"It is wonderful to be able experience art without understanding how it was meant or what makes it good." (Kim Boekbinder said that during an interview I did with her) I might not have the biggest knowledge about music but I have a great passion for it. Passion is what counts.
I live in Berlin, Germany (born, raised and still resident) and this is my personal blog about music and other things that cross my way. Things I love to be exact. And even though I am German and my English is still not perfect, this blog is in English.
It’s time for another round of Music Submission Monday! I have been listening to all the music that you sent me since the first Music Submission Monday with Camera2. I’ve tried to answer most e-mails (or will do soon)*. There were some good submissions and here is my favourite discovery:
His name is Billy Keane. He is an Irish unsigned singer/songwriter, living in London and has an EP coming up. He send me a song called "I should be next to you" because he thought I could like this one. He was right. I have listened to it once, then twice, three times… and a day later I really wanted to listen to it again. He recorded the song in his bed room. So, it’s not perfect, he doesn’t re-invent folk or anything like that but I love this voice. It’s warm tone and softness and somehow like he understands you. He reminds me of some bands I found with myspace back in the days and really loved for a long time like Mesh-29. Ah, well, have a listen yourself:
Have a good week and keep sending me your music,
*depends on the mail I receive if I answer or not ;)
And while Ndidi and I were talking about comedians being some of the darkest people around, here is a new song plus video for a song called “Tacky” by ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. It’s a parody of Pharrell Williams “Happy” (via Nerdist). It features appearences of Aisha Tyler, Margaret Cho, Eric Stonestreet, Kristen Schaal and Jack Black.
I wonder what Yankovic or Jack Black or other comedians would say about this.
Earlier this year I met Canadian artist Ndidi O on a sunny Sunday afternoon - yes, more love for Canada. A special month dedicated for this lovely country is just not enough. She was supporting Gregory Porter on his tour through Germany (and will do it again, look below). She was so lovely! After the interview we would discover that we both love the Eagles of Death Metal. She also worked with British composer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Robin Foster and Dave Pen (whose voice I dearly love, he is member of Archive and BirdPen). I basically fell in love with her.
In February she released her wonderful album “Dark Swing” in Germany. Swing with a touch of Blues and Pop and rather catchy melodies. I instantly fell in love with her voice, it’s a bit still a bit raw and very warm. She sounds like my most comfy couch feels like - does that make sense?
Ndidi travelled the world, lived in cities like Vancouver, Paris and Berlin and spends a lot of her time in Los Angeles. Born and grown up in small villages somewhere in British Columbia, Canada, she has now travelled the world, lived in cities like Vancouver, Paris and Berlin and spends a lot of her time in Los Angeles where she also recorded the album.
What I find very fascinating about her is how friends sometimes know better what’s best for you. Why? Read the interview.
I love your voice. I’ve watched some live videos and thought “oh, what a voice” and then I listen to your album but there you sound quite different.
Ndidi: I am softer on the album than live definitely.
Why did you do that?
It wasn’t necessarily my choice, it was a direction I went in with the producer and for this record it’s a bit darker and a bit softer and we wanted to show a bit more vulnerability in my voice. Live I play with dynamic but I am much more high energy. These songs are a bit more melancholic and I was in a darker place, so it was natural to be a bit more softer and it was an experiment.
The whole album seems to be an experiment since you also said you wanted to work with someone else.
It was, you’re right. I was told I needed to make another record. When they told me this, I was not in a very good place and I said “Ok, but I don’t want to do it by myself - it’s too much pressure and I am stressed right now”. So, my publishers introduced me to a composer, producer and songwriter named Joel Shearer. We worked together for this album. We started off just writing and we got along so we decided to continue in this vein. It was an experiment. I have never written like this, with just one person before. It was an experience more than an experiment.
To me it sounds like weird to have - what sounds like - pressure from the outside, from the publishers and stuff and then you’re lucky enough to end up with something good.
You are right, you are very, very right. There was pressure and it can go one of two ways: It can turn very, very bad or it can turn good. And I am very grateful that it turned out good. Because I didn’t know at one point what was going to happen.
Could you choose who you work with?
I chose Joel. We started and we decided to continue. I was writing in Paris and Los Angeles. There was freedom. I recorded a bunch of songs and we all decided together. I was involved but just the pressure to get started at that time wasn’t necessarily my choice.
How long did it take you to get used to be working with Joel or was it like an instant connection?
