you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

19 April 2019

Bandcamp Track of the Day: The Empty Sleeps | Good Place.

From Adelaide in South Australia come The Empty Sleeps, consisting of Tristan Hennig and Nic Datson. Prepare to be washed away on the surge of lovely guitar tones and distant, ethereal vocals that the duo spin forth in their new single, “Good Place.”


22 March 2019

INTERVIEW: LLOLLYANNA.


LLOLLYANNA is the rubric under which a thirtyish male in New York City—he chooses not to associate his given name with his project—puts out recordings. These tracks unleash what must be one of the sheerly biggest sounds ever to emerge from a one-person, self-recorded, home-studio context. If the phrase “epic bedroom pop” isn’t an oxymoron—or even if it is—it’s apt for the music of LLOLLYANNA.

LOLLYANNA’s brand new EP, Tarot Waltz (we premiered the lead track, “Goodbye Roby”, a short time ago) is a refreshing blast, five tracks and twenty-two minutes of a sound that somehow stays surprising even after repeated listens. Like earlier LLOLLY releases, but at an even higher level of realization, this EP demonstrates that re-envisioning catchy pop with building blocks of noise and extreme texture is still fertile territory for the emergence of distinctive voices that can yet jar our brains in their pans and put smiles of startled pleasure on our faces. The project joins a tradition perhaps first established by Brian Eno’s 1970s solo records, populated with songs as infectiously tuneful as they are weirdly surfaced and exuberantly clamorous. Summarily speaking, Tarot Waltz fuses classic pop melody with wrenched skronk in a way that feels innovative and fresh even after over forty years of experiments of this kind.

Many thanks to the shadowed but engaging figure behind LLOLLYANNA for this thoughtful and clearly articulated interview.


How did the project get started? How did the band name “LLOLLYANNA” come about?
In the beginning of 2017 I was turning twenty-nine and realized that I didn’t have anything to show for years of writing and recording music. I’d played in bands and stuff but nothing ever got released. I just wanted something that was my own. Something I could show friends and say, “this is the music I make, this is the kind of stuff I like.” If I could make one song I was really proud of, none of this will have been a waste. I re-recorded an old demo I had called “Aboveground” and put it online. I don’t know where the name LLOLLYANNA came from but for me it’s become more of a place than a band name. It’s just the place my mind goes when I’m lost in making this stuff.


Why do you choose not to connect your own name with LLOLLYANNA?
I like knowing that people listen because they want to and not because of the person or personality behind it. I’ve always enjoyed stuff like The Residents and how nobody knows who they are, even after forty years of music. Everybody knows everything about everyone these days and I think it sort of takes away from the art. 

Do you have any plans to bring LLOLLYANNA into the live context?
There are no planned live shows at this point. If LLOLLYANNA gets to a place where it makes sense to put shows together, then of course I will. But for now, I’m only focused on the recordings. 

It was your exceptionally creative December 2018 single “Down by Design”— surely one of our favorite tracks from last year—that first grabbed our attention. Is there any backstory to that track or anything about the process of its creation that you’d like to share?
That song was a bit of a struggle because it’s got a lot of guitars (both acoustic and electric) moving in and out of tune. I started demoing last summer and spent most of the fall trying to get everything to work together. I must’ve recorded five versions before settling on one that I liked. 


Can you tell us a little about your song writing process?
Sure. My family lives in a really remote part of Delaware outside of Dover and I like to write when I’m there visiting. Their house is like 200 years old and surrounded by farmland and cemeteries. There is an odd atmosphere that is hard to explain. It’s a bit eerie I guess. Most LLOLLYANNA songs are born there.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
To me shoegaze just means creative guitar music. Some playground to explore all the possibilities of what a guitar could sound like. Unfortunately, I think a lot of bands are content with just sounding like Kevin Shields. His records are there to inspire you to make your own thing, not to remake his. That being said, I have heard a few things recently that really blew me away. Votaries put out an album called Psychometry awhile back and that’s the best record I’ve heard in a long time.


What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
There are just too many to list. I can give you a few albums I was really into at different points of my life. Return to Cookie Mountain by TV on the Radio, Double Nickels by The Minutemen, Frisbee by Heavy Vegetable, the self-titled album by Major Organ and the Adding Machine. Those are a few off the top of my head. 

