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Early 2015. DEAFCULT release their self-titled first EP. Opens up with the obvious single “BEEMOMUG“. Perhaps the best opening statement of a band this decade. The sound, the structure, the propulsion… it’s like being sweetly slapped upside the head. At our studios, we got the early release, and DEAFCULT won a permanent place in rotation, and in our hearts. Anyone and everyone we shared with had the same immediate reaction: this is special.

Fast forward to June of 2017, and DEAFCULT have capitalized on their early promise. Even with lineup changes and schedule challenges, they completed their first long-player, Auras, for Hobbledehoy. They’ve toured Australia extensively with the support of national media outlets, and garnered much critical praise (including our own Top Five lists) only two months later. We sat down with Innez and Stevie, who were gracious enough to answer our far-reaching questions, and expertly deal with our awkward sense of humor. Press ‘play’ on the album and follow along, won’t you?


DKFM:
Four guitars. Surely makes for an immense, epic sound. Do you ever wake up and think, “What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?” Like the old joke says, “Rush did it with only three people…” And do you ever run into each other on stage? 

Stevie: I think the four guitars is essential to the way DEAFCULT sounds. There’s four, very simple, almost mundane fractions that equate to a more complex whole. It’s worth the tight squeeze to get that result. It’s a sound that I’ve never personally heard before and enjoy the otherworldly nature of it. 
Innez: Earlier this year when Sean left the band, and I thought ‘ok maybe we can just go back to having three guitarists’ but then when we tried it out it just sounded wrong, like that extra element was missing. I think if we were to all go in, plug in and play, the outcome would sound awful! With this in mind we spend a lot of time on the different melodies and sounds and experiment quite a lot to get it to sound like it does. But yes, there’s still a bit of a shuffle around at each different venue to make sure we’re not whacking each other in the head. (laughs)

DKFM: This band seemed to form from the ashes of other quality acts, both in genre and “genre-adjacent”. Some names may not be familiar to our readers / listeners, but Roku Music springs to the top of the list. Do you see DEAFCULT as a sort of “shoegaze supergroup”? 

Stevie: Not really, Innez and Kelly are the only people in the band that previously played in Shoegazer bands. To me it’s like my own personal supergroup as I asked the people that I most wanted to play music with to be in the band! I feel very fortunate every time we play that they all agreed cause it’s super inspiring playing with my favourite musicians in Brisbane. 
Innez: I only knew Matt and Stevie (and now Kelly) before the band started so wasn’t really sure what type of music we would be creating together. Initially I thought Stevie was just asking me to work on a recording of his, so when we had our first rehearsal it was like, oh this is a thing, we’re  a band! Haha. That being said, I think Stevie has a natural talent in writing beautiful shoegaze/dream pop songs with heavier elements and for some reason all the songwriters in the band add different qualities from the genre that work well together. So to wrap up, we are an unexpected supergroup. (laughs)

DKFM: The debut EP certainly caught OUR attention immediately. No surprise, really, as that’s sort of our job. But it didn’t take long for even the “local luminaries” like Triple J to climb fully on board. Are you at all surprised with the love you seem to have earned right out of the starting gate, coming from around the world? 

Stevie: Oh without a doubt. Initially it was just a recording project. We never even thought people would actually hear it! It became this other thing though. When we actually heard the first record it was a surprise. “Oh right! That’s what we are?!” It seemed too unusual not to explore what it was further. 
Innez: It’s been really surprising and exciting! Shoegaze fans are so passionate about the genre and the music being released. There are so many amazing bands in the scene; I kind of can’t believe the attention we’ve received so far. Thank you for all the love and support! 

DKFM: While others focus on guitars, pedals, reverb, building a textural foundation for musical exploration, you start your process on acoustic guitar, writing accessible “pop” songs, only adding layers later in the process. What are the advantages of this approach? I can only imagine sitting around on an Ovation acoustic, thinking, “This’ll be a stomping anthem!” 

Stevie: I think the roots of the band is still Pop music. You can stray away from that when you rely too heavily on effects. It’s nice to strip everything textural away and still have a good pop song there! Take away all the feedback and distortion from a Husker Du song and you have perfect pop songs, or add a layer of feedback and fuzz to a Ronettes song and you aren’t far away from the Mary Chain. 
Innez: I guess it just comes down to getting the foundations right for a band like DEAFCULT. There’s a fine line between good noise and bad noise you know?  At least for a band like us. We need that initial guitar rhythm to write the rest of the song around. Adding in a solid bass line and drums, then we can add the textural guitars, the cream on top. This just seems to work for us and if it ain’t broke, why fix it right?!?

DKFM: DEAFCULT is properly labeled as “noisy pop” or simply “noise pop”, yet many would lump you into both the shoegaze and dream pop categories.  Are you comfortable with those tags, with ANY tags, applied to your sound? 

Stevie: I don’t really think it’s that important how people categorise music. It’s easier for some people to put things into groups, which is fine! Other people just don’t worry about it. However you want to do it is cool I reckon. 
Innez: I think we’re pretty easy going when it comes to tags and being categorised. AURAS is a pretty varied record so could be labelled under a few different genres. Ultimately, if you like it and want to call it shoegaze, dream pop, whatever you like, go for it! 

DKFM: How long did Auras take to record and produce, and what was it like jumping from a well-regarded Bandcamp EP to a label-signed full album? 

Stevie: AURAS took a long time. We recorded it and then wanted to change it a year later. Hobbledehoy were very good about it, most labels would have freaked out at us. They waited a year for us to turn around and say we aren’t feeling this yet we are doing it again. The album’s complete, out now on Hobbledehoy, burning up the charts. 
Innez: Hobbledehoy are an incredible label with heaps of experience (and patience!) releasing records and working with bands so we’ve been really lucky to develop great friendships and working relationships through this release. I think we definitely did the right thing with re-recording the album, the songs are more realised with better performances, and everyone is happy with the outcome. We learnt a lot from the experience, so hopefully the next record won’t take quite so long. (laughs)

DKFM: Your headlining shows are booked (some already played) in Australia… any plans for an international tour, ala Flyying Colours? Probably made more difficult in your case, with six musicians… 

Stevie: We talk about it all the time. Sometimes it’s hard to see how we would translate overseas. It feels like we belong to Australia in some ways. We owe a lot to the people who come to shows here, the labels that have released our records and the community radio stations that have supported us since the day we started. But then we also owe a great deal to people like yourself who have helped push us further afield. It’s a beautiful network the alternative music world it’s nice to see that it’s still thriving on its own terms. 
Innez: We’d love to tour overseas! It is mostly the logistics and cost for a band of our size. But that being said we’ve had a lot of support from the US and Europe. It would be so awesome to make it over and meet the people supporting and emailing us! 

DKFM: Finally, do you have a “band philosophy”, something that unifies the band as a team, gets you through the good times and bad? 

Stevie: Communication is important. Telling each other how we feel. Bands are like family in some respects. We are there for each other during shitty times and we make each other laugh the rest of the time.
Innez: Yeah definitely communication, respect for each other and friendship keeps this band going. We’re all best mates at the end of the day!

Follow the Deafcult squad via their Bandcamp, label, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels, and we’ll keep spinning their tunes!

From well-received early singles, to sparkling remixes, to their debut LP, Northern Automatic Music on Saint Marie Records, Chicago’s Panda Riot have continued to evolve from beachy cuteness to a dream pop band demanding to be taken seriously. And they are to be taken seriously. With all the hard work evident on their most recent album Infinity Maps, seems like the critics are finally catching up as well. We sat down with the chief architect and sonic sculptor Brian Cook, to talk about composition, pedals, sampling, as well as future plans. Press play and follow along, won’t you?

DKFM: It can’t be JUST us… this album seemed to take an absurdly long time to finally be released into the world. Tell us about the journey to release?

Brian: It takes a while for the vibe of an album to wear off. We could have made an album right after Northern Automatic Music and it probably would have sounded similar, but thats not what we were after. I  spent about a year teaching myself to build guitar pedals and then actually building them. I ended up building about 50 different pedals for this album. I built them based on what the song needed–even it was just one little moment in a song, I’d build a pedal just for that. It took awhile too because we have our own studio. We were experimenting more with the recording and the composition.  When we record something into the computer it isn’t just about taking what’s there and making it sound better. We’d try to push things beyond that. For instance, we may record a drum part, then chop it up in the computer, listen back and then try to recreate that version live; record it and then merge the 2 versions. So you end up having a mixture of organic and inorganic elements.

DKFM: It seems that there are more layers, more competing textures, that there’s just more going on in Infinity Maps than you’ve attempted before. If anything, seems like an incredible attention to detail. Talk a little about the recording and mixing process.

Brian: From a technical/gear perspective, I built out a computer that could handle and process large numbers of tracks smoothly. We also bought a pair of Mackie Controls, which is a digital control surface that talks to Logic Pro. Having 16 faders and not having to mix with a trackpad or mouse is super freeing. It really bridges the analog console approach to the digital realm. Moving faders, twisting dials feels much more natural. And once you have the ability to manipulate recorded elements fluidly with a computer it can become an instrument in its own right. All this equipment–the Mackie Control and the Mac Pro are from 2010 or earlier. The pre-touch screen stuff is brilliant and cheap nowadays.

