Alex Ebert is a singer/songwriter, film composer, writer, and social activist. He won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score for All Is Lost and is a Grammy winner. His band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a platinum-selling band, are going to begin recording their 4th studio album this year. He lives in New Orleans with his girlfriend, Roehm Hepler-Gonzalez, and their daughter. He is also currently completing a book "on the commodification of individualism" entitled Kingdom Cool.
The third full-length from L.A. band Bad Suns, Mystic Truth gets its title from a piece of art that vocalist Christo Bowman stumbled upon while visiting London’s Tate Modern on tour. Created by Bruce Nauman in 1967, the neon-and-glass piece spells out a possibly paradoxical statement in blue spiraled cursive: “The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths.”
“I thought that connected back to the message of the record, which is about finding the extraordinary in very simple things, even though we’re living in a very dark time right now,” says Bowman, whose bandmates include guitarist Ray Libby, bassist Gavin Bennett, and drummer Miles Morris. “Instead of succumbing to that darkness, I think you’ve got to try to hold onto some optimism, and try to uncover those simple miracles so you don’t lose the plot of what’s really important.”
Produced by Dave Sardy (The Head and the Heart, The Black Angels, Oasis), Mystic Truth channels that searching quality into songs with a powerful sense of purpose. In creating the album, Bad Suns recorded at the legendary Sunset Sound and at Sardy’s home studio, building on the melodic brilliance first glimpsed on their debut album Language & Perspective—a 2014 release that hit #24 on the Billboard 200 and led to massive tours supporting Halsey and The Neighbourhood. At the same time, the band amps up the intensity of their 2016 sophomore effort Disappear Here (praised as their “most dynamic and introspective work yet” by Alternative Press), giving way to a more emotionally urgent merging of rock & roll, post-punk, and pop.
Right from the album-opening “Away We Go,” Bad Suns reveal the timeless sensibilities at the heart of Mystic Truth. With its soaring vocals, majestic piano melodies, and fiery guitar tones, the song unfolds as a brightly anthemic battle cry. “‘Away We Go’ was mostly inspired by us growing up and really being adults for the first time, and trying to make sense of all that,” says Bowman, who co-founded Bad Suns at age 17. “It’s about learning how to make decisions for yourself, and sometimes just going for something and blindly trusting that it’s going to work out.”
While Mystic Truth bears a certain classic simplicity, Bad Suns also infuse the album with its share of sonically surprising moments: the ethereal pop of “A Miracle, A Mile Away,” the melancholy waltz of “Darkness Arrives (And Departs),” the shapeshifting piano balladry of “Starjumper.” Woven with Bowman’s sharply reflective lyrics and finely detailed storytelling, the album also delivers a number of love songs, from the punchy pre-breakup track “The World and I” to the starry-eyed “Love By Mistake” to the starkly tender “Separate Seas.” (“I’ve been in a long-distance relationship since my girlfriend moved to Miami—she works for an airline so she’s always flying,” says Bowman of
“Separate Seas.” “That song’s about those nights of staying up and staying on speaker phone with one another till really late, even when there’s nothing to say.”) And on “Hold Your Fire,” Bad Suns offer up a solemn yet cinematic meditation on acceptance. “It’s about a relationship that’s not working out, and it represents that moment when you decide to just accept that it’s over instead of trying to fight,” Bowman says.
Since quietly making his debut album, Break Mirrors, which critics hailed as one of the best albums of 2010, Mills has been consistently busy. He produced the highly acclaimed sophomore album Sound & Color for The Alabama Shakes, which reached #1 on Billboard charts and was nominated for six Grammy’s, winning Best Alternative Album, Best Engineered Album, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. He has worked as a producer with a wide variety of others as well, including ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Sara Watkins, Conor Oberst, Sky Ferreira, and Fiona Apple, with whom he toured extensively in 2013 and 2014. Currently he is producing upcoming albums for John Legend, Dawes and Laura Marling.
As a session player and sideman he has worked with Beck, Cass McCombs, Jackson Brown, Lucinda Williams, Moses Sumney and Neil Diamond, among others. Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett frequently call upon his services as a guitarist, and equally enamored is Eric Clapton who recently told Rolling Stone magazine “Blake Mills is the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal."
Dan “The Automator” Nakamura is one of the most celebrated and successful music producers of our time. The Automator sound is unique, but often imitated; an eclectic yet deliberate storm of burr and jangle, spattering off slow-grinding plates of rhythmic bedrock and slashed through with unexpected flashes of light and heat. It’s the sound of new creation; the sound of the end of the world. It has sent acts like Gorillaz, Cornershop and Kasabian to the top of the charts, and it has turned visionaries like Kool Keith and Del tha Funkee Homosapien into underground legends.
