The XX are a three-member band from London, England. Their self-titled debut album was one of the most acclaimed releases of 2009. This year, the band has been chose to play some of the most important music festivals in the world: All Tomorrow's Parties, Bonnaroo, Coachella, Sasquatch and Lollapalooza. The group's two singers, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim have been friends since nursery school. Jamie Smith, who programs drums and keyboard sounds joined the group in high school. Their music is modest, intimate and modern; often compared to acts as divergent as Aaliyah and the Cure.
I watched an American Masters special on Sam Cooke last night on PBS, and now I'm feeling Sam Cooke crazy. No one has ever sang like Cooke. I think he might be my favorite male singer of all time. There's something about the effortless grace of his singing that touches me even in the simplest songs (and many of his songs were very simple). It has the lightness of great pop music, but it also has the depth of great soul music. Very few can combine those two qualities - Al Green and Michael Jackson come to mind - and Sam can out-sing almost any of them.
As you can see from Cooke's conversation with Dick Clark above, he was also a businessman. He ran his own recording and publishing operations, and nurtured other talent as well.
If you're interested in learning more about Cooke, check out this hour-long show we did on him some years ago with Peter Guralnick. Guralnick's book about Cooke, "Dream Boogie," is wonderful as well.
If you want to dip your toes into his musical catalog, I love Live at the Harlem Square Club, a live album that showcases his more gospel-y performance style.
Merry Christmas America!
An Awesome Christmas Jew
Live performances from our East Coast trip. Includes a conversation and music from Andrew W.K., Nellie McKay & the Aristocrats and The Spinto Band.
John Roderick is the lead vocalist and main songwriter for Seattle-based band The Long Winters. Roderick’s lyrics are razor sharp, highly sing-alongable, and often detail the sweetness and the struggle of relationships. In short, the man can write a mean pop song. The Long Winters is recording the follow-up to 2006's Putting The Days To Bed, due out in late spring 2010. I spoke to Roderick about the new record and the band's new, loose approach to the singing-songwriting exercise. As for the new sound, it's familiar, but not too familiar. But not too not familiar.
Chris Bowman: One thing that comes up again and again when speaking to creative types is procrastination. It’s ever present when trying to get things done. You allude to it in 13 Songs, the series documenting the creative process behind The Long Winters new record. What does procrastination mean to you?
John Roderick: I often get down on myself for procrastinating, chiding myself for laziness, calling myself a do-nothing, but then I'll have an intense burst of creativity seemingly out of nowhere. Procrastinating is very hard to distinguish from ruminating. I'd like to just call them synonymous and be done with it, but unfortunately the world works on deadlines and people want their favorite artists to make new stuff NOW!
I'm slow, I think about stuff a long time before I lift a finger, and I rewrite stuff that other people might consider finished. It looks like I'm avoiding work, and I joke about it, but I'm working.
To find out more about the new Long Winters record click Read More
Ernest Greene a.k.a. Washed Out is a 26-year-old musician from Perry, Georgia. Greene has been making music for the last few years, but in recent months people have really begun to take notice of the magic he creates within the confines of his bedroom. His music sounds like a hazy, sun-soaked, 80’s synth-pop dream. The Life Of Leisure e.p. is available now digitally and through Mexican Summer in early October. If you’re looking to stretch out the remaining warm days, grab Life Of Leisure. Greene, as friendly a guy you could ask for, talks about perseverance, confidence, and the moment his parents finally acknowledged that he might be on to something after all.
Chris Bowman: Early in your music-making career (it’s still early!) you experimented with hip hop instrumentals and lo-fi rock. Then you wrote some songs for an “aggressive” type of dance project called Bedroom. That experience changed the direction of your own music. Aside from lo-fi, Washed Out doesn’t sound like any of those genres. How did you land in the 80’s synth-pop field?
Ernest Greene: That’s a good question. I really can’t think of a great answer I guess. Let’s see, a couple of years ago I was really into Caribou. Are you familiar with his stuff?
To read more with Washed Out click Read More
Shafiq Husayn is 1/3 of the Sa-Ra Creative Partners. Earlier this year Sa-Ra released Nuclear Evolution: The Age Of Love to much critical acclaim. Over the years Husayn has worked with Afrika Bambatta, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Jurassic 5 and many more. He was also a member of Ice T’s Rhyme Syndicate. On October 6th Plug Research will release Husayn’s Shafiq En’A-Free-ka. There are more than 30 contributors on the record including Bilal, Count Bass D, Fatima, and Sonny Coates. The end result is the work of an artist at the top of his game. Husayn speaks about democratic creativity, balance, and being the best person you can be.
Chris Bowman: It’s not often I use the term bangin’ but Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka is exactly that! The U.N. Plan? Bangin’! Aside from the traditional African rhythms and other international influences, your music has a fairly heavy electronic influence to it. Who or what inspired you along the way to incorporate the electronic aspect?
Shafiq Husayn: Um. Basically just being a fan of music, a student of music. I’m gonna have to first go to a lot of those electronic records like the Dick Hyman/Moog series, Raymond Scott, Bob Moog. As far as actually incorporating it on wax, I would have to say Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Kraftwerk, and Afrika Bambaataa.
For more from Shafiq Husayn click on Read More
Julie Fader is a Toronto based singer/songwriter and artist. She’s also a touring member of the Chad Van Gaalen band, Great Lake Swimmers, and the Sarah Harmer band, among others. But on 09/08/09 Hand Drawn Dracula will release Outside In, Fader’s first solo effort. It’s a sonically gorgeous, multi-layered record full of warms textures and heartfelt sentiment. Fader spoke to me about the influence of environment, the importance of trust, and learning to let go.
Chris Bowman: Outside In is your first solo record, but you are not new to this. How did you get your start?
Julie Fader: Seventh grade. When I moved back to Hamilton, Ontario. I had to make a decision between vocal and instrumental and the thought of singing was horrific. So I chose flute. My parents made me take private lessons because my dad was super excited that I was going to try and learn an instrument. They had never forced me to take lessons. My brother and sister had to go for violin lessons and piano lessons and they didn’t take to either. So (my parents) decided with the youngest child that they wouldn’t make me do that. But having to take lessons was fun. Years later, being such a music fan, I was drawn to people that played music. I would hang out and listen to them jam. So when a bunch of people were playing, I brought my flute and a couple of songbooks because the idea of playing by ear seemed far fetched. So we learned some Neil Young songs and that’s how I got my start.
BAGHEERA is a young band from Liverpool, England. With only the self produced, released, and shared Hollow Home e.p. under its belt, (and under 7000 hits on their Myspace page) it’s safe to say they’re new to the game. But it’s not too hard to see that this band is going places. The as-yet-unsigned trio consists of Tom Cowcher, Sam Twidale and Jacob Silkin. All of whom are students of music at the University of Liverpool, and by the sounds of things they have been paying attention. Tom and Sam took some time away from rehearsals to talk about who they are, perfectionism, and how a young band can sound so accomplished so early in a career. Also included is the link to the Hollow Home e.p. We don’t condone stealing, so understand that the band intended to give this away for free. And enjoy!
Chris Bowman: So first off, this is BAGHEERA from Liverpool, not Missouri.
Tom Cowcher: Yeah, that’s right. I think there’s a Dutch symphonic rock band as well, with the same name. We’re not them.
CB: So there’s three Bagheera’s then?
Sam Twidale: Yeah, maybe.
TC: Maybe more!
For more from BAGHEERA click on Read More