Sunday, 21 June 2009
Pocahaunted could have easily just have been another (albeit incredible) female-voiced drone band from the West Coast of America. Instead earlier this year they chose a different path, recruiting and regrouping as a five piece.
They’ve been showcasing their new material on a brief tour of Europe with fellow LA experimentalist (and now keyboardist with the band) Sun Araw. And I was fortunate enough to grab 10 minutes with Lead Singer Amanda (right) and Bassist/vocalist Diva (left) after their show in Nottingham.
-TLL: How has the tour been going, so far?
Amanda: It's been pretty good
Diva: Most of the shows that we've had there's been like dancing and stuff, they come up to us afterwards and they're like 'we didn’t expect to be like coming here, dancing and having an uplifting experience’ but they really got into that mode and everyone's just been like having fun I guess.
-TLL: I've noticed live, now don't take this in the wrong way or anything, but I'm not sure whether it's your guitarist's guitar lines or your drummer's beard but you've got a bit of a 70's feel to it - that whole 70's Californian feel to it, are you quite influenced by that?
Diva: I think we're influenced by a lot of music from then I guess you'd say we're influenced by a lot of jazz, afro beat and a lot of the afro funk is from around that era.
Amanda: Yeah absolutely, the time when like California Soul and funk were sort of for everyone, getting fairly mainstream - coming away from the roots and African American based music and it was even more of like a world phenomenon. And I think that's when like all styles converged and that's why it sound sort of psychedelic, but also a hybrid of dub and reggae beat to it.
Diva: We also really like dub, a lot of psychedelic influences too maybe not as much (70's) but early 60's stuff like with the other guys and stuff.
-TLL: I've noticed you guys seem to have a penchant for Fleetwood Mac as well.
Amanda: (Laughs)I like Fleetwood Mac, quite a bit.
TLL: I noticed the cover of your new record Passage, it's pretty much identikit to Rumours in like the font.
Amanda: It's hard not like them and I’m not really even into the genre that they come in, they just have a special soul to them and do think there's a funny balance between having two women and three men and having this play off like power structure in the band. Like the female voices being like lead voices.
TLL: A bit like Pocahaunted then?
A: Yeah (laughs) a bit like that!
-TLL: I read an interview with you guys on Alan McGee's website toocooltodie.com...
Amanda: It sounds familiar, did I say anything? (Laughs)
TLL: There were a lot of odd questions like 'What are the secret origins behind Pocahaunted?’ 'What are the secret origins of your name?' implying all these mysterious origins and I think the answers were a bit like 'ooo eerr, what? We’re just a band'.
Amanda: Diva and I talk about this constantly. When people ask a band where their name comes from, I think a lot of people put a lot of stock in their band name and they find that it really reflects them and I think sometimes it doesn’t reflect you, you grow into it, rather than it defining you. And the band name Pocahaunted', literally came to me in a dream (laughs), which is cheesy, but it's true. And I woke up and I went 'Pocahaunted!?' How funny' and then all of a sudden you start playing music and you SOUND like Pocahaunted almost like it was clothes that we had to grow up into and so when people say 'oh is it because you love native American imagery?', 'is it because you want play on that idea of ethnicity?' - it's not necessarily and if that happens it's a coincidence because we just play the music that we played and all of a sudden people were like '..! spooookeey, natiiiiive'.
Diva: It’s all coming from the same person so it makes sense. Yeah, asking a band where they got their name from it just takes the mystery away it's not usually that good of a story.
Amanda: it's makes you wonder if anyone ever asks The Beach Boys where they got their name or like The Beatles - what would they say? They would say 'I don't know'.
-TLL: Yeah you've pretty much touched on the question that I was gonna ask you next, I think with a name like Pocahaunted, it's just a good pun, most bands could like start and end with that where as with you, you seem to have taken it as far as it can go.
Amanda: Yeah, I mean they say you know a shark has to keep moving or it dies, I think the same is true with the band (laughs) if you stop like illuminating in your music then stop giving any of your soul to your music all of a sudden what do you have you know? You have a band with 13 of the same albums forever, and I think a lot of fans feel comforted by that, 'oh I know I like this, here's more of what I like' but as the person creating it, to keep loving it...
Diva: To grow as person and have it fulfil the purpose that it gives to you...
Amanda: Because it's hard, as you're growing as a person, you're touring hearing other bands play meeting other people, you're like 'oh I heard this amazing song by a Thai 60's rock group record that's crazy like sparsey jam' all of a sudden you're like 'I want that in my music, I wanna translate that'. So to be this sort of like mopey, steady thing that never pulls in these other influences it's just... it's not for us.
