May 19, 2010
I meet Avan Lava outside St. Cecilia’s Catholic School and Church in Williamsburg. Father Jim walks past and exchanges hellos with multi-instrumentalist Michael “Le Chev” Cheever and singer Tom Hennes as the two finish their cigarettes. Father Jim walks back up the stairs into the school and a few seconds later Cheever and Hennes lead me down to the Church’s basement, filled with rooms that Father Jim rents out to artists, dancers, and musicians. We walk through a maze of dust- and clutter-filled rooms until we reach the recording studio where I sit down and talk with the band.
Avan Lava’s music doesn’t necessarily sound like it was recorded in a church basement—it can certainly be haunting and ambient at times, but still the group switches easily between shoe-gazey, dream pop and bouncy, dance-ready neu-disco. Avan Lava have already released their first EP, Vapors, which you can get on iTunes or their website; but the two are still hard at work, spending hours upon hours in the basement of St. Cecilia’s figuring out and perfecting their constantly changing sound.
Jezebel Music: So how did you guys meet and decide to start working together?
Michael Cheever: We were working with a friend of mine, Ian, and all of us were writing this song together.
Tom Hennes: Yeah, and Ian had seen me sing in something random, and was just like “Hey come sing with me.” So I showed up at the studio and it was the four of us, and Mike and I kept having the same ideas. It was weird.
MC: Especially because we were working with like a 70s, glam rock melody. And everyone was kind of saying, “I dunno, I dunno,” and Tom and I were like, “Yeah, that’s it!”
TH: It’s funny because we were the two people whose input wasn’t really wanted, because we were kind of invited into this project.
MC: I actually don’t think it was fitting the track very well, but it was exciting for us.
May 14, 2010
Three cheers for Kleenex Girl Wonder, one of my all time favorite bands. Singer and writer Graham Smith has a deep, primordial grasp of the whole fuzz folk lo-fi thing that seems to constantly elude the other guys and lead them astray. With eleven full-length albums under his belt and an arsenal of untold melodies he probably just keeps to himself, Graham embodies what musicians can usually only achieve during some hideous, drug-addled tornado between the piano and a straitjacket. Except for Mr. Smith, the approach is obvious and logical; music is less an anecdote to everyday life, but integrated and related to what’s happening, a mid-afternoon snack. I suppose it’s easy to be prolific if you don’t take it all so seriously. And he’s a really nice guy. Come to the Jezebel Music Feature Show June 3rd at Cameo Gallery. Epic!
JM.com: Having booked you for the Feature Show, it’s been interesting to see that pretty much one in five people I talk to about you are super stoked.
Graham Smith: That’s a lot. It’s probably one in five hundred, maybe. But the people who like it like it a lot, that’s the trick. The people who like it aren’t just like “oh yeah, I’ll throw it on”… either you dig it or you don’t. That could explain it also, because the people who are into it are passionate about it for the most part.
JM.com: That’s true, there is an aura about your music, where the fandom can reach a very intense level.
GS: And I have no idea why that is, honestly. I don’t know if that’s about the content, or because I used to try to cultivate a persona like that. Not that I tried to cultivate something that people would dislike, but I think I tried to cultivate something that would be remarkable. I don’t think I really do that as much any more. I think i try to do some online brand management type things, but I’m not saying insulting things anymore, or not showing up to gigs, or being irresponsible. Whatever I used to do. I just thought it was funny, I mean, I still do think it’s funny; I just don’t think it would be as funny to do it now. Because it’s more appealing to be earnest I guess. If there’s a fair amount of depth – depth in the lyrics – people tend to get more attached to it. I think that most people who like my stuff don’t think of it as deeply personal necessarily. It’s personally affecting to the listener, but it’s not necessarily that it’s my personal reflection on my feelings, it’s more observational. It’s still the same sort of thing that people would have for, say Dashboard Confessional, it’s the same basic thing. You have a different reaction to music like that than you do to, say, The Hives… these are all very old references.
April 19, 2010
Listening to the Maine Coons is like never getting fully dressed in the morning, marching down to McCarren Park to meet some friends, getting well-oiled on Tecates in 65 degree weather, calling it a day, crashing in a San Loco to eat a burrito the size of two hamsters, and stealing a garden ornament on the way home.
The Maine Coons are the one man band of lead singer anonymous, and they have been very busy this weekend. In the last two days they’ve trailblazed Williamsburg and Greenpoint, playing Glasslands, Joe’s Fresh Pad, and Coco 66.
The Coons sound like a philandering cousin to local favorites The Beets. The Coons’ songs with shouted vocals and tom and snare drums chronicle lazy playboyism and being a causeless, incorrigible musician. For instance, “My Kind of Luv” sounds like an early Starlight Mints song, replete with xylophone, whistling and melodic cadences. “Ghetto Queen” plays like the park bench observations of the fairer sex belted out above overdriven guitars.
The Maine Coons sound very Williamsburg-now, drenched in reverb and sing-songyness. You’re likely to see them alongside the Beach bands of the moment. Maybe you’ll even see them in a San Loco.
By Thomas Wilk
March 23, 2010
Brad Oberhofer dresses the way his music sounds. At their core, his songs are wonderfully catchy pop tracks: perfectly simple and even a bit traditional, like his skinny jeans and narrow sneakers. But at the same time they’re meticulously layered with pulsing drums, slightly overdriven guitars, and even a glockenspiel now and then; when I met up with Oberhofer, he was wearing a t-shirt, under a black-and-white polka-dot button-up (which he tells me he found in the “Old Woman’s” section at Goodwill) and a beat up leather jacket. Attached to his jacket was one of his many thrift store pins and broaches—this one a multi-colored, smiling rain cloud—that echo the whoops and hollers that adorn almost all of Oberhofer’s songs.
