Today on OkkervilRiver.com, Will Sheff revealed the artwork and tracklist of ‘The Silver Gymnasium’ (out September 3, ATO). Although he has long been known as a character-driven songwriter, Sheff announced that this album is a work of autobiography.
Watch the lyric video for “It Was My Season” here:
‘The Silver Gymnasium’ is set in a very specific time and place from Sheff’s childhood – in 1986 in the small town of Meriden, NH, where Sheff’s parents worked as teachers for a boarding school. Sheff conceived the album as a tribute to the spirit of pre-adolescence, meant to evoke the nostalgic feeling of “an action figure you found in the woods.”
“On our last record, ‘I Am Very Far,’ I was musically trying to both satisfy and to challenge myself; for ‘The Silver Gymnasium,’ I wanted to write a record that was very much about trying to reach out to other people and show them a good time. I’d always wanted to write a record that was more based in autobiography, that spoke about my memories of how I felt and how the world around me seemed at a specific moment in the past, and it felt like a good time to finally do it. I thought John Agnello would be the perfect choice as a producer, not only because I’ve enjoyed his more recent records with people like Kurt Vile and Dinosaur Jr. but also because John is a much more old-fashioned producer who was actually involved with a lot of the music I listened to growing up, everything from Cyndi Lauper to John Mellencamp to the Outfield’s “Your Love.” John even worked on ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ and was loitering around in the background during the making of Tom Petty’s ‘Damn the Torpedoes’; so he was actually present while they were making a lot of the music that inspired the kid version of me to want to be a musician and that inspired ‘The Silver Gymnasium’ in general. Our goal with ‘The Silver Gymnasium’ was to work quickly and decisively, to make a “band” record and not a fussy studio creation, and to make the most fun record we could possibly make.”
Japanese Comic Punks Expand Their Sound on New Record
Wow, what to say about a band like Peelander-Z? Over the years, they (or more accurately, their leader Yellow) have tried to convince me that they came to Earth from outer space, that they have their own spaceship and home planet where everyone dresses like Power Rangers, and that if you go to one of their shows, you’ll be met with free steak and ice cream…actually, that last part is true. And who knows, maybe the first few things are true as well. We recently caught up with Peelander Yellow again, after their fun-filled week at SXSW, to discuss the band’s theatricality, their new record, and incorporating New Wave elements into what’s traditionally been a pretty straightforward “comic book punk” sound. Now, a quick technical note – we tried our absolute hardest to transcribe this interview accurately. For starters, there was an unending wave of laughter over the entire recording (from both sides), and to put it respectfully, while Peelander Yellow’s conversational English is perfectly fine, even he won’t claim to be 100% fluent. So we did our best trying to bring out the meaning of his answers even if there were passages that were a tad difficult to decipher. We hope you enjoy this interview (and the band) as much as we do!
How was SXSW for you guys this year?
It was crazy because we played a great show and we had our own festival, like a Peelander festival, which carried like a thousand people, and we chose the bands – you know Math the Band – we played with [them], we played with MC Frontalot, we played with Electric Eel Shock from Japan. We chose the bands and we made the festival.
How did it go?
The festival started Saturday – it was like a Peelander family jamboree, so only kids and family. We turned down the sound because there were so many kids. We got a taco vendor, we got an ice cream vendor, and we played with a kids brass band, like an old-style showcase. We spent a super happy time in Austin, Texas.
On their live show: “So even if you don’t like our music, because it sounds like two chord, three chord, Ramones style, you’ll love our performance.”
Now that’s interesting that you had a family jamboree. A lot of people might not know that you actually put out a punk rock children’s album last year, right?
Yeah, we covered ‘EE-I-EE-I-O.’ You know that song?
Yeah, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
So we had a dance with them, we carried people onto the stage and danced with them and then screamed with them. Kids happy means the parents are happy, and then we’re happy.
So you guys are on tour for a little bit longer?
Yeah after that we come back, there’s a Boston [date], then two months all over the US [in support] of the new album, Space Vacation.
Speaking of the live show, I imagine the kids love it because it’s energetic, and sometimes, from some of the videos I’ve seen, a little TOO energetic – have you ever gotten hurt during a live show doing some of the stunts that you attempt?
Yeah yeah, we’re only playing – you’ve seen the show right?
Yeah, you actually do a little wrestling, and crowd diving, and all sorts of stuff.
