Tricky Britches at Arootsakoostic – photo by No Idea Productions
Arootsakoostik, the ninth annual outdoor music festival in New Sweden, ME, is growing in the natural way (see our coverage of previous years here). What began as a project of passion for Aroostook County native Travis Cyr, has blossomed to include two new events: the Eurekakoostik pre-festival showcase July 10th, and the A-Roots Ramble April 3rd and 4th; both will be held at the Eureka Hall in Stockholm, ME.
Each year, Arootsakoostik pulls musicians from around the state to perform at the band shell at Thomas Park in New Sweden. “In the 9 years since Gardenstock [the original name for the fest] we have grown slowly and organically. We’ve experimented with multiple stages, we’ve featured music in the woods, all the while maintaining an incredibly talented roster of artists and pure intentions every year,” Cyr told me in a recent interview. Now, the festival is spreading its roots out to include the Eurekakoostik showcase the day before in nearby Stockholm. The showcase will feature 4-5 bands playing 60 minute sets at the indoor Eureka Hall, which also features a great food and beer selection. “The idea of a two day festival has always been around us, but is just taxing on our small team. By teaming up with Eureka, we can essentially fill the weekend up with music,” said Cyr, who has been booking shows for the Eureka Hall for the last few years, “For those who wish to explore the County and get up here a bit early for the fest, it gives them another incentive.”
For Cyr, the location is the key to the whole project. “It’s beautiful up here, spacious, relaxed. I believe the remoteness of it is a big part of the charm. For many playing the event, and more and more those spectating, coming to AROOTS was their first time this far north in Maine,” Cyr said, referring to the nearly five and a half hour drive from Portland, “It’s not like there are a lot of venues for all these bands to play in Aroostook County, which was a huge factor why I began doing what I do up here in the first place. I am certain people feel community and a part of something when at AROOTS.” The community feel has become apparent even in the formatting of the shows, particularly in the A-Roots Ramble, which models itself off of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble and the Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder Revue. For those unfamiliar, the Ramble style will feature two days of collaboration between musicians including Dark Hollow Bottling Co., Dominic & the Lucid, Tricky Britches, Jacob Augustine, Putnam Smith and the man himself, Travis Cyr. “The idea again is just a celebration of music between a mutual set of friends/musicians. Our intentions are for these shows to be real loose, format wise; everyone playing their songs, for and with each other,” Cyr told me, “I will sit in with DHBC, Tricky Britches will back me for some songs, maybe I will play mandolin with Jacob Augustine, maybe Jacob Augustine will play with the Lucid. The idea is to encourage collaboration, and have fun.”
Cyr may be a bit removed from most Maine musicians, but his intentions and goals are true. “I do not feel much recognition or acknowledgement by the Portland music scene. I like to think of this all as a Maine scene. We are all living, writing, working, performing, creating in the state of Maine.” With all the festivals Portland is offering this summer, perhaps it is that which sets him apart that is his greatest strength. “Certainly being so far removed from “society” up here, I’m not a very familiar face/name in the big city. That’s OK, I love all this space up here, and I’ve never been much on trends.”
When the July heat has set upon us, you’ll be grateful for an excuse to get out of the “big city” and out into the County, ahem, country. It’s a weekend of roots, folk, Americana and rock way out, just east of the boonies. Anybody wanna carpool?
A-Roots Ramble at Eureka Hall, Stockholm, ME April 3rd and 4th 2015
Eurekakoostik at Eureka Hall, Stockholm, ME July 10th, 2015
Arootsakoostik at the Thomas Park bandshell, New Sweden, ME July 11th, 2015
Things have changed a lot over the past few years at One Longfellow Square. The non-profit arts venue in downtown Portland has transformed from a respected but often low-key listening room to a vibrant stop on the ever-growing Portland nightlife scene. Looking at their calendar, one thing sticks out as a clear indicator of the newer directions in their schedule: for the past year, The Live And Local has been bringing local musicians who we may be more used to seeing at other rooms in town to the venue every Tuesday night for the low price of $5 (including HillyTown favorites like Butcher Boy, Lisa/Liza, BABE, Herbcraft, Afraid, If and It, and more). We talked to the current programmer of this series, Savanna Pettengill – who also happens to be a photographer with a show up at Think Tank thru April, is a member of the Bakery Photo Collective, is the resident visual performer with Waco Sparkler, and works at Kurier – about the series, OLS, and the state of the Portland music scene, all ahead of tonight’s Winter series closing show with Methuin Muir, Aleric Nez, and The Orchards. Following the interview, you’ll find an exclusive announcement of the One Longfellow Square Live And Local Spring 2015 Season schedule!
HillyTown is happy to introduce a new regular feature where one of our staff members visits one of the many record shops around the city of Portland with local musicians to find out just where their eclectic and personal tastes come from. Introducing HillyTown Goes Record Shopping — and we couldn’t think of a better place to start than with Leveret.
Tonight at Empire starting at 9:30 P.M., Penn Chan, Cormac Brown, and Jesse Gertz, better known as the Portland Art rock trio, Leveret, will be joined by Somerville, Massachusetts’ own Soft Pyramids and local psych rock institution, Foam Castles.
If that’s not enough Leveret for you, you’re in luck: on Tuesday night, One Longfellow Square will be hosting the band as they continue to promote their stellar new album, Action At A Distance. Also playing that night will be Portland intellectual rockists, Mr. NEET, as part of the venue’s Live and Local series; with doors opening for the show at 9 P.M.
After hearing their eclectic and fully formed debut full-length, HillyTown had to see where Leveret’s musical influences came from — and we couldn’t think of a better place than Moody Lords, Portland’s vintage and vinyl heaven.
From R.E.M. bathtub soundtracks, to re-taped Taj Mahal cassettes gifted by a transient passerby, it’s easy to see how Leveret came to sound so mature on their first exit out of the gate.
