Friday, June 29, 2012

Jam of the Day | The Black Keys - Howlin' For You

Photo by Danny Clinch

The thermometers hit triple digits here in North Carolina today, and what's better for a hot day than some swampy, dirty blues? Today's Jam of the Day is the Black Keys' "Howlin' For You", off 2010's Brothers. Check out the official video below, and stay cool, kids.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interview | The Mynabirds: "The true revolutionists get their hands dirty!"

Photo by Shervin Lainez

I've been a Mynabirds fan since the band's inception, doting on singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn more than sporadically on this here blog. I'll keep this interview introduction simple: after talking with her, I think I'm in love. A whip-smart, creative, grounded/groundbreaking woman is, of course, not an anomaly, but I still feel the buzz of my recharged battery every time I encounter one, in any capacity.

And guess what, Saint Louis? The Mynabirds are coming to The Firebird this Sunday, July 1st, so we can all go get zapped by Burhenn's unavoidable electricity in person. Tickets are available here. In the meantime, listen to former Jams of the Day, "Numbers Don't Lie," "Generals," and "Body of Work."

Congrats on the new album! It sounds fantastic. And, the concept of GENERALS - a politically charged protest album - definitely shines through, both lyrically and musically. Talk to us a little bit about this idea. How did it come about?

Thanks! Glad you're enjoying the new record. Well, the concept was one that had been brewing in my subconscious for nearly a decade. Living in DC from before September 11th and over the course of America starting to wage war against the whole wide world in the name of protecting us from terrorism (and all the while bankrupting us literally and figuratively) -- our recent history has been infuriating to me. And then having lived with it for so long, I realized one day I'd become numb. It's easy to forget what life was like over the hum of fun-loving pop songs and blockbuster movies. Not that it's all roses on the radio or on our TV sets, and sure there's nothing wrong with being entertained. But this realization absolutely hit me one day -- for kids in high school, college -- this is all they've ever known. This is their America.

So, it was imperative for me to address that -- the world in which we live in, and the world in which we CAN live in. It's a dreamer's album, ultimately, full of hope and promise (just like America). But before I got myself back awake to my idealism, I had to remember what was wrong around me, I had to allow myself to really get angry. And then I needed to do something with that anger -- transform it into useful energy to, really, as Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." There's probably a more straightforward answer to this question, but that's the gist of where the concept came from.

The percussion on the record really emphasizes this idea of this revolutionary battle cry. What other elements did you incorporate to help establish the GENERALS concept?
 
Well, there's definitely a lot of rhythm, as you mentioned. I wanted it to feel like an army of percussion, a lot of it layers upon layers of actual human stomping and clapping, which was a very conscious effort to bring the listener into the movement. Just stomping or clapping along to the beat brings you into the ranks of the revolution. It's a powerful thing, raising our voices together, joining our bodies in rhythm -- our hearts ARE beating drums.

Beyond that, there are a lot of animals throughout -- wolves, buffalo, wild horses, bucks, blackbirds, birds of prey and even doves of peace (in the b-side "Fallen Doves"). I watched this NOVA documentary on dreams (you can still stream it on Netflix, I think) and they talk about how, as children, our dreams often involve wild animals -- trying to escape them, tame them, hunt them -- because we're still primal beings at that time; it's a reflection of evolutionary biology.

As we get older and more assimilated into the modern world, our dreams involve more modern problems like technology -- the inability to get a cell phone to dial when you've got a real emergency on your hands, for example (I can't be the only person to have had that nightmare). So, part of using the animals symbolically was to bring us back to our basic, primal selves; the other reason was to harken back to our mythologies, the way we formulate and tell our history throughout generations. I was definitely thinking of Native America, shamanistic ceremonies to help awaken and cleanse us spiritually.

Your portrait project, The New Revolutionists, is sort of an extension of GENERALS in that it promotes and congratulates revolutionary women. How did you come up with this project?

The album's title GENERALS was inspired by Richard Avedon's photo, Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I saw that photo in the Corcoran in DC in an exhibit of his work called "Portraits of Power" back in 2008. The women in the photo -- in their starched satin gowns, tiaras and sashes, clean white satin gloves stretching up to their elbows -- they seemed to be exactly the opposite of what I would expect revolutionary American women to look like. The true revolutionists get their hands dirty! So, I thought it would be perfect to use this concept for the album art: women who are revolutionaries in their own right (whether they're making headlines or not) photographed in this classic, black and white Avedon style. But the twist is that they're actually posing for "warrior portraits" -- the image of that woman the instant before she'd go into a metaphoric battle for everything she believes in.

Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution by Richard Avedon

Who were the first women to be photographed? 

The first round of photographs were shot by Shervin Lainez in NYC when we shot the album cover and included Amy Klein (one of the founders of the feminist group Permanent Wave, writer, musician, formerly of Titus Andronicus), Lagusta Yearwood (owner of Lagusta's Luscious, a vegan chocolatier deeply committed to fair trade, organic, and animal-free bonbons that are so delicious they'll make you swoon), and Lavinia Wright-Jones (writer, musician, and co-founder of The 78 Project). The second group of women were photographed in Omaha. The project has since spread out to include women from all over (mothers, teachers, artists, doctors, and even some amazingly notable women like Rosanne Cash and Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show). The nominations are open for anyone to make, and I invite people to nominate women in their own lives. I want this project to be as diverse and inclusive as the women all over doing their parts to change their corners of the world for the better.

I was an instant fan of the blue-eyed soul of What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood. If you were to think thematically about that album, how would you categorize it?

The last album was about loss and recovery, told from a mediative Zen perspective. You can feel that in the album's title, I think, and definitely in the orchestration of the songs. Since that record was meant to comfort you in dark times, it needed to feel comforting -- like a new friend you felt like you'd known forever.

What made you decide to change up the Mynabirds' overall sound?

Since this new record is about protest, revolution, change, I felt like we needed to change up the sound to fit the subject matter. It was fun to experiment with different sounds and styles. Besides all that, I like to keep you guessing. I knew it'd be a risk to try something new, but I'm into pleasant surprises. Hopefully other people are, too.

Finally, you're coming to Saint Louis on 7/1. We're so excited to see The Mynabirds live. What can fans expect?

Expect to dance! We've been having a lot of fun with the new live show. We're borrowing stomp boxes from Tilly and the Wall and have incorporated some samplers and a whole lot of percussion into the songs. We'll play both new and old songs. If you've got any requests, let us know!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jam of the Day | Matt & Kim - Let's Go

Photo courtesy of the artist

Oooh, summer's on like Donkey Kong, and if anyone is well aware of this fact, it's Matt & Kim. The feelgood duo has released its first single off the forthcoming album, Lightning (FADER), and it's enough to make us skip through the sprinklers in our skivvies.

