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shoegaze

The Best of the Best of the Best

Finally available for streaming at your convenience: our top shoegaze and dream pop tracks of 2016. Published with ranked list and links, so that KEXP and KCRW can catch up, but more importantly, so that you can track them down and purchase a copy for your own library. Rankings derived from total spins, social feedback, and especially listener votes via the DKFM app. Thanks for your participation, and support of great new artists and music. Listen in, and follow along!

DKFM Best Shoegaze and Dream Pop Songs of 2016

36. Danxia – Closer
35. Vivienne Eastwood – Snooze
34. Whimsical – Never Come Down (2016)
33. Manic Sheep – No More Anger
32. Heavy Heart – Pretty Thing
31. Bleak House – Sun Down
30. Petal Head – Melt
29. A Shoreline Dream – Whirlwind
28. Panda Riot – June 20th
27. The Stargazer Lilies – Golden Key
26. Crescendo – Pressure (Feat. Frankie Soto)
25. Airiel – Cloudburst (Single Mix)
24. Queridas – Pasantia
23. Magnet School – The Double Agent
22. Fawns of Love – Girls
21. Lush – Burnham Beeches
20. Kindling – Blinding Wave
19. Sheer – Room
18. Big Deal – Hold Your Fire
17. Pinkshinyultrablast – The Cherry Pit
16. Mercury Girls – All That Heaven Allows
15. Arbes – Sun On My Back
14. Voices from Deep Below – Wait There
13. Seeing Hands – I Knew You
12. Mumrunner – Shawshank
11. Nothing – A.C.D. (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)
10. Hazel English – Never Going Home
09. Minor Victories – A Hundred Ropes
08. DIIV – Dopamine
07. No Joy – A Thorn In Garland’s Side
06. Good Personalities – Itch
05. Newmoon – Head of Stone
04. The Kestrels – No Alternative
03. Magnet School – British Monuments
02. Soft Wounds – You Can’t Stay Here
01. Miniatures – What You Want

Many tracks released late in the year only began catching fire as the calendar turned, and seem to be building on early success. As such, disappointing that we weren’t able to plug in breakout performances from Blushing, RUBUR and others. With luck, they’ll appear as is appropriate on next year’s chart show. Assuming the world hasn’t blown up by then. I mean, right?

In the latest Wikileaks dump of Clinton campaign emails, campaign manager John Podesta rails against Pitchfork’s “Top 50 Shoegaze Albums of All Time” list, in candid conversation with Clinton confidant and advisor Huma Abedin. The exchange should have no effect on Clinton’s chances to win the Presidency, but the criticism is nonetheless cutting. We’ve arranged the conversation chronologically, for easier readability, but edited the off-color language.

putzfork

Podesta: “What is this bullsh*t you send me? Why would I care what Putzfork thinks are the top 50 shoegaze albums of all time? God knows they’re still fighting for relevance, but this sh*t sure doesn’t make their case.”

Abedin: “At least thought you’d get a chuckle out of #48. Be well!”

Podesta: “Don’t even get me started on #48. Nothing’s ‘Tired of Tomorrow’ makes the ALL TIME ALBUMS LIST? So they’re saying the new Nothing album has stood the test of time? Since what, FIVE MONTHS AGO?!?”

Abedin: “I thought that might get a rise out of you.”

Podesta: “Seriously though? It’s a fine album, don’t get me wrong. Probably Top Five of the year. But might not even end up as the year’s best. Competing with Newmoon, Magnet School, Big Deal, The Stargazer Lilies? Give me a break. And did you read the attached blurb? ‘The Philly band is “The Walking Dead” of gorgeous guitar rock…’ WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Nothing represents the inevitable zombie apocalypse?

Abedin: “Well, Pitchfork does have a history of latching on to the ‘new, hip band’ that the kids are raving about, in hopes some of their cool factor rubs off on them.”

Podesta: “But that act is so old it’s transparent by now. Seems like they’ve climbed so far up Nicky Palermo’s butt they can’t see the sunshine anymore. They could’ve at LEAST tossed Airiel’s ‘Battle of Sealand’ up there in its place, nobody would’ve blinked an eye. Oh, wait… Putzfork gave it a 5.0. Can’t unring THAT bell NOW. And throwing a bone to Xinlisupreme at #50, so they could cross Japan off their list? Feels like they were filling some self-imposed quotas here. Probably not even the best Japanese shoegaze album of all time. Weak.”