Yeah we do the limbo dance, jumping rope, we do baseball because we love baseball. Maybe the Red Sox against Peelander-Z when we play in Boston.
I hate to break it to you, but I think the Red Sox can beat you…
[Laughs] How about just a baseball camp, then?
Are you still doing the wrestling stuff on stage, or not so much anymore?
Yeah, I mean, I want to, ideally, do the wrestling. Do you know our Big Squid? [editor’s note – a giant stage prop]
I’ve seen pictures of the Big Squid, but I haven’t seen it in action.
So he loves moving and listening, and if you come on stage you can chop him, because he’s a nice guy – if you chop at him he’s [still] smiling. He’s a crazy – he loves listening.
For our readers who might not be familiar with the band, could you explain a little about the costumes and the imagery, and why you choose to portray the characters that you do?
I mean, I love music, but we [also] love comics [and] Power Rangers. I want to do something on stage, so music is just 10% and 90% is performance, so we want to bring our favorite things; we want to eat steak, that’s why we made a song called ‘S.T.E.A.K.’ We want to do dancing like Power Rangers, so we choose these colors and the dancing on stage. Our answer is if we want to do the something – if we want to do the music – we bring another something to add to it. So Peelander-Z is a band, but we bring, out of music, we bring everything on stage. That’s our answer. So even if you don’t like our music, because it sounds like two chord, three chord, Ramones style, you’ll love our performance. So we [want to please]. Please come to see our show, and enjoy our show.
You said it’s two or three chord Ramones style music – and I think that’s true to an extent – but you guys do take the music seriously, and I think people should know that. That’s true, right?
Yeah, our songs are just easy songs – like you know the song ‘So Many Mike?’
We just scream, ‘So many Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike,’ because I have a cell phone, [and] inside my cell phone [there are] fourteen Mikes, all over the United States. It’s always [confusing], ‘Oh, which Mike? Mike, Mike.’ That’s why I made a song. Our keyword is very easy, that way even if you don’t know our songs, you come see our show and you can scream, very easily. So bring your parents, bring your kids, bring your pets…but leave your ice cream, because we have ice cream.
Now I know the last time we talked you tried to convince me that the band came from another planet – and both you and I know that’s not true – but you did come to New York from Japan. Was it difficult adjusting to a new environment, to living in a different part of the world?
Yeah that’s one thing… So when we go to tour, we always eat pizza, or hamburgers – I really love pizza and hamburgers – but Japanese people need rice, so we had to carry a rice cooker on tour, and then we made miso soup every day. That’s just one reason it’s very hard: we had to bring a [special] rice cooker from Japan.
So let’s get back to the music – I know you have the new record, Space Vacation. Could you tell us a little bit about the songwriting process? Is it collaborative, or do you do it yourself?
I make [each song] myself first, singing, singing, singing, and then I bring everyone together. My style is always [based upon when] I’m on tour and I see something. If really want to eat tacos, I make a taco song.
I’m familiar with the taco song [‘Taco Taco Tacos’], yes.
Yeah I really love [that one]. I really like [sunglasses] and then I want to scream, ‘Glasses, go!’ and, ‘Glass, glass, glass’ so I also made a new song, ‘Get Glasses.’ My ideas are pretty easy. Space Vacation is all about space, so basically the story is Peelander promised to the Earth we get a space vacation.
Yeah, so all the songs are about space vacations, stuff that happens inside the Peelander starship, and then we come to the Earth and fall in love with someone, then we’re back to our planet. All the songs are pretty and happy.
When you’re in the studio do you guys spend a lot of time recording?
Not really. We recorded last year in Austin, Texas. It’s a new kind of album because we used electronic drums and a spacey keyboard. So all of the songs have kind of a New Wave style.
That’s a little bit different for you guys.
Yeah, [it's] different from the last [record]. Yeah, all the songs are about space; there’s a ‘Big Bang’ song, ‘Under Zero Gravity,’ there’s a galaxy song…
So there’s a theme – it’s a concept album.
Yeah, all the songs are about space.
Why am I not surprised?
[Laughs] And then also like a cover, ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun.’
Yeah that’s an interesting choice for a cover. Why did you choose that song?
We wanted a happy song from the early ’80s – Pink [editor’s note – the Peelander-Z band member, not the pop singer] really wanted to sing the same song – and we chose [it] because it’s about partying and [being] happy, and everyone knows it. We made a more spacey sound; we picked this song because it’s [really literal] and [fits our style].
