Alvvays’ new album “Antisocialites”

Self-proclaimed “jangle pop” group Alvvays spent the summer traveling the world with an updated lineup of dreamy, nostalgic tunes. The North American leg of the Antisocialites Tour kicked off in early October and will wrap up in their home city of Toronto with five sold-out nights in a row. If that doesn’t say enough about who they are, the new Alvvays record, Antisocialites, has received glowing reviews across the board.

Antisocialites delivers a dose of 60s-inspired, indie pop that could act as the soundtrack for a vintage movie (Ed: see the video for “Dreams Tonight” below!) or afternoon joy ride. Critics call it honest, romantic, and thoughtful, departing from the chiming melodies on their first self-titled record, but earning equally high praises.

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Singer-songwriter Molly Rankin grew up around 90s-era, Celtic folk music, but lists bands like The Magnetic Fields, Teenage Fanclub, and The Smiths as her primary influences. She and keyboardist, Kerri MacLellan, formed Alvvays in 2011 and took up roots in Toronto’s quirky scene. The band toured with major indie acts like Peter Bjorn and John and The Decemberists early in their career.

After a few years of exposure in the mainstream alternative world, they signed with Polyvinyl Records, joining a power roster along with American Football, Of Montreal, and White Reaper. Though they are often compared to Best Coast and The Cranberries, Alvvays has established their own uniquely rosy, ethereal sound that combines surf rock with noise pop.

Have a listen to Alvvays’ brilliant, kaleidoscopic new album, Antisocialites, and catch them in the First Ave Mainroom on Nov. 2nd for a show that will surely leave you starry-eyed. (Ed: ALSO check back here afterwards for coverage of the live show!)

Words by Hannah Hubbell

 

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Dreamgirl is the modern Roadhouse Band we’ve all been sleeping on.

A few weeks ago I spoke with three members of the Missouri dream-pop, Dreamgirl. I first heard them when their track “Teenage Blue” popped up on my spotify weekly playlist off their latest release, Illuminaughty. I was sold after the first listen; the song reminded me so much of the Twin Peaks soundtrack and all I could see was scenes of the roadhouse singer and red curtains in the Bang Bang Bar. Lead singer of Dreamgirl, Lacey, has the same swoony, angelic quality in her voice.

The band started quite a few years back after the breakup of an old band due to a member leaving to take a job on the railroad – no joke. The remaining members, Lacey, Bryce (the old drummer – currently Ian is on drums), Skylar (guitar and keys), and Zach (guitar and keys) all decided to start a new project. They borrowed vocal, guitar, and bass skills from friends Sam and Austin who were in a different band, and in 2013, Dreamgirl was born.

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A majority of the members grew up listening to 90s pop and the “golden oldies and really talented lady singers”. Most are indie music fans now, but they all have a music taste that diverges enough to distinguish themselves from each other, allowing for a wide variety of influences. As for my Twin Peaks comparison, they said that they didn’t really realize the similarity in sound until after they had written in. “We thought, hey this kind of sounds like Maddie and Donna’s song, or we found out that it kinda sounds like “When You’re Gone” by The Cranberries.”

on Kansas City and their local music scene, the band notes that there is tons of great jazz and blues and bebop, but that they really are an expanding scene with all kinds of genres. With a mixed demographic of liberals and conservatives, they count Kansas City as one of Missouri’s gems as far as it’s forward thinking and it’s supportive community. ‘We’re pretty lucky to have Kansas City, and the cool think about it is the radio stations are really involved with all the local bands. Local media really cares about telling people about the local music scene, the art scene.”

In the middle of recording a new album, since the last time they released was in 2015, the new songs will sound more mature. Moving away from the beachy vibes of Illuminaughty, Dreamgirl has a more “new disco, synth heavy” sound in store for us. “The themes of summertime will always be with us and in our music, but in writing these songs we went through a lineup change, so it was really different. But we’re really excited about showing everybody!”

Random interview shout outs:

  • Playing at the second largest venue in Missouri with K.Flay (“People were smoking weed dude, and Missouri’s not friendly towards weed. that was awesome”)
  • Their friends in the band Toughies – check them out!
  • Fans from Brazil and the kid from France who put Illuminaughty on Youtube
  • “I may be investing too much, but we’re playing with Tennis, and that’s going to be amazing!” Dreamgirl played with Tennis on April 6th!!

