No one really knows anything about producer Blue Angels. His label, UNO NYC, is upfront about this. They once told RA that they “don’t know much about him except that he’s a young kid in Maryland and very talented.”
Following last year’s Vaces—which is up on UNO’s site as a free download, and is accompanied by a surreal, pumpkin-themed music video—Blue Angels’ new EP, High Dive, sits somewhere between Sinjin Hawke and Holy Other. Even in its darkest, most industrial moments, there’s a clear sensitivity towards ambience and melody. You can hear it in the agitated corners of “Why,” where a submerged vocal sample conjures a mood at once sinister and sincere. The recursive, lo-fi crunch of “Floss” manages to tread this line for a spellbinding seven and a half minutes. In the face of Blue Angels’ utter anonymity, what we’re left with is simply the music. The EP works as an invitation, beckoning listeners toward the shadowy worlds it already inhabits.
Over email, Blue Angels offered AdHoc a single line — a hieroglyph awaiting translation: “I am feeling much better these days.” High Dive is out May 18th on UNO.
Chicago natives Deeper are a patient and dedicated bunch. They spent almost two years holed up in their practice space, crafting their self-titled debut with friend and engineer Dave Vettraino, who has worked with Melkbelly and Damien Jurado. The result is a jangly post-punk treasure, shimmery gold and all. Nic Gohl’s lyrics hit on existential quandaries and pushing to get more out of life. Gohl’s smooth yet commanding voice hovers over his and Mike Clawson’s tangle of erratic, slippery guitars. Drew McBride’s bass playing supports the mass of shine and noise as Shiraz Bhatti’s percussive stylings hop along with the group, keeping everyone’s ducks in a row.
AdHoc recently caught up with Deeper to discuss their inspirations, their favorite Chicago digs, and tracking food deliveries. Grab a copy of Deeper via Fire Talk Records.
What’s your practice space like?
Nic Gohl: It’s an old Frank Lloyd Wright building. But it looks like something out of Hostel or one of the Saw movies. So, not very pretty.
Drew McBride: I think it used to be a Polish sausage factory. You can Google it. E-Z Polish Sausage.
Your self-titled debut is coming out in May on Fire Talk Records. Can you tell me a bit about the album?
Nic: The album is a collection of songs from the past 2 or so years that we slowly recorded in our practice space with our old friend and longtime collaborator, Dave.
Drew: He’s like one of our best friends. He’s a collaborator, he’s my roommate...
Nic: Mostly his roommate [laughs]. Dave Vettraino.
Drew: But yea, he’s also recorded some other Chicago bands like Melkbelly who’s playing Pitchfork this year. In my opinion the record has like some pretty diverse sounds just as a result of us all learning how to play together over that time.
Shiraz Bhatti: We actually did “Pink Showers” and our first single that we dropped in 2016, “Transmogrified,” in Dave’s basement. Then we decided to demo out the record in our practice space, and we were really surprised at how things worked out, so we spent the next year and a half taking weekends here and there to finish it off.
Brooklyn-based Shybaby made their debut last year with the hilariously titled PBR Tallbetch. The four-song EP married lyrics about skipping school and botched Tinder dates with the band’s carefree, pop-punk sound. Today, we're excited to debut Shybaby's pop-punk inspired cover of Mandy Moore’s 1999 pop hit, “Candy.” We also talked with singer and guitarist Grace Eire about the music scene in Brooklyn, the group's upcoming debut album, and finding inspiration in Maggie Nelson and Third Eye Blind. You can catch them live at Baby’s All Right on May 9.
AdHoc: Your lyrics take a lot of inspiration from your experiences as a young person in your early twenties. Is it difficult to write from a personal lens?
Grace Eire: Well, I’m leaning more towards 30 than 20, but I appreciate the mix-up. It’s never been difficult for me to write from a personal lens, because what can I possibly know better than my own self? I’ve also always been pretty introspective/introverted, so I spend a lot of time tossing over events and interactions with people. In fact, in school, my thesis was a 70-page first-person body narrative. What’s interesting to me about the switch to songwriting is that I’m more used to going on and on with long, painstakingly over-thought sentences. These songs, on the other hand, come to me quickly, and I tend to go with my first instinct rather than editing them incessantly. I like to think that keeps them honest and fun.
When you’re in your early twenties, it feels like everyone is putting up a front. “Kindness Is Hot,” Ben Katzman’s Degreaser new single off of their forthcoming EP, deals with the difficulties of contemporary early adulthood like relating with one another in an age of obsessive self image, inflated egos, online dating.
