The Tragic End For Iranian Rockers Seeking Musical Freedom In The U.S.

The Yellow Dogs, from left, Arash and Soroush Farazmand, killed on Monday, and Siavash Karampour and Koory Mirz.

The Yellow Dogs, from left, Arash and Soroush Farazmand, killed on Monday, and Siavash Karampour and Koory Mirz.  Photo: AP

The Yellow Dogs is an Iranian rock band, formed in 2006. Members include Siavash Karampour (vocals) and Koory Mirzeai (bass), as well as brothers Soroush Farazmand (guitar) and Arash Farazmand (drums) until the two were murdered on November 11, 2013.

The Yellow Dogs were from Tehran, Iran. They sang in English and played Western instruments, citing Joy Division, Talking Heads and The Rapture as an influence. Their music was not approved by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and was therefore illegal.  They performed in Bahman Ghobadi’s Cannes Un Certain Regard award-winning film, No One Knows About Persian Cats  and were interviewed by Reza Sayah for CNN before leaving Iran.

On 8-9 December, 2009, the band was interviewed by the U.S. government at the U.S. embassy in Istanbul, Turkey and their comments about the Iranian Green Movement Protesters, Iranian counter-culture, freedom of expression, trends in drug usage and music in the authoritarian state were reported in an unclassified U.S. State Department document later released by Wikileaks titled, “Iran/culture: So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star.”   The U.S. government officer interviewing the band members described them as “astute, well-informed, and resourceful.”

The Yellow Dogs played their first aboveground (legal) concert at the Peyote club, in Istanbul, Turkey January 2010.   Two days later, they flew to New York City.  Their second aboveground concert was at the Cameo Gallery, in Brooklyn, New York.  Since then, they played Santos Party House (Gojira’s first gig in NYC) and the Delancey  in New York. And they played the Wave in Austin, TX as part of the SXSW festival.  They played the 92nd St. Y Tribeca in New York in an afterparty for the U.S. opening of No One Knows About Persian Cats. Also on the bill for this concert were the band, Hypernova, who are also from Tehran. Koory and Looloosh were part of the original line-up of Hypernova. But they did not leave Iran when other Hypernova members departed for the United States.

April 13, 2010 Milan Records released the No One Knows About Persian Cats motion picture soundtrack.  The Yellow Dogs track “New Century” is included in the motion picture soundtrack, and bassist Koory appears on the CD cover and on the movie poster. IFC Films released the movie on demand on April 14, 2010 and in theaters on April 16, 2010.

12SHOOTING-inline2-articleInline

Ali Eskandarian, a performer who was not part of the band, was among those killed. Photo: AP

On November 11, 2013, a shooting took place in Brooklyn that involved Yellow Dogs band members.  According to band manager Ali Salehezadeh, guitarist Soroush Farazmand and drummer Arash Farazmand, along with Ali Eskandarian, a musician friend who was not part of the band, were killed by another musician named Raefe Akhbar. Originally, media reports described Akhbar as a former band member who had been thrown out of the band three days before. In later reports, however, it was stated that he was not a member of the Yellow Dogs, but had been kicked out of a different band (Free Keys) the previous year.

The Free Keys, which Mr. Rafie had joined as a bassist, left Iran to join their friends in the Yellow Dogs in 2011, the New York Times reported.

“At 318 Maujer Street, the Yellow Dogs occupied the lower apartment, and a rotating group of Iranian friends and acquaintances, including Mr. Eskandarian, lived in the upstairs apartment. The residents saw themselves as an artists’ collective, holding house parties with of-the-moment music and cheap beer for musician friends and hosting exhibitions of friends’ artwork. Mr. Sadeghpourosko’s artwork covered the walls of the living room, which the Yellow Dogs used as a practice space.”

They were a familiar sight on their quiet street, where small apartment buildings abut warehouses, often skateboarding or biking around with a dog. Neighbors noted their long hair and tight jeans, the young people of mixed ethnicities streaming into the building for parties, and the music that poured out.

Humble and eager to learn, they arrived early to gigs in their van and stayed late, mixing with fans. And though they sometimes spoke Farsi to one another and a few of their songs had politically potent lyrics, on stage they were like any indie band. “When you close your eyes, you just listen to the music, they sound very much like a regular band,” except for Mr. Karampour’s “exotic” vocals, said Jify Shah, the owner of Cameo Gallery, where the band often played.

At first, it seemed that the Free Keys would slip into Brooklyn’s music scene as easily as the Yellow Dogs had; they shared a rehearsal space and a manager, Ali Salehezadeh, who hoped the Free Keys’ story of music under political duress would resonate as the Yellow Dogs’ had. But it soon became clear that the band needed work, a friend of the band said, and that the Free Keys liked to party hard. They lacked the Yellow Dogs’ entrepreneurial spirit and ambition, the friend said.

