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interview

The Black Ryder’s Aimee Nash On Music, L.A. Life & What’s Next

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Since delivering their debut album ‘Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride’ in 2009, The Black Ryder have survived a number of tough years. The Australian duo (Aimée Nash & Scott Von Ryper) have relocated to Los Angeles, dealt with divorce, lost friends and juggled their own label The Anti-Machine Machine. In February, their self-produced second album ‘The Door Behind The Door’ was released. After talking to Aimée about it, it’s amazing that it even exists! But here we are, with nine new songs that make up one of the strongest albums I’ve heard all year. The Black Ryder are fresh from a run of headline shows and are about to head on tour with The Jesus And Mary Chain, but Aimée has made time to give us an in-depth (and honest) take on life, music and her future plans.

It’s been five years since the release of your debut album ‘Buy The Ticket, Take the Ride’. How has your mindset changed going into album number two?

Moving from Sydney to Los Angeles brought its fair share of challenges. Relocating your life, band, and business to another country is no easy task. We didn’t know too many people when we first arrived so it took time to find our feet.

There are so many different ways you can release music now, there was a lot to consider. Our first record was released on our own imprint The Anti-Machine Machine through EMI Music Australia and we assembled our own team who helped set up the release, we then later released on Mexican Summer (USA) & Vinyl Junkie (Japan). There were challenges with this staggered release (as our record came out at different times). They were each different release scenarios and our music was not available in other territories, so from that experience we really felt that with this new record we needed to find a way to release our music internationally, and on our own imprint, because ultimately we wanted to be as involved as possible with releasing our music.

We had mutual friends who were connected with The Orchard (our distributor) who helped facilitate an introduction & we’re grateful that they were interested in distributing our label as they have been very supportive and fantastic to work with.

What’s the concept of ‘The Door Behind The Door’? Is it about placing conflicting ideas, sounds and moods together?

More than anything this album was an unpredictable journey that encompasses a lot of different moods and themes that we were exploring and experiencing throughout the making of the record. It’s about taking the good with the bad, from feelings of disconnection and chaos to wanting to make something that felt soothing and cathartic. We didn’t sit down and say “we want a song”, or “our album to sound like this or that”, we let the mood and how we were feeling take us there. It was an emotional investment in time and in ourselves that I hope will provide the listener with a positive listening experience, because that was what we were searching for ourselves.

The lead single ‘Santaria’ sounds like shoegaze meets country to me, Scott delivers his vocals with a twang! How did the song come together?

‘Santaria’ was the first song that really came together for this record and it made sense to go with that as the first song we would release. Scott led the charge on this one. I believe that twang is just a natural part of his style and voice, nothing that we write or record feels forced or unnatural, it’s more of an honest extension of ourselves. Scott had the chords and basic structure of the song together before we left Australia but it took time to flesh out the bones. There’s a heaviness and weight to ‘Santaria’ that hits you right in the heart, perhaps the further along the journey we were the more sense it made to develop it into the song that it is now.

Was self-producing the album a challenge? It seems the “hands off” approach just isn’t what The Black Ryder is about.

Of course, it was challenging in many ways. We’re fairly insular people who consider what we’re doing as a long-term project. We knew we wanted to interpret the music in our own way and that took time to develop. We have very particular tastes but we also trust and respect each other so we don’t feel as much of a need to have an outsider on the production team. We like to be hands on in all areas of making and releasing our music, so we wanted to retain as much control of the production of the music as we could. Which again took some time as Scott engineered the album and it was very much a learning process, given we wanted to raise the bar higher than our debut album. We were very fortunate to have had some assistance from friend and engineer Wesley Seidman, (who works at internationally renowned Ocean Way Studios in LA), which is where we mostly recorded the drums for the record. Wesley brought his expert knowledge and wisdom to this record, which was a wonderful asset to have, and without question contributed to the quality of the end result.

Because of this, do you need to be more music industry savvy? I’m guessing you’ve learnt loads in the past few years (having your music placed in TV shows/soundtracks etc)?

I think if you’re going to invest your time, energy and money into something you really care about then it’s worth learning as much as you can about the business. In addition to learning to play music from an early age (violin first, then piano and guitar), I also developed an interest in the industry behind it. I read ‘Wonderland Avenue’ by Danny Sugarman when I was 14 or so, amongst other music biographies and autobiographies, which was an inspiring story given that Danny started working with The Doors when he was 12 and would later go on to manage them, as well as Iggy Pop for a time. Sadly his tale was a tragic one but it left an impression on me and I wanted to learn more about the business and the mechanics of making, and releasing music.

At 15 I took an artist management course, for work experience in high school I chose to work at an independent record store (Red Eye Records in Sydney). When I left high school I wasn’t interested in going to college or studying, as much as I was in starting work straight away. I didn’t really have the confidence to believe that I could make a living as a musician until much later.

When I left high school I started work at Warner Music and worked my way up through various roles, starting as an office assistant to working in marketing and sales, to publicity and promotions. From there I went on to work at EMI Music in the press department, I also worked for independent Artist Management, press and radio promotion companies. So I certainly gained some insight and experience from all of that. Which no doubt has helped give me some direction and ideas about setting up our own label.

I’m still in a place of learning, that never stops. The industry will continue to change and evolve. I’d like to develop The Anti-Machine Machine into not just a label but also a Creative Agency that covers graphic design, music production, soundtrack and film scoring.

Was the decision to relocate from Australia to Los Angeles a musical one? Are you enjoying life in L.A.?

For the kind of music we were making it felt like we needed to get out of our comfort zones and travel abroad because it didn’t feel like there was much of a future for us if we didn’t. In Sydney there were only a handful of live music venues and even those were being shut down.

Although we had a strong show of support from Australian press and community radio we knew that our music wasn’t the kind of music that was likely to get much radio support. Our songs are mostly too long and not what you’d consider radio format. In order to connect with a broader audience we knew we’d have to take our music on the road.

