Fugu a.k.a Mehdi Zannad is a one-man-band from France. the idea of Fugu germinated while he was studying architecture in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in 1993, as his first demo lead him to record a 7" on Liverpool label "Sugarfrost". A couple of years later, with encouragements from both High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan and Stereolab, Mehdi recorded his first E.P and a handful of 7" singles (among them, a split single with Stereolab, another one with St Etienne and a favourite, "F31-she's coming over" on Elefant records). Fugu's first album, "Fugu 1" was conceived as an idiosyncratic baroque sequel to "Sgt Pepper" meeting "Smile" and meant to be made in perfect 60's facsimile. It gained critical success, got released in US by Minty Fresh and in France on Yann-"Amelie's" fame-Tiersen label "Ici d'Ailleurs". "For Us Records", the in-house label of the Rough Trade Shop released it on vinyl in the UK and it became album of the week on Xfm. Fugu then opened for Stereolab on a coast-to-coast US tour which started at SF's Fillmore East and ended at the Irving Plaza in NY. Mehdi collaborated on "happy-go-unlucky", the last Lp from ultra-talented songwriter John Cunningham, who was part of the Fugu line-up for the US tour. Straightforwardness was the idea for "as found" which has just been released in France and Japan. These are pop songs in the true sense and most classical "canon", tackling US 70's early powerpop, post-60's Beach Boys and McCartney in his first solo album impersonation. The Lp was recorded in Rouen with Tahiti 80 co-producing, playing, overdubbing, drinking beers, eating de-frozen food and also with Simon Johns from Stereolab on bass, and an appendix lost on the way. "Here Today" is the right introduction and it's for you folks. So be glad and sing "i'm in love, i'm in love, i'm in love", because it's here to stay.
The Stone Foxes
It's not just great song writing, warm guitars, a nut-tight rhythm section, and the occasional blues harp riffs that make The Stone Foxes' second album, Bears and Bulls, so good; the Bay Area four-piece consisting of brothers Shannon and Spence Koehler, Aaron Mort, and Avi Vincour have captured something else on this recording that makes the whole thing huge, and very, very cool.
Listeners sense it right away. There's a genuineness here that's rare and refreshing, and it's something that can't be achieved simply by grabbing a couple of vintage axes and plugging into a stack of tube amps. Because while The Stone Foxes may be influenced by the greats of the late 60s and early 70s like The Band, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin, they never sound like they're trying to be anything but exactly who they are. But then they don't need to: their style of blues-rock stands on its own.
Still though, there's something about Bulls and Bears that sets it well apart from other records. And to understand what it is, what makes this record so unique, so good, you need to know how The Stone Foxes approach their music.
"We'll never be a traditional studio band," says Aaron.
"Yeah, our music was written to play live," adds Avi.
That makes perfect sense to anyone that's been to one of their shows: it's clear the Foxes care far more about performing their music for living, breathing human beings than an empty room filled with microphones.
So rather than holing up in a studio, writing songs in a void, then cutting an album and touring it, The Stone Foxes work their new material out on stage over a period of months, playing it for their fans. And that's part of what makes their shows, and this new record, so special. Each song in their arsenal has evolved organically over time, taking on a unique personality while retaining the core DNA that makes it a Stone Foxes original. Every song, every lick, every fill on Bears and Bulls has had its own unique path to maturity, taking the energy and feedback from the live experience and making it a critical part of the music.
When it was time to cut the record, the band knew that in order to capture the real soul of the music it would be critical to maintain that energy, those unique aspects of each song. So Bears and Bulls was recorded with virtually no overdubs, at a studio they built themselves.
"Recording in our own studio really allows us to connect directly to the listener," says Vincour. "It comes right from us to the fans."
As a result, Bears and Bulls is an audio snapshot of exactly who and where The Stone Foxes were musically when they recorded it. It's a reflection of their live show and a tribute to the interplay between musicians and fans. It's a moment in time captured digitally, then mixed by Alex Newport and mastered by John Cuniberti in beautiful, warm, old-school analog. Just like it should be.
Spence Koehler, who along with brother Shannon grew up in the Sierra Foothills before moving to the Bay Area a few years ago, points out another thing about the new record that makes it unique. "You know," he says, "all the instrumentation on the recording is the same as it is live."
Right, the instrumentation thing: The Stone Foxes don't have a set lineup on instruments. Since each song is unique, who plays what changes depending on the song's personality. Shannon may come out from behind the drums to sing and play harmonica while Avi replaces him. Aaron, Spence and Avi regularly swap rhythm, lead, and bass duties, and every member sings lead on at least a few songs. But it's no gimmick: like everything The Stone Foxes do, the instrument and vocal changes are a function of the natural evolution of their music and what works best on each song.
"It doesn't matter who writes the lyrics," says Shannon, "if someone else has a better voice for the song, they sing it."
