Bowerbirds | Interview

The final song on Bowerbirds’ newest LP, The Clearing, gracefully encapsulates the current state of the American folk trio. “We thought we had forever, and now we hurry on… No you’re not alone. The valley’s flushed and warm. Take your time with it. All of it.” After having to take a break from some crowded work schedules that caused accordion playing vocalist, Beth Tacular, to become suddenly and inexplicably ill, boyfriend and lead vocalist Philip Moore decided to slow things down. After two well-received albums and extensive touring, they moved out to a remote forested area of North Carolina to build a cabin and truly focus on their craft. The result is one of the most placidly invigorating folk records of the past few years, making Bowerbirds’ quest for maximum exposure neatly balanced with their self-induced solidarity and isolation.
 


You’ve been playing together now for over 6 years. When did you all decided to completely commit to the lifestyle, and what’s the outlook for Bowerbirds?


It kind of took a year of playing, Beth and I traveling around the country in 2006, and then we just kinda played little shows here and there, and we were kind of a band just living on tax returns that year. So, after that we came back and we were asked to tour with “The Mountain Goats”, and we got sort of faced with that world. We kept touring, living in and out of earstream, keeping our bills low. Right away in 2007 the first album was actually released to the public. For a band, I feel like our friends have grown at the same time as our band has grown, I guess, in popularity. We really just do the same thing. We write albums and write music and the outlook kind of stays the same and we just play shows for people and try to get as many people interested in our music as possible.


All your records have been centered around nature, humanity, and simplicity. What new themes are introduced on “The Clearing”?


I think it’s similar to those themes, they’re still present. Also, the voice in which it’s told is a little more honest and open. It deals a lot more with the personal bittersweet feelings involved in growing up and growing old and watching time trickle by, how that fucks with your head a little bit. A lot of it is so autobiographical to our art, to our whole lives in the past two years where we’ve had the opportunity to sit around and be creative, watch the seasons change, and having time alone to figure out exactly what we’re trying to say on this new album. That is the biggest difference on this record.


What’s your favorite part of the creative process? How much of a collaboration are the arrangements with you and Beth?


My favorite part of the creative process is the part where things become actual realities. I think Beth is really great at the editing and making something perfect and really fleshing it out. I’m getting better at that. Beth and I worked very closely on this album. I mostly come up with everything initially, the songs, and then Beth guides the songs into eventually where they ended up. I did a lot of that, too. Our process was a lot more integrated on this album than it was on the last two albums, which I think makes the album a better representation of the two of us.


You interact often with your fans via Twitter. How does communicating with them change your experience?


I guess it gives us a point to do it in this capacity at all. If we can have people telling us that the things that we’re doing are really great, we wouldn’t do them in this capacity. I would probably always still be writing music, but the touring and the releasing records is definitely something that requires fan interaction on a more personal level. It’s fun to get to meet amazing people in that whole Twitter thing, and you meet people from the other side of the world that you wouldn’t have ever had any contact with, and I think that’s really awesome.


Discuss how moving out to an isolated cabin has changed the way you make music?


All of our records were written out in some form of isolation, whether it be here or South Carolina. For me, I think it’s being around beautiful nature, and it’s generally quiet and peaceful. Mostly, the quiet, the solitude is great for writing music because you can have a thought and carry it on through a whole day and you’re never interrupted by random distractions that you, yourself, implement. You don’t go down to the bars and drink or call a friend to hang out in the afternoon. You can just sit there and work and not be distracted. That’s the reason Beth and I decided to move out to the country. We can be creative without interruption.


How much more comfortable have you become with the musician lifestyle than when you started? What have you done to situate yourself?


In this culture it’s difficult to justify being a musician or any sort of artist. It’s hard to tell people that’s what you’re trying to pursue. I would tell people that I was working wherever, or looking for a job for my biology major. I couldn’t tell people, “I’m a creative artist.” I guess that’s just what I’m best at. What really has situated me as this “indie musician” is just doing it for several years, but then finally being awarded with people enjoying it and selling records and having fans show up to shows and just getting more confidence. There are people saying, “You should keep doing this, we’re really enjoying this.”


I’ve read Beth had become suddenly ill between this album and the last. Explain how this affected the group.


The pace in which we were working was basically everyday all day, way too fast, and we took a couple days off around Thanksgiving of 2010, and right after Beth became very ill and we had to go to the emergency room. We didn’t really know what was wrong, and it just made us stop doing everything. After we stopped working all day everyday, we kind of got this refreshing new look on life that we really enjoyed. It was necessary. Later, she totally healed and we kind of took it easy and made sure that we were taking care of our health, not concentrating too much on anything. We haven’t been getting too involved with the mundane details of life. We’re better at managing our time now, working on the album. We decided that we wanted to make this album amazing and communicate everything in the most honest way possible for us.

