If you've somehow managed to live your life thus far without knowledge of Lil Bub's existence, welcome to the next level. Lil Bub is a beautiful and magical space cat who lives with her dude (recording engineer/musician Mike Bridavsky of Russian Recording) and his family in the lovely burg of Bloomington, Indiana. Lil Bub is a special needs cat, a "perma-kitten" who has an extreme case of dwarfism and who will forever stay tiny and adorable. She is arguably one of the most famous cats on the internet (hanging out with Robert Deniro, Whoopi Goldberg, Michelle Obama and a cast of musical royalty like Steve Albini, Kim Deal, and Andrew W.K.), and she uses her incredible powers to help other animals in need with Lil Bub's Big Fund, and has raised over $300,000 for the ASPCA in her career as a famous cat.Read More
THE ROYAL BASEMENT PODCAST #14: RYAN ALLEN (Thunderbirds Are Now!, Destroy This Place, Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms)
Part of why I've started doing this podcast is to pick the brains of folks who I find inspiring, both in their creative energy and the quality of their output. (It doesn't hurt if I'm friends with those folks prior to our conversation, either.) Ryan Allen exemplifies so much of the spirit of why I started The Royal Basement that it just made sense to have a chat with him. Ryan is an ambitious man and a musical lifer; a lot of folks tend to slow down or quit making music completely when kids are brought into the equation, and I've always admired Ryan's ability to shift gears into dad mode while still making great records. In 2015, he released a solo album of heartfelt power pop/folk-tinged songs (as Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms) and a brutally jagged indie/punk record with Destroy This Place. Through the wonders of technology, Ryan was magically transported from his home in Detroit to our beautiful basement in Seattle for a really wonderful chat.
If there is one band in Seattle that's making the kind of music that my ears want to hear, it's Unlikely Friends. Steeped in the world of early/mid-90's college rock, the men of Unlikely Friends take from the strengths of their previous/current other projects (D. Crane with BOAT and Charles Bert with Math And Physics Club, respectively) and create a unifying project, one that marries the raucous anthemic qualities of BOAT with the pristine glistening pop of Math And Physics club. It never sounds overthought or underprepared, but somewhere right in the middle, that perfect zone where great songs come from.
Charles and D. Crane stopped by The Royal Basement earlier in 2015 for a chat and to play a few songs. Tonight (10/3/15), they open up for Death Cab For Cutie at the Paramount in Seattle, WA. They may throw inflatable pizza slices at you, so be prepared.
Triskaidekaphobes, beware! It's episode 13 of The Royal Basement podcast!
This episode, we are joined by Sam Cohen, an astonishing guitarist/songwriter/producer based out of New York. Sam used to play in Apollo Sunshine before starting up a new band (Yellowbirds) that has since morphed into a proper solo project. Sam released Cool It, his first proper solo record, earlier this year on Easy Sound. Sam plays the Pickathon Music Festival just outside of Portland, Oregon on July 31, 2015.
Stream the podcast below, or go get a direct download of the podcast here.
A lot of bands that make it to the decade mark start to recycle ideas and hit some auto-pilot moments musically, falling into creative ruts and making some less-than-adventurous choices. San Francisco's The Dodos, however, are an exception to that rule. With their sixth album (Individ, released in January on Polyvinyl), The Dodos are continuing to climb to their creative peak; while the band has always relied on curveball rhythmic changes and deceptively technical guitar playing, Individ finds The Dodos writing more urgent, cohesive songs that balance beautifully between sprawling epics and concise blasts.
I sat down with singer/guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber in the basement of Neumos when the band was in Seattle recently and talked about their creative process, their gear, Jackie Chan and what it's like to watch the city you live in get taken over by development.
Meric Long also picked out some songs for a guest DJ set/playlist that you can listen to below.
(Please note: This isn't really episode 13. My timeline has gotten goofed because I need to finish my conversation with Zach Norton. So, this became episode 12. If you can't follow along, drop me a line and I'll walk you through it.)
I'm convinced Trapper Schoepp is lying about his age. It's rare to see someone who hasn't even hit their thirties have such a knowledge and reverence for the cornerstones of classic American pop songwriting. Trapper is a man who cares about his craft and pays serious attention to the masters, and even as a grizzled old man myself, it's intimidating to meet someone who has such a vast well of musical knowledge to draw from. Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Trapper's music feels immediately familiar to me, like a sweet breeze of relief in the middle of an overbearing humid Midwestern summer.
Trapper and his bassist/brother Tanner dropped by the Ol' Basement for a late night session to play a few songs and chat about sports, hometowns, the Wisconsin/Minnesota border, big boots, Tecmo Bowl, colorblindness and their upcoming record that they just recorded with Brendan Benson in Nashville, TN.
Give a spin to some tunes that Trapper picked for your ears below, as well.
