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On the Wednesday evening of SXSW 2015, I attended the Dine Alone Records 10th anniversary showcase at the Bungalow on Rainey Street, where I was able to catch San Francisco alt-rock duo The Dodos for a quick interview before their set. Finding a truly quiet place for an interview at the Bungalow while their fellow Dine Alone artists Yukon Blonde were soundchecking for their set turned out to be a bit of a lost cause, as you’ll hear in the interview stream below, but band members Meric Long and Logan Kroeber still managed to share their plans for SXSW and their upcoming tour plans in Europe and the UK, as well as some insight on how their 10 years together as a band have shaped both their live performances and their studio recordings.
Of special interest for our readers on the UK side of the pond will be news of The Dodos’ planned one-off show at the Village Underground on Tuesday the 28th of April. Long and Kroeber will appear there with Berlin’s “renegade new-classical ensemble” Stargaze to perform full orchestral arrangements of songs from The Dodos’ five-album back catalogue, as well as material from their new sixth record ‘Individ’. As part of the same show, the Stargaze ensemble will also perform specially commissioned chamber arrangements of songs by American alt-pop act Deerhoof, composed by the band’s drummer and co-songwriter Greg Saunier. Ticket information for this unique show, along with other live dates on The Dodos’ European tour, can be found on The Dodos’ official Web site. Below the interview stream, you can find an amazing live video from The Dodos’ autumn 2014 collaboration with Stargaze, which included a performance of ‘Transformer’ from their fifth studio album ‘Carrier’.
Thanks especially to Brendan for his help with this interview.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 2nd April 2015 at 2:00 pm
Saturday in Austin for SXSW 2015 was another strangely miserable day weather wise. With rain intermittent for most of the day until the evening hours, at least it wasn’t chucking it down like it was on Friday. Still, with a grey sky, I wondered if the bad weather would keep crowds away on the last day of the big dance. When nighttime came, it was became clear from the long queues outside many of the venues – including Latitude 30, where your humble editor found herself stuck in the wristband queue for over 2 hours, including some time spent chatting with Kate Tempest and her band in said queue – that the droves had come out for one last hurrah.
Representing in my very red England jacket, my Saturday began seemingly inauspiciously. Stood in a queue, holding a brolly and trying in vain to look cool while waiting for doors to a venue to open isn’t really my idea of a great time. But this was all to get into the Brooklyn Vegan day party, as the New York culture Web site had a full line-up for both the indoor and outdoor stages at Red 7, including the third and final appearance of Mew. I wasn’t there for the Danes, however.
After the cancellation of an entire electronic showcase at Container Bar due to safety concerns about possible electrocution of the bands during the height of Friday afternoon’s rainstorms, I made it to East India Youth‘s (Will Doyle) last performance in Austin. This performance was certainly different than Huw Stephen’s curated night Tuesday at Latitude 30 for Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales; for one, my guess was the audience had never heard of him, though I was pleased to see his performance quickly won them over. It may have been only noon on a Saturday, but just like Tuesday night at 9 PM, Doyle gave it his all, throwing his whole body into the performance and he alternated between synth, sequencers, Macbook and last but not least, bass guitar. ‘Hinterland’, from his 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut album on Stolen Recordings ‘Total Strife Forever’, went down particularly well, punters’ heads bopping and nodding in approval of the huge beats and the sweaty, vigorous way they were delivered to us.
‘Turn Away’, the second cut to be revealed in February from ‘Culture of Volume’, was recently described by BBC 6music presenter Stuart Maconie as sounding like “an electronic madrigal”, and I fully agree. It’s a very emotional piece that I’ll discuss more in my album review coming soon on TGTF, so I’ll just say for now that the track is solid evidence to silence the naysayers that say electronica is cold and devoid of feeling. It’s also nice to see Doyle comfortable as a singer, nearly front and centre if you forget the table being there, as he emotes on a song like ‘Looking for Someone’, written back in the day when he was more known for being that guy in a suit behind the table being held up by apple juice cartons and gaffa tape.
