Next Level Update

next level
Just a reminder to all to download Next Level Vol. 1 No. 1.
I'm working on No. 2 currently, and judging by the interest I've generated so far, I can guarantee that No. 2 will be better in terms of content (more varied and wider), perspective (more writers), and appeal (various tie-ins and such coming up).
So keep reading, please, and there will be more on the way.
Additionally, what would you all think of a B&W version at least initially that you could buy for a couple of dollars?
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 1

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Johnny Foreigner

johnny foreigner
This group, Johnny Foreigner absolutely deserves its own post. Darren, the manager for Late of the Pier (whom I heart dearly) sent me an track of theirs called "Yes! You Talk Too Fast," and I was taken from ... the first chord onward. It's abrupt, it's jagged, it's energetic and fun, but these guys have quite a depth to them. All those layers, the spastic, complex drumming, the superb guitar noodling ... their not just your normal punk-leaning pop group.
Be certain to check out their MySpace page if you're not up for downloading the below tracks.
Really stellar ...
Johnny Foreigner - Yes! You Talk TOo Fast (Almost Finished)
Johnny Foreigner - All Mosely Gardens
Johnny Foreigner - KicKicKick

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The Good Kind

I've been terribly busy, and on top of my business, I've been trying to distribute Next Level Vol. 1, No. 1. Certainly not something to be upset or sad about -- quite the contrary -- but it does tire you out.
Anyway, I have been still up to my usual, digging through pile upon pile of music.
Fast Fourier is really impressing me. The Brooklyn trio had a Narnack release last year, but it totally passed under my radar (damn radar ... glitching again). Because of the drumming in particular in their music, their otherwise moody, ambient-ish rock/shoegaze becomes totally different; harsher, bolder, and revitalized. I'm not inclined to uh, stare at my shoes, for example, when I hear this stuff, although it does rely heavily on distortion, repetition, and reverb. Definitely worth checking out, though ... head over to the MySpace page, because I'm certainly not doing a good job representing this group!

Talkshow Boy is more than just a cool name ... he's another representer of this "happy hardcore" style. I still don't quite "get" the style, but it is indeed fun, "happy," and hardcore in nature. I feel like it'll be pretty bloody short lived, but I doubt anyone in the scene's hoping for more than a few years worth of concerts. They'll probably all go deaf, anyway ...

Lastly, Turboweekend is something totally different, and totally foreign (the group's from Denmark!) ... but of course, they sing in English. I like this group quite a lot ... it's got the pep and cute lyrics of Junior Senior, the bounce of any good electro dance track, and the guitar/synth interplay that made me fall for Datarock. Plus, who doesn't love robotic vocoders and super awesome graphics to support the band's image?
Cool dudes indeed ...
Talkshow Boy - Black Logic VHS Version

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Flamingo Crash Interview (Part 2 of 2)

flamingo crash
(6) I would assume that you've got some bizarre and quirky influences inspiring you all. What sort of stuff got you playing music in the first place, and what sort of stuff got you into the mode you're in right now?

FLAMINGO CRASH: It was the idea that anyone can pick up an instrument and make a song, or use their voice to make a song, and that that right wasn’t exclusive. And it was probably children’s music and nursery rhymes originally, I love those melodies, and I still love how music is invisible. From the top of my head The Rotary Connection, James Chance and the Contortions, New Order, Curtis Mayfield, The Velvet Underground, Fugazi, The Go-Betweens, Kraftwerk, Fela Kuti, Wire, The Slits, Public Enemy and Talking Heads have all had some influence on what we’ve done so far. Also people like Andreas Gursky, Gillian Wearing - people who don’t necessary make music, but somehow help the people that do.

(7) Which leads me to ... what kind of stuff's going on in Brisbane -- or Australia at large, for that matter -- right now? Any recommendations or good label-mates/touring buddies?

FLAMINGO CRASH: Monster Zoku Onsomb! They’re in Berlin right now, but when their home we can expect to stay up late. Also Architecture in Helsinki, My Disco, Bird Blobs,Love of Diagrams, Mountains in the Sky - just good scenes in every city. Although you do run out of cities to visit quickly ...

(8) One thing I really dig about you is how you supplement your awesome material with design and promotional material that's really fitting for your sound. Was that a planned thing, getting concise and purposeful design to represent you? And who's working on it all ... ?

FLAMINGO CRASH: Yeah definitely, I mean you figure that a band who spends some time writing music, melodies, and lyrics would also spend some time doing the same for their artwork, but it’s not the case – I see so many examples where other people (paid designers/record labels) do artwork for bands and miss the mark. We just decided that for the most part, we’d like to take care of the artwork ourselves in the same way that we do with the music- without an external person telling us what to write/what to look like/ what our cd covers have to include etc. etc. I design everything flamingo crash and really enjoy doing it. As long as people have eyes, we’ll have artwork.

(9) This question I continually ask, but sometimes it yields interesting answers: what musical backgrounds do you all come from?

FLAMINGO CRASH: Personally, I grew up listening to The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan - the music my parents played on road trips when we’d travel between Sydney and Brisbane each year. I’ll try my best to speak for everyone – Cate grew up in Sydney and rocked the Casio as a kid and then the sousaphone (yes that huge, huge white tuba that wraps around your body like a giant swan) before the casio again. I’ve heard Marcel was a child prodigy, writing symphony’s as a kid, and then re-learning guitar to Wire and Gang of Four. I know Matt’s heard every Tom Waits and Go-Betweens record (which is great) because his old man used to sit in the attic and just paint and listen to records. And Tom’s background is psychedelia and 60’s pop - so much Jefferson Airplane, Zappa and the Beach Boys, it always comes back to The Beach Boys.

(0) The main thing that's discussed in terms of musical output in Australia is Modular Records (since we Americans like to consolidate things in styles, scenes, and genres). What do you all think about Modular, and how well do you think it represents Australia and the general sentiments of music listeners and developments there?