TLL: It's not so cool unless you're like Slayer.
-TLL: Again with the whole Native American thing, they're all these like your websites, and like videos, I've noticed with you guys... they're somewhat more of prominent thing.
Amanda: I think to Diva and I, our aesthetic is really important and if you represent your band then you kind of represent yourself, then you kinda want your art to be in everything and as like a full fledged artist it's not just we want to play you great music but we also want to present you something beautiful or interesting or unique. So if you see our record cover: it reflects us, if you see our video it reflects us and on and on and on. It's kinda sad when you love a band and then you see their art and it's just black with their names in white and they're kinda like 'what does it mean' you know?
Diva: I think a big part of music is taking your own personal world, like your own personal reality that isn't part of this one and giving that to other people, expressing that to other people. And you wanna do that completely and you wanna create an entire world, if music is the most prominent thing you wanna create a world for it to live in not you know.
Amanda: I think it's hard for bands to get lumped into genres and scenes and microcosms of microcosms and we're sort of genre-less and we're sort of aesthetic-full and we just pick colours and images that we connect with all the time then we're much more vibrant than just being rock set in the middle like 'Drone band!' you know, what fun is that?
-TLL: You could have easily been lumped in with that whole West Coast female drone thing with Grouper and Inca Ore, but now you're this full fledged band and it's just developed into this whole other story.
Amanda: It's an incredible blessing to be around people like Liz from Grouper and Eva from Inca Ore and the other women doing their own projects, but I think the vibe of that is a lot about beauty ceaseless and endless beauty and then there's depths to that. We may be more about rhythm and think that starting to be more prominent, our voices are beautiful and they are, but sometimes they're not beautiful but you push it and you're not obsessed with coming across as precious and it think it works for them and that's why it's a beautiful expression of them. And for us, with Bethany and I, we had to be less precious - cause we're not so precious (laughs).
-TLL: I'm not sure why she's not here tonight...
Amanda: She moved to New York to go to college, we had to split coasts. She's much younger than and I couldn't stand in the way of her dreams.
TLL: It seems rude to ask about whether you continue with her, but it seems like a really good friendship between you two, I guess you'd have to be, considering you spend so much time together.
Amanda: Yeah! That's the thing about this particular band, we're all really close and I was obviously incredibly close with Bethany when she lived in my city and Diva's one of my closest friends, and my husbands in the band and two of our really good friends finish up the back line.
TLL: Which one's your husband?
Amanda: My husband's the guitarist, one of the ones with facial hair (laughs), they all have facial- yeah you have to be really close, it's an endeavour.
Diva: We've been together for a week and I think we're just standing strong.
Amanda: (laughs) Yeah, we're standing strong!... No it's been good, you have to be strong and also I think about bands like The Rolling Stones and they go into their shows in five limos, they have five difference dressing rooms, they're like 'Don't talk to me, I've known you for 45 years. Don't even speak to me let's go play Satisfaction and go home'. And I think if you get that point then in the beginning then you have to be brothers and sisters, you have to be close because the creative process is really intense... you know in 45 years I might be like 'Diva, I'm taking a private jet, take your own damn private jet I'll see you when we get to the venue, dammit' - but for now together.
-TLL: How long of the tour have you got left?
Amanda: Two weeks, we've only done one week.
TLL: So it's kinda fresh so far.
Diva: It doesn't feel fresh! (laughs)
TLL: Is it too much!?
Diva: I mean we're playing every single night on this tour, we haven’t had one day off on this tour, so that's a little intense.
Amanda: We were kinda like 'Hi Ireland... bye Ireland!’ 'Hi Scotland... bye Scotland!'
Diva: At home we're pretty used to staying at home and we've kinda developed our own lives at homes, I mean it's been really amazing, it's been really exciting to come out of that and have all these experiences... but we're not fresh.
A: (laughs) We’re not used to it. We’re doing well, we're eating good food.
-TLL: So do you reckon when you get back, you'll have a bit of a break or do you reckon you'll be going in and recording things?
Diva: We'll have a little, little, little break but we're definitely gonna try and start recording as soon as possible because we have 5 songs already that we need to record and we wanna get the record done, I say as soon as possible but not like rushed, we want it to sound good, as good as it's gonna be. We're gonna start working on that soon.
Amanda: Cause after the tour we'll be slamming at these songs. After 21 days of playing them, if we're not good by then, they’re not meant to be heard by the world (laughs)!