Shoegaze revivalists, Sleepwalk, hit the ground running with debut LP, Shimmer

I spoke with Ryan (guitar and lead vocals) and Steve (drums) of the Chicago band Sleepwalk last weekend and we chatted about their brand new album, Shimmer. The 90’s, dream-pop, soft grunge rockers put in a lot of work on their latest release that definitely shows in the final product.

Sleepwalk first started 3 years ago with the intent of becoming a black metal band, but when Steve lent Ryan a CD by the band Nothing, things changed. They are greatly influenced by famous alternative bands of the 90’s namely The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and The Stone Roses. These guys put together a sound that melds all these influences together creating one luxurious blanket of dreamy songs you just want to wrap up in and float around a room to like the lil ghost-baby you are.

 

After opening for a Ringo Deathstarr show, the concept of a full album came pretty spontaneously with the main focus being the shoegaze sound and high quality recording and production. As for song writing, about half of the quintet came up with the skeletons of the songs, while the entire band got together to work them out full and finally. Shimmer features a few of their older songs, including the title track and “Lucidity Slips”, that they pulled out of their backlog and reworked to fit with the sound of the album.

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Shimmer brings a lighter feel compared to their debut EP, Heaven’s Gate, which came out in February of 2016. The change in sound wasn’t a preconceived concept by any means, but it was warmly welcomed. Heaven’s Gate had a bit of a darker, edgier vibe reminiscent of Title Fight, but you can hear the hints of those whimsical, whisper-vocals, and “layers of swirling guitar” that became much more prominent on Shimmer.

“Shadow” is definitely my favorite song off the LP, finishing the album off with a beautiful build that reminds me a bit of if Beach House and This Will Destroy You decided to make a dreamy, bedroom-pop baby. The blisteringly loud noise of everything mixed with those calm vocals make for the most beautiful, floaty, drone-y song, and I just love it.

Nearly all five members of Sleepwalk have played in other local, Chicago bands previously which helped them in navigating the DIY music scene there as Sleepwalk became a real thing. They say that DIY spots come and go, especially now in the wake of the Oakland warehouse fire, but that some of their favorites venues (DIY and otherwise) to play have been The Empty Bottle, Schubas, and Beat Kitchen.

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As for the future, they tell me that more music will eventually be a thing, obviously, but that right now they’re just trying to get the word out about Sleepwalk and Shimmer. They’d also like to get physical copies of Shimmer available for fans, because right now you can only download a digital copy on BandCamp (name your price!).

You can catch Sleepwalk at their next show on January 7th at Cole’s in Chicago, and find them on Facebook. “Follow us on Facebook to keep the scene alive!”

 

Juniper Douglas presents: In the Garden of Clay

I had really no idea what I was in for when I agreed to cover the new, local, multimedia project Juniper Douglas’s debut live concept album/theater piece. After experiencing the performance last Friday, things make more sense, but I also was left wondering a lot, and it was definitely nothing like I expected it to have been.

They sent me their first single, “Wood Rose”, that they just recently released and the accompanying music video, which was really cool. They had Jake Luppen (Hippo Campus) and Neil Weir (Magic Castles, Posh Lost, Flavor Crystals) over at Blue Bell Knoll on the production end of things. The song reminded me a bit of “lover’s carvings” by Bibio mixed with a little of that Hippo Campus flair, fitting as they list Bibio as one of their sound influences, along with Unknown Mortal Instruments and Whitney.

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Quick little note on the video: I’d just like to say that there is a scene during the first chorus that is absolutely beautiful. Noah, the main character from the theater piece as I later found out, is running through a field and it’s very Wes Anderson-y with the wide shot, and I just really really love that.

As for the actual live theater piece/concept album, it was a bit confusing at parts, but I think that was the point; they wanted people to think. They began the show by telling the audience to “take a seat, and take a look.” They took you into the brain of a girl named Noah who was wildly imaginative. The journey she goes on through seemingly her consciousness and unconsciousness is in order to try and figure out who she is, what she wants to be, how she is going to get there.

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Noah gets stuck trying to explain the concept of time early on in the performance, and struggles with time moving too fast for her to keep up throughout the rest of the show. She ultimately seems to fall into the monotony of life, with the most fitting, yet heartbreaking end scene. Don’t get me wrong here, it wasn’t all as sad as I’m making it out to be. It was incredibly creative and well thought out, and there actually was a lot of humor in the script, which the crowd reacted very well to.

