Here are ten of the best records I heard this year, in no particular order
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Man, I loved last year’s Wye Oak album and needed more this year. Luckily, Sharon Van Etten came through this year. Similarly to Wye Oak, Van Etten seemed to come from nowhere to unleash a haunting rock record that grips you from start to finish. It didn’t hurt that half of Brooklyn collaborated it behind the scenes or in the margins to help Van Etten deliver a punch to the gut. Still, it’s defining moment for a musician I hope to hear more from in the coming years.
The Walkmen – Heaven
Nothing new here. The Walkmen release a record and I love it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that their records are always this good. Somehow a band known for songs about going out and drinking have eventually written one of the best albums about adulthood, having children and all that. There’s a simplicity to The Walkmen formula that allows them to adjust to their current living conditions. These are just working stiffs trying to put some food on the table and clothes on the backs of their children. I can get behind that.
Titus Andronicus – Local Business
I’m not gonna lie. I really didn’t care for this record upon the first listen. I was having buyer’s remorse as I listened to it stream on Spotify, knowing that the new local record shop was holding a copy for me. Then, I gave it another try as the record popped up on several year-end lists. It’s really a fantastic record as Titus Andronicus does what every New Jersey band does eventually: they all turn into Bruce Springsteen. There’s nothing wrong with this of course. It’s just a fact.
Cat Power – Sun
Yes, this has been a shitty year for Chan Marshall. However, that may mean she’ll have to put out more records and tour whenever she can scrounge up the dough and good health to hit the road. Cat Power has evolved from record to record. Now, after some faux-bravado, one gets the sense that Marshall is becoming comfortable with her station in life, embracing her demons, health issues, and apparent financial stresses in making what is maybe her most honest record in years.
Believers – Believers EP
Someone will surely give me a hard time for praising Believers again, but the praise is legit. Although this EP feels somewhat incomplete, it brings with it the promise of great things to come. I fully suspect several of these tracks will reappear – possibly re-recorded/remastered – on an LP via some high-profile indie label.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Honestly, this would be my record of the year. It’s a bit more uneven than 2009′s Post-Nothing but it still contains that raw energy that only Japandroids can bring without an ounce of irony. This band makes me want to hit the bars and dance all night before the reality of my middle-class-mortgaged-parenthood comes crashing down on my fantasies. Still, it’s nice to dream/reminisce once in a while.
Best Coast – The Only Place
On one hand, I don’t know why I like this band. On the other, I don’t know why I ask the first question. Like Japandroids, Best Coast has found a recipe that works. Unlike the “live like there’s no tomorrow” message in a Japandroids’ song, Best Coast wears their California lovin’ on their collective sleeves. I appreciate this love for one’s home state. Like Jenny Lewis and The Eagles, Best Coast won’t let you forget where they’re from and they’ll make you want to live there as well.
Dinosaur Jr – I Bet on Sky
How is it that Dinosaur Jr. is writing and recording better music after they’ve reunited? Maybe it’s that Lou Barlow has been allowed to come into his own. Maybe it’s because J Mascis has mellowed his ego. Whatever it is, I hope they never stop making loud records.
Hospitality – Hospitality
Last year, it was Eleanor Friedberger. This year, it’s Hospitality. Last year’s Friedberger joint Last Summer had me longing for some straight girl pop rock from the City. Hospitality filled that void admirably. And when you close your eyes, you think it’s Belle and Sebastian.
Dirty Projectors -Swing Lo Magellan
I really expected a letdown from Dirty Projectors, but this record – more straightforward than previous efforts – did not disappoint. I knew this as soon as I dropped the needle to reveal the opening track.
Discovered too late to form a proper assessment, but they’re pretty great: Tame Impala, Diiv, Grizzly Bear, Metz
Overall, this year wasn’t nearly as inspiring as last year’s onslaught of great records. However, most of these would rank among last year’s best. So, take that for what it’s worth, which is basically nothing.
1Ranking art just seems to be so archaic, so overdone. So, I will refrain from it this year. Instead, I’ll just tell you about ten records I liked.
2Meaning that, like Wye Oak, she hadn’t released anything of note until this latest album which is great.
3In Cat Power years, that’s maybe two records a decade.
4Let’s face it, every EP feels imcomplete. They are akin to the 20-minute set. You get a taste of the very best, maybe with one stinker. Just when you’re into it, it’s over.
Most of Sunday, my daughter and I spent our time together watching YouTube videos of Riot Grrrl bands and listening to Wild Flag. Of course, there were several renditions of “Call Me Maybe” in between, but the day belonged to rock. This sudden interest into Daddy’s music was spurred on by a couple of screenings of School of Rock, a film where Jack Black pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious elementary school where he discovers his students to be gifted musicians he convinces to play in his band. Thanks to this one film, the grrrl is all about the rock music right now.
The obsession has continued through the week as every evening is filled with more YouTube videos and bedtime is dominated with Daddy sharing his exploits as a live music fanatic of the last 20 years. She is particularly fond of videos in which Kathleen Hanna pogoes. Her requests for more stories has me searching the recesses of my brain for G-rated rock show tales. It’s an interesting time to be Lucia’s father.
What it all has led to is a request from my daughter to see her first rock show. Apparently, seeing Dubb Nubb several times has not fulfilled her need to rock. I am now faced with finding the right situation where I can make this dream come true.
I was a late bloomer. My first rock show didn’t happen until I was 18. We lived an hour from any city featuring rock concerts and even then I wasn’t interested in the hair metal and country most of my classmates were going to see. Then, one St. Patrick’s Day, my brother and two or three other guys drove the hour to the Newport Music Hall in Columbus to see my first rock show: Soul Asylum with Vic Chestnutt and The Goo Goo Dolls (when they were punk-ish). From that night on, I was hooked. I can understand my daughter’s longing to see music performed live.
As a parent, I have to set some boundaries for the kind of show she can attend. I mean, she’s not yet four (9/11) and this puts some serious limits on what she can and can’t see. for example, she will not catch The Melvins for her first live rock experience, even if it is on a Friday night. I’m considering some basic criteria for this event, criteria that may put off her first concert experience for another year, but that’s okay. There’s plenty of time to rock.