Matt Johnson requests, "Just for us, put this on your iPod, get in the car, roll your windows down, and turn your stereo up!" Done and done. And done.

Interview | Cory Chisel: "All I'm trying to really do is to add to the Great American Songbook."

Photo by Jo McCaughey

My favorite Bob Dylan album is, and always will be, Desire. (And yes, I've played the wonderful Time Out My Mind and Blood on the Tracks to death.)

As a lover of music, its songs first taught me the difference from being angry and being confident, and that telling the truth is the easiest path to expose emotions like fear and regret. Listen to "Oh, Sister," "Hurricane," or "Sara," and it's hard to not be affected in some way that changes you as a human being.

Cory Chisel's new album, Old Believers, is one of the first albums this year that has affected me like this. There is no easy way out: you must listen to each song to believe its power and honest messages. And it begins quickly, with a prologue titled "This Is How It Goes." From the start, nothing is what it seems. By the end, you'll know exactly how you feel.

This is why Cory Chisel is an important songwriter: he still realizes that a full, realized collection of songs carries more weight than a fleeting $0.99 download on iTunes.

I recently talked to Chisel about Old Believers, songwriting, the hilarity of genre labeling, and the magic of recording.

So, I hear you're in Nashville now.

I'm actually right now sitting around boxes in Chicago, getting ready to move down there. We've been working on making this move for a while, and we've kind of just had to bite the bullet and take the time to do it.

Were you living in Wisconsin before?

Yeah, I lived in Wisconsin for 22 years, or something like that, and I loved every second of living there, but it's just not realistic anymore with how much we travel, and trying to get back up there. Just spending so much time behind the wheel to even get home, to where home was, and we were just like, "we need a bed somewhere to where we can actually get to it."

And Nashville -- I'm assuming the music scene is attractive.

Well, that's it. The music scene has really migrated to Nashville overall. The wealth of people making art that's really inspiring, affordable places to live. And the town really wants musicians there, so it's just convenient to live there. In some places, it's hard to qualify for rent, because people just aren't familiar with the job (of being a musician). But in Nashville, it's open arms.

And now is a good time for sure, because the album is coming out.

Yeah, and our whole team and label is based down in Nashville, so it's a whole cohesive move.

I saw you at Bonnaroo last year.

Oh yeah, that was fun. I can't believe that was a year ago already! (laughs)

I caught you a couple times, actually -- you guys seemed to be playing everywhere.

It was great. It was like summer camp for the misfits of musicians. It's a great scene, but you almost need a vacation after the vacation of Bonnaroo.

I remember your first set there -- you played one of the new songs, "Never Meant To Love You" -- and I could just feel people responding to that song. Did you feel that, too?

Yeah, I think that's the one where, overall, night in and night out, that if we're battling at all with the set, with connecting to the audience, that one seems to unify all of our energies. As a live performer you've got to find those songs -- a thing like Bonnaroo, or anywhere we play -- there's a mix of hipsters and mill workers and everyone coming from a different background and sort of judging what they think you're about, and you're judging what they're all about, and sometimes getting together around a certain song, where it's like, "okay, this is probably something we've all experienced, to a certain degree." It's good to have a song for that -- to come together and go from there.

I saw you play at LouFest too, in 2010, and I think you played it there, too. Has that one been around for a while?

I think it almost made the last record, actually. It just wasn't quite done. And the song originally started with something like fourteen verses -- some songs you have to desperately fill the last few lines, but this is a song that could have went on for like fifteen minutes. So, we thought...we knew it was good, so we had to go through the process of hacking the limbs off.

It has a Bob Dylan feel to it, like something he wrote for Desire, like "Joey."

I wrote it impersonating Bob Dylan, actually -- that's how the song started. As a writer, if you get his cadence down, and the way that his rhyme scheme sort of works, you can start to unlock keys in how to write in ways that leverage lines the way that he does. And that's why there were all those verses, because it started as an exercise of like, going through all the different eras of Dylan, like, "this is how you would sing it in '67 or whatever." And we actually ended in the Desire era when we wrote that song, so that's one reason I think it reminds you of that.

I think your songwriting is just so strong, that carries a lot of these songs. Do you put a lot in to writing lyrics, and what do lyrics mean to you?

Well, that's the portion of it that I watch the most closely. I've been really into the craft of songwriting as opposed to...some songwriting is about mood, it's about fashion, it's about all these things, you know? It's about some statement about what's modern and what's hip, and I've always been fascinated by storytellers...you know, I don't think we're going to blow anyone's doors off with this innovation and this stylistic approach that we have, and honestly, I could give two shits about that. All I'm trying to really do is to add to the Great American Songbook that stretches back to hymns and folk and even punk rock. That's just what I dig out of songs.


You know, that totally makes sense. And I feel that some people just don't have the patience to listen, and I wish they would just take the time to listen to words. Do you ever get that feeling?

Well, it's tough to feel...even in the landscape of Bonnaroo or something. The landscape of music is changing. We walk into these festivals, and we're asking people to listen to 45 minutes to an hour of these stories that we're trying to spin. And electronica music is huge, where there's no story whatsoever, and people just want to move with rhythms and beats. And there's so many things vying for people's attention that we feel like a Polaroid camera in a digital age. We're not going to become obsolete, but I think we're going by the way of jazz a little bit -- we won't disappear, but we have a very loyal type of listener that buys our records that we're really grateful for.

Like you said, the listener will know the strengths of these songs. And I took to these right away...and a lot of people are going hit play and they're going to wonder why they're hearing Adriel's (Denae) voice instead of yours on the opening "This Is How It Goes." Why did you decide to lead off with that one?

Well, a couple of reasons. One, I like Adriel's voice more than I like mine. And, I would be lying that I wasn't having a laugh about it. I enjoy the fact that people are going to take the plastic off a new Cory Chisel record and for the first few minutes, you're not even on the record. (laughing)

But mainly, it acts as sort of a preface to the album...what she has to say...even the title of the song, "This Is How It Goes," it sets up beautifully of a story that she's trying to walk people through, you know? And, the fact that people might take a second and go, "what?" to tune in is what you really want. We could blast them over the head with the single like we did with the last record, but it's our sophomore record, and in order to do something interesting, it needed to interest us. We tried to put the song other places on the record, but we just kept coming back to it and said, "I think that's the first song."

I think it works. I stopped for a minute and it made me think.

We're trying to say something; we're assuming the listeners can hang with the opening not being so obvious. We trust that our listeners will have fun with it like we did, because we did. We laughed many times that the first song on our record is the one I'm not even on.

How long have you been working with Adriel now?

