Nick Waterhouse on Allah-Las

THOMAS PATTERSON has just interviewed NICK WATERHOUSE for issue #63. Here’s what he had to say about his pals ALLAH-LAS


 

“I produced the Allah-Las’ first 45 whilst I was making my first 45 because Matt the drummer and I were very close. We met the first day of college at San Francisco State when we were 18. I saw him at orientation and I thought “There’s a black guy in an Iggy Pop shirt, we’re going to get along well!” (laughs) And of course we really hit it off. We had this shared sensibility. When Domenic Priore’s book All Summer Long came out, we were both 18 and that was the first published representation of the LA that we both knew that we were trying to explain to people that were friends of ours. It was just this deeply shared sensibility. The thing I love about Matt is that we’re both such different people and we have different broad tastes but we have a shared baseline and a spiritual connection. So once he started the Las with those guys, he was telling me about it and I was out of town. And I remember, he was like “You’ve got to come see this band we’re working on.” I had met Pedrum, and I was sitting in a booth in Footsie’s in Highland Park and they were playing in a tiny little corner to 40 people, and they played the electric version of ‘Early Morning Rain’ the way the Dead demos were and that was just the thing that made me realise that Matt knew how to play the proper way. That was a big thing. Just finding a drummer who could play the things on the records we liked. It was that thing when you’re a kid, you don’t how this magic happens. But you’re always playing with people and you’re like “I don’t know why but this doesn’t feel right.” But everyone in that band was playing right. We all knew we were on the same page, and I thought, “We’re fucking going to do this.”  It was a total moment of clarity, and I was talking to Matt about the recordings they were doing on some guy’s Pro-Tools setup and I was like “Guys, that’s total bullshit, let’s go cut this at the studio on tape.” It was a distillery where I grew up hanging around a lot in Costa Mesa and it was funny because the guys in the band who didn’t know me were like “Yeah, but this cool guy in LA wants to record us on Pro-Tools.” And I said “Look, just trust me, we’re going to do this and it’s going to be great.” And normally I don’t oversell things but I said, “We have to do this!” And we cut ‘Catamaran’ and ‘Long Journey’ and that was the 45 I put out on my own label Pres. And that relayed into making the whole album. And we made the album piecemeal over a couple of months whenever I’d come into town and I still have such strong memories. I played organ on two of those songs. And the sound of it was exactly the sound and feel that I saw from conception, knowing that there’s such a tiny window for me to find any artists that I would be empathetic to and I’d really get the sound, but that was one of those where it was a deeply spiritual thing. I’ll still put that record on and listen to it.”

 

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Those Pretty Wrongs

Post-Big Star project with the band’s Jody Stephens and a guy that knows what it’s all about (Luther Russell). CARL TWEED meets THOSE PRETTY WRONGS


As the world reflects, 400 years after his passing, upon the achievements and continuing relevance of William Shakespeare, it feels opportune that Jody Stephens and Luther Russell have borrowed from the opening line of Shakespeare’s 41st Sonnet when naming their new project Those Pretty Wrongs.

Jody Stephens surely needs no introduction to Shindig! readers. He was of course the drummer with Big Star on the timeless classics #1 Record, Radio City and Third / Sister Lovers. Until now Stephens’ song-writing has been restricted to the occasional co-writer credit (most notably on ‘Daisy Glaze’) and a solo credit for the innocent, beautifully fragile ballad ‘For You’. That song, one of the highlights from Third / Sister Lovers, had a big impact on the overall feel of the album, as Alex Chilton was so moved by Carl Marsh’s string arrangement he asked him to do the same on some of his own contributions.

Luther Russell also has an impressive musical CV. Back in the early ’90s he was the lead singer with The Freewheelers, a band that harked back nostalgically to the warm, analogue, “Let’s just get together in the studio and bash it out” sound of musical touchstones such as The Band and The Faces. They released a couple of albums on Geffen and American Recordings. Since then he’s worked as a solo artist and also as a producer. Repair, from 2007, is a good entry point. It’s sympathetically produced by Ethan Johns, a man who knows a thing or two about letting songs breathe and resisting the temptation to throw in the kitchen sink.

