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."
Cornelius is the brainchild of Japanese multi-instrumentalist Keigo Oyamada. Son of a famous Japanese crooner and a performing musician since his teens, Oyamada (Born January 27, 1969) created his creative alter-ego (the name is an homage to the Planet of the Apes),in the early 1990′s from the ashes of his previous project, Flipper’s Guitar.
With the 1997 release of Fantasma, Cornelius gained international recognition for his cut and paste style reminescent of american counterparts Beck and The Beastie Boys. Being called a “modern day Brian Wilson” for his orchestral-style arrangements, Cornelius subsequently he became one of the most sought after producer/remixers in the world, working with artists ranging from Blur, Beck and Bloc Party, to Sting, KD Lang, and James Brown.
With 2002′s Point, Cornelius’ music took a quantum shift, going from electronic based to looping organic sounds, creating lush sound-scapes. From using water drops as the rhythmic backbone of “Drop” to his vocoder-infused cover of “Brazil”, the album dazed and amazed fans and set the path for the next phase of his career.
2007 brought this philosophy to an even higher level with the release of Sensuous. Cornelius live shows are known the world around for its spectacular visuals (all perfectly synchronized to the performance), custom lighting that doesn’t simply augment the performance, but becomes another instrument within it, and a full band of equally talented and diverse players.
In early 2008 “ The Cornelius Group – ‘Synchronized Sensuous Show’” reached new heights in it’s US tour, culminating with an invitation from the LA Philharmonic, and performance at the Frank Gehry Designed Walt Disney Concert Hall to LA’s musical and cultural elite.
Since his last tour date, Cornelius has recorded music for Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, performed as the backbone of Yoko Ono’s reformed Plastic Ono Band, played the Hollywood Bowl with Yellow Magic Orchestra, and co-wrote and produced the Japanese artist. SalyuXSalyu.
CORNELIUS - 123456 - Yo Gabba Gabba
CORNELIUS - BREEZIN'
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 this February.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt pure joy in my life,” says Jonny Pierce, laughing under a bright summer sun on a recent afternoon in New York City. “What does it feel like? Tell me all about it!”
The fact of summer, that there is sunlight, that the man who says he has never known joy is boyishly-handsome, blonde-haired and laughing—if only this moment could be captured by a Polaroid and shown to him. Or, better yet, if the essence of it could be liquefied, extracted, and decanted into a test tube, you’d have the very substance that gives life to The Drums. It is a concoction of opposites. Not unlike the percussive instrument from which the band takes its name, it is the relentless beating down that brings out the music in them.
Who will have the courage to let the laughing man know that he is laughing, that the feeling he might be a semblance of the joy he says he’s never known? It won’t be Jacob Graham. He’s had his whole life to clue in his friend. If anything, he’s Pierce’s enabler. Dark-haired, soft-spoken, and less prone to emotive outbursts, the other half of The Drums does his dutiful best to prop up his opposite, the miserable laugher who wears so much on his sleeve he’s likely had to make room on his collar too.
“Jacob and I were born losers and outcasts,” Pierce says, recalling how The Drums were received upon the release of their debut EP Summertime! nearly six years ago. “We didn’t really have friends growing up. We were both home schooled. We both grew up in poverty. We were both very confused little boys. We met each other and connected because we were losers, pretty much in every category. Suddenly, to be on the cover of NME and have The New York Times praising this little EP we released, you suddenly feel the opposite. I think we really enjoyed that.”
Of course, the enjoyment was fleeting, as befits Pierce’s morose outlook on life in its entirety. There were two wildly successful full-lengths (The Drums and Portamento), there were hits (“Let’s Go Surfing,” “Best Friend,” “Money,” and more), and for a moment, there was even the possibility of happiness. Then, managers left, band members departed, and The Drums nearly disbanded. Yet, Pierce worked through his bitterness with the kind of revelation only an artist truly in harmony with melancholy could contrive: they were better off broken than stuck in a rut. The two carried on, in their original form, the band of Jonny and Jacob.