We've been working together for I'd say about six or seven years now. It's one of those relationships and friendships, that from the very moment I heard her sing, everything changed for me. I knew it was the missing component -- that what I was trying to communicate was in her voice. The first time we had a chance to sing together, the line I was singing ultimately meant three times more when she sort of joined it. I like the contrast of the feminine and masculine (voices) delivering the song, and it not being so one-sided. There's a lot of singer-songwriters out there, and a lot of dudes with acoustic guitars, and I think it makes it more interesting to me.

It's meant to be.

Yeah. It's a pretty great feeling to come across someone like that. It's a cool feeling.

You know, there's a lot of moments on this album -- like the one on "Seventeen" -- where the song just blossoms when you sing "There's still more water in the well." I love it when a song just becomes something larger or so much more beautiful by just one line. Do you feel that?

Well, that's what we're trying to accomplish with the line. There are a lot of lyricists that I really admire, and I was admittedly borrowing from the lyricist from The National. He has a way to do this with his poetry, too -- the story is going along, and you're being entertained to some degree, but then really finding the right placement for when to kick into that portion of the message, and the song really takes a right turn and changes at that point. Yeah, I can appreciate that stuff, and you hope that people are even going to get to listen to that part in the song. (laughs)

That's interesting, because I was going to ask -- is there a challenge there for you to wonder, "well, I hope people don't get bored and stop listening."

I don't mean to be typical in the sense that I'm trying to be elusive for no reason, but how good would a novel be if they gave you the entire plot on the first chapter? These are not novels by any means, but I think a lot about pacing and development, and I care a lot about the characters in these songs. Whether they are made up or not, I want them to have an evolution.

When you're recording something like that, do you know the moment when something is supposed to happen?

No. Actually, the lyric for that song was not "There's still more water in the well." It was actually, "There's no more water in the well." Which, you know, changing it even that much, it really changes the direction of where it goes. And I think that as the band was humming along, and we hit the break for where that line was supposed to come, it was still supposed to be "There's no more water in the well," where, as you can imagine, the song would become more somber.

As things are and as songs are living, I just didn't think that that was their story, I just didn't think that that was the message, and it's just cool when something like that clicks, and you change the phrase on the spot, and the song blooms into this almost helpful message to see yourself through these characters. I look at it like you're watching a movie and there's two characters, and for all intensive purposes, they seem really down, but the outside looker-on can see a bright future.

Those things just happen on the fly, and they're really the most goose-bump moments in the studio. It's almost like you have this weird sense that you're channeling something -- that's it's not all over, there's still much more to be told. And at that point, you're just trying to keep up with the emotions hovering over you, and the band is humming, and everything is riding on the take -- and we're big on having one take and keeping it. And those are my favorite records to listen to.

Well, on Old Believers, there are so many styles, so many different genres it could fit into. I could not tell anybody that this is a rock record, or country record, or soul record. How would you begin to describe what kind of music it is? For you being a musician, is that difficult to be so many things?

Well, what you're hearing is the influences that we have inside as people, the elements of the blues that have soaked into our experience, the elements of country, the elements of reggae music -- we reference reggae music all the time on this record, especially vocally. which a lot of people in a million years would never put together. You're trying to sort of boil down all these parts of yourself.

I've always respected artists like Elvis Costello and Tom Waits, where you don't talk about what style of music they are, you just say their name. I mean, who talks about what style of music Tom Waits is? You just talk about Tom Waits. You just trust his taste, and you just kind of go on whatever ride he's on. He puts out...half the time, it almost sounds like rap records and piano ballads -- you let him break your heart, you let him cheer you up, you let him take you to the bottom, you spend time with him.

And that's what we're asking our listeners to do, is just go on the ride with us and not worry about...like the idea if you're a fan of Mumford & Sons, that you're going to like our record. I get more out of when people come and tell me that they really only like Johnny Cash and The Clash, but they really like our records. I don't think music used to be so defined like we now identify with genres -- like we didn't worry about if George Harrison was writing a country record or whatever. You just hit play and enjoy it, you know?

Or a Neil Young record, or something like that.

Yeah -- like what's a Neil Young record? Is Harvest a rock record? I don't know, you know?

I get so frustrated sometimes, though, because people always want to label something. And I'm not a musician, but I can imagine it can get frustrating for you...

Well, it's frustrating for every musician, and if you want to see more eye-rolling than ever, when someone prints, "singer-songwriter Cory Chisel," "acoustic, folkie Cory Chisel," like, why do you even have to add that? Who even cares? We don't speak about that.

When I talk about a band or Elliott Smith, no artist would speak to each other like trying to sum him up as some sort of genre. And I understand it happens, I understand its function -- and I don't want to sound like I'm attacking journalists, but sometimes it's just lazy journalism, to be honest. They just want to shove it off somewhere, or maybe they don't like my record that much, so they just say "folk record," or something.

Yeah. And the first song that came out on this record was "I've Been Accused," and it holds up on its own just fine, but I still think this is a record that you need to listen to from start to finish.

If you just listened to that song, you wouldn't get a good idea of what the record is. And that's the bitch that we all have about singles -- the other song we thought about having as a single was "Laura," which is completely opposite. And if we released that by itself, nobody would have an idea of what the record sounded like either. So, it's a necessary thing that you have to do to service radio, but we would love for you to complete the whole journey with us if you've got the 45 minutes to spend.

The other song you just mentioned, "Laura" -- one of my friends said that it reminded her of Bryan Adams' "Heaven."

Yeah, well, there's a weird element of 80's nostalgia in that song, and I felt like using it because...that's where I'm from. I don't think it's always accurate to just use some 60's...to give something raw and honest -- who cares if it sings something along those lines? Like, when Graham Nash was writing "Our House," ... a really earnest and sincere song is always riding the line of being cheesy or heartbreaking. You've got to not be scared to wind up on either side of the coin, and let the song write itself.

How do you separate something from cheesy and emotional? I could list so many songs...

What I love...I think you can detect a sincerity in a voice that you'll let somebody get away with saying something that you wouldn't otherwise. Like Bruce Springsteen -- you should write out the words to "Thunder Road" once and have a quick read over those, and there are parts of it that will read, "what, is this the diary of a thirteen year old?"

But, isn't that the age where you're free like that, when you want to jump in a car and you see the door open, and you tear off down a gravel road? Or is that a cheesy movie like The Notebook or something? Yeah, but it's also a sincere place to be. I wrote "Laura" in a really honest place; it's actually one of the truer songs on the record, based on not my life but a friend's, and we thought of it as a guy writing his most intimate thoughts where you're like, "I'm going to lower my guard and not going to worry about being cool." And you say something like, "two hearts forever, let's stay together." Whereas, if I was worried about Pitchfork magazine, you might not want to say that, but I could give two shits. (laughing)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jam of the Day | John Henry & The Engine - Spinning Wheel


Funny how these summer songs just keep popping up once it officially turns...summer.

