It’s just one of those albums that demand that sort of constant attention … Not to say that’s it's needy. In fact, it’s the opposite: It’s a giver.
It provides new wave beats so good they can charm those who don’t even like new wave, pop hooks that can catch the most cynical ear, and lines so sharp that they could slice a man in two before he even knows he was being cut.
Since I didn’t really know a damn thing about Say Hi To Your Mom, the cd was a complete -- and completely pleasant -- surprise.
Still, I needed to know more… So, I checked in with band frontman Eric Elbogen to ask him a dozen or so questions he’s probably heard a hundred times before.
But, in the end? I'd like to think we both learned something…
(Or else I might be writing while drunk again.)
Hi, Eric. How’s it going How long have you been doing this?
I started Say Hi To Your Mom in 2002. Before that I had been playing in bands for ten years and had been writing songs for about fourteen years. Wow, that makes me feel old ...
You were a solo artist for your first few albums. What made you decide to change to a full band?
I didn’t. Jeff and Chris had been touring with me for a couple years and we got along and they were good players and when it was time to make the record they got involved. I’m very glad they did.
I actually just played my last show with them though, because they’ve decided they don’t want to tour anymore. I’m about to move away from New York too, to the west coast somewhere, at least for a while.
I’ve heard you say elsewhere that Impeccable Blahs is, for lack of a better term, a concept album where all the songs are based around vampires. First off, why vampires?
Why not vampires?
Do all of the songs have that theme? I can certainly hear it in These Fangs, Blah Blah Blah, and She Just So Happens To Date The Prince of Darkness, but not in tracks like Sad … But Endearingly So.
The theme is there in all the songs, although it is a little more blatant in some. Sad is a song about vampires interviewing their potential prey.
Were you testing yourself by sticking with one theme?
Not so much testing myself as much as just making the writing process a little more interesting for myself.
Okay. You’re probably tired of talking about who your influences are. So let me ask you instead, how have your influences changed over the course of recording four albums?
I don’t know that they have changed because of making records. They change I guess because new, great records come out and when I hear them, it’s like they are giving me the finger, saying “Ha! Beat that, you wimp.”
What the name of your band from?
It’s actually my legal name, Eric Elbogen is just a pseudonym.
You just went on tour with Dirty on Purpose. How did that go? (Sorry, I missed you guys play in LA.)
It was great. I love those guys. And they party harder than Say Hi ever has, so hanging out with them redefined the idea of being in a rock band for me.
What’s next for you? Any new tour plans or recordings looming in your immediate future?
The next tour starts in a couple of weeks. It ends in mid-November, at which point I’m gonna drive all my stuff to the west coast, set up my studio and make another record.
The tour after that won’t happen until March, which will be a nice break for me because we will have toured on and off for half of 2006.
Last question: Who are you listening to these days?
Dirty on Purpose, The Silversun Pickups, Hot Chip, Spoon, Thom Yorke, Sunset Rubdown, Tokyo Police Club, Dr. Dog, Bjork, The Long Winters, and that new Yo La Tengo record, which I think is incredible.
That’s it! Thanks for your time, Eric.
Say Hi To Your Mom returns to Chicago on October 13th for a gig at Schubas with The Evangelicals.
Fear the Sadies. Anyone who attended Schubas on Saturday night was assaulted in a most malicious, unrelenting way. I've noticed sometimes that Schubas is advertised (somewhat jokingly?) as having “hardcore honky tonk nightly.” On most nights I would be prone to question this statement, especially considering just a few hours earlier on Saturday night David Bazan of Pedro the Lion took the stage (no disrespect, though), but with the Sadies on the bill there could be no dispute.
The evening began tame enough with a movie entitled Tales of the Rat Fink. The film, a documentary about the life of hot rod & custom car designer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, leans towards the psychedelic and surreal. It is largely a montage of photos mixed with some animation. John Goodman narrates, as the voice of Big Daddy himself, and The Sadies provided the soundtrack. I have to admit, I did not watch the move in its entirety; but if anything, the film may help some understand that the name Von Dutch is much more than just fashion fodder for obnoxious celebrities.
