Love, Rain And Reverb: An Interview w/ Soft Shadows (By Psychic Hearts)

Weary, lo-fi over a thin vapor of reverb, listening to Soft Shadows (fmr. Sundaze) reminds me of that part in “Lost in Translation” when Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray’s character take a cab ride through Tokyo while “Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine plays in the background.  Yeah, you know that scene — the shallow focus, low light, Kevin’s whispering, that feeling of something cool and familiar.  It’s rare for bands, like Soft Shadows, to generate a memory of such a beautiful and iconic scene.  Though they are in the midst of recording their debut, we at SBWR were instantly drawn to their cold, sparse noise and wanted to know more about what they’ve got planned for this year while in PDX.

If you like Beach Fossils, Sparklehorse, and/or Weird Dreams check out SOFT SHADOWS @ Facebook // Bandcamp // Soundcloud.

 
Soft Shadows – ‘Whatever You Say’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Soft-Shadows-Whatever-You-Say.mp3]
 
Soft Shadows sound has this sort of late-night, cold, whispery, lo-fi vibe, which is, I would say different from that of Sundaze whose sound was more fuzzy surf/garagaze influenced, kind of like the Vandelles or even The Raveonettes. What inspired the name change and new direction?

As you have picked up, our sound has shifted and we felt it was time to shed the name we chose out of necessity. At the time, we were a brand new band with shows lined up and needed a name fast, so that’s how we chose Sundaze. Over the course of little over a year we found sounds we really related to and they were much different than when we started. This sparked a difference in direction and led to a member leaving. With the addition of Ryan Simon on guitars, we felt this is a perfect time to regroup.

I got a chance to watch “New American Noise: Electric Noise,” a music documentary series for the Sundance Channel directed by Abteen Bagheri who is known for his avant-garde rap videos. It really seems like Portland holds a special place in your hearts. How has the scene, shoegaze and otherwise, responded to Soft Shadows? What do you think you are doing differently to stand out in Portland? Do you plan on staying in Portland?

There are so many scenes in Portland right now, and with lots of bands sharing members between projects, the lines between scenes are blurry, and I mean that in all positive aspects.  Portland has a great vibe and friendly atmosphere; it’s small enough to have a town-feel. There’s a pho restaurant nearby when a couple leaves, she’ll bid them farewell by saying, “Have a romantic weekend!” As you know, Portland is surrounded by water. The weather plays a big part in how we write and feel. Being enveloped in rain most of the year produces guitar sounds as if it was dipped in water.  I try to soak the guitars in reverb but not over doing it for the hopeful feeling that the sun will come and dry the rain eventually. As much as Portland is a hometown in our hearts and the place where we’re grounded in, we’re always open to living in a new place.

New American Noise – short documentary on lo-fi/shoegaze in Portland…
 

 
I loved Soft Shadows video for “I Want to Be With You,” because it reminded me of the taxicab scene in Lost In Translation when “Sometimes” by MBV is playing – was that a conscious decision?

I love that scene too! I had a similar experience of flooded imagery when I was an exchange student in Tokyo, which “Lost In Translation” was released after I came back from my 3 months abroad. I’ve always liked the idea of travelling alone with my camera. Being immersed in new and different environments with little or no outside comfortable influences, it becomes a completely personal enveloping experience through my own lens (also, I don’t have to burden people waiting for me running off somewhere for a random shot).

My last overseas trip was to Vietnam and Japan early 2012. Usually, I’m the girl taking photos, but sometimes I’ll remember I have film capability as well, so take short segments here and there to edit afterwards. The plan was to get as much random footage possible, and then cut it down to something that may flow together. When it came to the idea of making a music video for “I Want To Be With You,” I revisited the old footage I took, only to have found a large bulk deleted on accident. Surprisingly, even though it may not flow as perfectly how I would like it, all the pieces fell into place for the mood and pace of the song. If you listen to the lyrics, it’s also about a girl wandering around town, looking to be found, which sort of fits.

Soft Shadows – I Want To Be With You

What can we expect from Soft Shadows in the upcoming year?