St. Louis' John Henry & the Engine propose that they're "fighting the good rock and roll fight," and I can't really argue with that notion -- their sound would travel well on America's highways, racing past semis and rolling hills, fighting its way to a fine destination where guitars would rule the world. Henry's voice is something made from the gravel that rests on any breakdown lane, and you can hear its raw beauty in video for "Spinning Wheel" below.

John Henry & the Engine will be supporting Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit on Friday, June 29th, at The Sheldon in Saint Louis. Get your tickets here!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jam of the Day | Brandi Carlile - Raise Hell


It would be awfully unfortunate to call Brandi Carlile a "singer-songwriter," because her music is much more than that term's sometimes negative and boring connotation. The problem is, there are times that her studio work doesn't catch fire that her live performances always do. And while today's Jam of the Day, "Raise Hell," taken from Carlile's latest release, Bear Creek, is absolutely hell raising in its live form, the studio cut isn't a let down -- it's a fine representation of her powerful band, led by guitarists Tim and Phil Hanseroth.

Carlile will be opening for the Dave Matthews Band at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on July 11th in Saint Louis. You can read our interview with her here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jam of the Day | JKutchma & The Five Fifths - Teenage DMZ

Photo courtesy of the band

It's an age old story: a songwriter's band takes a break, but the songwriter keeps writing songs. When JKutchma's primary vehicle, Durham punk stalwarts Red Collar, took a break to deal with life two years ago, J kept writing, and took the songs on the road by himself. Eventually Red Collar reconvened and produced this year's wonderful LP Welcome Home, but J still had plenty of songs that he knew didn't belong to Red Collar: softer songs but songs with no smaller emotional punch.

So J did what any songwriter would do: he got together another band, called them the Five Fifths, and recorded a second album for release in 2012, under his own name - the upcoming Pastorals.

Today we're jamming to a special Speakers in Code premiere, the guitar-laden, finger-snapping "Teenage DMZ". A song about pop choruses, the radio, and growing up with music, you can download or stream it below, and pre-order Pastorals from Last Chance Records here.

J and the Fifths are on the road right now. They'll also be playing at Hopscotch in September.

JKutchma & the Five Fifths - "Teenage DMZ"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jam of the Day | Tristan Prettyman - My Oh My


Well, my oh my.

We posted our Speakers + Summer 2012 mix yesterday, so this new jam from Tristan Prettyman's upcoming Cedar + Gold (9/25) didn't make the cut. But, that's the beauty of being a blog, where you can post anything you want at any time you desire. So, we're here to tell you today: Prettyman deserves to be part of your summer soundtrack.

Here's hoping that Cedar + Gold will also feature a former PJOTD, "Say Anything."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jam of the Day | Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Baby

Photo by Piper Ferguson

Today, I'm feeling listless and frustrated, trapped indoors due to the oppressive summer heat. I wish I could transform into a Southern lady and make couch lock cool, drinking spiked iced tea while muttering incoherent things like, "I simply cannot move!" And listening to today's Jam of the Day.

Ariel Pink's first single off the forthcoming sophomore album for 4AD is a cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson's "Baby," and it features guest vocals by Dâm Funk. It is the epitome of what I just described: coolly languid, draped over a block of ice, impenetrable to the sun's scorch. And, God, shoot me now for using this word, but dare I say this song is...sexy?

Jump on over to the band's home on 4AD's site to hear "Baby." The new album, Mature Themes, comes out August 21st.

The Perfect Mixtape | Speakers + Summer 2012

Photo by Katie Guymon



Today, dear friends, marks the first day of summer. And today, of course, we bring you our third annual Speakers + Summer mix, a collection of tracks that remind us of the season, whether we're mowing the lawn with a frosty one in tow, dipping our feet in the local cement pond, or cruising around town with the windows out of sight.

This year, we've put all eighteen songs on Spotify so you can easily stream the mix from anywhere your hot ass might be. Girl, you look good with them Daisy Dukes on.

Enjoy, celebrate, sweat.

Love,
Speakers in Code

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jam of the Day | Escort - Starlight


Not many things make me want to turn back the clocks to the days of avocado appliances, orange shag carpet, and faux-wood paneling on the walls. That shit sounds downright lame, regardless of the fact vinyl was still the preferred means of both obtaining music AND covering the seat cushions in your car.

But Escort blasted right through my earholes and entered the cortex of my brain, coming at me like a '70s disco band who traveled through time only be dropped down at the pinnacle of some all-night euro-rave in these modern times.

Check it out below and get those dancing shoes shined up all proper like. Two of the Speakers in Code gang will be doing the hustle in City Plaza while watching them on the mainstage of Hopscotch in Raleigh. They're on right before The Roots Saturday evening.

Listen | Bon Iver - Beth/Rest (Live iTunes Session)


well Iʼd know that you’d offer
would reveal it, though it’s soft and flat
won’t repeat it, cull and coffer’s that
for the soffit, hang this homeward
pry it open with your love
sending lost and alone standing offers


Uhhh...I'm not going to even try to make meaning of that. But know this: I love me some "Best/Rest," the closing track on Bon Iver's self-titled album released last year (which also happened to be our favorite album of 2011), and one of the best songs from Bon Iver's set last year at the Pageant.

Here, it's presented in a different, live form, recorded as part of an iTunes session, which you can download in full starting today.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Concert Review | Whitey Morgan and the 78's at Off Broadway in Saint Louis

Photo by Chris Lay

It's around 10:35 pm at Off Broadway in Saint Louis, and I'm greeted heartily by a man who wants to be called Papa Joe. He's got a PBR tall boy in each hand, and although Whitey Morgan & the 78's haven't played a note, he asks me, "They great, ain't they?"

Before I can respond, the band takes the stage and Papa lets out a howl. "St. LOUIEEEEEE," he yells. Papa has no time for me anymore, and he definitely isn't concerned about updating his Facebook or Twitter page. I'm not even sure Papa owns a cell phone.

What I am sure about is this: if you're a live-music fan who often complains about inattentive crowds at concerts, then you need to see Whitey Morgan and the 78's. Or, just go to any show where country music is featured (or, if you absolutely despise country, then take yourself to a Bottle Rockets show). What you'll find is a group of people who are only concerned with a) the music being played and b) drinking as much as possible.

As for the music part, they hang on every word, especially when Morgan belts out a tune called "Waylon's Still the King," where everyone hoots and hollers during the chorus (and, to a lesser extent, makes up their own lyrics). It's exactly the kind of reaction Whitey Morgan is looking for on this evening. (I am convinced of this partly because Morgan once said himself that his "job is to show you how much fun drinking is.") And Morgan's shows are indeed a good time.

