Human People’s New Single Is All Existential Dread

Human People’s New Single Is All Existential Dread Photo by Claire Dorfman

There’s plenty of things to be anxious about.

Human People make that clear on the latest single from their forthcoming record, Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears. “Black Flowers” starts off with an isolated drum beat that smacks of a 1960s girl group sound (think: “My Boyfriend’s Back”). Rather than hew to the sort of outdated heteronormative narrative that typified that genre, though, the Brooklyn band gives voice to internal anxiety about who is really to blame for one’s own problems. Singer Hayley Livingston oozes apathy as she asks some pretty heavy questions: “Am I lying to myself and maybe everyone else?” “What’s the point of living when you’re always alone?” “Where will you be when you’re already done with me?”

Musically, Human People aren’t breaking any ground here. It’s a catchy enough punk ballad that clocks in at just under two minutes. But the duality between the gravity of Livingston’s words and the indifferent tone of her voice elevates the song beyond its fairly standard structure, with charmingly ironic results.

Ultimately, “Black Flowers” doesn’t answer any of the questions it asks; they’re the kinds of questions best processed through true self-reflection, anyway. But any anxious person knows it’s easier to lean into despair and accept your capacity to ruin everything. Nobody can blame them for that—they’re only human.

Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears drops Friday via Exploding in Sound. Human People play Baby’s Alright on November 17 with Slow Pulp.

 

Karen Hover Unravels Sound of Ceres’ Out-of-This-World Live Show

 Karen Hover Unravels Sound of Ceres’ Out-of-This-World Live Show Photo by Michael McCleary

Sound of Ceres aims to mesmerize. The New York-via-Colorado synth-pop quartet brings its dreamy music to life with a unique live show, full of choreographed laser lights, reflective handmade costumes, and illusions inspired by early 1900s magicians. Founded by husband and wife Ryan and Karen Hover of Candy Claws, the Marina Abramovic-approved, outer space-bent group will perform at Alphaville for three shows this month in a residency for AdHoc. Each night will have an opener hand-picked by the band: performance artist Sarah Kinlaw on September 7, composer Dondadi (aka Connor Harwick of The Drums) on September 14, and a yet-to-be-announced “dream” artist for the final show on September 21.

 
Ahead of the residency, Karen Hover spoke to AdHoc about their psychedelic stage productions, touring with Beach House, and recording their latest album, The Twin.
 
You just finished a U.S. tour with Beach House, and you’re due to head back out with them to Europe soon. How was it playing with them?
 
It was great. We went out with them in May and we just did another chunk of time in August with them and it was great—really crazy venues that are way bigger than we’ve ever played before. It was kind of a unique experience to play in pretty opera theaters and ballrooms. [Beach House is] very light-oriented like we are so it was a very fun pairing. Basically we’re both very into visuals, but their set is a little higher-end because they have the budget to do that, versus ours, which is very homespun. It was fun seeing the two side by side.
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Hopscotch Music Fest Gears Up for 2018 with a Staff Playlist

Hopscotch Music Fest Gears Up for 2018 with a Staff Playlist Photo by Jamie Robbins

Hopscotch Music Festival, which we once dubbed “the premiere experimental and underground festival in America,” is about to enter its 9th year. The festival runs September 6-8 and is spread out over downtown Raleigh, NC, with a mammoth roster of headliners that includes Liz Phair, The Flaming Lips, Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Grizzly Bear, and Miguel. With Hopscotch now just a little over two weeks away, the festival’s staff was kind enough to get on a big email chain with us and share some of their favorite songs from artists on the lineup. Check out a Hopscotch Staff Playlist below, and don’t forget to grab yourself a wristband or day-pass

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Trevor Powers: “My best work comes from the same thoughts that are trying to destroy me."

Trevor Powers: “My best work comes from the same thoughts that are trying to destroy me. Photo by Chris Schoonover

A glitch is not always a fault. Sometimes, that chink in the machine can render new possibilities: a sound, a melody birthed of dysfunction. And with the right manipulation, that melody can sound gorgeous. 

On his latest album, Mulberry Violence, Trevor Powers, formerly known as Youth Lagoon, has crafted an electric world that reprograms its defects into strengths: discordant arrangements breed balance, lyrics of loss and abuse emerge within crystalline harmonies. On album opener “XTQ Idol” robotic screams quiver and break; piano keys singe underway like overcharged currents; programmed beats ring out in metal clangs. 

