Thursday, April 25, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Jesse Marchant (JBM)


Originally from Montreal, Jesse Marchant (the man behind the musical moniker JBM) is a lesser known gem of the Indie music scene. As the opener for both of Cloud Cult’s sold-out shows at First Avenue on April 27 and 28, he is sure to wow concert-goers with his sparse, yet breathtakingly beautiful, style. Classically trained in guitar since childhood, JBM’s debut album “Not Even In July” was released on Partisan Records in 2010, followed two years later by his sophomore effort “Stray Ashes.” JBM, who bounces between both coasts, recently performed at SXSW and has shared bills with the likes of Alt-J and Solid Gold.

We spoke to JBM about his stripped-down sound, the “you” he sings to, and his social media aversion.

Q: Where did the title “Stray Ashes” come from? Does it refer to the circumstances that inspired the album?

A: In a poetic, subconscious way, it does. In an abstract way, it symbolizes the thorough-line of the album.

Q: What listeners seem to appreciate about your music is its purity; it doesn’t sound like it has been excessively enhanced or altered. Is that a conscious decision? Are you anti-auto-tune?

A: Not necessarily. I like all kinds of music, but something like auto-tune doesn’t fit well with what I do—or it hasn’t so far. I try to honor as best I can the songs that I write. I arrange them in a way that is simple and direct because it feels natural to me.

Q: Many of your songs are written in the second person; who is the “you” that you sing to? Is it one 
person? Different people?

A: [Laughs] Good question. It’s often different people, though sometimes I have one person in mind. It’s a perplexing thing, because in some songs, it changes, and the “you” is actually me, and it spins around and around.

Q: On the track “Thames,” you mention the name Annie. How do you decide whether or not to include a name? Do you ever use pseudonyms?

A: I don’t typically like including names, but sometimes I just can’t get away from it. If I do include one, I would use either [a real name or a pseudonym], though in this case, I don’t want to say more about the name or who it is.

Q: You are not an active user of social media. Is that because you are a private person?

A: I am pretty private, relative to people who do what I do. I’m not opposed to social media, but it was never something I gravitated towards. The music industry and fans expect that constant stream of information, so I tried it for a while but it didn’t fit well with what I do. I don’t like the idea of so much information consumed and then forgotten. I prefer expressing myself, privately, when I really have something meaningful to say, which is not every few minutes.

Q: How did you come to connect with Cloud Cult?

A: We were set up through our people. We’ve done a few shows together now and they’re really wonderful. I’m excited to come back to Minneapolis. I’ve played there several times.

Q: The shows you are playing at First Avenue are sold-out. Do you get nervous in front of big crowds like that? Or does the size of the venue not affect you anymore?

A: It kind of doesn’t matter what size the venue is. The best case scenario is that everyone is quiet and listening, and it’s a collective high. The worst is when people are talking over you, and then it doesn’t matter if there are five people in the room or 500. But no, I don’t get nervous.

Originally published on in April 2013.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Erica Rivera Reviews Dzine at Public Functionary

Dzine: Victory

Public Functionary, the new art gallery and Kickstarter success story, dazzled Northeast Minneapolis with the opening of Dzine’s “Victory” exhibit on Saturday night.

Dzine, the nom de plume of Chicago-based Puerto Rican artist Carlos Rolon, is a study in excess. Gorgeous without being gaudy, Dzine intertwines machismo symbolism with matriarchal artifacts.

Dzine’s exhibit blended both Neo-Baroque and psychedelic palettes, shamelessly flaunting opulence while staying true to street swagger. The glittery, sequined-splashed pieces were a feast of color for winter weary eyes. Crimson shag carpet lined one section of the walls; another was wallpapered in distinguished gold stencil. Mirrors were incorporated throughout, an especially stunning touch in a massive mosaic piece that reflected back a broken image of the viewer.

Dzine is known for “Kustom Kulture Sculptures,” such as his collection of bejeweled trophies. Many showcased angels perched, wings akimbo while another was adorned with brass knuckles. A pair of fighting gold cocks crouched in the corner, their shadows lurking ominously on the wall thanks to an elegant, low-hanging chandelier nearby.

