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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Episode 297: Lizz Winstead

6Oct

When she arrives, Lizz Winstead is quick to note that she’s a bit frustrated at having missed Trump’s latest impromptu press conference. Not so much for the content — not rational thinking person could make that argument — just for the Twitter jokes. The comedian has made a career out of poking fun at the political, from co-creating The Daily Show, to cohosting an Air America radio show with rapper Chuck D and future cable news superstar Rachel Maddow, to her current gig as the head of pro-choice non-profit, Lady Parts Justice. The last time we spoke to her, the org was in its infancy. In the age of Trump, with the specter of a major rollback for women’s rights, the group is thriving. For Winstead, it’s a reason to feel hopeless and hopeful all at once.

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Episode 296: Damien Jurado

30Sep

Backstage at the Murmrr theater, the band is about to sit down to eat some fancy local Brooklyn pizza. It’s a strange space — a plush 700-seat theater that also serves a synagogue, the occasional Star of David on the wall the remind you that you’re a holy place. Damien Jurado seems eager to talk, in spite of being at the tail end of his East Coast tour (in a few days, it will be the same thing all over again up and down the West Coat). We launch into chat about Shabazz Palaces, a brilliant hip-hop duo from his native Seattle. Then it’s Billy Bragg and Beck and the Mountain Goats, all by way of explaining how he made the jump from Minor Threat-inspired hardcore frontman to earnest singer-songwriter. It’s been a long and fascinating journey for the musician, including a few unexpected pitstops along the way. But in spite of some personal struggles, Jurado says without hesitation that this year’s The Horizon Just Laughed is both his most personal and best album to date.

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Episode 295: Shannon Shaw (of Shannon and the Clams)

25Sep

Released in June, Shannon in Nashville finds the singer embarking on her own for the first time, after a half-dozen albums with backing band, The Clams. But Shannon Shaw still had plenty of support. The singer/bassist’s solo debut was produced by Black Key Dan Auerbach, who played on the album, alongside an all-star cast of Nashville studio musicians. But Shaw’s smoky vocals and dreamy songwriting are the stars of a record that is at once forward looking and firmly rooted in the past. The musician has come a long way since tentatively picking up an ex’s bass in college and honing her craft at karaoke bars and open mics. Shannon and the Clams have quickly become one of Oakland’s best and most fascinating musical ambassadors over the last decade.

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Episode 294: Alexander Orange Drink (of The So So Glos)

16Sep

Asked how long he’s been Alexander Orange Drink, Alex Zarou Levine pulls a packet out of his backpack and tosses it on table in front of him. “That’s my orange drink,” he says. The musician laments for a moment that the name is no longer a secret, because it’s 2018 and secrets don’t exist anymore. But Levine and his Brooklyn-based band of brothers, The So So Glos have never been afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeve. In a world of ironic detachment, their music is proudly earnest and anthemic. “F*** art, let’s dance,” he says, referencing the infamous Stiff Records slogan when asked to describe the overarching theme of his solo debut.  Out this week, Babel On is a document of troubled times both internally and externally. It’s the product of a singer who’s long found solace in making and listening to music, from the rare metabolic disorder that requires him to carry around the aforementioned orange drink, to a political climate that’s infinitely more troubling than any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes.

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Episode 293: Richard Elfman

9Sep

When Richard Elfman laughs, he commits his entire body to the act. It’s deep, hearty and infectious. The consummate entertain and raconteur, Elfman pours us both a glass of scotch, describing his last big barbecue and inviting me to his next, should I pass through the parts again. A number of recent guests also happened to appear his his upcoming film, Hipsters, Gangsters, Aliens and Geeks. It’s was completing on a shoestring budget, with the help of many favors, but the director is convinced its his best to date. If all goes according to plan, it will help finance Forbidden Zone 2 — the long awaited followup to his 1980 black and white cult musical classic. The film, which launched his film directing career, was assembled as a showcase for Elfman’s theatrical musical act, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. That act, under a truncated name, would later find mainstream pop success, courtesy of Elfman’s preternaturally talented younger brother, Danny. Richard, meanwhile, has found an avenue for creative passions in a wide of outlets, from theater, to prose, to a lifelong passion for Afro-Cuban percussion.

 

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Episode 292: Tony Millionaire

3Sep

In 2016, Tony Millionaire drew his final Maakies. For nearly a quarter of century, the strip ran weekly in alternative papers like The New York Press, LA Times and Seattle’s The Stranger. While he’d flirted with the idea of doing it for as long as he was still able to hold a pen, the newspaper industry imploded around him, leaving him with too few places to syndicate the strip. During its life, the strip inspired a number of animated products, beginning with animated Saturday Night Live shorts in the 90s, an appearance in the They Might Be Giants documentary Gigantic and its own Cartoon Network series. Millionaire, for his part, kept plenty busy, producing several Sock Monkey titles for a younger audience on Dark Horse Comics. These days, the cartoonist is plotting a return for Maakies stars Drinky Crow and Uncle Gabby, as the guiding force and comic relief for the upcoming autobiographical book Tony's True Tales. I met up with Millionaire on a recent trip to Los Angeles to discuss this work, drinking and a suburban southern California life.

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Episode 291: Ivan Brunetti

26Aug

I can count on one hand all of the cartoonist whose work has unfailingly made me laugh out loud. Ivan Brunetti’s strips are up toward the top. You don’t always feel great about belly laughing at the material, but it’s never not hilarious. For the past several years, however, Brunetti has been conspicuously absent from the comics scene, save for a pair of kids titles for Francoise Mouly’s Toon Books. The works are delightful in their own right, but do not satiate one’s desire for Brunetti’s gut-shakingly hilarious adult work. In recent years, he’s been more focused on his day job, as a comics/illustration editor at Chicago’s Columbia College, a gig that has more recently found him working out of the back office. Brunetti’s last major comics work was released nearly a dozen years ago. I paid the artist a visit on a recent trip to the Windy City, to see how his life and work were going. Brunetti happily poured his heart out about the struggles to create and his plans to release comics in the future.

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Episode 290: Judd Winick

18Aug

The last time we spoke, we were backstage at New York Comic Con. It was a short, manic conversation, with the first Hilo book having only just been published. Two years, later, we’re sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district — an only slightly less chaotic setting than last time around.Hilo has become become a bonafide success. Earlier this year, Random House released the fourth book of the series, Walking the Monsters. The series represents something very pure for Judd Winick — the ability to tell a superhero story on his own terms.It’s a far cry from the cartoonist’s work at DC Comics. After runs on titles like Batman, Green Arrow and Catwoman, Winick was ready to leave the dark and gritty world of superheroes behind. Hilo finds the artist writing for a younger audience, including his own kids. In his return to the show, Winick discusses long form story telling, taking risks and the importance of a built in support structure.

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Episode 289: Bonus - Van William

13Aug

“Green Day was the true reason I learned how to play guitar,” Van William says with a smile. “‘When I Come Around,’ when that video came out and Billie Joe was walking around the Bay Area and at one point he took the pay phone off the hook and kept walking. I couldn’t imagine anything more rebellious than that.” The former Waters’ frontman’s music is a bit more mellow than those early days of pop punk worship. But it’s no less raw. His 2018 solo debut, Countries, finds the indie folk singer finding hope after an intense break up. Earlier this year, he say down to discuss the record, growing up in California, and fantasizing about leaving it all behind to work on a fishing boat.

 

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