Jerry Paper is one of the most lovable weirdo-pop entities in music. Toying with existential themes and ego dissolution, mastermind Lucas Nathan crafts uncanny, captivating tunes informed by muzak, lounge music, and bossa nova. Onstage, he transfixes audiences with gyrating movements that flow under his signature silk robe.
This fall, Nathan will release Like a Baby, his first full-length for Stones Throw Records. It’s his most approachable work to date, while never sacrificing the surrealism that makes his music so bizarrely satiating. We chatted about the transportive video for “Your Cocoon,” collaborating with Weyes Blood, and escaping New York City’s oppressiveness for his native Los Angeles.
AdHoc: Let’s start with this video for “Your Cocoon.” How did you get involved with animator Steve Smith?
Lucas Nathan: I met him when I moved to LA a few years ago. He was neighbors with the comedian Jay Weingarten. I’ve been collaborating for years with my friend Cole Kush who lives in Canada. Cole and Jay had been doing some stuff, and I was about to move to LA, so apparently Cole told Jay, Jay was neighbors with Steve, and we ended up getting together and collaborating. Steve is a genius. He’s just a really good animator. I love him.
Is that an actual 3D model of your head in the video?
The head came from another project that involved scanning my head. We went to this place where they scan all sorts of stuff. You go into a cube made up of very fancy cameras. It’s something like 250 cameras that are all rigged to take a picture at the exact same time. So you just get an insanely hi-res version of your head. I am very happy with what Steve did.
Greenwave Beth is the Sydney-based electro-pop duo of Charles Rushforth and Will Blackburn, who also play in indie-rock band Flowertruck. Their music captures what frontman Charles calls “a dance of agony”: that space where we move to the rhythm of our own anxieties and desires. Watching him perform, Rushforth seems to be quite literally in the throes of that dance, his body twisting and writhing to the beat of a drum machine.
The band’s latest EP, People in Agony, invites listeners to share in this dance. The four-track release features hypnotic drum and bass sequencing alongside Rushforth’s explosive vocals. On opener “Country,” surging synths give way to a frantic cry: “I can’t sleep through clenched teeth / not a boy anymore.” Moments later, on “Against Me,” Rushforth croons over pulsing beats, “Love’s a fight and we’ve spent our life on the ropes.” These restless deliberations on youth, love, and identity fill People in Agony with darkness, but also with the hope that we might learn to find some pleasure in these complicated states.
AdHoc spoke with Charles Rushforth about the new EP, his raucous performance style, and the Japanese “Mom and Dad” rock stars that look after him on tour. People in Agony is out now via Dinosaur City Records.
Greenwave Beth is a side project for you. What made you want to start it, and what are you doing with Greenwave that you aren’t able to do with Flowertruck?
Charles Rushforth: I suppose it’s funny calling Greenwave a side project—it definitely is one in terms of how much time it takes up, but it’s equally as important to me in terms of what I get to create with it. With Greenwave, I’m able to make music where I don’t feel hemmed in by the genre, whereas with Flowertruck I feel like I have to make a certain sound. Greenwave lets me work with other elements like violin or a choir quite easily, for example, and I know that won’t set anything off. I can play music that fluctuates between happier and sadder stuff, but it’s still got the same tone if that makes sense.
Yeah! It’s physically a musical risk, ‘cause we’ve got a lot of stuff cabled up and it doesn’t always work; stuff breaks and it’s really organic. It’s always funny to perform live, since we have a lot of energy and it can get kind of dangerous.
I remember being electrocuted at a house party once: I was standing in a pool of water in my socks, and this power board started freaking out because we were putting too much power through it. There were certain points on stage where I’d stand and get 50 volts going through my system. We didn’t stop; we just had to tailor that into the performance. I love that it’s always kind of risky, though—that feeling like you’re putting your life on the line every time you perform.
Stadiums & Shrines has its roots in the golden era of underground music blogs. Founded by Dave Sutton over ten years ago, the site retains the anti-commercial, esoteric ethos of those years, which feels remarkable in an indie music industry that seems to become more professionalized by the day. Combining impressionistic prose with abstract imagery and top-notch music curation, Stadiums & Shrines continues to carry the proverbial torch for the joys of discovering new music on the internet, even as it’s evolved beyond its original function as a daily MP3 blog.
The site’s Dreams series began in 2012, inviting artists to write musical accompaniment for surreal landscapes by collage artist Nathaniel Whitcomb. And with the newly assembled Dreams compilation, released on Cascine this past Friday, June 15, Sutton and Whitcomb have assembled the definitive collection of these audiovisual pairings in a double LP and accompanying gatefold book. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Bing & Ruth, and Ricky Eat Acid have all contributed tracks to the series, taking inspiration from Whitcomb’s collages as they tour the imagined landscapes of their unconscious construction.
