SAY HELLO TO NEW MUSIC
THE BEWITCHED HANDS ON THE TOP OF OUR HEADS
Dear ‘SUP, my old friend,
It’s been a long time since I’ve written to you. Remember the first time I told you our name? I had to pronounce it again and again, and then spell it. Guess my French accent wasn’t helping!
Things have been changing so fast for us. It seems so long ago when we were only playing in and around Reims (our small French city)! We just finished a U.S. tour (Chicago, NY, and Austin for the SXSW festival), and met so many interesting and inspiring people and bands. We’ll keep such good memories of it. I’m sure you remember how badly we were craving to play in America. Let me tell you one thing: The way the public welcomed us, the shows, the love people gave us, all of it was really beyond our expectations. I keep a vivid memory of the last SXSW show, when people stood up and started to sing in that church… a church.
Now that we’re back to our land, I can’t stop thinking about how we got to here. Do you remember, at the very beginning? We were 11 humans in the band, and we felt like we were in a happy summer camp. We were all already musicians, but we all had such diverse influences that we never thought it would end up so well (trying to mix up Beach Boys with Roxy Music or the Kinks). Now we’re six, one woman for five guys. It might be tough sometimes, but together we found a way to express ourselves, to speak and, well, to sing (we all do on stage)!
I can’t help thinking how funny it is to see how people describe our music: In France, they liked to label our singing as lyrical and bright (we’re happy as long as they stop calling us hippies), whereas in the U.S., they always relate us to Arcade Fire with a baguette and without the theatrics, and compare our song to surfing rock rainbows. U.S. journalists are definitely more creative than French ones! One guy from the New York Times even wrote he was ready to catch a jet plane to France to see us live. You do know you’re actually all free to come over and be our guest whenever you want! We love U.S. music and are proud to add our French pop touch to it.
So for now, back to Reims – we’re finishing our first album, to be released very soon. I like to see it as a synthesis of our whole life as a group, and I’m so happy when people tells us our rock songs are joyful because we really try to have fun while working on music.
Every good thing comes to an end. I have to leave now. We’re about to celebrate our glorious return home with lots of cheese and champagne, and I’m sure you’ll understand – I cannot miss it!
From: Reims, France
Play. As a noun it refers to a live performance. As a verb it becomes something we do for fun and enjoyment. Musicians play their instruments. Critics play their records. Play feels good, and like all good things it has become a luxury few feel they can afford. The irony is that play doesn’t cost a pretty penny. Play is not only free, but freedom itself.
My name is John O and Diamond Rings is my solo popular music project. What I do is quite simply founded upon my own desire to play in a way that is truly and honestly uninhibited. I believe play is serious business and can provide a meaningful context for shaping our attitudes and behaviours. The sooner we realize that it’s okay to mess up and experiment and make mistakes the sooner we’re going know ourselves and each other that much better.
My influences are diverse and I wear them on my sleeve. Imagine J.T. and Janet staging an impromptu dance battle on karaoke night in a plywood bar. What if TMZ caught mid-‘90s Dennis Rodman red-handed in Grace Jones’ walk-in closet? I’d also really like to know what Bowie and Annie Lennox sing in the shower.
More specifically, I’d compare my music to the Starz on 54 cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” that they did for the soundtrack to the movie 54 starring Ryan Phillippe. I make all my beats in GarageBand and sometimes play shows with my iPhone.
When I’m not making music I’m remixing music, thinking about music, shooting music videos, designing and screen printing T-shirts and running my own 7-inch record label. My debut full-length album is called Special Affections and will be coming out as soon as I sign my life away to the highest bidder…
From: Toronto, Ontario
We came to be out of longing and love, moved by margaritas and top shelf sangria. Seven years ago, in the wild depths of Los Angeles, a “chance” encounter brought us together. We promised each other then that in seven years time we would create a dreamy pop disco project to inspire and confound the world. And so we did.
On the beat in the South of France, Jesse’s fingertips had grown tired of the monotonous clacking of the typewriter. Weeks of travel reporting and hotel reviews left him weary and dreaming of vacation with his loved one.
Meanwhile, Zinzi was finally displeased by the constant carousel of fine dining and luxurious affairs that was her life. Stuffy executives, top chefs and decorated royalty – these dinners were all the same.