Inspired by the soul and R&B music he heard on a neighbor’s radio, he began collecting records, and eventually, to DJing at parties in order to support his vinyl obsession. In high school, after hearing Malcolm McLaren and World’s Famous Supreme Team’s early dance/hiphop collaboration “D’Ya Like Scratchin’,” Nakamura began experimenting with turntablism, until an encounter with two emerging superstars — DJ Qbert and Mix Master Mike — led him to realize he’d never be able to reach their pinnacle of ability. He turned his talents instead to producing new beats for DJs to cut, scratch and mix, converting a basement storage area in his parents’ home to his first studio, The Glue Factory.
The cramped workspacealso became a second home for other Bay Area indie hiphop visionaries, notably Josh Davis, Xavier Mosley and Tom Shimura, who — as DJ Shadow, Chief Xcel and Lyrics Born — would form the seminal Bay Area rap collective Solesides.
After a chance encounter with Keith Thornton, better known as Kool Keith of the Ultramagnetic MCs, Nakamura collaborated with Keith on the critically acclaimed indie rap album Dr. Octagon (1996), whose cult success gave Nakamura a deserved reputation as a musical visionary. Requests for his services began to come in from all corners: He lent his talents to the obscure but brilliant British raga-pop group Cornershop — mining a shared love of Bollywood and filmi music — and the album he produced, When I Was Born for the 7th Time (1997), hit #5 on the Billboard Heatseekers album charts and spawned multiple hit singles, including the lyrical “Brimful of Asha.” He produced Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s album Acme and remixed tracks for groups ranging from Pizzicato Five and Cibo Matto to Depeche Mode, Air and old friend Mix Master Mike.
In 1999, he and De La Soul producer Prince Paul formed a group called Handsome Boy Modeling School on a whim, playing fictional personas “Nathaniel Merriweather” (Nakamura) and “Chest Rockwell” (Paul). Their album So…How’s Your Girl? (1999) became a breakout hit, and was named Spin magazine’s #2 album of the year. The album brought also him together with two of his most frequent collaborators, Eric “DJ Kid Koala” San and Teren Delvon James, better known as Del Tha Funkee Homosapien.
Their subsequent project remains one of his most remarkable artistic achievements: The indie rap milestone Deltron 3030 (2000) — still one of the decade’s most critically acclaimed underground hiphop albums.
Deltron 3030 led Blur frontman Damon Albarn, a guest vocalist on the album, to invite Nakamura to produce a novel project he’d been planning with designer and graphic novelist Jamie Hewlett. The following year, the project came to two-dimensional life as Gorillaz, a “virtual band” whose lineup featured Nakamura as producer, Del providing lyrics and flow (notably on the album’s biggest hit, “Clint Eastwood”) and Kid Koala on turntables. The self-titled album Gorillaz (2001) was hailed as an alternative rock landmark; it has sold over 8 million copies to date.
Following the success of Gorillaz, Nakamura released Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By (2001) under the name Lovage, with vocals by Faith No More’s Mike Patton and Elysian Fields’ Jennifer Charles and the second Handsome Boy Modeling School album, White People, while working extensively with European artists like French pop diva Anais Croze and UK swag-rock band Kasabian, as well as British jazz-pop prodigy Jamie Cullum, for whom he produced the two lead singles on his new album Momentum. (“I’m not opposed to making hits — over the past five years, I’ve produced two number-one hits in France and three in the UK,” says Nakamura. “I’m just opposed to the way they’re made here in the U.S., where you get three days in the studio and you’re told to make a hit song. And I feel that that’s selling the artist short; it’s selling the music short.”)
Got a Girl - "Did We Live Too Fast" (Official Video)
Deltron 3030 - Full Performance (Live on KEXP)
Deltron 3030 - City Rising From The Ashes (Live on Letterman)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is a 10-piece musical ensemble founded in 2007 during the yearlong recording of their first album, Up From Below. Disillusionment with his major label experience with Ima Robot drove founding singer-songwriter Alex Ebert to maintain a DIY recording ethos. "Un-professionalizing professionalism is my profession,” he recently quipped at a show. Considered pioneers of the folk-pop revival, the band's self-produced albums have experienced some popular success (plus one platinum song, "Home").
