Interviews Archive

Suicide Ali: A Reason For Music Lovers To LiveSuicide Ali: A Reason For Music Lovers To Live

SuicideAliGroup.jpgSitting down with Suicide Ali the day after their U.S. debut, I noticed something. Unlike most musicians I've known, these four guys from Osaka are larger-than-life when off the stage.

It's not the meticulous makeup, which lasted a long day of promo appearances at the Pacific Media Expo earlier this month. It's not the elaborate costumes and platform boots, which the band admitted are rather hard to move around in. It's because these guys really do live for their music--and that dedication is what Suicide Ali radiates, whether onstage or during an intimate face-to-face. During a fan Q&A session, when people asked about their favorite pasttimes singer/songwriter/band founder Goshi said one of his hobbies is photography--since it aids the creation of his music. "I'm hoping that it helps me understand the human psyche," he says through a translator.

No doubt it'll be the darker side of humanity that Goshi--as well as bassist and fellow band founder Hiroshi, guitarist/songwriter Yuu, and drummer Hisashi--will continue to explore. Most people call these guys industrial, though I like to describe Suicide Ali's music as a combination of American metal and European goth, Japan-ified with pretty vocals and immense sense of showmanship. Goshi's slow, deliberate moves onstage are mesmerizing; he pays attention to the tiniest flick of a wrist or finger. He reminds me of traditional Japanese performance, like that of a geisha or Kubuki actor, in which actions and music are carefully matched to evoke a mood or emotion, not just a character. I hear that this quality is pretty unique to Suicide Ali.

As is their music. Word is they are heavier than most "visual kei" bands. No doubt it's because of the influences the group cites: Ozzy, Metallica, Nirvana, and even underground metal like Dope and Murderdolls, which drummer Hisashi, who also digs Crue, tells me he likes because of Joey Jordison. Tempering brutal riffs and dark tales, however, is Goshi's voice: Smooth and super-emotive, and sometimes screamo too. It's no surprise that PJ Harvey is his favorite singer. There's also a lot of pre-recorded synth tracks that Suicide Ali utilizes both live and on their CDs, mimicing flutes, pianos, even a Theremin, but in an obviously manufactured way--much more effective than real instruments would be.

These guys could give Phil Spector a run for his money with their "wall of sound." There's so much layered into a Suicide Ali song that each time you listen to one, you'll hear something you didn't before. Perhaps a barely-there backing vocal, a sparse piano chord, or some un-placeable sound that adds just the right touch. Using an economic metaphor, their songs give you greater return-on-investment--each listening experience feels new.

Two of my favorite Suicide Ali songs are instantly recognizable when I listen to their latest CDs a few days after the show.

Rating:
Five stars/5 Stars

Death Pilot Divebombing Your Town SoonDeath Pilot Divebombing Your Town Soon

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There's a moment I've come to anticipate at a Death Pilot show: The last movement in the song "The Treatment," in which lead singer "Midian" proclaims, "The dead will rise!" over a steady, intricate blast of drums, bass, keyboard, and guitars. The interlude is at once hypnotic and stirring. But what really gets me is that I'm never sure what it means for the dead to rise. Yes, there's the obvious gothic horror reference. But every time I hear that proclamation--made so effective with "Capt. ?'s" gorgeous backing vocals--I want to interpret it as a positive. A sliver of optimism in a hell-tastic world. Like, maybe the dead whom we miss will rise so that we can be reunited.

I might not be off the mark in perceiving this dichotomy in Death Pilot's music, in seeing a juxtaposition of love and nihilism. "I'm glad that's how it's coming across," Midian tells me as we're parked outside Dream Street in San Diego after the first show of Death Pilot's first national tour. "Like, there's a negative tone yet at the end of it all, there's hope. I've always had this mentality that out of bad things, good things can come out."

Death Pilot, based in Los Angeles, is clearly Midian's brainchild. Yet the singer-songwriter has allowed many other talents to shape and hone his vision. There's the production company Dirty Icon (Logan Mader of Machine Head and Soulfly, and Lucas Banker; 30 Seconds To Mars guitarist Tomo Milicevic also produces the band), who hand-picked Midian to evolve his music and his voice well beyond the initial DP lineup. And then there are seasoned musicians "Ares" (bass) and "Diamondz" (drums), whose skills and musical maturity have turned DP's rhythm section into a formidable, unstoppable weapon. Finally, there's talent mixed with youthful vigor, in keyboardist/backing vocalist "Capt. ?" and guitarists "Machine" and "JD."

Those last two shine onstage during the song "Do Or Die"--though it's as metal as all get-out, the dual guitar lines are more classic-sounding, dare I even say evoking George Harrison? Come to think of it, every Death Pliot song, to me, sound as much like classical composition as metal: There are separate, specific movements, like a Beethoven symphony or Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, each evoking a different emotion: Anger, protest, love, despair, hope. Accordingly, Midian's voice often turns on a dime between sonorous and screamo.

Music: RIYL:metal, musical narratives, to rock Rating:
Four stars/5 Stars

It's Casual: The REAL Los AngelesIt's Casual: The REAL Los Angeles

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Think of a Black Flag version of Local H and maybe you can start to imagine It's Casual.