Interview by Dylan Bliss

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(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

The Magnetic Fields | Feature Interview

Over two decades ago, Steven Merritt began a studio project entitled Buffalo Roam, and since has crafted an absolute multitude of indie bubblegum pop tunes under the widely loved moniker The Magnetic Fields. Hailing as the primary singer, songwriter, and producer, Merritt hasn’t even entertained the thought of stopping his tirade of brilliantly playful records adorned with wacky arrangements and uncompromising flair.
Upon the release of his 1999 triple album 69 Love Songs, which he had paired down from 100, the world was finally introduced to the sheer magnitude of quality production Merritt was capable of, attune to classic musical composers like Sondheim and Hammerstein. Merritt said about the album, “69 Love Songs is not remotely an album about love. It’s an album about love songs, which are very far away from anything to do with love.”
This year’s newest from The Magnetic Fields, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, returns to the synthesizer after a fully intentional trilogy of LPs without it. Merritt’s multi-instrumental prowess has led him to pick up the ukulele, banjo, accordion, cello, mandolin, flute, xylophone, and marxophone, in addition to the band’s usual setting of synths, guitars, and effects. Another important element to Merritt’s appeal has always been his brazenly absurd lyrics and thematics. New single, “Andrew in Drag”, outlines a helpless confession of impossible love for a friend, but only when he’s dressed as a woman. “There is no hope of love for me, from here on I’ll go stag. The only girl I’ll ever love is Andrew in drag.”
Seemingly reluctant and egregiously monotone, Steven Merritt spoke with Seeds about his sideways dispositions and endless musical ambitions as he promotes his 10th full length album.
 


Seeds: You’ve returned to the synthesizer after a trilogy of albums without it. How much fun was it to get up to speed with the new gadgets?


Steven Merritt: Better than sex. It was better than sex.


Seeds: You excluded the title track of your upcoming album “Love at the Bottom of the Sea”. Explain.


SM: I never meant for the song to be on the album. I abandoned the song. I wasn’t all that good, but I loved the title.


Seeds: Which is more satisfying? Unintentionally offending or confusing listeners, or setting out to strike a nerve on purpose?


SM: Definitely unintentionally offending people. There was a woman who came to one of our shows who couldn’t believe that we were so raged and engaged in Chinese culture. As everyone knows, all Chinese people are misogynists who bind women’s feet. I felt this woman needed to be offended in a big way and as fast as possible.


Seeds: English author Neil Gaiman raved about your new single from “LATBOTS”, “Andrew in Drag”. Does that song mirror reality in any way, or are you simply painting us a hypothetical tragedy?


SM: It’s purely hypothetical, and yet, analogous to an impossible love situation.


Seeds: Does Shirley write the songs she sings, or do you collaborate with her in writing? Do you write them for her because she’s better suited to sing them?


SM: I write all of the songs in every way, all the time, except for a song in “Future Bible Heroes” where she wrote the instruments and I wrote the lyrics.


Seeds: At least one song is under 2 minutes, and the rest are under 3. Discuss your boredom with long-form pop tunes.


SM: The average length of the songs on “Love at the Bottom of the Sea” is 2:15. I like short songs. I don’t see any problem with short songs. They don’t seem unfinished to me. They get in and get out quickly. I like small things. I like my chihuahua, Irving. I myself, drive a Mini Cooper. I’m very happy living in my small studio apartment in Manhattan. Short books. I like little stuff. I like short songs. I like short movies. I’m always happy to pay attention to shorts. I actually have a long attention span. I’m quite good at watching Russian movies, but I like the old stuff. I like orchestral miniatures, too. I don’t usually like orchestral music, symphonic music, but when the movements are very short and it’s all about interesting textures, I like it a lot.


Seeds: Your compositions are delightfully carefree. What aspect of your bubblegum stylings do you take most seriously?


SM:(laughs)Attention to variety. It’s really important to me that they’re not the same record over and over again. I would sooner die.


Seeds: What’s the silliest instrument utilized in the new album?


SM: The electric kazoo wins hands down. It’s on “The Horrible Party”. It also features my aforementioned dog, Irving. He does a barking solo.


Seeds: Do you ever think comedy in lyrics will gain more ground, are too many people just idiots?


SM: I think one of the things that people love about hip-hop is that people aren’t afraid to be funny. Also, country music. It’s really only in dance music that hardly anything funny has happened in the past decade. The thing is, a lot of music is consumed by early teenagers, and they really are not ‘sophisticated humor’ lovers. The way they used to go around that in the bubblegum period was that they would have double entendres that 12 year olds didn’t perceive in the first place. Adults could find things quite funny that their kids could take it on a different level.


Seeds: What’s your stance on music piracy? Has it helped or hurt your records/fanbase?


SM: Hard to tell. I have no way of knowing.


Seeds: What music are you into lately?


SM: I just bought the new Doris Day album that I’m very excited to listen to, but I haven’t heard it yet. I have been in a writing phase, which means I don’t sit at home and listen to music. I go out to bars and listen to music that I am not choosing. So, I haven’t listened to any music of my own choosing in a few weeks.