Abedin: “Hey, at least there were women represented here. They finally got to cover a genre where women play a REAL role, and can’t be relegated to the ‘male-led ingenue myth’ they’ve been criticized for.”

Podesta: “Sure, granted, but seems like they’re just checking a lot of boxes here for the sake of ‘coolness’. M83? Alcest? Jesu? Xinlisupreme? All of them quality releases, but seem thrown in to show sonic diversity. And how can you champion Lovesliescrushing without even half a nod to Astrobrite’s landmark ‘Crush’ LP? Epic failure. And without so much as a passing nod to Ringo Deathstarr, Tears Run Rings, Tamaryn, Fleeting Joys? The folks CURRENTLY reinvigorating the sound? Just, NO.”

Abedin: “Well when I’m looking for thoughtful art criticism, I usually head straight for Conde Nast. *smirk*.”

Podesta: “And Bardo f*cking Pond? Is that a joke? Wait – Bardo f*cking Pond rated higher than Medicine’s “Shot Forth Self Living”? That’s twisted. And don’t get me started on their ‘Loveless’ blurb.”

Abedin: “Well, what else can be said about the landmark of the genre that hasn’t been done to death?”

Podesta: “I realize it’s not easy to find original things to say about “Loveless” at this point, but saying it’s ‘…romantic in the 19th century sense, a work so grand that it connects us to the limitless universe and reminds us how small we are as individuals within it…’, that’s pretentious to the point of hilarity. I think what the writer is REALLY saying is, ‘I went to university for a BA in 19th century lit and all I got was this crappy job writing for Pitchfork’.”

Abedin: “Altogether, seems a really sad and desperate attempt to be cool, like when my embarrassing uncle shows up for Thanksgiving dinner in skinny jeans.”

Podesta: “Seems like somebody Googled ‘seminal shoegaze albums’ and averaged out the results. Sh*t, even NME at their WORST put in more effort. And they never had to break it into five pages for bonus ad views, either.”

Abedin: “At least nobody got compared to Radiohead, so that’s progress for P4K, right?”

These hacked emails have not been verified by DKFM. Representatives of the Clinton campaign declined to comment, and Dominic Palermo could not be reached for comment as of publication date. The Trump campaign responded promptly, however, with the candidate issuing the following Tweet:

trump-podesta

Never one to quit while ahead, Trump later added the following:

trump-emails

Check out our Top 100 Shoegaze Albums of All Time list here.

 

half-wozniak-mute-swanIn a surprise announcement, two of the UK’s preeminent sonic sculptors are releasing a split single, with all proceeds to benefit DKFM station operations. Half, via Gateshead, burst on the scene with their first single “Mind Laps”, and immediately caught attention around the globe. Awash in reverb, strummed rhythm and a slowly unfolding progression, “Mind Laps” broke enough genre molds to earn a permanent rotation space in the first month of release. Jonny Gray’s original project has continued to evolve, leading up to the debut LP Here Lies, released this April.

Wozniak, on the other hand, has been experimenting with textures and dynamics since mid-2013. Never predictable, and impossible to pigeonhole, Wozniak draws from post-rock, shoegaze, occasional tribal rhythms, with dashes of psych thrown in for good measure. Always unique, always challenging, and expanding your musical boundaries. That’s what we’ve come to expect from Wozniak.

In this new split-single release, we chatted up Jonny (Half) and Simon (Wozniak) for more info.

DKFM: Tell us about your contribution to this release, and how it came together?

Jonny (Half): I had the guitar parts left over from my album. I still thought they had potential, but wasn’t sure where to take them. I’d been a fan of Wozniak since hearing Snow Effect on DKFM and just sent Simon an email to see if they’d be up for a collaboration – things just progressed from there.

Simon (Wozniak): When Jonny got in touch I was really intrigued to see what we could come up with together. I had originally thought of remixing Mute Swan, but when I began to make some new sounds I really felt like it came together and a collaboration began to feel more natural than a remix. It’s a good mix of Half and Wozniak – hypnotic guitar parts underpinned by modulating drones!

