Episode 307: V. Vale

13Dec

RE/Search’s North Beach office more closely resembles a library or museum. It’s a wonderfully crammed space that also serves as publisher V. Vale’s home, standing as a small monument to self-publishing and serving as a slightly melancholy reminder of all of the books we’ll never have time to read. Not that Vale isn’t trying, of course. The San Francisco mainstay is several decades into a lifelong search to acquire the world’s knowledge. It’s a quest that’s manifest itself in several wonderful volumes, exploring the works of countercultural icons William Burroughs, Lydia Lunch and JG Ballard and offering examinations of countless countercultural phenomenons. RE/Search hit its publishing peak in the 90s, just before the internet became fully ubiquitous here in the States, but Vale and a team of friends and family continue a commitment to printed matter and the goal of amassing useful and fascinating information.

 

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Episode 306: Chris Barron (of Spin Doctors)

2Dec

Somewhere along the line Chris Barron quite literally lost his voice. The condition, vocal cord paralysis, left Spin Doctors frontman barely able to speak, let alone sing. It was, he confesses, a dark time — one that left him wondering whether a return to music was in the cards at all. It slowly returned, thankfully, and Barron, with the help of doctors and a vocal coach, was able to learn how to sing with a single functioning vocal cord. In 2017, he released his second solo record, Angels and One-Armed Jugglers — the second bit an unintentional nod to his own condition. The condition afforded the singer the opportunity to reflect on his life and career. Perfect timing, really, as the Spin Doctors celebrate their 30th year of existence — a run that’s seen remarkably few lineup changes over the decades.

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Episode 305: Tom Tomorrow

25Nov

In an age of uncertainty, This Modern World has remained a rare consistent. For nearly 30 years, the strip has offered a staunchly leftist take on the week’s news, outlasting many of the world leaders its lampooned, along with most of the alternatively weeklies that carried it. Back in 2015, artist Tom Tomorrow celebrated the strip’s 25 anniversary with an ambitious Kickstarter-backed collection. The campaign far exceeded its initial goals, pulling in more than $300,000 — a number that required Tomorrow to get a tattoo of long-time mascot, Sparky the Penguin. These past few years, have proven a bit more of a struggle. The ascendence of Donald Trump has turned the world of political satire on its head, forcing the cartoonist and his ilk to rethink their approach to political comedy. Recently relocated to New York City, Tomorrow sat down to talk about keep the weekly strip fresh after nearly three decades.

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Episode 304: (Bonus) Doe Paoro

16Nov

A trip to India changed everything for Sonia Kreitzer. It’s the kind of cinematic-style quest for knowledge so many seek out and so few actually achieve. For the singer, who opted the stage name Doe Paoro, the trip came at the most vital of times. Struggling to make ends meet as a part-time singer and full-time waitress in New York, Kreitzer was attempting to make peace with her plan to throw in the towel on the music business. Faint singing in the distance, however, led her to study with a Tibetan vocal master, a style that would ultimately inform her future musical direction. Kreitzer sat down for a conversation about creativity, musical phases and the importance of mindfulness.

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Episode 303: Marissa Nadler

11Nov

Eight albums into her career, Marissa Nadler is still discovering aspects of her musical life. For My Crimes finds the Boston-based musician fighting impulses to overthink and overdo. The metaphors and endless layers of music are stripped away for something that cuts even closer to quick.Of course, the ethereal melancholy that has defined much of her work is still present, and the the record finds her singing and picking her way through relationship difficulties and other universal struggles. Nadler’s voice has long been a confident one, but recent life events have found her rethinking her approach to life and art, from leaving a day job to rekindling a love of painting, while leaving other forms of expression behind.  I should note that I, on the other hand, am very clearly losing my voice during this conversation. Apologies in advance.