Interview by Dylan Bliss

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(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

The Avett Brothers | Feature Interview

Music lovers from all over the globe can recognize the uniqueness of certain genres and styles that sound like home. Residents of North Carolina can safely claim The Avett Brothers as clear representatives of their signature
bluegrass country pop mixed in with some folksy honky-tonk rock n roll. Prepared to release their seventh studio album since 2000, Seth and Scott Avett have been traveling and cultivating a rapidly growing fan base non-stop, keeping  the realities of adult life at a surreal distance. However, nurturing their unbridled musical endeavors has been a rewarding experience for the brothers and their fans. 2009’s “I And Love And You” peaked at #1 on the Billboard best selling folk albums, preceding a special Grammy performance with folk icon Bob Dylan.

The obvious oneness and sonic compatibility of The Avett Brothers seeps through each recording, offering listeners a warm welcome into themes of family, love, hardship, and undeniable grace. The careful mixing of genres and attitudes throughout their records showcases both an unprecedented technical tightness and melodic ease. Each of their prior six studio albums and four impressively strewn EPs have the capacity to inspire wild sessions of foot-stomping and delicate swells of country pride.

Striving to keep fans closely in step with their  vision, Scott and Seth produced 13 video shorts chronicling experiences with interviews, live performances, composing, and recording. The brothers have fostered a fresh brand of unity for fans across every genre they decide to dip their boots into. Scott Avett shared with us the past and future of this growing fixture of popular music.


It’s been 12 years, six full length albums, and four EPs since you began recording together. With another album on the way, are you showing any signs of stopping?


That is a good question. Absolutely not. As far as writing and recording, we may have more of a hunger for that than we’ve ever had. The question more often is, “How do we work that in with our growing responsibilities of adulthood?” A marriage, children… there are different narratives and events in our lives that call for more time in your life, and that’s good, and that’s magical. There’s no desire or evidence of slowing down or stopping. I think if we go too long without making and creating things we’re gonna feel less and less like ourselves, which isn’t good for anyone around you, really.


Describe how the opportunity to perform with Bob Dylan at the Grammys came about. Do you ever hesitate when asked to collaborate, or have you said ‘no’ to any offers?


We have said no to peoples’ offers. We’re very adamant about the nature of collaboration. We’re very adamant about the natural progression of it. We don’t have this thing where we say, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we sang on whoever’s record?” That feels real unnatural. We only like to let it happen if it comes about naturally. Maybe we’re already friends with somebody, or we’re touring with somebody. You don’t really know the personalities or whether it could work if you’ve never met this person. That’s why you don’t see more collaborations with Scott and I with other people. We generally shy away from planned collaborations, just like people generally shy away from planned marriages. (laughs) The Bob Dylan situation was separate. Dylan stands outside of a lot of roles in a lot of ways, unavoidable, because he’s Bob Dylan, which I think is unfortunate for him. Kind of lonely at the top, I would assume. The idea of playing with Bob Dylan comes up, and you just sort of have to get used to it. He’s not the only one like that for us, but the fella that produces me helped me meet a few people in the Grammy foundation who ended up being big fans. They came to our show in Los Angeles and we got a chance to shake hands, say hello. We just stayed in touch with them, and they’d let us know if they wanted us to be a part of the show. They wouldn’t let us know who they were thinkin’ about for a long time. It came about naturally, and we said, “Yes, we’d love to,” and we were in L.A. for six days and played for six minutes… so. That’s how much planning and effort goes into that awards show. It was a great experience. Very surreal, as you would expect it to be. It’ll definitely be a story for the grandkids.


You’ve got an upcoming show here in Lincoln come April. Have you ever played live in Nebraska? Any interesting experiences you remember about playing here?


In my memory, we’ve only played in Nebraska once, and that was in Omaha. It was in a smaller place. I remember it being great, one of many on a run, and the area was sort of separate from the rest of the city, sort of an up-and-coming kind of area. It was a bit of an island outside the city. I remember the crowd being awesome, and we need to spend some more time there.


What differences do you think you experience, as brothers, in the creative process of composing your tunes?


It’s a funny thing, as with all siblings.Scott, being 4 years older than me; he was just my hero. I wanted to be like him. It wasn’t until I was 14 and he was 18 that we could become friends, and not just The Avett Brothers, you know? The relationship between us is one of extreme care. I know that when I’m writing with Scott there’s really no possibility for selfishness, for the spotlight, whatever. We both know that we both have each others’ best interest in mind, and that is priceless in any collaboration, I feel. As far as getting attention, all that’s out the window, which is really good for any kind of artistry. Another advantage of brothers: a lot of times we don’t have to talk about anything. We’ll just go with it, and we know we’ll agree about 90 percent of the time with the decisions we make in that process, and if someone comes up with something that the other one doesn’t like, we talk. The main component is that we’re family and we look out for each other in every capacity.


Your songs showcase a wide range of emotions, instrumentation, and tempo. How do you arrange live sets to keep the energy level high throughout?


We never play the same set twice. We always write the set right before we go out. We try to be connected with what the night feels like, what the personality of the night is, because every night’s different. We don’t think it would be wise to try and apply a safe set list that may have worked in Nebraska to a show in Texas. Every night is a separate entity, and we think very much about the flow and about when it makes sense to really take a breath and to really try to bring something pretty to the table, or when it’s time to throw down and really bring some energy and excitement into the room. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we have to change it there on the spot. Basically, we try to be sensitive and receptive to tonight, to right now. That generally serves pretty well.