DKFM: What made you take up this banner, and decide to support DKFM?

Jonny (Half): Both Half and Wozniak are super grateful for the support DKFM has shown us in the past and because the station indirectly brought us together, it just felt right. I’m just keen to repay the support in some small way.

We at DKFM couldn’t be more grateful for the support of quality artists, and dedicated listeners. Keep an eye peeled, release of the new “name-your-price” single is imminent, with proceeds benefiting DKFM!

Split single “Mute Swan” preorder link here. Follow Wozniak on Twitter and Facebook. Follow Half on Twitter and Soundcloud.

Even if you were unaware, there’s a war going on over the term “shoegaze”. No, seriously. Whether it be a battle over the validity of the term itself, versus its original coining “shoegazing” over on Wikipedia, or snarky ‘historical’ articles on HuffPoUK, there is a nerd war over the appropriate genre descriptor. The Wikipedia argument is a clusterbomb in itself, so we will herewith focus on Andy Ross’ article for Huffington Post, which, while accurately sourced, ignores useful historical and grammatical detail relevant to the argument.

Long story shortened, shoegaze (and shoegazing) essentially refers to the stage talent’s fixation on their effects pedals, rather than engaging with the audience during live performance. Reasonably referred to as “dream pop”, shoegaze is a term that was born out of the British music press’ bastardization of language.

Esteemed British music weekly Melody Maker was the first to coin the term, “The Scene That Celebrates Itself”. While Steve Sutherland could hardly call that a genre descriptor, it was effectively used to describe a loose affiliation of bands, friends and fans who hewed to a similar sonic and textural aesthetic; a mutual appreciation society, if you will. A small slight, perhaps, but nothing that might generate larger offense.

If Andy Ross’ piece is to be believed, he takes full credit for the term “shoegazing”. And he describes the pejorative (Americans, read: ‘insult’) behind the term’s origin. “This affiliation naturally attracted much, er, ribbing, particularly once I’d pointed out to Polly that the band’s idea of compelling stagecraft seemed to be a comprehensive uninterest in proceedings on, and in the immediate vicinity of, the stage, specifically when they were squatting it for forty minutes or so. They also appeared to be sucked into a state of trance by the footwear lurking semi-motionless beneath their low-slung guitars.”

If the etiology, the origin story, is to be believed, the pejorative term was dropped into casual conversation by the author over a lunch with Steve Lamacq and Simon Williams, both at the time writing for that monument to muck, the New Musical Express. Say what you will about the 90’s British music press (and many have), the NME cherished its role as critical troll more than most, and surely more than their prime competitor, Melody Maker, ever did. While both papers initially viewed ‘the scene’ with some skepticism, NME remained the most critical of both the scene and the bands involved. By the time Steve Sutherland left Melody Maker to edit the NME, the British press had effectively killed the scene. These music weeklies were often seen as elitist by bands both in and outside the genre: their whims of taste, and demands for 1979 punk-era “realness”, rolled over an entire scene as being “posh” and detached. All while NME was celebrating the virtues of Carter U.S.M. as the “next big thing”. Steve Lamacq is given credit for in-print first use of the insult on a popular platform, well in time for the collapse of the genre that his press helped to vilify.

Meanwhile, across the globe… music press was opening ears to the scene and the sound. Armed with AP’s Stylebook, and Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, folks off the island tried to take this pejorative, malformed genre descriptor, and lend some legitimacy. By this time, “shoegazing” as a term had already stuck in the U.K., but elsewhere it had to conform to certain norms. First: if kept as such, it would be the only known genre as a form-of-verb. Consider this: what other semi-popular genre is coined as an activity? Polka-ing? Punk-ing? Even “dance music”, as a generic descriptor, is never considered “dancing music”. So that’s a fail right off, then. At least “shoegaze” conformed to the established standard. Second: “shoegazing” was coined as an insult to the artists who practiced this sound, and wasn’t embraced or adopted by the practitioners themselves. So, while the international press were stuck with the ‘shoegazing’ moniker, they didn’t have to allow it to stick as coined for both reasons. Surely there was no legitimate need to antagonize the bands or their fans by describing them as listless and unengaging, plus getting closer to the Queen’s English was surely the appropriate approach. Not that the Queen labels many genres in her spare time…

