Since 2005, Alberta Cross has been the songwriting project of Petter Ericson Stakee. The Swedish born singer/songwriter formed the band in London before relocating to their current home of New York City. With a revolving cast of musician friends, Stakee and Alberta Cross have released three EP’s and 2 full length LP’s while playing such famed festivals as Coachella, Lollapoalooza, Bonnarroo, Reading, Leeds, Fuji Rock and Splendour in the Grass. In the past 7 years Alberta Cross has toured the world while sharing stages with the likes of Neil Young, Oasis, Mumford & Sons, Them Crooked Vultures, Black Rebel Motorcycle, Bat For Lashes, The Shins, Phosophorescent and more. In recent months, Stakee has been working out new material at a weekly gathering of like-minded musicians at Randolph Bar in Brooklyn and will soon be going up to record their next record at Dreamland, a church that has been converted into a recording studio in Woodstock, NY. Of the new material, Stakee says “I want it to be more of a live thing, to capture a raw, pure and organic vibe. Like the first few recordings we did as a band but a little more advanced.” Alberta Cross plan to have a new album out in 2015.
Alex Ebert is a singer/songwriter, film composer, writer, and social activist. He won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score this year 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.
Southern California rock band Bad Suns formed in 2012 and in the short time since inception, have managed to be musically beyond their years. Made up of Christo Bowman (vocals), Gavin Bennett (bass), Miles Morris (drums) and Ray Libby (guitar) the four piece ranges from ages 19-22 yet has a sound reminiscent of rock stalwarts from generations past. “I grew up with a lot of world music playing in the house. When I was 10, I started getting heavily interested in the guitar, and my dad began introducing me to his records from the 70's and the 80's. Initially Elvis Costello, then to The Clash, The Cure, and so on,” notes Christo. “All of these artists and bands had a big impact on me, at a young age, as far as song composition goes. “
The band’s debut EP (January 2014) Transpose was recorded in the studio with producer Eric Palmquist (The Mars Volta, Wavves, Trash Talk) and served as a prelude to the band’s debut full-length (also produced by Palmquist) which hit streets on June 24, 2014. “The writing and recording process is always exciting, because it's constantly changing and unique to each song. Inspiration comes and goes as it pleases, so a night when a song gets written is a very good night,” says Christo. Comprised of eleven tracks, Language & Perspective flows effortlessly from start to finish showcasing the band’s stadium ready anthems and undeniably catchy hooks. “Music has the ability to evoke certain feelings in people, a way that not much else can. The pairing of words and sounds can be an extremely powerful tool, when done right. I think the ultimate goal for this band is to make music that causes people to really feel something.”
2014 proved to be quite busy for Bad Suns, who in a very short time have performed the first single, ‘Cardiac Arrest,’ on Conan and the track hit #13 on Alt Radio Charts, and #11 on AAA charts. They’ve toured with likes of The 1975, Fitz and the Tantrums, Vaccines and Geographer to name a few. “It’s pretty incredible what you can accomplish with time, work, and patience. Playing our songs to receptive audiences, across the country, has been surreal for us; it’s what we’ve always dreamed of. We’re excited for people to hear the album that we’ve made, and then come experience it in a live setting,” says Bowman. “One day I just decided to be a musician, and I never strayed away from that goal. Being in a band is the only thing I could do."
Los Angeles dream-gazers The Bulls came to be when violinist and multi-instrumentalist Anna Bulbrook (The Airborne Toxic Event / Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) and guitarist Marc Sallis (The Duke Spirit) discovered their mutual love for 80's and 90's new wave and shoegaze during a chance meeting in the Mojave Desert. The Bulls premiered their debut single "Come Unwound," featuring Bulbrook’s hazy vocals and soaring strings, on Consequence of Sound and the track received critical acclaim from blogs around the world. The song’s accompanying, Kinbaku-bondage-inspired video was premiered by LA Weekly and received over 5,000 plays in its first week. A remix of the track by Morgan Kibby (M83 / White Sea) features the GRAMMY-nominated artist contributing her signature vocal harmonies and lush electro-orchestral arranging to create a new, cinematic musical landscape. In March of 2015, the Bulls were Alt 98.7’s featured “Artist in Residence,” which saw the radio debut of “Come Unwound.” During the same month, KROQ started spinning the Bulls’ still-unreleased song, “Small Problems.” Having played their first-ever shows in 2014, the band will be headlining the legendary Monday Night residency at Los Angeles alternative club The Satellite for the month of August. The band's debut E.P. Small Problems is out now.
The Bulls - Come Unwound [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
Dicey Hollow is a collaboration between long time friends Petter Ericson Stakee of Alberta Cross and Jamie Biden that came from writing sessions over the past two years in Mt. Tremper, New York. Their forthcoming EP is due out Summer 2015.