Starting over is never easy. After the breakup of his longtime band (local heroes The Lonely Forest), guitarist Tony Ruland had no idea what to do with himself. When the perpetual motion machine that is being in a touring band grinds to a halt, what does one do with their time? For Ruland, that time was spent documenting fleeting ideas on a microcassette recorder. After stockpiling these ideas (and with no real vocal/lyrical ideas behind it), Ruland recruited former Cumulus drummer Kyle Holland, former Globes singer (and current Silver Torches frontman) Erik Walters, and former Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Chris Walla to help transform these sketches into fully fleshed out ideas, and Soft Sleep was born.
Tony and Kyle stopped by The Royal Basement on a whirlwind tour of Seattle press outlets to debut their new single and chat about bands ending, bands beginning, psychics, California Rolls, technology, and the sound of ulcers.
Tony and Kyle also picked out a playlist of ear candy specifically for you to listen to, available here via Rdio.
Eric Slick seems to be a man who doesn't deal well with idle time. Spend a little time poking around on Google and you'll find an impressive trail of music, film projects, and other assorted art pieces for a man who hasn't even hit his thirties yet. Most well known as the drummer for Dr. Dog, Eric Slick has an impressive background in the world of avant-garde/improvisational music, drumming for Project/Object (a Frank Zappa tribute band) and working alongside his sister and King Crimson's Adrian Belew in Adrian Belew's Power Trio. When not touring with Dr. Dog, Eric is busy working on projects for bands like Lithuania, Norwegian Arms, Ape School, Paper Cat, and enough other bands that you'd likely need a diagram to visualize. We grabbed coffees and chatted about his musical lineage and his connection with the city of Philadelphia before the recent Dr. Dog show in Seattle. He also picked out a great playlist of tunes for your ears that you can stream above. For all things Eric Slick (including pictures of some of the greatest drums I've ever seen), go visit Eric's site here.
Alex Robert was my bandmate before I could really call him my friend; we were introduced as part of Sonny Votolato's band (I was playing drums, Alex playing keys) and became friends through playing someone else's songs. Alex is the singer and guitarist of Seattle's Black Whales, and maybe one of the funniest people I've met in the city of Seattle. He's also one of the thirstiest music consumers I know, and is one of the hosts of Peel Slowly, a psychedelic pop internet radio show/DJ night that is chock full of obscure gems. Alex stopped by the basement to chat with me to talk about emoji, frustrations with Siri, his musical history and the newest Black Whales record (Through The Prism, Gently). Alex picked out some choice cuts for a DJ set and played a few of my favorite Black Whales songs in stripped down, Royal Basement-friendly (i.e. didn't upset the neighbors) arrangements.
Black Whales play alongside The Mama Rags and Prom Queen at the Columbia City Theater here in Seattle, WA on Friday, February 20th. Tickets are available here.
One of my favorite musical discoveries of this winter has been the moody, verbose layers of Milwaukee's Field Report. How I've never encountered singer Chris Porterfield's work before is beyond me, but the striking LP cover of Marigold drew me in while looking online for a soundtrack to cooking breakfast one day. Porterfield sells his songs in a plain-spoken, reed-y way, and builds simple melodic structures up into walls of articulated noise that glide along gracefully while dealing with darker topics (alcoholism, suicide, lost loves) that confront the grittiness of reality while still retaining an optimistic gleam.
Chris spent time in a band called DeYarmond Edison alongside Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Megafaun's Brad & Phil Cook and Joe Westerlund. It's hard to listen to Field Report's first record without at least hearing the faint shadow of some of those other band's successes in the lyrics, but Porterfield's newest record (Marigolden) leaves those bitter missives in the past and blazes its own trail. It's a beautiful, ambitious record that bursts with honesty, and I can only hope it lands in the right ears to continue Field Report's path.
Thanks so much to Chris Porterfield for taking the time to chat with me beside a dumpster behind the Sunset Tavern when they were in Seattle recently. We talked about the uncertainty and excitement in song writing, navigating uncomfortability in his lyrics, the specifics of his creative process, and some of his gear choices for the making of Marigolden.
As an extra added bonus, here's some video of the Field Report show at the Sunset. The band came down into the crowd and played a few songs, including this beautifully hushed version of "Taking Alcatraz".
Give it a listen if you have a chance, and keep tuned in for more podcasts coming up with Alex Robert of Black Whales, Bradley Fry of Pissed Jeans, and director Bill Perrine of San Diego music documentary "It's Gonna Blow!".
I had the opportunity to chat with Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals/Neon Neon/Gorillaz) when he came through Seattle, WA recently while promoting his new film/book/album (American Interior). Gruff and I chatted in the basement hallway of Barboza about personal and creative exploration, learning new languages and preserving old ones, and his songwriting process and tools. Unfortunately, there's a decent amount of noise in the background throughout most of the interview; opener Willis Earl Beal provided a lulling background during the first part, but it gets a little loud in the second half of the interview when we're trying to chat over a DJ night. Grab a beer/soda water and pretend you're listening to some buddies chatting in a loud bar and I promise, it is tolerable.
