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Music

EMPT Exclusive: Interview with Betty Who

Betty Who is someone you cannot help but be captivated by. Upon walking in to a café just next door to her looming sound check, I spotted her and her team sitting in a little table in the back, her signature blonde pompadour a giveaway from across the room. Although busy with finishing her first album in LA, she was able to make some time during her brief stint in the UK for her first London show to answer some questions on her music, while providing insight on her upcoming UK release of her EP, World’s Apart.

You have put out two EPs at this point and noted you don’t want “filler songs” — do you plan to release what would be considered a full album or continue with shorter format albums?

I am making an album right now. I am finishing up writing and recording all of it right now in LA and will go back on Thursday and continue doing that for a week until I go on tour again. I have been writing it for four months, it is kind of like a compilation of what I have come to write and create in the last three years. Four songs from the EP and more all new materials will be on it. We are looking to release this sometime in September/October.

How would you measure success as a musician? At this point you already have two EPs. What would be the point where you will say, ‘this is it!’?

I think that will be the moment I hear myself on the radio. Because I get a lot of internet radio play, but I am now working on being on the actual radio so that will probably be that moment for me.

And how would you celebrate that?

Probably with a huge bottle of champagne. And I would want my friends to be there. I think the worst way to hear your song on the radio would be in your car by yourself. I am hoping that it will be when I am with people that I love.

And have champagne on the ready.

And have champagne prepared for that moment.

Preferably shaken and ready to go ‘Nascar winner style’.

Absolutely. Just pop it.

You have a long tour coming up in venues ranging from intimate stages, festivals, and pride parades. Do you have a preference as a performer on the venue?

I like playing in venues that you are able to stand in. I am playing a couple venues that have seats in them and it will be interesting to see how that translates as that is not really my style. But it might be awesome. I’m very much excited to play [somewhere like] the pride parades. They are going to be amazing. Playing where people are coming together to celebrate self-love and a cause you believe in, it’s going to be very cool to be a part of.

Many of your songs focus on love or heartbreak, why do you find these topics most inspiring? What other personal experiences do you pull from when writing?

I not only take experiences from my own heartbreak but I also think about what has happened to my friends and what has happened in relationships with them. I was writing a song about one of my best friends and he had broken up with his girlfriend. I wrote about him thinking about her all the time, but not wanting to be with her, but now it’s in this kind of awkward part where he really wants to talk to her, they don’t know how to be friends. And never will be. So it’s more like, how do you come out of a relationship healthfully? And the answer is you don’t, probably, for a long time. So I wrote this song called Just Like Me which is going to be on the album. It’s the moment where you want to call and say, ‘I am heartbroken and upset but we are both totally fine.’ So I wrote that song about him and what that meant and what I knew about it. It is a tough subject and tough feeling, which is why I wanted to write the song and it is one of my favourites.

Most of your songs are about love. How many relationships do you pull from personally for this? Is there a ratio for the amount of songs per relationship you use?

There kind of is. There are two men in my life, who are probably waiting for me to stop writing songs about them. There are two relationships that really fuelled most of my breakup songs and heartbreak songs on my EPs. Then there is kind of a forbidden love that is on my album, a ‘this will never happen but we want it to happen.’ A lot of the songs on the album were written about this one man and the taboo of that relationship. And also my current relationship. There is a song called Missing You on my new album and even though the lyrics are sad, the song itself is purely a love song. There are four relationships that were through all of the albums.

My second EP was a lot like that. It was really about one person and then another person came into my life because of the other person in a way. There is a flow between my relationships. There’s a reason for every song that has everything to do with the relationships I have been in and that were challenging to me. I don’t think I have ever written a song about love being easy. Love is hard. Maybe that’s what I’ll call the album, Love Is Hard. That is the through line, through all of my music.

I recently wrote on a theory called the “Tommy Effect”, referring to the scene in the movie Almost Famous where the lead character has his first profound experience with music. Can you tell when that moment was for you and what you were listening to?