Pocahaunted can be found online at notnotfun.com/pocahaunted and at myspace.com/pocahaunted
Monday, 15 June 2009
You know that Police song 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'? Well that was written about Mike Silver (aka CFCF). Even though Sting changed 'CFCF' to 'She' and travelled back in time to the 80's, just so he didn't seem to like too much of a fanboy, the song's still pretty much spot on.
Mike was in UK on the tail end of a month long semi-holiday playing shows around Europe (including Copenhagen's Distortion Festival) and seeing the sights where he could. This is a bit of a long one.
-TLL: You're djing tonight, what are you playing?
I think it depends on the crowd I guess, if it's a busy night, hopefully it will be, I'll play a lot of dance music like I tend to go in the direction of disco and house stuff, sort of like 90's house and disco and some oddities here and there.
-Will you be playing any of your own stuff at all?
Yeah I'm gonna try and work some in, it tends to not dominate sets usually but I try to work in a couple of songs.
-I guess if you did that you'd feel a bit self-conscious.
Yeah I think so, it doesn’t really make that much sense and besides you know there's so much more music, why would I limit myself?
-It's the same with Viva Radio (American Apparel Radio Station on which Mike has his own channel)
-How did get approached with that anyway?
My girlfriend, Andrea, really helped me with that actually because she travelled to LA and sort of met some of the people who were involved with Viva Radio. I work at an American Apparel and on Viva Radio some of the contributors had put on a remix of mine, so she had to get in contact with some of the people involved like this girl Iris and they moved me along to this guy Matt who runs Viva Radio and asked if they were looking a new contributor and they were into it.
-In terms of the music you make yourself, how do you go about it - what do you use is it?
It's pretty much with my laptop I use Logic Pro, occasionally I’ll play some guitar and I have a key controller - but otherwise it's all through that and soft synths and samples and stuff like that.
-Yeah big time, its always kind of interesting to ask about the processes of these things especially cause it's not like...
It’s not like live music or something that comes organically, well it comes out organically but it's a different working process.
-So are there a lot of sleepless nights, just like fiddling around...
No no, well it's sort of if I get going on something, then I’ll probably just work on it. It's like composing you know? You’re working on it. You have the chance to listen to it over and over again and if something's not right you can kinda twiddle with it and you get things to where they're satisfactory. It's lot like editing a film or something like that, you can have the same control with things that you can add in and take out.
-What first influenced you to create music electronically rather than say joining a guitar band with your friends?
Yeah I started using the computer to play around with music when I was pretty young, probably like 12 or something like that. It was probably more something to do with that I started to get into music like that, nothing big but it was around the time of Big Beat and so like Chemical Brothers and stuff like that and I was also into DJ Shadow. So I was just playing around and also I didn’t know anybody who could play any instruments and I at the time couldn’t play any instruments so it was playing around on the computer - it was sort of a hobby and gradually I abandoned it for a while and started to actually play guitar and learn that, but went back to it in my spare time. This was all during high school and then gradually it became more and more something I was working on and kina trying to improve and confident in showing to other people.
-How long ago was that?
I guess the first time that I started to show other people was like three ago.
-And then its all just gone on from there.
Yeah, I’ve been pretty lucky with it, like obviously had some luck with it.
-Good pushes in the right directions
Yeah exactly - like the Crystal Castles remix - I think that was good.
-And the Health one as well?
I thought the Health one was good, that kinda came out of the Crystal Castles remix 'cause I think they're friends.
-I kinda prefer your original material really - would you ever play live?
I dunno, I mean when I'm composing I don't play live that much, I play guitar and I'll play the keyboard parts live, but like the actual composition of a song doesn’t really occur in real time. It would be almost like working backwards you know from the creation of the song so it'd be kind tough. I think I'd need somebody to help me out, it's not something that I’m really working towards.
I kinda like the idea - but I’ve always thought of the songs as the finished product and I don’t find its like necessary to bring it to that next level of being live - I can see it being interesting but if I don't do it right it would kinda just take away from it in the end.
-So it's a lot more thought out than just 'playing live'.
If I did wanna play live it would have to be an entirely different project and that would be an idea from the get go.
-I’ve noticed recently in the past year, with your songs, the beats have become a bit more slower and a lot more mellower - rather than something to hop around and dance to its something to sit back/down and nod your head to.?