We were avid consumers of the British music weeklies at the time. Not only for their rapturous coverage of My Bloody Valentine’s Tremolo EP, or their torrid live concerts, but for a whole crop of bands that sprung up around them, with widely varied interpretations of the sound. Slowdive, Cranes, Chapterhouse, Ride, Swervedriver, Lush… so many different approaches, with a loose connection to a specific sonic ethos. The weekly trip to Tower Records was always rewarding, to see what the scene was up to. Occasionally picking up NME, always picking up Melody Maker, didn’t take long for some of us (points to author) to subscribe to Melody Maker on import for two years, at ridiculous cost. No regrets. It was the only reliable, legitimate coverage of the sound to be found anywhere. By the time NME trotted out “shoegazing” as a term, the scene had pretty much been strangled in the crib by the critics who’d moved on, in an attempt to distance themselves from any of their previous praise.

For our part, you’ll never catch us publicly uttering the term “shoegazing”, for all the reasons listed above. We do have a reverence and respect for both the bands and the fans who love them. Plus, we can speak the Queen’s English. Or the President’s English, at least. A war rages on to either legitimize, or re-legitimize “shoegazing” for the world’s populace. We’re having none of it. We were there. We’ll take less insulting terminology, and proper English parlance, any day of the week. At least “shoegaze” reasonably conforms to both of those. Had we been responsible for giving birth to the term “shoegazing”, we’d not only be embarrassed to publicly admit it, but we’d have tried to drown any evidence of it in the nearest bathtub. Selah.


DJ Heretic (Greg Wilson) is an over-the-hill radio raconteur, who has never used the term “shoegazing” in polite conversation. This rant is only evidence of his indisputable role as a shoegaze n3rd, and is not reflective of the attitudes of the greater world music press, Queen Elizabeth, or President Obama. He may be contacted here.

Above photo: Bellavista in live performance, DreamGaze Festival, San Francisco, CA, taken by the author.

We’ve been following Toronto’s Soft Wounds since their first demo EP release, and were lined up in anticipation of the first proper long-player. It’s no cookie-cutter shoegaze or dream pop release, as it features some solid songwriting, using genre identifiers only to draw curious listeners into their sonic world. The reverb is warm and generous, the feels are real.


“Baby Blue”, the teaser single released last week, gives a pretty good idea where this project is headed, with a respectful nod to forbears like Ride, and the soft/loud dynamics of Teenage Fanclub. It’s an anthem for the cool kids, who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to generic indie dreck at frat parties.


The real highlight of Soft Wounds is the churning storm of “You Can’t Stay Here”. The hook is undeniable. It feels both familiar and classic, but without being a rehash/recycle, and jangles to a full stop after a rollicking ride. Probably a lock for regular airplay rotation in no time.

It’s not a perfectly-formed album, by any means. Not all the choices make immediate sense, but the songs grow on you. There are ebbs and flows to Soft Wounds, as hard-charging tunes give way to slow-burn torch songs, but the imprint here is strong, the identity fixed. Soft Wounds does what they do, and are fully comfortable expressing themselves within the parameters they’ve set. They’re not looking to reinvent the sound, but they will draw you in to their version of it.

So has Toronto become Canada’s shoegaze capital? Hard to argue, with a list of luminaries like Indoor Voices, Beliefs, Iris (R.I.P.), Rituals, Elsa, RLMDL and Lust. Whatever’s got into the water in Toronto, we’ll have some of that.

Available now. Buy Soft Wounds debut S/T LP on Bandcamp, and follow their exploits on Facebook.

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 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 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.

The third and final installment of our series on the epic Roogaze festival in Melbourne on May 9th (event link: Roogaze 2015) features our chats with Kigo, Miners and Contrast. If you’re just catching up, check out our previous installments here and here. As we’ve described before, Roogaze is the largest shoegaze / dream pop themed event of its kind since LA’s Shoegaze Fest three years ago, and featuring heavyweights in a scene that crosses arbitrary national boundaries. We’ll shut up and let them tell the story.

DKFM: How’d you get all mixed up in this sprawling blissful mess of a show?

