Archive for ‘Photos’

June 8, 2012

Interview With Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War!

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photo by Annie Mole via Flickr

Laura Kidd is a multi-instrumentalist who performs under the moniker She Makes War.  She sings and plays guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, melodica, violin, harp, and recorder.  In addition to being an impressive performer, she’s a DIY producer extraordinaire, recording and promoting her own work.  Her latest album, Little Battles, is available here.

I talked with her in the early Spring.  And here for your reading pleasure is my article with the wonderful She Makes War!

When did you begin playing and why?

I started playing guitar aged 12 because my brother had been given a lovely acoustic by my Uncle and wasn’t using it. I picked it up and started messing about with it, then had a few lessons at school to get the basic root chords and strumming. I just used to play songs from sheet music, like “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC and “Wooden Heart” by Elvis Presley, then had an epiphany a few years later when a boyfriend told me about bar chords and I realised with them I could figure out how to play my favourite songs.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

My first guitar was a very cheap black electric my parents bought for me from a little guitar shop in Bury St Edmunds called Sounds Plus. I don’t remember much more about it, I didn’t play it very much because around the same time I started playing bass in a band and that took up most of my musical time. I actually part exchanged that guitar for some pedals a couple of years later then found a gorgeous green Telecaster in Loot (a listings paper in London) which sadly got taken in a house burglary. I was heartbroken. I called that guitar Basil because it was green and because the day I bought it I attended John Cleese’s birthday breakfast.

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

The guitar I gig with is a Telecaster Thinline 69 with a pedalboard consisting of Boss chorus, delay and compression/sustainer, a Sansamp GT2, Fulltone OCD and Cool Cat Tremolo. I usually play DI-ed because of logistics – I have so much to carry and usually use public transport – hence the GT2, which really improves the sound, but I have a Roland Cube I sometimes take as well. Acoustically I play a Faith Venus and I use a Luna Dolphin ukulele as well, through my Boss RC20XL loop pedal. On the new album I played all the electric stuff on my Peerless Renaissance hollow body because the Tele was super noisy. The Peerless sounded gorgeous!

I’m always interested in improving my general sound but currently have to weigh that up against cost and logistics. I would love to play through a Fender Twin every night but that’s not possible at the moment.

I know you are a multi-instrumentalist.  Can you talk a little about that?

I played classical and woodwind instruments at school – violin then saxophone – but took up the guitar and bass outside of formal musical education and played in bands, mainly on bass. I love trying out new things and on the latest recordings brought in the tenor sax alongside autoharp, melodica and recorders to play with some different textures.

What is your songwriting process like?

It varies. Sometimes I will start with a vocal melody and find the chords that go with it, and other times songs start off with a riff. I’ve experimented very successfully with the Immersion Composition Society’s “20 Song Game” and written songs for both albums that way (‘NIMN’ and ‘Chicken’ off “Disarm” and ‘In This Boat’ and ‘Segue’ off “Little Battles”) and will definitely do that again in the future as I truly believe in the Picasso quote that “inspiration finds you working”. Songs rarely drop out of the sky, and when they do you have to be there to catch them!

You’re also a filmmaker.  Do you consider that a part of your musicianship. or something you do on the side?

I think everything I do feeds in to the She Makes War project, it’s an outlet for all the visual, art and craft experiments I want to do. I just finished making some homemade tour photo books to send to some of my Pledgers (the new album was funded by my fans via Pledge Music last year) and that’s a good example – I’ve been wanting to try making concertina books for a while and this was a great excuse. I also feel that mixing media, whether that’s digital instruments with analogue in a musical recording or digital information with hand crafted souvenirs in the case of my Valentine’s card release of “In This Boat” last month, is important because I want the songs to resonate emotionally in various ways.

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I am focusing on getting my new album “Little Battles” in to the world – it’s out on April 9th and I am organising a big launch gig on 11th (at Herne Hill Half Moon, South London) which will involve about 8 other musicians coming on stage with me, so it’s a lot to pull together!

After that I’m off on a month long tour of the UK, and am working on setting up other musical excursions for later in the year.

