Episode 363: Denise Kaufman (of Ace of Cups)

15Sep

In November 2018, Ace of Cups released their self-titled debut. The album arrived more than 50 years after the band’s formation. With several tours and a second double album on the way, it’s clear the group has every intention of making up for lost time. The groups was an anomaly during its first go-round. The all-female rock quintet shared stages at legendary venues like the Fillmore with the likes of now legendary contemporaries like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. They shared a studio with John Fogerty’s pre-Creedence garage band, the Golliwogs. Ex-pat Jimi Hendrix told Melody Maker that the band was his favorite thing about the States. What sounded like a recipe for superstardom had fizzled by the early 70s. With the band reunited, singer and bassist Denise Kaufman joined us to discuss the band, her time with Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and why the Kawaii-based yoga instructor still has hope for the future of humanity.

Episode 362: Lou Barlow

8Sep

When he was 16, Lou Barlow formed Deep Wound. Two years later, he and the hardcore band’s  drummer, J Mascis would create Dinosaur Jr. (then simply Dinosaur), one of alternative’s most beloved and influential groups. Barlow stuck around for three albums — regarded by many as the band’s best. That would have been enough to have cemented his status in the indie rock pantheon, but the music would go on to form an additional pair of hugely influential groups: Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion. The former, in particular was a defining voice of the genre’s lo-fi revolution. And like Dinosaur, the group resumed operations earlier this century, now boasting a pair of post-hiatus LPs. 2013’s Defend Yourself was met with largely positive reviews, though Barlow is quick to dismiss certain aspects as the result of a particular rough patch in his personal life. This year’s Act Surprised, however, finds both Barlow and the rest of the group in top form.

Episode 361: (Bonus) Gastor Almonte

2Sep

Five years ago, Gastor Almonte quit his job and went all in on standup. It was no small commitment from a married man with two kids and a six figure sales job. But a supportive wife, encouraging family members and his position as a landlord in East New York, Brooklyn allowed him to take the leap. With the recent release of his debut album, Immigrant Made, things appear to be paying off. Almonte’s success is a combination of natural humor and an impressive drive that finds him writing jokes every day like a 9 to 5 and working the comedy clubs at night. The comedian joined us to discuss his life in comedy, love of his neighborhood and prioritizing happiness.

Episode 360: Brian Rosenworcel (of Guster)

31Aug

Things are a lot quieter. The last time I say down with Guster, the full band passed around a mic, seated at a table in the front of the sadly now-defunct Grassroots on St. Marks Place. Percussionist/drummer Brian Rosenworcel came alone this time, and the ambience is little more than an office air conditioner. It’s a welcome change and one that allows us to get to the heart of the group’s nearly 30 years of existence. Out in January, Look Alive is the band’s eight record. As with all of their releases, it finds the quarter exploring new venues for music making, including the debut single, “Overexcited,” which adopts a British accent for a surprising homage to Madness.

Episode 359 (Bonus): Joanna Sternberg

27Aug

The first thing you learn upon meeting Joanna Sternberg is that they want to be your friend. It’s nothing about you, specifically, mind. They would love to be friends with everyone, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. The second thing you learn, quite probably, is Sternberg’s lifelong love of Motown bassist James Jamerson. It’s a fact pertinent enough to be list in the two sentence bio at the top of their website. The Funk Brother may stand head and shoulders above the rest, but Sternberg’s love for music is deep and varied, influence that’s left its marks on a life in music that includes orchestral lessons on the piano and double bass. But Sternberg’s third record (and for reasons we go into, the only one currently available online) Then I Try Some More presents singular voice. It's a soft-spoken indie folk that draws on a classical education and an idiosyncratic singing voice to tell stories of love, addiction and penguins.

Episode 358: Joe Biel

24Aug

Shortly after appearing on the podcast way back in 2015, Joe Biel sent me an email. Since the interview, he’d been diagnosed with autism (or “Asperger’s” at the time), a revelation that had already begun to have a profound effect on his life. Biel returned 30-odd episodes later to discuss the insight and impact. On a recent visit to New York City, the Portland-based publisher returned my apartment to discuss the intervening four years his life, which included the 2016 publication of Good Trouble. The book was published to mark Microcosm’s 20th anniversary, exploring the publisher’s history and Biel’s own life, up to and including his diagnosis.

Episode 357: Yuna

18Aug

In 2006, a 19-year-old Yuna auditioned for Malaysian reality singing show, One in a Million, ultimately making it into the top 40 prior to elimination. After finishing up law school, the she threw herself into her songwriting at a time when Myspace was still a musical gatekeeper.Discovering her music online, agents flew to Malaysia to meet the singer, eventually signing her to Fader. The label released her debut EP in 2011. A year later, the Pharrell-produced single “Live Your Life” appeared, but it was “Crush,” the 2016 single featuring Usher that made her an international star. Last month, her fourth record, Rouge, dropped on Verge Forecast/UMG, featuring a number of high profile collaborators, including rapper Tyler the Creator. Ahead of the album’s release, Yuna sat down with us to discuss her journey from bedroom recordings to pop stardom.

Episode 356: Peter Frampton

10Aug

In February, “Peter Frampton Finale—The Farewell Tour” was announced. Running through October, the tour would find the musician going on the road one final time. Of course, in the world of older rock musicians, the “farewell tour” has become a kind of running joke. For Frampton, however, an artist whose work has been inexorably linked to the live setting since Comes Alive made him a household name more than 40 years ago, the promise is very real. Four years ago, he was diagnosed with inclusion body myositis (IBM), a rare progressive muscle disorder that would eventually render him unable to play guitar. Since then, he has happily become a kind of unofficial spokesperson for the condition, using the tour to raise both money and awareness. Frampton joined us via phone to discuss living with the condition, struggles with fame and substances and how his former schoolmate the late-David Bowie helped rescue his musical career and self-worth.

Episode 355: Bonus - Michael Mwenso (of Mwenso and the Shakes)

7Aug

At 15, Michael Mwenso was on stage with James Brown. It took the Sierra Leonean teenager four years to convince the godfather of soul to let him up there, through a combination of raw talent and persistence. But once he did, he wowed the crowds and Brown alike. It was then that Mwenso got a taste for the stage and learned the dos and don’ts of management from one of the late-20th century’s great band leaders. Those lessons were applied first to his Wynton Marsalis-appointed role as a curator for Jazz at Lincoln Center and more recently as the frontman for Mwenso and the Shakes, whose debut album, Emergence, drops this month. Carrying three large shopping bags filled with stage costumes, Mwenso sat down to discuss his journey.

Episode 354: Mark Oliver Everett “E” (of Eels)

3Aug

Prior to The Deconstruction, Mark Oliver Everett took a break. Four years passed between albums. Honestly, it’s not too long for most musical acts pushing a quarter century, but The Eels have released records like clockwork, with a dozen studio albums currently under their belt. For Everett (that’s “E,” to you), the last few years have marked a new chapter. He got did some acting married, got divorced and at age 54 had a son. It was a lot, even for someone who’s lived through plenty. It’s clear seeing The Eels’ current iteration on-stage, however, that the musician has found new appreciation for the music on his return. Now 56, he’s very intent on putting on a show, as the group powers through its lengthy catalog, all while sporting matching pants. Ahead of a performance at New York’s Irving Plaza, he sat down to discuss his break, return and the highs and lows of the past 23 years.

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