Those in the know believed the Yellow Dogs were ascendant, ready for a national tour or even a record deal. “Everyone knows it’s only a matter of time and the Yellow Dogs are going to be huge,” said Ishmael Osekre, a Ghanaian musician who had booked the band for several shows. “That is why my heart is so broken — the idea that you left friends and family and love, and then for it to end in the way that it has, is just so unfair.”

eMusic Profile: The Yellow Dogs (YouTube)

Yellow Dogs, Iranian Band, Earned Fans Through Intensity and Promise

By The New York Times

For most aspiring young rock stars, the night two years ago when a music critic walked into a music club in Brooklyn and laid eyes and ears on the intense, dark-haired foursome on the stage might have been their first significant break.

The critic, J. Edward Keyes, said the band he first encountered at Glasslands Gallery that evening, the Yellow Dogs, immediately caught his fancy because “they projected such incredible intensity.” Right away, he said, he knew that they should be the next new band featured by eMusic, the Manhattan company where Mr. Keyes is editor in chief.

But even though the Yellow Dogs — a self-described “post-punk/dance punk” band — had not signed a contract with a record company, they were far from undiscovered. They carried a rare and intriguing label: rock band from Iran. And they had already appeared in an award-winning film and been profiled by CNN and Rolling Stone.

So there was outsize reaction on Monday when word spread that two members of the band were among three Iranian musicians shot to death in a townhouse in East Williamsburg before dawn. The killer was another musician who had come to New York from Iran more recently, the police said.

The early morning rampage shattered the image of the group as easygoing expatriates who supported one another’s dreams of becoming rock stars. It also left the band without one of its founding members, Soroush Farazmand, 27, a guitarist who was known as Looloosh.

Mr. Farazmand and his brother Arash, a 28-year-old drummer, were among four people shot in the house, which was the band’s home base. Two other members of the band, the bassist Koory Mirz and Siavash Karampour, a singer known as Obash, were not there when the shooting started.

The trio of Koory, Looloosh and Obash was “really the core of the band,” Mr. Keyes said. “They were always adding and dropping a fourth member.”

The core, though, had held together since their days dodging the police in Tehran, where merely inciting young people to dance could have landed them in jail. Their travails were portrayed in “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” a 2009 film by the Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi.

After the film won a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was screened at festivals around the world, the musicians became objects of global fascination.

“The government suddenly got very interested,” Mr. Karampour said in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2011. “They made a TV series about musicians and said all these people are Satanists and we have to execute all of them and they don’t believe in God. So after we saw that stuff and after the film we thought, man, we have to get out of the country.”

The bandmates sought visas in late 2009 to go on tour in the United States. According to notes from a State Department cable that was released by WikiLeaks, they told the consul staff in Istanbul about their encounters with Iranian officials.

They recounted several occasions when the police raided their closed-door concerts in soundproofed basements or isolated warehouses. “One raid led to the detention of one band member under official charges of ‘Satan worship,’ ” the cable said. It took a combination of bribes and parental pleading to get him released after two weeks, it said.

Even after settling in Brooklyn, the band avoided being as political as some Iranian-Americans wanted, said Mr. Karampour.

“We try not to say Iran, Iran, Iran; because the essence of the band is not only that we’re from Iran,” he told Rolling Stone. He added that their songs were “surrealistic, symbolic” stories. “You can relate them to Iran or to America, whatever. We don’t want to be a political band only.”

Neighbors and other people who had encountered the bandmates in New York described them as friendly, fun-loving young men who could often be seen riding skateboards to and from the townhouse.

Rahill Jamalifard, a member of another Iranian band, Habibi, said the shootings shook the community. “It’s devastating because you see these kids — they were initially in this movie that Iranians are really proud of. And it’s like, ‘Oh look, we have an indie rock scene. I recognized them. I heard of them.’ ”

Yellow Dogs –  Awards and nominations. Its first official screening was at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize Ex-aequo in the Un Certain Regard section.

NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS  – CANNES Film Festival

Plot

The film follows two young musicians (Ashkan and Negar) as they form a band and prepare to leave Iran shortly after being released from prison. The pair befriends a man named Nader (Hamed Behdad), an underground music enthusiast and producer who helps them travel around Tehran and its surrounding areas in order to meet other underground musicians possibly interested in forming a band and later leaving the country.

Cast

  • Hamed Behdad
  • Ashkan Kooshanejad
  • Negar Shaghaghi

Bands and musicians

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played Barclays Center (pics & setlist)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos by Amanda Hatfield

Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Barclays Center – 9/19/13
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Like fellow NYC indie rock bands The National have done and Vampire Weekend will do tonight (9/20), Yeah Yeah Yeahs made the jump to arenas last night (9/19), taking on their city’s newest one, Barclays Center. They kicked off their set with two songs from this year’s Mosquito (“Sacrilege” and “Under the Earth”), accompanied by the Broadway Inspirational Voices Choir. They then proceeded to dive into the rest of their catalog, mixing it up pretty well between all four full lengths (and including “Art Star” from their first EP), and delivered a characteristically lively show with lots of confetti. Pictures and the setlist from the show are in this post (Har Mar Superstar opened, but unfortunately we missed him). Lower level was pretty full except towards the back. Floor was packed. I’d guess there were probably 8,000-10,000 there. Not bad considering the new album has been a bit of a dud and they just played another huge show in Brooklyn back in May.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Barclays Center – 9/19/13 Setlist:
Sacrilege
Under the Earth
(both with the Broadway Inspirational Voices Choir)
Black Tongue
Mosquito
Art Star
Down Boy
Zero
Soft Shock
Subway
Skeletons
Gold Lion
Cheated Hearts
Despair
Heads Will Roll

Maps
Date With the Night

Liz Phair On Self-Titled Album – Interview

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 46-year-old pop singer-songwriter-guitarist talks about the 10th anniversary of her self-titled album ‘Liz Phair’, the pros and cons of major label money, and finding a kindred spirit in Lil Wayne.

parental-advisory_custom-d61ea6192ebc478d3a7ff147dbbe3e884ebcb5ac-s6-c30

So, the self-titled album.
Eponymous. I love that word.