As for living in Los Angeles, I love living here, although I do get homesick and miss my family and friends. I’ve connected with some wonderful and inspiring people here. I love being close to the desert and ocean. I love seeing the mountains when I drive.

I must admit I’ve been in a state of creative hibernation since we moved here, I don’t really go out much. I like staying home and working on whatever projects I’m working on. Aside from finishing our album and setting up our label, I also completed a course in Graphic Design last year, so all of those things keep me busy.

Do you think the band could have achieved the same success if you were still based in Australia?

No, not for the kind of music we make. In Australia there are only a few cities you could afford to play in at the level we were at before we left.

We wanted to make atmospheric and cinematic music and not have any rules or formulas in mind when we were making it. We didn’t care as much about fitting on radio formats as much as we did about making a body of work that we could be proud of. I don’t want to fit into any mould, I want to make my own, but when you’re taking that approach you need to consider the limitations of your environment, and if it’s not going to be sustainable where you are then you need keep moving and keep working until you connect with your audience.

‘Seventh Moon’ sounds amazing, it’s beautifully produced. Did the layers come together piece by piece? Or did you know going in that you were going to add big, choir like backing vocals?

Thank you *smiles*. The layers always come together piece by piece, which is why some songs can take longer than others, especially when it’s just the two of us putting everything in place.

With our songs it will start with an idea and then we have to construct each piece, each part, and the further along the road you get the more clarity you have about how you want to approach it. But sometimes you need some time and space to get that perspective. We didn’t have a producer working with us to tell us how to arrange things, we did that ourselves. As some of the songs developed we knew we wanted to have additional singers because we wanted a level of impact that we wouldn’t have been able to achieve on our own.

What song do you like best on the album?

That’s a tough question to answer because it keeps changing.

‘Let Me Be Your Light’ feels very special to me because at the time we were working on it I was feeling quite lost. The amount of obstacles we faced with moving countries and getting through making this album had piled up. At times it felt quite impossible to finish because, when you’re trying to figure out how to do something and you don’t have the answers, it can feel incredibly frustrating.

My health had failed me in different ways, I’d been in hospital, we lost some loved ones along the way. I was feeling disconnected living in LA, I was homesick but the home I was missing didn’t even exist anymore. So that made me feel even more lost. But there was something that was telling me to stay the course, that it wasn’t time to throw in the towel just yet, and that’s mostly the sentiment behind that song. I wanted to hear something reassuring and soothing, and in the end I had to be that for myself. It would have been a lot easier to give up and believe that we couldn’t do this, but we didn’t, and here we are. Since we released the record we’ve had some really positive messages from people about that song in particular so that makes me feel good, that we’ve created something meaningful.

How do you and Scott work together creatively? Is it a 50/50 song writing partnership?

We share the load. We have an interesting and unique partnership (having been married and divorced). There is a level of intimacy and trust that I couldn’t have with just anyone. Some songs are more one of us than the other, but it’s always a collaborative effort.

Have you ever considered becoming a trio? I can play a mean tambourine! *grin*

Three is my lucky number! We’re actually a four piece when we play live though, we’ve been playing with Graham Roby on drums from the past 4+ years, and Nicole Emery on Bass, guitar and additional vocals for the past 2+ years.

What are pros and cons of releasing your music independently? Do you plan on releasing any other acts through the label?

Let’s start by saying it’s a lot of work and requires some serious commitment. At times I’ve found myself wishing that someone else would come in with all the answers. But then you realize that no one really has all the answers. I’m proud that we did it this way because it shows we are dedicated to the cause, and we’re invested in what we’re doing, at the end of the day we know we’ve done our best to make this work.

I would love to release other acts on our label, although we still need to continue working this record. I wouldn’t want to take on anyone else’s music unless I knew I could do the right thing by them, and it’s still very early days for us, it’s on the cards though.

If you could pick any singer (alive or dead) to guest on the album who would it be?

Pete Kember (Spectrum / Sonic Boom / Spacemen 3) has always been someone I’ve admired and respected. I love his work so I’d love to work on something with him one day.

What albums are you listening to at the moment? Any tips for SBWR readers?

I really love The Vacant Lots album ‘Departure’. We played with them at our first NYC show about four years ago now, and just recently again in London. They did a fantastic job with their debut, I love those guys.

The new Tamaryn album is also going to be a special release this year, it’s not out yet (I think due out in the US Summer), but I believe there will be some new music being shared very soon.

You’ll be heading back on tour shortly, playing Austin Psych Fest with Primal Scream and touring with The Jesus and Mary Chain – excited much!? How do you prepare?

Honestly these days it’s about taking rest where you can get it, because it can be quite hectic on the road. Lugging around gear, racing to the next city on little to no food or sleep, you can get run down pretty quickly.

There’s a lot of pressure and it’s a very unpredictable road, taking care of yourself is important if you’re in it for the long haul. I’ve seen enough people who burn out quickly and there are plenty of casualties along the way. For me the most important thing is playing the best show we can play. Rehearsing as much as you can is of course the best kind of preparation too.

And yes, of course I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity to play with The Jesus & Mary Chain. They were a band that had such a huge impact on me so it’s a huge honor to say the least. Levitation (Austin Psych Fest) is an incredible line up, the best I think I’ve seen, and those guys really know how to put on a great festival. this is our third time there so I’m really looking forward to being apart of that.

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What are your plans after the tour? More recording, album three perhaps? *wink wink*

We’ve already started working on new songs and recordings. We had quite a lot of material that didn’t make it onto ‘The Door Behind The Door’, for one reason or another, so I really want to get back to working on music. I’d like to spend more time working on visual art and design too, and I’m also talking about some film collaborations. There will be more dates throughout the year no doubt, and I really hope we can get back to Australia.

Thanks so much for taking the time out to chat, and all the best on tour.

**THE BLACK RYDER’S ‘THE DOOR BEHIND THE DOOR IS AVAILABLE NOW VIA THE ANTI-MACHINE MACHINE**

Visit The Black Ryder online @ The Anti-Machine Machine @ Facebook.