We’re shooting for a tour within the next few months. Our album will be coming out later this year, and you can expect a dreamier sound, still accompanied by our heavy droney sound.
 
PSYCHIC HEARTS is a CA/NY-based writer of sorts who loves obese cats and used records. You can read more reviews, features, and commentary from her music site dedicated to shoegaze / dreampop / garage / synthwave. More @ PSYCHIC HEARTS.

Why Do Australians Pay More For Music?

Perhaps international readers are unaware but the facts are plain and simple, Aussie music fans pay more than their friends across the Atlantic. Perhaps this issue spreads further than the commonwealth but here are the facts using Tame Impala’s 2012 album ‘Lonerism’ as a test case (for no particular reason).

*Note that all prices are in US dollars (AUD have been converted)…

Physical Album (CD) Price

Australia – JB Hi-Fi – $15.60 (link)
USA – Best Buy – $7.99 (link)

Digital Album (iTunes) Price

Australia – iTunes – $17.67 (link)
USA  – iTunes – $9.99 (link)

*In this case the physical copy is actually cheaper than the digital copy which is bizarre in itself considering the cost of manufacture/distribution and superior audio quality (supply/demand in full effect)

Touring (Show) Price

Australia – Friday Dec 14 2012, Enmore Theatre, Sydney – $46.60 + Booking Fee (link)
USA – Tues Feb 19 2013, Terminal 5, New York – $25 + Booking Fee (link)

*Side note – booking fees made more sense in 1994 when I was sleeping out for Pearl Jam tickets. I bought them from John or Judy cashier who looked after my booking process, offered me a consoling look for spending the night on the sidewalk and then handed me a physical ticket. John and Judy got fired more than a decade ago but I’m still paying them a booking fee. And I print my own ticket. Even Ikea don’t charge for self serve counters. I miss John and Judy!

To state the obvious, Tame Impala are from Perth (Australia) and yet it costs less to see them in another country… wait, what!? Who are they flying with? That’s not a finger point towards the band just the state of affairs. If you do the math, Aussies pay on average 88% more (even for identical digital products). It’s a complex reality (at least I hope it is) because for the average Joe like me, it just seems like an economic do over.

In search for answers (plants tongue in cheek) I emailed iTunes…

Lang_Country : en_AU
Product : iTunes Store
Support Subject : Purchases, Billing & Redemption
GCRM Case ID : 407485162
Details:
Is there a reason why the Australian iTunes store charges more for music releases than the USA store? Even Australian releases cost less overseas. APRA/AMCOS have said that it is not due to licensing fees or copyright between territories. Local major labels receive a similar revenue share to their USA heads and given that the method of digital delivery is identical, as is the product, I can’t understand why there’s any difference in price given the Australian dollar is above parity? I don’t mean to rock the boat, just baffled is all! Thanks for any clarity you can share, James.

The response…

Dear James,

Greetings from iTunes Store! My name is Jam, and I will be your iTunes Store Advisor for today!

I see that you want an explanation about the pricing in iTunes Store. Let try to do my best to explain it to you.

James, the iTunes Store endeavors to offer you competitive prices on current selections. Your total price will include the price of the product plus any applicable sales tax (in effect on the day of download). Apple reserves the right to change prices for products offered at the iTunes Store at any time, and does not provide price protection or refunds in the event of a price drop or promotional offering.

You’ll find more answers to your questions about pricing and many other topics in the iTunes Store Terms of Sale:

http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html

If you have a specific question about your account, billing, downloading music, or iTunes Store content, please let me know. I will be happy to assist you further.

Sincerely,

Jam
iTunes Store Customer Support

My response…

Thanks Jam,

I appreciate the response and the terms of use document you’ve linked to… http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html.

After reading through these terms and conditions I’ve noted that under ‘REQUIREMENTS FOR USE OF THE ITUNES SERVICE’ it states “The iTunes Service is available to you only in the United States, its territories, and possessions”. Given that the American terms of service apply to me in Australia, can the American prices apply to me in Australia too? That would be great.