The show will need to be outdoors, mainly for two reasons: not all shows are all-ages and the noise factor. It’s one thing to get your 16-year-old into a bar to see a band; it’s a completely different thing to sneak in a four-year-old. Besides, I’m not sure that’s the best environment for someone so young. The outdoors provide space for people to spread out and avoid awkward situations around small children and vice versa. Plus, sound doesn’t seem to do as much damage when it can harmlessly float to space and not bounce off the walls. My hearing is shit and there’s no need to put my kid through that before she attends elementary school.
Bedtime is an issue. I’ll have to find a show on a weekend or one that takes place earlier in the day. The trouble with this is that most of the outside shows here in Columbia are on weeknights. That makes for a rough morning getting her to preschool. An all-day even is the next logical step, but we’ve missed out on most of the festivals for the summer or at least their bargain pre-fest prices.
Finally, the band or bands to see have to be worthy. Although it is not for me to say which bands or musicians you should like, I do have a right as a parent to steer her toward whatever music I feel is acceptable. Of course there will be a time when my opinion won’t count, but until then, I control the stereo in my house and I have the credit card.
So, this adventure may have to wait a year. Next summer she’ll see her first rock show. I just hope I can deliver Kathleen Hanna or Wild Flag.
Tonight, I am playing records at the Uprise Bar here in Columbia, MO for Monday Night Vinyl. If’ you’re nearby, stop in. The set starts at 9PM and will last until either they kick me out or I run out of records. The latter is more likely than the former as I have a pretty substantial list from which to work below as well as a plan to play through The Walkmen’s Heaven to finish off the night.
You may also follow me on Twitter where I will do my best to update records played and beers had. (I updated the list with what I can remember. I wrapped about two minutes past closing. It worked well and didn’t have to pay for one beer. Said beers: 4 Hands Pryus Saison, Avery 19th Anniversary Tripel, Bacchus.)
Track(s) | Band/Musician | Album
- Cut Your Hair | Pavement | 12 ” single
- Here | Pavement | John Peel Session 7″
Baptiss Blacktick | Pavement | Summer Babe 7″
- With a Girl Like You | Condo Fucks | Fuckbook
- Stockholm Syndrome | Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
- Autumn Sweater | Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
- Little Honda | Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
- The Wall | Yuck | Yuck
- Head to Toe | The Breeders | Head to Toe 7″
- Shocker in Gloomtown | The Breeders | Head to Toe 7″ (GBV cover)
- Auditorium | Guided By Voices | Alien Lanes
- Motor Away | Guided By Voices | Alien Lanes
- Try Harder | Times New Viking | Dancer Equired
- Mr. Superlove | Ass Ponys | Mr. Superlove
- My World Is Empty Without You | Afghan Whigs | My World Is Empty Without You
- If I Were Going | Afghan Whigs | Gentlemen
- Gentlemen | Afghan Whigs | Gentlemen
- Divine Hammer | The Breeders | Last Splash
- Boyfriend | Best Coast | Crazy For You
- Walk in the Park | Beach House | Zebra
- Go Outside | Cults | Cults
- Forward Forward Back | Believers | Believers
- Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away | Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
- After Hours | Caribou | Andorra
- Desire Be Desire Go | Tame Impala | Inner Speaker
- Rock and Roll Will Never Die | Neil Hamburger | Hot February Night
- Sink to the Beat | Cursive | Burst and Bloom
- Going Back to Cali | LL Cool J | Less Than Zero
- Michael Jackson | Das Racist | Relax
- Scenario | A Tribe Called Quest | The Low End Theory
- Hey Ladies | Beastie Boys | Paul’s Boutique
- Gangsta | Tune-Yards | Whokill
- Eleven | Thao & Mirah | Thao & Mirah
- Bellbottoms | The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion | Orange
- Ditch | The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion | Orange
- Busted | The Black Keys | The Big Come Up
- Gloria | Patti Smith | Horses
- Born to Run | Bruce Springsteen | Born to Run
- A More Perfect Union | Titus Andronicus | The Monitor
- Xmas Trip | Run On | Start Packing
- You’re Pretty Good Looking | The White Stripes | DeStijl
- Indian Summer | Beat Happening | Jamboree
Here She Comes Now | Nirvana | 7″ split w/Melvins (VU cover)She’s Real | Built to Spill Caustic Resin | Built to Spill Caustic Resin 10″ (Kicking Giant cover) She’s Real | Built to Spill Caustic Resin | Built to Spill Caustic Resin 10″ (Kicking Giant cover)Here She Comes Now | Nirvana | 7″ split w/Melvins (VU cover)
- [whenever you see fit] | 7MO6DES4T-HMOEURSEO | [whenever you see fit]
- Slap Me | The Folk Implosion | Take a Look Inside…
- You and Me | Archers of Loaf | Icky Mettle
- Might | Archers of Loaf | Icky Mettle
- Untitled | Interpol | Turn on the Bright Lights
- Obstacle 1 | Interpol | Turn on the Bright Lights
- Look out the Window | The Walkmen | Split EP
- Laminated Cat | Loose Fur | Loose Fur
- Farewell Transmission | Magnolia Electric Company | Magnolia Electric Company
- The President’s Dead | Okkervil River | The President’s Dead
- King of Carrot Flowers part two | Jeff Mangum | Live at Jittery Joe’s
- King of Carrot Flowers part three | Jeff Mangum | Live at Jittery Joe’s
- Oh Comely | Jeff Mangum | Live at Jittery Joe’s
- Heart of Gold | Neil Young | Harvest
Waiting for Superman | Iron and Wine | Around the Well (Lips cover) Waiting for Superman | The Flaming Lips | The Soft Bulletin
- Inside the Golden Days of Missing You | Silver Jews | The Natural Bridge (and maybe something else from this album)
- Honk If You’re Lonely | Silver Jews | American Water (and maybe something else from this album)
- The Wild Kindness | Silver Jews | American Water
- Discretion Grove | Stephen Malkmus | Discretion Grove 7″
- Two Beck tracks that I’ve forgotten…
- Fall Away | Stephen Malkmus | Mirror Traffic
- Gorgeous Georgie | Stephen Malkmus | Mirror Traffic
Billie | Pavement | Terror Twilight Fight This Generation | Pavement | Wowee Zowee Two States | Pavement | Slanted and Enchanted Stereo | Pavement | Brighten the Corners
- Fillmore Jive | Pavement | Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
Still, I’d like to see the hall recognize bands that should be inducted, like Sonic Youth, Alex Chilton, Brian Eno, etc. A nice list of snubs was printed in the Village Voice just last week. So, there are plenty of bands left out to fill its own hall.
