Category Archives: From Home

Sidechained Lovers (From Home)

Sidechained Lovers, the duo (and couple) from New Zealand, help define the Kiwi music scene; a scene that seems embryonic but shows unlimited potential.  Enjoy our sit down with the group, where we talk about their hometown pride and taking the leap across the ocean.

Dingus:  Sidechained Lovers, if I’m not mistaken, is made up of a boyfriend/girlfriend duo.  How does this relationship affect the groups music making? Does it ever hinder the process?

Sidechained Lovers:  This seems to be the question on everyones lips. I mean, there is always a dynamic between people in any creative environment and this plays a role in the creative process. When making tracks, the way we’ve always felt is that the journey, the way the track is composed, is as important as the end result. You open this casm and let the ideas flow out, doing that with someone that close to you is a unique experience.  Already having a comfortability and familiarity lets you skip all the crap too – band politics and communication barriers – which is really refreshing. Theres always two sides to the coin but for every hindrance, there seems to be two positives.

As a duo, how do you compose a song?

The way we work is just passing ideas around.  I’ll have a guitar riff, or Lauren will have a vocal hook and we’ll go from there. Most of our concepts come from being composed on guitar or keys with vocal.

When you play live, do you use a looping system or preset backing tracks?

We try to keep it as live as possible.  The fact we can not escape is that we are at home in the studio and it impossible to play live all the elements of our songs with two people.  We use a Laptop + APC combination with various other instruments layered, including digital guitar, keys, electric guitar, bass and of course vocals.  We are about to move to New Zealands biggest city and thought’s of throwing a drummer in to the mix for our live show has been talked about. We also throw in the odd DJ set which is always a bit of fun, playing anything from future soul to folk to hip hop to dubstep.

What is the New Zealand music scene like?

NZ is a hard place to be a musician/artist, I think anyone here will agree. A lot of the industry here is dominated by offshore commercialism which makes it harder for more underground music to come forward. I mean to a certain degree it’s like that everywhere in the world but with NZ being so small we don’t have the population to form those underground niches that can sustain themselves. I see so many amazing musicians losing money and it’s sad to think if they were anywhere else in the world they would be massive. Saying that however the local commercial scene is full of awesome music by the style of what we’ve labeled our homegrown version of ‘dub.’ Soul mixed with funk mixed with reggae mixed with electronica which rounds off into a nice sound (Check out Fat Freddy’s Drop or Electric Wire Hustle for some good examples).

Here in NY we’re very lucky to have a dedicated sub-culture who appreciates and supports local and traveling acts that come to play our showcases, have you ever thought of traveling?

Yeah I’ve heard good things coming from NY. Travelling has always been on the cards for us, we actually intend on heading your way in 2013 One of us is going to study at Berkeley and the other is still pending, it will be interesting to check out the scene. We’ve always been interested in the L.A, Moscow and U.K scenes as well.

I firmly believe that the art world will bring us into the global community. How do you feel about seeing your music cross the ocean?

It’s always humbling to see the music you make enter the scenes that inspire you, hopefully inpiring more people to leave their bedrooms. I think a lot of bedroom producers are waiting for that day some major label stumbles over their myspace or something and goes, man that shit is dope, but in reality that’s never going to happen, you have to get out there.

 

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Oliver Ignatius (From Home)

A conversation with Ghost Pal frontman, Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen owner and DIY music hero, Oliver Ignatius:

Dingus:  For the folks at home, who is Oliver Ignatius?

Ignatius: I may have to turn to the author Joseph Heller here who documents the following exchange in his “Catch 22,” my favorite book:

As far back as Yossarian could recall, he explained to Clevinger with a patient smile, somebody was always hatching a plot to kill him. There were people who cared for him and people who didn’t, and those who didn’t hated him and were out to get him. They hated him because he was Assyrian. But they couldn’t touch him, he told Clevinger, because he had a sound mind in a pure body and was as strong as an ox. They couldn’t touch him because he was Tarzan, Mandrake, Flash Gordon. He was Bill Shakespeare. He was Cain, Ulysses, the Flying Dutchman; he was Lot in Sodom, Deirdre of the Sorrows, Sweeney in the nightingales among trees. He was miracle ingredient Z-247. He was —

“Crazy!” Clevinger interrupted, shrieking. “That’s what you are! Crazy!”

