Toronto’s Metz is finally releasing their new album “Strange Peace” on September 22. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Steve Albini is at the helm recording this one. It’s gonna be good! In the meantime, get your “twilight zone” on with their trippy new video. I believe it might be near impossible to not draw comparisons to raw early Nirvana. But of course that isn’t a bad thing at all. Enjoy!
The latest offering from The Redwoods Music, Birdy Bardot II, has San Diego buzzing once again. Monofesto seized upon the opportunity of the new release to team up with local photographer Kristy Walker to cover the record release party show at the Casbah last month. In addition to an album review, we were also able to interview Birdy bandmates Matt Molarius and Daniel Schraer. Check out all parts of this special “San Diego Spotlight” feature below, and be sure to check out the Redwoods Swapmeet & Greet this Sunday 7/30 at Allegory and the next Redwoods Review on August 6th at Coronado’s Bay Resort.
A thrilling intensity filled the Casbah when Birdy Bardot and band took to the stage last month and unleashed their new material during the record release party for Birdy Bardot II. It was a festive night for the Redwoods and the SoCal music scene, as Birdy was supported by the revival of San Diego favorites The Heavy Guilt, Los Angeles indie rockers The Dead Ships, and label mates Dani Bell and the Tarantist. Everyone was in high spirits and the band was anxious to celebrate their efforts and share the results with the Casbah crowd, who were primed to graciously receive. As mentioned, Monofesto was lucky to team up with local photographer Kristy Walker who not only shared her knack for capturing the fabulous ladies of the Redwoods and especially Birdy’s increasingly dynamic stage presence but also chronicled the frenetic flow of the night perfectly (check out Walker’s photo slideshow of the night below).
There was no doubt that even in this talent rich evening, the star of the night was Birdy herself. From start to finish, she demanded that every eye in the house was fixed on center stage. Early in the set, when she ripped into the new album’s featured single “Fortune”, it felt like an arrival for Ms. Bardot, rising to a new echelon as a performer. Consistently animated since her days fronting San Diego’s New Kinetics and The Rosalyns, Birdy was now in complete control of the stage and crowd, matching her ferociously beautiful roars with sudden bursts of bodily force.
The band was happy to pick up on her momentum and bring their own personalized heightened antics to the performance. Oft-touted as a San Diego all-star line-up, each section proved worthy of the billing. Dillon Casey and Matt Molarius (guitars) ripped powerfully but more impressively filled every sonic space with tight fills, evenly balanced and partnered. Jake Najor on the drums was resoundingly awe-inspiring in his exacting perfection, and Jason Littlefield was equal to demonstrating his tight professionalism on bass. Daniel Schraer (keys) was fluid and nuanced in his accompaniment. Of course, Alfred Howard held it all together neatly with his bag of rhythmical tricks (his theremin-inspired manipulation of radio static on his old boombox a particular treat to behold) and limitless passion, seemingly picking up and channeling every rhythmic turn and beat through him simultaneously.
Birdy had the material from the new album noticeably surging, but she also brought a new welcomed edge to the self-titled freshman album cuts. The crowd was animated throughout, including a captivated crew of young San Diego men lining the front of the stage. Whether looking for a footing to climb the precariously tight Casbah sound rigging or whipping her head back to assault the looming ceiling, Birdy brought infectious life to every word and note. The night capping encore opened with a patient but building rendition of “Right Back” (Bardot II’s closing track) that highlighted Schraer’s moving ability to float Birdy’s vocals out over the heads of the crowd and into the night. They then returned to the first album to close the night with fire.
Ensuring that the high intensity never faltered was Redwoods ringleader and local legend in the making, Howard. Howard was especially demonstrative this evening in his percussive and explorative sound display, keeping the Birdy set pumping. Impressive considering his workload for the evening. By the time he took the stage with Birdy he was already on his 4th set of the night, as he not only opened the night bringing his longtime project The Heavy Guilt back to the scene but also bolting from main stage to the back Casbah lounge stage to fill every possible space with raucous rhythms with two Dani Bell and the Tarantist masked-sets between main stage sets.