During the middle of the set, I approach Papa Joe, who hasn't moved from his spot in the back of the room, and ask how things are going. "Damn good time, my friend," he says. "Good people here, too."

I can confrim Papa isn't a liar. I wish people who went to indie rock shows were more like the people at a Whitey Morgan and the 78's show. To be specific: I wish more people didn't go to concerts to be seen.

I must digress.

As I stood by the bar for a portion of the evening, it was evident that PBR and whiskey were the drink staples of the night, minus that old-timey Stag bottle St. Louis musician Pokey LaFarge opted for instead. And when I say whiskey, I mean people ordering a shot, slamming it, and then impulsively ordering another before retreating back into the crowd.

Whitey Morgan's show is sort of like that, too. I'd be shocked if the band follows any kind of setlist, or any loosest set of plans. Morgan started the show standing up, on electric, but then sat down for what was supposed to be a few acoustic tunes, which turned into about eleven or twelve. Perhaps he and the band were tired, as he later noted that they had been traveling in a van without A/C. Or, maybe he just wanted to keep a good thing rolling.

After covering Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire," Morgan remained sitting during "I Ain't Drunk," which might just be his best song, and he kept the fire alive with a snippet of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Call Me the Breeze." Of course, the latter had just about everyone dancing and ordering their last round.

Finally, right around two hours into his set, when it appeared Morgan had very little left in the tank, he asked into his mic, "We about done, hoss?"

"Fifteen more," sound man Ryan Adams replied.

Morgan didn't sigh, his eyes simply lit up. "Oh, we got time for a few more," he exclaimed.

And then one of the oddest things happened: Morgan's merch attendant, Paul, hurried up to the stage and belted out the final two songs of the night. Not exactly what you saw coming, but no one seemed to mind; on this night at Off Broadway, all bets were off.

And Whitey Morgan and the 78's drank and played until the last drop.

Jam of the Day | Joe Pug - The Great Despiser


I had a dream that we were sitting on the summer porch
It seemed like everything was just the way it was before


Summer (officially) begins on Wednesday, so let's ease out of the Week of Melancholy and into something more hopeful. And while Joe Pug might not be the happiest songwriter on the planet, his latest album, The Great Despiser, should definitely be on your list of albums you listen to in 2012.

Today's JOTD is the title track from The Great Despiser. (And yes, it's okay to belt out "I don't wanna care about it anymore" at the end.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pajammy Jam of the Day | Psalmships - Sparrowful Sorrow

Photo courtesy of the artist

Wrapping up the week of melancholia here on Speakers in Code, today's Pajammy Jam of the Day is "Sparrowful Sorrow" from Philadelphia's Psalmships. Psalmships is the songwriting vehicle for Joshua Britton, where he's backed by a rotating cast of stellar musicians, and "Sparrowful Sorrow" is a lush and weary song of heartbreak. A thick layer of strings and synthesizers back Britton's aching voice as he sings words of total abandonment:

There's something else here other than me
Hasn't your anger made you afraid
Is there something you wanted me to say
Hasn't your sadness kept it away


Psalmships is an appropriate name because everything Britton sings is embodied with a rough pleading that makes his songs sound like prayers for the lonely, alone at 3 AM.

Stream "Sparrowful Sorrow" below and check out their huge collection of free and pay-what-you-like EPs and LPs at Psalmships' site.

 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pajammy Jam of the Day | Collin Herring - Drinking Again


She come in softly
and took her paintings off of my wall
She says, "Take care of yourself, I'll give you a call."


Good things happen when you don't plan them, so The Week of Melancholy must continue. And it shall, but with an old song by a songwriter out of Texas you probably don't know, but should. You've probably read that sentence hundreds of times and rolled your eyes, but I promise you this: Collin Herring is legit, and "Drinking Again" will leave you impressed.

It ends abruptly, like that last drink at 3 AM when you realize you've had just a little too much, shaking your head in disbelief that you let it go this long and this far.

Collin Herring - Drinking Again

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pajammy Jam of the Day | WATERS - Mickey Mantle

Photo by Marte Solbakken

I ain't too old to give a shit...
I ain't too young to regret...

Well, we're on a roll this week at Speakers in Code. I don't think we planned for this to be The Week of Melancholy, but we're three for three with Pajammy Jams of the Day. You know, the songs you listen to in the week hours of the night. In your jammies.

Let's back up the bus. I was quite dismayed when I first heard that Port O'Brien was breaking up. The band's 2009 album, Threadbare, is so. damn. good. It reminds me of winters and twilight and feeling wistful.

But, my frown was turned upside down when Port O'Brien's founder and front man, Van Pierszalowski, established his new band, WATERS, and put out last summer's album, Out In The Light on TBD Records. Pierszalowski notes, "The record is about waking up. It is about getting out of a situation that seems endless, and realizing you’re not too old to make dramatic and sudden changes in your life. It is about starting over.”

Which is where the above lyrics come into play.

Pierszalowski just made a new video for "Mickey Mantle" in conjunction with Music Video Race. WATERS was given 48 hours to meet the director, come up with a concept, and shoot and edit the video. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Album Review | Grace Potter & The Nocturnals - The Lion The Beast The Beat


"I found the heart of a lion, in the belly of the beast," Grace Potter sings on the title track of her new album with The Nocturnals, The Lion The Beast The Beat. Potter, who had to halt the initial recordings to find herself in the form of a "fantasy road trip," didn't just find a beating heart -- she found the essence of her sound: an exploding showcase of rock, pop, and passion that builds in each song, most importantly and amazingly in the title track, which is the best rock song I have heard in 2012.

And I'll say it right now: "Stars," a ballad on par with past material such as "Apologies" and "Ragged Company," should be an immediate radio hit. (But please, bury the "bonus" version with Kenny Chesney, which is ridiculously awful, and is a disservice to the song.)

You're bound to read about Potter's much publicized collaboration with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach on this record, and their work together is fine, especially on the first single, "Never Go Back." But you're better off rocking to "Turntable," zoning out to "Timekeeper," or relishing in the closing "The Divide," which is mysterious and baiting, and confirms that Grace Potter is who we thought she was: a super gypsy and rock star who is here to stay.

Pajammy Jam of the Day | Matthew E. White - One Of These Days


Summer is coming. Matthew E. White will make it his. Just surrender now.

But if your hand and ears must be forced, they will not be led by extreme means. Instead, you will slowly succumb to beats that sneak along and a voice that quietly kills, seemingly possessed by the ghosts of history's most powerful songwriters.

