Once again I have been honored to write the cover feature on this year’s Overall Best Of Poll Winners – Baby Shakes.
Q: You’ve recently completed another successful tour of Japan. How many Japanese tours have you now done?
A: This was our third Japanese tour and we have to say it’s one of our favorite countries to play. There’s so much great food, cool record shops, and many talented bands. The audiences are wild and so much fun! Japan is a beautiful country and the Japanese are sweet, sincere people who are very passionate about what they love, especially music! Sometimes fans will bring us gifts like candy and local treats, records, framed photos from previous tours or handmade trinkets and artwork. After a show, everyone from the venue meets up at an “izakaya” (an affordable all-night bar/restaurant) and we continue the party with yummy food and nonstop sake till early morning. One of our favorite spots is Poor Cow in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo (the best rock n’ roll meeting place in the world!). We can’t wait to go back!
Q: You have a new full-length record “Turn It Up” out now, which is your third long player and the follow up to your popular 2015 release “Starry Eyes.” Did you approach making this new record differently from the last one? How did the recording process go? Did you have access to any new technology or studio enhancements on this one? Did you have a bigger budget for it?
A: Considering that our newest and last album were both self-released on our own label Lil’ Chewy Records, we were working with a tight budget. Basically we used the funds from selling our last LP to record and release “Turn It Up”. To keep up the momentum from our last release, we started writing songs shortly after it came out. We worked on new material in between and while we were still touring in support of “Starry Eyes” and booked several recording and mixing sessions while we were back in town.
The recording process was pretty straight forward. First, we recorded drums, bass and rhythm guitar live and got our sound in the studio for every track rather than adding effects during the mixing process. Lead guitars and vocals were recorded separately in our rehearsal studio and then we added percussion and back-ups in our friend’s kitchen. We nearly drove ourselves mad with trying to meet our goal in such a short amount of time, but we’re happy with how it turned out.
Q: Your band exudes an upbeat glammy punk-rock attitude playing live. It makes sense you list The NY Dolls as an influence since they were the original NY glam-punk band. Your look appears even more coordinated, with everyone wearing horizontal striped shirts and the upfront 3 in matching denim jackets with the band name on back – motorcycle gang style. Talk about the importance of having a clearly defined and recognizable visual style when playing in this type of rock band.
A: Yes, we love the NY Dolls! When we met we all had similar style and taste aesthetically for the most part. Over time, as we’ve evolved as a band so has our style collectively. We don’t always match our clothing precisely but sometimes it’s fun wearing similar outfits especially when we’re playing festivals with other bands. Also we find that people like it when we match (particularly in Japan), it adds to the experience of the show since being an entertainer is not just about the music but the overall experience. Many of the bands that we like and are influenced by wore matching outfits including the glammy 70’s bands like Mud, Rubettes, Bay City Rollers, rockers like Carol and the Ramones, and of course all of the 60’s girl groups that we adore. Sometimes they looked pretty goofy, so rather than regretting our outfit choices we just stick with the classics; denim and leather. We try to personalize it by adding our own Baby Shakes spin. Since we spend so much time with each other and have been through and created so much together over the years, we really are like a gang with just 4 members.
Q: Your band seems to thrive on touring the world whenever possible. Besides the obvious benefits of getting to see and experience other places around the globe, what else about it do you find so exciting? Are they any down sides to all that travel?
A: To us touring is really the best way to travel. Being musicians on the road has its benefits because you get a real insider's experience from the local fans, show promoters and musicians. We’ve been lucky enough to play with amazing bands and meet cool people that we have a lot in common with in every country. Many of the people we meet on the road have become good friends of ours that we see again while touring or when they visit or play NY. We really appreciate it when people show us around their cities, take us to see the sights and introduce us to new delicious food. We learn so much and we’ve really enjoyed expanding our knowledge about different cultures. The worst thing is coming back home and getting those post-tour blues... but at least we have fun shows in NY to look forward to between tours. Oh, and the jet lag sucks too!
Q: In addition to your original songs, you’ve added some select covers to your live show. One of those songs, a cover of late 70’s Power Pop Punk band The Starjets “Any Danger Love” comes off as a seamless addition to your overall sound. How did you come across this song, and do you actively search out songs from past eras that might be a good fit for you?
A: Yes! We love so many bands from that era (specifically Good Vibrations and the Northern Irish Punk scene, Australian 70’s/early 80’s punk and garage, and 70’s/80’s American and British power pop). We’re always looking for obscure music that matches the style of what we like to play. Guess it makes sense that we’re also influenced by bands from the generation before our own. We’re creating music with a similar sound but making it our own.
Q: What movie, past or current could you see any of your music in?
A: Ahh there’s so many! Right off the bat we’d have to say “Gremlins”, “Uncle Buck” or any Molly Ringwald movie from the 80’s.
Q: How do you listen to music most of the time these days? Streaming? Vinyl? CDs (am I the only one still listening to CDs) other ways?
