What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Stuck In The Sound

Since forming in 2002, Stuck in the Sound have succeeded in forging an indie-rock sound which is a rarity in French music. With their sophomore release, Shoegazing Kids, the group have solidified their critical and popular following with their energetic brand of hook-laden tracks and coaxing riffs. There is no mistaking Stuck in the Sound's strong 90's anglo indie influences, however, the group is careful to distil these references and explore their own sound.

Shoegazing Kids takes its cue from the universal adolescent experience and shows the group broadening and polishing their sound from their debut release Nevermind the Living Dead (the single "Toy Boy" appears on the tracklist of Guitar Hero World Tour). The band’s understated technical deftness and developing style is particularly evident on the driving melodic tracks “Utah” and “Dirty Waterfalls”, “Ouais” with its mid-tempo change-ups, and the album’s unfolding melancholic bookends “Zapruder” and “I Love You Dark”.

With the release of Shoegazing Kids, there has been quite of bit of buzz that Stuck in the Sound is the “one” to watch on the French indie rock scene. What is the band making of all this attention and has this put any extra pressure on the band?
We’re very honored if people are interested in our band. We don’t really feel any pressure about it -- we just keep on doing our stuff and trying to do it the best we can!

The indie rock sound of Shoegazing Kids is frankly pretty rare in French music and more akin to the sound of American and British indie bands (past and present). How did the group’s sound come together? Why the decision to sing in English and what has the reaction been?
When we formed the band, the four of us had quite different tastes and influences, although we were all essentially “rock” fans. We didn’t have one single common idol or band we all wanted to sound like. We never played any covers until very recently.

We only tried to create and play music that would please the four of us. It’s something we have in common to think that rock music sounds better in English. There’s never been an actual “decision” to sing in English -- it came very naturally, we never really considered the other option (French). This “non-decision” didn’t make things easy for us in France in the first place -- to make a long story short, singing in English for a French band means seriously lowering your chances of getting played on the radio, but thanks to the internet and lots of gigs, we managed to have some success here anyway.

The album was mixed in New York by Nick Sansano who co-produced and recorded Sonic Youth’s iconic album Daydream Nation. How did working with Nick in New York influence the album?
When we started working with Nick, the album was completely recorded, and we had a quite precise idea of the way we wanted it to sound, a direction that had influenced the way we recorded the album. So we tried to explain it to Nick the best we could, and we seemed to understand each other very well! His approach to mixing is a very musical one. We’re so happy with the way he mixed the record. It was a great experience for us, coming to Brooklyn and following Nick’s work step by step. He gave the power and unity we wanted for the record -- the way he handled the guitars is beyond our expectations, and on top of that, we had a great, great time!

What do you think of the French indie music scene? Is it still fairly Paris-centric?
There are great artists all across the country. Still, since most major media and record companies are in Paris, a Paris-based band or underground scene has a better chance of getting noticed and released at a national level, and this convinces a lot of provincial artists to move to Paris to look for their break. That’s the case of Bordeaux’s indie rock band Adam Kesher for example. Reims’ (the city of Champagne) electro scene is very hot these days too, with artists like Yuksek or the Shoes, and the most exciting young rock band in France, the Dodoz, comes from Toulouse. Of course, Paris has great bands too, Hey Hey My My, Nelson, Syd Matters, or the young and crazy I am un chien!, to name a few . . . .

Stuck in the Sound has an incredibly devoted fan base. What is the secret to the band’s following?
It’s true that we feel very close to our fans and they to us! It’s probably due partly to the influence that MySpace has had on the development of our band -- we communicate a lot through that medium, chatting directly with the fans. A big part of that special bond we have is also due to endless touring, sincere “play it’s like it’s the last one ever” shows, and meeting the audience in person after the gigs. And of course, we also hope it’s due a little bit to the fact that people relate to our music -- get moved by it.

The band will be playing several dates throughout France (including the Bataclan on 6 May) and Germany in the coming months. What is it like now for the band to play in Paris where it all started to happen for the band? Any plans yet to promote Shoegazing Kids in Britain and the US?
It’s very strange because, before the band got signed, we played in Paris like, every two weeks. And since we have records out and started touring seriously, we play in Paris only once or twice a year, in bigger places, and only during tour periods. It was very frustrating at first. I guess we got used to it, and it sure makes our Paris gigs particularly exciting. Still we miss that “club action” of the early days, and we intend to rock every club in New York, London, or anywhere, the way we did in Paris!