“It was a beautiful moment for us, and also a scary one,” Pierce recalls. “But we’d always rather do something that feels risky than do something that feels safe. That’s the dangerous area for us; when everything feels like it’s just chugging away on cruise control. We’re back where we started and the slate is clean. Jacob and I were the brains behind this in the first place and we can make any decisions we want right now.”
That decision is Encyclopedia. For the band’s third full-length, Jonny and Jacob first had to reconcile their opposing impulses. Pierce had no-wave on his mind (“I wanted to make a garage record!”), while Jacob was wondering what might happen if they blended “The Sound of Music with obscure Japanese synthesizer pioneers.” In traditional The Drums fashion, the band decided to try... all of it. They holed up in a fittingly bleak rehearsal space and spent the next year composing and recording their most sophisticated and cohesive album yet. A dark miracle, really.
“The space we rented was very doom and gloom,” says Pierce. “It felt like we were in a loft in the middle of nowhere. I got very depressed every time we set foot into this room. We could have done it differently. We could have done things to make it easier on ourselves, but I think there’s this self-imposed torture, that we don’t even understand why we do it to ourselves. In the end, it seeps into the record. When we get too comfortable, it sucks all the creative juices right out and we’re left with nothing. It led to some really great songwriting. For us to do something that is this super gorgeous and majestic, it maybe had to come from trying to climb out of that darkness.”
It’s right there on album opener “Magic Mountain,” the song as near a call-to-arms as anything The Drums have done, or might ever do. It’s a dare almost, but defensive too. Like the opposing forces that comprise them, the band is both hiding and swinging swords. It’s not too difficult to read it as a warning to any lover of The Drums’ sunnier side to take heed or leave.
“Let’s knock them over the head and see what happens,” Pierce says of the lead track. “It feels like we’re sticking our necks out. Three years is a long time to wait these days, for a band like us. I feel like we’ve been given an amazing opportunity. This is an album about being yourself and protecting yourself. We made this beautiful record, so why be timid now about what we want to say?”
“It sounds like a record I would want to hear,” Jacob adds. “To have a song like ‘Let Me’ on the same record as a song like ‘U.S. National Parks’ is so strange to me, but I love both of them. I was so glad we found a way—in our minds, at least—to make these songs work together.”
Nowhere are these opposing forces more in evidence than “I Can’t Pretend,” a song so steeped in melody and tranquility, you’d be forgiven if you missed its deathly resignation. As simple as the song’s sentiment might appear at first glance, the words betray all the complexity that makes the entirety of Encyclopedia such an immersive experience. It continues to yield its secrets over repeated listens, even when you think you’ve already absorbed every last bit of its hummable pop hooks.
The album’s title might refer to a set of books attempting to contain all knowledge, yet to be encyclopedic is a very different thing. It’s a kind of devotion, the expertise of a scholar concentrating forever on the singular fascination that drives him to live. With Encyclopedia, The Drums have become experts of themselves, inching ever closer to perfection even as it scurries around the next corner. Reduced to their essence again, Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham have never known themselves better and song after song resounds with this new confidence. And, of course, the beauty of it is that it also sounds as if it could all come crashing down in a light breeze.
“As soon as we had ‘Wild Geese,’ we knew right away that the record was done and it had to be the last song,” says Pierce about finishing recording the new album. “How could we possibly write another song after that?
“When we croak, our records will still be here,” he continues. “We want to have left great, conceptual, beautiful, glimmering records in the world. We’re thinking super long term, like dead-term.”
Pausing and considering this idea for a moment, Pierce breaks into laughter. Who will have the courage to tell him that he might finally be experiencing joy? Who will tell him he’s laughing in the face of death? Who will tell him that he’s doing both at the same time and that he’s called it Encyclopedia by The Drums?
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.