Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Interview with Copenhagen's Lower

I first heard of Lower through an interview Elias from Iceage did. He was talking about bands from Denmark and mentioned Lower. I kept the name rolling around in my mind before ever actually hearing the band. The first time I got to hear them resulted from a Cult of Youth show. During one of their shows at the Empty Bottle, Sean had brought a bunch of records from his label Blind Prophet Records and I hadn't realized that there was an American version of the Walk on Heads EP. I had seen the 7" from Escho online but I had not wanted to pay international shipping. Being able to buy the EP at typical 7" price was pretty awesome, so I picked it up.

And it was really really good. Lower brings a lot of different sounds together. There's an 80s post-punk edge, obvious notes from hardcore, pop sensibility, and impressively inclusive lyricism. I was listening to it once again the other day, when I just thought of shooting an e-mail to the band to see what they were up to and if they would be down to be featured on my blog. At some level, I was simply curious to see what the progress on their upcoming full-length album was. The guys in the band were really great and ended up doing an interview with me, in which all my questions got answered (and pretty much in record time).

Unfortunately, I missed the band when they were in Chicago as I was traveling, but they talk about extensive touring once the new album is finished (which pretty much made my day). If you haven't listened to them yet, you should change that.

You can check them out on their FACEBOOK or their BLOGSPOT and pick up one of their records at your local record shop.

Here's what they had to say to me.

Jordan: Who all is in Lower? When did you start? How did you guys start the band?

Anton: We are Kristian (bass), Adrian (vocals), Simon (guitar) and Anton (drums). We started the band in 2009, I think. We all wanted to get busy in one way or the other, so starting a band was a good solution.

J: What all have you guys released so far?

Anton: So far we’ve released a demo tape, two 7”s and a live split 7” with Iceage.

J: How do you guys write songs? Does one person primarily write them or do you all fill in the parts?

Anton: We help each other out collectively. Simon does not necessarily write all guitar parts, and I do not necessarily write all drum parts. In the end it just have to sound as good as possible.

J: What topics do you guys cover lyrically? 

Adrian:  I try to aim at more general feelings that people experiences in life. Of course it also touches on my own life but that be because I'm a human being. But I try to aim for more general feelings.

J: Who are some of your favorite lyricists?

Anton: I know that Adrian’s very fond of Scandinavian writers and poets like Tom Kristensen, Cornelis Vreeswijk and Inger Christensen for sure.

J: what was the process behind recording your new record?

A: We recorded it with Escho main-man Nis Bysted, who also produced the Someone's Got It In For Me 7" and a man named Michael Fischerson. It was a way different process since we had a real studio booked, instead of just recording in a rehearsal room. We also took advantage of the seemingly endless possibilities of a studio, to incorporate other instruments than just the classic drums/guitar/bass combo. But this is not an actuality right now, since the LP is not out yet. 
J: For the "Walk on Heads" EP, how was it working with Escho and then turning around and working with Blind Prophet? Were there many differences?

Anton: Sean is a friend of mine and he wanted to help us with an American version of the EP. That’s basically it. Not many differences.

J: You guys are working on a full-length record, correct? How is that going? Do you have any plans on where to release it or when it's going to come out?

Anton: There’s an LP in the final stages of production, so it won’t be too long until it’s out. I know for sure that Escho is releasing it in Denmark. That’s all I know right now. Not sure when it’s out, but we’ve waited for a long time now, so hopefully very soon.

J: How was your recent tour in the United States? Is playing in the US much different than playing in Europe?

Anton: It was very exciting to play for people we’d never met before. The US is a very big country and people change from state to state. It was like playing many different countries.

J: Were there any highlights from that tour?

Anton: We met some nice people and played with some good bands. Especially Total Control from Australia and Final Grin from Chicago (maybe people you know?) stood out. They play rock music in very exciting ways. The best shows were in Austin, New York, Montreal and Philadelphia, I think.

J: How would you describe the music scene in Copenhagen? What bands stick out the most to you?

Anton: Our scene or circle or what you might call it, consists of bands that play a lot of different genres, from punk rock to power electronics. So it’s not very uniform or homogenous, sound-wise. Yet there can be found traces within the bands that make up a union-like feeling. Right now I personally think the best bands are Lower, Communions, Forza Albino, White Void and Age Coin.

J: What other bands are you guys in right now?

