“Everything is not OK”: An interview with MGMT

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Interviewing is the cornerstone of good journalism, and the stories you tell,  whether in text form, by way of video or through audio, are only as good as the information you gather.

Beyond the research you might weave in and the color you may include from your own observations, there are the all-important interviews — the insights and perspectives you get from people. And we’re talking all different kinds of people, with all different kinds of personalities.

This is one of those interviews you wish it would never end because through this great story you learned a lot more about MGMT than through those “reviews” by mainstream music magazines.  This is a great interview of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser by  Electronic Beats Magazine, published in Berlin, Germany.  How did you get this much out of them – when most interviewers get the punk-ass kids responses?!  Andrew and Ben are incredibly thoughtful about their music. Explains why they are the way they are on stage – it’s not easy to throw your gut and soul – especially the stuff of their youth – out in the open for display night after night with complete stranger crowds who say that they love love but then just as quickly stab and drop you as soon as the sound becomes grown up and unfamiliar. MGMT is an experimental, innovative band, one of the best bands we ever had.  Enjoy!

In the cover story from our new Fall 2013 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine, A.J. Samuels finds out if psych-songsmiths MGMT have burned the bridge back to sanity—and pop—by entering a world of darkness and electronics with their third, self-titled LP. All photos by Miguel Villalobos. Above  left to right: Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser 

Working-class clout has appeared at the heart of the Anglo-American conception of authenticity ever since the late seventies, when narratives of pop music’s blue-collar roots became a kind of common knowledge and the terms “middle class” and “suburban” became epithets. And while a far greater number of American bands have emerged from the ’burbs, most have immortalized their upbringings as boring, dysfunctional, or authoritarian. Not so MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden. Thrust into the limelight in 2008 with their debut LP Oracular Spectacular, the duo’s retrospective soundtrack to an unburdened childhood reserved its few dark moments to describe the approaching specter of adulthood. Five years and one commercial failure later, their self-titled third LP initially picks up where their last album—the Sonic Boom-produced Congratulations—left off. Which is not a bad thing. However, MGMT’s marked Side B moves beyond clever forays into psychedelic pop to a place more disorienting. There, amidst radical deconstructions and Teo Macero-like edits, lurks an experimental spirit that was once fodder for the band’s jokes as prankster students of Anthony Braxton, Ron Kuivila and Alvin Lucier at Wesleyan University. The tables have turned, and now the past is as dark as the future. Or in the words of Ben Goldwasser, “Everything is not OK.”

One of the strangest MGMT interviews I’ve seen was Andrew talking to Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre in a fifty-minute ramble-a-thon in Newcombe’s living room in Berlin. Newcombe did most of the talking.

Ben Goldwasser: Whoa, when was that from?

It was the night before your show in Berlin in 2010. It’s like a long, awkward chess match of non sequiturs. You can watch it on YouTube.

BG: I’ve never seen that! We were hanging out with Will Carruthers from Spectrum and Spacemen 3, and I know he’s a friend of Anton’s, but I had no idea that took place.

Andrew VanWyngarden: Yeah, well, Anton’s a pretty far out dude. His girlfriend was in the 8mm Bar, which we happened to pass by, and she came over and was like, “You want to come upstairs to meet Anton?” and so I followed her. His apartment is pretty crazy—I guess you can see it in the video. A lot of cigarette butts everywhere, and guitars too. I’d seen Dig!, and I had met him already at the Accelerator Festival in Stockholm and was aware of his demeanor that’s kind of shape shifting and a little bit wild or something. I had been out to dinner with my ex-girlfriend and then we went to that bar. I actually kind of forgot it happened.

I was at the show the night after and that was the first time I’d seen you live. I remember having the impression that you somehow wanted to break free from the crowd’s expectations but you couldn’t. You seemed almost despondent onstage…

AVW: I broke up with my ex-girlfriend the day of that show. It was very dramatic and awful. I literally bought her a ticket home and then walked onstage, so I think there was some weird emotional stuff happening. But also touring for Congratulations was totally draining because in interviews we had to defend ourselves and justify our music for some reason. Live it made us feel self-conscious, and we closed up a little bit. Berlin was the tail end of that. The shows this year, however, have been completely different. I still feel anxious onstage, and I wish I could just open up and be free, but I think the lyrics and music for the new album is just so personal and writing it was, well, let’s just say that I find the best thing about the music that Ben and I make is that it’s a result of a very special combination of our two personalities. We’re not prolific. We don’t produce a lot. So whatever comes out are like the little, condensed versions of our lives at that time. It means that the music is very personal and watching crowds who aren’t connecting with it or feeding off of it can be strange.