It seems very appropriate, somehow. So Pink sings vocals on that track?
Yeah yeah, this is the best one. It’s a single, for sure.
So you’re still on tour, you’ve got the new record out – what do you see for the future of the band?
We’re thinking the next recording [session will be] soon, maybe July. This tour was a long tour, two months, and now we’re back in New York, so we’ll do the next recording, I hope. Then, in the fall we have another tour.
So you guys are keeping busy?
We are real tuna fish, because if we stop, we die.
Will you be releasing that on Chicken Ranch as well?
Yeah we’re going through Chicken Ranch again, we love Chicken Ranch.
Tell us about your relationship with the label. Do they pretty much let you do whatever you want, creatively?
Yeah they help a lot, that’s why we want to work with them. Chicken Ranch, they are not a [greedy] label, they’re thinking of our future, always. So we’re [going to record with them in Austin]. I have tons of friends over there and they help us in [any way] they can. [On] the new album [they suggested] we write a ballad song, I think you would love it, it’s called, ‘Love Love Peelander-Z.’ We have friends over there, so we’re happy recording over there [in Austin].
You’ve really invented your own genre of comic book punk rock. Do you see yourselves staying with that sort of music, or maybe experimenting more with the New Wave stuff?
We are Japanese-action-comic-entertainment. It’s a little funny, that’s why I say comic. Actually we made a comic, like a real Peelander comic book – the front page is like a Ramones jacket.
On adding new elements to their sound: “It’s a new kind of album because we used electronic drums and a spacey keyboard. So all of the songs have kind of a New Wave style.”
The front looks like a Ramones cover?
Yeah, John Holmstrom [did the art] – he really loves us and works with us right now. So yeah, we have a comic book and animation. I love Pokémon and that’s why I chose yellow [for my costume]. Somebody had to choose Pokémon and I chose Pokémon because I love yellow.
I see. Now last year when you and I spoke, the earthquake in Japan had just happened. How is your family doing and how is everything over there now?
Actually, my family lost their house in the Kobe earthquake [years ago] so this time [they] were OK, they’re more West – everyone in my family is fine over there, but [many people] over there lost something, so I’m sad. I can’t do anything from here, that’s why I want to do a good show, a beautiful show, here. I want to send my energy to them. We are very small, [but we're trying] to be very big so we can say something [that reaches them].
I that know you’re touring the States for the next couple months, and you’ll be on tour again in the fall. Do you ever get a chance to go back and perform in Japan at all?
Yeah I really want to go. But we want to be famous here and then go back to Japan and play a big, big show in Japan. That’s one of our dreams: I want to bring everybody to Japan, including you.
I’ll come! If you pay for my ticket, I will come on tour with you in Japan – we’ll have a great time.
It’ll be a big show; I want to bring everybody from here to there.
Is there anything else that you want to say to our readers?
Peelander-Z plays very hard; please, please come to see what happens at our show, come to see by your eyes and then you can hear something from me. It’s weird but if you come to see our show you’ll understand what I want to say. So Peelander-Z needs you, and you need us. I’m so happy with Performer Magazine, baby!
New publishing tool helps musicians power tour listings across all of their pages and profiles…enter once, publish everywhere.
If you’re a band looking to tell hundreds of millions of fans around the world where you’ll be playing live, look no further. Songkick Tourbox for artists automates the publishing of your concert dates across the Internet, helping you reach hundreds of millions of existing and new fans with accurate, up-to-date tour information.
Artists at any stage in their career can take advantage of the largest and most comprehensive concert database in the world. With an unrivalled partner syndication network, Songkick is the only way to tell fans about your concerts right where they’re listening to your music, including YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud and more, as well as your own website, blog and Facebook page.
At Songkick, we’re passionate about helping musicians spend their time doing what they love best – creating music and playing it live for fans. With the revolutionary Tourbox publishing tool we just got a step closer, putting artists in the driving seat by making it easy to publish tour information across the web from one single place.
Tourbox features include:
· The dashboard is simply and easy-to-use. Artists can tap into an unmatched distribution opportunity to publish their concert dates across the Internet
· A stylish, customizable plug-in powers your tour dates on your website. Leave the heavy lifting to us, we’ll update your site automatically so you don’t have to.
· Automatic syncing to your Facebook, Tumblr and WordPress pages
· Six million fans a month use Songkick to find concerts. When you announce a tour date, we’ll let them know through a custom concert alert.