The eponymous album. What’s the biggest misconception about it?
Hmm…the biggest misconception is probably that it was recorded all at once. It was actually recorded in many different studio situations over the course of probably a year and a half.

How much of that was done before The Matrix was brought in as songwriters?
All of it! The Matrix was the last thing that happened. After touring with whitechocolatespaceegg I did some with my band from that record and then I did a few with Pete Yorn’s guy Walt Vincent when I first moved to Los Angeles. Then, when Andy Slater became president of Capitol, he hooked me up with Michael Penn. In the end, I think it was supposed to be all the Michael Penn sessions, but I didn’t really feel like that quite represented me, you know? I remember my A&R guy was Ron Laffitte and he was like, “Well, what would you do differently?” And I said I wanted to use these songs from these other sessions as well, like I just didn’t feel like they represented what I had musically inside me to give. He went back to Capitol and they were like, “Well, you can do that if you work with these sort of hitmakers and give us some hits to work with. Then we’ll sort of let this be some whole other animal.” And I had some trepidation going into that, but at the same time I embraced it pretty quickly. I said “sure!” I hadn’t really done any cowrites, and at that point, it wasn’t such a horrifying idea to work with someone else. When I went to meet them, I discovered that I actually knew them, I just didn’t know them as the Matrix. I knew them through friends and people. I remember Lauren [Christy] opened the door and said, “Yeah, I was waiting to see what your reaction would be when I opened the door.” And it was such a wonderful feeling because I just had loved them when I’d met them. It’s so funny, [adopts Elaine Benes-style mocking voice] “The Maaaaaaaatriiiix.” It has such a…I don’t know. A sort of branded name. “The Maaaaaaaaaaatriiiiiiix.” And the people involved I already knew and liked very much.

How familiar were you with their other work at the time?
I like Avril Lavigne! I loved “Complicated.” I thought that was a great pop song. I thought she was a cute little punky, quirky chick. When the label says, “We need some hits,” you know what it’s going to be like. Duh! It’s going to be like that. Some people expected me to have some sort of aversion to that, which I’ve never had. I’ve always loved hit songs my whole life, that has nothing to do with it, I just write differently than that. When I’m left in a room alone, I sound much more small and personal, and I think my older fans just expected me to have a political feeling about that, that I wouldn’t do something like that. Which is…just not true. I’m much more inclusive, musically, than that. It just was a different thing. Which is how I looked at it. But then of course, the shitstorm began.

Right, the shitstorm. Why do you think people reacted so strongly in this particular case?
Because it meant something more to them and I understand that now. A lot of people making that kind of indie music were doing it because they were against mainstream music. Talking to Steve Albini in the Guyville Redux documentary, he’s a perfect spokesman for them, he’s eloquent. He explains that it has its roots in a business decision, in an alternative economic model that’s based on good faith and sort of a…pure love of music. That makes sense to me now, but the misconception was—and anyone that knew me back when Guyville was first breaking would know this about me, when I was in the suburbs—the reason it sounds like that is because when you stick me in a room just by myself, that’s what’s gonna come out. I write these weird, introverted, conversational, confessional, angry songs. It wasn’t a political decision for me.

I always thought it was funny that the eponymous album is considered this fluffy pop thing but opens with the heaviest guitar you’ve ever put on a record.
But it’s produced! There’s no question you can smell money on it. As a person I’ve always lived this way and will continue until the day I die: there are times when you go to a local bar and hang out with your regular friends, and there are times you get dressed up and you go to a black tie dinner or some fundraising function. It’s still you, you’re just in a different context. I’ve always lived that way, and I think a lot of people do. I love hip-hop, I love jazz. If someone came to me with a budget and said “Let’s do a jazz record!” I’d be like, “Whoa, okay!” I guess that’s not a good example because jazz is cool. But my friend wants me to do this thing that he wants to become a dance hit—and that makes sense to me! This is me, I’m musical to my core. Why not explore? So I felt once we added the old tracks onto the Liz Phair [note: every time Phair says the title of this album aloud she says “Liz Phair Liz Phair,” it’s beyond endearing but too much to ask on the page—ed] disc I thought it was this nice bouquet. There’s some serious roses, but you have some wildflowers in there too.

What happened in the five years following whitechocolatespaceegg and what was going on with the label? That album wasn’t directed by Capitol in any way—
Oh no, it was, it was. Matador had signed with Capitol at that point. I was really pissed off about that, but they sort of paid me out so I was like, fine. It was really awkward promoting that record because they had two labels involved. They’d have these meetings with representatives from the indie label and then there’d representatives from the major label. They were trying to work together but ultimately looking back on it, all those major labels buying up all the indies in the Nirvana period…that was all economic, they just wanted to grab that wave for themselves. And then they had to figure out how to work with them, and that of course didn’t make any sense. They approached working totally differently, so after whitechocolatespaceegg, anything I did would either come from the indie or the major, and sometimes they fought. It was ridiculous, like having two masters.

Obviously that didn’t work out, Matador left Capitol but I got stuck staying on it. I think that was sort of part of the deal when they let Matador go. “Okay, but we’re keeping Liz,” because at that time I was sort of a big name. That felt really daunting; suddenly I was on this label I never intended to be on, never would’ve signed to. But I also had a young child, so that’s sort of the dark matter that’s not obvious. I’d just had my son and touring with a really small child…sometimes it was fun but very emotional, to get tired and cry a lot. I needed that time off in between to even get back to a place where I could function like a touring entity.

Do you remember any specific things Capitol and Matador people argued about?
Not so much, it was just…Matador was great about it and was always so fun. I was watching School of Rock the other day and I love when Jack Black’s like, “Stick it to the man!”—that’s what Matador was all about. Like, the larger the circulation of the publication we were being interviewed by, the more they expected us to kind of lie and bullshit, make up ridiculous answers and see if they would get printed. That kind of spirit was so much fun. Capitol was about servicing as large a venue as you possibly could, with like, please and thank yous. It just was a mess. You know? It was a mess.

It’s odd because Capitol put out OK Computer the year before spaceegg so you’d think they were looking for more weirdness.
Well Gary Gersh was a huge advocate of Radiohead and he probably personally…well, you never know if he became a spokesperson for someone else’s idea—but there was definitely a sense that Radiohead was a smart move, and that they felt smart for having them. But I think Radiohead had friction with them on and off their whole time there.

Do you think the bad reaction to Liz Phair was a gender thing too? Like you were still a really serious guitar player doing these complicated chord sequences and…
Are you saying I was rocking too hard and people couldn’t accept a woman doing it?

Oh no, I’m saying it wasn’t even accepted as a rock album.
The eponymous one was much more pop. It just was, in my catalog. And it was overtly about pop, it was a moment when pop was big. The thing that made the eponymous record what it was, were the Matrix songs. You cannot divorce anything that happened around that record. It also afforded me the ability to stretch my wings in terms of performance. I got places and did things I never would’ve gotten without the Matrix songs. I had my best touring experiences off the Liz Phair record. By far. I played “God Bless America” for the White Sox when they won the World Series that year, on an opening game. Or, I played this amazing Nike concert where this kid who had terminal cancer and couldn’t see anymore got up and played drums on “Why Can’t I?” in front of 5,000 people. There was just a lot of cool experiences…holding the main stage at Bumbershoot. Being big enough to turn a large audience in your favor that maybe weren’t as familiar. It was an amazing time for us. Crazy stuff. Insane amounts of radio. That whole world. I would’ve missed that! For the listener, all they’re hearing is what’s in their house, on their stereo. But for an artist, that was a ticket to ride to faraway places that I really enjoyed. And I grew from, my god! In a weird way, that was the making of me as a performer. Those Matrix songs—another thing important about Liz Phair—is vocally I stretched in ways I never had before. I don’t think anyone had ever heard me sing like that before, or even thought I could. The Guyville stuff is pretty low and it’s a totally different perception of me.

A lot of artists are not that great performers the way you’d think on American Idol or something, and a lot of people are just performers, who can do a great vocal delivery but don’t have much in the songwriting. I was an artist and just had never learned how to do the other thing. I learned to do both and it was a pure joy. Other than the pissed-off old fans in the audience who’d cross their arms and glare daggers at me from the stage, there was so much joy in being able to perform the Matrix songs purely for the vocal. It was like flying.

Were there really people in the audience you could see crossing their arms?
Oh fuck yeah. It was like…it was like an un-wished-for wedding, with one side of the aisle of old fans and one side of new fans and neither would speak to each other. It was challenging like, every night, ‘What can we play? Who’s out there? What would we be able to get away with? Should we play more of the old stuff or new stuff?’ And these poor new fans had no idea where I come from, they just heard one song on the radio. And some of them were like, 12! And that was really tough too, because my lyrics are clearly adult-oriented. I used to get upset like, why are you bringing your nine-year-old to my show? Did you do any research?

Speaking of which, I wanted to ask about your own family or your own kid’s reactions to your lyrics…
There’s only one part of my extended family, my godbrother, him and his family are hilarious and they love my music, which is awesome. But they like to torment me, they’ll just put it on during dinner and make me listen to it. Or they’ll like, only speak to me in my lyrics back, they did that one time. I’ll be like, “That’s funny guys…OK, that’s funny. OK, it’s not funny anymore…’

But most of my family life doesn’t really have anything to do with the music. Like my son, he knows what I do and he knows a little bit about my history but he doesn’t even come into it, it’s weird. I compartmentalize life in a lot of ways. Many sections. They don’t often intermingle. Like, when I go home I’m Elizabeth.

Which is funny because your audience is so compartmentalized, too.
You get what you give, right?