Wow. I have had different Tommy Effects in different sectors of my musicianship. My version of that for writing would be a A Case of You by Joni Mitchell. Like ‘this is a perfect song. This is music as it should be.’ And then as a performer, I just went to go see The 1975. I am usually dancing upfront, but I got there late and the front was packed so I hung around the back and watched and experienced it as a spectacle rather than an experience. And as I was watching it, I thought ‘oh my God, this is what I want to do forever.’ You see the power you have over a room if you are good at what you do. Which these boys are.

Pop is your clear genre of choice and expertise. Would you explore other genres?

At heart, I am a singer/songwriter. The way I see my career trajectory is that I make pop music until I am at a point where I feel I cannot do it better than this and then put out a singer/songwriter album. I want to do this until I reach a point where I can say I have done what I came here to do.  Once you are at that point, you need to take a break and explore something else. I am also really into R&B and am influenced by R&B. I take in themes from music all over.

If you could work with someone in that genre, who would you like to collaborate with?

I think that it is so far out that I am not sure. If I was to do R&B, I think Timbaland. I want to write with Miguel more than anything in the world. But that is even for my pop stuff. I think there is a lot to explore in both genres for me.

Since Timbaland is also a producer, would you want him to produce the tracks as well?

Yes, for sure. I think “Maneater” is the coolest song. The stuff he does for women is really cool. The song “Break Your Back”, is the fiercest song. I think he has a way of making women sound really awesome and sexy. I love that.

You have mentioned multiple inspirations for your music and style. What do you hope to inspire in others?

I am not afraid to wear clothes that I want to wear. I am not really tiny. I am not really short. I am not really thin. To me, wearing what you want to wear because you feel good in it really is all that matters. So I have had a couple people, say, ‘You are tall and awesome. Don’t try to hide it.’ Why would you?? You wear what makes you feel awesome and cool. You get to be yourself in the most real and honest way and not care what people think about it.

Which women, outside of Pop, inspire you? Like Joan Jett.

I was literally just about to say Joan Jett or Pat Benatar! It’s funny you said that. Blondie is a bad-ass, she scares me a bit.But in the good and challenging way.

What is the best post break-up song?

To feel it and just cry your eyes out, maybe “re:Stacks” by Bon Iver. That is my devastating-go-to-everything-is-wrong-song. If it was like the break-up where you are like ‘I hate this guy and I need to go out’, “I’m Out” by Ciara.

The songs I have written for the sad-want-to-soak-in-it sort of feeling are either Silas or Giving It Away on my second EP. Silas is really about looking for someone else, but really not believing there is someone else. And Giving It Away is when you are at the point where you just have nothing left to give. ‘I can’t even walk home because I have given you so much energy.’ I have trouble singing Giving Me Away at times because I still get emotional. It’s such an emotionally challenging song to sing.

What is the best love song?

Maybe “Teenage Dream” by Katy [Perry]. It’s so innocent, but it’s kind of in my generation of growing up and listening to love songs that have come out in my time. There’s a little grit to it but it also is what being a teenager is like. ‘I’m confused but totally in love and would give you anything.’

_____

The singer is working on her first album and has two EPs currently available. If this didn’t make you an instant fan of the rising dance, pop star, then a listen to one of her tunes will surely do the trick. Be sure to check when you can see her live on her tour this summer.

Betty Who – You’re In Love

You can stream her album Slow Dancing, here.

Categories
Interview Music

EMPT Exclusive: Interview with Corsica Arts Club

Corsica Arts Club

EMPT gets a ton of emailed songs from up-and-coming artists, most of which we regretfully do not get to post. However, once in a while we find a gem and reach out to the performers to learn a bit more. Today, writer Nicky DePaul catches up with Corsica Arts Club, an emerging band out of Los Angeles who captured our ear with their blissful take on summertime rock, “California I Follow.”

EMPT: You guys are as new as they come. Tell us, who are Corsica Arts Club?

CAC: Corsica Arts Club is Brendan and Arash. We’ve been friends since we were teenagers and we’ve been making music together for over a decade.

EMPT:  What are your artistic goals? Are they the same as your career goals?

Arash: We try to write the best songs we can write, songs that we would enjoy listening to ourselves. There’s nothing we’d love more than to make a career out of it.

