Thursday, December 19, 2013

Erica Rivera Contributes To Star Tribune Critics Tally


Erica Rivera was honored to be asked by Star Tribune music critic Chris Riemenschneider to contribute to the Twin Cities Critics Tally 2013. Rivera was one of 27 local music professionals whom provided the Strib with their Top 10 lists. Ladies came out on top in this year's awards. Read where the artists ranked here. Read Rivera's personal Best Of list here.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Mayor R.T. Rybak





Q&A: R.T. Rybak

Minneapolis will soon bid farewell to its mayor of the past 12 years, R.T. Rybak. After leaving office, Rybak will become the new executive director of Generation Next, an organization that aims to eliminate the achievement gap in education. He will also teach a “Mayor 101” course at the University of Minnesota.

To commemorate the end of his unconventional tenure, Rybak, 58, is throwing an “Unauguration Party” on Wednesday at First Avenue (6:30 p.m., 18-plus, $7) with music from Dave Simonett, Chastity Brown, DJ Shannon Blowtorch and more. Proceeds will benefit the STEP-UP Achieve summer-job program. The coolest politico in the state granted Vita.mn an interview to discuss the party, his accomplishments and the TV show “Portlandia.”

Q:
 How do you feel about being deemed a “hipster mayor”?

A: [Laughs] At my age, you take when you can get. I’m thrilled.

Q: To what do you attribute your popularity with the 20- to 35-year-old demographic?

A: [Laughs] Because I never matured.

Q: Over the past 12 years, what do you consider highlights of the Twin Cities arts and music scene?

A: What’s different with art and culture in Minneapolis and St. Paul is that it’s woven into our daily life. People here have art and culture in their face everywhere you turn. This is a place that’s always on the cutting edge. That makes it a fun place but also a great place to attract and keep talent.

Q: What would you like to be remembered for as a mayor, other than crowd-surfing?

A: Putting 18,000 kids in summer jobs through STEP-UP.

Q: How did the idea for the Unauguration Party come up?

A:
 We wanted to do something to celebrate but didn’t want some stuffy event, and of course it should be at First Avenue.

Q: Any surprises up your sleeve?

A: I imagine I will dance. Who knows what else I’ll do. The motto of it is “Party like you can’t be impeached” and I plan to take it very literally, slightly short of the [Toronto mayor] Rob Ford level.

Q: Kyle MacLachlan’s portrayal of the mayor of Portland on “Portlandia” seems awfully similar to real life. How would you feel about being impersonated on the TV show?

A:
 How would I feel? There were a lot of people, including my own children, who thought I was the role model for the mayor in “Portlandia.” It’s funny.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Dec. 2013.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Jillian Rae


Q&A: Jillian Rae

“Wholesome” isn’t a word often associated with musicians these days. In the case of Jillian Rae, a 28-year-old violinist, singer and songwriter, the adjective applies. Rae, who grew up in the Iron Range, became immersed in music at age 6. After amassing more than two decades’ worth of experience playing violin in “a bajillion bands,” Rae released her debut LP “Heartbeat” on Dec. 10. A rollicking mix of folk, rock, and bluegrass, Rae delves deep into romantic themes with her soulful voice and spirited energy. While Rae does have a day job, it’s also her passion project: she co-owns and teaches at The Music Lab in South Minneapolis.

Rae granted Vita.mn her first solo interview in anticipation of her album release show at the Cedar Cultural Center on Dec. 14.

Q: Your bio says you grew up in a music-loving household. What sorts of sounds were you exposed to and how do they impact the music you make today?

A: I grew up with divorced parents, so it was kind of like I listened to two totally different kinds of music. My dad is a big ‘60s and ‘70s rock listener—Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan. He introduced me to that power rock music. The first time I saw “Spinal Tap” was over at his house. My mom is a more eclectic music listener. She used to sing back in the day—classic ‘50s and ‘60s music. Then she kind of got into Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac and Michael Jackson. It was always hard for me to pick a favorite band. I genre-hopped a lot on “Heartbeat.”

Q: You’re a multi-instrumentalist. What does each instrument mean to you and how do you use each one in your music?

A: My first love in life was the violin. At first it was classical and folk music but then I realized, “I can play other stuff on my violin and not just the things that are in my music book.” That’s when I started to play rock ‘n’ roll guitar lead lines on my violin. The violin is the easiest instrument to play. It’s like an appendage of my body at this point. I just picked up a banjo a couple months ago. Trying out new instruments for me is kind of funny because it’s not so comfortable. If I’m going to write a song using the guitar, I have to put a lot more thought into it and sometimes I’ll come up with things I just couldn’t come up with using my violin.

Q: A lot of the songs on “Heartbeat” speak to the theme of love. What experiences inspired the album?

A: Oh, man. We could be on the phone for the rest of the day! I feel like I’ve lived a few lives by now. It was two lifetimes ago I had the “love of my life” situation. So I had gone through falling totally head-over-heels in love and then being totally heartbroken and then kind of regaining my own individuality and falling in and out of love again after that. When I was trying to make a collection of songs to put on this record, that was the common theme. It’s so relatable. I’m an old-fashioned romantic. I’m a fan of love. Whether you’re going through an awesome time or a horrible time, you’re getting something out of life that’s more than a stagnant, straight line.

Q: How did The Music Lab come to be and why is that an important part of your career as a musician?

A: Without naming names, my friend Josie Just and I used to teach at a local chain-like music store with studios. We found that both of us had dreams of opening up our own music school someday. How things were run at the place we were at prompted us to go for it a little sooner than I had anticipated. We started out just the two of us teaching. We now have between 10 and 15 different teachers teaching with us. Every teacher we have is a performing, gigging musician in town and we’re all masters of our instruments. We provide as many performing opportunities as possible. Even when the work load gets to be overwhelming, it’s such a good thing to be doing for other people. You forget that it’s work.

Q: If you won a Grammy, who would you thank in your acceptance speech?

A: Oh my God! [Laughs] This is definitely something I’ve never thought about—not that I wouldn’t love to win a Grammy, but I just feel so disconnected from that industry. The first person I would have to thank is Eric (Martin), he’s my husband and lead guitar player. I’m lucky that I’m not alone in this whole band endeavor. Creatively, I’m good to go, but with all of the behind-the-scenes promotional marketing busywork, he’s my right-hand man. We’ve been married about three years now. He really is the perfect life partner for me. There are so many husband-wife duos or husbands and wives in bands; it’s not something I noticed until I got married, but I’m thinking, “Ah-ha! That makes a lot of sense.” Because it’s a life thing.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Dec. 2013.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Diego Garcia


Q&A: Diego Garcia

When indie rock band Elefant broke up in 2010, frontman Diego Garcia didn’t just go his own way—he did a 180. The Argentine-American who was once declared by New York Magazine as the “Sexiest Lead Singer” released his first solo album, “Laura”, in 2011. The critically acclaimed—and deeply confessional—recording mourned the loss of a relationship that Garcia had with a classmate from Brown University. The couple later reunited, married, and now have two children.