“–immense. I’m a real, slam-bang, honest-to-goodness, three-fisted humdinger. I’m a bona fide supraman.”

“Superman?” Clevinger cried. “Superman?”

“Supraman,” Yossarian corrected.

This excerpt makes me think two words: delusional yet introspective.  How did you come to be a musician? What was your calling?  

My coming into music was also primarily delusional and yet, introspective. The first group that pulled me into music hard was the Beatles; I was about 3 years old at exposure and the feelings of peace and relief that music brings has never changed for me. I grew up overseas, so at that time I was living in Moscow, and I remember a really early cathartic experience with a Russian choral version of “Silent Night” that just had me sobbing; Michael Jackson was the other lynchpin for me as a little kid, all his eras but at that time particularly the “Dangerous” album. There’s still some great singing and such obtuse interesting pop music on that record. It was always pretty direct, I wasn’t satisfied with loving music so much, I wanted to embody it and be inside the people singing, feel their feelings and have their minds. So every year growing up I’d ask my parents for recording equipment, which they obviously weren’t going to give me, although I did start learning instruments when I was six. We were living in Hong Kong then. There was a lot of isolation in the way I grew up, we moved every few years from country to country so I think music always provided a solace and a kind of steadying home base for me to touch back to, and I was a very emotionally disturbed child and was in a lot of pain growing up, so music filled the void and took over the role of guru for me at that age. For as long as I can remember now, I haven’t been able to live without it.

What are some of the major themes Ghost Pal’s songs touch on and how do they relate to you as an artist?

Ghost Pal songs have been continually embracing and exploring the paranormal and esoteric side of the spiritual experience as filtered through life on this planet as we know it. I had this feeling for years that there were ghosts haunting my house and that the quality of my recordings or songwriting were entirely dependent on how much juju the ghost companions were willing to provide. Calling the band Ghost Pal and opening up the roster, as we have, was our way of letting the spirits in to haunt us totally in hopes we could merge with them and manifest their music. Of course death is a theme that haunts humans constantly, probably the central theme of human life is the knowledge of death; it’s what differentiates us from the other animals. And exploring existence beyond the veil of death, as a negative image of our walking human reality, is a way to explore my own human feelings of loneliness and isolation. We’re currently working on an EP, our first full length statement, which is a concept-record song-suite called “Nathan Jones is Dead.” It’s about a young man who can’t cope with the pain of existence on this plane, and actually decides to end his own life a couple songs in. It sounds dismal, but there’s actually a lot of black humor, we’re creating a pretty entertaining little musical. Once he tops himself, he’s thrown into a state of total confusion and spends a couple hundred years wandering around, not knowing he is dead but wondering why he is continually haunted by ghosts and where his friends have gone. When he realizes that he is a ghost himself, he totally flips out and tries to retrace his footsteps as a human by falling in love with a young, living girl; of course this doesn’t work out and her father ends up having her committed to a mental institution. The story does end on a vaguely positive note, Nathan Jones the ghost is now bumming aimlessly around Hades, totally depressed and fed up with the whole thing, then he hears in the distance some strange sounds which draw him closer, at length he discovers a secret faded juke joint housed in a great hall, some old dusty church down there, where the skeletons get together each night to dance to their skeleton music and clack their bones together madly in the Skeleton Dance. And Nathan Jones ends up reasonably happy, having discovered this relief. Not overjoyed mind you, but it seems he’ll be alright after all. The story’s a metaphor.

That entire story in 4 songs.  How do your singles compare to a project like this?

