If you have not heard or seen FIDLAR yet, you soon will. They are quickly becoming the visage of the surf/punk scene. After haphazardly meeting in an East LA studio, they embarked on a project that started with gear modifications and sound engineering.
“I started interning at the studio and living there. I met Elvis [Kuehn] at the studio; he was interning as well,” Zac Carper (guitar/vox) explains.
Bandmate Brandon Schwartzel adds, “The live aspect [of the band], which most people focus on, came second; we started out recording in the studio.”
In 2012, FIDLAR stumbled upon the opportunity to tour nationally, opening for The Hives. “The first show was in Washington, D.C. We showed up to the venue while they were sound checking and they immediately stopped sound check to introduce themselves; it set the bar for the entire tour,” Schwartzel says. The band credited The Hives for showing them the ropes, as well as being great mentors. “They are the best example of a band that did it right, how they handle themselves as a band and as a business.”
Since last summer, FIDLAR has caught fire, touring Europe’s festival circuit as well as making new music. If you have not seen the music video for “Cocaine,” it stars the well-respected Nick Offerman of NBC’s Parks & Rec, who is a friend and fan of the band. The guys collectively explain how surreal it was to shoot the video, which was Offerman’s original idea.
“We filmed some of the shots on Memorial Day, and Nick was walking though an East LA park pissing on shit. And we were looking around like, ‘No little kids, if any kids show up we have to shut it down.’”
Be sure to catch FIDLAR on their North American tour, starting this month.
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, CA GENRE: Punk ARTISTIC APPROACH To make sweaty, loud rock n roll. URL: www.fidlarmusic.com
Bullet Treatment Ex-Breathers
Los Angeles, CA
“Cue circle pit in 3…2…1…”
Bullet Treatment is a unique band indeed. With its only stable member being Chuck Dietrich, Bullet Treatment is a semi-super-group that consists of whoever is down to jump on a track (past members have drawn from Anti-Flag, Strike Anywhere, Suicidal Tendencies, Good Riddance, etc). Their latest recording is sort of a proper follow-up to 2006’s The Mistake (their 2009 release, Designated, was more of an experiment that featured one song played multiple times with different lyrics/vocalists on each version).
Ex-Breathers is eight songs, and clocks in at about nine and a half minutes. This is furious, fast, loud punk rock at its best. Bullet Treatment is everything that early LA punk and hardcore had to offer, just recorded on higher quality equipment. For those who downloaded the “new” Black Flag single and remembered that jam bands were absolute crap, go track down Ex-Breathers and smash your face into a brick wall for fun. Quite simply, Bullet Treatment is the truth.
Recorded at Basement Studios Mastered by Azimuth Mastering
Emily Wells is an amazingly talented multi-instrumentalist who, even after finding success, decided to go back and re-evaluate her creative process and artistic choices, culminating with the re-recording of her previous LP, Mama, as a newly imagined, haunting acoustic album.
Mama – Acoustic Recordings shows the artist at her most raw, vulnerable state, and should be a lesson to all musicians to constantly question the choices you’re making, and your process as a whole.
We recently spoke with Wells about the decision to deconstruct her entire approach to making music.
Let’s delve into the new acoustic record. What drove you, creatively, to revisit songs you recorded fairly recently?
I think…curiosity was the main thing that got me going on this set of recordings. It was in no way meant to become a record. It was just me thinking, ‘What would this sound like played differently, or more quietly? How have my feelings about these experiences changed?’ And also, ‘Do these songs still stand up without a lot of production, things to hide behind?’ There’s no hiding when it’s just me and an acoustic guitar.
I just played an acoustic set yesterday, and I started thinking, ‘What have I done?’ [laughs]. But the same things that make it more vulnerable can make it more powerful for the listener.
What did you learn from this process?
I definitely learned that the way that you sing something develops its meaning or can change its meaning…sometimes you sing lyrics a certain way because it fits the tone of the production, but not necessarily the tone of the song.
Do you think other artists can learn, as well, from revisiting their own songs later on?
Sure. I think once a song has been experienced by an audience, it grows and changes, especially when you’ve sung it on the road a million times. Once the record comes out, all those things give an impression to the song that you don’t [necessarily] have when you’re writing it. So absolutely, I think it’s an interesting experiment. It’s kind of like a remix, in a way. And I think remixes are very interesting, and I recommend other artists try them out.
From a recording standpoint, how did you approach the re-arrangement of these tunes to a more acoustic setting?
I have a Tascam 388, a tape machine, that I really love, that kind of looks like a giant 8-track reel-to-reel. I used that for both records; however, the first time around I had created samples and loops. I don’t use any MIDI or time-mapping, but I had some samples that I’d record directly into the tape machine, and all the rhythm, bass, all the essential backing tracks were done on tape, as well. And then, once I was finished with those, I’d send them all into Pro Tools and build [the track] from there. I didn’t really have a lot of limits – I allowed myself to do whatever came to be.
With the acoustic version of Mama, I was incredibly strict, using only the tape machine. I mean, I did eventually bounce it to Pro Tools, but I was more of a purist than I had been with the original record. I was just going off the lyrics to produce it. I only allowed myself a guitar, vocals and a spring reverb – no digital effects, no nothing.
