Wading Through the Noise

There’s a certain restless quality to Brian Borcherdt’s work ethic.

From co-founding Halifax label Dependent Music to his constant work in his band Holy Fuck and several other musical projects, the prospect of starting another touring band may seem overly ambitious. But for Borcherdt, it’s business as usual.

He’ll be bringing his fuzz-laden two-piece Dusted to POP Montreal this year, a festival where Holy Fuck got their start. A middle ground between his hometown in Nova Scotia and his base of operations in Toronto, Montreal has seen Borcherdt’s solo work more often than most.

Now teamed up with drummer/producer Leon Taheny, his formerly acoustic songs take up a truly “dusty” quality, vocals pushed through a little Marshall amplifier. Minimal percussion and murky guitar make this a project light years away from the electronic intensity of Holy Fuck.

“I like the idea of a recording experiment, that’s how a lot of things can begin. But I don’t think I’d ever be satisfied with something I’m doing only being a recording experiment,” said Borcherdt.“I’m a social person, I like to tour and be on stage, I’m the type of person that when I watch my friend’s band I get excited because I can’t wait to share the stage with them.”

The band’s debut LP Total Dust was released in July, but with the two members having multiple projects on the go, the tracks had been shelved for over a year.

“When I’m working on music I’m building all this imagery in mind, I’m living and breathing it,” said Borcherdt. “But by the time [Total Dust] came out, I was already thinking about something else.”

“I have to re-conjure the way I was absorbed in something.”

But it was probably for the best, because when the tracks on Total Dust were finished, Borcherdt felt he didn’t have a home for them. Waiting a year allowed for all the logistical components to come together.

“We put the band together, found time in our lives to actually release it, rehearsed, got a label, manager, booking agent, took the time necessary to build everything you need,” said Borcherdt. “Because you can release a record that you really believe in and you can put it out there, but if nobody listens to it, what’s the point?”

The record is made for close listening in good headphones, steeped in a “cinematic drama” that Borcherdt feels is best left on the album. Live, their sound is translated into something a little bigger, and a little more fun.

Taheny lays down bass synth with one hand while drumming with his other limbs, filling out the space left by the guitar and vocals.

It’s a take on Borcherdt’s solo work that he’s much more comfortable playing live.

“There have been a handful of times where I’ve gotten up and played in front of people as a solo artist, but there has been very few tours when I pack the station wagon, kiss my wife goodbye and go out on the road for three months like a travelling salesman bringing my little suitcase of cassette tapes to the world,” said Borcherdt.

“And one of the reasons I haven’t really done that is because I’d probably find that pretty boring.”

And while for most of his career his work has been categorized under Holy Fuck or everything else, Borcherdt doesn’t feel either can sum him up musically. If anything captures that today, it’s LIDS, a noisy, guitar-driven band that he started with The Constantines’ Doug MacGregor and Alex Edkins from METZ.

“I don’t think any one [of my projects] is getting to the core of what I’m about, in the meantime they’re just creative outlets, not getting the whole picture,” said Borcherdt. “But I feel like I’m getting there, it’s taken a long, long time.” ­­

Dusted / Sept. 20 / CFC (6388 St. Hubert St.) / Doors at 9:00 p.m., Dusted at 1:00 a.m. 

The Part of Me You Know

Sam Herring is in a good place right now. The shows are getting bigger both in North America and in Europe, and he’s in a healthy relationship. Since most of his lyrical work for Baltimore synth pop trio Future Islands is inspired from tortured feelings of love and loss, it’s a welcomed change for the North Carolina-born singer.

“I’m seeing someone now and that makes me really happy so I’m worried we won’t be able to write a good song for a while. My dad’s always telling my girlfriend, ‘Go ahead and break his heart so Future Islands can make a good album again,’” he laughs.

Last fall’s On the Water was a move to that peaceful place, a retrospective look at the feelings Herring wrestled with on the previous LP In Evening Air. And with a few years now between him and when those songs were written, comes the taxing experience of revisiting dark moments onstage.