Dani Bell played their role beautifully, supporting their label mate by keeping the night fresh and alive at every turn. They turned on the spectacle and magic with the flip of a switch like the seasoned and confident act they have worked to become over the past years. The stage connection between Bell and Howard is inescapable and somewhat enigmatic but nevertheless seamless at this point.
The Heavy Guilt opened the night with obvious excitement to be performing together and to be presenting new material. Eric Canoza and Howard are joined with a fresh and talented new line-up; Austin Burns (guitar) Aaron Hook (bass), and Peter Williams (drums). Canoza’s voice continues to melt wonderfully into the screaming wall of sound, creating an uplifting urgency. It was great to see the addition of Burns, fully showcasing his instrumental skills this time around, as North County San Diego has long enjoyed his vocal talents with the likes of Second Cousins.
Additionally, the Dead Ships definitely gave the night a boost with their poppy reverb laden grooves delivered with metal fierceness. The professional commitment to their sound and performance was evident, making them a fun band to experience in San Diego as they continue to play and spread their name along the West Coast.
One last striking thing about the evening was the civility effectively balanced with the raging power and emotion of the music and gathering. Part of Birdy Bardot and the Redwood’s appeal is undoubtably the talent housed in such a polite, gracious, and approachable group of musicians and the lovely, well-intentioned people they attract around them.
The new Birdy Bardot album released by the Redwoods Music, Birdy Bardot II, brings an equal amount of swagger as its self-titled predecessor, but this time around there is an even more biting edge and diversity to the music. As mentioned openly by the band, this second album was a collaborative effort built around Birdy’s wide range and abilities, and the result is a sweeping tour of styles and moods. Giving each member a chance to truly infuse the group with their own unique creative touches effectively unleashed fresh energy into each track.
The common denominator remains Birdy’s sultry smooth vocals that turn in a flash to razor sharp, biting roars, and the group has found even more opportunities to showcase this moving effect. “Wake Me up with Fire” is one that will have you hitting replay just to hear her reach the maxed out vocal levels as her belting of “fire” will test the threshold of your car speakers or earbuds (tempting you to preorder the vinyl to really see what the recording is made of).
Equally cohesive and important is the masterfully penned lyrics of Alfred Howard (resident Redwoods lyricist, percussionist, and founding father). His musings and offerings move from empowering oneself in the face of an ambiguous future, voicing the scorned and wounded, celebrating personal awakenings, to wandering through the isolation and anxieties of lost time and purpose.
Of course the featured single “Fortune” is a great representation of the increased power behind the Birdy Bardot sound, but it is really only a single piece of the intricate emotional journey that is the album. The first 3 tracks burst out of the gate with unbridled confidence, but tracks like “Slowly Know Me”, “Take This All Away” and “Through the Dark” are haunting contributions that take you back into the recesses of your own latent desires and quandaries. Thankfully, “Right Back” closes the experience with melodic and thematic comfort to wrap us up in resignation with who we ultimately are and with all that we have dared to let ourselves experience.
Having tested out the album for several weeks now, we definitely advise taking it in from start to finish, as mining the collaborative efforts for the naturally unifying threads is an enjoyable process, and each track features a unique blend of composition and performance that relies on rotating talents and abilities. Let’s hope this creative process serves as a model for more aspiring artists seeking the right formula for collaboration to be lifted up as well as lift up their bandmates.
Monofesto reached out to the talented Redwoods’ musicians behind the Birdy Bardot II album to find out a little more about the new release. Long-time, respected San Diego artists Matt Molarius (guitar) and Daniel Schraer (keyboard) provided some insight into how the new album came together and what it is like to create within The Redwoods Music endeavor.