Why do you still choose to record to tape?
There’s a sound difference, a sonic difference, to me. It’s warmer, and it captures the sound of the drums in a way I prefer. And I actually like the way my voice sounds better on tape. But it’s not just sound, it’s also approach. I believe that limitations are really important in any creative process. But recording, in particular, with limitations you’re forced to do something in one take, or a straight take all the way through that you might have just overdubbed [otherwise]. You have to experience the song as you’re recording it. If you have the tricks, it’s hard not to use them sometimes.
So you embrace limitations as creative challenges.
Absolutely, I do!
You also changed up the track sequencing for the new version of Mama. What was the reasoning behind that?
The original record was sequenced chronologically, based on when the songs were written. I was really struggling with how to sequence it, and I actually ended up cutting about six songs from it. So what I initially envisioned was changing, and I loved it as a story, even though the listener wouldn’t necessarily understand it as much as I would. With the new version of the album, throwing in ‘Los Angeles,’ the new song, I wanted that to be the third song right away. I have a theory about the third song, because I always seem to love the third song [on a record]. That was my favorite at the time, so it threw a wrench in the original chronological concept when I put it as track three. Plus we are releasing [the acoustic LP] on vinyl, so I really wanted to think more about an A and B-side type of thing, as far as sequencing goes.
Do you think you’ll ever go back and re-interpret other music you’ve recorded?
I re-mix them all two or three times, not for recording purposes, but for live purposes. I guess it’s in my nature to do something along those lines, and maybe that’ll just take different forms over time. But it won’t be, ‘For this record, I’ll go back and do this interpretation…’ or anything like that.
But I think that’s the nature of touring a lot, too, having to keep the songs fresh for myself.
Having done this experiment, do you think you’ll do anything different in the future, as far as your approach to making or writing music?
You know, I have to think they will inform the next record in some way. I have written the next record already. But it’s only in my head at this point. I’ve performed a lot of the songs, but I think having a focus on less production…the songs that I write lend themselves to a simple vocal with backing or just a strong beat and bass line and not a whole lot else going on. But also, I guess, it’s helped me to test out a song and see how it stands on its own, with just an acoustic guitar and me singing it.
It’s a testament to a song if it works acoustically just as well as with production.
To know that the songs are still good on their own must be rewarding.
GENRE: Psychedelic Motown Surf HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, CA ARTISTIC APPROACH: Fraternal collaboration and musical experimentation. www.blackapplesmusic.com
Campbell and Andrew Scarborough – singers, songwriters, guitarists, and brothers – have literally spent a lifetime together as musicians and collaborators. The brothers’ musical roots are planted firmly in their childhood home. Their father toured as a guitar player during the ’60s, playing surf rock as well as the music of Motown and the British Invasion. Campbell and Andrew recognize their father as a major influence on their commitment to music and the sound of The Black Apples, which they like to call “Psychedelic Motown Surf.” Their mother also worked in the industry and both parents set the boys on a musical path early on; they’ve been playing together ever since. “My whole family plays” says Campbell, “I don’t know anything different.” Continue reading →
Ted Russell Kamp Night Owl
Los Angeles, CA
(Poetry of the Moment Records)
“A timeless, carpe-diem appreciation of Mother Earth and its inhabitants”
The ability of an artist to so accurately and richly capture a moment in time has long been a testament to their creative prowess. A celebration of the rural countryside in the realm of Fleetwood Mac, down-home simplicity shines throughout the Americana stylings of Night Owl. “I wanna be the first in the morning to see the sun, and the last man standing when the day is done, ” songwriter, bassist, and producer Ted Russell Kamp sings throughout “The Last Drop,” a perfect representation of his character.
When this sensibility is combined with tracks that evoke the desire to ride with the top down (“Right Down to the Wire,” “Another Love Song”) and to sit fireside (“Fireflies,” “Santa Ana Winds”), the result is timeless, something that could only be put forth by a gifted storyteller. Even the album’s opener, the Will Hoge co-written “Smile Alone, ” has the potential to be an anthem for romantics, with its weaving of elements of Levon Helm and 1970s-era Eric Clapton, to the chorus of: “We’re never gonna be those kids we used to know, but I wanna try it with you ’cause I’d rather cry with you than smile alone.” Night Owl is destined to have a profound impact on listeners and remain with them throughout the passage of time.
The Milk Carton Kids The Ash & Clay
Los Angeles, CA
“Gorgeous folk music driven by explosive vocals and powerful compositions”
The Milk Carton Kids are reviving folk music. With a contemporary twist on the genre and the incorporation of simple, yet enticing harmonies, the pair has crafted a sound that is not only beautiful but also seamlessly constructed. Their latest album, The Ash & Clay, is a further example of the duo’s ability to create songs that are both intimate and powerful, bittersweet and inspiring.
