Sunday, June 30, 2013

Erica Rivera Finds The World's Best Glamping

Erica Rivera scouted out the World's 30 Most Glamorous Camping Destinations for food. See the pictures of these luxurious outdoor destinations and read about what makes them worth the splurge online at The Daily Meal.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Cayucas

Q&A: Cayucas

If you’re stuck in Minnesota all summer, Cayucas is the ideal aural escape. The dreamy, bouncy sounding band is named after a small-town in their home state of California. Oft compared to the Beach Boys and Vampire Weekend, Cayucas’ lyrics are infused with a wistful tenderness reminiscent of Jack Johnson, yet set to irresistible booty-shaking percussion.

Lead vocalist Zach Yudin co-wrote the songs on the band’s debut LP, Bigfoot, with his twin brother Ben. Richard Swift produced and played multiple instruments on the album, though Yudin has since added Christian Koons, Banah Winn, and Casey Wojtalewicz to round out the band’s roster.

Bigfoot is pure listening pleasure, evoking the yearning for youth, lost loves, rustic campsites and endless shorelines. Now all you need are some shades and a margarita.

Q: The first thing everyone says about the new album is “summery.” How do you feel about that seasonal classification?

A: I think that’s fair. The writing on this album is based on nostalgic moments and a lot of that comes from summertime and growing up. It wasn’t exactly a theme but lyrically it felt right.

Q: Do you think there’s a stereotype that a summery album is lightweight or lacks depth?

A: For me, these songs are more personal. To other people, something might seem surface-y, but it is meaningful to me. When artists make first albums, they feel like they have to write poetic, deeper songs than they need to be. I wrote songs that are not overly complicated. I will dig deeper on the next album.

Q: Will the next album be seasonal?

A: I don’t think so.

Q: You mention high school a couple of times on the album. Are you nostalgic for that time period of your life?

A: I think it was a poignant part of my life. Not the cliché moments of junior high and high school but the funny, interesting moments. College was that way, too.

Q: Speaking of college, you majored in Japanese and taught in Tokyo for a year. How did those experiences influence your music?

A: I was really into electronic music over there. I was writing dance beats and learning how to sample and loop stuff. It was a totally different style of music that blossomed into what I’m writing now.

Q: Love and ladies are ongoing themes in your songwriting. Do you find the musician’s lifestyle to be compatible with a long-term relationship, or is it more suited to summer flings?

A: [Laughs] It depends on the person. I meet a lot of artists in serious, committed relationships and seem content; some of them never even see each other and they are happy. Then there are other people like me who like being single, but it’s not the “gotta be a rock star” thing.

Q: Do you have a particular pick-up line you use? Or do girls just throw themselves at you?

A: [Laughs] No, I don’t have a particular pick-up line. No, girls aren’t throwing themselves at me. It’s more meeting a lot of older guys who are techy people. Our drummer has really good hair, so sometimes I just tag along with him.

Q: Your twin brother is in the band as well. How has touring together been?

A: It’s been pretty easy. We’re fairly introverted, relaxed, laid back guys. It’s interesting to see people’s reactions after shows. They will always be one or two people who ask if we’re related.

Q: Have you ever said you’re not?

A: No. I think they would figure it out.

Q: What are your must-haves for summer?

A: A swimming pool, the sound of running water, and the smell of chlorine and suntan lotion. Those are my official ingredients for summer.

Originally published on in June 2013.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Erica Rivera Profiles "Next Fitness Star" Finalist

Local Athlete in the Running for Next Fitness Star

Women’s Health magazine is on the hunt for the Next Fitness Star and a Minnesotan woman has made it into the Top 5.

Stacie Clark, a 40-year-old certified trainer who lives in Plymouth, co-owns Tiger Athletics with her husband Chris. A former fashion director turned full-time athlete, Clark is a fitness phenom. Clark’s philosophy is all about fostering a positive mentality, but she’s not afraid to kick your rear into gear. “Burn calories, not time” is her motto and her top move is the Sumo Squat with Rotation. A three-sport varsity athlete in high school, Clark has spent the last 15 years participating and instructing clients in running, adventure races, Cross-Fit, functional bodyweight training, barre-cardio, spinning, core work, and organizing FIT camps for adults and children. Clark is also a mother of two.

The magazine contest, which began in January, received over 1,000 submissions from women all over the country. Stacie was chosen as a finalist and is featured on the cover and in a full-page spread in the July/August issue of Women’s Health, which boasts a global readership of 22 million.

Now the magazine is asking the public to decide who will be deemed the Next Fitness Star. Vote online here up to once a day. Voters may also elect to enter in a $100 Athleta gift card giveaway. The contest ends on Aug. 5 and the winner will be announced live on NBC’s Today show by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb shortly thereafter. The Next Fitness Star will appear in a series of Women’s Health fitness DVDs.