Although I hate the R&RHoF, I worry that Pavement won’t garner an induction when they’re eligible in a couple years…
Not really, but I worry that some great bands will not get their due credit, whether that means a nod from the Hall or not. So, I’d like to propose an indie hall of fame. I’d probably start with bands represented in each chapter of Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Lifeand go from there. That would mean Black Flag, Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, (previously mentioned) Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Big Black , Dinosaur Jr., Fugazi (yes, Ian MacKaye gets in twice), Mudhoney, and Beat Happening all get in for starters.
Of course, maybe craft beer should have their own hall of fame. As far as Americans go, there would be space reserved for Fritz Maytag (Anchor Steam), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Jim Koch (Sam Adams), Charlie Papazian (homebrewing), and Michael Jackson (beer critic). There’s room for brewers from other countries, but I’d avoid brands of beers. Let’s stick to inventive brewers and founders of various breweries or advocates of beer in general.
Someone needs to get on these halls of fame. Why there isn’t a craft beer and indie rock hall of fame, respectively, I shall never understand. If I didn’t have other, more important tasks at hand, I’d make my life’s work the establishment of one or the other. For now, I’ll leave this debate up to you, my dear readers.
Still, what I do here in terms of looking for the crossover appeal between craft beer and indie rock deserves its own attention. I can at least give over a post or two a month declaring a certain performer or brewer as deserving of my hall of fame. So, that’s what I’ll do…
As with any hall of fame, there should be certain criteria, criteria I will list below. Members of the International Coalition of Craft Brewers and Indie Rockers will…
- …work independently from corporations for at least five years of their existance.
- …maintain a sense of independence from corporate will and focus groups.
- …stick to artisinal and/or traditional ways of practicing their craft.
- …have at least one anecdote of crossover appeal with indie rock or craft beer.
- …appeal to my readership and me.
What else? What other criteria should I consider for this hall of fame?
Also, let me know if you’d like to pick up the cause of either proposed hall. I would gladly lend a helping hand in making them happen.
1 As if I’m ever clear.
2 That said, I visited the hall at least twice during its first year in business. It would be interesting to go back 15 years later to see how it’s changed. I would probably be disappointed like I was for the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
3 If I have one essential read in this world, this is probably it. No one reads nonfiction, especially nonfiction about indie rock. To fully understand independent music, one has to read this book. It’s so complete in both its variety of subjects and its depth of coverage.
4 Actually, I’d let him in three times. Once for each of the bands mentioned as well as a third time for his work with Dischord Records.
Believers‘ self-titled EP arrived just in time for True/False. It’s been a long time coming, like a whole year, but Believers finally have that tangible document of their struggles over their short run. It was at last year’s True/False that the band first entered the collective CoMo conscience. Now, there is a record with their name and recordings on it awaiting turntables all over Middle Missouri.
The songs on this new EP, funded by the generosity of true believers via a Kickstarter initiative, have become familiar to those who have been lucky enough to catch the ensemble around town. We’re now familiar with the percussive core, sampled bird songs, and the crooning that characterizes a Believers set. Additionally, those who have seen them in-person know of the energy they bring as normally-reserved CoMo crowds find the dancer within and shake what their mothers have given them in celebration of what these boys have crafted.
So, how about those songs?
Splashing water opens as the infectious basslines of “Sleeves” kick in just before a blast of guitar that carry enough power to almost resemble horns. The quiet-loud dynamic is in full-effect for this track and it’s used to its fullest potential. The space between bombasts and the build to a climax have the listener dancing as is the custom at Believers shows, anticipating the rest of the EP to follow. “You can’t ignore what’s going on all around you,” singer/guitarist Wesley Powell offers, “along the shore, such heavy progress.” Imagine the sun rising over a clear Missouri River at Cooper’s Landing just before a day of fun on the Big Muddy. Powell’s declaration rings true as this EP gets off to an impressive start.
A few sounds in this town are as commonplace in CoMo as the opening caws at the beginning of “Forward Forward Back”. At this point in the recording, I’m just ready to see Believers live again. The rhythmic trajectory of the song and it’s request “Won’t you dance with me?” causes once again what is typically unthinkable in this town: dancing. The chorus even provides some instruction that suggests forward movement with a bit of youthful caution.
“Far From Home” is the sleepy track that hints at the sacrifices the band has made to get to this point where they now have a record in-hand and a year of playing behind them with an eye to possibilities ahead. We’ll see what happens, but this song is sadder than you think as – like with every song on this EP – it just makes you want to dance. Still, the picture painted is somewhat dire as one huddles in a cardboard box, wishing to just be home.
“Finder” is the rare song that speaks both to those who long to love and those who have loved. We all at some point want to find someone or remember what it was like to find the one we’re with. This song captures that feeling perfectly. Additionally, it imitates that feeling of your heart pounding so hard that it makes that heart-shaped imprint on our chests like on those old cartoons when the intoxicating smell or sweet curves of “the one” passes by. There’s a real longing in this song, but it feels hopeful, almost encouraging. Even for cynics out there, this song will speak to you.
“Wandering” is the second-t0-last track. Over another infectious groove provided by bassist Travis Boots floats some spacey keyboards. The track displays a subtlety not always prevalent as the band often goes for whatever will move the crowd. (There’s nothing wrong with this.) Dreamy guitar strumming, ghostly vocals, and some well-placed horns make for a nice song to play when looking forward to summer nights on the porch.
The dreaminess of “Wandering” is balanced with some steady dance beats and that familiar Powell croon with “In the Water”. Then, the song breaks into what is one of the more powerful songs of a Believers set. The two-headed drumming tandem of Taylor Bacon and Pete Hansen beat the skins like there’s no tomorrow, inducing that now-natural sense to dance. (I know, in Columbia of all places!) There’s more of that quiet-loud dynamic the kids love so much. Sadly, this is where the EP ends, leaving the listener wanting more. As is true for most EP’s, the band’s best tracks made the cut and give a great taste of what they can provide in full-length albums (hopefully) to come.
