Anyone who saw The Devil Makes Three live knew what all the fuss was about: here is a group that infused Americana traditions with an unabashedly modern energy that caused any ears within a mile radius to buzz with excitement. Anyone who heard the early Devil Makes Three records heard something more: a solid group that showed promise but didn’t necessarily light the world on fire. For so long, the trio of guitarist Pete Bernhard, bassist Lucia Turino, and banjo-player extraordinaire Cooper McBean hadn’t figured out how to translate their live shows into the studio, at least not until 2011’s Stomp and Smash and their 2013 followup I’m a Stranger Here.
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It all started with a mix. Well, more accurately, it started as a remix.
For both Richard Norris and Erol Alkan, these two young Londoners started out, by themselves, as Djs, Alkan focusing more on dance and electronic music, Norris befriend Joe Strummer and playing on some of the Clash maestro’s latter-day creations. It wasn’t until 2006 that, after having rejiggered some tracks under his own name, Alkan began using the Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve moniker. Norris had joined in, and the group, gaining notoriety for productions of artists of both the underground (Midlake) and the mainstream (Franz Ferdinand, The Chemical Brothers) variety, started making the name for themselves. EPs and singles would trickle out here and there, but outside of 2008 compilation of their earlier recordings, nothing concrete.
What a joy it is, then, that The Soft Bounce is here, and goodness is it a mishmash of so many varied things. From the hippie-friendly go-go bounce of “Creation” to the ‘80s synth homage “Diagram Girl” to the ambient instrumental “Tomorrow, Forever” to the string-driven mod number “Door to Tomorrow”, The Soft Bounce encompasses so much but still originates from the group’s clearly-defined psych-friendly aesthetic.
Thus, to help celebrate the occasion, the two Wizards themselves answered PopMatters 20 Questions, revealing a love of truffle oils, an affinity towards author John Higgs, and some remarkably practical advice for handling life’s problems.
Maybe you had to be there—but hell, maybe you didn’t.
At the Hideout, an appropriately-named Chicago bar and venue that is so dubbed for being sandwiched (hidden, arguably) between the Chicago river and one of its great highways, a four-act set was performing that evening for a fun literary and vaguely hipster-y crowd. The opening sets were fine, but by the time that New Jersey’s own Miracles of Modern Science took the stage, with mandolin, double-bass, violin, cello, and a tight drum set, the crowd knew they were in for something special, but after hitting the crowd with instantly-hummable pop hooks, chant-along vocals, some beautiful melodic gestures, and a genuine sense of fun and chemistry, everyone in the room turned into a fan (the group went third, and the act that followed played to half-capacity as so many swarmed the band and purchased merch). Realizing they had about ten minutes left in their set though, the “MOMS” took all their instruments out into the crowd and played one hell of a cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and followed that up with their maniacal, bloody, whimsical gothic horror song that was the secret track off of their first-ever album and was dubbed, tellingly, “Secret Track”. Every band member became a character, their faces and voices stretched into cartoon proportions, and it made for one of the most unique shows that went on in Chicago in 2015.
Last month, PopMatters hosted the premiere of The Stone Foxes’ live performance video for “This Town” from their September release Twelve Spells. The week before the premiere of their video, The Stone Foxes were in New York City for a sweaty, headlining show at the Mercury Lounge. They also visited a studio to record some tracks for the world wide web. We had a beer and hung out with the guys in between recording sessions and got to know them a little better. Drummer and singer Shannon Koehler co-founder the band with his guitarist/brother Spence and their friends, Brian “The Buffalo” Bakalian on bass, Vince Dewald on guitars and Ben Andrews on guitar and violin, round out the group.
Maritime’s journey has been one of upsetting people’s expectations.
When the group was formed, the excitement of merging the members of the now-defunct Promise Ring (Davey bon Bohlen and Dan Didier) together with the then-finished Dismemberment Plan (bassist Alex Axelson) was enough to send the writer of your nearest indie-rock Blogspot into a spasm of delight. Yet the group’s first-ever set, Glass Floor, arrived in 2004 with a hushed murmur, as this new band was intent on exploring exploring mellower, acoustic textures that caught fans of both the Ring and the Plan off guard. Despite its somewhat muted reception, Glass Floor contained some rather lovely, beautiful moments, along with “Someone Has to Die”, a song that was soon picked up by The Onion’s A.V. Club as the soundtrack to their long-running Undercover series, which, in an intresting twist, was updated in later seasons to “It’s Casual”, off of 2011’s Human Hearts.