Joel Gibb of the Hidden Cameras :: the YANP Interview

I have no idea who made this picture, but it wasn’t me. It’s very pretty, though; so good job to whoever did it!

I’ve been a fan of the Hidden Cameras for a good long while. They were one of the first bands I got into in college thanks to a mixture of WRFL and random internet downloads. As such, I was pretty excited for the release of their 2009 album In the NA. It’s a great addition to their catalogue and contains one of my favorite pop songs of the year.

MP3: The Hidden Cameras – In the NA

After a month or so of soaking in the new record, I called up Canadian record label Arts & Crafts, who handed the phone over to Joel Gibb, lead singer of the Hidden Cameras. We chatted about the new record, the unfair way gay musicians are treated when they write about sex and sexuality, and things in his songs that he’d just rather not explain.

Interview with Joel Gibb of the Hidden Cameras

Picasso: Well, I’ll start at the beginning for me. I first go into the Hidden Cameras by hearing your song, “Ode to Self Publishing” when I first came to college five years ago and it seemed– at least at the time– that it was kind of about the fear of creating something and putting yourself out there, but as I progressed through the rest of the songs that you had written at that time, it seemed not to be something that you yourself had wrestled with. I was wondering if that has ever been the case with you? Were you ever afraid to put something into a song, out into the world?

Joel: Well, I dunno about afraid but I know there’s a lot of people that have a certain sort of inhibition about that kind of thing. Yeah, I guess I don’t have crazy inhibitions about that. But I think every artist– even the most seemingly-confident artists– probably grapple with that. You make yourself quite vulnerable when you put stuff out like that.

Picasso: So, as far as the new album– I love it and listen to it a lot. But one thing I haven’t really been able to decipher, is probably the most basic. What is the meaning behind “Origin Orphan?”

Joel: I don’t know. Is there supposed to be a specific meaning?

Picasso: I don’t know. I figured if it was the title it might have some bearing on you or the project.

Joel: I think its evocative of all sorts of things. I think it conjures up all sorts of images. If you pair that with the song and the lyrics of the song it adds another dimension.

Read the rest of the interview after the break.

Continue reading Joel Gibb of the Hidden Cameras :: the YANP Interview

An interview with Will C Hart of Circulatory System

Last year I have the supreme pleasure of seeing the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise tour in Lexington. Now, just under one year later the Circulatory System have released their long-awaited second LP and are going on tour again. This Saturday, they’ll be stopping in Lexington again along with Nesey Gallons and Pipes You See, Pipes You Don’t. Will was nice enough to have a quick chat with me over the phone in advance of the new album and tour.

An Interview with Will C Hart of the Circulatory System

Picasso: So congratulations on a really, really good new album! I don’t know if you read anything on the E6 forum, but everyone is kind flipping. So, were you surprised that after 10 years how strong your fan base is? 

Will: Yes. Indeed. Actually it’s really cool. 

Picasso: Has that been a source of pressure for you or is it inspiring usually? 

Will: It’s inspiring, yeah for me, personally. To know that somebody is listening in, it’s fun. Its fun and its totally real. ? ?Picasso: That’s really what’s surprising to me mostly that it had almost nothing to go on for over a decade now and it seems like it might be stronger than ever. 

Will: Yes, that’s true. ? 

MP3: Circulatory System – Overjoyed

?Picasso. So whenever I interviewed Eric (of Elf Power) he said that the Holiday Surprise Tour sorta gave them a deadline to finish the Major Organ movie. Did that sorta give you an energy to push through on Signal Morning? 

Will: Yeah, I guess so. But mainly I guess because I asked for outside help for sequencing and what not, with me, Nesey Gallons and Charlie Johnston. So that made me up to make up new songs and not have to be bogged down too much because I trust their editing, sequencing or whatever. 

Picasso: When did you talk to them? 

Will: I don’t know actually. 

Picasso: When did you realize that the album was going to be finished and when did you see the light at the end of the tunnel? 

