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Worth his weight in Happy Meals: An interview with Daniel Smith

2 Feb

Note: This piece comes from our newest contributor, Callie Windle. We’re glad to welcome her to DayBowBow.

By Callie Windle

Artists aren’t what they used to be. Purveyors of opinion and story, their works were intentional portions of self, carefully served to us–their viewers and listeners–hungry for truth and reality.

We feasted on Dylan, his words becoming the sustenance for our young and rebellious spirits; we savored Frida Kahlo, each morsel seasoned with pain and loss; and we could feel awkward originality in every bite of Vonnegut. The artists were part of our lives, and they themselves became part of us.

Today’s “artist” is more often comparable to a children’s meal at a fast food joint. Their packaging is equally as, if not more, important as the substance. The bright colors distract us from what we’re really getting: over-priced, unnourishing snacks. They don’t satisfy, and they don’t stay with us for very long—one-hit-wonders crowd shelves at Half-Price Books stores across the nation.

There are, however, exceptions—artists who carry on the traditions of old, folding love into the batter of their words and sprinkling conviction on their musical snow peas. And occasionally they give us even more—innovation. Daniel Smith is one of these artists.

The frontman for Danielson Famile, Smith is well-acquainted with the arts. Though he is mainly known for his musical endeavors, the New Jersey native is also a visual artist, and his album covers offer listeners a peek at his work.

More than that, Smith is no stranger to the discomfort that often accompanies the different, the unknown. His music has been the subject of much debate, even leading to a documentary, Danielson: a Family movie (2006).

Smith and I recently talked during his afternoon break from mixing Norwegian band I Was a King.

What follows is a glimpse into that old world of true artistry.

Continue reading

Sunday Morning Afternoon Coming Down: Breakfast with RJD2

14 Nov

By Jesseca Bagherpour

Preface: I was supposed to speak to RJD2 after his Fun Fun Fun Fest set on Saturday night. But my fate was not in my own hands, as I didn’t have my own car and everyone I was there with was ready to go immediately after the music stopped. As we were leaving Waterloo Park, he was just beginning to break down the stage, which is no short task due to his extensive DJ equipment. With a heavy heart, I decided to accept that it wasn’t going to happen.

Then, as we were merging onto I-35, heading for South Austin, I got a text message from RJ (not because we’re pals, but because I had sent him a message earlier in the evening). He asked if I was still up for an interview, and when I told him I’d already left he immediately offered to meet me for breakfast, even though he had to be ready by 10:15 for a flight back home to Philly. That was my first indication of how friendly and personable he is.

RJD2, aka Ramble John Krohn, has been a DJ for 17 years with a solo recording career that has lasted for eight. His songs have appeared in so many movies, commercials and TV shows that a complete list would be overwhelming, although I can say without a doubt that Mad Men is my favorite.

He has produced records for several noteworthy rappers, including Copywrite, DOOM and Aceyalone. And he recently established a label, RJ’s Electrical Connections, on which he re-released a handful of his albums, mixes and EPs as well as releasing his latest album, The Colossus. Did I mention that he’s also his own tour manager? The man is busy.

Despite his hectic schedule and a late night playing at Fun Fun Fun Fest, RJ sat down with me last Sunday at Austin’s Kerbey Lane, on Guadalupe, to eat some tacos and chat.  Continue reading

A Dream in Sound: Andrew Rieger discusses Elf Power’s new album, current tour and big plans with Elephant 6

4 Oct

By Jesseca Bagherpour

Andrew Rieger grew up in Greenwood, SC, just a two-hour drive from the music town of Athens, GA. He admired R.E.M. as a teenager and credits them with his discovery of other great music. Now both Andrew and his solo-project-turned-band Elf Power, are fixtures in the Athens music scene as second-wave members of the Elephant 6 Collective. They’ve been together for 16 years, have released 10 albums and have consistently gone on extensive tours in support of each.

I spoke with Rieger over the phone on Sunday, and I have a feeling his affability and sense of humor help keep Elf Power together (well, that and his vast musical talent …).

When I asked him how he accounts for the band’s longevity, Rieger’s answer was pretty simple: “We just still enjoy doing it and it’s fun to make music and record music and travel and play for people all over the world. It’s a nice way to live your life, so it’s become a natural thing that we do.”