FLAMINGO CRASH: Well all the Modular bands, and a whole run of really good bands from the east coast have been doing it for a while over here – that scene in Australia has been pretty alive for what seems like well over a few years. So in that respect, it is odd reading UK press about the ‘new sound’, when it’s kind of been in your backyard since you remember.

The only downside is that there’s also so much amazing noise happening in this country outside of Modular, and because it’s an Island physically isolated from a lot of the world, some really interesting sound either never makes it over the water, misses its time, or gets deleted from the history books (see The Saints or The Scientists for examples).

(1) Right -- I'll sign the interview off with that, but I truly wish you all the best of luck with whatever the future holds. I've never heard something like what you're releasing now (and certainly not from Australia), and I can only hope that it all ends up well for you!

FLAMINGO CRASH: Thanks, mate.
Flamingo Crash - Yes? Yes? Yes?

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Flamingo Crash Interview (Part 1 of 2)

flamingo crash
Flamingo Crash are easily the most unique and drawing band from Australia that I've heard. They perfectly combine both dance rock with rhythm-heavy tropicalia/Latin grooves. Most recently, the group released the double A-side, Toys/Shoot the Lights Out, but there's plenty more in store for Brisbane quintet.
Without further ado ... the interview! (Ah, and be sure to check out their MySpace page!)

(1) Hey all. Thanks so much for doing this interview with me! I'm very intrigued by your sound ... it's got this older, Latin-leaning lounge feel, but there's something rocky and primal there, too: a really cool combination of styles. And the rawness of it all, the energy you put into your stuff makes it all the more exciting and interesting.

(2) Okay, so where'd you get the name, Flamingo Crash from? Truly a bizarre -- yet cool -- moniker to go by!

FLAMINGO CRASH: I’m pretty sure it was a late night trip down the mountains -- we’d been recording the first EP out at a place called the White Room -- a little wooden studio in the middle of the forest. Just talking about how we loved ideas/styles rubbing up and clashing against each other, and the sparks you get when it happens in just the right way.

A lot of bands feel comfortable playing safe cards, or photocopying the sound of other bands, and I suppose from the beginning we made collective effort to do neither. I guess we tried to represent it in the name – something beautiful and slightly kitsch sparking up against something frantic or caustic.

(3) What inspired you to play with this Latin sort of style? Certainly not something "hip" right now, and definitely not a form native to your home of Brisbane, Australia.

FLAMINGO CRASH: It’s not something intentional – actually you’re the first person to use the word "Latin" which is interesting. I know Matthew (drum kit) is really into Jungle and Drum & Bass – those rhythms definitely lend themselves to your description. Marcel (guitar) has done some traveling throughout Eastern Europe and Russia, and I grew up in Sydney listening to ridiculous amounts of Greek and Turkish music, so I’m sure it all wedges itself in there somehow. Maybe instead of being a music from just one part of the world, it’s this "Carnivaal" type of celebration music that we all enjoy so much – the idea that everyone’s up dancing, shaking, rumbling, screaming and ultimately celebrating, without being burdened by their everyday, law, jobs etc .

(4) How'd you all come together? I'm always curious to hear how scenes and communities converge and develop further, or into something new altogether (the latter more accurately describing what you're doing, I'd say).

FLAMINGO CRASH: Yeah it’s peculiar cause most of have done some growing up together, haven’t seen each other for years, and then ended up together again -- this is a long, long story so I’ll try and make it short. Mathew and I started a first band in Primary School, I think you guys call it Elementary School -- a punk band with Fugazi leanings. It continued into High School, playing only house parties, and one particular occasion I put my Bass through the roof of a friends ceiling. It turns out Baxter (who now plays in Flamingo Crash) was at the show. The original band broke up, I went to Art College and started a new band, eventually asking Baxter to play Drums. He quit soon after due to some incidents (one after a long absinthe binge, he wakes up two day later in water– he’d flooded the house from the bath and then found his computer on the front lawn –no memory).

So as you can understand after a short break, I call up Matthew and ask him to play drums again. Sixth months later we put an ad in the street press – Marcel responds (we find out later that he writes plays) and start working on a batch of new songs with an idea to start a new band. Six months later we start making music with Cate (I’d seen her around town & always wanted to start a band with her) and it’s Flamingo Crash. We play a first show with a band called Wolfmother, who you’d probably know in the states by now. Skip forward a few tours and a record release, and we all ask Baxter to join, again. That was six months ago.

(5) So you've this double A-side being released on Irregular Music in late January. Tell me a little about that single ... how you created it and what you're planning to do with it (album plans, touring, etc.) ...

FLAMINGO CRASH: It's actually out on Manifest X, an Indie imprint which we run ourselves. It’s been a little while coming – really happy with the wax, just got it back today, it’s like a Ninja Turtle green. The two tracks are off the upcoming LP which we begin work on in February at an old Church on the outskirts of Brisbane. Magoo who’s producing the record just bought this abandoned church and we’re moving his pile of vintage gear out there for a few months to make the record – Flamingo Crash will be guinea pigs for the new studio setup which should be interesting. We’ve got an Australian tour after that, but really looking to pick up a label release overseas for the 7” and LP, so we can tour in Europe and the States.
Flamingo Crash - Yes? Yes? Yes?

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Next Level, Vol. 1 No. 1

next level
Okay, so here's the deal ...
I made this magazine -- called Next Level -- as a means through which to compile all the "stuff" that I write about on the blog.
I'll admit that I'm not always on, I'm not always writing about something meaningful or even good. Next Level is supposed to be the tool that you all and I use to slog through all the music around us.

I think in recent years there's been too much of a push for immediate electronic information. I think in order to actually process it all, you need something solid in front of you.
How do you learn history? No through blogs and RSS feeds, but through text books. How do you unearth movements and scenes and collective styles? Not through fluid media, but through thoughtful articles, reviews, and books.