But Powers’ voice, layered and filtered like gauze, somehow bridges the cacophony. In an email interview with AdHoc, which you can read in full below, the Boise, Idaho-based instrumentalist, producer, and composer describes the album to AdHoc as a “tug of war” between “harmony and discord.” The result is a brooding, compelling embrace of our worldly condition. 

Mulberry Violence is officially out today via Powers’ own Baby Halo label.

Trevor Powers plays National Sawdust on Wednesday, October 17.

 

AdHoc: In a note accompanying your recent single, “Playwright” you wrote that you ended Youth Lagoon because it “became a mental dungeon.” What gave you the impetus to break free, and what was the largest obstacle you had to face on your way out?

Trevor Powers: It was never meant to be something that continued. It was a muted, detached world I wanted to spend a bit of time in to examine memories. But I wasn’t about to set up camp there forever; I would’ve torn my face off. I said what I wanted to say in that setting, then burned it to the ground. I didn’t want to turn it into a disgusting money grab just because the name could sell a few tickets. It became its own organism, and I was luckily in tune with it enough to kill it when it told me it wanted to die. 

My only concern in art is following the visions. Those rapturous flashes of imagination direct every stride. If I’m following those, I know I’m going the right way. Often the flashes only last for a second or two, so it’s critical for me to always be paying attention. Ideas truly are phantoms, and life is far less grand and appealing if those phantoms aren’t chased. 

In many scenarios, I’ve found the most colossal of obstructions come from my own fear—and there’s no way around those obstacles except to decimate them completely. The war on fear is a strange one, because it can be just as inspiring as it is devastating. Usually my best work comes from the same thoughts that are trying to destroy me. 

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Drugdealer and His Merry Band of Skaters

Drugdealer and His Merry Band of Skaters Photo by Joe McMurray

We first spoke with Mike Collins some years ago. He was still finding his way back then, producing music under the name of Salvia Plath — one of many punny monikers he’s recorded under throughout the years. In 2016, Collins unveiled Drugdealer, and with that new name came the kaleidoscopic glory of his latest album, The End of Comedy.

With its roots in the psych-folk melodies of the ‘60s and ‘70s, The End of Comedy is a vivid, dreamy record with guest appearances by the likes of Mac DeMarco, Weyes Blood, and Ariel Pink. Listening through feels like settling into an endless reverie; indulging in a swirling reprieve from life’s troubles. The record received a quiet flurry of love when it was first released — and Collins has been able to maintain the project’s popularity even as he’s taken his time recording a follow-up. “The response has been steady, even though it came out so long ago,” Collins tells me over the phone, “I feel like people are still finding out about it, all the time.”

The Los Angeles-based musician has been hard at work with a band made up of (mostly) skaters that he affectionately calls his “unofficial super-group.” We caught up with Collins to hear about what he’s been up to with his new band, his love of skating, and his pursuit of filmmaking. Read up below, and be sure to grab tickets to his show at Market Hotel tomorrow, August 11.

You’re a skater. How has being a skateboarder influenced your ethos, whether on music or in life more generally?

When I was younger, I wasn’t musical. There was a piano in the house, but my parents didn’t really play music. They largely listened to talk radio. It just wasn’t really a part of my life and didn’t care about music very much— I cared more about authors and movies and skateboarding, which was my first main love when I was about 8-years-old. The way I got into music was actually through skating.

When you’re a skateboarder, you’re extremely obsessive. You repeatedly watch videos of a skater you like. We would loop the same section manually on VHS. I never really realized it, but these repeat viewings of those skateboard parts meant that I was just listening to the same songs over and over again. And the music is almost more important than the skating: It says a lot about that skater’s worldview. I’d watch these videos and I’d be like, “Oh I like this part and I like this one,” but what I didn’t realize was that I really was just like, “Oh, I love this music.”

I had never really been a music fan before that. When it hit me was when I badly broke my ankle when I was 17. I was immobile for awhile. If you talk to a lot of people, this is usually the story — with a lot of young musicians that I know, they were once skateboarders that either just weren’t good enough or got really hurt, and they started making music instead. I sort of gave up on skating for many years after that, but I got back into it when I moved back to L.A. properly about four years ago. The thing that I find interesting is that I was influenced by a lot of this music that these skaters chose and I think that my music has started to reach some of them. It’s sort of been like an echo chamber, them reaching out to me and being like, “Oh I like this,” and realizing that their taste-making was partially an influence to it in the first place.