Jack Crook, Contrast: I got really excited about an idea to do a Cure tribute show after I was overseas and missed a Mary Chain one featuring some of my favs like Black Cab and Bloodhounds. I pitched it to a bunch of the bands on the bill and they were all super into it. I kinda got buried down with work and recording so Gabe from Lowtide kindly took the reigns and whipped it into the show it is now, which is far beyond what I was capable of anyways. Hats off mate.
Nick Johnson, Miners: Gabe from Lowtide actually messaged me personally about the show, which was a pretty neat surprise. I forwarded it on to the others and we all pretty much jumped at the opportunity, we’ve never played Melbourne before and thought this would be the perfect introduction for us. We thought it was really nice of him to consider us.
Dwayne Pearce, Kigo: Gabriel from Lowtide asked if I’d be interested in playing, and I jumped at the chance to be a part of this festival.! It was opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

DKFM: Have you ever been involved in a shoegaze-specific event of this size?

Dwayne Pearce, Kigo: I’ve never played something this big before; I feel a little overawed at the moment. I’m really nervous to be honest; super keen to play, though.
Nick Johnson, Miners: Nope, never before. Most shows we play in Sydney tend to vary a bit stylistically. We usually play with people that aren’t necessarily in shoegaze-sounding bands, but they’ll have a vague connection to us sonically and we all end up complimenting each others’ music in different ways. Zeahorse, Beast & Flood, The Nuclear Family, Caroline and Hound are all perfect examples to name a few, we love those guys and the shows we’ve done with them have all been awesome! But to get the opportunity to jump on something that’s unapologetically and emphatically designed to celebrate shoegaze music; it doesn’t come up much, if at all, so it’s awesome.
Jack Crook, Contrast: We once played a show similar on Australia Day involving some of the bands on this bill and a few other main Melbs contenders like Flyying Colours and VHS Dream, but it wasn’t run by the bands, which seems to really shine through on this particular show and even though it was still a great day, this one seems to be executed in an exceptionally razor fashion. There is more focus on how special it is that we have all these bands in Australia.

 

DKFM: Are you familiar with the other bands on the bill, and who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Nick Johnson, Miners: We’ve played with Lowtide and Day Ravies before in Sydney, so to be able to play with them again and watch them play too is always a good thing. I think we’re all pretty excited to see Contrast, they’re pretty great. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing Kigo a lot as well. From what I have heard he doesn’t play live much, so I’m very excited to see what it’s like, knowing I may never see it again. Luna Ghost and Bloodhounds should be awesome too, we haven’t heard Hideous Towns before so looking forward to checking them out as well. Fuck it, the whole day is going to be great, we’re pretty excited to meet and hang out with everyone and watch their sets.
Jack Crook, Contrast: We’ve had the pleasure of playing with all the bands on the bill besides Miners and Kigo, so it will be great to see them. All the bands on the bill are incredible in their own way so I can’t wait for all of them, but I don’t get to see Day Ravies as often as the others from Melbourne and in my eyes they’re the bloody cats pyjamas.
Dwayne Pearce, Kigo: I am familiar with most of the bands on the line-up. I can’t wait to see Lowtide again, and the other interstate bands I haven’t ever seen before. Each band brings something different to the table, and I can’t wait to see everyone on the same bill.

 

DKFM: Do you think it’s possible to pull off an event this size, and this focused, again?

Jack Crook, Contrast: Yeah definitely. Australia is outta control with this sorta shit. Plenty of my fav Aussie bands could be mentioned for round 2 like The Laurels, Parading, Flyying Colours, VHS Dream and my little brother’s band Mosaicz just to name a few.
Nick Johnson, Miners: Yeah, I think there’s a definite interest. And this lineup is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s so many bands doing really great stuff that’d fall under the ‘roogaze’ bracket for sure, you could put this bill on for at least another couple years and still stop short of the awesome stuff that’s floating around at the moment. Bands like Cull, Blonde Tongues, The Laurels, Roku Music, Love of Diagrams, Beaches, T54 and Popstrangers over in New Zealand – the list goes on.
Dwayne Pearce, Kigo: I’d hope so. I can totally understand if this is a once only type thing, though. I can only imagine how tough it was to organise this. I really think that it will be something truly extraordinary, and who knows, it may NEVER BE REPEATED – hint – buy a ticket as soon as you can!