And the way they play it live is the way it's laid to tape.
So you've got this band of players that can actually play, writers that can actually write, none of whom seem to have much ego: it's about the music and the band over all – not the individual. You turn them loose to create songs that evolve and mature over time, then you drop them in a studio to track a record on their own terms. As it turns out, what you end up getting is something way deeper and more heartfelt than most bands ever deliver.
You also get a hint of what they'll become. Because this collection of songs, from the raucous fun of "Stomp" to the slow grind of "Through the Fire" from the bad ass lick that opens "Patience" to the down and dirty blues of "Mr. Hangman" could only have been created by a band that's fearless about following their music where it leads, and has the skills to share what they learn on the trip. And it's a trip they're still taking: The Stone Foxes and their music continue to evolve, and continue to deliver live shows that blow the doors off of venues along the way.
When asked if there's one thing that they want their fans to know, there's no hesitation: they say they have a huge amount of fun playing live, loved capturing their work on the record, and that they wouldn't be doing any of this if they didn't.
Really though, that's completely unnecessary to mention: one listen to the record, one visit to a gig, and all that is clear from note one.
The sound of Gypsyblood is somewhat like hearing an old familiar song playing at high volume in a distant room, the melody smudged within the walls, making it impossible to discern the exact tune. It's like watching old home movies in a hazy, distorted soft focus. There's a rare, comforting timelessness to the Chicago quintet's distortion-ravaged and hook-laden tunes on its forthcoming debut album, Cold in the Guestway due April 12, 2011 on Sargent House.
Gypsyblood formed in 2009 when longtime friends and former bandmates Adam James and vocalist/drummer/bassist Kyle Victor healed the somewhat fresh wounds of their previous band's breakup (initiated by Victor storming off stage after the last song and hitchhiking home.) The pair later made up and James invited Victor to hear demos of new songs he was working on. Gypsyblood was born shortly thereafter and the pair quickly wrote an impressive 50 songs together within two months.
Of those 50 initial songs, the pair recorded 30 tracks working on their own in the dead of Chicago winter in an old building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The songs were captured on equipment normally used for film audio recording. Faint sounds of the band's bustling neighborhood outside can be heard at times throughout. There's a distinctly haunted, living presence to both the recording and the songwriting of Cold In the Guestway that cannot be replicated in a sterile studio environment. Many musicians and other lucky few who have heard Gypsyblood have succinctly remarked, "my new favorite band." ?Dave Davison of Maps & Atlases, who brought the band to Sargent House, remembers the first time he heard, Gypsyblood. "One evening I was walking to get dinner when I was called into a parked car containing Chris Alvarez, Kyle Victor and Adam James. They were listening to the first mixes of the Gypsyblood album Cold In The Guestway and upon hearing the songs, I immediately wanted a copy for myself. When I finally got sent a copy a week later I was hooked! I first met Kyle and Adam while they were playing in the band Karma With a K. Gypsynlood offers a more refined, but equally raw version of the music that I've come to enjoy from Adam and Kyle and their live performance is every bit as entertaining and even sometimes scary as it ever was. Whether in a small gallery or outdoor festival stage, the way that Adam is able to utilize and incorporate space into his performance is part of what makes him truly fantastic frontman."
Gypsyblood's songs tend to start dissent among listeners trying to describe exactly of what their songs are reminiscent. Some common references include a strange amalgam of Pavement's early hazy-pop singles, The Jesus and The Mary Chain and early Guided By Voices. Put simply, it's a noisy, soft-focus approach to classic pop.
"Everything revolves around that feeling of restless old souls, a timeless aspect to the music," explains vocalist/guitarist Adam James. "We've all been on this planet -- whether we were in a past life, or whatever. We've all been singing these same notes for decades and now it's finally getting out to people's ears. It's something that comes from deep down within. It's unique to anyone who understands it."
IC Artist Agency
The Orange Peels
Glitter Rock. Opulent '80s Pop. Glammy Prog. Bearded, backwoods Elk Rock. Who gives a rat's ass if there's no melody at the heart of it; no soul.
Not that The Orange Peels don't dabble in these styles. They just don't have the time to waste on cute, genre-based music that cuddles up to a pre-existing audience. Defiant, dramatic and probably a little bit of a showboat, bandleader Allen Clapp tells it like it is on "Shining Like Stars," a glammed-up rocker from the band's album, 2020: "If making melodies is a crime, I'm guilty as charged."
As the album's title suggests, 2020 deals with perceptions. Released on the precipice of a new decade, it is as much about looking back on 10 years gone awry as it is about looking forward to the promises of the future. Sometimes life comes at us in crystal clear geometry and hard numbers, and sometimes details reveal themselves only in the soft-focus of memory.