There is a sense of nostalgia on this latest endeavor, as darker images are set to stirring melodies. The ballad “Snake Eyes” presents a complex duality between memory and forward movement while “The Jewel of June” is acceptance and introspection. The soft harmonies of twin acoustic guitars and delicate vocals of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan fuse together into something utterly captivating. As each track progresses, there is a need to listen intently to everything the pair does.
The folk music “revival” has gained substantial momentum as of late, but The Milk Carton Kids take it another level. Their unabashed honesty and naturally flowing sound is hypnotizing. The have an exceptional knack for crafting heartbreaking songs and skillful compositions that serves them well on The Ash & Clay.
Fonda Sell Your Memories
Los Angeles, CA
“Catchy, lush dream pop with purpose and personality”
Emily Cook and David Klotz make up Fonda, the melodic Southern California duo self-described as a “colorful, blissed-out, reverb-drenched kaleidoscopic wall of sound.” And they aren’t too far from the truth. The boy-girl duo has been making music together for well over a decade after a fortuitous meeting on a Los Angeles movie set and although they decided to keep their day jobs, they didn’t let that stop them from making music.
Sell Your Memories is a solid, consistent effort that showcases their buttery vocals, which float through the speakers like lush, liquefied goodness. The album opens up with a layered, mid-paced track with percussion pulsing in the forefront, then sails into a few slower tracks and is bookended with a quiet, acoustic number featuring a simple and melancholy melody.
The album starts out strong, plays through easily and is generally likeable with fun, standout tracks like “You’ve Got A Life of Your Own,” “Last Goodbyes” and “Moving Forward,” which demonstrates their knack for creating their own brand of that dream pop sound without sounding too recycled or rehashed. And while the consistency is appreciated and well-executed, there are times throughout the album where tracks begin to sound repetitive, but that’s a minor complaint on an otherwise fantastic outing.
Big Harp Chain Letters
Los Angeles, CA
“Drinking songs for drowning sorrows”
If you ever find yourself sitting alone in a half empty bar that’s just a little too quiet, caught somewhere in between romance and tragedy, you might ask the bartender to put on Chain Letters. Like Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash, the husband and wife duo Big Harp knows how to write a simple, straightforward song that’s sadder than it has any right to be.
Guitarist and lead singer Chris Senseney’s voice is world-weary and passionate, and serves as the centerpiece of the record. Unlike most singers who turn to their upper register for emotion, Senseney is haunting when he pushes the lower end of his range. The other half of Big Harp, Stefanie Drootin-Senseney, supports her husband with background vocals and anchors the songs with her fuzz-drenched bass lines. Unfortunately the album’s mix hides her contribution, especially on the record’s most upbeat tracks “Outside In The Snow” and “Good News,” which still grooves despite its odd meter, 11/8. However, a close listen reveals a great interplay between the similar sounds of Stefanie’s fuzz bass and Chris’ gritty baritone.
The duo is supported by drums and guitar overdubs, as well as cameo appearances by organ and orchestral strings, lending the album a full and more conventional sound - perfect for a bar, or wherever you happen to be drinking away your troubles.
Arranging Music for the Studio, Tackling The Beatles, and Confronting Artistic Risk Head On
How do we put this delicately…Adrianne Gonzalez is a fearless beast of artistic expression. Here’s a woman so unafraid of taking risks – so unafraid to be who she is as a musician, an artist, a feminist, an “out” role model – that it’ll be no surprise to us if Gaga’s “little monsters” grow up and start idolizing her instead. AG, as she’s now know professionally, has just released an EP of Beatles tunes, a ballsy move that has resulted in one of the most haunting, gender/genre bending expressions of musical ingenuity in recent memory. We had no choice but to devote the following pages to her, in which we trace her early career path, how she approached new arrangements of classic songs, and how she’s managed to balance life as a solo musician with her role in the popular LA band The Rescues.
When did you first know that music was something you were going to pursue? Continue reading →
“Self-exploration driven by haunting melodies and provocative chords”
Sea Wolf, led by Alex Brown Church, is back with a new album, Old World Romance. The record is as brooding and introspective as ever. Church weaves tales of his life experiences with haunting melodies and seductive lyrics. This time around he’s incorporated the use of elegant full-band arrangements, but still retains the darker imagery of previous works. There is an atmosphere of bittersweet romance and promise to be found on Old World Romance.
The album opens with an airy melody on “Old Friend,” a minimalist and melancholy ballad for the past. Here, Church’s vocals are given the opportunity to shine and once again, the fragility of his voice remains the driving force behind his work. The fast-paced and buoyant track, “In Nothing,” keeps things moving with rapidly plucked guitar chords and determined percussion. “Miracle Cure” and “Saint Catherine St.” pack a burst of energy and weave tales of rediscovery while “Blue Stockings” dials down the tempo with a more dreamlike sound. “Priscilla” and “Whirlpool” feature introspective moments reminiscent of his previous works, seeming to embody a desire to reach out to an old friend. Old World Romance is a beautiful album, dark and thoughtful but with bright moments of hope and acceptance. While it remains in the same vein of Church’s past works, it marks clear growth, a return to the Sea Wolf he always intended it to be. He continues to draw on his personal experiences and expands his sound and repertoire in an impressive and provocative way.