The two (minor) disappointments in the Dzine exhibit were that there wasn’t more (a single room simply wasn’t enough to skim the surface of this fascinating and fresh artist) and that the exhibit wasn’t interactive. Being able to feel the fabrics and textures of the artwork might have made an even bigger impact on the patrons, who were clearly wowed but expressed surprise at how quickly they moved through the room.

“The live art experience needs to be elevated,” curator Tricia Khutoretsky said in anticipation of the opening. By choosing Dzine for its inaugural show, Public Functionary is already taking the Twin Cities art scene to a whole other level. “Victory” is indeed a visual triumph.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Phosphorescent

Phosphorescent is the aural alter ego of Matthew Houck, an Alabama-bred, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter. Phosphorescent’s latest effort, Muchacho, is the most sonically expansive release we’ve enjoyed from the Americana outfit since its inception six albums ago. Named after a Pablo Neruda poem, the album features mournful mariachi trumpets, somber pedal steel, and swelling strings. Houck’s lyrical style on Muchacho is both ragged and playful, exposing a vulnerability formerly hidden beneath his urban cowboy exterior. Though the album was born from a relationship gone bad and the loss of his recording studio space, the result is an epic collection of songs that are garnering Phosphorescent much-deserved praise. With an 8.8 rating from Pitchfork and a tour that spans the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia, Phosphorescent is poised to leap into the mainstream music world’s consciousness.

We spoke to Houck before he took the stage in Seattle, WA.

Q: “Song For Zula” is making the ladies swoon all over social media. You’ve said previously that you’re not ready to discuss who Zula is. Is that still true?

A: It is. Without being too obtuse, I’ll just say it’s a special song. I’ve learned a lot hearing other’s people’s thoughts about it.

Q: In that case, can you tell us what makes a woman song-worthy?

A: I think all women are song-worthy.

Q: Oh, you lady-killer.

A: [Laughs] No, I think it’s the other way around. You all are man-killers. (laughs)

Q: On “Down to Go”, there’s a line that goes, “Oh, you’ll spin this heartache into gold.” Does writing about a break-up ever ease the sting for you?

A: No, it doesn’t. It’s still heartbreak.

Q: “The Quotidian Beasts” evokes an image of a coyote howling at the moon in the desert. When you compose a song, do you envision a geographical setting for it?

A: That’s interesting. I think I have an image when I make the music, but in the production environment, it goes to a different place. There’s a weird alchemy to it. It’s like poetry. The place that inspires it and the place that it gets produced are different.

Q: You use the word “Hej” several times on the album. What does that mean?

A: I just found myself saying “Hey” a lot and I thought that the Swedish “Hej” sounded way prettier.

Q: The first and last songs on the new album include the words “An Invocation” and “A Koan” in their titles, respectively. Could you elaborate on what spiritual practices or beliefs influence your music?

A: To be honest, without sounding too heavy-handed, songs like those are a form of worship. They are intrinsic, spiritual works that hopefully approach a sense of other-worldliness.

Q: Suffering seems to be an ongoing theme in your music, especially in “A New Anhedonia.” Does depression provide meatier subject matter than happiness for you?

A: That’s a very astute observation. It’s not meatier, per se, but those are the emotions I end up going to and those are the emotions that happen to be the catalysts for songs. Songs are places for those kinds of emotions. I’m not opposed to writing happy songs, and I’m not seeking out the darkness; but those emotions lead me to sit down with a guitar or a piano and write.

A: On “Ride On/Right On” to what kind of ride are you referring?

A: A motorcycle ride.

Q: What kind of bike do you ride?

A: I have an old Honda.

Q: Do you get to bring it on tour?

A: I wish I could. It stays at home.

Originally published on in April 2013.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants in the Twin Cities

For those who prefer their meals meat-free, Erica Rivera has compiled a list of the best vegetarian-friendly venues in the Twin Cities. Find your new favorite on The Daily Meal website!

Best Donut Shops in the Twin Cities

Donuts are a "do!" Erica Rivera rounds up the best places to get your Os in Minneapolis and St. Paul on The Daily Meal.