The EP’s gonna tell the story over six songs, but yeah, same difference. It’s very different from making the singles. The process of recording the singles very much extends out of my own neurotic practices; I have a lot of anxiety about capturing ‘definitive’ versions of things, because ideas are always evolving and one day’s performance always is or should be so different from the next. So when do you call something complete? The singles have been a Ghost Pal-waged battle against these notions of completion, simply because we crank ’em out so quickly with practically no looking back or second guessing. It’s always an exercise in immediacy and a lot of the time the Ghost Pal guys leave the sessions kinda wigged out and frustrated because the parts get knocked out so quickly. It always turns out great, and I like the sort of jumpy creativity that is inspired by a process like that, but working on the EP is a totally different process. Deciding we were going to string the songs together in this story kind of took away all my concerns about how to represent the songs, because it became more about how best to represent the story, definitive versions of songs be damned. And as a result we’re doing it much differently; for one thing, all the tunes on the EP are built on live tracks that feature the whole band, rather than built layer by layer from acoustic instruments like the singles have generally been. For another thing, we’re going to spend months literally slaving over this thing until it’s perfect.

It’s a little weird to not be getting a new Ghost Pal single every month.  What kind of sound can we expect from the EP?

We’re gonna get back on our grind with the singles very soon, the recent flood and theft we experienced kinda caused us to take a little step back and use this period of time to meditate on our craft and presentation and on what we want to do. We also have been working like motherfuckers on our live show. We have a few singles gestating at the moment, including a very psychedelic drone-spiritual cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” which is gonna feature a lot of vocals from our drummer Carson. I miss the singles too, but we’ll be resuming soon. The EP sound is going to be very different though, very full, with a live energy that we haven’t had on anything yet but also with a precision and care for detail that we also have never evinced before. Ultra-rhythmic, very psychedelic, but danceable also in a way that we’ve never been. Better than ever, honestly.

I’d like to shift gears for a second.  Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen is a diy recording studio in Brooklyn that you own and operate.  You have a solid line up of artists, an amazing knack for A&R and a unique recording quality that ties your curated group together like a family.  As you see it, what is your roll or your responsibility to the diy music community?

I guess rather than try to define and understand my own role in the community as a whole, which could lead to all manner of delusions and neuroses, I think of it on the smaller scale. It’s about helping musicians directly on a spiritual, personal level, to realize the music that they want to create. Sometimes I’ll have more of my creative input in there than other times. But it’s really just about making great music, and making it affordable too. In that sense it ends up being something I’m giving back to a larger community, just person by person. I also like to offer Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen as not just a setting for production, but really as an invitation or an open forum to figure out what we’re all doing here in post-modern music, to experiment and really play around.

Is there any criteria for a bands admittance?  The bands that you produce feel like a family, like the belong there.

There’s no criteria, I’ll work with anybody who wants to put it all in and try to make something great. Unfortunately life being the way it is, I do usually have to charge people, so I guess that’s my only limitation. But, I keep my rates as low as possible, and do flat fees for projects instead of hourly rates – those I feel are very clinical, and detrimental to creativity and the artistic process. More than anything I want Mama Coco’s to not follow the pattern that is so often associated with studios, when you go in and struggle to capture your live energy or little unique spark or whatever. Although the process is very tight, we conduct it as informally as possible to try to catch the artist off guard; that’s when the best stuff happens and the best ideas come through. That’s going off topic, sorry. If the bands feel like a family, it’s because everyone’s head is in the same space and everyone is excited about doing this engaged workshopping process in the music; I think there’s a lot of cross pollination of genre, and increasingly so, and what a lot of bands have in common is this joy in the act of creating.

Have you ever considered becoming a netlabel?