 

DKFM: Do you realize that fans around the world are right now looking at Australia, and talking about THIS event? How does that make you feel?

Nick Johnson, Miners: It’s pretty exciting. It’s easy to internalise all the music and forget that people are actually interested in what we do, so to know that even people on a local level are interested, let alone anyone around the world – it’s a great feeling.
Dwayne Pearce, Kigo: It feels both terrifying, and surreal to be honest. I feel like such a small part of such a thriving scene. As far as the show goes, I really can’t wait to see everyone play. Maybe we should take this show on the road sometime? Sounds like fun to me.
Jack Crook, Contrast: It seems like the psych/shoegaze/dreampop scene in the UK and America is thriving and fans of the genre are really engaged with who and what is happening all over the world. It just so happens a bucketload of it is going on here. To me I think we’re lucky to have such great likeminded bands we can go watch all the time, it’s just a shame our country thrives on a mainstream-radio-based market and it feels underappreciated here. Even though I guess its a ‘shoegaze revival’, I think everybody in Aus has a knack for acknowledging influence but not abiding by it. Because there is certainly a formula to this music, but it needs to be fucked with and I’m glad people overseas have recognized Australian bands are doing that. There’s this supportive, non-competitve community here for it to exist in. I think that’s the key.

Set times have been announced for Roogaze 2015, and are posted here. All times Melbourne local. Given the intense international interest, it is advised that those planning to attend purchase tickets in advance through this link.

12:00 Day Ravies
11:15 Contrast
10:30 Bloodhounds On My Trail
9:45 Miners
9:00 Miniatures
8:15 Blush Response
7:30 Lowtide
6:45 Kigo
6:00 Luna Ghost
5:15 Hideous Towns

Part Two in a series… Melbourne, Australia hosts the event of the year in Roogaze 2015, featuring the best and the brightest in the Australian shoegaze and dream pop scenes. We dug for answers about this incredible event, and got responses from Blush Response, Luna Ghost, Day Ravies, and Bloodhounds on My Trail. If you’ve heard of every one of these bands, it may be because they’re heavy rotation staples on our air, and probably in your hearts as well. Missed our first installment? Check it here.


DKFM: How did you get involved in this incredible festival?

Sam, Day Ravies: The event has been organised by Gabe from Lowtide. Day Ravies and Lowtide have played a bunch of shows together, all of them have been quite memorable nights. We were lucky to be invited by Gabe.
Chris, Luna Ghost: There was an open discussion among band members about putting on a similar gig to a recent Jesus and Mary Chain tribute started by Jack from Contrast, and me being a smart ass self-nominated my band to jumped on board! Then everyone gave their two cents with the organisation and it went from there.
Bloodhounds on My Trail: Well credit has to go to Jack of Contrast for getting the ball rolling. We were asked to play a set as part of a JAMC tribute show so we promoted on FB. The Crook suggested we local shoegazers should organise our on tribute night to The Cure. A whole bunch of Melbourne gaze bands then put their hands up and so the idea was formed. Gabe from Lowtide then got his teeth sunk it to it and it evolved into the massive line up it is involving interstate bands as well. We are thrilled to be a part of it.
Alister, Blush Response: I paid a small fortune for a guy to sneak into Gabe’s (Lowtide) room while he slept and whisper “ask Blush Response to play Roogaze 2015” in his ear, every night for a month.

DKFM: Have you ever been involved in a shoegaze-specific event of this size?

Chris, Luna Ghost: We’ve played a few gaze specific shows around, especially recently, but not to this size. Melbourne is a great place for like minded bands to get together and put on shows. This one looks to be one of the best shoegaze lineups we’ve been a part of for sure.
Alister, Blush Response: I pose a counter question: Has a shoegaze event of this size ever occurred? I’d wager my tremolo arm that, no, this is the biggest. Ever.
Sam, Day Ravies: No, I can’t say we’ve ever been involved in an event of this kind of theme.
Bloodhounds on My Trail: Not at all. We’ve played that JAMC tribute which had a good long line up of bands but wasn’t really gaze. I’m hoping this could be a yearly thing!

