Metavari Q&A

Metavari

Last fall, we spoke with Metavari, the ambient four-piece band from Fort Wayne, at Pinestock Music Festival (which has turned into one of the best fests in the midwest). We talked about their live show, new album Moonless, one of my favorite albums in this young 2015, and reuniting as a new band with the same name. Moonless is out today on their independent label Vital Shores.

 

LxL: So you guys are releasing Moonless on your own?

Nate Utesch, Metavari: Basically. 6 months ago I started working at a record label (Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans/Jagjaguwar Jagjaguwar), so working with my boss, we started our own label to put it out. It will have international digital distribution, really limited American record store distribution, but it’s a lot more than we would normally do. And we have copyrights and publishing for everything. Unless something crazy happens, we are going to keep putting out our own music. And nowadays there are so many bands doing that.

LxL: That way you are getting most of the pie?

M: Totally. Also, with doing it on our own we will have more control for radio. Also since I do all of our design, I can design all our press kits and stuff. It’s really DIY. It may be a control thing, but we like having control over our distribution.

LxL: More and more, there is a huge benefit to that.

M: We will have lots of ways to be able to see where we are doing well. We will be able to see if Spokane is selling a lot, or if there is a radio station that is playing it a lot, that would help design where a tour should be. Right now, it’s more like throwing darts at a wall. It should help guide where we tour.

LxL: I did an interview with the NoiseTrade guys, and a big part of their model, is with the free downloads, you get the emails and zipcodes, and with that data, it tells you where you should be touring. In a lot of situations, bands were very surprised by the results, and had no idea they had 500 fans in Nashville.

M: We have one fan in Hawaii, so we should definitely go there.

LxL: (Laughing) Are you guys going to have videos for the new live show?

M: Yes we just finished all new video for all the new songs, lights, everything is new but done. We have been playing demos for a year and a half, and now we just scrapped all the demos and are learning how to play all the songs on the record. This is really just our second time even playing those (at Pinestock).

LxL: Where do you guys get the footage?

M: This time around, we just hunted and scoured for people doing analog experiments and then are asking permission to use it. From people doing macro lense liquid light shows that are very bizarre looking, and we found a guy doing analog VHS tricks in the 80’s, stuff like starfades. We just take the footage and bring it into Ableton and edit it to the songs so that it’s in sync.

LxL: Did that take a lot of time?

M: Yes (laughing). One of the songs, during our album photo shoot, a guy took video of the girl that is on the cover, and we meshed that to video sound effects, so we have some video that clearly goes with our album.

LxL: What originally inspired you to do video with your show?

M: That’s a good question. There are so many bands grew up that we liked that did it.

LxL: You guys definitely sounded similar to bands that did video as well like Sigur Ros and Album Leaf.

M: Yea definitely, and I think that was a big part of it. We were doing music that sounded a lot more like that, and then that became a substantive part of who we are. It definitely still is a gimmick, but it’s not as gimimicky as it used to be. We have also found more of an identity with the videos we choose, to figure out a vibe in the video that fits us.

LxL: How is this record different than your  other stuff?

M: Honestly, it really sounds like Metavari broke up and we all happened to start a new band with each other, and we couldn’t think of any names, so we just called it Metavari. It’s not really like post-rock or instrumental. It’s electronic and closer to pop music.

LxL: It really reminds me of Air and Mew.

M: I could see that.

LxL: Where did you get the vocal samples for Moonless.

M: All the singing on the album are us, except for one is Chelsea from Beat Connection from Seattle. They are too cool for us, but she somehow agreed to do it. I am friends with her in the design world. I publish an illustration magazine, and she is in a coming issue, and that’s how we met, so when we found out she was in Beat Connection, we decided we should be more than friends.

LxL: What were you guys listening to when making the record?

M: So much Phil Collins. I love Phil Collins. I bought a really old engineering book that Hugh Padgham had a whole lot of chapters in and he talked about the gate on Phil’s toms, and we spent a whole lot of time trying to get that right. I probably shouldn’t say that, because when you listen to that, it probably sounds like hell.

LxL: If you were to tell people to listen to Moonless doing one activity, what would it be?

M: Contemplating suicide? (laughing) Probably driving. Even the records that didn’t sound like that, we wanted all our records to sound like good driving records.

LxL: What’s your problem with the moon (in regards to the album title)?

M: It’s deeper than it needs to be. It’s the idea of removing something important, and then thinking about what life would be like. We had a really shitty years  as humans. And we wanted to make music that showed removing something important, and something that defines you, and then think about how your life is different and writing about it. The moon in Moonless is a wife in one track, but could be an aspect of spirituality in another track, or friendship in another track. I’m making it sound more cheesy than it is, but that was the underlying concept. So it’s pretty dark at times.