“I’m really feeling that now, mainly because of the old albums,” said Herring. “In Evening Air is about a relationship I was getting through, working through those feelings, and On the Water is more about coming to a moment of peace.

“To go onstage and sing a song like “Balance” next to “Tin Man,” it almost doesn’t make sense because “Balance” is about understanding things will work themselves out if you don’t drive yourself crazy, and “Tin Man” is about that crazed feeling.”

One of the most intense moments on In Evening Air, “Tin Man” remains a staple in their live show, where Herring is known to hold nothing back. He throws himself into the performance, physically and emotionally, every night.

“When we started playing “Tin Man” it really hit me on stage, feeling lost and abandoned, and to go into that place now is kind of scary,” said Herring. “It’s difficult because I don’t want to go back to that place, I’m not mad at that person anymore.”

“It hurts me, but when you’re trying to be honest about your life you can’t hold back.”

Future Islands were in a radically different situation when writing that song, when they had trouble paying bills and had recently moved to Baltimore. Now they’re in a more stable place, feeling grown-up for the first time.

So for their latest LP, the band made things a little more pensive, most of the record sitting at Beach House-pace and recorded in North Carolina’s historic Andrew S. Sanders House. The resulting force still encapsulates the band’s dynamic vocals and new wave-inspired instrumentation, but the immediacy of the largely uptempo In Evening Air has been substituted for something deeper.

In writing On the Water the band was in a stretch of slowing down, taking a few months to recover from over three years of touring. With Future Islands able to let the songs breathe, more ambient passages arose, building contrast to the record’s climactic synthesized moments.

“We were hoping we weren’t going to shoot ourselves in the foot, but for me these songs are some of the most honest songs that we had written, and that’s what was scary about it,” said Herring.

“You have to be careful, or they’ll be like, ‘what are you doing? I was dancing and now I’m crying,’” he said about playing the new songs live. “Not that we’re opposed to people crying at shows.”

But the response has been positive so far, and as the band embarks on the next leg of their tour supporting the latest record, they have much to be thankful for as they continue their musical journey of self-exploration.

“Looking back two or three years you don’t know what’s going to happen, and being able to get to a point where you’re able to see that return is really mind-blowing,” said Herring.

Rough All Over

With dirty distortion, spacey jamming and Stooge-esque ferocity, The Men somehow manage to sound like punk’s roots and its future at the same time.

They bang through rough, rocking numbers and intense verging-on-hardcore passages, bringing together elements of krautrock and shoegaze for a record that’s as brilliant as it is varied.

Their latest LP Leave Home brought them on their first cross-country tour this past summer, and a whole new audience heard their Brooklyn-born sonic assault.

“Depending on how we’re feeling we have what we call our ‘bangers,’ the punk, faster songs, or maybe we’ll start with the dronier, quieter songs that gradually get louder and end in noise,” said the band’s lead guitarist, Nick Chiericozzi.

“It depends on the night if we play the heavy stuff or the psychedelic stuff. The response has been good,” he said. “People have been saying they’ve been liking the slower stuff, along with the heavy stuff that Chris [Hansell] usually sings on.”

The trio added Rich Samis behind the kit after recording Leave Home, allowing for both Chiericozzi and Mark Perro to ignite their six-string power. On their forthcoming record, tentatively titled Open Your Heart and surfacing this spring, the band managed to discover yet another side of their sound.

“Now Mark and I can weave guitars a little more and double stuff,” said Chiericozzi. “We want [this time] to be able to discern different stuff that you couldn’t on the fuzziness on Leave Home, which was cool because it had its own personality, but we wanted to get things a little cleaner.”

The drums on all their released material (most of which you can download here) are played by Perro, Hansell and Chiericozzi, adding a simple, driving rhythmic wall for crunchy guitar and bass.

“When the three of us were playing drums, we didn’t really know what we were doing,” laughed Chiericozzi. “Which is cool because I like simple drums, but Rich can do that and he can also do other stuff that we couldn’t do. Not necessarily busier, but he’s able to pull more off.”

Pedal-steel and slide guitar find their way onto the new stuff, and they’re continuing their punk rock allusions, too. Leave Home shares its title with an early Ramones album, and the next record will likely give a nod to their forefathers, Iggy and the Stooges.