The sonic landscape on Garcia’s recently released sophomore effort reflects this fairytale turn of events. “Paradise” is an indulgent mix of romantic lyricism and tropical rhythm with audible influences from Latin crooners like Julio Iglesias and legendary songwriters like Leonard Cohen.

Garcia was born in Detroit, raised in Florida, and began writing songs at the age of 14. Now 34, the bilingual Garcia spoke to Vita.mn in anticipation of his show at the 7th Street Entry on Dec. 7.

Erica Rivera: I’ve always wanted to ask a musician if songs could win a woman back. It sounds like that might be the case with your album “Laura”?

Diego Garcia: Oh, man, that’s the Hollywood ending. I think that’s a lot more than just songs, but if you want to think it’s the songs, go ahead! I spent five years writing that album, so I think it was time that I grew up a little bit. It prepared me to be in a relationship and then it just happened that she became available. She liked the songs, so that helped. I remember saying, “I’m not going to let her go this time” and I put a lot of work into it.

ER: So now you’ve released “Paradise”. What is paradise to you?

DG: Paradise for me is these eleven songs. What I like to think is that my music can create an escape for you, an escape from the day-to-day, from the things that knock you down, or an escape for you to celebrate something. That was my goal in making this album.

ER: There’s seems to be a myth in the music world that pain is more inspirational than happiness. Has that been true for you or does your emotional state not dictate what you write?

DG: Art doesn’t care if you’re happy or sad. It could care less about how you feel about things. Personal comfort has nothing to do with the music. You have no control over that. I believe that if you’re really a good artist or a good writer, a good song is going to happen, regardless of your state of mind. I could be having a good day and write a miserable song. I could be down in the dumps and I could write “Sunnier Days”. It really has no impact. But I can tell you that there’s no pain involved in writing. There’s no pain involved in performing. I get asked if singing these songs I wrote years ago makes me sad and no, not at all. It’s a physical thing, full of life.

ER: Talk about the transition from being in Elefant to embarking on your solo career. What was that like for you artistically?

DG: The constant is still the same: I write all the songs on the guitar. The big difference is that in a band, you just press “record” and that’s what you get. Your sound is sort of defined before you get in the studio by the personalities playing the instruments. And when it works, it’s beautiful. When I went solo, I spent five years experimenting with different styles and sounds until I felt comfortable that I’d captured something that was a true and honest extension of who I am. As a solo artist, you can get lost in a studio because there’s a million different ways to dress up the songs.

ER: Do you have any advice for men who want to be more romantic?

DG:  [Laughs] Yeah: tequila, porno—I don’t know. What does that mean? If you want to make a relationship work, you need to make the woman your priority. And then… [Laughs] A lot of cunnilingus! I laugh because you can be romantic and still be dirty. What do you want to hear? “Flowers and love letters”? No! I think you just gotta make her feel like she’s the most important thing in the world at all times. And, obviously, try to eat well, don’t get too fat, work out, I don’t know, shave?

ER: Those are all good things.

DG: I’m not Dr. Phil. Every day it’s hard. It’s a job. Make sure you’re in love with the person before you…get in there. That’s important, too. Hey—my wife Laura is driving in the same car. It’s been really awesome talking to you about this with her next to me. Do you want to say “hi”, ask her a question?

ER: Absolutely!

Laura Garcia: I can’t listen to my husband tell you about how to be romantic. He’s very romantic. He’s playing it down.

DG: How am I romantic?

LG: He writes songs for me.

ER: Has he ever written a song for you that you didn’t like?

LG: No.

DG: Aww!

ER: How do you feel, Laura, about being the subject of your husband’s art?

DG: My muse!

LG: I’m flattered. I hope that it’s a good thing and that it doesn’t mean I drive him crazy sometimes.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Dec. 2013.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Friedman and Iverson


Erica Rivera sat down with David Friedman and Blake Iverson, partners and founders of Friedman Iverson PLLC, for an in-depth interview. These two esquires were bandmates and roommates before they began representing creative clients in the Twin Cities. Read about their unorthodox firm in the December 2013 issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Erica Rivera Reviews "Buy Now Cry Later"


Patrick Martinez: Buy Now Cry Later

Public Functionary opened its third—and final—installation of the year on Friday. “Buy Now Cry Later” by Patrick Martinez is a solo show that examines the contemporary crisis of mainstream consumerism. An L.A. born and bred artist who is of Filipino, Mexican and Native American heritage, Martinez studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. This exhibit at the Kickstarter-funded gallery in Northeast Minneapolis is Martinez’s first in the Midwest.

Public Functionary proves the perfect size for this intimate and thought-provoking collection. The room has been transformed into the landscape of L.A. with walls painted the bright colors typical of homes in urban California.

What’s immediately striking about Martinez’s art is his velvet hammer subtlety. Neon signs that read “Money Order$ Everything” and “Pawn Your Dreams For A 9-5” demand a double-take and beg the question of what we are, in fact, giving up to satisfy our insatiable need for consumption.

Martinez makes these social statements via juxtaposition. The pedestrian nature of the fluorescent signs clashes with the bourgeois elegance of the paintings. In “beer, wine and guns,” a firearm is shoved casually into a fruit bowl next to an unassuming 40-ounce of Olde English 800. What’s disturbing about this piece isn’t the weaponry or the malt liquor—it’s that they don’t look so out of place on the dining room table.

And what of the delicate, fluffy fake cake that features the picture of hardened gangster rapper Tupac? Even the concept of a birthday cake for someone who will celebrate no more birthdays is a morbid statement cloaked in buttercream…and a tempting one at that, were it edible.

Indeed, food is a consistent theme throughout Martinez’s work. “Buy Now Cry Later” begins with “break bread…gluten is not free,” a cheekily-titled still life of baked goods and pastries. Further on, Martinez pairs Flaming Hot Cheetos, Wild Berry Skittles, and a Coca-Cola alongside a skull in a piece called “what’s the problem.”

Martinez—who said he’d been treated to Matt’s Jucy Lucy and Monte Carlo’s chicken wings while in town prepping the show—both condemns the nutritional vapidity of these foods while also highlighting their abundance in his art. We know these things are bad for us—just like guns and greed and alcohol—but we can’t stop ourselves from abusing them. These are sad and illuminating truths, not unlike the art itself.

As the exhibit winds to a close around the far side of the gallery, Martinez’s work becomes more abstract. Rather than tidy squares and clean lines, Martinez uses shattered acrylic plex with red and black paint violently slapped across its surface. The titles tell grim stories: “domestic violence still life” neighbors “I don’t have the words to express the way I feel, but I do have this bat,” which rests on the floor.

The last piece in the show is a plain black square, outlined in blue neon, hung high on the wall. It’s called “I still don’t want to talk about it.”

Martinez admitted the piece was autobiographical.

