Latest Blog Posts

by Evan Sawdey

3 Jun 2010

Angus and Julia Stone remain just as humble today as they did when they first started recording in 2006, which, given the trajectory of their career so far, is somewhat remarkable.

The Australian brother-sister duo—swapping vocal duties pretty much whenever they feel like—initially started as two separate solo acts wherein one would support the other on instruments, but before long it was realized that their powers are much better when combined. Specializing in remarkably understated acoustic numbers revolving around love and heartbreak, it wasn’t long before the duo began garnering the attention of everyone from Travis (Julia sang backup on that band’s 2007 disc The Boy With No Name) to Natalie Portman (who hand-picked their track “The Beast” for the charity album Big Change: Songs for FINCA), all while gathering attention by doing the tired-and-true method of touring like hell, opening for the likes of Brett Dennen and Martha Wainwright. The buzz on the duo slowly grew, and by the time their current disc Down the Way came out in their homeland, it shot straight to the top of the charts.

Now garnering some much-deserved attention in America (with their music videos collectively garnering more than two million hits on YouTube alone), Julia Stone took some time to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, and wound up giving one of the most open, honest, and downright touching set of answers we’ve yet seen for this feature. Discussing everything from handling her wounded pet dingo to stealing some lights from K-Mart so that their garage-based Hawaiian-themed hangout space would be a rousing success (much to dad’s disapproval), Julia Stone approaches these 20 Questions with the same thought and care that so dominates her music, which is a rare feat in itself. Never once showing an ounce of ego or hubris, it’s refreshing to see that all these years later, the Stone siblings are just as humble as they were when they started out making their brilliant music ...

by Evan Sawdey

2 Jun 2010

Kerretta are an unusual band, to say the least.

At first glance this pair trio of normal-looking New Zealanders may not seem very threatening, but put ‘em behind a very simple drum-bass-guitar combo, and suddenly the band is unleashing instrumental rock epics not too far removed from the likes of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead or Pelican.  Yet, like those bands, Kerretta never really rock out just for the sake of making eardrums explode.  Instead, the three-piece spend much of their time fretting over dynamics, build, structure, and texture.  In another world, “Dinshah” (from their remarkably strong new album Vilayer) would be the kind of dark mood piece that Chino Moreno would love to howl over, but the group’s strict no-vocal policy instead leaves the emotional interpretation up entirely to the listener—a tough move to make commercially, but something that makes much more sense when Kerretta’s unabashed love of a good hook comes sneaking through each and every one of Vilayer‘s songs.

Touring the album like mad while still riding off of an incredible post-SXSW high, the trio debated and argued wildly about the answers to PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions series, but ultimately revealed to us which Gregory David Roberts book made them cry, why booze is the cause and solution to everyone’s problems, and the incredible Star Wars character George Lucas never got around to creating ...


1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Shantaram. Its about a criminal leaving his past life behind and starting a new life in the slums of India.  Why does it made me cry?  The book is so heavy. I’ve been lugging it around on every trip I’ve been on for the last year. I’m sure I’ve pinched a nerve in my neck due to the extra weight in my backpack. I’m still only a quarter of the way though ...
2. The fictional character most like you?

That’s easy: I’m a 50/50 blend of Chewbacca and Han Solo really. I could have saved George Lucas money and played both parts. We also have a Sithlord/Moth Tarkin on drums and Ewok/Obi Wan on guitars.
3. The greatest album, ever?

Shit, I’m doing this interview in the van crossing the plains of Kansas and that question has just started a mass band debate ... hey, at least we are still talking!

So ... for me it would be Faith No More’s Angel Dust. Dave (our guitarist) says Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and ol’ drummerboy says Jesus Lizard’s Liar The musical taste of Kerretta’s members are a mixed bag perhaps—that’s probably how we come up with such a tasty musical stew!
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Refer to Question #2. Still that first last Star Trek movie wasn’t too bad ...
5. Your ideal brain food?

Been inspired by people and ideas that are innovative, not chasing the tails of others which I think unfortunately happens a lot in music ...
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?


7. You want to be remembered for . .?

Hopefully for being nice people ... and making spontaneous ideas turn into reality: that’s a great attribute to this band. Someone will say “Let’s do this!” and we will instantly try to make it happen. I guess that’s why we have done so much in the three years of our existence ... avoid procrastination!
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Again, those who innovate.  There’s so much paint-by-numbers stuff out there ... it’s always the bands that start new musical movements that we have the most respect for and history normally dictates that those who do start musical chapters are often still there well after the rest have faded out ...
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

A Hanbacca Star Wars action figure!
10. Your hidden talents . . .?

Twisting interviews around to become imaginary Star Wars trivia.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Take what you do seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously!  Such good advice ... Fender should have it engraved on every guitar they make.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Right now I would say it would have to be my drum kit: I’ve just started playing drums this year. I’m sure this will improve my bass playing further.  But really it’s pure musical delight.  Probably the most enjoyable musical revelation since picking up my first bass all those years ago ...
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

Whatever is clean. And black.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

George Lucas ... I could pitch him the idea of me playing  Hanbacca!  I bet he’s gonna try to redo Star Wars again before he dies, right?
15. TI’me travel: where, when and why?