Next Level, I hope, will guide us all through the scenes and styles and vivid life that's all around us.

If you'd like to help in any way, shape or form , please email me. Until then, enjoy volume one, issue one.
Next Level, Vol. 1 No. 1

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First Night, Deerhoof

Last night marked Deerhoof's first night on their American tour in support of Friend Opportunity. The show was at the El Rey which -- as far as I know -- may have been the largest venue they've ever played in L.A. I loved seeing them at the Troubadour because it was more intimate: I saw the sweat dripping from the guitarist's face, the drum stick splinters on the ground, Satomi's footwork (still up to her crazy choreography). But the El Rey was good, good. If anything, the place was optimal for their "new" sound, which is bigger and requires more attention: the layering, the complexities, the cooperation between guitar and drums, drums and vocals, guitar and vocals ... Deerhoof are 110% comfortable with each other, and it made last night's show spectacular. Once you fully understand how your band mates play, you can explore new territories, you can organically evolve and alter every piece, and make nothing sound forced or rigid.

As with Gang of Four, Deerhoof's rhythm section has this uncanny ability to accent the melody, wherever it's coming from. Often times, I felt like the melody was not being carried merely by the guitar, but by the guitar that was supplemented, accented, and accentuated by the drums.

One new thing that Friend Opportunity and the limited line-up has brought about is more of a stress on individual merit and potential. It was strange -- but really awesome! -- how Deerhoof would almost like, break into jam sessions. The songs generally maintained their shorter length, but consistently delved into intense experimentation and further development. Deerhoof's live shows always so distantly represent carbon copies of the recorded material. It's as though you're hearing the record (full blast, of course) in a different dimension, a different reality.

And that reminds me ... Friend Opportunity has been compared frequently to the likes of Yes, Genesis, and other art-rock groups for the 70s. This comparison is totally founded, I decided after listening to them live last night. Deerhoof is clearly eager to explore the experimental potential hidden within every single beat, hook, and melody. This willingness to change and constantly learn more is what makes Deerhoof all the more appealing and fascinating to me.

Lastly, the set itself was really stellar. The band started off with primarily older stuff (and got the sold-out audience sufficiently pumped up), but finished it all off with more recent pieces, including a slightly altered version of "+81" (no trumpet line).
The encore was spectacular, although it almost sounded like another set to me (I think they played another five songs!) ...
The band mentioned they were nervous to be starting up another American tour, but this show should have rid them all of that sentiment ... they've nothing be be scared of or nervous of.
What an amazing group.
Deerhoof - +81

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Nu What?

nu rave
Above: Clothing by Cassetteplaya
I'd be the first to agree that the Nu Rave scene is anything but under-rated, over-hyped, and over-exposed. It doesn't seem especially interesting to me, this concept of having a new wave of ravers. Ravers used to be terribly stereotyped, always dying from e overdoses, run ins with gangs and the law, and their penchant for using annoying neon glow stix.
But somehow the Klaxons made youth debauchery, drug use, and neon-bleached garments in again. Maybe it's just the ADD generation ... not sure.

Although, don't get me wrong ... I haven't disliked one Klaxons track, and I haven't not been up for downloading one of the one hundred thousands remixes, mash-ups, and re-edits. No, not me ...

So I just came across this other Nu Rave guy (yes, there are others!) named Silverlink. This guy's graphic motif seems to be fractals, and that is actually ... the best thing he could have come up to visually represent himself. This is rave music, but with a hyper-activity unlike anything I've ever heard before. It's like a nonstop rave track that's been layered with a filtered Hendrix solo and sped up to 1000 bpm. Or something. If nothing else, you should at least check this guy out because it's so crazy, so bizarre and mind boggling. He does indeed have a MySpace page.

I won't claim to know what drives these London kids ... one second their listening to Klaxons, the next their listening to revived Brit-pop acts like the Sunshine Underground. Wait, should I call this group Brit-pop? Do they resemble the "greats" (Blur, for example)?
The weird thing about bands like the Sunshine Underground is that they draw equally from bands like Blur (sweet hooks, start-stop format, clear guitar lines) and [unfortunately] Coldplay (listen to the ambiance! the swooning rhythm guitar ... can't you already see the lighters being cheerfully held up in the air?) ...
They've a MySpace page as well.

So I don't get it. I'm baffled. But that's what makes it great; that's what makes it all so exciting.
And ... for your listening pleasure, some new Klaxons tracks (from the forthcoming debut LP, Myths of the Near Future).
Klaxons - Two Receivers
Klaxons - Totem On the Timeline
Klaxons - As Above, So Below
Klaxons - Isle of Her

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Referencing ...

In the Tap Tap interview I did a week or so ago, Thomas mentioned a couple of his favorite Reading bands, and it was only until now that I finally got around to looking them up.
Rest assured, Thomas has stellar taste ... these two groups are great.

Hot Silk Pockets has a similar lo-fi approach to making music as Tap Tap, but these guys are lighter and more like the Postcard groups of the early 80s than anything else. Clear, assertive guitar hooks, moderately loose, primal drumming, and high-reverb vocals. My one complaint is that they've not yet released enough (and the songs are too damn short!), but otherwise, Hot Silk Pockets are my infatuation of the moment. Really ace.

The other group Thomas mentioned was Buttonhead who, while a little more "professional" looking (by that I mean they've simply more design and an actual website), are no less earnest and accessible than Hot Silk Pockets. The group's a little more poppy, a little lighter, a little weirder, but still really great. This stuff almost sounds to me like Deerhoof at points ... minus the chirpy Japanese vocals.
But hey, I'm one hell of a Deerhoof fan, so Buttonhead's clearly a band after my own heart. Check out their MySpace page.
Hot Silk Pockets - Body Clock

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More I Say!

snakes say hisss!
When I first heard Snakes Say Hisss!, I -- unfortunately -- thought I was listening to an undiscovered track by the Unicorns. I know that's far from the best and most appropriate way to describe their sound, but these guys rely pretty heavily on goofy synth lines, stupid drum beats, and higher-ranging, rigid vocals.
No one will ever touch the greatness of the Unicorns, but maybe these dudes from Saratoga will come close to converting some of their fans. Or just by being especially appealing and fun. Can't turn 'em down. Check out their MySpace page and groove away.

