Tag Archives: Q&A

Unraveling Palmbomen II’s Fantastical “Memories of Cindy”

Palmbomen-II-by-Juan-B-Cano-1244

Palmbomen II, Photos by Juan B Cano

At first glance, artist/producer/filmmaker Kai Hugo, Dutch-born and L.A.-based, appears to be a masked man, intentionally projecting an image of enigma and mystique through his recording projects Palmbomen and Palmbomen II. His latest four-EP project, entitled Memories of Cindy, is less an act of evasion or self-consciousness, however, and more the work of an artist obsessively crafting a surreal world of fantasy fiction. The delineation of Hugo’s band-oriented project Palmbomen and his solo incarnation as Palmbomen II seems cut and dry, but the designations are a matter of creative process more than they are personnel. While the music of Palmbomen may be largely conceived of live instrumentals whereas Palmbomen II leans more on electronic composition, there’s no question that Hugo is the author and chief behind both.

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Franck Vigroux: An Electronic Producer Critiques Technology

Franck Vigroux

Over the course of his last three electronic albums (he also releases guitar-driven work), French producer Franck Vigroux has used his signature blend of industrial, IDM, ambient, and techno to paint pictures of a grim future. On his new album Barricades, Vigroux, who began his career as an avant-garde guitarist and also works in film, theater, and dance, has crafted a surprisingly upbeat listening experience. The album’s name is a response to Vigroux’s belief that people are increasingly hiding behind the enclosures of technology; the album is dominated by loud, thumping beats, as if Vigroux is inviting the audience to get out from behind their walls and dance among the ruins. And while Vigroux’s music jolts us into considering how much of our humanity we’ve given up, he’s certainly not resigned to defeat. We caught up with Vigroux on a phone call from the south of France.

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Christina Pap of Vanilla Poppers Has an Extremely Punk Work Ethic

Vanilla Poppers

Photo by Angela Owens.

It goes without saying that bandmember relocations can complicate the logistics of keeping a group together. You wouldn’t know it, though, by looking at the scrappy upstart punk outfit Vanilla Poppers. Based (for the time being) in Cleveland, the Poppers formed there in 2015 when punk aficionado Christina Pap moved to the U.S. from her hometown of Melbourne, Australia, where she had been operating her print zine/blog Stitches in my Head and her label Blow Blood Records. Putting the “do” in do-it-yourself, within hours of getting off the plane, Pap connected with members of Cleveland acts like Grin and Bear It, Rubbermate, Cruelster, Perverts Again, and Prison Moan. Vanilla Poppers swung into action the very same day.

Vanilla Poppers

Photo by Alex Kress.

Hardly the types to sit around, it didn’t take long for the Poppers to knock out a demo and get in the van, barely slowing down even when visa restrictions required Pap to move to Toronto. As of this writing, Pap is once again on the move, this time back to Australia. Two of her bandmates will soon follow her there, which means that punk fans Down Under can brace themselves for the Poppers’ distinct marriage of punk’s off-the-rails spirit with the crunching precision of metal.

When Pap is onstage (or on the stage floor, where she spends most of the live shows writhing, screaming, and hissing), she prefers to let the band’s snake-like riffs do the talking, but she spoke to us at length about her transcontinental DIY work ethic.

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Annie Hart on “Twin Peaks,” Reuniting with David Lynch, and Refocusing as a Songwriter

Annie Hart

Photo by Sebastian Kim.

When Annie Hart first started working on the songs that would become her debut solo album, there was one question looming large on her conscience: What the hell is the point? “It was this all-consuming thought,” she tells us via phone from her home in New York. “Like, we’re all gonna die, shouldn’t I be helping the homeless instead of this? It just seemed like a random use of my time when I have a lot of other useful skills for the world.”

As one-third of the synth-pop trio Au Revoir Simone, Hart—along with bandmates Erika Forster and Heather D’Angelo—has spent the last 14 years making dark, dreamy songs that feel as if they’ve been plucked from some neon ‘80s otherworld. Though Au Revoir Simone has been on hiatus since 2013 (save for a brief small-screen reunion as part of this year’s Twin Peaks revival), its members have kept plenty busy in the time between; while Hart went solo, D’Angelo pursued an environmental science degree, and Forster formed protest rock band Nice As Fuck with Jenny Lewis and Tennessee Thomas. Hart also gave birth to her second child—something she says deepened her questions about what it meant to be putting out music at this point in her life.

With Impossible Accomplice, Hart channels these bigger existential questions into eight bracingly intimate songs about love, loss, empathy, and crumbled relationships. Though the album’s shimmering synths and shuddering drum machines will no doubt call to mind Au Revoir Simone’s alluring repertoire, Impossible Accomplice finds Hart taking a more minimal approach to arranging, as well as exploring deeply personal lyrics. “But you come with me again because you’re dying to be free / And I come with you again because it comes so easily,” she riffs on “On The Way Down.”