Spectres Talk Debut Album, Killing Amps & Ouija boards!

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Spectres don’t value subtlety, the Bristol noise rockers are out to force a reaction. The four piece craft an unpredictable, abrasive and compelling sound that was built to divide listeners. It’s a mind altering, moving experience for some, and for others, a burst of white noise. After hearing from Spectres’ singer/guitarist Joe Hatt, I think they’re just fine with that! It’s a menacing record and follows their 2013 ‘Hunger’ EP, created whilst juggling duties at their label (Howling Owl). And now, four years after forming in Barnstaple (North Devon), the band are ready to deliver their debut full length ‘Dying’, out February 23 through Sonic Cathedral.

Congratulations on the debut album release, are you happy with how ‘Dying’ turned out?

Thank you. To be honest I think we are pretty delighted; we wouldn’t say it out loud but email is ok. We recorded over a year ago and we never thought it would be getting this reaction whilst we were making it, so we’re a little weirded out. It’s been a very long time between us forming and the album coming out and it feels like now is the right time.

What attracts the band to harsh sounds and how do you control them in the studio?

I think we all use the band as a way of expelling whatever is pissing us off that day and as a reaction to hearing so many sub mediocre bands sprayed all over the internet/radio/venues like slurry. Between us we have a lot of different influences and inspirations etc, but the one thing that holds us together is wanting to create something that you can’t ignore.

The sounds are controlled in the studio by our Nigel Godrich that is Dom Mitchison. He recorded our ‘Hunger’ EP in a squat bedroom, all live, and we have no idea how he made it sound like he did; was the first time anyone had ever even got near how we wanted to sound and it made us never want to go back in a studio to pay £25 a day to someone who plays solitaire whilst you record. Thankfully, he has now set up his own recording space where we then recorded the album and we can’t think of anywhere else we’d record again. If you want to know how it’s controlled, you’d have to ask him as we just do what we want!

For the uninitiated, how did Spectres form?

We formed when two separate bands we were in (in Barnstaple) came to a slow grinding death. We had been musical acquaintances for a few years leading up to it so it was always going to happen, as we could see in each other’s eyes there was a need within.

Where did you find the demon children from the ‘Where Flies Sleep’ video? Was it a fun shoot?

That was all James Hankins’ doing. I had a few ideas for the video but he knew it needed something more. We then started to see him advertising to try and hire some children and we thought it would probably be best not to ask. A few days later we’re up in some derelict rooms above the Howling Owl studio with a little girl in a dress dancing around a ouija board, just like every Tuesday.

How has the band progressed since the ‘Hunger’ EP? Have you needed to balance live (performance-based) material with more structured songwriting for the album?

I think if anything the Hunger EP was probably more structured than most of the tracks on the album. There was a point when we recorded ‘I Was In A Box’  (on the EP) when we thought we may have gone one ‘bar’ too far in a noise section, but people used to talk about it to us at shows saying it locked them into some sort of frenzy. So we took that as permission to not worry about going too far again and just do whatever felt natural to us. The middle section in ‘This Purgatory’ is probably the best example of that and I think those 3/4 minutes is how I’d want people to remember us when we go.

Can you tell us a little about the creative/writing process for the LP? Was it a collaborative affair or a dictatorship?

I have no idea how we come up with our songs. We only practice for a couple of hours a week, and most of that time is spent staring at opposite walls scraping at our instruments. But then, every now and again something will lock in and ten minutes later we’ll have the basis of a song that we’ll then pull apart for a month.

The vocals and lyrics are always the last part; I’ll sit somewhere alone with the demo recorded on my phone in my headphones and write around the music. I hadn’t ever sung three or four of the tracks on the record before we recorded them, and I can safely say none of the others will have a clue what I’m mumbling until they read the lyric sheet, which they won’t.

How many amps have you killed!? And, what’s your most loved pieces of gear?

I have actually had the same awful combo amp since I was 15 until one week ago. That amp never had one issue, and was unexplainably loud for its model. Then I bought an upgrade from a friend (last week) and it broke within a minute. We should have gone for a drink beforehand maybe.

When we first started playing we did have equipment (pedals) malfunctioning at every show, but then we stopped carrying them around in tesco bags and that seemed to help. I think my favourite pedal is (my self named) ‘Gentle Whisper’ which is a Czech-made copy of another, much more expensive pedal. I think Adrian’s would be the pink one that screeches loads.

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The album artwork/photography is amazing. The confronting visuals are a perfect match for the music. That said, the ‘Lump / Heat Death’ artwork gave me nightmares. How do you approach your imagery?

Ah, thank you again. The visual aspect of Spectres is something that we care and think about deeply, so if people take notice it means a lot. I had the image of the man (Pedro) coming out of water whilst I was on a plane and I had this shot of his mouth (splurting out), lodged in my head for about two months until my girlfriend (Stephanie Third – http://thirdphotography.tumblr.com/) and I did the shoot in a paddling pool in my back garden. As soon as we all saw that image we knew that it had to be on the cover as, to us, it works as a snapshot to everything within that record.

Adrian and I are constantly sending each other little sketches or ideas, and the zine we sporadically put out (Dark Habits) is another place for us to channel a lot of our ideas for artwork too. Alongside sketches of Sheffield Wednesday players from the nineties.

If you could assemble a fantasy band, who would be in the line-up?

Geldof beat us to it with Band Aid 2.

You must be pretty close with The Naturals by now, are you excited to get out and tour? What can punters expect?

There certainly has been a lot of flirting with us over the years, but I think over the two weeks things are going to get very serious. It is quite cute to see how excited they are about the whole thing, but I think the first weekend of two, 6 hour journeys and two nights of nine people sleeping in a van is going to scrape all of that joy out of them, which is probably what we are most excited about. And the fact that they are one of the best bands on the planet.

What are your most loved records of the past twelve months? Any tips for SBWR readers?

I’m going to speak for myself here as everyone else is asleep. My favourite five off the top of my head (and in no order) would be Dean Blunt – Black Metal / FKA Twigs – LP / Matana Roberts – Coin Coin chapter 3 / Vessel – Punish, Honey and Yung Klein – S/T.

