Posts Tagged ‘brooklyn’

Dave Sutton: A Beach Fossils Day

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

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It was an exceptional afternoon in the golden state: a smiling sun, an easy breeze, and a block to ourselves – the kind of weekend scene where weekday cares evaporate into thin, sunscreen misted air. We stormed the beach in a neon pack like some cast from the teen sitcoms of our childhood. Volleyball courts were primed, coolers stocked, teams evened, and headaches managed. From a speaker dock, my phone’s latest gain, the aptly named Beach Fossils, was called upon and instantly accepted. Nothing may have physically changed from that point on, but it felt like our crew had jumped out of a convertible to land three or four decades back, at some rad hula-hoopla.

Beach Fossil’s self titled LP opens by way of invitation: a lone guitar jingle flirting with a tambourine drum kick. It’s a swing that recalls those retro good time movies where circles of bikini babes do ‘The Swim’. That connection is pretty direct, and yet not at all forced. Throughout this on-or-off the sand album, there’s a comfortable contrast between hi-rise riff and lo-fi vocal.

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That surf bash panting you might expect is given extra depth and some balanced breathers (which is nice when half your crew is napping on the sidelines). After the peppy “Vacation”, we get a “Lazy Day”. Once we charge the “Golden Age”, we look back through a “Window View”. “Wide Awake” gets restless with shades of new wave, then leads us to a serene “Gathering” at low tide. The man behind these drifts is Dustin Payseur, who plays a better lovesick slacker than a party host. He’s flat when his surrounding world is so round. It works:

Well I can hardly stand
But I really don’t care to know
And you can take my hand
But I don’t care where we go

Surely none of us noticed those first drowsy lines from the radio, or any others for that matter, and maybe that’s why the feel of this one fit so well. It’s all drone when you’re having fun right? What’s cool is further listens bring new dynamic to these songs: an undertone of real in reverbia. And (unlike food) when it’s real, it tends to have a longer shelf life. So, what we have here is a multipurpose summer record, the best kind.

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Photo by Victoria Masters

Life Size Maps

Friday, May 21st, 2010

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There have to be some mixed feelings attached to the title of “best unsigned band in New York.” On the one hand, you’re the best! On the other hand, you’re the best at dealing with the thankless toil that fledgling, hopelessly under-the-radar bands have to withstand in this town if they want to make even fitful progress.

Just ask Mike Mckeever, guitar player and songwriter for Columbia University-based Life Size Maps. It took him months of hanging out at Brooklyn DIY mecca Death by Audio, a veritable proving ground for the borough’s legions of talented musical unknowns, before he could talk the venue’s bookers into giving his band a 30-minute set. On a Thursday night in late April, the band played soaring baroque-inflected power pop for a crowd of about 50 Columbia groupies and a small handful of miscellaneous scenesters. A weeknight DIY crowd faced with a band that no one in north Brooklyn has ever heard before usually watches with their arms placed stiffly atop one another. But Williamsburg’s trademark diffidence was no match for a song like “See it Differently,” whose exuberant and impossibly massive chorus shreds all cynicism within earshot. The members of Total Slacker and Fiasco, two established scene bands sharing the night’s bill with LSM, were among the converted.

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Total Slacker especially. This past Thursday night, the band weathered a journey that few Brooklyn artists would dare to undertake, dragging themselves and their instruments to a basement dive underneath the subway tracks at 124th and Broadway in Manhattan, just to headline a Life Size Maps gig. “Umm yeah, this isn’t the kind of place we usually play,” guitarist Tucker Rountree said, scanning the underclassman-packed, defiantly un-hip downstairs area of the Pub. With its molded linoleum dance floor and hideous neon-red booths, the basement looks like someone’s badly—albeit endearingly—misfired attempt at building a respectable club space. The result is more serial killer’s basement than Music Hall of Williamsburg, but the combination of dirt-cheap drinks and a small horde of excited undergrads made the place feel like the perfect DIY dive.

