Kate Tucker

Indie singer-songwriter Kate Tucker is a living reason why some of the best recording artists out there are almost never heard of (or simply heard). I never had, until a friend of mine alerted me to her and the indie-film project she’s involved with called Everything Went Down, a film that hasn’t even been completed yet, yet just the promotional material from it alone has me already proclaiming it as the American answer to Once. The film is currently being funded through a Kickstarter drive, whose link is both here and at the bottom of this page.

Kate’s music also caught my attention, and a lot of the same eclectic single-artist sound that you find in singers like Cat Power, Neko Case and Martha Wainwright, has a place in Kate Tucker’s songs, with some of the Americana of Josh Ritter thrown in for good measure. I guess my point is indie music is awesome, why doesn’t the rest of society agree with me?

Kate Tucker finally has my attention, so that’s all that matters for now.
I talked to her via Skype about her music and the film. Continue reading

Rosh, One Eye Glass Broken & The Blind Cafe

Talk about a shot in the dark!

Rosh & One Eye Glass Broken (a string ensemble lead by singer/songwriter Rosh Rocheleau that hails from Boulder, CO) are quite a great sounding group to begin with, but they have also got a very interesting performance angle in their corner: They almost exclusively perform their music in complete darkness at a venue known as The Blind Cafe.
The band had their start in the stairwell at Naropa University in 2007. The lovely sounds of the folk/chamber group playing and being carried by the acoustics of the stairwell had many people becoming fans and ardent supporters. After several years of gigs at local places like The Burnt Toast and The Laughing Goat, The Blind Cafe was born in February 2010.

There are in fact several locations of The Blind Cafe (Besides the one in hometown Boulder, they also opened in other cities like Austin, TX and Portland, OR), but the original one was experienced by Rosh while he was visiting Iceland. Here he explains its impact and what led him to bring it to the US.
“I was inspired by how people’s usual social barriers were broken down by the darkness and I’ve always cared about people connecting and relating with each other more authentically. The darkness does this. It interrupts our usual habitual patterns in social situations and creates an opportunity to experience ourselves and others in a new way. ‘Beginner Mind’ sort of. Each person’s experience is very different and I’m still paying attention and learning how this works on people. I think it takes people out of the past and future while putting them in the present moment”. The Icelandic Cafe unfortunately was missing something. “Their event was only a dark coffee and pastry dark cafe experience. I wish there was music.”

The Blind Cafe (documentary directed by Devon Walton)

Rocheleau, who, by the way has a B.A. in music from Tibetan Buddhist-inspired Naropa University in Boulder, has also stressed that there is another very strong objective here: Getting people to re-focus, reconnect and listen to music again at live shows without any outside distractions from other people or any kind of physically social things like texting or cell phones. Combining the intimate music gig with the Blind Cafe concept had to be a good way of making that happen.

Love & Rainy Days

Has this experience changed the perceptions of the musicians performing at the cafe?
“Yes, I think the musicians just as the volunteers and the staff all go through some forms of transformation. Personally I’m less distracted by visual stimuli when performing in the dark and get in touch with it the music more through listening.”

Rosh is very interested in bringing more awareness of the event to even more places in the US and abroad: “The view at the moment is to establish ourselves in 10 + cities in the USA and visit them a couple times a year with some international tours thrown in. I would like to create a cross – cultural blind cafe exchange event/happening, bring a documentary film maker and see what happens with The Blind Cafe internationally.”

Tonight

The Blind Cafe
Webpage that includes a page on the band
EP
Link to buy/download Rosh & OEGB’s EP on Amazon

Heirlooms

Heirlooms, an indie-folk band that hails from Hartford, CT have been making some considerable waves. Headed by singer-songwriter Jesse Stanford, the band, at least onstage, invokes sort of a hybrid of Springsteen’s E-Street Band and The Low Anthem. A very massive and dynamic sound that is almost too big for places like Rudy’s in New Haven where the 6-piece band had to perform one night back in July of 2011 on a small stage. They’ve been getting great local press, and even made it onto hipster webpage Brooklyn Vegan when they appeared at B.O.M.B Fest this year.

“The group got together in the summer of 2009 kind of in pieces”, Stanford remembers. “Myself and Neal began working on some new songs of mine together that summer and we soon got Thom and Justin involved. Shortly after, Ciara joined us and we started recording our first EP.”