After the tour’s done, what’s next for Spectres – a holiday!?

I guess we have to start thinking about writing some new songs if we have any equipment left in working order and then, believe it or not, we have a Greek tour. We have been trying to play out in Europe for about three years but it is near impossible to sort out without an agent. But then a Greek God named Kostas (who saw us at Liverpool Psych Fest) invited us over for some shows and it’s actually happening! (See the dates on the poster below!)

Thanks Joe… and good luck in the tour van!

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**Spectres ‘Dying’ is available on limited-edition translucent grey vinyl in a gatefold ouija board sleeve, CD and as a digital download via SONIC CATHEDRAL**

Visit Spectres online @ Sonic Cathedral @ Facebook.

Guy Fixsen On Laika’s ‘Silver Apples Of The Moon’ Re-issue

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Medical Records have unveiled their first batch of 2015 releases, among them is the (long out of print) debut from Laika, ‘Silver Apples Of The Moon’ (order here)! The album was originally released in 1994 on the much loved London label Too Pure (former home to Stereolab, PJ Harvey, Seefeel, Electrelane and more). Laika (named after the soviet space dog) was founded by Margaret Fiedler, John Frenett and Guy Fixsen. This week Guy responded to a brief Q&A about the re-issue. For the uninitiated, his production work includes… *deep breath* The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Rollerskate Skinny, Slowdive, Chapterhouse, The Boo Radleys and Moose (among many more)!

What creative head space were you in going into Laika’s debut given your previous work with Moonshake?

I think in retrospect we were both out to prove a lot. Margaret as her first outing after a very competitive partnership that came unstuck in a fairly acrimonious fashion and myself as my first project as artist – after having done a lot of production I was kind of straining at the leash to try out all these ideas in my head.

How did you fall upon the combination of live percussion, dreamy vocals and far out electronics? Was it the result of endless jam sessions?

We never jammed as a band, the music was always clearly marked out before it was taken to the band. There was a kind of jamming in the writing process in the sense that we played with our sounds a lot. The percussion and electronics were just two of many elements we liked in music we listened to and we were lucky to find in lou ciccotelli someone who could realise the multi-layered polyrhythmic percussion we wanted. The “far-out electronics” was just a natural result of us playing with our two main toys which were a sampler and a moog. The dreamy vocals bit was just the lovely thing that happened when margaret opened her mouth on some tracks and anyway it’s hardly the rule on the record. Certainly on the second half of the record it’s hard to call the vocals “dreamy”.

‘Sugar Daddy’ is absolute classic! But, was there a moment when you thought “Y’ know, people just aren’t going to get this…”?

There were tracks on the album I thought people might find hard to get but that wasn’t one of them. It has plenty of clear pop hooks, it’s in 4/4 with a strong dance sensibility – what’s not to get?

‘Silver Apples Of The Moon’ was an ambitious, (and somewhat) unclassifiable record. Do you think new listeners twenty years later will find it easier to digest?

Maybe a bit. Some of what we were doing was ahead of its time I guess, but what has not changed is how conservative people are about mixtures. The vast majority of people seem to feel uncomfortable listening to things they can’t clearly define – then as now.

Looking back, how influential do you think the Too Pure artists of the time were (Seefeel, Stereolab etc)?

I often hear little bits of a lot of Too Pure bands filtering through, by circuitous routes, to bands all over the world and musical spectrum who never even heard of the label. Polly has obviously cast a big shadow, there was a time when it seemed that no self-respecting left field female rock artist could cough without it having a little of her dark twang. I think stereolab maybe were more influential in a spiritual way than a direct musical way. A bunch of great artists have told us that they drew inspiration from us. i’m proud, for example, that in radiohead’s most creative period they ran with a few laika-esque threads and did some lovely things with them. But Seefeel? Meh.

**ORDER LAIKA’S “SILVER APPLES OF THE MOON’ COLORED VINYL RE-ISSUE VIA MEDICAL RECORDS**

Visit Laika online @ Medical Records – Web / Facebook / Bandcamp.

Pinkshinyultrablast Discuss Debut LP, Saint Petersburg & Thunder Pop!

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Five years after the release of their debut EP, Russian five piece Pinkshinyultrablast are ready to deliver their first full length ‘Everything Else Matters‘! The band sat down for an interview ahead of it’s release next month to discuss the songwriting process, their native Russia, Strymon FX pedals and the inspiration that Nicki Minaj brings! A thankyou to bassist Igor, singer Lyubov, drummer Sergey, electronic wiz Rustam and guitarist Roman.

First off, I love your single ‘Umi’ – definitely one of my favorite dream pop tunes of the year! Lyubov’s vocals sound amazing. What was the inspiration for the song?

Thanks so much! It’s a tough question to answer. There are definitely songs on the album that somehow descend from one or the other particular musical inspiration that we, ourselves, can track down. ‘Umi’ is not really the case. We had a question in one of our previous interviews whether we chase after a song, or let it chase us. I think ‘Umi’ really is the latter, it’s one of the songs we had very little struggle with, where the melody appeared naturally and with ease, and without any particular source of inspiration. Maybe it requires a bit more distance though, to find references. Music critics and listeners would probably be better judges than us here.

What’s the Pinkshinyultrablast creation story? How did the band first form?

Well, I guess it just kind of happened at some point. We were all kids, freshmen to senior years of college, living on the same block, hanging together, all friends. We realized we each really wanted to make music, our future drummer and bassist already being involved in a project at the time, wanting to do something different though. So we figured, why not give it a shot? We found a space and began to practice regularly. In terms of how much we practiced, our band has always been a noticeable commitment to each one of us. Over the years, the initial structure of the band has transformed, as it often happens with bands. Now it’s the five of us.

Rewinding back for a moment, were you surprised how well your debut EP ‘Happy Songs For Happy Zombies’ was received internationally? There’s a lot of love for those songs.