It is the band's live shows, however, that have seen them celebrated by fans and critics alike. Often likened to "a religious experience," many of their live shows have taken place in unusual venues (cathedrals, circus tents, underground train depots – even off of trains themselves, as seen in their Grammy-winning documentary Big Easy Express). Their shows are performed without set lists and their songs usually undergo spontaneous improvisation, with Ebert spending a portion of the show singing amongst the crowd. "Our shows give us a chance to break the barriers between ourselves – to 'break the glass ceiling’ as we say."
Since its founding, the band has undergone several iterations. Most notably, singer Jade Castrinos left the band in 2014. According to lead singer Ebert, this marked a transformation in the band's music. "We had long been a social experiment first, musicians second. Over time, though, we were emerging, by virtue of hours spent, into a group of musicians who could really play together. When Jade left, that confirmed our new fate – music first."
The shift is tangible in the band's 4th studio album (set for release in the spring of 2016). Recording the music almost entirely in one room together in New Orleans, their approach was a far cry from their ramshackle, come-one-come-all production audible on recordings of their previous albums. "We seem to be done for now with distractions from the music itself, the bones of it," says Ebert. This album also marks the first time that the band has jointly collaborated on a majority of the songwriting.
The band's members are Mark Noseworthy, Orpheo McCord, Josh Collazo, Christian Letts, Nico Aglietti, Seth Ford-Young, Mitchell Yoshida, Christopher Richard, Stewart Cole, and Alex Ebert.
Every one of its members has their own "solo" projects outside of the group. Most recently, Letts and Richard (aka "Crash") released albums and Ebert won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for All Is Lost.
The band also operates Big Sun, a non-profit focused on funding and developing co-ops and land trusts in urban areas around the world. Their first large-scale project, "Avalon Village," is in Highland Park (within Detroit), Michigan.
Perfect Time - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Wake Up The Sun - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - "No Love Like Yours"
London-born Christian Letts returned to his native countryside to record his first LP, Hold Fast, with his friend and collaborator Marcus Mumford who produced the record. Hold Fast will be released on February 17, 2015, on Community Music/Vagrant Records. Other friends from their respective bands (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and Sons) joined them at the farm, where, over the course of two consecutive Januaries, they crafted the ten tracks that comprise Hold Fast. The release will coincide with a series of art exhibits of Letts’ paintings and watercolors throughout the United States and Europe.
Letts is a songwriter, singer, painter and sculptor. Across all mediums there is a common theme of overcoming darkness. The sea, the sky, the countryside, the people within and their strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures. Spirits and guardian angels, recurring dreams, the unseen forces that silently sway. He explores himself alongside and within these elements on Hold Fast.
ICES is a celebration of flight, levity, and the conviction that you can leave earth. You take wing in an airplane, you go to real places when you dream, you have out-of-body experiences, you get high, you lose yourself in someone else.
When we started work on these songs, I was beginning a gradual move to California, constantly traveling back and forth from New York. I was experimenting. I was falling in love. Our studio in the Hudson Valley was full of electronics and computers and the sounds of future ships sailing through the vastness of space, and I sometimes forgot where I was. The first songs we wrote were called “flying 1,” then “flying 2,” and so on, which eventually evolved into songs on the album. Flight became a metaphor for the ignition of the imagination. The process created a lightness in me, a freedom and positive energy that I’d never before felt or explored.
This recording session became a two year music and spiritual retreat with my psychic twin brother, Eliot. A private journey during which we abandoned old habits and familiar sounds. We got really geeky and experimented in our studio. We obsessed over sympathetic magic, “Ancient Aliens,” and the NBA. We allowed everything we loved to find its way in: Persian percussion, hip-hop beats, lo-fi, hi-fi, Pakistani pop, Link Wray, Jason Pierce, gospel, dub. We developed new systems; we worked with synthesis, software, and samples; we became producers. The Hudson Valley was home base, but I wanted to keep flying. I wrote songs in California, recorded vocals in Atlanta, and worked with Clams Casino in Brooklyn.
Each song became a collage of times, places, and people. Most of them started in the Hudson Valley, where Eliot and I wrote and recorded vocals, guitars, synths, and beat ideas. We’d send those first incarnations to Clams Casino in New Jersey and then we’d meet up in Brooklyn to arrange the new parts together. We worked in the penthouse of the Wythe Hotel – a floating glass box , a blank slate. We’d set up our computer, mixing speakers, midi keyboards, and all our weird gear, plus thai food and red wine. We’d bring up one of our demos and we’d sit behind the midi keyboard and sift through sounds and ideas and beats and find new things together. After the Wythe Sessions we took different tracks to Woodstock and Los Angeles to layer in live drums and percussion, and I went to Atlanta to record final vocals. For the first time, Lia Ices felt like an inclusive project with its own identity, not just a name.