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Episode 302: Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic (of The Get Up Kids)

4Nov

After that first breakup, the press tends to regard everything as a reunion show. As Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic are quick to note, however, The Get Up Kids have been around as long in their current iteration as they were the first go-round, at 10 years a piece. Reforming has clearly given the legendary emo band a second lease on life, however. This year, the group released Kicker, its fist album of material in seven years. The four-song EP finds them revitalized, and their live sets show no sign of flagging. The members live in different parts of the country, with family responsibilities — a far cry from their teenage beginnings in Kansas City. But the group clearly enjoys playing after all these years, and is already discussing the next record as we sit down bag stage at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City.

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Episode 301: Colin Newman and Malka Spigel (of Immersion)

28Oct

The van is running late. Never underestimate the traffic in from D.C. When Malka Spigel and Colin Newman do finally arrive, they’re both a bit wiped. Another late night on tour, getting in after last call, but the couple are both excited and slightly melancholy to play the final show of the tour. It’s Immersion’s first in the U.S., celebrating their first LP in a decade and a half. Spigel and Newman are clearly happy at the reception both the album and tour have received, even if it’s felt a bit like starting from scratch. After all, the mention of the pair’s other legendary bands Wire and Minimal Compact only go so far when it comes to filling venues. But with their son out of the house — as it happens, Spigel and Newman are also a married couple — the time is finally right to fully embrace a musical project that’s been on the back burner for quite some time. And the result is a sort of newfound energy musicians often lack later in their career.  Spigel and Newman sat down ahead of a show at Rough Trade in Brooklyn to discuss the project, touring and choosing musical passion over commercial success.

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Episode 300: Michael McDonald

21Oct

The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, three top 10 solo hits and one of the defining voices of his generation — but through it all, Michael McDonald has remained utterly humble. He didn’t feel he had the chops to make it as a full time studio musician, he tells me toward the beginning of our chat, so he sought a different path. Plan B gave the world “What a Fool Believes,” “I Keep Forgettin’,” “Takin’ it To the Streets” and “On My Own,” among others. Not too shabby, as far as those things go. Last year, McDonald returned to recording with his first album of original material in 17 years, following a fruitful run that found the singer releasing three covers records, largely drawing upon the Motown songbook. Wide Open arrived as the musician found new life breathed into his career, courtesy of the lovingly parodic web series Yacht Rock, alongside collaborations with a new generation of artists, including Thundercat, Grizzly Bear and Solange. McDonald wasted no time getting back into the studio this time around. This month, he’ll release his latest Christmas album, Season of Peace. The singer joined us for Episode 300 to discuss getting back into the studio, finding his voice as a songwriter and the sorry state of politics in 2018.

 

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Episode 299: Jon Auer (of The Posies)

14Oct

A few hours before the kickoff of the Posies’ 30th anniversary show at the Bowery Ballroom, Jon Auer is feeling reflective. It’s the perfect moment for the musician to examine a long and fruitful career that’s found him performing as the member of a half-dozen bands, producing countless records and spending 17 years playing guitar for the final iteration of the legendary group, Big Star.  But The Posies have always been the nearest and dearest to Auer’s heart. Formed in high school with childhood friend Ken Stringfellow, the band helped define power pop for the 90s. A trio of iconic records released on DGC set the group apart from the grunge sound of their hometown. But they never achieved the popular success of other Seattle groups of the era, The Posies have long remained one of the decade’s most beloved bands. In our conversation, Auer happily reflects on the ups and downs of his long career and explains why The Posies are sticking around for good this time out.

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Episode 298: Bonus - Matt Costa

10Oct

It seems Matt Costa has a guitar within arm’s reach at any given moment. As I fumble around setting up my recording rig, he pulls the acoustic out of the case and begins strumming, absent-mindedly. Prior to this year’s release of Santa Rosa Fangs, it had been a full five years since Costa released an LP under his own name. But it’s clear that music is never too far from his mind, as he fiddles around on the instrument or scribbles writing exercises for himself. When he’s not making music, the California musician is busy thinking about it, as evidenced by the recently released Santa Rosa Fangs (Novella Edition), an appendix to his latest record that explores the meanings behind the songs. Reaching for meaning or inspiration isn’t always easy, but Costa is more than happy to discuss his craft.

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