At this point, I’ve failed to mention the other Powell brother, Tyler. His musicality and ease of playing comes through on these recordings. He fills space where the drums rest between beats and often carries songs where needed. The brothers Powell are certainly a strong duo and they’ve put together a solid rhythm section to carry their vision with this EP as proof.
Again, this record if filled with longing and hopefulness. It’s the kind of feeling that occurs at that first terror twilight of the summer. That moment when the possibilities of the summer ahead causes you to hold your breath. All the worries and unfinished projects of the past winter have slowly melted away. Spring brings with it new life and summer warms us and urges us to come from out of our hiding places. The terror caused at dawn is off-putting at first, but you are comforted by the fact that it will pass and tomorrow will be a beautiful day. A record like Believers is the record you play at that very moment.
Then, you dance.
Just like yesterday’s interview with Believers, I submitted a rather long interview for the T/F blog that needed editing. This one is with Dubb Nubb. You can read the edited version here or scroll down and read my director’s cut below. For more information on Dubb Nubb, go to their Facebook page and/or their Bandcamp space where they offer many lovely recordings for your enjoyment.
Give us your elevator spiel about Dubb Nubb.
Deelia – We’re an indie folk band and we’re a folk band. And we’re guitar, ukulele, one drum, and tamborine. And we do harmonies and we’ve been together since we were about 16/15. And Amanda joined the band in the summer. And we go on little tours and stuff all the time. We just put out like our third or fourth release.
Hannah – Some people would like to say that we’re like indie folk. And some people say we’re freak folk. I think it’s because it’s hard to categorize what our genre is. It’s kind of a mixture of lots of different stuff. Because we grew up listening to Bob Dylan, stuff like that. That kind of folk. Right now we’re listening to Fleet Foxes and that other kind of folk and combining that together.
I read somewhere that you started writing songs at 15. I suspect that you grew up in a musical household. What was that like? What kinds of experiences did you have growing up that made you give songwriting and performing a try? What kind of music was playing in your home?
Delia – Well, Hannah started playing guitar when she was ten. Our dad plays guitar and he taught her how. We always grew up listening to music. My parents blaring music on the stereo like every morning is how we woke up.
Hannah – A very artsy, musical family.
Amanda – And they took us to see a lot of shows. We would go to concerts in our pajamas, like on weekends, I don’t know, music festivals and stuff like that. Going to shows was such a part of our family.
What are your biggest influences currently? What are you listening to? What makes you think “oh, that sounds like us” or “that’s what we want to do”?
Delia – I think one of the major influences we had was this band called First Aid Kit. They put out a cover a Fleet Foxes song. They have these harmonies…they put out an EP not too long ago. They’re pretty much our age, too. So, we were really inspired by them in the beginning.
Hannah – I’ll say what is really inspirational is going to shows to see bands perform live. Like Shenandoah Davis and we saw…oh, what’s that band we saw when we were like 16? [turning to Delia] …uh, if you were still in love, why are you asleep?
Delia – Uh…
Amanda – Like ladies…
Hannah – Yeah like ladies we’ve seen live…
[The sisters fumble a bit, trying to recall bands they’ve enjoyed.]
So, just any live music or do you prefer the harmonies or a certain sound or a certain thing you’re drawn to?
Delia – I mean, we like a lot of different kinds of music. We listen to electronic music and just general indie people, like on Pitchfork or whatever. That kind of stuff too. So, we listen to a lot of different kinds of music. So, our sound is unique like oh, this is a folk song…there’s a lot of different elements…
Amanda – Do you just sit down and write a song and you want it to sound like this?
Delia – Not always, but sometimes if I have a really weird inspiration, I want to use this element in there. I know other people who are in bands who are like “I want to write a song that sounds like this band.” And I think that is so silly.
Well, let’s talk about the songwriting process a little bit. Do one of you come to the other one with an idea? Do you hear something…obviously, you don’t want to emulate it, but maybe something gives you and idea…Do you say “let’s sit down and write a song?”
Delia – Our songwriting process has changed a little bit now that we don’t live in the same house. Basically, what happens a lot of the time is that I will write a song by myself and it will be kind of an unfinished song. We’ll come together and we’ll finish it together, putting out all the parts for all the instruments.
Amanda – Don’t you write them as poems first a lot of times?
Delia – I used to, in the past, I would just write lyrics, but lately I’ve been having the melody in my head while I write.
[turning to Hannah] So, where do you fill in?
Hannah – She’ll sing it to me. Basically, she’ll sing me the song and I’ll make up chord progressions, write a bridge, and write a chorus.
[our food arrives]
There’s a lot of naïveté to your aesthetic and energy, in a good way of course. It reminds me of Beat Happening and even some of the Moldy Peaches stuff. However, you write some pretty heady, mature songs with some complex arrangements and lyrics that show you to be well beyond your years. How did you get to that point? Were there some experiences or just years of work?
Delia – One of our most intense songs, “Soldier”, is like…People get really emotional with that song. But the song is about… I wrote it when I was sixteen… It’s about my high school boyfriend going to bed too early… It’s about my high school boyfriend. We broke up and it’s about that. It’s just this really immature subject matter, but I made it into this really intense, crazy song, right? … Sometimes when you’re really upset, you write the best songs, of course.
Amanda – Do you set out to write a song with a really good metaphor or do you just write lyrics as they come out?
Delia – I think it was how I was feeling, you know? I really felt that way at the time. And looking back that was really dumb. I mean, that guy was…whatever.
You’re writing a lot of poetry…
Delia – I’ve always been a writer. I love creative writing. I always have. When I was in elementary school, that was my jam. I’m sort of in the creative writing program at Mizzou right now. That’s always been an interest of mine. I guess that plays into when I want to write a song. … It’s hard to be like “How did you write that?” I just sat down and … That was one of the quickest songs I ever wrote. Some songs take me forever and that one I just wrote it in a matter of hours. That’s like the best songs sometimes.
Sometimes immediacy…when you don’t play with something too much, it comes out way stronger, way more honest. Hannah, do you have anything to add to that?
Hannah – I haven’t written too many of the songs, but what I’ve noticed with Delia is she’ll have an idea. “Oh, I want to write a song inspired by this line of lyrics or inspired by this thing that happened to me. What’s most inspirational, I think, is when we go on tour and our different experiences outside of our everyday lives are really inspirational.
