good night indeed.

In true Richmond style, the Ghostprint Gallery serves several purposes; by day, a fully functioning gallery space, with an area behind the main wall for tattooing, and occasionally by night serving as a venue space. It’s a unique space to see a show, and it was perhaps the perfect place to see Yndi Halda’s first show in Richmond. At first, the gallery was pretty empty. Gradually, though, people began to fill the small room, and it’s lucky for those of us who were there that we were around to witness such as was about to transpire.

I’d never heard of Yndi Halda, but now having seen them live I can safely say I’m a believer. What happened that night at Ghostprint was nothing short of spectacular. One minute, a gaggle of youthful guys from across the pond is fiddling about with their instruments, and the next thing you know a wall of painfully beautiful sound hits you like a ton of bricks. They were magnificent. Straddling the oft-fragile beauty of Sigur Ros and the loud, louder, loudest noise of Mogwai, Yndi Halda presented themselves as a force to be reckoned with. The set was intense, only cracking when one of the band would glance at another and both would smile briefly, but beamingly. Their Violin mixed with violent guitar angle proved fiercely dynamic, and they stormed through a short (song-wise, not length-wise) set with vim and vigor. My ears felt like they might be blown off at any moment, so loud was the music, but it couldn’t have been any other way. I felt rooted to the spot, and was transfixed by what was happening in front of me.

When it was all over, there was a collective pause, as if we all had to stop and collect ourselves before anyone could move. It was one of the best Monday nights I’ve had in quite some time, and Yndi Halda are definitely one of my favorite new live bands. Maybe it was the right time at the right place, but oh what a show.

[Photo by Melissa Koch]

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Untitled Interview #7: Starring Will Courtney (Brothers and Sisters)

I’ve been enamored with the utterly captivating band Brothers and Sisters since I first stumbled upon their deliriously sun-drenched little ditty “One Night” months and months ago. Their charming boy-girl vocals, unpretentious musicianship with the perfect dashes of twangs and drawls, and effortless charisma caused my senses to fall in deep smit with these Austin-ites, led by the Courtney siblings. In a nutshell, they’re flat-out irresistible.

And so, it seemed only natural to seek out Brother Will Courtney (that's him on the left) for a little brain-picking session. He kindly indulged me, as you can read below. To get you even more excited about going to see the band’s current tour (which hits DC on September 14th at DC9, and where you will most definitely see me), check out some live Brothers and Sisters action below. You’re welcome.

Les Enfants Terribles: How the hell are you?
Will Courtney: Very sleepy, Megan.

LET: What was the last song you listened to?
WC: A 30-second clip on iTunes of Glen Campbell singing "Jesus" by the Velvet Underground.

LET: For your money, who is/was the best Austin band ever?
WC: Brothers and Sisters.

LET: Playing music is ___
WC: The last thing I do before I fall asleep.

LET: What album most made you realize that you wanted to make music?
WC: Rubber Soul (the US Capitol version). Every single song is perfect. Lily and I wore out several copies of that tape as kids.

LET: Beatles or Stones?
WC: Well, I guess you know that answer now, but... I worship the Stones and I think most bands would tell you that Stones are who they'd wanna drink with.

LET: What're your top 5 albums?
WC: Randy Newman - Good Ol Boys
Glen Campbell - Reunion with Jimmy Webb
Beach Boys - tied Friends and Love You
Velvet Underground - Loaded
Neil Young - Time Faded Away

LET: Favorite music-related movie?
WC: I'll break in down into three: Favorite movie with great music, "Harold and Maude". Favorite musical movie is "Annie". Favorite concert movie, "Last Waltz".

LET: What city or venue would you like to play, but haven't yet been to?
WC: I think I'd like to play somewhere in Spain.

LET: Half-full or half-empty?
WC: Cup is half-full, but the water's not clear.

LET: Apart from your band, which of your peers do you think is making the best music these days?
WC: I honestly love so many of my friends' bands better than bands you usually hear about. Right now I'm really into my friend Jack Gibson's group, Tenlons Fort.

LET: What's the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
WC: I wonder if my girlfriend has some coffee for me.

LET: The greatest record store in the world is:
WC: Amoeba Hollywood!!!
LET: What's the longest flight you've ever been on, and where were you going?
WC: Long ride to Athens, Greece and a guy died in the middle of the Atlantic. The pilot asked that we just keep watching "Father of the Bride 2" while they do CPR.

LET: Favorite other brother/sister duo, in music:
WC: Carpenters

LET: Shaken or stirred?
WC: Definitely shaken

LET: If you weren't in a band, you'd be:
WC: A solo artist

LET: Which feels better: leaving to go on tour, or coming home from a tour?
WC: Leaving.

LET: Best song ever written?
WC: "God Only Knows"


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Album Review: Crystal Castles - s/t

I confess, I was in love with the boy-girl duo known as Crystal Castles long before I ever listened to their fantastic self-titled release. You see, for those of us who spent our formative years in the early 80s, the term Crystal Castles harkens back to the era of She-Ra (she lived in the Crystal Castle) and He-Man, that most excellent pair of fantastical cartoon heroes living in a fantasy world somewhere between ancient times and the far distant future. The nostalgic part of my latched on immediately, and then a wonderful thing happened: I sat myself down and listened to the record. That was many moons ago, and I am still faithfully, obsessively listening to them, overcome with an incomprehensible inability to stop myself.

Crystal Castles the album has what I like to call an arcade aesthetic. The 17 tracks are heavy on the retro-fitted bleeps (straight outta 1983, y’all) and powering-up pops and level-ending screeches. At times the synths venture into some somewhat dark, heavy ground, but for the most part the whole album feels like a damn good time, Super Mario sounds and all. After all, when a band launches an album with a great interpretation (“Untrust Us”) of an already wonderful song (Death From Above 1979’s aggro-licious “Dead Womb”) and turns it into a song that says “just try not to like me,” you really can’t go wrong. And of course, let’s not forget that bad grammar is so hot right now. Illustrating the band’s love of intentionally losing the plot, the second track comes in awkwardly, and demonstrates a noticeable flipping of the script. “Alice Practice” is the pseudo-demo that got Crystal Castles a bunch of attention, and it’s an aggressive bleep-fest with serious attitude. It still makes me furrow my brow, and yet I cannot help but love it.

As with most albums, there’s a handful of tracks I tend to listen to even more than the others. On Crystal Castles, those songs are the swaggering swirl of “Air War,” the slow(er) yet undeniably dancey “Courtship Dating” (see video below), and the nearly perfect duo of the eerie groover “Vanished” and dissonantly feisty “Through the Hosiery.” But really, the entire album is delicious. I’m pretty sure the world would be a much happier place if everyone stopped what they were doing and got down with Crystal Castles.

Crystal Castles is, at first glance, a rather schizophrenic affair, what with so many styles, tempos, and seemingly endless variety of Atari bleeps and random samples. It all works together beautifully, though, I promise. After all, if it wasn’t spectacular, odds are I wouldn’t be ready to proclaim it one of my best albums of the year.