Molarius, frontman of San Diego’s iconic Transfer has stepped away from center stage to co-start and run The Redwoods Music, spending more time producing and managing, but his participation in the Birdy project has given him a chance to continue to write and also focus on perfecting his guitar chops. Both in the studio and on stage his contributions are a driving force behind the stomp and swagger that brings a welcomed edge to the music.
Resident keyboardist for the Redwoods, Schraer is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who has worked with numerous bands and projects around San Diego and Los Angeles. Studying music at UCLA, he has also been involved in film and television project scores. His work on the album is evident, as the keys are featured heavily on several tracks and provide a “vintage cool” tone throughout.
Monofesto: It’s been mentioned that Birdy Bardot II is “probably the most collaborative Redwoods album to date.” Bringing this type of communal spirit to the creative process is commendable. What do you see is the greatest reward or benefit in taking on such a collective project?
Matt: I feel like it’s far more personal for everyone when they are able to put their creative stamp on the music. At the same time, it’s also very unifying to complete an album where everyone has a meaningful contribution and you can look around and say, “Check out what WE did. It rules.” All the players in this band are a force in their own right, so I feel like it really enhances the final outcome of the album when the spotlight moves around a bit.
Daniel: I think when everyone is on board with the general vibe of the band great things can happen. Everyone in the group is on the same page in terms of musical taste, so when we bring ideas to the table they tend to work together to make something even better.
MF: Concurrently, what are the biggest challenges that arise in working within such a large collaboration?
Daniel: There’s a lot of people in the band, which can create a “too many cooks in the kitchen” type of scenario. If there’s too many ideas kicking around it can make it really difficult to move forward with a song. Luckily everyone knows when to contribute and when to step back, so we usually avoid that problem.
Matt: Scheduling is a challenge. Everyone hustles, and to get several people with revolving time slots of availability in the same room at once can be tough. Fortunately, everyone involved is committed and this project is a top priority for all the players so it tends to always work itself out.
MF: With so many diverse contributions, was there an attempt to create a unifying theme, feeling or tone for the album?
Matt: I wouldn’t say that there was any specific theme or direction that we were trying to laser in on but I will say that we wanted something that would highlight what Birdy does best. In that, there were several ways we could go and ideas we could explore in developing these songs as she has a pretty vast range within her vocal approach. The album more presented itself rather than us having a detailed roadmap. Heavy riffs and some over the edge moments, some sludgy mid-tempo, dark colors as well as preserving some space and letting some fragility be exposed. It just kind of came together and took on its own shape…we just tried to stay out of the way.
Daniel: We just wanted to create something that is tasteful, layered, and kick ass. Birdy has a very distinct style, so as long as it fits her voice and vibe, it works.
MF: Can you talk a little bit about the production process for the album and how creative decisions were ultimately shared along the way?
Matt: We always demo ideas out and shoot them back and forth for refinement. Once we have a skeleton, we get the right tempos and hit the studio for drums and bass. Then the layers of guitar, keys, percussive ideas, weird sounds are added before finalizing the song with the vocals. Everyone gets a listen to the rough mixes for any additional notes before we send off to our mix man, Jordan Andreen.
Daniel: I wouldn’t say all creative decisions were shared, but everyone came in and did their part. Some songs we worked out as a band and played live for a while before finally recording, while others began as a small demo with maybe Jake, Alfred and whoever wrote the music. Then we would flesh out the demo and figure out what parts to add.
MF: For each of you, what song(s) do you have the most fun playing on this album? What makes these songs enjoyable to perform for you?
Daniel: “Fortune” might be the most fun song for me to play, although “Take It All Away” and “Had My Doubts” are great too. Its fun to show off a bit during “Fortune” and I love the way the keyboard parts fit with the rest of the music on those other two.