Even though you haven’t written as many of the songs yourself, you’re obviously involved in the structure piece of it as primarily the guitarist…I guess, that’s the piece you bring to it. Even the structures of the songs are pretty complex. It would be very easy to write some simple ditties or something, but you write some pretty complex songs. Is that from your training early on?
Hannah – I learned on classical guitar and I really enjoyed it. What I really liked about it was dynamics…What I really like is when a song is moving forward into a different idea musically. I try to make it sound interesting and that…I mean, you should listen to the lyrics, but you should listen to the music too.
Well, a great band…that works. You have to have all those components. Then, you bring in your sister to play percussion. So, when did you (Amanda) come in?
Amanda – I joined the band in May, because we were going to do a little tour after they graduated from high school.
Hannah – You kinda joined our recording in March.
Delia – That’s true.
Amanda – I did play percussion on some of their recordings, but that was like sitting at a full drum set. You know, playing some parts. And so, when we were trying to figure out what to do for this tour, I had some drums in my parents’ basement…but I didn’t want to really pack a whole drum set…So, I just found this drum my dad had, an old banjo and it broke. He had taken it apart and used it as a drum. I just started playing it and it sounded cool. … One thing that I like about adding the percussion in is that it kind of… [turning toward her sisters] You guys are amazing at what you do, the dynamics and stuff, but they were really not that good at keeping a steady tempo [laughing].
Hannah – I am like the queen of rushing. I just want to go faster. It’s really bad.
Amanda – So, I feel good about keeping them on tempo.
Delia – It’s good to have that heartbeat of the song. It really adds a lot of texture. I think before, it didn’t sound as…I think it can be more epic now.
Amanda – And it’s really simple. I don’t do anything very complicated at all.
[I then proceed to tell the girls how Pavement added Bob Nastanovich to the lineup just to help Gary Young keep the beat.]
Amanda – I was booking shows for them, coordinating their recording, and merch and all that for three years. It’s been awesome to actually play with them as well. Not just bossing them around.
You boss them around?
Amanda – Sorry, was I really bossy?
Hannah – You’re still bossy.
Delia – But it’s okay, because you’re the boss!
One thing that I noticed in a lot of the songs is that there are a lot of things about places, distance, and travel. There was the whole project you did – It Feels Like Home – seems to be running throughout your material… Is travel a part of your lives? Have you had a lot of people come in and out of your lives? Where does that come from?
Delia – I think the original thing it came from is that Amanda used to live in Jackson, Mississippi for like three years. We would always go down there with our parents and drive eight hours to visit her. We go down there and do Dubb Nubb stuff there a lot of the time. That trip in itself inspired some of our songs… Ever since we did all that Jackson stuff, people really liked us down there… We decided we should go other places, travel other places and see how people like it… It all started in Jackson, Mississippi.
Amanda – We didn’t really go on really far-reaching family vacations.
Hannah – Yeah, we never really went on family vacations. So, when we went to Jackson or to Nashville, it was like kind of a big deal for us.
Amanda – Well, also, like with places, these people…
Hannah – We experienced different cultures and kind of…
Delia – …more unique people that really impact you in a short amount of time and you never really see them again.
Amanda – And people are really connected to the places they live… So, if you write a song about that place, that’s gonna…
Delia – It’s like a memory.
Hannah – Like Tennessee Mountains. The St. Louis song… That’s one…
Amanda – But if you’re in Mississippi, and you say you wrote this song the last time I came to Mississippi and it has the word “Mississippi” in it, they’re gonna go crazy.
Delia – We played “Tennessee Mountains” in Tennessee… it was really fun.
Amanda – And that’s like way better than being at a show and be like “I know everybody has had a terrible breakup. This is a song about a terrible breakup. Yay!” It’s just happier. It’s a song about how much I love St. Louis.
So, do you consider yourselves full transplants or are you still St. Louis people?
Delia – It’s hard. I mean, we (she and Hannah) just came here in August… It’s hard to be like “Oh, we’re a band from Columbia!” I usually don’t say that. I usually say that we’re from Columbia but we’re a St. Louis band. I still feel connected to the St. Louis music scene. A couple of bands came from St. Louis for our show. We played the Blue Fugue last week. It was just so much fun and we’ve known those bands for a couple of years. We used to play shows with them on Cherokee Street… It’s hard to stray away from St. Louis.
You all had a lot of success there. Good press, you got to play Lou Fest. On top of that, there was all the touring, you’ve had a couple of opening gigs…
[our waiter interrupts for coffee refills]
So, you’ve done all these really cool things, especially in the last year… True/False, the Daytrotter session – which is a pretty big deal… What’s your personal highlights from the last year because a lot’s happened?
Delia – I would say the Daytrotter was the big… Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening because we have always been fans of Daytrotter since we were very young… I think Lou Fest was really fun.
Hannah – Playing in Nashville…
Delia – …all the tours we went on this year were great! They all went really, really well.
Amanda – Yeah, this past tour we went around the state of Missouri and that was just really awesome. All the shows were really different, but they were all successful. Which is cool to say “We’re from Missouri and we’re only playing shows in Missouri.” … We played in Cape Girardeau and not a lot of bands stop through and play Cape Girardeau.
Delia – “You guys will have to come back…”
Amanda – It was cool to know that you don’t have to go very far to go on tour, get fans, and have a good time.
Well, it has been a knock on bands that are really great, but then they sort of fizzle out because they never leave town. So, they never get any exposure outside. There’s no way they can keep it going… Do you all have dreams and goals of something bigger? Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but…
Hannah – I think one of my dreams is to tour with a band that’s well-known. And that would just be really fun and get lots of exposure and learn from them.
Delia – Yeah, that would be the next step, definitely. We’re trying this summer.. We’re going to try to devote the summer to touring around. We’re playing a tour around working at rock ‘n roll girls camps. We’re going to work at one in Oakland, CA. So, we’ll tour around there…
Amanda – I’m excited for that.
Maybe you could start a rock ‘n roll camp for girls here?
Amanda – Seriously. That’s not an out of the question dream, because there are these rock ‘n roll camps for girls all over the country. Even in smaller places, like Murphysburg, Tennessee has one…. but there isn’t one in Missouri.