“The neon has become very popular, especially online,” Martinez said. The artist felt the signs had, well, painted him into a box. “That piece, it’s a step back.”

One senses Martinez, who said he enjoyed the opportunity to don a heavy coat and his beanie while in chilly Minnesota, has plenty more up his sleeve.

“We want to surprise people every time,” Tricia Khutoretsky, the director and curator of Public Functionary, said of the gallery’s mission. They’ve certainly accomplished that this year with their emphasis on culturally diverse installations and out-of-state artists. Khutoretsky hinted that 2014 will bring more local acts to the forefront while ensuring high quality art is accessible to all. They’re also partnering with The Lab to make owning art affordable. Khutoretsky showed off the 5x7 prints of Martinez’s work that will be available for $125 during the show’s run through December 20. As for the rest of Martinez’s pieces, which range from $2,800 to $6,000?

“Everything has its price,” Khutoretsky said with a smile.


“Buy Now, Cry Later” indeed.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Erica Rivera Speaks At Macalester College


Erica Rivera spoke to students at the Psychology Department of Macalester College. It was Rivera's fourth invitation to speak at her alma mater since the publication of her memoir Insatiable (Penguin, 2009). The undergrads read three chapters of the book as part of their Psychology of Gender course. Rivera graduated from Mac in 2001 with a double major in Psychology and Spanish.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Margaret Cho


Q&A: Margaret Cho

Born and raised in San Francisco, Margaret Cho began performing comedy at the age of 16. Her big break came shortly thereafter when she won a comedy contest and was awarded an opening spot for Jerry Seinfeld.

Now known as the “Queen of All Media” and a “Patron Saint for Outsiders,” the 44-year-old Cho has incited laughter worldwide, starred in several network and cable television series, recorded a Grammy-nominated comedy music album, toured an off-Broadway one-woman show, and boogied her ass off on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Multitasking aside, Cho’s strength truly lies in her stand-up routine. Nothing is off-limits, not even the ins and outs of colonics, porn video rental habits, or her distaste for anal sex. Of all her jaw-dropping material, however, Cho’s most beloved subject is her Korean mother, whom Cho impersonates so hilariously that even she gets a kick out of Cho’s performances.

Vita.mn spoke to Cho in anticipation of her appearance at Thursday’s installment of WITS.

Q: How autobiographical is your stand-up routine?

A: I think it’s all autobiographical. A lot of it is stuff that happened recently or not too long ago. It’s all pretty much memoir.

Q: In one of your stand-up routines, you said that when you started, an agent told you that Asian people are never successful in entertainment. How did you, and do you continue to, combat that stereotype?

A: I just didn’t care about it. I just kind of continued on. You hear a lot of different things when you’re starting out, regardless of race or gender. I really loved the art form and I didn’t really care about anything else. It was more important to me to just do it and try.

Q: How do you reconcile speaking openly about sex when the tendency towards women who do is to slut-shame?

A: It’s an important topic. I think it’s okay to talk about whatever you want to talk about. For me, it’s really liberating. It’s less about judgment of others than it is about what satisfies me as an artist. I’d rather do what I think I should do as opposed to worrying about what other people think.

Q: You’ve also been upfront about having had an eating disorder. How has the entertainment industry affected your body image? How do you feel about your body now?

A: It was really hard when I was younger because I was so affected by what people would say about my body or about my weight. Now that I’m older, I don’t really care. I don’t really think about it. I try to be happy with where I’m at. I think there’s all these levels of satisfaction that you have, especially if you come from that kind of history. I’m at an age where it doesn’t make a difference to me. I don’t care anymore.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who experiences or witnesses discrimination? Is humor an effective way to interrupt the cycle?

A: Humor is a way to cope with the suffering from it. There’s a lot of things that can be gained from having a sense of humor. You can deflect everything if you have humor.

Q: Do you feel like the entertainment industry has changed since you started or is it still rampant with stereotypes and discrimination?

A: I think it’s different. There’s more multi-culturalism. There’s more different kinds and types of people that we’re hearing from, especially with the Internet. I think the mainstream sort of remains the same but we have a larger universe to navigate.

Q: You are active in the anti-bullying movement. What about that cause specifically spoke to you?

A: I grew up feeling isolated and bullied. This is something that kids really have to deal with if they’re queer or are just not the same as the other kids and it’s very hard. It’s wonderful to be able to support them and get some awareness about it out to everyone.

Q: Is there anything you won’t joke about? Does anything offend you anymore?
                                                                                                              
A: I think the intention of humor, in general, is noble. If you’re going to entertain someone, you want to make someone laugh. So I don’t know if I would be offended by somebody with that intention. I don’t know what offends me anymore. I’m always looking for that spark of people trying to entertain one another and I think that’s what comedy and humor is about.

Q: You’ve been an advocate for gay marriage. For you, personally, is marriage something that you’re interested in or does that not fit your lifestyle?

A: I think it is very important. It’s about family. It’s about connection. Mostly I’ve been involved with marriage equality because I want the government to treat everybody the same. It’s important to have equality more than anything else.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Nov. 2013.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Kate Nash


Profile: Kate Nash

You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist busier than Kate Nash. In the past year alone, the 26-year-old Brit originally discovered on MySpace released her third studio album, sold out three North American tours, starred in a trio of films, created a magazine, and has been active in a social change campaign.

Though she wears many hats, the London-based Nash—who spoke to Vita.mn in anticipation of her headlining show at First Avenue on Wednesday—said “Music is the backbone of everything I do.” And she’s trying to do it in a way that defies comparisons to 20-something chart-topping starlets like Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus on this side of the pond. 

“One of my problems with pop music is that women are supposed to be one-dimensional characters,” Nash explained, “and I think if you show different sides to that—like being angry—then you get cast as being crazy. It’s just really normal emotions. People feel very different things.”

“Girl Talk”, Nash’s latest LP, is decidedly different than her previous releases, “Made of Bricks” (2007) and “My Best Friend is You” (2010). Nash’s sound is edgier, her energy more fierce; it seems she’s swapped bubblegum for grit, piano player for punk rocker. The crowd-funded collection of songs contains plenty of F-words—both the four-letter variety and that other hot topic, feminism.

Critics aren’t buying this sudden rebellion, however; Pitchfork rated the album a dismal 6.4, and of Nash’s sonic attempt to re-brand, Rolling Stone said, “Her tunes are anemic; her punk postures are borrowed from musicians smarter and more talented than she.”

Nash is unabashedly girly. When asked what she considers must-haves on tour, Nash said, “I pack pretty heavily. I bring a lot of suitcases. The most important thing for me is having a lot of different outfits.” When choosing her clothes, she’s drawn to designers that are “like, really fun.”

While Nash’s music videos are big on theatrics and even border on camp—Technicolor costumes and wigs are the norm—Nash doesn’t feel pressured to be anything she’s not.

“I’m a bit older and I feel pretty confident about being the person I want to be without worrying about what people think about it,” she said.