Each of your releases has seemed to have its own unique theme and feel. In what direction does the new album take the band?


I feel like its taken us in a few directions. It’s a weird thing, because there’s quite a bit of variety. We recorded like 23 songs, and it was the first time in our history where we’ve taken every song possible to the studio, instead of doing 20 demos and recording about 15 songs. We took every demo all the way to the end, you know?


There weren’t any “pretty girls” featured in “I and Love and You,” can we expect any in the future?


Possibly. One of the 23 songs that we recorded was “Pretty Girl From Michigan.” That’s sort of the quintessential back-catalog song we’ve been playin’ for like 6 years, and we have finally recorded it successfully. We tried to record that song for “Four Thieves Gone,” we tried to record it for “Emotionalism.” That song has been a bit of a ringer, but it’s a definite possibility. The series has not ended, it’s just sort of taken a bit of lull at the moment.


How often do people mispronounce your last name?


(laughs) It seems to be gettin’ a little better. At one point, there was a newspaper headline that read, “Sometimes You Just Gotta Avett (aye-vett)”, and they were trying to say “You Just Gotta Avett (av-ett)”, you know, like “Have it?” We were trying to figure out for a long time what that meant. (laughs) It’s getting less and less.


Do you have any remaining goals or aspirations for the Avett Brothers, or are you content with simply continuing to do what you love?


There are things in life that we would be glad to do, but we’re very aware of the fact that we’re not guaranteed any of it. We just try to make the most out of this show, this song, thisrecord, and we try to live in the moment as much as possible, cliche as that sounds. Whatever good or bad comes from it, we can only put all our efforts into what we’re doing currently, and I hope that comes over well.

Interview by Dylan Bliss

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(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

Fionn Regan | Interview

Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan has been helping steer a new insurgence of brit-folk since his debut, “The End of History,” in 2006. Citing classical folk influences and injecting modern lyrical sensibilities, Regan exerts his prowess over many instruments. Understanding the complete composition of his songs makes his vision shine brighter and his message inherently honest and even handed. With a comforting clarity that borders on voyeurism, 2011’s “100 Acres of Sycamore“ explores Regan’s surroundings and musings down a comfortable orchestral path of violins, toe-taps, and some endlessly comforting vocals.
 
Many current acts in Regan’s field strive simply to become strange enough to warrant a listen and a mention, but these tunes are more difficult to dismiss. The production quality in “100 Acres of Syamore” surpasses most any album recorded in under a week, leaving a considerable timeline gap between Regan and his folk colleagues. Seeds has convinced Fionn Regan to share some of the secrets and insights that fuel an artist to create such a large body of work in so little time.

 
Seeds: You’ve cited many influences in the past. Do you have any Irish singer-songwriters that have made an impact?
 
Fionn: I’d say Van Morrision has had an impact on me, especially with the record “Astral Weeks.”

Seeds: Many of your lyrics are very pastoral and classical, but there are modern references scattered throughout, including television sound bites and pleas to “text me.” How do you fit these themes together?

Fionn:  I just sing about the things that are in the environment around me.

Seeds: Explain the gentler, swelling return of intimate tones in “100 Acres of Sycamore.” What caused the sonic contrast between this album and the last?

Fionn:  I think it’s natural that every record is a reaction to the one before, so after playing electric guitar for a year it felt right to go back to the acoustic.

Seeds: What changes (location, equipment, etc) did you make in the recording process between “The End of History” and your newest album?

Fionn:  “100 Acres” was recorded in seven days under the same roof; with “The End of History” I moved around a bit. But I’ve always recorded live and used tape.

Seeds: What comes first, the melody or the lyrics? Is it different every time?

Fionn:  Both come in different ways—melody sometimes first, lyrics sometimes first—but with “The Shadow of an Empire” I wrote a lot of the lyrics first while I was on the road.

Seeds: In your song entitled “Sow Mare Bitch Vixen” you admit to always having had “a thing for dangerous women.” Who were some of these women in your life, and why did they inspire this tune?

Fionn:  The song is a celebration of the ‘femme fatale.’

Seeds: You play many instruments. Does your knowledge of these instruments make the communication of your vision easier or more tedious when directing your band?

Fionn:  I think it makes it easier in a lot of ways. With “100 Acres” I made demos with parts, so we had a map and didn’t have such a distance to travel with the band when we all got into a room together to play and record the songs. I also wrote a lot of notes on each song, sometimes with pretty abstract descriptions, sometimes technical.


Seeds: How has traveling/touring changed the way you create music?

Fionn:  I suppose when you travel you take in a lot of things that are then reflected back in the songwriting at a later stage.

Interview by Dylan Bliss

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(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

Tennis | Feature Interview

Directly following the success of their debut, “Cape Dory”, husband and wife duo Tennis set out to escape the moniker of the sunny sailing-pop band that every other critic hastily attempted to corner them with. Their initial inspiration sparked a potable collection of irresistible hooks and delightful guitar attacks, led by keyboard/vocalist Alaina Moore. After extensive touring at home and overseas, Tennis settled down to churn out an album that touched on slightly deeper ideals and more relatable sonic foundations. “Young & Old” explores a rollercoaster of life-altering events, weathering a tidal wave of analytical and adulatory dribble, and just having a good time.