Did the Matrix or any label people object to any of your lyrics?
I think the only time we ever got into word fights was I didn’t want to say the word “underwear” in “Favorite.” It took a week of Lauren [Christy] like, wearing me down. I was like, ‘I can’t say it, I can’t say it.’ So it wasn’t like I was coming up with these tawdry lyrics they wouldn’t allow. That was the biggest word fight, and she won.

What word did you want to use?
I didn’t know! I couldn’t win the fight because I couldn’t come up with an alternative. Can’t say “panties!” I just couldn’t get around it. Every time I think about it I’m just like, I can’t say that word. It’s too corny. I still have trouble with that song, and it’s too bad because I like to sing it…melodically. [laughs] But it’s not my writing style.

And the label didn’t give you shit at all about putting—
Not at all. And we put “Hot White Cum” on that record! There was a definite moment where I was sitting in Ron Laffitte’s office after hours and I’m looking at him and I’m like, “Can we put whatever we want on the rest of the record?” And he’s like, “Now that we’ve got these songs? Yeah!” And I said, “Can we put ‘Hot White Cum’ on the record? And he got this twinkle in his eye and he was like, “Fuck yeah.” [laughs] I guess they’re thinking like, controversy, can’t hurt.

So, “Hot White Cum.” Did you just want to write a song about cum— [laughs hysterically]

—or did you want to write about something no one had done before…
No, there was none of that. That’s a me song, that’s all me. I was having really good sex and I wrote that song completely spontaneously. I knew it’s funny. There’s a lot of songs I’ve written—and I used to do it more—that were funnier and never saw the light of day, where people would be like, “Cute, Liz.” All the way back to Girlysound.

Like “White Babies.”
When I write a song I’m not thinking about marketing at all. There’s no marketing brain in me whatsoever. It just makes sense to me. It isn’t until later when it’s gonna go on a record that I start to get hives and freak out like, “Fuck!”

Does that happen?
That always happens. It’s what makes me different as an artist but it’s also what causes me great difficulty in life. I’m slow on the uptake, I don’t put two and two together. I can’t see far…I’m very in the moment. It’s always a later thing where I’m like, ‘Oh what have I done. Oh, oh my god.’

What causes the anxiety for you? Is it people learning the song’s about them or that people will be evaluating it…
That I’m saying such things in public! [laughs] It’s alwayslater that I realize that I’ve said such things in public. Always later. I never learn. I never ever learn. And there’s always a fevered night where I think like, ‘God, god, god, god.’ And the broader implications of everyone hearing it become crystal clear. It’s a bad night, it really isn’t funny! It’s a really bad night.

Was [‘Liz Phair’ follow-up] Somebody’s Miracle supposed to be more subdued in that way, or had you finally reached some pinnacle of…publicly embarrassing yourself, as you put it?
It’s mostly just the kind of songs I was writing. There may have been some of that because I’d just come off this arduous ordeal where I’d had to answer for the eponymous record and I had all these pissed-off fans that I didn’t want to lose, because I didn’t feel any different. Obviously I’d grown up and I’d done different things but I’m a very consistent person in that way. My personality’s always the same except I guess I did less drinking. You know what I mean? Like I’d grown up but I remember feeling a bit bruised and I didn’t want to do something controversial, I remember that. But I also was just writing those kinds of songs.

I feel like that record didn’t set out to piss anyone off and it still got the same cold shoulder.
Well maybe I’ll put this down to gender. Ready for this? People react to me anytime they react to my music, they can’t separate the two. They’re always judging me as a person. They can never just look at my music. And I’m not sure someone like Maroon 5 gets that. You know, “They’re a band, look what they did this time.” But women get judged for their personal decisions, like they can’t just take a record as the record, it’s like “Why did she decide to do this right now?” No one says of Paul Simon, “Why did he decide to make that? He politically said this earlier and now he’s going back on it…” There’s too much that people put on me as a woman,and they don’t separate the person from the music, and I do think that is kind of sexist. They think of me as a role model and I can’t think of a male solo artist who gets that kind of personal judgment like that.

If Adam Levine did a song called “Hot White Vagina” it might be an item for like, a week.
It wouldn’t be like smarmy, smug writing. It would be like “What’s up with that?” It’s a double standard.

I don’t think people would use terms like “career suicide.” I think to have a sex song without regret in it…

You mean like Lil Wayne’s “Pussy Monster” which I fucking love?

That song’s amazing.
But there’s no difference between that and “Hot White Cum!” Maybe his song’s better because he’s just awesome, but it’s the same spirit. Obviously I love it, too, it’s one of my favorite songs ever. But it’s the same thing. You better not write it that I think my song’s as good as his. But it’s the same exuberance, which is what rock and roll is about. Like, “I’m having awesome sex. Listen to this awesome, kind of funny songwriting but I mean it.”