I’ve already got a name for my next collection of songs and have started noodling around, I like to keep creative but there’s a lot of other fun stuff to keep me busy for the next few months.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why? 

I find Kristin Hersh endlessly inspiring, she’s a true pioneer both in her musical output and her involvement in CASH Music and flying the flag for the rights of musicians everywhere.

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November 13, 2011

The Kitten Covers

In case you haven’t seen this, a group called Aymvisuals has taken famous album covers and redone them with kittens as the subjects.  My favorites are T. Rex and Let It Be.  That little John Lennon kitten has a freakish likeness to the original.  Check them all out at http://thekittencovers.tumblr.com/.  All Songs Considered also did a write-up on the artist responsible for the covers, Alfra Martini.

September 9, 2011

I Got The Wild Flag Album Today

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I got the album in the mail today. It came with a poster, temporary tattoo, button, and Merge Records sticker.

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August 22, 2011

Interview: Lisa Walker of Wussy!

Lisa Walker of Wussy

photo via flickr by Jason Baldwin

Cinncinati-based Wussy is one of my favorite bands, so Lisa Walker is one of the first people I thought of when I started this blog.  You may have not heard of Wussy yet.  Despite being around for awhile, and being one hell of a band, reviews of their music are strangely absent from one particular tastemaker, a certain mega-Indie music blog that will remain nameless.  If you do not yet know the band Wussy, I suggest you go buy all of their studio albums immediately.  They are a drone-pop four piece consisting of Lisa Walker on vocals and guitar, Chuck Cleaver (formerly of the Ass-Ponys) also on vocals and guitar, Mark Messerly on bass and keys, and Joe Klug on drums.  They’ve been a band since 2001, and have released three studio albums (a fourth is on it’s way) on indie label Shake It Records.   They have, however, gotten critical acclaim from Spin, Rolling Stone, and the Village Voice. Their songs are catchy and tuneful, and in my opinion, they write some of the best lyrics out there right now.  All that said, I was very excited when Lisa agreed to be on my blog.

When did you begin playing and why?

My family had me singing in church by the time I was five. But as for playing, that didn’t start until I was 15 or 16. I would play Pink Floyd songs on my dad’s classical guitar to offset the typical midwestern teenage angst. I also played his mountain dulcimer quite a bit, which first got me into alternate drone tunings. I was terrible at both of these, by the way.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it?

My first guitar of my own was a $25 beat up acoustic that my dad bought for me from a work colleague at the hospital. He said it was “a Willie Nelson guitar” – which just meant it looked like it had been run over by a John Deere mower.

What is your songwriting process like?

Usually it starts with aimless guitar playing around the house or at band practice. I make up nonsense words to fill in the syllabic structure and then go back and fine tune until there are words in place that I actually like. Sometimes this last step doesn’t happen until a moment or two before I lay down the vocal track. (I need deadlines.)

In the meantime, I’m usually writing down little obsessive notes with lyric fragments or ideas that I intend to use later. Ideally these two processes mesh quite nicely. As long as I can actually FIND all the post-its and notebooks with said lyrical fragments.

What are you working on right now?

Wussy is finishing our fourth full-length album – which will be out in the fall. I’m doing a few solo shows here and there, and then the band plans to hit the road towards the end of this year. I’m also working on some new material and toying with releasing a solo record.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  (It doesn’t have to be a musician.)  Why?

So so many. First of all, I am a devoted fangirl of rock, garage and soul music from the 60’s and 70’s. But right now here are some of the things that have been inspiring me lately.

The National – amazing arrangers, amazing musicians

Al Green – has more soul in his little finger than any of us will accumulate in a lifetime

Black Sabbath and a ton of bands that sound just like ’em. – just because

George Harrison – the best, the brightest, the sweetest of all the Beatles

Roky Erickson – because i aspire to his mad genius

The Weakerthans – some of the best lyrics in recent memory

Sonic Youth – for their infectious orchestral drone

Joe Tex – because of the way he yells “TRAMP!”

