Friday, February 26, 2010

From the Archives - Calla Interview

Songs To Learn And Sing - Calla Interview

Photo: Calla from 2003

From the Archives: Calla played The Sugar Club in Dublin on 29 April 2003 in support of their third album, Televise. I chatted to the band before the gig about how the sound of Televise had changed in a live context over the course of a few months on the road. The Texas band also talked about how a collective love of Television and The Velvet Underground had influenced a move to New York.

A funny moment occured towards the end of the interview when I asked the band to tell me something about the track Pete the Killer. 'This is Pete,' Sean said, pointing to Pete Gannon, the fourth member of the group. Pete, who hadn't opened his mouth for the whole interview, attempted to start an explanation but clammed up and couldn't talk, so Sean and Aurelio had to jump in. The guys were really friendly and later on played an amazing gig to small but appreciative audience.

Nina Simone had passed away a few days before the gig and the band played tribute to her on the night, as far as I can recall they also played a cover version of a Can track. Live the tracks from Televise sounded brilliant. Since then Calla have released two more albums, Sean has departed the band and Pete has became a fulltime member. These two records, Collisions and Strength in Numbers, are both fantastic but it's Televise, my entry point to this great band, that I always go back to. It's a slowburning sonic masterpiece.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Episode 285

Episode 285 - Songs To Learn And Sing

Photo: After Dark, My Sweet (2006, Homesleep Records)

This episode featured two tracks from After Dark, My Sweet the fourth album by Julie's Haircut. I discovered Julie's Haircut through noticing that Pete 'Sonic Boom' Kember was credited for his additional production duties on this album - although he has no hand or part in the two tracks featured in this episode. The Italian band have been together since the mid 90s but this record was the one in which they truely came into their own - fusing experimental improvised sounds with blistering guitar freak-outs. 

  Photo: Paint America Love (1971 Buddah Records, reissued on Rev-Ola Records 2008)

We end this episode with a few tracks from Paint America Love, Lou Christie's 1971 concept album. The album goes for silly money on secondhand vinyl and was finally released on CD for the first time in 2008 by Rev-Ola. This is an absolute lost classic. Duglas T Stewart (of BMX Bandits) describes Paint America Love in the 2008 reissue liner notes as 'a musical travelogue back and forth through time and across the America of John Ford Westerns, Steinbeck and Twain.' If you've never heard this record but are a fan of Van Dyke Parks, Dennis Wilson, Burt Bacharach or Jimmy Webb, then you have to do yourself a favour and check it out. On Paint America Love, Lou again collaborated with his longtime co-writer Twyla Herbert. Twyla saddly passed away in July of 2009 at the age of 87. Lou first met Twyla when he was 15 and despite a 22 year age gap, the two forged a long-lasting, creative partnership.

Photo: Twyla Herbert (RIP) with Lou Christie

Their first hit was Lou's The Gypsy Cried in 1962 and the hit singles kept coming throughout the 60s. Lightning Strikes, Trapeze, Rhapsody in the Rain and Hollywood's My Stop can all be found on the essential Original Sinner (the very best of the MGM years) CD. 'Twyla is a genius. She was going to be a concert pianist but we started writing rock 'n' roll. The hardest part was that we had too many ideas. If we wanted to write a song, it would never stop,' Lou once explained. Twyla was a self-described mystic and clairvoyant who allegedly used to predict which of their songs would become hit singles. They also wrote material for the girl group The Tammys including their brilliant hit Egyptian Shumba famously described as the kind of record that might have been made if Phil Spector had swapped brains with Sun Ra.

