Tag Archives: Big Ups

Big Ups: Pelican Pick Their Favorite Records On Bandcamp


Photo by Marfa Capodanno

If you’ve ever heard the term “instru-metal,” it’s probably because of Pelican. The Chicago-born band have been cranking out triumphant metallic instrumentals since its inception back in 2001. Over the last 18 years, they’ve released six albums and a slew of EPs, even breaking their longstanding vocal boycott—for just one song—in 2009. They’ve also spread out between their hometown, where guitarists Trevor Shelley de Brauw and Dallas Thomas still live, and Los Angeles, where drummer Larry Herweg and his brother (and bassist) Bryan Herweg currently reside. The band’s latest, Nighttime Stories, is Pelican’s first full-length in six years—and not just because of the geographic divide. “We’ve collectively had three children since our last album,” Shelley de Brauw explains. “Dallas and Larry became fathers, and I became a father for the second time.”  Continue reading

Big Ups: J. Robbins Picks His Bandcamp Favorites

J Robbins

J. Robbins has the kind of “rock lifer” resume that can make other industry vets look like slackers by comparison. His career began when he was still a teenager, playing bass in the final iteration of Government Issue. In 1989 he put together his own band, Jawbox, which neatly split the difference between the thick guitar D.C. post-hardcore that Government Issue helped invent with Midwestern noise pummel. They cut their masterpiece, For Your Own Special Sweetheart, for Atlantic—a label which, swept up in the early ‘90s sign-everything-punk frenzy, seemed to have no idea what to do with them—and toured extensively. Reviews of their music used the word “angular” a lot. They fell apart in 1997. In the intervening years, Robbins became an in-demand rock producer for the third-wave emo that started to get big in the ‘00s, racking up production credits on records by mewithoutYou, Against Me!, and around 150 more. He continued making rock albums of his own, with Burning Airlines, Channels, and Office of Future Plans.  Continue reading

Big Ups: Shovels & Rope Pick Their Bandcamp Favorites

Shovels Rope
Photo by Curtis Millard

Shovels & Rope, the folk-rock duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, represent the platonic ideal of a musical partnership. Since their initial meeting in 2005, by way of Charleston’s small but-impassioned rock scene, the musicians have gotten married (10 years and counting!), had two young children, and oh, yeah — become one of the biggest bands in the south, releasing four albums, plus two collaborative projects; and headlining multiple tours. They’ve even launched an annual, music gathering in their adopted home of Charleston, the High Water Festival. (This year’s lineup features Leon Bridges, Jenny Lewis, Mitski, and more.) Talk about #relationshipgoals.

It makes sense, then, that these partners of more than a decade share similar tastes where their Bandcamp favorites are concerned; their picks reveal a mutual, deep-seated passion for Americana, rock-and-roll, and heartland folk — further reflected by their new album, By Blood, which puts a distinct Shovels & Rope spin on the aforementioned styles. Bandcamp caught up with the pair amid their present headlining trek through the U.S.

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Big Ups: The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn Picks His Bandcamp Favorites

Dream Syndicate

Photo by Chris Sikich

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Steve Wynn is to ’80s and ’90s American alternative rock as Kevin Bacon is to movies. Throughout his long career, as both the leader of the legendary band the Dream Syndicate and as a solo artist, Wynn has collaborated with scores of musicians from the college-rock era—including members of R.E.M., X, Concrete Blonde, Los Lobos, Giant Sand, Continental Drifters, and the Minus 5. And that’s not counting the musical friendships he’s forged with the groups from Los Angeles’ Paisley Underground scene of the early ’80s — a subculture that counted Wynn’s own band, Dream Syndicate, among its practitioners.

So it’s not surprising that Wynn’s connections extend to the artists he chose for Bandcamp’s Big Ups. These are all friends,” he explains of his picks. “Normally I try to be objective with these things, and I’m an avid music listener and record collector always hunting for the new thrill. I don’t usually do these things to hype my friends.  But my friends all have really good records out right now, so it’s a good chance to point to their direction. [These] are people I know and play with, and can honestly say they’re making great stuff.”

The same could also be said of the current Dream Syndicate lineup—Wynn, drummer Dennis Duck, bassist Mark Walton, and guitarist Jason Victor—who, in 2017, released How Did I Find Myself Here? the band’s first new album in nearly three decades following a long hiatus. Now, the group returns with These Times, a work that contrasts with its predecessor in terms of mood with such tracks as “Black Light,” “The Way In,” and “Still Here Now.”

