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.