“If you look at the track order for Raw Power, we’re kind of thinking about mimicking that, where there’s the idea to have the song order on one side kind of match with the other,” he said.

Leave Home was recorded on tape, a first for the band. It was a perfect match for their building, brooding aggression, and Open Your Heart was done the same way, also engineered by Ben Greenberg.

“It was something we’d always wanted to do, but we never found the engineer we wanted to work with,” said Chiericozzi. “So we always went with the digital way. I think our sound just fits with the warmer tone of tape.”

It’s pretty evident when you experience the depth of Leave Home’s distorted haze and the crunch of its clipping drum tracks just how important studio environment is to this live production. Onstage, it transforms into a sweaty, powerful mass of punk fury with influence flying in from both sides of the Atlantic. With a full-time drummer, things will only get bigger.

“Mark and I always wanted to have the ability to have two guitars working together, to be able to build off each other,” said Chiericozzi. “So it’s really cool to be able to make that happen.”

Originally published by The Link Newspaper.

No Time to Sit Pretty

Being dubbed an indie orchestra didn’t quite suit Hooded Fang, a band in pursuit of a constantly shifting sound. The Toronto sextet dropped the superfluous instrumentation, trading it in for surf punk but keeping the catchiness. Why the change? Well, simply put, it’s just more fun.

“There’s nothing like good rock ‘n’ roll. It’s fun to see shows where people get sweaty and aren’t just standing around listening,” said singer, guitarist and songwriter Daniel Lee. “It’s more involved, a more primal vibe.”

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It’s a practice that takes all the delicacy out of their music, and the resulting force shoots adrenaline into their guitar-driven hooks and two-part singing.

“You just kind of play your ass off,” said Lee. “There’s no time to sit and think about what you’re doing.”

One reason for the move to faster, more surf-inspired playing was to disprove any assumption that Hooded Fang were a vanilla, one-trick-pony band, hurriedly nestling under that blanket term “indie.”

Last year’s Album earned the band a Polaris Prize nod, making the longlist for the annual award. But Hooded Fang were itching to mix things up, even with the success of the LP.

“The Polaris thing was really cool, but the main thing we wanted to do is not get pigeonholed as one of those orchestral indie pop bands,” said Lee.

Being a sometimes seven-person group with a habit for instrument-switching, the band was well on their way to establishing themselves as just that. Their debut landed at something of a cross-section between The Strokes at their tamest and an Arcade Fire arrangement, featuring tunes with a pop sheen that managed to get hipster heads bobbing.

But for this summer’s Tosta Mista, Lee made sure things stayed rough around the edges.

“We did the record really quickly. A lot of it was done in my bedroom… A lot of the guitar stuff is just played randomly; I couldn’t even repeat it because I don’t even remember what I did,” he laughed. “You just record it and don’t look back.”

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It’s quite a change from the previous LP, where careful compositions were put under a magnifying glass, thickened with rich instrumentation and guest musicians.

“The other album took a long time, trying to make all these different parts work together and have all this call-and-response going on,” said Lee. “For this one all that went out the window. I enjoy writing like this, writing really fast and spontaneously.”

That sense of upbeat spontaneity definitely shows on their new songs, and the energy is welcomed onstage.

“It’s more exciting to play live,” said Lee. “Some of our side projects are punk bands and more garagey, scrappy stuff, and a lot of the music we’re into and like to see live is more loud and energetic. So it’s a nice change to be able to do that with Hooded Fang.”

Those projects fall under the band’s own Dap Records, a label they were able to start building on the momentum of Hooded Fang.

Lee does the producing for all his music, which has the benefit of creative control—a benefit that he’s tried to balance against his tendency to obsess over barely audible minutia.

But the band’s in a good place now, feeling tighter and freer than ever.

“It’s funny when you have a band, you have to define your sound, right? We’ve done a couple different things and I think now we can do whatever we want,” Lee said.