If music is the avenue Nash uses to explore the multiple sides of her personality, acting is the way she loses herself.

“What’s fun about acting is you can take on a different persona or be someone completely different to you and explore those lifestyles,” she said.

Over the past year, Nash has done just that, nabbing screen time in the indie comedy “Syrup”, the American biopic “Greetings from Tim Buckley”, and the chick flick “Powder Room”. While none of these roles are Academy Award bait, Nash seems satisfied as long as she has “a script that you read and enjoy without thinking too much.”

Contrary to what her résumé might suggest, Nash isn’t all about the spotlight. When Plan U.S.A. approached her about fronting their Because I Am a Girl program—which empowers, protects, and educates women in developing nations—Nash didn’t hesitate.

“I was really passionate about the project,” she said. She even visited a small village in Ghana, Africa, as part of the project.

About her forthcoming magazine, Nash only revealed that the demographic will be girls and it will feature fashion and an extensive music collection. The name and launch date of the rag have not yet been released.

Nash is equally tight-lipped about her private life, but when asked what advice she would give to young, female musicians, she couldn’t offer up enough seasoned wisdom.

“Trust your gut instincts and don’t feel like you have to change for anyone. There are a lot of sharks in the music industry and you have to watch out for people. Constantly be questioning everything around you. Just work really hard and believe in yourself,” she said.

Nash didn’t dish on whether or not her hectic schedule allows time for dating, but she did say she won’t follow any rules when it comes to romance. “I just sort of improvise,” she confessed with a giggle.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Oct. 2013.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Little Green Cars


Q&A: Little Green Cars

The Dublin folk rock act dubbed Little Green Cars has been a long time coming. Bassist Donagh Seaver O’Leary and guitarist Adam O’Regan befriended one another in primary school; guitarist/vocalist Stevie Appleby, vocalist Faye O’Rourke, and drummer Dylan Lynch joined the circle of friends in high school. The band now complete, their trademark sound—a catchy mélange of recklessness and vulnerability oft compared to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and R.E.M.—began to emerge.

A devastating loss at a battle of the bands competition in 2008 forced the fivesome to buckle down and get even more serious about their music making. In 2010, the band was approached and offered representation by still-obscure manager Daniel Ryan. The quintet—all still in their early 20s—decided to abandon their undergrad education in favor of a chance at fame. The leap of faith paid off when the band was signed to Glassnote Records in 2011.

Little Green Cars’ debut studio album “Absolute Zero” has been described as “five years’ worth of backyard Garage Band tracks” and was released in May. Since then, the Irish lads—and lady—have been touring full speed ahead, barely stopping to take a breath.

We spoke to O’Regan in anticipation of the band’s return to First Avenue on Tuesday.

Q: You and the other band members gave up college to pursue music and it has clearly worked out for you. Would you recommend that path to other young musicians?

A: I don’t know if I would recommend it to everybody. I wouldn’t want to be putting that message out there. When the band started, we were all 16, and all through school we really, really worked at music and that was always our passion. When it came time to go into college, we were at a point with the band where felt like we had an identity. It was the right thing for us at the time.

Q: How has your music or creative process changed since you signed to Glassnote?

A: It hasn’t changed, although since we signed to Glassnote, we recorded the album, released the album, and we’ve been on the road. We haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to flesh out new ideas. We’re in a constant state of transit, so it’s difficult.

Q: Is it necessary to be off tour to write?

A: Yeah, in a way. We’re always writing when we can. To flesh out ideas with a full band and create some in-depth work, we need to be at home.

Q: There are several references to Charles Bukowski on “Absolute Zero”. How do other literary works influence your music?

A: We’re all big readers. I don’t know if that directly influences us, but certainly subconsciously it finds its way into our writing.

Q: What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing about being on tour in the United States?

A: Every single place we go to is unexpected and surprising. It’s our third tour here this year and we love coming back.

Q: Have you considered relocating to the United States or are you all staying in Ireland?

A: No, I think we’ll always go home to Dublin. It’s very good, I feel, to go out and then come back and go out and come back. It’s grounding for us.

Q: You mentioned during a session on KEXP that the band was in search of the best burger in the U.S. Did you find a winner?

A: We’ve tried so many burgers! The one that was crowned the king is in Portland. It’s called Boogie’s. It’s an unbelievable burger. Before we came away, I became a vegetarian, and even now, it’s the best vegetarian burger I’ve ever had, so that’s saying something.

Q: What is your drink of choice while on the road?

A: Some gas stations here in America still serve the Mexican Coca-Cola, which is made with cane sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup, and it’s served in a glass bottle and it tastes so good. We have to look after our voices so we can’t be drinking. We are Irish, but we can’t be partying hard every night.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Oct. 2013.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews BOY


BOY is Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass, a European duo that has entranced radio listeners worldwide with singles like “Little Numbers” and “Waitress.” Hailing from Switzerland and Germany, respectively, the classmates-turned-bandmates found they collaborated best remotely, even after Steiner relocated to Glass’s hometown of Hamburg. Steiner penned lyrics, Glass fine-tuned instrumentals, and producer Philipp Steinke recorded it all in his Berlin studio. The result was BOY’s debut album, Mutual Friends, a smorgasbord of Feist-like vocals, effervescent beats, and wistful naïveté. Since the LP’s release on Nettwerk Reocrds in February, these two bubbly beauties have been performing non-stop on a tour that included Glass’s maiden voyage to the United States.

We spoke to Steiner in anticipation of BOY’s show at First Avenue on Tuesday.

Q: First things first: Why did you choose the name BOY for your band?

A: We had a long period of brainstorming when we were looking for a name and BOY just sticks somehow. We like the word and the way it looks and sounds. People remember it well because they wouldn’t expect two women to have that name.

Q: You’ve talked before about how you and Sonja don’t write together. What is it about working alone that makes the creative process flow?

A: I think that everybody is very individual while being creative. You have different times when you are inspired or you have different speeds of writing. When we’re both in one room and we know “Okay, now it has to happen,” there’s a bit of pressure. So I think we’re both really happy to have the original ideas and our own pace but then it’s always really nice to get to the studio together when the song feels ready, then finish it together.

Q: What do you think it is about your music that lends itself to international appeal?

A: That’s the nice thing about music, that it’s very unlimited in terms of who can listen to it and who can relate to it. I don’t feel like that’s a thing about our music in particular; I think that’s music in general. It connects people and you don’t have to speak the same language or have the same cultural background, but you can feel the same thing because it’s music.

Q: There seems to be a theme in your songs of a woman waiting for something to happen to her. Where does that come from?

A: On the particular song “Waitress,” it’s about a time I was working at a café in Hamburg as a waitress. That was during the time I had just started recording and working with our producer but not really knowing if anything was going to happen. It was this feeling of doing something but really waiting for something else to happen.

Q: The song “Boris” sounds like a creepy case of pseudo-sexual harassment. Is that a situation that one of you experienced?

