Words and photos by Francesca Beltran
“Remember that time Mac DeMarco spit water from the stage inside your mouth?” Someday someone will ask that question, and the lucky guy in the front row at last night’s show will be able to proudly answer, “Yes.” The Canadian musician is now well known for his unusual and terribly entertaining performances, and last night’s show at the House of Vans in Brooklyn was no exception.
The evening began at 7:30 with New Orleans act Benjamin Booker, who warmed up the crowd with his raspy voice and alluring fusion of punk, folk and raucous blues. Charming, talented and unassuming, the singer-songwriter bounded through a fantastic set that included tracks from his self-titled debut album, set for release this upcoming August on ATO Records.
When Mac DeMarco came on stage, the 25,000-foot warehouse was already jammed with eager fans that welcomed the prankster with screams of affection. Amidst beers, laughter and ovations, the eccentric musician delighted the audience with his laid back pop tunes, quirky dance moves and extraordinary sense of humor. Known for his exhibitionist tendencies, this time the gap-toothed goofball opted to keep his clothes on, to the relief of some and the dismay of many. In fact, aside from spitting water inside someone’s mouth and crowdsurfing on the exhilarated public, the show was a pretty relaxed one by DeMarco’s standards. The set contained mostly offerings from his latest album, Salad Days, intertwined with some old favorites. Sadly, there was no surprising encore on last night’s menu, but while the singer fixed a guitar string, bassist Pierce McGarry entertained the attendees with an endearing rendition of Coldplay’s Yellow, to which every cheerful soul in the venue sang along. The band said goodbye with an energetic performance of Still Together.
Up next came soul man extraordinaire, Charles Bradley, who ended the evening with a ferocious performance that left the lively crowd half-deaf, but most definitely satisfied. “I’m home, I’m home, I’m home,” repeated the R&B veteran passionately, while blowing kisses left and right as he took the stage in front of a seven-piece band. Wearing an all-red sparkling suit that he later switched for a silver one (both straight out of the original disco era), the 65-year-old singer showed off his astounding dance moves and performed each song with such sentiment one would’ve thought it was his last night on Earth. The event successfully launched this year’s free summer concert series, also known as The Vans House Parties that will continue all through July and August.
First published on CMJ.com on June, 2014
For more interviews visit my portfolio here
Photo by Gregoire Alexandre
Words by Francesca Beltran
One thing is clear; Joseph Mount is all about change. As the brain behind svelte pop groupMetronomy, Mount doesn’t like to do the same thing twice. Like all of its previous records, the band’s latest release, Love Letters, succeeded yet again in catching listeners completely off guard. Unlike many musicians out there, Mount takes what has already proven successful, unapologetically tosses it out the window, and creates something completely new.
This time, the Devon, England-based musician chose to slow down the tempos and leave the sandy beaches behind, in order to reveal his most nostalgic side to date. In an attempt to better understand the reasoning behind his decisions, we talked to the band’s all-seeing-eye and asked him about Love Letters and his journey from an instrumental-only bedroom project to a band that now counts a Mercury Prize nomination and a gold record (both for 2011’s pristine The English Riviera) among its many accomplishments.
How do you feel now that the new record is out? Are you pleased by people’s reactions to it?
Yeah, I feel like it’s always really nice. You spend a long time working on a record, and then when it’s finally released you just feel happy. I think the album has been very well received. People seem to kind of understand what the idea is and they’re responding really well to it, so yeah, I feel very happy!
And now that you’re on tour, how are they reacting to the new songs live?
I think the tour is going fantastic! We’re having a really great time performing. The new record is giving the set and the live show a new, very different dynamic, and it feels much more rewarding for us this time. I mean, it has always been rewarding, but there’s something about it this time that feels really, really great.
Love Letters is significantly more downbeat than your previous records. Is there a reason for this?
I think there are two different ways of listening to music these days. It seems like some people can sit at home and listen to records. But then also bands are now touring much more than they used to, and this allows musicians to kind of represent themselves in different ways on the record and when playing their music live. I wanted Love Letters to have a more intimate atmosphere when you listen to it, but playing the songs live really kind of changes the way they feel. When the new songs sit next to the older songs, they feel different.
Love Letters was recorded at Toe Rag Studios. Why did you choose an analogue facility, and how did this affect the composition process?
There were a few reasons for doing it that way, but the main one was for me to learn what it was like to make a record like they did in the old days, you know, how the Beatles made records and how the Beach Boys made records. All these fantastic albums have been made in that kind of studio using that kind of technology. Also, I thought it would be nice to make a record without the computer, because computers are what really helped me learn how to make music, and sometimes you feel like you rely on them a bit too much, and that it’s doing a lot of the work for you. So I just wanted to feel like I was doing it all by myself. And it’s true, working like that really does change how you write your songs and how you think about the way you’re going to record. It’s kind of a creative decision.
Did you enjoy it? Would you like to do that again?
