Label: Community Music
Alex Ebert (award-winning film composer), Edward Sharpe (platinum-selling hippy), Alexander (indie folk-rapper), Ima Robot (androgynous punk) - it’s all the same dude.
“I’ve always loved just making whatever art came to me, and felt sorry for the paradigm of artistry that constrains the artist to one look, one mode, one sound,” Ebert says. “I never related to that, and as an artist I resented it.” His urge to embrace it all had long conflicted with that artistic golden rule, “to thine own self be true”. Two years ago, while reflecting during a hiatus from Edward Sharpe, that conflict ended.
Ebert realized that he had his own, different, just-as-valuable maxim: “To all thine selves be true."
For two decades, Ebert has created original music in myriad forms, styles, shapes, and sounds. From his earliest days as an emcee to the early-aughts buzz of Ima Robot, to the world-beating heights of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, the critically acclaimed Alexander solo project, the Golden Globe-winning neoclassical film score composition for 2014’s All is Lost, and beyond, Ebert’s ability to lose himself in his art and achieve success is undeniable. Transcending boundary lines in the spirit of self-examination, he has spent the better part of the last few years completing a daunting amount of work, including 4 EPs, a biographical documentary feature film, and culminating with a genre-defying double-album of new material called 5AME! (the significance of the name will be divulged at release).
If there is one defining feature of this opus, it is the facility with which Ebert moves from one vocal delivery to another - from singing to rapping. "Rap is high-volume verbiage, so I felt I had to wait until I had enough on my mind to be able to fill up extended bars with meaningful lyrics," Ebert says. "Over the past two years, the lyrics that began coming to me were highly detailed and descriptive, too much to parse down to a singable phrase or two without losing their
power. That’s when I knew I had to come back to rap."
Those familiar with the pre-Virgin Records output of Ima Robot or his solo song “Truth” may already recognize Ebert’s sing-song mic skills. But before any of that, Ebert began his music career rapping - a group called DVS Minds. Although it was his other bands and projects that eventually took off, his interest in rap never wavered, and the 5AME! double LP, while not easily labeled “hip-hop,” exists in some neighboring beats-and-rhymes-driven universe. Recorded and produced by Ebert in his Piety Studios in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans (where he has lived since 2013), the album is filled with that special kind of ingenuity required when working alone. The trio of singles - “Gold,” “Hands Up,” and “Automatic Youth” released simultaneously in Summer 2019, appropriately set the stage for two albums of music unlike anything you’ve heard before.
“There was liberty in finally realizing that the search for me—for my distinctive voice—was actually an embrace of all my voices,” he says. “And so I embraced more of my past, some of which I had been avoiding, and suddenly I am no longer hiding my different talents for the sake of brand-consistency or associated societal pressures. Fuck a consistent brand, that’s death to me. Suddenly it was my very inconsistency that became my superpower. To put such disparate things out in short order just communicates to myself, and to the world, that I’m not afraid of contextualizing one variety of expression with another.”
US Label: Epitaph Records
US Booking: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
UK Booking: David.SullivanKaplan@unitedtalent.com
Tour Press: firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.
Label: Record Collection
Booking: Brian Greenbaum
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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
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.”)
Nakamura has also worked as a film composer, crafting songs for films like Edgar Wright's action comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) and the Jodie Foster directed crime-drama Money Monster (2016). In 2019, he composed the score for Olivia Wilde's Booksmart. In addition to scoring Broken Bread, the Roy Choi-hosted show on PBS/ Tastemade, he produced and composed several songs for the Netflix original film Always Be My Maybe along with actor Randall Park.
Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros
Label: Community Music
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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. 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.
Label: Matador Records
North America Booking: Trey Many
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.
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Phantom Planet is an American rock band from Los Angeles, formed in 1994. The band consists of Alex Greenwald (vocals, rhythm guitar), Darren Robinson (lead guitar), Sam Farrar (bass guitar) and Jeff Conrad (drums). The band is best known for its track "California", which became the theme song for the TV series The O.C.. The band featured actor Jason Schwartzman on drums until 2003 and continued to release well-received albums in his absence.
On November 25, 2008, the band announced in a blog entry on their website that they are going on "hiatus, and will not be playing any more live shows or making any new records, indefinitely." They played their last pre-hiatus show on December 12, 2008, in Los Angeles.
The band reunited in 2019, announcing that their hiatus was over.
A Phantom Planet Instagram account was created on January 19, 2019, indicating that the band could be reforming. Additionally, band members posted the logo on their personal social media accounts. It was confirmed that the band played a small secret private show January 19, 2019, at No Name on Fairfax in Los Angeles.
On March 18, 2019, the band officially announced "Hiatus. Over." They announced their first "public" show in over 7 years at Hanson's "Hop Jam" Music and Beer Festival in Tulsa, OK on May 19, 2019. Before that event, they scheduled three shows across Southern California.
On May 7th, the band officially released their first new song in 11 years, Balisong. The song was a reworked version of a track previously released on Alex's solo album. The band is "50 to 75 percent" finished with a new album.