89.3 The Current presents POPSICKLE 2010
Minus the Bear have always avoided easy classification, preferring to tread their own inimitable path defined by energy and invention. OMNI, the Seattle-based band’s fourth full-length recording and debut Dangerbird Records release, sees a stunning evolution to their sound and vision. As evinced by the album’s all-encompassing title, Minus the Bear have merged their myriad influences into a sweeping collection marked by its slinky and sensual melding of city-stomping rock and deep funk grooves. That spirit of sonic lasciviousness is mirrored in the album’s raw take on human sexuality – a theme as intricate and elaborate as the band’s extraordinary music. Boldly experimental yet instantly accessible, OMNI is Minus the Bear’s most provocative and potent work to date.
“I think it’s a real leap forward,” singer/guitarist Jake Snider agrees. “It’s an impactful sounding record.”
Founded in 2001, Minus the Bear earned immediate attention with their distinctive spastic prog-pop hybrid, all serrated rhythms, swirling synths, and guitarist Dave Knudson’s multi-layered, pedal-hopping acrobatics. Prolific from the start, the band let loose with series of EPs and albums, each drawing escalating acclaim and a host of new fans. 2007’s Planet of Ice was followed by the band’s most intensive touring thus far, repeatedly traveling the US, as well as Europe, Australia, and Japan. The non-stop roadwork served to increase the band’s kinetic power and intensity – a mindset they were determined to bring with them when they returned to the studio.
“One of the things we wanted to do was capture more of the live energy,” says Knudson. “We feel like the live show is really where you get to see what we’re doing.”
Work officially began on the new album in mid-2008 as the band reconvened to begin shaping and developing Knudson’s early demo tracks. This time out MTB wanted to collaborate with an outside producer and began interviewing potential candidates. Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, The White Stripes, The Shins) flew up to Seattle for his meeting mere hours after accepting a Grammy Award for his work with The Raconteurs and the rapport was immediate, with producer and band in agreement about how to proceed.
“We played the songs for Joe in our rehearsal space and he had a ton of ideas,” Snider says. “He had a great sense of where things could be trimmed, so he was a good set of ears to help us edit what we were trying to get across.”
On April 27, 2009, Minus the Bear began sessions at Seattle’s Avast! Recording Studios, opting to take a more organic approach towards recording. A conscious effort was made to play together as much as possible, eschewing the usual scratch tracks and overdubs whenever possible.
“He was really awesome about wanting to find the perfect sound before we even started tracking the songs,” Knudson says. “That was a big thing for us, changing the way we record, trying to keep as much of the performances that we were doing in the studio together to maintain the energy.”
“Joe kicked a lot of us in the ass more than any of us had ever been kicked in the ass before,” Knudson says. “We were doing 10 or 12 takes, more than any of us had ever played, but obviously all those takes paid off. He broke us down and made us evaluate what we were doing and maybe made us think of it from a different perspective.”
Where Planet of Ice was deeply informed by the band’s unified passion for classic prog-rock, OMNI sees each member bringing a diverse tableau of individual influences to the table, with keyboardist Alex Rose, bassist Cory Murchy, and drummer Erin Tate expressing a significant interest in jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and 70s funkadelia.
“Those underlying elements seeped through,” Knudson says, “whether or not we were cognicent of the fact that was happening. There’s a lot more groove, a lot more soul, a lot more feeling that comes across.”
The new music’s pulsating energy inspired a kind of sensual sprawl and carnal abandon. “Secret Country” features MTB’s most propulsive riff to date, inspired by Knudson’s purchase of a baritone guitar while on tour, while “My Time” – the album’s first single – is a rush of pure electro-pop lust, built around the glorious sound of another of the guitarist’s new toys, a vintage Omnichord synthesizer.
“The music just lent itself to dealing with these erotic themes,” Snider says. “There wasn’t a conscious idea to keep it all that way, but I didn’t really fight anything that came up when I was trying to put something to the music.”
None of which is to say that the quirky time signatures, hyperactive riffs, and prodigious hooks have left the building. The eddying tri-climax solo of “The Thief” and the album-closing “Fooled By The Night,” with its flowing arc and song-with a-song structure, reveal that MTB’s trademarks have simply been morphed and molded to fit a more straightforward – though no less ingenious – songcraft.
“We always wanted to see just how weird we can make a pop song,” Snider says, “but I think at some point we abandoned that and just started wanting to write really good songs.”
With OMNI finished by summer’s end, the band’s next step was choosing the right label to put it out. Fortunately, the band ultimately united with the Silverlake-based independent label, Dangerbird Records.