Oh yeah, I loved it! It was really amazing, but I think that I wouldn’t do it again for the same reasons, and for the next record I will definitely go back to modern technologies. You can take so much from that experience that I think in certain situations I would do it again, but you know, I’m not anti-progress or anything.
Is there something about Love Letters that you are particularly proud of?
I feel like it’s a nice, kind of concise and quite precise record, and it feels different from how a lot of other things feel at the moment in music. I’m proud that people think it sounds different from what’s currently out there.
Do you have a favorite song on the record?
"I’m Aquarius," just because I feel like it’s a nice, solid pop song.
Lyrically, were you inspired by anything in particular?
When I’m writing albums or music I always try to give myself a few ideas or starting points, and I always find it helpful to use things that I have some kind of experience with. For this record I was writing most of the music while we were traveling and on tour, so most of the beginnings of the ideas kind of come from the experience of being away from the people that you care about. I’m not interested in writing confessional songs, but it certainly helps to have some knowledge of what you’re writing about.
Is there a story behind “The Most Immaculate Haircut”?
That song is about being jealous of people. There are so many musicians that you see and meet that are this kind of perfect combination of everything. Specifically, there’s this guy called Connan Mockasin, a New Zealand musician that we toured with, that has this Andy Warhol-like long hair, which I think is amazing. I wish I was able to make myself recognizable by my hair, but it has never worked out that way.
You’ve said before that success is the last thing on your mind. So what is Metronomy’s goal?
Well it’s not the last thing. Maybe like the third thing on my mind (laughs). The pleasure that I get out of making music and being able to experiment in studios is what really excites me. I’m guessing that maybe without success I would not be given the time to do those things. I know it is important that people like what I do, but I think even if I lost a record deal and had to get a job in a café, I would still be doing this for the reasons that I’m doing it now, just because I really love it.
So much has changed since you started out as an instrumental electronic act. What do you think about where you’re at now? Any regrets?
I feel really proud of how it all turned out. I still really love instrumental music and I think I would love to make some more, but I definitely don’t have any regrets or anything. It’s been the best thing that’s even happened to me! No regrets, never!
First published on CMJ.com on May, 2014
For more interviews visit my portfolio here
By Francesca Beltran
Photo Eliot Lee Hazel
With the release of their new album, Big TV, the British band, White Lies showed us their most colorful side to date. While To Lose My Life and Rituals reflected on abstract concepts like love, death and the meaning of it all, Big TV focuses on one theme that dwells on what it really means to leave home behind in order to pursue your dreams somewhere else. This time, the trio aims to create more complex melodies, and combines them with catchy choruses and lyrics that kill the idealized notion of “moving to a big city.” After all, there’s nothing romantic in finding yourself lost and alone in an unknown place. Without a doubt, Big TV proves that White Lies are perfectly capable of experimenting with new sounds, without losing the dark identity that has gained them their followers trust and loyalty.
Your previous records all seem to rely on some kind of theme. Is there a theme or story behind Big TV?
Charles Cave: Yeah, I think Big TV is the first album that is inspired by some kind of narrative. It’s about a girl that moves from a provincial area to a big city city with very naïve romantic notions of what she might achieve there. It was a fun way to make an album. I suppose you can write songs just for the sake of writing a song and you can write an album, for the sake of writing an album but it’s nice when you set yourself a bit of a frame work. For me as well it helps keep me focused when writing lyrics, when there’s something to keep.
And what’s the story about?
Charles: It’s not 100% based on one person, but over the last few years we’ve met a lot of English people in other countries and a lot of people in England from other countries that have come there with hopes and dreams. And so it’s just a combination of hearing a lot about those people and about their experiences from moving away and leaving a lot behind.
How much are your records based on your own live experiences?
Charles: It’s interesting to think about; if we were to be locked in a room for a year but allowed to listen to as much music as we wanted to, how different that would be to spending a year experiencing whatever you choose to do? Cause I feel most influential thing on our music is other music, and continuing to discover other music, but I don’t know what I’d write about if I wasn’t out and about.
Compared to To Loose My Life and Ritual, Big TV seems a little less somber and more upbeat. Was this a conscious decision?
Harry McVeigh: I think it was in may ways, because before we started writing this record we set out to write something that was much more melodious, and although the music is simple, we wanted to make the melodies more complicated and that more complex melody always sounds more upbeat,
In terms of the composition process, how have you evolved as musicians from your first album? Do you feel it has become easier or more challenging to create music?
Harry: It’s always incredibly challenging to make music. I mean to say “good music” is very strange, cause music is all based on opinion and some people love it, a lot of people hate it as well I’m sure, but in order to make music that you like or that you enjoy or that you could imagine yourself playing night after night like we are now, it’s always going to be a challenge. And it’s weird because it’s not necessarily in the single moment of making a song, but everything that goes around it, so you could be hit with a moment of inspiration and write a whole song in a day, and it’d be your favorite song of the record, but in order to have written that song you would’ve had to hit your head against the wall for three or four weeks, writing shit song after shit song, after shit song. So yeah, it’s very difficult.