First on the bill was Heavy Trash, which consisted of Matt Verta-Ray, Jon Spencer (yes, the Jon Spencer of Blues Explosion fame) and the Sadies serving as a back-up band. They formed a cohesive unit, as does any Sadies backed band/collaboration, and ripped through every track on the Heavy Trash self-titled album with style. Jon Spencer is a very engaging performer who has the presence of a televangelist combined with the moves of a 70’s-era Elvis (sans the bloated, on-too-many-meds look). I seriously mean that as a compliment …after a slew of indie rock shows lately, he may be the most electrifying front man I have seen in months. The performance could have easily been a headlining set on most nights in most venues. This set flowed seamlessly into the Sadies later set, really making this seem more of a two set show than two different bands.
After a break, The Sadies were back on stage. Much is made about The Sadies in their varying backing roles, most notably for Neko Case on the extraordinary live album The Tigers Have Spoken. The fact is the Sadies are exceptional in any package, including when they take the stage on their own. While the Sadies may not be the most mobile performers, it quickly becomes apparent that this music can stand on its own. The music does not warrant any dog and pony show, as gimmicks are simply not needed here. They blazed through tracks spanning their entire catalog, with no shortage of their trademark barn burnin’, surf style, western-inspired instrumentals.
As to be expected from a Sadies show, they were joined throughout the night by a plethora of guests, including Jon Langford and Sally Timms. The ease they display in morphing into the ideal backing band for whoever steps on stage is something to behold. The evening closed, as it started, with Jon Spencer fronting the band for the last few numbers. The evening was at its most electric with this combination, peaking as Jon Spencer jumped into the crowd to finish the set.
As the night came to a close I was left to consider two questions: Are the Sadies the best live act going? And how is this Canadian band able to play Americana, better than most American bands?
-Words and photos by Rory O'Connor...click here for the complete photoset
For the suburban faithful out there, The Sadies are playing again tonight at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn.
Langhorne Slim was born in the 80’s and hails from Pennsylvania but his music sounds like it came right out of the dust bowl era and has roots in that urgent, desperate part of the south where Woody Guthrie once roamed and a Hank Williams once howled. Like these artists Langhorne Slim appears to have a knack for crossing boundaries and bridging gaps. While his album plays like pure Folk and Country, it feels assembled in an atmosphere of rock.
RFC will get your name on the list (plus a guest) if you can answer this country rock trivia courtesty of Rory:
Give us the name of that seminal Byrds album, that had Roger McGuinn trading in his jangling 12-string for a banjo. It is often cited as the very first country rock album (a dubious tag indeed!)
Send your responses to: radiofreechicago(at)gmail.com. If there are multiple responses, we'll pick the 5th correct entry. An additonal winner chosen at random will also receive a Langhorne Slim signed poster. Good luck! (remember, you must be 21+ to visit The Empty Bottle)
I have the utmost respect for Rhys Chatham, who has worked with everyone from Phillip Glass to Steve Reich and from Brian Eno to Glenn Branca. Yet, to be honest, I found myself being very disappointed in his set. The reason for this is mainly because he was performing as part of his heavy metal band, which featured himself on guitar with another guitarist and a drummer to create some minimalist metal that I unfortunately couldn’t relate to at all or connect with emotionally. The few times Rhys Chatham approached the microphone, he spoke with a gentle soft spoken demeanor that didn’t quite match the assaulting chords he strummed. It’s clear Rhys Chatham is an incredibly talented musician who has added a substantial amount of history to mysic with his contributions as a composer. I just hope next time he leaves the metal bit at home.
Jana Hunter from Texas came out and sang bluesy songs accompanied by her guitar. She sang with a much deeper voice than I expected and she seemed so pure to me in a way with such minimal guitar effects and just a small fender amp. The Empty Bottle felt much more intimate somehow with her on stage.
Tim Hecker from Vancouver, Canada plays electronic music that felt very tidal with Brian Eno-esque tones from his ambient era. To describe it, the music swarmed around the audience warmly but there was a presence lurking there amidst all of this that wasn’t as bright as it could have been. The full effect was dark at times but interesting with the unfortunate downfall that Hecker wasn’t very engaging to watch as he mainly just stood on a dark stage and pressed buttons on his PowerBook. It was definitely more of a set to close your eyes to and concentrate on listening and feeling.