At just 19, and currently a sophomore in the Music Composition Program at New York University, Oberhofer has started to make a name for himself with his blend of do-it-yourself indie-pop. His music has garnered comparisons to groups like Vampire Weekend and Surfer Blood, but none of these seem completely right. Really, it’s like Oberhofer’s in a class all his own. Something new and different, and kind of indescribable. But it’s definitely catchy as hell.
JM.com: When did you first start playing music and writing your own music?
Oberhofer: I started playing piano in 2nd grade and quit after 2 years. Then I picked up freestyle rapping in 7th grade and also started playing drums. When I was about 16, I started playing guitar and writing my own songs. And after I moved to New York, I started writing the songs for Oberhofer, except “Gold,” which I wrote the summer after my senior year of high school.
JM.com: What made you really want to start getting into song writing once you moved to NYC?
Oberhofer: It was something I was already getting into, really. And in Tacoma there are a lot of really inspirational people who write really cool songs. It just became a part of my life, and I had nothing better to do when I was in a dorm by myself. So I just started playing guitar and making cheesy little songs.
JM.com: Who are your favorite songwriters? More on Oberhofer
January 27, 2010
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
I caught up with folk duo Christy & Emily during their show at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn this past Saturday. It was more sparsely attended than it should have been because their set was awesome, and, hey, they play fun games that involved passing a mini disco ball around the audience until the music stops, when the person touching it answers a question with a subjectively right answer decided upon by Christy and Emily. They asked, “You live in a three story house. Where are you more afraid to go, the attic or the basement?” The correct answer was the basement, inexplicably. Also, the girls mentor six underserved high school women in music and song creation, all of whom performed as the opening act. Below, Christy & Emily discuss the girls in the viBe SongMakers program, keyboards in Germany, and the Vietnam War.
JM.com: So, do you guys do projected visuals with every show?
Emily: Brock Monroe does them and he came and did our record release at The Stone, also. He had all this water he was using and made this giant mess all over the floor. I think that was the first time.
Christy: Well, we’ve done stuff at Secret Project Robot, and he does stuff there. That’s really how we got started because Secret Project Robot has their Mighty Robot Visual squad and they have a lot of people who are our friends and they do that stuff really all over.
More on Christy & Emily
January 25, 2010
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Brooklyn’s The Lisps express an invaluable sense of camaraderie. Members César Alvarez, Sammy Tunis, Jeremy Hoevenaar, and Eric Farber were full of playful sarcasm, laughter, and affection before a recent rehearsal at Farber’s Fort Greene apartment, where they described to JM.com their band’s development. Originally a group with an old timey sound, their years together have brought them unexpected creative projects, including an indie rock musical and a drum set adorned with found objects.
JM.com: I read that your lineup has changed a bit over the years. How did the four of you here now get together, and how did you start out?
Sammy: César and I met about eleven years ago in college. After we graduated, we dated for a long time, and then we started a band together.
Eric: I met César in, like, 1996 or 1997. My first memory of him is I threw a party at my parents’ house. It was a pool party. They went away for the weekend, and César didn’t bring a bathing suit, but he went naked, which was cool. But then we had this jam session in our basement, and my friend had left the room and had dropped his bass off on the ground. And César was like, “Oh cool, the bass! I’ll play the bass.” And he was playing the bass naked, and my buddy walked back in the room and he got really upset. That’s my earliest memory of César.
More on The Lisps
January 21, 2010
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Pioneering electronic artist Mark Van Hoen has seen and done a lot within the realm of music in the past 15 years. He started off in such groundbreaking acts such as Seefeel and Scala and went on to his own pivotal solo releases as Locust and under his own moniker, where he toured with huge acts such as Massive Attack and Orbital. Also an amazing producer in his own right, Mark’s work with Mojave 3 and Sing-Sing show his versatility and skill both in front of and behind the mixing board. Since laying low in the states after relocating to Brooklyn a few years back, Van Hoen now returns with a new album and an upcoming show at The Bell House opening for Ulrich Schnauss.
JM.com: When did you relocate to Brooklyn from London and for what reasons?
Mark: I moved here with my family in April 2008. I had always wanted to live here, and the opportunity came up through my wife’s work, so we took it. I had moved from London to Brighton (a small city on the coast of England) and that was really hard for me, being such an urbanite. At the same time, London seemed to have too many old memories, and so New York was such a great opportunity to live in a big city again, and start afresh.
More on Mark Van Hoen
January 14, 2010
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
At the risk of relinquishing my last shred of dignity, I sat down to interview the core members of No Eye Contact. To say that I am a groupie is an understatement. No Eye Contact – whose ever-shifting members have finally united to tour – is one of the best bands to have emerged from our humble hood last year. In spite of – or perhaps because of – my bias toward classic folk songwriting, I appreciate how precarious it is to do it, and how narrowly one must carve his delicate, original path. The band’s wholly refreshing brand of fuzz-garage folk recalls the best of Neutral Milk Hotel, while sifting in perfect percussive elements, found objects, and untampered mixing. The album is certainly al dente, or as Sastri describes it, “handmade, imperfect, and rough;” curious to see them live? Check No Eye Contact out tonight at the Jezebel Music Feature Show.
JM.com: How did you guys come together?
Raky: Josh and I went to high school together. He is three years my junior, so we met my senior year, in the theater department. We did a play together.
Josh: My Favorite Year. It’s really bad. We did that and we played in a Jeff Buckley cover band together. Although I couldn’t really play guitar very well at that point.
JM.com: What was it called?
Raky: Buckley Band. I played drums in that and Josh played silent guitar.
Josh: I didn’t know the chords so…
Raky: We turned his volume down and he just strummed a lot.
More on No Eye Contact