DKFM: Tell us a little about the unique guitar textures you’re getting on this album. What goes into making the Panda Riot sound?

Brian: I had a pretty specific approach to recording and mixing the guitars from the start. I would do a take and then send that signal back through a different amp, pedal, mic combination a bunch of times.  The cool thing about that is that it doesn’t end up sounding like 100 overdubs since all the tracks are derived from the same performance. When it came to mixing I’d have about 8 different textures of the same part (x2 takes) to play around with, so for rhythm guitars I could then blend all those together.  It’s similar to working with a drawbar organ in a strange way where it’s one big sound but you can play around with the harmonics and texture.

The chaining of pedals and understanding what the best order is to exploit a certain sound also takes a long time. But it’s that very precarious chain of events that’s special. You twist one knob and the whole thing could fall apart. Twist another and it’s magic.

DKFM: Infinity Maps is notable for solid songs, bookended by luscious short song snippets in between. Was that a fortuitous use of existing material on the cutting room floor, or a conscious decision to give the LP even greater depth and colour?

Brian: Overall the idea was to treat everything as a moment. Some moments or feelings are more fleeting than others, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Everything was composed based on what the album called for.

One of the things we were focused on was thinking of songs or parts visually like a film. You have moments, scenes, establishing shots, lighting etc. With that in mind, it was pretty clear what each song needed to be.

Chimera, Infinity Maps and Parachute use elements or were directly sampled from elements of Aphelion for example. Parallels samples Arrows. Glass Cathedrals samples Night Animation. I’ve always been a fan of early hip hop and sample spotting. It’s cool to hear a piece of music show up in a different context and take on a new feeling or meaning.

DKFM: How do you think the album’s been received thus far?

Brian: We’ve gotten a really great response so far. It feels good to have it done and out there. And people seem to be picking up on the aspects that we spent a long time trying to bring out.

DKFM: You headed out on tour, bringing the Panda Riot roadshow to the West Coast last year. Now that the album is getting traction everywhere, making any fresh tour plans to amplify the signal?

Brian: We did a small tour on the East Coast in June which went over really well. We are planning on playing out a lot more. The songs off this album translate really well in a live context which is a relief. Because when we were writing the album we never considered how hard/easy it would be to play live.

DKFM: What’s next for the Panda Riot Express? New video productions for the existing songs? New songs in the works?

Brian: We are planning on releasing Infinity Maps on Vinyl in the Fall which we are pretty excited about. We’ll have some new music videos between now and then too.

DKFM: Finally, what one thing should everyone know about Panda Riot?

Brian: We are all descended from outer space aliens.

Follow Panda Riot via their website, and social channels: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Catch the fever.

 

We first took notice of Saint Petersburg, Russia’s Blankenberge in March of 2016, as some of the smartest folks we knew were praising their debut self-titled EP. For a debut to feature such an epic, cavernous sound right from the start, well, that’s some confidence right there. While still formative, the seeds were planted for something pretty big.

Since then, Blankenberge got to work. Polishing, amplifying their singular sonic vision, writing and recording their newly-released debut LP, Radiogaze. And it’s a wonder. The sonic caverns are deeper, the vocals more assured, the space they inhabit is fully their own. Already critically lauded as one of the best albums in the genre thus far in 2017, Blankenberge have carved out their own space in a scene that sometimes seems okay with “good enough”. We sat down with these dreamers, to find out more about their sound, approach, and future plans. Noting the language barriers in translation from Russian to English (and vice versa), we’re thrilled to present this first English-language interview with Blankenberge. Press play below, and follow along.


DKFM:
How did Blankenberge come together?

Daniil [guitar, synth]: All of us, except Sergey (our drummer), knew each other before moving to St. Petersburg, even though we were living in different cities in Russia. We were obsessed with guitar effects and mailed them to each other. I bought a pedal «Shoegazer» from Dayan and started playing shoegaze.
Yana [vocals]: Our band originally started in a small city in the south of Siberia, Barnaul, in early 2015. It included Daniil and I and our friends from Barnaul that are not in the band now. Before that, we traveled throughout Europe and visited some cities and towns in Belgium. Blankenberge was one of them. We were so impressed by that trip, especially by the North Sea coast that we called our group Blankenberge in honor of that city. After returning we composed several songs, some of which were included in our first EP. Then that same year, Daniil and I moved to St. Petersburg, because we thought that we would have more opportunities to develop our music. We also think that this is the most beautiful city in Russia and it gives a lot of inspiration to artists. Soon after the move, we found the rest of the current members (Dmitriy – bass, Dayan – guitar, Sergey – drums). We often performed in St. Petersburg and finally in March 2016 we released the self-titled EP.

DKFM: Saint Petersburg, Russia. We know that Pinkshinyultrablast was formed there, but most of the other Russian-origin dream pop and shoegaze bands seem to have come from Moscow. Is there much of an alternative music scene in Saint Petersburg, and what is it like?
Dmitriy [bass]: For me the music scene of St. Petersburg has always seemed more underground than in Moscow. In my opinion, there is a huge number of great bands, which haven’t become popular for some reasons. For example, I like the band «Elektrorebyata», that has unfortunately split up now, I think they are the Russian “Guided by Voices” or “Dinosaur Jr”.
Yana [vocals]: We know a few good bands that are playing shoegaze and dream pop music, and they are all from different cities of Russia, not only Moscow and St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg I would like to mention some very good post-rock bands, for example «TRNA», «Show me a dinosaur» and «Antethic».

DKFM: Who would you say are your influences? Who has helped shape your sound, your sonic approach?
Daniil [guitar, synth]: In the sound of Blankenberge, I’m guided by «This will destroy you» and «Sigur Rós». Now I also really like the new band of Stuart from «Mogwai» – «Minor Victories». I saw a lot of reviews about our music and some of them are saying that it is similar to «Slowdive», but honestly, I’ve never been a fan of their music.
Dmitriy [bass]: It’s hard to say who are the influences of our current sound because our music tastes are very different, but I really like «Slowdive», «Adorable» and «Swervedriver», they are my own influences.
Yana [vocals]: I think we all listen to different music and it reflects on our music in a good way.

DKFM: Tell us about this group of talents, and what they bring to the songwriting process?
Yana [vocals]: Daniil composes almost all the music. Before that, he composed music in his bands «Every Second of Inertia» and «Век Ноль»(«Vek Nol’»), and he already had a great experience in composing music. Each participant certainly invests something in the process of composing while rehearsing. I write lyrics and compose the vocal melodies. Dayan and Dmitry are well versed in the choice of guitar effects, which greatly affects our sound. Sergey is our drummer and I couldn’t imagine our sound without him.
Daniil [guitar, synth]: Some songs appear spontaneously, for example when I’m on the subway. You know the noise of a subway car is quite melodic. If you put drums there, you will get excellent shoegaze. «We» and «Falling Stars» were definitely composed that way.
Usually we try to compose songs at rehearsals all together shrouded in a shimmering and loud sound. We record all that and then I listen to it at home in silence and under the influence of sound hallucinations, a new track appears.
When I compose music, I just make those sounds that I would like to listen to later.

DKFM: Though they are different bands, with different sonic foundations, some have compared Blankenberge to Pinkshinyultrablast, perhaps because of the angelic vocal layer that rests atop the guitar’s haze. Do YOU see any similarities, or do you find the comparison short-sighted?
Daniil [guitar, synth]: In fact, comparison with «Pinkshinyultrablast» is a compliment for me. When I first heard them, I was really amazed and I told myself – this is what I wanted to hear for a long time, and this is ideal. It was for me something like satori.
It seems to me that we have quite a different structure to the tracks from «Pinkshinyultrablast» and therefore there are more differences than similarities – that’s all that I can say.
Dmitriy [bass]: The first time I heard «Pinkshinyultrablast» was in 2011. It was their EP
«Happy Songs for Happy Zombies». Back then I didn’t even believe that it was a band from Russia, because in those days, popular rock music in Russia was very different. I think that we are influenced by «Pinkshinyultrablast» one way or another, but we never thought about copying their sound.
Yana [vocals]: I think that of course the fact that «Pinkshinyultrablast» comes from St. Petersburg creates a kind of connection between us for everyone who is listening to us. We really like what they do and it is definitely reflected in our music, but there are a lot of bands that have influenced us. For example, I’m very grateful to «Pinkshinyultrablast» for having discovered the «Astrobrite» band for me by naming their band after one of the albums of «Astrobrite». Apart from «Astrobrite», I am inspired by many bands, such as «Mogwai» and «Sigur Rós». Their music is magical.

