Tag Archives: Interview

Members of Thrice, Kowloon Walled City, and Curl Up & Die Join Forces as Less Art

Less Art

The term “supergroup” is bandied about these days with little regard for the “super” part of the term. But in the case of Less Art, the term applies: Ian Miller and Jon Howell of celebrated post-metal group Kowloon Walled City join Mike Minnick of Curl Up & Die and Riley and Eddie Breckenridge of Thrice to make a post-rock outfit combining elements of sludge and noise with more than a few jangly guitars. Using the project as an outlet for their various life stressors, on their debut, Less Art tackle in-your-face issues like suicide, animal extinction, and gun control in a way only savvy veterans can.

Ahead of the release of their debut LP, we sat down with bassist Ian Miller to chat about their lifelong commitment to baseball fandom, long-standing friendships, and the importance of experience.

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Pomdip’s Experimental Pop Channels Authentic Joy

Pomdip

Makan Negahban was a musician before he became a painter. The Los Angeles artist, who makes music as Pomdip, began painting for a living in November 2016, and has quickly become a hot prospect on the L.A. art scene. His most recent exhibition—and first solo art show—at co-LAb Gallery in Highland Park received, according to gallery owner Kristin Hector, the highest number of pre-sales of any show the space ever hosted. But while experimenting with acrylics has taken up most of his year, he has also found the time to complete his fourth solo album. A Jar at the Jamboree was released earlier this month by New Los Angeles Records.

Long before he ever picked up a paintbrush, Negahban approached music by asking how painting and music-making are related. He’s always thought about color, the aesthetic flow of a record from start to finish, and how songs can be arranged to fit together like a collage. A Jar at the Jamboree is perhaps his most ambitious project, taking four years to complete; he also worked on another record at the same time, which will be released later this year. He prioritized Jamboree because it captures the way he feels about the state of his life right now—working as a full-time artist, living with his long-term girlfriend and their dog, and having a little more financial freedom. His goal was to create something that felt tangible and nourishing.

A Jar at the Jamboree is vibrant and flamboyant, sprinkled with tropical melodies inspired by the music of Harry Belafonte and S.E. Rogue; it blends neo-psychedelia, bedroom pop, and worldbeat. Negahban seems to have caught the same vibe as Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear of Animal Collective, creating pop music for sound junkies, potheads, and hip shakers.

Jamboree takes its name from a riddle that Negahban invented to describe its sound. We’ll let him explain.

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Floco Torres Breaks Up With His Old Habits

Floco Torres

Photo by Maryann Bates.

Perhaps more than any other style of popular music, hip-hop puts a high level of importance on regional pride and a sense of place. These days, it seems like there isn’t an inhabited place on Earth that doesn’t have a rap scene. Still, perhaps there’s a lingering sense that artists who emerge outside of hip-hop epicenters like Atlanta, New York, and L.A. are a little behind the curve. Whether that’s actually the case or not, rappers like Floco (pronounced “flock-oh”) Torres prove that out-of-the-way places also boast their share of inventive hip-hop. For some, being isolated can lead to innovation. When there’s less of an established local sound to rely on, you have less to lose by thinking outside the box.

It’s hard to pinpoint how much of Torres’s creative individuality stems from geography, but his abundant discography bears evidence to his insistence on choosing his own path. Originally from southern New Jersey just outside of Philadelphia, Torres spent seven years based in Macon, GA—about an hour from both Atlanta and Athens—before moving to Akron, OH in 2016. Equally inspired by the likes of St. Vincent and Tame Impala as the Philly-area hip-hop he heard growing up, Torres’s range of influences expanded dramatically in Macon’s familial music community, where it’s common for artists from multiple genres to play on the same bills.

Floco Torres

Photo by Brandon Everett Thompson.

At various points, Torres has recorded and toured with what he calls his Big Band—essentially a rock outfit playing hip-hop. On his new EP, Again (his 22nd release in a voluminous body of work that also includes over 600 unreleased songs), he manages to keep his sound fresh and vital. With its rolling piano loop and soulful falsetto hook (which was sampled from Meiko’s “I Can’t Tell”), leadoff single “You!,” recalls the playfulness of De La Soul’s genre-defining early work with producer Prince Paul. But the personality behind the music belongs to Torres.

Easily one of the most cheerful-sounding breakup songs ever made, “You!” reflects Torres’s knack for observing life in a dry, naturally complex way that can be simultaneously cutting and refreshing. When he chides his former lover for “playing the victim,” he’s direct without sounding malicious. He also includes several compliments, and leaves the door open for a reunion, perfectly summing up the mixed feelings that can follow separation.

As it turns out, that song is not simply about a romantic breakup. We spoke with Torres about the song’s true subject, and the importance of following your own musical path, as he was preparing for his ninth year as a youth music education counselor at the Otis Redding Foundation’s OTIS Music Camp.

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Pandemix’s Poetic Punk Politics

Pandemix

Photo by Ryan Stanis.

Pandemix is a punk band from Boston, Massachusetts. Granted, punk is a broad term—it encapsulates a myriad of subgenres: hardcore, peace punk, Oi!, crust, and so on—but Pandemix manage to seamlessly pick and choose from decades of cultural and artistic detritus to create something unique and engaging, though clearly rooted in the familiar. They employ the poetic politics and bounce of many Crass Records bands, the catchiness of ’77 style punk, and the aggression of hardcore.

Their first full-length, Scale Models of Atrocities, released by Boss Tuneage Records, expands on the work Pandemix did on their 2016 demo. The band manage to ramp up both the aggression and catchiness by delivering memorable riffs that still have teeth. Old songs like the tense, building “Total Immersion” or the dark, stomping “Faultless” are given a fresh polish and new context when sequenced with more ambitious numbers like “A Wall” and total rippers like “The Pornography of Hope.” It’s the best kind of musical progression—a band that takes a step forward creatively while still sounding distinctly like themselves.

The lyrics, thoughtful and poignant, are delivered with precision and palpable frustration by vocalist Shannon Thompson, who’s been around the New England scene for years in bands like the alt-country-influenced Long Gone and who runs Nervous Nelly Records with her partner. We spoke with Thompson about avoiding punk conventions, the pitfalls and necessities of identity, and navigating this complex world full of interlaced power dynamics.

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Japanese Breakfast Finds Human Intimacy on “Another Planet”

japanesebreakfast_by-Colin-Hughes_600-5

Photos by Collin Hughes

Michelle Zauner first introduced the arrival of Japanese Breakfast’s sophomore LP, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, with a short, mysterious video that hinted at an intergalactic theme. Fittingly, she had initially set out to write a sci-fi concept album about a woman who, after falling in love with a robot and experiencing heartbreak, enlists in the Mars One project.

The plan only carried through to the lead single, “Machinist,” but the theme of exploring the great beyond prevails throughout the album. The concept allowed Zauner to play with new elements that vastly differ from her punk roots in Little Big League; throughout the record, autotune and synthesizers create an otherworldly ambience. Even the re-worked version of a Little Big League song, “Boyish,” sounds like something entirely new.

What started as a fantastic theme gradually became a metaphor for the fear of death. Zauner explores that idea in full on “Till Death,” a hauntingly beautiful song that details the aftermath of losing someone dear: “Haunted dreams / Stages of grief / Repressed memories / Anger and bargaining.” On her debut as Japanese Breakfast, Psychopomp, Zauner grappled with losing her mother to cancer. Now, on Soft Sounds, she reflects on the person she’s become, after surviving through the pain.

We spoke to Zauner about her new album, the initial concept behind it, her songwriting, and the influence of Mount Eerie on her music.

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