X: See How We Are
The first two records of theirs are some of my favorite albums ever, but their later stuff definitely got a little weird. But See How We Are is actually one of the later ones that I really like and still listen to.
Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works: 85-92
When I was first making sort of electronic music, this album definitely influenced me. I had a teacher in high school who put a few Aphex Twin songs on a mix CD he had made for me, and it made me feel comfortable in getting weird — if you know what I mean.
CB: I had a math teacher in high school who had a program on his computer to randomly generate fractals which you could infinitely zoom in on. So, he would project these fractals on the wall while surprisingly playing Boards Of Canada.
And that was my introduction to ambient music. It was, in a way, a pretty perfect introduction to that sort of music.
Hugo Largo: Drum
I don’t really know how to explain it — but it has a lot of strings on it, and Michael Stipe is the producer and has a few parts.
I was dating this girl in high school whose father sort of took me under his wing and introduced me to a lot of underground 80’s stuff like Mission Of Burma. Murmur [R.E.M.’s first full-length] is incredible — I don’t know why, but I remember listening to “Radio Free Europe” on repeat in the bathtub. It’s the bathtub soundtrack.
Taj Mahal: Recycling the Blues & Other Related Stuff
There was this one time I was out on my stoop playing the blues on my ukulele and a homeless guy came by and listened to me play for a while.
He said I sounded like Taj Mahal — but I had never even heard of Taj Mahal up to that point in my life. For some reason, he had a cassette of this album and he gave it to me. It was this horrible re-taped version of the original and it sounded like shit.
One day, I was listening to it in my friend’s old Saturn, and the only way that we could hear any of it was to turn up the bass and the treble as high as they could go; and even then it sounded like muffled garbage. “Gitano Negro” was literally, the only song that played perfectly and it’s so great. It’s not even the blues — it’s jazz.
Lesley Gore: Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts
In high school, there was a period when I was sad all the time and I would go to school early and listen to her song “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” on repeat until school would start…it was a really weird period for me.
The Magnetic Fields The Charm Of the Highway Strip
So, I was dating this girl, and she got us tickets to see The Magnetic Fields live. But, right before the show, we broke up and I had these two tickets to see The Magnetic Fields with no one to go with.
I asked all of my friends, but they couldn’t get to Boston. The next thing I know, I’m on the ride down to Boston to see The Magnetic Fields with my mother. On the way down, I helped her setup her first OKCupid account, and I was just getting back on the website myself.
So, little did I know, this would end up being the ideal way to see The Magnetic Fields live — just getting over a relationship, crying, and helping my mom setup an OKCupid account.
Devo: Freedom Of Choice
For the most part, I think New Wave was one of the worst things to happen ever in music. I had a moment in my life where I did like it and would sometimes listen to it. But while that was going on it was taking away attention from stuff like Roxy Music and Devo — I will always have Devo.
David Bowie: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust
This is easily one of my favorite albums of all time, and I’m pretty sure it’s the first record I ever owned.
I was living in Forest Hills, New York, and I was at my friend’s house and they had this massive room to play pool in with this giant record collection. I had never really listened to records before, but because I had terrible insomnia, at 4AM I was awake, alone and playing pool by myself listening to this album like ten times in a row front and back.
I actually ended up stealing that record. I still have that copy, and it’s an original — which I totally don’t deserve and will probably never give back.
First of all, we just want to congratulate to both Lisa/Liza and Kaki King, as their show tomorrow at SPACE (Saturday, February 28, 8:30 p.m.) sold out yesterday.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Lisa/Liza’s Liza Victoria earlier in the week as she prepared for the show and talked about everything from the portrayal of women within the Portland music community to our age of perfected nostalgia via through the internet. And like every good music article in the last year, Beyoncé.
Lisa/Liza’s newest release The First Museum was released in November and is available on Bandcamp through Pretty Purgatory as both a physical and digital release.
“This isn’t my favorite Stevie Wonder Record — it’s not ‘Songs In the Key Of Life’ but that’s a totally great cover,” Lisa/Liza on Stevie Wonder’s “Hotter Than July” at Moody Lords in downtown Portland. Liza will be playing a sold out show with Kaki King this Saturday at SPACE located at 538 Congress St. PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Steeves/Grace Hager
HillyTown: Tomorrow you’re going to be playing a show opening for Kaki King at SPACE. Is this the largest audience you’ve performed in front of, and what size to you, is ideal to perform at?
Lisa/Liza (Liza Victoria): I think this will probably be the most number of people at once that isn’t a situation like when I played at Northside Festival a few years ago, because that was a festival there were a lot of people coming and going. Right now at this moment I like playing in smaller venues because it’s a little easier to control the sound.
But I have found that there is a little more anxiety with less people in the audience. Like when I play at house shows it’s a lot more personal and intimate because you’re performing and talking to people who can at times be right in from you when you play. But the variables at house shows like sound, set-up and who you’re going to be playing with can just be so unexpected and resolved last minute.
I haven’t gotten to the point where I read the crowd before I go on. So for times that I’ve played after an experience like AFRAID, I just sort of go out and do my own thing. There was a show where it was a little difficult where the billing was Video Nasties, AFRAID and then me — because everyone has been dancing and is totally vibing or something; and then I go on and do my thing and it’s a little strange to be sure.
HT: For those who know you personally, you’re quite reserved and quiet. What spurred your decision to perform your own music live in front of people?
LV: It really started as kind of a personal challenge to myself, because of all the social anxiety that I naturally have, but I also really like music. So combining the two in part was a way to deal with my social anxieties and do what I love and find comfort it.
HT: Your latest release The First Museum was your first working with Peter McLaughlin’s Pretty Purgatory collective and label. You’ll be joining a roster with the likes of Jacob Augustine, Butcher Boy and, of course, The Milkman’s Union. What made you want to become involved with the project?