DKFM: There are eleven-time zones in Russia. Do you get to tour the country at all, given the geographical challenges involved? And are there any plans for an international tour?
Yana [vocals]: Apart from Sergey, the members of our band come from different cities. We dream of touring inside Russia and playing in our home cities too. So far, we have only played in St. Petersburg and Moscow. We also would like to tour Europe, but so far, we cannot name exact dates.
Daniil [guitar, synth]: My big dream is to tour the world and play my music. We really want to go somewhere in the near future, to Blankenberge for example. (*laughs*)

DKFM: Talk about what it took to put together this full album: the songwriting process, the recording process. Also, where did the album’s title, ‘Radiogaze’ come from? Almost seems like it was made for us radio DJs playing shoegaze!
Daniil [guitar, synth]: The process of composing and recording was very difficult and long, but I really enjoyed doing it, even though there were a lot of issues. It took us a few fuzz and reverb pedals and a good sound engineer. The album came out and I like it. This is my first work that I’m really happy with and I can say this without modesty.
Yana [vocals]: The first songs from «Radiogaze» appeared almost immediately after the release of our first self-tittled EP at the beginning of 2016. For a year we composed songs with six months left for recording and mixing. We wanted to make a lighter and dancier album than the previous EP, but we didn’t want to step far from shoegaze, so we tried to mix shoegaze with dream pop. We tried to select the best of what we liked in the songs of our favorite bands and put it together in our songs. «Radiogaze» is a word derived from some associations. The noise of analog radio is for us associated to the noise that we hear in shoegaze music. It’s simply saying it’s something like “A radio, which plays shoegaze”.

DKFM: What comes next for Blankenberge? The album is a critical success, largely based on word-of-mouth, as well as stations and blogs like ours who have championed your sound. Any upcoming plans?
Yana [vocals]: Now we are planning to publish the album on physical media – tapes, CDs, vinyl. Then we want to tour the cities of Russia and other countries and make noise in clubs outside St. Petersburg, where we often perform. Of course, we will also compose new music and try to make it even more perfect, in our understanding of that.
Daniil [guitar, synth]: We want to take advantage of the existing experience to make something new, surprise ourselves and make something louder than what we have already made. And of course, we want to get some new guitar pedals.

Yana [vocals]: Thanks to DKFM for this interview! We often listen to your radio and there’s always very good music. A real paradise for lovers of shoegaze and dream pop music all over the world!

Get your own copy of Blankenberge Radiogaze LP via their Bandcamp site. Follow Blankenberge on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and VK (from which images in this interview are sourced).

FullSizeRender(11)Exclusive photos, rare interviews, and surely months of work have gone into the composition and preparation of Thoughtforms, the expertly-presented Lush fan magazine approved by the band itself. Buzz had surrounded Lush’s reissues late last year, and that enthusiasm has extended to the first new music from the band in decades. The release of their Blind Spot EP on 15 April marks an amazing comeback, and a fresh examination of a sound Lush mastered and championed over a quarter century ago. With the release of the Thoughtforms fanzine, Lush gets the royal treatment they deserve. Richly detailed with exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes photos, and observations from those who were there from the outset, this is a labor of love that celebrates the return of one of the genre’s founding bands. We sat down with Thoughtforms‘ creator Richard Lewis, and asked him about the process, and the final product.

DKFM: Tell us a little about the background, the genesis of Thoughtforms?

RL: Interestingly, I had an idea back in ’95 or early ’96 to publish something about Lush but that never got off the ground, for various reasons. So, when the band’s reunion was announced, creating a publication about them came into my mind again; it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate their return. Last September I created two social media fan pages for the band, both of which were received well, but I felt that the band deserved something more special than just a few online posts and tweets and so Thoughtforms began to take shape. I love the social media aspect of what I’m doing but I don’t think you can beat an actual physical product.

DKFM: How did THIS team come together, to tackle THIS project?

RL: I’ve actually done everything by myself apart from creating the final magazine layout templates as that’s one skill I just don’t have. I was lucky to meet a graphic designer called Paul Lambert who really understood my ‘vision’ for the magazine and made some suggestions regarding the layout, colours, etc. Apart from that, everything else was down to me. I work best when left to my own devices generally, and this was very much the case here.

DKFM: Tell us about the finished product?

RL: I’m really happy with how the magazine has turned out. It’s been an incredible amount of work, but I definitely think it was worth it. A lot of detail went into how it was going to look; I had very specific ideas and, as I mentioned before, Paul Lambert made it all come together and work. There are some really interesting interviews in there; I tried to go into as much detail as possible with each interviewee and I think there’s a nice balance there; it’s informative and interesting. I think it’s nice how much of the content refers to the band’s reunion and their new record, so it’s very much looking at the present and future of the band, with the occasional glance back at the past.

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DKFM: There are fanzines, and then there is Thoughtforms. This is no Xerox-copied indie/punk fanzine, but a slick, professional production. Any ‘zine experience in your youth?

RL: Actually, yes! I wrote a couple of fanzines in the 90s. The most popular one was called Germ, a title that I never liked, but it sold really well and featured some great bands like Cardiacs and Levitation. Then there was a punk zine called Subversion that featured lots of underground punk bands from the UK and then another called Headfirst that was handed out at gigs, which featured bands like Huge Baby, Map and Funzig. A cassette compilation titled Automatic Mind Control accompanied that and featured some of the bands I just mentioned plus others like Homage Freaks, Under The Gun, The Skraelings, etc.

DKFM: Did you get the opportunity to see Lush play live, ‘back in the day’? Tell us about the experience?

RL: My first show seeing Lush was at the Old Trout in Windsor with The Sandkings supporting in 1990. Then I saw them a few weeks later at the After Dark club in Reading when, I think, the band were supported by Slowdive. I saw them just two or three more times after that.

DKFM: You got full cooperation from Lush putting this together, and got contributions from all the current band members AND Ivo Watts-Russell, co-founder of the seminal 4AD label. Tell us how you got everyone on board, and about the input they gave?

RL: The band have been amazing, dedicating lots of time to me which I really appreciate as they are all extremely busy with their jobs, families, etc. Miki kindly put me in touch with Ivo; 4AD inspired me so much when I was growing up, and so to have the opportunity to talk with him was very special indeed. His passion for the band as people and their music just shone through. Chris Bigg, who worked in collaboration with Vaughan Oliver at v23 and who worked on much of the artwork and design for Lush (including the band’s new Blind Spot EP), was amazing too. He designed the front and back cover of Thoughtforms, with photography by Martin Masai Andersen, who also co-directed the band’s new ‘Out Of Control’ video. It’s an absolute honour to feature their work.

DKFM: Lush have implied this might not be their only new release. Does that mean Thoughtforms may also be a continuing enterprise?

RL: Absolutely. I’ve never thought of Thoughtforms as being a one-off. In fact. I’ve already begun to think about ideas for the second issue. I’m hoping to have it ready for the band’s North American East Coast dates in September.

DKFM: How can fans get their hands on the premiere issue of Thoughtforms?

RL: You can order the magazine at lushfanofficial.com. The band will also have copies to sell at some of their shows.

DKFM: Where will you be catching Lush on tour this go-’round?

RL: I’m actually on my way to London now for the band’s first gig in twenty years tomorrow evening (April 11th) at the Oslo in Hackney, London. Following that I’ll be at the band’s two Roundhouse shows in London, a show in Berlin where the band are supporting Pixies and I’m also planning a week-long trip to the US in September for the band’s East Coast tour.

Sparkling, limited, and surely a keepsake, grab your copy of Thoughtforms at lushfanofficial.com, and follow the effort on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Groundbreaking. Polished imperfection. Genre-defying. Iconoclastic. Forefathers/pioneers. When you hear the name A.R. Kane spoken, it is usually uttered with a sense of respect and reverence, and with a relative word salad of superlatives attached. From their East London founding as friends and creative foils in 1986, to their professional and creative split in 1994, A.R. Kane helped define and later reshape what is now commonly known as dream pop. They did time with 4AD and Robin Guthrie, had a cup of coffee with Rough Trade before the label’s bankruptcy, and connected with David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label, in a career that hit all the creative, dreamy, experimental notes available at the time. The legacy they left made significant contributions to dream pop, shoegaze, trip hop, post rock and acid house, and they’ve been namechecked by any number of artists wanting to explore the contours of their own sound, in their own way.

A.R. Kane reformed last summer for several festival appearances, with originals Rudy and Maggie Tambala, and bringing on Andy Taylor to help support the sound. Spain’s respected Primavera Sound 2016 announced A.R. Kane will perform two shows at the June festival, and the band is picking up additional dates worldwide this summer. Call it a vindication, call it a victory lap, the influential band is now set to perform old classics and a few new sounds to a whole new generation of fans. We sat down with Rudy to talk about what a long, strange trip it’s been.

DKFM: Before we bury the lede, ‘new sounds’? Is there a new release in the cards? Tell us a little bit about the process of creating new A.R. Kane music.

