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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Episode 271: Adrian Tomine

6May

“The rewards of being a successful cartoonist would not be enough to make for a happy life,” says Adrian Tomine. It’s something that’s changed as he’s grown older, gotten married, had kids. He adds that he’s grateful for the readers and the recognition — that plenty of people still read everything he does. But priorities change. as we get older. Where critical acclaim for a new work would have been more than enough to keep him going, the Brooklyn-based artists is more focused these days on his wife and two daughters — factors that have impacted both the way he works and what he produces. The short stories in his latest, Killing and Dying (now out in paperback), while not connected in term of subject matter, all contain elements of a creator steeped in parenting. And while being home during the day to care for two young kids hasn’t made him the most productive he’s been in his career, it’s compelled him to take risks, like optioning a comic to filmmakers for the first time in his long career. In this wide ranging and honest conversation, we discuss the pitfalls of perfection, the influence of growing up in Northern California and inhabiting the shoes of a broad ranging cast of characters.

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Episode 270: Patrick Stickles (of Titus Andronicus)

29Apr

 

Valentine’s Day casts a slight pall on the conversation, as we sit down just ahead of Titus Andronicus’ latest record, A Productive Cough. There’s a lot of talk about art and punk and life, and how long one can sustain a rock and roll career without reaching the jet setting heights of a Led Zeppelin or U2. It’s a conversation Patrick Stickles has always been open about. The band’s driving force and sole consistent member has often openly wondered whether each album might be its last, but has continued to release new records on a regular schedule. The band’s latest is a stylistic departure from the group’s earlier work, with “no punk bangers,” as he puts it during our conversation, followed up by a stripped down, nearly acoustic tour. “Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is how you grow,” he says. But Stickles and band maintain the ethos on which the project was founded, seeking to find a personal connection with its loyal fanbase, continuing to evolve nearly a decade and a half into the group’s existence.

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Episode 269: Yoni Wolf (of Why?)

22Apr

We start by talking about food. Something most musicians take for granted on road, but Yoni Wolf’s struggles with Crohn's disease have made him acutely aware of what he puts into his body. It’s a subject that’s featured heavily in his work, including, most notably the decidedly dark Mumps, Etc. 2017’s Moh Lhean finds Wolf in a reflective state. Having embraced meditation, mindfulness and writings by American buddhist writers like Sharon Salzberg, the practices make themselves known throughout the record as sung mantras and snippets from teachers like Ram Dass. It’s spiritual in parts, without being overbearing, a complex mix of musical styles, including, most prominently, indie rock and hip-hop. And somehow it all works.On a down night during touring, Wolf and I sat down in a hotel room in rainy Brooklyn to discuss illness, spirituality and dealing with music critics.

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Episode 268: (Bonus) Kevin Kendrick (of A Big Yes and a Small No)

18Apr

2008’s Jesus That Looks Terrible on You was a delightful debut from a promising New York indie pop band. In the intervening decade, however, things have been fairly quiet on for A Big Yes and a Small No, aside from a single hard to find EP. I jumped at the idea of interviewing frontman Kevin Kendrick, if only to discover what, precisely he’d been up to for the past 10 years. With a new record Mise En Abyme just over the horizon, Kendrick sat down after work one day, equipped with several lifetimes worth of stories. There’s the heroin addiction, the kidnapping, a false imprisonment — all things he casually touches upon as he gets to more important subjects like the topic of songwriting. It’s a fascinating and fittingly manic conversation that runs the gamut from addiction to coming to grips with one’s own mortality.

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Episode 267: Pete Bernhard (of The Devil Makes Three)

15Apr

I first heard The Devil Makes Three bleeding through the thin walls of Santa Cruz house all hours of the day and night. The trio had only just formed and practice seemingly nonstop a set of songs that would form the basis of their self-titled debut. There was nothing like them in Santa Cruz at the time, a music scene populated by freak folk, indie-noise and skater punk, but the band’s single-minded focus on stripped down, bluegrass inspired punk country was precisely what helped them stand out. And the fact that, in spite of those never ending practice sessions, they seemed to enter the world fully formed.  The world has, of course, come around to the band’s music. The band was perfectly positioned to be embraced by the indie scene’s newfound love affair with Americana, and had the songs and showmanship to back it up. When I met up with the trio, they were about to take the stage to an enthusiastic crowd at Brooklyn Steel, singing along to every song. Pete Bernhard, the band’s singer and guitarist sat down to catch up on the last 15 years and talk about what’s next for the group.

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Episode 266: Becky Stern

8Apr

I first met Becky Stern back in 2011, when she appeared on the Engadget Show as a blogger for Make Magazine. At the time, she was showcasing a hoodie capable of turning TVs off an off when zipped. It was pretty standard fare for the maker — a project that explored the cross section of art and fashion. Stern left that gig the following year for a gig at open-source hardware company Adafruit, where she served as the head of wearable electronics. These days, she’s a content creator at Instructables and Autodesk, while teaching her trade at New York’s School of Visual Arts. We sat down to discuss the state of the maker community, the pluses and minuses of launching a startup and having garbage knees in the era of uncertain health care.

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Episode 265: Julia Wertz

31Mar

It’s been nearly five years since we sat down with Julia Wertz, and naturally plenty has changed. Her latest book, Tenements, Towers and Trash is a veritable love letter to New York City, written after the cartoonist had moved back home to California. The book is a history of the city, told through obsessively detailed architectural renderings of buildings. It the same funny cartoon story telling that put her on the map in her long running strip, Fart Party, while exploring far more meticulous black and white line drawings. In her return to the show, we weigh the benefits of living in New York vs. San Francisco, discuss her newfound (and only slightly reluctant) passion for meditation and mindfulness, talk Tinder and find out what’s next for the artist.

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Episode 264: Laila Biali

26Mar

Vancouver-born and Toronto-based, Laila Biali has toured with some of the biggest names in music, from Sting to Suzanne Vega. The pianist/singer is also a well regarded color performer in her own right, having released seven albums, including a new eponymous record, which debuted in January. The album’s first single, “Refugee,” follows the plight of a child, the same age as her son, caught up in the Serbian refugee crisis. In addition to performing, Biali is also the host of CBC Radio 2’s Saturday Night Jazz, a weekly four-hour show that explores the broad expanses of the genre. In this interview, we discuss the state of jazz in 2018, programming music for a diverse audience and life on the road with a young child.

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