Stephens and Russell go back a long way. Breaking off from band practice in LA to answer a few questions, Luther explains. “We were introduced back in 1991 or so by Gary Gersh I believe. Gary also introduced Jody to The Posies. We actually never played music together until about three years ago. Until then we were just old friends. That’s probably why it works.”

The catalyst that turned their long-standing friendship into a song-writing partnership was the Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me documentary. Stephens was asked to sing at some promotional events and turned to his friend for support. The musical rapport was self-evident to both of them, so they decided to start writing together. This turned out to be quite a logistical exercise, as Stephens resides in Memphis and Russell is in LA. However, new technology came to the rescue.

Asked whether it was an easy process writing the songs, Luther reflects, “I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was definitely not stressful and not difficult from my standpoint. We wrote long-distance, so to speak. So, as an example, Jody would leave a melody on my voice-mail. This might end up as a chorus. I also kept the key he sang them in because I figured it was comfortable for him in the first place. What was interesting is that you’d think some of the melodies would end up kind of ‘blah’ or something; but they always seemed to ‘pop’. They were really great with chords behind them! Then once Jody approved it, he’d take a stab at lyrics. On and on it would go until a song was completed. We had to set up a weekly phone meeting – Mondays usually – in order to stay on course for the eight months it took to write these songs.”

Shindig! caught up with Jody Stephens a few days later at Ardent Studios in Memphis. Reiterating how smoothly the songs came together, despite that looming deadline, Jody says, “I would share lyrics and melody lines via voice mails on Luther’s cell. He would fill in pretty, colourful chord arrangements and then contribute lyrics and melodies when needed. It was a true collaboration. Luther is multi-talented. One of those great talents is that of being a cheerleader. He was so enthusiastic about our writing songs together that he made sharing song ideas completely comfortable; well, that, his musical talents and our sharing many of the same influences made it an easy adventure.” Read more Those Pretty Wrongs

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The Lemon Twigs

It’s once a year or less, that I (JON ‘MOJO’ MILLS, Editor-In-Chief) get really excited about a new band. We get so much stuff sent to us, and to be honest most of it goes in one ear and out the other, however good. Jacco Gardner… White Denim… Jonathan Wilson… Temples… Father John Misty… and Foxygen (more on them in a minute) have been bands I personally have championed… and now comes the incredibly intricate music of two teenage New York brothers THE LEMON TWIGS… who were discovered by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado. We’ll feature the band properly very soon, but for now here’s their own biog and new video. Enjoy! I hope you love them as much as me. Talent this immense is rarely seen and heard


The Lemon Twigs by Autumn de Wilde 4

Once or twice every generation, Long Island introduces the world to artists of such singular originality that they change the very nature of their art: Lou Reed; Jim Brown; Robert Mapplethorpe; Andy Kaufman. With their debut album for 4ADDo Hollywood, The Lemon Twigs have earned themselves a spot on that list. 

Fusing tightly constructed pop, sophisticated orchestration, and British invasion melodies into a 10song masterpiece, the D’Addario brothersBrian (19) and Michael (17)are whipping fans and critics alike into an utter frenzy.

Born into a musical family, Brian and Michael grew up on The Beach Boys and The Beatles, whose albums and films played constantly in their house. As toddlers, they were already harmonising on I Want To Hold Your Hand, and soon they were playing drums and mastering whatever instruments they could get their hands on. Ask about their childhood dreams and they’ll tell you that they never aspired to do anything but make music together. It shows. 

“Brian and Michael are two of the best musicians I’ve ever met,” says Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, who discovered the duo via Twitter and produced the new album. “As teenagers, they work like studio vets. Brian can play anything you hand him  he played all the strings and horns on the record  and Michael is the most captivating drummer I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing they can’t do.” 

