Category Archives: Interview

Fear of Men // Interview

Fear of Men entered Black Tar’s world under the seemingly cursed ‘lo-fi’ moniker, laying down slabs of scuzzy indie pop onto a bunch of sold-out tapes through Sex is Disgusting. But, underneath this hazy exterior was a strong sense of  melody; a pop aesthetic that cut through the waves of sonic fog.  Following on from  the critically acclaimed release of ‘Ritual Confession’- on the ultra-hip Italian Beach Babes label- this murky veneer was lifted, and in it’s place stood a  glistening  pop gem and a band fully embracing both their love of melody, image and artisitic direction. Black Tar had a chat with Daniel

BLACK TAR: Hi Daniel, could you briefly introduce us to the world of Fear of Men?

Daniel: Hi we are a four piece band comprising of two girls and two boys. Jess sings and plays guitar, I play guitar, Alex plays bass and Mike plays drums. Jess and I both live in Brighton so we consider it to be the band’s ‘home’.

BT:  How did you guys get together?

D: The band started a year ago when Jess was doing an art degree at Goldsmith’s university making films and writing her own soundtracks for them, which were pretty abstract instrumentals. I heard them one day and really liked them, we began trading mix tapes and it evolved into a more ‘pop’ focused project. Then we got Alex and Mike involved to complete the lineup.

BT: What are you currently up to?

D: We have been doing a lot of recording recently, lots of demos to try and push what we can do as a band, but also tracks that will be released this year. We’re hopefully releasing a 7″ pretty soon that we are excited about and we’re thinking a lot about the video for that now.

BT: What would you say were the main influences on the band?

D:  Jess is really interested in things that are quite abstract from pop music – she is often inspired to write a song by a podcast or biography she is reading at the time. She is really interested in people such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Goshka Macuga, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, and exploring issues such as mortality anxiety, and many of these things have appeared in our lyrics or inspired our aesthetic at some point. Musically we like Mount Eerie, The Breeders, Grouper, Neutral Milk Hotel… lots of things! Guitar wise I like Peter Buck, John Fahey and Chirs Brokaw.

BT: How important is the visual aspect of your music? Your use of Egyptian imagery etc?

D: We want to build an aesthetic world for Fear of Men, and music is one part of that, but the design and visuals are very important to us too. Our use of Egyptian imagery comes from Jess’ interest in the sorts of things I was talking about before such as mortality anxiety and Freud’s concept of the uncanny and mourning for ourselves through statues.

BT: What are your opinions on tape culture? I read somewhere that you plan on releasing more tapes between studio releases. Why is that?

D: We really like tapes because it means we can release our music physically really quickly. You can send off your tracks and within a week and a half they’ll come back to you on tape, there isn’t the issue of time or expense as there is with vinyl. We think tape culture is a really good thing for these reasons and it has allowed labels such as Italian Beach Babes to put out a really diverse mix of new music that otherwise might not have necessarily got a physical release.

BT:  Since the release of  the “Ritual Confession” single  the  sound of the band moved strongly away from the ‘lo-fi’ aesthetic. Was this a decision you consciously made , or was it just new opportunities in recording?

D: Well we never wanted to be a ‘lo-fi’ band – the early demos just sounded like that because of necessity and a lack of technological know-how but at the same time we like texture to production and we like the warmth of tape. Going in to record Ritual Confession was quite a weird experience for us because it was our first time in a studio and it did end up feeling too clinical and clean for our tastes. We’ve been in the studio quite a lot recently and working out how to get the warmth and intimacy we liked before but still have clear and well-produced songs.

BT: Have the band found their ‘sound’, or is experimenting with recording methods and other things still influencing the sound of future releases?

D: We are currently feeling a lot more confident that we are happy with what we are recording and how we sound. Luckily we’ve had the opportunity of some free studio time recently and that has really allowed us to experiment with tape echo and how we record the vocals and things like that. I think we will always experiment though and push ourselves on every release to explore new territory.

BT: Any bands we should be keeping a look out for?

D: I’m not sure about bands but I’m really excited about the next U.S. Girls release.