Eventually we’re going to launch some kind of music-releasing wing. Not quite yet though. The situation in the music industry is changing, has been changing for years in that it totally collapsed about a decade ago. It was a big swell-up from the 50’s on with Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, and before long we were at the point where stadium tours were de rigueur, it was just a hugely bloated industry. Then the bubble burst and I think things will go back to as they were in the early 50s, when there was more emphasis on smaller studios that were also labels, and more emphasis on the regional charts than national. I could see things getting back to a similar place, and then the whole cycle all over again.

Do you think that the public is capable of returning to that music model?  After years of being led by artistic monopolies like MTV, people have grown accustom to following the trends.  Will they really be open minded enough to even know this cultural shift exists?

No, honestly, I think there’s no telling or predicting what’s going to happen at all. What I posited is just one possibility. What we can’t ignore or deny is that music has always meant something to people, has always moved people deeply as some kind of evolutionary function, and that goes beyond trends and hype and the machine. When everything else gets washed away there will still be that. Anything else is anyone’s guess.

Anna Bradley (From Home)

Speaking with New York based rock band, Anna Bradley, on their growth as an organism and their experiences recording in the DIY scene:

Dingus:  Anna Bradley has a history, let’s hear it.

Anna Bradley:  Well, Anna Bradley started when my old band, Telecosmic, basically imploded, mostly because of musical differences.  I had wanted to write and sing more hooks, more melodies and that band was just not doing it for me. So I took the catchiest demos I had made on Garageband, added some megaphone distortion to the vocals, and henceforth came Anna Bradley’s debut EP, are you a young rebel?.  Ever since then, there’s been kind of a non-stop release schedule of new records, even after I left New York and only played with the band during breaks from college. We drifted into our next release, nervous, in May, with a number of different friends helping to record, playing parts, and mastering the EP which was eventually released in November. Right before I left to college, we finally got a steady rhythm section, consisting of bassist Damon Korf and drummer Dan Kolpin, and in August  we recorded and released the ‘Anna Bradley‘ single onto New Jersey-based net-label Tamur Records.  In December of 2009 we recorded our first full-length record, Pavo, with Ramur founder Connor Meara, engineering.  After a long period of mixing and mastering, it was finally released in September of 2010, with a limited physical release from Nana’s Records.  While Pavo was being mixed, our bassist Damon quit, so we replaced him with Telecosmic’s bassist, Evan-Daniel Rose-González. In November 2010, we added a second guitarist, Daniel Fisher, into the band, and self-recorded the A-side to our June 2011 single ‘Perfume‘. Then, in July, we recorded our newest EP, Your Seamless Sons, with Oliver Ignatius of Ghost Pal, which was released a couple of months ago, in the beginning of September.

It’s been an eclectic past for the band, do you think that Anna Bradley is here to stay now?

We were wondering that a little ourselves, actually.  We have had a steady line-up for what is now the longest period of the band, so we debated over whether to not continue if we couldn’t do that with all our members (which may be possible soon, especially since all of the others are going to college now/one may move away from the NYC area), but I think we all decided that Anna Bradley was just a project it felt right to be attached to, so we decided to just keep going and recorded the EP.  We actually also worked on some new songs right before I came back to California!  So it’s very much still happening.

Do any of the Anna Bradley members have side projects similar to Hooves?

Well, none of the members’ side projects are really fully fledged yet, except perhaps my California project, Injun Magic.  We’re kind of like a more psychedelic Anna Bradley, with more freaky/folky influences. Our very close friend Ken (guitarist for Hooves) was in this band Oh, Oh, Ecstasy for the summer (not anymore), and they do a really cool surf-y, Real Estate-like pop thing which I dig, a lot.

You recorded your latest work at Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, how was that experience?

Mama Coco’s was easily the best Anna Bradley recording experience thus far.  It was the most relaxed, fun, and band-like one we’ve done.  Oliver is one of the best engineers I’ve ever worked with, providing stellar advice, adding some great textural percussion and generally giving us the fullest, most live sounds that we’ve managed to capture thus far.  And he just keeps getting better.  He learns from his mistakes, takes time to discover how to approach each song individually with love and respect, and makes amazing choices in terms of instrumental and recording equipment.  He’s also just a really easygoing guy, somebody who makes you feel comfortable and willing to express yourself.