Anton: Simon and Kristian play in Age Coin – I play in Marching Church. Adrian’s busy with Lower.

J: Are there any records that you guys have been listening to a lot lately that have stuck out?

Anton: Lately I’ve been listening to Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here once every other day or so. Earlier today I listened to Crazy Spirit’s old demo tape, which is good and stupid.

J: What all is in the future for Lower?

Anton: A month ago I broke my hand, which forced us to cancel a bunch of European tour dates. My hand is in a cast as I type this but in three weeks or so I should be ready to get it off. This unfortunate break has resulted in a vital need to play again. The future holds a lot of shows and the release of the LP, which I personally can’t wait to get out there.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview with S. Radhakrishna from Circles

Circles has one of my all-time favorite band descriptions on their Facebook: "pop music for educated, upper-middle class, pretentious white people." Naturally, I like their music, as I am somewhat educated and extremely pretentious. I got an email from Srini Radhakrishna with a link to their EP and I enjoyed it very thoroughly. I had heard of a few of the bands (Radar Eyes, Football, Ponys) that these guys had been in (or are in) before and so was psyched to have them featured on the blog. After listening to the record (which really should be released physically,) I asked Mr. Srini if he were down for an interview and he was more than quick and helpful with helping me.

Circles are a Chicago band that makes artfully pop-driven songs. It's a little bit of punk and a little bit of garage rock and a little bit of noise. Circles uses a lot of different instruments as well, giving it a dynamic scope of 20th century music from jazz and blues. It's a real treat to listen to.

They're following up their EP, which is streamable on their BANDCAMP PAGE, with something that will hopefully become a full-length. Srini discusses this in the interview below. In the time being, "like" them on FACEBOOK and check out what they had to say!

Jordan: Who all is in Circles? You guys have been in a lot of really cool projects. Did you meet through playing music? When did you guys decide to start the band?

S. Radhakrishna: Circles started out as a recording project with Melissa, Ken, and I in the spring of 2011.  We've all been friends for a long time. At one point, we all worked at Playboy together.  I had a few unrecorded songs left over from France Has the Bomb, and asked them if they would be interested in learning and recording them.  

SR: We wound up adding a lot of organ and keyboards parts on the recording, and those parts/sounds became essential. When we found out Christen was secretly a piano virtuoso, we demanded that she join the band. Then Melissa ruined her life by getting pregnant, so we decided to find someone to fill in until she was able to find time to get back into the fold.  I've known Anthony for years and love Radar Eyes.  We were all surprised he was willing to put his reputation on the line and play with with us.  When Melissa comes back, Anthony can slide over to bongos or something.

J: How did you decide on the name Circles? I think it's really elegant.

SR: Thanks.  I wish I could say a lot of thought went into it.   But the truth is, I was just listening to my iPod on random one day, and the song Circles by the Who popped up.  I really like that song, and thought the name Circles fit the aesthetic that we were looking for.  We're completely aware that there are/were a bunch of bands using the same name.  I guess if it ever becomes a problem, we'll deal with it then.

J: When you started the band, was there a certain sound or style of music you felt influenced you the most?

SR: Circles just kind of took over where France Has the Bomb left off, which was a more pop trajectory.   I'm a sucker for hooks and melody, but can easily get turned off by songs that sound too "slick".  I'm a big fan of Flying Nun records bands, like the Clean, Tall Dwarfs, Chills, Bats, etc. I love how those bands incorporated a lot of noise-y/weird parts into their songs, but managed to retain the hooks and melody of a good pop song.

J: How do you write songs? Is there a primary songwriter who composes everything or do people collaborate more?

SR: It depends.  Sometimes I have a whole song worked out in my head, and it's just a matter of everyone figuring out their own parts.  But most of time I have two or three parts, and we figure out the arrangement as a group.   

J: How big of a concern to the band is the lyrical content? What informs lyrics?

SR: I HATE writing lyrics.  I'm usually scribbling stuff down all the way to point where I'm at the microphone and the engineer is ready to hit record and visibly annoyed.  It's rare that I have a specific idea in mind as far as content. I usually just let my subconscious take over, start writing stuff down, and hope the output is not completely embarrassing.  The one exception to that was Marcus Garvey.  I was administering a test for an after school class in this elementary school on the Southside.  The class was in the school library, so while they were taking the test I read a grade school level biography on Marcus Garvey to pass the time.  I knew he was an influential civil rights leader but didn't know much about the details of his life.  He turned out to be a very interesting character, so I decided to use him as the subject of a song.  I tried to make the lyrics come off as a 5th grade report on Marcus Garvey. 

