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Song premiere and interview with Near Northeast

Near Northeast's latest single “Clusters” functions as a sort of response to the current craze for musical wallpaper. Demanding attention with a meditative and creeping intro, “Clusters” requires the listener to shut off distraction for its entirety. In return, the song conjures up the feelings one might get from a sudden realization about the meaning of life made on a quiet Saturday night spent at home. Decidedly proggy, the song avoids any sort of verse/chorus structure, keeping the music enticing and staying true to its theme of meditative contemplation throughout.

After listening I had some questions for the group, who were nice enough to answer.  Here's what they had to say. 

AM: Avy Mallik (guitarist)
AB: Austin Blanton (bassist)
KS: Kelly Servick (vocalist)
AS: Antonio Skarica (drummer)

If you imagine folk music to be a spectrum, with the Mountain Goats on one side and klezmer music on the other, where do you think you guys fit?

AB: If the term folk music originated to describe groups of people all sharing the same culture and making music, then we make folk music. We were all growing up and starting to make music around the time of Napster, Limewire, etc. I would download anything that caught my fancy, share burned CD-Rs with friends (you can fit a lot of mp3s in 700 megabytes), rip as many CDs from the library as I could get my hands on. We all grew up under different geographies and cultures, but we share a voracious appetite for all types of music and like to steal whatever speaks to us. Folk as a genre is an entry point for us - there's nothing like a simple acoustic guitar with vocal harmonies.

AM: We've always been inspired by different types of music, "folk" and otherwise, and we try not to put labels on our songs and our style. That said, the two songs coming out on the Etxe Compilation album do showcase very different sides of the band -- "Clusters" to me is an expansive song, with soundscapes reminiscent of Boards of Canada and some post-rock bands we love. The heart of our songs still have a folk music center, with Kelly's vocals and an acoustic guitar as the basis for the song -- but then we intentionally and mindfully mess it up. A whole lot.

Given that you frequently mention “meditation” in descriptions of your music, and that your music itself is—in a shallow sense of the word—less “stimulating” than a lot of other stuff being put out there, would you say that your group has a certain aversion to consumerism?

KS: It's true that in some of our recent music--including this new song, Clusters--we take our time to explore a tone and feeling, resting in sparse, repetitive moments. Hooks are powerful, and catchiness can be a virtue, but open space can enhance those rewards -- both for the performer and the listener. We hope people who consume our music are game to spend some time in these musical spaces with us. It's not a statement about consumerism; It's just what feels right to us right now.

AM: This question reminds me of a conversation we had last year. We were lucky enough to do a weeklong tour of Bosnia and Croatia in September 2017, and we got to meet musicians and visual artists and creative people from all over this very tragic region during our tour. One of our concert bookers, a funk musician based in Sarajevo who played in a very fun cover band, had the most apt compliment for us -- he said "I love your music, incredibly deep and innovative, zero commercial potential, but I do love it!" We wear that as a badge of honor.

As a band and as people, what are your hopes for the near-future?

AM: We've got a couple of fun things in the horizon -- the Etxe Compilation show is this Saturday, Jan 20 at Capital Fringe, a venue in Northeast DC that we love (show info here) -- besides performing our own music, we will be featuring our friend Isabelle on cello on our other new song "Feuilles", which has a more traditional folk song. We will also be performing with our label mates Teething Veils on their 20+ min epic 2014 piece Constellations, something they've never performed in their entirety before. Beyond this Etxe release, we are also working with a San Francisco-based visual artist and filmmaker on an instrumental soundtrack for a "found film" shot circa 1918 -- it is an anti-Western which was found in an abandoned underground cinema in the New Mexico desert that this artist is rearranging and getting scored in different ways. Beyond that, who knows -- perhaps another album or EP? A tour of a new part of the country or the world the we are curious about?

Catch Near Northeast on Saturday, January 20 at Capital Fringe at the release show for "Etxe at 10 Years: a Compilation" -- RSVP, and Thursday, January 25 at Gypsy Sally's, playing with Seattle-based Kuinka - RSVP

-Mike Dranove


Interview with Chicago's the Burst and Bloom

The three Chicago natives that comprise Burst and Bloom have been playing together for over 16 years through several different projects. Their self-titled 2016 EP is the culmination of their ongoing artistic growth, and was entirely self-produced. It showcases a band walking the line between alt rock and indie through a tasteful blend of intensity and punch. 

What was your initial motivation to form a band, when you initially started playing?

Adrian- At the point of starting this project I was sure that I was finished with playing in bands. After being in one band for almost 10 years and having that end, then dabbling in some other projects that just never felt the same---I really thought, like, my life as a musician was over. This band wasn’t planned. It grew organically out of the desire to play music and to have it feel like it used to; one last push in me to make something great we could be proud of. The prospects of "no regrets" is far from uncommon, but very fitting in our case. We would play whatever we wanted without discussions of genre or direction. Everything we did would come from a place of simply doing what felt good and avoiding things that didn’t. We just want to make music and memories we are proud of.

Santi- I hadn't played music in over 7 years. I was pushed back into this by family and friends and couldn't be more grateful to them for doing so. Especially my baby brother Sean Casey. 

What events, people, records, feelings inspired your debut self-titled EP?

Adrian- The EP was more of an exercise in seeing what would come out, really. Taking everything we've done so far and making music that we liked and felt good. It was a cathartic release of years of trying to be what we thought people would like, or what people thought was cool. With time, you find out that a lot of that stuff just isn't important and often leaves you feeling less fulfilled than when you started.

Is there something you look for when writing lyrics, like, say, catharsis, personal expression, topicality, or positivity?

