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by Jane Jansen Seymour

6 May 2011

The next night after a gig in Boston – playing to a hometown crowd for friends in the city of their beginning – The Submarines took the time for a quick chat with PopMatters before their show at The Music Hall of Williamsburg. The married couple of John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard have just released Love Notes/Letter Bombs, a new collection of songs detailing their lives – past, present and future.

Dragonetti spoke wistfully as he reminisced about starting out on drums at age four; he had to leave behind a beloved kit when his family moved to Cairo and then Dubai.  He begged his parents to let him have another but it wasn’t until years later they did.  He discovered guitar in his teens and a simple four track recording system which started his interest in writing as well as production.  Hazard grew up in Vermont, a family household without television and a rule that piano was to be mastered first before any other instrument.  About the same age as Dragonetti’s first drumming experience, she was learning the keys before moving on to guitar.  By her teens she was writing songs to acoustic guitar. They met while playing in separate bands and Dragonetti ended up producing Hazard’s debut Little Airplane in 2002.  Now they’ve co-written and recorded three full-length albums: Declare a New State (2006), Honeysuckle Weeks (2008) and Love Notes/Letter Bombs.

Love Notes/Letter Bombs began as sketches of songs which Dragonetti took into the studio to work with Spoon’s drummer Jim Eno and producer John O’Mahony, who has worked with Coldplay and Metric.  Meanwhile, Hazard was in Paris for a month filling up notebooks with lyrics and ideas of her own.  They each hold a veto power in the band, so anything not fully endorsed by both is taken out of the mix.  The title comes from the track “Tiger”, and powerful imagery of conflict and convergence runs through the album. Lyrics such as “You know I’ve loved you from the start / but this house can’t make you stay” in “Tiger” and “Would you ever let me love you like I did before the fight” from “A Satellite, Stars and an Ocean” convey the idea.  Their song “Birds” was used recently in the fundraiser compilation Songs of Love for Japan, benefiting Shelterbox, which delivers emergency shelter and essentials to the area.  The Submarines were happy to help them out and have hopes they will travel to Japan some day.

* * *

This spring they are busy touring in support of their new release, playing all ages shows where they can so a younger demographic can discover their signature indie pop. The constant collaboration is a hard version of couple’s therapy to recommend; its always a challenge with the togetherness of working together and traveling on tour.  It all seems so effortless and Dragonetti was pleased to hear it described as such.  But, on stage later that night, the complex layers of arrangements showcased the talent of each band member, revealing their passion for making music as well as for each other. 

Just before the band was to go on stage, Hazard was buzzing about decorating the instruments with strings of tiny white lights while Dragonetti was intently tuning guitars.  He was wearing a dark dress shirt with black pants while she wore a vintage white dress with appliqued flowers. With a quick “good evening” greeting from Dragonetti, they began the set with their first hit, “Peace and Hate”, which incorporates electronic bleeps that sound somewhat like a submarine (and additional elements were triggered by Dragonetti using foot pedals and a laptop nearby).  New songs were presented with enthusiasm and older songs, such as “Brighter Discontent” and “Swimming Pool”, still sounded fresh.  During the encore, Dragonetti introduced band members J Stare on drums and bassist Scott Barber.  After “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie”, the swelling chorus of “Xavia” became a bold opportunity for a venue-filling, sing along with the audience.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

4 Mar 2011

New Music Seminar, 16 February 2011, Los Angeles

Moby is the kind of artist whom, after hearing just one song, you remember from then on.  I heard “Go” back in the ‘90s when it became a club hit while riding in the back seat of a car heading out of New York City late at night.  Watching the lights of the skyline flash by perfectly matched the full throttle energy of the music and I became an instant fan.  After the horrors of 9/11 (which happens to also be the date of Moby’s birthday), I walked into the local record store called Johnny’s in Darien, Connecticut to purchase his CD, 18.  Moby used to work there, passing the time by drawing cartoon-like creations on shopping bags, and now this collection of music would help restore hope in the everyday.  He is a master of soaring melodies that pierce the heart and feed the soul.

During the New Music Seminar, Moby appeared on two panels after playing on stage at the opening night party.  He has recently relocated to the West Coast, so it was easy to drive his Prius from a new home in the Hollywood Hills to this even.  Using self-deprecating wit to get his viewpoint across, Moby clearly stated that success should only be a byproduct from the love of making music. He may say his “Little Idiot” alter-ego drawings are named because he is small and an idiot, but Moby serves as a thoughtful sage in the business. The day after releasing three new songs for free download on, he sat down with PopMatters to give an update.

by Chris Catania

8 Dec 2010

Music fan fantasies are complex. They can help us cope with life, or they can keep us from facing reality. But what happens when we do get the chance to live out our rock star dreams?

With a mixture of curiosity and skepticism, I’ve enjoyed watching VH1 Classic’s reality show Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp that debuted earlier this Fall.

The show captures what Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp has been doing since 1997, which is give music fans the chance to learn how to sing, write songs and play live like a real rock star.

So, on Sunday, November 21st, I decided to put my curiosity and skepticism to the test and head down to the three-day “Weekend Warrior” camp in Chicago to see how the rock icons featured in VH1’s show including rockers Kip Winger, Dickey Bettes, Mark Fuller and others, were helping fans live out their rock n roll dreams.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

16 Nov 2010

Jónsi Birgisson needs no introduction to the fans of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós – he has served as the frontman of the band since 1994. His floating falsetto is simply unmistakable and unique in today’s music scene. On tour with his own songs from his new solo release Go, he fit in a stop at Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina, over the Halloween weekend. His ipod was playing jazz from Woody Allen movie soundtracks as he stretched out in the dressing room backstage at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. The tour manager then allowed a ten minute sit down with PopMatters before announcing it was time to “unleash the Jónsi”.
What do you think of Moogfest and why did you choose to be a part of the festival?
I think it’s a really cool festival and I am honored to be a part of it. They called and I was touring anyway so it all worked out. And I’m looking forward to seeing Matmos although I’m playing around the same time so I don’t think I will be able to see them.

by Drew Fortune

3 Sep 2010

St. Vincent aka Annie Clark has always been an artist who marches to her own beat. From her early beginnings in the beguiling Polyphonic Spree, Clark has emerged as a strong, empowering figure in a masculine-dominated indie rock arena. Her sharp, literate lyrics, unconventional beauty and guitar skills make her every guy’s dream girl and every girl’s hero. Actor, her critically acclaimed sophomore release, is densely textured and very busy arrangement-wise, but with an arsenal of backing musicians (woodwinds, violin and clarinets) Clack is able to bring her music to life nicely in a live setting.

//Mixed media

Tibet House's 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert Celebrated Philip Glass' 80th

// Notes from the Road

"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.

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