I don’t know if that’s a good answer to your question, but I just think that the community of skateboarding is a lot like the community of art — it’s complicated and everybody is sort of pushing off each other. The last thing I’ll say about it, is that it allows me to not be concerned with the music industry, which is a total godsend. I don’t think I could really be working on the music that I am right now without having this other outlet that takes me away from it. And I think that that’s a big part of why I love it so much.

Has your musical work ever overlapped with other skaters? Who are some of those people, if so?

Danny Garcia came up to me and told me, “I like your album,” and I was like “I’m a huge fan of your skating,” and slowly I basically begged him to be my friend. I realized he was a really, really talented musician and he started playing guitar with me. And then through that, I met a handful of skateboarders that I related to, having watched them as a little kid. He’s not playing with me anymore, but an equally legendary, amazing skater joined my band named Kenny Anderson. He’s played trumpet his whole life and nobody even knew that he played. Recently he started playing with me and kind of began promoting it, and a lot of people in the skate world are just really perplexed and excited about it.

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Femme Fridays: Aretha Arrives in Everlasting Fashion

Femme Fridays: Aretha Arrives in Everlasting Fashion Photo: Atlantic Records

Welcome to AdHoc’s Femme Fridays, a weekly column highlighting the work of trailblazing femmes throughout music history. In this week’s edition, we’re featuring the illustrious Aretha Franklin, whose 12th studio album, Aretha Arrives, came out this week in 1967.

Aretha, mother of rhythm and blues, queen of soul and spirit—you knew what you were doing when you named your 1967 album Aretha Arrives, didn’t you?

It was as if to say, “I’m here, I’m still here,” when you already had twelve records under your belt. Or, “There’s more where that came from,” after topping the charts with songs like “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You,)” and Otis Redding’s “Respect,” both released earlier that year. Aretha, it was as if you knew Aretha Arrives would mark the zenith of your success—and so it was named accordingly.

It’s often a tall order for any album of mostly covers to resonate with listeners; but, Aretha, you made even that possible. It’s that fearless tone, that deep texture in your voice. Even the album’s version of “You Are My Sunshine” sounds less like a child’s song, and more like you’ve actually found the sun on Earth itself.

Is that hyperbolic? Maybe. But Aretha dealt in hyperbole. Her bodacious spirit, sly humor, sequined dresses, elaborately coiffed hair— they were all expressions of her innate star's disposition, destined for greatness from the moment she stepped into her Baptist church as a young girl.

Years later, this was the same spirit that would bring her to a stage in Amsterdam to perform for a raucous crowd. Flowers and gifts would shower onto the stage as she sang her cover of “Satisfaction” from Aretha Arrives. In the video below (starting at 3:16), you can see Aretha Franklin belting with her unmistakably rich, booming cadence, taking a cock-rock song by the Rolling Stones and turning it into her own hefty anthem of desire.

Get Lost in Shmu’s “Alien Switchboard Temple”

Get Lost in Shmu’s “Alien Switchboard Temple” Photography by Ben Aqua

The visuals for Shmu’s “Your Favorite God” are either celestial or apocalyptic, depending on your point of view. At the start of the hypnotic electronic cut, you’re greeted by the Austin-based electro-noise artist’s bearded, disembodied head, singing along as it floats above a red-and-green checkerboard. Columns supporting some sort of temple float by, as well as an advertisement for throwback kids' toy Rainbow Art, beckoning you to "Dip! Dab! Draw!" 

Thanks to the video’s 360-degree component, you’re “a co-creator in the journey beyond beyond itself itself” according to the video’s creator, Lionel Williams, of Los Angeles neo-psychedelic band Vinyl Williams. You, the viewer, have the ability to pivot and swivel, with the options to look down upon a video of Shmu playing the drums or to turn your back on his sunglasses-clad face to take in a series of detailed set pieces that take shape and disappear as the song picks up steam. The further you progress into Shmu’s digital plane, the more distorted and psychedelic the visuals become, until you’re surrounded by floating orbs and a color scheme reminiscent of the final chaotic (and ultimately blissful) minutes of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“The lyric, ‘Your Favorite God is calling you back, right on time,’ could be interpreted as a metaphor for the higher self,” Shmu told AdHoc. “There are many metaphysical spiritual philosophies that share the belief that each individual has their own higher self that guides us where we need to go & always is there ‘right on time.’” “Your Favorite God” appears on Shmu’s third full-length, Lead Me To The Glow, which is out September 28 via GTZ Records.