When Guyville first came out, that was a shitstorm. Indie did not invite that right away. No sir. It was a brutal campaign, because half the people were like, “There’s so many worthy bands, she just came on the scene, nobody’s heard of her. She’s blonde, she’s white, she sells sex, she’s getting all the attention.” I was eviscerated multiple times in the indie world until it became…better than what I did later. [laughs]

After Pitchfork gave ‘Liz Phair’ a 0.0 out of 10, the Somebody’s Miracle review said they wasted the zero on the first one.
I’m all for funny hating, I don’t mind. But what I do mind is this fucking box that I can’t win. To be honest, to stick up for myself, you guys are idiots. A hundred years from now, it’s going to be cool that a woman like, said what she thought. It’s cool what I did, it just is, like as a large fact. Falling down, faceplanting, whatever I was doing, it was still rare. And the fact that they couldn’t see that, the fact that they were trying to…well I don’t know what they were trying to do. But they were missing the big picture. I wonder what would’ve happened if Girlysound, which had all these silly songs, if that had come after Guyville instead of before, would it be destroyed as well? Even though now it’s like all the rarities, I wonder what would’ve happened.

Now I’m making a much more, straight-ahead, the-way-I-ought-to kind of record, but not because I’m trying to garner any appreciation, it’s just because that’s what’s up in my creative world next.

Does it bug you that it will probably be regarded as some kind of “comeback” regardless of what the quality is?
No, I’m pretty much at peace. I’m pretty old now. I don’t see how I could be hated more and I don’t see how I could’ve been lauded more.

Do you know when it’s coming out?
No, much too early for that. We’re just kind of getting our sound for it.

What’s your favorite album of yours?
I don’t have one, I truly don’t. I’m not a favorite-picker, I’m not a hierarchical lister. I don’t have favorite records of all time, I’m an omnivore. I’m constantly chewing up new real estate. This winter I got super into jazz. I actually am against favorite-picking. Is that a word? Like a lateralist?

Do you have any regrets about ‘Liz Phair’?
No, not really. I like that record. I’ve always liked that record. When I listen back to it I usually think, “God that’s so good, what were they pissed about?” I don’t understand what it is to latch onto an artist and then expect them to…see I can’t even articulate it, you’ll have to do that. I wish I could’ve made them feel better; I don’t have a desire to upset people. I have a desire to free and to be provocative, but I came from a visual arts background and that’s what you’re supposed to do. Being challenging is what being an artist means to me. I wish something else could’ve been the focus, like people perceived it to be dumbed down, and I felt bad that’s what we ended up talking about all the time. But there’s more to that record: “Friend of Mine,” “Little Digger”…I thought “Firewalker” was a beautiful song. I’m sorry that’s what the conversation ended up being about all the time, but I don’t know that I could’ve controlled that. Except by not working with the Matrix, and I wouldn’t have given that up for anything in the world.

Uploaded on Feb 24, 2009

Music video by Liz Phair performing Why Can’t I?.

This interview was published two months ago by nousey.

Does Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album live up to their own standards?

ArcticMonkeysAM600

 

Track-by-track review: Arctic Monkeys – AM

Agree, the wait for AM seems like it has taken an age. Dropping ‘R U Mine’ last year was the point when Arctic Monkeys got their heavy rock balls out and showed a spirit and attitude that we’ve never seen from them before.

The track was mostly adored, which is saying something when you consider that everything that they’ve released since Favorite Worst Nightmare has divided opinion among fans. Many were left pining for the short-sharp indie dancefloor anthems of their early work, while others hailed the expansion and evolution of Humbug and Suck It & See.

With a drip-release of new tracks and a pretty explosive headline set at Glastonbury 2013, the hunger for new Arctic Monkeys material has never been stronger. But has it been worth the wait? Where does AM take the Monkeys from here? Let’s have a listen and find out…

‘Do I Wanna Know?’
Ooops, here we go. With a curled-lip snarl and a flick of his quiff, Alex Turner kicks off AM with the flick-blade bravado that runs throughout the record. Continuing the hard-edged rockier sound of Suck It And See left off, ‘Do I Wanna Know’ simmers with a slow-burning groove reminiscent of the darker moments on Humbug. It’s a pretty mean album opener, and will sound pretty huge in those arenas this winter.

‘R U Mine?’
Ahead of their blistering performance at the London 2012 games last summer, the Sons of South Yorkshire blew fans with away with this fittingly Olympian track. Racing into a heavier psychedelic rock direction, R U Mine has quickly become a fan favourite. Why? Well, it’s a right little beast, laden with a righteous riff and sexy groove. This is exactly what we imagine blazing through the desert on a Harley with Josh Homme sounds like. Phwoar.

‘One For The Road’
Drummer Matt Helder’s high-pitched ‘woos’ introduce the track before a chunky riff and Turner croons with that Americana-tinged rockabilly twang that caught him so much controversy at Glasto: “From the bottom of your heart, the relegation zone – the song is coming from the start, shake rattle and roll.”
From there on, it’s a pretty standard chug-along bluesy affair, heavily steeped in the aesthetic of their past few records but showing a huge leap in evolution from the spiky dudes who brought us ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’.

‘Arabella’
A typically John Cooper Clarke wonder of wit and wordplay sees in track four with Turner spitting: “Arabella’s got some interstellar gator skin boots, and a helter skelter and a little finger and I ride it endlessly. From there, ‘Arabella’ takes on a meaty and lean classic rock rush with choppy guitar work and a chunky rhythm section that shows clear influence from their former touring buddies The Black Keys. A future Monkeys’ classic? Maybe, whatever, but it sounds bloody brilliant live.