From East India Youth, I went in search for another Youth – Lust for Youth, the project of Swede Hannes Norrvide, now based in Denmark. The lack of decent lighting in an otherwise very red Mohawk indoor stage made for a impossible photography situation to begin with. Then there was the stifling crowd situation: from what I understand having talked to some punters down the front, people had arrived early and were staking out spots for hardcore Pittsburgh act Code Orange, who would not be on stage for another 3 hours. Lust for Youth is an electropop band, so as can probably imagine, hardcore fans on the whole aren’t exactly their core audience. Couple that with overbearing bass in the mix obscuring Norrvide’s vocals – or at least making his voice sound more robotic than I recalled from their Sacred Bones Records album ‘International’ released last year – led to a less than compelling set. Maybe I just picked the wrong venue to see them at.
Sound was much better, as it always is, when I returned to Latitude 30 for the final British Music Embassy afternoon showcase of SXSW 2015, opened by Welsh hopefuls and now buzzed about band The People the Poet. Frontman Leon Stanford was never showing any sign of anxiety about playing for an international crowd on Tuesday night, but now he was entirely in his element, talking to us from the stage like we were old friends, speaking about his band’s experiences in Austin with fondness as if a seasoned SXSW veteran. Having done a live session with Dermot O’Leary for his Radio 2 programme earlier in the week, one hopes that their music will spread far and wide off the back of their two exemplary performances at the British Music Embassy.
Up next and back to back were two Scottish bands, United Fruit and Holy Esque Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay inside Latitude 30 for United Fruit, as I nipped outside for my interview with Tyla Campbell and Pete Mills of The People The Poet that had been delayed for days. Of what I did hear of them, it was loud and the band were lively. When I returned for Holy Esque, they were in the midst of laying down their bombastic, synth laden guitar rock. Oddly, I liked them better on the recordings I’d heard previously than live. It seemed louder and muddier in person. I wondered, since it was Saturday, if the staff at Latitude 30 had just cranked up all the knobs to 11? Would have made sense if it were true.
After Latitude 30 and running around town to conduct two interviews (one with Ryan of Rival Consoles, the other with Niall of Only Real), I treated myself to a taxi ride to take me to the last show I would cover at SXSW 2015. Melbourne’s Demi Louise, who I had become friendly with on Instagram, was playing her last gig in Austin for the week, an acoustic one, at the atrium stage of the Hyatt Regency south of the river. This was a special treat for me, as I have always loved the hotel shows I’ve managed to find and cover during SXSW, and this one was no exception.
Wearing a large-brimmed Stetson, she appeared onstage certainly dressed the part for Texas. Although her set was much too short, she played a nice smattering of tunes that showcased her songwriting ability, from describing the emotional pain of heartbreak that all of us, young and old, experience, to the more personal journey she’s gone on watching both of her grandfathers suffer from dementia in the song ‘Ruins’.
It was lovely to finally see her perform and also chat with her after her set, as it brought everything round full circle to what I feel is the most important part of TGTF’s work at a festival like SXSW: to help spread the music of artists we have come to know and love, especially for those who are just starting out and/or who aren’t well known. Yet. As long as I’ve got the passion within me, I’ll continue doing this for years to come, and I thank you for joining me for the ride, whether it takes us to Austin, Brighton, Sydney, and anywhere in between. SXSW 2015, that’s a wrap!
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 2nd April 2015 at 1:00 pm
There are some things about the music business that I still struggle with in my mind. Consider, for instance, the circumstances surrounding my last interviewee during the crazy week in Austin that was SXSW 2015. Twenty-something Demi Louise is a singer/songwriter from Melbourne, Australia who has gone and already showcased at one of the most important emerging music festivals to TGTF, Liverpool Sound City in 2014. Yet despite all the travel and performances she has already clocked up at such a tender age, this talented young lady is still not signed yet. What, why, how is that even possible?
Demi had a packed week of performances in Austin, with her last two taking place in front of a packed house at B.D. Riley’s as part of Sounds Australia’s Saturday daytime acoustic showcase called Sound Gallery. Due to a schedule conflict, I was unable to make that earlier show but thankfully, Demi was scheduled to perform one last acoustic set at the Hyatt Regency Austin just south of the river, the same hotel with a dock from where Carrie and I got on the St. Patrick’s Day Brunch on a Boat with the folks from Creative Belfast and Invest Northern Ireland on Tuesday morning. New fans of hers from several different countries came to see her play this last show, including the very young daughters of some festival-goers, who Demi talked to after her set by kneeling down next to and taking photos with them. Awww. She’s a real woman of the people.
In my interview with Demi, she tells me her hometown of Melbourne and how sad she is that it’s the end of her SXSW adventure, as it’s one of many music showcasing events she’s done in the last year and a half. We also chat about her song ‘Ruins’, which was inspired by medical diagnoses within her own family, and her winning a major pop songwriting award back in Oz. (Again, how is this woman not signed yet???) Listen to the whole interview below.
Read all our past coverage on Demi Louise on TGTF here.
Wednesday night I made my way down to the Bungalow on Rainey Street for the Dine Alone Records 10th anniversary showcase, which was scheduled to feature two bands I’d previously covered for TGTF, The Dodos and Broncho, as well as Lieutenant, the new side project of Foo Fighters bassist Nate Mendel. I arrived at the Bungalow early enough to work out the logistics of my interview with The Dodos before heading out to the backyard stage area to catch the night’s opening act, Josh Haden’s jazz-tinged alt-rock band Spain.
I wasn’t familiar with Josh Haden or Spain before I saw them at the Bungalow, but a quick internet search reveals that their smooth, soulful sound is at least partially the result of Haden’s background in jazz; he is the son of well-known jazz bassist Charlie Haden. Josh Haden originally formed Spain in the early 1990s and revitalized it with new members in 2007. The band’s latest LP, ‘Sargent Place’ was released on Dine Alone back in November, and their set at the Dine Alone showcase included a fine performance of its lead single ‘The Fighter’, which you can stream below.
Vancouver indie pop band Yukon Blonde quickly changed the pace of the evening after Spain’s laid-back set. Their dance-friendly synth and guitar sounds drew a captivated audience under the tents at the Bungalow, almost making us forget that we were still in the middle of the week with their hook-heavy new single ‘Saturday Night’. Just after SXSW, Yukon Blonde hit the road in America and Canada for an opening slot with their Dine Alone labelmates Lieutenant; those shows continue into April.
Yukon Blonde’s energetic set paved the way for San Francisco-based duo The Dodos to take the stage. They clearly had a fair few fans in attendance at SXSW 2015, as the crowd packed in noticeably tighter during their brief soundcheck. After reviewing their latest LP ‘Individ’ and their show at Tucson’s Club Congress in February, I had already come to the conclusion that The Dodos are just one of those bands that you have to see live to get the full effect of their music.
I discussed that opinion briefly with band members Meric Long and Logan Kroeber in my interview with them before their set, but their spectacular performance on the night did more to solidify my estimation than any of their commentary. Knowing that The Dodos create a huge sound between the two of them, I started their set with earplugs firmly in place, but the sound quality and the crisp energy of their performance was so amazing that I ended up removing them just so that I could take it all in. The dance moves featured in The Dodos’ video for ‘Competition’ didn’t make it onto the stage here, but there was plenty of enthusiastic dancing in the crowd when Long and Kroeber played the song.
Unfortunately, the crowd at the Bungalow thinned conspicuously after The Dodos finished, leaving only a sparse few fans to watch Lieutenant. Because the live iteration of Lieutenant features Foo Fighters bass player Nate Mendel and Snow Patrol bass player Paul Wilson (both on guitar, ironically enough), I had expected them to draw a larger audience. Lieutenant’s recent album release ‘If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going to Eat for a Week’ is probably best described as understated, and as it turns out, Mendel is an understated frontman in live performance as well. Wilson’s more animated guitar solos, while not exactly flashy, were the highlight of the band’s set at the Bungalow. I suspect that the members of Lieutenant will grow progressively more comfortable in their newly adopted roles as they continue their current American tour with Yukon Blonde.
My energy lagged a bit after Lieutenant’s set, and I decided a walk might be in order to help me get a second wind. I left the Bungalow and headed back to 6th Street to see Dine Alone alumnus James Vincent McMorrow, whose first self-titled EP was released in the US on Dine Alone back in 2010. McMorrow was appearing on the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, which was already packed to the gills for his set when I arrived. (In fact, it was so crowded that I never met up with Mary, who also made the Music From Ireland show part of her Wednesday night lineup.) Though the Gibson Room audience were clearly enamored with the soulful melancholia of McMorrow’s ‘Post Tropical’ tracks, I found his falsetto to be unintelligible and a bit whiny, much in the vein of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, whose sound I have never been particularly fond of. In spite of that, McMorrow’s stage presence was shyly endearing and he did pique my interest by testing a couple of new tracks, which he said weren’t yet fully worked out, but which held their own here in acoustic performance.
Once again, the audience almost completely vanished after McMorrow’s set, leaving Irish pop band Walking on Cars to play in a nearly empty room to close out the night. It was a pity too, because Walking on Cars play the kind of energetic pop music that could find itself comfortably situated on top 40 radio, given enough of an audience. Indeed, the band broke up their wee-hours-of-the-morning set with a mashup of pop tunes that included 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Lego House’, and James Bay’s current hit ‘Hold Back the River’, along with a surprisingly effective cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’.
Their own recent single ‘Always Be With You’, featured in our SXSW preview of artists from Ireland and Northern Ireland, closed the night on a strong note, even if only a handful of punters were still around to hear it. Keep an eye on TGTF for coverage of Walking on Cars at the full Irish breakfast appearing on TGTF soon.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 1st April 2015 at 4:00 pm
The first half of my Friday evening at SXSW 2015 is here.
That somewhere else was back at Latitude 30 for the British Music Embassy’s Friday night sponsored by Blackjack London and the Association of Independent Music (AIM). I arrived just in time to see the second half of Only Real‘s set, which was clearly already causing havoc. Good havoc, I’m quick to point out. It was still raining outside, but as soon as I’d put down my brolly to take my camera out, an Only Real reveler grabbed it and was sashaying down the front like out of a scene from Singing in the Rain, before he grabbed my hand, twirling me around a couple times. I burst out laughing. This turned out to be one of the most surprisingly fun sets I watched all week. Listen to ‘Yesterdays’ off his new debut album ‘Jerk at the End of the Line’ released this week, and just go with it. You’ll thank me later.
After the set, I asked one of the photographers, “is everyone in here drunk or stoned?” She said quite possibly both. Either way, it doesn’t matter: what came across was how well Niall Galvin’s unique hybrid of hip hop style lyrics about more carefree days and the washy, psychedelic guitars and accompanying instrumentation was going over with the Embassy crowd. I had been extremely sceptical when Martin first wrote about him in 2013, figuring this guy from South London couldn’t be really this weird and this happy-go-lucky. It must be an act…
Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. After he kindly paused for photos and chats with a whole slew of new fans he gained this night, I chatted with him briefly to set up a full interview on Saturday afternoon, and he is just about one of the loveliest musicians I’ve ever met: genuine, kind-hearted, positive and yes, real. We need more positive people like him not just in this business, but the whole world. Keep doing what you do, man.
East London grime artist Ghetts had to sadly cancel his appearance on this night, replaced by Stockport’s Blossoms, who played here Wednesday night as part of the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation showcase. They explained to me after that they’d be asked to stand in for Ghetts and were more than happy to get another SXSW gig under their belts. Watching the young band from greater Manchester a second time was nice, as I got to introduce their music as brand new to a girl who became a new fan. Always happy to facilitate!
As the notes of the scorching ‘Blow’, the band’s first-ever single that was released in 2014, fed into my mind a second time, I sensed something very special. Whiffs of brilliance reminiscent of great ’60s psychedelic bands, along with the pop sensibility of their local legends Oasis in the choruses, are what make this band great. If they can keep this level of melody and songwriting up, their debut album is sure to be a hit.
Following Blossoms were Boxed In, an electro rock/pop band led by keyboardist / synth-playing Oli Bayston. I missed seeing him open for fellow Moshi Moshi labelmates Teleman on their UK tour in October. As his set unfolded, I was getting a distinct, eerie feeling of deja vu, like I’d known this music in another life. But I’d never seen them play before. How could this be possible? Hmm…
When they trotted out ‘Mystery’, everything clicked and I had a eureka moment: the single has been played on 6music a lot as of late, so I knew all the words. Since I was a singer in my former life, I have the tendency to sing along – loudly – when I know the lyrics to a song, and when Bayston noticed this, he broke out a wide grin. I imagine he was thinking, “wow, an American knows my music!” The dancey vibe afforded by Only Real continued on into the Boxed In set, with Bayston’s band soundtracking an all out dance party to usher in the small hours of Saturday morning in Austin in British disco style with the driving rhythms of tracks like ‘Foot of the Hill’.