Episode 285 - 25/02/10
Monks - I hate You
The Black Angels - The First Vietnamese War
The Loves - Sweet Sister Delia
Julie's Haircut - Openwound
Julie's Haircut - Satan Eats Seitan
The Fall - Blindness
Sone Institute - Dark Forest - Silver Sea
Charlie Alex March - Telephone Song
Polar Bear - Peepers
Calla - It Dawned On Me
Calla - Televised
Fursaxa - Poplar Moon
OP8 - If I Think of Love
Tara Jane O'Neill - Sweet Bargaining
Two Door Cinema Club – I Can Talk
Casio Kids – Grønt Lys I Alle Ledd
Cobra Killer - Hello Celebrity
Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well Part 1
The Time and Space Machine – You Are The One
Lindstrom & Christabelle – Lovesick
Parenthetical Girls – Handsome Devils
Lawrence Arabia – Apple Pie Bed
Girls - Laura
Frightened Rabbit - The Lonliness and the Scream
Yeasayer - Rome
Lou Christie - Lighthouse (from Paint America Love)
Lou Christie - The Best Way to See America (from Paint America Love)
Lou Christie - Chuckie Wagon (from Paint America Love)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

From the Archives - Sufjan Stevens Interview

Songs To Learn And Sing - Sufjan Stevens Interview

From the Archives: I interviewed Sufjan in 2004 prior to his gig at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Trinity College Dublin. Seven Swans was just out and Sufjan chats about recording the album with Daniel Smith of The Danielson Famile. Sufjan had moved to New York to complete a creative writing class but met Daniel and started focusing more on his music. Sufjan admits that he was a little scared and insecure about the release of Seven Swans. These feelings stemmed from the personal nature of the songs on the record and the relaxed atmosphere of their recording in Daniel's house in south Jersey. Sufjan described the recording process as being 'very sacred'. He also chated about his Christian vision, a vision he said that he shared with both Daniel and labelmate David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower and Wovenhand).    

At the time of this interview, The Transfiguration was all I was listening to so I was thrilled when Sufjan introduced it on the show but I missed his gig due to a prior commitment, something I really regret.   

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Episode 284

Episode 284 - Songs To Learn And Sing

Photo: Verbena's Souls For Sale from 1997 on Setanta Records

Tonight's show features three songs from Souls For Sale the Birmingham, Alabama band's debut album from 1997. Souls For Sale was produced by Dave Fridmann and released on Merge Records in the US and Setanta Records in Europe. The band would go on to release two further LPs for Capitol before calling it a day in 2003. Upon its release I didn't really get this album. I remember reviewing it for Cork Campus Radio and saying it was only pretty average. How wrong I was. Souls For Sale is fantastic! I still play it every couple of months and each time Ann Marie Griffin's backing vocals roll in on the opening track Hot Blood, I regret my original review. Souls For Sale is a lost Southern rock classic, a rustic Americana album which had it come along a year or two later would have been caught up in the Alternative Country slipstream. I'm glad it stands alone and is not synonymous with any trend. This is a classic album.

Photo: Dutch Harbor VHS from 1997

This episode also features two tracks from the 1997 soundtrack to Dutch Harbor. The film will finally get a DVD release in the next few months by Factory 25. The improvised soundtrack is performed by The Boxhead Ensemble (David Grubbs, Charles Kim, Michael Krassner, Jim O'Rourke, Joe Ferguson, David Padkovic, Rick Rizzo, Ken Vandermark and Douglas McCombs). The soundtrack is also notable for Ebb's Folly a song performed by Will Oldham and Jim O'Rourke. Factory 25 are promising a lavish reissue with loads of extras including vinyl and an alternate live soundtrack. If the release is anything like their lavish Damon & Naomi 1001 Nights package then we're in for a serious treat.

  Photo: The Oscillation's Head Hang Low

We bookend the episode with a Julian Cope cover version and a Cope original. The Oscillation's version of Head Hang Low is from his Out of Phase album which came out in 2007. The Oscillation is Demian Castellanos and he chose to release this reworking of Head Hang Low, which was originally recorded for Cope's debut solo reccord, as his first single. We end the show with Come the Revolution taken from Julian's brilliant 2008 Black Sheep album. 