White Light Circus represents a style of music on the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum. The British group channels Kraftwerk pretty heavily, and I'd like to imagine that they use the same equipment as them as well. Most likely not ...

Lastly, I've another (!) Brazilian band: Moptop! Yes, very, very bad name. But these guys are alright, actually. Sort of like the Strokes had they originated in Brazil, and had they been a little less authentic and unique. Moptop definitely has dreams of international stardom -- the songs are super accessible, full-of-hooks, pop concoctions -- but I'm not sure they'll get there.
I still don't know a word of Portuguese, and understanding my lyrics does matter at some level to me. Speak English, change the name, make it ...
Check out their MySpace page, too.
Snakes Say Hisss! - I Control the Wind

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I'm switching from a .blogspot.com account to a .net here.
I'm still having some issues with getting the address to be set to bibabidi.net, so as of now, it's ...


and the RSS feed address is ...

http://feeds.feedburner.com/bibabidi (but you could figure that out, I'm sure).

I'll most likely change it to the simpler bibabidi.net soon, so hang tight until then.
Normal updates start tomorrow.
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"Ocean of Noise"

neon bible
Consider this down, so act fast.
We're all incredibly excited to see and hear more and more from the Arcade Fire.

"Ocean of Noise" is another track from the forthcoming Neon Bible. It works in a similar vein to the other songs from the record -- darker, gloomier, deeper lyrically, sprawling, beautiful, thick layers -- but this one relies on piano pretty heavily for melody. Piano and spectacular harmonies created by those gorgeous orchestrations, and Win's now richer, more confident voice.

This is fantastic. Listen.
Arcade Fire - Ocean of Noise

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Tap Tap Interview (Part 2 of 2)

tap tap
(6) One thing that I love about your songs is the intriguing instrumentation. What got you into using accordion? Usually, the instrument's seen as archaic and certainly not pop-ready. But for you guys, it ... works seamlessly. So -- how'd it come about!?

TAP TAP: That accordion is a child’s toy that I bought in my local music shop. It sounds alright though. I love the accordion in general, it has a real bounce to it, and it can be one of the saddest or happiest instruments. My friend Dave (from the Pirates) had one in his house, so I copied him basically.

(7) Another thing I love about the songs is the drumming. You transition between so many styles and forms, it's really impressive. Sometimes you use a pretty rigid drum pattern, other times you're more spastic, but throughout all the pieces, the drums carry a lot of power in terms of changing the time and creating a really exciting energy around your songs. Why the stress on drumming? (Also, what sort of set are you using!?)

TAP TAP: Yeah, the drums are so important to me. I got criticized in one review for using repetitive drum beats, and I was like, that’s the fucking point you dick. I love to keep drums really simple, and to use them sparingly, especially cymbals. The sound of a kick and snare just keeping beat is often all you really need. Anything else I think is starting to verge on detracting from the melody. I've no idea what the kit is- it belongs to my brother Jonny (Pirates drummer) and it’s a real piece of crap. The only cymbal I had when I recorded "She Doesn't belong" had a massive crack in it, but ended up sounding really nice. I've got this snare that someone left at my house which is really cheap and battered to shit, but it sounds great in recordings if you put it on its side and play it with a pencil.

(8) I also really like the lyrics to all of these songs. They're witty, creative, and integrate perfectly with the music. Who writes the lyrics, and how does it fit into the bigger picture of creating music for you guys?

TAP TAP: The lyrics almost always come after the music. The lyrics have to sound like they belong in the song, and sometimes I play round the chords for ages just singing words that come into my head until I hit on something good. Other times I can have a melody and just write off 4 verses and a chorus in 5 minutes and it’s done and I’m happy. Whatever works really. I love words that conjure up images. I hate weak, stale words that go in one ear and out the other without causing any reaction.

(9) I guess this is the next logical question ... what kind of musical backgrounds do you all come from?

TAP TAP: I grew up listening to my dad’s vinyl which was mainly Scott Joplin, The BBC big band swing orchestra, and a copy of the white album. I still adore all of these records. I got given a horn when I was little and played in a big band until my folks couldn't afford to send me there anymore. That was fun. I think that’s as far as it goes.

(0) How do you divide songwriting? Is it a group effort, or do you come to the table with your own ideas and developments?

(1) What are you all working on these days? New album? New music?

TAP TAP: Doing Pete & the Pirates debut album. I’m in the studio at the moment actually. When that’s done I’ll probably record some more Tap Tap stuff. I've got some ideas that I keep remembering and forgetting. I need to write them down.

(2) And I've got to ask this one ... you're from Reading, I believe, so ... what sort of music's good from that area? Any British recommendations for us (they don't have to be from Reading ... )?

TAP TAP: There’s a band called the Hot Silk Pockets who I’m a big fan of. I wish they’d get their act together because they have great songs and a great live sound but are a lazy bunch of c_nts. Andy from the hot silks helped my out with some Tap Tap stuff actually. The Ghosts are another great band with beautiful, simple melodies. They've actually got a record out with catbird records as well who first released Lanzafame. I've just heard a band called Buttonhead as well who I think are pretty good. There are a few bands from Reading kicking about but I think that they’re generally quite cack. Apart from the Pirates of course.

(3) Alright, I think I'll leave it at this, but thank you so much for allowing me to take your time and ask these questions. I wish you all the best. You've a truly unique and exciting sound, and I hope you end up going somewhere with it all!