A: “Sexual harassment” would be too strong for that song. It was a guy who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and was talking cooler than he really was. It was pretty harmless, actually, but we were annoyed enough to write a song about it.

Q: Do you have other kinds of encounters that are uncomfortable because you are two women touring, or do you generally feel safe?

A: I think we feel really safe because we are very careful when we choose people we work with. The label we work with and our manager and the people directly around us are very close friends. I think if you try to surround yourself with good-hearted people, then you’re pretty safe. We have a pretty strong gut feeling about who we open to. In the music industry there can definitely be people who take advantage of their power, but we’ve been very lucky in that matter.

Q: When you’re on tour, is there something particular you miss about home?

A: Most of all, it’s the people back home that we miss. We’re lucky because we tour with lots of friends. But of course there are family and friends who are not musicians who are at home that we miss. Sometimes, when you think of your own band, you get a little homesick as well. But we love being on tour and sleeping on the bus. We’re very excited about coming to the States. I don’t think we’ll be homesick.

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Sonja?

A: It’s a very strong friendship. We feel kind of sisterly when we are on tour together. It would be hard if we didn’t get along because we spend so much time together. I think it’s really important that if you create, if you do a thing that is as personal as playing music together, that you have a good connection on a personal level and like each other.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Oct. 2013.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Adam Carolla


Adam Carolla: Podcast King

“My life philosophy is pretty straight forward,” Adam Carolla said in a recent phone interview. “Grit is better than I.Q., intestinal fortitude is better than any degree, and always blame yourself.”

Given the success that 49-year-old Carolla has enjoyed in radio, television, and film, there might be something to his commandments.

A child of divorced parents who came of age in North Hollywood, Carolla spent his 20s working as a carpet cleaner, a custom closet installer, an earthquake rehab contractor, and a boxing trainer. It was that last gig that led Carolla to Jimmy Kimmel, then known as “Jimmy The Sports Guy” on L.A. radio station at KROQ. Carolla coached Kimmel for a boxing match in 1994 and the two became fast friends.

Carolla soon rose to notoriety on Loveline, a raunchy sex advice show he co-hosted with the straight-laced Dr. Drew Pinski. Over ten years, the odd couple answered questions about everything from genital herpes to “I want to be with a man and a woman and a donkey at the same time—and what’s so wrong with that?” Carolla recounted with a chuckle. The show also featured appearances from bands like No Doubt and interviews with celebrities like the cast of 1999’s Being John Malkovich.

Carolla went on to create The Man Show with Kimmel for Comedy Central, author two New York Times bestsellers (In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks and Not Taco Bell Material), and launch a line of ready-to-drink cocktails called Mangria. His current podcast The Adam Carolla Show set the Guinness World Record for the most downloaded podcast ever. Over the years, Carolla amassed a loyal fan base that he rallied this summer to raise over $1.4 million for his forthcoming directorial debut, Road Hard.

“I spent over a decade doing mindless donkey work. Now I’m overcompensating and trying to make up for all that lost time,” Carolla said of his unrelenting ambition.

Considering Carolla’s impressive media empire, could there be anything left on his bucket list?

“I’d like to start a bucket company—no, a line of signature, high-end buckets. Beautiful oak buckets with beautiful rope handles,” Carolla answered, deadpan. Given the breadth of his talents, it doesn’t seem that far out of the realm of possibility. The man once taught himself to ride a unicycle, after all.

As many of his fans are college-aged, Carolla offers this advice to those newly entering the workforce: Use setbacks as learning experiences and be realistic about your abilities. Just because you have your heart set on a certain profession doesn’t mean you’re qualified to do it.

“There’s a lot of people who are untalented hacks,” Carolla said regarding those aspiring to work in show biz. “They want to produce, they want to direct, they want to write. Well, you know what? They’re not any good. And thus, they’re going to have a very hard time making a living because they suck.”

While Carolla uses his no-holds-barred humor to address polarizing topics like affirmative action, police presence, and gay marriage, he made it clear that he doesn’t see his comedy as a vehicle for social change.

“I don’t really break it down along those lines,” he said. “I don’t even think ‘What’s funny?’ ‘What’s not funny?’ I just think about ‘What do I want to do? What do I want to convey?’ and I do it.”

And though most of Carolla’s podcast episodes skew pessimistic and focus on his pet peeves, the married father of twins doesn’t really hate everything on Earth.

“The focus on the stuff that drives you nuts is comedy,” Carolla said. “As long as we got iTunes, iPhones, and professional football, I’ll be happy.”

Originally published on Vita.mn in Sept. 2013.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Erica Rivera on the Best Dog Bakeries


It's a "ruff" job, but somebody's gotta do it! Erica Rivera searched high and low to find the Best Dog Bakeries in the United States. Treat your four-legged friends to something tasty at one of the canine-centric venues featured on The Daily Meal here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Jackson Scott


Profile: Jackson Scott

Jackson Scott is a 20-year-old soloist born in St. Paul, raised in Pittsburg, and currently based in North Carolina. Scott started playing piano at age 8, followed by drums and guitar in his teenage years. Though he’d always set his sights on being a movie director, disillusionment with the film industry sent Scott deeper into music, a passion which persisted throughout his freshman year at UNC Asheville.

“I never really had the intention of taking college too seriously,” Scott said in a recent phone interview about abandoning his new media and digital design studies in favor of experimentation with lo-fi sounds and voice distortion.

The result was Scott’s first album, Melbourne, named after the street he currently calls home. Released on Fat Possum records in July, the debut LP is a strange and somber mix of almost inaudible lyrics and hazy instrumentation. Called “creepy” in a Pitchfork review, Scott’s tunes explore morbid topics like the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.

“I’ve had realizations in the last couple years about the duality of a lot of things,” Scott said. “Beautiful and happy and joyful things can only really exist if there are nightmare, bad, awful stuff, too.”

But lyrics aren’t Scott’s main focus; the melody is. “Whenever I’m writing, I usually focus on the musical aspect first and foremost,” he said. “There’s a certain type of ‘90s alt-rock that I’m obviously kind of nostalgic for.”

Scott is also nostalgic for the pre-Instagram days, as evidenced by snapshots of himself—all untouched and often unglamorous.

“I’ve been really obsessed with everything analog recently,” Scott said. “My friends were into 35mm disposable camera photography and I started noticing [that] the difference between a cassette and a really well recorded digital sound is the same as the difference between a disposable camera photo and a high def digital photo.”

Scott prefers the “cool aura” of printed film, just as he prefers the rougher sound of 4 track audio tapes.

Don’t expect to see Scott posting many of his artistic endeavors—analog or otherwise—on social media. He’s averse to Twitter and admitted he enjoyed a reprieve from Facebook after he was hacked out of his account.

“I can’t just totally dismiss it,” Scott said of the necessary evil of the internet. “It’s definitely helpful for getting people to hear about stuff, but personally I think people can get oversaturated with it. I know I can.”

For such a young musician, Scott seems to have his priorities straight.