Rudy: Firstly thanks, this is trippy, doing interviews again and having to re-create the myth afresh. “New sounds” is an interesting choice of phrase, because that really was central to what we always strived for, or at least sounds perceived in a new way, a new setting. Prior to playing one show last summer, I had a mental block – nerves – and so Andy and Maggie took me across a field, over a fence and into a wood in the English countryside. We went through the entire set strumming on non-amplified electric guitars and singing, three voices, the light, the air, the pre-show energy, festival heads strolling by occasionally. It was the highpoint for me, something very special happened – and so after the show, I decided to strip back the band from seven, to just us three. I started writing from there, from that energy I felt us create, or rather that I felt in us and around us, and that I guess shaped the new sound.
We have not signed to a label yet but have around a dozen songs, so at some point we will start recording. When the right label comes along we’ll talk about new releases. We may release some early demos, not hurry tho. Music technology has evolved – it is smaller and cheaper and for the way I work, a lot better. I still use samples and drum programming, guitars and effects, feedback and layers. I write at home, often on a battered acoustic guitar, sometimes on electric through a Strymon Blue Sky reverb and Space Echo pedal – I hear the harmonics bouncing around and pick out melodies for voices and other instruments, and I often write rhythmically on the guitar, little arpeggios or minimal phrases. I like to hear a kind of conversation. Because I sing too, I try to craft vocal lines – often with humming first – so that I can sing in rhythm and play simultaneously. A song-writers privilege I guess. This is vitally important to the new sound, as I now write for live – recording is never in my mind when writing. I use my iPhone to capture ideas. Sometimes I plug in my Roland JDXi keyboard, an amazing piece of kit, and just bang out a groove with subs and pads and all that. The two approaches meet in the middle somehow, and that was pretty much how we worked before, hence the guitars and grooves thing. I take the new songs into a practice room and Maggie and Andy work out their own harmonies and phrasing and add instruments. This happens usually very quickly. We then jam for hours, full-on, with three guitars and effects, the Roland, Ableton Live and Andy uses a Korg Micro too. Each week we add or strip out bits. The new sound has captured something of the potential I heard in the woods last summer, and strangely, it sounds very similar to early A.R.Kane recordings, raw, edgy, spacey, layered, deep dub basslines, and it grooves occasionally too. When we apply our new sound to the old songs, they sound fresh. It is much more about live now, recording was central before, studio experimentation, but that has changed. I look for live chemical reactions, listen for that space.

DKFM: Given your deserved status as a ground breaking artist and critical favorite, do you feel added pressure in releasing new music twenty years on?


Rudy: Yes and no. I myself compare what I was to what I am now, and the biggest change is that Alex has declined to return, and there is no doubt that on the earlier recordings, before “I”, it was all about our chemistry. We moved past that during the recording of “I”, and from there on the chemistry was not as crucial, and for me the energy not as intense, the music not as … erm, I wanted to say fresh, or inspiring, but in truth I’d say, not as good. I am directly affected by what listeners think feel say and do about the music I play. It starts with Anita – my wife – my son Louis, also a musician, Andy and Maggie, and ripples out from there.
But I also have confidence and I try to be true to myself and be what I might call ‘an honest artist’ – I serve unwritten principles, almost like laws, that inform me when something is wrong, or could be better, or is just fake. That’s the creative compass. Without this, well, there is nothing of real value without it. When people come to our shows and hear the new songs, I think they’ll be pleased. We’ll only slot in a few at this stage. They merge seamlessly with the older material. Any recordings we do will be something entirely new – more different then ‘69’ compared to ‘new clear child’. I want to find a producer that empathises. That will be critical. And possibly a couple guest singers too. I my kidnap Alex if I can track him down.

DKFM: Touring, festivals, songwriting and possibly recording… apologies to LL Cool J, but can we call this a comeback?

Rudy: Well, you can if you want to. It’s all very low key – we have very few shows lined up as no-one knows we’re playing again, and we have no management or label etc. to push us out there. We did just confirm for On Blackheath in London, which is very exciting. For us to stand on a stage, backs to the crowd, heads buried in the amps, full force feedback flying fast, yes, I guess that is a comeback. This year we are testing the water. We’ll see.

DKFM: As the classic sound you helped pioneer has re-emerged, a whole new generation of fans is paying attention. Are you finding this younger fan base even more receptive to your unique approach? And do you feel somehow vindicated that you had it right all along?

Rudy: Last point first; it never occurred to us that we were wrong about what we did, or needed vindication. We are not well-known now, and unlike MBV, Ride, etc. do not have a large fan-base, but that is because we turned our backs on all that. We rejected the ‘scenes’, and focused on the sound. However, when we were making records we were completely appreciated for what we did, and everyone told us it how much they loved it, and all that. I am not surprised that so many people are into the Dreampop/shoegaze thing now, because it is fucking amazing, it changes people’s lives, I’ve seen it so many times, that look when the head slips sideways, as brainwaves just kick in … it was not a big scene when we were playing, it was very fringe, very arty, very-non conventional. I don’t really know this new scene well except through social media, I probably ought to listen to more stuff, get educated. I would love to play to a large, receptive audience – we rarely had that, we used to empty rooms in the first few minutes – people thought it was a one big technical hitch – no guys, it’s s’pose to sound like this, so fuck off! A.R.Kane music was always for a younger fan base, so that seems quite natural. Look, when I plug in, switch on, feel the rush, and look up … I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I am excited and surprised and overwhelmed and I smile. I don’t really care who listens, I want them to feel what I feel, because it’s lovely. Because it makes all this crappy world shit make sense, it gives life meaning and magic, and it make me whole.

DKFM: Tell us about recreating the classic sound you’re known for in these festival settings. What does A.R. Kane live 2016 sound like with this lineup?

Rudy: Last year we used seven people, in an attempt to recreate the studio recordings. This really was a ritual to evoke the spirit of Kane, and in truth I now see that it was my personal lack of confidence and a process I just had to go through. This year we are three, and we are doing a new sound. All I can really say is that we aim to create an experience, to let people feel something now. Not nostalgia. I know what used to work, it will be interesting to see how it works now. Our set is short and intense, and the Kane tracks are all pretty pop songs that would sound good in any setting. Yes, even Country. I think the tech has improved our live sound, and like with the early Kane gigs we have foregone a rhythm section for the hip hop/ Cocteau Twins approach; drum loops, samples and sequenced sub bass. The guitars are still bloody painfully loud, and sometimes painfully soft. We all sing, and Maggie is central now.

DKFM: Finally, there’s a new squad of musicians in big cities and small towns around the world who have taken their cues from the kind of sound you forged decades ago, each with their own unique take on the form. Any advice to the kids who want to make magic, but do it their own way?

Rudy: I think we all start off imitating something … a pose, a style, an attitude, a sound … but at some point it is important to go beyond the inspiration, the surface, and put in some hard graft, to create something new. Follow the artistic compass, I guess. Sound, or music, is a particular art form, a specific human mode of expression. It is probably our best art and the most human thing we can do. There are rules. It has not – as many may say – all been done. Meditate on that, children.

Follow A.R. Kane via their website, Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud, and catch them on tour!

 

Otherworldly. Since their first release in 2011, Jonathan Relph and his band of madmen and women have been sculpting and shaping a music all their own: hypnotic, engaging, meticulously crafted, borrowing from a minimalist aesthetic, but never navel-gazing. Toronto’s Indoor Voices has been one of the few bands we look to, to break apart the form, and put the pieces together in a truly unique sonic sculpture. Recently signed to Sweden’s stellar Häxrummet Records, the new EP Auratic is due to be released on cassette and digital formats on 15 January. And around these studios, when there’s new music from Indoor Voices, it’s kind of a big freaking deal. We sat down with Jonathan to try to get our heads around how this unearthly music is birthed.

DKFM: How is this even possible? How are you able to coax music like this out of guitars and drum machines? Describe the songwriting process that’s able to craft this music.

Jonathan: I first started learning how to play a guitar in 1994. I bought my first guitar, a fender telecaster, from a close friend who taught me how to play it— bar chords, open chords, strumming properly. I almost immediately started writing my own songs. Nothing to perform live or anything but, I really connected with music. About 5 years later that same friend taught me how to use emagic logic audio platinum, and I was off. I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you learn from someone who’s patient and willing to show you how to do things properly it just kind of falls into place. Chris Stringer has been a part of my musical life since it’s birth, so it made sense to get him to mix Auratic. He understood what we wanted to achieve with these five songs, and was able to make sense of the mess my files had become. The songwriting process itself has evolved over time, but I’ve always been pragmatic in terms of using the means available to me. What this has meant in terms of guitar sounds and drums, has been that since the majority of the recording has taken place in a house, volumes are artificially altered after the recording process, and tracks are recorded to a click track so that the proper drum sample or machine can be added after the fact. It’s all very quiet until we play live. 

DKFM: Tell us a little bit about your setup. What sonic elements go into crafting the Indoor Voices sound?

Jonathan: Over time the setup has changed a bit, but it’s essentially been the same all along. I own two microphones, a shure sm57 and an apex condenser. Since I’m fond of gentle vocals, I usually prefer the sm57. For tracking I use Logic Audio Pro. I’ve had people try to convert me to other DAWs but I’ve been using Logic for so long, I’m invested in it. I have a vox ac15 and Chris Stringer built me my fender jazzmaster some years ago which totally changed my writing and playing style for the woozy.


DKFM: You’ve been able to enlist some real luminaries in the genre to assist with vocals. How did you connect with these heavy hitters? And how do they help color the Indoor Voices sound?

Jonathan: I’ve met a lot of other artists through happenstance, shows, friend of a friend, record label mates. All people whom I admire and have gotten to know because of  shared interests and a love of music.

I met Sandra Vu (SISU, Dum Dum Girls) through my oldest internet friend. We’ve had a slow-burn music relationship and friendship. I have an enormous amount of admiration for her ethic and her voice was absolutely perfect for “See Wish” and its walls of vocal reverb and bombastic drums.