The crowd at the show was incredibly young. What do you think of the youthfulness of your audience?

AVW: We get handwritten notes and fan art, and it’s very clear that people have gone as deep into it as one could go and found their own meaning in it, and that’s really satisfying for us—especially when it’s teenagers and young kids in high school going through whatever they’re going through. I did that a lot with bands in high school—Talking Heads was one, The Grateful Dead . . . I actually never got to see a Dead show, but they played in ’94 in Memphis where I grew up, which was a year before Jerry died. I was only eleven, but I had gotten into them because of my sister. I was also very into Phish in high school, and what was cool about that was finding a lot of music and other bands in listening to them and their covers. I actually got into the Velvet Underground through Phish, believe it or not. The same goes for The Pixies and Pavement. All these bands they would randomly cover. But when I got to college and I met Ben and we were exchanging music, there was this exponential growth of different music we were listening to.

You both went to Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts college in Connecticut, which has a reputation for fostering an eclectic musical community including people like Anthony Braxton, Alvin Lucier, André Vida, Le1f, Das Racist and Amanda Palmer. How important was that for your musical development?

BG: Very important. The thing is, we’re not “cool” people. I grew up in the country and had no real sense of pop culture in the way that the kids I met at college did. I met all these kids who grew up in New York City and who knew about cool underground bands and all that. I didn’t know a ton of stuff, but there was a college radio station I would listen to from Burlington, Vermont, and I had a couple of relatives who would send me mixtapes. But that’s about all I got as for exposure to cool music. A lot of it was just figuring it out on my own, and once the Internet became a place where you could actually find things, it opened up all sorts of doors. At that time it was before a lot of music blogs even existed, so it was always about going on allmusic.com and reading about a band and clicking on the links. That was pretty much how I found out about everything that I knew. There was never a scene I ever belonged to. On the other hand when I got to Wesleyan, my focus soon became experimental music. Ron Kuivila was my adviser, and he does a lot with computer music, programming and synthesis. There’s quite a rich history of that at Wesleyan. John Cage was involved there; David Tudor had his collection of electronic instruments there. I would say that both Andrew and I have learned quite a bit about that approach, although it’s not something that really gets discussed by the press at all. I think we got a lot out of just trying to understand how varied people’s approaches to music have been, many of which are by some people’s standards totally unlistenable, but still really interesting. That’s stuck with us.

There’s a long history of middle-class suburban rockers in America, but when it comes to singing about suburbia it mostly gets shit on as being uncool, inauthentic, or neurotic. But you guys seem in contrast to have embraced it. For better or worse, there was no pretending about who you were or where you’re from.

AVW: We’ve never denied any part of our upbringing to further any concept of authenticity. Our group of friends at Wesleyan were really into drinking milkshakes and going to the mall and exploring roadside attractions in Connecticut. It was a very American, not big-city style of living. And those were experiences that made life at college special. In terms of music at Wesleyan, I actually took Anthony Braxton’s “Large Ensemble” course twice without really being able to read music, but it didn’t really matter. I remember his scores were interesting because he actually couldn’t even read a lot of them because the time signatures would be like 9/16 or something extremely hard to play on the fly. But the class was amazing because a lot of the time he would go off on these incredible tangents channeling some other stuff. Often he’d end up just talking about pop culture or Alien vs. Predator or Britney Spears. And then he’d interrupt himself and go, “What am I saying? What am I saying?” It was amazing just to observe him, even if I wasn’t properly playing music. But we did play a few of his experimental operas, together with Daniela Gesundheit. who has a really amazing voice. Sam Hillmer of Zs was also there, as was Mary Halverson, who is an incredible guitarist.

So experimental music has been an important influence for you both?

AVG: Yeah, the scene at Wesleyan was pretty big, and it certainly influenced us, but in a way where we would be in these classes and, well, sometimes it would be really cool and other times it would just get really painful about how academic the approach would be. It was so much more of the concept over anything else. That’s why our early shows and approaches to live performance were drawing on experimentation in sort of a tongue-in-cheek way—a parody almost. We would go to concerts that were stuffy and pretentious, and our way of handling that was to be as stupid as possible. But at the same time it was formative to go through that experience with Ben, taking classes on Well Tempered Clavier or with Alvin Lucier.