Originally published on in June 2013.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Q&A: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Happy-go-lucky hippies Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have hit a high note in their career. Formed in 2007 by frontman Alex Ebert, the band broke onto the indie music scene with their hit “Home.” The sprawling Californian group has released two albums, 2009’s Up From Below and 2012’s Here, on Rough Trade records and has a third, self-titled LP set to drop on July 23rd. The band’s twelve members, currently on yet another epic tour, travel on a Craigslist-sourced bus driven by a rap artist dubbed Corn Fed.

We spoke to guitarist/vocalist Christian Letts, who was with the band from the very beginning.

Q: You’ve known Alex for most of your life. Tell me about your relationship with him and how you two came to be playing music together.

A: I moved from London to L.A. when we were 3 or 4 and we went to preschool together. We were always drawing together or playing on the same soccer team. We’ve been mates forever; brothers, really.

Six-and-half years ago, Alex got an idea and started working out a record with Jade [Castrinos]. I came over to lay out guitar on “Home” and “40 Day Dream.” We booked a show without having a full band. We had a couple of weeks and started calling all our friends until it became this bigger orchestra.

It’s funny how it all works out. I’m really proud of what we have. I’ve very grateful to have been friends with Alex for this long and to have been creating together for this long. It’s a blessing.

Q: Tell me about the band’s relationship with your fans. It seems like your shows are more of a shared experience for all rather than a performance. There’s not a “We’re the celebrities and you shall adore us” attitude.

A: Not at all. The biggest thing for us is breaking down that wall. When we do a show, it’s 50-50. Everyone is responsible for creating what the evening is going to be. It’s never been “We’re the band. You guys shut up and watch us.”

Q: Most of your songs are upbeat and have positive messages. Do you ever have days when you just don’t want to go onstage and sing about love and happiness again? If so, how do you get back into an optimistic mindset?

A: Some songs are dark. I think we’ve done well with balancing. There are times when you feel like, “Fuck, man,” because you’re sick or something else is going on in your life that makes you feel like you’re not there. But then you get onstage and by hit one you’re enjoying yourself again. The gratitude brings you back.

Q: For those of us who haven’t had the experience of touring with a band, to what would you compare the dynamic? Summer camp? A blended family?

A: Definitely a family. It’s not worth it if you don’t love everyone, especially since we spend all our time on the fucking bus together. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on things, like my mother’s birthday, or being away from my fiancée, but my family is very understanding. Being able to play shows and be part of something positive—I love that. It’s everything all at once.

Q: Do you get much private time on the road with that many people around? Are you ever allowed to have the bus to yourself?

A: No, you can’t have the bus to yourself! We all have bikes, so we use those to take adventures if we need to get away.

Q: Do you feel like you are on a spiritual mission as well as a musical one?

A: Personally, I’m always on that mission and trying to define what spirituality means to me. This band has helped me with that.

Q: What can listeners anticipate for your third album?

A: We are a tricky band to try to describe. We sound like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, which is fucking awesome. Sonically, it’s our biggest album. It’s very rambunctious.

Q: Do you feel your shows are better suited to outdoor venues and festivals as opposed to clubs? Do you have a preference?

A: I think we are good at adapting to either. It is equally great to be playing outside at a festival or to be in a small club of 250 people and be really fucking sweaty.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Astronautalis

Astronautalis (the artist otherwise known as Andy Bothwell) has a sixteen-year career and four albums thus far. The most recent release, 2011’s This Is Our Science, was praised for its intellectual edginess and elaborate sonic production. Underneath the cerebral slickness of it all, Astronautalis never loses his heart: I know what you dream of, I dream of it too, of roads that are endless and rooms that are huge, he sings on “Measure The Globe.”

Astronautalis’s lyrics read like passionate poetry intertwined with historical fiction; his delivery is unflinching and, at times, unsettling. The rapper’s theatrical past is evident onstage; his oft-sold-out live shows are tightly fine-tuned and include just the right amount of drama.

The 31-year-old intrepid wordsmith is scary smart, equal parts bookworm and bad boy, with street swagger and a freestyle form that is off the hook. Astronautalis has used those skills as an avid collaborator, joining forces with the likes of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Tegan Quin of Tegan & Sara, Culture Cry Wolf, and Marijuana Deathsquads. His next project is The Four Fists with P.O.S.

I spoke to Astronautalis about his legacy, his love for the Twin Cities, and his aspirations for the future.

Erica Rivera: You’re in the midst of your first full-band tour in Europe. How’s it going so far? What has been particularly surprising or exciting for you?

Astronautalis: This whole tour has been exciting. The turn-out has been far beyond our expectations. We had 600 people in Prague.