Elf Power’s tenth album is eponymous and the band released it on their label, Orange Twin Records. Rieger explained that the main difference between Elf Power and their past albums is the method they used to record it.

“We recorded the basic tracks at Chase Park studios here in Athens, then we took the tracks that we recorded there back to the home studio and recorded vocals and did a bunch of experimentation and we took it back to Chase to mix it there,” Reiger said. “It was kind of like the best of both worlds of a professional studio and home recording.”

It’s fun to record music and travel and play for people all over the world. It’s a nice way to live your life, so it’s become a natural thing that we do.

The record is also a special tribute to Athens musician Vic Chesnutt, with whom the band had become close after making an album, Dark Elements, and touring with him, including a tour just months before his death on December 25, 2009. Continue reading

The Club is Open: The “classic lineup” of Guided By Voices is back on tour … and Tobin Sprout tells us all about it

24 Sep

Photo: Michael Lavine

By Jesseca Bagherpour

Guided By Voices is one of the most prolific and legendary bands to somehow barely crack the mainstream. Formed in Dayton, OH, in 1983, and originally a band known almost exclusively by family members and friends, they first made their name in the indie scene with 1992’s Propeller. And tales of their alcohol-fueled, marathon-length live shows spread in the underground rock scene. Within a couple of years, the band had begun building what would become a cult-like following and they garnered mainstream attention with Alien Lanes in 1995.

And though the “classic lineup”–the one that first brought fame to GBV–split in 1996, the band kept going, putting out an impressive number of records and undergoing numerous lineup changes. In 2004, after 21 years and to the dismay of fans, the band called it quits. Since then, people have repeatedly asked front man Robert Pollard if GBV would ever reunite, and he repeatedly said that it wouldn’t.

But the “classic lineup” of GBV–Pollard, guitarist/vocalist Tobin Sprout, guitarist Mitch Mitchell, drummer Kevin Fennell and bassist Greg Demos–is back together for a national tour that kicks off in Dallas on September 29. The band originally planned a one-off performance at Matador’s 21st Anniversary show this October in Las Vegas, along with Pavement, Belle and Sebastian, Superchunk, Cat Power, Spoon, Ted Leo and many more of Matador’s finest acts. But a full tour was inevitable.

Pollard is the most well-known member of GBV–he penned most of the songs, created the album covers and helmed the band for its full 21 years. But Sprout was equally important in its development and popularity. He wrote some of the band’s most popular songs, played various instruments and engineered the albums, which the band recorded in his home.

Thus, Sprout was highly influential on the band’s early lo-fi sound (and he still prefers analog over digital). He is often called the “George Harrison to Bob Pollard’s Lennon/McCartney” because they are equally talented, but he always allowed Pollard to take the spotlight. Sprout left the band in 1996, choosing family life over touring. He also began a solo career that year, as did Pollard (in fact, the two released their debut albums on the same day).

Because the dream team of Pollard and Sprout is finally reunited, and because it’s been six years since we’ve had GBV in any form, “The Hallway of Shatterproof Glass” tour is hugely exciting for fans. As one of those fans, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Sprout. Continue reading

Here Comes Our Man: David Lovering talks about the Doolittle tour & The Pixies’ past, present & future

17 Sep

Note: This piece is by Richard Carter, an old friend of mine who has probably been writing longer than I’ve been alive and he played a major role in the development of my musical tastes. He’s been a fan of music since vinyl was the thing. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he grew up primarily in Wichita Falls, Texas (my hometown) and has also lived in Paris, France, Olympia, Washington and Dallas, Texas. He is a free-lance photographer and writer and has served as the art editor for the Wichita Falls Literature and Art Review since 2008. Oh, and he managed to score an interview with a member of one of the greatest bands in rock ‘n’ roll history.–Jess

By Richard Carter

From 1986 to 1993, the Pixies recorded five albums, which made a significant impact on a small group of critics and devoted fans. Their audience has since grown significantly.
Following some up and down solo projects, the four members reformed in 2004 for a tour. They continued to play whenever the mood appeared to hit them.
Last Fall, the band reformed for a tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of their third album, “Doolittle.” The tour’s success led them to extend it much longer and farther than originally planned.