ICES as a whole is devoted to these certainties. While we have evolved, we are still animals. We respond to planets, patterns, and cycles. We require the sounds of our origins. We live in the future but stay bound to the primitive and primordial. We will always want tribe, we will always want rhythm, we will always need music to guide us into our deepest sense of what it means to be human. So we hear sounds from all over the planet in this album. We devour so much music, and with this album we allowed ourselves to claim bits from all of it.
This is an American rock ‘n’ roll album by big American pop star Perfume Genius.
Known early as a poster-wraith for notorious, joyous, tortured and free boys, girls and their fellow travelers, the first two albums by Perfume Genius consisted largely of exquisite and cruelly abbreviated songs seemingly sung in the dark at a piano with all the silences left in. The previously most recent album, 2014’s Too Bright, stepped out saucily onto a bigger stage, expressing, with the production help of Adrian Utley, emotions arranged all along the slippery continuum from rage to irony to love. Now here we have seized the vocabulary of the full expression of all music.
WHAT IS THIS
Here in 13 ferocious and sophisticated tracks, Mike Hadreas and his collaborators blow through church music, makeout music, an array of the gothier radio popular formats, rhythm and blues, art pop, krautrock, queer soul, the RCA Studio B sound, and then also collect some of the sounds that only exist inside Freddy Krueger. Tremolo on the electric keys. Nightclubbing. Daywalking. Peter Greenawaying, Springsteening, Syreetaing.
Luridness was a quality of music in the 1960s that is mostly since shunned. The big male crooners were all fiercely lurid as an expression of passion or lustiness or general dickability. That’s something perfect to take back. You took us to church and told us to believe in ghosts. You took us to school and told us to believe in the great American project of inclusion. Instead we started fucking to the great American project of rock and roll. There’s more than one sexy soul song here. Seduction is also spellcraft. Rock and roll was an incantation, a beg to give it up baby. It’s not that different from begging Some Thing to not let you die when you are alone and afraid.
A QUICK BREAK ABOUT HOW
Blake Mills — the one who produced the Alabama Shakes record and who performs with John Legend — produced the record with precision and expansion. Some things are pretty and some are blasted beyond recognition. In the studio with Shawn the engineer, Mike and Blake would hear quite different voices as they worked and they built this together.
MORE ON THE TOPIC OF WHY
God is all around actually and some of these songs are about being equal and some are about the witchcraft of believing. This is church music the same way Prince’s Black Album is — too dirty. It’s femme art pop the way Kate Bush’s The Dreaming is — too scary. Prayer is indistinguishable from OCD but feels a lot cleaner.
LIFE IS ACKNOWLEDGING THAT WE EACH STRIVE FOR HAPPINESS
“I felt like when I made these other albums, people were like why are you talking about these things, and now people are going to be like, why aren’t you talking about these things, because everything’s so terrible. I’m never not talking about it. My life is existing in the fucking face of it. My music will always be in protest.”
“I pay my rent. I’m approaching health. The things that are bothering me personally now are less clear, are more confusing. I don’t think I really figured them out with these songs. There’s something freeing about how I don’t have it figured out. Unpacking little morsels, magnifying my discomfort, wading through buried harm, laughing at or digging in to the embarrassing drama of it all. I may never come out the other side but it’s invigorating to try and hopefully, ultimately helpful. I think a lot of them are about trying to be happy in the face of whatever bullshit I created for myself or how horrible everything and everyone is.”
“I can steal from people that are on the inside and act as if. I created my whole identity around never being on the inside.”
Who gets to live now? That’s a question up for active international debate. Lots of folks are getting a clear view into what they all think of us. When we can, we should not have to care. You should feel great listening here, even when you’re sad. Our job is to find love and connection and goodness. Records like this, records that make you feel like you’re 15 and just seeing the truth for the first time, are excessively rare. They’re here to remind you that you’re divine.
“Each song somehow sounds like a classic, each live performance suggesting we are in the presence of a rare, fiery brilliance." Laura Barton | THE GUARDIAN
Simone Felice is a founding member of internationally acclaimed Catskill Mountain based artists The Felice Brothers, whose seminal albums remain some of the most influential works of this century's folk-rock revival.
Simone has been hailed as one of the great songwriter-poets of his generation, bringing these gifts and history to his work as a prolific record producer.
Recent projects include The Lumineers #1 worldwide hit, Cleopatra, Bat For Lashes stunning Mercury Prize shortlisted concept album, The Bride, and new releases by Ian Felice, Vance Joy, Jade Bird, Rhodes, and Peace.