I just don’t wanna limit what I’m trying to make as being dance floor music or whatever - some of the stuff that I listen to is kinda slower - especially around at a home. Like, 90% of the time I’m listening to music is at home or on my headphones, it doesn’t necessarily need to be like dance floor music. I’m not that interested in making...
Yeah exactly, but at the same time there is a lot of music that I like, that's like that - it's all in its proper place I guess. If I wanna make like a good dance song
I'd try it with that in mind - but most of the time I’m trying work on things that sound good or things that I think sound good.
-One of your recent singles, You Hear Colours, tommy boy from
My manager Patrik (North, of Acephale Records) asked him basically and said that, he sent him the song and he was into it. We had seen some of his videos like he had done this remix of Telepathe by Diamond Vampires that was the one that was really good and made us think that it would be good, a good pairing.
-Arawa's a really good blog as well - it's a similar vibe to what you've going on.
It’s got a nice visual aspect to it.
-Another video is Crystal Mines, featuring that Red Guy in a mask, its pretty much like your mascot or your avatar.
Yeah it was the image that I wanted associated with the music at that point. I still like it, it’s not something that I’m trying to push anymore necessarily but at the same time it is a good image and I like the association.
-What I thought was different for You Hear Colours was that the cover didn’t really seem to fit with the whole sleek image as it's just a sandy grass isn’t it? It's not really like the dark dance floor image that I usually associate with you.
I liked the cover of that one, I think it fits really well with the a-side of that single, it's like certain sounds always evoke images and I thought the wind going through the grass on that one I thought was, that was the part that I liked.
-What music have you been enjoying recently?
Saint Etienne, a British band from 90's, I think a lot of that like Balearic style music takes them as an influence and Air France have said they're really influenced by them. Bands like Field Mice and Sarah Records bands, I’ve been enjoying that lately. There’s a German band called Popol Vuh, a Krautrock band sort of, they did soundtracks for Werner Herzog movies like Aguirre, that soundtrack is really good. And then Arthur Russell, a lot of that. All the time.
-He’s been quite a big influence recently, its weird how the resurgence has started with quite a lot of people that I know.
Well the bulk of his stuff has only been released in the last ten years, like you can see why people like it now as opposed to maybe ten years ago because it's sort of had a chance to sink in I guess as being something’s that really stands on its own, more than anything else.
-What I find really odd with CFCF that it's not as popular as it should be. Does that frustrate you at all, do you worry about how many people are listening to your songs or whether you should be getting your music out there more.
Not to a huge extent, only really to the extent that it would mean I would have more freedom to work on more stuff, you know? Because, obviously, I have a job and certain time constraints as far as working and stuff and that’s the main thing, otherwise I tend to sort of just be working on whatever I’m enjoying at the moment or whatever I feel like making. Like it's nice when people are saying they're into it buts it's not a prerequisite as far as my reasons for wanting to make music and its not a prerequisite for continuing to want to make music. If it did, then it'd be kind of silly, it would sort of defeat the purpose. The main thing is, I want to work on music as much as the music I’m listening to is inspiring me. If I’m listening to a lot of stuff that's getting me into that creative mood then that'd be the main thing that drives me.
-Do you think you'll always be at least tinkering about?
Yeah definitely, even if no one was listening or you know nothing had happened I’d still be working on stuff.
-With Montreal and Canada, in the UK it's more famous for something like The Arcade Fire - what’s it like for electronic music, is it quite receptive, are there good club nights and venues?
I’m not sure, I don’t actually put myself out there as far as playing in public in Montreal, I kinda like living there and enjoying my life there. I would never want to be at the point where I’m like 'the dude from The Arcade Fire' and the notoriety that comes from that, that's kinda the opposite of what I want. But luckily there's just not a big market, there’s not a big scene for that kinda music there anyways. There are people who are into it and those are the people I know anyway, so it doesn’t become a problem usually. The majority of people there are really into the Indie-Rock thing and there are always people who are into other stuff.
-Like any city
CFCF can be found online at http://www.myspace.com/cfcf
Also if you wanted to listen to some of CFCF's more recent material (which you do) Discodust put up some mp3s earlier in the year - check it out
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Johannes Kjartansson (above) is a photographer from Reykjavik. Interview and images here
-Can I ask what equipment you use?
I mainly use a Yashica T4/T5 but otherwise I just use any autofocus snapshot camera I can get my hands on. For professional assignments I use a Contax G2. I never use any lights, tripods or such equipments since I'm more into capturing the moment, in a flash, with a flash.
-What influences you to take photographs?