Amanda – Yet! Exactly! So. we;re going to hopefully go to two different ones and be counselors and spend a week… And they do shows during lunch time. They have girl bands come play shows…
Delia – Our other dream is to play SXSW. We were trying to get on that recently, but we’re sorta not sure about it.
Amanda – It kind of sucks because of the timing… We’ll see. We’re still trying to get some kind of show.
But you are playing True/False again…
Delia – …which is awesome.
So, what do you enjoy about doing True/False?
Hannah – It’s so fun because… It’s fun to have an audience and play for people, but they didn’t come to hear us play. It’s kind of fun to see people’s reactions. People come up to tell us good job and it’s really rewarding…
Amanda – Yeah, because they didn’t come to see the music even… It’s not like they came to a show and never heard of the opening band. They came to see the movie…
Delia – So, sometimes we play the little church venue and everyone was just so into it. It was just so much fun. The acoustics were so good. We could sing really loud. It was awesome and we got to see a really good film. It was just a lot of fun. I think Columbia is a lot of fun at that time. Last year was so fun. Pearl and the Beard played…
Amanda – That was really cool to meet them…
Delia – Yeah, now they’re our friends…
Amanda – …and we opened for them.
Do you have plans to do more than just do your sets or do you try to go to parties, or see other films?
Hannah – I want to go to some of the shows, definitely. Maybe all of them. The other bands sound so cool. And I’ll definitely go to movies.
Delia – We didn’t get into some of the parties last year because we weren’t 21. That was a problem, I remember.
Amanda – Yeah, you’re still not 21. [laughs]
Hannah – I got a fake ID… just kidding.
Delia – On tour, we got kicked out of a bar we played at, because they were scared that the police would find out that we weren’t 21.
Amanda – And it was good that we got kicked out, because by that point there were only creepy dudes in there that were talking to us. So, we were really happy to leave.
Delia – Yeah, that’s cool…
Amanda – That was an insane tour…at an absinthe bar…
Absinthe bar? Where was that?
Amanda – St. Joseph… What was it called? [to her sisters]
Delia & Hannah – Cafe Acoustic!
Amanda – They were very nice.
Delia – Yeah, they were great.
Amanda – They kicked us out really nicely.
Well, they’re drinking absinthe…
Amanda – Right.
What do you have in store? You talked about SXSW, the summer camp thing, True/False of course… Anything else you have plans for?
Delia – We’re going to try to do a music video.
Hannah – Those are really successful… Our last one…
Delia – We did a little, tiny video of us just playing in the woods and people really liked it. We’ve never done like a full-scale video before. The last music video we put out was when we were sophomores in high school. A friend filmed us playing around in the park…
Amanda – It’s very cute.
Delia – Anyway, we have a friend who makes films and he said he would make a film for us. And we were thinking of putting out an EP because we have a lot of new stuff, but we’re not sure we’re going to record it. Those are two things we have in mind.
Last thing… Tell me something you love about each of your sisters.
Hannah – I love that we can play music together and have fun together. And not just hang out and be sisters, but hang out and be friends.
Amanda – My sisters are the funniest people that I know. And we have a funny, weird sister language. I like that…. [laughs] And they laugh at my jokes. Well, Delia laughs at my jokes. Hannah tells me that they’re bad. And that’s funny too.
Delia – We have so much fun going on tour for a week and half. We didn’t fight the whole time. I feel like a lot of bands fight on tour, but we had fun and made up weird jokes. It was really great. We do have fun having adventures with each other. We’re not just a band. We hang out and do stuff with each other on the weekends and stuff. It just a bond that not a lot of people have with their siblings. It’s really special.
Most blogs keep the content short and to the point. So, it was no surprise when my contributions were cut for the True/False blog. There are no hard feelings. That said, I’m posting the extended version of the interview below. You can read the edited version here in order to see what a real editor can do with my ramblings. Especially notice the title. Andrew is a titling genius.
Zac: As brothers growing up together, did you ever foresee something like Believers happening? What were your previous experiences playing in bands together (if there were any)?
Wesley Powell: When we were youngsters, the thought of playing music together didn’t traverse either of our minds, the age gap of four years felt more significant when i was sixteen and tyler twenty. We both made music individually, tyler more electronic and myself in my high school band called ‘Say Panther.’ Making music seemed the most fitting future for me since playing in high school and that sentiment came for tyler in college, but we only started to tinker together once i got to school in Columbia and he was still living there. We still have a few of those weekend-basement-recording tapes filed under ‘The 1960′s.’ After a minute of chewing on the idea of collaborating and overcoming the burden of pragmatism, we finally moved down to Austin three years ago to pursue that end. That was when we decided to make this our reason to be, for the time being.
Z: I first became familiar with your work at last year’s True/False Film Fest. Leah Cheaney, then one of the music coordinators for the fest, went on and on about the music you put together for the bumpers and that your band was set to tear the house down at the “Super Secret Party”. She was right on both counts. Can you talk about how that all came to pass and how that T/F project led to Believers?
WP: The project for the bumpers was isolated from Believers. [brother] Tyler [Powell] and I had collaborated with [cinematographer] Andrew Palermo to make the music for his first short film a few months prior and he decided to tag team once again for his work on the bumpers. As far as Believers goes, a few months before True/False, tyler and I realized we had gotten into the same funk as we did in Austin. Tyler had left Brooklyn and I had left school Holland to once again pursue musical ends. We had spent another year [this time back in the heartland] writing and scratch recording, but again lacked a band to bring the songs into the live realm.
So, to light a fire under our collective tush, we talked to [then-T/F music coordinator] Kim Sherman about setting us up with a show. Without a band and only some demo recordings to plea our worth. She graciously obliged. With a month and a half to prepare, we joined forces with Travis [Boots], Taylor [Bacon] and Pete [Hansen] and began pulling songs from our cache and making them into more than just bits and pieces. It somehow came together. Then Ron Rottinghaus [owner of Uprise Bakery/Bar] kindly let us play our first first show at Uprise where 3/5ths of us work, it was like a warm up/confidence booster for our first more public show. Certainly one of the more tender evenings of my life, playing in front of our whole community of friends at my second home. A few days later we played at two in the morning during that party. A blast. And here we are, our anniversary just a few days away.
Z: Speaking of those T/F bumpers, the soundtrack you put together was absolutely haunting and perfectly cinematic. Have you had other experiences with film and/or film scores that informed this work? What was the process like putting that music together?