J: What is your recording process like? Is it different from previous projects that you guys have had?

SR: I think the biggest difference from all of our previous bands was that we recorded before ever playing a show. That was a first for all of us.  We just came up with overdub ideas as we went and weren't really concerned with how we would execute it live. So the songwriting process continued in the studio rather than ending at the practice space.

J: What was creating the Circles EP like? Does anything stick out in particular in terms of the trajectory of the record's genesis?

SR: I guess the thing that sticks out the most was how much fun it was to record with Mike Lust.   He did a great job of keeping things loose and making us laugh.  At one point, he grabbed a chilled bottled of Vodka out of the freezer and demanded we drink straight from the bottle while wearing a thick winter glove.  He just started screaming "THE GLOVE!!!" at us.

J: How are you guys releasing the EP? I know you have a bandcamp, but do you have any desire to eventually make a physical release?

SR: We would love for it to eventually come out on vinyl.  Do you want to start a label?!  It will be the best financial decision that you'll ever make. 

J: Do you guys play live very often? Do you think that your sound is different live than it is on a recording?

SR: I think we've played less than 10 shows in two and a half years.  At this point, we're all more interested in writing and recording songs than playing shows on a regular basis.   But when the opportunity comes along to play with a band we really like or go somewhere interesting, we try to take advantage.

J: What other bands would you recommend for people to check out? Anyone you've heard lately that has been on rotation?

SR: The new Blind Shake record is great.  They just keep getting better and better.  I can't wait to see the Oh Sees/Blind Shake/OBN IIIs show at the Bottle.  It's not really that new, but the most recent Kurt Vile record is perfect fall weather music.   I'm a little slow to the whole Rodriguez story, so I've been listening to his first two records quite a bit lately.

J: I know it's early, but what all is in your future?

SR: We've already booked time in January to record at Minbal Studio with Cooper of Cave.  We're really excited to work with him.  Hoping to record 8 to 10 new songs with everyone involved, including Melissa.

J: Anything else on your mind?

SR: Christen is getting married this weekend.  I'm sure I will hear the My Dick album over and over and over again at the reception. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Interview with Zack from Oozing Wound

Oozing Wound slays. If you know that and see what the album cover looks like on their upcoming debut LP, then you should have a pretty good idea of the music that they make. In case you still don't, it's heavy riffage with pounding drums, quick-witted bass lines, and unforgiving throbbing vocals. Thrash metal done extremely well. Their music is entertaining as it is pulverizing. There's a tongue-in-cheek candidness to the band, as is clearly visible in their COMMERCIAL for Retrash, their debut LP coming out on Thrill Jockey, home to the likes of Liturgy, Tortoise, White Hills and more.

The band plays regularly in Chicago at all sorts of venues from DIY squats to venues. I've never been able to see them to be honest, but I'm definitely looking forward to their show at THE EMPTY BOTTLE with The Body, Running, and Toupee on October 24. I've heard good reports on all accounts and I'm always down for some ol' fashioned face-melting.

You can check them out on FACEBOOK for updates.

Honestly, I'm not going to sum up this band as well as they do. Here's what Zack (guitar/vocals) said to me.

Jordan: Who all is in Oozing Wound? How did you all start?

 Zack: The wound is Kevin, Kyle, and I (Zack)--we started as a side project I was going to do for songs that didn't fit into my other bands.  At the time I was in Cacaw with Kyle and a thrash band called ZATH, both of which had some riffs and shit that didn't really fit with what I was writing.  It just kinda snowballed from there, we've had low expectations and it's been paying off.

J: How did you get the name Oozing Wound?

Z: I don't remember the moment but I do remember walking around work asking friends about two band names that I had thought of.  Oozing Wound won by a pretty unforgiving landslide.  Maybe we all just kind of morphed our expectations of what we were going to do from the name?

J: Define "slay"

Z: Well, some bands just wanna rock which I think is admirable, but we wanna take it up that extra dinosaur.  Slaying drains electrolytes.  Slaying requires bloodshed.  If it still doesn't make sense I suggest trying diet-slay.

J: What kind of bands or ideas have had an impact on your music? Anyone or anything specific that you can think of?