BT: Finally, what have we got to look forward to from the band in 2012?

D; We’ll be releasing two 7″s, one either side of the summer and hopefully in that time we’ll be recording our album proper so hopefully some material from that if not the whole album by the end of 2012.

A big thank you to Dan for sparing the time to do this interview!

http://fearofmen.bandcamp.com/

 

Words: Alex Hall

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Sauna Youth / / Interview

There was a time in the not too distant past when Sonic Youth emdodied the very aesthetics of teenage rock and roll: dissonant, aggressive, and cloaked in walls of phantom noise, the sound was teenage: and to be youthful was to be part of this sonic lifestyle. However, somewhere along the way things started to turn pear-shaped; gone were the blood curdling cries against corporate America, and instead in this ideological void stood some jaded perception that it was now  ok to compile CDs for Starbucks and still crown yourself the king and queens of a musical subculture. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the band, but something had to give. Now, Sauna Youth aren’t exactly picking up from where they left off, but they have obviously listened to a lot of their records, and have essentially pinched the ‘cool’ aspect of their name,  but this garage punk band from Brighton approach ‘youthfulness’ with exactly the right attitude. Formed out the remnants of The Steal, Sauna Youth’s sound is scuzzy, short, and weirdly fun. This is ultimately party music made by people who don’t take themselves too seriously; musicians who would much rather tear the place up and screw your girlfriend than mess around with ordering  a skinny latte . Despite this Sauna Youth are fiercely independent, and distribute all their music themselves. Black Tar decided to have a quick chat and found them mostly receptive to our questioning.

BLACK TAR: Could you tell me what the band are about?

Sauna Youth: Mince is about to go to bed, Harper is about to finish a lovely plate of Dhall, Pines is about to get home from work and i’m about to get a coldsore.

BT: How did you get together?

SY: We were at a Eddie Frankel’s bar-mitzvah and all 4 of us simultaneously managed to catch each others eyes. The rest is history.

BT: Could you give us an idea what a normal day for the band is like?

SY: Dull.

BT: How do you describe the bands sound?

SY: With great difficulty. That’s what critics are for right?

BT: What is the songwriting process like for you guys?

SY: Step 1. What do you we want to write about?

Before we start messing around with chords and melodies, we find it helpful to have an idea of what we want to write about, this helps us stay focused on one subject and stops the song veering off in too many directions. We should be able to sum up what our song is about in one short sentence. For example, “A relationship that’s on the rocks” or “cheating girlfriend, begging for me back”.

Step 2. Get A Chord Progression

Now that we know what we want to write about it’s time to get a chord progression together. We usually have two options.

1. Play the same chord for the entire song

or

2. Play different chords for the entire song

Both options work perfectly and many successful songs for us have been written using both methods.

Step 3. Creating A Melody

We like to write a melody, well at least a rough version of the melody, first. The reason for this is that when you have a melody sometimes the lyrics just write themselves, certain words have a natural rhythm and melodic tone.

SY: Coming up with a melody is easy enough. We just play our chord and hum notes over it. We will start to hear a melodic phrase come to life. Sometimes it might take a couple of weeks but we keep at it until we find something we’re happy with.

Step 4. Add lyrics To Your Melody

SY: It’s time to bring our melody to life by adding lyrics. Read our guide “How To Write Song Lyrics” for some great tips on writing lyrics.

BT: How important is independent distribution to the band?

SY: Vital, we literally wouldn’t have sold a thing if we hadn’t done it independently, because we pressed most of our records ourselves we also had to get them out into the world ourselves. This has also made us very appreciative of other people doing it for us though… it’s pretty time consuming. There are some very good distros and shops all over the world that have been very kind to us. Also, why is distro spelt with an o rather than an i?

BT: Was this always your intention, or did you have some industry horror stories? 

SY: The 5 year development deal was ok but when our A&R man got fired at the label we found ourselves lost amongst the forest of music at said label, we fought to retain our name and the songs we’d written but ultimately ‘the man’ always wins out. One day the Kasabian II recordings will see the light of day, even if it kills us. Finally freeing ourselves from the shackles of the industry was very freeing and we celebrated by independently distributing our records.