In 2002, in the midst of a year of sleeplessness, and novel-writing, Alex Ebert created two things: A distracted, deformed, and hopelessly romantic messianic character named Edward Sharpe, and a new kind of mathematics called Magnetic Zeros. The novel was never completed and the math's application is yet-to-be determined, but Ebert liked the sound of those two inventions combined, and a band who's members were yet to be met was born. (Note: "Edward Sharpe" is not an alter ego of Ebert's, but rather "a vehicle that delivered me back to myself").
Several years later, disillusioned with just about every aspect of his life, Ebert dropped nearly everything- his relationship, his home, his phone, and even Alcoholics Anonymous, and embarked on the journey of self discovery and liberation that gave birth to the material that would be the first Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros album, Up From Below. Inspired primarily by the simple, rag-tag, jangly sing-a-longs at his elementary school, Ebert wrote songs designed for a large group to have a childish, unprofessional, and irreverent feel.
With (at the time) odd instrumentation, the songs required upwards of ten musicians to play, and it was during the recording process that the band truly formed. It would be a member-less band no longer.
Ebert's "partner-in-liberation" during his time of transformation, singer Jade Castrinos, helped co-pen the song "Home", and in it the band had a platinum-selling song.
In the time since, the band has released three albums and toured much of the world, but in the process something else happened: "we went from social experiment to accidentally becoming a great band", Ebert says. Indeed, they became known for the power of their live shows.
In light of this revelation, the band feels a new purpose: "to write music especially designed to perform live, and to become the very best band we can possibly be."
They now anticipate releasing their 4th album, recorded almost entirely in one room, in the summer of 2015.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - LIFE IS HARD (Live Music Video)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Country Calling [Official Video]
On a pecan farm half a mile from the Mexican border, ‘Post Tropical’ was born – a collection of sounds and ideas brought to life in rooms where the low frequencies of passing freight trains vibrated in the studio, briefly disturbing the birds in the rafters. And like most new ideas, ‘Post Tropical’ is hard to describe. It requires attention and engagement. It seduces you towards hidden depths.
McMorrow’s acclaimed debut album, ‘Early in the Morning’, reached number 1, went platinum and picked up a Choice Music Prize nomination upon its release in 2010. Along the way, there were shows everywhere from the Royal Festival Hall to Later…with Jools Holland, and a breakout hit in the charity cover of Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’. McMorrow’s first record was the formative sounds of a songwriter who suddenly found people giving a damn. “I’m so proud of that album, but I never longed to be a guy with a guitar. You play these songs live as best you can, and suddenly you’re a Folk musician. But the texture of this record is completely different. This is the kind of stuff I actually listen to.”
Wiping the palate of ‘Early in the Morning’ clean, Post Tropical’ is a stunning piece of work. Its broadened horizons may come as a surprise to everyone but James and the people who know him best. “I found a zip drive recently, which dates back to before I made my first record, and I’d re-recorded every single part of the N.E.R.D album – apart from the vocals – just for the joy of it. I wanted to give this record the feel and movement of the hip-hop records that I love.”
It’s a step forward that is immediately apparent on album opener and first single ‘Cavalier’ – a brooding twist on the Slow-Jam, which builds quietly from hushed keys and hand-claps to soaring brass, drums and McMorrow’s idiosyncratic falsetto. Across the album, new sounds and textures are explored: 808s on the haunting ‘Red Dust’, looped piano on ‘Look Out’, and the waterfall-effect of 12 mandolins on ‘The Lakes’. McMorrow’s sometimes-surreal songwriting holds each element in place, an album on which he wrote, produced, and played virtually every instrument.
The framework of ‘Post Tropical’ was constructed over eight months. Coming home from tour, James had hundreds of sound files, none categorised. Pages and pages of lyrics were crossed out and edited. Nothing was written on guitar, and nothing was linear. Yet the recording itself took place on a pecan farm half a mile from the Mexican border – which the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House, Animal Collective and At The Drive In have all called home at one point. The constraints of three and a half weeks here offered McMorrow a surprising amount of freedom. Sounds were created and changed and painstakingly poured over. The process was up for grabs, right up to the mixing stage.
What emerged was ‘Post Tropical’ – complete with the paradoxical, ‘wish-you-were-here postcard’ artwork (juxtaposing a palm tree with a polar bear). “It’s so exhausting trying to keep up with styles of music that pop up one week, and disappear the next,” says James. “For me, ‘Post Tropical’ evokes a style of music without you having a clue what it sounds like. It’s warm and familiar, but there’s something there that’s maybe not quite what you think it is. I just wanted to make the most beautiful thing that I could imagine. And that was it.”