Originally published by The Link Newspaper

Like a Mountain

Timber Timbre has been morphing into a full band over the last two years, one all the more capable of entrancing their ever-growing audience. Now violin, lapsteel and the constant kick drum frame singer/songwriter Taylor Kirk’s formerly acoustic vibrations, deepening the mystic trip he’s ready to lead.

“It’s been a big transition,” said guitarist Simon Trottier, who has been expanding Kirk’s sound on the last two records. “Taylor used to do solo shows, using a loop pedal and adding layers of vocals and playing guitar. When Mika and I started playing with Taylor we were improvising around the songs.”

Trottier joined the murky depths of Timber Timbre alongside violinist Mika Posen in what was essentially a live experiment. Since then a drummer has made appearances, but the three permanent members’ chemistry has evolved their deep, woodsy folk into a sound much more their own.

“The first time I met Mika it was five minutes just before playing at Sala Rossa two-and-a-half years ago,” said Trottier. The two backing musicians slowly became more involved in the creative process, but this ambient approach of ornamenting Kirk’s dark compositions remains tethered to their brooding haunt.

“Taylor has the idea of where he wants to go with each song, but on this record there are three instrumental songs we wrote together,” said Trottier. “We’re bringing ideas too, but he makes the last decision. I think every band needs someone to make the big decisions.”

Timber Timbre is now a full-time job for the three musicians, something Trottier is very happy about, even if it slows down side projects.

“I have another project called Ferris Wheel, we’re going to finally release the album in December, but we finished it a year and a half ago, with people from The Luyas and a guy from Belle Orchestre,” he said.

Starting off as an acoustic folk project, Timber Timbre’s sound has always been an intimate experience, one best experienced outside the usual context of a packed bar. Last spring’s Creep On Creepin’ On made the band’s sound bigger than ever with the help of guest musicians and higher production value.

Even so, the band avoids bars when they can.

“We’re sitting on chairs playing multiple instruments and don’t have a drummer, so there’s no way to jump around and entertain the drunk people,” said Trottier.

“The reason we like to play in theatres or churches is because when you’re playing songs like ‘Demon Host,’ it’s hard to get the attention of people at the bar,” he said. “It’s easier for us to create an atmosphere to share with the crowd in those venues.”

The trio’s Canadian folk brew may be just as mysterious, but it’s being digested by more and more listeners. Creep On made this year’s Polaris short list, and “Magic Arrow” was used last year in the AMC series Breaking Bad.

“We played a show in Los Angeles in September 2009 and there were people who place music in movies, and one of them said, ‘we want to use your song in Breaking Bad,’” said Trottier. “I didn’t know the show but I think Taylor had heard about it.”

“Yesterday I watched the end [of] season three,” he said. “I love that show. It’s so good.”

Happy with the TV spot, the band is itching to be more involved in the creative process for any film music made in the future. It’s something the three members want to tackle together, and the plans are already in motion.

“We’d like to do soundtracks. When you’re doing soundtracks you get more input, you get to talk with the director,” said Trottier. “The three of us have been asked to work on a movie, but I can’t say more right now. We’re going to approach it as a band.”

More KBT Interviews

To Serve The Song Above All Else

It's pretty common that bands known for technical ability will push the limits of their playing with each new release, but Chicago's Maps & Atlases latest work strives to flex both creative muscles and the ones in their fingers.

“I don't think we were ever heavy in any way,” said lead singer, guitarist and most bearded member Dave Davison when talking about how the band used to share the stage with the post-hardcore group Russian Circles. The band's early work bared the signs of math rock, but now Maps & Atlases more closely resemble a folk band.

Perch Patchwork came out last summer and was the band's first full-length offering, filled with rich, subtle instrumentation and an increased focus on Davison's voice. Being their debut LP, Maps & Atlases spent the time to make a cohesive piece of work that shows growth to a technically proficient musical palette.

“It was a really fun and productive way to allow the songs to take shape,” said Davison about the more experimental process to songwriting the band took with this record.

“On previous work with Maps & Atlases we would spend a long time getting ideas together to play live, and then the recording process became mostly a way of documenting that live experience,” he said.