ER: You seem to be constantly on tour.

A: The past ten years, actually.

ER: Do you get homesick being out on the road for that long?

A: Funny enough, I never got homesick before moving to Minneapolis. I’ve lived in Florida, Texas, and Seattle. I never felt sad leaving those places. I never felt compelled to stay anywhere other than Minneapolis. The more I tour, and the older I get, the more the road wears on me. After this round of touring is done, I’m going to take a break and have the rest of the year off except for some small shows.

ER: You’ve said that you are “really obsessed with melodrama” when it comes to your stage performance. What is your private life as Andy Bothwell like?

A: I’m very low-key when I’m at home. I’m a homebody. I recently moved into my first apartment by myself in my entire life. I’m understated when I’m home. I drink whiskey, ride my bike, read books, spend time with friends. I think it’s overcompensation for the insanity that is the rest of my life.

ER: Your performances clearly require a lot of energy. How do you build up your endurance for these long tours?

A: I’m in reserve battery mode. I spend a lot of time sitting still and try to stay relaxed as much as possible before a show. I’ve been catching naps when I can. And caffeine helps, too.

ER: Do you feel like you’ve “made it” as a musician? If not, how will you know when you’ve made it?

A: I certainly haven’t felt that way. I’ve found myself in a position I never thought I would be in. I have friends in music, both unknown and certifiably famous, and the common link, bottom to top, is that they’re never satisfied. I think that’s a necessary trait in an artist. I’ll finish an album and feel like I’ve achieved something, but my mind is already on the next piece. If I ever feel like I’ve made it, that will mean it’s time for me to try something else. Never feeling satisfied is what keeps artists compulsively creating; it’s also what makes them lose their goddamn minds. It’s a necessary insanity.

Photo Credit: Megan Thompson

ER: You’re a snappy dresser. Do you choose your own clothes? Do you enjoy shopping? How would you describe your fashion sense?

A: I do enjoy shopping and I do pick out all of my own clothes. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to dress nicer. On tour, it’s easier to wear T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes, but all those disposable clothes felt wasteful. It was silly that I’d burn through so many crappy clothes. I’d rather spend more and buy something that I’ll keep forever. It’s a focused effort. I try to stay with classical styles rather than go chasing trends.

ER: Science seems to be a fascination of yours, at least as far as the title of your last album and your rapper name.

A: There’s no connection between the two. I got Astronautalis when I was 15. I just wanted something cool for my rapper name and I’m still stuck with it. The concept for the last record was comparing and contrasting scientific developments with artistic development.

ER: Collaboration seems to be a big part of hip-hop. Is there anyone you’re hoping to collaborate with in the future, either locally or beyond?

A: I’ve been daydreaming about collaborating with Dr. John. [Laughs] I have no reason to believe that will happen at any point in the future.

ER: What are your top three Twin Cities haunts?

A: Muddy Waters is my bar of choice. It’s my home away from home. I also like The Anchor in Northeast. And, now that the weather is getting nicer, there’s a train bridge over Nicollet Island where I like to read and listen to the trains go by.

Astronautalis plays the First Avenue mainroom with Sims on Friday, June 14.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Junip

Profile: Junip

“Are you ready for the next one?”

That’s how José González of Swedish outfit Junip is greeted these days when he answers the phone. Currently on a U.S., UK, and Canadian tour along with drummer Elias Araya and keyboard player Tobias Winterkorn, 34-year-old González is in full-on publicity mode at the moment.

Born to a Swedish mother and Argentinean father, González has an extensive and eclectic music history. At the age of 14 he began playing acoustic guitar, later venturing into classical guitar, bossa nova, and hardcore rock. Regardless of the genre, González’s pensive lyrics and timeless instrumentation have won him a slew of awards, including a Swedish Grammy for Best Newcomer (in 2004).

Junip was González’s chance to expand on the balladic folk sound he gravitated toward in his solo work. The psychedelic “krautrock” band released their first album, Fields, in 2010. Their eponymous sophomore effort was released in April on Mute Records.

Pitchfork, which rated the album a 7.0, couldn’t help but call the album “motivational speech set to music.” Confessional music this isn’t, as Gonzalez is a notoriously secretive musician.

When asked if any particular decision inspired the first two singles off the album (“Line of Fire” and “Your Life Your Call”), González says, “When I was writing both, I was thinking of transitions, of break-ups, of folks getting ill and dying, of children. My own stuff has not involved that many dramatic decisions.”

González may not be an emotive songwriter, but when he sits down with a guitar, he is methodic.

“I always do it with a song sketch in my mind,” he says. The Junip material is collaboratively written and created in jam sessions; everything else is “always for me.”

