INTERVIEW: Kirin J Callinan

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BEHIND THE BRAVADO

Down the line from LA, where he’s between tours with Pond and Mac DeMarco, Kirin J. Callinan gives Chris Familton an insight into the creative process behind his new album Bravado and why it took four years to complete.

Kirin J. Callinan is something of a modern day renaissance man, a polymorphic pop provocateur who revels in stretching creative boundaries and treading a fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous. His debut album Embracism explored industrial tension and bittersweet balladry but Bravado takes a different kind of maximalist approach, combining brash, over-the-top EDM synths with Callinan’s trademark effect-laden guitar playing, answerphones, didgeridoos, whistling and that voice that recalls the orotund tones of Scott Walker, Matt Johnson (The The) and Alan Vega (Suicide). It’s a bold transition, yet it’s not a great departure from his core aesthetic.

“I wanted to make the same record again and explore the same ideas and the weirdness I’d created but push it further. In the past there was this moody, kind of violent, shadowy, industrial murkiness with all these spiritual ballads. I wanted those electronic sounds that were previously industrial and threatening to now be inclusive and fun. The ballads were previously more poetic and self-serious. I wanted the new ones to have a more heightened sentimentality and be more inclusive and accessible, rather than the idea of being elitist or cool. I wanted to do away with all that and make it fun,” he stresses.

“I kind of hated this record and didn’t feel motivated to finish it,” recalls Callinan, when asked why four years have passed since he released his debut solo album. “The truth is that the vast majority of this record was a made in 2014. The songs were written then and they haven’t changed much since mid-2015. I guess what did change was my perspective. I was able to flick a switch and love all the things I hated about it and see it for what it was and understand its beauty and humanity and the truth in its ugliness, bombast and bravado.”

Callinan was encouraged to finish the album when “a bunch of different guests, who made cameos on the record, heard what I had and wanted to be part of it. That definitely fills you with confidence when you have doubt over something.” Some collaborations were with friends while others such as Jimmy Barnes and the Finn family were happy accidents that he pursued. “I emailed Jimmy and told him I was a fan of his music and particularly his scream. I didn’t hear back for months and eventually I landed in LA and in my inbox he’d sent me a bunch of WAV files of him screaming and I worked it into the song which was cool!” enthuses Callinan.

When it comes to how Bravado will be received, Callinan is already looking ahead to the next album. “I already have a completely crystallised view of what I want the next album to be. I’m going to start work on it in Las Vegas where there is absurdity, amorality and the idea that there is no good or bad, just wanton desire. It’s a strange place with a mix of families, tourists, gambling, prostitution, extreme wealth and poverty, the desert and bright neon lights. I’ll be getting to work on that at the first opportunity.”

“No matter what people say about Bravado, it’s original and singular which is more than can be said for a lot of things. I’ve been and excited and validated by the response to it so far. It’s nothing new for me to be divisive. If they like it or hate it, who gives a fuck.”

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LIVE REVIEW: Belles Will Ring

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Belles Will Ring + Le Pie + The Wednesday Night @ Factory Floor, March 17th, 2017

Three shades of psychedelia ruled a wet and windy Sydney night as Belles Will Ring triumphantly returned after a five year absence from the stage.

The Wednesday Night recently released their debut LP and through shifting lineup changes have been refining their live show, becoming more nuanced and hypnotic in their sound. Based around Rob Young and Laura Murdoch, the five-piece know how to dig in and work a garage pop groove as expertly as they can psych-out on girl-group vocals and tranced repetition.

Le Pie took the girl-group aesthetic further with her 50s bubblegum look, bathed in pink from her dress to her Stratocaster guitar. From tentative beginnings their set got better and better and when Le Pie sang without her guitar the songs seemed to gain more focus and a stronger connectivity with the audience. Think gauzy, atmospheric psych-lite pop where Mazzy Star meets Dum Dum Girls.

