Sunday, November 23, 2008

violet violet - live in New York, November 2008

It was somwhere in the middle of October (this year) that I was pointed in the direction of the band violet violet. A mutual music fan friend who shares similar taste suggested I check them out. So I did, and very much liked what I heard and saw. As it turns out, they were soon coming to the fair city of New York (where I reside) , thus I made a mental note of the dates and locations.

Making contact with the band via these social networking sites that now connect us all, I offered an opportunity for an interview and feature. A positive response was received, so it was all set then. On Wednesday, the 5th of November (still 2008) I trodded on down to my increasingly familiar stomping grounds of the lower east side of Manhattan (which I like to call rock club central) - this time The Cake Shop on Ludlow Street to see violet violet on their first US tour.

Entering the venue (which is an actual cake shop upstairs) I spotted one of the violets coming toward the door. Quickly introducing myself, it would be the band's lovely drummer Fliss that I would meet first. However, since it was guitarist Cheri who initially wrote back to me, I asked where she might be presently located. Fliss indicated she was downstairs with the third member of the group, bassist Kylie - watching the opening band, as well as socializing with their friends, and headline act The Nightingales. Fliss then hurried off outside in an attempt to get her cell phone to work.

Cheri, Kylie and Fliss

I quickly located Cheri downstairs, which wasn't hard to do, as she is a tall, striking blonde, with an outgoing and friendly personality to match. Making the quick introductions with she and Kylie, we headed upstairs to a somewhat less noisy location to record some pre-show chatter.
Listen to this clip as they talk about the music scene in their hometown of Norwich, among other things:

In the second part of my pre-show interview, we discuss the band's influences, and the style of music they strive to create, as well as the recorded works they already have produced.

As it was getting close to show time, the band then headed off to set up and I to find the best location to record some of the set.

In short order the moment arrived for violet violet's first ever show, not only in New York, but all of the USA.

Here, their opening song "Baby's Going Down"

Listen to the whoah-ah-oh

My next recorded clip is of the curiously titled "Dick Van Dyke". Though I doubt it's actually about that actor from the 1960's television show.

I do like the angular rhythms and syncopated vocal phrasings.

Next up is the riff-n-rhythm-heavy "Love This Band"

It's not a love song. Unless you love having a heart attack.

Cake Shop's bright lights

Fliss is a drumming dynamo

Cheri sings, plays and enjoys reading blogs about My Bloody Valentine

Kylie is a study in concentration and grace.

On to the set closer, and the low-note driven, somewhat menacing groove of "The Crush"

Bright Lights Big City

Full Set List

Which in true rock & roll fashion, was written on the back of this receipt.

Apparently, Fliss needed some new drum sticks.

Right after they played, I was able to engage them in a bit more conversation.
We discuss (among other things) cats and hot dogs.

The girls (or "goils" as they like to refer to themselves as) were supporting the wildly entertaining Nightingales for select shows on this US east coast tour.

Here the Black Country, UK ensemble play their particular brand of Jamison-fueled, stream-of-conscience storytelling.

If every picture tells a story, then certainly these video clips tell an more graphic tale:

"When I'm with you - I can't control myself" Indeed!

10 days later, after a successful series of shows in Boston and surrounding areas, violet violet returned to New York City for one final gig before heading back home.

This time at Arlene's Grocery, which is just round the corner from their first show at Cake Shop.

Prior to their performace, I did a catch-up interview with the band, and that can be viewed here:

and part 2 here:

It did rain slightly - but then cleared up

This t-shirt would result in some unexpected attention later on in the night.

Respectability, I tell you!

Photos and pre-show interview out of the way, it was soon showtime.

With a bit of borrowed equipment, the ladies delivered another blistering set of tunes:

Here, the song about how they lost their C-C-Cat's to boyfriends:

Here the band delivers a song so new that it is in fact untitled.

Any suggestions you might have as what might make a good title would be given serious consideration by the band. The drums totally rock in this one.

violet violet play a style of music that is very appealing to me. I like their quirky and edgy songs. There is a tremendous amout of vocal interplay between them, with one member frequently inserting a single word inbetween what another is singing. The chord progressions are unique and creative. What gives it all this tremendous rock feel is the never-lazy drumming. Not content to just tap out a 4-4 beat, Fliss uses her entire set throughout each song.

After their set, a young man came up to me and told me he liked my AC/DC shirt. He asked if I liked the band. Of course I said yes. He then said "my dad is in the band". I looked at him and said "who's your dad?" He said "Malcom Young".

Since AC/DC were playing show in New York this week, I guess I shouldn't have been all that surprised that members of their entourage and family were out and about. As he had just seen the show, he said he was quite impressed with violet violet as well.