“We really care about this and whoever was putting out the record had to be a cool, awesome, artist-friendly, happening place to be,” Knudson says. “Once we met up with [Dangerbird co-founder] Jeff Castelaz and those guys, it was just kinda like, ‘Why would we pick someone else? This is exactly what we’ve been looking for.’”
The brazen and irresistible OMNI will undoubtedly bring Minus the Bear to scores of new listeners, keeping them on tour for the foreseeable future. The band are now ready to return to the road, knowing that their ever-increasing fan following awaits. Having built its base in no small part due to their exhilarating live shows, MTB have an advanced appreciation for the intimate connection between band and their audience.
“We’ve got a lot of fans that really care about us,” Knudson says, “that just love the music and keep coming out to show after show after show. I think about it every day, I think about how fuckin’ lucky we are.”
“The main thing we try to accomplish is putting together something that we’re going to enjoy playing forever,” Snider says. “We always make sure that we want to hear the song as much as anybody else.”
Hello, my name is Eric Nally and I am the singer and founding member of this rabble-rousing pack of freaks they call Foxy Shazam. Our other five members are (in alphabetical order): Daisy (bass) Aaron McVeigh (drums), Alex Nauth (horns) Loren Turner (guitar) and Sky White (piano). I love them but before I get into their story, I would like to spend a little time on myself: I am twenty-four years old, the father of two boys, Julian Michael and Francis Jordan, as well as a loving husband to Karen Nally. This creates an interesting contrast to my career as a professional musician.
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was one of two white boys in an all-black high school. The band name Foxy Shazam came from a saying in my school meaning, “cool shoes.” If you had cool shoes kids would say those are “foxy shazam.” Because of this we have a lot of soul, and try to let it bleed through our music as much as possible. Mom and Dad were pretty poor as I was growing up but always supported my musical interests nonetheless. In the early years they bought my band cheap guitars and amps and drove us to shows in the family Thunderbird. I owe them big time and will someday repay them.
Now that you know a little about my history, I would like to talk about my bandmates. Alex, our trumpet player is my right hand man and as a matter of fact he is transcribing this for me right now. Alex is classically trained, has a likable personality and is easy to get along with. We picked him up on the corner of Hollywood and Las Palmas a couple of years into the band’s existence and I feel like his horn playing has added to the uniqueness of our sound. I meet a lot of people that think horns are stupid, but he’s going to change that. Loren, our guitar player is a weird guy to get the hang of and he’s very quiet. Everyone that meets him gets the impression that he’s mad at them but that’s not the case, it’s just the way his face looks. He loves Dimebag Darrell and I love the influence that gives him in his guitar playing.
Daisy, our bass player has been in the band for about three years. To be honest, I don’t know too much about him and I like him like that. That’s what makes him Daisy. However, I do know that his contribution to our band is enormous and without him we would not sound the way that we do. Aaron our drummer is the newest member of the band. The position of Foxy’s drummer, until Aaron, has been one that is filled temporarily but never permanently. I would never be caught dead in the clothes he wears but, hey, to each his own. His drum playing is not fancy but it’s extremely solid and is exactly what we’ve been looking for all these years. Last but not least is Sky White, our pianist who is trained in classical and jazz performance. I remember Loren and I went to a show his old band was playing and the second I saw him stand on his keyboard with a piñata on his head I knew we had to get him in Foxy Shazam. It didn’t take too much convincing and a week later we were recording our first album Flamingo Trigger (which came out in 2005) and went on to do Introducing (2008). Our latest album, The Church of Rock & Roll, is due out in January 2012.
When I listen to a Foxy Shazam record I think of Evel Knievel, Bruce Springsteen, my childhood, Van Morrison, my old friends from high school I don’t talk to anymore, Elton John, the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and beyond, Iggy Pop and my first kiss. One of my favorite things to do when listening to my music is to close my eyes and picture a crowd of six million people all chanting “Foxy! Foxy! Foxy!” The lights go out and my band walks on stage. It gives me goose bumps. It all makes sense to me. When you listen to our record, think of your favorite things and it’ll make sense to you as well. Foxy Shazam is not concerned with what category it falls into. We want to stand for our generation. We want to be the biggest band in the world. We are the Michael Jordan of Rock N’ Roll. [Eric Nally, Foxy Shazam]
With Gold Motel, it's always summer, the bags are always packed, and the car is always running. Beneath tight pop hooks and warm melodies, Gold Motel's songs are infused with joyous exuberance as well as sweet melancholy. The ten tracks on Gold Motel's debut album SUMMER HOUSE are snapshots of dreaming, transient youth in constant motion - driving down desert highways, watching fireworks from the boardwalk, wandering the city in an endless summer but in the end always searching for the safety of home, friends, and love.