I met Jimena Torres when IV shared the stage with her band The Great Wilderness at a music festival where to buy flagyl in canada some years ago. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and when “Atomic” was first recorded, I knew based on her quiet disposition that she was right for it.

I met Kate Rogers in the 90s when we were both pot-heads (I think?). We lost touch and then were reacquainted again over a decade later when she was recording a record with Chris Stringer. She has always been a light in the rehearsal space and has a great intuition for ad-libbing on recordings. Her secondary vocal parts in “Indifferentiator” are wicked. 

I met Alisha Erao as a label mate (Alligator Indian) on Bleeding Gold Records. “Telepathic Boys” was the first song I heard by her band. She has an amazing sense of melodic harmony and after her performance on our S/T EP on “Hung Out”, I knew she was the right person to sing in “What Can I”. You should hear her Lush Agave project. Totally freaked me out when we played with & witnessed her live.

I met Maja Thunberg after reading about and listening to Star Horse on Sounds Better With Reverb. I almost immediately messaged the band and Andreas put me in touch with Maja. Her vocal treatments in “Say” still give me goosebumps. I’m really happy to have met the two of them. They are beautiful people and I wish I could live close to them.


DKFM:
If we were pressed to thumbnail-sketch your sound in words, “My Bloody Valentine crossed with Philip Glass,” probably the closest we could get. What’s influenced your unique songwriting and construction style?

Jonathan: The first song I ever wrote in the 90s, was 100% influenced by Lush – Spooky. The dissonant beauty in “Nothing Natural” and “Monochrome” was all encompassing for me. I wasn’t aware of what “shoegaze” was at the time, I just heard those songs on the radio and knew that music like that was special. I’ve also always had a soft spot for more ambient instrumental works. Melancholy, dissonance, slow patient melodies, trance-inducing rhythms. 

DKFM: Indoor Voices started out as a bedroom project, but evolved into something exponentially greater. Tell us about the supporting cast that helps bring your vision into focus?

Jonathan: In the early days of what became Indoor Voices, I did a lot of collaboration with friends who I had met through music in a previous band.  When it came time to play live, just after the release of Nevers, Craig Hopgood (our old keyboardist) was instrumental in helping find the right people to make up the live interpretation. Chris Stringer was also the original bassist, and helped us to hone the live sound. We are now 4 strong. Myself (guitar, vocals), Owen Davies (bass, samples), Ryan Gassi (drums, percussion) and Kate Rogers (vocals).

DKFM: What’s next? We know most of these songs have been ‘in the can’, as it were, for a little while now. Already have new music on the drawing board? Any thoughts on touring?

Jonathan: There are many sketches in my music folder. Sometimes it takes years to get back to them. Our S/T EP had at least two songs  (“Still”, “So smart”) which were almost eight years old, so when the time comes again to start writing, these sketches will be waiting for me. With regard to touring. I won’t say that it’s not a possibility, but a lot of things would have to go right before it would be feasible.

DKFM: Any final thoughts, especially for new fans that might be discovering your music for the first time?

Jonathan: If you like dreamy vocals and swirly guitars or are drawn to the dichotomy of ugly/pretty in music for its emotive quality, you might want to pay attention. Thank you for your support DKFM! The world needs more like you.

Preorder your copy of Auratic here. We did. We know what’s up. Follow Indoor Voices at their website, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Ahead of the curve. Amber Crain and Danny Lackey founded the When The Sun Hits blog back in 2010, based on a shared love of this sound, this music. At the time, it was rare to find a credible news source devoted to shoegaze and dream pop, and well before the current spate of reunion tours. Amber hosted the “When The Sun Hits” radio program on Strangeways Radio from August 2011 until June of 2015, when they shifted away from a streaming radio model. Now, as she is poised to bring the show back to radio after hiatus, we sat down with Amber to talk about the sound, the scene, and the journey here.

DKFM: Let’s start at the beginning, and talk a little bit about the founding of the blog. Back in 2010 there were some quality artists carrying the flag for this sound, but it wasn’t on a lot of folks’ radar. What brought you and Danny together to build WTSH? And what were you hoping to achieve when you started?

Amber: Danny and I met in January 2010, after discovering that we were both members of a lot of the same music-related social media groups and message boards. We had a ton in common and naturally became fast friends. By that summer we found ourselves chatting pretty much daily about music in general, but especially about our shared passion for shoegaze/dream pop music.

We had started noticing that a LOT of new bands were putting out music that was heavily shoegaze-influenced, so there was definitely a lot to talk about! The shoegaze revival had begun and a passionate underground community was forming around it, but music journalism hadn’t quite caught on yet. There just weren’t a lot of online resources for the genre. Because of this, the new shoegaze-influenced bands we were into weren’t getting the exposure they deserved. When The Sun Hits was created to put more information about shoegaze into the world, and to be a vehicle by which shoegaze bands could get the exposure they richly deserved. It also essentially functioned as our ongoing digital love letter to the genre we adored so much.

DKFM: Since Danny’s untimely passing, you’ve managed to build a support team for the blog that keeps the spirit and vision alive. Tell us about the squad keeping the torch lit.

Amber: After Danny passed away, I didn’t know what to do. It felt a little wrong continuing WTSH without him, and the blog itelf was a constant reminder that he was gone from this world. I’d already been doing the Strangeways radio show under the When The Sun Hits moniker for well over a year before he passed, so even if I’d stopped the blog after his death, WTSH would still live on in radio format – the constant reminder was locked in whether I discontinued the blog or not. I also knew that Danny wanted me to keep the blog going. He battled cancer for a long time, and so we had a chance to discuss such things. I knew I had to do it, as I promised him I would, but I also felt adrift without my friend and co-pilot.

After a few months had passed, I knew I needed help with the blog if I wanted it to continue. My heart just wasn’t in it. I’d become close with Dan Joy and Ellie Sleeper, two guest writers who were contributing a lot of content for the blog at that time. They clearly shared the same enthusiasm for the genre that WTSH was initially built upon. I trusted their content-related decisions and enjoyed their writing styles, and I really wanted them to join me as WTSH’s main staff. And luckily for me, they did. I was able to regain my enthusiasm for the blog through theirs. I adore them both and I hope they know how much I appreciate them as writers for WTSH, and also as human beings.

DKFM: You’ve done WTSH for Strangeways, as well as a regular show for KVLU FM. What got you into radio as a platform? Tell us a little about the experience.

Amber: In 2007 I started DJing, simply because it was really fun, and also because I have a pathological desire to share music with others, haha. Later that year I started doing my first genre-specific shoegaze radio show for Rice University’s (now defunct) station KTRU. I had to fight to get that show on the air, since the station manager at the time didn’t know what shoegaze was or why anyone would care, but eventually I was allowed to do it (translation: I bugged the hell out of him about it until he caved).

I know it’s hard to imagine this now, since the genre has been enjoying quite the revival in recent years and the word “shoegaze” is now thrown metronidazole no prescription around in music journalism seemingly constantly, but in 2007 that was definitely not the case. Shoegaze seemed to be a largely forgotten genre, and for a younger generation that had missed its inception, shoegaze appeared to be an almost entirely unknown genre.

When I first started DJing I would get frequent phone calls from people during the show, asking me what this “shoegaze” music was. This was happening so often that it became very clear to me that as a musical genre, shoegaze was a mystery to a lot of people at that time. I wanted to put the music out there; I wanted people to hear it, know it, and eventually come to love it – just like I did.

DKFM: Your happiest experience running When The Sun Hits?

Amber: So many! But the ultimate would have to be bringing it into the world with Danny.

DKFM: Histrionics. What bands first captured your imagination in this genre?

Amber: The very first one was My Bloody Valentine, when the “Only Shallow” video debuted on 120 Minutes in 1994. I was only about 12 at the time, but the impact was huge and immediate. Nothing sounded like that! I grew up in a very small town in the middle of nowhere, so 120 Minutes was responsible for exposing me to so much music – I think a lot of people in my age range would say the same. Unless I could bribe someone to bring me to the mall (to read – but not buy, of course! – all the music magazines), 120 Minutes was all I had at the time, and it was a great resource. Now it’s hard to imagine MTV ever having been a good resource for anything!

DKFM: Here’s a question we’ve always hated, but we’re throwing it at you anyway: How do you define/characterize shoegaze?

Amber: The dreaded question! I actually love this question, and it’s something I used to think about a lot, especially once I started DJing. Most people have a more specific answer for this question (guitar style, use of particular gear, etc., combined with an affinity for pot, striped shirts and cats) but for me, at the end of the day, the defining characteristic of shoegaze is the atmosphere. Within the genre, sonic variation from band to band can be quite dramatic. This is especially true today, but even among the classic bands the style differences could be pronounced. What knits them all together – for me – is the common atmospheric thread they share. It’s distinctive, but hard to describe with words. There is an otherworldly quality to it. It’s ethereal and transcendent, with a certain texture of sound…

There are most definitely shoegaze bands that operate within the sonic boundaries of genre limitations, or whatever, but I like to think of it as an atmosphere that any band can tap into, whether they are defined as “shoegaze” or not. An example of this that I’ve used since the beginning is The Cure’s “Plainsong”. The Cure is not a shoegaze band. Their typical sound is not one I would consider shoegaze. But to me, that song taps directly into the realm of shoegaze via mood and atmosphere.