We connected pretty instantly but with any relationship we had our ups and our downs. It was an experience working so closely with someone on something so personal. So we worked really well together, then we didn’t and then we did again. [laughs]
Did you work together only in LA?
I worked in Paris and I would send him stuff and he would worked it. But the majority of the actual recording happened in Los Angeles.
It seems like an odd place for your music in a way. When you think of LA you don’t think of…
Sad and dark. No, you’re right.
…yes, there are other places I would put your rather to…
Yeah, you know that’s a good observation. It’s true. What I do is very emotional based and very honest and Los Angeles is not known for being an honest or emotional city. But I spend a lot of time in this city, I spend half of my year there all the time. I actually like this city because it is so bizarre but you’re right. It wasn’t a choice, it just was what happened. And it was this place. It could seem a bit bizarre to have this music come from there, it might make more sense being from New York or London or these kind of places but it was Los Angeles.
You lived in a lot of places - did it ever had influences in how your music sounded at that time?
I think so. Travelling a lot is good for writing a lot because you see a lot of things and you spend a lot of time alone. I have lived in many places but I have also been very alone so you start to focus on feelings and healing. Whatever it is that is going on with you is very present because you only have yourself. I think it has influenced my ability to write music and the kinds of sounds I am drawing from. And just how I interact with people in general having lived in so many places colours a lot.
You grew up in Bruns Lake, British Columbia.
For a bit, also this other place called Golden and Fields.
They all sound like they are in the middle of nowhere.
They were all in the middle of nowhere.
Does it still influence you being from these kind of places?
I think it helps growing up isolated. It helps me to be happy to be by myself and in fact if I am around people for too long, I actually have to leave because I get a little bit crazy. I think when you grow up in very small places that are remote, you tend to be very honest. It helps in terms on putting up shows because I have nothing to loose, I have nothing to hide, I don’t do a show - I am just happy that there are other people finally. I am more excited when there is more happening. Growing up in such small places, being so grateful when you’re in a bigger space with new things and interesting things you have more gratitude for this situation than people that have grown up in a big city and had it all.
I read it in an interview that the music scene in Vancouver wasn’t existent?
It wasn’t when was starting. There was a music scene, there was an Avant Garde Jazz scene when I started and there was a Folk scene but I wasn’t involved in any of it, so I moved away. For me I thought the music scene is happening in Toronto, in New York and I was kind of right because that’s where I started. But now there is a music scene in Vancouver but it is much more isolated, it is very small.
You once said that a great album is a journey and it changes over time - how did your first albums changed over time?
Interesting. When I listen to it I know I have changed. I think the timing of it. With my first record you can hear a young voice, curious, and it’s a real exploration of the blues from my perspective and I was just finding my feet and finding my feet as a writer. I think there is something raw and organic that when you go back and hear it, you hear just the rawness of the record because I am maybe a bit more refined now.
Is the current album still fresh for you?
Somewhere in between. It is current for everyone but it not necessarily current for me. It’s interesting: I am a very different person now than I was when I made that record. A lot has changed in my life, the darkness is gone and now it’s just about healing and experiencing real joy and happiness. So it’s interesting to sing these songs now for audiences because they are very raw. I transport myself back into that time and it’s really interesting to remember that agony but to not feel it any longer. It’s a really interesting experience. It’s an interesting record and I am learning a lot more about myself as I play it which is funny.
That sounds weird since you wrote the songs you also still learn from them.
Yeah, sure. When I wrote them it was a very dark period of time in my life, I was going through a few years of many, many hard things […] Now I am ok and now I am recovering and finding happiness in working through it. It takes time to lose all these negativity that you’ve held onto for many years. It takes a little longer.
What I find actually quite nice that you have this darkness and you wrote it all down and you have such a good outcome of it. It’s actually something nice coming out of the darkness.
ABSOLUTELY! And that’s one of the things I like about this record is that something really beautiful came out of some really ugly things. I think that’s how art works and music works and entertainment in general. A lot of the worlds greatest entertainers, singers, songwriters, dancers, artists, actors, directors…
Comedians are some of the darkest people you’ll ever meet but they take it and they’ll twist it. I do that, too. You can’t help it when you’re creating because you’re absorbing so much of the world. You don’t know how to process it internally. You have to figure out how to get it out there and when you do it, you feel a lot of the darkness because we live in a dark place - we don’t treat each other the way we should be, we don’t treat the planet they way we should be. We’re feeling the pressure is on because we can’t continue. So, when you entertain you’re holding on to this actual climate but also trying to translate it so it doesn’t hurt another person, so it entertains them, so that gives them relief from the pressure but the artist never has release from the pressure, it’s always on, it’s always in you because you’re absorbing and then pushing out something good hopefully.