The first time I heard this power duo, they were playing at the DIY-esque Relax Bar in one of the least glamorous parts of Hollywood. These guys give off the intensity and charisma of a thrash band twice their size; my attention was equally split between the singer/guitarist Edward Solis and the drummer, who goes by the name W.C.E., as their technical skills belied the grungy setting and simple-seeming lyrics.

It's Casual's brand of song is even more apparent on their CDs. Forgoing the more esoteric subject matter of socio-political issues--or "life sucks" commentary--often favored by bands of their ilk, It's Casual instead focuses on genuine moments. They're short tales of what it's like to be a struggling DIY band, or the fair-weather-friendship of L.A. business contacts, or--in the case of the band's latest album, The New Los Angeles--snippets of the lives of everyday Angelenos. Real Los Angeles folk--not Hollywood stars, phoney transplants, or wannabe gangstas. Songs include an ode to the 24-hour convenience store ("The Pantry," which for me actually evoked the time I lived the night-owl lifestyle in Japan); the fact that the wrong people are procreating ("Too Many Kids," which is also included on the recent Basement Records compilation); and the joys of public transportation and the agony of highway driving ("EZ Pass" and "The Red Line," respectively). Which, I guess, could also apply to anyone living in a major urban area other than L.A.

Minimal lyrics give a basic outline; it's the music, rather, that evoke the plot and the narrator's true feelings. Some might dismiss such word thrift this as repetition. I view it as a sort of gritty haiku, allowing hard-hitting riffs and drumbeats to do the talking. Syncopation and unusual time signatures--not for the usual three-chord pony!

RIYL:Black Flag, Melvins, power duos, skating Rating:
Four stars/5 Stars

Interview: Chris Marstall of TourfilterInterview: Chris Marstall of Tourfilter

Tourfilter's premise is quite simple, and quite brilliant. Enter a list of bands you like, and get an email alert when they hit your town. Tourfilter took 2nd place at Mashup Camp 3.

During Podbop's week in Boston, we got a few chances to hang out and get to know the really easy going and interesting Chris Marstall.

chris-marstall.jpg What language is Tourfilter written in?
Ruby on Rails.

Where do you get your data?
1300 club websites that I crawl nightly.

When did you begin?
April of 2006

Are you the only one involved?
Right now yes, although over the summer I had a Harvard student interning for me who was entering club data and researching where the clubs were.

What motivated you to make Tourfilter?
I was missing too many shows. I would read about them the next day in the paper, and I wanted to find a way to enter all my bands and get an email so I could buy tickets in time.

What's the last really good concert you went to?
Final Fantasy at PA's Lounge

If you could pick an artist/band to be your spokesperson, who would it be?
Brian Eno please! Then David Bowie.

iPod or Zune?
iPod, please. I have two of them (I just won one!) [Chris got second place at Mashup Camp]

What's your favorite music blog?
Hardcorbeau. A local music journalist that does a pretty kick-ass music blog.

New York or Boston?
Boston.

If you had a band what would you name it?
Chris Marstall and Other Stories.

Photo by David Kamerman for Tourfilter & Tourb.us' Boston Globe Article [also see print version]

Interview: Gigul8r's Cre8rsInterview: Gigul8r's Cre8rs

Gigul8r is the easiest, slickest way of adding events to Eventful (or any concert calendar website/software) I've ever seen. It's intelligent, ajax responses let you add natural data (Tomorrow 8pm) that are verified on-the-fly. Then they also provide printable gig-posters for promotion of that event. I got a chance to hit up the two full-time Eventful employees at Mashup Camp for a few questions on their fun side project that tied for fourth place in the Best Mashup Contest

Who's involved?
Chris Radcliff: I am the evil genius behind Gigul8r
Nate Ritter: I am the igor behind Gigul8r

What language is your site written in?
Chris: It's written in PHP

Where do you get your data?
Chris: We use the Eventful API and maps from Google Maps. The other one is a large website that has a set, of say, 'spaces' and one that you could say is mine, and the ones that are say, my spaces on that have photos, and we use that as well.

When did you begin?
Chris: Gigul8r will be launched sometime tomorrow (1/18) and has been rattling around my brain since about 6 months ago. We started coding it about a week and a half ago.

What motivated you to make Gigul8r?
Chris: At my day job, Eventful, we talked to a lot of artists who were on Myspace and they used the Eventful Demand service to figure out where they should go for their tours. They never really thought of Eventful as a place to put their gigs, because when you go to Eventful, as it is now, it isn't super obvious where go in and put a whole tour list at a time. Gigul8r makes it really dirt simple to put in all your tour dates at one time and does all the hard work for you.

What was the last memorable concert you went to?
Nate: The Pale.
Chris: I have a three year old son, and I listen to Raffi most of the time. My son stole my brain.

If you could pick an artist or band to be Gigul8r's spokesperson, who would it be?
Chris: It would have to be somebody hot.
Nate: Chantelle Paige. I don't know [who she is], I just saw her on Myspace while we were testing the image importer and she passed the hot or not test.

iPod or Zune?
Chris: Do I really have to answer that? Zune comes in brown. iPod Nano 1st Generation.