Episode 284 - 18/02/2010
Efterklang & The Danish National Chamber Orchestra - Mirador (playing Whelans Apr 25)
The Oscillation - Head Hang Low (Julian Cope cover)
Scout Niblett - Bargain
Scout Niblett - The Calcination of Scout Niblett
The Boxhead Ensemble - For the Glory of the Wind and the Water (from OST Dutch Harbor)
Will Oldham & Jim O'Rourke - Ebb's Folly (from OST Dutch Harbor)
The Shortwave Set - No Social
Seeland - Call the Incredible (The Advisory Circle Remix)
Fever Ray - Seven (CSS Remix)
Polly Scattergood - Nitrogen Pink
Arch Garrison - Peek-a-boo
Herm - Year of the Horse (feat. Nina Hynes) (playing Pravda Feb 26)
Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions - Blanchard
Dave Rawlings Machine - I Hear Them All
Mary Hampton - Honey
Xiu Xiu - Apple For a Brain (playing Whelans Feb 21)
Charlie Alex March - Snow Feet
Polar Bear - Drunken Pharaoh
Charlotte Gainsbourg - Time of the Assasins
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Higher Than the Stars (Saint Etienne remix)
The Auteurs - Unsolved Child Murder
Verbena - Hot Blood (from Souls For Sale)
Verbena - The Song That Ended Your Career (from Souls For Sale)
Verbena - Hey, Come On (from Souls For Sale)
Lawrence Arabia - Beautiful Young Crew
Julian Cope - Come the Revolution

Thursday, February 11, 2010

From the Archives - Jenny Lewis Interview

Songs To Learn And Sing - Jenny Lewis Interview

Photo: Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins

From the Archives: Jenny Lewis interviewed for Songs To Learn And Sing in 2006 just before the release of her debut solo album Rabbit Fur Coat. Jenny was very easygoing and friendly. She chatted at length about songs from Rabbit Fur Coat, recording without her Rilo Kiley bandmates and why Laura Nyro's Gonna Take a Miracle is one of her favourite albums.

Gonna Take a Miracle, Laura Nyro's fifth album, was released in 1971. It's an album of covers on which, accompanied by the vocal trio Labelle, Nyro interprets a number of 50s and 60s soul and R&B standards. Jenny had fond memories of listening to the record as a kid with her mum. 

Episode 283

Episode 283 - Songs To Learn And Sing

Photo: A House's I Want Too Much from 1990.

Tonight's show features Small Talk and Manstrong, two tracks from this brilliant album. People always mention I Am The Greatest as the band's creative highpoint but for me it's got to be the band's previous record which they recorded at Doonmore Hotel on Inisboffin Island off the coast of Co. Galway. I have an ashtray from Doonmore Hotel - that's how much I love this album!

Photo: Perrey and Kingsley's electronic masterpiece on Vanguard Records from 1966

This episode also features Girl From Venus and Computer in Love, two tracks from Perrey and Kingsley's groundbreaking 1966 electronic album. The Beastie Boys would go on to appropriate both the title and cover artwork for their 1996 instrumental compilation album. 

Photo: Arch Garrison's King of the Down

Three tracks from Arch Garrison's gorgeous new album King of the Down are also featured on this episode. Arch Garrison features Craig and Sharon Fortnam from North Sea Radio Orchestra and if pastoral-folk, nylon-stringed guitars and beautiful harmonies are your thing, then check it out. It's all I've been listening to for two weeks now and it gets better with each play. 

Episode 283 - 10/02/2010
Alexander Tucker - Phantom Rings (Slight Return)
Arch Garrison - The Days Don't Feel the Same
Colourmusic - Yes
Bat For Lashes - Daniel
Alfie - A Word In Your Ear
Efterklang - The Soft Beating (playing Whelans, Apr 25)
The Durutti Column - English Landscape Tradition
Get Well Soon - Werner Herzog Gets Shot
Nedry - A42
A House - Manstrong
A House - Small Talk
Codeine - Washed Up
Le Mans - Un Rayo De Sol
Arch Garrison - Peek-a-boo
Beach House - Been Around Before (playing Whelans, Feb 13)
Neon Indian - Terminally Chill
Xiu Xiu - Falkland Rd. (playing Whelans, Feb 20)
Yeasayer - Madder Red
Oi Va Voi - Yesterday's Mstakes
Billy Mahonie - Less Flagiolettes
Perrey & Kingsley - Girl From Venus
Perrey & Kingsley - Computer in Love
Talk Talk - Such a Shame (live)
Apse - The Whip
Polar Bear - Sunshine
Matmos - Lipostudio... And So On
Adventures in Stereo - Airline
Arch Garrison - King of the Down

Monday, February 08, 2010

From the Archives - Willy Vlautin Interview

Willy Vlautin and Richmond Fontaine guitar player Dan Eccles return to Ireland for a couple of dates in March. Willy and Dan will play music and Willy will read from Lean on Pete his newly published third novel. The lads will be in Whelan's for two shows on March 13 (7pm and 10pm).