LV: I had worked with Peter and Butcher Boy lots of times before — Peter just explained the idea behind Pretty Purgatory to me and I just really liked the idea behind it. I love the Portland music scene and thought it needed something like this for a long time. While I do a lot of stuff on my own, but the more help you can get, I think, the better. We all help each other.
HT: What have the benefits of working with Pretty Purgatory been so far, even in its early stages?
LV: I’ve always really liked working with Butcher Boy — they have always been super supportive of me and it creates this sort of camaraderie. We have done some shows and a little music together, and I really like seeing our stuff together on the same label.
Pretty Purgatory also gives people a starting point for a lot of Portland music. In the past, the city seemed to be sort of divided musically, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me because it’s not like a lot of people live and perform music here. Everyone is pretty independent here, of course, but I like have something like Pretty Purgatory where we help each other out and can watch each other grow, develop, and learn along the way.
HT: I know most musicians usually say “my latest album” when they are asked what release they are the most proud of to have released. And I hope you’ll excuse me for doing the same thing.
LV: I’ve recorded a lot, and I think as a musician you’ve always got an idea in your head about what you want your music to ideally sound like — and I do think that The First Museum has come the closest to that ideal of what I want to sound like right now.
I had been writing this album across the span of two years, and then recorded it live in one take with Peter which was great. So, I think this album has been my favorite in that it captures what I want to do songwriting-wise.
HT: Each subsequent album you’ve released gets more and more press and likely listeners. Do you see yourself putting more pressure on yourself as this happens?
LV: Naturally, the more people that are interested in it — you want to please them in someway. But, it’s not like it’s a huge group still, so I still have a lot of fun and get enjoyment out of it.
HT: What were you listening to when you were writing The First Museum or do you avoid listening to music when you’re writing and recording? Do you ever see or hear what you’re listening to coming through and influencing what you’re writing at the time?
LV: I was actually listening to a lot of different music at the time I was recording than — a lot of pop music though, more pop than I usually listen to on a regular basis. Listening to all that pop definitely influenced the album in some indirect way.
For example, for awhile I was listening to a lot of Freak Folk and stuff like that, and a lot of my earlier and less successful music definitely shows that.
HT: What are you listening to now, a few months after the release of that album, and do you see it creeping into anything?
LV: I kind of have been listening to a lot more pop still, like I mentioned before. Honestly, I’ve been listening to a lot of Beyoncé recently, I just think it’s so interesting. But, there isn’t really any influence that I’m noticing — it’s still way too far of a jump for me, even as she grows as an artist. But the video aspect that she did for all of her songs was really intriguing on her last album. And that album is more than just a pop album now — it’s a piece of art in a way.
Something I have noticed though in pop is that more mainstream artists are making albums that are purposefully nostalgic, sound-wise. I’ve been listening to a lot of Blood Orange, for example, and he’s very much contemporary pop, but he plays around with early 90’s sounds and just a little Prince. But, it’s this nostalgia that doesn’t really exist — everyone is so obsessed with the 90s right now, but I wasn’t even a teenager in the 90s but I have this weird, filtered nostalgia for it. So, in a way, I sort of think it’s kind of inauthentic.
HT: It’s sort of the same way with bands like Of Montreal and Foxygen.
LV: Right, a lot of these musicians weren’t even alive during the original psychedelic rock phase, but they have this attachment to it. Like that “Oh that was the time” it’s sort of neat though because it’s a retrospective and perfected nostalgia. You feel like you’ve heard it before even if you haven’t — I’m a little torn though with the 80’s sounding stuff because it can all sound the same but I like it.
Personally, I like it because culturally it’s really reflective of where we are today as a culture. You have the internet and all these different time frames instantly at your disposal now. It’s a unique thing that we haven’t had before, and for the most part it is done really well combining newer and older sounds.
HT: Many reviews and articles about your music pushes the soft and delicate nature of your music, how do you react to something like that? It can definitely be seen as positive or negative depending on the musician.
LV: I like it being received as something that’s not in your face, immediate or abrasive. To me, it’s always surprising because when I’m working on music, I sometimes worry that it might be too weird for people.
But it’s a little frustrating when people say that they can’t hear me, especially when I perform live. Because a lot of people think it’s not on purpose, that I’m not singing loudly because I can’t, but it’s a conscious choice — to not belt it live. When I was younger, I was in a folk punk band and did scream a little more and try to be more abrasive. But I’m trying to work on my vocal range and abilities so it’s very conscious.
HT: How does it make you feel when people discuss your music and say it’s basic, wispy, amateur and stripped down?
LV: It doesn’t really bother me all that much until they use the term “amateur” like that I don’t consciously know what I’m doing. But, I like the stripped down sound. Like I said before, I’m not accidentally making these choices — it’s very much what I am consciously going for.
HT: The adjectives that a lot of people use when discussing your music are, as mentioned before delicate, wispy — they all seem to be inherently feminine. Instead of talking about your music on an equal level they talk about it as a gendered entity. Do you see your music as gendered?
LV: I don’t think of my music as being gendered, but it’s more about how you’re treated when you’re performing that bothers me. The gendered stuff — like if people make a big deal out of me being female when I perform. Or when other bands I don’t really know or promoters offering unwanted and unsolicited advice because of my gender.
I’ve had issues in the past, sometimes I feel like a lot of bills are male-centric and then there is me. So, it’s a little too much at times when everyone is trying to be overly helpful thinking I don’t know what I’m doing. Or if you tell them you perform music it’s very often like “Let me guess, you’re a woman with an acoustic guitar and you sing solo?”
HT: I wrote a review of your last album and even caught myself using inherently feminine terms and comparisons. It wasn’t intentional — but it unfortunately happened and I compared you directly (and somewhat lazily) to Joanna Newsom. What are your thoughts on musical journalism when they directly compare women to women, men to men, but rarely the two meet in comparisons?