An official announcement hasn't been made. We're working on it. What I can say is that we ARE coming back. The final details will be revealed shortly. There's still some loose ends and tech things that have to be resolved, but things are moving forward.
I unpacked the main music library yesterday and refiled everything back on the walls of the studio, so hopefully that gives you a sense that this is the real deal!
The Wire teamed up with Chicago’s Empty Bottle to bring us Adventures in Modern Music, a 5-day festival showcasing an experimental and diverse lineup of musicians and bands from all over the world. On this night alone, local musicians gathered with those from Oregon, France, and Brazil for an incredible night that would not have been possible if not for The Wire. (The Wire is a great UK-based magazine for experimental and outer limits independent music. It's a bit expensive, but is worth the cost as it comes with a nice CD sampler of the bands it covers.)
Spires that in the Sunset Rise I agree with the way that the Spires describe themselves:
...the music is a repellant and magnetizing swarm of harps, guitars, cello, drums, harmonium, banjo, mbira, spike fiddle, bells, and vocals.
Although technically a four piece, they perfromed as a three piece, though their sound was still quite rich and full. I shouldn’t be too surprised music like this is coming out of Chicago. We do have a significant art scene here and this is definitely music created for and by artists with such emotional eccentricity that you feel literally like you’re being haunted by the sounds. The cello was especially beautiful and there were times when the vocals were like half angelic pained cries. At one point, the chilling sound of a scraping pen writing along the edge of an instrument caused shivers to creep up one’s spine. This small orchestra might be speaking for the actual Earth at times. It definitely serves as a rebuttal for all those who think nothing original is being created anymore. These aren’t anything close to pop songs but are nonetheless rewarding if embraced by the eccentric in all of us.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Yellow Swans is a two piece experimental band who seemed like they were going to put on a deafening set of noise until they submerged themselves into a more melodic form focusing on a less assaulting repetition between the guitar, pedal effects, and noise generator. Hear their songs by visiting them on myspace
Colleen is actually Cécile Schott, a French artist who plays beautifully lush instrumentals by looping guitar, cello, and clarinet then fills the remaining air with the sound of wind chimes. She was just lovely while the music inspired a touching sort of emotion in me ala Clint Mansell’s soundtrack work on Requiem for a Dream, only not as dark. It’s very magical both in the live setting and on her two fantastic full length albums: Everyone Alive Wants Answers and The Golden Morning Breaks.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from Brazil’s Tetine (pictured above). Eliete Mejorado came out clad in a bright golden metallic one piece bodysuit complete with a horse’s tail attached to her. Bruno Verner’s dress was much more modest in contrast but he was just as passionate while singing. They both sang and the songs were very keyboard dependent as well. They were captivating, raunchy, and created very danceable music which, even though the lyrics weren’t sung in English, was pretty easy to guess at subject matter wise. If you like CSS, check out Tetine.
More coverage of the festival to come...check out the complete photoset here
The Changes - Today Is Tonight (Drama Club)
After two EPs, Chicago indie darlings The Changes finally hit the big time with their debut full-length, a jangly pop affair perfect for autumnal listening. The official album release party is at Double Door next month (more on that later), though you can check them out today at the Virgin Megastore.
Download: The Changes - "When I Wake" (MP3)
Solomon Burke - Nashville (Shout)
Four Tet - Remixes (Domino)
Emily Haines - Knives Don't Have Your Back (Last Gang)
Indie heartthrob and favorite front woman of hip guys and girls everywhere, Emily Haines (of Metric and Broken Social Scene), is stepping out of band format and is set to release her first solo album, Knives Don’t Have Your Back. You may hear faint traces of her other bands in this work, but this collection of songs listens more like a chapter from Emily’s personal diary, which makes sense as the album’s content is borne of four years spent living in four different cities while on tour with Metric. With stark piano melodies, and haunting vocals Emily proves her stock as one of the leading ladies in rock today. -Filter
Download: Emily Haines - "Doctor Blind" (MP3)
The Lemonheads - The Lemonheads (Vagrant)
After a solo release in 2003, Evan Dando returns with the first Lemonheads record in a decade. Of course The Lemonheads where pretty much just Dando anyway, though it appears this record should rock quite a bit more than the Jon Brion-produced solo effort. Backing up Dando this time around are ex-Descendants Bill Stevenson (drums) and Karl Alvarez (bass).