“The last one was all fired up and rocked out and just took you by the throat,” says Wynn of the reunion record. “That’s how we felt. We were determined, we had a mission to say, ‘Hey we’re still here and you might wanna pay attention to what we’re doing right now.’ We did that, and I think now we gave ourselves permission [on These Times] to get a little deeper and darker and moodier this time. And it felt great.”

Here are Wynn’s Big Ups, from which one can hear traces of how they inform his current songwriting, and vice versa.

Dream Syndicate

Chris Forsyth
The Rarity of Experience

“He began as more of an out-there, avant-garde experimental jam rock/jazz rock kind of guy who’s been moving towards the center. I first heard his music on The Rarity of Experience he made about three years ago, and was just blown away by the record. We’ve become great friends because we’re both guitarists and baseball fans. He’s been traveling along the roads that bands like Television did—he and I are both fans of Television. He brings a lot of other elements, too. I hear Led Zeppelin when I hear him, I sometimes I hear jazz stuff like Coltrane, if he had played guitar. I saw Chris play a show about two weeks ago with Garcia Peoples. They did an impromptu freeform show where they played three songs for one hour at a club in New York City called Nublu. It might be the best show I’ve seen in years. It just blew my mind, it was so good. He’s great.”

75 Dollar Bill

“I can’t remember how I got turned on to them, but these things travel in the ether, and somehow you find them. And when I heard their first record [Wooden Bag], which they made a while back, I just loved it. Then [Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock] really just blew me away. They’re just a great band. You hear African elements, Middle Eastern, and Delta Blues. They’re a really good reminder that there is this kind of music that just travels from culture to culture—even Appalachian folk music and things like that—where people see how far they can dig into drone and repetition, and something that is hypnotic and trippy. It’s the kind of thing I’ve always gravitated towards.”

Russ Tolman
Goodbye El Dorado

“We met in ‘78 in Davis, California. We were both going to school [at the University of California, Davis], and this was in the heyday of punk rock and new wave. So we were fellow travelers for every single and album that came down the pike. We were both DJs at the radio station KDVS at Davis, and just out of our love of what was happening at the time in music, we formed this band Suspects with [future Dream Syndicate bassist] Kendra Smith and [future True West singer] Gavin Blair called Suspects. Russ [who also was in True West] has been making records for a while now. He has a new record [Goodbye El Dorado]. I think it’s his best record yet, it’s just fantastic and it’s everything he does best: his vocals, his storytelling and simultaneously heartfelt and, at the same time, warped perspective on life is in full force. So I’m always glad when any musician—especially friends of mine—distills their best qualities and lays it out there, and that’s what he did this time around.”


“I believe they started out in Mali, and because of political conditions had to move [to Algeria]. Chris Eckman from The Walkabouts produced the earliest records. Chris has done an amazing job of discovering great bands from all around the world, especially in Africa, Turkey, and the Middle East. I believe he kind of happened upon them. I don’t know the whole background, but they’ve been making great records for a while now.

“A friend of mine in Germany, who had the band stay at his house, told me the story of the leader of the band [Ousmane Ag Mossa] sitting in his music room. My friend was playing him records that he thought they might dig. And he played him the Velvet Underground because to him it was like, ‘Oh yeah, you guys are getting really raw and hypnotic and cyclical.’ And Mossa looked at him [and said], ‘Why would they wanna play so badly? Why would you like this music?’ That’s how Mossa saw the Velvets. So my friend asked, ‘Well, what rock music do you like?’ And he said, ‘Why, I like Dire Straits.’”

Maybe More

“Peter Buck produced the new one [Maybe More], and he produced the previous one [or], so there’s also a big influence. They’re based in Portland and part of the scene up there. I first knew the lead singer Chris Slusarenko, and he was a fan of my music. His band was fantastic. It’s the guys from the Decemberists, Dharma Bums, and other bands around the area. Not only do they make great records and are a great live band, they also have a great sense of visuals. They had a video for one of their songs on the previous record that blew my mind. I said, ‘Where did that come from?’ And they said, ‘Oh, it’s a guy in Scotland named David Dalglish who did this video.’ And I said, ‘I’ve got to work with that guy.’ And now David has done our last four videos. So I thank Eyelids for turning me on to our visual maven.”