I studied graphic design and have a B.A. degree in that from the Iceland Academy of the Arts. I was always taking pictures alongside my studies. I started shooting film in my first year and gradually started to get much better response to my pictures than my design work. I have always been an avid reader of magazines such as i-D, Dazed & Confused and Purple to name a few. The style found there has always had a huge influence on me. I also really like to go to museums and galleries, which is one of the main reason I moved to New York. It's a melting pot of ideas and influences.
-You're connected with Landon Metz's Company of People - how did that come about?
Friends of mine, Jeremy Liebman and Victoria Hely-Hutchinson who are both great photographers introduced me to Landon and Hannah Metz on their Brooklyn rooftop the other day. The Company of People is a very nice concept. Sort of like tinyvices.com which I also like a lot.
-Your photos that were featured in Vice last December are pretty much all very gorgeous girls from Iceland - are Icelandic girls always like this?
I was a bit worried about that assignment, since it was supposed to supplement poetry by Eileen Myles about Iceland, and she's quite controversial. But the poetry was excellent and I really liked it. The girls are mostly my girlfriends having fun. When girls are having genuine fun they tend to look pretty gorgeous. There is a saying that the vikings used to steal all the beautiful girls from Ireland and Scandinavia and bring them back to Iceland. So Icelanders tend to think their women are the most beautiful in the world. I don't necessarily agree with that. I just think there is a wide variety of different looks in Iceland. What I find beautiful isn't always what the general public agrees on. But a smile is always beautiful and I guess that's what I was going for with these pictures. They are from a series I made called The Bank of Fun.
-In an interview with Prestigium-Studio you said Iceland was 'bankrupt country' - it's coming up to a year since it's economic collapse - how are people like yourself, artists, coping?
Most people think that artists flourish when times are really bad. Beethoven, Mozart and Paul Klee and all those guys made some of their best works when they had it pretty shitty. My favorite quote is from a song by Fleetwood Mac: "Thunder only happens when it's raining". Icelandic artists had a pretty luxurious time until October 2008. Bankers were sponsoring art exhibitions like madmen and everybody had 2-3 jobs to pay for the standard lifestyle. Now a lot of spaces are empty and people are losing their jobs. If that doesn't push people into doing something creative, I don't know what will. As for me, I'm just trying to live in New York with my hard earned Kronas (ISK) which is the Icelandic currency. It has lost 100% of it's value so what I'm striving for now is to earn some dollars instead. Fingers crossed.
-Your photos tend to have the focus on one object in centre of the picture, a car or a person for example, with little else going on around it - is this how you prefer photos to look like?
That's an interesting question. That is sort of my shooting style. I don't like to have to much clutter around my subjects. I tend to go up close and be in people's faces. I'm quite tall so I have to twist and turn myself to shoot people at eye-level. People have often made fun of my shooting style since I get myself into the most ridiculous poses and tend to be quite aggressive. Especially when I'm intoxicated. If not I'm more shy and it's harder for me to approach my subjects. That's something I'm working on.
-You feature a very social and inebriated side of Reykavik in your photographs - how is the city for its nightlife?
Reykjavík has a pretty small but crazy nightlife scene. We don't have any clubs, so coffee-shops turn into bars and clubs during weekends. People don't go out that much during weekdays so they tend to save up all their energy and blast it all out during friday and saturday. Usually people stay at home drinking until 1 o'clock and then go out, mostly because of the over-the-top drink prices. Bars are open until 5 o'clock in the night and during summer it's quite popular to go to after-parties that tend to last until dawn. But actually in the summertime there is no dawn. It's bright outside 24/7 so when you get out of bars it feels like it's daytime. We don't have a very good habit of dating like Americans do. People usually get wasted, go home together, have sex, and then decide if they want to meet again. I guess that has given us a pretty promiscuous reputation. The nightlife is crazy but fun.. if you think you've got what it takes. answer.
-What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I'm planning on staying in New York for the summer, and hopefully get a Visa to stay for a couple of years. I really like living in Iceland but there's only so-and-so much you can do there. During winter it can be really depressing working in the constant darkness and mountains of snow. It's also pretty limiting for a photographer. I'd like to see the world and photograph as much as I can. And New York feels like a good starting point.
Joi can be found online at www.joi.is.com
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
25 years ago this week Alexey Pajitnov created Tetris - to celebrate, The Guardian (heard of it?) featured a nice enough article and interview with Pajitnov about the game a quarter of a century since its inception - but it's probably just best to watch the classic 2004 documentary 'From Russia With Love' for a full rundown. Just look at that face, what a hero.