DKFM: First great show you attended?

Amber: Probably Tori Amos. Haha, is that an unexpected answer? It’s true, though! Seeing her as a teenager was a huge deal for me. So formative.

DKFM: Have you been able to catch any of the big reunion tours, and if so, which? Describe the experience.

Amber: Yes! Although I haven’t managed to see a Slowdive show yet, much to my chagrin. The first reunion show I caught was My Bloody Valentine, which was gloriously deafening and perfect. Most recently was Ride, and that was just stunning. Very emotional.

DKFM: What’s in heavy rotation on your iPod at the moment?

Amber: Drab Majesty, Cold Showers, Soft Kill, Them Are Us Too, Killing Joke, The Soft Moon, Tamaryn, Clan of Xymox, True Widow, Girls Names, the Sisters of Mercy, Helen, 800beloved, Black Tape for a Blue Girl…

DKFM: How does it feel coming back to radio after a well-earned break?

Amber: It feels awesome. The past six months is the longest I’ve ever gone without DJing in some form or another, and I was starting to feel pretty alien. And I’m super excited to be a part of DKFM! I feel very lucky.

DKFM: What can new listeners to When The Sun Hits expect from your show?

Amber: My modus operandi has always been emphasizing the new while never forgetting the classics, and that formula is precisely what I plan to continue delivering.

Amber Crain returns to the airwaves Wednesday, November 4th, 10 pm Eastern, 7 pm Pacific, with a replay twelve hours later. In our opinion, appointment radio.

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Keep up with When The Sun Hits via their website:
www.whenthesunhitsblog.blogspot.com
Check out the When The Sun Hits Facebook group,
follow on Twitter and Bandcamp.

If you’ve followed us at all over the past year, you know we’re pretty keen on Sheer, a group of upstarts making a beautiful ruckus from Simi Valley to L.A. One of their several singles, “Skin”, even charted in last year’s “Best Of” tracks list. But it’s a new year, it’s a new day, it’s a new life (or something to that effect), Sheer is readying the release of their debut LP, Uneasy, as well as their first dreamy-looking video. They even corralled producer Michael James (Reverend Horton Heat, Jawbreaker, L7, New Radicals) into a revisioning of their single “Uneasy”, turning quiet insistence into something more beautifully monstrous. We caught up with Gina Almaguer and Sean Sakamoto of Sheer to get the update. SO many questions…

DKFM: First, WELCOME! It’s damn good to catch up with you! Tell us about the LP, Uneasy. What made you take the giant leap from a few well-received singles to a full long-player?

Sean: Hello!
Gina: We’ve been working on all of the material since we first starting jamming back in May 2014. We released singles here and there because once we recorded one track, we were so excited to hear it in a digital format that we wanted to share it with everyone. We finally had to sit down and just record all that we had and put it out in bulk. It’s been hard to keep it all to ourselves for this long, but we are so excited to finally share it!

DKFM: How on Earth did you enlist the help of producer Michael James? Surely no small feat getting him on board for the title track?

Sean: He is a mutual friend of mine through my work and he asked to hear our music one day. He told me he liked it and he offered some of his expertise on our title track.  It was nice getting a fresh pair of ears on something we have been working on for a better part of the year.  Mixing our own album was very mind numbing at times and it was refreshing hearing a mix from another producer.

DKFM: Now that we’ve got rather ahead of ourselves, tell us how Sheer came about? Surely there will be some new fans only just now catching up with you. How did the squad come together?

Sean: Anthony plays guitar in another band (Black Prism) and was telling me he wanted to play bass in a band around the same time that me and Gina started jamming a little over a year ago.  At that time me and Gina were trying to write more heavy riff driven music.  I have known Jules through mutual friends for a long time and we would mess around on guitar and drums, so once we had Gina, Anthony, and myself, I asked Jules if he wanted to jam with all of us, and one thing led to another and we have been doing it ever since.

DKFM: Your sound is big and bold, but not at all derivative. The new album is filed with texture and color, but it’s not a carbon copy of anything else. Any influences come to mind that helped inspire this sound, this direction for the band?

Sean: I think our sound comes directly from our vastly different but somewhat similar backgrounds in tastes of music.   One of my personal main influences would have to be Boris, both sound and direction.  I really like that Boris has such a wide array of different music in there catalog and all of it is great.  It’s really hard to describe them to anybody and I like that about them.
Gina: There’s so many bands that have such a different sound from one another that inspire me a lot when I write, almost too many to mention. I think one of the more prominent ones would be Slowdive, although I try to create my own personal twist on some the styles I admire about them. Rachel’s subtle yet powerful vocal melodies inspired me a lot as well as the overall ambiance of the band in general. Who doesn’t get inspired by Slowdive though, honestly? G.O.A.T.

DKFM: WE’D be hard pressed to describe the ‘Sheer sound’ to a newcomer. It’s part gazey, part indie, and all earnest and open. How would YOU describe the sound?

Sean: I find myself getting asked this question a good amount lately and honestly I can’t really describe it.  It’s best for someone just to listen to us or come see us and let them label us as they see fit (haha).  I think everyone hears things very differently and some people will listen to our music and compare us to a band while someone else would compare us to a band that is nothing alike .  We definitely try to have our own “sound”, but I kind of like that its a challenge to describe us to people who have never heard us.
Gina: I agree with Sean. People ask us all the time and I don’t think either of us have ever had a direct answer. We all have adopted so many various styles from different genres/artists that it’s very difficult to pinpoint just one.

DKFM: What can fans expect from the album?

Gina: I think each track has it’s own sound and style. No two tracks sound that same. I even think a few of the songs could have easily been released by a completely different band and no one would know it was us (lol). I think that’s what makes “Sheer” who we are though.

DKFM: From what we know, the album is more about quality songwriting than being reliant of effects. But, for the record, describe your setup?

Sean: Our setup is constantly changing.   I’ll try and keep it simple and straightforward: Telecasters, p bass, high wattage heads (for more clean headroom), few speaker cabinets with high wattage speakers (so we don’t get that much speaker break up), boost pedal of some sort, fuzz pedal of some sort (usually some variant of a big muff circuit), overdrive pedal, delay pedal, chorus pedal, and a reverb pedal.
Gina: Sean’s the gear nerd of the band, so it seems he has something new every practice. I play a Standard American Tele out of a Music Man 100RD. The pedals I’m using at the moment are a Supernatural Reverb, Akai digital/tape delay/ loop combo, Walrus Audio Jupiter fuzz (honestly my favorite pedal ever) and a boutique clean boost that I got from Sean.

DKFM: Describe the songwriting process. Who brings what to the table, and how are the tracks fleshed out?

Sean: Songwriting is a joint effort.  It really helps shape our sound since we all have different writing styles and influences. One of us will write something and bring it to practice and jam it and if we all like it or think we can make it into something we like, then we stick with it.
Gina: Basically, someone will present the band with a riff or chord progression they wrote and each of us will add a part onto it that has our own personal twist and we just keep jamming it until we agree to call it finished.

DKFM: As you may know, “Skin” hit our Top 50 songs of the year last year. And it’s a hell of a tune. The churning guitar, nuclear-powered rhythm section, and plaintive (but not weak) vocals laid over the top. What’s it about, how did it come together, what makes it so monumental?

Gina: I was “fan girling” pretty hard when our song came on the Top 50 stream. I was driving and almost crashed hahah. I wrote that song about my mom who passed away from cancer in 2010. She was sick for a long time so when the doctors told us that her time was ending soon, she actually spent that last days of her life in the home our family had just moved into. It’s basically about me being with her on her last days here.

DKFM: Seems like you’ve been “adopted”, not only in the LA scene, but by fans, by US, and by local bands in SoCal trying to make a difference. Tell us about the reception and support you’ve gotten thus far.

Sean: You guys have been very supportive since day one and we are forever grateful for that!  We have only been a band for a little over a year and we have made so many great friends through this.
Gina: Well we definitely have DKFM to thank for playing our songs ever since the beginning. I think the night you premiered our first release “Orion” we got a lot of response right away. That gave us more motivation to play more shows locally which in return gave us the opportunity to build great friendships with other musicians in the area.

DKFM: There’s a video. We knew about it months ago. And waited. And waited some more. Tell us about translating your audio textures into visuals, the team that’s helping put it together, and when we might finally be able to see the finished product?

Sean: If you’re reading this its too late. . . see what i did there?  it was filmed by my good friend Collin McCaffrey.
Gina: I see you Sean…

DKFM: Anyone can tell you, it ain’t easy being an independent band in this climate (recording costs, tour expense, etc.). How do you make it work?

Sean: It’s a labor of love.  We do most everything ourselves.  We track, edit, mix, and produce our own music.  It does add up over time but in the end we are doing what we love.
Gina: Our drummer Jules is also a very talented producer who has his own studio. We kind of got off pretty lucky being able to produce everything ourselves. As Sean said, it does add up, but it’s an investment into something we love and are passionate about, so every penny is worth it.

