Posts Tagged interview

Varsity’s New Record Is As Honest As One Can Be Without Hurting Anybody

Varsity’s New Record Is As Honest As One Can Be Without Hurting Anybody Photography by Kristina Pedersen

Chicago’s Varsity make lush indie pop about human relationships. Their new LP—Parallel Person, released April 27th on Babe City Records—is a self-described foray into the “uphill battle of isolation and popularity.” Fittingly, single “A Friend Named Paul” sees singer and keyboardist Stephanie Smith describing what she calls a “one-sided” relationship; it’s a sweet, syncopated jam, its bright, melodic instrumentation acting as a counterpoint to the lyrics. We caught up with Smith and guitarist Pat Stanton to discuss the band's new album, playing at SXSW, and buying lava lamps in bulk. Varsity play Union Pool on May 5 with Poppies
 
What are you guys doing right now?
 
Stephanie Smith: We’re shopping online for lava lamps.
 
Why are you buying lava lamps?
 
Stephanie: We’re trying to figure out a cool stage show for our release. This might not be a good idea, but we need to find out what the going rate is for lava lamps.
 
I could see how that could look cool on stage.
 
Pat Stanton: The show’s on 4/20 too. 
 
I think you’re kind of obliged to buy the lava lamps then. 
 
Stephanie: I’m glad you agree—we’ve been having a debate. 
 
Pat: I just don’t know how many lava lamps we need on stage to make it look cool. 
 
Stephanie: We’ll let you know how it shakes out.
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On Lavender, Half Waif Is Done Holding Back

On 'Lavender', Half Waif Is Done Holding Back Photo by Tonje Thilesen

For her newest album as Half Waif, Nandi Rose Plunkett knew she needed a change. Just under a year ago, she and Half Waif guitarist Adan Carlo and drummer Zack Levine (who’s also Plunkett’s partner) relocated from their longtime home of Brooklyn to the much quieter, tinier town of Chatham, New York. They now share a home - and a life - in a small town not far from where Plunkett grew up in Williamstown, MA. 

Living this close to home for the first time in years, with a long-term partner, away from the madness of the big city, Plunkett was able to approach her music more consciously than ever before. On Lavender, Half Waif’s sophomore album, she’s unsparing and honest as she explores the complex, potentially ephemeral nature of familial and romantic relationships. Although it’s not unfamiliar subject matter for Half Waif, over the band’s most assured and robust electronic art pop arrangements to date (not to mention some truly haunting piano ballads), Plunkett’s almost philosophical straightforwardness is profoundly bone-chilling, maybe even radical. “There’s something to be said for...crafting something with the conscious thought of, ‘Okay, I want to write the song in this manner. I want to come into it with this specific goal,’” she tells AdHoc over the phone, with Carlo also on the line, as she recounts Lavender’s genesis. Her deliberacy has resulted in a thrilling next step for an already exciting act.

Lavender is out April 27 via Cascine. You can catch the record release show with Hovvdy and Lily and Horn Horse at Baby’s All Right tomorrow April 27.

 

Adan, how has being in Chatham, where you haven’t previously spent much time, influenced your writing with Nandi and Zack?

Adan Carlo: Being up here offered us the opportunity to really be 100% in a creative space. In a place like Brooklyn or even somewhere like Montclair...we wouldn’t necessarily be living together. We wouldn’t have been able to focus on [making Lavender] as much as we did. It was waking up, working on it…’til we were going to bed.

Nandi Rose Plunkett: We don’t really see anyone else except for each other. [Laughs] There are days that are just completely filled with making music. It’s great; we don’t have anything else to do. [Laughs]

 

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Mina Caputo Is (Delightfully) “All Over the Fuckin’ Place”

Mina Caputo Is (Delightfully) “All Over the Fuckin’ Place” Photo by Tim Tronckoe

Once Mina Caputo gets going, she admits, it’s hard for her to stop.

“There are no simple answers,” Caputo tells us over the phone, her thick Brooklyn accent softening to a whisper for a moment.

Caputo is apologizing for digressing from a question, but her apology could also function as a maxim for the 44-year-old musician’s personal journey.

Caputo is best known for fronting Life of Agony, a heavy metal band she started with bassist Alan Robert and guitarist Joey Z in the summer of 1989. The group distinguished itself from its contemporaries by combining aggro, distorted guitar rock with Caputo’s vulnerable lyricism, which clashed with the hyper-masculine frontmen of the era.