Though Swedish is his first language, the vast majority of González’s releases are in English. “I did a recording with a Spanish hip-hop group. I am trying to write in Spanish and in Swedish more,” he says with a sigh. “It is coming along slowly.”

González doesn’t exert creative control over everything, however. The art for the album and the band’s merch are the brainchild of drummer Araya.

“When Elias and I sat down to look at the artwork, I liked the deer. It was cat-like and beautiful. It was shy but at the same time knows what it wants. At first I thought I chose it for aesthetic reasons, but now I see a connection with relationships and growing older.”

González also put the music videos for the album’s first two singles in the hands of filmmaker Mikel Cee Karlsson. The result is a pair of videos that are downright unmooring yet impossible to turn away from. The camera follows a seemingly suburban couple whose middle-aged dysthymia is interrupted by a creepy teenager.

“The videos are Mikel’s own interpretation,” González says. “He took those singles and he created a story that I didn’t even think of when I was writing the songs. It’s fun to see that dark twist. The way he used the still-motion really captures the feeling you get in relationships that have gone on a long time.”

González does not reveal much about his personal life, much less his relationships. The curtain is pulled back briefly in “The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of Jose González,” a documentary about González that combines animation, concert footage, surveillance footage, and video diary. Yet even in his most private moments (brushing his teeth, eating cereal alone, sleeping on a plane), González reveals little about his inner state—though he has no problem waxing poetic about his obsession with photons, color perception, and trichromatic vision.

Indeed, González was working on a Ph.D. in biochemistry when his music career took off.

“I’d like to learn more about science,” he says when asked about his professional aspirations. “The music I’m okay with. I don’t have to work a lot, so the future feels very open for me.”

When questioned, in the spirit of one of his lyrics, “What would you say if you had to leave today?” González laughs.

“Not much! If I had to leave today, I’d say, ‘Really? Now?’ ”

Originally published on in June 2013.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Erica Rivera Interviews Zoo Animal

Q&A: Zoo Animal

Hometown grunge band Zoo Animal is one of the tightest acts in the Twin Cities. At the helm is Holly Hansen (formerly Holly Newsom), who tempts audiences with soft opening chords only to later unleash feisty guitar riffs and raw energy. Hansen’s lyrics are tender, tough, and occasionally tinged with rage.

With new members Justin Korhonen (drums), Noah Paster (bass) and Matt Latterell (guitar), Zoo Animal is reinventing itself in more ways than one. The group recently recruited Alan Sparhawk (of Low) to assist in the recording of their forthcoming album, and while there is no release date yet and Hansen is mum on the title, she was more than willing to open up about other details of a modern musician’s life.

Q: Your last album was called Departure. What were you departing from?

A: I had an exodus of bandmates [Tim Abramson and Thom Burton] and my sound was way different without them. I was going through a lot of change. In many ways, I felt like I was leaving.

Q: You recently posted online the lyrics for Zoo Animal’s last album Departure. Is there a reason why you waited so long? Were you hesitant to share them?

A: Those were the most personal lyrics I’ve ever written. I needed to keep them in a space by myself for a while. Songs go through a cycle where they’re yours and then they go on to be everyone else’s. I wanted people to know what the lyrics were since I tend to mumble so bad.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of making music for you?

A: When I feel like I’ve made a difference. Music is a form of communication and connecting for me. I think connection is a source of happiness for humanity. Even in the case of Departure, which was not an uplifting record, I felt like I reached out. Sometimes connecting means going to the sadness and purging it.

Q: What is the most challenging part?

A: Only being able to give it so much time is a constant frustration of mine.

Q: Does your day job influence your music at all?

A: Everything I do influences my music. I’m inspired by life and that comes out through my music. I have what most people would call a “boring job,” as a secretary, but it allows me my own thought time. I can write, read, and do the business side of music at the same time. Logistically, the job helps me, but it’s not a great source of artistic inspiration.

Q: Do you have plans to make a more elaborate music video with the new material?

A: I am always kicking around ideas for music videos. Since someone else is doing the visual, it adds another interpretation to the songs. It makes the music more universal.

Q: Tell us about the upcoming 65 Roses show. Is cystic fibrosis a cause dear to you?

A: I have not had personal experience with it but Charlie Hopper, who is organizing it, e-mailed me and I was touched by the concept of it. I want to do more events like that, where it’s not just us showing off but there’s a cause or a reason. It’s more fun when it’s not about you, when you are part of something. I like shows that are more friendly to everyone; there will be kids’ activities. It’s a day of fun stuff.

Q: You recently went back to using your birth name. Would you care to discuss the circumstances that led to that decision?

A: Um…no. I’d rather not.

Q: So…are you on the market?

A: I’m not.

Originally published on in June 2013.