Episode 281: Allen Ravenstine

16Jul

In the early 90s, Allen Ravenstine quit music. Just like that, to hear him tell it. The founding keyboardist for pioneering art-punk legends Pere Ubu was finished with the industry, opting to fly gliders and ultimately work his way up to commercial airline pilot. 2014’s modular synthesizer documentary I Dream of Wires changed things, however. A jam session with his Ubu replaement Robert Wheeler found him fiddling with synthesizers yet again.The music switch flipped on just as easily it had turned off, more than a decade prior. Waiting for Bomb finds is the result of hours of experimentation, distilled into 18 tracks that capture the energy of those early days. “I lose myself [making music],” he says as we sit down for an interview in Manhattan. “It’s a very peaceful place to be. I’m living in the moment, and that’s a rare feeling, to be untroubled by the past or future”

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Episode 280: Ian Parton (of Go! Team)

8Jul

“I’m pulled in a million different directions,” says Ian Parton. The musician is describing the inspiration that led to the creation of the Go! Team in the lobby of La Poisson Rouge in Manhattan. It’s the final night of the tour, and he believes the band is really just starting to hit its stride. But two weeks is about all Parton can take, with two kids at home in the U.K. Parton describes the band’s vibe as a kind of cross between his love of noise music and obsession with melody. “I like forcing things. I like the idea of worlds colliding,” he explains., “I think of myself in the hook business […] No one’s really cracked it. It’s still as elusive to Paul McCartney as it is to me.”The band’s latest, Semicircle is as loud and about as good as anything the band has produced in its nearly 20-year-long existence. It’s a raucous cacophony of sounds and influences, featuring a wide range of collaborators, including the Detroit Youth Choir.

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Episode 279: Nicole Hollander

1Jul

In 2012, Sylvia drew to a close. For the first time in more than 20 years, Nicole Hollander found herself without a daily comic. But the lifelong Chicagoan wasn’t done with cartooning just yet. Released earlier this year, We Ate Wonder Bread marks a distinct change for Hollander, moving from strips to long form. The book, which was inspired by a storytelling course and a trip to her old neighborhood via Google Street View, finds the artist exploring tales of her youth. I paid a visit to Hollander’s Chicago apartment during a recent visit to the city. We discussed the beginnings of her career as a cartoonist and what it was like regularly being the only woman in the room. 

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Episode 278: Jenna Weiss-Berman

24Jun

Launching a media property is never easy, but from the outside, at least, the story of Pineapple Street’s early days certainly seem charmed. The network counted among its earliest hosts then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. There aren’t too many people in the world who bring more star power to the table. The network has launched numerous high profile shows since With Her, including Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast and the surprise runaway hit, Missing Richard Simmons. Jenna Weiss-Berman cofounded the company in 2016, leaving a cushy gig at Buzzfeed to enter the uncertain world of startups. “I always wanted to work in either homeless services or make podcast,” she explains during our chat at the OnAir Fest in Brooklyn. “I want to do things that feel like they’re making a difference.”

 

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Episode 277: Dana Buoy

17Jun

Dana Buoy’s two LPs feel like the work of two different bands. The first is a clear successor to front man Dana Janssen’s work in the beloved freak folk outfit, Akron/Family. This year’s Ice Glitter Gold, on the other hand, is a late-night dance record, driven by Janssen’s 4-on-the-floor drumming. A lot has happened since the band released their 2012 debut. Life intervened, and the record didn’t perform as well as expected. Janssen and bandmate Justin Miller also relocated to Portland from New York, as the kids all seem to be doing these days. Fresh off a red eye from a whirlwind visit to their former home, the pair sat down to discuss the stress of city living, dealing with disappointment and the pluses and minuses of reinvention.

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Episode 276: Royston Langdon (of Spacehog, Leeds)

16Jun

“Music doesn’t happen when you try really hard,” Royston Langdon explains, toward the tail end of our conversation. “Keith Richards didn’t write the riff for ‘Satisfaction’ while he was concentrating.” Everything’s Dandy, his debut record under the moniker Leeds, finds the former Spacehog frontman in a more reflective space. He’s mellowed, it seems, since those heady days of mid-90s New York City. He got married, had a kid, the band broke up a couple of times in the interim. And while songwriting has been a kind of constant in his life since the age of 12, Langdon explains that art isn’t something you can force. It’s a kind of quiet acceptance of all that life has thrown at him — for better and worse — that has informed both his music and general state of mind.

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Episode 275: Fatoumata Diawara

2Jun

You would be hard-pressed to find an artist as passionate — or joyful — about their art than Fatoumata Diawara. It’s catharsis and happiness and medicine, all rolled into one, with songs that explore some of the darkest moments of the human experience inspired by the confessional style of the American blues, set to joyful rhythms emanating from West Africa. “When you stop crying, you decide two things: to kill yourself, or to survive,” the Malian musician explains, during our conversation. “And when you decide to survive, you must find things to help you survive. Music was mine.” Diawara is extremely candid during our half-hour-long chat, discussing her own hardships and those others have a tendency to confess to her. But she’s ever hopeful, for having discovered her reason for being put on this earth: bringing joy to others through the music making process.

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Episode 274: Ophira Eisenberg

26May

She’s a comedian, a radio host and a writer, but above all, Ophira Eisenberg is a storytelling. That much is immediately clear a few minutes into a conversation. When she’s not hosting NPR’s popular quiz show, Ask Me Another, Eisenberg is discovering different outlets, from her early days as a New York standup, to storytelling gigs with The Moth. In 2013, she released her debut memoir, the hilarious confessional, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy. These days, she’s moved on the scars as a storytelling device, as she explores those moments that have defined her throughout her life. In this wide-ranging and fast-moving conversation, we discuss the importance of confessional storytelling, and whether becoming well-adjusted really does get easier as you mature.

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Episode 273: Eugene Chadbourne

20May

For 42 years, Eugene Chadbourne has been wonderfully, definitely and sometimes frustratingly independent. A one-man journey into avant-garde folk and jazz, his work has touched several generations of independent musicians, from collaborations with college rockers Camper Van Beethoven, to a Sun Ra tribute where he played his own musical concoction, built with an electric guitar pick up and a garden rake.Earlier this decade, the journeyman musician released Dreamory, a massive, 1,000+ page tome that flips between memoir and dream logic, telling of his entry into music as a Beatles obsessed youth.After a reading in Brooklyn, Chadbourne and I sat down at a Williamsburg diner to discuss his career and the state of the industry, with a special cameo from collaborator and lifelong fan, Jim McHugh.

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Episode 272: Goat Girl

13May

By the time their self-title debut dropped last month, Goat Girl was already a buzz band. The South London quartet had signed to Rough Trade two years prior, drawing the industry’s attention with their energetic live show. The band’s music is both playful and political, building up a following of fans disillusioned by the likes of Brexit and Trump. Fresh off a triumphant appearance at SXSW, the entire band — Clottie Cream, Rosy Bones, Naima Jelly and L.E.D. — shared a mic on a subterranean office couch to inspiration, friendship and why modern guitar rock is so boring.

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