We’re definitely surprised! We weren’t really expecting anything much, just recorded whatever it was we had on our hands and felt like at the moment. The whole process took up three days, we kept it pretty lo-fi. It was important for us to have the EP released somewhere outside Russia, since we knew it didn’t have much potential here.

You must be excited to finally release your debut album ‘Everything Else Matters’- congratulations! What went into making the record? Has it really been five years?

For sure, we’re really excited! It took so long! In part because for quite a while we lived in different places, in part since we haven’t always had enough money for the studio, the sound engineer and all that involves more or less a decent recording. These factors delayed the whole process by a lot. Over the course of the years certain things have transformed and only recently took their final form, so, in a way, the music only benefited from the delay. We don’t really regret anything.

Was it a collaborative writing process? Or has Pinkshinyultrablast got a chief songwriter!?

Always a collaboration. One of us can pitch an idea for a song, but it then would always be reviewed collectively. Making songs is a multi-step process for us, with first the carcass of a song taking form – bass, drums and guitar, then vocals and keyboards taking up their places. The final version of a song can differ from the initial draft quite drastically, and it’s always a matter of some collective consequent decisions.

It’s an extremely dynamic record, with spacious dream pop songs as well as explosive, aggressive rock songs. Was it a conscious decision to cover a lot of ground stylistically?

Well, it’s hard to tell, it’s just that the songs turned out being quite diverse from the very beginning. We did want to move away from the stylistic solidity of our first EP though. At the same time, during the final stage of working on the LP, we were trying to make the record become somewhat more wholesome. It was great to had been able to play dream pop during the times of our first EP, but at a certain point, while working on this album, we realized we don’t want to limit ourselves to only the means of shoegaze. In short, we’ve always wanted to play pop music with an explosive character, that is, what we call it, “thunder pop”.

How did you end up partnering with Club AC30 (a London-based label) for the new album?

We emailed Robin from Club AC30, wondering if he would be, by any chance, interested in working with us, since we had some new material ready. We weren’t hoping for much, since we aren’t really known, and lots of labels often don’t even respond to these kinds of emails. To our surprise though, not only Robin responded, but said they knew who we were and would be interested in checking out the stuff we’ve got. And then we just wound up being signed.

What are your most loved pieces of gear?

At some point each of us (except the drummer *laughs*) has become loyal to Strymon FX pedals. The five of us have a bunch of Big Skies, a Timeline and an El Capistan. While mixing, we used all those to work on spacial sound processing, plus an Eventide reverb. We aren’t really gear geeks though. We like effects, but don’t actually use that many different ones. We just like to have our melodies immersed in reverb. By the way, speaking of reverb, we used almost no digital processing for the drums when making the record – live room, hall, or even church. We are planning on keeping it that way in the future.

You’ve said previously that the Saint Petersburg music scene isn’t very inspiring. Can you elaborate a little on how the city affects the band creatively?

It definitely is a bizarre place – a bit of solid mystical dybbuky feel from Gogol, a bit of creepy bloody background from Dostoyevsky. It has a distinct sense of decay and former splendor. It’s a small place, where (geographically) everything is within reach, and young people mostly know each other. The pace of life here is slow and summers feel long. Maybe it’s the simultaneous sense of a dead end and, strangely enough, room to make new things, the ambiguity of being on the margin, and not in the center of the global scene. As much as we sometimes feel isolated from the global musical scene, we also get a sense of inner freedom from its judgments and structures, which, in turn, probably enables us to explore more.

Russia produces some great shoegaze and dream pop bands. I’m thinking of Aerofall, Motorama, Sounds Of Sputnik and Lava Lite! Any reason for that? The weather perhaps!?

Perhaps the weather indeed, to which the occasional feeling of absolute reclusion and isolation must be adding up. But also, these bands are more of an exception, than a rule.

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If you could assemble a fantasy band – who would be in it?

Here’s one from Igor (our bass player):

Vocals – Udo Dirkschneider

Guitar – Ricthie Blackmore

Guitar – Kirk Hammett

Bass – Marcus Miller

Drums – Tico “The Hit Man” Torres

You’re obviously fans of Astrobrite, taking your name from his 2002 LP ‘Pinkshinyultrablast’. What are your biggest musical influences?

Among those would be Stereolab, Landing, Stars of the Lid, Cocteau Twins, Steve Reich and Astrobrite indeed. Sonic Coaster Pop, Coalter of the Deepers,Windy and Carl, Ponytail, Pterodactyl and Pre should be mentioned here. There are so many more though. In fact, pretty much anything we like and listen to has a certain amount of influence on us, be it 90s Hip-Hop or Death Metal.

What are your top records of the year so far?

R.: This year I was quite impressed by several records: Snowmine’s ‘Dialects’, the Fresh and Onlys ‘House of Spirits’ and I thought Wye Oak had a pretty cool album ‘Shriek’. These are the ones that first come to mind. I was really waiting for the YOB new album, which actually turned out to be slightly disappointing.   

I.: Wye Oak – ‘Shriek’; Todd Terje – ‘It`s Album Time’; Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – ‘Soused’;  A Winged Victory for the Sullen – ‘Atomos’.

L.: Oh, I’m mainly just waiting for the new Nicki Minaj album, which comes out in a few days.

What’s next for Pinkshinyultrablast? Is an overseas tour on the cards?

We wouldn’t really want to give premature promises and talk about things that are yet too abstract. We’re trying to put things together, and will be informing everybody as things actually do come up. But hey, keep an eye on the updates! 🙂

Will do. Thanks for the interview Pinkshinys! 

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***Pinkshinyultrablast’s ‘Everything Else Matters’ LP is available from January 26 through Club AC30(UK), Shelflife (USA) or Vinyl Junkie (Japan)***

Visit Pinkshinyultrablast @ Soundcloud @ Instagram @ Facebook.

Blush Response Talks ‘Dead Air’, Live Plans & Farming Rumours!