The song is a fast paced, theatrical ode to courtesy. Over a glam rock guitar riff, frontman Ben Katzman sings, “be cool / be nice / be chill / that’s tight!” The theatrical Kiss-inspired track contains a spoken word break, appropriately followed by a wailing guitar solo. In advance of the single’s release, we talked with Ben Katzman about astrology, authenticity, and working with Colleen Green.
AdHoc: When did you start making music?
Ben Katzman: I’ve always been playing. The truth is I’ve always been playing music. My mom, who’s an astrologer, did my zodiac charts and saw that I lacked communications in my Ninth House. And, after that, she started sending me to piano lessons. Ever since I started playing music, I stopped having rage outbursts. I was like, 8 or 9.
Open collaboration between four members can be difficult to cultivate, but Bad Moves make it look effortless. Featuring members of The Max Levine Ensemble, Hemlines, Art Sorority for Girls, and Booby Trap, Bad Moves is a DC indie punk/power-pop powerhouse. All of its members contribute equally to songwriting duties, making tunes that are more than the sum of their parts. “One of the founding tenets of this band was to compose, arrange and perform such that it’s not clear who wrote what, and at times it’s not even clear who’s singing what,” says drummer and songwriter Daoud Tyler-Ameen, also of Art Sorority. Their latest single, "One Thing,” which we're debuting below, is exemplary of this doctrine: vocals from all members are delicately layered, their owners made an ambiguous part of the whole. While collaborative songwriting isn’t exactly a new concept, Bad Moves’ approach is fresh and purposeful. Catch them tonight at Warsaw with Jeff Rosenstock and Martha.
Australian indie outfit Big White’s “How Did You Find Out” is a humorous ode to the 80s complete with thick-framed glasses, awkward mullets, and mom jeans. The video’s grainy, VHS aesthetics are a perfect pair with the upbeat, synth-driven, New Wave-inspired track.
The band got their start after they were spotted by Burger Records scouts at a pub in Sydney. Following their debut album On + On, the band went on a nine-week tour across their native Australia, Europe, and North America. Their newest video, ”How Do You Find Out,” reflects the band’s DIY ethos. Using inexpensive materials and the help of their friends, Big White explores themes of misconception and failure.
"Our approach to everything is to do it yourself. With a little help from friends along the way, we tend to take things into our own hands,” Big White’s Jack T. Wotton tells AdHoc over email. “We are playing with the idea that it doesn't matter what you say, it's what you do. There's no truth in stories, and that's all the more reason to tell them."
With its meticulously arranged and aggressive rhythmic patterns, Aaron Funk's work as Venetian Snares is occasionally nightmarish, but too lucid to describe as dreamlike. Poemss, however, his new collaboration on Planet Mu with Toronto-based producer Joanne Pollock, feels like the perfect soundtrack to your late-night, closed-eye adventures. The tracks proceed nonlinearly, sometimes meandering and sometimes static. The voices of both Pollock and Funk appear frequently on their self-titled debut record-- wordlessly and ephemerally in some moments, lyrically in others. The record is imbued with the sort of sedate surrealism (and a similiar vocabulary of synth tones) that characterized the second half of Brian Eno's Before and After Science. Album cut "Moviescapes," which you can listen to below, is one of the more conventionally structured tracks. A waltz without a rhythm, it song lurches back and forth woozily, anchored by Joanne's harmonized vocals. We spoke with Pollock over email about the project-- how it came about, the collaborative process, and the effects of making music at night.
Ad Hoc: How did you first become involved in making electronic music?
Joanne Pollock: I first started making electronic music by myself about three years ago. I didn't really know how to go about it at first, but a few of my friends used different kinds of programs, so I checked some of them out. My first songs were just little experiments, mostly using just the preset instruments that came with whatever I was using. Just finding my way around software, making little baby steps. Eventually, I ended up quitting school, which freed up a lot more time for making music. After a while, I bought some recording equipment and that really advanced my songs a lot!
Ad Hoc: How did you come into contact with Aaron Funk and Planet Mu, and how did you decide to collaborate?
JP: I met Aaron originally at one of his shows in Belgium. We were both Canadian so I guess we started speaking because of that. Two Canadians in a foreign land! It was funny, at that show, whenever someone found out I was from Canada, they would assume that I was friends with Aaron already, because we were from the same country. I guess it would be hard for someone from Belguim to appreciate how far Toronto and Winnipeg are from each other! I ended up going to a few more shows he played, we hung out, shared some music, and he invited me to come visit him in Winnipeg. There wasn't ever a conversation like, "We should collaborate!" It was really just that we were both musicians, and he had a studio in his house, and he was showing me around, and he laid something down and then I did, and then we just kept doing that. It was a natural thing, for two musicians to be making music.