· With our Spotify app, fans create customized concert calendars based on their playlists. Playable concert listings let fans browse dates while deciding which tickets to buy for your show.
· On YouTube, concert dates are listed next to your videos, letting fans know when you’ll be coming to their city while they watch your videos.
· On SoundCloud, Tourbox shows your concert dates right where fans are listening to your music.
· Your tour dates reach a host of other services including Bandcamp, BandPage, foursquare, Hype Machine, Mobile Roadie, MTV, VEVO and more.
· Updates sync instantly across all of your pages and profiles.
Songkick CEO Ian Hogarth comments, “At its best, a great show is an incredible shared experience between artists and fans, and for us, it’s what music is all about. We want every fan and artist to have that experience, and that’s why we created Songkick. With Tourbox, we are introducing a powerful publishing tool to help musicians promote their tour dates wherever fans are listening to their music.”
He adds, “We’ve worked closely with innovative, U.S.-based booking group, The Windish Agency, during our beta phase. Using the uniquely developed plug-in we built for the Windish site, their agents immediately understood the huge opportunity this represents for their roster of touring artists. They provided useful input along the way to help shape this into a killer tool for musicians.”
Tom Windish, President of The Windish Agency, said, “Songkick was a clear choice as a first partner in the direct-to-fan space for us. Through Songkick’s extensive network of partners and their new tools, the lives of our artists are greatly simplified, and their shows get incredible promotion on the channels where people listen to music and discover concerts. We see this as just a start to our work with Songkick.”
Artists already using the full suite of tools in Tourbox include The Windish Agency artists M83, Art vs Science and CloudNothings, as well as MWard, Soundgarden, AttackAttack!, ofMontreal and and label websites including UniversalMusic and Domino.
Why wait any longer to tell the world about your next gig? It’s free and easy to get started right now. Just head over to tourbox.songkick.com
CD Baby has partnered with music licensing firm Rumblefish to help CD Baby artists generate new revenue by licensing their music for movies, TV shows, ads, video games, apps, and YouTube. Joining CD Baby’s sync licensing program is included in your one-time submission fee (so it’s FREE for existing CD Baby artists)!
Over the past decade, independent artists have begun to earn significant money from traditional licensing opportunities in TV and film; but with YouTube quickly becoming the most popular online music-discovery platform, there are countless “micro-sync” opportunities out there too, and you should be getting paid for all of it!
Next, decide which of two sync-licensing options is right for you. Choose between:
1) ALL sync opportunities (we call this option “All Media“), including placements in movies, TV shows, ads, and video games,– as well as the YouTube “Micro-Sync” program which allows you to be paid every time your music is used on YouTube.
2) ”Micro Sync” only. This would enable your music to be used with any type of project or production that makes use of multimedia or new media platforms. Examples include website-music, online video sharing (e.g., videos on YouTube), presentations, and apps (including app-games).
CD Baby’s sync licensing program is non-exclusive, so you can always pursue your own music placements in addition, or even work with other music licensing firms.
How do I get paid for my music being used on YouTube?
CD Baby and Rumblefish are working directly with YouTube to include your music in YouTube’s content-ID database. Basically, if anyone in the whole wide world uploads a video with your music as the soundtrack, YouTube will “fingerprint” ID the music as YOURS. Then you’ll be paid based on YouTube ad-revenue for every time someone watches that video. The more people out there using your music, and the more people watching those videos, the more money you make! YouTube pays us, and we pay you (quarterly!)
In addition to this content-ID process, your music will also be added to the Friendly Music catalog, a collection of pre-approved songs for which content producers can purchase an upfront license.
What if I upload my own videos to YouTube?
Great! You’ll be paid for those too. There is no charge for the video uploader, so you can encourage your fans and friends to post YouTube videos using your music; It’s free for them, and you get paid!
We’re really excited about this new sync licensing partnership as it opens up new revenue streams for independent artists. Millions of people are listening to and watching music videos (and videos that feature music) on YouTube. Now you’ll get paid for it!
Live Nation Entertainment and Groupon have partnered to form GrouponLive, an online ticketing deals channel that will apply Groupon’s discounting approach to Live Nation events. GrouponLive is scheduled for launch “in time for the summer concert season,” according to a statement released by Live Nation Entertainment in late May. The announcement comes a little over a year after Live Nation completed its merger with Ticketmaster Entertainment to form Live Nation Entertainment, solidifying Live Nation’s control over live event ticketing at thousands of venues worldwide.