Belles Will Ring seem like a band built on strong personal and musical connections. From the first song they locked in, exchanged self-knowing and happy smiles, lifting the mood of the Factory Floor into the realm of celebration and inspired uninhibited dancing. Aidan Roberts and Liam Judson sit at the core of the band and over the years they’ve honed a symbiotic musical relationship both as singers and guitarists, whether syncing their Byrdsian harmonies or playing riffs that counter and complement each other, almost as if they’re egging each other on to dig deeper and further afield on their instruments. The band are way more muscular and freewheeling on-stage. The songs revel in what sound like tangents but are cleverly composed and arranged space-rock freak-outs as they urge the songs onwards and upwards. The unabashed enthusiasm and energy of the band has been missed on the Sydney scene and their return shows that pop music can be raw, intelligent and layered while still remaining direct and uplifting. Let’s hope the Belles keep ringing.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Jesca Hoop – Memories Are Now

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Hot on the heels of her collaborative album with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, Jesca Hoop backs it up with a new solo album that dives deeper into her experimental songwriting, drawing on folk, indie and art pop.

The songs here are minimal, skeletal even. Simple percussive elements, at one point just the keys of a typewriter, form the basis for hypnotic melodies and lyrical concerns that often draw on themes of empowerment, seizing one’s destiny and the moment.

It’s Hoop’s sense of musical adventure and experimental lean, yet not at the expense of a strong song, that lends comparison to St Vincent and a more organic Bjork. Endlessly catchy and boldly creative, Memories Are Now is a thrilling escape from the doldrums.

Chris Familton

INTERVIEW: Margaret Glaspy

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BALANCING INSTINCT AND REASON

Margaret Glaspy has had a career-high last 12 months that has seen her go from working long hours to pay New York rent to touring large venues with The Lumineers. She takes Chris Familton through the creation of her debut album and the changes it has brought her.

With so much work going into the writing, recording and producing of Emotions and Math, Glaspy had both high hopes and realistic expectations of how her album would be received by both critics and music fans. “When I was making the record the big success was that it would be finished and I’d get it to where I’d like it. Anything else was going to be the icing on the cake,’ she says humbly. “I take it with a grain of salt in terms of measuring success. I know I’ll probably make some records in my career that others will hate and hopefully they’ll like a few of them too. I can’t take it all too seriously but I’m certainly appreciative.”

Getting to this point, in her late 20s, has meant Glaspy has had plenty of time to develop and refine her songwriting and guitar playing since she first ventured into that world in her late teens.

“That’s evolved quite a bit and changed over time, slowly. I started to write songs when I was 16 or 17 and now I’m 28. I don’t know if that’s a success story or a failure story, but it’s my story,” she laughs. “My love for music has always been very consistent and I think my skill level has changed for sure but when I listen back to snippets of things I recorded back then, I can see what I was going for. I see what I was trying to accomplish. I’m glad I waited a bit longer until I was a more mature artist though.”

The album’s title refers to that conflict or healthy co-existence of emotional and reasoned responses and feelings that we all encounter daily. Glaspy found a way to draw that into her songwriting and it is an omnipresent part of her personality and one she has come to accept.

“It is in everything I do. There’s always some measure of discipline or logic or practice and then there’s the side that just happens. The skills you learn work alongside the natural flow and keep it on track. The reason why the record is called that is that I see it rise in my life a lot. I see both sides of that rage pretty hard all at the same time. I’m very analytical and very emotional and I think they complement each other but sometimes it’s difficult. I’ve always felt I wanted to be either a left or right brain person and label myself as one, but it’s not that simple. Everybody has their own chemistry that makes us special and unique and human.”

Glaspy already has one eye on plans for recording her next album, once this touring cycle concludes in September and it promises to be another stage of her journey as a songwriter. “I’ll never make this record again and I look forward to that and I’m happy about that. My DNA is to evolve and make new things. Our responsibility as artists is to take people someplace and not just leave them in the same place all the time. It’ll be an evolution all the time for me I hope. That’s the goal.”

NEW MUSIC: Father John Misty Announces New LP ‘Pure Comedy’.

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Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) is back with the follow-up to his acclaimed album I Love You, Honeybear. Titled Pure Comedy, the album is due out on April 7th via Sub Pop and Inertia Music and features co-production with Jonathan Wilson, string arrangements by Gavin Bryars and other contributions from Nico Muhly and Thomas Bartlett. The mastering was done by the legendary Bob Ludwig.