TAP TAP: Thanks.
Tap Tap - Little Match>

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Tap Tap Interview (Part 1 of 2)

tap tap
Reading's Tap Tap is quickly becoming a substantial band if not in terms of sales and popularity, at least in terms of what it signifies. The style of the music implies and allows for a return (although in a different way) to a D.I.Y. aesthetic approach to music making. Thomas Sanders -- the man behind the solo project -- approaches music with a sort of twee style, but absolutely does not allow that to limit him in terms of musical pallet. This is the way things are going, I hope ... soon, I think we'll be bombarded by more and more fantastic releases that have been made earnestly but with curiosity and artistic ingenuity and talent. People will continue to make "better" music, keep changing it and altering it, but not be confined to something like the studio or the record release again. As it was in the days of punk -- when people were finally able to record because costs went down -- the prospect of making meaningful and important music is completely viable.
I'm happy. The future looks good.

Read on for a phenominal interview with Thomas himself. He's got quite a spark within him, and I only see good things ahead.

(1) Hey guys ... thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me! I'm going to start it off with, hopefully, the easier questions ...

(2) How'd the band start? I understand that Pete & the Pirates did not feature all of you. So how'd you come together and create Tap Tap, and how serious has it become for all of you? Like, is Tap Tap the only thing you're working on now ... ?

TAP TAP: They are essentially unrelated. I can’t really remember how it started if I’m honest but we only ever played 2 gigs, and one was in a tiny back room of a local pub. After nothing came of that I carried on knocking out songs on my own under the name of Tap Tap. I write and record the songs in my spare time. All my musical efforts go into Pete and the Pirates, but as there’s a lot of outstanding song writers in the band, a lot of songs I write don’t get used, or just don’t seem right for the band- they’re the ones that usually end up as Tap Tap songs, not because they’re rejects, but just cos they’re better suited to that. But the Pirates are obviously a priority; Tap Tap is kind of like my comfort blanket and an opportunity to be a control freak.

(3) And while I'm sure you get this often, I've got to ask it: where'd you get the name, Tap Tap!?

TAP TAP: There was a reason… it escapes me now.

(4) You released Lanzafame earlier this year through Catbird Records (a label that's strangely enough in the small-ish Ohio capital city of Columbus), with only 200 copies pressed. Since then, you've remastered the record for release on Stolen Recordings, but I'm still curious ... how'd the Catbird Records deal come up?

TAP TAP: Catbird is a small, very independent label which has a nice homely touch to their releases, which I thought fitted with the sound of the music from Lanzafame. They were like, "d'you wanna do a little record?" And I was like, "yeah, OK." It was a hard thing to do cross Atlantic etc cos I have strong feelings about how I want stuff to look as well as sound. But They put out a really nice looking record. Now Stolen, who Pete & the Pirates are signed to, are putting out bigger runs of the remastered album, and they’ll be putting out the next one too… I think.

(5) Some people have said that you hold some similar characteristics with the likes of older garage bands like the Kinks and the Byrds . This is clearest when looking at the song structure and the origins of your melodies (ranging from blues to jangly guitar pop). So I've two questions ... how true do you think these comparisons to be, and additionally, where do you draw inspiration?

TAP TAP: I don’t really know about the truth in those comparisons. I’ll have to listen to some of their stuff. I come from a town where there isn't really a music scene – it’s not a very inspiring place in general. I think this kind of gives you a neutral starting point which maybe lets the songs form themselves free from what’s going on around them/me.

My friends and their music is a massive inspiration for me; for me it’s the yard stick of how happy I am with my own songs. Also hanging round people who love to write and record is great for picking up ideas and techniques for recording. That’s why I think some people have said that Lanzafame has a "unique" sound; it’s cos I did it nearly all in my bedroom, and bits and bobs at mates’ houses.

People are too scared these days to make something that’s not highly polished and perfect, and I didn't really have the time or resources to do that anyway, so sometimes the drumming’s a bit crap or the singing’s not spot on, but that’s just how it came out and I think people like that. Basically the most important thing for me above anything else is the strength of the tune; I’m really inspired by anything that has a brilliant addictive melody.
Tap Tap - Here Cometh

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More ... Student Teachers!

the student teachers
Oliver -- the guy who's working with the Student Teachers in an effort to remind us all how good they were circa '78-'80 (or to open them up to those of us who never heard of them!) -- just sent me a few songs by the Student Teachers for distribution on the blog!
They're really great -- if not a tad crackly -- and absolutely worth checking out.

This group was ... seminal. Sort of like what would have happened if the Buzzcocks had an American counterpart. Or maybe the Undertones in NYC. You get the idea, I hope. Their history even parallels that of the Buzzcocks: they met, a bunch of teenagers, at a John Cale concert in '77. Inspired by the energy, the environment, they decided to make a group. And while it's completely different than anything Cale would have done, it's the same energy, the same vitality to it. Allegedly, the members kept going to concerts together -- Patti Smith being a favorite -- further inspiring them to do more and more.

The Student Teachers absolutely need more attention. Give it to them. This is phenominal stuff. Oh, and check out the MySpace page.
the Student Teachers - Looks
the Student Teachers - Channel 13
the Student Teachers - Samantha

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Dirty & Blood Red

dirty hands
Another thing I've noticed quite a lot of in terms of the UK's musical output is ... this sort of abrasive pseudo-punk thing. It's like post-punk with edge and anger and an element of twee to it, too.
I say twee in that the music's sort of quaint and close. Think Jay Reatard or something.

Dan from Dirty Hands emailed me, and I was taken with his stuff from the first chord of "Get On Your Bike Charlie." Sharp, simple, perfectly blended ... really great stuff here. Be certain to check out some of their stuff! (Oh, and what a cool, unique idea for 7" releases ... red.orange.blue.)

