Tag Archives: experimental rock

New Music: “Gliss” – I Am Oak

A while back, I posted “Gills” from the Dutch folk-experimental outfit I Am Oak.  The second single, “Gliss” from I Am Oak’s sophomore LP, Oasem is a string-laden ballad perfect for late nights.  Singer Thijs Kuijken’s distant, but deep voice adds extra weight to the already emotional tune.

Check out “Gliss” from I Am Oak 

I Am Oak will be performing at SXSW on Friday, March 16 at the Dutch Impact/Filter Party at 3 PM, followed by a 9 PM show at St. David’s Bethell Hall.


“Origin of Slaves” – Cairo Knife Fight


New Zealand’s Cairo Knife Fight is comprised of only two guys – drummer/vocalist Nick Gaffeny and guitarist/loop master Aaron Tonkona – they’ve got a thick muscular sound that grabs your attention.  “Origin of Slaves” sounds like it could be an experimental Radiohead song, if Radiohead decided to rock out in full force.  Perhaps this is why they were asked twice over the past year to open for the Foo Fighters.  Cairo Knife Fight will be making their first state-side appearance at SXWS so be sure to check them out.

Check out “Origin of Slaves” here.  

New Music Thursdays: “Blipsters & Buppies” – pILLOW tHEORY & Exclusive Interview


pILLOW tHEORY is a NYC quartet who delivers a high-powered dynamic sound while successfully genre hopping under the modern rock umbrella (metal, punk, pop, electro.) They’ve blazed the stage opening for TV On The Radio, Living Colour and Ninjasonik and the band has received accolades from Rolling Stone, The Source, Village Voice, Yahoo, The Deli, and BRM. pILLOW tHEORY’s songs have been licensed for ABC television, SONY PSP and Tap Tap Revenge. Lead vocalist and guitarist Kelsey, guitarist Danos Ettrick, bassist Joaquin C De Baca and drummer Dave Burnett are all jazz rejects who were tainted by and converted to NYC’s underground rock scene.


For Meltdown, you worked with Slim Willy who has worked previously with LL Cool J.   How did his work influence the sound on the EP?

K: Slim was super cool.  Very laid back, knows his sound and is an extremely fast engineer which I love.  Our previous album was recorded strictly analog.  We wanted to expand our sound on the new EP and do it strictly Protools.  Slim has worked with several rock artists before but mainly does hip hop and pop which is great because we wanted a different sound on this EP.  It’s definitely a heavy rock thing but has a bit of electro and slicker elements without us trying to sound like Daft Punk.  We met each other half way and influenced each other sound-wise.  I worked with Slim before on a few sessions and he’s so fun and easy to work with.  He really understands the vibe and is not just a hip hop producer doing rock.  I found it interesting because at that time I heard the new Mastodon album was going to be produced by Mike Elizondo, another predominately hip hop guy pushing musical boundaries.  Skrillex just did tracks for the new Korn album, similar ideas of what we were trying to accomplish – next level sonics.

You guys all have jazz backgrounds.  Why the sudden change in direction?  Do you think that having those roots has worked its way in Pillow Theory?  

K: It was more of a process of growth than a sudden change in direction.  We all grew up appreciating and playing different styles of music.  It just so happened that we all honed our chops through jazz instructors growing up or in college.  We all applied them to playing rock or in my case, applying, learning and then stripping it away.  We’re not a jazz band but we definitely have a vast playing field technically and theoretically which helps with our sound.  Sometimes we’re aware of this but it’s mainly a subconscious thing.

“Rescue” has got a cool funk/metal vibe going on with art-rock touches.  How did that song come about? 

K: That was a fun one.  I was just trying to write some cool heavy dance pop track that was funky and sexy.  I think NIN’s “Closer” had that vibe when I first heard it back in the day.  “Rescue” was a song we did live a few times and put it away because it never really gelled.  It wasn’t until we recorded it with Slim that the song really started to take shape and make sense.  I think he said “Rescue” was his favorite track.  And yes, all the drums are played live but triggered sonically through plug-ins, of course.

Your previous album Outpatience was produced by Steve Albini of Pixie and Nirvana fame, who is known for his loud dynamic drum sound.  What was it like working with him?

K: I probably learned more about recording from those sessions than any session ever.  It was a dream come true and an amazing moment.  Hate to blow his cover but he’s really a super sweet dude.  He has this amazing knack of getting the best performance out of an artist.  You really feel confident about yourself after recording with him.  I’ve never seen so many mics in my life!  (Laughs).  We were all taking mental notes of his setups and stuff.  To hear the drums in that room and witness his mic techniques was total bliss man!