Last time Tennis came through Omaha, they joined the cozy corner audience for the opener at Slowdown, channeling the same high-energy demeanor they would project throughout their show. Tennis expertly communicates their adorable, fun-loving style without causing their audience to eventually turn away, eyes rolled (as some did with other summery acts like Best Coast and Wavves). Time seems to be the only obstacle in the effort to branch out and slip into a sound catalogue all their own.

Guitarist and co-composer Patrick Riley spoke to Seeds about his learning experiences in touring, bringing Patrick Carney of The Black Keys on to help produce the new album, and the inherent complexities of being bandmates with his wife.


Seeds: Your first album, “Cape Dory,” was inspired by a 7-month sailing expedition. What was the inspiration for “Young & Old”?

Patrick Riley: It’s hard to summarize it, really. It was the first album we really wrote as a band. This is the first time we knew we were making an album that people were going to be hearing. With “Cape Dory,” we just wrote it in our apartment and had no intention of letting people hear it. Overall, our motivation was fueled by taking things more seriously, and trying to make something that will be more applicable to peoples’ lives. “Cape Dory” is impossible to apply to peoples’ lives because it was about our trip and our experiences. We wanted to make something a bit more communicable.


Seeds: Describe what differences or improvements you experienced while putting your new record together with Patrick Carney of The Black Keys.

PR: At first, it was a really hard process for us. Up until then, we hadn’t worked with anyone other than ourselves; we were very much a self-produced band from day one. We haven’t let anyone help us with the construction of our songs, or what tones we need to use. It was hard for us to give up control. Once we did, it was one of the biggest learning experiences we could have had. He (Patrick Carney) pushed us in directions, at first, that maybe we didn’t want to go, but once he added those components we agreed they should have been there all along.

Seeds: How did you first get together with him?

PR: We were sort of brainstorming, and wanted things to be different than “Cape Dory.” We were thinking of a few people we wanted to work with in the studio, whether it be an engineer or producer, we weren’t really sure. I think we’ve always been enamored by The Black Keys. They themselves are very similar to us in the sense that they have produced themselves from day one and then they slowly let producers in. Even then, like when they worked with Danger Mouse in the studio, it was very much a mutual effort. It’s not like Danger Mouse was 100% producing their album. That, for us, was a real selling point for Patrick Carney. If he hadn’t been on board, we would’ve self-produced the new album. So it was pretty nice that when we ended up contacting him; he was interested and willing to do it.

Seeds: What kind of dynamics, as a husband-wife duo, do you think set you apart from other bands? Does it sometimes have a negative effect?

PR: Maybe. We definitely understand each other really well, especially because of all the time we spend together. We basically spend every minute of every day with each other because we work at the same job and travel to the same places together. Because of that, we really understand what we’re both good at and what we’re both bad at. I think sometimes that can come across in a bad way, because when I know I’m doing something the wrong way, Alaina knows it, too. (laughs) She’s able to step in and fill that void. It’s really just a relationship of understanding that makes it more different than most bands.

Seeds: I caught your show in Omaha last year. It was fairly low-key and compact, but you seemed to maintain a high-energy performance. Is it difficult to keep bringing that level of energy to your fans night after night?

PR: It really depends on the room. For some reason or another, the vibe when we were there for the Omaha show was just right for us to have fun, but there’s definitely some nights where it just doesn’t feel right. I mean, we’ll pretend to be having a good time. We don’t really have stage personas, so to speak. That may be a lacking quality in our band, but we just can’t get ourselves into that headspace where we think we’re rockstars. So we’ll let the music take us where it wants to go, and we won’t try to fake it that much. (laughs)

Seeds: Is there any sort of connection between your new track “Take Me to Heaven” and Cape Dory’s “Take Me Somewhere”? Or does the new album take a new stance on travel and the metaphors surrounding it?

PR: I think so. In this album, we tried to tackle a bunch of different issues. They’re mostly social issues, like with what happened when we released our songs on Cape Dory. Some people understood them, but some people didn’t understand them, and some people took them and kind of assigned their own meaning to them. There’s this feeling where someone can take something you made with your precious time and very quickly deconstruct it and assign their own meaning to it, maybe something not even close to what you wanted to do. The new album comes from this perspective that there’s an audience wherever we go, there’s this omnipresent ocean of people who don’t judge you and are just there for you to interact with in a completely natural way. The idea of travel in our new album is more faced with dealing with an audience and the forces they bring that we’re dealing with. I hope I’m not being too philosophical. (laughs)

Seeds: You had the chance to tour all over Europe last year. What was your favorite part of touring overseas for the first time?