Clement Roussel (From Home)

Parisian producer Clement Roussel talks to Dingus about his past, present and future:

Dingus: How did you get your start?

Roussel:  I began music when I was a child. Due to my father who was a pro musician, I grew up influenced by classical and jazz. I was in traditional music for a long time, then I discover, quite late, electronic music, a kind who deeply influenced me, that’s why I began to produce two years ago.

When you began to produce, what was your product like?

Honestly, the first tracks were kind of bad; a mix between robotic and trash sounds… I was only a kid that didn’t know what he was doing, moreover I was hanging out everytime and the club didn’t help with all the electrotrash tracks back in 2007/2008.

How did you break away from those early influences to do your own thing?

At the beginning, I experienced the music I created and over time, by learning the techniques of composition, I managed to get what I really wanted. Now I am able to reproduce exactly what’s in my head.  There is also the fact that I have matured musically, which is normal, we all started doing some shit and then start producing stuff that’s listenable.

How do you feel about the internet-based music industry?

It’s really good because through it, internet labels are no longer as important as before, now we can release a song without having to change it because it does not fit exactly the needs of a label. One can really get what you want, and it can really let their creativity run free.  It also allows unsigned guys make themselves known. But that does not mean that labels are bad. 

What should we expect in the future?  Are you working on any projects lengthier than just a single?

For now, I’ll make more songs as possible on my solo project and my group project, Steiner.  Then I would see how it goes for me; if I try to make some official release or if I do not feel ready yet.

Recently you featured vocalists, can we expect more of that? 

Absolutely, I love to work with vocalist. I have been working on two tracks and decided to do my first EP.  I can already say that Stella Le Page will sing on one of the tracks.

Will you’re EP have a theme beyond your aesthetic? 

This ep, I think, will define me well, because it advances two facets of my way of composing. The first piece, I always worked it in the middle of the night because it evokes me this moment when you do not any more try to make something very precise musically, the moment when you make some music unguardedly, by being honest with yourself and without trying to please the others. And the second advances the enthusiasm which I have to work with the other artists, this piece I do not have it make for me but for Stella contrary for the first piece which is very personal. It was important for me that this ep contains this contradiction in my way of composing.

Flowers for Reagan (From Home)

There isn’t anyone in the diy underground who is falling apart quite like Adam Pruss (yes, we know his name now).  Flowers for Reagan blesses us with a new track and a press statement worthy of publishing.  A complete reinvention or a bi-polar swing caused by a self medication shift?  Either way, it’s a rant:

Pruss:  Hi, my name is Adam Pruss and I’ve been making music rather consistently and prolifically as Flowers for Reagan since 2007. My output up to October 2010 consists of a disorganized mass of fractured electronic pop songs; in that October, I made an album about my father’s life, called The Comedian, and released it on my then-new bandcamp. With that album, my fractured sound start to take more cohesive shape; four EPs, one LP, three singles and a three EP side project later, I think I’ve finally hit upon something I can be proud enough of to share with more than just my friends. (My friends who got a $50 EP, by the way.)This something is actually two things: a compilation of ten of the last year’s best cuts, called The Implosion of FFR, released on 10/11/11, and my new LP, Falling Apart, which is coming soon. The following is the actual story of the implosion of Flowers for Reagan, leading up to Falling Apart.To most people, all of my pop songs (and every song I’ve made is a pop song) are, at their most coherent, barely recognizable as pop, or, earlier on, as songs. I learned this when I had my “big blog break” (read as: two different blogs taking notice at once) over a cover of “State Trooper” by Bruce Springsteen that sounded nothing really like me. The one blog that had posted previously about me called it a welcome shift into a sort-of pop direction. My realization of the contrast between how I perceive my music and the way others do shut me down creatively in a rather hard manner. Coupled with this, my girlfriend of quite a few years ended the relationship in a way I can only call “really shitty”. Mix in the fact that I have and am being treated for bipolar disorder, and you have the recipe for a stupendous depression that stretched on for five months.