Kelsey – your voice is a combination of soul (“Warm the Blood”) and metallic screams (“Blipsters & Buppies”).  Have you always been singing this way, or is it a style you cultivate for Pillow Theory?

K: My voice definitely was not this way in the beginning.  I was really shy with singing as a kid because I never really wanted to do it but I started to appreciate it.  I always had a bit of this airy soulful sound but then I started gravitating towards the vocal options of punk rock and metal vocalists like Phil Anselmo and Mike Patton especially, early Chris Cornell as well.  Pantera made me want to scream as a kid!  However, whether its Henry Rollins or Randy Blythe, there’s a technique involved with heavy singing.  It took me awhile to realize this and my voice would always go out after trying to scream/sing.  I was trained vocally in the classical world and it’s a lot different.  When I came to NYC I took a few lessons with Melissa Cross and it opened up a new chamber for me.  So I learned how to blend it all into a style that’s comfortable for me.  I love to mix both and pILLOW tHEORY gives me the freedom to do so.

You’ve opened  TV on the Radio, another genre-bending New York band.  How do you feel fit into the rock scene there?  And why do you think this type of rock is coming out of there now? 

K: It’s interesting because I never thought TVOTR really fit into the NYC rock scene which is another reason I was so glad for their success.  They actually sounded so different from the bands around here and they made it work!  I don’t think we fit into the scene either; however, we do receive love from so many different cliques around the area.  I’m not quite sure where we fit but what I am sure of is we have support from a wide range of people here which keeps us going.  Maybe this has to do with the multi-music genre thing we have under the rock umbrella.  The crowd from Bleecker Street doesn’t necessarily mix with the people from the cool LES NY Rock scene or the Williamsburg kids but they’re all at our shows.  I love that!  I’m glad that so much music is still coming out of here especially in the rock world.  I would like to see it become a bit more integrated and less separate.  “Blipsters & Buppies” addresses this big time.  I hope the scene becomes more of a family here.

What’s next for Pillow Theory?

K: Gearing up for a show at Bowery Electric in NYC March 22nd, prepping for the “Blipsters & Buppies” video and looking forward to “Mo Money Mo Problems”.


New York’s Black Taxi On Their Forthcoming Album and Energetic Live Shows

BLACK TAXI is a rock band from Brooklyn, NY. Fully formed in 2007, the four-member ensemble consists of Ezra Huleatt (vocals, keys, trumpet), William Longyear Mayo(guitar, vocals), Krisana Soponpong (bass), and Jason Holmes (drums, vocals). BLACK TAXI is recognized for their animated stage performance and a diverse song catalogue, which amassed as a result of the members’ distinct musical backgrounds. Singer Ezra Huleatt started off studying jazz, guitarist William Longyear Mayo was an R&B/Hip Hop session musician, bassist Krisana Soponpong an 80s synth-pop revivalist, and drummer Jason Holmes an orchestral and theatre percussionist. Dance-Punk and Big-Wave dominate the foursome’s Grit-Pop sound, which is highlighted by carnival drums, glockenspiel, trumpet, keyboard and synths, in addition to their core setup of guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

I recently caught up with the band’s Ezra and Bill.  Interview below:

Your new album, We Don’t Know Any Better comes out in January. What’s different about this album than your debut Things of that Nature?

Ezra Huleatt: There was a difference in approach, I guess.  Our first record was recorded on analog tape, and we basically just performed the songs in a room until we got a take we liked.  The tunes had been around for a while, so we pretty much played them as they were, without much experimentation.  The new record, We Don’t Know Any Better, was written specifically with recording in mind.  We left whole sections of songs blank just to be filled in later while we were in the studio.  We’ve discovered how important it is to create while in the studio.  Some of the best moments happen when you discover an unexpected sound that only exists in that moment, some weird feedback occurring, or some obscure instrument that some band left there from the previous session.  When everyone in the room is laughing their asses off because of pure joy of discovering these sounds, you know have a winner.  But all of that said, the new record still sounds authentically like Black Taxi.  We embraced technology a lot more this time around, but we can’t escape our own songwriting.  That’s a good thing.

Your stage show is pretty wild and energetic – designed to get people up and dancing. You seem pretty fearless – with the megaphones, hats, and general presence. Have you guys been playing live for a while?

