Episode 442: Adele Bertei

27Feb

Peter and the Wolves is a lot of things. It’s both memoir and biography, as Adele Bertei recounts her early days in music, while showing an oft-ignored side of friend and mentor, Peter Laughner. The  Pere Ubu/Rocket from the Tombs guitarist gave the musician her earliest break in Cleveland, only to die at age 24, following longtime substance abuse. Back in print, Bertei’s book is an effort to show a side of the musician beyond the easy live fast, die young headlines. After Laughner’s passing, Bertei moved to New York, becoming a fixture in the city’s burgeoning no wave scene. The subsequent decades have given way to a fascinating and diverse career, working as a backup musician for some of the era’s biggest names and recording dance hits of her own. 

Episode 441: Matthew Sweet

21Feb

There’s a darkness to Catspaw — something that lurks beyond the innocuous and even adorable title. Culled from an episode of the original Star Trek, Matthew Sweet’s usage is evocative of a certain doom. For an album finished before Covid-19 really took hold, the mood is certainly in keeping with the present moment. Not that things were particularly great prior to the pandemic, of course. Equally fitting is the truly solitary method in which the album was written and recorded — perhaps the most purely solo recording of a decades-long solo artist. In a remote interview, the power-pop star opens up about struggles with bipolar disorder and a unique and lasting career. 

Episode 440: Chris Gethard

13Feb

A lot has changed in the nearly five years since the the launch of Beautiful/Anonymous — some for the better and many for the worst. Certainly, the need to listen and be heard has only grown stronger during a pandemic that has left many alienated and alone. Earlier this month, host Chris Gethard announced that the Earwolf series will become a TV show, adding a visual element to the long conversations between strangers. Prior to launching the series, the New Jersey-born comedian was best known for his self-titled variety show, which started life on public access and managed to maintain a celebratory underdog quality, even after moving to Fusion and, ultimately, truTV. In a conversation that’s ever bit as honest and open as his listeners have come to expect, Gethard discusses his struggles with mental health and the role his work plays in fostering his own empathy. 

 

Apologies for some technical difficulties this time out. 

Episode 439: Zac Maloy (of the Nixons)

6Feb

The timing of Sonic Boom could have been better, as far as these things go. The first collection of original Nixons music in 20 years arrived about two months into a country-wide shutdown. In 2018, the band toured for the first time in nearly as long. The group’s breakup wasn’t the most amicable, but it’s amazing how bad feelings can dissolve with a couple of decades between them. For singer Zac Maloy, the breakup was an opportunity to explore new avenues in the industry, including the fruitful beginnings of a songwriting career that’s found him collaborating with musicians ranging from Carrie Underwood to Adam Lambert. Ahead of a livestream online event, Maloy joined us to reflect on the band’s career, life as a songwriter and how much to foster his own kids’ musical ambitions. 

Episode 438: Emily Flake

30Jan

In September, “Free Fall” seemed to be everywhere. In her latest long form work for The New Yorker, Emily Flake captured a sense of existential ennui that permeated much of the population six months into a pandemic-driven shut down. It was, one of the cartoonist’s most widely-shared works for the magazine since “Young and Dumb Inside,” which explored her decades’ long love for the punk band, Jawbreaker. Flake is probably best know as the long-time publisher of New Yorker gag strips, but her deeply personal comics essays strike an entirely different chord among its readership. Flake joined us to the discuss the process of putting heartfelt and personal work on paper and how the pandemic has impacted her comics. 

Episode 437: Jimmy Chamberlin (of The Smashing Pumpkins)

23Jan

In September, The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex returned for Honor. The group’s third album found it returning to its core to deliver the manner of improvisational jazz that it sets it apart from most of the drummer’s work. A lifelong musician, Chamberlin is undoubtedly best known as the drummer of alternative rock mainstays The Smashing Pumpkins and fellow Billy Corgan-fronted group, Zwan. But while he’s frequently regarded as among the best rock drummers, he’s had a fairly fascinating career one the other side of the career, serving as the CEO of music tech company, LiveOne Inc.

Episode 436: Suzanne Vega

17Jan

The timing of An Evening of New York Songs and Stories could hardly have been better. The album arrived nearly six months into a pandemic that completely disrupted the titular city. For a few months there, New York City was the center of the world, in a new and unprecedented way — a matter not so subtly hammered home by the LP’s coincidental September 11 release date. The album is a bittersweet reminder of the power of live music, as Suzanne Vega sings many of her best known song, and a selections of covers to paint a portrait of the city. As a nearly lifelong resident (having moved here when she was two-and-a-half), Vega’s songs are more often than not as quintessentially New York as the singer herself.

Episode 435: John Andrew Frederick (of The Black Watch)

10Jan

In 2019, The Black Watch Celebrated its fourth decade with a career spanning compilation. The cheekily titled 31 Years of Obscurity was an effort to shine on one of indie rocks most-enduring and unsung bands.  Though “band” is, perhaps, something of a stretch, with John Andrew Frederick serving as both the project’s creative leader and sole constant member. And while relative obscurity has become, perhaps, a kind of running joke, Frederick seems largely unfazed, maintaining a remarkable consistent output through ten or so record labels and  around two dozen EPs and LPs. Frederick also teaches, paints and has written several books, including 2017’s Fucking Innocent: The Early Films of Wes Anderson.  

Episode 434: Erika Ender

1Jan

Decades before “Despacito” arrived, Erika Ender was a hit machine. The Panamanian musician’s compositions have appeared on more than 200 albums, and in 2017, she became the youngest person ever inducted into the Latin Songwriter Hall of Fame. In this conversation, Ender traces an unlikely path to success that includes a stint as a newscaster and the decision to hide her gender in order to breakthrough as a songwriter. It was her role cowriting 2017’s “Despacito,” that broke her — and all involved — onto the national stage. The Spanish language song shot to the top of the charts in 47 countries. Late last year, Ender released MP3 - 45, a language- and style-spanning concept album. Ender joined us to discover her journey, charity work and mindfulness practice — along with an unexpected cameo from her new puppy. 

Episode 433: R. Sikoryak

26Dec

What does having a style mean when one’s work is almost exclusively based on recontextualizing the work of others? It’s a question that’s long been at the heart of R. Sikoryak’s art.The New York City artist has been publicly producing work since the 90s, beginning his career as an editor of the legendary comics anthology Raw, alongside some of the era's top cartoonists. Sikoryak's best-known work is almost certainly found in Masterpiece Comics, built around mashups of classic comics and the literary canon. More recently, he has produced Terms and Conditions, with comics based on Apple Terms of Service and Constitution Illustrated, a recreation of the U.S. founding document. The cartoonist joined us to discuss remote teaching and discovering one’s style by recreating the works of others. 

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