BG: Experimental music for us is about throwing good taste out the window and seeing how taste is a construction. Music can be all these other things. Right now I personally am fascinated by the idea of taste and playing around with that, poking fun at it or challenging what good taste is. You have to get wet, you can’t just say, “I am above taste. It doesn’t affect me.” I’m sure it affected John Cage, too.

That kind of reminds me of the schizophrenic song shifts in “Siberian Breaks” off Congratulations, a good chunk of which sounds like a recontextualized Carly Simon. It’s interesting how something that’s been relegated to adult contemporary limbo can regain relevance through someone else’s filter—like you guys or even through Ariel Pink, or the reemergence of new-age influences over the past six or seven years. It seems that music doesn’t have to appear “important” to contribute to some kind of evolution.

BG: It’s funny that there are these standards of what is pop music and what isn’t. I actually almost got into an argument with a journalist over it because he was trying to get me to talk about why MGMT suddenly decided not to make pop music anymore. No! We’re making pop music! Who gets to decide who’s making pop music and who’s not? I also think it’s funny, the whole idea of really pretentious people reading blogs and finding these things that nobody knows about and then as soon as people find out about it, it suddenly becomes not cool anymore. That’s just ridiculous to me. I think it’s important to stay above it in a way, but still not to be too good for it.

You never felt possessive about music that you were one of the few who liked or knew about and that then blew up?

BG: I felt like that when I was younger, but I grew out of it. Now I get excited if there’s a band I knew about five years ago who I thought nobody cared about and I felt like a dork for listening to. Then I go to some bar in Brooklyn and hear it on a stereo and people get really excited about it. It’s great that people are listening to this great music. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. But New York is a place that can be kind of unforgiving and saturated with bands, and I understand where the cynicism comes from. There are so many things I don’t give a chance just because they’re hyped up. I think a lot of musicians I talk to these days are way too concerned with the commercial side of things and how to market themselves when they should just be making music and not be worrying about outside influences and what people think of what they’re doing. Especially since Congratulations and all the backlash from people who thought we were one thing and they were wrong, we’ve just kind of learned to not try to explain ourselves too much or to correct people. It’s pop music. It’s pop culture. It’s a stupid world in a lot of ways but it’s still fun to be a part of and deconstruct.

How did your beginnings as a DIY Karaoke band covering other people’s music shape the way you understand how to compose—or how to deconstruct?

AV: I think covering other bands has been extremely important and actually kind of the main theme of the second record, too. Congratulations was in large part an attempt to get into the heads of some of our favorite artists and musicians. And a lot of those people who were the main influences were the guys who were in groups who had some recognition in the sixties and then went off and made their own loner, weirdo solo records, like Skip Spence and Mayo Thompson. I’ve always been drawn to one-off solo ventures. And that’s the side of music we were trying to empathize with on the last record. But it was a really good idea covering-wise to just make music and not think too much about it.

During the making of Congratulations you did a whole joke series of Eno’s Oblique Strategies—his aphorism card deck meant to help artists to get beyond creative block. You titled your faux version Obtuse Strategies and supposedly the first one was “Go fuck yourself”—you’ve also named a song after him.

BG: If anything, “Brian Eno” is a friendly song. We love Brian Eno, but it’s fun to have a joke song about him just because so many people consider him untouchable. He seems like a guy with a good sense of humor.

AVW: Actually, Pete [Kember aka Sonic Boom] was totally into it; he got a big kick out of making different obtuse strategies. We had a whole notebook full of them and a lot were actually a direct take on Eno’s originals. Someone told us that Brian Eno had heard of Obtuse Strategies and thought it was amazing.

Maybe he’ll try to claim it for himself. Anyhow, Congratulations made people pay attention to MGMT who otherwise probably would never have given you a chance. The album sounded almost triply refracted, with you channeling Kember’s eighties vision of sixties psychedelia.

AVW: I think it’s even further refracted because you look at the bands from the sixties looking at the blues and folk stuff. Pete, being into the Rolling Stones, Electric Prunes and Yardbirds, knew that the bands from the sixties were incorporating a lot of American folk and blues in their heyday. We’d actually never even met him before we started Congratulations, but we were both big Spacemen 3 and Spectrum fans. The first few days he was at the studio in Malibu, he’d put on his iPod at dinner and the songs he’d play for us would just blow our minds.