The Chicago-based quintet originated in warmer climates, Los Angeles in the summer of 2009. Greta Morgan (The Hush Sound) returned from a year in Southern California to her hometown of Chicago, bringing with her what would become the five song Gold Motel EP. Collaborating with her friend Dan Duzsynzski (This Is Me Smiling), recording began on a set of sharp, sunny pop songs with a decidedly West Coast outlook. Working with Duzsynski, Morgan realized that her pre-conceived solo project could grow into a full band effort.
Through the fall of 2009, Gold Motel transformed into a full-fledged band, adding Chicago music veterans Matt "'Minx" Schuessler, Adam Kaltenhauser (both of This is Me Smiling), and Eric Hehr (The Yearbooks). The Chicago super group played together live for the first time in December of 2009 with a sold out headlining debut at Chicago's Beat Kitchen, coinciding with the release of the Gold Motel EP. Since then, GOLD MOTEL has headlined shows from Los Angeles to New York (and most cities in between) in support of Summer House, as well as supporting Hellogoodbye & Farewell Continental on national tours in 2011 and a UK tour with Hellogoodbye. In November 2010, they released a two song 7 inch vinyl, Talking Fiction.
Brooklyn-based trio, A Great Big Pile of Leaves got their start in 2007 when guitarist/singer Peter Weiland and drummer Tyler Soucy took time from their prior projects to start writing material of their own. The first six songs came together as the self-released EP The Fiery Works, which the duo put out as a free download on their Web site. As word spread online, the band’s fanbase grew along with Weiland and Soucy’s excitement to get back to recording.
Continuing with the formula of self-producing, The Fiery Works II followed shortly afterward and was also released as a free download. Within the next year, the digital releases were downloaded over 12,000 times and the group prepared for a live setting with the addition of Tucker Yaro on bass. After playing several shows and writing a batch of new songs over the next few months, the newfound trio prepared themselves to record a full-length record Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex?
With each member also taking on engineering, production, mixing and mastering duties, the record became a full collaboration of each member’s respective influences and knowledge. “We don’t like to set up any boundaries when writing; we don’t consciously come into it with any walls up” says Soucy. “The three of us have a rather eclectic background of musical influences and we like to explore that and have a good time. The only thing we knew coming into this record, is that we were in control and that we wanted to make the best record we could; something we would enjoy from beginning to end with no sense of filler.”
Following the release of Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex? this summer, the group have seen a rapidly growing fan base as well as praise on infuential sites such as absolutepunk.net where the record was reviewed with a 93% approval rating. The rest of the year will see a vinyl release of the album for hardcore fans as well as a large-scale fall tour that will showcase everything that this band has worked so hard for. “The positive reactions to our music have been pretty overwhelming so far, especially in a day and age when the Internet seems to be filled with a lot of negativity on message boards,” explains Soucy, “we haven’t really gotten much of that yet.”
A Great Big Pile of Leaves will be hitting the road this Fall on their first national tour with Motion City Soundtrack, Say Anything,and Saves the Day. “This fall tour is exactly what our band needed to be doing and at the perfect time so we’re extremely grateful for the opportunity that we have,” Soucy continues when asked about those large-scale shows. “I spent most of high school listening to these three bands, so it’s going to be pretty surreal to walk off stage every night and watch the rest of the line-up,” he adds, “it’s going to be a great time.”
“Gospel Gossip finds the common thread you never knew existed running through the emotional and aesthetic core of groups like Orange Juice, the Talking Heads, the Go Betweens and Black Tambourine. They distill the aching naiveté and expert songcraft of those artists, wrap it in dreamy reverb and bonecrushing distortion, and present the listener with one of the most emotionally resonant, unique, and infinitely-repeatable listening experiences in recent memory. The sheer force of this music as it jangles and roars, the way it will make you smile and tear up at the same time, is a testament to how deeply they understand what makes a certain kind of pop music work.” [Charlie Gokey, Secret Cities]
Justin Plank: bass
Sarah Nienaber: guitar, vox, piano
Ollie Moltaji: drums, guitar, piano
Threads, the second full-length release from Minneapolis based Now, Now explores the fragile and often transitory nature of our existence, our perceived understanding of the world around us and relationships shared with others physically and emotionally. Produced by Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, An Horse, New Pornographers), Threads forms a sprawling sonic endeavor that showcases the bands incredible growth as songwriters and musicians. Vulnerable vocals give way to oceans of sound retaining definition via deftly layered guitar parts augmented by lingering synths which alternate between background and center stage. The trio composed of Cacie Dalager (Vocals, Guitar), Jess Abbott (Vocals, Guitar), and Brad Hale (Drums, Synth) packed up their van and drove 1800 miles across North America to record Threads with Redekopp in Vancouver, BC.