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/amps/pedals that you prefer? 
I have a lot of guitars but I prefer to play Stratocasters. I use an American Strat for standard tuning and a vintage Stratocaster knock-off called a Johnson for an alternate tuning I sometimes use that I call “llolly tuning” (DADF#F#A).Occasionally I’ll use this weird lap steel guitar made by Peavey called a PowerSlide.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
Everything’s demo’d first on a four track cassette machine. I figure if it works on there, it has a better chance of working in the end. Final recordings are done on Reaper. I like to use shotgun mics for vocals because the city is noisy and they reject a lot of noise. For guitar I use lots of amp modeling software. As far as effects go, I’ve been really into the u-he Colour Copy delay—that’s all over “Down by Design.” I like a lot of the Acustica Audio stuff too.

How did you produce the rich, lush lead sound that kicks in twelve seconds into “Down by Design”?
That might be a little hard to explain but I’ll try. It’s a combination of things. Lots of distortion on a guitar with its tone knobs turned all the way down. That’s going into a wah that’s also turned all the way down so that it’s muffling the distortion. It sort of makes it sound like a keyboard inside a glass tube. Once the wah gets lifted, all that guitar growl comes bursting out through the side. So basically I ride the wah to make this keyboard type sound morph into a heavy guitar sound as I play. It’s all guitar though.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway. How do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
I think maybe the people complaining about today’s music industry are the people who came from the old music industry. They remember a time when you could produce one record for a band and sit back raking in royalties for the rest of your life I guess. Those days are gone and those dudes are fucking pissed. Artists don’t need anyone to record them or sell their records if they don’t want to. They contact fans directly if they have a show or something new out. It’s an awesome time to be a band. I hope to god there isn’t a music industry sometime in the near future.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or MP3 format when listening to music?
I don’t care. Good songs are still good songs on any format. 


If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why?
I was really happy with the way “Broken Wand Ritual” turned out. Its ending was inspired by the Shangri Las and it's one of the songs my friends like the most. 

01 March 2019

INTERVIEW: Richard Millang of Bethany Curve.


Bethany Curve formed in 1994 in Santa Cruz, California with an original lineup consisting of Richard Millang (vocals, guitar), Ray Lake (vocals, guitar), Chris Preston (bass) and David Mac Wha (drums). At this time, the first-generation British shoegaze bands like MBV, Lush and Slowdive were just beginning to fade away, but shoegaze wasn't truly over. By the time Bethany Curve released their 1995 debut, Mee-Eaux, the second wave of 90s shoegaze was in full-swing, this time spearheaded by American bands who were creating a slightly different sound.

The dark space-rock atmosphere of Mee-Eaux is an excellent example of how shoegaze was evolving at that time. The genre's hallmark drones, distortion and ethereal tones were all still very much in play, but Bethany Curve used that sonic palette to plunge their sound into a much a darker abyss. Their spaced-out melodies, powerful riffs, dirge-like bass lines and heavy drumming style created an intoxicating backdrop for the haunting lyrics. The results were compelling and beautiful.

Since the beginning, the group has created music according to a specific motto or code: Atmosphere | Arrangement | Sound | Layering | Noise. This deliberate approach has served them well. Over the span of six studio albums, including the just-released masterpiece Murder!, the band has continued to explore their sound in new and exciting ways. Today, their lineup consists of original members Richard Millang and David Mac Wha, and they've since added Nathan Guevara on guitar and Lisa Dewey as a vocalist. 

Songs like “Vanish”, “Door 2416” and “Long Beach” were practically life-defining for me on a personal level, and that’s just scratching the surface of a back catalog that deeply influenced me and the way I listen to music. I can’t express how proud and excited we are to share the following interview with Richard Millang of Bethany Curve with you.

--Amber

How and when was the band formed?
In April 1994, I saw 2 live shows that blew away my 19-year-old mind. On April 2, 1994, Nate and I saw Cocteau Twins at the Warfield in SF. Then on April 11, 1994 we drove down and saw Slowdive at the Roxy in LA. In fact, Super Thirty One (a popular local shoegaze band back then) opened for Slowdive. I remember watching both Super Thirty One and Slowdive and thinking to myself with massive motivation, I’m going to start a f’ing band! The next weekend, I was hanging posters all around Santa Cruz looking for likeminded musicians. My posters referenced Cocteau Twins, Pixies, Slowdive, and MBV. Within a couple weeks, Ray called me and invited me to come play with him and Chris one afternoon to see if it’s a good fit. The very first practice, we wrote the verse and chorus to the song “Walk In” from our record Mee-eaux. Within a couple months we found David and that was it. Our first gig was in July 1994.  



Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (any new releases, tour, etc.)?
Releasing Murder! was a very long and exhaustive and emotional process for me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this record. But it was a tough haul. For me, this is the purest expression of the BC sound. I was trying to do this on You Brought Us Here and Flaxen and only got close on some songs, but I feel that I’ve finally harnessed the sound purely and consistently across 10 songs on Murder!.