Matt: I like playing several of the songs on this album. I particularly enjoy the more ripping tunes as they are loud and dynamic and you get to lose yourself a little more in the performance. “Fortune,” “Had My Doubts,” “Only Need You to Love Me”. That’s the rush that gets to be addictive in this process. The collective energy created by the crew when we’re all in the moment and tearing it out together. I also enjoy playing Black Mirror as it’s a fun acoustic guitar Travis Picking song that’s a little out of character for the record but somehow fits just right.
MF: What other take-aways do you have from the experience of making this album?
Matt: I feel like we got to be a little more experimental with this album and let go of some inhibitions musically. Which is such a liberating process but doesn’t always produce results that you might expect. In that spontaneity, I feel like another side of player’s sensibilities are revealed. And in this case, they all blended together in such a cool and interesting way. I don’t think we could have planned where we would end up but I couldn’t be more pleased by where we landed.
MF: Thanks to both of you for the insight into the creative process over at the Redwoods.
The Calgary mastermind is at it again with more artistically bending visuals and sounds.
From Sub Pop:
In Chad VanGaalen’s new animated video for “Pine and Clover” [watch here], a shapeshifter is born with the inability to form memories. It transforms into whatever creature or object it senses to be closest to it in the moment, but cannot remember what it was previously. It seems to have no sense of self, whatsoever. Or as VanGaalen humorously theorizes it: “This is what humans will end up being, or possibly have been.”
Created by VanGaalen, the “Pine and Clover” video is a combination of hand drawn drawn animation (cell animation), claymation, and paperless 2D animation. As the singer describes it: “The style and economy of the animation is governed by my ability to sit in a chair and draw for as long as I possibly can without being distracted by my beautiful vegetable garden. Because of the garden and its beauty, I have been inspired to make most of the environments similar to what I see in the garden, so needless to say there is a lot of lettuce.”
Chad VanGaalen’s “Pine and Clover” is one of the highlights off of Light Information, the creative polymath’s sixth album. The album will be available on CD / LP / DL / CS on September, 8th in Canada via Flemish Eye and the rest of the world through Sub Pop.
We fully recommend getting out to the Casbah to see Ms. Bardot commanding the stage with the new material backed by some of San Diego’s finest musicians, which compromise the wide cast of characters of Redwoods Music. With the new album being a truly collaborative endeavor, the evening promises a dynamic stage full of guest performers and contributors.
The band is primed for Friday’s album release show, having just recently returned from a west coast swing with the Redwoods Revue that included performances in Big Sur, Healdsburg, and Napa at the Bottlerock Festival.
Birdy will also be supported by the anticipated return of The Heavy Guilt, Los Angeles critic darlings The Dead Ships, and label mates Dani Bell and the Tarantist. This is a full bill that promises a night of pure music making joy from a connected group of inspired bands and individuals.
Also be sure to check out the album’s first single “Fortune” below:
Supporting his new release Pure Comedy, Father John Misty is opening a massive world tour right here in San Diego at Humphrey’s this Wednesday (April 12). Sold out for some time, this might be an extremely difficult ticket to score, but thankfully he will be back around in the fall primed and seasoned after a summer of global festivaling. Two dates (Oct. 5 &6) at the Observatory North Park go on sale on Friday at 10am.
We’ve covered Father John Misty’s releases here at Monofesto in the past, but the live experience is something completely in and of itself. A true performer, Mr. Tillman’s live act definitely makes for an evening not to be missed and not soon forgotten. Here are the top five reasons Father John Misty is a Must See.
5. “That Show”
The number five reason for seeing FJM is based upon word of mouth buzz. There are too many times to mention I have been with a group of music lovers talking concerts or at a concert where “that show” people have been talking about is FJM. They instantly go to, “That show was the best show I’ve seen in a long time” or “That show was the best I’ve ever seen.” One young couple talked about it like how it must have been what it was like to see Dylan in the early 60s or Bowie in the 70s. The show leaves an imprint and has people talking.
You may get a chance to experience a true impassioned and heartfelt rant from Mr. Tillman. What makes his rants unique is that they are usually coherent, intelligent, and only slightly cliche (although aware of their own cliche matter in a meta way). He may also steal a cell phone here and there as well; be warned. He loves to provoke.