And while the band developed a cult following and garnered modest chart success, Caputo struggled with substance abuse and feelings of gender dysphoria. She quit Life of Agony in 1997, pursuing a solo career and making a demo with the short-lived pop group Absolute Bloom. Following the release of a Life of Agony comeback album in 2005, Caputo's difficulties worsened, ultimately prompting her to seek medical care and begin gender-affirming treatment. Caputo came out as transgender to friends and certain family members in 2009 before coming out publicly in 2011. In 2014, she played her first official gig with Life of Agony as Mina.  

In January, Caputo released Principium Sequentia, the second album from her atmospheric alt-rock side project with Reinder Oldenburger called The Neptune Darlings.

As she finishes her seventh solo studio album, and prepares to record another record with Life of Agony, Caputo chatted with AdHoc about her tough upbringing, her songwriting process (or lack thereof), and why she doesn’t want to waste time convincing you to like her. 

 

AdHoc: How do you think your upbringing influenced your art?

Mina Caputo: My childhood was a mess. I never really had a chance to be a child. I had a very destructive family. I think it prepared me for life’s punches and curveballs and tragedies, and inspired me to believe in things like the art of letting go and surrendering. You know, I’m not planning to go to my grave looking like Beyoncé, all fresh and new and gorgeous and beautiful. 

This earthly time and life is about wearing and tearing, and getting into it and getting into the muck and getting dirty. Everyone’s fixing their life, fixing up a pretty picture to get in their grave, you know what I mean? The cars, the picket fences, the dogs, the kids, every gadget, every phone—every fuckin’ this and that. Everyone’s putting that much more energy into the fakeness of life. And I think my childhood, or childless childhood, prepared me to really come at life swinging and protect myself. 

The tragedies—this whole life, which feels like a completely different life altogether—have definitely prepared me to be strong. To focus on the good, to believe in joy, believe in humanity, believe in myself, believe in my negativity, believe in contrast, believe in all the dualities of life. I literally just adhere to my own energy, vibration, and frequencies. I have to. The conversation with what’s going on in the world today—you get quickly derailed from your own human nature. I try my best to stay away from that whole kind of life. 

 

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Why Wales Owes Ed Schrader a Knighthood

Why Wales Owes Ed Schrader a Knighthood Photo by Lissy Elle

I’ve seen Baltimore natives Ed Schrader’s Music Beat many times over the years and have always been captivated by their unique brand of euphoric alt-rock. I remember when Ed would play a floor tom with a can light underneath, giving himself a creepy, ghostly look. Ed told AdHoc he “play[s] the drums the way Bowie plays the saxophone: it’s a hobby!” 

Ed has since given up playing the floor tom, but Devlin Rice has been solidly plucking the bass the whole time. With their new album, Riddles, Devlin has started writing guitar parts, synth parts, and other arrangements. This is their most theatrical and well-conceived release to date. Yet, it still retains the same pureness and honesty of their earlier work. They’ve shown they are just as willing to experiment and play with their style as they are to crack jokes and have an amusing time. Between Ed’s “Frasier Pic O’ The Day” antics on Instagram, the “Cats on the Lake” shirts and totes, and the band’s passionate stage presence, it’s hard to get bored when you’re keeping tabs on this act. 

AdHoc recently called Ed and Devlin for a serious conversation about celebrity look-a-likes, being knighted, and mixing meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Catch them at Baby’s All Right on Sunday, April 15, and pick up a copy of Riddles via Carpark Records.

 

AdHoc: So you’re currently on a national tour supporting the release of your newest album, Riddles. Where are you right now, and have you seen anything interesting on tour?

Devlin: We’re in LA right now. We saw Lake Tahoe—that was pretty cool.

Ed: We saw a person who we thought was the lead singer of Korn, but was only like 22 years old, so that wouldn’t make any sense.

Devlin: Um… Yeah, it definitely wasn’t that guy. It wasn’t Johnny Korndog. 

Ed: Kornman! You heard it here first. They’re now called Kornman.