What's your favorite music blog?
Chris: Let me think for a second...I think it may be..Podbop Blog
Nate: I'm going to go ahead and agree

New York or Boston?
Chris: Boston
Nate: Depends if you are talking sports. I think sports when I think of Boston; Boston Red Sox absolutely! But for cities, I'd have to say New York.

If you had a band, what would you name it?
Chris: When I was putting the talk together for Mashup University, I came up with the name Thunk Monkeys, and I kinda like that.
David (Organizer of Mashup Camp): Sounds like a flavor of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
Chris: Which is good for a band name!

Interview: Anthony Volodkin of HypemachineInterview: Anthony Volodkin of Hypemachine

Between winning Mashup Camp 3 and bar hopping in Boston, I got a chance to throw some hard-hitting questions at Anthony Volodkin, the creator of Hype Machine, which keeps track of music posted on blogs all over the world.

What language is your site written in?
It's written in a mix of Perl and PHP, and there are some Python components as well.

Where do you get your data?
I use Amazon, iTunes, Eventful, Upcoming, YouTube, eMusic and there are more. It's a long list :)

When did you begin?
April 2005

Are you the only one involved?
Yes, unfortunately.

What motivated you to make Hype Machine?
I wanted to hear something fresh, something interesting in terms of music and I couldn't turn to radio or magazines. I found music blogs where apparently people write about music that they actually like, and that's a shift in a lot of ways that it was done previously.

What was the last memorable concert you went to?
It would have to be Cat Power. That was incredible.

If you could pick an artist or band to be Hype Machine's spokesperson, who would it be?
That's a tough one. No idea, because I actually don't know the kind of people a lot of musicians are.

How about Cat Power, pre-sober days?
Well see, my site is up most of the time so I don't know if it fits. If it would just disappear for half of the day or in the middle of a show. I couldn't pick Cat Power, but I do like her passion, her very human touch.

iPod or Zune?
iPod, but I don't even listen to my iPod anymore. I soak in the surroundings. When I take the train, I look at people. It's interesting. I think it's the next stage after you live with the iPod in the iPod bubble. After you are tired of this, you want to see what's in your surroundings.

What's your favorite music blog?
That's a tough one too. There are lots of good ones. I'd say what really got me even to do Hype Machine is Music For Robots. It actually has blog ID 1 [on Hype Machine] because it's the one I was testing stuff with.

New York or Boston?
New York. What? No Gainesville?

If you had a band, what would you name it?
I would call it Spoof.

[Points to 'Don't Read Spoof' on Anthony's shirt] What is that?
That's actually my friend's college magazine. It's a satire magazine that angered certain school groups to make posters that say, "Spoof isn't funny, don't read Spoof," which promptly made everyone pick up a copy. It flew off the shelves.

Interview: CSS' Luiza SaInterview: CSS' Luiza Sa

After seeing their incredible live show at Brooklyn Vegan's free CMJ shows, I caught Luiza Sa for a very brief interview while she was hastily packing up her stuff (CSS played about 2 shows a day during CMJ).

Podbop: I'm not sure if you get this a lot, but you're aware that C.S.S. also means Cascading Style Sheets and has to do with web design?
Luiza: It's like links and code right? Yeah I used to do that, but comon' making that was really shitty.

Podbop: What are some of your favorite live shows ever?
Luiza: Madonna, when I was 10. It was really important to me. It was in 1993 in San Paulo. It was the girly show that fuckin rocked. Peaches in 2003, also in San Paulo and the Flaming Lips in 2001. I really liked it. I love PJ Harvey too and have seen her three times. She's so good.

Podbop: What inspires you as a musician?
Luiza: Other things. We all really addicted to music and listen to it all day. I have so much music and I love it. We don't call ourselves musicians, and it's very liberating. It's like making art, but not titling yourself an artist so you don't have this pretentiousness. I never learned how to play the guitar, I just play music. It's very freeing. You don't have to be the greatest, you just have to do your thing. Movies inspire us. Soffia Coppola. We think of colors to describe music. We have this song called Patins (rollerskates in Portuguese) and the lyrics have nothing to do with it, but when we heard it, it seems like what we'd be doing.

(photo by Pulmonary Archery)

An Interview With Fin Fang FoomAn Interview With Fin Fang Foom

The Fest V Podbop Festival Coverage
Fin Fang Foom

After Fin Fang Foom's awesome Saturday night performance at Bar One during The Fest V, I got a chance to pick their brains a bit about Gainesville's music scene, their next release and inspiring shows they've been to.

First off, is this your first Fest?
Eddie: No, actually, we've done all of them since the first one.

What do you think the best part of The Fest is?
Eddie: Getting to see all the bands - all your friends. Being that we used to live an hour away, we have a lot friends here. That and just everybody getting together.