Will: Around that time, I suppose. I was getting there, but I thought It might be better to save the work and I was like “Holy shit, yeah it worked. Thanks!” 

Picasso: And that was the first time that you had help with the sequencing and a little bit on production, right? 

Will: Pretty much, yeah. And to meet John and it was kinda left up to me. 

Picasso: Yeah, still your hand guiding everything. 

Will: Yeah…”the iron hand” ha ha. 

Picasso: You’re just the auteur! So what was that like, working with other people? You seemed to have spoken only highly of it in anything I’ve read. Was it pretty positive? You said it freed you up and everything. 

Will: Yeah, having that happen it did. It was just cool to see. And I would have said “I don’t like it.” But I didn’t. Its so cool and when I did hear it, it was like “wow, thanks!” And its new to me, everytime. Well, not now, but still. 

Continue reading after the break.

Continue reading An interview with Will C Hart of Circulatory System

Man Man’s Mad Art: an interview with Honus Honus

My first exposure to Man Man’s Rabbit Habits came last November in Newport, Kentucky. I saw lead Man Man Ryan Kattner (aka Honus Honus) looking bored near the merch section, so I reintroduced myself — it’d been nearly a year and a half since we’d done an interview, after all. We chatted about the band for a bit and eventually ran out of small talk. But rather than politely excusing himself to the band area, Ryan’s eyes betrayed his excitement as he asked me if I wanted to go hear the new album.

At the time I just figured that Ryan was bored, in a good mood or in need of some buzz for his then label-less band (likely, likely and possible). But now, almost a year and a half later, I think I realize why he was willing to let someone he barely knew listen to the demos for the band’s make-or-break third record: it’s the kind of great record that makes you find people to listen to it.

Shivering in the cold, clutching Ryan’s iPod shuffle while he fielded phone calls, I was particularly struck by a song that I now recognize as an early form of “Doo Right,” an R&B-styled standout on the new record. Though the kind of tenderness and honesty that serves as the basis for that song might seem jarring with the band’s wild and energetic stage presence, it’s a key part of the creature they call Man Man.

MP3: Man Man – Hurly/Burly

When a band puts out albums as unpredictable and strange as Man Man’s last three, it’s easy to dismiss their songs as vehicles for bizarre choruses (“Spider Cider”), funny voices (“Engwish Bwudd”) or admittedly beautiful faux-R&B backing vocals (“Ice Dogs”). However, it’s hard to see on first glance that as much of Ryan Kattner winds up in his songs as does any other songwriter. Amid dog-on-fire imagery, stories of cross-dressing fugitive women and death’s black Cadillac, Ryan sprinkles in parts of himself. And if you weren’t aware of it when listening to it, it’s ok — he wasn’t aware he was doing it as he wrote it.

“It’s just funny when you revisit an album,” Kattner said. “You think the songs were written objectively with not much emotional attachment, but you revisit these songs and realize that without knowing it, you captured a period of this life. I think that’s true of most art — and I feel weird saying art, but you know what I mean.”

“It’s funny. You don’t think you’re writing about what’s going on in your head, but you actually are,” Ryan continued. “I hear some of these songs now and I can definitely retouch upon what I was going through personally. I feel like this record has more of a semblance of being upbeat, but i don’t think it’s an upbeat record.”

But Lord knows even the most diehard of Man Man fanatics need help deciphering a few of their songs. Rabbit Habits‘s “Hurly/Burly” even pokes fun at critics and even fan’s past misinterpretations of their songs with the helpful lyrics “this ain’t no love song” to guide us along. When questioned about the impenetrable nature of their songs, Ryan’s answer was of little help to anyone hoping to crack the deeper meanings behind their songs. But what did you expect from a band who names an eight second recording of fireworks “Mysteries Of The Universe Unraveled?”

“I feel like someone’s interpretation of the song is probably better than what I wrote,” Ryan explained. “You kind of form your own connections to what you feel the song is about and when someone explains to you what it’s really about, it can kind of ruin the mystique. It’s why we don’t publish our lyrics now.”