Harry Nilsson – songwriter par excellance

Brian Eno (ca. 1974) – because he makes records sound so futuristicand weird – yet purely pop

August 10, 2011

Old Navy Ad With Girl Guitarist

I couldn’t resist taking a picture if this when I saw it. It’s for Old Navy’s back to school advertising. Unfortunately she’s not actually holding the guitar, but at least it’s implied that she’s a guitarist.

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July 24, 2011

Concert Review: Wild Flag At The Subterranean

The temperature’s been in the high 90s all week in Chicago, with heat indexes in the triple digits. So it was hard to be enthusiastic about anything this week. But I couldn’t wait to see Wild Flag.

The Subterranean was cool when we arrived. The ac was cranked. But it didn’t take long for the small venue to fill up. The show was sold out, despite the fact that Wild Flag would be playing the next day at Wicker Park fest. Both openers were local bands, Radar Eyes and Mickey. Radar Eyes are earnest and charming garage rockers. The four piece put on an impressive performance. They had all the right elements: three part harmonies, a manic bass player, and a lead guitarist with some nice chops.

They were followed by the five piece Mickey — all decked out in glitter, paint, and leather jackets. The lead guitarist played a red Epiphone Casino, and wore a lame cape and scroungy dreaded grey fright wig. The front man jumped into the crowd several times, bopping around and sweating on people. The overall impression? It felt like a group of homeless guys grabbed some instruments out of a dumpster and decided to cover Kiss. They played a tight, fun set, and it will be interesting to see how this band develops over time.

A spiral staircase leads from the Subterranean’s green room to the stages. Fans started cheering and snapping photos as soon as they saw Janet Weiss, decked out in a sparkly black top and cut off jeans shorts, descend those stairs. Wild Flag is a strange commodity in this way. They still haven’t released a full studio album. But with two former members of Sleater-Kinney (drummer Janet Weiss and guitarist Carrie Brownstein), guitarist Mary Timony of Helium, and keyboard player Rebecca Cole of The Minders, Wild Flag had fans almost immediately after announcing they had formed. They were a buzz band at SXSW, and fans (me included) have been bothering them (via Facebook and Twitter) to tour more, play more shows, and record more music.

Expectations were high, and they didn’t disappoint. They began with the anthemic “Electric Band”; Weiss pounded out the opening beats, Timony singing and playing rhythm guitar while Brownstein and Cole traded melodies on guitar and keyboard. From the very beginning of the concert, Wild Flag gave a fun and energetic performance. Janet Weiss put her whole self into her drum-playing, leading the diverse group and keeping them together. Rebecca Cole provided backing harmonies while playing complicated keyboard parts, reminiscent of the great psychedelic bands of the 60s and 70s. Timony and Brownstein are both talented guitarists. Timony tapped away on her Jazzmaster, bouncing around the stage and singing her tunes with that distinctive, husky voice. Brownstein was as if the universe had taken the DNA of both Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry and fused them into female form; her singing was sometimes guttural, sometimes ethereal, and her guitar playing was infectious. She fingered away at her Gibson SG, playing three and four note melodies up and down the neck. She pinwheeled her arms. She dropped to the ground, writhing and kicking her legs, somehow still playing those distinctive melodies.

Because Wild Flag hasn’t released that much music, it’s difficult to write out a setlist. I know that they started with “Electric Band.” They followed that with what has become my favorite tune of theirs, although I do not know what it is called. I have seen it called “Short Version,” so let’s go with that for now. They played “Racehorse” and “Romance.” Before “Glass Tambourine,” Weiss asked that the crowd raise their arms at the appropriate time. “You’ll just know when,” she said. I’m pretty sure we would have figured it out, but Timony helped everyone out by giving a wink and raising her own arms. (If you see them soon, I’ll give you the heads up. Raise your arms during the a cappella section.) The thing that the struck me the most about them, more than their excellent playing — the entwining melodies, and multi-part vocals — is how often they smile at each other. They just look like they’re having so much fun.