What is the biggest challenge now for Stuck in the Sound?
We have a lot of cool gigs and festivals ahead of us, and we want this tour to continue as awesomely as it started, and we hope it’s going to expand to many places we’ve never been before. On top of that, our biggest challenge is to stay inspired in spite of an endless tour, and write, record and release new exciting stuff in the months to come!

What’s on your hi-fi?
Metronomy, Pantera, French hip hop artist Sefyu, Michael Jackson and John Coltrane.

Stuck In The Sound (Official) | MySpace

Listen to “Ouais” MP3

Listen to “Shoot Shoot” MP3

Heaven On Houston...The Boxer Rebellion

Photo Dan Katz

The Boxer Rebellion

Mercury Lounge, NYC
24 March, 2009

The sidewalk in front of Mercury Lounge teamed two deep with an excited, diverse crowd pumped to see The Boxer Rebellion at the second of their two night stint in NYC’s Mercury Lounge. Admittedly, What’s On The Hi-Fi was curious to know if the band could pull off their amazingly full and rich sound at such an intimate venue that is not known for its’ acoustics. The boys answered that question right off the bat as they hurled into a rousing rendition of “Flashing Red Light Means Go” with Todd Howe banging out support drumming before laying into some spot-on fretwork. They continued on playing most of the songs from their sophomore album Union. As on the album, singer Nathan Nicholson proved to be a magnetic front man with a sweet voice that rocked the crowd with a quiet yearning and drummer Piers Hewitt replete with big Bonhamesque muttonchops banged the group into a frenzy.

We took two things away from the show. First, unlike many bands, they were able to create a sound that held up to the album production with a welcome live twist. And, that I wish the guys would play some more rockers. I was surprised how well they cranked out the heavy stuff during the encore. Best said: Try to see these guys before they jump to the larger venues and much more expensive tickets.

What's On The Hi-Fi...Faunts

Friendly Fire (2009)
Download: “Hurts Me All The Time”
Recently the norm for electro-pop outputs has been to fall back on deceptive noise and feedback to add false depth to the songs. Canada’s Faunts have ably avoided these trappings and assembled a well crafted and toughtful album with Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.

The band was formed in Edmonton in 2000 by brothers Steven and Tim Batke. Their first offering was the well-received 2005 release High Expectations/Low Output. For gamers they are best known for their inclusion in the 2007 shoot em’ up Biowar.

On their latest effort, the band present listeners with a full sound complete with skilled musicianship, qualities that often get lost in the style-over-subtance electro-pop genre.

The album opens with the eponymous thumper “Feel.Love.Thinking.Of” and the Radiohead inspired “Input” and really hits its stride with the lovely pop sounds of “Hurts Me All The Time”, the 80’s synth-funk rocker “Out On A Limb” and the dreamy “Lights Are Always On.”

We see a noticeable shift towards krautrock on the Tangerine Dream tinged instrumental “Das Malefite” and a spare serving on the next few tracks.

Faunts’ Feel.Love.Thinking.Of is a strong album based in songwriting and good production. We look forward to hearing more from these Friendly Fires Recordings’ artist in the future.

Sidenote: Brooklyn based Friendly Fire Recordings is a label to watch with a stable that includes Asobi Seksu, Elk City and the Whitsundays.

Faunts (Official) | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Sara Lov

Rarely are Wikipedia pages as immediately intriguing:

"Singer / songwriter Sara Lov was born in Hawaii and later was raised by her mother in Los Angeles after the divorce of her parents. At the age of four she was kidnapped by her father and taken to Israel. Sara Lov lived there with an international fugitive from justice until a decade later when an uncle brought about her repatriation to the United States."

Against this rather harrowing childhood backdrop, Sara grew up in LA and went on to form the dream-pop duo Devics in 1996 with Dustin O'Halloran. After several critically acclaimed releases (released independently and through Bella Union), both Sara and Dustin decided to put Devics on hold to pursue solo projects.