The launch of GrouponLive is part of Live Nation’s ongoing effort to boost floundering ticket sales, particularly after last year’s disappointing concert season in which Live Nation Entertainment saw a significant decline in profits. In a 2010 address to investors, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino acknowledged that a reduction in ticket prices was essential to revitalizing the struggling concert industry, while ticketing CEO Nathan Hubbard confirmed Ticketmaster’s commitment to phasing out services fees for customers who print their tickets at home. Previous efforts by Live Nation to offer fans reduced ticket prices have taken a blanket approach with multi-show ticket packages and promotions like 2010’s No Service Fee June.
Both Live Nation and Groupon executives expressed enthusiasm for the partnership, viewing the venture as a win-win situation for both parties. For Live Nation, GrouponLive provides an opportunity to fill seats that might otherwise have gone unsold without resorting to slashing ticket prices across the board. Groupon, which typically offers its subscribers discounts to local services, restaurants and retailers, will expand its platform to include concerts, sporting events and other live entertainment at major venues throughout North America. Stated Andrew Mason, Groupon’s founder and CEO, “With unprecedented access to Live Nation’s expansive roster of performers and events, GrouponLive will be the destination for exclusive live event deals.”
GrouponLive will appeal to fans eager to see their favorite performers but frustrated by high ticket prices and service fees. The venture will follow Groupon’s popular formula of offering subscribers limited-time, region-specific discounts on tickets to Live Nation events. Discounted ticket prices will be made available to subscribers via email as tour dates and entertainment schedules are announced.
Financial arrangements of the partnership were not disclosed, but GrouponLive’s ability to offer discounted tickets will presumably depend on an event’s projected ticket sales. Statements by Live Nation indicate that GrouponLive offers will apply to North American venues only at this time. Like Groupon, GrouponLive is a free service.
Music by Google: Will Internet Giant Control Your Cloud?
Users of Google agree – the Internet giant changed the way the world searches for information. Email, chat systems, social networking tools, editing software, and browsers have also sprung up under the Google umbrella, easily making the multinational, multi-billion-dollar corporation the ruler of the web. And just when spectators thought the world according to Google couldn’t grow anymore, execs announced the launch of Music by Google: the company’s cloud-based musicservice.
Rumors of Google’s online storage locker date back to June 2010. On May 10, 2011, Google confirmed it would be offering users the ability to store their music remotely and access it from any compatible device. Although the service is reminiscent of Amazon’s Cloud Drive, Music by Google is only open to a select group of users, and storage is limited to 20,000 songs. As of now, the use of the locker requires an Android-powered device, and, while in beta, the service is free. Most notably, though, is that Music by Google is offered without music licenses from major labels.
Despite the unveiling of the service, execs have openly stated the deal isn’t exactly what they hoped for. “We’ve been in negotiations with the industry for a different set of features with mixed results,” says Zahavah Levine, director of content partnerships. “But a couple of major labels were less focused on innovation and more focused on demanding unreasonable and unsustainable business terms.”
Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group are rumored to be the two labels in question. The labels were supposedly not in support of Google’s scan-and-match style service (similar to Apple’s new iCloud service – see page 49), which would have included matching users’ songs to a centralized hub and paying rights holders per stream. Although Google ignored the labels’ concerns, it is still reworking the service to garner support from the music community.
“A large segment of the music industry worked cooperatively and was extremely helpful sorting out the issues of online licensing,” says Levine. “We certainly remain open to partnerships with the music industry for new features and functionality. This is the beginning of what we hope will be a long relationship with music and users and helping users engage with music and artist and fans.”
Google’s possible motivation for label support is because users won’t be able to share their tunes or purchase new songs without it. Despite issues surrounding the launch of Music by Google, there are nifty aspects of the service. For example, those with Android devices can cache recently played songs and listen to music, even when offline. The app also supports playlist synchronization, which allows a user to create a playlist on his/her laptop and then access it on a smartphone.
The service’s playlist automation is almost identical to Apple’s Genius playlist creator. Google’s Instant Mix creates new playlists based on a single song by analyzing the song’s characteristics and matching it with other tunes.
One of the services Music by Google won’t offer includes “de-duplication,” which lets users skip uploading their copies of music to the cloud is there’s already an identical file available. Multiple users could stream music from a single file, and users with large music collections could save time waiting for perhaps thousands of songs to upload.