PR: I think the first time, honestly, we really didn’t like it. We were already having a hard time getting used to living in a van. There was absolutely no familiarity when we were over in Europe for the first time. The hotels and motel rooms were just horrible, and if we needed to find a place to eat, at say, 1 o’clock in the morning, those places in Europe are harder to find. We were kind of thrown on our heads when we went to Europe for the first time, and it was very much a learning experience. The second time, when we went over for our next tour, we had a lot of fun and started to understand the cultures, and I guess we kind of swam downstream with them, rather than fighting against the current. We definitely are transforming our experiences over there every time we go. We have a very short two-week trip to do over there soon, and we’re really excited about it. I think the best part is coming to terms with the different culture and starting to appreciate it.

Seeds: Do you have any new-found aspirations for the new record? What would you like to do differently this time around?

PR: We’re definitely not going to read reviews; at least I’m not. I think that was the one thing that we were interested in. You can say to yourself, “Oh, I don’t care what someone else thinks about my music,” but I think the more you read into them, it kind of becomes this small, self-deprecating obsession where you’re kind of scratching at a wound of bad reviews. It just gets worse and worse until you start doubting yourself. I think this time, we’re confident enough to not worry about what other people think in this album. So, I think we’re just going to transcend back, and do our thing. We’re not focused on what others are writing about our band.

Interview by Dylan Bliss

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(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

Lana Del Rey | Album Review

In the wake of one of the most viral growth spurts in the history of alternative music, Lana Del Rey released her debut “Born to Die” despite having spent the past 6 months polarizing her audience with scandalous origin stories and painfully awkward live performances. Her deeply laden “hollywood sadcore” persona has both enchanted and infuriated the majority of her critics; it seems the only topic left undisclosed is the music. After a careful series of listens, “Born to Die” plays out like a dreamy train derailment. There’s an inexplicably mature handful of tunes scattered throughout the LP, starkly contrasting with some of the most asinine lyrical spectacles in songs like “This is What Makes Us Girls” and “National Anthem.” We want so badly to buy what Lana is selling, but the her efforts seem pushy and she eventually falls short of the myth set in place by last summer’s smash single “Video Games.”

The message constructed with “Born to Die” is clear; Lana plays the beautiful, young, and sadly misunderstood starlet-wannabe whose only desire is to drive top-down with the girls and close the evening with hard make-out sessions in the rain. There are kissing references in nearly every song, and frustratingly vapid party phrases are used and reused: “take your body downtown, baby.” Those who subscribe to her character will revel in her unabashed commitment to communicating this subculture of melancholy L.A. girls, longing to be abused and thrown away like their draggy cabaret-singing mothers before them. The arrangements are effectively atmospheric, and do little to discourage a complete listen. Lana has given herself a near-perfect backdrop to the orchestral pop landscape laid amidst her unique vocal style and pouty delivery.

Sung by almost anyone else, “Born to Die” would seem a laughable teen-throb disaster, but Lana’s intimidating loyalty to her character boldly separates her from other imitators. There’s obvious room for improvement in the structure of the album. Contrived and awkwardly positioned, some tracks are just plain throwaways, but others are delicately assembled and show promising potential. Early critics of Lana Del Rey weren’t completely wrong to label her as “one to watch,” because “Born to Die” showcases a satisfyingly confident new stream of ideas, despite the negativity and cat calls. Lana Del Rey has arrived on her own accord, and will continue to cater to the mysterious whether you come along or not.

Review by Dylan Bliss

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(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

Seal | Feature Interview

In Seal’s newest release, “Soul 2”, he explores all the works from the greats that inspired him to do what he does today. “These songs have a definite sound to them,” he says. “Of course, I can say this because I didn’t write them, but they were great songs. And I had such a good time singing them because they mean something to me. They’ve kind of chronicled my childhood and my adolescence.” Seal’s eighth studio album pays loving homage to songs that were coming out of Detroit, Memphis and especially Philadelphia, a sound that in England became known as Northern Soul. 

Not merely an admirer, Seal has met and had lasting relationships with some of the heaviest contributors, including Smokey Robinson. “He’s one of the most gracious human beings I’ve ever met — and he’s not shy to give me advice,” Seal says. “I’m fortunate in that he really likes me, so it’ll be interesting to hear what he says.”

To those of us from the generation of “Kiss From a Rose,” Seal remains a fond fixture of popular music, making headlines in Halloween costumes alongside his amazingly beautiful wife, Heidi Klum. Seal is as comfortable as ever with his artistic, psychological, and emotional environment. He continues to benefit from his deepest passions, and plans to continue expressing himself accordingly, regardless of his position in the public eye. 

Seeds: In 2001 you discarded an album because it wasn’t up to par. Do you think today, with the ability for people to buy individual songs as opposed to having to get the whole CD, artists are more geared toward making great singles than great albums?

Seal: I think there’s no doubt that the different ways people are now consuming music has led to a change in the way many artists approach the writing and production of their album. Personally, I just try to write the best songs and make the best music I can.

Seeds: You began as an architect student. How did music become your passion, and what caused the transition?