WP: Like I mentioned, before working on the bumpers with Andrew Palermo, Tyler and I had made the music for his short film ‘A Face Fixed.’ it was a really enjoyable and fruitful process, quite a different approach to creating music. A soundtrack is more functional in that you need to create something that fits parameters set out by the film itself, its editing, aesthetic, vibe, and so on; all things outside of ones self. And there is no consideration of how the music will be achieved live, its all recording and production. The two of us hope to do more of it in the future, with one project coming up working with our friend [filmmaker] Polina Malikin on her short film.
Z: For those who haven’t had the pleasure, a Believers live set is a soulful, festive experience where the audience is taken over by the moment, moved to dance. What goes into a Believers set to make that happen or has it come about organically? Is it that much fun for you as well?
WP: I suppose it just so happens to happen as such. Which is nice. And most of the time it’s a real treat for us as well, getting all shaky and sweaty, wibbly wobbly. All this assuming equipment doesn’t bum out or something of the sort.
Z: A striking feature of your live sets is that you have two percussionists at the center of the stage while the rest of the band fills the edges with guitars, samples, vocals, and bass. What’s the reasoning behind that setup? Is it just a space issue or is there a purpose for such a configuration?
WP: For much of what we play live, the rhythm section carries us. Taylor and Pete are the metronomic backbone, so it makes sense to have us all focus on them. And we like to have the two of them close together so they can feed off of one another’s energy, and the rest of us can feed off that. Some kind of parasitic vibe feast. Ridiculous. Anyway, personally, these days I enjoy watch the drummers in bands more than anything, their mechanical rigor, their constance, and so on. So it’s nice to have it as a focus in our band as well.
Z: This past december, you embarked on what turned out to be a successful Kickstarter campaign to release your debut EP. How did the idea come about to go with this sort of fundraiser? How do you feel about all the support you’ve received?
WP: All of us living under the poverty line, we hoped to figure out a way to soften the blow of mastering and pressing a record ourselves. We figured setting up a pre-order was a good way of going about it, the potential of receiving a little help up front. We had had friends who were enabled to embark on and achieve their own artistic endeavors thanks to kickstarter, so we chose to follow in suit. We were floored at the generosity we received. It’s astounding how our friends have helped make this happen and shown their support of what we do. They helped overcome the silly burden of finance.
Z: Describe the writing and recording process for that EP. Were these just songs you developed for your live shows or had you planned to record all along?
WP: A bit of both. The songs on our little record had existed somewhere on a tape or hard drive [some for nearly three years, on that perpetual back burner], but were only truly realized with the band. Being able to hear everything in person, in reality with Travis, Taylor and Pete brought out a better understanding of some of the songs. This took some of them in fairly different directions.
Since we went about the whole process with a DIY outlook, recording and mixing turned out to more of an ordeal than expected. Tough stuff for amateurs, figuring out microphone choice and arrangements paired with varying compressions, reverbs, room sound, and all that jazz. We’ve been recording for some years, but never have we had to consider laying down something that will end up on vinyl and be shared more widely.
This was certainly a trying endeavor that tested our patience, took months longer than expected and drove us all a bit mad. Especially the task of finding the time to record and mix in between work and everything else. But, it was a undoubtedly good experience and we learned quite a bit. Recording Taylor and Pete together live for some tracks to try to capture some of the energy they have playing together was some of the more exciting stuff to lay down.
Z: What’s in store for Believers in 2012? Are there plans to tour, write and record more music, or contribute to T/F?
Next week we’ll once again be playing True/False, this time at a more reasonable hour during the Mojo’s a go-go. Looking forward to it quite a bit. True/False is always a trip. Delays and delays after first sending out our mixes to Chicago Mastering service, we finally received our test pressing today [YES!] which means we will most likely have them ready for sale at the festival. As for the further off weeks and months, we’re aiming to disseminate our record both in the mail and online and hope to set ourselves up for more touring around the heartland and beyond. Having music to share gives us another incentive to get out and on the move. It’s another kick in the pants to get on it. As per usual, we’ll see what happens.
I have Believers’ EP in my possession and will be reviewing it shortly. To follow and/or contact Believers, it might be best to go to their Facebook page, but they also have a website you should check out. Of course, you could always buy their EP and figure it all out for yourself.
I’ve come to the realize that all I’ve ever wanted to do was write. There’s some regret that I didn’t use my college years to develop my writing more than I did. Instead, I decided teaching children was a better use of my skills. Boy, was I wrong.
Blogging has only been a hobby of mine for the past five years. Aside from a few posts picked up by the local paper, I’ve generally only seen my words in digital ink and not the soy variety. However, this is the closest I’ve come to both developing my writing and actually publishing what I wrote.
That’s about to change. As some of my regular readers are aware, I’ve often contemplated turning what I do here into a book of some sort. Obviously, these posts are a long, long way from being published, but the growth I’ve seen in my writing has me thinking that I could do this with some polish here and there. Plus, I am never short on ideas. Yeah, I go weeks with barely anything to say, but I’ve maintained several blogs at once over the years, sometimes able to post on a daily basis. Although I lack polish, I more than make up for it with ideas. I’m like the Bob Pollard of blogging. Sort of.
Although, I have been talking about writing for a while, I really got serious a couple of weeks ago while having beers with a friend. He’s “dabbled” in publishing and suggested that I should just start contributing articles or reviews to magazines. I don’t know whether he was a little drunk, actually enjoys what I have to say, or was seducing me, it made me realize how easy it would be to submit writing to a publication. Actually getting published might be another story, but the idea was to put something out there, to at least try.
So, I started considering publications to approach. I know a guy who wrote every-other record review for the year-end issue of Magnet. (Yes, they’re publishing Magnet again.) He’s an excellent writer, but he seems to appreciate some of my ideas now and again. It make me feel as if I could do what he does, or at least a fraction of it. It may be time to write a record review for submission beyond this blog.
Then, I flipped through to the last page of the March issue of All About Beer. The magazine closes with a feature called “It’s My Round” where people briefly tell their beer-related stories. This particular piece was written by a daddy blogger about his first sips of beer and how he wants to wait to share beer with his son. I could have written those words, but I didn’t. Then, I saw a note at the bottom explaining how to inquire about submissions. That was the opening I needed. I’ll write about beer and Pavement in a beer magazine. It might not get printed, but at least I’ll be able to say I tried.