MP3: Man Man – Top Drawer

When backed into a corner to provide a description of Man Man, I usually mumble a bit and finally tell them that it’s how I imagine the band from Where the Wild Things Are sounding if Tom Waits fell into their land during a whiskey-soaked dream. Also something in that situation has to be on fire. Why? Because they’re just really, really weird. The great part, though, is that the band are completely aware that they’re pretty far out there. The best part, though, is how little they care.

“If people totally hate this record,” Ryan said, “then we’ll make another one that they can also hate. I’m going to keep my pessimistic options open.”

There is, however, an undeniable mass appeal beneath Man Man’s layers of craziness. For every yelp, shriek and crash, there’s a catchy melody, beautiful harmony or touching lyric. I’m sure it was for just those reasons that one day, when playing Man Man’s new record over the speakers at the record store I work at, I was approached by two soccer moms who wanted to know if that weird album was available for purchase (a third later asked if Tom Waits had a new album she didn’t know about).

“That’s what I like about the record,” Ryan explained. “It’s a grab-bag for everybody. For every sweet, somber, melancholy song, there’s an abrasive, blast in your ear song.”

I doubt anyone would argue that Man Man draw a tremendous amount of strength from their wild, abrasive nature both on record and during their concerts. But unlike many of their contemporaries, Honus, Pow Pow and the rest of their crew have managed turned madness into an art. Even though the background noises on their new record sound at times like a middle school music classroom exploding, it’s not without a purpose.

Ryan shared a bit of insight into how the band fill out their songs. Rather than approach his bandmates with instructions as to what notes to play and when, he presents them with an overall vibe that he’d like the song to pursue. Take “Mister Jung Stuffed,” the first track on the record, for example.

“When we were putting that song together, we were just trying to have an idea of noises that should be in the song,” Ryan explained. “I was just joking around about an ATM and it getting tired of being used, disconnecting from its reality and walking away from it.”

The band then used that idea to create the ticking, whirring noises that back up one of the more frantic songs on the album. Ryan is quick to note, however, that the song couldn’t have less to do with an ATM. Trying to get a “feel” for a song is just how the band operates.

“It’s a way to try to convey an idea,” Ryan said. “I’m not a trained musician, so I usually have very convoluted ways of trying to convey ideas to the band. A lot of times it doesn’t really work and they look at me like ‘you’re an idiot.'”

MP3: Man Man – Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds cover)

But for all my talking, I don’t think I can sum up Man Man any better than the last exchange Ryan and I had during our interview.

Me: Do you agree that there’s some part of you in everything you create?

Ryan: Yeah. I mean, [we’ve done] three records and there’s an aesthetic line through all of them.

Me: What connections do you see between all three records?

Ryan: … A fucked up head.

More Q&A below….

Continue reading Man Man’s Mad Art: an interview with Honus Honus

Q&A With David Crane of BOAT

It seems like forever since I’ve done an interview, but what better way to start back than by doing one with David Crane–the main man behind BOAT? They just released “Songs You Might Not Like” and will be playing an instudio on KEXP on August 4th at 12PM PST. They also ran a contest to pick a song to cover on KEXP. The winner will be announced live on KEXP when their song choice gets covered!

MP3: BOAT – Clogged Castle
MP3: BOAT – Holding All The Globes

YANP: Let’s start with the title. Why “Songs That You Might Not Like?” Isn’t that a little self-depreciative?

DC: Songs That You Might Not Like seemed like the truth. Up until this album we had only released our songs to friends and family and there was some apprehension about releasing our music to a larger audience. We really saw it as here are some songs….hopefully you like them….but maybe you won’t. It kind of encapsulates what we were feeling as this basement band to being a little more heard by a few more people.

One of the first things about the album that grabbed me was the candor in “Clogged Castle.” Later, I realized that the entire album seems to be tied to–what I assume are–your real life events. Which songs might follow in this vein of personal songs?