Download: The Lemonheads - "No Backbone" (MP3)
Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah (Universal)
Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain (Astralwerks)
Teddy Bears - Soft Machine (Big Beat)
Wolf Eyes - Human Animal (Sub Pop)
Basically, the founder of LaLa, a pretty ingenious, legally above-ground CD sharing service that debuted a few months back, has "discovered" the smoldering ashes of WOXY and is looking to help them pull a Phoenix. This would still be in the name of his company's interests, of course, but the WOXY story would dovetail nicely with LaLa's customer friendly, more-transparent-than-not M.O.
Stay tuned, we'll keep you posted...
We spoke with the Khaela half of the Jona Bechtolt/Khaela Maricich duo earlier this week, while the two are in the midst of touring the country opening up for Australia's Architecture in Helsinki.
And here's a look at how it all went:
Hey there, Khaela. How you doing? How’s Portland treating you?
Hey, Joe! I’m doing pretty good. I can't tell how Portland is treating me. I’m in Houston, far enough away that if Portland is snubbing me, I can't note the effects. Nor the potential kisses.
How did The Blow first come together? Where did the name come from?
The name came from the mouth of my friend's son, years ago, when he was about two years old. (He's eleven now.) They lived in a converted school bus, and the wind would blow through when the door was opened. One time he said, "Close the door! The blow!"
The band started out more with more of a raw acoustic sound and then became more poppy and electronic later. That came out of the start of your collaboration together, right?
Yeah, the raw stuff was me by myself. When Jona and I hooked up, the sound went pure electric. We were like, "let's make some songs, totally in the style of mainstream chart-toppers. Let's go all the way out."
How did you decide to work together?
Well, it was like your basic playground relationship story. It started out that we just kind of ended up playing a song together at the What-The-Heck-Festival, in Anacortes, in 2003. So, that was like the incidental first brush with love.
Later that year, I asked him if he'd want to make beats for a song of mine. He said yeah, and we did it, and it turned out well, and happened so easily (for the song Hock It). This part was us talking for a minute by the water fountain.
Then, our friends Steve Shcroeder and Zac Pennington set us up. They made a limited edition EP series (called the Pregnancy Series), and they asked us if we would work together and make the first EP for the series. We agreed to do it. Steve literally was the one who called me and asked me about the idea. This part was our friends pulling us each aside, and being like, "Hey, you know that he/she likes you, don't you?"
And, then, it just worked out. We carved our names in the table.
This is the part where I artlessly mention that Hock It and Hey, Boy are two of my favorite songs from the last few years. (I couldn’t work it in anywhere else.)
Holy shit! What a compliment! Those are the first two songs we recorded together.
What’s the new album like? How’s it different from the last?
I wonder how the new album is different. We pretty much continued working in exactly the same way as we had before, the only difference being that there was a year or so of time in between the recording. Maybe you can listen and tell us what's different.
What was the process like creating it?
Ahhhh the process. Making things is wild, you know. It's the stuff of wild animals. I think when people work together, the process churns up and brings out the absolute best in people, alternating with their absolute worst. It's powerful stuff, bring new things into the world.
The literal process usually goes that I lay around my apartment and make up words, and sing them to myself. And then I go find Jona and we sit at his desk and he drives the computer, and I do a fair share of back seat driving-- He will be making a beat, and I will be saying, "Hey, what about in this part we make a sound like if there were silvery fish going by?"
He either does or doesn't get a little exasperated, and then he inevitably finds a way to make the perfect sound that is exactly like silvery fish. We get a little tired and we go out for tofutti cuties.
What’s next for you? You’re just about to start touring?
We are both about to start touring, on two different tours. Jona will be doing his solo show as YACHT, and I will be touring as The Blow, playing the music from the new record. That promises to continue for a while, and then after that? I might set up a face painting booth at a fair, or go build a house for someone in a place where there was a flood.
Last question: What are you listening to right now that you like?
- A cd my friend Lucas Grey made where he reads aloud from his dreams, with music accompanying in the background.
- Arthur Russel: Another Thought.