“It was the prospect of recording and letting whatever happened happen, like if something started seeming a certain way or going in a different direction, to just allow it to go that way was only possible through this type of recording. It was really exciting for everybody in the band. Jason made everyone excited to explore more.”

Jason Cupp produced Perch Patchwork, and a warm, complex sound was formed – one which draws influence from as many directions as genres in their hometown music scene. Cupp worked with Davison in 2009 for his solo work under the name Cast Spells, and after exploring these new approaches to writing brought the artfully arranged sound to a full band context. The result builds off the Cast Spells EP, with engaging, unorthodox percussion and melodic form catchy enough for a pop song.

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“It was really fun, it was something that wouldn't have been possible before this time,” said Davison. “Making an album with as many intricacies as this one has would have cost a fortune. It would have had to be a totally different production 10 or 15 years ago, but we were able to do it in our practice space and in my parents' house, getting friends to help out with it.”

Horns and strings take up room formerly dominated by two-hand guitar tapping, but while they may have moved out from under the math rock label there has been no dumbing down of their sound. If anything, the complexities are now just more subtle, wound into the fabric of the song with great care.

“We had some idea prior going into it where strings and horns and whatnot would go, but it was my first time seriously working with instruments that I couldn't mess around with on my own,” said Davison. “It was definitely a trial and error process with that, there are so many interesting things that can be done with other instruments that you can't think of when you're thinking with a guitar.”

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“I think we've just gotten better at layering things and playing together more tightly where it doesn't seem crazy and random. Still, I think the most technical guitar parts live definitely are some of the newer songs,” he said. "Layering lots of different instruments hopefully allows someone to get more lost in the overall song rather than focusing specifically on what a guitar is doing.”

The band wants to avoid the feeling of isolated tracks playing together, instead arranging the record's many layers as complimentary elements.

“My most enjoyable musical experiences right now come from when I'm not necessarily identifying with the musicianship, but more with the music,” said Davison.

“Sometimes it can be difficult for me when I'm listening to somebody play the guitar really well, I'll switch into thinking about it in a more logical way rather than allowing myself to get lost in it, like [I do] with electronic or classical music.”

The band strives to serve the song, wherever it takes them. With their new composition style it could go anywhere, but it's too early to tell what the end result will be for any upcoming material.

“I have been continuously writing and recording stuff without necessarily trying to think about it in the context of what it's going to be,” said Davison. “There definitely is new material, but I'm not exactly sure in what way it's going to come out. I think we're at a weird place where it's hard to talk about what's going to happen next just because you don't want to necessarily think about it too much as far as the end result right now, more focus is on the process, the creative side of it.

“We don't have a specific political agenda or message, when you're writing from your experience you definitely feel excited when people can connect their experience to that, to have a positive association with the music,” he said. “I feel weird about overly contextualizing our music, telling people how to think about something. My strongest associations with music that means a lot to me I'm sure is 100% off from what the artist originally intended, and that doesn't really matter to me, on either side of it.”

More KBT Interviews

Peace Signs for the New World

It seems that young Brooklyn-based folk singer Sharon Van Etten’s sound gets bigger with each album.

2009’s Because I Was In Love was a record of intimate acoustic numbers supported only by Van Etten’s voice and guitar, and last year’s epic filled out the music with a full band setup.

Working on her next record around a tightly-packed touring schedule finds Van Etten’s Neutral Milk Hotel-meets-Cranberries sound expanding again, with help from The National’s Aaron Dessner.

The two have been writing and recording since September, before taking a break in February for a European tour with their respective bands. Following the stint in Europe, Van Etten stopped in Austin for an intense few days of South by Southwest.

“It was a little insane, because we did seven shows in four days and I lost my voice by the last day,” said Van Etten. “But it was a lot of fun, I got to see a lot of friends and a lot of awesome bands, too.”

Working with Dessner in The National’s studio allowed Van Etten the space to experiment, with guidance from the experienced indie rocker.

“He kind of pushed me out of my comfort zone because he likes to have noise, and he likes to add horns and strings which is very new to me,” said Van Etten. “He imagines every song as having its own world, so it’s fun to bounce ideas off each other.”