BW: He did a lot of suggesting—playing something in a certain way, recommending music that our playing reminded him of. It wasn’t so much handing the controls over and telling him: “Make some of your cool Spacemen 3 sounds.” We’re pretty comfortable in the studio. Making sounds on our own is what we do. It was a cool collaboration but maybe different from how he’s worked with a lot of people—maybe less hands on, less giving him a really raw thing so he can then determine how it sounds. I think at times we frustrated him because he thought something should sound a certain way and we didn’t. With Oracular Spectacular we were also reluctant to give up any sort of control and wanted to retain as much of the original intention as possible. Actually, I think that there’s something really limiting to that—getting too far inside your own head and losing the ability to censor yourself. On the new record we let producer Dave Fridmann in more than ever before. He can be very neutral, and the last time around we didn’t really ask for his criticism. But this time we did. He ended up kind of reassuring us in the whole process.

There is a lot more of Fridmann’s touch on MGMT. He’s known best for his work with the Flaming Lips and MGMT sounds very much in the vein of The Soft Bulletin, with the monumental pumping drums and the jungle of synths. Actually, it doesn’t sound so far away from the last Flaming Lips album, The Terror, either.

AVW: I can say as Flaming Lips fans and Dave Fridmann fans long before we worked with either, it’s really hard to go into Tar Box Road Studios and play a drumbeat that doesn’t sound like something off Soft Bulletin

BG: Andrew and I had set up all of this equipment, a lot of analogue synths and sequencers and drum machines hooked up together. We would just hit record and end up with literally hours of music, mostly improvised without a set idea of what we were going to do. We built up so much material, and then we got really intimidated by what to do with it for the next step. We knew there were some really good moments in it, but we didn’t know what to do with it. Dave stepped up, which allowed us to be much more editors than composers because for me a lot of compositional stuff is kind of boring. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I hear so much music where I just wonder, “Who do you want to impress with your compositional prowess? Great, your songs have a bunch of complicated parts, but who cares?” We just made this stuff, and we didn’t know what it is or where it came from, but we thought why don’t we just take the best parts and fit them together?

When you worked with Fridmann on Oracular Spectacular you brought a lot of the really lo-fi tracks you recorded on your own, and he managed to combine them with all of his hi-fi studio wizardry. It’s as if that very particular sound—copied and coveted the world over—was born out of this unlikely pairing of amateurism and expertise.

BG: The funny thing is that back then we’d sometimes complain like, “We’re in this fancy studio—aren’t you going to take what we did and make it sound better? Aren’t you going to rerecord everything using all these nice microphones?” I don’t know if we really got the point across then, but at the time for him it was much more exciting to use our crappy demos and the idiosyncrasies inherent in our initial recordings and transform them instead of making a real slick sounding recording. He did kind of a similar thing with Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, who is totally self-taught in terms of recording. Dave used his uniqueness as an important part of their sound, too. On the other hand, I’m just so excited that anyone can make a record these days. Plug-ins are getting so good now. Everybody talks about how analogue is better, and maybe it is for some things, but I don’t know . . . I think it’s way cooler that anybody can make a good sounding record in their bedroom. My friend Carolyn [Polachek] from Chairlift is recording an entire album using the mics from her MacBook.

Molly Nilsson has recorded every single album like that.

BG: I think it’s something in hindsight people will recognize more. People think it’s an internal mic on a laptop so it must be crappy. But these days people fetishize four-track recordings and attach all this mojo to it that in the past nobody would have ever done.

Getting back to the new album, MGMT, I think really seems to have two sides, like tape or vinyl. Side A is more classically song oriented, while Side B has the darker, deconstructive, more experimental edits where song structures or harmonic structures emerge in quite unexpected ways.

BG: Actually, a lot of the music on the second half of this album has no harmonic structure at all. It’s just so many layers on top of each other and a lot of things tonally that won’t fit together in a traditional sense. But that’s been done before. I suppose “Astromancy” has ended up being my favorite song, which is the one we finished last. It’s a song where nothing fits together and there’s all sorts of space in between the sounds, which disallows you to concentrate on a single thing. All of the sonic elements appear to be trying to divert your attention. I think it invites a different way of listening.