“Maybe some people are kind of bewildered that it’s all happening to me when I’m really young,” he said of his sudden popularity on the indie scene. “At the end of the day, it’s [about] whether or not you’re happy with the music you’re making and happy with the shows you’re playing.”

Originally published on Vita.mn in Sept. 2013.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews The Lower 48 (Again!)


Q&A: The Lower 48

Ben Braden, Nick Sadler, and Sarah Parson are The Lower 48, a band formed in Minneapolis in 2009. Their debut EP Everywhere To Go was followed by a move to Portland and a full-length album Where All Maps End in 2011.

The trio hails from academic, Midwestern families, and approaches music-making Socratic method style. While formerly folky, The Lower 48’s sound recently morphed, due to the influence of ‘60s garage rock—and growing up.

We spoke to 22-year-old frontman Braden in anticipation of The Lower 48’s self-titled album release show at the Triple Rock.

Q: A lot has happened in the past year with you guys!

A: A lot has happened. It’s been an unbelievable amount of unpaid work, countless hours of playing shows and recording. It’s been a blur. We all quit our jobs and have just been doing the band. It’s been a year of poverty but also happiness. It’s the best year yet.

Q: Based on the song “That’s What I’ll Say,” it seems like you’re leaning more towards pop than folk now. What prompted that evolution?

A: It’s a lot more pop-rock-and-roll. It wasn’t intentional. I think it’s because we’re out of the safety net. We’re long gone from Minnesota. We’re a West coast band now. It leaks into the art you make. The reason it sounds pop-y is because it’s just more polished. We’re becoming, like, real adults. [Laughs] Sort of. Not fully yet. It’s getting there. The product, the outcome, the music that comes out of it is much more honed.

Q: The image of the band has changed, too.

A: We started getting into the suits and it became a contest of who can look slicker. Then we landed a couple of really great licensing deals this year—which is the bread and butter of bands these days for money—so we went out and got some really nice clothes. We wanted to have a classic look—a blank canvas for the music. It fits our new style.

Q: Describe your bandmates. What are their personalities like?

A: Nick has become our showman. He’s probably the most beautiful member of the band and he’s extremely talented at a wide range of things. He plays trumpet, harmonica, drums; he sings perfect harmony. He is fantastic at anything he tries. It’s almost frustrating to be his best friend. He’ll be like, “Let’s play some pool” and he’ll kick my ass right away. He’s a very sweet guy, too. He’s really caring and looks out for everybody.

Sarah is the most mysterious member of the band. She’s got one of the most amazing singing voices I’ve ever heard. She got this fucking unbelievable guitar this year, a ’67 Gibson, an old mama guitar. She’s been wailing on it. People say getting an instrument inspires a different kind of playing and that’s definitely the case with Sarah. She shreds. She doesn’t really know scales or what she’s doing high on the neck but she has such a good ear she never plays a bad note.

She’s the most rock-and-roll of the band. Now that I think about it, she almost pushed the new look and the rock-and-roll harder than anybody else. She started going down that road and we had to catch up.

Q: You’re calling the show at the Triple Rock a “homecoming” yet you’ve said that you don’t consider Minneapolis home anymore. Which is it?

A: I personally don’t feel like Minneapolis is my home but I think our band started there, so [you could] say that about the band.

Q: Is there anything that the Portland music scene has shown you that you weren’t getting in the Twin Cities?

A: To be honest, Minneapolis is way better. People in Portland hopefully won’t read that! The first year in Minneapolis we had a bunch of support right away but it took us a long time to get that in Portland. There were some cold, cold years in terms of support from the scene. There’s just more people who are young and cool-ish and doing art [in Portland]. There’s a lot of competition. It made us fight through the pack. And I really think we have. We’re doing really well now. It took a while. We’re starting to just surface.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Aug. 2013.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews The National


Big Time Trouble
The National's frontman on mortality, new LP "Trouble Will Find Me."

“I’ve found my way into a rock band without actually ever learning to play an instrument,” Matt Berninger, the 42-year-old frontman of the National, said with a chuckle by phone last week. “In a weird way, it’s part of the chemistry of how the National works.”

A real-life band of brothers (Berninger’s backers are siblings Scott and Bryan Devendorf and twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner), the indie-rock quintet from Cincinnati took the long road to fame. The National’s self-titled debut was released in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2005’s “Alligator” that critics started paying attention. Subsequent albums “Boxer” (2007) and “High Violet” (2010) catapulted the band — which visits Roy Wilkins on Tuesday — onto the charts and into sold-out venues.

The National’s sixth LP, “Trouble Will Find Me,” was released in May on 4AD (a division of Beggars Group, which Berninger called “the biggest label in the world because of Adele”). The album received massive critical acclaim, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart.

While the details in Berninger’s lyrics are mostly fictional, he said the morose emotions that saturate “Trouble” are autobiographical. Sentimentality and melodrama are nothing new in the National’s catalog, but these 13 songs are especially ripe with reproach, regret and resignation.

“A lot of the songs on this record flirt with different ideas of mortality and that was coming from a very, very real place,” Berninger explained, likening the album to a blurry collage. “I’ve been thinking about existence and future non-existence. A lot of it is just cathartic digging into the things that cause a certain amount of anxiety and making something beautiful out of that stuff, whether it’s social anxiety or nervousness about death or fatherhood or how to be a good person.”

The album may also mark the first time Berninger has openly acknowledged that his songs are inspired by real people. Berninger describes “I Need My Girl” as a simple, sentimental ballad about missing his wife and 4-year-old daughter while on tour. “I Should Live in Salt,” with its “You should know me better than that” refrain, is about his brother, Tom.

The theme of brotherly love — or lack thereof — is further explored in Tom’s new documentary, “Mistaken for Strangers.” The film, which spanned eight months of the National’s “High Violet” tour, is less of a behind-the-scenes look at a band rising to stardom than a meditation on sibling rivalry.

While Matt thought the footage would be used for a music video or “silly clips” on the group’s website, Matt’s wife encouraged Tom to dig deeper. “That stuff that was kind of uncomfortable … told the most interesting stories,” Berninger said.

“Mistaken for Strangers” went on to open the Tribeca Film Festival in April and has earned praise from Rolling Stone, Variety and Pitchfork.

“It turned into something much, much bigger, much more interesting, and much more beautiful than I had ever really dreamed,” Berninger said of his brother’s endeavor. The entire band was blown away when they saw the final cut, he said, adding, “It was one of the most interesting and important creative things I’ve ever been involved in and I’m really grateful the movie existed.”

While Berninger is reluctant to “dig into my family too much” in his music, he said fatherhood has changed his perspective on career success and how others perceive the National.

“It’s made me less guarded and less worried about what the image of a band is [or] whether the songs I’m writing are cool. It made me realize that the band is not the most important thing, so I’m OK to take weird chances.”