Willy has been a guest on the radio show twice in the last couple of years. He first came on in May 2006 a few months after The Fitzgerald was released. Richmond Fontaine played a great gig in Whelan's that night, the version of Black Road they played was brilliant. The gig was also memorable for the band's great tribute to Dead Moon - the Oregon band had decided to call it a day that year after almost 20 years on the road. That night Richmond Fontaine were supported by Ian Moore who played a memorable set from his album Luminaria. At the merch stand after the gig Ian Moore chatted for ages to an American friend of ours from Mississippi about their Hurricane Katrina experiences - he was a cool guy.

I interviewed Willy before the gig and he told me some great stories about the characters from his home town of Reno who informed some of The Fitzgerald's songs. When Willy was 13 his brother moved from Reno to LA. He'd return home with albums for his younger brother -Green On Red, The Long Ryders, The Blasters and various others. I think it's fair to say that this introduction to Cow-punk in his early teens really forged the seeds of the Richmond Fontaine sound. At the time of this interview Willy's first novel The Motel Life had yet to be published. He was pretty apprehensive about how the book would be received both by fans and critics alike. He also told me that the publication of The Motel Life was a bigger personal deal for him than the release of Richmond Fontaine's first record. Willy said he'd been writing novels for 15 years, "I have 'em just stacked in a box at home."

The second time Willy was on the programme was in 2007 when Thirteen Cities was released. This time around The Motel Life had been published and Willy was absolutely thrilled with the novel's reception. In that interview Willy talked at length about recording with the producer JD Foster in Tucson, Arizona and his love of Calexico. Since then his second novel Northline has been published, again to critical acclaim.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

From the Archives - The Hold Steady Interview

Songs To Learn And Sing - The Hold Steady Interview

Photo: Boys and Girls in America by the Hold Steady

From the Archives: The Hold Steady's Craig Finn interviewed for Songs To Learn And Sing in February 2007 before the band's performance in the Temple Bar Music Centre. Craig chats about the band's third album Boys and Girls in America and two of his big influences: The Clash and The Replacements.

Episode 282

Episode 282 - Songs To Learn And Sing

Photo: Popsicle - Jan & Dean's classic 1966 LP on Liberty.

The Restless Surfer, one of two Jan & Dean tracks featured on this episode, is taken from this classic LP.

Episode 282 - 04/02/10
Charlotte Gainsbourg - Heaven Can Wait
Ralfe band - Snow Song
Autumn Owls - The Wolf by the Mountain (playing Whelans, Feb 6 & 19)
Autumn Owls - A Thousand Blind Windows
Fourtet - Circling
Cold Cave - Life Magazine
Animal Collective - Lion in a Coma
Efterklang - Raincoats
Revenge - Pineapple Face
The Other Two - Tasty Fish
Monaco - What Do You Want From Me?
First Aid Kit - Sailor Song
Scout Niblet - Kings
James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players - Just as the Tide Was Flowing
Midlake - Children of the Grounds
Dick Dale - Mr Eliminator
Jan & Dean - Yellow Balloon
Jan & Dean - The Restless Surfer
Kim Fowley - I'm Bad
Kim Fowely - Night of the Hunter
Yeasayer - Rome
Grizzly Bear - Hold Still
Liars - Here Comes All the People
Renegade Soundwave - Probably a Robbery
The The - The Beat(en) Generation
Ladytron - Tomorrow
Valerie Francis - Cannonball (playing Whelans, Feb 27)
Grant Hart - 2541
Bill Nicholls - London Social Degree
Ken Stringfellow - Down Like Me
The Long Ryders - Capturing the Flag
Clint Mansell - Tree of Life
Bernard Sumner - Bizarre Love triangle (acoustic version)