Adrian- For me, the most successful method of writing lyrics is to simply let them just fall out. The more I try to write, the further away I get from what feels natural. There is an innate truth to the very first thing that comes out when brain and vocal chords connect. When writing, I try to capture as much of this unplanned-and-in-the-moment content as possible and then go back and try to make something cohesive out of the sometimes utter nonsense that came out initially. The song is then built around this moving puzzle of context and melody. While hugely labor intensive and sometimes mentally and emotionally draining to try and connect these fragmented ideas, there is a sort of visceral fulfillment that comes from decoding your own brain. It definitely is not a method I would quickly recommend to anyone else, but it has proved successful to me as we continue to grow as a band. 

Are there any instruments, pieces of equipment, guitar pedals or musical toys that lately made you rediscover the playful side of creating?

Adrian- A short while into this band's existence, in search of a way to write music or document ideas quickly and easily, I dove head first into the world of digitally modeled instruments. Algorithms designed to recreate real world analog staples such as amplifiers, drums, and effect pedals. For so long musicians, engineers, producers, lovers of music have fought so hard against technology destroying the “soul” of music. I however, have found the technology so liberating and the limitless possibilities to be hugely stimulating to the creative process. I am so quickly able to forego previous limitations and be actively creating; harnessing the creative energy rather than worrying about setting up equipment and only really being able to work while at rehearsal. The technology empowered me as a songwriter to trust what is my head and gave me the tools to make it tangible.

Santi- As a three piece I knew we would have to figure out how to make everything sound HUGE! without it being unnecessary. We wanted people to really feel the music and wonder how we got such interesting sounds. I started building a pedal board which was completely new to me. It became a monster in its own way. Some of the pedals on my board are: Electro-harmonix Nano Pog and the Mel 9, Darkglass Duality Dual Fuzz Engine, Strymon El Capistan dTape echo pedal, and the Earthquaker Devices Fuzz Master General. 

How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?

Adrian- I do a ton of demos at home in a 100% digital world and will bring these back to the band as “sketches” of a musical idea. For our band everything is decided in the room together. We may have a general map laid out, but the actual direction of where a song will or won’t go happens when we play live together. There is no substitute for feeding off the energy of each person in the bands interpretation of a piece of music. I am never not in awe at the way my bandmates take in, process, and elevate any riff or piece of music I bring them. A lot of these recordings never make it out of the writing process however as we have a lot of pride in the way the music sounds and is heard. We prefer to do recording for anything we plan to release at a traditional studio such as Bricktop, or Electrical Audio so we can really have full control of the sonic scope of the finished product.

Is there a person outside the band that's been important in perfecting your recorded and/or live sound? 

Adrian- Without a doubt it has been our working with Sean O’Keefe and Pete Grossman. We first worked with Pete on our EP, which was initially just slated to be a set of demo recordings. Pete was someone we trusted to act as a gatekeeper of sorts for what was good and bad. These sessions really helped to form our initial vision of what this band was/could be, and built the confidence that what we were doing musically was more than we hoped; there was something more there. Subsequently, embarking on what will eventually be our debut full length with Sean O’Keefe has been much more of a push to see just how far we can take things; no idea is too large. He is there every step of the process to take whatever sound or idea we have in our head and capture it into the cohesive reality of a song. With his pedigree of working with amazing bands that we grew up loving, it really pushes us to expand our limits and be the best versions of ourselves on every new song we write.

What other Chicago artists are you enjoying these days? 

Here are a few:

Boss Fight: https://bossfightchicago.bandcamp.com

Mollow: https://www.facebook.com/mollowchicago/

Coaster: https://coastertheband.bandcamp.com

Even Thieves: http://eventhieves.com

Hidden Hospitals: http://www.hiddenhospitals.com

Walrus: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/twenty-thousand-leagues/id300588871

header image: 
sites/upload-files/imagecache/review_image/image1 (2).JPG
Olivia Sisinni
Subtitle (brief and awesome): 
Born, from a bond, in Chicago
Excerpt (short interesting quote from the Q&A): 
"Everything we did would come from a place of simply doing what felt good and avoiding things that didn’t."

Closer's "All This Will Be" is Stereogum's Album of the Week

Today Stereogum picked still unreleased LP "All This Will Be" by Closer, a Brooklyn band blending punk and post rock we first covered about a month ago, as their Album of the Week. The records drops this coming Friday January 19th. We are posting below the two singles currently available for streaming. The release show will be at Silent Barn on the same night.


Teenage Wrist announce debut LP Chrome Neon Jesus, play The Hi Hat on 1/18

Photo: Dan Monick

It's been almost three years since Teenage Wrist unveiled their promising debut EP, Dazed. The grunge-informed trio is back with new single "Dweeb," a brooding, guitar-heavy scorcher which balances their raucous bearing and stately vocal delivery with powerfully contrasting effect.

"Dweeb" is the third single off of Teenage Wrist's debut LP, Chrome Neon Jesus, which comes out on March 9 via Epitaph. Catch them at The Hi Hat on January 18.


HNRY FLWR shares video for "Little Brother," plays Knit on 01/19 w/ Uni & Blame Candy on 1/19

Since releasing debut EP Flowerama this past summer, Brooklyn art rockers HNRY FLWR have been on a roll. The brainchild of songwriter David Van Witt just unveiled a second video for single “Little Brother” (streaming below). While the sound comes across as atmospheric and almost eerily otherworldly, the video is comprised entirely of home movie footage from David's childhood. The song's lyrical content reveals an introspective look at the cycle of violence and bullying learned at an early age. “Beating little brothers out of love. There is still a violence that I'm feeding. Compensating for the fear that I'm not tough. Finding tiny little brothers within you.” The video presents a poignant look at childhood innocence juxtaposed against the songs foreboding subject matter.  HNRY FLWR will open for glam-rockers Uni and Blame Candy at the Knitting Factory on 1/19. -Dave Cromwell


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