Finally, the other night, semi-frequent commenter Holly sent me a link to a call for submissions. The venerable 33 1/3 series which features short book on some seminal albums is asking for submissions for new projects. The books are simply memoirs about some of the greatest albums of the last 30 or so years. Some editions just tell the story of the recording of said albums. Others tell a band’s story, focusing mostly on one moment in their history. Still, others tell the story of the listener’s relationship to the album. Whatever, I decide to do, this is a project I must try!
I had to drive for 90 minutes after learning of the call. So, I had time to think. My mind raced from album to album, trying to pinpoint the album most deserving of a 33 1/3 edition. I then had to consider my angle as the call implied that unique stories would receive preferential treatment. Maybe I could write about an album in relation to the rise of craft beer. Maybe there’s an angle I could consider that I’ve already explored on this site. Maybe I have a perspective no one else has…
So, I came up with a list of possible proposals for the series, but the publishers will only accept one. Feel free to submit your own, but all I ask is that you don’t steal any of my worthy ideas (if there are any). Tell me which I should pursue in the comments. I have an idea which one will stand the best chance of being accepted and actually completed, but I want to see what you all think. I also welcome any ideas you may have for me that I’m completely missing.
Terror Twilight – Pavement
This isn’t even my favorite Pavement record, but I feel there’s a story that hasn’t been told. For those who aren’t aware, this was Pavement’s last record. Between my experiences throughout the nineties with the band, my attendance at their final North American show (the first time around), my attendance at two of their reunion shows in 2010, and the stories swirling around their inevitable breakup during the recording of Terror Twilight, I think there is easily an entire book to write.
The Body, the Blood, the Machine – The Thermals
This album carried me through a tough time in my life and is just so ridiculously good. I thought that I might connect it to the rise of craft beer in Portland (or the rise of Portlandia in general). Plus, I have established a rapport with head Thermal Hutch Harris. Still, it might be a stretch to make the connections I’m trying to do here. That, and I’ve never been to Portland. I also considered albums by Cursive and Spoon during their brief sojourns to Portland or the transplanted albums by The Shins or Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.
Number Seven Uptown – Swearing at Motorists
I always felt that this album just sounded like growing up in Ohio. Dave Dougman has an interesting story cutting his teeth in Dayton, before heading to Philly and eventually Berlin. He also seems really approachable. However, I don’t know that this album is known well enough for it to garner its own spot in the series. It’s certainly seminal to my experiences, but that might not be enough for 33 1/3. Other possibilities could include a Guided By Voices album not yet featured (Alien Lanes?), The Amps’ record, or Brainiac’s Hissing Prigs in Static Couture.
Other records I would consider but would probably just research the band, possibly leaving out my own experiences…
Perfect from Now On by Built to Spill
The Lonesome Crowded West by Modest Mouse
Come On Feel the Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens
Any album by Archers of Loaf
Funeral by Arcade Fire (Seriously, no one has written this book yet.)
Please come correct with your suggestions or your take on what I’ve cooked up here. Particularly, I’d love to hear the perspective of my beer enthusiast readers who know of a beer/music connection I must explore.
Maybe I’ve over-extended myself, but this special occasion was reason enough to take this blog where it’s never been before. The Mikkeller collab Royal Rye Wine arrived a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a brief moment in my schedule to review it properly. I don’t know that the video below does it justice, but we tried record the event and maybe we’ll get better with each episode.
My disclaimer is that this video beer review thing is not easy. The Hopry is the gold standard and now I understand why he doesn’t do it anymore. It’s a lot of work. Then there are those who consistently do professional-looking videos at New Brew Thursdays and 100 Beers in 30 Days… We’re just not at that standard just yet. I made the valiant effort of editing out a large portion of my “ums”, but you’ll notice I’m loaded with them. This is why I, um, blog.
Anyways, here’s the video. Below that, I’ll add some thoughts, what we did with the rest of the afternoon, and maybe even some additional media. Comment freely, but be constructive.
So, the beer was good and completely caught us off guard (in case you couldn’t tell). Normally, the three of us can talk forever on such things, but this beer left us speechless - something only Mikkeller can typically do. The rye was pronounced. The grape/wine flavors came and went as our palate was challenged by the rye and the beer warmed. There was a slight amount of carbonation, but as we drank, that dissipated quickly. However, the body of the beer did not suffer. This truly is a wine drinker’s beer. Typically, I think of sour beers as being the closest thing to wine a brewery can accomplish, but this beer actually attains a wine-like feel without wine barrels and the infections they carry. We weren’t just blowing steam up Mikkeller’s ass. This beer is both interesting and a lot of fun to drink.
Now, as far as the video, I’m hoping we’ll get better. You all should provide plenty of suggestions to make it better. I’m pretty happy with the opening and closing. Jeff and Jarrett were great. (Be sure to check out any out-takes I’ll post below. There’s good stuff there.) However, my stumbling, bumbling dialogue needs work. Maybe I’ll prepare a little better next time. Maybe we’ll do it live and you can see how it really goes down.
Anyway, there are some credits I forgot to include or didn’t make clear enough. Jeff took the pictures. You can find them here. Jarrett is a certified cicerone. So, he knows about which he’s talking. The opening credits song is “Hardcore UFO’s” from the Guided By Voices record Bee Thousand. If I missed something, let me know in the comments.
We consumed the three beers above, plus one a homebrew Jeff contributed. The Allagash Interlude was a beer I found in Richmond, VA this past summer. It’s a 2009 vintage and contained tons of tartness with a touch of oak, another wine-worthy brew. Really, it was a delicious beer. I had had a 4 Calling Birds from The Bruery once before, but it was lost in a tasting. My palate was relatively fresh this time around and I found the nutmeg to be almost toxically good. Jeff’s homebrew was called Hop Heaven after Avery’s Hog Heaven Barley Wine. It was a hop-forward barley wine that could use some time to age, but that probably won’t happen. There’s noting wrong with that either.
Before I close, below you’ll find a video of out-takes, the two videos from Mikkeller dealing with the contest, and a Russian video about the Royal Rye Wine release. Enjoy!
Pics in this post are also courtesy of Jeff.