Somebody said of the performance that it was “like a high school play, but self aware.” I agree with this to a point because the crowd seemed to be filled with parents and family and friends of the cast and musicians, but that is something I love. I love friends who aggressively support each other, and that was absolutely apparent during the show; those parents should be proud. 

The band played the score live throughout the performance, and all the artists were incredibly talented in every aspect of the production. I was a little confused at first, thinking that there would be more traditional songs, like the one they sent to me; there really wasn’t, though the music was still pretty and creatively made in certain scenes. (I recall a microphone held up to a bucket of water during the waterfall scene). After seeing the live show, and then going back to the music video, I put together the pieces; the video seems to be a trailer, if you will, for the live show.

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I asked Jake Luppen, one of the producers of their single “Wood Rose” about his time working with the project. He gave me a little insight on the process and timelines as well as the following praise for Juniper Douglas: “There’s nothing like the project happening in the cities right now. Zeke and Yvonne are two of the most creative people I know. I’m excited to see where the project goes from here.”

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At first I didn’t have any idea of what to even make of the performance, but after some time, I’ve made up my mind. All in all, it was a really cool experience, I’m glad I went, and I definitely walked away from it thinking; it still has me thinking, and I think that that’s a good thing.  —

You can catch Juniper Douglas on social media here, here, and here. And listen to their new single on Spotify and Soundcloud, and watch the music video here. Photo credits go to the talented Casey Carlson; check out more of his work here!

New EP from Beach Bunny, Pool Party, is a real party

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about Beach Bunny unless, of course, you follow my twitter account. I met* the wonderfully chill, hippie-grrrl, musical genius behind Beach Bunny, Lili, this past winter when she reached out to me about her then-new EP Animalism. I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve really tried my best to sprinkle Beach Bunny where ever I go because I believe in her so much. Which leads me to the spreading of the latest Beach Bunny news: the new EP Pool Party is out now, even on Spotify this time!!!

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Lili and I had a little chat over the phone regarding the new stuff recently and she says that her mindset while writing Pool Party, released August 23rd, shifted a bit from when she wrote Animalism. With her first EP, it was specific, channeled greatly by emotions she was experiencing at that point in time, whereas with the newest release, being able to step back became important.

From the first track off Pool Party, “July”, we hear a heavier shoegaze, DIY, surf-rock than she previously had put out, thanks to her new electric guitar. Lili says it has been quite the learning experience trying to figure out the amps and set-up, especially when it came to the recording process, once again in her parents’ bedroom. The electric definitely gives her a bit more edge on Pool Party compared to Animalism, a sound closer to what she’s been looking to create. “Yo, I’m not trying to be a folk artist.” 

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Nearly all the songs on Pool Party have those classic Beach Bunny tempo changes we heard on her debut EP. Jumping to the last track “Ghost”,  we hear this fluctuation heavily throughout the song, bringing the listener on a bit of an emotional roller coaster when paired with the lyrics; listen closely.”Deja Vu”, my personal favorite, has a bridge that reminds me slightly of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but when those Ooo’s pick up it’s totally her own and so so gorgeous.

Lili said she favored the first three tracks off Pool Party the most and “Deja Vu” has been her favorite to perform live. The Chicago DIY scene has been a huge help in getting Beach Bunny out there as an artist, as well as being a great way to have fun. “Home shows are absolute bangers!” Shout out to the local bands she’s been playing with and who she mentions being incredibly helpful lately: Tuesday Moons (recently broke up), Home Burial, and Oceans and Oceans.

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With lots of upcoming plans including shows, new merch, music videos, and more press, all set just for this fall season, I’m sure we’ll all see and hear much more from Beach Bunny. While I’m here crossing my fingers for an MN show next summer when she plans to do a little mini-tour of sorts, be sure to go follow her on Spotify so we can get this girl verified! Also follow her on Facebook and Twitter because she’s still the funniest!

*actually we’ve never met in person because of her being in Chicago and me being mostly in FL, and now in MN. We’ll met one day I’m sure!

Max Gowan, a.k.a. Snax Chowin’

Let me begin this piece by saying that in less than 24 hours, two teenagers from opposite parts of the country, had met in a random coffee shop in Jupiter, FL. A series of fortunate events? Gravity? Mother Moon Lady? The Universe? Whatever the forces, it was a really cool thing!