All the songs have personal connections to my life. But they are often contained within images. I am a big daydreamer and I my favorite thing to do is sit and draw cartoons and drink Diet soda on the couch. The songs are like cartoons of real life. Clogged Castle is one of those songs. A lot of the songs represent childhood stuff. But I guess a lot of them deal with stuff that is going on now too. To me the music helps me filter out the feelings that I can’t get out any other way. It is an outlet for my brain. I teach sixth grade and kind of feel like I have the mind/attention span of a sixth grader….I think some of the music reflects that. Every song has a personal story behind it. I think that is why there is apprehension in sharing the songs with people I don’t personally know.

Does it feel weird to talk about such personal events on what is essentially a pop album?

To me a pop song should be memorable. To remember lyrics to a song I need to be able to imagine it like a story. So, the songs are personal stories. Some have metaphors and similes but they are true stories…at least in my brain. I don’t think I could write a song with no meaning to me. I wouldn’t remember it long enough to record it. The best songs have meaning behind them at least to the writer……right?

Continue reading Q&A With David Crane of BOAT

Q&A with Oh No! Oh My!

Greg and Daniel from Oh No! Oh My! were kind enough to talk with me about their band’s formation, putting themselves into their songs, and their upcoming show–the band’s first “real” one–with the author of the song they took their name from: Ryland from The Robot Ate Me.

MP3: Oh No! Oh My! – Walk In The Park
MP3: Oh No! Oh My! – I Have No Sister

Buy Oh No! Oh My! for $7+S/H
Oh No! Oh My! on myspace

What’s been the biggest difference, attitude wise, between Oh No! Oh My! and your past bands, (poor) yorik and The Jolly Rogers?

Greg: With poor yorik, it was more of a deep, introverted self-examination type of music. Kinda like Sigur Ros or something. Then with the Jolly Rogers, we decided to do away with all of the weirdness and try to be more happy and not just be so crazy.

Daniel: We were really depressed with poor yorik and then got tired of being depressed and did the Jolly Rogers and wanted to write songs that were catchy because that’s what we were listening to.

Does that reflect your personal outlooks at the time? Were you more introverted during the poor yorik days?

D: I think we’re still pretty introverted *laughs* Yeah. Definitely. We were all sorta hunkered down and didn’t really talk to a whole lot of people. We’ve been getting a lot better about that, though.

G: Now we write happy songs.

Were most of the songs on your debut album written in Texas?

G: Yes….Well, actually no. That isn’t true. “The Backseat” was written in Nashville. “Farewell to All My Friends” was recorded in Nashville and written in Texas.

Is “Farewell…” to be taken literally? That is, about how you were leaving Texas?

G: In a way. At first, when I wrote the song, all I had was the line ‘farewell to all my friends.’ I kinda thought that was funny to say goodbye to all my friends who I’ll never see again–which isn’t really serious because all my family’s back there, so I’ve already taking a trip back there. But it started out as a joke that’s just saying goodbye to all my friends, I’ll never forget you. Then it kinda turned into more about relationship…

D: …More girl stuff.

G: *laughs* More girl stuff. Made-up girl stuff.

Continue reading Q&A with Oh No! Oh My!

Q&A with Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy

If he had never formed Final Fantasy, Owen Pallett would still have had a career that should be the envy of most any musician. He’s been a member of Picastro, backed up Jim Guthrie and The Hidden Cameras, and arranged for and played with The Arcade Fire. But Owen Pallett did form Final Fantasy; and that’s where he seems most comfortable. His newest album, He Poos Clouds is an elegantly arranged look at death and atheism through the lense of Dungeons and Dragons. Owen was kind enough to discuss the ideas behind the album, his musical background, and the idea that He Poos Clouds is a ‘concept album.’

MP3: Final Fantasy – Song Song Song

Q&A with Owen Pallett:

How did you get involved with music?

I mean, it’s kinda cheesy, but I’ve been really into classical music since I was a kid. I’ve been playing instruments since I was three or four.

Did you always have in mind that you wanted to make classical music?

