Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Yesterday's drive from Maine across the White and Green Mountains to Burlington afforded me a lot of time to let my mind wander. I put my old iPod on shuffle and let it go where it wanted. It played some Brian Eno, Caribou, Clash, Jefferson Airplane, went on a nice sidetrack through Duke Ellington and Glenn Gould, and landed on a strange piano piece that sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite place. I grabbed the iPod to check out who it was and laughed out loud when I saw the artist and album: Laura Burhenn, Not Ashamed to Say. How is it possible I couldn't place something I wrote, performed, and recorded myself? It's probably a good thing -- I've come a long way since I made that first solo record at 17.
Since I was driving alone (the rest of the band opted for a day off from driving in Burlington), I decided to listen to the whole album. There were some pretty painful parts (hearing my 17 year old self doing her best Nina Simone and Tori Amos impressions), but there were some good seeds. I remembered how bold and self-assured I was back then. And as my older self, I felt grateful that I had people all around me who encouraged me to keep going: my mom who lent me money from a nest egg she'd been saving my whole life to let me start my own record label (Laboratory Records) Ani Difranco style, and all my friends who came to those shows in the early, super awkward years, helping me carry my enormous keyboard up and down endless flights of stairs to supremely bizarre bars and venues to play to supremely bizarre crowds. I also felt slightly worried that I'd look back on my latest work (What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood) in ten years and wince. Oh well, if that happens, it only means I will have kept growing. And that's not such a bad thing, I guess.
After I put out my second solo record, Wanderlust, in 2004, I put out a split 7" on clear vinyl with my then boyfriend, Dagon James, who's now publishing an amazing art/music/fashion magazine in NYC called LiD. We pressed 500 copies. I'd be surprised if we even sold 100. We had a release party at a venue in Adams Morgan who's name is currently escaping me -- they had weekly open mics and an upright piano on the stage that had its back to the window to the street. (Speaking of open mics and upright pianos, I have a real fond spot in my memory for the original Food for Thought on Connecticut Avenue, with its big red upright piano. That's the first open mic I ever played in my life.)
I haven't listened to that 7" in years. I recall that my side of that record was particularly rough. I meant well with my stripped down arrangement of drum machine, thrift store toy organ and bare vocals, but that organ was incredibly out of tune and pretty piercing on the treble end. I've got a big box of those records in storage somewhere. Maybe I'll pull one out in a few years and give it a listen. I like to have a little more space between the me of me then and the me of me now so I can reflect on how far I've come. Maybe after the *next* Mynabirds record comes out...
Kaleidoscopic Sunset somewhere in New Hampshire (maybe near the clean slate of where the Old Man in the Mountain use to be)
The Mynabirds - Let The Record Go (Mp3)
The Mynabirds - Numbers Don't Lie (Mp3)
Approved for download!
Posted by Jon at 2:11 PM
"Growing up, my family had an old stereo with a record player in our finished but little-used basement and, as a high-school kid, it was the perfect place for me to go listen to my parents’ old records, alone and undistracted. I would sit cross legged in front of the stereo and, with lyric sheets in hand, listen to the same few records over and over. I had singled out a particular few, absorbed their melodies, words and images; The Beatles’ “Abbey Road”, Laura Nyro with Labelle’s “Gonna Take a Miracle,” and Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon” (as well as a record of Mitchell doing all Bob Dylan covers.)
But my favorite was a somewhat obscure record by a 60’s era folk duo called “Lily and Maria.” What grabbed me about them were their unsettling harmonies and almost creepy psychedelic touches. It was my mom’s record—turns out it was reissued in 2008—and she didn’t remember much about them other than that they never made it very big. The picture on the album cover was of the two women resting their heads against one another and staring hauntingly into the camera. The image was overexposed and washed out, so much of their features remained indiscernible other than long, straight hair, and no makeup other than looong lashes. My mom would tell me “that was the style back then,” and I would get her to elaborate on stories about being a teen in the 60’s – like when her older sister, my aunt Bonnie, ran away and hitchhiked to Woodstock at 16.