LV: I think it makes sense sometimes, like if it’s an appropriate comparison to draw.
I’m not mad at all men, it doesn’t bother me that much that everyone thinks that my music is thought of as inherently feminine. There was an article awhile ago about women in the Portland music scene and I was so happy to know that someone thought to write about that, but I felt that I was being portrayed as whiny.
In the interview they talked to a lot of female musicians in Portland and their opinion about the community and most of them said that they felt a lot of support. I think a lot of people thought my take was that I was whining but that wasn’t my point. My point was that I was trying to encourage more of my peers to consider listening to women’s musicians and including them in the scene more.
I know so many women who write and sing that actually don’t perform live and put themselves out there and participate. I think they might feel a little dissuaded because they don’t want to go to a show with a bunch of bros.
My main intention was to say that there would be shows that I would play with like 20 acts, and I’d be the only lady on the bill and I would think “That can’t be right, I know there are more women out there that could be on the bill.” I just thought that something had to be going on here — I just want equality more than anything.
(Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited due to length, clarity and content)
“It’s just a fuckin’ star-spangled tried and true regular rock’n’roll band which happens to have six people from the local scene in it. If that’s the criteria for a supergroup, most bands in this town would probably qualify. We wish we were the Traveling Wilburys, that would rule.”
There are the more prolific groups like last year’s breakout Sunset Hearts which features former and current members of Huak, Satellite Lot and Marie Stella. And the newest “supergroup” of the city, glitch-rockers Mr.NEET which also features Joel Glidden of the recently disbanded post-punk flagbearers Huak and Nigel Stevens of Movie Knight.
But what Endless Jags do have up on the other so-called supergroups of Portland is that it features five members who are each members of bands that have released some of the most well-received albums in recent years. Since 2010, Tyler Jackson and the rest of the rotating Foam Castles lineup released three phenomenal records including this year’s Bonanza which received unanimous critical praise; DJ Moore from Brenda who released 2010’s sleeper-hit Silver Tower; guitarist Oscar Romero, who is currently touring with national hip-hop star Astronautalis, is joined by fellow Gully member Jonas Eule; Derek Gierhan of the criminally underheard Portland noise pop duo Haru Bangs; and The Goose fills out the lineup of Jags.
And that tension-filled five way combination of sometimes mismatched styles and influence is what makes the self-titled debut from Endless Jags so exciting to finally hear — the almost year long wait for its release didn’t help either.
“It took about ten months for the EP to get done for a lot of reasons. We recorded it in Boston and New Hampshire over the course of about three months,” said the Jags when HillyTown recently caught up with the Portland quintet shortly after their eponymous debut hit the web. “We tracked and re-tracked a lot of guitar, vocal, and bass. The original Squire Fender bass tone straight into the computer didn’t really cut the mustard. The sessions were always really fun and intense — It’s just hard to organize them and it costs money.”
Aside from the high costs and logistics of arranging five of Portland’s most prolific musicians into one recording studio, there is also the countless commitments that all of the members have had with their other musical projects — other releases and touring has allowed the Jags to only play one show last year at Geno’s. But as far as they are concerned, the project is just like any other group and they don’t see it as any less important or a potential “one off” side project.
“Not to stress this bromance bullshit, but we all really do respect each other’s time and commitments. We’re all trying to play music as individuals and as this band,” said the Jags. “There is never a sense of division or prioritization because everyone’s shit takes precedence. It would be completely amazing if we could all play music both together and separately whenever we wanted to, but that’s not our reality.”
While their debut EP has been receiving nearly critical acclaim from local publications like The Bollard and internationally-read music blogs after being available online for less than a month, there isn’t any shortage of new material waiting in the wings to be recorded as the Jags. Once again, however, it’s up to schedules and planetary alignment to work in their favor before any of it sees the light of day. “In terms of new material, we have a fair amount of it and will be recording with the abominable guru Shaun Curran again this winter,” said the Jags.
Regardless of the actual release schedule for any new material, the band just announced their first show since the EP’s release as they will be taking over 442 St. John St. at a house show TONIGHT featuring Neon Piss, Athabasca, and No Sir, I Won’t. And there are plans in the works for the Jags to play an album release party with The RattleSnakes who are currently working on new material to follow last year’s phenomenal release Spine.
MP3 Downloads for this post have expired.Exclusive mp3 stream/download: Distant Correspondent – “Badlands”
If you’ve been following the Brooklyn-based metal fusion band Goes Cube (who have played a few HillyTown Presents shows in Portland) for the past nine years, it might be difficult to believe that vocalist and guitarist David Obuchowski cites The Smith’s 1985 masterpiece Meat Is Murder as one of the most influential records of his youth.
“When I was about 11 years old, I had a wide awakening,” said Obuchowski. “I simultaneously discovered American heavy punk in the form of Mudhoney, as well as the British new wave and shoegaze sounds. I can remember going back and forth between my Superfuzz Bigmuff and Meat Is Murder tapes.”
While that influence might not be so obvious in Goes Cube’s two full-length releases, Another Day Has Passed and In Tides And Drifts, Obuchowski’s newest musical project Distant Correspondent firmly places these post-punk influences front and center with a preference towards the more ambient, shoegaze segment of the genre.
For the better part of the last year, Obuchowski has been hard at work putting together a collection of material for the first Distant Correspondent full-length, and the project has morphed from a collection of solo odds and ends by the Goes Cube frontman to an all-out side project. After splitting time between Maine and New York City for a few years, Obuchowski ultimately decided to move to the mountains of Colorado which is where Distant Correspondent began to take its current collective form.
After being introduced to the Colorado-based multi-instrumentalist Michael Lengel, who shared little musical similarities with Obuchowski aside from a desire to tread new sounds, the duo sent a few tracks to Emily Gray — the vocalist of the John Peel-approved, post-rock group Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia, who quickly agreed to guest on a few tracks before becoming a full-fledged member of the collective.