Tillman is truly a born frontman (hard to believe he restrained himself for so long behind a kit with the Fleet Foxes). He is a showman by all accounts, and his dramatic lyrics and song structures are brought with equal stage dramatics and bodily expression. Every song, no matter the tempo, is brought forth with demonstrable engagement and commitment to acting out every note and providing an appropriate insight into the tone of satire or frustration or elation.
Although it can be argued that what he is saying has already been said before, there is no denying that Tillman is touching upon what needs to be said now. Much of the attraction to his music can be credited to the collective nerve that he is tapping. For the most part, he paints a picture of an insane society and bleak future, but he is saying what we are thinking and, more importantly, writing melodies and songs that reflect how we are feeling in this world in the present tense.
It helps that most of the people that go to a FJM concert know every lyric, but what leaves people most stunned at the end of a show is his effort to connect with his audience throughout. Tillman truly embodies the purpose of shared live music, which is a chance to commune together and somehow feel more connected and hopeful at the end. As mentioned above, it is not always a rosy view, but the emotions are so open and raw that we feel closer to our own feelings, which are honored by his nightly effort to bring the room together with a grand production that sweeps the history of sociology, philosophy, and musical genres. Heavy stuff, but at the end of the night it feels like we are taking it on together.
I first heard the Library of Babel release on Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records several months back and it caught my attention and imagination immediately. The music is primarily improvised and as you’d expect with this sort of experiment, some moments are amazing and other create the listening tension for the next aesthetically pleasing moment to arrive. This is the type of music that takes chances and as a listener you can reap huge rewards for your courage if you dig in and really explore what’s unfolding.
From Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records:
Unconscious gasps of breath. Finger skin sliding on metal strings. An acoustic guitar is flanked by cello and double bass in a relationship that at times feels almost parental – the two bigger instruments keeping a watchful eye over the junior one as it gambols ahead, constantly investigating and testing.
This is a very special release. If what this label has relished in before is pairing occult, abstract instances of sound to partly-erased images and letting the spectator simply make of it what it wishes, a new strategy for Blue Tapes might be to try and apply that lovingly rendered abstraction to music – things people might actually want to hear. Records, some people call ‘em.
So, without compromising our position, it would be an exciting experiment to attempt to curate releases that anyone could hear and get something from. Even if – especially if – the hypothetical listener weren’t quite sure what it was they were getting out of this.
I think the nineteenth release in the tape series, by The Library of Babel, achieves this. This music is delicate, intricate – an intimate conversation in real-time between three gorgeous-sounding instruments. So intimate, in fact, that as a listener you imagine yourself between the instruments, the sounds slipping and buzzing around you, the warm breath of the players on your neck; sometimes even more intimately you feel yourself between the the strings, the notes, sliding as they ring and you vibrate.
The music has an instinctive narrative although the playing is improvised. Fans of blue twelve: Tashi Dorji, in particular, will appreciate this – especially as guitarist Shane Parish and bassist Frank Meadows are friends and regular collaborators of Tashi in their hometown of Asheville, NC. The sounds the pair make with cellist Emmalee Hunnicutt potentially have wide appeal, though, caressing the dopamine centres of brains wired for jazz and free folk alike.
Gratifyingly, though, there is an absence of any real genre to call a home for this music. It is animalistic in its intuition and motives. Seemingly oblivious to its own wisdom and only concerned with the moment.
I love this music very much. I hope something in it captures you too.
After a wave of releases by Blonde Redhead that were loathe to move me like their early work, a new EP emerges with great promise. There are not as many angular, noisy surprises but there is a plethora of crafty chord changes and subtle textures. An exercise in beauty and restraint. Worth a listen!
The debut video for the 3 O’Clock EP was masterfully done using interesting lighting techniques and no post-production effects. Really a gorgeous effort.
From their press release: