Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Midlake Interview

I first interviewed Midlake's Tim Smith several weeks ago, only to find that most of our hour-long conversation went unrecorded. Luckily, Tim is a very kind and generous person, and gave me another chance. This attempt clocks in at about a half-hour, but I feel still presents the depth and intelligence that Tim, and the band as a whole, possesses. Midlake is a wide-ranging band, with an ever-evolving sound, and this, I feel, can be traced directly back to Tim himself.

You guys just finished a tour. How did that go?

We went all over the Midwest, and it was just the most difficult tour yet; driving in that van, and the cities are so spread out, it makes it kind of difficult to get a lot of rest. Just being in the van, and driving hours and hours a day, was kind of tough. We toured with Jason Lytle, from Grandaddy, who we really admire, and who was a big influence on us early on, so that was really cool, getting to play shows with him. We were also with John Grant, who is on the label with us, and who we helped make his solo album; he’s a great singer songwriter. So, you know, it was only 3 weeks on the road, but it was probably the toughest tour so far.

Because of the locations and having to drive?

Ya, in Europe we actually have a proper tour bus. So, we just get back to the bus at 1 or 2 in the morning, after the show, and then we can party, or just go to sleep if we want, and wake up in a new city by noon. In America, we don’t. So, its 1 or 2am, and then you try to get back to the hotel to sleep by 3 or something; you wake up at maybe 8am and then have a 7 hour drive to the next city. It’s just really difficult to get rest, and it can make you a bit grouchy. It’s not fun, not fun at all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Album Review: Dark Dark Dark -- Bright Bright Bright

  Dark Dark Dark will be playing at the Hi-Dive on July 19th. In anticipation for what will inevitably be an incredible show, I’ve decided to review one of my favorite recent releases, their brilliant new EP, Bright Bright Bright. Also, I’ll be sitting down with the band after the show, so look forward to an exclusive interview, and, hopefully, a video performance.

  Beginning with the prideful melancholy of the title-track, and continuing through to the mournful, yet hopeful, closer, a reimagined cover of Elephant Micah's “Wild Goose Chase”, Bright Bright Bright showcases a matured, and ultimately brilliant, progression for Dark Dark Dark. Moving forward from the shanty-folk of 2008’s The Snow Magic LP, DDD has managed bring forth the rich, ever-deepening hues that lurked beneath their previous works.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova) Interview

Jake Bellows and Morgan Meyn (Whispertown) rode in to Denver on a motorcycle to see Tom Petty and play a show with Pearly Gate Music. Before the show, and for a little while afterwards, we discussed early Wailers recordings, Omaha and Edward Norton.

How did Neva Dinova get started?

In high school, Heath [Koontz] and I decided to be in a battle of the bands, but neither one of us really played and instrument, or made music. We just thought it would be fun. So, his grandpa loaned us some instruments and we made up some songs. Then, we entered the battle of the bands, but for some reason we weren’t allowed to perform. But that kind of made us want to really try to make music, so we got some more traditional instruments. We had had a banjo and an electric mandolin at the time, so we had to learn to play those. I wasn’t very good at the banjo.

Where does the name Neva Dinova come from?

It was my grandma’s name. About the same time we were getting the band going, she died of cancer. So, I thought, we’ll just name the band after her and keep her around as long as we can.

(Brief) Whispertown Interview

Whispertown ( Morgan Meyn) played an amazing show recently with Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova) and Pearly Gate Music. I had interviewed Jake before the show, but after it was all over we hung out, during which time I recorded this brief interview.

How did you first start writing and recording songs?

The first time I asked my parents for a guitar was when I was 16, and I wrote a song and played it for them. Then, I forgot about it. but, when I was 20 I was working as an actress on a sitcom; we don’t really have them anymore, but the format was that you’d rehearse for a week and then record it live in front of an audience. So, you were only needed when you were rehearsing your scenes, so I had a lot of down time sitting in my trailer. It was there that I basically taught myself how to sing and play guitar and write songs. I started recording a couple years after that, at the push of Jenny Lewis [Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins], my dear friend, who sort of made me pursue it.

Tiny Vipers Interview

Recently, I talked to Seattle's Jesy Fortino, AKA Tiny Vipers, about her unique approach to songwriting and recording, as well as one good reason to peek into the bushes.

Where did the name Tiny Vipers come from?

Honestly, I just thought it sounded cool (laughs). I mean, it was like 6 years ago, and I need to come up with a name because I didn’t want to use my own. I had just sort of packed that away a long time ago incase I ever needed a name for something.