About four months in, after three straight weeks in bed, my drug dealer from college texts me to say he is out of jail and back in business. My chemical balance and rocky past with substances put aside by the sheer fuck-offery of my depression, I decide to kind of go for broke and spend a weekend on PCP. It’s during this weekend I write “Turns Gold Then Is Gone”, a pretty embarrassing track from the pretty embarrassingly titled (and covered) EP Sucks. Sucks, initially released in my post-drug depression-fueled mode as a shining fuck you to everybody complete with a pretty gross/messed up cover, proved to be sort of turning point for me artistically and laid the foundation for my new LP. Unfortunately, that was released about a month before the depression actually ended, and I now had a taste for PCP.

In that subsequent month, I was pretty free of my creative block, but the depression waged on, and I had no intentions to stop writing songs while smoking as much weed and dust as possible. Within this haze – which, luckily, I’ve mostly forgotten, because it sucked – I had no misconceptions of pop music, nor art really – just an obsession with sound. (The second month of the depression was my last month of audio engineering school. I didn’t make it to class.) From these sound experiments come two classes of song: huge pieces of sound art and perverted (read as: fucked) pop tunes. Due to my detest for any kind of possible audience, the latter are ditched and some of the former become the 4real EP and the subsequent ‘Dream Two’ single. 4real marks the first release by me that the blog that has covered me consistently for a year studiously ignores. (‘Dream Two’, on the other hand, gets a pretty scathing write up from them.) It also marks probably my lowest point, not really musically, but moreso in the sense that while making it I had a PCP meltdown and lost my hearing for two days. While that hearing-loss episode would be the end of PCP for me, it would still be two weeks before I break free from the depression with one act of courage, valor and strength.

That being, of course, cleaning my room.

(Mind you, I spent five months locked in there, only leaving for the common space to get water and use the bathroom or for the store to get a few packs of cigarettes, a jar of peanut butter and a jug of orange juice, my weekly diet. Nothing would surprise you about the state of it, if you imagine a latter-day Howard Hughes as a mid-20s jobless bachelor. Replete with stored urine. Which I was saving for later, thank you.)

It occurred about as randomly as it was anti-climactic. I just woke up one morning, took a look around me, became suddenly sickened and started picking things up. That snowballed into eleven hours until my room was cleaner than when I moved in. The sudden break in inertia got me examining myself and my lifestyle, and soon the darkness wasn’t so dark. I began to rejoin society, little by little.

The strangest part of this new awakening is that absolutely nothing I’ve made in the last year makes sense to me in the context of what I originally envisioned each work to be. The transitions from album to album are erratic; conceptually, my discography is a mess. It’s not hard for me to figure out why now: I was in a mixed musical bipolar state, torn between art and pop, so I tried to make both, and probably failed more than I succeeded. But if it’s pop or sound art or art pop or pop art, if it’s lacking clear emotion and sincerity then it’s a failure. While I was in no deficit of strong emotions, they came in like transmissions on a shortwave radio, and the radio in this case was broken. Not anymore, though. After experimenting with sound for four years, I’m now experimenting with earnestness, and it has spawned a new LP, Falling Apart.