 

Femme Fridays: Judy Collins’ “Anathea” Spins Sorrow into Silk

Femme Fridays: Judy Collins’ “Anathea” Spins Sorrow into Silk

Welcome to AdHoc’s Femme Fridays, a weekly column highlighting the work of trailblazing femmes throughout music history. In this week’s edition, we look at a glistening performance by singer-songwriter Judy Collins, recorded at the legendary Newport Folk Festival on this day in 1963.

On stage, Judy Collins seems almost unearthly, her golden voice sprawling toward the heavens. Hers is a tranquility that seems to sit at the core of her being, as Collins was devoted to manifesting peace as a social activist. Protest and advocacy aside, this should still come as no surprise. Her luminous voice floats unfettered into our hearts, channeling the same serenity she sought to bring to the world.

In this rare footage, we see a young Collins performing an enchanting rendition of a classic folk song, “Anathea.” Its verses tell a story of sorrow and abuse: Anathea’s brother is sent to prison and she sets out to free him. She offers the judge gold and silver, to which he demands that she offer her body to him instead. Desperate to save her brother, she agrees to pay the ultimate price—only to hear her brother has been hanged by the judge nonetheless. Collins’ gentle soprano holds out in a lament, turning this harrowing story into something beautiful.

 

Femme Fridays: Looking Closely with Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner”

Femme Fridays: Looking Closely with Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” Photo: A&M Records

Welcome to AdHoc’s Femme Fridays, a weekly column highlighting the work and talent of trailblazing femmes throughout music history. In this week’s edition, we’re looking at Suzanne Vega’s classic hit, “Tom’s Diner,” in honor of the songstress’s 59th birthday this week.

Some melodies just never seem to disappear. They weave into our collective memory without notice, surreptitious and enduring, until it seems like they have been rooted in us all along. Beloved folk-pop singer Suzanne Vega is author to one such melody: 1989’s “Tom’s Diner,” an expository tune where she details a rainy morning at a Brooklyn cafe. Nearly 40 years have passed since it was written, yet its simple, a cappella arrangement feels more charming than ever.

Vega's voice is a gentle reprieve from a world inundated with noise and confusion. It is grounding. “I am sitting /In the morning /At the diner /On the corner,” she begins. No frills, no feelings—just the close-mic’d cadence of soft vocals and quiet intakes of breath. Look around, Vega seems to ask us. She does plenty of it herself, detailing her morning newspaper and taking in the movements of people at the diner: “There’s a woman / On the outside / Looking inside / Does she see me?”

Vega’s lyricism has sometimes been noted for its detached, or even clinical, perspectives— but with her tender voice and smooth melodies, I’d argue that she expertly turns the mundane into pop fodder. It’s telling, too, that this seemingly dry track would eventually be used by mathematician and electrical engineer Karlheinz Brandenburg as a marker of “warmth” when developing the MP3 in the early ‘90s. Vega’s was not a world of cold observation—the careful curiosities of any woman can glow, too, if only you listen closely.

The Vandelles Made a Song About Rude People on the Internet

The Vandelles Made a Song About Rude People on the Internet Photography by Jasno Swarez

Look what the tide brought in: Brooklyn Hula-rockers The Vandelles are back after a four-year hiatus, and just in time for summer. Their new single, “Techromancer,” pumps with wet guitar licks and throbbing basslines. Feedback drenches the start of the track, peaking and crashing away once vocalist Jasno Swarez enters the scene. “I’d rather be dead than you,” he sings on the song’s hook, “I’d rather be black and blue / I’ll greet the darkness when it comes.” This fury is influenced by the least beachy of sources: the Internet.

“Techromancer” points a finger at a world “obsessed with technology,” Swarez told AdHoc over email. It’s part of what he calls “the power of anonymous anger on the internet.” “I think everyone has had people say terrible things to them online—the chorus of “Techromancer” is me expressing my frustration with that,” he said.

Hear it for yourself below, and be sure to catch The Vandelles tonight July 13 at Mercury Lounge with Ume.