I had the opportunity recently to do a phone interview with the Pixies drummer, David Lovering, about the past, present and future of this remarkable band.

Wow, this has been quite some tour.

We’re quite surprised it’s gone so long. The band has been together longer now (since we reformed in 2004) than our original run back in the ‘80s.

Has your approach to performing the tunes off the album changed since you recorded it?

Nothing has changed. Every time we get back together, we are always still trying to iron things out that we are not playing right. It’s all been good. I think we are playing better than we have been and thank God for Youtube because that’s only thing that helped me get my drum parts together.

Has your appreciation of Doolittle changed over the years?

I don’t think my appreciation of the music has changed (since it came out). When we did ‘Doolittle,’ I remember recording it, I remember the whole atmosphere and I loved it. I thought it was a great album and still to this day, I think it still stands up and I have the same pride in it and it hasn’t diminished. I am still loving it.

You have a few more fans now than 20 years ago, yes?

Back then we were very critically acclaimed, and we had all the music magazines. Everyone loved us in terms of the critics and stuff like that. But we were not that big with fans. When 2004 hit, we couldn’t believe how much things had grown and people who weren’t even born when the albums came out were now huge fans. Every time we go out and play I am very appreciative.

Has the “Minotaur” box set helped refocus attention on the band?

I think the box set got some press, and it sold pretty well. It was like a tombstone, and in fact I will be using that as my tombstone when I die. It’s so big.

The albums on “Minotaur” were not remastered. Will the catalog CDs ever get the treatment?

I think we have a choice in remastering our albums, but I don’t think we are going to do it. I think it’s been done so many times with greatest hits and in compilations, I think as far as remastering, let’s leave it as it is.

What happens to the band after the tour ends in 2010?

We are touring til the end of October, and then we have nothing on the plate after that. We’ve been talking, I’m going to say, for the last two years about doing a new album and nothing is planned. Nothing is planned.
It’s an open slate but the talk has gotten better. So if anything happens, I would say the year 2011 is when it would. I can’t say. I just know it’s in talks right now.

What’s the dynamic like onstage?

I know I shouldn’t be trying to have fun, but I do have fun and I try to make it fun for everyone else. We’re having a blast. The Pixies are the four of us. I don’t think the Pixies are anything but the four of us. I think each of us contributes something, and our playing right now I think is better than it’s ever been as far as being onstage and playing. I think were doing a great job to show the Doolittle album.

Will the band tour for any other previous albums?

I think it was apropos to do Doolittle. It had been 20 years, and it was one of the band’s favorite albums. It was perfect. We have been joking on the road that we are going to go back and do Surfer Rosa, which is fine but when we joke about doing Bossa Nova or Trompe le Monde I kind of grimace because Doolittle is a cakewalk for me as far as drumming. It’s nice and easy and I’m not agonizing, but if we do Trompe le Monde I am going to go “ahhh ahhhha”. But, if it happens, it happens.

What was it like getting back together after being apart for so long?

It was very straightforward getting back together. When we got back together in 2004, it was like a day hadn’t gone by for all of us. That first show was like riding a bike. Everything was just easy and it all came back so easily.

On Sunday, Sept 19, The Pixies will play the complete “Doolittle album,” B-sides from the album’s recording sessions and an encore of favorite songs at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie. The band goes on at 8:30 p.m.

Femme Fest is this weekend

24 Jun

We try to be pretty socially concise around these parts, mainly because we feel that while music is pretty great, it’s greater when performed for a cause with a purpose we support, so when we became aware that Dallas’ Phoenix Project Collective was putting on a two day festival this weekend we decided to highlight what their trying to accomplish.

Femme Fest is  focused on celebrating and empowering diverse women in the community.  The two days will be filled with live music featuring both local and touring female acts as well as work shops, food from Spiral Diner, live art auction, raffles, games and assorted organizations on hand who plan to help educate the public about their causes. Proceeds from the event go to both the Phoenix Project Collective,  and Texas Equal Access Fund, a 501 c3 charity.

And after the jump you’ll find even mor information about the Collective, and Femme Fest as I as able to ask the Collective‘s Jessica Luther a few questions. Continue reading

The Incredible Journey: Scott Sloan talks about “40 Nights of Rock & Roll”

19 May

The future saviors of rock 'n' roll?