This meant putting down the guitar for some songs, though it’s an instrument that’s been a defining aspect of the singer’s young career.

“There are songs where I don’t play guitar at all, and one where I only play one chord,” said Van Etten. “It switches it up, it shows that my songs aren’t dependent on a guitar.”

“We’re going to have more drone, creating a whole sonic wave,” she continued. “Right now there’s so many genres of songs [from the sessions with Aaron], I’m not sure what it’s going to turn into.”

With Van Etten and Dessner laying the groundwork for these currently half-finished songs, guest musicians drop by to add what they hear fit. It’s collaboration deeper than anything Van Etten has done before, with her past two records being written completely by her.

“I’m learning a lot about writing and about being sensitive to other parts, and I’ve realized that having more doesn’t always make it better,” said Van Etten.

“It’s much more fun and liberating and cathartic to have a band to rock out with.”

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The transition from solo artist to collaborator has been a gradual process, with Van Etten’s strong, honest voice always transmitting the most intimate feelings. Now she has the world listening, and her intimate expressions of pain and joy seem to carry universal sentiment.

“I write from a very autobiographical, confessional place, so whenever I play I’m looking back on my life and what I was going through at the time,” said Van Etten. “I try to write in a way that’s general enough not to alienate people.”

“It’s a meditative state of going back to that place in order to perform the song proper,” said Van Etten about recreating her music live. “It definitely helps me get through it again.”

The New Jersey native’s music will always come from emotional experience, regardless of its evolving instrumentation. The negative feelings are just as important as the good, and moments of despair and weakness are felt in her songs.

“I feel like people close themselves up when they feel something negative or are treated badly, as if it’s wrong to feel something,” said Van Etten. “There are a lot of songs out there that kind of glaze over a lot of serious emotions, making it seem that it’s a selfish thing to talk about how you feel.”

Being honest with yourself and accepting blame are essential elements to Van Etten’s acoustic catharsis. She’s more than the cliché girl with an acoustic guitar, proven with songs that balance power and delicacy in ways that hush the crowd.

“It’s such an easy corner to be pushed into,” said Van Etten about the bland categorization of female singer/songwriters. “Maybe that pushed me into playing more electric guitar, but [my audience] learned that I can rock out, and that I can do more than write pretty songs.”

“I work really hard on my songs and my melodies. I try to keep my lyrics simple so the melodies themselves evoke an emotion,” she continued. “You can’t control who likes your music, but I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Things are going well for Van Etten, and there’s no sign of her slowing down. Her third full-length record may surface by the end of this year, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if it shuts down skeptics yet again.

Recording will resume later this month after wrapping up her first headlining tour, an experience that Van Etten is evidently grateful for.

“Every time there’s a show that people come to and know who I am it blows my mind,” said Van Etten. “Every day, it’s pretty weird.”

Originally published by The Link Newspaper. 

Math Pop for the Masses

Pop music has become an increasingly effortless affair, but it doesn't have to be. Sacramento's Tera Melos started out playing schizophrenic math rock, a genre named after the careful counting required for its polyrhythmic sound. Recently the band has brought their love of unorthodox phrasing and time signature-jumping to a more pop context with last fall's Patagonian Rats, and the release last week of their cassette-only EP Zoo Weather continues the trend.

“Since we started the band it's been a goal to have releases in as many fun formats as we can,” said bassist Nate Latona. “Since a lot of people don't have cassettes now it's more of a conversation piece.”

Finding a way to stand out amidst the wash of indie bands floating through the internet requires innovation, tackled most recently by the band with their retrograde physical format paired with a download card. Latona explained the band goes to great lengths to be unique, employing their technical ability to cover sonic ground in new ways.

“Writing the last batch of songs was a big step out of the comfort zone for us, even though to the listener they may seem simpler,” said Latona. “It's not as much about technicality. It's still in there, but I think we try to use it more tastefully... I don't think technical ability alone is worthy of praise.”

The group has been known in the past for blistering technical ability and a high energy live show including flips and cartwheels from members. But recently, math rock and acrobatics take a back seat to a refined arrangement and a new-found affinity for adding vocals to their songs.