Seal: Music has always been a big love of mine, and I was lucky to discover that I had a voice I could make a career out of. But to clarify, I have a huge respect for architecture, and I did study it, but I left the degree course before it finished. I wish I could say I was a good enough architect to actually do it for a living, but I don’t think that was ever meant to be! It wasn’t a switch as much as the two always co-existing. I was interested in and passionate about both, but I realized that I wanted to follow music. I think I’m a better musician than architect!

Seeds: “Kiss from a Rose” is your most popular song, but it’s aged quite a bit. What is your personal favorite and why?

Seal: That’s a hard question! Every song is special to me for different reasons. But I am thrilled that audiences still seem to love hearing “Kiss from a Rose,” because I still love performing it!

Seeds: Changing “Kiss From A Rose” to the Batman Forever cover theme was a successful move. Did you feel that the song’s initial intentions ever went missing?

Seeds:I was flattered that the Batman Forever team felt that my song captured the essence of what they were trying to communicate at some level. That’s the beauty and the challenge of music – songs mean different things to different people.

Seeds:What are your ideal experiences on any given tour?

Seal:We have a great time on the road, and my band really become my extended family when we’re touring. Every night feels special, it really does. The venue makes no difference to me at all. It’s all about the people standing there in front of me.

Seeds: Do you prefer live shows or working in studio recording?

Seal: You know, that’s a tough one to answer because the experiences are so different and I really love both.
Working in the studio is such an amazing time to turn off everything else and just create, and I have absolutely loved being in the studio with my band making my new record. The live shows, however, are where it all comes to life, and I can see people’s faces and how they’re responding to my music, which is a really incredible experience and one that I never tire of.

Seeds: Is it important that each song fits together to make the album a whole, or should each song encompass itself?

Seal: That’s a very good question. It really depends on the album. With the most recent album, “Commitment,” I really feel I approached it in the same pure way that I approached my first two albums. And by that I mean, while I’ve always had lots of different styles and genres of music on my albums, I feel there is always a thread throughout them. Ultimately, my voice seems to provide the continuity across the album regardless of the style of music the song happens to be.

Seeds: Your wife Heidi seems to keep very busy. In fact, who travels more, you or her?

Seal: It really varies depending on what projects we are working on. For example, during the recording of “Commitment,” I was based almost permanently in California for 6 months, while Heidi at the same time was very busy in New York and Germany. But for the last couple of years, I’ve been doing a huge amount of travelling. My tour in the 12 months leading up to when I started recording the new album, the Soul Tour, took in 72 cities around the world, so it was insanely busy. We both just feel fortunate that our careers are going as well as they are, and it does mean that the time we get at home together is even more precious.

Seeds: What aspirations have you yet to fulfill?

Seal: My dream is to be the best husband and father I can be, and to keep making music while enjoying what I do, as well as hopefully continuing to bring enjoyment to other people. Of course, many of my dreams are for my children – that they grow up to follow and achieve their own dreams.

(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

Mason Jennings | Feature Interview

Within almost any genre in the business, there’s a classic formula that makes up the backbone of most bands: a singer and his/her guitar. Whether accompanied by a small band, or taking it on the road alone like he is today, Mason Jennings has embraced the lifestyle of the singer-songwriter. 14 years since his self-titled debut, Jennings continues to pour out undeniably endearing musings on youth, love, history, and literature. “Minnesota,” his newest LP, takes stock of the never-ending fight against nostalgia and constant struggle to simply find peace that lasts.

Mason Jennings’ march to fill seats and charm listeners is nowhere near a stopping point, and his consistently honest and heartfelt musicianship and lyricism has left a notable imprint among his greatest colleagues. Long time mentor and friend of Jack Johnson, Jennings has modestly made several unseen contributions to his craft, including two songs for Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” and a track for a critically acclaimed wilderness documentary, “180 Degrees South.” Jennings is sitting on a comfortable empire of widely loved American pop-rock tunes, and plans to stay there as he continues to share his stories and insight to an increasingly captive audience.


Seeds: Explain the anxiety of dropping out of school to pursue music. How confident were you in your chosen lifestyle?
Mason Jennings: It was nothing compared to the anxiety of what was going on around me. I had no idea what was going on; I just wanted to get some direction in life, and I felt like making a drastic change would kick me in the butt a bit. It did. I was confident of it enough to go through with it. Around the age of 23 I started doubting it more, but then things swung brighter a bit and the shows started selling out.

Seeds: Many of your songs are woven with historic and literary themes. Do you do a lot of reading?
MJ: Yeah, a ton. When I dropped out of high school I basically lived at the library. I went through the classics section and read at least one book by every author in there. I love a good story. A great author like Cormac McCarthy or JK Rowling is a pure inspiration to me.

Seeds: Which typically comes first for you, the melody or the lyrics?
MJ: The music starts it, but in order for a song to be born a chunk of the lyrics have to directly follow it, like, in full swing.

Seeds: “Blood of Man” was a bit darker than most, and “The Flood” was something of a compilation. Sonically, in what direction does “Minnesota” tend to move?
MJ: It moves into the intimate, the piano and the candid side of life. This record sounds like a guy brushing his teeth while the phone is ringing, his wife is sleeping, and the house gets hit by a falling tree.