BT: Where do the band practice? 

SY: N/A

BT: Who you digging at the moment? 

SY: Human Hair, Omi Palone, Cold Pumas, Satellites Of Love.

BT: What cool things have you got lined up for this year? 

SY: We’re releasing a 12″ on Faux Discx before summer and a 4 way split 7″ with Omi Palone and a couple of other bands on Paradise Vendors Inc, there’s a 7″ on Static Shock Records coming out fairly soon too… hopefully a live split cassette from a show we put on the other day at the Shacklewell Arms will exist before the end of the year. We’ve also got some shows lined up that we’re pretty excited about including some with Ceremony in March.

Sauna Youth are supporting the Jacuzzi Boys at the Shackwell Arms, Dalston, on March 23rd

Words: Alex Hall

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Savages // Interview

Savages are a newly-formed London four piece who excel at making bracingly loud and minimalistic post-punk, and much like a good steak, or the hunting of human beings for sport, it’s something that we never tire of when done right, and Savages are really doing it right. We’re not going to bombastically declare them the saviors of rock and roll, but they do decisively prove that there’s still plenty of life to be wrung from a classic guitar, bass, and drums setup as long as you approach it with the right mind-set and enough commitment and passion. Playing really loud doesn’t hurt either.

You’ll have to catch Savages in the flesh if you want to experience their gloriously punishing yet satisfying noise yourself, as at least for the moment they’re concentrating on their live show (though there is one high quality live recording floating about that’s sure to whet your appetites). In the meantime, we chatted to the band and found out about their impeccable taste and Ballardian inspirations. Plus they offered us an intriguing reading list of bleak modernist fiction. What more could you want?

How did Savages come about?

Gemma Thompson: a series of coincidences and London being a small town…We were all individually pursuing what we love doing – making music, and as our paths kept clashing we ended up in a rehearsal room in Deptford to see what we could do with each other.

What’s the origin of your name?

GT:  It comes from thoughts and images implying a human descent or a loss of control. Literature by Kōbō Abe, such as  Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, J G Ballard’s The Drowned World, short stories by Saki – at the push of a button, basic survival instincts, primordial instincts would take over… and a puerile enjoyment of that.

What influences you?

GT: Quiet people, repetitive noises, New York Noise of the late 70s/early 80s, Mary Kingsly, Swans, The Birthday Party, Clinic, Killing Joke, Jim Jarmusch, Harry Dean Stanton, Einstürzende Neubauten, elegant characters against a malignant Nature.

You’re refreshingly minimalistic. Was that a conscious creative decision, or did it come about more organically?

Jehnny Beth : Minimalist music is for me associated to American composers from the 60’s like Steve Reich, Philip Glass… But also listening to other influences such as The Fall, Wire… from the beginning we felt the need to strip down our music and use repetition as a tool for composition. There is never pressure of writing a pop song with us, only what sounds right and natural. I like to think our music follows a stream, and all with have to do is get on board with it.

GT: We enjoy focussing on the simplicity of the sounds, cutting back from a lengthy description and replacing it with minimum strokes. This came about quite naturally, at the beginning, when we individually accessed our own instruments and what we could do with them. We try to be quite primordial and use emotions and instincts to help guide the sound.

Have you ever thought of incorporating synths or samplers into your sound, or are you more interested in coaxing new sounds out of a more traditional band setup?

JB: I think there is a nice feeling of immediacy to play with a traditional rock’n’roll set up and we wanted that feeling to lead us and choose for us in a way.

GT:  We are not so much after ‘new sounds’ but we like to think about the character behind the instrument – the input or intent that each musician puts into creating the overall sound. Also, there is something romantic about the immediacy of the set-up, the plug in and play attitude.

 You seem to be getting a very positive critical reception at the very beginning of your career as a band. Is that a concern at all or something that you welcome?

JB: I definitely welcome that. Especially when it comes from artists we love and respect and who encourage us to carry on. But we’ve all been in bands before, so none of us are really impressed easily – and in a way, we’ve learned to acknowledge when there’s something good happening.