Next is the guy/girl duo Blood Red Hands, who seamlessly integrate sharp, quick, also abrasive punk-y/garage-y melodies with sweet, smooth female vocals. I'm digging this group, too, and I think that may be because of their overt simplicity. There's often little need to make music something vast and complex, especially when you just ... can't do it! So I like how both of these bands keep their sound down to something they can absolutely do well. Check them out on MySpace.
Dirty Hands - Get On Yer Bike (Charlie)
Dirty Hands - Run With It
Dirty Hands - Endgame
Dirty Hands - Vivid Imagination
Blood Red Shoes - ADHD
Blood Red Shoes - Can't Find the Door
Blood Red Shoes - Stitch Me Back
Blood Red Shoes - Meet Me At 8

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"My Body Is A Cage"

neon bible
There's another leak -- one that's been much discussed already -- from the Arcade Fire's forthcoming record, Neon BiBle ... "My Body Is A Cage."
It's spectacular. Sort of a dirge in that it definitely plods along, almost like a chain gang song. But Win's vocals are so soulful, so perfect for this track which focuses heavily on well, heavy organ! At times, it really crescendos into something edging on arena-rock; larger-than-life.
But it works spectacularly ... you all know how well Arcade Fire's able to handle big, sprawling, massive sound that encapsulates your body; sucks you in and doesn't let you let go, even after the song's long done ...

So enjoy. This shall be a fantastic record.
Arcade Fire - My Body Is A Cage

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The New Undertones

bombay bicycle club
Maybe that's a bad wat to put it, "The New Undertones," but I've noticed very apparently that there are a tremendous number of bands over in the UK that have quite a few commonalities with the Undertones ...
(1) They're all really young ...
(2) They've all soon-to-be-strong-but-too-young-vocalists ...
(3) They've all this super poppy structure persuasion ...
... And I'm liking it a lot. I'm still waiting for one of these groups to blow my socks off, but I'm impressed by them all, nonetheless.
So here're a few. Enjoy.

Bombay Bicycle Club is a few 16 year-old kids from some place near London who've clearly a thing for straightforward guitar jangle pop that absolutely reminds me of ... Josef K? Yeah, but ... the Jam? Again ... sort of, but ...
Well, alls I can say is listen for yourself, and you'll find you're hooked. You don't know it now, but you are.
Maybe they'll be the next Arctic Monkeys or something ... they're certainly young enough, and they've played enough gigs and gained enough notoriety of sorts in that area, with that scene ...

Another group with an affinity for guitar pop is New Homes, who hail from Kent. The vocals are a bit loose and rubbery, but I like the ethereal, distant, almost aimless guitar and drumming which, to fill time, often times reverts to this sort of pitter-patter pattern, which is tres cool. Certainly worth checking out, too ...

Listen, I appreciate the importance of MySpace, but man do I wish some of these groups had real websites. Whatever ... when you're as good as the More Assured, it's permissible. The More Assured is a little moodier than the above two mentioned bands, and perhaps a little more talented, but definitely not less appealing and catchy than either. I dig the guitars in this group, too ... light, noodling stuff that edges on folksy stuff at points and wannabe arena rock at others. It flows perfectly, though, and the vocals are the sweetest cherry on top that I could ask for.
Again, absolutely worth checking out.
(As I related side note, I remember writing about the group when they'd only released a few things back in June, stating that they'd only get better with time. THey absolutely did.)

This is a long post, but bear with me ... I'm nearly done!
The Svengalis are the most punk of these four groups, but I would avoid calling them a punk band. Too much piano/synthesizer, too much harmonizing, too many crisp, clean hooks ...
But there's a rushed feeling to them which definitely makes me feel punk vibes flow through my ears. And if you read their story, you'll see how that whole punk aesthetic is really coming back in the UK. These kids are getting together for unselfish, completely natural and impulsive reasons, with the desire to make a statement and change something underneath it all.
But until they start reading the Little Red Book or something of that variety, they'll never live up to even a portion of the punk legacy.
Bombay Bicycle Club - How Are You (demo)
Bombay Bicycle Club - Magnet (demo)
the More Assured - An Empty Platform 954
the More Assured - You Do It Pretty Well
the More Assured - ASBO (demo)
the More Assured - Beat You Down (demo)
the Svengalis - Runaway
the Svengalis - Soda & Cigarettes
the Svengalis - Best Days

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Rifles, Hooray

rifle men
Judging by the name, I was not expecting Rifle Men to sound like what they do: clean, sparse (yet perfectly arranged and balanced), smart folk pop stuff, with plenty of New Wave influence (i.e. those ambient, swooning synthesizers, hand claps, and flowing vocals).
I love these guys. They're from New York, but man, I must say I've no clue as to where they've come from, stylistically. Really great, great stuff. I hope the best for these guys. Truly ... you must check them out.

Here's another bizarre unknown for you, this time hailing from London ... Soph Is Lakaband. I've no idea what that name means, but these chicks are pretty cool. Poppy, simple, cute pop with plenty of harmonies and funky beats and synth lines. Definitely worth checking out and jamming to a bit ...

Lastly, while this is a bit of a throwback (to circa '78-'80, actually), the Student Teachers are ace. I never heard of these guys, but man am I glad I've found them now! I'm convinced that this five piece is the product of the Jam/the Buzzcocks breeding with Joy Division or something. Sure, the drumming's a tad messier and hasn't been blessed by Martin Hannett, but that bass is plenty high and distant and cold, and there's a great deal of electronic-sounding effects and synths and such. Oh, and they've the pop structuring of the Jam or the Buzzcocks (hence the hybrid comment). You must head on over to their MySpace page.
Rifle Men - The Lake Is Alive
Rifle Men - Berlin
Rifle Men - Westerners
Rifle Men - Caroline
the Student Teachers - Christmas Weather
the Student Teachers - Invitation To
the Student Teachers - Past Tense

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T-Minus ... 12 ...

harlem shakes
I'm excited to be going to see Deerhoof on the 24th at the El Rey as they support their latest record, Friend Opportunity (and yeah, I've written tons about this). In [early] preparation for the show (who really needs to prep, anyway!?), I checked out who they're touring with, as Deerhoof often choose ... at least interesting groups to have support them.