‘I Want It All’
Kicking with the playful classic rock menace of The Beatles’ The White Album, ‘I Want It All’ is the sound of Turner raiding his parents’ record collection with an ode to the timeless classics of The Kinks et all – with a ‘shoo-wop’ or two thrown in for good measure. Keep that one – mark it ‘fab’.

‘No.1 Party Anthem’
Here we see the slow, swooning and contemplative Turner at his finest, in what feels like the sequel to ‘Cornerstone’, as he poetically pines over a rock n’ roll mistress as the end of another heady night: “You’re on prowl wondering if she left already or not, her leather jacket collar popped like an antenna and never knowing when to stop.” This will be one to wave those lighters to for years to come.

AM - Turner

AM – Turner

‘Mad Sounds’
Flowing with the same laissez-faire easy swagger of the previous song, this marks the point where you wonder if AM may indeed be lacking in ‘Mad Sounds’. It’s lovely and the gentle swaying of ‘ooh la la la’ will bring a warming unity at upcoming shows, but you feel yourself wanting something a little more dangerous by now.

‘Fireside’ A rich tapestry of 1960s thunder and a move towards more accomplished and classic songwriting, ‘Fireside’ wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Last Shadows Puppet’s album. So yeah, it’s nice enough, but recent b-sides ‘2013’ and ‘Stop The World I Wanna Get Off With You’ were far more daring and would have given AM a much-needed rush around here.

‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’
A true highlight of AM, ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’ is not only a devious little earworm, but sees the Monkeys exploring a more adventurous loose psychedelic direction, met with some of Turner’s finest kitchen sink melodrama lyrics of a night out turned sour.

‘Snap Out Of It’
One of the most pedestrian rock n’ roll by numbers moments on AM, Snap Out Of It is a pretty nondescript affair of easy rhythm, lacklustre melody and forgettable lyrics. “I get the feeling that I’ve left it too late, but snap out of it,” sings Turner. Our thoughts exactly.

‘Knee Socks’
Ooops! That’s more like it, dudes! A feisty firecracker of a riff sees in ‘Knee Socks’ before Turner wraps his tongue around the sound of the Monkeys at their darkest and most brooding: “You’ve got your lights on in the afternoon and the nights are drawn out long, and you’re kissing to cut through the gloom with a cough-drop-coloured tongue.”

‘I Wanna Be Yours’
“I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust – I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I won’t ever rust,” pines Turner over a cinematic Ennio Morricone guitar soundscape – shrugging off all suggestions that he’s forgotten his Yorkshire roots and gone too Yank on us. Ending AM with one of its more open and experimental moments, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ shows the Sheffield giants really exploring the refreshing space in their sound before an abrupt end.

Verdict:
While Humbug may have fallen a little flat with some fans, it did mark a clear shift and evolution for the band and contains some of their best songs as a result. Suck It & See truly upped the ante and saw the Monkeys race into a new gear. AM, sadly, smacks a little of a band just coasting. That’s not to say it’s a bad album – far from it. It’s a great album that’s lightyears ahead of all of their post-Libertine indie peers, it just doesn’t feel brave enough for a band with so much bravado. A decent-ish Arctic Monkeys album is far better than most LPs you’ll hear this year, but if D is Dangerous, then AM might be for ‘Ace (but) Mild’.

AM is already leaked in HQ: http://arcticmonkeysamleaked.blogspot.com/

AM is released via Domino on 9 September, 2013

The National Debut Two New Songs on ‘Fallon’

The National

The National

The National visited Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last night and debuted two new songs off their forthcoming album, Trouble Will Find Me. The Brooklyn indie-rockers played a new song “Sea of Love,” and also the mesmerizing “I Need My Girl.”

The National have staked out a sterling reputation for smartly brooding indie-rock anthems. And no other band makes dark and stormy seem like ideal weather. Despite touches of wry humor, the material previewed so far from Brooklyn band’s upcoming album Trouble Will Find Me refines that strategy more than departs from it. That was particularly true in the group’s appearance last night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, where they passionately performed two songs from the May 21 album, joined by elegant trombone and trumpet. On air, the crew romped through “Sea of Love”, which contains the album’s title phrase. As an online exclusive, they turned down the tempo for urgent, atmospheric ballad “I Need My Girl”.

Trouble Will Find Me is out May 21. “When we started, we weren’t exactly a cool band like the Strokes or Interpol… For years, we tried to prove we weren’t boring white guys,” singer Matt Berninger told Rolling Stone this month. “This time around, we didn’t have to prove anything.”

The band is also the subject of the new documentary Mistaken for Strangers, which opened the Tribeca Film Festival last week. Shot by Matt Berninger’s younger metalhead brother Tom, the film offers a light-hearted perspective on a band known for serious music.

Documentary by singer’s brother follows indie-rockers on tour

With The National’s tour documentary Mistaken for Strangers  which opened the Tribeca Film Festival on April 17th, the band has released a trailer for the movie shot by singer Matt Berninger’s metalhead younger brother, Tom.