 

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The Most Basic American Consciousness: Bill Orcutt Twists Old Standards into Bewildering New Shapes

The Most Basic American Consciousness: Bill Orcutt Twists Old Standards into Bewildering New Shapes Illustration by Anna True

The music of Bill Orcutt is potent and sharp. With its oblong chords and erratic jumps across the fretboard, it’s a ravenous exploration of what guitar music can be, expelling notions of meter and structure to focus on feeling and timbre. Though it’s often lumped in with the American primitive tradition, it’s got a rawness and complexity all its own. After honing his chops in the ’90s noise unit Harry Pussy, Orcutt resurfaced in the late ’00s and began deconstructing nearly every style of old-timey American music. On his 2017 album, Bill Orcutt, which he released on his own Palilalia label, he takes on big band standards, hymns, jazz classics, and even Christmas tunes, warping and refracting them until they point toward the future instead of the past. We phoned Orcutt at his California home to discuss his recent switch to the electric guitar, how he settled on reworking classic American tunes, and tapping into the creative power of the unconscious.

Orcutt plays with Chuck Johnson and Samara Lubelski at Union Pool on April 12

AdHoc: I read you’ll be playing electric guitar on this tour, as you did on your self-titled release from last year. What made you decide to switch from acoustic guitar?

Bill Orcutt: I started on electric [guitar], so it feels good to go back and play it. It’s not completely different, but they are different instruments and require different technique.

All of my acoustic guitars are kind of beat up, so to switch to the electric was nice, because it’s a relatively new guitar that plays in tune without a whole lot of work. I was able to record at home and on my own schedule. I knew that I was going to rework the same material that I’d been playing for the last three or four years, with electric, so there was plenty of time to [set about expanding] that stuff.

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FRIGS howl into the future on Basic Behavior

FRIGS Howl into the Future on Basic Behavior Photo by Chelsee Ivan

The first time I saw FRIGS live was in Boston, at the tail end of a noise rock slump. Two years of fuzzed-out basement shows and a bad habit of forgetting my earplugs at home had left me at least a dozen decibels poorer in both ears and more than a little apprehensive about standing anywhere within striking distance of a cranked amp. But the Toronto rock scene is always a good bet, and with fellow Canadians HSY on the bill as well, I tucked those plugs into my pocket and followed my heart to Club Bohemia.

It’s a wonderful thing, brushing up against the unknown, but FRIGS went and ripped a hole straight through it that night. Despite their drummer pulling a second shift with HSY that tour, the band went off, sparing no one from the all-consuming, full-body roar they create on stage. Now that they’ve released their debut LP, Basic Behavior, you can get a taste of it off-stage as well.

The sound is tightly-wound, but deeply emotive. FRIGS hurl themselves at the wall of existential frustration, at times maintaining a stately post-punk pulse, occasionally erupting into frantic, borderline psychedelic hysterics as guitars, vocals, and drums lash out in panic-attack waves of delicious noise. From the ping-ponging slapback and measured thump of opener “Doghead,” to the slow inferno vibe-out of closer “Trashyard,” FRIGS aren’t here for your complacency. Basic Behavior is a record of action, a taste of what’s possible when you get up and do the damn thing. 

Ahead of their show at Alphaville on March 3 with Bambara, Weeping Icon, Reverent, and Dean Cercone, AdHoc spoke to vocalist Bria Salmena about the record and misguided attempts to classify their ferocious sound.

 

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Shopping Can’t Keep Calm, But They Carry On Regardless

Shopping Can’t Keep Calm, But They Carry On Regardless Photo by CJ Monk

When the world is falling apart, have a dance party.

That maxim seems to encapsulate Shopping’s approach to modern life on their new LP, The Official Body, which was produced by Orange Juice legend Edwyn Collins. Though its ten songs abound with references to groupthink and alienation, the album’s skittery drums, jagged guitar riffs, and chunky bass lines just might convince you to quit worrying and start moving your feet.  

Billy Easter (bass guitar and vocals), Rachel Aggs (guitar and vocals), and Andrew Milk (drums and vocals) met through the London DIY scene and formed Shopping in 2012, out of their previous band, Cover Girl. They released their hard-charging 2013 debut, Consumer Complaints, on Easter and Milk’s label Milk Records before signing to FatCat and releasing the angular Why Choose in 2015.

Shopping toured that second record amidst the turmoil of Brexit and Trumpmania, twin phenomena that seem to have inspired some music journalists to read post-punk trio’s antics as “political.” While the label is by no means disingenuous (their songs have tackled issues like capitalism and identity politics), the group bristles slightly at being boxed in by the classification. 