No, no, no. When I was a kid i was a pretty militant classical music freak; then in my teenage years I got into really experimental music. Conceptual music and pop music were sort of the last ones to come around. For most of my late teens and early 20s i was working on becoming an opera composer.

You studied music in college, correct?

That’s right.

Were you hoping to be a composer, or something more formal like that, or did you know you wanted to be in a band?

It’s kind of an interesting thing, because you always have big, intangible ideas about what you want to do with your formal education, then when you sit down and try to do something “artistic,” it always ends up turning into something different than you intend. But basically what Final Fantasy started out as, and I guess continues to be, is a bit of a joke band or novelty project; which, in my experience has always been the types of bands that people enjoy the most. *laughs*

Continue reading Q&A with Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy

Q&A with Hockey Night

Hockey Night will be rocking The Dame tomorrow night, but were kind enough to grant an interview for today. Co-lead guitarist Paul Sprangers shares some insights on the new album, the band’s addition of a second drummer and first bassist, and a sure-fire way to get kicked out of your SXSW hotel room.

MP3: Hockey Night – For Guys’ Eyes Only
MP3: Hockey Night – Save the Clock Tower (demo)

How did Hockey Night form?

Hockey Night has been morphing and changing since the name was originally used for a blue ep we put out years ago. The band started touring as a three-piece (2 guitars & drums) and has since added additional boogie percussion and bass. The band is a peaceful co-operative and essentially collaborative group.

Has the idea behind Hockey Night changed much since its early days? Has there been any uniting theme or even unofficial motto to your approach towards the band?

The ideas and concepts behind Hockey Night are the same as they were when we first started playing and recording–we are trying to make innovative music and spirit-expanding art that doesn’t yet exist in the mainstream or margins of western culture. We believe that esoteric and socially progressive ideas can exist naturally with percussive pop music. Electric melodies will make the message accessible! The only real uniting hockeynight theme is that we’re trying to prepare and grow as monumental change sweeps the earth. in light of the universe changing, we humbly try to create the best art we can.

Has having two guitarists played a large role in shaping Hockey Night’s sound, or is that mostly just press packet mumbo jumbo?

It’s not propaganda! Everyone should come to the show and decide for themselves. Most bands don’t have vision when it comes to playing guitar. And most Hockey Night songs are built around the weaving harmonies and propulsive melodies that come from using two guitars (creatively!). We have always written songs around two guitars. Two Guitars! Three guitars! The next record will probably have guitars upon guitars upon guitars.

Has the addition of the bassist and drummer added to approach in the studio as well?

All the new stuff we’re writing kind of incorporates this new set up. Before we might record a song with two drummers, but live we have to play it with two. now we can record with two drummers and play with two drummers. We also have this weird foundation that kind of flows underneath everything. Now we spend a lot of time working on all the different parts within the songs.

Any hints into what we can expect about what the album will be like?

First we’re putting out some singles on some super cool labels in the U.K. But the album is starting to take shape. it’s gonna have melodies you’ve only heard in dreams. It will have electric-boogie percussion and guitars that zap and make sucking sounds while the singing (now much improved) will glide and dip and slip around the dance-craze hi-hats and poofy bass thuds. this is a record we’ve all been waiting for. upbeat and catchy with super choruses and and mind-melding time changes.It’s less meandering. We really spend a lot of time trying to make sure that what we do isn’t boring or generic. We have a new song that we’re recording that’s super…kinda dance, but still has this chorus that’s two harmonized guitars.

How’d your most recent jaunt down to SXSW go? Any highlights or funny stories?

SXSW is a big, awesome circus of sand. The highlights are a bit sordid. Funniest story was when Alex Achen (1st drums) crashed a rickshaw into the Radisson fountain and was escorted out near the pool where there was a running golf cart. He proceeded to drive the cart out onto the sidewalk and drove to the free agency showcase at Emos. No rules?

Hockey Night on Myspace

Q&A with Pants Yell!