Consider this your warning, and your first taste of Big Inner - White’s debut album out this August. And don't say we didn't alert you to his presence if you miss him at the Hopscotch Music Festival this year - he'll certainly be the topic of much discussion over chicken and waffles at 2:15 in the morning.

For now, check out "One Of These Days" below.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pajammy Jam of the Day | Glen Hansard - High Hope

Photo by Conor Masterson

Maybe when our hearts have realigned
Maybe when we've both had some time
I'm gonna see you there


Glen Hansard just might be the most passionate artist alive, and it's simply a gift that he also happens to write magical songs. If you've seen Hansard perform, whether it be solo, with The Frames, or with The Swell Season, you probably are aware of his solo acoustic rendition of "Say It To Me Now," which really brings a whole new meaning to the idea of "solo acoustic." I challenge you to find anything like Glen Hansard performing it.

Hansard's debut solo album, Rhythm and Repose, is set for release on June 19th. Additionally, he'll performing at The Pageant in Saint Louis on September 25th (purchase tickets here). Listen to one of his new songs, "High Hope," which is as wonderful as anything he's ever done, below.

Glen Hansard - High Hope

Concert Photos | The Cribs at Motorco in Durham, NC

All Photos by Aggie Donkar

"We had planned to not rock, but really, we fucking rock." - Gary Jarman

The way I see it, you have two choices when walking out on stage to greet a crowd of around 50 people standing in a room that holds a few hundred.  The first is to let your ego take over, and dial in a performance that simply gets you through the next hour and a half of your life.  Or, you can close your eyes, conjure images of the best show you ever played, and blow those collective 100 socks right off the cool people who decided to come to your show.

On Friday night, The Cribs chose option two without so much as a second thought.  Sure, they joked about having to wait to speak over the deafening crowd noise, but if you were just inches from the stage like we were, there was simply no feeling that the open space behind was ample. True to form, The Cribs brought every bit of British punk-swagger we expected to Motorco Music Hall, leaving us tired, and our ears ringing.

 Check out the pictures our own Aggie Donkar snapped below. And even more on her Flickr page.





Friday, June 8, 2012

Jam of the Day | Langhorne Slim & the Law - The Way We Move

Photo by Todd Roet

Langhorne Slim and the Law have been honing their chops on the road for a long time now, and it's all the more evident in the title track from Slim's upcoming album, The Way We Move. Slim calls the record "an optimistic breakup album," and "The Way We Move" says as much in its lyrics:

"You didn't know it
Now you do
This is the way 
This is the way we move"

The track bounces with ragtime piano and horns, and it's mirrored in the video for this first single, with Slim and his band playing in a boxing ring, an apt metaphor for a breakup itself.

Watch the video below, and North Carolinians can catch Langhorne Slim & the Law next week at the Casbah in Durham, on Tuesday June 12th. (Get there early and catch openers Ha Ha Tonka, who are also getting raves on this tour.)

 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Album Review | Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Americana


How I missed her! How I missed her
How I missed my Clementine,
So I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

"Clementine, Clementine!" Neil Young howls on Americana, his long-awaited reunion album with Crazy Horse. These are beloved songs of American heritage, many that you already know and can sing along to, and that is sort of the point. It's not that simple, though. (And nothing related to Neil Young really is, right?)

For example, Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" is presented on Americana in its original form, with "misinterpreted deleted verses." "As I went walking I saw a sign there, and on the sign it said, 'No Trespassing,'" Young sings. These words are important to Young, as they should be to all of us.

If you know anything about Young, this should come as no surprise; the Canadian icon doesn't settle for anything that isn't in its purest and most complete form -- just Google "Neil Young" and "MP3." So, Americana isn't about what's popular, it's more about what was originally intended; of course, these two ideas are often mutually exclusive. Not in Neil Young's world.

What should be celebrated here, besides the fact that Young and Crazy Horse are collaborating and recording, is that, once again, we have a Neil Young album that has been created on its own terms. Most of these takes, such as "Oh Susannah," sound as if they were rarely rehearsed and recorded right off the barn floor. Even "God Save the Queen," which Young notes "may have been sung in North America before the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which rejected British sovereignty," sounds as if it was somehow made for Young and the Horse to one day make their own.

And thankfully, that day has finally come.

Listen | Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - Stars

Photo by Chris Lay

I lit a fire
with the love you left behind


Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' new album is mostly an explosive rock and pop record, but there is another side to the rising singer/songwriter/awesome person from Vermont: she can write and sing a ballad. Similar to previous songs in her catalog like "Ragged Company" and "Apologies," "Stars" was made in a galaxy with a population of only one: Grace Potter.

The Lion The Beast The Beat drops June 12th; pre-order it now.

Click here to listen to "Stars."

Jam of the Day | Justin Jones - I Can Feel It


Keep on tryin', you're gonna get it gonna get it
Keep on tryin', you're gonna get it gonna get it


Justin Jones wants your attention, and for good reason: he's got a voice that echoes Jakob Dylan, and a driving sound for a promising summer day. The only thing he's surrendering on today's Jam of the Day, "I Can Feel It," is heartache; his positivity floats in a realistic world where he knows he has a chance to break through. And he's close to doing just that.

Jones' intense 2012 release, Fading Light, is available now. He'll be performing at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October, and has recently announced July residencies in Atlanta at Smith's Olde Bar  and in Charleston, SC at The Royal American; a full list of tour dates can be found here.

Justin Jones - I Can Feel It

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jam of the Day | Bo and the Locomotive - On My Way

Photo by Louis Kwok

Last Saturday, downtown Saint Louis played host to one of the biggest displays and celebrations of local music: The Riverfront Times Music Showcase. While it's a fantastic way to dive headfirst into the deep end of our city's immense local talent, the showcase itself presents a little bit of a conundrum. With bands scheduled to play in competing time slots, does one attend sure-thing sets by familiar bands, or does one use the showcase as a chance to check out never-before-seen artists?

I did a little of both.

My most valuable, brand new takeaway from the day was Bo and the Locomotive. The Saint Louis four (Bo Bulawsky, Andrew Arato, Steven Colbert and Evan O'Neal) played to the crowd with such refreshing, unabashed exuberance that I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. I wanted to jump into the mix, I wanted to bang on a tambourine, I wanted to sing along without knowing the words. And, isn't that what the live music experience is all about?

Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels like this. Bo and the Locomotive is recording its first Daytrotter session this July, and the band was recently named one of the "10 Missouri Bands You Should Know" by Paste. The word is spreading fast.

You can purchase On My Way now at the band's Bandcamp site.  Catch 'em live on June 29th when they play Off Broadway with Water Liars, another Paste pick, that we interviewed recently.