AVW: Everything changes on the second half of the album. On certain tracks like “I Love You Too, Death” we both were interested in the simplicity of something like “Dream Baby Dream” by Suicide or stuff by Disco Inferno, and we were trying to attain a song shape that we’ve never crafted before—pretty much like a rising line, a train which accelerates and then just cuts off. No verse, no chorus. Just building momentum.

On the first half of the album I was intrigued by the contrast between the poppier arrangements on the one hand and much darker lyrics on the other. It reminded me of a specific kind of pop song, like VU’s “Who Loves The Sun?” or The Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored”—that’s how I hear the single “Life Is a Lie”, for example.

AVW: “I don’t have to sell my soul / He’s already in me…”

BG: In some ways I would say this album is more optimistic than Congratulations because it’s more about empowerment. It’s about saying we’re all strong enough to look all these scary things in the face and deal with them. I’m so sick of all this indie rock that’s coming out that’s about finding a space where everything is OK and telling everyone they’re safe and sound. Everything is not OK and everyone should know that. But we can deal with it. I don’t think this album is dark or depressing. It’s reality. It’s about freaking yourself out in a good way and getting more real. It’s not about “Everything sucks.” We’re all going to make things better and become better people if we confront those lies.

AVW: It’s weird because for all three albums the music has come first for pretty much every song. So when it comes to writing lyrics, I’m not sure if I somehow want there to be a big disparity between the feeling of the music and the tone of the lyrics. I do think, consciously or not, that disparity has been part of the spirit of the band from the beginning. We had a little EP that we made as seniors in college called We Care/We Don’t Care. To me, it was a sign that we always wanted two opposing things happening at once. But like Ben said, I think there were much darker moments on Congratulations, though MGMT has more of what you’re talking about. An hour and a half into improvising, with twelve different things going at once, we would look at each other and not know where the sounds were coming from or who was making what. There, an otherworldly thing that happens. A lot of the new songs are about a relationship to some intangible enlightenment, an inherent drive to attain a deeper answer—and the frustration of not being able to pay attention long enough to start down that road.

BG: I think Andrew is way more into the mystical side of things, and I’m way more into rational science and math stuff. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for the mystical and superstition, whereas he really loves getting into that. Every now and again we’ll have an argument about it, but we still love each other.

That’s funny, Ben, because I had the impression that you were religious, based on a quote I found online in the Jewish Chronicle: “I am unavoidably, ineradicably, Jewish. It’s in my heart, my head and my blood.”

BG: I didn’t say that! They totally took my quote out of context—or rather they entirely made it up. But you can’t really do anything about it. I don’t even think that many people read it, but it sucks when people feel like they have to make up something to make their story better. I don’t identify with any religion at all but I’m really interested in all religions. I would never want to associate myself with just one of them.

So you’re agnostics when it comes to religion—and equally as cagey when it comes to politics? You’ve described the new album as “prismatically post-political”. What does that mean?

BG: Andrew writes the lyrics, but I can say that things are approaching the point of becoming completely ridiculous in terms of some of what America is doing. It’s getting to the point where I really can’t say that I trust the government to do what’s best for me at all. But at the same time it doesn’t have anything to do with political parties. I just don’t feel safe at this point. I don’t have complete confidence that people in this country can just take their freedom for granted the way they have been for a long time.

In what sense?

BG: There are some basic freedoms that people should have that are being systematically violated, and that’s scary. But a lot of overtly political music annoys me. Music is a higher art and not just about topical songs. For me, it’s about sound and having a transcendental experience through sound, and I think words can sometimes get in the way of that if they’re too literal…

AVW: You know, our music isn’t topical in the sense of having an obvious connection to any political movement or current event. The music is more addressing the feelings we get when we ask ourselves if and how we want to address that stuff. It’s more connecting to a current consciousness or feeling that, having played shows all over the world and meeting lots of people, seems common everywhere. Like Ben said, it’s way bigger than political parties, but it’s also very hard to define or talk about it. However, I know it exists. I think of it as a sensation where everything appears OK but with an underlying sense that it’s all wrong. It’s hard to say why and even when you try to say why it’s like that, something cuts you off. I’m not good at describing or defining it. It’s fear. Without being totally aware of it, I’ve been living my life since high school assuming that everything I type or write or every website I go to, somebody else is seeing it. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, but it wasn’t until more recently that most people stopped thinking just casually about it and started thinking that it was fucked up. Ben and I stay pretty up to date with the news, but we never really want to put it in our music unless it’s in an encrypted manner. I don’t know if that’s about a fear of directly addressing it, but if someone were to come out and go full Bob Dylan, I don’t know if it would even fit in this day and age.