As for mistakes? Berninger doesn’t seem to believe in them. As evidenced in “This Is the Last Time,” a song about vicious cycles, Berninger said, “If you keep coming back to it, maybe it’s not a mistake.”

Originally published on Vita.mn in Aug. 2013.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Foxygen


Crazy Like Foxygen

“We’re like brothers. We fight a lot,” Jonathan Rado said of his bandmate, Sam France.

You may not recognize those names, but you’ve probably heard of their band Foxygen, the precocious duo that’s hypnotizing the indie music world with its psychedelic, chillwave sound. Both 22, the L.A. bred singer-songwriters — who headline First Ave on Monday — embody Bowie, the Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan — depending on which track you’re listening to.

Originally discovered by Richard Swift and later signed to Jagjaguwar records, Foxygen released their debut full-length, “Jurrassic Exxplosion Philippic,” in 2007. “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,” the band’s eclectic and infectious third album, dropped in January.

Since then, the unkempt yet oddly endearing fooligans have appeared everywhere, whether it’s dropping F-bombs galore in interviews or stealing an apple from a street vendor during their La Blogothèque appearance. When performing, frontman France evokes a wigged-out Iggy Pop, complete with eyeliner, while guitarist/keyboardist Rado comes off more grounded.

“We are trying to do things differently,” Rado said in a recent phone interview. “We have no interest in being a modern buzz band.”

The ’60s-and-’70s adoring Rado added that he loves a lot of modern bands, contradicting a Pitchfork interview earlier this year where he claimed to not “even know any new bands.” Both France and Rado have been blunt about their disillusionment with the current music scene

Foxygen, however, is operating within the standard buzz-band channels, having already hit the CMJ Music Marathon last fall and South by Southwest in March. Though Rado pays rent on a pad in New York, he isn’t there very often. Asked what the biggest sacrifice his overnight success has cost him is, Rado said unequivocally, “having a home.”

Foxygen’s strenuous touring schedule took a toll this spring, when they canceled several European shows. Rado said the two-month stretch of gigs leading up to the canceled dates put the future of the band in serious jeopardy.

“We were questioning whether we wanted to go on,” he said. “[So] Sam and I went back to working on our new album. We work the best when recording, so we took time to get back to what creatively energizes us.”

Recharged and back onstage, Rado, who has criticized bands in the past for “staring at their fucking pedals,” claimed spontaneity is the key to a kick-ass Foxygen set.

“Our live shows are very exciting and energetic. We have a set list, but, for better or worse, we don’t know what we’re going to say or what’s going to happen,” he said, admitting that the off-the-cuff approach has backfired.

Internet backlash to his band’s light-switch success is something Rado is keenly aware of, but it doesn’t seem to faze him.

“I’ve never been hurt by anything,” he boasted. “Some things are even funny, like the ‘Foxygen, they suck’ stuff. I’m sure all 26 of your followers loved that tweet. The Internet is a pathetic vessel for people to hate whatever.”

Rado also isn’t concerned about the oft-fleeting life spans of contemporary indie acts. He keeps busy outside of Foxygen and has a debut solo album, “Law & Order,” due in September. But should, for whatever reason, Foxygen end tomorrow, the film school dropout has nonmusical aspirations.

“I’ve always wanted to work in a parking garage,” he reported, without a hint of sarcasm. “Late at night, in that little booth, watching television. That would be my career. Or a cross-country truck-driver.”

Informed that he appears to be drawn to solitary professions, Rado laughed dryly.

“I never looked at it that way,” he said. “Yes, I’d be a loner. I just want to be alone.”

Originally published on Vita.mn in July 2013.

Erica Rivera Interviews Desdamona and Carnage


Q&A: Carnage and Desdamona

Carnage and Desdamona are two of the most hard-working, yet humble, artists on the hip-hop scene. Known offstage as Terrell Woods and Heather Ross, respectively, these fellow artists, teachers, and best friends have been collaborating since 2004, most recently as Ill Chemistry, and have planned a dual release show dubbed Double Dysfunction to celebrate their new solo albums.

Desdamona, a fearless wordsmith who has won multiple Minnesota Music Awards, drops DigiPhenom while Carnage follows up 2012’s hard-hitting Respect The Name with …Not Just A Name. Free digital downloads of both albums will be available to all in attendance.

I met up with Carnage and Desdamona at Blue Moon Café to discuss the state of the Twin Cities music community and the hot topic of relationships—to each other and their fans.

Q: Who were your mentors and do you feel mentoring is an essential part of being a musician?

Desdamona: There have been so many. My first mentors were really my family. When I moved here in 1996, there was a guy named Black Powae who embraced me. Teresa Sweetland who is the executive director of Intermedia Arts helped me write the first couple of grants and kind of broke it down for me. And this guy right here. There’s lots of things that I could say. [Laughs] We’ve mentored each other in a variety of ways, whether it’s personal or artistic; I think that our experiences have informed each other on a pretty deep level.

Carnage: I’ll hit her up on anything from where to put posters to the name of the songs. There’s really nothing I can’t ask her about. One time I was like, “How did you know it was time [to be a full-time artist]? How did you sustain?” and she brought me into a couple of classes. Then I started getting more attention as a local artist and I got to a point where I was at work, not working, but doing music stuff, so I was like, “Maybe it’s that time now.” I hit Des up like, “All right. I’m about to step off the bridge—”

Desdamona: The cliff.

Carnage: The cliff. And I remember being like, “Oh, okay, she’s actually going to help me through this.”

Desdamona: I knew that if he got into a couple [of classes], that it would snowball. Because that is how it happened with me. And I knew he had such a unique thing. There’s a lot of MCs in town, there’s a few beat-boxers, but nobody’s teaching it.

Carnage: She was like, “You’re going to teach beat-boxing classes,” and I was like, “How? Nobody taught me to beat-box.” I saw the first couple times I did the class, people were being shy. I became obsessed with how to incorporate the body as an instrument in the teachings.

Desdamona: It teaches listening, it teaches community, it could teach math, it could teach composition, and also he does a lot of things that are physical. Even that activity—it may seem minimal, but it takes a lot of energy to beat-box.

Carnage: The kids love it. And I love the fact that they love it. That’s a deep thing. That is mentoring to me.

Q: Let’s talk about the local hip-hop scene. Do you feel like it’s inclusive enough?

Desdamona: When I started, it was not as inclusive. It has grown to be more inclusive because there has been more access to people. In some ways, that can be bad, because then it’s easy to get a show.

Carnage: The quality control is really low.

Desdamona: I do think that local radio only picks up the local successes. I don’t think that’s wrong, but as a local community, there are many amazingly talented writers, MCs, and musicians in this town, and they should be heard.

Carnage: The artists who are being supported on these labels started where the people who are not being represented started. There are a lot of MCs out there that never get played on the radio, or that don’t get played that much no matter how much press they get. I got a lot of press in the last year-and-a-half, and they don’t play me on The Current.