Mike T.: I think it's a really amazing thing, community-wise. All these bands are coming together, all these people are coming together, and it's still so, you know, noncorporate. It's very grassroots and indie. It's still punk rock and I think it's awesome that it carries that vibe through it. I think it's really important. It's amazing what Tony [Weinbender of No Idea Records] and everyone involved has done - keeping it kind of pure and noble. No commercial nonsense. Staying true to what we all believe in and what we've been working for for so many years.

Cynthia: I've never been to Gainesville. I've never been to The Fest. The people here have been so crazy and so nice. It's totally revitalizing to see it going on outside your town. I've met so many crazy people tonight who are just like, "Hey, what's your deal?" It's so friendly. The energy in this town is so great. It totally inspires you, like, "Yeah, man, this is what it's about." It was awesome. I was shocked - I thought it was gonna be a bunch of punk rockers sitting around and growling at each other and it was gonna suck.

I hear the cello player is a recent addition. How did you guys decide to add that?
Eddie: We've always wanted a cello player. For a long, long time. It just worked out because she was a good friend of ours, an awesome person, and she played cello.

Do you guys have an album coming out soon?
Mike T.: Yeah, it's like a Japan exclusive, but we've conviced the Love to release it and it's going to be distributed through Dischord. It's supposed to be out, but the CDs have been on a boat. Seriously, on a boat. Dischord is like, "Well, we can't get it on this release date because it still hasn't gotten here." We're just waiting for that to come. Then we have new stuff that we're going to record and hopefully have it out next year.

Interview continued after the jump...

An Interview With Russian CirclesAn Interview With Russian Circles

The Fest V Podbop Festival Coverage
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The absense of a vocalist puts the focus completely on the push and pull of the music, even when it isn't a conscious decision. Chicago's Russian Circles formed in late-2004, following the break-up of Dakota/Dakota, the math-rock band guitarist Mike Sullivan and bassist Colin DeKuiper played in.

Two years later Flameshovel Records released the instrumental trio's first full-length, Enter -- a linear, dynamic post-metal album capable of appealing to fans of Mogwai and Mastodon alike. With six tracks and a run-time just shy of 45 minutes, it never sounds forced or pretentious.

After the band's explosive set on the first night of The Fest V in Gainesville, I stood outside a local pub and spoke with Colin about live shows and touring.

First of all, why did you guys decide to be an instrumental band?

It wasn't really like we set out to be an instrumental band. When we started the band, there wasn't a lot laid out for us. We hadn't set the groundwork for what we wanted to achieve. But the three of us really wanted to play together, so we just sort of came together and started writing songs.

The first song we wrote was the first song on our record, "Carpe." After we wrote it we were just sorta like, "I don't know exactly where the vocals are gonna fit." And then after that, we wrote another song that ended up being the last song on the record, "New Macabre." We were saying the same thing, just sorta standing around saying "I dunno where the vocals are gonna go." At that point, we said, "We'll test it out, play some shows, and see what the reaction is." For the most part it seemed more positive, that people felt like we should be an instrumental band versus a band with vocals.

It's not out of the question, but right now it's really, really easy to be a three-piece and not have vocals, so we'll forge ahead as planned.

What do you think makes for a good live show?

We love small rooms just because it seems the smaller the room, the more control we have over how it sounds. Also a smaller room is easier to fill. For us, a good live show is just, you know, we play well, we sound good and there's crowd there that's really into it.

Interview continued after the jump...

Music: RIYL:Pelican, Mono, Red Sparowes Rating:
Five stars/5 Stars

Podbop Interviews AnnualsPodbop Interviews Annuals

CMJ Marathon 2006 Podbop Festival Coverage

Taylor sat down with all six members of Annuals after their Gainesville, FL performance last week. They talked about blogs, discovering new music, CMJ and more. Listen to highlights from the interview in an audio slideshow with photos from the concert. Then download the entire interview to hear what else they had to say.


Download the full interview (5.5 MB, 8 min 13 sec)

Upcoming Performances

  • Nov 3: New York, NY @ Other Music (Acoustic), 12 p.m.
  • Nov 3: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom, 9 p.m.
  • Nov 4 : Brooklyn, NY @ The Annex (Brooklyn VeganDay Party), 1:30 p.m.
  • Nov 6: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom, 8 p.m.
  • Nov 10: Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle +
  • Nov 15: Cambridge, MA @ TT the Bears +
  • Nov 18: Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brendas +
  • Dec 2: Tuscon, AZ @ Rialto Theatre -
  • Dec 3: Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad -
  • Dec 4: Flagstaff, AZ @ Orpheum Theatre -
  • Dec 5: Tempe, AZ @ The Clubhouse -
  • Dec 7: Santa Barbara, CA @ SoHo -

+ w/Evangelicals
- w/Calexico

Music: RIYL:Arcade Fire, Animal Collective, Broken Social Scene

Cinemechanica InterviewCinemechanica Interview

The Fest V Podbop Festival Coverage

CMJ Marathon 2006 Podbop Festival Coverage

Cinemechanica

Cinemechanica is a progressive post-hardcore band out of Athens, Gerogia. With a recently added second drummer, they throw down like not many other bands of their caliber. No, seriously. Their live shows are incredible. And you can even learn to play the drums with this man. They also have an alter-ego that's gotten mention in Nintendo Power magazine. First it was called Contraband, now Megaband, and they play the soundtrack to the respective video game while a wizard (no not that one) beats it in half an hour. With no breaks, it's pretty grueling on the musicians, but definitely worth it for the audience.

