Q&A

Dispatches from SXSW: Painted Palms

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After a long day of waiting in line in the sun, catching various 15-minute sets, and just being downright baffled by the enormity and complexity of SXSW (this is my first time), I lumbered my way to Maggie Mae to catch San Francisco's psych band du jour, Painted Palms, at the Forcefield PR showcase (disclosure: I interned for Forcefield one summer a long time ago). The venue itself looked like Bottom of the Hill’s cousin but without the absurdly short ceilings and claustrophobia.Read more »

No shame: Activist-rockers the Shondes celebrate Halloween in SF

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The Shondes are a dream come true for music-lovers with a political consciousness. The world can be a rough place, but doom-and-gloom is not this Brooklyn band’s style. With their bright klezmer-pop tunes and soaring, anthemic verses about love, perseverance, and messages of hope, the Shondes are out to better the world -- or at least move their audiences to dance hard and sing-along.
 
Currently touring on their fourth album, The Garden, the Shondes are embracing the power of pop. Whether you’re an activist or just enjoy a good live show, give The Garden a listen and try to get “Nights Like These” or “Running Out of Time” out of your head. Read more »

Q&A: Blouse on the Dream Syndicate, forest life, and going synth-less

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Blouse, may have ditched the synths and drum machines of its 2011 debut self-titled album with new Captured Tracks full-length, Imperium, but the sound remains as hazy and dreamy as ever. Now it's just backed by rippling reverb and distortion.

The misty Portland, Ore. dreampop trio makes siren calls that would entice a shipwrecked sailor, floating endlessly in a gurgling oceanic abyss. See? Wistful. Check first single, "A Feeling Like This" or next track "No Shelter" for that particular mental imagery. It's all there, the swashing of fuzz, the wide open minimalism à la xx, the delicate, teetering vocal tracks, and an uneasy feeling of isolation. Read more »

Grouplove talks Haight love, the Seesaw Tour, and spreading rumors

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Grouplove’s existence is a strong argument for fate. In 2009, Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi met on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Feeling an instant connection, Hooper invited Zucconi to an artist residency in Greece on the island of Crete, which she was heading to just a few days later, and he said yes. At this residency, in a remote mountain village, the pair formed a fast friendship with three other musicians. Within the year, Grouplove was formed.

Two years after that, the band exploded into the music scene with its cheekily titled, megacatchy album Never Trust a Happy Song. Touring constantly since its inception, Grouplove is still going at full sprint, with its second album, Spreading Rumors, coming out Sept. 17, accompanied by the ambitious Seesaw Tour, in which the band will spend two nights in every city at intimate venues, playing one electric and one acoustic show. Read more »

Jello sounds off

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When setting up an interview with Jello Biafra, I got this light-hearted warning: “There is no such thing as a short interview with Jello.” It’s true, the legendary punk showman/spoken word enthusiast is full of political ideas, historical references, and elder-punk-dude tales. How can he be expected to keep it brief?

Below, we spend an intense half hour discussing the media, corruption, spoken word, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All-Stars, and the future of underground rock’n’roll. (For the feature on Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, see this week’s paper): Read more »

Q&A: Dita Von Teese on gaining sexual confidence, creating beauty on her own terms

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She is classy, beautiful, and sexually poised. She’s seductive, creative, and ambitious. She is world-famous burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese, and she is coming to SF this week (Wed/26 -Sat/29).

Von Teese recently designed her own line of lingerie, which you can check out here, and is on a tri-city tour with her sexy show "Burlesque: Strip Strip Hooray!" featuring MC Murray Hill. Her performances are much like Von Teese herself -- epic and glamorous. Read more »

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 »