“I think it would be really easy to be like, ‘We have a platform, what are we going to say?’ and put loads of pressure on ourselves as if our music can change anything,” Aggs said over Google Hangout. “I know that sounds a bit depressing, but it kind of can’t. The most it can do is be cathartic for us and our friends and our fans.”

If there is a label that sticks to Shopping, let it be one of self-reliance and tenacity.

“We haven’t had a completely easy, breezy, beautiful time where we’ve been basking in the release of our last album for the last two years,” Easter said. “But we haven’t let it get us down. We’re still here and we’ve got another album.”

Shopping play with French Vanilla, Future Punx, and Pickled Onion at Market Hotel on March 3. They have also just released a new video for their track "Suddenly Gone" from the new album The Official Body, you can check it out below.

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Triathalon Make Pop Music for the Intimate Moments of Life

Triathalon Make Pop Music for the Intimate Moments of Life Photo by Michael Younker

Triathalon craft subdued yet affecting pop music. Full of warm synths and clever, minimal beats, their songs feel best suited to solo listening sessions aboard cramped trains, hurried walks home in the rain, and intimate conversations with friends in your bedroom. And since they relocated to Brooklyn from Savannah, GA, the trio has been hard at work, recording and gigging around the city as they prepare to drop their latest full-length, Online, via Broken Circles next month. We spoke to Adam Intrator about the band's move, the New York scene, and the challenges of being on the road ahead of their upcoming tour, which they'll kick off with a record release show at Baby’s All Right on February 28

 

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Royal Trux Still Don't Give a F--k

Royal Trux Still Don't Give a F--k Illustration by Aubrey Nolan

This piece appears in AdHoc Issue 24.

In 2018, artists face an unspoken mandate to “connect” with their fans, feverishly reminding us of their existence via social media and near-constant press coverage. With non-stop access, the distance between us, the consumers, and them, the artist, narrows. But the closer we get to the artist, the less focus we seem to put on the art itself. It’s the disavowal of these games that makes a band like Royal Trux so refreshing.

Royal Trux began as a creative and romantic partnership between Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty in Washington, D.C. in 1987. From the get-go, sonic accessibility was never a Truxian priority. Their earliest records, like their self-titled debut or ambitious sophomore double-LP, Twin Infinitives, can make for a challenging listen, mostly due to Royal Trux’s penchant for atonal noise rock and extended, lo-fi jams. Later records would expose the band’s deconstructionist tendencies as they toyed with ’60s rock on Thank You, ’70s rock on Sweet Sixteen, and ’80s rock on Accelerator. These records add up to a body of work defined not just by Hagerty’s guitar fuzz and Herrema’s snarling lead vocals, but by a guarantee of unpredictability.

You won’t get to know and love Royal Trux by subscribing to their email newsletter or syncing their songs on Spotify—they don’t have a newsletter, and their music is conspicuously absent from the streaming giant. And judging from their behavior onstage and in interviews, they don’t seem particularly interested in being understood.

In advance of Royal Trux’s upcoming appearances at Market Hotel in Brooklyn on January 19 and January 20, we spoke to Herrema about the band’s preference for letting the art speak for itself. They’re not going to micromanage the listener’s experiences with superfluous context and direction. To get a sense of what they’re about, you have to commit yourself to digging. But even if you do, Royal Trux doesn’t really give a fuck.

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Behind The Cover: Wax Idols Frontwoman Hether Fortune Discusses Her Portrait of Anaïs Nin

Behind The Cover: Wax Idols Frontwoman Hether Fortune Discusses Her Portrait of Anaïs Nin Artwork by Hether Fortune

This piece appears in AdHoc Issue 24.

Hether Fortune is drawn to the darker things in life. It’s a fascination you can trace to her teenage years as a self-described “angry punk,” or her work with her lovably gloomy rock band Wax Idols. Recently, she’s ventured into painting portraits, rendering friends, historical figures, and her fellow artists in pale and deep hues. Her paintings grapple with the moments of grief and joy in life, as well as the notion that the ghosts that haunt you can also provide inspiration. Ahead of her book release party on January 11 at Union Pool, where Fortune will read from her first collection of poetry, Waiting in Various Lines (2013-2017), she spoke to us about her portrait of Anaïs Nin, which appears on the cover of this month’s zine, and the therapeutic possibilities of painting. Fortune and her band Wax Idols will also perform with Future Punx and Desert Sharks on January 12 at Elsewhere.

 

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