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Blush Response has been one of the surprise hits for shoegaze fans this year. Since the debut release of ‘Telltale’ in February the Adelaide-based solo artist (Alister Douglas) has been praised by Clank For Breakfast, Happy, Tone Deaf, Psychgazer and KDHX. In other words, pretty much everybody who’s heard it! A few weeks back Blush Response delivered an equally compelling follow up in the ‘Dead Air‘ EP. I had a chat to Alister this week to find out how it came to be…

Congratulations on the new EP ‘Dead Air’ – I don’t think there’s a dud on there! Are you happy with the result?

Thanks! I’m glad you think so. I found myself being a bit pickier and tougher on myself this time around but I’m definitely happy with the result. That’s why I like EPs, there’s less potential for filler. Though on the other hand, one or two duds could really sway an EP into mediocrity. I’m glad that’s not the case!

Knowing that so many people loved your debut EP ‘Telltale’ – you must have gone in with more confidence this time?

The positive reception that Telltale received was really flattering, for sure! I think it made me more self-conscious about my songwriting. As all of a sudden there were people that seemed eager to hear what I did next, while making me more confident about recording/producing. Before I put out Telltale I was worried it would be (obviously) home recorded, but the kind feedback I received has made me doubt my ears less.

Can you tell us a little about your creative process?

I’d like to say it was unique and interesting but it’s really not. I just start mumbling nonsense over guitar chords until I find a melody/chord progression that I like! Once I’ve got a vague structure, I’ll start recording. A lot of the songwriting process happens during recording. I’m guessing that’s because I’m not writing songs with a band, so the computer almost acts like a band for me to collaborate with. I’ll usually record a clean guitar track, drums and bass. Then comes the fuzzy reverb fun, building the song in layers until it’s suitably noisy. Lyrics are invariably the last thing I add.

And you do all your own production?

Yeah, I record everything at home. I never really liked recording in a studio, at least not with financial pressures. Recording at home I can be as fussy or finicky as I want and, if it’s just not working, I can take some time off without wasting studio time. There are some obvious downsides, like not having the best equipment or the most trained ear, but I’ve developed workarounds for most of the problems that I’ve encountered. There’s some issues I haven’t worked out yet, like how to record loud guitar or drum parts without annoying my neighbours or driving my housemate insane. Egg cartons and mattresses, I’m told!

I remember the first time I heard ‘(Not In It) For Love’ and thinking you had a really strong voice to match the great guitar tone. Unlike a lot of shoegaze soloists, you really don’t need to bury your vocals in the mix! How much emphasis do you put on getting the right balance?

Thanks, man! Vocals have always been a tough one for me, especially lyrics. I find lyrics the slowest part of the whole process. I’m often torn between wanting to bury the lyrics under guitars, but then I also want the vocal melody to be heard. I’m slowly becoming more confident with vocal harmonies too, which is something that I feel can really make a song. Dead Air has far more vocal harmonies than Telltale, at least.

So you’re from Adelaide. I’ve heard you’re also handy on a farm – quite the cowboy! Are the rumours true!?

Oh, boy… calling me handy might be a bit of a stretch! I’m actually pretty green behind the ears when it comes to farm activities, but I’m studying to be a vet, so it’s something I’m exposing myself to a lot. I’m guessing I have Happy to thank for that rumour! I was trying to send them a demo for an article while battling with near nonexistent 3G reception during a dairy placement. 4am starts and cow poo everywhere. It mightn’t sound it but it was a really fun week!

When did you start making music?

I’ve been writing songs since I can remember. For a long time they were either rubbish or unfinished, or both. It’s only been in the past couple years that I’ve been confident enough in my songs to release them on anything other than an obscure MySpace page. I think it was because it took me a while to find a creative comfy spot. I played (and still play) in a bunch of bands and contributed to heaps of different genres before I found the music I identify with as a songwriter.

Are there any plans to recruit more members and play live?

Definitely! Plans are already in motion. I’ve had a couple of practices with a guitarist and a drummer, which went really well! It was a real kick to hear the songs “live” for the first time. I’ve got someone in mind for bass, it’s just a matter of finding times when everyone is free. In Adelaide, everyone seems to be in multiple bands, so it can be tricky to get everyone together in one place. I imagine it’s the same wherever you go, though.

How important has it been for you to get local radio play versus exposure online?

Local radio stations, Three D and Radio Adelaide, have been supportive, which is always nice, but I think the internet seems to be where word is getting around. There are a bunch of really dedicated and enthusiastic online shoegaze/dream pop communities and blogs that have been very kind and receptive to my stuff, which is great as I’m terrible at promoting my music. The culture surrounding these genre groups are some one the most supportive I’ve come across. It’s a nice thing to be a part of.

What are your most loved pieces of gear?

I play my (bits and pieces) Jazzmaster through Vox amps pretty much exclusively. Pedal-wise, my Timmy OD, BeeBaa clone and Blue Sky verb get the most use. I tied a few different reverbs to try and match the Logic Space Designer patch I used for recording and the Blue Sky was the best I came across. Such a nice sounding pedal. As for recording, my Rode mic and Apogee interface get me through almost anything.

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There’s already a few other bands/artists with the name Blush Response. You obviously felt strongly about the name to go up against that?

You’d think the smart thing to do when you decide on a band name is Google it to make sure other people aren’t using it, right? I didn’t think to check. I got the name from a song by local band Steering By Stars. I’ve been playing in bands for around ten years but I’ve always been reserved about starting my own band, so the idea of a blush response seemed fitting to me. Hopefully, I don’t get any letters from lawyer-y types.

What are your top records of 2014 so far?

At the moment I’m loving We Need Secrets’ ‘Melancholy and The Archive’. Melbourne band Lowtide’s self-titled LP is fantastic, as is Roku Music’s ‘Collider’, and Nothing’s ‘Guilty of Everything’. I’m eagerly awaiting Bored Nothing’s ‘Some Songs’. Something would have to go very wrong for that not to make my list. Outside of the shoegaze/dreampop scene, I loved Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s ‘Sling Shot to Heaven’ and Conor Oberst’s ‘Upside Down Mountain’.