- Dear Nora: Mountain Rock.
- That song Toxic by Brittany Spears.
That’s it! Thanks for your time.
RadioFreeChicago v2.0 is coming very soon and to celebrate the new site we're throwing a big bash (aka "BANDWIDTH...A Launch Party Revolution") at the Kinetic Playground on Friday, October 6th. Also joining us in the celebration festivities will be the local indie music site Future Perfect Radio, who just launched their site last month. Of course, hanging out with a bunch of Bloggers and music dorks isn't that exciting, so we've rounded up with some great local acts to keep you entertained all night long:
More details to come...
ALSO, if for some reason you happen to be reading this from the greater Los Angeles area, be sure to check out our sister site's debut concert series in Hollywood tomorrow night:
Update: Wristbands will not be distributed until 5PM on the day of the show, at the club. One wristband per person/profile.
Vashti Bunyan is delicate, magical, and enchanting. She could charm thousand-year-old oak trees in a forest to start whispering a melody. Playing with a six piece ensemble that included Helena-Espvall from Espers, Vashti filled the air with her songs and you could just tell they sounded exactly the way she wished them to. She thanked the other performers several times and expressed both her gratitude and shock that she would have the opportunity to bring her songs to an audience with such accomplished musicians playing with her. Instruments accompanying her included violin, guitar, cello, flute and more.
Vashti sang a collection of older material from 1970's Just Another Diamond Day and newer material from 2005’s Lookaftering. She also spoke quite a bit about her songs. She expressed how her newer songs were about her children while her older songs seemed to dwell on a journey of 700 miles to Scotland that she took on horseback with a man who broke her heart. It apparently took her two summers and a winter to make this journey and left a clear impression on her. She had such an intimate grace while she was speaking that made you feel like you could be listening to her speak in a small coffeehouse.
The most surprising thing about the set was how juxtaposed amongst each other the songs all took on a different feel. Being brought to life, it almost seemed as if they had been completely removed from the time element of it all. The songs just belonged everywhere in every time period, perhaps because in some respect they are very pure folk songs in what they achieve. It was a real joy to see and hear Vashti Bunyan and I do hope that more people increasingly see her worth. As in the case of some other unrecognized musicians of that genre, Sibylle Baier and Bridget St. John for example, Vashti Bunyan adds something vital to this world and it is enriching to listen to.
I was fairly confident walking in to the Double Door on Tuesday night that I knew exactly what to expect from the evening’s show. After all, I had seen the Slideshow Players a little while back and I knew the premise of the band had not changed. I also watched their recently released DVD no more than 3 weeks ago. In some ways I was justified in my confidence. I believe they only introduced one new song into the mix and I was well prepared for the level of kitsch they would reach. At the end of the day though, it is safe to say my confidence was a little premature.
One simply can’t be fully prepared for the oddity that is the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. They are not an oddity in that Man Man way (that leans more towards insanity doesn’t it?). The oddness does not suck you in, but rather induces a slight confusion that subtly persuades you in and may even comfort you in some way. For starters, I was not prepared for the opening sales pitch/presentation for ("Super D"?) connectors that Jason Trachtenburg laid upon us. It would also be near impossible to be ready for his random thoughts and banter in between songs. In many ways this banter is what keeps the show moving and feeling fresh. The man is unquestionably funny and in the end, the lasting appeal of their show is its comic aspect in song, slides and banter. The whole set was short but it felt just about right. Many of the songs couldn’t have topped the 2 minute mark. The songs have a very elementary feel but can be exceedingly catchy. They are catchy much in the way a commercial jingle is catchy and I am apt to believe this is not entirely unintentional, given the nature of what they do and Jason Trachtenburg’s penchant for satirizing American consumerism. They went through all the hits such as “Look at Me,” “What Will the Corporation Do?,” “Wendy’s, Sambo’s and Long John Silver’s” and closed with the near painfully infectious “Mountain Trip to Japan 1959.”
To critique this show any further would feel a bit absurd, much like their music. I will say on an entertainment level their show is a smashing success. I am not certain how long an act like this will last or can last, but I am not inclined to discuss it because the family seems wholly unaffected by such thoughts. It simply doesn’t really matter.
(words and photos by Rory O'Connor)