Max Gowan (known as Snax Chowin’ on Twitter and formerly as Old Man Gowan in high school) grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, but recently finished up his freshman year of college at American University in D.C. He picked up the guitar at age 8 under the instruction of his Classic Rock-loving dad. “I learned ‘Smoke on the Water’ like every other guitar player has to learn in the first week or something like that!”

He says it’s hard to tell when he began seriously writing, noting that he went through a “serious death metal phase” during his middle school years and that those songs were probably “really dumb.” With current favorites and inspirations being among the likes of Elvis Depressedly, Alex G, Elliot Smith, Wilco, and Porches, he has very much grown out of that phase.

This April brought the release of Max’s second, very personal, full length titled Mass Transit. Completely self-recorded in his dorm room and parents’ home, despite having a band behind him now, Max Gowan and His Dads (“it’s gonna be Papa Robbie, Father Jose, and Daddy Danny!”). A friend of his, Liz, an audio-tech major, helped with the mixing.

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Mass Transit cover art

The fourteen songs explore the thoughts and ideas, which as a 19 year old, come during the transition from high school to college, suburban to urban life, adolescence to adulthood. We hear a calmer side of his creativity on the instrumental title track which fades right into the more upbeat “Devil Kid” that sounds like it could make the soundtrack for a teenage indie drama. Max tells me that “Mr. Turnaround” was written about a friend who was going through a rough time, something difficult in that transition period. 

“I try not to sound too teenager-y just because I think other people do that better than me. [. . .] I think not trying too hard to make a song good, sparks [creativity]. If I’m having a hard time, I just try and write a terrible song, and it usually ends up being one I keep because you’re not forcing it.”

Max says he’s often compared to Real Estate and Mac Demarco, stating plainly that “its guitar music!” and that he tries to take comparisons like that in the best way possible. “I really like Mac Demarco. I feel like he’s inspired a lot of really bad knock off bands. But yeah, he’s great!”  

He credits a lot of his more recent success to D.C.’s supportive music scene. He is a DJ for American University’s radio station, meeting a lot of friends through that opportunity. He and his band plan to play more house shows and small venues when they go back to college in the fall. He says he has plans for another album to come out sometime next year. In the meantime, you can follow Max Gowan on his quite hilarious twitter account, and find both of his full lengths on his bandcamp page!

Emilie & Ogden

A friend of mine recommended I check out Emilie & Ogden after they saw the young harpist in support of Half Moon Run.
When I listened to the current single, “10 000” a few times over, I kept seeing this scene of an imaginary movie replaying in my mind. It was as if I had been given a book, and when I opened it this song started playing. As I paged further into the book there were all these little fold outs and pop ups and little graceful details of color and illustration and glitter. All pieces of it were so delicate and precisely planned out, creating this enchanting, pocket-sized universe.
As a child, Emilie was given a hand-me-down flute, which she studied, unattached, until college. She sang in a number of hobby bands that never lasted long, but it was with these bands that she came to enjoy performing. She fell in love with the harp while watching the incredible harpist Sarah Pag performing with her school’s choir. Entirely entranced, she found a Craigslist teacher the next day, and shortly after accepted Ogden, her majestic, 38-string harp, as a part of her life.
The dedicated harpist and songwriter, Emilie, has worked with her producer and skilled arranger of whimsy, Jesse Mac Cormack, since her professional start in her late teens. He collabed with her on her first EP, self-titled, and they continued together with her most recent release, an LP titled, that was out in late 2015.
 The tracks on this album are all-encompassing, but entirely unique at the same time. In the song “What Happened,” we hear Emilie begin with melodies reminiscent of a lullaby, just her and Ogden, but in the chorus the piano and drum accompaniment compliments what she’s already laid out creating a sway-inducing sound, for me anyway. The steady kick drum in the chorus of “Babel” gives it a bit of edge without overpowering the intentional daintiness of the song.
Her music has taken the Montreal based artist across the globe to Europe, mostly the UK, opening for Half Moon Run, Patrick Watson, Ibeyi, Tigran, Les Soeurs Boulay, Folly & The Hunter, The Franklin Electric, just to mention a few. She’s headed back in early March for some of her first headline shows in the UK; you can catch Emilie & Ogden in Leeds, Manchester, London, and Bristol!
(Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for The Indie Daydreamer)