The electronic aspect of Boxed In served as a nice segue into the more intellectual style of electronic musician/producer Rival Consoles, who I’d seen play in the much smaller Plush Thursday night. The most intriguing difference in Ryan L. West’s show Friday night at Latitude 30 compared to the one at Plush: the backdrop was a dynamically generated visual show determined entirely by the user he set the task to, West explained to me in our chat Saturday. That means every single night, you’re going to get a completely different visual experience. How’s that for unexpected art?
There is probably no greatest place for a British musical artist to play at during SXSW than Latitude 30, and West was completely caught up in the moment as he crafted his music for the evening. That’s one thing about electronic music I love: it can, conceivably, go on forever, morphing and evolving, with different pieces of equipment being called in play or put aside, depending the maker’s mood. With a stagehand telling West he only had a minute left to play, he ended his set on a buzzy high note.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 1st April 2015 at 2:00 pm
I think everyone comes to SXSW with a list of must-see bands. Come hell or high water, you are so determined to see these acts, no one will get in your way, you will queue for hours in advance, etc. etc. etc. For me, one of my must-sees at SXSW 2015 was French/Cuban sister act Ibeyi, whose self-titled debut album released on XL in February is likely to be on my top albums of 2015 list when it comes time in December to thinking about the year in review. While I was disappointed they would be playing at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, where I’d had a near religious experience and bawled my eyes out watching Daughter perform there back in 2012, I was happy to see that Ibeyi’s official showcase would be at Central Presbyterian Church, where I’d never been.
Immediately preceding the sisters was a name that been going around my friend circles, Vancouver, Canada’s Tobias Jesso, Jr. At first, sat in my pew, I had no idea where he was as he began to speak to the audience. My pew mates explained he was behind the large grand piano centre stage. Ok. I’d been told he had a Randy Newman-esque, self-deprecatory way about him, which is neither here nor there, but I thought, okay, if it works for Randy Newman, maybe it’ll work for this kid. The week he was in Austin was also the week his debut album ‘Goon’ was released on True Panther, so the timing was ripe for him to pick up some new fans. Judging from the number of people who couldn’t find a seat in one of the pews, the buzz about him must have gotten around town. Initially, I had an open mind. One song made me think, okay, he’s a little like Billy Joel in his storytelling. But then as the song went on, I changed my mind, deciding that such a comparison was insulting to the Piano Man.
If my count was correct, he had to restart a song three different times (twice on the same song) because he couldn’t remember the lyrics. If I am to give him the benefit of the doubt to say he wasn’t used to the pressure of SXSW or to playing to this many people and maybe he got nervous and cracked, I think that’s giving him too much credit. You’re playing on the world’s biggest stage at the world’s biggest festival, a festival than thousands of bands around the world only dream of getting a shout to, and you’re not ready? It’s unprofessional and embarrassing. Even worse, I found his attempts to laugh and wheedle his way out of his shortcomings made things worse. Just get on with it. The title of his last song, ‘How Could You Babe’, pretty much sums up my impression of Jesso, Jr.: numbingly plain and boring. I hope his other shows in Austin went on with less hitches.
So thank goodness for twins Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz to bring some energy to the church next. The sisters may have been overwhelmed by their week in Austin and the reception they got everywhere they went, but in their case, it was entirely deserved. As expected from a sibling act, the harmonies between the sisters were tight, and straight off the bat we were treated to a brief a cappella bit that allowed their vocals to shine. Also included in the set was a never before tried rearrangement of ‘Oya’ that was peerless and of course, the super sultry ‘River’.
The church also erupted in cheers when the pair announced they were about to do a Jay Electronica cover of ‘Better in Tune with the Infinite’. It was soulful and beautiful. In between the songs, the twins were softspoken but that was part of their charm endearing themselves to the audience: these are two young women who are passionate about what they do, about continuing their family’s thread through music, yet it was evident in the almost breathless way they would speak that they are honestly blown away by how everyone has come to regard them as singers and musicians. I felt terrible leaving Ibeyi‘s set early, but I just had this gut feeling I was supposed to be somewhere else.