We recently got a chance to sit down with Cinemechanica drummer Mike Albanese when he was recording the new Building the State album at Andy Baker's studio in Athens. Many thanks to Regina Quattrocki for transcribing the interview. Here's what Mike had to say:

What are some of the most life-changing shows that you've seen?

That's actually a really good question. Number one is Hum. "Stars" was their big hit, but that was their only big hit. They were totally the first band that I'd seen that was pretty underground. They got on 120 Minutes. We found out about them way back when I was like 15 or 16. We got our friends to drive us to New York, and I saw them at Irving Plaza. It was so loud and so space-rock. I'd never really heard a band that was profoundly distorted and really delayed. It seemed like every single person there knew. There were about 800 people there maybe. Of all of New York, 800 people knew Hum. Because anybody who knew Hum and was in New York definitely was at that show because it was like a cult. It was like 800 people who worshipped this band. That was definitely when I decided to play music for life.

Hot Snakes. I don't know if you know that one, but Hot Snakes, that's a recent one. But I was like, "Oh my god! You could be 40 and just bulldoze the entire audience, completely steamroll them." Those dudes, you know Drive Like Jehu, that's one of my favorite bands ever. So seeing Hot Snakes and having it be one of my favorite shows of all time and having it be so well mixed and so professional and yet so rock and roll. I just like shows that give you insight into how other people do it when they're doing it well. When they have their shit together 10 times more than you do - I love that now. I'm just like, thank God that there are bands that have their shit together at that level for that long. Those dudes have been doing bands and touring aggressively and playing amazing shows for almost 20 years now.

Are there any fun tour stories you'd like to share?

We play a good amount of shows. We'll play in Boston and do really well. We'll play in D.C. and do pretty well, but sometimes the most exciting shows on tour are like Sanford, North Carolina. Where there's a pocket of kids who are probably still in high school, or some of them have graduated that are just sticking around. And they got about three or four bands that are in their scene, but it's Sanford, North Carolina. There's no venue or infrastructure. They create everything, you know what I mean. Those are the most out-of-the-blue shows. Basically this student MySpace stuff. Actually one guy runs all the shows there. He was driving like two hours to come see us. He told us that we have to come to Sanford. We said it's a done deal. If there are people there that want to see us, then we'll definitely go. We expected only 20 to 30 people, but dude, there were about 150 kids who love crazy rock music. They know all these underground bands because for whatever reason, in their town that's what those kids do. They get into big underground music early. You know how some towns have a really thick skate culture; some towns have a hip-hop culture. Well Sanford, North Carolina, has this ridiculous underground, crazy music thing. So all these bands go through there now. We recommend that all these bands go through there because these kids are really starved for bands to come through because no bands go through there.

The drummer of Polvo, one of my all-time favorite bands, he just moved there. One of our friends, who we've known forever, he was like, "Hey, that dude from Polvo moved down the street from me." Then he met him and he said that the guy is totally really cool, not like ex-rock-star totally cool but, I'm-a-dad-and-I-develop-software totally cool. So we would be playing these shows in North Carolina and seeing this dude and every six months we would see him. First he said the guy from Polvo moved down the street. Then again, this is Stanford and there are only like four bands, so you can imagine where this is going. Six months later, he's like, "Dude, we started a cover band. We went over there and played a couple songs with him." Then six months later he's like, Dude, we wrote an original." Then six months later he's like, "Dude, we're playing a show with you guys." Then next thing we know, we're playing with the drummer of Polvo's new band, which sounds kind of like Hot Snakes and is amazing. The dude is getting off the plane coming from some big business meeting and then driving to some high school rec room where we played the show. He's was like rocking out in a collared polo shirt. It was so hot. Endless hotness in Sanford, North Carolina.

So let's see, I'm going with Hum and Hot Snakes as my favorite shows, which in my opinion is cool. I'm going with Sanford, North Carolina as arbitrary tour story. There's so much arbitrary tour-ness. We played in one town where it was a similar thing, a little more collegiate, and all the kids there were really stoked on wine for after the shows. So they would drink all these 40s and then wash the bottles out and fill them with 4 to 3 ratio concentrated grape juice and then they'd pour yeast in it and then cap it for two weeks. It was vile but so hilarious. They had so much of it. They were like, "This one is from five weeks ago, and this one is from seven weeks ago, and this one has fine wine in it." They were like, "Dude, we'll sponsor you." That was in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

What inspires you?

People who are more passionate about what they do than I am. I feel like I've reduced my life to so few things that I really, really care about. I put so much time into each one of those that when I meet people and they are more focused than me and they're more dedicated - that just makes me want to elevate myself. It's just nice to see examples of people who really, really give a shit. It's pretty simple, but that's what gets me going.