LxL: Well obviously if you took the moon out of it it would be pretty dark.

M: (laughing) There is one song where it’s this really corny story about the moon disappearing, and Japan flooding, and this girl on her computer in the midst of it. It’s all around loss.

Watch the Moonless trailer below:

 

 

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Your 2015 Grammys Recap

grammy-awards

Our Grammy recap is below…

sleeping-snoopy

There you have it! Your 2015 Grammys! Maybe next year they can move it from CBS and stop doing a weird duet every performance, and we will switch it up to this:

Dancing_snoopy

 

But don’t get your hopes up too much. It’s the Grammy’s after all.

U2 Vs. Thom Yorke: The Surprise Album Shakedown

U2 vs. Thom Yorke: The Surprise Album Shakedown

The last month has brought two high-profile surprise albums in U2’s Songs of Innocence and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s second solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. As we all know, there can only be one surprise album champion, so I thought I would go through five rounds of criteria (announcement, distribution, price, reach, and ultimately, the music) to decide who won the September Surprise Shakedown. Two men enter the ring, only one can leave.

Round #1: Announcement

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U2: The Irish lads of U2 have long aimed to be the biggest band in the world (and at times have been), so unsurprisingly they used the most anticipated media event of the fall in Apple’s Summit introducing the iPhone 6 and iWatch, to announce their album. They even came out onstage, performed a couple of the new songs, and had an awkward exchange with Apple CEO Tim Cook. During the presentation, they revealed the album would instantly be in your iTunes upon the announcement, even if it didn’t set up that nicely. It was a big announcement, but a bit botched.

Thom Yorke: On a slow-news Friday, Thom Yorke announced in letter co-authored with long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich that he was experimenting with a new form that would bypass the normal gates of distribution and was experimenting with a way that put the power in the creators’ hands. This was much more low-key, but much more intimate towards fans.

Winner: Thom Yorke

 yorke

Round #2: Distribution

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U2: Using the biggest online music store to distribute a free album certainly sounds like a good idea on the surface, but Apple and U2 couldn’t have botched it worse. U2 would have been looked upon honorably if Apple would have just left Songs of Innocence in the iTunes store to be searched for and downloaded. Instead, Apple persisted the music onto every iTunes library and cloud connected Apple device, causing the album to feel more spam than a nice gift on the house.

Thom Yorke: Quite opposite of iTunes, Yorke used BitTorrent, a program notorious for illegally shared and pirated music, for his form of distribution. This definitely has to help his indie cred with such a subversive approach.

Winner: Thom Yorke

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Round #3: Price

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U2: It’s hard to argue with free, but it does seem to take away from the charitable aspect of it when you realize Apple reportedly paid U2 $100 million for the rights to distribute it for free. Regardless of what the band was paid though, free is a clear advantage to the listener.

Thom Yorke: Yorke sold Tomororow’s Modern Boxes for a very reasonable $6, on again a download software notorious for free and illegal music. This is an interesting and no doubt surprising approach.

Winner: U2

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Round #4: Reach

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U2: Through its spammy approach, U2 did reach over half a billion iTunes customers, which is truly mind-blowing. And even though all we are hearing about is the kids who are trying to do whatever they can to remove the stale-old Dad rock from their iPhones, there were clearly tons of people for whom Songs of Innocence was their first experience with U2, they loved it, and wanted more. In fact, 26 of U2 albums (including various greatest hits collections) made the iTunes top #100, which is unprecedented that they owned more than a quarter of the top 100.

Thom Yorke: The biggest downfall of Yorke’s approach is how BitTorrent isn’t owned by half a billion people like iTunes, although there is still close to 150 million users. The average layperson probably doesn’t know what BitTorrent is, but that’s not really who Yorke is targeting his music towards. I would guess that the majority of Yorke’s fans know and use BitTorrent often, so I think he is reaching exactly who he wants to.

Winner: U2

 u2

The Main Event: The Music

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U2: When it comes down to it, you have to believe Apple didn’t listen to Songs of Innocence before offering U2 $100 million because it’s about as mediocre as U2 has been in quite some time. It’s the sound of U2 recycled through modern rock music and then mimicked by U2. Basically U2 replicating U2 Wannabes.  On my favorite podcast of the moment, the hilarious U Talkin’ U2 to Me, Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott actually gushed over the new album for two hours, which shocked me since it was the first truly positive thing I have heard about the album. Regardless of what Scott and Scott think though, beyond Lykke Li’s guest spot on “Troubles”, this is an instantly forgettable album.