It only added a very cool twist to what was already a great night out.

Before I said goodbye to the band, I demanded they write me love notes on photos:

Sweetly, they obliged

Come to the UK? My bags are half-packed.

Good times, good times!

Find out more about violet violet at these significant links:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

International Jetsetters - Heart Is Black

"Heart Is Black" is the debut EP release of Oxford, UK band, International Jetsetters. Brilliantly crafted, it features six songs which cover a wide range of emotions and sonic textures. The songwriting and production are meticulously executed, with deep basslines, fluid drumming, rich guitar layers and passionately expressive vocals. Singer and guitarist Mark Crozer (who also plays in the current Jesus & Mary Chain lineup) originally formed the band with bassist Bert Audubert. The addition of Loz Colbert on drums (ex Ride, current Jesus & Mary Chain) along with Paul Crozer on lead guitar and Fi McFall on vocals make for an extremely potent lineup.

The opening track “Inside Out” rises out of a chiming Rickenbacker guitar sound and snare drum roll buildup to the full-on band throttle of Loz Colberts muscular drumming and Bert Audubert’s deep throbbing basslines. Mark Crozer’s lead vocals are smooth and sugary in your ears as he sings, “you can turn me inside out, call me like you always do, honey I’ll come running straight to you”. It’s a love song, then. I have heard this song in a number of different performances over the last year, and the thing that jumps out at me with this - the definitive recorded version - is Bert’s basslines. On this recording they add a new dimension and rhythm that was previously unnoticed (at least to my ears) before this.

Female vocalist Fi McFall makes her first appearance on this record singing the backup lines to the bridge that goes “will you need me in the morning - tearing out my heart for you, so honey - don’t throw it back at me.”

Structurally, what follows is a unique instrumental passage, where additional guitars appear over top - perhaps the work of guitarist Paul Crozer? And although this is an impeccable recording, the overall feel of performances (especially drummer Colbert) are very “live” and natural.

Its back to the bridge again, with Fi singing backup - but Mark does an interesting thing with his voice in the mix here - singing in a timbre different from the first pass through - and positioning it elsewhere in the stereo field (as I listen on headphones - the only way to really hear what’s going on) - it is a subtle difference, but one that shows a precise attention to detail and a keen sense of wanting to avoid casual repetition. Meanwhile, Loz’s drumming burst through like it was a live performance.

Back to the hook line of “you can turn me inside out” and then it’s done. All packed into a not-a-second-wasted 2:28. Brilliantly executed.

Watch the video for "Inside Out" - directed by Dave Motion, right here:

Next up is “Inside Yourself” (yes, another song title with “inside” as the first word). Here the opening guitar sound is quite different. It has an almost middle eastern feel to it. It actually sounds like there are two guitars making this singular sound - one playing the higher register, while the other striking notes in a lower spectrum - with Loz’s tapping out a bright and vibrant cymbal count - onto the full drum kit kicking in and Bert there again with his rich, deep bass guitar tones delivering a deep sonic bottom to it all.

“You never look inside yourself” Mark sings in a higher, almost-falsetto voice - with a creative vocal echo trailing his line - here Mark displays his highly-evolved studio skills, by creating this trippy vocal ambiance. It’s all just bass and drums at this point. Then the guitars come in on “you’re always looking somewhere else, to ease your troubled mind -but you never look inside yourself”. Verse two comes on a bit stronger, with some tasty guitar fills between the spaces. “You never see the darkness that’s inside.”

It breaks to the bridge, and the drums go double time as Fi returns to sing with Mark, “but I hope you can change, cause I think you need to change”. It’s quick and to the point - perfectly placed, and absolutely essential.

A full instrumental pass through the verse and bridge sections, leading to the next vocal part. “You never speak the truth when you can lie,” Mark sings - as Bert’s bass throbs in stark space against stripped down snare and high-hat percussion. “You never see what’s right in front of you” it continues. Lyrically, the song is very much in the same sprit as Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street”. It is the classic “put down” song - not nearly as abrasive or damning - and the door is certainly left open with the end out reprising the bridge’s “well I hope you can change, cause I think you need to”. The musical end-out is particularly interesting - as the guitars (and what other instruments or effects are in there) give it an overall symphonic or orchestral sound - against an alternating driving/pulsating bassline from Bert - that ends with a single bright guitar chord strum.