Sara's first solo effort, Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming (Nettwerk), is a confident release of stripped down beauty.  Sara has said that her sound is "simple and sad with a shot of scotch", a description which does not betray the warmth of Sara's heady melodies which, upon closer listen, often belie a clever lyrical bite.

Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming is your first full-length solo release.  How has it been striking out on your own?
It's been a very wonderful and liberating experience.  I think somewhere inside myself I'd always wanted to do something on my own but never thought
I could.  I do have a lot of help from some wonderful musicians and also the amazing Zac Rae who produced this record and is very much a big part of how it sounds so in a way I'm not really alone, but still, it's been a very great experience.

There seems to be a certain sense of nostalgia on the new album. Is this off the mark?
I'm not really sure.  I have been hearing people tell me that my writing is somehow different or changed, but for me it doesn't feel so.  I always just write about what I'm feeling.  I don't try to write things specifically.  Sometimes I write about dreams, and sometimes the music inspires a certain feeling or mood, and I try to bring it out in the words.  I think I have always had this nostalgia.  I do realize that my writing could be seen more clearly by someone other than myself, so I am open to the comments.
Your duet "Animals" with Alex Brown Church is one of the standout tracks from the new album -- not because it is the only duet, but because it unexpectedly pairs a jaunty naive melody with a direct lyrical darkness ("What kind of animal are we? I should have never let you into me.
But I never, never learned to swim, until you came around and pushed me in"). Could you tell us about this song?

I don't really like to interpret my lyrics.  I feel that it ruins it for the listener.  I would rather hear what it means to others.  I will say that it is a break-up song and it  means a lot to me.  As for the rest of the parts, I really wanted to do a duet and I really wanted it to be with Alex.  He is a very dear friend of mine, and I am absolutely in love with his music and voice.  I asked him, and he said yes before I had even finished writing it.  I think I finished all the lyrics the night before we went in to record it.  I love duets especially when they play on the male vs. female perspective.  I wrote the song very simply on the guitar, and the finger picking was actually Dustin's idea.  

You are out on tour until early May, joined on certain dates by Audrey, throughout Europe, including shows at Bardens Boudoir in London on 22 April and Café Zapata in Berlin on 27 April.  Along the way, you have been posting "Behind The Music" videos of the tour (including a video shot in the plane with you and Scott Mercado telling the trying tale of the overweight piano).  Are you actually having as much fun on tour as it looks?
Yes! I love touring.  There have been some difficult moments too, and I don't always have the camera on.  But for the most part we are having an amazing time together.  Audrey are incredible people, and we have become great friends and have been laughing a lot.  It's a treat to hear their beautiful music every night as well.  Tomorrow is Toulouse (18 April), and our last show with Audrey, we are all really sad about it.

You have started a "Covers Series" project (including "Asleep' by The Smiths and "Kissing Families" by The Silversun Pickups). How did this project come together?
It started just for fun.  I am a huge music fan after all.  It's music that inspires me the most of anything.  It brings me the most joy, and after doing the Arcade Fire and Beck covers on my EP a lot of people started emailing me suggestions of other songs I should do so I thought why not?  There will be a lot more to come but for now we haven't had much time on tour to do anything like that.  I have some fun ones planned for when I get back.  Also, while I am in Berlin if Dustin has the time we may do one together.

What's on your hi-fi at the moment?
My current favorite is Middle Cyclone by Neko Case.  She is one of my favorites of all time, and I think her new record is pure perfection.  The lyrics are beautiful, the songs and their arrangements are perfect.  I have no other word to describe it but perfect.  It's also a really fun record to sing along to.

Ane Brun's Changing of the Season is wonderful, it's not new, but I listen to it daily.  Also the new Grizzly Bear I am falling in love with.

Sara Love (Official) | MySpace

Les Femmes S’en Mêlent Music Festival

Le festival musical itinérant Les Femmes S’en Mêlent entame sa douzième édition cette année !

Indie music festival Les Femmes s’en Mêlent (Women Mix It Up) kicks off this week on 16 April. Over its 2-week run, the festival will feature up-and-coming and established female-led acts with shows in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and England. Past acts have included the likes of Catpower, M.I.A., CSS, Metric, Feist and Peaches.