As did power pop from a trio of music nerds. “I just wanna write great pop songs,” says Mckeever, a hyperactive and shorter-than-average mop top studying towards an English and music double major at Columbia. Mckeever’s songs carry a decidedly classical sound, and have an obvious and relatable quality that distracts from just how mind-blowingly complicated they are. He started the band as a sophomore, eventually trimming an unwieldy flute, oboe and two-guitar ensemble to a taut guitar, drum and cello three-piece. He writes the sort of songs that you can sing along to the first time you hear them—even though they’re dizzying, thickly layered marvels of pop symmetry that only a trio of classically-trained musicians could execute.

Mckeever is backed by drummer and fellow Columbia music student Griffin Kisner and cellist Rob Karpay. The basement looks like it’s never met a classical instrument in its life, but Karpay seems to relish the incongruities of the evening. “Yeah,” says the gangling, Manhattan School of Music junior. “I guess I might be the greatest rock cellist in the world!” He had no competition on Thursday night. The meandering “Meet Me in the Shade” is all Rob, with his cello providing a frantic, anxious counterpoint to Mckeever’s sweet falsetto. He furiously shakes his head with every stroke of the bow, pinching the instrument’s fret board as a couple of exuberant fans hovered a few inches from his face.

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Life Size Maps might not have a record deal, but they have something that could be just as valuable: fans who are ready to swear that they’re listening to one of the best bands on Earth. The number of people who mouth along to every one of LSM’s songs, who know that “See it Differently” will always be the set the closer and who hang on every key change and hook seems to grow from concert to concert. “We even have a stalker,” says Mckeever, pointing to a steely-looking acne sufferer towards the back of the venue. “He like, follows us everywhere. I don’t know what to do about him.” He’s half-joking. A band too big for its campus roots yet too small to make the jump to the DIY circuit needs all the stalkers it can get.

By the time Total Slacker finished their set at around one in the morning, a couple of young, ridiculously talented acts had laid waste to a random basement bar in a remote and culturally (or at least rock-musically) blighted part of town. Life Size Maps is simultaneously inviting and devastating in a way that only a well-practiced pop act can be. The “best unsigned band in New York” is a title they might not need to get used to.

For more visit Myspace.com/lifesizemaps

The Canon Logic

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

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The Canon Logic, a Brooklyn-based band who seem to be cropping up everywhere lately, is not one of those pretentious groups that’s going to give you a long-winded, confusing explanation of what their sound is. Where so many musicians working today are eager to say something like, “uh, we kind of play, um, chillwave/low-fi/ambient, uh, noise pop-based garage,” when asked about what genre they fall under, the boys from The Canon Logic don’t care about that boring, Darwinian kind of musical classification system. They just want to make you dance.

“Being in New York, I definitely appreciate enthusiastic crowds, because they’re kind of hard to come by,” says band member Sean Enright. With this perceived challenge in mind, The Canon Logic has an egalitarian mindset when it comes to writing songs. A good track, to them, is one that many different breeds of music lovers will respond to. In other words, catchiness is key. They achieve this through guitar hooks and pretty piano melodies that have traditional rock- and pop-based sensibilities, but still manage to create a sound that’s uniquely theirs. “All of us had the common bond of good songwriting,” says member Tim Kiely, who sings and switches off on playing piano, guitar, and bass. “We’re all attracted to songs that are well-written.” That sums up the way the band creates music together. Mark Alu agrees, saying that their way of improving songs is “making them better for outside listeners.” Instead of trying to push themselves to pigeonhole their songwriting into one corner of the musical world, they choose instead to go off of one simplistic criterion: Does this sound good?

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When it comes to The Canon Logic, it usually does. Their recently released debut album, Avenue of Criminals, is rife with slick musical structures and beautiful, clear vocals. Standout tracks “Dead Man” and “Fabulous” deliver with clever, well-paced lyrics set to head-nodding melodies. The best song on the album, though, is “Nights at Armour Mansion.” Its instantly engrossing romanticism and new-wave rhythms find The Canon Logic at their most skillful.

