09/22/16 10:42am
Alex Cameron (Cara Robbins)

From left to right: Alex Cameron and Roy Molloy  Photo: Cara Robbins

You have to admire an artist with a cutting sense of humor, who doesn’t take himself too seriously. The first indication that Australian musician Alex Cameron might fall into this category is his website, which looks like it was made in 2000 on Geocities. On the site, Cameron states his policy about press interviews. His rules include: 1) that the interview has to be conducted inside a bowling alley in Randwick, Australia; 2) that it must done during two rounds of bowling, and that the reporter cannot bowl while doing the interview 3) that there should be no questions about Cameron’s teeth, which is a sensitive issue with him; and 4) the interviewer should avoid eye contact with Cameron.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury of traveling to Australia to interview Cameron surrounded by the sound of rolling bowling balls and falling pins, but he still talked to me. If Cameron’s interview policy sounds pointed (along with some other thoughts he shares on his site), so are the lyrics on his most recent album, Jumping the Shark.  The album draws from his experiences in show business, an industry that’s not nearly as glamorous as it might seem, and, if his track “The Comeback” is to be believed, can be quite cold and cruel.

Cameron’s sharp observations are the basis for his unique style of storytelling, and he has crafted a very arresting, minimalist electro-pop record that recalls elements of Suicide, early Depeche Mode, and the Cars. His deep and charismatic vocals at times recall Suicide’s Alan Vega, the Cars’ Ric Ocasek, and Nick Cave.

In advance of his gig at AVIV this Friday, Cameron spoke with me about his latest album and his career up to this point.

When and how did you meet Roy Molloy, your musical and business partner?

I met Roy when he moved in two doors down from me in 1994. He was stuffing lemons in a drain. A whole sack of lemons, one by one. We became enemies and then a decade later we became friends. He played me some Lou Reed in 2004 and that changed things for me. Then another decade later I was short on cash and Roy got me work in a pizza joint pounding dough. We talked about the music industry and decided to go into business together. (more…)

08/04/16 12:15pm
Greta Kline, the mastermind behind Frankie Cosmos (Landon Speers)

Greta Kline is the mastermind behind Frankie Cosmos. Photo: Landon Speers

Listening to Next Thing, the new album from Frankie Cosmos (aka Greta Kline, daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates), is like eavesdropping on the private thoughts, daydreams and observations of a young girl on the cusp of actual adulthood. Armed with catchy pop melodies and Kline’s lovely voice, Next Thing captures that crucial life phase with honesty and charm—and remarkably, it does so in 15 songs in the space of 30 minutes. It’s destined to be one of the best records of 2016, and has already found a more than solid fan base, if her sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom on Sunday is any indication.

At just 22, Kline has already built a prolific musical career, touring both nationally and internationally and garnering music media adoration. She got started in 2009 by uploading home-recorded albums to Bandcamp. In 2014, she released her first record Zentropy, which New York magazine rated as the number one pop album of that year. After signing with Bayonet Records, Kline made Next Thing, her first full-band recording. She joins the ranks of a new crop of young musicians, including Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, who have been much praised for their compelling performances and outstanding songwriting.

We spoke with Kline about the good things that have been happening to her as well as her new single “Sinister,” and its playful video, which was just released last week.

Brooklyn Based: Your new video, “Sinister,” was recently released and I found it very whimsical and original. (By the way, that is one ripped dude!) What was the inspiration behind the song and what influenced you to write it? Who came up with the concept for the video? (more…)

07/10/16 11:30am
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jagger-Richards.jpg

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards Photo: Larry Rogers, via Wikimedia Commons)

“What’s it like to live in a world where the Stones were always there?” Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards remarked to then-26-year-old journalist Rich Cohen in 1994. “For you, there’s always been the sun and the moon and the Rolling Stones.”

The legendary rock and roll guitarist raised a good point: Has there ever been a moment when the Rolling Stones weren’t a part of our lives? The “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” has been a permanent fixture not just in music but in pop culture–not a day goes by without some reference to The Rolling Stones, their music or their antics appearing in everyday life, whether that’s on the television, the radio or in conversation.  (more…)

06/16/16 11:57am
Communion Music band Catfish and the Bottlemen played Governor's Ball this spring. Photo: @communionmusic

Communion Music band Catfish and the Bottlemen played Governor’s Ball this spring. Photo: @communionmusic

Ben Lovett likes to sign acts by instinct. “We based our decisions around songs…genre doesn’t play into it,” he says. “We don’t care how old, fat or thin… it’s about whether or not they can sing a song that moves you.” He immediately scooped up singer Matt Hegarty after he opened for Mumford and Sons, the band in which Lovett sings and plays piano (as well as a whole host of other instruments from accordion to drums). It’s an ethos that he’s held on to from his days as a producer before Mumford got big and that he has taken to heart as one of the founders of Communion Music, the London- and Brooklyn-based record label responsible for acts ranging from Gotye to Father John Misty.