Moving in and out of focus through these 10 songs, the band has achieved its own vision on its own terms. Recording the album at its modernistic Eichler headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, the band took its time to decorate each track (or in some cases, de-decorate) for maximum emotional impact.
Featuring Clapp on vocals, piano guitar and drums, Oed Ronne (The Ocean Blue) on lead guitars, electric sitar and vibes, Jill Pries on bass guitars, Bob Vickers (The Incredible Vickers Bros.) on drums and guitars, John Moremen (Jad Fair, the Roy Loney Band) on guitars, all the itinerant members of the band are represented. Even original lead guitarist Larry Winther took off his reunion-era Mummies bandages for a few minutes to grace the album's lead track with a chickeny guitar solo.
For Clapp, the subtitle of the album may as well be "What I did on My Recession." Out of work for 10 months in the worst economy of his lifetime, Clapp poured his anxiety, neuroses and plethora of available time into pushing the album to completion. Hibernating in the studio with the heartbreak and uncertainty of the times, the band uses words and melodies to make sense of it all. 2020 is their answer.
Keep your eyes Peeled for a tour this spring.
"The Orange Peels stand tall against the tide of musical darkness, raging against the dying of the light with a nice line in clever pop hookery, wielding warm summery harmonies with the most delicate of touches."
"The sweet secret of The Orange Peels is that this guitar-bass-drums and occasional-keyboard combo has somehow created sublime Orch-Pop with out any actual orchestra."
--TIME OUT NEW YORK
Antenna Farm Records
Social Studies crafts intricate songs that combine angular indie rock and classic twee-pop. What distingishes the San Francsico-based group is their ecclectic, complex song writing: unusual structures and mathy beats are tempered by soft edges and danceable casio hooks. Moody, defiant and hopeful, the lyrics celebrate duality through themes of discontent, violence, innocence, renewal, nostalgia, regret and joy. All these elements take shape in unpredictable, catchy songs that burrow into your consciousness and demand repeat listening and a critical reading between the lines. Combine this imaginative songwriting with a consistently high energy live show, and it is no surprise that Social Studies has generated a loyal fanbase and strong buzz in the SF Bay Area and beyond.
For legendary emcee Aceyalone, being out of the norm has paradoxically always been the norm. The Los Angeles rapper and founding member of Freestyle Fellowship, Haiku D'Etat and Project Blowed returns with Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones, an album that draws on Phil Spector, 60s girl groups, the J.B.s and a slew of raw, dirty funk for sonic inspiration.
We Are The Arsenal
We Are The Arsenal is a 4-piece rock band based out of southern California Formed in 2006, the band has self-released 4 EP's and 1 full-length album. Most recently, the group released their most focused and mature album to date. "American Folklore," released on 3/26/13, explodes with seven tracks of guitar-driven, down-home rock & roll. Storytelling lyrics, shredding guitar solos, and powerful hooks collide to shape what has become the definitive We Are The Arsenal record.
Following in the footsteps of so many other iconic Orange County rock acts, WATA continues to carve their own niche in an ever-changing musical landscape. Over the last 7 years, this steadfast group of musicians has taken the state of being an unsigned band and turned it into an art form. Without label backing or funding, We Are The Arsenal has watched dozens of their peers fall by the wayside, while continuing to tour, release new music, and headline southern California's most prestigious venues.
Chief songwriter & vocalist Ryan Terrigno and Kansas City-bred Lead Guitarist Caleb Blacksher round out WATA's string section, while Bassist Alex Seielstad, and heavy-handed drummer Kris Dufour complete the rhythm section.
Better Looking Records
Tristeza's unique perspective will earn the respect of open ears. Entrancing post-punk instrumentals infuse elements of Latin percussion and atmospheric guitars. One of the founding members was born in Tijuana, perhaps owing to the concept behind their name: life and death in the nimble waltz of Mexican calaveras, the joy and the sadness, la tristeza, the impossibility of one without the other. Like the old maríachís, ni de allí, ni de acá, they are between worlds, and eternally fighting the good fight.
The Math Team
We All Have Hooks for Hands
Originally starting in a downtown Sioux Falls apartment as a simple project to create crappy pop tunes, "Hold on, c'mon" was recorded first with minimal talent and without a name for the project. A six piece first set off for a short west coast tour screaming through the mountains in a green tin lizzy.
After growing from the experience, a full-length album was put into production. A self-built/self-pittying recording studio resulted in the addition of multiple amiable pals hailing from as far as Freeman, SD, home of the Mennonites. The result is a full band with a radiant sound, which includes dueling drummers, a violinist, three guitars, two horn/keyboard players, and a lonely ass.
The size of band and collective feel is a means to experiment with sound and dynamics. The influences that shaped the upcoming album are as colorful as they were plentiful. The party lifestyle in a rural city fuels the music.