Hot on the heels of their sophmore album, Recent Drama, Pants Yell! granted me a short Q/A session. Andrew from PY! shed a little bit of light on the band’s formation, time with Asaurus, and future plans. And yes, he did return my email with “Onward interview….”

MP3: Pants Yell! – Kids Are The Same
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What’s the story behind the formation of Pants Yell? What made you all instilled with the urge to create?

Andrew: We all went to the same art school. I’d been writing songs and was contemplating playing live. I found out Carly played the drums, so I invited her to accompany me at a show I was playing in my living room with Young People. I gave Sterling a flier, he came to the show, enjoyed it and we all started playing together. My urge to create came with the excitment of playing with other people and not just hitting “record” on a four-track.

How’d you wind up on the lovely label that is Asaurus?

I’m not sure how I inititally learned about Asaurus, but I was definitely aware of the early Diskettes and Elliott the Letter Ostrich CDs they released. It’s got to be three years ago that I sent Matthew a cdr or cassette of some of my songs (which was probably stapled in construction paper). He got back to me and was interested in releasing something. I’m pretty sure that none of the songs I initially sent him made it onto Songs for Siblings. Those were all written after our meeting. It’s amazing seeing what Asaurus has turned into. We love that label.

It seemed like Recent Drama was a lot more cohesive than your other works. Was there any change in the writing or recording process?

Yes, definitely. By the time Songs… came out we already had a bunch of new songs written that were being more and more influenced by our live performances. We set aside some of these songs for the 7″ that was release last summer, so from that point on I was consciously writing an album, which hadn’t been the case before. And I was consciously trying to record an album that wasn’t like Songs For Siblings. I’m happy that cohesiveness is apparent to you. The other big factor of this record was the studio. Tim Shea and his studio Analog Divide is our secret weapon, and we put it all down to 2″ 24 track tape. No digital bullsh*t and not 16 track as we had previously done. We spent a year going in to record and mix, as opposed to a couple of days, and taking our time on it really made a big difference. Looking to record in Boston? Get in touch with Tim Shea!

You all will be going over to Europe this summer, correct? Is this your first adventure to the “old country?” If so, what made it possible?

Yeah, we’re going to be playing the Emmaboda Festival in Sweden in August and then we’ll be doing a weeks worth of shows in the UK. We’ll be promoting a split 7″ we’ll be doing with the Ghosts, a great pop band from England who is actually fronted by the Television Personalities current drummer. This new little label called Undereducated is putting out the single and organizing the tour and needless to say, we couldn’t be more excited. Carly and I have never been to Europe before, let alone to play music, so it’s going to be an amazing trip.

I couldn’t let this chance go by without asking: what’s the significance of the piano recording at the end of “Southend-On-Sea?”

That’s a recording my brother made of our grandmother playing piano. She writes all of these really great songs that just sit in her head, so my brother secretly recorded her playing one day. That song’s called “Razz-Matazz”. She has some lyrics for it, but the last I heard she was having trouble finding something other than “jazz” to rhyme with the title. I love that recording and thought it’d end the album on a nice note. I guess the secret track isn’t so secret anymore.

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Q&A with Man Man

Somehow, after losing his band to differences, Honus of Man Man went on to assemble a completely new crew and write one of 2006’s most creative albums: Six Demon Bag. The band are currently touring across America, and will be playing at the Pitchfork Music Festival this summer. Luckily the band had time to stop before their show at The Dame for a quick word. Honus and I discussed his band’s recent woes, his stance on modern music, and the importance of his song “Ice Dogs.”

MP3: Man Man – Engwish Bwudd

An Interview with Honus of Man Man

Matt: First of all, would you say that you write pop songs?

Honus: Yes…and did you just ask me a pointed question? (laughs)

M: (laughs) Well, I had to make sure that my next question made sense. Would you say there’s any difference between the music that you write, and what has been traditionally known as a “pop” song?

H: Is there a difference? I think we’re writing our own pop hits. If people chose to label us as writing circus songs…that’s their choice.

M: Do you think you’ll be remembered differently in 10 years, then?

Continue reading Q&A with Man Man