There was no lyric sheet for the Lily & Maria album, and no Google search I could do to get more details, so the record remained a delicious bit of mystery which seemed to be my own personal revelation. Although I was discovering different kinds of music at that time, and while in my bedroom I would listen to Nirvana and Sonic Youth, I looked at the basement and its records as my sanctuary when I wanted to be alone and reflect. During those confusing and overwhelming years of being in high school, the basement was not only the perfect place for me to get lost in these old recordings, but also to play and write my own music on our old piano.
Now that I’m reflecting on Lily & Maria, I suppose the song “Time to Listen” on our new album must have been inspired partly by their aesthetic…"
—Lorelei Plotczyk (Bass)
"I didn't have an older brother or sister to guide my music taste as a kid so I had to turn to cues from classmates. This led to an "interesting" exploration in music in my youth. I was actually all over the map as a kid, but the first album I remember asking my mom to get for me was Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast.
It's comedic now to think about my 5'4" mom walking into a record store asking for Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast, which was probably written on her "to do" list. Moms are great, right? I have to actually write out the opening lyrics to Number of the Beast so anyone who isn't familiar with this song and album will get an idea of what's going on. This is read before the song begins in a demonic, frog-like voice:
Woe to You Oh Earth and Sea
For the Devil sends the beast with wrath
Because he knows the time is short
Let him who have understanding
Reckon the number of the beast
For it is a human number
Its number is six hundred and sixty six.
I mean, wtf? Music for kids, clearly! I also had the black light poster."
—Greg Bertens (Vocals)
Film School plays DC9 on 9/28 with Depreciation Guild.
Find Film School at their Official Site | Myspace | Twitter | Facebook
Film School - Heart Full of Pentagons (Mp3)
Approved for download!
Posted by Jon at 11:24 AM
Nicole Atkins—who held the fort down here for a week last year in the same manner Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds is doing this week—returns with her sophomore release Mondo Amore in January, 2011—and we've got the first track kicking around the internet (as of just yesterday) streaming below.
Nicole's currently giving the track away as a free download on her website, so head on over there to add the quite excellent 'Vultures' to your ipod.
What the rest of the internet doesn't have however is an advance 7" of 'Vultures' which we'll award to one of you in exchange for your comment to this posting. Stream the track above and offer your critique in the comments and the most insightful of the bunch will take home the 45.
We'll keep this one open for a week and choose our winner next Wednesday, 9/29. Remember to leave us a contact email address as well!
Posted by Jon at 9:32 AM
Join the conversation about the future of music in DC!
The Future of Music Coalition (FMC) celebrates a decade of fighting for musicians this October with their empowering three day flagship conference, at Georgetown University from October 3-5. The 10th Anniversary Future of Music Policy Summit unites the brightest minds in the music industry to discuss the key issues affecting the entire music ecosystem.
This is a can’t-miss event for musicians, songwriters, composers, students, and music industry professionals. The conference will feature presentations and panel discussions from T Bone Burnett (renowned musician, composer and producer), Chuck D (Public Enemy), Damian Kulash (OK Go), Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Eric Garland (founder, Big Champagne Media Measurement), musician Erin McKeown, independent label legend Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records, plus representatives from YouTube Music, Facebook, Google, Pandora, and TopSpin to name a few!
There is a special musician and student scholarships available starting from $20 upward. Hurry now as tickets are going fast.
A must is the “Musicians Education Day” on Sunday October 3 which will feature a host of exciting panel discussions empowering musicians at every stage of their career. The day will kick off with a master class by music PR supremo Ariel Hyatt, followed by "To-Do's And You: The New Artist Check List" which will focus on 12 things all new artists should do at the beginning of their career. There will also be a panel discussion on “The New Hustle: Direct to Fan Case Studies” and "Indie Labels in 2010."
There will also be various informal “supersessions” throughout the conference which will encourage interactive discussions on topics including Music Access on Campus, Live Music and Social Networks, Artists Activism, and Music in the Clouds. Plus a host of networking opportunities with label representatives, managers, media, and promoters, including the traditional FMC Pho Welcome Dinner on Sunday October 3.
The full conference line-up can be found right here.
To register visit futureofmusic.org.
Posted by Jon at 8:19 AM