Thanks,

James.

Needless to say, there was no answer to be found but muddied water. It seems that these prices are charged because certain markets will simply pay more for it. That simple.

On a positive note, there are ways to get around this. Avoid the middle man and buy direct from the record label or artist. Bandcamp is just one example where fans are charged equally for digital music regardless of whether they are from New York, Brazil, Japan, Rome or Perth. Equality shouldn’t be a nail in the commercial music industry’s coffin. In the fight against music piracy, the ‘value of music’ is always argued and I agree with this completely. But the irony is that this value isn’t consistently set (in monetary terms) by the music sellers themselves. 

If you’ve got knowledge, opinions or solutions please share them below! Thanks for putting up with the rant.

**UPDATE**

Apple have been ordered to a Parliamentary inquiry (together with Adobe and Microsoft) to answer for price gouging against Australian consumers. Labor MP Ed Husic led the summons, the hearing is to take place in Canberra on March 22. More info @ Financial Review.

Blissed Out in Italy! (Psychic Hearts Guest Post)

As promised, here’s the very first guest post @ SBWR from the super talented PSYCHIC HEARTS! PSYCHIC HEARTS is a CA/NY-based writer of sorts who loves obese cats and used records. You can read more reviews, features, and commentary from her music site <here> dedicated to shoegaze / dreampop / garage / synthwave. Big thanks for the work put into this feature! Blissed Out In Italy shines a light on our Italian friends and a bunch of new acts to keep an ear on.

For music lovers like us, the inquisitive mind never rests, nor should it. You can visit the popular website, rely on your friends, randomly catch a show, hoping to strike gold. Or… you can dig. After hearing Be Forest’s acclaimed debut ‘Cold’, I discovered their label We Were Never Being Boring, which led me to unearth more DIY labels such as Keep It Yours (Rome), Upside Down Recordings (Rome), and Tannen (Verona).  Their rosters include English-singing bands that have toured and played alongside the Japandroids, Dum Dum Girls, Moon Duo, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, as well as epic festivals such as Spacefest! And so, we at SBWR think the following artists from Italy should definitely be on your radar this year…

 

BE FOREST (We Were Never Being Boring .,Pesaro)

Dreamy, warm, atmospheric music from the Adriatic coast. BE FOREST features two female singers and spent the remaining part of 2012 touring Europe with the Japandroids. That last part should pretty much confirm their awesomeness! If you like BLOUSE, Slowdive, and the ethereal vocals of Elizabeth Harris of GROUPER, listen to BE FOREST’S stunning debut, ‘Cold’ @ Bandcamp / Facebook / WWNBB as well as their latest single, ‘Hanged Man’ and what was voted as Decay FM Radio’s 2012 shoegaze song of the year, ‘I Quit Girls‘ (Japandroids cover).
 
Be Forest – ‘Florence’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Be-Forest-Florence.mp3]
 
Be Forest – ‘Wild Brain’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Be-Forest-Wild-Brain.mp3]
 
Be Forest – ‘Hanged Man’


 

HOLiDAYS (Keep it Yours .,Rome)

A sunny bucolic daydream, drenched in reverb and lovelorn lyrics. HOLiDAYS are a dreampop quartet from Rome with songs and DIY-visuals inspired by their European travels, Roman summers, and youthful nostalgia. Though they are not even close to completing their second LP, the leaks so far sound incredible and very different from ‘Young Love’ – with more fuzz and dreamier soundscapes. If you like Wild Nothing, Real Estate, Blueboy, and Mood Rings, listen to HOLiDAYS’ debut, ‘Young Love’ @ Bandcamp / Facebook / iTunes.
 