Born from the rejected post-”Sucks” sessions and a whole bunch of new ones, Falling Apart can be called the first “mature” FFR album. It tells the story I just told you, but isn’t actually a concept album built around it. It’s just a collection of some decent tunes I wrote to sort out the demons a bit. This track is the first one I made for the album, and it stands as a good start and a suitable thesis statement, although it’s questionable whether or not it’ll make the final cut. I have about thirteen others written and recorded, but I’m still working out the kinks in the mixes and the masters. I’m planning a release on November 1st, and will be somewhat publicizing it around that time.To find closure to my age of spiritual anhedonia, I’ve released a compilation, titled The Implosion of FFR. It sort of puts to rest my work of the last year, and arguably forms a more complete statement than any individual release that it’s tracks were culled from. If Falling Apart is an album about my decline, Implosion is the literal soundtrack to it. It avoids singles, going instead for deep cuts and deleted tracks, forming a fractured narrative of the year leading up to Falling Apart. It’s also an excellent sampler of its music, for the uninitiated. It is available for free download here.Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoy my music.
Yours truly,
Adam Pruss
Flowers for Reagan

Itchy Hearts (From Home)

Frontman, Andy Cobb of Itchy Hearts, talks about touring and the fickle matter of holding a band together:

Dingus: What inspired the formation of the Itchy Hearts?  What is the core of the band?

Cobb: I remember when Hurricane Gaston came through Virginia I was in 10th grade, I think. I think it was 2004. My neighbor was throwing out all of her vinyl because her basement had flooded and the cases were practically destroyed. I took probably 300 records from her basement home, cleaned them off, and hung them up to dry in my garage. Seeing the hundreds of records hanging around my garage was one of the most exciting things I’d ever seen. Up until then, I was listening to Blink 182 and The Bouncing Souls and Avail and stuff like that. Then, all in a day, I had every Paul Simon and Bob Dylan album, The Four Tops, The Carter Family, Leo Kottke, Sam Cooke, Queen, and a bunch of weird African rock ‘n’ roll compilations, and a whole lot more. Then I listened to all of them, and I started writing songs. That’s when I decided I wanted to start a band. Then 3 years later I met 3 other people that wanted to be in a band, and that’s when Itchy Hearts started.

Since I started the Itchy Hearts, it’s had 4 lineup changes. Recently, we got a new lineup, and it seems like they might stick around. It was hard dealing with the lineup and the sound changing so frequently. So, I guess I’d say the core of the band is hard work and perseverance. I think all creative people have intense ups and downs during their artistic goals, but you learn that the only way things are going to work out is if you work hard and make the best music you can. Or you could just get lucky.

What is an Itchy Hearts tour like?  How do you travel?  What do you look for when booking gigs across the country?

Itchy Hearts tours are always extremely different, due to the fact that the lineup has been different on every tour. The first was like losing your virginity, ya know, very euphoric and romantic. Very eye opening. So, I guess not really like losing your virginity at all. We were all very excited just to be on such a big adventure across the country. It’s really fun when you do all the booking yourself because then you get to meet all the bands and bookers that you had been in contact with so long. The second one was with the second lineup and it was much longer, much louder and much drunker. People were expecting to hear the folk band that they heard on the first tour, so when we showed up with a drum kit and electric guitars, people were surprised. They were expecting a “folk” band, which is funny because the second Itchy Hearts found a drummer; we turned electric.  In fact, we never set out to be a folk band.  So the next tour was this one we just finished and was completely different. We had a very musical band, who all interpreted the songs completely differently than we ever had before. We traveled in a piece of shit ’91 Chevy Conversion van. It broke down right after the tour.

As for what we look for when booking gigs across the country, that’s a really hard question. It’s hard to judge if a venue or a house is going to be a good spot from looking at its info on the internet, or word of mouth. I just kinda use my best judgment and hope for the best. This last tour, we got banned from a venue called Flickr in Athens for being too loud. We’ve played frat parties, burlesque shows, puppet shows. You just never know what kinda shit you’re getting into until you pull up to the show.

It surprises me to hear you never set out to be a folk group, what did you intend?