“It was kind of like having an incredible dinner party, and having so much fun with your guest,” said Obuchowski. “As they’re about to leave, you call them back and ask them to move in. And rather than speed off, terrified, the guest actually says ‘Great! Which one’s my room?’”
Now after more than a year of work, Distant Correspondent is on the verge of releasing their first full-length of new material. HillyTown recently caught up with Obuchowski and talked to him at length about the development of Distant Correspondent from a solo project to an all-out collective, the difference between Goes Cube and his new project and how it’s been working with one of his favorite musicians. Continue reading Distant Correspondent Interview + mp3
Fortunately, the unusual dry spell of material from Battick ended earlier this week with the release of EMF: a digital split album with the similarly dreamy, minimalist work of Portland’s Jared Fairfield, and the the debut of Battick’s newest solo project, Afraid.
During this quiet period that was marked by a lack of new material from Battick and the release of Afraid, the Portland mainstay went through something of a musical reboot. Disenchanted by his previous output, the catalyst of the new project came from an unlikely place given Battick’s former affection with American folk music and 80’s goth — the 1992 gangsta rap classic The Chronic by Dr. Dre.
“Somehow a copy of The Chronic made it into my car stereo,” said Battick. “The rest just happened. I couldn’t take it out for three or four months — maybe more.”
The influence of The Chronic and hip-hop as a whole is apparent even during a preliminary listen to EMF, as chopped-up and repurposed samples of Top 40 hits from the last few years make-up the bulk of the backing-track, with Battick’s morose drone imposed — and at times just as over-processed as the backing track. The result is that EMF is just as haunting and surreal as his previous work, but with a much more contemporary influence compared to his prior neo-folk output.
HillyTown recently caught up with Battick to discuss the creation and evolution of Afraid, the influence of visual aesthetics upon the project, and what exactly we might be able to expect when the project hits the road for a hopefully upcoming string of live shows.
HillyTown: What do you think drove you towards move more into a hip-hop/production direction with Afraid? Your previous work was pretty well ingrained within the rock/folk tradition.
Jakob Battick: It was a lot of things. Too many things, really. I started listening to The Chronic in my car all the time, and I mean all the time; it became a total obsession. One day I woke up and realized I had been trying to pretend I wasn’t here in the present and I was making this utterly miserable music with no light and no rhythm, and I suddenly felt very uncomfortable with that. I wanted to make something someone might conceivably dance to, or something that might be nice to put on late at night and melt around to, by yourself or at a party or with another person. That was the only way that I knew to fall back in love with music. Continue reading Interview: Jakob Battick / Afraid
Before you get into the interview, take a minute to grab this brand new track from Glass Fingers, “Out Side,” available here for the first time ever. Word is it is unlike anything on the new album. Enjoy the track, and catch Glass Fingers live at Arootsakoostik this Saturday, July 7, in New Sweden!
Glass Fingers photo from Facebook
Interview by Kevin Steeves.
What’s the next step to take after releasing an album that’s met withuniversalcriticalacclaim? For Jesse Gertz — aka Glass Fingers — the answer was to just walk away from it all. Following the release of “this” last year, Gertz took the time immediately following to leave music all together for over half-a-year. Now after taking a break from recording and touring altogether, Gertz is back in full force releasing the Infinity EP in April, playing the SIX Minifestival, and today is in the middle of recording the follow-up to “this”.
HillyTown caught up with Gertz last week to talk about what he’s been up to since the success of “this”, his relationship with pop music, and the positive side of being a 19-year-old musician in Portland.
HillyTown: After the release of “this” last year, which was your big breakthrough album, you made a choice to stop working on music all together. Now after a few months you’ve come back in full force. What made you decide to come back now?
Jesse Gertz: I was working full-steam and had all kinds of new ideas. But because of personal events in my life, I didn’t want to do music for awhile, so I just took the time to get more involved in other hobbies that I like. But then I played at the 48 Hour Music Festival which got me more into playing music again. And I played the SIX festival recently, which really pushed me back into Glass Fingers more.
HT: That must have been a strange time for you because you had been releasing material for awhile before Glass Fingers. With such an extensive discography how do you decide what is, or isn’t, a Glass Fingers’ song?
JG: Glass Fingers is usually almost exclusively just me. I sit in front of a computer by myself. A lot of the songs I don’t keep, but just post on the internet for free. Pretty much everything I make on a computer by myself, I consider Glass Fingers.
HT: So you just like sit down at a computer and just go? What is the exact process that goes into making music for the project?
JG: For this new album that I’m working on, I started out with a really specific set of ideas; a lot of really specific song ideas. What always happens is that the song ideas break down more and more as I write, because I am writing and recording at the same time. Usually I’ll just sit down, think of a cool bass line — maybe it’s a synth-part, and I build off of it — and eventually the song is finished. This time though I did more writing before sitting down and recording, so maybe the music quality itself will increase; I’m trying to just write bigger and better music this time.
HT: And what is your goal for the new album that you’re working on now? You’ve said that “this” was you trying to be taken seriously in the Portland music scene — and it worked. More people heard “this” than any other album beforehand. So in a way it’s sort of a second album for most people.
JG: I guess I haven’t considered it to be the second album that people hear from me, only because I’ve been making albums since I was in middle school. But that’s an interesting thing to think about. My goal for this album is that I wanted to make it bigger. A lot of the time I spent away from music I spent trying to decide what I wanted to do, kind of an overall idea of my life sort of thing. And I’d like to plan more shows — and play bigger shows. Maybe tour around a little and hopefully, just get bigger and better.
HT: It’s interesting that you mentioned bigger and better because your recent Supermoon Show was a completely intimate occurrence. What sort of things go into developing and executing such a creative show like that?