…and hopefully make someone else happy… When I used to go on stage, I used to call it group therapy. It was my relief even if it was just for an evening.
It is group therapy tho. Anyone who gets on stage knows it’s therapy even though the audience might not understand it, we all know it. I am friends with many comedians, too. All entertainers, all performers - we all use the stage as a way to deal with ourselves.
How did you discover that Blues is the music you want to make?
I heard a record by John Lee Hooker on cassette tape when I was 19. It just hit me, something in that hit me and that was when I started to sing. I started to sing when I was 19, I never sang before. I didn’t even care about music except for maybe dancing sometimes. There is something about the power of this voice. I started getting into Blues, I started listening to a lot of Delta Blues in particular. These artists were like gypsies but what they did was they translated the pain of the people. Times where hard and they turned it into something beautiful. There were such a power behind their voices and behind their playing that I immediately related: I said these people know pain, I know pain. This makes sense to me. That is the music of my heart and of my soul and that is where my voice sits best. It’s always present.
Why did you discover your love for singing so late?
I didn’t really discover it, it discovered me. I had two friends and we were room mates and we would share talents. We started doing this. One night I had this stories, I have always written stories and poems, and I had these two poems and I decided to sing them, just very randomly I said I am going to sing this. I don’t know why I decided to do this and I sang for them. They both said “When did you start singing? Is this something you do all the time?” And I said “no, I just decided to do it today” and they went “You should try it again. Sing that again. Do it again.” and they kept me doing over and over again and finally one of my oldest and closest friends she basically convinced me to stop studying political science and linguistics and I should make music. And just went “ok” and then I started. If somebody else wants to convince me, I can be easily convinced sometimes. I made this decision and I have been doing it ever since.
Never regretted it?
I regret it all the time. [laughs] But I keep going.
The album is a bit more - not Pop - but accessible, why did you chose this step or did it just happen?
It naturally happened but I always wanted to make a more accessible record because performance wise I am a pretty accessible person. I think this record is the closest reflection today to how am easily reachable and how I can convey things. And let’s be honest: I want a bigger audience, I want to play for more people. I love it, my passion is performance truly. I love playing for people and love having people that are knowing the songs. If the song is easier to reach for somebody, they’ll learn it and they’ll connect to it easier. And if they connect to it easier, they’ll come to a show and they’re already ready to enjoy which makes it so much easier than when you’re totally unknown. You have to kind of win people over, a bit more pressure.
Thank you for answering my question, Ndidi!
Her album “Dark Swing” was released earlier this year (and for the Canadians among my readers: It’ll be released on October 7th).And for the Germans, get it now and learn it for her upcoming tour in August and September:
12.08.14 Tollhaus, Karlsruhe (Opening for Grégory Porter)
16.08.14 Kulturarena, Jena
18.09.14 Tollhaus, Karlsruhe
19.09.14 Hot Jazz Club, Münster
20.09.14 Kunstflecken Festival Neumünster
21.09.14 Moments, Bremen
27.09.14 Moritzbastei, Leipzig
28.09.14 Quasimodo, Berlin (here you’ll find me in the first row singing a long every track of “Dark Swing”)
Have a good week,
(c) Foto: Universal
…you should head over to Pledge:
Why? Because they are one of the best bands I know. It’s their third full length album and the first two “On/Off/Safety/Danger” and “Global Lows” still belong to my most favourite albums of all time. It’s the combination of spheric, wide pop and rock melodies and lyrics with a message. Personally I’d love to know in which direction they’ll go now and what topic they looked into this time. I am curious, you should be curious, too, and head over to Pledge NOW!