It was hot at the Subterranean. The air-conditioning couldn’t keep up with all that body heat, all those sweaty, bouncing fans. For the most part, the band shrugged off the heat and played through the haze. But Brownstein did stop at one point. She thanked the fans, said she appreciated that there was a crowd. She said she was happy to be in “hot” Chicago, and that it was 63 degrees in Portland. She was wearing a salmon-colored blazer over her tank top, and she quipped (I’m paraphrasing a bit), “I’m not talking to you just to give us a break because of the heat.” A few seconds of silence, leaning into the mic and wiping her forehead. “I refuse to take off the blazer. Poor choice.” After standing there for several more seconds in front of the mic — “We don’t need a fucking break.” She spun toward her bandmates and started the next song.

After finishing their set, Wild Flag reascended those spiral steps. The fans responded with raucous cheering and floor-pounding. The band returned after several minutes. Brownstein’s blazer was gone. Timony approached the mic and asked the crowd, “Are you guys hot?” We answered with a resounding cheer of “YES!” She responded before starting the next song, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot in all my life.” They played the Stones’ “Beast of Burden” with Timony on vocals, followed by Brownstein’s rendition of a Distillers tune.

And this is where Brownstein’s stage theatrics literally smacked me in the face. At the very end of the set, during the final chord, Brownstein kicked a can of PBR that was sitting on the stage. Still full, it rocketed into the crowd, smacking the

girl in front of me in the chin and me in the mouth. At the time, I didn’t fully realize what happened. I saw the kick, and then felt a tap as the can hit me, exploding cold beer all over my face and torso. There I was fulfilled by the concert, but now drenched, stinking of beer, with a throbbing lip. If the band had stunk, I might have been mad. But as it was, it felt like I had been touched by the spirit of rock n’ roll itself. A skunky, red-white-and-blue, painful spirit made of sharp metal and weighing about 12 oz. But the spirit of rock no-less.

July 23, 2011

Photos: Wild Flag At The Subterranean

I saw Wild Flag last night.  It must have been 100 degrees inside the Subterranean, despite the air conditioning.  But the women of Wild Flag didn’t let that stop them from performing a “blistering” set.  (Ok, sorry.  I had to go for the pun.)  There’s a lot to talk about, including the fact that I have a busted lip from a flying PBR can.  Yep, one of Carrie Brownstein’s signature kicks sent a projectile hurtling toward my face!

I’ll write up a short review of the concert a little later, but I wanted to get a few of the photos up.  To check out the full set, you can visit the new brand-spanking new Guitareste Flickr stream.

Here you are — enjoy!

Radar Eyes
Opening Band Radar Eyes

 

 

Mary Timony's Pedal Board

Mary Timony’s Pedal Board
 

Carrie Brownstein

Carrie Tunes Her Guitar
 

Mary Timony

Mary Timony, with Janet Weiss in the background
 

Janet Starts The Set

Janet Gets Things Started
 

Mary Timony Singing Electric Band

Wild Flag, with Mary Timony Singing Electric Band
 

Mary Timony

Rebecca, Mary, and Carrie (and Janet’s drums!)
 

Mary and Carrie

Mary and Carrie
 

Wild Flag
Carrie Brownstein

 

Rebecca Cole

Rebecca Cole
 

Wild Flag
 

Janet Weiss

Janet Weiss

February 6, 2011

Yo La Tengo Photos

Ok, I know this is sort of off-topic, but we went to see Yo La Tengo the other night and I wanted to share my photos. Georgia Hubley is known to pick up a guitar every once in awhile, and in my opinion, she’s one of the best drummers working today, so we’ll just squeeze this one in, ok?

Yo La Tengo Chicago February 2011

From L to R: James McNew, Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley

On their current tour, Yo La Tengo is doing two sets, determining their first set by spinning the wheel shown in the center of the photo.  The wheel has things like “Condo Fucks,” or “Songs that Start with S” on it.  In Chicago, we ended up watching them perform the Chinese restaurant episode of Seinfeld.  It was cute, but didn’t go over all that well with the crowd.  But in typical YLT fashion, the trio came back out after a break and rocked everyone’s faces off.  The Yo La Tengo proper set consisted of old favorites like “Autumn Sweater” and “Sugarcube.”  They also played “Periodically Double or Triple” from the album Popular Songs, and played a Condo Fucks song during the first encore.  Click on this link for the full set list at setlist.fm.

 

Ira and the wheel

Ira Kaplan explains what's up with the wheel

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