It’s strange, but one of the most fitting lyrics on the new album that describes you as a band comes in your Faine Jade cover…

AVW: I know what you mean: “Striving for perfection / hiding when it comes.”

Watch American band Caveman band performing @ Baeblemusic Concert Music Videos

caveman

Click image to watch online concert

Caveman was a British hip hop group originally from High Wycombe, England, consisting of MCM, the Principal, and Diamond J. They were the first British hip hop group to be signed to a major U.S. record label, Profile Records, and quickly established themselves as one of the UK’s more popular and versatile acts.

The group’s first releases were the twelve inch single “Victory” (Profile, 1990) and “Fry You Like Fish” (Profile, 1990), and the I’m Ready EP (Profile, 1990). This established their jazz-based style of hip hop, influenced by U.S. artists such as Gang Starr. The song “I’m Ready”, however, was based on Jimi Hendrix’s, “Crosstown Traffic” and showed early on a liking for the harder style that they adopted for later releases. “I’m Ready” was a popular song, and still regularly turns up on hip hop compilation albums today.

Their debut album, Positive Reaction (Profile, 1990), was released to critical acclaim and cemented their reputation as one of the UK’s top hip hop acts. The following year, the group released The Victory EP (Profile, 1991) and then took a break from recording. When they returned with The Whole Nine Yards…And Then Some (Profile, 1992) the group had undergone a radical changes in style. While their earlier sound had been predominantly based on mellow jazz samples, the new album was predominantly bass heavy, hardcore hip hop. The move was a success, and today their second album is Caveman’s most in demand recording, often selling above its original asking price and considered a rare find.

Shortly after the release of the album, the group decided to go their separate ways. MCM had a short-lived solo career, releasing some twelve inches and guesting on other artists’ tracks – such as Dodge City Productions’ “Understand This” from their Steppin’ Up and Out (4th & Broadway, 1993) album. The Principal went on to produce other artist’s tracks, such as a remix of Run-D.M.C.’s “Ooh, What’cha Gonna Do?” from their Down with the King (Profile, 1993) album. Diamond J went on to provide scratches for Maxim’s Hell’s Kitchen (XL Recordings, 2000) album. None ever reached the same level of success as they did with Caveman.

Almost 20 years after the last Caveman album, front man MCM incorporated the name Caveman on his first solo studio album The Gospel: The Missing Gems of MCM Caveman (I-innovate UK, 2011). The double album included several unreleased tracks from the 1990s.

Caveman
Origin High Wycombe, England
Genres Hip hop
Years active 1990–1992
Labels Profile
Past members MCM
The Principal
Diamond J

High Life / Cat Martino – Take Away Show

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Brooklyn Bridge Park, in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn’s northwest end is one of it’s most beautiful destinations. A restored ferry dock with two Civil War structures nested between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges with a full view of Manhattan’s skyline, romantic capital of the borough, there are few places more suited to music at sunset.

Over the years, no matter what my level of malaise for the iconic sights and sounds of this great city, the sudden illumination of the bridges just after sundown will never fail to remind me of the perpetual allure of New York City.

In the spring of 2010, we wandered down to the Empire-Fulton Ferry with Doug to hear him perform two covers of classic Caribbean songs in the style of his meditative and warmly droning High Life persona.

Two years later, Grimaldi’s famous pizza has moved around the corner, Jane’s Carousel has survived two hurricanes, and the Tobacco Warehouse has been host to hundreds more weddings. We follow Cat Martino, fresh off of a tour with Sufjan Stevens and armed with brand new songs for her upcoming debut LP, for another evening watching the sun creep down behind the majestic cityscape for another night of sleep.

Le Brooklyn Bridge Park, dans l’extrémité nord ouest du quartier de Dumbo, est l’un des plus beau endroit de Brooklyn. Un dock imbriqué entre les deux ponts donnant une vue magnifique sur Manhattan, lieu romantique par excellence, il existe peu d’endroit plus adapté pour apprécier de la musique au coucher du soleil.

Peu importe mon malaise face aux sites emblématiques et aux sons de cette grande ville, l’illumination soudaine des ponts ne manquera jamais de me rappeler cet attrait perpétuel pour New York.