"Never Slows Down” begins with a stark, single guitar marking out the basic song progression for one quick pass through before vocalist Fi McFall takes center stage and delivers the vocals in a clear and vibrant tone. Singing about “days slipping away” and how “time waits for no one,” she quickly gets to the thematic center, and how it “never slows down” - as powerful bass notes and clack-stick percussion create the ticking timepiece effect that perfectly matches the mood.

“Lovers appear and change your life,” Fi sings - “but love can falter overnight” and in fact “time goes by so quickly” - now Loz start the rat-tat-tat on the snare drum in quicker time as Fi sings “it never slows down, never slows down” - bold, definitive bass notes from Bert create the dominant musical movement as lightly strummed guitar becomes increasingly forceful. On to a big, full band musical interlude - that has sophisticated changes embedded within the basic framework. It has a somewhat Beatles feel to it (Sgt. Pepper era) here - with Loz’s drumming allowed to engage in some press-rolls and stuttered bass drum enhancements.

The final verse is bigger and bolder than all that have come before it. I’m reminded of those classic big production songs from the late 1960’s - with their rising, anthemic productions. The feel and vibe is not unlike the era that gave us "Get Together" by The Youngbloods - this period and style of pop radio music.

The end-out is just gorgeous. There are precisely placed layers of guitars creating sub-melodies and textures. There is a rising effect on one guitar that gives the sensation of an aircraft taking off. A chorus of Fi’s (and others, I’m sure) vocals layering “ahhhh, aahhhhh, oh, oh’s” over it all. It ends with a long, drawn out reverberated note. Wonderful.

"My Redemption" begins with Fi singing right from the start - pared only against a single strummed guitar. Lyrically, this may be the most beautiful of all the songs on here. "This island, used to be a dark and lonely place. But you kissed me, and the sun came out, and shed its light across my face." Slowly the bass and drums enter the mix, against the title line. "We could be lovers," Fi continues, as Loz's drumming starts marking out the time, "though I'm scared I'd mess things up" as the band builds to a big instrumental passage. Here I will now invoking the name of influential band The Jesus & Mary Chain. This rhythmic passage is pure "Some Candy Talking". Maybe not in chord structure or notes - but absolutely in feel. And feel is what its all about.

It gets bigger now - "just one kiss, one simple kiss" sings Fi and paints the picture of a "perfect high, that I can't resist". And how "its a long way from the emptiness, that used to be my life". The instrumentation and production is clean and uncomplicated. At just under three minutes long, its a gorgeous song that wastes not a moment of the listeners time, but delivers the goods in knockout fashion.

"Heart Is Black" begins with stripped-down acoustic guitar filling the stereo channels, with deep percussion complementing that, just to let you know this is a studio production. "One more kiss" Mark beings, "and then I'll walk away - she'll only cut me deeper if I stay". The percussion track is particularly interesting. A combination of hand-clap sounds and deep, booming (distant) timphony-like drums. On arriving at the title line, Mark adds a buzzing guitar effect, alternating with his now-doubled vocals. This creates and unsettling effect, which matches the overall lyrical mood. A koto-like (sharp plucked) sound enters the mix. The Cure used this sonic enhancement on a number of records, and it was recently discovered that Mark is (at the very least, sometimes) an admirer of their music.

The song is very dark and personal. His voice is mixed up close in your ear. "She's isolation. She wears it like a veil", he sings. The words are drawn out for maximum effect. "And although I love her still, I can't live in this hell".

"Never Slows Down" (demo). Here we gain a greater understanding of the genesis of this song. This version sung by Mark has a decidedly different feel. The early stark guitar instrumentation is similar, but appears to be pitched down into a lower register. Additionally, tambourine against bass-drum percussion accompany Mark's vocals from the start. The leaner guitar instrumentation here gives greater force to Bert's minimal, but sonically crucial bass notes. Its a powerful song that evokes a myriad of emotions. An even bigger difference is the rich sonic textures that accompany Mark on the second vocal pass through. It sounds like an e-bow effected guitar. The mood is very orchestral - like Bowie's "Space Oddity". This sound drives along with the rest of the full band, as Loz's provides clean, efficient drumming. The final verse now has Mark singing with cathedral-like reverence. "Beneath the stars I pray - but sometimes even God can't save" he states.

The final passage brings it all full-on as additional guitars are powerfully strummed down, creating a head-spinning sonic swirl. Vocal "ahhhh's" blend in with jangling bells percussion, more guitars layered in - creating a sonic space that brings to mind the same uplifting beauty that My Bloody Valentine has created.

"Heart Is Black" has been released on Planting Seeds Records, and can be acquired at these fine websites:

For further reading on the International Jetsetters, see here:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gliss - live at CMJ Ryko Showcase - October 24, 2008

As part of the annual CMJ (College Music Journal) Music Fest in held New York City each October - Los Angeles based band Gliss presented their Rykodisc/Cordless music showcase at The Delancey on the lower east side of Manhattan on the 24th of that month in this year 2008.