EMPT: How does your long-term friendship impact your writing and recording process?

Brendan: There’s a bond, an inherent understanding. It’s very easy to communicate both creatively and personally – our feelings, our aspirations, or how we’d like a song to sound.

Arash: We grew up liking the same music, discovering the same artists and albums together, so we have the same references for anything from melodic ideas to production ideas.

EMPT: “California I Follow” is very much an LA song, in the recent tradition of early releases from Best Coast or No Age: lo-fi, laconic, washed out. Does a sense of place infiltrate your music purposefully?

Arash: Not necessarily, though we can’t help but be influenced by our environment on some level.

Brendan: Whether in the narrative we’re telling or in the palette of sounds we’re using. At the same time, we strive to make music that’s universal, that can be appreciated regardless of the fact that we’re from LA.

Arash: If anything, we hope to evoke a feeling more than a specific place. All of our friends that we’ve played it for say it sounds like summer. That being said, I’d hope that someone who has never been to LA, but has a romanticized idea of it from films or television, hears the song and feels like they’ve been transported here. I love songs like that.

EMPT: If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?

Arash: I literally have no idea.

Brendan: I’d say the same. I’d feel like something was missing. The absence of music in my life sounds like an incomplete life.

EMPT: Your Facebook lists some prominent influences: Bowie, Iggy Pop, Kraftwerk, The Beach Boys. What does it mean to you to be influenced by an artist? How does influence appear in your art? Are there any current acts you’re drawing from or would recommend to our readers?

Arash: There are certain songs or albums that elicit such profound excitement when we hear them, that strike such a chord, we’re almost immediately thinking about how to recreate those feelings. David Bowie‘s”Low” for example. When we discovered that album it felt like finding the secrets of the universe. We’re enamored by everything about it – obviously the songs, but also the story behind it, the production techniques, the album art. It’s hard to pinpoint all the ways our favorite artists have influenced us, but I’ll tell you that we keep Bowie and “Low” in mind when we think about sounds or instruments we’d like to use in a song.

As far as current acts go, some of our favorites include Radiohead, The Strokes, and Phoenix. The guys from Dawes, who we knew back when they were called Simon Dawes, have had an influence on us in the sense that they turned us on to The Band and Big Star. We can’t thank them enough for that.

EMPT: Nice. I remember the Simon Dawes days. They played at my high school battle of the bands contest. Next question: What are you ordering at the bar?

Arash: A Death In The Afternoon. That’s champagne and absinthe.

Brendan: *laughs* I don’t drink. Arnold Palmer. Or water.

EMPT: You get to plan one perfect day. What does that day look like?

Arash: I’d want to spend the day on some beach, probably somewhere on the French Riviera, with a good book or two, then have a party at night with all my family and friends.

Brendan: My favorite place is Cinque Terre in Italy. I’d love to go back there.

EMPT: Any future plans you’d like to share?

Arash: We’re constantly writing and recording music. Beyond that? There are some things in the works. Keep an eye on us…

Many thanks and good luck to Corsica Arts Club. Find them on Soundcloud, Twitter and Facebook for more music and updates.

Corsica Arts Club – California I Follow

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Interview

EMPT Exclusive: Interview with The Soundmen

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EMPT doesn’t always do interviews, but when we do, we bring you the freshest names in the game.

This week, Nicky DePaul caught up with Seattle-based production duo The Soundmen, who have blown up of late (Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine, MTV), to learn about the new Seattle sound, how their musical collaborations happen, and why surfing is the best medicine.

EMPT: First off, who are The Soundmen?

JJ/SD: The Soundmen are the production duo of Justin Jamison and Scott Durday.  We have been producing together for years, are best buds since college, and just love making music.

EMPT: You’ve just released your debut EP, “The Soundmen,” but you’ve been remixing and producing for years already (formed in ’09). Tell us a bit about the journey from one-off’s to a full EP.

JJ: We formed The Soundmen in ’09, however, we started out producing hip hop records for Seattle artists before that and then gradually started shifting our production into what it is now by getting the opportunity to work with artists outside of hip hop. Scott and I have always listened to a wide range of music, so the transition into other genres felt natural.