The Fest V Performance:
Oct. 28, 10:50 @ Bar One w/ Fin Fang Foom, Building the State

CMJ Performance:
Nov 2, 9:30 @ The Tank w/We Versus The Shark, Megaband, Tiger Bear Wolf
Nov 3, TBA

Photo credit: Cinemechnica-drummer by Subinev

Music: RIYL:Drive Like Jehu, Mogwai, Faraquet

Xiu Xiu, Zoo Zoo, Schwee SchweeXiu Xiu, Zoo Zoo, Schwee Schwee

xiuxiu.jpg

Gainesville, FL - Xiu Xiu bring the noise, the beats, and the lyrics that stun you. This was the third time I had seen them (once in Austin at an old church, once in Chicago at Pitchfork). They are definitely the band that you want to be in an intimate setting with. Otherwise, you would miss out on the chills Jamie sends when he shivers the lyrics to Boy Soprano out or not appreciate all the different instrumentation bandmate Caralee creates with bike horns and toys.

I could see how people could call Xiu Xiu's music pretentious. It can sometimes be difficult music to listen to. Maybe too much noise for some. I must admit Xiu Xiu are one of those bands that I never listen to at home, but jump up and run to go see them live. You know those kinda bands don't you? Their CDs aren't the soundtrack to my life. They just put on a damn good live show. I'm not as fond of their newest album The Air Force as their older ones, so I didn't quite enjoy this show (pretty much all newer stuff) as much as the Austin show two years ago (plus it was hotttt). It was still good enough to get me coming back again (and looking forward to it).

Kaela caught up with Jamie after the show for a quick Q&A:

Podbop: I read in the Alligator that you used to be a pre-school teacher. What inspired you to join a band and go on tour?
Jamie Stewart: I had always been playing in bands while being a pre-school teacher and I just finally got fortunate enough to make enough money at it so that I didn't need a day job anymore. They had been happening concurrently but luckily for us this kind of took over.

PB: I've heard a lot of different pronunciations of your band name. It's Xiu Xiu (shoo-shoo) correct?
JS: That's how we say it but a million different people who speak a million different dialects of Chinese have told us that we're saying it wrong, and then they say something else but it's always somethign different.

PB: What's the funniest pronunciation?
JS: Zoo-zoo; Schwee-Schwee I think is our fav. That's actually what we privately call it.

PB: What are some of your favorite albums of 2006?
JS: Congs For Brums by Ches Smith, Evangelista by Carla Bouzlich, Marble Mouth by This Song Is A Mess But So Am I, Drift by Yellow Swans, the new looper record, and the new Morrisey record.

PB: What are some of your favorite live shows you have seen?
JS: Deerhoof, Hoodford Cows, Bahaus are probably the best bands I've ever seen live.

PB: What do you think makes a good show?
JS: Confetti.

Photos After The Jump!

Music: RIYL:Blood Bros meets Bright Eyes, Deerhoof, The Curtains, Black Dice Rating:
Three stars/5 Stars

Where's The Love?Where's The Love?

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San Fransisco, CA - The electronic music world has Love Parade. And one look at San Francisco's hippie strongholds would suggest the city's Summer Of Love refuses to die.

Then why couldn't those two legacies of love have come together when reknowned German DJ Rainer Truby, of Truby Trio fame, played the Poleng Lounge last Saturday?

Here's what happened:

Rainer played an awesome set resplendent with his trademark mix of Brazilian broken beats and cool-jazz horn riffs. The crowd, though it started to thin out by about 1 a.m., totally dug it. Rainer was friendly with his co-DJs (hailing from Japan and other places) as well as clubbers, who at the end of the night tripped over themselves to light his post-coital cigarette. The DJ even heartily agreed to an on-the-spot interview with me. I asked him how San Fran--where he's played four times--compared to other cities around the world. Laughingly, he said, "Er, slightly more strict door people." I wondered to myself what he meant.

Later some old, washed-up looking dude wearing a Bluetooth headset came along and told folks to leave the quarter-block area around the club entrance for noise-complaint reasons. Fair enough; in my newspaper days I wrote about noise ordinances killing budding music scenes. But the guy then started threatening the DJ! Fans quickly defended him, saying he was doing interviews and, uh, was the main attraction at the club and probably the reason Mr. Too-Skinny-To-Be-A-Real-Bouncer got paid that night. Said the bouncer-wannabe: "I don't care who you are, I get paid $25 an hour to beat people's ass!"

Luckily, no one was terribly frightened, and I managed to talk with Rainer for a few minutes before the official end of his nine-stop U.S. tour. Interview highlights after the jump.

The Knife: From Studio To StageThe Knife: From Studio To Stage

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The Knife notoriously shy away from attention. The Swedish brother-sister duo wear masks in their press pictures and have only performed live 13 times since forming in 1999.

If we could choose not to do any photos at all, we would. But it’s quite impossible. Because I don’t think it has anything to do with the music. So we use the photos now to show what our music looks like.