How did you discover Jack Vanzet‘s art? Love the album art on both releases!

Yeah, Jack’s work is fantastic! I was really taken by artwork that he did for local producer, Glamour Lakes’ ‘Canicule’ EP, so I looked him up online. The Glamour Lakes’ cover was more a stark geometric style, but I fell in love with his softer colour blending paint style. I feel like he achieves with paint exactly what I hope to achieve with sound.

If you could assemble a fantasy band – who would be in it?

Hmm… I’m gonna say Elliott Smith, Kevin Shields, Alice Costello (Big Deal), and Bryan Devendorf (The National). Elliott and Kevin would collaborate on songwriting, Alice and Elliott would co-front (sharing bass/guitar duties) and Bryan would do his drumming thing. I’d like to think that I’d put Wayne Coyne in charge of visuals and pyrotechnics, but that could equally be a disaster.

What’s next for Blush Response? Is a full length on the horizon?

Immediate future, I want to focus on getting the band on stage. As for recording, I’m not sure yet. I think I’m going to just start writing and recording and see what happens. I do like the EP format. I think it’s because I’m impatient and just want to get things out there and move on. EPs let me do this and give people something new to listen to sooner. That said, I love listening to an album and if I could achieve a full-length record it would be something I’d be really proud of. We’ll see.

Thanks so much for your time Alister, all the best.

No worries. Thank you!

**BLUSH RESPONSE’S ‘DEAD AIR’ IS AVAILABLE NOW – NAME YOUR PRICE DOWNLOAD**

Visit Blush Response @ Bandcamp @ Facebook.

The Vacant Lots On ‘Departure’, Sonic Boom & Mind Control!

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The Vacant Lots recently delivered their psych rockin’ debut album ‘Departure’, highly praised by heavyweights like The Times, NME, Pitchfork and Mojo. They enlisted the help of rock royalty to put the album together, including Galaxie 500’s Dean Wareham, Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom and Alan Vega (of Suicide). The Vermont duo (Jared Artaud & Brian MacFadyen) are fresh from a tour with the Brian Jonestown Massacre and it’s high time to find out what all the fuss is about!

Your debut album ‘Departure’ is upon us – congrats! Are you happy with the result? And what went into putting it together?

JARED: You don’t think about it at the time when you are writing the album how much work and help goes into it. We are really thankful for the amazing team and artists we have assembled to make this thing happen. The album was recorded primarily by NYC engineer Ted Young at Water Music in Hoboken, NJ. ‘Before The Evening’s Thru’ was engineered by Kyle Chunco and Ben Kindzia in Buffalo, NY and ‘Mad Mary Jones’ was recorded by Black Angels FOH main man Brett Orrison in Austin, TX. We were fortunate to have Sonic Boom on the mixing decks and mastering it all up. Our manager Samantha Tyson has been a guiding light (so to speak) managing the unmanageable and our label Sonic Cathedral has been incredible. Not to mention countless other people who have helped the record come into realization. We are really pleased with the results. We released a few 7″ singles and to have our debut LP come out of the gates this way is very meaningful to us. I know it has taken a few years, but it was worth the wait for us and we were ready to put it out there.

Peter Kember (aka Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom) mixed and mastered the album – what was it like working with him?

JARED: Sonic Boom is an architect of sound and an absolute genius. We learned so much from him mentoring us. What is most revealing about how he works is how innovative and methodical he is. It really doesn’t matter what he is doing, his entire perspective on the situation is singular and immensely creative. Moreover, through his vision we explored territory that would have been completely devoid to us if we hadn’t worked with Sonic. If you give Sonic something to work with he will do something you hadn’t ever dreamed of. When we were thinking about who we wanted to work with on ‘Departure’ we wanted someone who understood where we were coming from and where we wanted to go. Someone who would help take us to that place. Someone who knew our roots and help keep the momentum going. Sonic is also a master of subtlety and simplicity. There was no one else we could have dreamed of working with on ‘Departure’.

When and how did The Vacant Lots form? Ever thought about becoming a trio?

BRIAN: We stuck with the duo because we found we could produce a fuller, more focused sound between the two of us. As a duo we are able to really lock in and play off each other, in a way that we found couldn’t be replicated with an additional player.

JARED: We got together in 2009 in Burlington, Vermont. I had put up posters around town “looking for a drummer”. I figured that would be a good place to start. I knew right away from that first rehearsal there was something there. Something that I was looking for. Although Brian has been using a myriad of different electronics for our sound, he is an extraordinarily unique and original drummer. We did a lot of rehearsing and demo recording in that year. Experimenting with ideas and trying to sculpt our own sound out of all this raw material. ‘Confusion’ and ‘Cadillac’ came from these experiments. It wasn’t until 2010 when we got invited by Sonic Boom to tour the U.S. with Spectrum that things started to happen. I mean we only played a handful of shows. It was the first time we had really got on the road and toured. We thought about adding more members to the band, but we felt then and now that you can do more with less. It is challenging we know, but we actually like having to problem solve and figure out how to get the sound we want with just two. You can produce a lot of sound with just two people. We feel that by limiting yourself you can actually achieve more. Through these imposed limitations we have always been exploring how much two people can do with sound.

How did you connect with UK label Sonic Cathedral? I believe you’re their first stateside release?

JARED: When we heard they wanted to put the album out we got really excited. Yes, we are their first and very grateful to work with such a dedicated and supportive label. Sonic has done a lot of work with them in the past and then we were asked to contribute to the ‘Psych For Sore Eyes’ compilation. It was a natural progression from there and we all just got on very well and they were really into the album. They heard the demos and rough mixes and it just felt like a great union of sorts. Plus our manager, Sam had a lot to do with sealing the deal. It wouldn’t have happened without her.

I first heard you guys on ‘Psych For Sore Eyes’ (with The Band In Heaven, Hookworms and Lorelle Meets The Obsolete). It was a really special release, how did it come about?

