Interview: Azar Swan

Photo by Joseph Roberman

Azar Swan: Photo by Joseph Roberman

We’ve been fans of the music of NY’s Josh Strawn and Zohra Atash since their time in the goth-folk band Religious to Damn, but it’s their new project, Azar Swan, that really has us infatuated. Their debut record Dance Before the War, out digitally this week on Handmade Birds, nestles nicely in the crook of that label’s releases by Merzbow, Loveliescrushing and Jackie-O Motherfucker. Call it radio-friendly avant-goth, sure, but really Dance Before the War is tribal electronic war-pop with enough hooks to catch even the most satanic fish. Songs of childhood, lust, war and angst have never sounded this sexy.

Azar Swan’s celebrating the release of Dance Before the War with a show at 285 Kent (the place where the kids go for the music) this Thursday, 11/15/13, and if it’s anything like the times we’ve seen them in the past you’re gonna end up covered in sweat and spit and snarls.  We  caught up with ‘em, virtually, using the magic of the internet, to talk about their music’s past, present and future. [Read more...]

Interview: Dinowalrus

Dinowalrus

Williamsburg’s own Dinowalrus recently released their critically-acclaimed sophomore LP, Best Behavior; a decidedly more dance-driven and synth-based approach than their debut, the noise rock-inspired %My Social List caught up with Pete Feigenbaum, their self-proclaimed “curator of riffs” at El Beit to discuss his band’s progression, the erosion of local music scenes, the continued gentrification of Williamsburg and what he described as a Warholian appropriation of culture as a driving influence in his band’s sound.

Peter Rittweger – You’ve said that Andy Warhol’s or Mike Kelley’s “appropriation” was a source of inspiration on Best Behavior. I almost immediately think of your album cover, which is an image of the Domino Sugar factory, this “iconic” Williamsburg landmark.  % was more “no-wave” or “noise rock” inspired, while Best Behavior seems to be more influenced by the best music AROUND you.  Would you say the image symbolizes that sort of appropriation?

Pete Feigenbaum – Yes and no.  I mean, the album cover is just an allusion to Animals, that Pink Floyd album… which isn’t a very good album, but that album cover really resonates with me.  I mean both albums (% and Best Behavior) are sort of appropriations in a different way.  I have this theory that nostalgia comes in twenty year waves.  I guess there’s only really been two years between the two albums, but in my mind it feels like more, so we’ve jumped from 1982 to 1992 in our minds, haha.

I was vaguely interested in this Madchester acid-house sound for a while, so it just made sense to dig even deeper into that and really let that influence the songwriting on Best Behavior, and the production too.  So I feel that that’s the biggest re-appropriation on Best Behavior…like taking ideas from the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Charlatans, Primal Scream, Candy Flip, Flowered Up… all those bands.  I feel like our interest in them is a very unique thing. It seems like no one else around here is into that.  Revivalism can be kind of hokey, or even a cheap thrill but I like to think the way that we’ve done it, we’ve kind of made it our own and made people see this style that they may have overlooked previously.

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Ticket Giveaway: Spanish Prisoners at Pianos TOMORROW Night

From Bushwick’s grey industrial streets, rose Spanish Prisoners’ strangely uplifting sound — a perfect blend of cloudy density and pop-y guitar riffs that brings to mind The Beach Boys on the verge of a heroin overdose. But don’t be fooled by the analogy, surf rock is nowhere to be found here — rather, a heap of perfectly listless waves crash over emotionally charged yet stoic lyrics.

Spanish Prisoners “Know No Violence” off of the band’s newest release, Gold Fools, carefully careens between dreamy layered vocals and lucid instrumental precision, a habit the band luckily doesn’t kick through the entirety of the album. We got to chat with songwriter Leo Maymind and singing drummer Mike DiSanto about finding the perfect amount of reverb, the influence of drunk douchebags and New Order on the album, and how, apparently, Nas’ Illmatic is totally timeless.

Oh and did I mention we have  a pair of tickets to check out Spanish Prisoners tomorrow night at Pianos with Ski Lodge, Wolff and more!? So check out the rest of the interview after the jump and leave a comment below for your chance to win and be sure to grab Gold Fools for the current price of whatever you want to pay for it.

First and foremost, where does the name Spanish Prisoners come from?

Leo Maymind: The name came from the David Mamet film “the Spanish Prisoner,” which I think is a classic con-artist movie. Mamet kind of has a cult following. I’m not even sure the rest of the band has seen it.
Mike DiSanto: I haven’t seen it and people always seem vaguely disappointed in me when I tell them that.
Leo Maymind: We’ve been talking about setting up a movie night and all watching it, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Tell me a little about the writing process of Gold Fools. How does it differ from the band’s previous releases?

M: The writing process was very much the same as the recording and mixing process.  It was all kind of happening at the same time as Leo and I would pass tracks back and forth with a pile of USB keys. I bought a new keyboard at the time and every time Leo gave me a song he was working on I would delete some of his tracks and recreate them with the keyboard, which was maybe a little annoying but I regret nothing.
L: Mike would also incrementally decrease the level of reverb without telling me. And then I would just increase it even more the next time around, hoping he wouldn’t notice. So it was mostly this long process of just sending things back and forth and sort of carving out something that was pleasing to the two of us and our other two bandmates. Suffice to say it took a pretty long time to arrive where we are now.
M: That’s true, at least 40% of our discussions on the album involved reverb.
L: It was more like 70-80%. We would start talking about reverb and end up talking about New Order for an hour.