Seeds: “Minnesota” thematically explores struggles with nostalgia and self-exploration. What was the central inspiration for this album?
MJ: Probably watching YouTube. Watching people cover my songs. Dog energy.

Seeds: As a solo musician, do you have any left-over aspirations, or are you simply continuing to do what you love?
MJ: The main musical aspiration I have is to be more accepting of myself as an artist and to enjoy music.

Interview by Dylan Bliss

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(Source: dailyernebraskan.com)

Mayer Hawthorne | Album Review

Splashing onto the scene in 2009, Mayer Hawthorne eagerly shared their 50’s soul throwback tunes with whoever would listen, opening for acts such as Passion Pit and appearing in short films with Kayne West. Andrew Mayer Cohen is clearly at the heart of the creative process, and his crooning and swaying has his audience smiling, filled with an insatiable desire to return to the romantic melodies of yesterday. The band’s latest effort “How Do You Do” is no exception. It’s the same formula, but with new contributors and a refreshingly varied collection of sing-and-bop-alongs.

All twelve tracks breeze past as Cohen glides from heart-break ballads to upbeat love notes, all the while challenging the limits of his falsetto-to-”oooo” ratio. His heavily borrowed lyrics, rhythms, and themes are shamelessly implemented with modern stylings. He’s a bit more liberal with his cursing, and a bit more forward with his come-ons, but the flavor and authenticity of the first LP remains. “Get To Know You” starts with the familiar walking bass line, then Cohen does his sly Boyz II Men intro talk and swiftly drops in the hook. The album continues with endless dug-up cliches and extremely indulgent echo-backs.

“How Do You Do” is sure to churn out some infectiously catchy hits. Tunes like “Hooked” and “Stick Around” will have listeners snapping their fingers and tapping toes for days. Surprisingly, Cohen seems to be the only artist today cashing in on this sonic goldmine, though he does it with careful attention and style. If this sounds like your thing, Mayer Hawthorne definitely belongs in your collection, cuddled up to the rest of your Marvin Gaye records.

Review by Dylan Bliss

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The Drums | Interview

American radio often suffers from its dependency on who can afford to endlessly spin their records. Many American bands, like Brooklyn’s The Drums, have sought refuge in overseas airtime and have benefited thoroughly from the UK’s loyalty to promising new music. Citing Brit-rock influences spanning the last few decades, Jonathan Pierce and the rest of The Drums have gladly shared their energetic flavor of straightforward rock and pulsating set pieces with listeners across the globe, despite some difficult turnover and admitted stylistic differences.


With their newest LP, “Portamento,” The Drums begin to delve into the reality of a musician’s life on the road, and dealing with the lifestyle transitions and hardships in between. Gone are the idea-driven party tunes like their debut’s “Let’s Go Surfing”; love notes and upbeat self-exploration pieces fill the void. “Portamento” is a more personal journey that only outlines the maturing pace set by a band proclaiming their youth through the constant composition of music.

Lead singer Jonathan Pierce, pending an American tour and new release, shares his insight on taking music from an involved hobby to a collective art form to share with anyone who will listen.



Seeds: The Drums hail from Brooklyn, but have been extremely well received overseas. What is the nature of the relationship between you and the UK?

Jonathan Pierce: I mean, anyone who listens to our music can pretty easily pick out some of our influences. I think we were a little bit more welcome in that place. It has a lot to do with the radio in the UK. The big radio stations there take risks, playing groups that they like and songs that they like. It’s less of a political thing and more of the DJs having free reign to play what they want. They just started playing some of our songs and it kind of went from there.
In America, it’s almost impossible for bands like us to get played. Things just kind of took off in a natural way over here. Things with the new record are going really well, though. We’re about to start our North American tour soon.

Seeds: When I saw you perform on the main stage at Sasquatch Music Festival this summer, your energy was super-charged throughout the set. Do you find it sometimes difficult to deliver that kind of energy for every show?

JP: At the time, I don’t think it was difficult. The set we were playing then kind of pulled for it. Now, with the new album and new songs the live show has sort of mellowed down in a physical aspect. I’ve even tried to concentrate… on just singing, more than anything else. The new album demands something kind of different. Looking back, it’s all a part of growing up and progressing with the band and I still consider us pretty young.

Seeds: The new album has a much more personal tone. Explain how the lyrics have transformed and what the name “Portamento” means to you.

JP: By the time our first album came out, we’d already had it finished for six months and we were just always making music with or without the band. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been recording songs in my bedroom by myself. Jacob and Connor were the same way. As soon as that first album came out we were already talking about “Portamento,” and we started recording. It all came about in a really natural way. What was really exciting about starting “Portamento” was that we were in such a different situation than when we were making the first album. We had really cut ourselves off from the world with the debut album; it was a very incubated process. Every song was laced with a sort of dream-like, idea-driven tone. Just being with the band, travelling, and seeing the whole world together(and it wasn’t without a lot of friction, actually), we caught ourselves dealing with a cold reality. This was now our lives, and it’s not all fun. It felt like things were too real to write another album that was so idea-driven. It was time to make things much more personal, musically.

Interview by Dylan Bliss

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