A: We still release CDs and they sell so you must not be the only one. For us though it’s all about Vinyl. Record Collecting is our favorite past time and biggest obsession. We also listen to the radio when we can. We love WFMU because the DJs have very specific and fantastic taste in music. If you’re getting sick of your own music selection you can tune in anytime and listen to a variety of DJs play songs you may not have heard before. It’s a good way to find out about new bands, local shows and they also interview a lot of the musicians that we look up to from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Plus you can stream it live from your phone or computer and even go back into the archives to hear your favorite DJ if you missed their shows.
Q: Outside of making music, what else might interest or excite you? Do you have any favorite authors or books you would like to recommend?
A: The best part about being in a DIY band is that we can explore some of our other passions. We literally do everything from designing our own record covers and making merch to conceptualizing and creating our own music videos and photo shoots. We even style and make our own props and costumes. There’s also the business aspect that comes with running our own record label to release and distribute our music. We do all of the marketing, promoting and we pack and ship out the orders ourselves. It’s a ton of work but we find it to be rewarding and fun. It’s this passion that keeps us going strong. Of course, we could not do any of this without help from our amazing friends and fans that help us book tours, write about us on their blogs or play our songs on their radio shows. They really help get the word out there and they keep us inspired! Some books to check out: “A Confederacy of Dunces”- John Kennedy Toole, “The Football Factory” - John King; any and all of Haruki Murakami’s work.
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As this is the epic annual “Best Of NYC” issue, more than a few Dave Cromwell composed features can be found within those pages, referencing more detailed writing previously appearing on the magazines website.
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June 7th through the 11th saw over 300 bands performing throughout Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn during the 9th annual Northside Festival.
With trusty media credential in hand (along with official swag-bag contents) it was off to check out the far more interesting emerging artists and DIY events.
The first order of business on Thursday the 8th was to catch Amber Arcades live at The Knitting Factory.
Fronted by Dutch musician Annelotte de Graaf, the recently released Cannonball EP has been in steady rotation since it's initial download.
Opening with an impressive reworking of the classic Nick Drake track "Which Will" (from his legendary 1972 album "Pink Moon") de Graaf filters Drake's introspective lyrics through her sweet vocals, jangle-pop guitars and motorik-style percussion.
Her accompanying band consisting of lead guitar, drums and bass appeared well-rehearsed, as they breezed through one song after the next.
Big time pop song "It Changes" went down well at this particular show, with it's huge chorus and amusing lyrics that go “Baby we’ve both been suckered. Now don’t that make you sad? Turns out it’s what we wanted. We’ll be suckers till were dead. Let’s get a picture taken . . . I’ll be a Rolling Stone and you’ll be walking by my side.”
"Wouldn’t Even Know"(which features guest vocals from Bill Ryder-Jones on the EP) pairs Annelotte’s gentle higher pitched tones with the casual cool deeper male voice.
Set against somber buzzing keyboards, “Can’t Say That We Tried” establishes a reverent atmosphere while grappling themes of loss and wonder.
EP title track "Cannonball" builds off a primitive jungle drum pattern with Annelotte soon crooning how she “met you at a road side hotel.”
That song in particular evokes the melancholy beauty of imaginary western words previously explored by female fronted performers like Mazzy Star and Cowboy Junkies.
There's a lot to like about Amber Arcades - find out more here.
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Scurrying over to the eastern side of Brooklyn, arrived just in time to catch Jody Porter and The Berlin Waltz at DIY venue Lantern Hall.
Jody is most known as lead guitarist for the hit making power pop band Fountains of Wayne.
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Anyone following rock music (and MTV) in the early 2000's knows the song and video for "Stacy's Mom" and the album Welcome Interstate Managers resides in physical copy form within the home library. Being able to catch one of their more recent big shows just a few years back was a special treat.
This occasion provided a more intimate setting to hear Jody perform his solo work up close, with his recently put together band The Berlin Waltz.
Playing a set that drew heavily from his two solo albums, 2008's "Close To The Sun" and 2014's "Month Of Mondays," the high quality songwriting was on full display.
“Do It Again” is a solid chunky descending chord progression rocker with a catchy head bopping chorus. It’s a little bit Stones, a little bit Spiders From Mars Bowie that emphasizes the power of a four piece rock band – complete with those full-force accents that instantly satisfy.
One particular highlight was the most recent album title referencing “Steal Your Love.”
An active percussive shuffle, multi-guitars groove and wah-wah pedal enhancements set up the lyrics “There’s never much to do in this town – feel like a renegade” “Between the politicians and the cops – it’s a month of Mondays.”
“Everytime I turn around – running away from my luck. I might be down on the ground right now, but you keep on getting’ me up. Come Tuesday I’ll make you see – that you belong with me. And I sail the seven seas – just to get to your love.”
“yeah you got real fire – you got me on fire – so I’m gonna steal your love.”
“Sweeping Exit” sits in a mid-tempo groove that aligns closest to the power-ballad motif. While the melody is certainly appealing, lyrical content provide essential insight. “Forgive and forget – it’s time for my sweeping exit,” goes the goes the dramatic hook. Everyone would like to picture their grand farewell like something out of a movie. No one want’s to simply disappear (or fade away) – better to imagine a noble exit as their famous final scene.