They’ll also be on tour in October (and probably November as well):
09.10. – LA BOULE NOIRE – PARIS - FRANCE
12.10. – GLEIS 22 – MUENSTER - GERMANY
13.10. – STADTGARTEN – COLOGNE - GERMANY
15.10. – MOLOTOW – HAMBURG - GERMANY
17.10. - CLUB007 – PRAGUE - CZECH REPUBLIC
19.10. – BI NUU – BERLIN – GERMANY
20.10. – MILA – MUNICH – GERMANY
21.10. – CLUB MANUFAKTUR – SCHORNDORF – GERMANY
22.10. – CAVE DU BLEU – LAUSANNE – SWITZERLAND
23.10. – LA PENICHE – LILLE – FRANCE
24.10. – THE ISLINGTON – LONDON – UK
Highly recommended! Last time it looked a bit like this and included a lot of dancing, singing a long and sweating on both sides:
Have a good weekend,
P.S. Has someone borrow me round about 750 € for me so I can buy Dave’s acoustic guitar? You’ll be forever loved. ;)
Yesterday I saw The Group live. Yes, THE Group - this time it is not one of my German habits of putting an noun marker in front of every single noun I can find, nor did I forget their name. The group is an ever changing collective based around Casper Clausen (Efterklang), Greg Haines, Francesco Donadello (Giardini di Mirò), Martyn Heyne and more. When it was founded Peter Broderick was a part of them as well, at the Michelberger Hotel there were two more, Dustin O’Halloran and André De Ridder. And the soundguy was Mads Brauer of Efterklang. They came together to make improvised music live on stage.
I didn’t know anything of this musical experience except for Casper being in The Group. I love his singing voice (especially when he sings very deep like in the beginning of “Sedna” of Efterklang’s latest album Piramida). If you love one thing a lot, the rest won’t be too awful to listen to because you have this thing you love in between. And actually it was really good.
A friend told me about the improvising thing afterwards*. The played about 90 minutes or so and it was a bit of an up and down for me. Occasionally they would stay in the same rhythm and melody for too long without someone breaking out, but then again some parts sounded like a finished song. Caspers mix of making noises and singing words, short phrases made think a sentence he said in our interview a long time ago:”If I am sitting in front of a piano and sing along to it, I am usually singing a lot of nonsense and that is how it starts.” That is what you experience during a concert of The Group. The creation of a (very long) song.
"Listen To The Sounds" (or maybe "listening to the sounds") was one of the lines Casper would sing. I tried. It’s wasn’t easy to always notice who is doing/adding what to the texture of the song. Casper would used his voice, effects on his voice and a big “necklace” every rapper would want. I was wondering if some is giving a first impulse which the other five would follow or how they start. And how they achieved a moment that sounded a bit like blues for a moment. For me it’s always the most interesting part of a concert to watch a band improvise - mainly because I still can’t figure out how it works that they end up with a song (in the best case) or something extremely fun.
If you get the chance of watching The Group live, you should just go.
Have a good Friday,
*I still enjoy going to concert without knowing too much.
Today I fell in love with Fink. I saw the British band at one of those free Apple Store “Meet The Musicians” events in Berlin. I heard their music before but always thought they were okay; not too bad, not my favourite new band either. Singer Fin and drummer Tim were there to answer some questions and play a few acoustic songs.
The host of this event chose to show their newest video for "Looking Too Closely" of their upcoming album "Hard Believer" (release: 14. July) before the band came on stage for the interview. Somehow this song got me right away. Not understanding every word or what it actually about, it just felt like one of those songs which may explain where you are and what are you feeling. It’s difficult to explain and I’ll running circles trying to explain it - it’s probably just that it feels like someone understands you without even knowing you. And yes, without even knowing the lyrics.
Have a listen yourself:
I got quite a few submissions within the last couple of days. I have listened to all of them and then thought about a new non-regular category called “Music Submission Monday" in which I want to introduce my favourite discovery out of all the music I got throughout a week (or whatever the rhythm will be). It’s just music I got from the artists directly, no PR or label in between. The first ones I picked are Camera2 from Brooklyn, New York City. Their lead singer and songwriter is Andy Chase (Tahiti 80, Juliana Hatfield, Smashing Pumpkins). He is accompanied by guitarist Michael Jurin (Stellastarr*), bassist Aric Gillis (Teenage Kick) and drummer Mike Williams (Teddybears). Somehow they felt rather familiar, didn’t know why until I searched a bit. The did a very short “Seven Questions To…” interview for another magazine I write for. Funny.
Actually they sent me the remix of their first single "Appetite" by Chad Valley but I liked the original more. It’s dancable indie pop, reminds me of a certain summer vibe, of dancing during the sunset until you can see the stars or barefoot in the rain or, you know, something like that. For me it is actually a kind of uplifting song since I had been rather moody today. However, if you prefer to dance in a small dark club underneath a disco ball, the remix is just right for you. Please enjoy their music:
Have a good week and please send me your music,