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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 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 Evan Sawdey

21 May 2010

The Wave Pictures are what many would call a “hidden gem” of a band: a group who write amazing songs, quietly release brilliant albums heralded by the likes of Daniel Johnston and John Darnielle, but still have gone relatively unnoticed outside of (or, hell, even in) their native UK homeland. 

Yet, at the same time, frontman David Tattersall doesn’t seem much to care. Although many of the indie-rock templates are evident in his music—the swaying strings, the group singalongs—what makes the Wave Pictures different is its entirely homespun feel.  These songs sound like they were recorded in an open-air kitchen at time, on the porch another. The Wave Pictures pride themselves in not being studio fetishists, letting the songs speak for themselves, and, as such, each album from the Wave Pictures has its own lo-fi charm, a sweet naiveté that almost makes you forget just how well-composed the tracks in question are.

As such, Tattersall is no doubt excited that his band’s two most recent albums—Instant Coffee Baby and If You Leave It Alone—are finally getting wide-spread distribution in America (a first for the band), coupled together in a glorious double-disc package that shows just how fun, crazed, and downright enjoyable the Wave Pictures’ music truly is.  o celebrate, Tattersall took on PopMatters’ 20 Questions, and reveals an out-and-out love of D.H. Lawrence and Bukowski, an aversion towards sci-fi, and reveals which Lou Reed album is truly the greatest of all time ...

by Evan Sawdey

13 May 2010

Photo: Jeremy Balderson

Matt Pond has been in “renegade” mode as of late.

In 2008, the noted indie-rock stylist behind Matt Pond PA made a few rather unexpected moves. First off, he made a bit of an unexpected mainstream concession by covering My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not OK (I Promise)” for the second volume of the Guilt By Association series. Then, shortly thereafter, put out a brand new EP for free online (its too-appropriate title? The Freeep). Although fans rapturously responded, the EP was then promptly pulled, only to be released a year later under a different title and on pay sites like iTunes. Some wondered if there was some label-wrangling that happened during this time, but for Pond, he just turned it into another opportunity.

As a way to promote his new album The Dark Leaves, Pond used The Freeep experiment as a way to launch a trilogy of EPs called The Threeep, each one headlined by a track from The Dark Leaves as a way of building up hype. Now, with Dark Leaves finally out and the third and final Threeep installment on its way, Matt Pond took some time out to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, revealing that he doesn’t discriminate against science fiction universes, his power to talk animals out of eating him, and why he enjoys drinking with his good buddy Stress ...

//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