The same could be applied to their outlook on live shows. They prefer the studio, and on stage they play dress up to maintain the mood of their bizarre electro-pop. Their upcoming performances are largely the vision of artist and director Andreas Nilsson, who also shot the band's "Silent Shout" and "Heartbeats" videos. The elaborate set will feature projection screens, costumes and live puppetry. The perfect complement to their chilling and critically acclaimed third album (and first released in the U.S.).

We managed to set up a phone interview with Olof Dreijer last week to talk about live shows and inspiration. We'll also be giving away a copy of Silent Shout, their latest full-length album. Transcript, contest details and tour dates after the jump.

Music: RIYL:Fischerspooner, Laurie Anderson, Chicks on Speed

The Love Letter Band: Stripped of PretenseThe Love Letter Band: Stripped of Pretense

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Athens, GA - Singer-songwriter Chris Adolf sits at the center of a rotating collective of Denver-based musicians. They started calling themselves Bad Weather California, in part to shake off any twee connotations that came with being known as The Love Letter Band (see source). Not that they have anything against the genre: TLLB's latest album was released on the deliciously twee HHBTM Records.

Whether alone with his acoustic guitar or backed by a full band, the alt-folk songs are played with such conviction and sincerity that I can't help hanging on to his every word. His Aug. 10 set at the 40 Watt Club during Athens Popfest found Chris with just a drummer. Despite the vulnerability that comes with being in the spotlight, his fervor was contagious. The room full of indie kids chanted his chorus: "Everybody lives in their own little world. Everybody sings their own little song."

After the standout performance, Kaela approached Chris for a few questions. He humbly obliged.

Are you guys on tour right now?

Chris: We tour a lot. Right now we're not. The drummer is a house painter and I'm a landscaper. We just saved up money and bought plane tickets to be here.

Do any live shows you've seen come to mind as being the most memorable?

Chris: I'm sure there are. I saw the Violent Femmes not long ago. They just blew the doors off the place. They've been around a long time. I saw the Pixies. They were good, too.

I wasn't there, but the documentary The Last Waltz of The Band's last performance - that concert was really inspiring. Those guys really knew how to play.

What inspires you?

Chris: I don't know. I have this theory that if I knew, I wouldn't be good at it. I used to try to write songs. When I forced them they were never good songs. So I got them to write themselves. If they write themselves, if it just happens right away, then I keep them. If it takes more than a couple hours, then I just throw them out. So I wish I knew. I'm glad I don't know, but I wish I knew. Because if I knew, I could write a lot more songs. I just have to sit around and wait for them to come.

Music: RIYL:Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes, Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco Rating:
Five stars/5 Stars

Mouser: Spilling the BeansMouser: Spilling the Beans

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Athens, GA - Mouser kicked off the fourth night of Popfest at the 40 Watt Club on Aug. 11. Guitar, bass and drums were supplemented by a horn section and a whole lot of energy. They won the 2006 Flagpole Athens Music Award for Best Experimental Band.

Between songs, frontman Colby Carter kept mumbling nonsense about messy burritos. After their set, Taylor tracked him down outside the venue for a few questions.

Mouser will be performing tomorrow, Aug. 26, at the Homemade Genius art and music festival in Greenwood, SC, starting at 4 p.m.

What inspires you as a musician?

Colby: Heartbreak, social anxiety, the fact that I’m a pretty good guitar player. Comparatively and unfortunately I have to say, I know a lot of good musicians but I’m really good. I just pick up on the scale situation; that’s the reason. That inspires me. The fact that I like guitars inspires me. Also, my friends, Athens, Georgia, the people. There are a lot of people here for the same reason, so that’s very inspiring. There’s constantly someone to play music with, so everybody builds off of that.

Have you ever been to any life-changing shows?

Colby: I saw Deerhoof in Atlanta last year. That was really good. I was with my ex-girlfriend at the time and I was stomping around. I kind of broke a toe stomping on it. She wasn’t into it, but I freaked out. I love Deerhoof. They’re playing tonight, so that’s good.

Are you sticking around for that?

Colby: Yes, Yes. I’m going to meet them and praise them, and everything I can possibly do. They look so angry. They’ve been on tour for a long time, so they’re probably really tired. I want to hang out with them. I don’t know, what’s a good concert? I forget everything, which is horrible. The Buzzcocks, that was a good show. That was here last month. I don’t know. I just come from a family of musicians, so it was always kind of there. The guitars were there, and it’s like I’m bored and that looks fun.

Are you touring or recording?

Colby: We’re going to record an album through October. It will probably take a month, and then we’ll just tour on that. That’s real exciting because we have a big, happy, fun group of people that all want to go. We’re just going to have the best time of our lives.

Cars Can Be Blue: Bands Can EntertainCars Can Be Blue: Bands Can Entertain

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Athens, GA - Cars Can Be Blue is one of those bands that forces you to pay attention. Not because of their musicianship or message, but to see what's going to happen next. The duo's Aug. 10 set at the 40 Watt Club during Athens Popfest turned more than a few heads, and got me out of my seat.

After a number of satirical bubblegum-pop songs, Becky Brooks set aside her guitar and grabbed the mic to let Wu-Tang lyrics roll off her tongue. Later drummer Nate Mitchell removed his dress shirt, tie and pants to reveal the neon-striped spandex body suit beneath. Then jumped into the audience and took his turn in the spotlight.