Filthy Friends
Emerald Valley

“Of course, I’m very close to that band…even one step further, my wife Linda Pitmon is the drummer. And we’re very excited in this household to have records coming out of the same day, and we’re not competitive whatsoever [laughs]. Again, it couldn’t be a better collection [of people] than Linda being on drums, plus Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck, my long-time friends and members of the Baseball Project [my other side band], and Kurt Bloch, whom I’ve known for a long time. And Corin Tucker, whom I probably knew least of all when they started, is just incredibly talented, and Sleater-Kinney is fantastic. It’s all your friends that you play with all the time, and yet it goes someplace completely different. As the Stones said, it’s the singer, not the song. She just delivers, she’s fantastic. So, a great band led by a great singer. Nothing wrong with that.”

I Was a King
Slow Century

“I think they’re definitely informed by R.E.M. and Robyn Hitchcock. Robyn actually produced one of their earlier records, and they were Robyn’s backup band on-and-off for a while. So I think that’s how we all became aware of them. They’re based in Oslo and also a small town southwest of Norway called Egersund. We have become really great friends, especially the leader of the band, Frode Strømstad, who is an occasional bandmate. It’s one of those things where you meet somebody from around the world and say, ‘Wow, we’ve kind of have a lot in common.’ And he’s a lot younger, so  he was barely around when [R.E.M. and the Dream Syndicate were] first put together. For him to be making records with Scott McCaughey [in the supergroup the No Ones] and Robyn produce his records—I guess it might have been like if I had been able to get the singer of the Standells to produce my first record. You meet the old guard and you realize you have a lot in common.”

-David Chiu

Big Ups: Sunn O))) Pick Their Bandcamp Favorites

Sunn O)))

Photo by Ronald Dick

Over the course of Sunn O)))’s two-decade-long career, the group has managed to find a lot of space within space. Core members Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley have become infamous for their lumbering approach to modern classical, black metal, and noise—or to put it in layman’s terms, for stretching out every last, hulking riff for as long as possible. Continue reading

Big Ups: John Vanderslice Picks His Bandcamp Hip-Hop Favorites

John Vanderslice

Photo by Sarah Cass

John Vanderslice is a rap fanatic. He constantly seeks out the newest voices in the genre, and proselytizes his friends on the wealth of sounds and songs available to discover. But despite his intense love of the music, he’s aware of his own limits as a songwriter. “I don’t think I’m capable of bringing in a lot of what I like in rap [to my own music],” he says. “When I hear J.I.D or EarthGang, who I think are technically very good rappers, I realize the distance between what I can do and them, in a way that doesn’t happen with, say, Celine Dion. When I hear really complicated rap cadences, there’s something in my heart that’s like, ‘God, I will never be able to touch that kind of complexity.”

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Big Ups: Matmos’ Drew Daniel Picks His Bandcamp Favorites


Photos by Theo Anthony

Matmos, the Baltimore-based experimental duo of M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, have been making music sourced from interesting and often random materials for the past two decades. A Whirlpool washing machine, sounds recorded during medical procedures, recordings of a rat cage played with a bow—you name it, they’ve done it. Continue reading

Big Ups: Wicca Phase Springs Eternal Picks His Bandcamp Favorites

Wicca Phase Springs Eternal

Photo by George Douglas Peterson

Adam Mcllwee has spent the past decade, plus change, trafficking heart-songs—a job he’s damn well good at.

As the co-founder and co-frontman of beloved Pennsylvania emo outfit Tigers Jaw, the singer and guitarist played an instrumental role in garnering national interest in the late-aughts emo revival by galvanizing suburban ennui into catchy punk. Then, in 2013, he parted ways with the band and created Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, a mysterious “emotional trap” project formed on similarly sentimental but sonically dissimilar terms; to that end, he also founded Gothboiclique, the ragtag Los Angeles collective that fostered Lil Peep’s rise to fame. The meteoric success of the latter ensures that Mcllwee be wearing the “emo rap” label for years to come, for better or worse, but that doesn’t bother him: “People are gonna call it what they’re gonna call it,” he jokes over the phone.

For Wicca Phase Springs Eternal’s inaugural album, Suffer On, Mcllwee swaps the trunk-rattling arrangements of his past work in favor of a sparse, folk-tinged indie rock sound that recalls his Tiger Jaw days, by way of Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and the Microphones. Its creation entailed a considerable deal of outside listening, or as Mcllwee puts it, “studying”—especially poring over Bandcamp. Here are some of his favorite releases on the site. Continue reading