Upon Jesse’s return, we begrudgingly agreed to follow a friend to a dusty club in the heart of Chinatown. We didn’t know then that this would be The Heart of the Nightlife. Guided by plush beats and shimmering vocals, we lost ourselves in the music and the mood. Nobody asked who was on the jukebox; they just danced.
To make ends meet, Jesse began working with disco legend Alec Costandinos selling off his old studio equipment. Business was booming. One day, they took a meeting at a nearby sandwich shop. By the time Jesse had arrived, Alec had nearly finished his tuna sandwich. While waiting for Jesse’s tuna sandwich, the two discussed music and the cosmos. “Always leave a little to chance,” Alec said. Yes, this may have referred to a tuna sandwich, but his message was clear. This simple sentiment of the adventurous spirit and joyful spontaneity was woven into the elaborate tapestry that is our band – Kisses.
From: Lost Angeles, CA
OPTMSM is an opportunistic futuro synth project featuring Pete Feigenbaum from Dinowalrus and Titus Andronicus, and Angus Tarnawsky from Bachelor of Arts, Apache Beat and Rewards. Angus recently moved to Brooklyn from Melbourne, Australia.
Taking inverted cues from the nihilistic communications/branding theories of Throbbing Gristle and PiL, OPTMSM is a gesture in instant gratification via condensed structures, lush synthscapes and lowridin’ club beats, a contrast and diversion from the ambitious no-wave and psychedelic worlds of their main projects. In 2010, Confusion is NOT Sex. The project is driven by upbeat cynicism, a focus-group mentality and a precise awareness of hyped blogosphere trends. Sonically, the project resembles au-courant synth mavens SALEM, Telepathe, Pictureplane, and (gasp!) Passion Pit, as well as classics like Gary Numan and Cocteau Twins.
OPTMSM is a psychological experiment. The intent is that giving listeners exactly what they want while expunging indulgent or overly erudite instincts will allow Pete and Angus to enjoy an effortless and joyous career experience, turning their musical optimism into a positive feedback loop of success and snowballing appeal.
The tracks were created at Angus’ apartment in the Greenpoint cancer belt, which has housed optimistic notables including Josh from Small Black, Kickball Katy from Vivian Girls and Ian O’Neil from Deer Tick. To make things as effortless as possible, almost everything was recorded DI with Microkorg presets and looped Roland SPD hits. “Group Think” started as a jam after a meal of Peruvian chicken. The results were then quantized, looped and edited.
From: Brooklyn, NY
I’m Othello Woolf, a musician from London.
Woolf is my surname by birth, however Othello is not. It’s a writing and performing name that lets me express myself without feeling overly self-conscious that I’m putting my whole being on the line… knowing deep down that that’s exactly what I’m doing. It also fits in nicely with the grand tradition of pop pseudonyms.
I started writing and recording the first batch of these songs almost as a distraction, something to keep myself busy and sooth the soul during a point in my life when I was feeling quite low. That period has now thankfully past and the songs remain as an everlasting token of that time. When I play them live they sometimes take on new meanings for me, often evolved from what I was perhaps feeling when I first wrote them.
My sound is a blend of guitars, bass, synthesizers, piano, Rhodes, organ, drum machines and vocals. I play all of the instruments on the recordings. However, when I play live I’m joined by a fantastic set of musicians who help me recreate the different parts.
I’m not the kind of writer that constantly has a note pad in their pocket, scribbling away from day to day. My words tend to come very sporadically and when they do, the flood gates open and I have to get as much down on paper as possible before they shut again.
For me, the album format is the pinnacle of music as an art form. I truly hope it doesn’t gradually die out as habits increasingly move towards shuffle-play and single tracks. I’m optimistic that it won’t. My primary hope for the future is to create a series of albums that find an audience for years to come, albums that stand the test of time, transcend any production fashions of the era and shine bright.
From: London, UK
The other day Jeremy swallowed his fake front tooth. He was eating pita bread or something and realized that it disappeared. He also just shaved a really big, red beard off. That’s okay. Things get lost sometimes. He’s also undergoing a lot of dental work and has braces and all kinds of metalwork in his mouth, so he looks pretty badass. Jeremy’s a fierce drummer. He’s also really humble and kind, which is pretty Canadian.
We’re going to France in a couple of weeks and I guess Jeremy will probably look very Canadian to people there, like a hockey player or a lumberjack or something.