Z: Metal-wise I am really into Teutonic thrash like Kreator, Sodom, Destruction, Exhumer-- they have this forward momentum feeling in their songs.  Matt Pike, specifically High on Fire has been a huge influence on me, in the beginning there was definitely more Pike worship.  Beyond that, you know, Nirvana, ABBA, Gary Glitter, Beach Boys.  I think of my best heavy stuff listening to pop.

J: How do you all write songs? What sorts of roles do you have for the songwriting process?

Z: Standard process is I usually come up with a back log of riffs that I show the dudes and we'll find something and jam on it for a while.  That's where most of the slower/longer songs come from, the shorter dudes are a similar process but I usually have them more formed out.  Kevin and Kyle are necessary to make this shit work though. It takes all three of us to write an Oozer.

J: How do you record your music? Do you use a particular studio?

Z: We jam econo.  We've only been in the studio twice and for one day at a time.  First time we recorded the four songs from the Vape and Pillage tape, did that in one night session in Studio Chicago which isn't really a viable option these days.  2nd time was a full day at Electrical Audio where we did 6 songs.  We'd like more time in the studio, but shit's hard.

J: The artwork on your releases is really awesome. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Z: Sam Nigrosh, man.  He is a killer fucking artist and deserves like 90% of the credit for all the visuals.  He takes our really stupid fucking ideas and makes them into something badass. I have like no visual artistic ability so it's great that we have this guy who can turn this shit out.

J: How did you guys get linked up with Thrill Jockey? How was it been working with them? Do they let you guys still have autonomy behind your music?

Z: Total luck.  We played a show with Black Pus and I shit you not that's all it took to get signed.  We also already had our record done so that probably helped.  TJ is my favorite thing I've ever been a part of.  Like the best dudes and Bettina is fucking great.  We've never had a label with a support network in it, with people who have a job to actually make your band go somewhere.  It fills me with little happy bubbles or some shit.  TJ has never once told us we couldn't do something.

J: Tell me a little bit about the video for "Welcome to the Spaceship, Motherfucker." What was the idea behind that? How did you guys make it?

Z: We needed two video ideas and had kinda spaced on coming up with one for this song.  We were looking through a gallery of photos we took (also a weird moment in our lives) and thought it would be a fucked up video to watch if it was all glitched out gifs and shit.  That's as much as we did, Joe Martinez and Leon Kelsick did the whole video and we saw it when it was finished.  It made me wanna puke and cry at the same time, it was so beautiful.

J: You guys are in a lot of other bands and projects. Give me a brief rundown of who all is doing what.

Z: Right now?  Uh Kyle runs Rotted Tooth Records which takes up a lot of his free time, Kevin plays in his other band Unmanned Ship, and I from time to time have been known to play with ZATH.  We've been really focused on the Ooze lately, so it's kinda been it.  The list of projects that follows us is more cumulative at this point than active, we've just been doing shit in this city for a while.

J: What all have you guys been listening to lately? Any noteworthy artists that have stuck out recently? What about Chicago artists?

Z: Best bands in Chicago?  Well, no matter what this is going to be incomplete with a city this vast.  The usuals are bands like Running, Heavy Times, Basic Cable, Rectal Hygienics, Unmanned Ship, Toupee, Sky Maul, CAVE, SINE/Psychic Steel...the list is fucking endless, seriously.  Look at the Rotted Tooth roster of bands that's all good shit.  I usually listen to pop rock from the 70's and 80's, lately it's been Dust, Jerusalem, Badfinger, The Troggs, Iron Claw...others I am sure.

J: How often do you guys get to play live?

Z: About once a month right now, but we've got a tour coming up.  There aren't a ton of spaces to play that work well for us, but we'll probably start doing more shows once all this record shit quiets down.  Playing shows means you have to steer away from writing new material which we're pretty focused on at this moment.

J: Tell me a little about the upcoming tour.

Z: East Coast Rippers and Burners tour, bro!  Hitting up the Halloween parties up and down the coast.  Wish there was more exciting things to say, but I imagine there's more to talk about after.

J: What all is in your future?

Z: Robots, bank collapse, probably defaulting on our national loans, uh bachelorette degrees, maybe a sun tan, giant crab people, an anthropomorphized bong, mutant woodchucks, an MTV VMA statue, a pitchfork 10.0 rating, a rolling stone feature, a failed military coup, maybe some ice cream.

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

Z: We are here to slay, get with it.