Beyond the geographical shift, the recording felt miles removed from their full-length debut Cars. Released in 2008 prior to Abbott joining the band, Cars saw the fresh out of High School Dalager and Hale traveling the United States non-stop and finding their way onto European arena tours. Through word of mouth and constant touring, Now, Now (formerly Now, Now Every Children) began building a support system of fans and friends, including Maine native, Abbott, who soon enough relocated to the Twin Cities to become the third member of Now, Now Every Children, sharing equally in songwriting and vocal contributions. Dropping “Every Children” from their name, Now, Now began working on the Neighbors EP, an experiment in writing and recording for the first time as a three piece.
“What people will specifically notice about the songs on Threads,” says Hale, “is the way that they are put together. We spent a lot of time going through the basic song ideas and restructuring them to make them their best. Since we haven’t released a full-length in so long,” he explains, “we wanted to make sure we were all loving everything about it before we went all the way out there to record.” During the recording Now, Now could tell they were hitting their stride for the first time. “As happy as we are with Neighbors,” Abbott says, “a lot of things didn’t click because we were just learning how to write together.” Dalager notes, “We killed ourselves over Threads. That sounds dramatic, but everything about it was excruciating in a good way. Every little idea was worked to its best.” As a result, “this is the first release we feel really proud of.” With the album complete, Now, Now look to the future with great anticipation. “This band feels like an extension of us as people,” explains Dalager. “It’s something we’ve been nurturing for a long time and is all we really care about; something we’ve worked really hard for and need to make happen no matter what.”
Take Cover formed in the fall of 2007 and hit the ground running. After a few months of writing, they entered the studio in the spring to record with their good friend and producer Jordan Schmidt (All Time Low, Motion City Soundtrack). Their debut self-titled EP was released that September and was followed by a first tour with Minnesota natives Sing It Loud (Epitaph Records) and You, Me and Everyone We Know (Doghouse Records). The boys were honored to begin their journey as a band with such an esteemed touring package and didn't let the momentum stop there.
After touring on their self-titled EP that following winter and spring of 2009, they began the writing process for their sophomore EP The Last Word. (Also produced by Jordan Schmidt). Following a sold out hometown release show for this EP, Take Cover hit the road once more in the summer and fall of 2009 with Quietdrive (formerly Sony Records) and The Higher (Epitaph Records).
Over the winter of 2009, Take Cover began putting together an acoustic EP titled Waiting in the Moment, consisting of both old and new songs. This online release, debuting in January of 2010, gave the fans a unique look into the versatility of the band, all the while giving the band more time to write new full band songs during the winter.
The band has since been on two Midwest tours already this spring and summer and heads out on tour with MeVerseYou and The Silent Scene in late July/August. While recording and releasing new singles throughout the summer and fall, Take Cover is geared up to work their butts off bringing their energetic live show to as many new states as possible in 2010.
Dani asked Angie to be in a band with her…” Since that moment, the cousins have been playing consistently in the Twin Cities area. The group uses shows at venues such as: Triple Rock, The Kitty Cat Klub and their recent four week engagement at the Nomad World Pub to promote their particular brand of pop music. Using instruments such as the ukulele, melodica, kilimba, piano, flute, concertina, and bells, the group has a sound which works well in coffee shops as well as other venues. This unique approach led Erin Roof of the City Pages to comment, “This is pop music thinking outside the guitar-shaped box.” These seemingly quiet and sparse instruments work together with strong vocals to produce a sound that is simultaneously gentle and powerful, soul-baring and soul-affirming. The band self-released their first EP, This Has to Be Meant to Be, at the Kitty Cat Klub in February. They recently began sessions for their follow-up at Flowers Studio which will be released in the Fall. [Theodore Stassen]
"with the duo's first full length, M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I, Lewis and Krube expand their instrumental repertoire, but keep simplistic songwriting intact. Lewis has a special voice. Her beautiful vibrato bespeaks her years of training in opera." [Erin Roof, City Pages]
"The Chord and the Fawn is lead by the string-plucking, flowery-dress-wearing duo Danielle Lewis and Angela Krube. Lewis' vocals recall Michelle's [Lucy] sweet songbird style with some of Joni Mitchell's siren-like folky delivery, and her ukulele playing sounds as if it were washed ashore straight from Hawaii." [C.R. The VitaMn]