JG: I did a Supermoon show last year, it was a quarter of the size maybe — it was just a group of my really good friends and we had a lot of fun. But I was actually planning on doing a lot of shows outdoors and out-and-around, but really only did that one. And it was kind of just for fun and to practice for the SIX show. I really like playing in that spot, underneath the bridge.
HT: You said that that one was really the only one that came to fruition. Is that sort of outside atmosphere something that you’d like to do more of in the immediate future, or are you just concentrating on making the new album?
JG: I always wanted to play in really weird places because I have generally more fun doing that than playing at a bar or any other local venue. I really like the SPACE Gallery but other than that I think I’d rather play outside, or just any weird spots that you’re not supposed to play music in. More than anything else, I think it’s interesting — it must be interesting for people to see a table of electronics and the porn table — and just some kid with all of this stuff playing music.
HT: Is pop music where your mind is right now? Because “this” was fairly pop-based compared to your previous work. Do you ever see yourself being conflicted to go one way or another?
JG: I didn’t actually mean for “this” to be as poppy as it was, I had a lot of different ideas that I didn’t end up going through with. I think this new album is based more on bigger emotions, like there aren’t as many lovey songs; pretty much all of the songs on the last album have me singing about lovey stuff more or less. That isn’t to belittle those songs, because I made them and I love them. But I think the new music is much deeper and based on more real life situations. A lot of stuff that caused me to stop doing Glass Fingers stuff for awhile, and maybe a few of the songs are a little more depressing, the lyrics are a little more abstract.
HT: You mentioned that you didn’t want to belittle the music because it was pop, or because it was lovey-dovey. Do you think pop is a bad thing right now?
JG: I tend to go with whatever I make, is what I make. But I think it’s definitely cool when someone has a sound that they want and they go ahead and make it, and it turns out to be a pop song. I don’t have anything against pop music really — I don’t have anything against most music if people are really trying hard at it.
HT: You say that you saw “this” as sort of a lovey-dovey album. Was that because it’s an idea, a concept that is accessible to people, or was it more based on actual experiences, lyrically considered?
JG: “This” I didn’t really consider as a whole album. Each song I made was constructed individually, I wasn’t really thinking that this song would go well with this other song and so on until I was all finished, and I just picked the order. But it was more or less what I was experiencing, so each of the songs reflects where I was at the time. I think it’s a pretty good representation of how I was feeling at the time and not as much me thinking that people would like pop more than goofy beeps and boops
HT: And then there was that weird point when the song “Runaway” was picked-up by random teenage girls for YouTube videos. Do you know how that came about?
JG: I send all of my releases to music blogs and stuff. And I hadn’t really have a lot of success with that except for one called Musigh, which is kind of a chillaxing music blog. I sent them “this”, saying that I’d be really excited if they put one of my songs on it. And from that, this teenage girl whose screen name is something like wannabealoserr — who has an incredible amount of followers for really not doing that much aside from videos with quick cuts and a nice camera. But she made like a 25-second clip of like her doing stuff with my song in the background. I don’t really remember how many hits that video got, but it was way too many and there were a bunch of knock-offs from that. A lot of teenage girls liked the song, which was cool I guess.
HT: What do you think about it was about “this” that really caught hold of audiences?
JG: I can’t really say, because the reviews it got really exceeded anything I thought it could have gotten. But maybe I’ve just really got that thing where I am really hard on myself. I really can’t say, I think I’m glad people like it. I’m not really able to put my finger on what people liked other than maybe people like kind of minimalist music, that is people like taking a lot of complicated elements out of music.
HT: Sort of something that every piece of press likes to concentrate on is your age, people like to latch onto it. Do you think that’s even like a big deal when you’re making music?
JG: I do like take advantage of the fact that I’m 19 according to a lot of articles, to some extent. At the SIX festival, three or four people asked how old I was and when I told them all of them said, ‘Woah, I thought so. You’re so impressive.’ For whatever reason someone that is 19, as opposed to 20, and plays music is just a little more impressive. So I guess I do like to take advantage of that. I think maybe I won’t publicly advertise my birthday so it’s likely people won’t be finding out.
HT: Aside from the album, what else it coming up in the future from you? Are we going to see more Glass Fingers shows, or are you basically going to be holed of in your house making music?
JG: I really enjoy performing live and it lets me show people a different side of the Glass Fingers thing, I get to show people stuff they might not know. I really want to do more shows and have been talking with some people about playing in different states a little bit. I’ve been working on getting more equipment to improve my live set and I have been planning a music video, I’m not really sure what song it will be for — but it’s definitely happening.
HillyTown recently caught up with Phil Moore, the lead singer and songwriter of Bowerbirds for had a talk that covered a number of subjects including how their once private lives have become increasing more public with success, the ease of touring as a three-piece and of course, spending time on the road watching rockumentaries on The Rolling Stones and Duran Duran.
HillyTown: This is actually just the first part of a larger tour in support of your newest album, The Clearing. For a band whose music is so associated with the idea of homelife, how do you deal with being away from home for so long?
Phil Moore: It’s difficult, we try to relax as much as we can between tours and be home as much as possible. But, I think a lot of writing on this album is about yearning for a home and solidifies the lifestyle which we did have while recording [The Clearing]. But then, things like raising chickens, which I had done in the past is out of the question. Even planting a garden; it would be gone without the weeding process and would be taken over by North Carolina. We put a lot of our home life on hold while we do all of this touring, which right now is really intense.
HT: You usually tour and record as a three-piece. But with an album that is as big of a departure from your previous work as The Clearing is that something that you’re able to do?
PM: Well what happened in the spring is that we toured as a five-piece just to kind of try it out and it was really exciting, but honestly a little much, and our priorities sort of shifted. The ease of touring with just three people is unmistakable, so we went back to that. I guess the album does have a lot of larger parts on it, but we try to compensate for that feeling. On this recent tour we are trying more synthesizer stuff where we kind of interpret the songs like ‘This is the feeling this song would have had with full instrumentation.’