JARED: Sonic Cathedral always has their finger to the pulse. Just one of many good ideas I guess. That release pulls from contemporary psych bands all across the planet. We all played Austin Psych Fest and have crossed paths one way or another. The track we contributed ‘6 AM’ was mixed at the same studio we recorded ‘Mad Mary Jones’. I had no idea at the time that we would be working with Sonic Cathedral on the debut album. It’s funny how things pan out.

What’s life like in Burlington, Vermont?

JARED: I haven’t lived there in a few years. Take it away Brian.

BRIAN: It’s a nice, quiet town. I have a small studio set up in town where we’re able to rehearse as well. I grew up there and it will always be home. The scenery is beautiful and conducive to creating.

Galaxie 500 legend Dean Wareham makes a guest appearance on ‘Tomorrow’. Did you make room for his performance or was it spur of the moment?

JARED: Well neither really. I have always wanted to work with Dean in some way. His guitar playing and lyric writing has been a huge source of inspiration for me. Dean is a phenomenal rhythm guitar player and one of the most underrated players and songwriters of all time. We had sent him a few tracks to see what he thought. He liked ‘Tomorrow’ and so I asked him if he would lay down some guitars and maybe take the solo. I never told him this but that whole middle section was inspired by Luna’s ‘Ihop’ that 3 chord break. Dean laid down the only guitar solo on the album. It’s so sad sounding and beautiful to me it fit in so perfectly.

You’ve designed your own signature TVL Fuzz Pedal – I’m impressed! How did that come about?

BRIAN: I’ve been making prototypes recently, working on some basic circuits. One piece in particular, this one knob fuzz, really stood out tonally, and allowed Jared to fully realize the grinding chainsaw guitar tone on 6AM. After discovering an effective way to apply Anthony Ausgang’s op art design to the enclosures we were able to put a small batch together that reflect the TVL aesthetic both visually and sonically.

JARED: UK label, Fuzz Club Records is selling the pedals on their website and we had a handful to sell on our UK tour with BJM.

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What are you listening to at the moment? Any tips for SBWR readers?

JARED: On the new front I would highly recommend checking out Tess Parks, The Black Ryder, Cheval Sombre and Prince Rama. On the old front I’ve been listening to a lot of Roxy Music, Nina Simone, Richard Hell and Albert Ayler lately.

BRIAN: For newer stuff, I’ve been listening to Angel Olsen, Dirty Beaches & Wooden Shjips. Also been really into Dr John’s first record, D.R. Hooker & Django Reinhardt.

Am I right that you create your own artwork or is it Anthony Ausgang’s work? Is the ‘Departure’ cover meant to send you into a hypnotic spin? Mind control!

JARED: Quite the opposite! The music and artwork may seem hypnotic, but it is designed to wake people up. Mind control is fucking evil. There is enough of that shit going on with some of the most well-known man-made institutions. It’s time for something new, no? Ausgang designed the artwork on our TVL Fuzz Pedal as well as the Arrival artwork. He is a brilliant artist truly ahead of his time, you have to check out his work if you haven’t. He has inspired us a lot. It’s true that we design most of our artwork including the Departure album sleeve. I think the visual element is almost as important as the aural experience. That is also why we use visuals when we play live. We make all of those too.

What are your favourite pieces of gear? Guitars, amps etc?

JARED: I have been using a Silvertone 1484 amp since we started. All of the recordings have this amp on it. I try to use it as much as possible live, but sometimes that isn’t possible traveling overseas etc makes this impractical, so there are other ways round it by using effects etc. For guitars I have only used a Gretsch Country Gentleman and Vox Phantom XII. The Vox is great for live playing and has this very trashy sound that I like.

BRIAN: Handwired tube amps because they’re built in a way that enables and even promotes modification and experimentation. You can pull and substitute components without worrying about messing with a circuit board. Other than the fact that the death caps could strike you down if you’re not careful, it arranges signal flow in what I consider the most intuitive configuration, and is a great tool when first learning about electronic circuitry. Plus they sound cool as hell.

I don’t mean to keep name dropping but considering this is your debut, you’ve already turned plenty of heads! What’s your connection with Alan Vega (Suicide) and how did you earn a support slot with The Brian Jonestown Massacre?

JARED: We are immensely honored to have collaborated with some of our musical heroes. And, it is a bit surreal that our first USA tour was with Spectrum and our first UK tour with BJM. I have so much respect and admiration for these artists because without them we wouldn’t be here. Alan Vega’s work with Suicide, as a solo artist and installation artist has truly inspired me in a myriad of ways. Working with him on a few releases has been a real eye opener and meeting him in person has only reaffirmed my resolve that he is one of the most brilliant and important artists of the last 100 years. We met Anton at Austin Psych Fest in 2012. He was incredibly kind and inspiring to us when we met him. We just stayed in touch. He was touring England and invited us along. We are really looking forward to it.

If you could assemble a fantasy band (of musicians living or dead), who would be in it?

JARED:

Scott Walker trading off with Jeffrey Lee Pierce on Vocals

Tom Verlaine on Guitars

Elvin Jones on Drums

Sun Ra on Keys

BRIAN:

Pete Drake on Lap Steel / Vocals

Curtis Mayfield on Guitar

John Cale on Bass

Max Roach on Drums

What’s next for The Vacant Lots?

JARED: Well ‘Departure’ is out now. This fall we are going back for a full-on European tour alongside the release of a 7” remix by Alan Vega of ‘6 AM’ coming out on Sonic Cathedral. There is more to come but we can’t really say much more about that now. Thanks for the interview.

Thanks for your time guys.

**THE VACANT LOTS DEBUT ALBUM ‘DEPARTURE’ IS OUT NOW VIA SONIC CATHEDRALLP / CD / DIGITAL**

*New single ‘Paint This City’ out September 22*

< TOUR DATES >

September 24 – London, Shacklewell Arms
September 25 – Rugby, Grand Central Studios
September 26 – Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia
September 28 – Southend, The Railway Hotel
September 29 – Bristol, Start The Bus

Visit The Vacant Lots @ Sonic Cathedral @ Bandcamp @ Facebook.