DKFM: How did you guys hook up with The Native Sound and how has it been having label representation?

Sean: We have been in constant contact with them since about February this year.  they found out about us through some form of social media or a blog and reached out to us.  Once the album was done I sent it to them and I guess they liked it (haha).  The Native Sound have been very welcoming and very helpful.  They have an amazing roster of artists and we are stoked to be a part of it.

DKFM: Now, on the eve of the album’s release, any plans for a wider tour? And what comes next?

Sean: We will be making our way through California in support of the album.  hopefully we can take it further in 2016 by touring further.
Gina: Kickstarter campaign for a Sheer world tour in 2016!!

DKFM: Finally, what would you like your new fans to know, about the band, about the album?

Sean: Thanks to everyone who has come out to a show, listened to our music, and we hope y’all like what you hear!
Gina: We’ve all dedicated so much of our time getting it together (sooooooo many late nights and coffee breaks) and we are just so grateful to see our hard work come to life. We really hope everyone likes it! Honestly, we are pumped if we only have one fan (hahah). We also have a lot of thanks to give for DKFM for supporting us all this time 🙂

sheer-uneasy

Follow Sheer via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and purchase Sheer music at their Bandcamp site.

 

 

2015 marks the ten-year anniversary of A Shoreline Dream. Founded in the mid ‘aughts, it was a challenging time for richly textured, moody music. Post Rock was starting to come into its own, but, with few exceptions, shoegaze wasn’t really a happening thing. But for a decade, A Shoreline Dream’s mad alchemy and cinematic landscapes have been a constant; a foundation rock in the resurgence of the sound. With the imminent release of their new single, “Time is a Machine Gun”, we sat down with Ryan Policky and Erik Jeffries to take stock.

DKFM: A decade. Did you ever think you’d be carrying this banner for ten years now? Tell us about the journey.

Ryan: It’s crazy for sure. I didn’t even realize we had technically been working together as A Shoreline Dream for ten years until Shauna from Ummagma asked me when we formed the other day? and it was a crazy revelation. Ten years. That’s a long time, yet not all that long all at once. I remember meeting Elbow after a show around the same time we formed, and they had been doing it for 12 years at that point and I couldn’t believe it. “How could they still be working together?”, I thought. but as the time went on I realized quickly that ten years truly goes by three, four times the speed at which you think it will. As awareness and memory of things around us settle in, the time just naturally does that? Speed up, that is. It’s a machine gun 😉

Erik: The ten years have gone by very quickly. To be honest it seems like it was just yesterday when we started tracking our first ideas. I never thought about the actual time, but this has become such an important part of who I am that time just melts away. I also think keeping up with Ryan and his willingness to explore and try new ideas keeps is as fresh today as it wa the first day I brought my gear back to the studio to explore the idea that became A Shoreline Dream.

DKFM: From the beginning, it seems like ASD charted its own course. From founding your own Latenight Weeknight label, to the sonic craftsmanship that goes into each release. What made you choose this (perhaps more challenging) path?

Ryan: Creative freedom was always the reason behind it. We wanted to pave it our way, and not be restricted by what business does. You see far too many times throughout history of great bands becoming ‘standard’ to grab a ton of cash real quick, with little substance behind what they’re doing. And it’s not the bands fault, it’s the labels, as they truly dictate 80% of the time as to what the band needs to be, rather than what they want to be. It was extremely expensive, and through it all I can see that most labels fold because they are almost always destined to do that. They get the loans, they work the deals, and they ultimately spend far too much to properly promote their next thing, with the bands themselves not coming close to realizing their label is gambling pretty hard most of the time, hoping for a miracle.

Erik: It has always been about creative freedom. Which is funny. To think that by taking control of something you would actually create more freedom might not make sense. Also, Ryan’s willingness to put everything on the line and support not only his ideas but ours as well was pretty amazing. He borrowed against his house, ran up every card he had and invested about every cent just go get this off the ground. The result is reflected in nearly every album, EP and single we produced.

DKFM: The sound itself is pretty unique, borrowing (though sparely) from classic Dif Juz and Spirea X prog/fusion, overlaid with pop songcraft and dark harmonies. What were your musical touchstones as you were first fleshing out your sound?

Ryan: One of my biggest production and sound spectrum influences for this project has been Dead Can Dance in their early years. Some of the best sounding songs I’ve ever heard came off their first disc, and the way they achieved those sounds has always been a motivator to what we’re doing. Achieving a spacial atmospheric thing, with a driving, near-danceable groove. Nearly every song I’ve ever heard with a symphony and driving bassline grabs me and doesn’t let go, so it’s hard to list off a ton of other influences, as their are too many to list. But Dead Can Dance, yes. I always add hints of their style in the mix as I wish more of that existed.

Erik: The sound is such an example of collaboration along with Ryan’s vision. He has definitely helped fuse our ideas into a consistent sound and presence. We find ways to keep our ideas fresh and innovative but Ryan does an amazing job on making sure it still fits the quality, personality and sound design that is central to our core.

I think we have almost developed an intuition on how to compliment each other’s ideas when composing and recording. This time was no different.

DKFM: Musicianship and technical ability do play a strong role in A Shoreline Dream. More than order metronidazole pills online half the bands in-genre would choke trying to pull off a tune like “The Silent Sunrise”. Is that simply the result of a decade-plus experience, the talent you’ve surrounded yourself with, or…?

Ryan: I find it super bizarre personally whenever anyone calls us technical, or prog, as I think nearly everything I’ve ever written has been zoning out with my eyes closed, with no real strategy or technical aspects at all. Most of the better material we’ve got on our recordings as of late have followed this rule as well, so I guess it’s based on the fact that our fingers are more dexterous with the many years of playing as to where a more prog side has originated from.

Erik: I think we are much more technical than we like to admit. I know that is a passion of mine and although Ryan doesn’t like to admit he is actually a very progressive composer and musician. This is reflected in his guitar playing and compositions. Plus some of our former members are beasts on their instruments. Adam Edwards is an amazing bass player along with Enoc Torraca. Gabe Ratliff, Sean Merrill, Mike Scerano and Erin Tidwell have all been very powerful drummers as well.

DKFM: It’s more difficult than ever before to be an independent band in this climate. How do you manage to keep the ship moving forward?

Ryan: The one thing that has always motivated me has been the desire to record new songs. Money has always been second, and not really thought of until we need it to make something happen in full. I think that everyone who truly believes in their art should just go ahead and self fund it, because if you can get the credit to make it happen, and truly believe it’s great, you will always get that money back somehow. Money is money, and not really something to worry about. Art is life, and that needs some serious focus. When inspired I just write, I just record, I make it happen. We’ve always just made it happen, and we made it happen because we love the way the “art” turned out.

Erik: We still love to compose and Ryan loves to work in the studio. Plus, we continue to find new ideas and new sounds to explore. The beauty of A Shoreline Dream is there are no barriers. The willingness to explore keeps it fresh. We are obviously not the same people we were ten years ago, but when we come together and start to explore or improvise it seems like time just melts away and we explore.


DKFM: Tell us about the new single! We’re used to albums and EPs from you, what compelled you to get into studio to release this particular track?

Ryan: The new single comes from a deep seeded fascination with a phrase that’s been engraved on the inside of my head, and I continually see it and think of it. That being ‘Time is a Machine Gun’. It’s sad yet hopeful really. Life goes by far too fast, and it hits hard. And just as you think you have it figured out, it’s over. It’s strange. It’s confusing, yet the speed at which it flies creates an overwhelming desire to explore as much as possible. To do as much as possible. To live and to not regret. To make things happen. It’s like the astronauts you hear in the song. Risking it all to find out something new. To go somewhere new. To be someone new. It’s what really made the song come together. A desire to write something new.

Erik: It was actually very interesting for me. I had just had some Gibson custom shop pickups installed on a guitar that I had built from Front Porch Lutherie. Ryan immediately liked the response and tone and thought it would compliment an idea he was working on. Although reluctant, Ryan convinced me to go right into the studio and track some of my ideas to go along with the solid progression he had composed. To be honest it was one of the best sessions I had ever participated in. The tone from the new set-up was amazing and the fit with Ryan’s idea worked out even better than I had expected. I have always appreciated the way Ryan and I have been able to leave room for each other on our songs. I think we have almost developed an intuition on how to compliment each other’s ideas when composing and recording. This time was no different.

DKFM: What comes next for A Shoreline Dream?

Ryan: More recording of ideas. More collaboration hopefully. We’re wanting to expand our sound. Work with new people. Try new things. We’re gonna write, record and release as we get things done. Focusing on singles, and then assembling at the end into a full package. Hopefully vinyl. We’ve been dying to do Vinyl and so have our fans!

Erik: More music and more exploration of sounds and ideas. Plus I really want to revisit some of the places we toured in the past.