Communion started out as a monthly music night at the Notting Hill Arts center in London, a forum by artists for artists, that blossomed into a record label with offices in Brooklyn (Fort Greene to be exact), London, and most recently, Nashville, with additional nights for Communion’s artists coming up in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. Communion nights are a chance for both new and established musicians on the label to try new things and expand their audiences in an intimate, relaxed setting. The artists play short sets, and the audience gets a chance to sample acts that they can dig further into later. The first location in London was a basement room of the Notting Hill Arts Club, and Lovett and the Communion staff try to keep that spirit in the venues they choose in the States.

It’s extremely important to Lovett that the label is artist-led. As he explained in a phone interview, “Too often these things are being run by finance people. People who don’t understand what it’s like to be an artist.” The company is not only a record label, but a publisher, concert series, and source of studio space.

What does that translate to in an era when even the biggest acts have to fight for the rights to their masters and tour constantly just to make ends meet? (more…)

06/15/16 3:06pm
The HHO performs at Art Attack at University of Maryland, 2016. Photo: FRNVR

The HHO performs at Art Attack at University of Maryland, 2016. Photo: FRNVR

The Hip Hop Orchestra is a performance group of University of Maryland students and alumni whose mission is to explore the connection between orchestral music and hip-hop –and to prove that orchestral music is as dope as hip-hop is fine art. Marcus Moody,HHO director, uses beat production software that he then translates into sheet music for strings, horns and percussion, bridging modern sounds with traditional instruments.

The HHO will perform at Afropunk Battle of the Bands semi-finals on June 22, one of 16 up-and-coming acts that were nominated by fans from around the country to rap battle it out for a spot at the festival in August.

The HHO has already made history as the only orchestra to ever play Art Attack, UMD’s annual stadium concert, where they won the title of “most impressive performance” over headliners T-Pain and Lil’ Dicky.

We talked to the HHO’s visionary and conductor, Marcus Moody, who also works at a Washington D.C.-based  hip-hop nonprofit called Words Beats & Life, about the inspiration behind the HHO, and how they’ve made it from the University of Maryland dining hall all the way to Brooklyn. (more…)

06/14/16 4:00pm
The Walker Family (Daptone Records)

The Walker Family Singers Photo: Daptone Records

Bushwick’s own Daptone Records is best known these days as the indie label home for acclaimed powerhouse soul acts Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Charles Bradley. But those the company’s has a diverse roster of artists from genres including funk, world beat and gospel–like the Walker Family Singers, who recently put out Panola County Spirit, one of the most moving and deeply spiritual records you’ll hear this year.

Led by Raymond and Joella Walker, the Walker Family Singers are from the small town of Como, Mississippi (population of about 1,300). The couple sings with their five children: Alberta, Patricia, Delouse, Robert and Bobby. On Panola County Spirit, which was mostly recorded at Raymond and Joella’s home, there’s no backing instrumentation, just their soulful voices singing richly meditative gospel tunes. It’s almost as if they were singing directly to you from their living room. (more…)

06/09/16 12:49pm
Wolf Parade (Shawn McDonald)

Wolf Parade Photo: Shawn McDonald

Don’t have a badge for the musical performances at the Northside Festival that kicked off yesterday? Not a problem! This year’s event–which features headliners like Brian Wilson, Kacey Musgraves, Frankie Cosmos and Psychic Ills—also boasts a couple of free shows in Brooklyn that should not be missed. Here’s the run-down:

Wolf Parade
June 9
McCarren Park
6pm
RSVP here

If you missed out Wolf Parade’s string of recent sold-out shows during their residency last month at the Bowery Ballroom, don’t fret. The reunited alt-rock band is performing a free show at Williamsburg’s McCarren Park, with Land of Talk as the opening act. Wolf Parade just reissued their electrifying debut album, Apologies to Queen Mary (via Sub Pop Records) as a deluxe edition that contains both the original album and their self-titled EPSs.

Grandmaster Flash
June 10
McCarren Park
6pm
RSVP here

Grandmaster Flash is synonymous with the birth of hip-hop music. Along with Kool Herc, Flash is a pioneering DJ whose techniques such as mixing and cutting are legendary. He and the Furious Five recorded some of the cornerstone songs of the genre, such as “The Message” and “White Lines.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member will weaving his spell and bringing out some special guests. For an opportunity to witness a rap legend, this is definitely a show not to be missed.