On the influences of the band, Stanford explains, “My personal influences are all over the place musically. I grew up on my parents vinyl records–so the Beatles, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Dylan, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, Buffy Saint Marie, Paul Simon …
all that stuff got into my head at very early age and when I started fooling around with my mom’s acoustic guitar, it was “Rocky Raccoon”, “Graceland”, and “Blowin’ in the Wind” that I was playing before anything else. I’ll always have a foot in that kind of folk singer/songwriter stuff when I approach writing music. However, there is a lot of current music that is more experimental and probably even more influential on what I’m doing in Heirlooms. Bon Iver is probably the biggest; Also Kurt Vile, Joanna Newsom, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Deerhunter, the list goes on and on. Thom Servidone (our guitarist) has also turned me on to a lot of 80′s music I had sort of ignored until now–The Cure, The Smiths…I think he brings a lot of those influences to what we do.”

Empire State (Live at The Space, CT 10/26/10)

After recording a well-received 1st EP, Heirlooms cut a second one titled Heirlooms Live, Vol. 1 (Both are available for download on the band’s Bandcamp page) that sounds far more indicative of the live sound of the band.
Jesse explains, “As much as we all love and attribute much of our early success to our first EP, we began to realize how much we had grown as band in the year that followed its release. The first EP began and ended before we even considered ourselves a band, before we had begun truly writing songs together, before we stepped on a stage. In the months that followed its release, we moved out of ‘studio’ mode and put our collective energy into becoming a strong live band. And naturally we began writing new material together”.

Heirlooms Live Vol. 1 is essentially a snapshot of the band in new clothes. We wanted to capture the energy and the dynamics and the orchestration of what we were doing on stage. We also wanted to present this new batch of songs that we had written together, and that have become staples in our live sets…By recording these songs live–in our practice space, with no overdubs and no real studio magic–in a weekend, we had a new EP we were really proud of and that was a solid representation of where we are now as a band. We set up a bunch of microphones, got Pro-Tools up and running, turned on our amps, and basically played a typical Heirlooms set. We got some amazing engineering and mixing help from our good friends Alex Cohen (Ciara’s husband) and Marc Andrew Gillig. They are both in a really great rock band Superart and were both a huge help in the making of the Live EP”.

Bloodstar (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT 12/11/10)

Ciara Cohen is a welcome and refreshing part of this mostly male lineup using a classical violinist’s sensibility in a rock setting. “Ciara is amazing–classically trained, has an amazing ear, and she just shreds on that violin. She’s kind of the den mother–keeps all us boys in line and on task. She has this really sweet exterior, but she’ll kick some serious ass if and when she needs to. She’s our secret weapon.”

The band even has plans to release their first full-length album as well. “We have begun serious work on a new full length album. It seems like the pendulum has now begun to swing back towards the studio. We had a hard time pulling ourselves from playing live (especially in the summer with big shows like B.O.M.B. Fest and opening slots at the Iron Horse), but we have come to terms with the fact that we have to put playing shows on hold for a bit if we really want to make the kind of album we have in mind. This will certainly not be Live volume two. We have a new studio space in downtown Hartford and we plan to hole up this fall and winter and go back to the approach we took on the first EP; Lots of textures and layers and instruments and experimentation–really use the studio as an instrument itself. We might grab a few songs from the live EP for the album, but we also have a bunch of new songs we are really excited about. We’ll be underground for a bit, but I think we’ll have something really special on our hands once we come back up.”

From Hank To Hendrix (Crown & Hammer, Collinsville, CT Sept. 2010; Neil Young cover!)

Heirlooms Official website
Heirlooms Live, Vol. 1 Bandcamp page
Heirlooms EP Bandcamp page

This Frontier Needs Heroes

This Frontier Needs Heroes, an indie-folk duo that originally hails from Shelton, CT (Now living in New York, where it seems all musicians except for me reside these days) is comprised of two siblings: Brad (guitar/vocals, musette) and Jessica Lauretti (percussion/vocals, ukelele). I actually ran into these people a few years ago in Shelton at the local Starbucks, and we must have discussed music as they gave me the business card they had made up at that time. When I dug it up recently during a cleaning fit, I decided to actually check them out online; I was simultaneously won over by them and peeved that I didn’t follow their music sooner. They have since made quite a following playing around the country, touring in Europe, and making some media rounds as well. When I saw them recently playing in New Haven at Rudy’s, despite some technical sound-related mishaps (All of the acts playing on this night seemed to be plagued by these mishaps), they put on an intimate but engaging set, and the intimacy was punctuated by some sibling-related humor. They took some time out from their schedule to talk to me.