HOLiDAYS – ‘Holes’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Holidays-Holes.mp3]
 
HOLiDAYS – ‘Only in Dreams’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Holidays-Only-in-Dreams.mp3]
 
HOLiDAYS – ‘Sleepless’


 

BROTHERS IN LAW (Tannen /WWNBB/ CF/ CoCo Heart .,Pesaro)

Shimmery, c-86 inspired surf pop featuring Nicola Lampredi of BE FOREST. BiL’s ‘Gray Days‘ EP is an ironic misnomer, considering each song is a loud, jangly haze of fuzz and melody. Their debut, ‘Hard Times for Dreamers’ drops this year on WWNBB, CF and COCOHEART Records (Japan); they will follow the release with a series of shows in New York and Austin for SXSW 2013 (dates). Be sure to check them out if you are attending this year, and pre-order their new album via Musicraiser. If you like Crocodiles, Dum Dum Girls, Beach Fossils, and/or Best Coast, listen to BROTHERS IN LAW @ Bandcamp / Facebook.
 
BROTHERS IN LAW – ‘Ode to Love’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Brothers-In-Law-Ode-To-Love.mp3]
 
BROTHERS IN LAW  – ‘Shadow II’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Brothers-In-Law-Shadow-II.mp3]
 
BROTHERS IN LAW  – ‘Holy Weekend’


 
 

HIS CLANCYNESS (Independent .,Bologna)

Nothing can be written about Italy’s indie rock scene without mentioning, Jonathan Clancy of His Clancyness and A Classic Education, who is perhaps the most well-known Italian indie rocker to crossover in recent years.  Indeed, the last few years have definitely been a whirlwind with what seems like a non-stop itinerary of US/EU tours and marathon recording sessions with Jarvis Taveniere (Woods) and Chris Koltay (Lotus Plaza, Atlas Sound, Akron/Family), but thoughtful and prolific as always – Clancy continues to gift us with a steady stream of late night, lo-fi recordings perfect for any jilted lover’s mixtape (like his cover of ‘I Can’t Talk About It’ by El Perro Del Mar).  You can catch HIS CLANCYNESS at SXSW this year, along side BROTHERS IN LAW this March in Austin.  If you like The Microphones, Minks, Weed Diamond, or anything off K Records listen to HIS CLANCYNESS @ Bandcamp / iTUNES / Soundcloud / Facebook.
 
HIS CLANCYNESS – ‘How It’s Done In Italy’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/His-Clancyness-How-Its-Done-In-Italy.mp3]
 
HIS CLANCYNESS – ‘Summer Majestic’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/His-Clancyness-Summer-Majestic.mp3]
 
HIS CLANCYNESS – ‘Carve A Peach’


 

SEA DWELLER (Upside Down Recordings .,Rome)

I die whenever I hear this band. Beautiful, ecstasy and what have you. They are so underrated, under-appreciated, and incredibly talented, but thankfully well known in this very esoteric world of ethereal guitars and heavy distortion. With alternating male and female vox, SEA DWELLER probably has the most classic, recognizable sound highlighted in this feature, with noise reminiscent of Ride, early LILYS, and the Telescopes.  They were recently invited to play alongside the likes of Mark Gardener and Pure Phase Ensemble at Spacefest! (an epic shoegaze fest in Poland). You can stream their entire last album, ‘Signs of a Perfect Disaster’ @ Bandcamp and order their gorgeous, limited edition yellow vinyl of ‘Signs’ @ Sea Dweller Music @ Facebook.
 
SEA DWELLER – ‘Marion’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Sea-Dweller-Marion.mp3]
 
SEA DWELLER – ‘Slow Down’

[mejsaudio src= https://www.soundsbetterwithreverb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Sea-Dweller-Slowdown.mp3]
 
SEA DWELLER  – ‘I See The Sea From Her’


 

Honorary Mention:

GENERAL DECAY (Milan)

All I know is that this very fuzzy, garage pop band is supremely awesome, but sadly defunct. Oh, and everyone loves them!
 
More @ PSYCHIC HEARTS.

On3 Radio Features Sounds Better With Reverb

Big thanks to Karo and the team over at Germany’s On3 Radio for featuring Sounds Better With Reverb today (listen below). If you’re fluent in German (or Google translate) you can read all about it via On3’s ‘New Hits From The Blog’ here. Also, cheers to all of the regular visitors for your support – I know who you are! No really… google analytics tells me too much! *grin*

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Visit On3 Radio here.