“Time is a Machine Gun” is released into the world on Friday, October 16th.
Follow A Shoreline Dream at their Bandcamp site, Latenight Weeknight label, Facebook, and ashorelinedream.com.

angel-falls-smTwo musical projects, begun decades ago, thousands of miles apart. Suddenly two very impressive talents meet over the vast interwebs, and begin a beautiful collaboration. We interviewed Dan Ballek of Angel Falls (St. Paul, Minnesota), and Paul Lopez of Spell 336 (Central California), to talk a little about this amazing joint effort. Press ‘play’, and read what they had to say about this particularly dreamy collaboration. If the Cocteau Twins-esque bassline doesn’t strike you upside the head right from go, you may be reading the wrong blog. Just sayin’. By the time the hazy guitar chime kicks in, sonic heaven is commenced.

 

DKFM: First, for Dan. Tell us a little about the Angel Falls project, and the music you’ve been releasing this year?

Dan, Angel Falls: My previous band, which was together for 20 years, broke up a couple years ago. We didn’t get too far, although we did put out a CD in 1997. I was the songwriter, and I had a few songs left over that we never properly recorded. So, I decided to finally learn how to use this new-fangled digital audio workstation technology and record a few of those old tracks, and maybe try my had at writing a few new ones, to see if I “still had it”.

The first EP, “Part 1”, was one old track (“Angel Falls”) and a couple of new ones, which didn’t turn out too bad, I think. “Painting After Midnight”, “Carousel” and “One Hand Clapping” followed a short time later, and that was all older material that never got proper treatment. “Anonymous” was two new tracks that I’d written this spring, and quite frankly I was suprised at how well they turned out. I guess I still had something to say, or at least I could still write songs!

DKFM: Next, for Paul. Spell 336 has had a few tracks out for years now, but isn’t this the first time you’ve lent the 336 moniker to a collaborative project, and the first NEW 336 music in years?

Paul, Spell 336: The Spell 336 tracks have been around since 1992. At that time the tracks were written and recorded and that was it. I felt that the tracks could have been recorded and mixed better. Only a few individuals at that time heard what had been recorded. After a short period of time I grabbed all of the master tapes and put them at the bottom of my dresser where they stayed until 2008. In ’08 I retrieved the tapes and created a Myspace page for Spell 336. It started off a little slowly but quite a lot of people were listening to the tracks and started to spread the music to everyone and it just started to have a life of it’s own. And it is all still here.

This is my first collaboration with Angel Falls (Dan) and I really hope that it will continue. I don’t think that technically it be called Spell 336 and Angel Falls. Spell is on a very long hiatus. The other individual who was part of Spell left the group quite a long time ago. I would love to carry on Spell. I could find other musicians to create a working band and see what happens. I would love to have Dan in the group. But performing live is a sore point with me and especially Dan. I know we can pull it off easily. I have not performed live since 1994 and that was a show for Spell. But who knows what the future may hold?

As for new music from Spell you guessed correctly. There is a backlog of songs that were written for Spell but were never recorded. I was the one who wrote the tracks but I concentrated the most on writing lyrics. Collaborating with Dan has pulled me out of my slumber and has given me the chance to write once again. I must confess the last time I actually had written a song was in 1992. But I am feeling inspired by Dan and what he has done in the studio and I am glad we are doing this. Speaking to Dan via telephone we have the same ideas when it comes to writing music and recording, etc…. That makes me happy!

DKFM: How did the two of you become aware of each other, and what made you decide to collaborate?

Dan, Angel Falls: We’d been in touch via Facebook and other social media and Paul had expressed how much he liked what I was doing with AF. Truthfully, if it weren’t for him and The Shoegaze Collective (and via TSC, DKFM), I doubt anybody else would have heard of AF. He was an early fan and a big supporter. We talked a bit online and realized that we had very similar tastes in music– not just shoegaze, but also a lot of other stuff you’d never suspect (I won’t go into it, but let’s just say I think we both have an affinity for ’70s AM Radio pop. It’s what we grew up listening to!).

Paul, Spell 336: I blame Greg (DJ Heretic) at DKFM. He posted a link on the TSC wall, tagged me and told me to listen to the track to see if it sounded familiar. When I listened to the track I thought that it was a new Kitchens Of Distinction track. Everyone knows I am a big fan of KOD and Dan’s vocal are a spot on match for Patrick Fitzgerald who is the lead vocalist for KOD. After listening over and over to Dan’s music I sent him a message of how much I liked his music and maybe in the future we can do some music together and he also agreed after hearing some of my music.

DKFM: It started with an exquisite cover of Spell 336’s “Silence”. Dan, what motivated you to take that on, and how do you feel about how it came out?

Dan, Angel Falls: “Silence” was a true gift from Paul. He asked if I’d like to try my hand at “Silence”, and I jumped at the chance. It’s a beautiful song, and something I could absolutely relate to. It’s the first time I’d ever recorded a track by someone else, and I think it turned out beautifully. Sometimes I listen to it and get shivers, it’s such a beautiful song. When I was doing it, I was so worried that it wouldn’t turn out well enough. I was really unsure, and I ran things by him at least once a day to make sure they were heading in the right direction. I bet I did half a dozen mixes and numerous takes before I thought it sounded well enough to show to Paul. I think it turned out really, really well, and I know we’ve gotten some great feedback on it.

DKFM: Paul, were you aware that the “Silence” cover was in the works, or did you wake up to a surprise? And what was your first reaction when you heard it?

Paul, Spell 336: I was aware of the cover of “Silence.” I approached Dan after a few weeks and asked him if he would be interested in doing a cover of the song. I knew from listening to his music that he could give the song some justice and he agreed to record the track. I believe I told him to record the track his own way and I never pressured him into recording the track my way. It was all Dan. I had “Silence” covered a few months ago by a great female, singer songwriter named Anna Madorsky. She is a good friend and put a different twist on “Silence” and I loved it. To be honest I feel the tracks have been covered beautifully and that will be it. I just want those two covers of “Silence” to be the only ones in the world. Period!

As for my reaction to Dan’s version of “Silence”, it left me speechless. He covered the track as how I really envisioned and heard it in my mind. I was stunned! I still am. I played the finished master of the song over and over. It really made me emotional and to this day it still does. I listen to Dan’s cover every day! It also resonated with a lot of listeners who have embraced the track which made me feel good. But Dan is the one who hit the home run on this track. I am grateful for his version and as far as I am concerned I could not have been happier!

DKFM: Tell us about the process of collaborating, writing and recording together, thousands of miles apart.

Dan, Angel Falls: After “Silence”, we vowed to work again. I can usually put music together with not too much trouble, but lyrics have always been difficult for me for some reason and they always come last when I write alone. Thankfully, Paul provided a few inspiring lines I was able to set to the music and they matched up PERFECTLY with the mood of the songs. He was also an invaluable sounding board, sonically speaking, on what each song needed as far as sounds– more/less guitar, more drums, different melody– even if the track was mixed too far to one channel! I think the material on “Touch The Sun” is probably the best stuff I’ve ever had a hand in. And I doubt it would have turned out as well as it did without Paul’s input.

Paul, Spell 336: It really is not that difficult. Especially when you are collaborating with someone who shares the same mindset as you. We are both on the same wavelength and it shows in the music. We bounce ideas off one another, lyrics, recording…. Everything! And because of that chemistry it works.

DKFM: Describe the sound. If you had to describe this project to someone who’d never heard it, what would you say?

Dan, Angel Falls: Hmmmm…. that’s a tough question, actually. Think Cocteau Twins meets Kitchens of Distinction while Ride-ing to a gig with Catherine Wheel where Loop are attempting to cover 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” with three singers, one of whom might possibly be Morrissey but with less cool hair. 😉

Paul, Spell 336: I agree with Dan’s description of our sound! How can you argue with that???

DKFM: Do you expect this to be an ongoing collaboration?

Dan, Angel Falls: Absolutely. It’s amazing what you can do with technology these days, and it’s great to work with someone like Paul who seems to get where I’m coming from and where I want to go next. We haven’t actually “played” on a recording together yet, but I imagine that’s the next step. I’ll be out his way this summer to visit family, and I’m sure we’ll finally get to meet face to face. I don’t know if I’ll have room enough to pack my guitar rig, but I’ll have a laptop with me, for sure.

Paul, Spell 336: YES!!!!

DKFM: What’s next for each of you?

Dan, Angel Falls: More writing, more recording, more of the same, I hope! I really enjoy working with Paul and he’s got lots of great ideas and together I think we make a very good team. I’m looking into getting some of the previous releases remastered and putting out something physical (CD, Vinyl, 8-Track, whatever), in the next few months. I stopped making music for a long time, but it really is in my blood. It keeps me sane, keeps me happy, keeps me balanced. I will keep doing it until they pry my guitar from my cold dead hands.

Paul, Spell 336: Continue writing as much as possible, working on The Shoegaze Collective sites spreading the word on what we are about musically and continue collaborating with Dan. There is so much music left for us to do and I am excited about the future. Music also keeps me as sane as possible. I need music to function and to breathe. So far everything is right on schedule. Going to travel on this ride for as long as possible and make some beautiful music along the way….

Grab a copy of “Touch the Sun” single on Bandcamp, follow Spell 336 on Bandcamp and Facebook, follow Angel Falls on Bandcamp, Facebook and Twitter, and do follow Paul’s monster Twitter news conglomerate, The Shoegaze Collective (highest recommendation).

 

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