HT: When you were recording The Clearing did you see it as something that you can really tour around? It doesn’t seem like it’s something that is easy to bring to a live situation compared to your previous work. PM: Yeah, our last albums were recorded live essentially, except for violin and vocals. With this last album, we actually approached it as a recording project and didn’t really think about what would happen when we actually started to tour. I really love the recording process though, and to blow it all on bells and whistles, and to get in production mode. It was kind of necessary for the evolution of the band; we just wanted to make that record and not really think about the consequences.
HT: When you were working on The Clearing did you see it as a new chapter of the band, or did you see it as a growth on top of what people had begun to expect from the band?
PM: I would say we always saw it as an extension of the band. I get the same feelings from the songs, they still feel like Bowerbirds’ songs. They don’t seem an they don’t feel too terribly different, it was just more built up and felt very instinctual. We didn’t worry too much about how it affected the progression of the band.
HT: In that same way, it feels almost like a cinematic album while also being very literal at the same time. Do you ever see yourself as trying to create a balance between your grand vision while still being accessible to people that might expect something specific from Bowerbirds?
PM: That kind of feels like part of my personal nature to just sort of be like personable person. When I do art, when I write songs, I feel like I wanted to breakout from that. But the whole reason I started to write songs though was to experiment, to figure out why, and not to be overly dramatic, why we are alive in the first place. I feel like a lot of people are drawn to that, I still think of Bowerbirds as an inner-part and outlet to do that. I try to think about it as little as possible as like a band or a business or anything like that. But I feel like we gained fans by doing what we love to do, I feel like our fans will stick with us. I feel like, compared to other bands I’ve been in, Bowerbirds fans are very loyal to our vision.
HT: It’s interesting that you say a large part of what you write about is what it means to be alive. Do you feel sort of off-put when a large portion of the reviews, or discussion of your music is based around an idea of darkness and death — or do you see them as hand-in-hand?
PM: I see them as hand-in-hand, to write about death is just a little clearer. Writing about death is just acknowledging that death is there and we should be happy to be alive, and the moments we have; the whole seizing the day mentality. I don’t think that there is a way to understand that mentality of the moment if you don’t take into account the idea of death later in life. It gives you an appreciation of your day-to-day life and to get out there.
HT: How do you react though, to people that automatically want to make that connection to your music. That it’s about death, and that they might be seeing one side of it too much? PM: I can understand it, I think that the general people don’t listen to or put as much thought into the lyrics, or put as much thought as I do into them. But that’s not really a criticism, because I honestly don’t really listen to lyrics as much as I pay attention to the writing of my own lyrics, so I totally understand. They’re just a couple levels past the surface, and I feel like they are often lost and I feel like I sort of have to do that; that I can’t just write quick lyrics in just one shot. I don’t think I can get away with it.
HT: More than ever with your music, people tend to want to get some sort of background context of the album. Do you think that’s completely necessary for people to know the background of everything, or do you think that people should just go in with an open mind and just interpret things in whatever way they want to?
PM: I don’t think it’s necessary at all for people to enjoy the music, and it’s weird how that has become such a large part of people listening to music these days. But the thing about our music is that it’s very personal, so the stories are out there if people want to read or hear about them. But everyone has a story and they are all equally valuable and intriguing. I guess it is sort of weird for me, being a Midwesterner and kind of shy while I was growing up to have your whole story out there, but I don’t think it’s completely necessary.
HT: But as a fan of other people’s music, do you ever find yourself trying to find the background of anything?
PM: Yeah, and it’s weird because recently I’ve been watching all of these documentaries on Netflix about these classic albums being made. It’s super intriguing to hear about the Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, Black Sabbath, The Who, and all these bands personal stories behind these albums. It’s kind of a weird fascination in finding out how these people made music and made art for a living and how they made sense of their lives. With them having to focus on a very specific album is really cool and a very focused thing. And you get people discussing why they wanted to make music in the first place, it makes you reevaluate why you’re doing it. But the thing is that it doesn’t really apply to music specifically — it really makes you think about everything. And I guess in that way, the backstory is really a lifestory a lot of times for people like me, for sure.
Regardless of how Saturday night’s SIX mini-festival, curated by HillyTown favorites Sunset Hearts goes — one thing’s for certain — it wouldn’t have been possible without the SPACE Gallery’s expansion last year into the annex next door.
“I love a lot of venues in Portland, especially all the rad DIY spots that come and go,” Casey McCurry, the lead vocalist for the nine-piece synth-pop collective Sunset Hearts said. “But when I want to throw an event that is maybe a little unconventional but large-scale like SIX, I always go to SPACE.”
The night will feature all six bands set-up across both the main gallery room of SPACE and the connected annex. While one band plays, another will be sound checking in the opposing room — with just five minute breaks between acts thanks to the multi-stage setup, resulting in a near seamless night of live music.
“SIX will either be an unmitigated disaster or a really memorable, unconventional event,” said McCurry. “Either way it’s going to be a spectacle that people really don’t want to miss.”
Saturday night’s show will also double as the release party for Deco Tech the newest EP from Sunset Hearts, and the follow-up to their hugely successful full-length debut The Haunted Cloud. If the initial review from Portland Phoenix are any indication, the newest release will be just as captivating as their debut.
“We replaced most of our hardware for the new EP and the synths are super inspiring and much more freeform than Haunted Cloud, which was super meticulous and deliberate,” said McCurry about Deco Tech. “I hope it’s a departure for people. The band is growing and we’re really coming to a conclusion about what kind of music we want to make.”