And indeed ... the opening band, Harlem Shakes is pretty damn good. They're from Brooklyn, and they've an interesting sound. All at once they sound sort of lost, meandering (intriguing start-stop song structure, guitar and piano noodling), but completely collected (strong, unique vocals, beautifully crafted guitar lines, vivid bass lines, and ... character!)
If you're looking for a clean/crisp pop group with plenty of twists and fascinating characteristics (and dreams of being bigger), then Harlem Shakes is the group for you.

Go to their MySpace page.
After a whirlwind of label interest and blog frenzy over the past few years, Harlem Shakes have reformed,
reevaluated and rediscovered themselves. They have now decided to self-release their debut EP, Burning
Birthdays, this February, 2007. Produced by Chris Zane (Asobi Seksu, Human Television, Les Savy Fav),
the 5-song EP evokes all of Harlem Shakes' character and high-octane melodies, maintaining all the
catchiness you've come to expect -- while adding the energy and depth they've been evoking live for the
past few years.
Harlem Shakes - A Night
Harlem Shakes - Josh Studies
Harlem Shakes - Carpetbaggers

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Loto Interview (Part 2 of 2)

(6)I ask this question a lot, but it's an important one. What sort of musical backgrounds do you all come from and what sort of music did you/do you listen to? What inspires you and where did you come from, in short.

LOTO: We all like pop music, and it's there where it all gets together. The Beatles, New Order, The Smiths, Blur, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Primal Scream are some of the bands that influenced us. Than a lot of French stuff really got to us... Daft Punk, Air, Phoenix ... Now there's a lot of cool stuff out there that we all like. The DFA sound and bands like the Rapture, the Killers, CSS, Justice, the Chemical Brothers, The Scissor Sisters and the list goes on and on...

(7)Since we're all in the dark here, please tell us some other Portuguese bands that you're into right now.

LOTO: There’s a lot of good stuff going on!! I honestly think that in the meantime a lot of Portuguese bands will be "really" heard! Bands like X-Wife (www.myspace.com/xwiferocks) more into electro rock, The Legendary Tiger Man (www.myspace.com/thelegendarytigerman) with a very cool rock group, Spartak! (www.myspace.com/spartakone), lo-fi meets pop or Gomo (www.myspace.com/gomoworld) and a lot more ... The scene is really exciting and a lot of bands are getting some buzz from all of Europe and America ... So who knows?

(8)What sort of future plans do you have in store for us? Any tours or collaborations or records?

LOTO: Well we’ve got this new album "Beat Riot" and we definitely want to play it live so we’re touring Portugal and later we’re hoping to get to the USA and to the UK and Australia, Japan ... Everybody loves making records but the chance to play the songs live is what it’s all about.

(9)Another slightly generic question ... what is each of your favorite pieces of equipment? What's the thing you like most about playing in the band?

LOTO: We’re huge fans of vintage keyboards, we own a Korg MS-10 and we tell you ... this baby blasts the room! Great synth ... We also use a Stylophone ... Don’t know what it is?? Your life is about to begin!!

(0)What are concerts like in Portugal? I would imagine that you're a part of a pretty small, compact musical community. Is that the case? Do you work with and hang out with a lot of your musical peers? What's the deal there?

LOTO: Portugal should be the size of California or even smaller and still we’re a country so we know must of the bands and there’s a lot of complicity and collaborations between us ... I guess the main thing that unites us all is the will to make it outside of Portugal.

(1)I think that's enough questions for now. You've got quite a lot of talent, it sounds like, and a bright future ahead. Maybe Portugal will become the new Sweden of the pop world. Any closing comments?

LOTO: Thanks! We think that Portugal should be the new Sweden of the pop world! The flavour is totally different from Sweden ... We’re more Latino (not the Ricky Martin way!! Don’t expect maracas ... We only go as far as a cowbell ... ), more impulsive and the songs have a different feel. Anyway great pop is just great, never mind the place where it comes from ...
Loto - Golden Boys (feat. Del Marquis)

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Loto Interview (Part 1 of 2)

I wrote about the up-and-coming Portuguese band, Loto, a month or so ago, but then the fine lads agreed to do an interview with me!
The band sent me one of their finest song, "Cuckoo Plan," which they somehow got Peter Hook to guest on! The tune's truly a stellar one, and absolutely recalls New Order. But lucky for us, Loto have added more rock aesthetic to their sound, making their style more appropriate for today (no offense New Order ... we all love you). Also, be sure to check out their MySpace page!

I'm truly honored to present to you the group's American interview ... enjoy!

(1)Okay, first off I'd like to hear a little about the Portuguese music scene. Until you sent me that short email, Portugal had never registered on the map for me ... I never imagined that the country would have such cool music coming out of it! What's it like over there in terms of music?

LOTO: There's a lot happening. Maybe the international press doesn't focus on Portugal too much... There's a traditional Portuguese music called Fado that is very successful on "World Music" Charts but in what concerns pop/rock/electro we're just starting now to get some cool feedback from abroad. Maybe the fact that Peter Hook and Del Marquis played on our record and really like what we do is a "thumbs up" to our sound and maybe a ticket out to the new sounds coming from Portugal.

(2)I like your website and design. I noticed that you've got some sort of association with Pepe Jeans (you've got the icon on your homepage). What's the story behind that?

LOTO: Well, the head of office heard our music and liked it a lot. She wanted a new band, of young guys that could be "influencers" for Pepe Jeans. She liked us and our music, and since 2004, Loto is the face of Pepe Jeans clothes in Portugal.