I believe you have your own label Pop Noire that you plan to release your music on? Is being D.I.Y and self-releasing your own music more of an ideological point for you, or is it just a question of practicality?

JB: I started the label Pop Noire with my partner Johnny Hostile who plays with me in ‘John & Jehn’. We wanted to start something that mattered to us, so associated ourselves with people who are also creative artists, who we have been working with for years. The idea was to release new John & Jehn music and all the other projects that we were involved in. We first released the 4 tracks of LESCOP that John is producing. John will produce Savages as well… we’re kind of a family.. a weird one!

GT: I think that it just makes sense to work with and amongst people that we respect and trust greatly, in order to keep the whole process close to heart. I suppose it also allows us to experiment and proceed with ideas without so much explanation and more instinct.

Words: James Ubaghs

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Black Tar chats to Dirty Beaches

If Dirty Beaches transferred the sounds from Badlands  onto a  physical canvas the results would  still be the same, a Dirty Beach-covered in people’s junk and grime,  a strange and surreal place surrounded by cavenous holes and ravenes, with one tall, solitary figure, crooning into the wind. The protagonist to this hopeless tale is Alex Zhang Hungtai, the lone ranger in this plane of 50’s drawl and phantom pop. Alex is a Vancouver resident,  who has also lived in Montreal, Toronto, Honolulu and Taiwan, and it’s this displacement, and the images left to him of his rockabilly father, that characterises most of the project. Clearly there is more here than retro nostalgia, so Black Tar talked to the man himself about life on the road,  the confines of Lo-Fi culture and D.I.Y food poison remedies.

BLACK TAR: Hi Alex, could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us about Dirty Beaches?

Alex Zhang Hungtai: Dirty Beaches started as a one man project in 2005 after I moved to Montreal, it has since evolved to many different incarnations.

BT: How is the tour going?

AZH: Tour is going great, we just had a few bumps in the beginning with equipment malfunction (fried ax adapters…) and me getting food poisoned, but nothing a little apple cider vinegar can’t fix. (special thanks to home girl Frankie rose for the home remedy)

 BT : There are a lot of references to travel and general motion in you music. Is touring something you enjoy/ romanticise?

AZH: I think the previous answer kills the mystery and romanticism behind it. Touring is hard work, but I love it and rather do this than any other job in the world

BT :  Black Tar saw you play in London last year with a saxophone player. Would you ever  consider permanentley expanding the ranks of Dirty Beaches?

AZH: Yeah the live line up has been changing constantly, I’m currently on tour as a 3 piece electronic band, hoping to transition into form in prep for the next album. it will always change depending on the ideas that come.

BT : How do you write and record your material?

AZH: It changes depending on the accessibility of the type of equipment I can assemble that’s within my budget. I’ve recorded on a shoebox tape recorder, computers, protools, etc. environments vary from my apartment, friends kitchen, basement, to a proper nice studio in Italy.

BT : Do you view the lo-fi and tape culture as an artistic preference or a financial restriction to how you want your music to sound?

AZH: Def a financial restriction.  All my friends and I would kill to record in a nice studio, and work with a sound engineer that’s not a cunt, with Wurlitzer, fender Rhodes, organ, vintage amps / mics/ mixing board & record on reel to reel tape. Who wouldn’t want that?  But again, who can afford that.

BT :  In interviews you tend to get asked about the cinematic qualities to your music.  How important is this to you? The visualisation of your music?

AZH: I never really put much thought into it until people started to bring it up more frequently in interviews. But yes it does have a lot of correlations.

BT : Can you tell me about any new material you have coming up? If so, how does it differ from the stuff on Badlands?

AZH: Yeah I’m really excited about the new materials, mostly working w drum machines, bass, keys, oscillators this time. Taking a break from samples.

BT : Who you digging at the moment?

AZH: My friends in Montreal : Femminielli, and Tonstartssbandht. 

BT : Finally, hopes/plans/dreams for 2012?

AZH: Would love to tour eastern Europe, south Africa, south America and Asia.

 

Words  by Alex Hall

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