“You have to be able to write a progression that hits somebody in the right place, to get it stuck in their head,” said Latona. “I'm not into doing anything fake. We've toured with bands that do that, night by night it's the same show. We're one of those bands that feeds off the audience; if the audience is dwindling or sitting there with their arms folded we may not be that into it.”

The modus operandi for Tera Melos may have shifted, with Latona noting how his role in the band has changed. It's not the musical free-for-all their untitled debut was; now the band chooses to not pack their songs with the most possible notes per second.

“I was playing at first with three other guys going crazy with their parts; I had to hold things down,” said Latona. “Playing with John [Clardy] I feel more like my job is to serve the song. If there is a chorus with three notes I'm comfortable smashing on those, if it creates an effect for the other guys to work around.”

Clardy replaced former drummer Vince Rogers on the kit before the writing sessions for Patagonian Rats. While the member switch contributed to the band's new sound, the two original bandmates were itching to make things more catchy too.

“It was really refreshing because Nick and I already had in mind to make this record not all over the place technical,” said Latona. “[John]'s drumming is really rooted in rock while Vince is really rooted in jazz, so to have somebody come in who plays with a groove really made us realize how to take this in a different direction.”

Now Tera Melos have something like the best of both worlds, and will continue counselling their marriage of math rock and pop music. As for what we the listeners will get out of it, Latona just hopes we can form our own opinion on their art.

“I always want our music to represent the idea that there's more out there than what you're being told is cool,” said Latona. “It's easy to talk about Battles because they're doing something cool, so the same ten websites are going to essentially say the same thing about that band.”

“When it comes to us, I want people to understand that we are trying to do something that we feel is original,” he continued. “We certainly have musical influences but we never set out to echo them. It inspires us to do something on our own.”

How To Bare Your Soul

How To Dress Well Combines Pop Music with Public Mourning

In part because of accolades from a certain three-pronged hype machine, Tom Krell’s solo-project known as How To Dress Well has enjoyed a growing international audience for the better part of a year now. Krell released his debut LP Love Remains in September of 2010—a collection of R&B and pop sounds driven by his delicate falsetto buried in reverb.

Now, Krell is expanding his sound in a live context. Rather than relying on synthesizers or midi-triggers, he is mounting the stage with just a microphone, backing tracks and visual projections as his accompaniment.

“No one expects Britney to play the drums or an acoustic guitar or whatever,” said Krell. “I want to be a pop singer—an uncanny one, though.”

This approach is the best representation for the record according to Krell, who has carefully chosen his method of live delivery.

“Live, I don’t want to stand behind a keyboard, I don’t want to have a backing band. For me, Love Remains is all about baring one’s soul, about honesty, about weakness and powerlessness,” he said. “Live, the best way for me to convey this is alone onstage, singing in the half-dark of some smoky venue.”

There is a definite sense of beautiful sadness in his super lo-fi recordings. In concert, the philosophy student sees this project as a medium for a collective exhibition of emotion.

“We could definitely use more non-religious occasions for public experiences of sadness, of mourning,” said Krell. “Like on ‘Suicide Dream 2,’ which is a song about my family, I will often improvise [live] and discover myself really going through shit, really working through some hard, traumatic shit. It is really exhausting for me but really special.” For this kind of catharsis to happen onstage, Krell employs a few mood-setting devices.

“I use [projections and a fog machine] because I want to create a certain affective ambiance, one which accommodates my music in a live space,” he said. “When I make my music, I let myself feel very murky and foggy and often find my mind [flooding] with abstract emotions and images. I try to create the live space so as to accommodate the fragility of the voice and the songs I make.”

Layers of Krell’s voice are the driving force behind How To Dress Well’s sound. Manipulated percussive noise and the odd sample create the framework for his vocal noodling. Once a suitable atmosphere is established, Krell feels comfortable to see where impromptu melodies take him—often to ’90s R&B-inspired hooks.“I just approach [songwriting] by creating musical ambiances, whether through piano or synth or samples, which make me feel comfortable [in] letting melodies and effects come out of my spirit through my voice,” said Krell.