I had become a fan of Gliss when I first saw them in support of The Raveonettes just over a year ago, in early October 2007. Seeing them play twice over a three night span at that time solidified my interest in their music. Picking up their debut album "Love The Virgins" at that time, its been in semi-regular rotation on my playlists for the better part of the year.

The band has been working hard on their follow-up album, to be titled "Devotion Implosion".

At this label showcase, their set consisted almost entirely of these new songs from the forthcoming album.

Gliss are a unique trio, in that all three members trade off on their three respective instruments. When they began playing, the set up had Martin Klingman on bass, David Reiss on guitar and Victoria Cecilia on drums. This was the same initial formation they came out to a year ago.

David Reiss is a particularly expressive guitarist, while Victoria's drumming has a strong, rudimentary power that belies her delicate exterior. On the new songs they debuted, David made wondeful use of a reverberated guitar sound. He is a dynamic, animated and exciting guitarist to watch in the live setting.

Despite the instrument changes, the band is essentially fronted by lead vocalist/lyricist Martin Klingman. While all three members share credit in writing all the music, the lyrics are solely the product of Martin's creative process.

The first instrument exchange had Martin and David swapping guitar and bass. Victoria's background vocals - which blend seamlessly with Martin's lead vox, provided an additional layer of richness to the sound.

Martin sings with a smooth, easy style - where he draws out the words. Its laid back, but dramatic at the same time. The music is spacious when he sings, leaving room for the words to resonate. On one of the new songs, David plays guitar lines that sound like something The Cure would play. In fact, the white guitar he plays looks identical to the one Robert Smith has been using for years. Then he goes off in a full reverberated guitar exploration - like some kind of Dick Dale surf athem - with Victoria sloshing out a high-hat heavy and cymbals drum pattern - while Martin sings and plays bass. Both Martin and Victoria sing in unison some lyrics that sound to me like "Love is only bad luck, think about for-ever - for - ever." Then it sounds like "Love is in the Bedrock". Its a great song, and I can't wait to hear the recorded version.

Another new one had Martin singing is a falsetto voice, as the band laid down a slow, heavy, lumbering groove - combined with delicate layers of lightness - only to morph into the heavy once more. On the instrumental passages, David makes creative use of his whammy bar and rapid-fire strumming. The druming of Victoria and bass of Martin keep the groove rooted down. "Soon, sleep" they sing.

With Martin now on guitar, the dynamic changed once more.

Once the band switched to the configuration with David on drums and Victoria on bass, the intensity level really heated up. Victoria is clearly the most expressive and sophisticated bassist of them all - her slithery bass lines and precision punch give the band an added dimension. Martin switched to a semi-hollow body guitar for a new song where he repeated the lyric "is anybody inside"

Victoria has a style and presence similar to what original Smashing Pumpkins bassist D'Arcy brought to that band. However, Victoria is clearly a much more evolved musician.

David then took the guitar back and Martin headed over to the drum set. However, as the lead vocalist, he quickly took to driving the band from the center position, as David hunched over his guitar with tremolo-effects creating a tripped-out mood. Victoria's bass continued to slither and glide throughout. With Martin and Victoria laying down a dark and heavy groove, "Love is always, hiding, hiding" appeared to be the lyrics being sung. Martin again alternated between a higher falsetto voice and his more recognizable mid-range.

Among all of these new songs, they did play one or two from their first album. Check out their performance on the catchy, hooky "Gimme The Hit"

After their set, I caught up with Victoria and Martin for an outside-the-venue, get-some-fresh air interview chat.

With the Williamsburgh Bridge behind us for dramatic effect, and my trusty interview assistant Steve handling the camera duties, I questioned them on a variety of topics. Steve chipped in with some commentary as well.

In the first part of the interview, I asked them both about Martin's unique vocal inflection style; their songwriting process; the release of the upcoming album; Martin's new haircut; and Victoria's more glamorous rock profile.

Give a listen to this interview segment here:

In the second part of our interview, we were joined by the band's manager Ray Cooper and their A&R rep Ruby. Both turned out to be friendly, chatty people who added significantly to the interview.

Listen to that segment here:

Thought it appears Victoria and I are engaging in bit of finger pointing - there were no actual accusations, and nothing but good vibes all around.

Significant links to find out more about Gliss:

Their latest album - "Devotion Implosion" is scheduled to be released this coming spring.
I can't wait to get my hands on it.