Although the band is still very much involved in the release of this first album, they continue to write and produce new content all the time. Kiely mentions how collaborative the songwriting effort is. Although each member typically writes individually before bringing a new tune to the group, they all are very involved in tweaking the pieces to perfection. Josh Greenfield, one of the band’s guitarists, jokes that The Canon Logic is prone to creating monsters: “It’s like Frankenstein, trying to put all the pieces together.” Kiely nods and laughs as he says, “It’s alive!”

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The band is clearly joking, but “alive” might not be such a bad way to describe their musical output. They’re perpetually on the move – they practice constantly, are always playing one show or another, and are always looking for more ways to expand their range of listeners. Success, to them, means constantly progressing in terms of creativity and being able to play new gigs as frequently as possible. “We all want to do this for as long as we can,” says Kiely of the band’s personal aspirations. With any luck, The Canon Logic’s listeners will be able to reap the benefits for a good, long time to come.

The Canon Logic

Total Slacker

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

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They might be called Total Slacker, but their devotion to rocking out in their live shows and the sincerity of their music are anything but slack. Tucker, on lead guitar and vocals, Emily on bass, and Ross keeping time on the drums, make up the band, which has only been together for seven months now. Despite the short span of its existence, Total Slacker has already earned a reputation for catchy, laid back tunes, Tucker’s fondness of the bowl hair cut, the cute, “hipsterness” of Emily and Tucker’s relationship, and a devotion to keeping it absolutely real. Their hand-drawn T shirts and demo CD’s (artwork courtesy of Tucker and Ross’s collaborative efforts) are given away for free as veritable love letters to their fans, who in turn, remain very devoted to rocking out with Total Slacker.

I meet up with Emily, Ross and Tucker at a favorite Williamsburg haunt of theirs. When citing why they like the popular tearoom, the band members seem to be reiterating why we like Total Slacker so much. The vibe is very chill and laid back, but also unique, quirky and totally sincere. They are who they are: a mish-mash of styles that harmonize well with one another.

Emily and Tucker (originally from New Mexico and Utah, respectively) met just over a year ago, and instantly started writing songs together. They knew they had something special, but it wasn’t until they met Ross (also from New Mexico), that their sound really came together. “We were still raw,” Tucker says, describing his early songs with Emily, “When we met Ross, everything synchronized.”

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Ross, Tucker and Emily all instinctually approach playing their instruments the same way: a lazy kind of back beat sets Total Slacker apart from other bands on the scene. But what really unites the band is the fact that its members’ personalities jive together as harmoniously as their tunes. Emily remembers that it was personality as much as percussion that drove their decision to bring Ross into the band after blowing through a series of six unsatisfactory drummers. All three members agree that they are out there playing because it’s what they love to do, and that their biggest ambition is just sharing the “good times.”

They share those good times with their audiences quite well, so it’s not surprising that Total Slacker is getting its fair share of notice. Nearly every Brooklyn-based music blog and publication is talking about them, and they’ve been getting so many invitations to play that they’ve had to start picking and choosing, an experience Tucker describes as “exciting and humbling.” Underground label Impose Records funded the recording of their first album, which will be released by mid-April. The jam-packed two day long recording session was a challenge for the kids, who like to channel the chaos of playing live into their recorded music. Though all three are happy with the record and excited about its release, they admit that the recording experience was a little like trying to put the energy of their live shows “into a box.” “Every show is an adventure and spontaneous—you never know what’s going to happen,” Tucker says, enthusiastically spilling some of his tea.