Louis is really worried about the plane crashing over the Atlantic. He used to be an airplane technician and I guess that gave him some kind of scary insight into the flaws of airplane mechanics. I’m just looking forward to watching in-flight romantic comedies and drinking the free wine. I told him he should just relax and do the same. Normally, I’m the irrationally anxious one. I grew up in the Middle East and traveled around quite a bit as a kid, so planes are pretty alright to me.
This is our first time playing Europe and it should be interesting. We’re a weird pop band. We used to (and still occasionally) call ourselves “sloppy pop”. It’s just the three of us, with Louis and me writing the music, which has a pretty recognizable DIY rock sound (think: Pixies, Flaming Lips, etc.). I guess what drives us to write music is an appreciation for pop songs – little shiny artifacts that kind of come out of the unknown.
Louis and I are often fighting. We have pretty conflicting personalities. I sometimes wonder why we’re making music together, but when we get around to doing it, it just makes sense. He’ll probably be pissed that I wrote that, but it’s his fault because he was supposed to actually write this piece but probably forgot about it while smoking pot and playing video games over the weekend.
Who knows? Things get lost.
We’re writing a new record and it might seem like we’re losing an epic side to our sound, but I think we’re actually gaining a new one. Maybe I’m wrong about everything, but right now at this moment I’ve got the helm. I’ll lose it pretty soon to one of the other two, but that’s just the way it goes. And it works for now and that’s what matters most I guess.
From Montreal, Canada
Hi. As it happens a couple friends just left my apartment. They brought me a Diet Dr. Pepper, because they know me. Jeffrey cooked Ore-Ida shoestring fries wearing heels. He had to use two pie tins, because I threw out all my cookie sheets instead of washing them. Alan was alternately fiddling with his ankle sock and taking pulls from a huge bottle of water that dwarfed his hands. Sitting on my disgusting futon. Watching Jeffrey walk around the kitchen. We watched TV for a while. Eventually it was muted and we had a fairly serious talk about ‘our lives.’ Every few minutes Jeffrey would extend a leg – even further extended by a sleek black pump – to make a point. When one person would talk, the other two would look at him and listen. That is a very normal thing, to look at someone and listen. But it doesn’t happen very often. It actually doesn’t. I am not trying to make some deep statement. That is a baby miracle to me. That is a 2010 baby miracle and it happened on Thursday. It is a vulnerable thing to truly care about people, to truly listen. It is very brave I think. I wish I could wash out the panic that comes along with acknowledging whatever love you have for someone. Why would that make them leave? Why do we think they will leave? But sometimes it drops for a few minutes. On Thursday! That is what I want to write songs about – the hippie magic in baby friendship miracles. As it happens I have mostly written songs about things I have seen and been through. I try to be honest and I try to keep everybody in mind because these things also happened to a lot of other people. My intention is to stay brave, not fuss and keep it real. When I am reading or listening to music, the things that stay with you are just genuine, heartfelt recreations of experience. Not being motherfucking Crash: The Musical with Sandra Bullock in blackface dabbing at her racial vagina while it weeps, but a compassionate, kind of fearless personal truth. Ends up having a pretty clear message. With less mess. Or more, depending. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I cannot stop being such a hippie. If you are having a hard time you can come to Seattle. I am usually either on the bus or waiting for it. I’ll read your entire journal/sketchbook. My debut album called Learning comes out later this year. I’m excited about it!
From: Seattle, Washington
TOTALLY ENORMOUS EXTINCT DINOSAURS
…as told by his dancer Nina Ribena.
This has come to be what I spend a lot weekends doing: slipping my dinosaur leotard on, attaching those massive feathery eyelashes and trying to attach my hood to my hair with as many pins as possible. Often the dancers have not been considered in the drinks rider, so we are thinking of going on strike.
He goes on, feathered headdress in hand, and then it’s a case of nervously waiting behind a curtain/door until he drops our opening tune.
All together we look like a little dinosaur family, dressed in black and silver and wielding massive confetti cannons. And it’s when we’re all on that stage together that the crowd’s smiles start to get bigger as they realise that this is about to turn into one big party. Up, right, left, down, round, round, round, round, round goes my tail. It’s that bit in the set where we turn our backs to the audience and do our very bouncy, booty-shaking routine. I’ve never see the reaction of the crowd, but apparently it goes down pretty well.
Spin, spin, bump, spin, try not to fall over, bow…throw up a Nandos.
From: London, UK