Following her recent U.S. tour, we spoke with Hart about going solo, reuniting with David Lynch, and how she rediscovered her purpose as a songwriter.

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Savages’ Guitarist Gemma Thompson Embraces Her Experimental Side With Bashan

Bashan

Gemma Thompson, perhaps best known for her work in British rock band Savages, is one of the most inventive guitarists of her generation. In performance, she can be seen wrestling her instrument with the kind of looseness that comes from having complete faith in her ability; her style is a delicate tangle of feedback, reverb, and ostinato. In Savages, her guitar leads are threaded together with her bandmates on bass, vocal, and drums to form structured rock ‘n’ roll songs. But her most recent experiments with sound have freed her from those constraints.

In a studio and at her apartment in Leipzig, Germany this past summer, Thompson spent several months experimenting with different guitar frequencies, with the goal of letting the sounds lead the songwriting. She wanted to find an audible way to describe landscapes, using the way it travels to represent different physical formations: cliffs, rocks, waves. The results of these experiments, recorded with her partner Sam Sherry of the band A Dead Forest Index, are presented as four unique compositions, written as complementary to one another. They offer a journey into the mind of an artist who’s passionate about finding new ways to interpret sound.

For Bashan—EP1Thompson took cues from several projects she’d recorded with Savages, as well as a film score she was asked to record for a documentary about Dennis Hopper. Using those as a launching pad, she set about to create something she wanted to listen to, that also reflected her desire to expand the scope of her work.

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Circuit Des Yeux Opens Up to Collaboration and Finds Herself in the Process

Circuit Des Yeux

Photo by Julia Dratel.

Chicago musician Haley Fohr recorded the compositions that would become Reaching For Indigo over the course of seven months, with long-time friend Cooper Crain of Bitchin Bajas and Cave, between touring jaunts at their collaborative auditory institution USA Studios. Gathering an all-star cast that includes Ka Baird, Whitney Johnson, Ryley Walker, Josh Abrams, and Tyler Damon, Fohr augmented and expanded the already-lush sound that was present on her previous record as Circuit Des Yeux,  In Plain Speech.

Fohr admits that trusting herself enough to trust others has been something of an acquired skill. For many years there was no compromise, no negotiation, and little space for collaboration in her work. But her newfound “confidence and belief in [herself] to give power to people” has been both a personal journey and an artistic one. The result is staggering. Profound and grandiose, Reaching For Indigo is a snapshot of Fohr at the height of her songwriting powers, synthesizing her love for the experimental tradition with choruses, hooks, and other pop elements, and endeavoring to make personal realizations universal.

We spoke with Fohr about going from working alone to working closely with others, living as art, and her recent personal breakthroughs.

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Andrew Hung Makes Peace With His Monkey Brain on “Realisationship”

Andrew Hung

Photo by Zoe Davis.

Talking with Andrew Hung about his first solo full-length album Realisationship, it becomes clear that even a seasoned artist can still feel intimidated. This is especially surprising given Hung’s C.V.: His main project, the duo Fuck Buttons, has garnered consistent critical praise since they began 13 years ago, and even performed at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. But for Hung, Relasationship was almost like starting over. Where Fuck Buttons are best known for their freewheeling experimentation with bizarre electronic sounds, and their ability to find clarity in cyclic, rhythmic patterns, Realisationship is quieter and more vulnerable. It’s not quite mainstream, but it could safely be described as “indie rock.” There are no jolting soundscapes, no violent explosions of noise. Instead, there’s a clear sense of warmth, intimacy, and immediacy, which might have something to do with the fact that Hung sings on all of its songs—a first for him.

Realisationship doesn’t just represent a new creative direction for Hung, it also reflects his personal struggles, and the emotional effort it took to create such intimate songs. We talked with Hung about how his new album came about, the way it reflects his vulnerability, and ultimately how there’s really no “right” way to make music.

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Cold Specks Discusses Her Soulful, Personal “Paradise”

Cold Specks

Photo by Norman Wong.

There’s an old Somali idiom that goes, “Kala garo naftaada iyo laftaada,” which loosely translates to mean, “Understand the difference between your bones and your soul.” Ladan Hussein, aka Cold Specks, sings this expression on her new album, Fool’s Paradise. She delivers the line in Somali, the first time she has sung in that language on record. This is not insignificant: Hussein was born in Canada to a family of Muslim Somali refugees, a fact she has kept largely under wraps—along with most details, small or large, about her identity—until now. Up to this point, Hussein has gone by the pseudonym “Al Spx,” a way to keep the world from knowing too much about Ladan Hussein.

But now, after a heaping dose of self-love and many hours spent watching footage from Somali VHS tapes on YouTube, she’s discovered a deeper understanding of and love for her heritage, and the way it impacts who she is. “I love myself endlessly,” she says. On Fool’s Paradise, she embraces all of the things that maker her who she is, in rhythmic, expansive music.

Hussein spoke with us from her home in Toronto about her family history, why she thinks she’s a pretentious lyricist, and receiving prayers on WhatsApp.

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