Bill Mayo:  We were pretty fearless even when we started, even though we sucked.  Maybe we should have been more timid ’cause man, we were awful for a couple years.  The caliber of our sound only started to match the performance around the time we released our first full-length album.  Ever since, things have gotten tighter.  We’ve focused on details that would have never crossed our minds, and we rehearse the hell out of it.  The idea is that once we hit the stage, the details have become second nature and we can just play and enjoy the energy.

Most of your songs seem to be influenced by post-punk bands and there’s definitely some Talking Heads about. Is that a fair assessment – or how would you guys describe your sound?

Bill Mayo:  I only learned what post-punk meant like six months ago.  Turns out I do love those bands like Talking Heads and The Clash, and Gang of Four. But my favorite bands growing up were Nirvana, Primus, Zappa, The Rolling Stones, and Steely Dan. I also listened to a lot of 90’s hip-hop.  My older sister was always listening to Wu Tang, and Biggie so that really rubbed off on me and I have a lot of love for rap.  And my younger sister taught me what it really means to be a singer.  I never paid much attention to vocals until I started jamming with her.  I think I’m more influenced by my friends and family than any artist.  I guess it does come across as a post punk thing.  But I heard it put best the other night – we played a show in Albany and some kid came up and said, “you guys don’t sound like anything, you sound like everything!”  I’m sure he meant that in a good way.  He was dancing like Thom Yorke all night.

You also use the glockenspiel on some of your songs. Did you learn to play that before the band or was it something you thought might sound cool for Black Taxi?

Bill Mayo:  Incorporating the glockenspiel into our music happened fairly organically.  At the time we were writing “pretty mama,” we were rehearsing in a loft in Brooklyn that was shared by a number of other bands.  We had the essential elements of the song down but were lacking one sound that would put the song over the edge.  As fate would have it, one of the other bands had a left their glockenspiel in the space, it was missing most of its bars but it did have the “E” and “D” bars which worked out perfectly for the song.  I had never played one before that night. 

Black Taxi seems to have fun with the usual conventions of what a song can be. For instance – “Up Here for Thinking, Down There for Dancing” has a pretty big 70s style riff but turns into an art-rock dance song. And “It’s a Ball” starts off as kind of ballad but then switches to a more up-beat song mid-way though. Is that deliberate or does that just come naturally when you write the songs?

Bill Mayo:  We deliberately keep things that come naturally.  Songs write themselves.  Nobody sits down and says, let’s do a 70’s punk thing here, and a Ke$ha synth line here.

What plans do you have for promotion for the new album?

Ezra Huleatt: Our manager can answer that best, but we are willing to try everything to get in into people ears  We have hired a PR team, given the first single out for free, and are working on a video for the second single.

Black Taxi



Black Taxi on Reybee Productions

Review: Wilco- “The Whole Love”

For all of their merits (and there are many), Wilco seem to be a hard band to absolutely love. At their best, Wilco revel in 60s inspired pop played with Band-like precision, occasionally enveloped in Velvet Underground-style noise as evident on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. At their worst, they meander way too much into murky territory as seen on A Ghost Is Born. 

2009’s Wilco (The Album) found the band in a sunnier disposition than normal, and might be their most “enjoyable” album from start to finish, but something seemed to be lacking. Released yesterday, The Whole Love finds Wilco reaching back to the experimental side of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but also retaining some of Wilco (The Album)’s brighter moments. It seems that Jeff Tweedy has (mostly) discovered that experimental music and avant-garde flights of fancy doesn’t necessarily equal pain.

As a band, Wilco never seem more alive than they do on the The Whole Love. It’s their White Album – at least stylistically.  Wilco has always been Jeff Tweedy’s band, but on this album the band itself seems to be enjoying following his lead and happy to go down whatever road he wants.  Opening track “Art of Almost” starts off as a slow-burner, only to explode into a guitar freak-out half-way through.  The keyboards on “I Might” seems as if they were sampled from a long lost track The Animals might have recorded in 1965.  “Black Moon” is laid-back and inviting, while  “Standing O” seems like a nod to Elvis Costello circa 1977-1978.  Of course, Jeff Tweedy being Jeff Tweedy there are still somber moments, most of which are reserved for the 12-minute closer “One Sunday Morning”.   Unlike before the listener can actually resonate with Tweedy on this track.  It’s one of the most moving parts of the album.

The Whole Love ranks up there with the best of Wilco’s work. It’s challenging (for both the listener and the band, apparently) in a way that few contemporary albums are. Wilco have once again proved that they are continuously one of America’s most fascinating bands (even if they hard to love.)