Also included in this night's set was “Throw It Back,” which ruminates on the oftentimes fleeting nature of relationships. “No one stays together – cause no one lasts forever” is the forceful refrain on this lively rock and roll raveup.
The set played.
Noteworthy fellow musicians checking out the Jopa show.
Listen to some recent tracks from Jody here
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One more stop on this night was required, this time heading up the street (mere blocks away) to the rooftop space at Our Wicked Lady.
Setting up and getting ready to kick off their show was a band previously featured on this site more than a few times - Dead Stars.
In fact their live and recorded works have been covered in separate features here, here and here.
It was interesting to discover how the band has evolved their sound since first hearing them a few years back.
They appear to have tightened up their repertoire, moving away from Dinosaur-admiring “stoner rock” to a more concise pop sensibility. What’s been kept is the power of three essential elements – distorted guitars – power note bass and crack throttle drums.
Recent songs like “Calm Punk” appear birthed from the best 90’s power-pop-punk bands like The Pixies (for the bassline) and Weezer (vocal stylings in the chorus). Essential refrain “we don’t need to try” provides a punk rock attitude.
The explosive chorus on a track like “Stay Here” attempt to step away from the seemingly constant finger pointing with the refrain “It’s alright – we can stay here a while – in this place where there’s no one to blame.”
At over five minutes in length, the song “Oh Well” clocks in as one of their longest. Capturing the softer moment angst of Cobain’s Nirvana with lyrics “I can only see you when you’re gone,” a surging chorus ultimately laments how “a dream has passed you by.”
Jeff Moore still provides the central focus as lead singer, guitarist and one would presume predominant lyricist.
Still the "master sticksman," Jaye Moore's new "country life" seems to suit him quite well.
Festive early am rooftop revelers (some with glowing shoes) take in the sound and spectacle.
Another successful Noise Love production!
Previous Noise Love events can be found on this site here and here.
Previous Noise Love events can be found on this site here and here.
Thursday Northside appreciation.
Everyone loves collectible buttons!
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Friday the 9th saw the action resume at the new Brooklyn Night Bazaar.
Deli Magazine Cover Stars Baby Shakes played an early show there, showcasing a number of great tracks from their new album "Turn It Up."
There's always such a high energy to their shows, and the songs came fast and furious on this night.
Having to condense their show into a defined time frame, the band wasted no time delivering their set with Ramones-like precision.
Ornate window designs from a bygone era created an appealing backdrop for the bands own rock and roll glam style.
"Do What You Want!"
Fun with Baby Shakes!
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Hustling over to relatively new and very unique music space The Park Church Co-op, a very special performance was about go on featuring Kristin Kontrol.
Kristin and her two piece band (consisting of guitarist/keyboardist Andrew Miller and in-demand percussionist Jamie Ingalls) put on dazzling show in this spacious church that is presently run by a Lutheran ministry.
Performing material from her first solo album X-Communicate, synth-keyboards and driving electronic drums provided the instrumental base for Kristin's stylized vocal delivery.
Commanding the stage in a sporty Adidas track suit, the combined visual effect of big concert style lighting on the towering cathedral structure contributed to a frequently reverential atmosphere.
Light bursts and and Kristin's percolating synth-pop fused together in a tour de force of sight and sound.
There is a cleverness that exists in the song titled "(Don't) Wannabe" where the actual refrain goes "don't you wanna be - something to someone?"
Title track "X-Communicate" is a bouncy dance-floor number with a big chorus that dovetailed perfectly with this particular setting ("should we excommunicate our love - or should we wait?")
Other songs like “Skin Shed” makes ample use of ethereal open spaces between the hooky dance floor chorus.
Moving back and to the center, the lighting, sound and majestic structure all contributed to the sensation of awe and wonder.
Sound and lighting delivered by Jasno and Nick via their Union Garage Productions.
Swirling shapes and colors projected on turn-of-the-century architecture.
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Speaking of exploding light and sound - long-time favorites Dead Leaf Echo put on a dazzling performance of their own, with this night's final performance back at Our Wicked Lady (rooftop).
Delivering a crisply paced set, they played a number of familiar tunes that naturally included their latest single "Strawberry.Skin"
That track perfectly captures the essence of DLE's sound, with it's fast pace, shimmering phased chords and alternate rising counter-melody line.
You can always count on a passionate performance from LG, who informs that his silver 12 string guitar is named "Sparkle."
When not taking her own turn on lead vocals, Ana fills the area with guitar melodies and sonic textures.
Drummer Kevin and bassists Steve are as solid a rhythm sections you can find, giving the band it's longest running and most consistent foundation.
Other noteworthy songs like “so.wrong” (from their 2014 EP "true.deep.sleeper" released on Moon Sounds Records) is driven along a classic Cure-style bassline and LG’s melancholy vocal.
Dead Leaf Echo play next on July 13th at St. Vitus in Brooklyn with another DCWrites favorite - The Stargazer Lilies. Tickets to that show can be gotten here.
Friday Funtime on Social Media
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