SD: Its been quite the journey! Justin and I started heavily in the rap world. We cut our teeth producing in the streets, making and placing production with artists like G Dep (Bad Boy), Babs Bunny, Murda Mook, Ron Browz and others. We always saw ourselves as behind the scenes until we decided to make and put out a remix EP for fun.

The EP, a remixing of Grizzly Bear and Little Wayne called Veckaflyest, spread fast and got us on the radars of Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine and other music outlets. Thats when we realized the power of using the internet to release our own music.

Since then we’ve steadily been collaborating with a wide range of artists both to produce songs for them and then create our own original records to showcase our sounds. Our debut EP, is culmination of the collaborations and sound we have cultivated during 2013.

EMPT: For right or wrong, most people don’t associate Seattle with pop or electronic music. For a long time the city had the grunge label, and more recently the mainstream output has been folk/indie rock-y (Fleet FoxesBand of Horses). But with the rapid rise of Macklemore and you guys, the perception is changing. What do you think about that, and how is the Seattle cultural scene reacting?

SD: The Seattle scene has always been incredibly diverse, and we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of that. Seeing Macklemore‘s success, an artist who we and many of our peers have worked with, blow up with an almost genreless approach to hiphop has been awesome. I think it shines the light on one of the most diverse music environments in the country, that defines it sound not in pre-concieved style but in output.

JJ: The Seattle scene is one of the most ecclectic scenes around. Of course, Seattle is known for grunge and before that, Jimi Hendrix, but the music scene is very diverse. I think that labels tend to look for a familiar “Seattle Sound” when looking at this region for talent. Also, labels like Sub Pop and Barsuk have long had their style of artists, but they are even starting to venture into different genres.

EMPT:  What are your artistic goals? Are they the same as your career goals?

SD: Our career goals are twofold. One, to continue to define The Soundmen brand/sound as a diverse and consistent production sound. And Two, to increase the amount of production that we are doing behind the scenes for artists.

Artistically though, we want to continue to be a place where music fans go for GOOD music. Not music that sits in one genre, or is enjoyed because of the synth and drum sounds of the moment. Although we enjoy throwing nods to certain trends, we like to think of our music as pure electronic music that is hopefully timeless.

EMPT Many of the songs on the EP are collaborations. How did those come about?

JJ: Most of our collaborations came from previous work that we have done for artists, whether it’s a remix or original production. We built those relationships through working together in the past and they were willing to contribute to our project.

SD: Our collaborations have resulted in many different ways. Sometimes we remix an artist, and then bridge that gap to creating something new. Sometimes its simply reaching out and having a mutual appreciation and going from there. Our collaboration with Avan Lava happened that way, as we DJed with them at SXSW in 2012, had talked about working together and when we produced that song we knew it would be for them.

EMPT: Your Facebook profile lists a bunch of influences, including DillaAphex TwinOrbital andThe Neptunes. What impact have artists like these had on your development?

SD: All of those artists create or have created timeless music and stayed true to the music they wanted to make. Whether it was completely mindblowing electronic or slap heavy hiphop, they perfected their sound and craft. This is what we want to do. Not just dabble in a genre and jump back out, but perfect our blend of electronic pop & hiphop to exist as its own brand.

JJ: These are all artists that we grew up listening to and were inspired by all of them in different ways. When I started making music I learned by paying attention to the way my favorite artists did things. When we first started producing, Scott and I were primarily using samples on most of our records. Producing trends have definitely changed a lot over the last ten years and I feel like we were able to learn from some of our favorite artists but also find our own unique sound along the way.

EMPT: What are you ordering at the bar?

SD: Margarita, heavy on the salt, and top shelf on the Tequila.

JJ: I usually order a good beer. I’m an IPA guy. My other drink of choice is a good whiskey.

EMPT: If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?

JJ:  I went to school for audio engineering and film post production so I would still be in a studio somewhere or working in film.

SD: Surfing. Its the only activity I’ve found other than music that I never get bored doing. Shredding beats and waves!!