SIX will feature some of Portland’s most popular acts, purposefully spanning across genres including the psych-rock group Foam Castles, whose newest full-length Bonanza has been gaining nearly universal praise, and 19-year old South Portland electro-pop wunderkind Jesse Gertz, who went from relative obscurity to one of the area’s most popular musicians under his Glass Fingers project following his 2011 release this.
“I can’t get enough of Glass Fingers,” McCurry said. “Jesse Gertz, the guy behind Glass Fingers, is a fantastic showman. He just blows everyone in Portland right out of the water.”
The SIX mini-festival kicks off at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $10, and are available at the door the night of the show, at Bull Moose retail locations or online. Like most shows at the alternative art venue, SIX is 18+.
One of his bands, Dead End Armory, was among the early group of local acts I encountered when I moved to Portland in 2008, and I was immediately drawn to his songwriting and performance, which often took on an highly caustic and unpredictable nature. I love danger in music, and you’ve never heard so much danger in a man’s voice as Wesley Hartley solo in a dark room with an acoustic guitar, or fronting a rock trio on the verge of destruction while climbing on everything in sight, or decimating the expectations a Port City Music Hall audience as his alt-country group raises the bar for everybody, or, damn, doing the honor of kicking off a friend’s going away party at SPACE. Tonight at Geno’s, celebrate all the great music this friend has brought to Portland with the Wesley Hartley Farewell Show presented by Leif Sherman Curtis, featuring performances by Aleric Nez, The Coalsack in Crux, HeeBeeGeeBees and a very special duo set by Wesley Hartley and Leslie Deane (of Dead End Armory/the Traveling Trees/There Is No Sin). 9:30pm, $5. Wish Wes luck and say “thank you” from us.
Peter McLaughlin interviewed Wesley last night over a case of Sebago Lake Trout Stout, a bag of Humpty Dumpty ‘All Dressed-Up Chips,’ and a can of Pringles (Original Flavor). Special thanks to Scott Nebel for unwillingly providing the beer, Tim Alan Walker for willingly providing the chips, and Henry Jamison for, well, being there.
HT: What is your earliest memory?
WAH: I was wearing a camouflage cowboy hat at the age of four, shooting a bow & arrow into a fucking sparrow’s eye and I felt really bad that I had killed it. It was kind of unintentional but intentional at the same time. It’s what they call bloodlust. It went through one eye and out the other. Then I went and saw how beautiful it was and yeahâ€¦ Never wanted to kill anything else again.
How about your first love?
First love was a girl named Robin. I think I was like eight or nine. However old you are in the second grade. I took her out on this boat that had a hole in it and we road through this apartment complex pond that was green because they had put this chemical in it to kill the algae. So it was just this green puke disgusting pond that bread three headed fish like you’d see on The Simpsons. People would fish in it still. I took her out on this boat and romanced her. I kissed her on the lips and that was my first kiss. I told her not to tell anyone even though I didn’t really know anyoneâ€¦ But I never told anyone till years and years later. Robin. Robin was her name.
Around the same instance, there was a really profound momentâ€¦ I was running around with this group of people. They were older kids and they had jumped this other kid for some reason. I remember he had blue like snow clone dregs around his lips. They pretty much beat him senseless and I sat there and watched it and pretty much couldn’t do anything. When he walked away crying, I went home and sat in the bath tub and cried most of the night. Then my Mom asked him what happened. I told her this kid with blue snow cone lips had been beaten up and it wasn’t right. That was kind of a beautiful moment. The first time I can remember feeling compassion for a person I didn’t know: an outcast because he had blue snow cone lips. I had been beaten up a bunch because I had big ears, but I usually did the beatings. People would pick on me and I had to retaliate. But this kid couldn’t fend for himself because he had blue snow cone lips. He couldn’t control it. Maybe he could. I don’t know. Continue reading Wesley Hartley Exit Interview (Farewell Show Tonight)
This is how the internet and music discovery works now: over the past few months we’ve noticed the words Coke Weed popping up every so often thanks to Facebook’s slightly creepy stream-of-consciousness system and our fine network of Maine musicians ranging from bedroom poppers and diy noisenicks to arena rockers. It took a minute to figure out that people were actually talking about a band – not drugs – and for us to get around to digging in a bit. And you know what? We found a band that we actually really dig, so we set out to learn more – pay close attention, this guy is onto all the good stuff both in Maine and NYC. Next week we’ll check out the live show at Littlefield in Brooklyn and share photos with you as well. Before we get started, go download Coke Weed Volume One and watch their new video here.
Interview with Milan of the band Coke Weed, by Franc Redhews.
Braids stands out as one of the brightest young bands in an indie subculture that stresses a tribal, communal nature in its music. The Canadian quartetâ€™s debut long-player, Native Speaker, came out earlier this year and is a sparkling set of dreamy, slow-burning pop that rises in psychedelic bursts and recedes into twinkling abstraction. They bring their tour behind the album to Space Gallery at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10. Pepper Rabbit opens. I recently spoke with Katie Lee, keyboardist and backing vocalist, on their rise to prominence and approach to their live performance.
Hillytown: 2011 has been a very busy year for you.
Lee: This is our first headlining tour, and we thought we had it down pat because weâ€™ve already done two North American tours this year.
Yeah, you were opening for bands like Deerhunter. Whatâ€™s it like now to tour and play for people who come out just to see you?
Thereâ€™s definitely things that change when you headline. You have to get there earlier. We have to play a longer set. Thereâ€™s more pressure on you to play a good set, but we always stress playing a good set whether weâ€™re an opener or a headliner, so itâ€™s been pretty much the same. When you open, you canâ€™t expect everyone to pay
attention to you, because not everyoneâ€™s there for you, but you do what youâ€™ve got to do to win them over. When youâ€™re the headliner, people are there for you so youâ€™ve got to give them a good show because they paid to come see you. Itâ€™s the same both ways. Continue reading An interview with Katie Lee of Braids
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