The point being, this is all I’ve been working on for years and now that it’s released, I’m sort of basking in the moment. Plus, I’ve been working with the label on the lead up and post release stuff which has been a crazy amount of work. You wouldn’t think so, but it is. Lisa and I exchange emails and texts every day on new decisions relating to the record. That being said, I’ve just starting to consider what may follow Murder!. I’m thinking about making a tweak on the BC sound. Perhaps even changing up the writing and recording process altogether. Also, we will likely remaster Flaxen and release it on vinyl within the next year.  

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
I simply categorize our music as shoegaze because it has the all the typical attributes. Like our long-time motto: atmosphere, arrangement, sound, layering, noise, we’re very deliberate about this.  

But some context. When we completed our first record, Slowdive was still a band, Lush was still touring and releasing records, Pale Saints were still touring. I mean, in the mid-90s here in the US, shoegaze was still growing even though it was out of style in the UK. So for us, there was never a fear or concern being associated with shoegaze.

Regarding genres, I don’t have any issue with them but I do understand how it could pigeonhole a band who might be trying to do escape and something different or if the genre falls out of favor (like it did in the UK). I could see that being frustrating. But genres do help listeners mentally categorize by the sounds and styles they prefer. So it’s a convenience but not scripture. And there’s the positive to genres in the way that they sort of build a community around the bands within it. But if you’re someone who obsesses with genres or tries to over-define them, then yes, it’ll probably be tiresome and drive you nuts.



What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
Truth being told, I’ve kind of been in a new music lull, likely because I’ve been focused on getting Murder! completed and released. These aren’t specifically shoegaze but some semi-current favs of mine include: HTRK, Warpaint, Exploded View, John Maus, Odd Nosdam, Black Moth, A Place to Bury Strangers, Belong, Tame Impala, Besnard Lakes, Beach House, and I thought the new Ride record was pretty okay. I’m likely forgetting a whole bunch of others at the moment.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
Yes, and anyone from our era will cringe at this. I’m a die-hard Alesis Quad GT fool! The way the reverb is integrated into the overdrive and compression is unmatched (for me personally). I spent years testing out different rack units, pedals, latest greatest expensive shit, whatever, nothing could come close. That in combination with a couple pedals is basically it for me. I used to carry around this ridiculous pedal board setup during the Skies and Gold era but over time as I started developing our sound with consistency, I reduced the number of effects to just a few. Songwriting and consistent textures became more important than stuffing a gazillion different effects into a song.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
I’ve used Steinberg Cubase software for years. I like it but I also realize that Pro Tools is kind of standard for most. My recommendation is to find a platform that works well for you as an individual. So important because you want a program that doesn’t distract you from your music creation process.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/Bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
All depends on what your goal is as an artist. Labels have industry relationships and connections that we as a band do not. And they also have experience releasing records and know the ins and outs. So, it helps us a lot to not take on that headache alone. However, if you are first starting out and money isn’t falling out of the sky, doing a self-release via Bandcamp is a great way to go. And there are lots of great bands who self-released everything. Just depends on what your goals are.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
Vinyl’s just sexy! It’s fun playing vinyl on the record player and all the little steps involved and geeking out on the sound, etc. That’s my preference but that’s also when I’m home and have the time to enjoy it. Obviously in the car it’s about convenience and I default to digital.



What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
Probably no surprise from my earlier remarks, but Neil Halstead from Slowdive, Robin Guthrie from Cocteau Twins and Charles Thompson from the Pixies. 

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Oh fuck! Really? Okay. It’s something like this:
1. Decide what you want, 2. Aim at it with purpose, 3. Go make shit happen.  

25 February 2019

NEW SINGLE PREMIERE: Star Tropics | The Other Side of Midnight.



Chicago-based five-piece Star Tropics has just dropped a gorgeous new single, the self-released “The Other Side of Midnight”, which you can stream below, as well as purchase and stream on major platforms such as Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and the like. The single was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Adam Stilson (who’s also a founding member of New Canyons). According to the band, the title of the song is a nod to the Tony Wilson TV show of the same name.

“The Other Side of Midnight” is the band’s first new offering since 2017’s impeccable debut LP, Lost World, and the song showcases a group at the top of their game. Their jangly brand of dream pop sparkles brighter than ever, weaving twinkling guitar work, nostalgic synths, and emotive boy/girl vocals into the perfect pop song tapestry. Echoes of the golden age of Sarah Records permeate the song, but the crystalline production and pitch perfect execution feel thoroughly modern and relevant. “The Other Side of Midnight” is what proper pop music should be – timeless, nostalgic, and youthful – and with an inherent, inexplicable magic running through it. We’re utterly enchanted.

 
You can find and follow Star Tropics on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.