EMPT: Who is your dream collaborator and what venue would you most like to play with that person/group?

SD: Right now ASTR, St Lucia, FTSEMapei, and The Chain Gang of 1974 are all blowing me away with their sounds and would love to bring our sounds into their worlds. But overall, I would kill to do a song with Ed McFarlane of Friendly Fires. Hands down my favorite vocalist of the last decade.

JD: Ed Macfarlane from Friendly Fires has been a long standing favorite of Scott and myself. If I could pick any venue it would be Neumo’s in Seattle, because it is the first place that I saw FF perform live. If we were in NY, I would pick the Mercury Lounge or Bowery Ballroom.

SD: As for a venue to DJ at. Initially it was Roseland Ballroom, and then in 2012 we were lucky enough to DJ a set there to a sold out crowd. So now I think DJing a festival like Glastobury or Coachella would really be our dream. Playing those tight 1-1.5 hour sets of bodymoving music to a sophisticated crowd of music lovers is what we love to do.

EMPT: You get to plan one perfect day. What does that day look like?

SD: Finishing a massive track with Justin, followed by an evening surf session in 5-7 ft surf in 80 degree water with the boys. Light offshore winds. No one else out.

JJ: It would have to be a recording session with one of our favorite artists in an area that we could take surf breaks. Possibly even catching a good sporting event at night.

Thanks to Justin and Scott aka The Soundmen. Buy the full EP on iTunes here.

The Soundmen – With You ft. Rai Knight

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Interview Music Video

EMPT Exclusive: Interview with San Fermin’s Allen Tate

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Sometimes, it happens all at once. An unknown band releases a debut record and boom, they start popping up everywhere.

San Fermin released their eponymous debut September, 2013. Since then, they’ve been featured in Pitchfork, The New Yorker, the New York Times, and live on NPR. You can’t do much better than that in terms of music press.

The band is the brainchild of composer/songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a Yalie who retreated to the Canadian woods after graduate to write the entire first album. By his telling, the music (a concept album about young love) poured out in a short period of time, after which came a technically-substantial recording process featuring over 20 musicians.

Now on tour, the band is an eight-piece ensemble with two equally excellent lead singers: Allen Tate and Rae Cassidy. Their voices counter each other to striking effect, and when paired with Ludwig-Leone’s bombastic and emotive compositions, something truly special emerges.

We caught up with Allen in the middle of their current national tour (schedule here…catch them in a city near you!) to hear his take on tour life, musical development and the band’s namesake.

EMPT: What is your background and how did you come to be the lead singer in a touring, rising band?

AT: I actually don’t have much of a background in music. I’m self-taught on guitar and bass and my mom used to have me practice harmonizing with the radio in the car but that’s about it. Ellis and I have been friends since we were 15 or 16. I think we both pretty surprised that things have picked up so quickly in the past year. It’s been a blur.

EMPT: I’m under the impression that the album was fully written (including song lyrics) by the time Ellis came to you. Is that true? If not, discuss your writing process.

AT: That’s right. Ellis went away to do the writing and once he had early versions of the song he would send me files and we would discuss ideas. I was lucky in that I was involved so early on in the process and also because I was able to help tailor my own part as it was being solidified. The project was always his but it was great to be a sounding board throughout.

EMPT: Is the music of San Fermin similar to the music you casually listen to? Or is it quite different?

AT: I listen to all kinds of stuff. So, it’s similar to some of it for sure. We have gotten comparisons to The National, Sufjan [Stevens] and Dirty Projectors and I love all of those guys. I’m an obsessive listener typically. I will latch on to one album when I find it and play it over and over until I find my next obsession.

EMPT: You’re on your first tour now. Is life on the road as you expected? What’s a crazy story from the tour so far?

AT: I really didn’t know what to expect to be honest. Things I’ve learned so far are that the shows are amazing and the sleep is terrible. I can’t complain though. It’s a blast. The best San Fermin tour factoid might be that we like to stop when we find empty parking lots and play wiffle ball. Got to blow off steam somehow right?

EMPT: Who are the artists you listen to on a regular basis? New and old.