[Read more...]

Life Size Maps Tear Up Shea Stadium


Courtesy: Life Size Maps

Thursday, November 10th – Ascending the stairs to Shea Stadium, the sultry chords of St. Claire echoed off the walls. Front woman Emily Forsythe’s commanding, yet distant presence was certainly in contrast to the succeeding post punk/pop groups, but set an intimate tone for the small DIY venue. Reminiscent of Mazzy Star circa 1993, St. Claire relaxed the handful of attendees into comfortable sways and sauntering melodies with her acoustic guitar as her backing Richenbacker, synth, and later, banjo, pedaled the soothing tracks to a pacified and dignified close.

The Fagettes and Heavens Gate followed, waking the crowd from the somber mood, but it wasn’t until Life Size Maps took to the stage that Shea Stadium felt truly alive. The once disassociated crowd burst into bloom when the driving intro of “This Same House” broke out as their first track.

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Interview and Ticket Giveaway: Christine Hoberg, Brooklyn’s Own Pop Up Live Finalist

On November 1st, we introduced you to Christine Hoberg – the energetic songstress who serenaded a boat load of people on the East River Ferry, qualifying her as New York’s finalist for Pop Up Live presented by SPIN Magazine and popchips. Well, now it’s time to get to know Christine a little better…

We got to chat with the Midwest-gone-Brooklyn broad about her upcoming EP release, “junky instruments” and where you can find her slinging the best Bloody Marys in the ‘hood. So check out the interview below and be sure to cast your votes before Monday, Nov. 14th to get Christine to the SPIN Stage in Austin, TX! And find out how to win tickets to Miss Hoberg’s Record Release show for her newest EP, Moonlight Never Shined So Bright, TOMORROW night at 10pm at Rockwood Music Hall after the jump…

How would you describe your sound to, let’s say, somebody’s grandma?

I describe my music as indie rock meets indie jazz, which maybe doesn’t make sense to a grandma. I think the stuff I have out now is mainly rock meets throwback motown or jazz.  I love those old chanteuse-y and sassy songstress types and have embodied that into a lot of my songs, but I also write and love really messed up noise music and love creating new sounds–I’m in love with artists like fever ray and radiohead–and more and more of that kind of stuff is coming out in my songs, especially my new album I’m releasing this Friday!  Lots of layered vocal chanty stuff, can’t wait to put it out! [Read more...]

Interview: Meet the Urban Hunters Who Created the ‘Hipster Traps’

Much like the urban hunters who’ve been silently setting up the NYC hipster traps, we’re semi-professional trackers too–practitioners of the fine arts in tracking someone down who’s done something of note somewhere on the Internet. I enjoy that pursuit. So imagine my astonishment when one of my Facebook friends–granted, we’ve connected because of a previous meme-y deed–owned up to the traps after the whole shi-bang blew up on Reddit!

So we got in touch. I asked a few questions. Behold, Williamsburg! Meet Jeff Greenspan and Hunter Fine, the urban hunters trapping hipsters and B&T types all across the city. These were answered over email, and they collaborated on the answers, so we’ll credit each one as JG/HF. Plus, below the jump, an exclusive video of smart hipsters avoiding the trap on Bedford ave.

FREEwilliamsburg: So, Jeff! You’re the urban hunter who’s placed hipster traps all over the city?

JG/HF: Yes, along with my friend my friend, Hunter Fine, we’ve started setting Urban Traps – the first ones aimed at hipsters.

FW: And who are you guys, exactly, when you’re not baiting the city’s ‘trustafarians’?

The Radio Dept. Tells Us What Swedish Bands Not To Listen To, Play Music Hall of Wburg TONIGHT

At the top of many a Best of 2010 list, Clinging to a Scheme marked the return of Sweden’s The Radio Dept.– a band which has fused dreamy indie-pop with new wave subtleties in a perfect cult-following fashion since their first release in 2003. Unlike fellow Swedes that have made big headlines for dance moves in recent years — think of your Robyns, Lykke Lis, and The Knife here — The Radio Dept. keeps their beats at somber levels, inducing the sort of sway dancing one may encounter at any given Smiths night.

Staying slightly under the radar has given the band time to work out the kinks in their own sound, on their own terms, leaving a yearning fanbase at their personal whims. But if these records take 4 years to make, I say, take your time dear friends.

The Radio Dept. plays the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight and tickets are still available. And for those of you bummed about the canceled Webster Hall show on the 3rd , your tickets will be honored tonight– so we suggest to get there early before it gets packed, and to catch the dreaminess that could only come from San Francisco, Young Prisms.

Check out our interview with The Radio Dept.’s Johan Duncanson after the jump where he talks about the band’s weary progression, whether or not Sofia Coppola catapulted them into fame and what Swedish bands we should never listen to again.

[Read more...]

Today: Habitat 3rd Annual Chili Cookoff

Chili PosterHead on over to Habitat in Greenpoint today for their 3rd Annual Chili Cookoff, where ten chefs chosen at random will compete to see who can make the best damn chili. We spoke with one of the cooks, Michael Glennon, to see how he’s prepping for the big competition.Interview after the jump.

3rd Annual Chili Cookoff is at Habitat Bar in Greenpoint, at 988 Manhattan Ave at Huron Street.  Chili tasting starts at 6pm, $10 gets you a 2 oz sampling of all ten chilis. [Read more...]