How long had you played guitar before you felt you needed the name?

Well, I had played on and off for a while. I had played for a little bit when I was a teenager, and then I played again when I was maybe 20. I started playing shows when I was 22, so, its been on and off for a while

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Lighthouse and the Whaler Interview

The Lighthouse and the Whaler is Michael LoPresti, Arron Smith, Evan Storey, Mark Porostosky and Nate (?). They played recently at the Hi-Dive, bringing their instrument-swapping folk to Denver for the first time. I sat down with the guys afterwards to discuss their music and art itself. (UPDATE: Click Here For An Exclusive Acoustic Video Performance Of An Unreleased Song!)

Album Review: Pearly Gate Music -- Self-Titled

   On stage, Zach Tillman stomps and howls in a blood-boiling frenzy of raucous spirit. Off stage, he is jovial, gregarious and ultimately charming. On record, Zach shows himself as something in between, yet definitively different, from his other selves.

    Pearly Gate Music’s self-titled debut presents the melancholic cries of Zach’s ethereal-folk, with the ability to shift from whispered drums and guitarless, chanting harmonies to sweat-drenched, clap-along rock n’ roll, complete with distorted, madhouse solos and (inevitably) the stomping toes of everyone within earshot.

   The album is lush, a richness that is only furthered by Zach’s heartbroken poetics, something that hasn’t received as much attention, but which deserves as much praise as the sound itself. He is a poet rooted in the spirit of electric-Dylan, but with a modern twist of broken, trailing cadence that drifts in and out of time.

   The album pulls you in deeper with every rotation, allowing you to catch the almost unnoticed nuances that you had unknowingly smiled towards last time, eventually realizing why a seemingly-sad song left you grinning and dancing about. Pearly Gate Music is, in one reporter’s humble opinion, one of the best debut albums in recent years, something to be cherished among the ever-cluttered shelf of modern music.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Emily Jane White Interview

Emily Jane White is a joyously macabre poet from California. She has recently released her second album Victorian America, to critical acclaim. On June 3rd 2010, I conducted a phone interview with her to discuss her career, and herself as an artist.

What types of ideas, or moments in life, inspire songs?

I’d say that music is very emotional, and I write songs mostly about things that I feel very strongly about. It usually has to do with feelings of sadness, or injustice, or the realities that happen in life that are very strong and powerful. So, ya, its mostly emotional reactions to things.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Album Review: Woom -- Muu's Way

Beginning 6 years ago as Fertile Crescent, and reemerging recently as WOOM, Sara Magenheimer and Eben Portnoy have collaborated to create a feverishly different take on the Female-Male duo. Don’t think The White Stripes or The Moldy Peaches (although the simplistic approach of the aforementioned and the playfulness of the latter do resonate); WOOM is a very different beast altogether, echoing the electronic rhythm of Panda Bear as much as the sundrenched, lo-fi pop of Jonquil, while, in the end, sounding nothing like either. Additionally, gaining comparison to Young Marble Giants and early Velvet Underground, yet touring with bands like Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu, the band has proved nearly impossible to pinpoint stylistically, and their debut LP Muu’s Way presents this sonic amalgamation perfectly.

Mini Mansions Interview

On May, 31st, 2010, I talked with Michael Shuman (Queens of the Stone Age, Wires on Fire) about his new project, Mini Mansions. Mini Mansions is playing here in Denver on the 4th, so look out for a possible follow-up interview.

To start, what is the line-up and how did you guys form?

It’s myself, Zach Dawes and Tyler Parkford. As for getting together…that’s a long story. Me and Zach have been best buds for like 14 years and he went to college in Santa Cruz and ended up living with Tyler. Tyler makes weird music and always has. He’d never been in a band, just kind of made weird tunes for himself, and Zach sent me some of his stuff and it was always rad. So, when he moved back to LA I hung out with Tyler and showed him some of my stuff and talked about making a band, and the music we were both making just kind of made sense together in the direction we wanted to go. And since he’d never been in a band he didn’t really know what do with his music, but it made was just so good I felt that we had to make a full band out of it.

New Site!

Welcome to Plywood Violins. This is a blog to document the music interviews, album/show reviews and whatever various pieces of art I might want to publish over the next few months.

Generally, all articles having to do with music will simultaneously be published on Rocky Mountain Music (www.rmmusicblog.com). If, in the future, any freelance music journalists need a home, they will be welcome here.

For now, it's just myself, Zane Saint James.