There’s no point at all: live for the day.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

The answer to everyone’s problems is at the bottom of a bottle ... or perhaps the start of them. Depends.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Easy: good friends ...
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Maybe not right now as we travel though more desert, but being on tour is the greatest way to travel and meet exciting new friends which is exactly what we have been doing.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Better you than me.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Our new record. Really looking forward to it. It’s already taking on a life of its own, I’m sure it will end up very different from Vilayer. That’s just how is with this band ...

by AJ Ramirez

28 May 2010

“Cult” is a very appropriate word to use when describing the level of popularity Joy Division has attained. The group has never sold gangbusters, but it has tended to attract a very devout sort of following. Whether the subject is the clutch of serious-faced young fans in the late ‘70s often referred to as the Cult with No Name, or Johnny-come-latelys entranced by the myth of singer Ian Curtis’ tortured life and death, there’s always been something faintly religious about Joy Division’s appeal. Surely if one were to pick up one of the group’s record sleeves, the immaculate Peter Saville design would have them thinking they were picking up a holy document.

Of course, the music is the main draw. Even before Curtis committed suicide in May 1980, Joy Division was earning a place amongst the post-punk movement’s top-tier with its work. Yet Curtis’ sudden death wasn’t the total career killer one would expect. Simon Reynolds, author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 tells me that circa the band’s 1979 full-length debut Unknown Pleasures “they were like contenders, ones to watch, and then with Closer (under a year later) they were the Band—or at least right up there with PiL. They were well on their way towards that status before Curtis’s death but that really pushed them over the edge into premier league.”  It’s fair to say this dramatic rise in stock was aided by Joy Division exploiting an opening left by then-leading post-punk innovators Public Image Ltd. As Reynolds notes, “In ‘79 PiL were definitely the leading post-punk band, and then threw it away by doing nothing in 1980.” Reynolds cites the airplay the 1979 single “Transmission” enjoyed on radio shows by John Peel and other like-minded British DJs, yet adds “but also Unknown Pleasures must have just sold steadily and gone through word of mouth. You started to get people talking about the Cult with No Name, their overcoat clad fans, as a type.”

by Evan Sawdey

27 May 2010

Photo: Charles Izenstark

Supergroups are a rare thing—and jam band supergroups are even more elusive.

To a degree, it’s easy to see why: with frequent accusations of being far too indulgent at times, the idea of having multiple improv-based jam guitarists get together just to “see what happens” may not sit well with even the most hardcore of Bonnaroo devotees.

Yet 30db is no ordinary supergroup.  Composed as a partnership between Yonder Mountain String Band’s Jeff Austin and Umphrey McGee’s own Brendan Bayliss (along with some help from North Mississippi All-Stars’ Cody Dickinson), 30db is a remarkably cohesive, laid-back affair, with acoustic guitars dominating the proceedings.  Although tracks like the beautifully meandering “Instrumental in D” wouldn’t sound too out of place in either Austin’s or Bayliss’ discography, it never feels like the partners are resting on their laurels or pushing themselves to extreme ends: they’re creating music out of genuine collaboration, and the breezy vibe of One Man Band—30db’s debut album—has a welcome charisma all its own.

Jeff Austin took time out of his busy schedule to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions about himself and his project, expressing a strong love for all things Aqua Teen Hunger Force, tells us of his song-writing mandolin, and why he’s a self-described “orchid freak” ...

by Jessy Krupa

26 May 2010

Similar to how Barry Lenser set out to profile every song by the Beatles in a series of Sound Affects posts last year, I’ve decided to do the same for the solo work of Paul McCartney. In this installment, we take a look at “The Lovely Linda” the first track off McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney.

Though McCartney was a No.1 hit album that went double platinum in the US, it is still mostly remembered for the controversy behind it. Released the same month as Let It Be, it spelled the end of the Beatles. To this day, certain fans blame McCartney for the group’s break-up, and comments by his former bandmates about the quality of his early solo work didn’t help matters much.

However, “The Lovely Linda” fits in with the album’s overall low-key, do-it-yourself approach. Recorded as a way to quickly test out his new Studer 4-track tape recorder that he had installed in his home, it is arguably McCartney’s first ever solo recording. I say “recording” because I’m not really sure if it can be considered as an entire song or not. It’s only 43 seconds long and is comprised of 30 words, if you count the la’s. In fact, McCartney himself once referred to it as “a trailer to the full song which will be recorded in the future”. However, Webster’s dictionary defines a song as either a “short poem set to music” or “the act or practice of singing”. Whether it is or isn’t really a whole song doesn’t really matter, though, because it is so pleasant and has a certain charm to it. You can’t help but be touched by the story behind its meaning. Like much of the album that it appears on, it is a delightful ode to Linda McCartney, Paul’s wife and future Wings bandmate. As a matter of fact, it has been said that you can hear her footsteps walking through the room in the background.

Next time, we’ll look at “That Would Be Something”, another song inspired by Linda.

//Mixed media

Notes, Hoaxes, and Jokes: Silkworm's 'Lifestyle' - "Ooh La La"

// Sound Affects

"Lifestyle's penultimate track eases the pace and finds fresh nuance and depth in a rock classic, as Silkworm offer their take on the Faces' "Ooh La La".

READ the article