Juana Molina, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, Cranes, Tamara Williamson, Eleni Mandell, Telepathe, St. Vincent, Battant, Our Broken Garden, Scary Mansion and Frida Hyvönen are some of the acts confirmed for shows in Paris this year (unfortunately, Swedish singer / songwriter Jenny Wilson has had to cancel her shows in France).

Check the Les Femmes s’en Mêlent site for the full line-up: http://www.lfsm.net.

What's On The Hi-Fi...Vetiver

Tight Knit
Bella Union / Sub Pop (2009)
Download: “Everyday”
Tight Knit, Vetiver’s first release on Sub Pop / Bella Union records, is a fine collection of melodic Americana, Southern-funk and hazy California folk.

Virginia native Andy Cabic fronts this San Francisco collective, which on the group’s debut release in 2004, saw Cabic collaborating alongside friends Colm O'Ciosoig (My Bloody Valentine), Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), Devendra Banhart, and Joanna Newsom. The line-up has evolved and with the group’s fourth release, Cabis is joined by various compatriots including guitarist Kevin Barker, Sanders Trippe on guitar and vocals, drummer Otto Hauser, and bassist Brent Dunn.

Tight Knit neatly encapsulates and refines the various styles of Vetiver’s earlier releases and adds a lick of polish to songs which have been honed over many days out on the road. Recorded in Sacramento and LA, Tight Knit was produced by longtime Vetiver collaborator Thom Monahan, who maintains a light touch, allowing the pared down and nuanced essence of the tracks to gently unfold. A deeply rewarding listen.

Vetiver (Official) | MySpace

What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Panther

Discreet? No. Uncommon and outspoken? Yes. Honing their skills in Oregon since 2001, funk-electro outfit Panther is taking their raucous stage presence to the mild mannered venues of Europe. Led by the inspired guise of Charlie Salas-Humara the duo seek to change, divide and improve on their freshman effort Secret Lawns and conquer new fans on 14kt God.

The music from Secret Lawns had a more experimental feel to it, as if you were playing around with sounds trying to find your voice. Did you make a conscious effort to direct the music in a more linear, focused structure on 14kt God?
Yeah, 14kt God was influenced by Cuban music -- the music I heard in my house growing up -- that and no wave, kind of a meld between the two. We have a new one coming out, its super different, sure to alienate any past fans we may have had.

You have teamed up with Joe Kelly on drums on this album. How has the new collaborative Panther been working?
It rules! It’s so much fun working with another person and we are looking for a third member.

Your live shows have quite a reputation for their spontaneity and your kinetic stage persona. Has the new lineup and more structured songwriting changed that at all?
No, we are still f***d up live. I play more guitar though, so less dancing. It’s more focused now, again, sure to alienate. People are still reviewing us as an electro band in the states. WTF!

You will be touring in Europe extensively. How has the international response been? Any stop on the tour you are looking forward to?
It has been incredible here. People are so amazing. They are really digging it and we never worry about people not showing up. Its different here, they really suss out the music and are not getting their culture from p4rk alone, you know?
I had seen that you were creating a cover song a month to put online for free. Where did that idea come from and is there any song that is too bad to cover? For example “Hanging Tough” by the New Kids on the Block
Yeah, we just did “Metal Machine Music.” We wanted to cover that newish Beyonce song, but the lyrics bummed me out. This anti-feminist b******t."If you like it you should put a ring on it.” Come on ladies, you don’t need that s**t!

We saw the video of you “floor dancing.” Can we expect that dance form to sweep the country and end up on Dancing With The Stars and in the next Madonna video?
To quote heavy metal parking lot "Madonna, she’s a d**k.” No, it was a joke. I was really high when I did that. I am too old now to do that dancing. My bones ache. (Click here “Floor Dancing”)
What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
Oh s**t, ok, been listening to Goblin, Ennio Morricone (Dario Argento horror box set) Osana, Badfinger, Alexander Spence, Grateful Dead, African Scream Contest. I have been really into Ethiopian music from the 70’s as well as a lot of classics. Badfinger is so great and underrated. I will always like the Grateful Dead. It’s hard to like a lot of the new stuff, not a lot of soul to it. Everyone makes the same record two and three times. We definitely don’t and we are chastised for it. Music is art for f**k sake!!!

Panther (Official) | MySpace