Watch Bo and the Locomotive play today's Jam of the Day, "On My Way," as part of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's LISTEN video series. I can't help but recall that Local Natives video where the guys cover "Cecelia." It makes my soul happy in the same kinda way.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Concert Review | The Shins + The Antlers + Deep Sea Diver at The Pageant in Saint Louis

Photo by Jason Gonulsen

I know that things can really get rough
when you go it alone


A part of me has always really wanted to love The Shins, but perhaps only in small doses. Because when the band led by James Mercer is on, they are fabulous, providing hooks and melodies that you shouldn't deny. Other times, Mercer's imagination loses me; I can't fully connect to his quirks, or his aim completely misses me, instead hitting a much larger audience. Such is life, I guess. And such is live music.

To say that The Shins were utterly glowing and amazing during the majority of their performance last night would be accurate. Many times in just the past few weeks I had thought quietly to myself if bands even cared about immediately catching their audience's attention. I've seen too many shows in the past year where things took a little too long to get rolling, like water sitting still instead of wanting to boil as fast as it could. And yes, I am a patient person (unless I'm hungry, but that's for another blog).

So, I am proud to report that a funny thing happened last night: The Shins wasted little time to rip open the glory of their best work. And yes, it exploded, first with "Phantom Limb," complete with a brief "Pam Berry" to light its spark -- a flame that would keep reaching for ultimate satisfaction.

"Caring Is Creepy" followed, and its first notes were carried by screams of girls (and more than a few dudes) who probably own Garden State on Blu-Ray, or at least have it queued or starred on Netflix. Can't really blame them, though. If the song were a drug, it would be banned in every state except Nevada, where casinos would take bets on its effects.

Photo by Jason Gonulsen

James Mercer knows this, and that's why he's a rocker who wastes no time. When you have a song as good as "Caring Is Creepy," you don't hold its fix in your pocket; you give the people what they want. Besides, it perfectly set up "Simple Song," an instant Shins classic from the recently released Port Of Morrow. "I made a fumbling play for your heart," Mercer sang.

There would be little fumbling on this night, even if the set occasionally stalled after the performance of "Australia." Granted, we were just hit hard by a perfectly-executed stroke of genius, so perhaps my heart was in the wrong place to take in much more. By the time "New Slang" was played, my thoughts were still lost in the past, even if "Sleeping Lessons" did wake me up just a bit.

Too late, though, James Mercer. You played your cards early and well, and I salute you for doing just that.

Before the onslaught, though, was an entirely different story. The Antlers gave us around six songs of creative freedom that efficiently used space to reveal themselves. They also need one's full attention, which they didn't get, and that's too bad. People talked through "I Don't Want Love" and the set-closing "Putting The Dog To Sleep," two songs that should be on everyone's iPod. But, I fully understand: we all don't process music in the same way. Stupid brains.

The first opener, Deep Sea Diver, led by The Shins' guitarist Jessica Dobson, suffered much of the same fate, but make no mistake about it: their songs hold weight, and also deserve to be appreciated, especially "NWO," which is quickly becoming one of my favorite tunes of 2012. Dobson is a confident leader -- one who can sing and one who has stage presence to hold a room all by herself.

Again, listening is always key. Otherwise, as James Mercer sings on "Phantom Limb," "there's no connection."

Jam of the Day | The Band in Heaven - Summer Bummer


I'm a firm disbeliever in serendipity, fate, and generally anything else that could be used for either the premise of a teen novel or a chick flick. Call it soulless, but that melarkey is for the birds. However, last week, while reading a list of "new" bands a friend sent me while doing Hopscotch Music Festival research, I received an email directly from the first band on the list, The Band in Heaven. To quote Kanye West: "that shit cray!"

After the goosebumps and cold chills subsided, I gave them a listen, quickly realizing we were indeed connected on a cosmic level. What I heard was that perfect mixture of melody beaten down by a wall of fuzz - and given we are now entering that dreadfully hot time of the year, "Summer Bummer" is now officially my musical soulmate. In fact, I'd marry it if NC hadn't just passed that infamous son of bitch Amendment One.

Listen and download the Jam of the Day below. Then, go here, purchase their latest release, HoZac 7", and get to know it well so you're brushed up on its awesomeness before Hopscotch rolls around this September.

The Band in Heaven - Summer Bummer

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jam of the Day | Blood Diamonds feat. Grimes - Phone Sex


Los Angeles based (via Vancouver) producer / pop artist Blood Diamonds (aka Michael Diamond) has teamed up with 4AD pal and label-mate Grimes to craft "Phone Sex," a shimmering, sunny, dance-pop stunner.  Sure to be on many a "Summer Jam" playlist in the coming months, "Phone Sex" is an undeniably infectious dance stimulator.

Look for Blood Diamonds to officially release the track on July 24th and drop his debut LP in early 2013. In the meantime, have some "Phone Sex" below. 

Jam of the Day | Deep Sea Diver - NWO


Tonight, The Shins invade The Pageant for a sold out show, presumably to slay us with tunes from their latest release, Port Of Morrow. Deep Sea Diver, featuring The Shins' guitarist Jessica Dobson, will open the show, along with The Antlers.

Dobson delivers on her own on today's Jam of the Day, "NWO," which is culled from the recently released History Speaks. You can purchase that here after they win you over tonight in St. Louis. Enjoy!


Interview | Brandi Carlile: "I've always just thought I was a singer."


I'll tell you how I want to live
Forget about the take, forget about the give
I want to leave this town
Fake my death and never be found 

Those words are taken from "Hard Way Home," the opening song on Bear Creek, Brandi Carlile's fourth studio album (available June 5th via Columbia), a collection of genre-bending tunes that find the singer-songwriter from Washington in a passionate and vulnerable state of mind. Bear Creek is the kind of career-defining record for an artist who's already made a strong statement with her previous work.

But, as Carlile asks on her first single, "That Wasn't Me," a song about addiction: what defines us, really?

Is it what we've done in the past? Is our darkest moment always part of who we are? Do we let someone else define us, based on previous actions? Let's have a listen.



If I've learned anything about Carlile's music in just the past few days, it's that her fans don't just listen passively to her songs, they feel them and they can relate to them. I solicited thoughts from readers as to the meaning of "That Wasn't Me," and while many of the stories that came in were different, they all shared a common notion: we all have time to prove that our former selves do not need to define who we are today.

I hope Bear Creek becomes part of your record collection not just because it's an important piece of work for Brandi Carlile, but that it carries an important message for all of us: that life is about constantly redefining who you are.

I recently spoke with Carlile about the recording of Bear Creek, growing older, and her thoughts on being viewed as a singer. 

Well, I've been listening to the new album, and I tell ya what -- this one starts off with a bang.