Thanks so much to Gruff Rhys and his tour manager Nolan for giving me the chance to chat.
Stay tuned for The Royal Basement episode 7, this time with Chris Porterfield of Field Report!
This episode, I caught up with John Davis, the frontman of Superdrag and his new project The Lees of Memory, via telephone from his home in Nashville. John talked a lot to us about his creative process, his tools of choice, and delivers a really killer guest DJ set of tunes that I can't quit listening to. (That Stewart Pack song that closes everything out is particularly CHOICE.)
I interviewed John years ago, when Superdrag was opening up for Weezer on the Pinkerton tour (I'm guessing 1996?). I essentially bum rushed him after their set, and I remember having a really fantastic conversation that I wish I could still find the tape of today. John's genuine openness and warmth with some dopey kid running a fanzine out of his dorm room was admirable and made me a lifelong fan, so it was a big treat to have a few hours to pick his brain and hear what makes him tick. I'm thrilled to hear John finally cave in to the shoegaze siren's call and make a big, woozy sounding record that manages to meld his knack for hooks with a whole mess of texture.
John has been uploading a motherlode of his demo work up on Bandcamp that I highly suggest spending some time with. It's simultaneously inspiring and, for a person wrestling with creative demons, frustrating to see someone that consistently prolific. John's scraps are full of the sort of brilliance that most bands fight their entire careers for. He's also started selling his fantastic paintings on Etsy.
I've got podcasts with Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Christopher Porterfield (Field Report), and Alex Robert (Black Whales) in the can, so keep your eyes peeled for all of those, hopefully in the next few weeks!
Thanks for listening, and thanks so much to John Davis for taking the time to chat!
I recently went back to Kansas City for a week and a half to catch the Kansas City Royals in the World Series and catch up with some of my best buddies. I had a good long chat with one of my best buddies (and former bandmate in The Believe It Or Nots), Mr. John Nguyen. John and I share a lot of musical history together (both playing in bands and discovering new music together) and a lot of the same pride in our hometown of Kansas City. He always puts me up when I come back to Kansas City for a visit, and is just flat out one of my favorite people in the world. We talked about what got us into music, how different Kansas City and Lawrence are today, shared some stories about our old bands, and John picked out some pretty choice tunes for your ears.
Podcast is divided into two episodes, so give 'em both a listen.
Stay tuned for the next couple episodes of The Royal Basement podcast, featuring John Davis (Superdrag/The Lees of Memory), Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals and Chris Porterfield of Field Report!
If there is any contemporary band who has turned me on my head in terms of what a pop song can be, it's Sloan. When loud guitars and screamin' dudes were all the rage in the early 90's, the band turned their back on that sound and went back in time, carving their own path by tastefully borrowing from the 60's and 70's while forming their own sound. Comprised of four different songwriters, Sloan is a complex and multi-faceted creature that has spent the last 23 years redefining the classic pop canon, making some absolutely crucial classic recordings in the process. I was lucky enough to get to chat with Chris Murphy about his beginnings, inspiration, songwriting and gear selection process, as well as having him pick out a mini-DJ set for the podcast. Put your ears on a Q&A with Chris Murphy of Sloan.
Editor's note: I mistakenly attributed ten studio albums to Sloan in my introduction. Commonwealth is actually their 11th studio album. I ran out of fingers when counting and forgot what came after ten. My sincerest apologies to Sloan for discounting a record.
As a bonus, here's a video I filmed at their Tractor Tavern show here in Seattle, featuring one of my favorite Andrew Scott-penned numbers, "The N.S." (also off of Between The Bridges) with Chris Murphy on the skins.
And for the uninitiated, here's a playlist of some of the finest songs in the Sloan catalog. Hit shuffle and go to town.
I've called John Cobb a buddy since the ripe ol' age of 3, and 35 years later, he's still my best friend. There are a few folks in your life that you can genuinely look at and say "My life wouldn't ever have been the same without knowing you", and John is at the top of that list for me. I may be an only child, but I'll always claim John Cobb as my brother.
Having gone through some of our best and worst years together, John has always been one of my closest confidantes for musical inspiration and influence. Visiting from Kansas City, John got down in the basement and played a few songs, shared some stories of our upbringing with me and picked out a few jams of significance, as well.
Podcast is below, broken into two parts, as well as one of John's original tunes. Enjoy.
I've been fortunate enough to call Robb MacLean a friend for a good 14 or so years now, and in those 14 years, we've had a lot of really strange, really hilarious things happen. We're connected in weird ways that I'm not sure I explained properly enough over the podcast, but the Limbeck band played on my birthday in Kansas City for about 6 years straight, completely unplanned. Tour routing magic, or bigger forces at play? Hard to say.
When he happened to be in Seattle for work as I was talking about getting this site off the ground, it made complete sense to have Robb as my first guest in the basement. Robb talks impending fatherhood, creative process, sings a few songs and picks out a few more.
I expect him to play my birthday next year, though. Seriously.