(3)Okay ... now, your music ... I'm curious to hear how you would describe your music and sound.

LOTO: First of all, there's nothing like a catchy chorus. Call us old fashioned but even Gwen Stefani or Justin Timberlake know what they're doing and for that matter, we are a pop band, pretty much as they or as the Beatles were a pop band. But on top of the pop, we like to mix rock, dance, funk, soul ... We can't put limits to our musical horizon, and therefore our music transforms itself into a blend of all those genres.

(4)One thing that I love about your music is its clean/clear and crisp sound. A lot of your stuff sounds quite similar to something New Order would have produced (and you even recorded a song with Peter Hook!) ... what inspired you guys to create that sort of sound?

LOTO: That's a reflexion of our pop culture. We like to hear everything in our music, from the bass to that programming stuck on the back.. Most of the times, we do not transform much of the sounds we use. A guitar always sounds like a guitar, and that vision of the music is what, in the end, makes us produce our stuff the way we do. Working with Roger Lyons also is something we should consider. He has been working with New Order for many years, and that experience certainly passed on to our songs when he mixed the tracks..

(5)How do you write these songs? There are three of you, so I'm curious to know how you split up songwriting duties.

The thing starts mostly from Ricardo's ideas. He has the main idea, the tune, and chorus ... Then, the band gets together and we all produce the arrangements ... like keyboards, beats, guitars and programming. Basically that is how our songs gain shape.
Loto - Cuckoo Plan (feat. Peter Hook)

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dandi wind
I wrote about Yim Tin Tam a while ago, but just today I got an email from Adrian -- one of the band members -- notifying me of the posting of new material by them.

And it's far too good to pass up. The Ontario-based trio play this really phat-sounding semi-rendition of something summery and poppy, almost edging on Brian Wilson. That's not to say they sound like the Beach Boys -- they're far too rough and bumpy -- but there's this pop aesthetic to their songwriting that's incredibly intriguing and fun and engaging. And hey ... I love sweet harmonies, horns (on occasion ... approximately as often as Yim Tin Tam uses them), and pretty female vocals (especially good to offset harsher or bolder male singing). And hey ... they've plenty of hooks to make everything all the more fun and exciting!
Their album, Pink Magic is due out later this year ...

I've found this other Canadian trio, Dandi Wind, which I'm really digging, too. Frantic, synth-driven (and it's really driven) garage-y dance stuff. It's dark and somber, but man does it hook you in ... the punchy bass, sharp beats, and subtle vocals. I love this sort of stuff because it's loud and brash and exciting for reasons that usually add up to overall boring music. Underspoken's never been so cool.
Be certain to check out their MySpace page.
Dandi Wind - Balloon Factory
Dandi Wind - Apotemnophilia (sample)

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modest mouse, marr
Be prepared for low quality audio here (96 kbps), but also be prepared for an excellent new track from Modest Mouse, "Dashboard."

It's super apparent to me that Marr's now on guitar, and I think that's sort of cool ... cooler than I was expecting it to be. The arrangement's one of Modest Mouse's most orchestral and sprawling, but the track's pretty summery, optimistic, and dancey (in all Modest Mouse's angular goodness).

So check out the song ... more tracks coming soon! Keep an eye out ...
Modest Mouse - Dashboard

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Noizy New Year, Revistited

chico y chico!
It's been only a few hours since I posted last, but I feel like I need to do you all some justice (and myself, probably): that was a mediocre (at best) post.

I'll start this post off with the wild card, the one band that has almost nothing to do with the others ...
Flamingo Crash! This quintet from Australia has an uncanny fascination with lounge, Latin-based dance rock. I dig these dudes hardcore because of their primal take on whatever the heck they're doing and their willingness to break stylistic barriers. I don't know if their music in itself is groundbreaking or not, but they're certainly trying to create something new, which is very, very cool in my mind. Be sure to stop by their MySpace page.

Dananananaykrod has more in common with GVSY than Flamingo Crash (hence the "revisited" descriptor here), but they're a tad different. The songs they play have more ... structure to them, and they're not quite as chaotic and spastic (although they're all incredibly high energy and crazy, don't worry). You. Must. Go. To. Their. MySpace page. Now.

Man-oh-man am I loving Chico y chico!. The duo's from Austin, and I can confidently say that I've never heard anything like them come out of Austin. Really hyper, jumpy, yet incredibly poppy stuff here ...
I dig it big time. If you've only time to listen to one of these bands, make it these guys ... so head on over to their MySpace page right now!

Oh, and hey -- get free shipping from American Apparel, using this code ... S99SHP3117.
Flamingo Crash - YES YES YES
Chico y Chico!
Chico y Chico! - Must Love Orcs
Chico y Chico! - Maximum Defense

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Noizy New Year

gay against you
Right, so I've little to report here, but I've got some good tracks to give you all, so download them and uh ... dig them!
The main reason I'm writing this post is because I want to discuss ... Gay Against You, a duo of indescribable style and talent from Glasgow. On one hand, they do spastic, enigmatic noise and hardcore, but on the other, they do happy, poppy tunes, mingled with child-like synths and keyboards and an songwriting aesthetic that could be integrated into Sesame Street.
Bizarre? Yes, but man are they fun.

And there's a lot of stuff like Gay Against You coming out of the UK now ...
For example, DJ Scotch Egg - a super-producer of one hell of a niche style ...
Scotch Egg's record label, Adaadat, is the homeplace for many artists like Gay Against You. Sort of cool, I guess, how the scene's so condensed and small, yet sort of sprawling and influential ...

Lastly ... Curses! I know nothing of this stuff, but it's cool, and I'm pretty certain it's a part of this noise/hardcore thing I've been writing about here ...

Crappy enough first post for 2007?
Gay Against You - Dear Diary
Gay Against You - Bicentennial Nuggets
Curses! - Tearing Me Apart
DJ Scotch Egg - Scotch Vader

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