Thom Yorke: This is the most definitive winner, as Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is miles better than Songs of Innocence. It’s tender, dense, and mesmerizing from start to finish. While it falls slightly short of The Eraser (which I love), it instantly deserves to be in end of year consideration.

Winner: Thom Yorke

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Surprise Shakedown Winner: Thom Yorke

Celebration dance.
Celebration dance.

 

Pinestock Festival 2014 Recap

Pinestock Music Festival

September 6th, 2014

Churubusco, IN

 pinestock music festival 2014 recap

Churubusco, Indiana isn’t known for much beyond turtles (it’s high school mascot) and this creepy burger restaurant with clown dolls, but Pinestock Music Festival in the last four years has given Churubusco a new name. And that’s home of one of the best fests in the Midwest.
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Lamenting a Fallen Artist and Other Thoughts on Robert Randolph: Part 2

rob randolphEditor’s Note:  Check out Part 1 of Austin’s piece here

Between 2004 and 2010 I got to see Robert Randolph gain a lot of notoriety and success.  I got to see him steal the show on the Grammy’s.  Unclassified (2003) and Colorblind (2006) were really solid records for an artist known mostly for his live performances.  But, slowly, starting in maybe 2007 or so, I was subjected to seeing Randolph lose a little bit of flavor just about every time.  I don’t think I was seeing too many shows, maybe twice per year or three tops.  The playing time went from two and a half to three hours to about an hour and a half.  The setlist flatlined at mostly the biggest hits off of his two most popular albums.  And the lineup behind Randolph never seemed to be the same.
Continue reading “Lamenting a Fallen Artist and Other Thoughts on Robert Randolph: Part 2”

Lamenting a Fallen Artist and Other Thoughts on Robert Randolph: Part 1

Robert Randolph

Nope, Robert Randolph isn’t dead.  He also didn’t retire or do some horrible thing essentially ending his career.  It’s just been a really long time since Randolph did anything to catch my attention, and believe me, I would really like Robert Randolph to catch my attention again.  So, why am I writing about him right now, you ask?  Randolph has been brought to my consciousness twice in the past several weeks pretty randomly.

First, Wes wrote his Public Service announcement piece on heckles, reminding me of the time I effectively heckled Robert Randolph into a top notch performance (more on that later).  The second was looking at the schedule for the Roots n’ Blues festival, and seeing Randolph lined up against Rosanne Cash, and deciding in my head there is no question I will see Cash if I make it to the festival.  So, Robert Randolph is on my mind.  Hit the jump for a brief history of my love affair, the fall, and how I single-handedly took a RR concert from a 3 to a 10.
Continue reading “Lamenting a Fallen Artist and Other Thoughts on Robert Randolph: Part 1”

Public Service Announcement: Ticket Scalpers, You Are the Worst Kind of Human Being

ticket scalpers

We have all been there. Your favorite band is coming into town, and tickets go on sale at 9:00 AM on Friday morning. You are at your computer at 8:45 AM, just for good measure. Ticketmaster.com is most likely, and most unfortunately, the place of purchase. At 8:55 AM you begin to refresh the webpage, just to make sure the ticket status has not been changed a few minutes early. At 8:56, you refresh again. 8:57, refresh, nothing. 8:58, refresh, still no change. Now is when it gets real: 8:59 AM. For the next 60 seconds, it is a go time! Refresh, load, nothing. Refresh, load, nothing. Refresh, load, nothing. Only 20 seconds have gone by since the clock struck 8:59, but it has felt like 2 hours. The process continues as your now sweaty palms begin to drip onto the keyboard and your heart palpitates wildly.

Finally, the time has come. You click that refresh icon, and something happens. The load wheel is spinning, the page is taking longer to load, and the clock now reads 9:00 AM. “This is it!”, you think to yourself. Your heart begins to race even faster. Spots begin to blur your vision as the excitement of seeing your favorite band for the first time becomes real. Your imagination runs wild with the thought of where your seats will be. “Surely I have to be in the front few rows,” you think to yourself. And why wouldn’t you be? You were there the moment the tickets went on sale! Not only are you proud of yourself, but the friend that you are also buying a ticket for is about to view you as a true hero. The page finally loads. The last five minutes have felt like five years, and all the life’s work you have put into those last “five years” begins to culminate as the text of the page slowly populates your screen. You try to calm yourself. You clear your vision to read the results of this stressful, laboring effort and here it is… “Sold Out!”
Continue reading “Public Service Announcement: Ticket Scalpers, You Are the Worst Kind of Human Being”