You like that? (laughs)

I love it! (laughing) I was listening to it in my car the other day, and I've decided that's the best place for it.

Well, that's my favorite way to listen to music -- in my car.

For sure. It's really the best way. So, you named the album Bear Creek after the studio you recorded it in. How did the recording process go, and what was special about Bear Creek the studio?

Oh, it was pretty cool, man. Bear Creek is a place that's in Washington State, and it's pretty reminiscent of where the three of us all live -- me, Tim, and Phil -- a place called Maple Valley, and we all live in kind of farm-style places, you know, on acreage. And this place is really similar. We all really wanted to do this record in a way that felt unsupervised by the industry, you know? Without a big producer...we're always in a big shiny, industrial studio. And this time we wanted to be home -- we wanted to see if we could capture some of who we really, really are. And so, the recording process felt like kind of a big sleepover; we realized that the parents were gone, and that's where a lot of the spontaneity on the record comes from.

A lot of these lyrics -- when I listen to these songs, I think about how fast life goes by.

Yeah. (laughs)

Do you see a theme there in these songs? (laughing)

Yeah, I can see why you feel that way. You know, I turned 30 on June 1st (of 2011), and a lot of the record is pretty centered around that shift. Because you're not in your twenties anymore, and maybe you want to leave some things from your twenties and not take them with you. Or maybe you want to do some things in your thirties that you haven't done yet. Sometimes that can make a person really mad, or it can be exciting, but there's a lot of that motive behind the record, I think -- a paradigm shift.

Yeah, I didn't know that you recently turned 30, but I still got that feel from listening to these songs. These songs sound personal, and they sound like you're searching for truth wherever you can find it.

I would definitely say that that's happening in this record. It gets complicated, because the twins (guitarists Phil and Tim Hanseroth) all write lyrics to songs, so it all comes down to what we're all collectively feeling. Which works for me, because I'm innately co-dependent.



The last song, "Just Kids," especially, is sort of like a dreamy way to close out the album. Did you set out to have that sort of sound with that song?

Yeah, I wrote that song in the studio. And I would be just playing on the piano, so I would be practicing it all day. And everybody would leave, and I tried to record it, and I would always try to record that one at like two or three in the morning. And so it ended up being a two or three in the morning kind of song. We would add bits and pieces to it, to where it's that mystical thing that you hear now.

And when it gets cut off at the end -- I don't know what those sounds are.

They're frogs.

Oh yeah?

Yeah, we took a microphone and we set it out on the creek.

Oh nice.

And we let the frogs end the record, because that's what we were hearing every night. We thought it would be a cool way to end the record.

You know, there's a lot of different styles of the music from song to song on this album. Even like, a song like "Raise Hell" sort of sounds like a rocky, western sort of deal.

Like "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky," the old Johnny Cash tune?

Yeah!

Yeah, it was neat for me. Certain songs will just come out of me at the time -- we made the decision to just totally shun the idea of genre compartmentalization. Every record, we start out with something that we're not going to do. With The Story, we were not going to build tracks, we were going to play live -- that was our plan, and we did, and we love the record for that reason. With Give Up the Ghost, we decided we were not going to write an album full of road songs about being on the road. Because we felt that so many artists made their first record about life and loss and first loves and coming of age, and then the second record a band released -- it's always a band about being on the road. So, we said, "okay, we're not going to go in for Give Up the Ghost and make a record full of road songs."

And then, for this album, we said, "we're not going to go in and tell ourselves we're a rock band. We're not going to go in and tell ourselves we're a folk band We're going to go in and say we're a band." So, the compartmentalization of genres is what we decided to boundary off this time, and to instead play according to what we're feeling.

I feel it. And I always associated your music with more than just one sound. This one really shows all of your talents, so that's cool.

Thanks, man.

I think the first two songs really start it off well. And I think that first song -- you're saying so many things in the song, that it really gets the listener's mind thinking a lot, like right from the start. Do you want you listeners to really get hit hard with your words? Is that really important to you?

Yeah, in some ways. I mean, I definitely want it to be relatable, I want to be as personable and as honest as I can, as a writer, about my own experiences. But I have a lot of respect for story writers, too. Artists like Bernie Taupin, who's a writer, but he wrote all those songs for Elton John to sing -- so all of the songs he writes are about this other guy's life, or about Marilyn Monroe, or about a drug addict. And there's something really selfless about that kind of art. And as a songwriter, I really do want my songs to play a part as a human soundtrack of someone else's life. So, it's not that I want them to be hit hard with my lyrics, I want them to be able to relate to my lyrics.

I think there's a lot of these songs on this album that people are going to relate to on a personal level, that's just my take, anyway.

Thank you.


You know, I saw you solo last year in Columbia, Missouri. And seeing you solo -- it showed off a real personal side to your music. I think you played some of these songs that night. But these songs -- these songs are sort of stories. Do you see yourself as a storyteller?

Yeah, I hope so. That's kind of what I want to be, you know? Everything I've ever done is something to support the fact that I'm a singer. If I'm honest, I've always just thought I was a singer. If I would ever learn how to play an instrument, it's because I would have something to sing to. And if I ever would write a song, it would be because I have words to sing. And as much as I do need to write down and create in an art form, my personal experiences, it's more important that I sing them. Singing is more important for me, it's not the writing. So, I tend to write stories because I want to tell them.

Does it bother you if you're referred to as just a singer, though?

No. In fact, in a guilty pleasure sort of way, that's what I've always wanted. It's like I have a weird, secret fantasy -- I want to go on all these singer shows on TV and shit, and just like...(laughing)...there's a karaoke singer in all of us, and I'm not above it just because I do this for a living.

That's cool. I guess I asked you that because when I first started listening to your music, I thought, "wow, what a voice." But then when I kept seeing you live, I felt that maybe there's many more sides to Brandi Carlile.

Maybe there are, but I don't see them. (laughs) I just want to be a great singer, you know?

Yeah. So, back to the album. What was your favorite part about recording Bear Creek?

My favorite part about recording it was that it just kind of felt like a bunch of people did without any supervision. There was no captain. It was experimental -- nobody was afraid of trying anything. I never would have before felt comfortable picking up some weird instrument and saying, "okay, I'm going to play this on this track." Because before, someone would have laughed, and say, "we'll get the ukelele player to play on that track." (laughs) Everyone (on this record) was on a little kid level -- it was unsupervised, and that's what this album is.

It sounds pretty liberating.

Yeah. Yeah, and maybe it should be that way, I don't know. But maybe we couldn't have done it if we didn't learn what we did from those producers (on the previous albums). It's the concept of being able to apply your knowledge to life -- and we had knowledge to apply.