Here, Tom goes behind the scenes and shows how different he is from Matt – who’s nine years older – as he follows the National from a roadie’s perspective. Tom shoots hilarious, intentionally out-of-touch questions at the band, like, “how famous do you think you are,” “how fast can you play” and “what kind of drugs and how many drugs have you done?” Tom comes off at times like an irritant, in typical little brother fashion, but his love for Matt is apparent, and his freewheeling spirit adds another perspective to a band known for serious, somber music.

Sources: Hulu, Tribeca Film Festival, Google, The National, Spin, Rolling Stone

Lineup Announced for Brooklyn’s Northside Festival 2013

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Northside Festival is Brooklyn’s Williamsburg-Greenpoint based love-in for independent musicians, filmmakers and artists celebrating the best of our city.  This year the festival runs from June 13 to 20 and is expected to attract more than 80,000 people

The New York Times announced yesterday that The Walkmen, Black Flag and Merchandise will be among about 350 bands that will play at this year’s festival, as organizers have added two free outdoor concerts and an expo to the weeklong schedule.

Now in its fifth year, Northside has become Brooklyn’s answer to the better-known South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Tex., a three-pronged event featuring an indie film festival and a music festival.   “South by Southwest should be shaking in its boots, because the Northside Festival is the new sheriff in town,” the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, said.

The organizers, Daniel and Scott Stedman, founders of the Northside Media Group, said they would  produce two free public concerts on June 15 and 16 in McCarren Park as part of this year’s event. The Walkmen will anchor the first show; a headliner for the second has yet to be announced.

“We are now at a scale where we can make it a massive event and have a lot of the programming be free to the public,” Scott Stedman said.

The list is also heavy with young rock bands that generated buzz at the CMJ Music Marathon last fall and at  South by Southwest in March, among them Merchandise, Milk Music and Mac DeMarco. Others scheduled to perform include Swans, Lambchop, Torche, the Men, White Fence and Iceage.

The film festival  will feature several New York premieres, including “All the Light in the Sky,” a 2012 film about about an aging actress directed by Joe Swanberg, and “A Teacher,” about a teacher who has an affair with a student, directed by Hannah Fidell.

Watch The Walkmen Do “Heartbreaker” On David Letterman Show
The Brooklym-based The Walkmen continue their tour of the world and beyond, and they brought the Heaven cut “Heartbreaker” to The Late Show With David Letterman. Letterman had a skateboarding goat on the show earlier, so the group had a tough act to follow (“Let’s see if these guys can skateboard” is how Letterman introduced the band). Still, “Heartbreaker” remains heartbreakingly beautiful, especially in the live setting, and this night’s renditions sounded a bit more rock-and-roll than the past. Also, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser is taller than the notoriously tall Letterman, so there’s that. Watch the fun below.

Self-evident’s ‘Endings’ is Emotionally Tempered Rock’n’Roll with Thought

There’s indie and there’s independent. Indie is a culture; independent is a status (you are signed or independent). Both have only tangential relevance to indie-rock, which is a particular type of rock. Lazy journalists use it as a catch-all, but when they say “the new big thing in indie-rock,” they really mean  “the new big thing in indie culture.” And that could be (and has been) anything from scarves to bandannas to high-hat dance beats to optimism to cynicism and on and on.

But there really is an indie-rock sound. It’s characterized by a rock’n’roll set up, with at least some drums, a guitar and a bass. Chords are used in unusual ways, rhythms and melodies are experimented with, and songwriting structures are composed in non-traditional ways. There’s intensity, but it doesn’t make a habit of the lightning tempos of punk, the brutal intensity of metal, or the macho posturing of rock’n’roll. There are quiet sections, but it doesn’t turn into the cute moods of twee, the forlorn sounds of folk, or the frivolous shine of indie-pop. It’s middle of the road, if the road was on someone else’s map that you couldn’t see. It’s emotionally tempered rock’n’roll with thought. There’s artistic ideals fused into it.

The reason I spend the time to explain my definition of indie-rock is because Self-evident plays indie-rock. If a person came up to me and asked me what indie-rock was, I’d point them to Endings as a beginning. Then I’d give them the history lesson. But on a time crunch, Self-evident’s songs would work.

That’s not to say that Endings is generic or wishy washy. On the contrary, the musical vision of the three men in Self-evident is laser-guided. They cull most of their aggression from the vocalist, who hollers as if he were in a punk band, while they pull their melodies from the incredibly tight interplay between the bass and guitar work.

And when “The Future” comes over the speakers, I’m immensely glad that the band took the time to be precise. The song is the epitome of the last paragraph; the tight rhythms and harmonies scattered throughout the piece demand to be carefully listened to. There are sections that thunder with a dissonant intensity, but it gives way to a peaceful, lullaby-esque melody to close out the piece. It’s simply astounding. It’s like if the Appleseed Cast wasn’t prone to distorted freak-outs, or if Unwed Sailor had lyrics, or if MeWithoutYou had gone all indie-rock instead of all post-hardcore.

“Everything All at Once” has a similarly powerful and beautiful sway. This one’s pretty section overpowers the intense section. It gives in to the ominous “Temporary, Confused,” whose use of background vocals make it another standout.

We dig it.