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One such moment of cosmic chaos went down infamously at a Death By Audio show a few months ago. Total Slacker played with an Australian band called Beaches, borrowing their drum set for the night. Towards the end of the show, Tucker, in his typical “rare form,” was out in the audience about to do something crazy with his guitar to close out the last song. Hoisting it up, he threw it in Ross’s direction, with the hope of a super sonic crash into the cymbals. The guitar, however, seemed to animate itself, flying like an arrow into the tiny air hole in the bass drum and inserting itself into it like a dead-on bull’s eye. The whole venue stood still, audience and musicians alike. “That was it,” says Tucker. “The show just ended. How can you follow that kind of spectacle?”

If you’d like to go witness the spectacle for yourself, Total Slacker is especially excited about two “All Star Shows” in April. The first, on April 16, is at Bruar Falls in Williamsburg, where they’ll share the stage with Beach Falls, Air Waves and Eternal Summers. A few days later, on April 20, you can catch them at Union Pool with Ava Luna, Air Waves, and Your Nature.

For songs, photos, and more info on where TS is playing next, visit their Myspace.
Photos by Rebecca Smeyne

Fiasco: Brooklyn's Finest

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

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How did you guys start playing together? What did the band sound like at first? How has your sound changed since then?

We started playing in a band called Stungun when we were all 12, in the summer of 2003. We did a lot of classic rock covers, basically all the songs that shouldn’t be covered. A few years later, we started listening to punk music and started playing hardcore covers as Fiasco. After that, we started listening to [more underground, noise-oriented bands] and our sound evolved because of that.

You got a lot of attention early on for being young. Was that annoying? As you get older, do you find it gets easier to be taken seriously?

Getting attention wasn’t annoying, but being labeled “kid-core” was. It’s definitely easier to be taken seriously when you’re older, because people don’t usually think of us as children anymore.

What “genre” would you place yourselves in? Is it annoying to get asked that question since your music doesn’t really fit neatly into one genre?

We’ve often been called math-rock, meth-rock (that one was a typo though), punk, and noise-rock.

You’ve toured a lot. What’s your favorite place you’ve been? What’s your favorite tour story?

Playing in Sarajevo, Bosnia was really fun. Also we had a fun time in Scott, L.A., where we got to check out a dude’s house which used to be a bank a hundred years ago. His kitchen was the vault. Also, the lady who put on the show made us a great salad, which was even better since we hadn’t gotten to eat a lot of vegetables on tour.

In Bosnia, we had a lot of crazy adventures including driving down a mountain at 80 mph, on a one-lane road. We blogged about it at the time, so you can see our full adventures on our myspace blog:

Also, people there called us The Fiasco Band USA, which is where we got our gmail address from, thefiascoband@gmail.com. In retrospect, we should’ve named the email address thefiascobandusa@gmail.com. Oh well.

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What are some of your favorite places to play? What have been some of your favorite shows you’ve played?

Death by Audio, Market Hotel, Silent Barn, the usual. Some of our favorite shows were playing with No Age and Vampire Weekend, and once we snuck into a classroom at Pratt and played a secret show there at night.

What’s your songwriting process generally like? Or is it different each time?

It’s different every time, but usually someone brings in an idea and we work on expanding it with other ideas. We also combine ideas.

Has anything ever gone way wrong on tour? How’d you deal with it?

We got a flat tire in Tuscaloosa, AL, but we put on the spare tire. Then we waited 4 hours for a mechanic to show up, and when he got there, the dude just looked at the tire and he was like “OK it’s all good, go to the repair shop 2 miles from here.” Also, we were supposed to visit New Orleans that day on our way to the next show, but that used up all our detour time. We did get to visit a weird abandoned shipyard though with tons of wrecked ships [pictured].

What are you currently doing besides playing music?

We’re all in school right now, so that’s what we’re doing besides playing music pretty much.

Are you currently on a label? Are you looking for one?

Once our album is all mixed, which will be soon, we’ll look for a label to put it out.

What do you have coming up that you’re excited about?

A single and a full-length album will be coming out soon.

For more Fiasco, take a gander at their myspace
Photos by Hatnim Lee