Rado proved to be the perfect foil for the wunderkinds, and the resulting album brings together everything from Brian Wilson and David Bowie to Queen and The Association. Their music can soar like a carnival calliope and then swiftly drop down to its knees in the hushed tones of a confessional booth. Their vocals move seamlessly from a cabaret croon to classic lalala harmonies. They mine inspiration seemingly from every era of rock, stitching it all together into a baroquepop quilt of many colours

It’s an ambitious approach, to say the least, but the album lives up to the hype. They forthcoming album Do Hollywood opens, appropriately enough, with I Wanna Prove To You, which parades out of the gate like a circus arriving into to town. “I wanna prove to you what I can do, Brian sings as he and his brother proceed to do just that. Bouncing piano and dense harmonies give way to shifting time signatures and mindbending arrangements.It’s the perfect introduction to The Lemon Twigs, and to Do Hollywood, which features the brothers alternating writing credits on each track and liberally swapping instruments, just as they do in their electrifying live performances (they tour with live members Megan Zeankowski on bass and Danny Ayala on keyboards).

Lead single These Words builds from a delicate whisper to a rock and roll roar, while How Lucky Am I?’ tugs at the heartstrings, and As Long As We’re Together calls to mind the memorable melodies of Big Star and TRex. Perhaps no song demonstrates their brotherly democracy better than Hi+Lo, the track unfolding in movements like something off of Abbey Road’s Side B medley with Michael singing and playing guitar, drums, and bass, and Brian adding horns and strings to flesh out the orchestral atmosphere.

“We were crafting these songs pretty intricately,” Brian says. “There’s a lot of care in the arrangements. They’re built to get at people who like nice pop songs. But they’re not empty. We put a lot of ourselves into it and the album has a lot of substance.” It was that substance that caught the attention of the iconic 4AD label and has already earned the banddates with other critical darlings like Foxygen and Car Seat Headrest. With high profile tours and their label debut on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time until the rest of the world discovers Long Island’s next great cultural contribution. Get ready to Do Hollywood. It’s time to meet The Lemon Twigs. 

Together with friends Megan Zeankowski (bass) and Danny Ayala (keyboards), Brian and Michael will take The Lemon Twigs on the road, and they will play Shindig!‘s hometown London in a few weeks! We’ll be there.

September 22nd – LONDON, 4AD Revue @ ICA (w/ Methyl Ethel and Pixx 

Do Hollywoood is released on 4AD on October 14th

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Pere Ubu – David Thomas: The Fixer

When PERE UBU emerged from the wreckage of Rocket From The Tombs to infect the industrial heartlands of mid-70s Ohio with their throbbing, squealing sonic architecture, few would have seriously considered their candidature for rock longevity a viable prospect. But David Thomas had other plans. He always does. “When we started, nobody liked us in Cleveland. We accepted that this was the natural order of things – that nobody would ever like us, much less HEAR us. So when that becomes your world-view then everything is very easy.” An A&R man’s worst nightmare (they stubbornly refused to be pigeonholed), the band have sculpted their own unique trajectory with singularly relentless conviction over these past 40 years. JOHNNIE JOHNSTONE learns about their highly awaited tour


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Thomas, along with the latest incarnation of Pere Ubu (he is the only remaining original member), is making the final preparations for The North American Coed Jail! Tour, where the current line up – one of the band’s strongest ever – will perform classic material from their “historical era” (1975-82). While that prospect may be a mouthwatering one to long term fans, it is not something you might expect from him. Thomas has taken great care to ensure Pere Ubu remains a constantly evolving entity, always moving forward, so for him this seems an uncharacteristically retrospective move. But then, possibly the only predictable thing about David Thomas is his unpredictability. He thinks about music in pretty much the same way as he does life and art. The great French film-maker Jean Renoir once explained the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour by noting that “in life, everyone has his reasons”. Thomas concurs: “I am not a playful guy when it comes to work – there’s always a reason. Orson Welles was asked why he made Anthony Perkins act in a certain way as Josef K. The critic  said ‘Kafka meant the character to be an innocent victim of the machinery.’ Welles responded, ‘No, he’s guilty – guilty as hell.’ ” Read more Pere Ubu – David Thomas: The Fixer

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