Godmode Presents ‘Music for Bodies’
Brooklyn Athletic Club
4 Berry St.
More info here

This event was originally scheduled for June 11, but has been pushed back, according to their website. It still looks intriguing, if somewhat unconventional–it consists of music for cycling written and performed by the artists from the Brooklyn-based indie label Godmode. The three 45-minute-long performances will take place in spin classes to simulate what it’s like to ride a bike outdoors and guests are expected to take part. It’s a chance to hear music and get a workout at the same time. You can get on their email list for more info. 

In addition to those free Northside Festival shows, check out some of the other ones here.

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06/01/16 5:11pm
Xenia Rubinos (Shervin Lainez)

Xenia Rubinos Photo: Shervin Lainez

With her eclectic musical influences–R&B, hip-hop, jazz, rock and Afro-Latin are just a few styles you can hear in her songs–Xenia Rubinos comes across like the most sophisticated of native New Yorkers. When she moved here a decade ago though, she was as wide-eyed as any newbie.

“I was like, ‘Oh man, the Village Vanguard! How cool would it be to go to the Village Vanguard?'” she recalls. “I remember going to the Vanguard. I got in a cab and I told my cab driver, ‘Take me to the Vanguard.’ And he was like, ‘What’s that?’ (laughs) I was so shocked. I was so presumptuous. Of course everyone will know where this is. It’s a landmark. (laughs) I had this very fantastical vision of New York being a music city…for me it was like this music mecca, where all the music was and that’s what drew me here.” (more…)

05/26/16 9:00am
Scene from the Northside Festival. (Northside Festival)

The Northside Festival will bring close to 400 acts to Williamsburg in June. Photo: Northside Festival

Another summer, another series of music festivals. Governors Ball at Randall’s Island from June 3 to 5 is arguably the most high-profile festival in New York City this summer, featuring a bevy of top-tier acts including Kanye West, the Strokes, Beck, the Killers, HAIM, Father John Misty, and Courtney Barnett. The lure of the festival isn’t just the sheer number of artists you can soak in over a couple of days–there’s also the promise that you might get to witness a historic performance like Daft Punk’s killer set at Coachella in 2006, or Jack White’s turn at Bonnaroo in 2014.

At the same time, mega festivals have their downsides,which Brokelyn laid out neatly, and New York Times music critics Jon Pareles, Ben Ratliff, and Jon Caramanica explored in the article, “Why We’re Not Making Plans for Coachella and Bonnaroo.” They argue that the lineups at those festivals have become less exciting and theme-less; that’s it’s not about the music anymore; and that you can watch the action anyway online. (That article prompted a retort from music website Consequence of Sound on why these huge rock festivals still merit coverage.)

For me, there’s one simple reason why I am unlikely to go to these mammoth events: money. For instance, a three-day admission to Governors Ball will cost you $305 (a single-day ticket is $105). That’s not even counting the cost of the ferry service to shuttle you between Randall’s Island and Manhattan. Add what you’re going to blow on food and bottled water, and by the end of the weekend, you’re likely to run up a pretty big tab.

Even if you’re shut out of Governors Ball, rejoice in the fact that there are very cool music events happening all summer long in New York City that are less expensive (and in many cases free), probably not as crowded, and transportation-friendly. To prove the point, let’s create an alternative essential summer concert list–yes, some of them are festivals, but on an entirely different scale–based on the price of tickets to Governor’s Ball. (more…)

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03/24/16 10:45am
Jennifer O'Connor (KIAM)

Jennifer O’Connor left Brooklyn and opened a record store in Nyack. Photo: KIAM

Jennifer O’Connor needed a change of scenery.

The singer-songwriter-guitarist had been living in Greenpoint for six years, and while she liked the neighborhood, her apartment was falling apart–a dump, as she put it.

I sort of had an idea to make it sound a little bit like It’s a Shame About Ray-era Lemonheads

So O’Connor and her wife, the musician Amy Bezunartea, looked for a new place. Perhaps predictably, the hunt for an affordable non-dump quickly became discouraging. Then one day, they had a conversation about leaving New York City altogether, and started looking up the Hudson River, in Nyack, New York.

“We found this amazing place right away,” says O’Connor “and just on a whim [took] it for a year.”

O’Connor and Bezunartea moved to Nyack in 2012, and that year-long experiment quickly turned into a permanent relocation. O’Connor opened Kiam Records Shop there in December of 2014, something that she had wanted to do since childhood. (more…)

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