CM: Can you guys please talk about your musical upbringing and also the beginnings of This Frontier for me? What were the artists, the groups that inspired you, or the things that happened that spurred you guys to want to start this up?

Jessica: TFNH started because Brad’s last band “The Mountain Men” broke up. I was the tambourine player in a band with 5 other dudes. It was intense. We decided to keep playing and it took off!

Brad: The artist that really inspired me to start writing songs was Woody Guthrie. Listening to him for the first time made me feel like I could write a song. The Smiths and Camper Van Beethoven are also two bands that I really loved and were very important to my development as a songwriter. We both really love Neil Young, The Kinks, and The Who. We aspire to bring that kind of energy to the show.

CM: You may have already heard this, so, my apologies for saying it, but, Brad, your voice sounds a lot like M. Ward. Is this an appropriate comparison for you?

Brad: Any comparison that is a positive point of reference for people is cool with me, but I haven’t listened to his music at all. I hear he is really good, so I’ll take it as a compliment. Thank you.

CM: I really enjoy the sparseness of your albums (It kind of reminds me of Opal) and you keep it even more minimalist for the stage as well. Has there ever been any suggestion by anyone that you should expand the act into a group for any reason or occasion, or is that completely out of the question?

Jessica: Well we always think about having more musicians, and occasionally our friends will jump on stage with us, but there is something special about it just being the two of us. There [are] no distractions, you have to listen to what we are saying and feel it. Our parents should have had more kids!

Firefly

CM: The self-titled CD is really good; Your new CD “The Future” is a great follow-up, and I can’t help but notice that I hear much more of Jessica! Was this an executive decision, or was there simply more confidence this time from you to sing out front on a few songs?

Brad: Some of the songs lent themselves to Jessica’s voice, and she is very popular. Like on “Don’t Treat Me Like A Dog” that song is about our Grandmother so it made sense she would sing it. Other songs like “Space Baby” she sings the chorus, or “Key West” is a call-and-response novelty tune.
Space Baby (Official video; Film by Shaun Kessler & Olivia Wyatt)

CM: It appears that your song “Just Because” is a very heart-felt piece that documents your feelings towards modern whaling. Was it inspired by something you saw on TV like in the song?

Brad: The song was inspired by the show “Whale Wars.” One of the verses goes “I was sleeping on the couch watching the TV…” I was literally passed out on a couch in Cape Cod, over 4th of July weekend, and we were hanging out with some comedian friends “The Whitest Kids you Know” and that’s where the song came from, I woke up and decided to write a song about Saving the Whales, although it’s a really hard thing to do without sounding cheesy (EDITOR’S NOTE: To these opinionated ears, it doesn’t sound cheesy! :)).

Just Because (Official video)

CM: Great to see that another CT native singer/songwriter Kath Bloom has worked with you on the new record. Talk about what it was like to work with her.

Jessica: We love her! We met Kath a few years ago when we played at Bar in New Haven. Ever since then Kath has become one of our best friends, like family. We toured Europe with her, and we play as many shows together as possible around New England. We get to play and sing with her, we are incredibly lucky to have met her. Singing with her every night on tour is like a wow moment.

CM: The new record, incidentally, has a 3-D cover, and you’ve also had some vinyl copies of it pressed!

Brad: It was Jessica’s idea to make the album art in 3D. I think of it as a satire upon the idea of “The Future”, somehow that you need novelty glasses to enter into the 3D world of reality. It’s about the disappointment of the promises of technology. It also just looks really cool. Our future, the future, whatever you call it is a shaky unknowable thing that we have to create! Think positive.

Jessica: We had the idea of the large photos of just our faces and thought it was too boring as just a plain photograph, the 3D makes it fun, more of an experience.

CM: Will there be an 8-track pressing of the next album?

Brad: I remember when I was 3 years old listening to Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, James Taylor, and the Eagles on 8 track in a really old Mercedes that had a hole in the floor. I also remember listening to Return to Pooh Corner on 8 track by Loggins & Messina, but not sure if that is financially viable for us in the new economy. Maybe the next album will be called “The Past” and we can do it then!

2012 (SXSW 3/19/11)

Interesting clip of TFNH from 2007 with an unknown song, Jessica on drum-kit, and additional musicians on violin and autoharp

ThisFrontierNeedsHeroes.com
Official website.

TFNH’s Bandcamp page
You can stream their albums and/or purchase the downloads of them.