“Like, when I sing ‘Ready for the World’ live, I feel like I’m in a really warm bath or something. That musical ambiance, that sample, those drums, make me feel at home and free to express myself.”

Krell’s success so far is a product of our age of web-based communication. To this date, How To Dress Well sports little more than a Blogspot page for promotion—but that hasn’t stopped listeners from taking notice.

“I am always so honoured by people who are into my songs, because if you get it that means you’ve really listened and really let your heart open up,” said Krell. “It’s so humbling.

“It makes me feel amazing to know that people are into what I love doing so much,” he said. “I just want to hug and hold everyone who supports me, it’s really dope to feel support for this stuff. Like, if you’re in love with someone and you see them flourishing in the world—you know how good that feels? To see your sister live happily? That’s how it feels for me to see people get behind Love Remains.”

Regardless of public opinion, How To Dress Well will always be an intimate outlet for Krell. He just now happens to have the world watching while he does it.

“It’s really crazy and really awesome, in the purest sense of that word,” said Krell. “I’m just super hyped on this whole thing. It makes me feel justified and confident as I keep doing what I do, which is what I would have done anyway.”

Native Love, Native Tongue

Braids' debut LP Native Speaker is worth the wait

Austin and Raphaelle are clearly excited for what they have spent the better part of a year perfecting.

Drummer Austin Tufts fuses several influences to create a playing style something like Animal's Collective's “My Girls” done with a full kit. Raphaelle Standell-Preston's free flowing vocals inhabit the foreground, with delicate trails leading to a yelp or scream – something Bjork would do. Last month the art-pop quartet released Native Speaker, their self-produced full-length.

“At times it was very gruelling because we were pushing the limitations of what we were capable of,” said Standell-Preston about the recording process. “Sometimes we'd do 300 vocal takes... we were pushing ourselves to record what was in our heads.”

Capturing their expansive live sound was a challenge for the band, having never produced a record before. Braids found their production legs in bassist/guitarist Taylor Smith's Calgary garage through months of experimenting.

“That's something we battled with big time,” said Tufts. “We ended up laying down the beds and then overdubbed everything except the drums. One of the hardest things when you're doing overdubbing is to make it really groove and to lock, to keep that live energy.”

“We were very worried about the magic almost being gone because the energy of the four of us playing [live] has a certain feel to it,” added Standell-Preston. “We were trying all these different ways to get it back in, and I feel we succeeded.”

The amount of time spent on crafting their intertwined sound is evident on Native Speaker, a dreamy, layered record with an average track length of over six minutes. Tuft explores unorthodox rhythms, employing all parts of his kit to beef up the band's rhythmic component.

“When I first started listening to Animal Collective I thought they went for a really nice timbre with the sound of the rims that I had never heard before,” said Tufts. “I started exploring that in a different direction with Latin rhythms.”

“Definitely my biggest inspiration for my drum parts are the melody in the song,” he continued. “All my favourite drummers are very melodic. Christopher Bear from Grizzly Bear does some really nice stuff... "Two Weeks" is a really good example of how melodic drums can be.”

Tufts has drawn influence from contemporary artists' use of electronic percussion as well.

“A lot of my favourite musicians these days are electronic artists,” he said. “The main focus is the drums in a lot of German instrumental music, and a couple friends of mine from Calgary doing really great electronic stuff like Morgan Greenwood - it's exactly the kind of style I want to figure out on the drum set.”

Braids have begun incorporating electronic texture into their sound. The band uses contact microphones, equipment that will capture Tufts' playing as electronic impulses for bandmates to control.

“We're starting to get into using contact microphones on the drum set and running them to different members of the band, having them manipulate my drums while I'm playing,” said Tufts. “You can create really cool drum glitches and delays.”

Even when experimenting with new tools, everything is subordinated to the overall atmosphere of the song. Braids compose intricately subtle soundscapes housing dynamics and melody.

“Our music provides an environment to be emotional in,” said Tufts. Whatever emotion that's evoked - go for it. Don't be afraid because that emotion is you.”