AT: Like I said, I really tend to obsess over an album for a while and then move on to the next. Lately, I’ve been really into the Laura Marling record. And for an older artist, I am always in the mood to listen to some Stevie Wonder.

EMPT: Many pundits compare your voice to The National’s Matt Berninger or Bill Callahan. Were those singers actual influences? Or is it a fluke? Do you worry about being pigeon holed as a person who can only sing a certain type of music?

AT: It’s flattering. I couldn’t have imagined being in the same sentence as those guys a short time ago. Sometimes I wonder if people are just responding to my voice being deep but it’s a great compliment nevertheless. I’m not worried about being pigeon holed. At this point I’m just glad that the music is getting out there and that people are listening.

EMPT: Do you aspire to have a career in music?

AT: Absolutely. I had plans for law school a year ago but this has definitely changed that. I’m looking forward to recording the next album and spending time writing myself.

EMPT:   What is your dream venue to play?

AT: I would love to play the Beacon Theatre. It’s such a historic place and a beautiful room on top of that. I actually saw John Legend play a great show there recently.

EMPT: Will we be seeing you in Pamplona this year for the San Fermin festival (best known for the running of the bulls)?

AT: Not this year haha. I think I need a little more time to work up the courage.

Thanks to Allen and San Fermin! Find them on the interwebs at: http://sanferminband.com/

Categories
Interview

EMPT Exclusive Interview: Superhumanoids

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All band names are not created equal. The Monkees is weak. Led Zeppelin is heavy. Yes is boring, yet quirky. Thievery Corporation is genius.

Superhumanoids is up there with The Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire as one of the best-named active bands. No one really knows what a superhumanoid is, but its evocative, playful and slightly threatening at the same time.

Cameron Parkins, Sarah Chernoff and Max St. John formed Superhumanoids in Los Angeles in 2010. The past three years have seen their profile rise exponentially, as their homegrown, meticulously produced pop-rock tracks gained an international following and recognition by a number of high profile  websites and publications.

In August, the band released “Exhibitionists,” their debut LP, to unanimous acclaim. The EMPT team has featured a handful of the tracks from that album already, and has fallen in love with the catchy, dreamy grooves.

We caught up with the band in the middle of their current national tour (schedule here…catch them in a city near you!) to hear their take on life, culture and their favorite Roy Choi restaurant.

EMPT: Does the label of “LA Band” mean anything more than the obvious physical location? What makes a band/sound “LA”? 

SH: There is a specific culture here – the weather, the Mexican food, the people, the casual lifestyle. Musically everyone here is so diverse that all you can really know when reading “LA Band” is that you aren’t sure what style of music will come off the Soundcloud player once you hit play.

EMPT: Who do you consider to be your artistic contemporaries?

SH: Taylor Cohen, who directed our last video and is working on our current one. Evan Weinerman , who directed our earlier videos. Hassan Rahim who designed all of our artwork. Nick Walker who shoots all of our photography. Then the obvious bands and musicians we consider close friends – PAPA, Mini Mansions, Classixx, Local Natives, Kisses, Grouplove – the whole Innovative Leisure family.

EMPT: If HBO called and offered you the credit song slot on “Girls,” what would you say?

SH: Yes, thank you.

EMPT: What is your favorite beer brand?

SH: Corona in a can.

EMPT: If you weren’t in a band, what would you be doing?

SH: Making music in some form.

EMPT: Any bands our readers should be on the lookout for?

SH: All the above mentioned – also the new Body Parts album is very fiery and Jon Wayne‘s new jammers are next level.

EMPT: Kogi, Chego, A-Frame, Sunny Spot? (A bit of background on this question: Roy Choi is the founder of Kogi and is considered a catalyst for the modern food truck and fusion movement. He is a cultural celebrity in Los Angeles, and an avowed fan and friend of Superhumanoids.)

SH: A-Frame no doubt. We collectively had one of the best meals of our lives there. Kogi if you’re drunk.

Thanks, Superhumanoids! Find them on the interwebs at http://superhumanoids.com/ and @superhumanoids.

Superhumanoids – Geri

Categories
Interview Music

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