Like the photo collages of Chris Marker or Duane Michals, Whitcomb’s pieces force our quotidian experience into unfamiliar territory. You feel as if you know these places, and yet you recognize the distinctly imagined or impossible qualities of each landscape. The audio components for these Dream collages create space for extended rumination, offering hints as to how they want to be heard, but never quite telling us.
We spoke to Sutton and Whitcomb about DIY spaces, ambient classics, and reaching for abstraction in a concrete world. You can catch the upcoming release show for the Dreams compilation, with Julie Byrne, Bing & Ruth, and Yumi Zouma (DJ set) at National Sawdust on July 1.
Can you guys introduce yourselves?
Nathaniel Whitcomb: I’m Nathaniel, and I’ve been doing collage work pretty much for the last decade or so on and off, and the dreams collage has been a culmination of that collage work and an ongoing thing for the past eight years. So this is the result of all that work. And outside of that, I used to work in advertising and have transitioned to being a stay-at-home dad for the last two years, and that’s been awesome.
Dave Sutton: I’m Dave, and outside of S&S I work in music. S&S was my first entry into a community of music blogs, which eventually introduced me to The Hype Machine, so I work at Hype Machine doing editorial. As of the past year, I’m working at Ghostly International doing similar work.
Ghostly! I really dug that latest Mary Lattimore album.
Dave: Me too. It’s been a true honor to work on that album. Super excited for her.
gobbinjr—aka, Emma Witmer—tries to find the humor in everything. Her cheery voice floats over jangly bedpop melodies, chirping out Lynchian lyrics about everything from heartache to misogyny.
The Brooklyn-based musician’s latest album, ocala wick, is mostly a world of whimsy: On opener ‘afraid of me,’ she coos, “I’m going to work high / I’m smoking at work…Hi, nice to meet you,” as starship synths rocket underway. Yet Witmer allows darkness to glisten here, too—tracks like ‘joaquin’ and ‘sorry charlie’ feature her airy soprano dipping into a somber register as she tackles anxious thoughts and the weight of loss. Three years after her playful debut, manalang, gobbinjr is leaning into these intimate moments.
AdHoc: A lot of publications have referred to your music as “childlike,” or “girlish.” That’s always rubbed me the wrong way; it infantilizes you and your work. You recently took to Twitter yourself calling this problem out. Are there any other ways that you feel you’ve been reduced or poorly understood as an artist?
Emma Witmer: I think the child thing is definitely just my main issue right now. I’ve worked really hard to not be sexualized, and the child thing is the other end of that coin, you know? You’re either sexy or you’re childish if you’re a woman. And I think now, some people just don’t want to approach me because I will speak out on Twitter.
The “childlike” thing is also bizarre since your music consistently addresses adult themes, like heartbreak and misogyny. Are those things that you purposefully set out to address on your new album?
Yeah, it was just what I was dealing with these past few years, and [when] taking time to make the album, I realized that half of it was about all of this stuff— being mistreated by men, not being viewed correctly, not being respected. It wasn’t intentional, but it’s obviously on my mind a lot. It’s tough being a woman in music. Which sucks—I don’t really want to have to say that about myself: “A woman in music.” I just want to be a musician.
Sam Ray takes his time parsing words when he speaks about his band, American Pleasure Club, and their new record, A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This. This makes sense for someone whose project was formerly known as Teen Suicide — a band name he found regretful and embarrassing, born from his personal brand of dark irony and from an expectation that the project would never blow up.
With a new lineup and band name in tow, and after a year of touring in support Teen Suicide’s last formal release, It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot, Ray frames Lifetime as a radical return to sincerity, breaking from his previous, more sardonic output. We caught up with the Maryland-based polymath to discuss the experiences that inform his most recent release, getting married, and being dumb on Twitter.
A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This is available now via bandcamp.
AdHoc: A lot of people ask you about the nomenclature of the different projects you’re involved in, but I wanted to ask you about your Twitter handle, @fugazi420, and why you tweet under that handle.
Sam Ray: 100% because it’s funny to me. A couple of the Fugazi fellows are old family friends—we didn’t exactly ask them their permission to do that or anything, but once we did do it and it got verified, my uncle let them know and they thought it was very funny. Not Ian [MacKaye]—I don’t know how he feels about it. But Brendan Canty, who I would play football in the park with him in DC when I was like five or four, told me in an email that he was gonna start a Twitter impersonating me and call his band—and this was one of those good dad jokes—Adult Homicide. We had a good big laugh about it one day over dinner.
The @fugazi420 thing was just a dumb joke that we thought we’d probably end up changing soon after, but then we got verified and are now stuck with it [Laughs]. Of all the things to be stuck with, I’m very fine with it. Much more so than our old band name.
It’s funny you’re able to get rid of the old band name, but you can’t change your Twitter handle.
SR: Exactly—there’s a statement there or something. I don’t know what.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.