Desdamona: It really starts to feel like a situation of the privileged and the under-privileged in a lot of ways. Of access and no access. It’s—

Carnage: Discouraging.

Desdamona: To say the least.

Carnage: But it made me focus on how to write a catchier single. This time around, I made it easier for them. Nobody has to hit me up to ask for a radio single. It’s already there. I don’t know that I’ll necessarily be kissing anybody’s ass…

Desdamona: People know the big players, but they don’t see that there are other people that have been around just as long. I’ve experienced people who are like, “Who are you?” and I’m like, “Who are you?!”

Carnage: It just makes me remember why I’m doing this in the first place. I tell myself, “Terrell, you cannot forget to have fun.” But I can’t do it for fun if it’s not paying my bills, either. I’m just blunt now. If you wouldn’t ask Brother Ali to do your show for $100, don’t ask me. ‘Cause if you called Brother Ali to ask about me, he’d say, “Terrell is dope. Pay him!”

Q: How do you handle hecklers when you’re onstage or fans who come onto you after a show?

Carnage: Sometimes they’re fun to deal with. Sometimes they throw you off. I don’t ever go into a show expecting or demanding that people like it, but I will be respected. You’re not going to come up here and tell me that everything I did needs to be re-worked, ‘cause I don’t come to Wendy’s and tell you how to put the pickles on the burger. This is what I do. It’s like, “So how long have you been rapping?”

Desdamona: To answer the second part of your question, I’ve learned over the years from other people that I’m scary. [Laughs]

Carnage: No, no. I’m scary. You’re intimidating.

Desdamona: But they’ll come talk to you and not to me!

Carnage: And they’ll say, “You look like you’d eat my kids with gravy!”

Desdamona: There’s some kind of fear factor with me. I’m not a super out-going person, which I’m sure it’s hard for people to understand as a performer. But I’m pretty introverted. I don’t like small talk, and I also have a hard time hearing in loud spaces. Those environments are not really conducive to me having a good conversation with somebody else. The times I run into issues with being hit on is when people are saying they want to work with me and they really want something else. It can be really frustrating as a female artist because you’re like, “Is there anybody who values what I do creatively? As opposed to how I look or how I’m supposed to look?” As a female, if you get up onstage with a male, there’s almost an automatic assumption that you’re in a romantic relationship with him.

Carnage: Oh, God.

Desdamona: It pisses me off. Why is it that I can’t be up here just because I’m an artist? I got here because I walked my ass over here and did the work. It’s insane that that’s still the way that we think.

Carnage: Friends of mine are like, “Yo, so…did you smash?” And I’m like, “We smashed onstage!”

Desdamona: If the answer is “no,” then they question his manhood. It’s so fucked up.

Carnage: And then there’s the girls. There are some girls that come up and are all up in your face. If you’re dating somebody at the time—

Desdamona: Problems!

Carnage: Then you hear about it in the car. And I’m just like, “I’m just doing my job! I didn’t bring her home with us!” Finding a happy medium with how to interact with fans is something that I’ve learned to do in the past couple of years.

Q: I feel like you’re both very compassionate people and aware of what kind of social change needs to happen in the community. If you were going to do a PSA for something, what would it be?

Carnage: Embrace everybody for what they can bring to the table. Give someone you don’t know the same consideration you would give someone you grew up with.

Desdamona: I can’t think of just one. There are so many. I feel like some of my Facebook posts are PSAs. I get so many comments on the things I bring up on Facebook. It’s amazing! I’m a connector. I’ve realized how much power I can wield.

Carnage: Influencing people is part of the fuel that keeps me going. 

Originally published on Vita.mn in July 2013.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Daughn Gibson


Q&A: Daughn Gibson

Daughn Gibson, a 32-year-old Pennsylvanian, sauntered onto the alt country music scene almost imperceptibly. Born Josh Martin, the singer-songwriter has dabbled in a roster of odd jobs at an adult bookstore and truck driver recruiter. His music career began, in earnest, as a drummer for the metal band Pearls & Brass.

With a blend of electronic grooves and tender Americana-style storytelling, Gibson’s debut All Hell dropped in 2012 on White Denim and was enthusiastically received by critics. Gibson was soon signed to Sub Pop and went to work on his second album, Me Moan. While the gritty narratives of struggle and heartbreak remain on his sophomore effort, the production is fuller and sonically lush with unorthodox instruments.

Once you’ve heard it, you won’t soon forget Gibson’s distinct—and occasionally divisive—baritone, comparable to the likes of the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt. Daughn’s voice is rough, unnerving, and weirdly irresistible. We spoke to this charming underdog during a brief break in his summer-long tour schedule.

Q: Yours is the first bio I’ve read that mentions the artist’s height (6’5”) and weight (200 pounds). How did that get in there?

A: [Laughs] My friend Matt Corvette from the band Pissed Jeans helped me out with my first record. We’ve been friends since I was 6’3” and he decided it should be in there.

Q: You were born, and continue to live, in Pennsylvania, which is unusual considering most artists seem to live in California or New York. What’s made you stay?

A: I grew up an hour from New York and an hour-and-a-half from Philly and I never had any reason to completely relocate to either of those places. I have the best of both worlds; the bucolic scenery here and the excitement of the city nearby.

Q: How did you make the transition from Pearls & Brass to Daughn Gibson?

A: The main thing about Pearls & Brass was turning up the volume, though I’ve always loved blues and country. The transition wasn’t completely strange. It’s the result of working by myself.

Q: In their review of All Hell, Pitchfork said, “His characters are washed-up, pathetic, and old.” Would you say that’s accurate?

A: Yeah, sometimes even when I include myself in the songwriting. I try to empathize with the characters when writing from their point of view.

Q: Are the characters real or imaginary?

A: They are mostly fragments of my imagination, though there are bits and pieces from people I’ve come across in real life.

Q: You’ve said All Hell is a “product of isolation.” What was “Me Moan” a product of?

A: When I say “isolation,” what I meant was that making a record with a band is about getting a six-pack and fleshing out ideas. With All Hell, I had no one to coordinate with—by choice—and didn’t bounce ideas off of anyone. It was purely from the pit of my head.

Q: How did touring change the way you wrote Me Moan, knowing you were going to perform it live?

A: It completely changed what I was doing. Pearls & Brass was about getting sweaty and turning it up and that element was missing when I toured for All Hell. I kept in mind, “The next album has to be sweaty and louder.”

Q: What kind of tools and instrumentation did you use to achieve that sound?

A: I did most of the stuff at home, then went into a studio in Chicago and added flourishes. There’s acoustic guitar and pedal steel. I brought in a cellist and a piano player as well.

Q: You’ve had a lot of odd jobs. Which was your favorite and why?

A: I was a Broadcast Tech for a while and went around refurbishing news vans. That job kept me on the road constantly, traveling to small towns. It’s different from touring, where all you really get to see is the back of a warehouse. When I was a tech, I really got to see the small towns, talk to people, eat the food. 

Originally published on Vita.mn in July 2013.