DKFM: Are you familiar with the other bands on the bill, and who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Alister, Blush Response: Definitely. Is ‘everyone’ an acceptable answer? No? Ok. Kigo and Bloodhounds on my Trail. Very keen.
Sam, Day Ravies: Yeah, I’m most looking forward to Contrast, Miners (I see them all the time but never get sick of them) and Lowtide who always rip live.
Bloodhounds on My Trail: Everyone! Of course. It’s a lineup that we’d be excited about even if we weren’t playing at. I’m gonna say Miners, Blush Response & kigo since I’ve not seem before.
Chris, Luna Ghost: Our band has played with most of the local bands on the bill a fair bit, we always love playing with Contrast, Bloodhounds On My Trail, Miniatures, Hideous Towns. I am especially keen to play with Lowtide, as we’ve never shared the bill with them and really love their music. I’m also pretty excited to see some of the interstate acts (Day Ravies, Miners, Blush Response and kigo).

DKFM: Do you think it’s possible to pull off an event of this scale again?

Bloodhounds on My Trail: I really do hope we can do it every year. Even if it’s all self indulgence haha.
Sam, Day Ravies: Surely, Melbourne is the right place for it.
Chris, Luna Ghost: For sure. It’s great to get together and put on things like this. There’s even a few more acts that could’ve been added to the bill (eg. Crimsonettes, Lunaire, Flyying Colours who i think are out of town) so there’s always demand for these kind of shows especially around here.
Alister, Blush Response: Never again. That’s why everyone should definitely come to this gig.

DKFM: Do you realize that fans around the world are right now looking at Australia, and talking about THIS event? How does that make you feel?

Sam, Day Ravies: I hadn’t thought about it like that at all, Certainly is exciting.
Chris, Luna Ghost: That’s pretty great to know. I feel particularly lucky to be in Melbourne with all these great acts. There’s no ego and we all love each other’s music. Any week we can go and watch one another’s band play around for cheap so it’s pretty much a big community now. It’s quite humbling to know there’s even attention outside of Melbourne let alone worldwide!
Bloodhounds on My Trail: We know we’re part of a special lineup. It funny living here you almost forget how many great Aussie gaze bands there are right now until you see the lineup, get excited that every band on it is awesome and finally realise it’s all Aussie! Puts it into context. We are greatful to be a part of it. And by all means any crazy gaze fans that wanna come to this from overseas, I gotta couple of spare rooms 🙂
Alister, Blush Response: Well, uh, nervous now that you’ve said that..

Check out the Facebook event page for this epic festival known as Roogaze 2015 here. Then lend us a thesaurus so we can find another good word for “epic”. Thanks.

What began as a simple idea of a few shoegaze and dream pop bands coming together to do a tribute to The Cure (shortly after Robert Smith’s birthday, no less) evolved as a premise. What had been a tribute show in a small venue became a much more ambitious festival, showcasing the talents of the genre’s best bands. Jack from Contrast originally pitched the idea to like-minded musicians, and now Gabriel Lewis of critical favorites Lowtide has built a sprawling bill that looks to be the biggest collection of talent since Part Time Punks’ Shoegaze Festival in LA three years ago. We caught up with a few of the principals from Lowtide, Miniatures and Hideous Towns in this, our first-in-a-series spotlight on what is now known as Roogaze 2015 on May 9th in Melbourne, Australia.


DKFM: How did you get involved in this incredible festival?

Gabriel Lewis, Lowtide: This show is the result of two gig ideas merging. One was for a smaller tribute night (hence the sub-heading on the artwork – there may be covers but it’s no longer an essential thing to do, although I think all bands are still trying to learn songs) which got the ball rolling, and I’ve always wanted to put on a big show given how many bands were popping up. I felt they really needed a way to celebrate what a rich, and supportive scene there is here with some kind of showcase.
Chris MacLean, Hideous Towns: Jack from Contrast came up with the initial idea after missing a similar style gig while he was overseas. There was a ridiculous level of interest immediately within the Melbourne band circle, so I guess we were just there at the right time along with everyone else, so psyched about being a part of it!!
Ché Walden, Miniatures: The idea was initially thrown about on Facebook and we immediately jumped aboard the hype train, I guess we were lucky enough to get in early!