We didn’t really set out to be much of anything. We just did what we could, to archive some songs I guess. I grew up listening to the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson and all that, and I found out how great music made me feel. Then I grew up and got into Blink 182 and all the 70’s punk and stuff, and I learned out fun music could be. Then I heard Townes Van Zandt and Richard Thompson and Bob Dylan and everything changed, ya know I found how music could really be something powerful. I mean, I started writing songs during the pop/punk period, but I think I finally started to get it together better later on. I wrote songs and we just tried to pull them off. I didn’t really have intentions. I think I kinda settled on this one kind of strum and song pattern for a while, so I just wrote like that. Plus, the first record, we just didn’t know any drummers. Songs like “S.S.” and “What” would have sounded great with drums. Actually, the first time we played “S.S.”, we played with drums, about two times slower. Then, for the next album, the only song we could record with a drummer was “Mary and Buddy”, then the third one was full of drums. We just have to use what we have around, with the people we can get together. I wish we had a big Phil Spector budget so we could get a bigger sound, but it just ain’t in the cards right now. Our next release, probably gonna come out in late fall, will not be very reminiscent of our original folk sound, even though it’ll have some of the original songs on it. Or maybe it will, I dunno.

Do you ever see the Hearts settling down into a solid line-up?

Hopefully! I never wanted the line up to consistently change, it just kind of happens. I’ve gone through four lineups in the last two years. It’s kinda funny because we lost our pianist about 2 weeks ago, ya never know whats going to happen. It gets really hard, changing band mates so frequently, having the sound change for each tour, always having different travel companions. I’m kind of getting to the point where I’ve accepted it, and kind of view it as a blessing in disguise. But I do think that the current lineup is going to stick around. We’re really working out our own personal sound, everyone is really motivated, and it’s more fun than it’s ever been. I think I’ve found some guys are just as excited about traveling and writing and performing as I am, and to me, that’s the most important part.

DiggUp Tapes (From Home)

The dawn of the netlabel is nothing new, but it needs legitimization.  Nathan Price, co-founder of DiggUp Tapes, talks with us about competition and artistic integrity:

Dingus:  DiggUp Tapes is a DIY record label.  Running completely on passion, what are some of the biggest challenges you face in A&R and distribution?

Price:  Distribution is the biggest because it is basically just through online orders and whatever record stores are in driving distance.  For A&R we are lucky to live in the Triangle and there are enough great bands and DIY bedroom artists that we really don’t have to look to find bands.  The main reason we started DiggUp was to put out all this music that was getting made around here and only being heard by 10 people before they went out for the night.  As hard as distribution and promotion is, Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill is a really small place but because so much good music comes out of the area it makes that part easy.

I think the main downfall of DIY projects is that people refuse to turn away untalented friends, thus degrading the integrity of the entire operation.  How do you prevent this?  How do you keep artistic integrity while keeping things so personal?

Whenever someone asks us about putting out a tape and we may not be into their band I just try to tell them that they should do what we are doing and put it out themselves.  I am more than happy to show them where we get the tapes, how we do the packaging and let them use our duplicator but sometimes it is just not a good fit.  I think it makes the other bands that we do put  out feel better when that happens too, like we are not just doing it because we may be friends or because we can’t say no but because we really like and believe in their music.

How can you possibly hope to compete with the mass media market?  Is it even about that?  If it’s not, then would you agree that these sorts of projects offer a more artistically inspired final composition because they ignore market demand?

It is definitely not about that.  It is about growing a community and having something that you are excited to show friends and can be proud of.  I don’t think I know anyone that can compete with mass media and if they do it happens from working at it and building support, or maybe they have rich parents and pay for promotion, booking agents and managers out of pocket which is just ridiculous to me.

Where do you see Digg Up heading in the future?  What are your most grandiose dreams?

I think the dream for musicians 20 years ago was to get a record deal and to become famous.  I talk to people in bands now and they just want to make enough to not have to bar-tend or work at a restaurant or coffee shop or whatever.  For DiggUp we would love to be able to press more vinyl and have more money for packaging.  We really want to try vinyl but it just seems so expensive to press.   I think we will be trying out a Kickstarter for the Nieces and Nephews record in the next month or two which will hopefully raise enough so we can put it out.