Au printemps 2010, je m’étais promené avec Doug jusqu’au Ferry Empire Fulton pour l’entendre reprendre deux classiques des Caraïbes.

Deux ans plus tard, la fameuse pizzéria Grimaldi a déménagé au coin de la Front Street, le carrousel Jane a survécu à deux ouragans et l’entrepôt de tabac a accueillit des centaines de nouveaux mariages. Je suis Cat Martino, toute fraîche sortie d’une tournée avec Sufjan Stevens et armée de nouvelles chansons pour son premier album à venir, face à un nouveau couché de soleil. Une autre soirée décidément encore emporté dans ce lieu magique.

Les liens :

High Life is Douglas Shaw.
Listen to his music on SoundCloud

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.

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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

Band to Watch: Brooklyn’s Beast Patrol, Yeah!

Beast Patrol

Beast Patrol

It’s not every day that you stumble across a world-class rock band playing in a park and using bicycle pedals to power their amplifiers. This unusual way to get loud has proven to be the right path as Beast Patrol emerged from the street and onto the stages of packed East Coast clubs. The alt-rockers have a clear nod to the past while using their influences to craft a vibe that draws from clever bass lines and luscious vocals. Pick up their new album Fierce and Grateful and look out for them on tour and at major US festivals.

Beast Patrol is a rock band; a rebellious outfit who embody the true essence of getting loud. They prove that Rock and Roll is more than just a genre of music. It’s unconventional. It’s leather and studs in a world gone soft. It’s an attitude on life. It’s about getting loud and never doing anything in life quietly.

It all started with lighting water on fire. The year was 2011, Brooklyn. VBley moved in with Manthony. A few months later they played a revolutionary show powered by bicycles or Natural Ass in Union Square and met Captain Granata. On a wild party bus to AC, they lost their minds and let their souls wander. Be it the fountain or sweetest taboo, the three fell hard & thus began melting face thru the fall. With the banging power Jan 3, 2012, VBley released her solo, self made/self titled EP which the band has been promoting. Now it’s Summer 2012, Beast Patrol is playing shows, writing as a band and most importantly, loving it.

Arcade Fire to perform in Brooklyn Oct 18 and 19

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire will return to New York next weekend in support of their LP, Reflektor. As Arcade Fire Tube points out, posters advertising a pair of Brooklyn shows for The Reflektors have sprung up in the borough. The Reflektors was the name Arcade Fire went by for their trio of Montreal shows last month, and similar to the Montreal shows, the Brooklyn shows will require formal attire or costume for entrance. According to Arcade Fire Tube, it’s unclear where exactly the shows will take place “due to permit logistics,” so stay tuned.

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Below watch the band’s short film Here Comes the Night Time:

CHAPPO Releases Covers EP, Pays Homage to Jefferson Airplane, Beck

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Brooklyn rockers Chappo

Chappo are a Brooklyn-based pop/rock band consisting of vocalist/multi-instrumentalists Alex Chappo and Chris Olson Chappo, along with drummer Zac Colwell and guitarist Dave Feddock.

With the release of their debut album Moonwater in April,  rockers CHAPPO are ready to start touring the country. In order to kick off this tour, the band released Nothin’ To Sell You, an EP of some pretty fantastic covers.

The band pays homage to Jefferson Airplane, Beck, Caveman, and Kenny Rogers. These covers tap into a trippy, psych-pop sort of mood, capturing the essence of the originals and marking them with the CHAPPO brand all at once. The EP comes with a limited edition poster with artwork by lead singer Alex Chappo. Take a listen below, and be sure to snag up the physical copy of the EP.

Chappo sat down backstage at Bonnaroo 2012 to chat with Rolling Stone about the band’s Craigslist origins, the benefit of commercial syncs, and their latest record, Moonwater. “We recorded in a makeshift studio up in Vermont,” says frontman Alex Chappo. “We kind of hauled a bunch of our gear there and set up a satellite studio outside of New York. It was really cold, it was January, so daylight would end around 4 p.m., so we had to force ourself to try to get out to see a little sun. And then it would drop snow on us at night and we would record throughout the night.”

Uploaded on Mar 23, 2011

© 2012 Majordomo Records. Get the ‘Nothin’ To Sell You’ EP here: http://snd.sc/YrKlte
Official Music Video for “Come Home” from CHAPPO’s debut LP “Moonwater” available now on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/moo…