Q&A

Q&A: Vela Eyes on passing out in the studio, taping merch to the car hood, and becoming 'a real band'

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Vela Eyes is a relatively new indie-pop act right out of San Francisco that combines a huge, spaciously synthesized sound with the personality and camaraderie one can only find in decades-old friends. It’s a perfect fusion of the rawness of punk influences with the technical proficiency and sampling-song mapping of a DJ set.

The group has been playing packed shows throughout the Bay since its inception mere months ago, most recently an album release party for its first EP, The Pleasure Sunrise, last week at the Elbo Room. Get to know Vela Eyes before the band's next local gig (you’ve got ‘till July 26): Read more »

Jamaican Queens on major influences, ‘Wormfood,’ and Detroit

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The Detroit-based trio, Jamaican Queens, makes instantly catchy, hip-hop-influenced, electronic-soaked pop gems and performs them in a dance-inducing glam pop fashion. Although Ryan Spencer, Adam Pressley, and Ryan Clancy have been laying down beats together for less than a year, they have already released a full-length album – Wormfood – hit their hundredth show, and written album number two (which they’ll record once they’ve concluded their lengthy West Coast and summer tours). Read more »

Heartless Bastards’ Erika Wennerstrom on breaking writer's block with travel

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It seems like the Austin-based Heartless Bastards have made some drastic changes since the release of their debut album, Stairs and Elevators, shedding their punkish irreverence in favor of more candid Americana as illustrated in Arrow, their 2012 Jim Eno-produced release.

I caught up with frontperson Erika Wennerstrom before the band’s Great American Music Hall show this weekend, amid a van ride from Tucson to California to chat about her quartet’s ever-changing sound, her favorite SF food, Neil Young, and Arrow’s traveling backstory: Read more »

VOWS' Luke Sweeney on marinating songs, foot prayers, and the gospel of Al Green

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San Francisco’s VOWS has come a long way from its beginning in 2007. As with many creative enterprises, the band -- which plays the Rickshaw Stop Wed/13 -- formed out of the ashes of some good old-fashioned turmoil.

Guitarist Luke Sweeney and drummer Scott Tomio Noda, pals since high school, had just broken up with their band, and bassist Jitsun Sandoval, a friend with whom they sometimes played music, had just split with his wife. The three formed a band whose name signaled the start of restored commitment. Read more »

Dark side of the Dude

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More than a year ago, in his rundown on “top substances that have influenced music,” promoter-DJ Marco De La Vega said this: “I...raid my own medicine cabinet, take a couple Vicodin, and listen to a stack of records including [Girls],Tamaryn, King Dude, Chelsea Wolfe, and Zola Jesus.”

Already a fan of the others mentioned in that paragraph, I sought out King Dude (a.k.a T.J. Cowgill) and found that I'd already known his previous work, intimately. I'd seen his black metal band Teen Cthulhu in high school, and for many years had the band's sticker plastered on my black Nissan Maxima, later discovering his band that rose from the ashes of Teen Cthulhu: Book of Black Earth.

It was his turns as founder-creative director of his own clothing label, Actual Pain (Kanye has worn it, OK?), and solo “darkly spiritual acoustic-folk” singer-songwriter that have been the most surprising. Like previous King Dude releases, 2012's Burning Daylight (Dais) is a desolate affair, with subtle plucking and Cowgill's darkly raspy vocals meditating on death, murder, spirituality, and love – or as I wrote in this week's Tofu and Whiskey print music column (Jan. 9 issue), it sounds like “a gravelly demon inside, clawing to get out.” Read more »

Das Racist's Kool A.D. on hip-hop, baseball, and losing his virginity

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Self-proclaimed, “second best rapper with glasses after E-40” and Bay Area native by way of Brooklyn Victor Vazquez aka KOOL A.D. of rap group Das Racist has had quite the prolific past year in the hip-hop industrial complex. 

He and his group Das Racist — featuring rapper Heems and hypeman Dapwell (Dap for short) — released their debut LP and critic darling Relax. Soon after that he released not one but two positively received mixtapes in the span of three months, The Palm Wine Drinkard and the Bay Area homage 51. Das Racist plays DNA Lounge this Fri/12.  Read more »

UK producer Max Cooper doesn't want to see computers in tight skirts

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Over the course of a steady stream of heady mixes and original compositions, Max Cooper has been gaining attention in the electronic music world – and not just for his Ph.D in computational biology. With an unconventional sensibility that’s like Philip Glass for the dance floor, Cooper brings a cinematic touch and classical influence to cerebral concepts. We took the opportunity – in advance of a performance at Public Works’s two-year anniversary party – to probe Cooper’s brain. Read more »

Art breakthroughs and country music with Sonny Smith

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Sonny Smith’s dedicated yet freewhelin’ attitude towards life and art have brought him to his ninth record release this week, Longtime Companion (Polyvinyl Records), with his band the Sonny & the Sunsets. Yes, amid traveling to Central America, undertaking the sprawling “100 Records” art project, writing and performing monologues, and providing scripts for theater and film, Smith found the time to record yet another album. Read more »

Don't funk with THEESatisfaction's groove

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Cat Harris-White and bandmate Stasia Irons know how to write a memorable lyric. “Queens of the Stoned Age/and princess of time/feel our energy/floating through your mind.”

The totally DIY hip-hop duo, which makes up THEESatisfaction, earlier this year released groundbreaking, 30-minute debut LP awE NaturalE. But they've long been a part of the emerging Seattle art scene. In it, they've been creating a nearly incomparable sound, at least, galaxies away from swag, with roots in soul and jazz overlaid by spacey electronic beats, cosmic funk zaps, and unexpected twists, along with eloquent sing-rapped verses. Read more »

No longer Painfully Alone: Owen Ashworth lives 'in the now' as Advance Base

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Owen Ashworth has this way of making you feel like you've long known him personally. The singer-songwriter-keys aficionado seems an open book, his gold-tipped pages filled with relatable angst, longform stories, and witty musings. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – the project he started in his 20s in the Bay Area and retired some 13 years later in Chicago, 2010 – was something you wanted to curl up with and have a good melancholy moment, a tête-à-tête with the sound in the machine.

But Ashworth was tired of rehashing the songs he wrote a decade ago, so he broke sonic ties and started anew, with Advance Base. Its tone is similar (hence, comforting), veiled quasi-autobiographical stories pumped out of keyboards and vintage electronic equipment (electric piano, autoharp, Omnichord, old rhythm boxes), with Ashworth's familiar talk-singing sparingly backed by female counterparts. Read more »