Through different music connections and friends in NYC and LA, Julian Casablancas+The Voidz have come together as band over the past four years. They’ve bonded over their love of beat driven, aggressive and avant-garde music with the power of modern harmonies to make it catchy and powerful. A punk band that can play any style of music, they take pride in their versatility...the band consists of Jeramy Gritter (aka Beardo) on guitar—a highly skilled guitarist as well as the self-proclaimed “trailer park hero;” Amir Yaghmai—virtuoso guitarist (grew up playing violin then listening to metal); Alex Carapetis (aka Young Pirate) on drums—bringing a whole new level of rhythm to rock music; Jeff Kite on keyboard—one of the founding members and key songwriters; and Jake Berkovici on Bass—the wise stabilizing anchor (musically and vibe-wise) as well as Stevie Wonder synth-bass wonder-child. With Julian Casablancas of the Strokes on vocals as well as directing the whole thing (much like he did with early days Strokes), the band is very much a collaboration founded on old friendships and musical kinship. The Voidz recorded ’Tyranny' in NYC.
Julian Casablancas+The Voidz - Where No Eagles Fly (Official Video)
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.
Jena Malone and Lem Jay Ignacio first met at an acoustic Christmas carol party at the Mandrake in Los Angeles, California in 2008. They ended up playing that night and meeting for the first time on stage. They performed “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” but with Jena singing completely in scat-style gibberish and Lem Jay not musically missing a beat. A unique musical friendship and language was born.
Jena had built an instrument she called “The Shoe” which was simply an old steamer trunk she dollied around with a plethora of electronic instruments inside. She brought it over to Lem Jay’s garage to jam soon after they met. Lem Jay, who is a pianist and music producer said “From that night, it seemed like she was always over and we were freestyling, making up songs, playing abstract piano duets, psychotherapy rants and love spells. We’d stay up all night recording all of our jams, sometimes we’d improvise complete songs from start to finish. I think we literally have over a hundred hours of nights like this. Since we did this so much, it was hard to know what it was, whether it was a band or an art project or just two friends constantly making music. Our first EP “At Lem Jay’s Garage” came out of this first year of us getting together in my garage and pressing record.“
That EP came out in 2009 under Jena’s label There Was An Old Woman Records. Their soon to be released full length album “I’m Okay” was recorded again in Lem Jay’s garage during the summer of 2013. Of this newest effort Jena says “This new record means so much more to me because I actually wanted to write songs. I wanted to craft them more than I had ever done. I love the art of freestyle, for me I always start there as a songwriter, but this record was different. I wanted to tell stories everyone could feel and understand, not just me.“
In late 2012, Wild Ones was on the verge of collapse. Guitarist Clayton Knapp had blown out an eardrum, the band’s original drummer left the group and his replacement, Seve Sheldon, was in the hospital with a punctured lung, practicing songs on a drum pad with a tube sticking out of his chest. The band’s members had funneled all of their money into a debut record, Keep It Safe, that had taken a year to write and nine months to record and mix. Fans and followers began to wonder if that record would ever see the light of day. It was make-or-break time. Wild Ones made. Instead of folding in the face of financial drama, injuries and personnel changes, Wild Ones took a deep breath and adjusted to its new surroundings. This band is used to adjusting.
Since its formation in 2010, Wild Ones has insisted on operating as a DIY collective. The band recorded and mixed its debut as a group (with help from engineer David Pollock). Sometimes considering each members’ opinion meant endless revisits and tweaks to the album’s tracks. The process was time-consuming, but it was also worth it. “That was a reaction to the bands we had been in before,” says lead vocalist Danielle Sullivan. “This band was born out of our desire to have a democratic, all-inclusive music-making process.” Going it alone—even the artwork on Keep It Safe was created by Wild Ones keyboardist Thomas Himes—comes with its fair share of challenges. Most of Wild Ones’ debut was recorded in a two-story East Portland warehouse rehearsal space, where the band was surrounded on all sides by rock acts like Quasi and the Thermals. Wild Ones would get to their practice space around 8 am to record, often grabbing quick takes between thunderous drum solos from down the hall. “Somewhere on the record, if you listen close enough, you can probably hear the metal band next door,” Himes says. “When we went in that room in March, it was raining,” says Knapp. “When we finished recording in October, it was raining.” Keep It Safe, the album that finally emerged after well over a year of gestation, is bigger than the sum of its meticulously gathered parts. Even now, the band’s sound continues to evolve. Wild Ones’ members come from vastly disparate musical backgrounds—guitarist Nick Vicario was a Portland punk icon long before he turned 18; bassist Max Stein is a classical composer—and all of their experiences inform pop music that is influenced by everything from german techno to American R&B. These are sounds that don’t usually come packaged together, but in the able hands of Wild Ones, they seem like a perfectly natural fit.