DKFM: Have you ever been involved in a shoegaze-specific event of this size?

Chris MacLean, Hideous Towns: Not at all. We’ve had the pleasure of playing with all of the Melbourne bands on this lineup but never in one huge show so this is super badass. The fact that a bunch of interstate bands that are absolutely killing it are involved as well just makes it all the more exciting.
Ché Walden, Miniatures: There was a similar event a few months back for Australia Day, insofar as it was a bunch of psych/gazey bands playing for most of an afternoon and night. This however feels like the first to our knowledge to be really organised by the bands and, to be honest, for the bands.
Gabriel Lewis, Lowtide: Not at all. Locally, shows are usually more genre blended for better attendance. I’m hoping that a narrower focused field will be able put a bigger spotlight on the scene. I wanted to hold a mirror up to the bands and say, “Look how amazing you are. You should be proud!”. I’m convinced that the strength of the lineup alone can get a great turnout.

DKFM: Are you familiar with the other bands on the bill, and who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Ché Walden, Miniatures:  It’s crazy, we love every other band on the bill and have played with a few of them many times before. It’s actually becoming a bit of a circle jerk in places. Chris our bassplayer is the guitarist from Hideous Towns, Jack from Contrast is filling in with Luna Ghost, I’ve also started playing bass for Bloodhounds on my Trail.  Lots of people are kinda pulling double duty now and we love it. I feel like if we had anything as cruel as the UK music press from the 90’s paying attention to us, they’d be tearing us apart! Personally I’m stoked about Day Ravies making it down for the show, although it’s gonna be great to see Kigo live for the first time.
Chris MacLean, Hideous Towns: Yeah for sure, this list forms the majority of my favourite Australian acts of the last couple of years. I’m not as familiar with Miners as most of the others so really pumped to see them, as well as Blush Response and kigo who I haven’t seen live before.
Gabriel Lewis, Lowtide: I’ve seen all the bands except Blush Response, so am especially excited to see them. I’ll definitely be excited to see all the interstate bands playing in the same room. I’m amazed it was all able to fall together like this!

 

DKFM: Do you think it’s possible to pull off an event like this again?

Chris MacLean, Hideous Towns: I don’t see why not. In my biased mind I can see this being an easy highlight gig of the year, for us as a band and myself as a fan, so if it’s well attended and the venue is happy then it would be cool to see more stuff like this happen again. That would be so dope actually, I don’t really like proper festivals and we never get to play any haha!
Ché Walden, Miniatures: Absolutely! It seems to have come together so easily, simply from the idea to putting it together. I guess we’re fortunate here to have places like The Tote that are willing to go along with something this crazy and just say “Yes”!
Gabriel Lewis, Lowtide: I guess we’ll see how this one goes before considering that. But the amount of bands I had to leave off was really frustrating, so there’s definitely enough talent for another!

 

DKFM: Do you realize that fans around the world are right now looking at Australia, and talking about THIS event? How does that make you feel?

Gabriel Lewis, Lowtide: I’m pretty surprised, to be honest. I’ve had my head down trying to get this across the line so I didn’t even think about this registering on the global shoegaze community’s radar. Pretty stoked!
Chris MacLean, Hideous Towns: I hadn’t stopped to consider that, but I suppose friends and I are always doing the same thing from their perspective about rad shows in the US or UK or something so yeah why wouldn’t they be, we’ve got a lot of bands here to be jealous of! I’m sure we’d all be keen to take it overseas if someone was willing to get involved bread-wise, maybe some day!
Ché Walden, Miniatures: Bizarre. Down here when you’re a fan of the bands and musical subcultures that we are, you’ve grown up/come up looking outwards, looking backwards, to the 90’s, to times and places we (generally) never saw etc. So the idea of the tables being turned, if only briefly is pretty humbling! I still find it hard to believe that what we have is unique, if it is. Like, surely doesn’t every big city have this? A bunch of bands that like each others music and play together regularly with hardly any competitiveness etc? If not, then we’re luckier than I realised.

Lucky indeed. This event seems to have made an even bigger splash overseas as word of Roogaze 2015 (and this lineup) has spread. Keep an eye on the event page for details, and stay tuned to DKFM for our updates!

roogaze-2015

 

More to come…

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