Charles: I think it gets more fun. I think in some ways you could look at it two ways; I know that we’ve written quite a few good songs in the last six years, so that makes me feel excited about writing more, and it makes me feel, “Oh we must be getting a bit better each time we do this.” But other people could probably say, “It freaks me out that I’m never going to be able to write this good again.” I really like all the restrictions that you can give yourself, I think for me that’s the most exciting thing; on the last record it was the first time that we said, “when we’re writing songs we’re only allowed to use like three sounds, just a keyboard, a drum machine, the vocal and maybe one other thing if we need it,” like a little instrument to play a melody or something. That was really really fun to do because even though here’s an infinite amount of options with one instrument so let alone four, it still feels tense, it feels like you’re trying to crack a puzzle or something.
Is there something about Big TV that you are particularly proud of?
Harry: The thing I’m probably most proud of about Big TV is the fact that there’s not really a bad song on that album, I don’t think. And that’s great, that doesn’t happen very often for me. I still listen to Big TV now and I think, “There not a really shit moment on this record.” And I think that’s quite an achievement, that’s quite rare.
Where does the name of the album comes form?
Charles: It’s a very long, not funny private joke with us and our keyboard player and one day we had written a verse and some music for the song “Big TV” and I was thinking about coming up with something for the chorus. That specific song was very much about this girl moving into a really awful apartment in a horrible part of town, but she has this romantic notion of wanting to be seen as successful or glamourous and the best way that she could think of doing that was buying a really really big tv and putting it in a tiny room, so it looks completely stupid. When that sort of idea came into my head I thought, “Oh my God I can’t believe I’m maybe gonna suggest that we use this lyric for a song,” but we tried it and we were like, “No it’s actually really perfect.” It had the right tone and then that song became so important to the album, we decided to have it first and then we just thought “Let’s just call it Big TV.” It’s a very strange name for an album, and very different from our previous ones, you know, the first album’s called To Lose My Life, the second album’s called Rituals and you get these very dark, possibly gothic images from them and because of this new found sense of melody and uplifting quality that Big TV has it felt very appropriate to give a very new title that has a very different feeling.
Do you feel there’s cynicism behind the lyrics?
Charles: Oh definitely, yeah. I’m a very cynical sarcastic person, so there will always be that in lyrics, I hope. I’m very skeptical about all that. Here we are now sitting in NY and in LA we have lots of British friends who are like “I think I’m just gonna move to NY, I think I’m just gonna move to LA,” and it’s like, “Fucking grow up.” I’m not saying that people shouldn’t move to other places, of course they should, but it’s just when people kind of do it with this idea that everything will just fall into place.
I read the artwork (by Michael Kagan) won Best Art Vinyl 2013, congratulations. What is the relationship between the album’s name and theme, with its artwork?
Harry: The artwork is just an image that we really liked.
Charles: I think there’s a look that we all picked up on the astronaut’s eyes on the front cover; a very kind of quiet, very lonely look and thinking about him out there in space definitely ties in with the feeling that I am trying to get across that this girl is feeling. It’s the right mood and that’s the most important thing.
In an interview with QRO from 2009 you said you tried hard to occupy your free time while touring in order to avoid drugs and alcohol, how’s that working after all these years?
Harry: Did we? That’s so dark! We’re very good at not being rock and roll at all. I think the point we were making is that being on tour is very easy to get bored and boredom definitely breathes drug problems and alcohol, but having said that, we do probably drink a little bit too much.
Charles: None of us drink excessively on a night though. We don’t binge. It’s quite rare that we have hung over too, but probably every night we would have between two and five beers. We drink posh alcohol too, that’s definitely better for you.
Harry: We also do a lot of walking. We’re very good tourists, and I think that’s important to keep yourself happy.
What band have you enjoyed sharing the stage with the most?
Charles: We’ve done two shows with Kings of Leon and they would come to our dressing room and say, “What are you doing here? Come hang with us!” They are just so generous, like they definitely enjoy their success and their wealth, but they also really share it. One night Caleb spilled some wine on my t-shirt and I was just like, ”Don’t worry about it,” but the next day he had my t-shirt dry-cleaned and bought me two new t-shirts. He didn’t have to, but he wanted to, that’s who they are, they’re very nice guys.
Do you have any particular goal as a band? Something specific that you are all working towards?
Harry: I think just to keep going for a little bit longer. It’s so hard in this day and age to guarantee yourself a career in music and I’m really proud and happy that we’ve managed to make three records. I’d like to do that maybe for a couple more and see where we’re at. And also I hope that we could do something a little bit different with the next album, not saying at all what that is cause I don’t think any of us know, but it might be fun just to try something totally new. Rap metal.
First published in Spanish on Nylon Magazine Mexico on April, 2014.
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