By Jesseca Bagherpour

Scott Sloan and Steve Labate are on a mission: Armed with only a camera, their trusty jeep Black Betty and a stash of junk food, they’re on a 40-day tour of the United States to prove that rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay.

They’ll be attending a concert every night (that’s 40 shows in 40 different cities) and filming those concerts, along with interviews with different musicians they meet along the way, for their documentary, 40 Nights of Rock & Roll–A Fearless Journey Through The Dark Heart Of Rock & Roll Music On The Road In The United States Of America.

Sloan and Labate have been friends since teenhood and rock fanatics since childhood (in fact, Sloan traced his love for music to an interesting source). Sloan is a filmmaker and former phone company salesman and Labate is an accomplished music journalist and former editor for Paste magazine. They’ve both attended their fair share of shows and festivals over the years, but never in such a high concentration.

The zealous duo of rock avengers will be in the area next week, making stops in Dallas on May 24 for Of Montreal’s show at The Granada and in Denton on May 26 for … whatever they find.

I jumped at the opportunity to find out more about their ambitious project, and Sloan was gracious enough to answer my questions, despite the fatigue and delirium caused by 15 days on the road.

DBB: What inspired you to embark on this journey, and why did you decide on 40 nights specifically?

SS: We were inspired by the Josh Hartnett film 40 days and 40 Nights.

DBB: How did you go about planning the project, including the cities you selected, bands you wanted to see, funding, etc?

SS: We took a bunch of bands that we liked tour schedules and dumped them into some databases. I correlated those results with a map of the US marked by homes of friends and family, then overlayed that map with the migration patterns of the wooly mammoths. This is the result.

DBB: How is it different from past projects (other films, features on music, festival coverage, etc.) that you’ve worked on?

SS: This is different because it never ends. No breaks … Seriously … None.

DBB: What do you expect/hope to find in some of the other cities where you have no specific bands set up to watch?

SS: We’re looking for the spirit of rock. I hope to hap across some little club with some distortion, screaming vocals, thundering bass, and machine gun drums pouring out, go in, and get my face rocked off. Or see a nice little pop trio hitting all the stops and making people smile.

DBB: How do you plan to survive the journey, and how are you and Black Betty holding up so far?

SS: We have a nutritionist travelling with us who determines the optimal carb/protein ratios for us using only processed meats and corn and potato chips.

Black Betty is holding up well. She is looking to become this generation’s Hidalgo, and is coming along quite nicely.

DBB: What are some of your best experiences thus far?

SS: Every show has been amazing in one way or another. Of course there are personal favorites … But to single out any band or artist would be a disservice to the film and the shows we’ve seen. Let’s just say that 15 days in, it appears that rock is alive and well and flourishing.

DBB: What are some of your worst experiences thus far?

SS: Being with Steve 24 hours a day. You learn everything about a person like this. Heck, I noticed he had been carrying a large piece of lint for two days straight. I know he has gotten quite sick of me as well, but we persevere.

DBB: Not to be a snob, but why Third Eye Blind?

SS: Rock has many faces.

DBB: You have a history with Of Montreal and you’ll be here in Dallas to see them. Why did you choose a relatively small venue to see them when their shows are getting bigger and more elaborate? What do you hope they’ll do with this show?

SS: Venue size means nothing to us … It’s hard enough to find bands for 40 consecutive nights and cover the country. I am confident that Of Montreal will deliver.

DBB: If you could have done this project during any other musical era, which would you have chosen?

SS: I think I’d like to do this in 1975. There was so much awesome rock going on, and people were partying with a recklessness that is absent in today’s world of YouTube and camera phones.

DBB: You seem to be pretty adamant in the belief that rock ‘n’ roll is still alive. If it ever dies, who do you think will pull the trigger?

SS: The only person who can kill rock is yourself, when you stop listening to it.

Any words of advice for people who love music and are trying to make a career out of it, especially considering the current economic climate?

SS: I think I’m about eight grand in the hole for this, so I really can’t help there.

DBB: Can we hang out when you come to Denton?

SS: Love to.

If you have any suggestions of what these two should do while they’re in the area, please let us know in the comments or via email.

P.S. Jaime has a similar project in the works, planned before he knew about this film. Starting December 31, he will see one band every night for a year. Talk about ambitious.