Naturally, we sent Kaela to find out what they thought made for a good show. August tour dates after the jump.

What do you think makes a really good show?

Nate: A good crowd; lots of energy.

Becky: Also, if the band looks like they're having a good time - that's important.

What are some shows you remember that have stuck in your head and you really enjoyed?

Nate: Last year's Popfest, I have to say. I was really blown away by Poison Control Center. They're an incredible live band, and they really go all out.

Becky: I have to say for local bands, I really like Dark Meat. There are so many people in that band. There's so much sound. There's so much visual imagery. It's fucking awesome. They're one of my favorites.

What inspires you?

Nate: Just trying to be entertaining. Becky and I have seen our fair share of live bands, and a lot of them just aren't entertaining. We tried extra hard.

Becky: We like to be on stage.

Nate: That's true. We just try to make up for rudimentary musicianship with stage presence.

Music: RIYL:Tullycraft, Tenacious D Rating:
Three stars/5 Stars

The Smittens: Cuter Than PunkThe Smittens: Cuter Than Punk

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Athens, GA - The Smittens are a six-piece twee-pop band out of Burlington, VT, with feel-good songs, upbeat personalities and "cutesy" nicknames. They performed at the 40 Watt Club on Aug. 10 at this year's Athens Popfest.

After the jump you'll find the music video for "My Favorite Dream" from HHBTM Records's forthcoming No Parachute Vol. 2 DVD compilation. The label will also be releasing The Smittens' third album later this year.

Here's Kaela's brief Q&A with Colin "the Charming Smitten" Clary, Holly "the Littlest Smitten" Chagnon and Dana "the Lady Smitten" Kaplan.

What inspires you guys?
Colin: We get inspiration from each other. We write all the songs together, so we sort of feed off our energy. In general, it’s a reaction to all the bummers our there. We try to do the positive thing. We try to get people rallied around the idea of niceness and good songs. We like to write melodies.

Holly: Of course our friends inspire us. And our friends’ bands that are similar to us are inspiring as well.

Colin: We like the idea of punk rock, but not the anger of it. We like that anybody can do it.

What are some of your favorite live shows that you’ve been to?
Dana: We just came from playing the Toledo Popfest and probably my favorite show was seeing Fred Thomas from Saturday Looks Good To Me. A group of probably 20 folks ran up to a little closet of a space because there were all these issues with the downstairs space. It was unplugged; him and his guitar and a little microphone. I think just the intimacy of it was really cool. It was very memorable.

Music: RIYL:The Pastels, Beat Happening, Velocity Girl Rating:
Three stars/5 Stars

Say Hi To Your Mom @ Common GroundsSay Hi To Your Mom @ Common Grounds

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Gainesville, FL - Last night at Common Grounds I finally saw Say Hi To Your Mom. I've been a fan of Eric Elbogen's music for over two years, but it was my first time seeing them live.

Eric has been at it for over four years by himself, but he added a drummer and keyboardist to the lineup for his latest record, Impeccable Blahs. His mellow, relatively monotone voice seems like it would make for unappealing pop songs. But he pulls it off with catchy riffs and amusing lyrics (about killing cats, vampires, and robot-love) to make unique, memorable tunes. I caught him after the show for a few hard-hitting questions.

Any cool, interesting tour stories?

Eric: It's sort of been your run-of-the-mill rock tour. We blew out a tire in Texas, which is the first time this has happened to this band. It was relatively painless.

I didn't actually experience it, but Loni the merch girl and the Chris the drummer, after our show in Los Angeles, got accosted by a really gross prostitute who proceeded to take off all of her clothes and rub her breasts against the car window. We actually got a video tape of that.

What inspires you as a musician?

Eric: I like when people work hard, which is one of the reasons I ended up moving to New York City and one of the reasons I love working and making records there. Because that city, I think, more so than any other place I've been is full of good artists who just work their butt off all day long. It forces you to do the same instead of sit around procrastinating all day. Girls inspire me too.

Of course! What are your favorite, life-changing live shows?

Eric: I saw Built to Spill on the Keep It Like A Secret Tour at the Roxy in Los Angeles and that was an absolutely amazing show. Radiohead at Madison Square Garden. I ended up getting really great seats to that. I saw Broken Social Scene at the Mercury Lounge, which is like a 200-capacity room, and it was just as they were getting the big buzz. But there was just something about the first time I saw them in that setting that was pretty mind blowing.

How many times does a question have to be asked to get on your F.A.Q.?

[Laughter] It isn't really a matter of the number of times asked, it's more of how irritating it is. And to be completely honest, I'd say 75 percent of those have never been asked. They are just me goofing around. It's funny though. That part of the website really is just one big joke, but I find that people are afraid of me because of it. They will come up to me at shows and come up with all the reasons from the FAQ why they aren't supposed to be talking to me. But I hope that most of my friends can attest to the fact that I'm just your normal, nice dude.

Music: RIYL:Pinback Rating:
Four stars/5 Stars

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