Tracklisting:

1. Pure Comedy
2. Total Entertainment Forever
3. Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before The Revolution
4. Ballad of the Dying Man
5. Birdie
6. Leaving LA
7. A Bigger Paper Bag
8. When The God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay
9. Smoochie
10. Two Wildly Different Perspectives
11. The Memo
12. So I’m Growing old on Magic Mountain
13. In Twenty Years or So

Pure Comedy is available for pre-order now, in the following formats:

  • A Deluxe 2xLP version on aluminum & copper vinyl, a die-cut customisable jacket with 4 interactive “Background” sleeves (so you can have whatever sky you damn will feel like as the cover), all encased in a clear clipcase. Includes a fold-out poster and an exclusive holographic tarot card by Ed Steed.
  • A 2xLP gatefold version also available in 4 cover variations on black vinyl
  • A CD gatefold digipak with slipcase available in 4 cover variations
  • As digital album

Cover variations for the standard LP and CD will be randomly distributed. Collect them all!

Pre-orders through select retailers will receive a limited 7” single, featuring physical release of fan favourite ‘Real Love Baby’ on the A-side and the as yet unreleased track, ‘Rejected Generic Pop Song, March ‘15#3’ on the B-side (while supplies last).

Tillman and Grant James (‘Funtimes in Babylon’, ‘I Love You, Honeybear’) also co-directed Pure Comedy: The Film.  Pure Comedy is a gorgeously rendered black & white document of the live tracking, as well as a surreal look into Tillman’s writing process.  A six person crew, complete with cranes in the tracking rooms, captured every moment of the recording, giving the viewer intimate audience to actual album takes, including the one and only 2:00am performance of the 13-minute ‘Leaving LA’.  It also features the only known recording of Tillman’s love ballad to his sound engineer Trevor Spencer.

INTERVIEW: The Bats

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LONG HAUL FLIGHT

Still with their original lineup, The Bats are the longest running band in New Zealand and after more than three decades they’re still finding fascinating new variations on their iconic sound. Frontman and songwriter Robert Scott talks to Chris Familton about how their new record came together and how they’ve maintained their longevity.

Down the line from his home on the coast just outside Dunedin, on the lower South Island of New Zealand, Robert Scott is enjoying the tranquility punctuated by the visiting cruise ships that grow exponentially in number over the summer months. Things are also about to get busy for The Bats after a five year gap since the album Free All Monsters came out, and though it’s taken a while to see the light of day, The Deep Set emerged from the same creative process as most of their records.

“I stockpile songs, I’m pretty much writing all the time,” explains Scott. “After a couple of years have gone by since the last album we’ll decide if we actually want to do another one. Then I say I have a bunch of songs, do some rough demos and the others choose the ones they like before we narrow it down to around 15 for the album. Then we’ll start working on them together as a band. In the studio the songs will be about 90% done but before we do the takes we might make a few changes. On the whole these have come out pretty much the way they were written though,” Scott reflects.

After so long together as a band, Scott reveals that their recording process is a simple and intuitive one that isn’t influenced to any great extent by the studio or producer they use. “It’s more just concentrating on getting a great version of the song. That’s what we’ve found over the years makes our stuff work best – getting a good flowing, natural sounding take – whether that’s urgent or laid-back. We’re attuned into that more than anything else.”

Looking back at the legacy of the band, Scott proudly claims the mantle of having “the longest continuous line-up of any band in NZ,” before revealing some of the key reasons why they’ve stayed together for so long. “Part of that might be down to having long breaks, there were nine years in the late 90s/early 2000s where we didn’t release any music. We pick and choose things we feel comfortable doing so we’re not putting ourselves in a position of too much pressure. We’re obviously very used to each other’s company so we’re aware of any weirdness that comes up and know how to deal with it. We’re all reasonably laid-back people as well so there aren’t any ego issues that you get often get in bands.”

The band will be launching The Deep Set at the 2017 Sydney Festival and they’re bring along the string players that appeared on the album. “It’s the first time we’ve taken a string section overseas. We thought we’d do that for a bit of a change, to spice things up and have a bit of fun,” enthuses Scott. “In Sydney we’ll probably do seven or eight songs from The Deep Set and then because the 30th anniversary of Daddy’s Highway is coming up we’ll be doing a set of mainly songs from that album too. The two ends of our career – which will be quite a different show for us!”

  • MELBOURNE: Sat Jan 28, Northcote Social Club. Tickets on sale now from Northcote Social Club.
  • SYDNEY: Sun Jan 29, Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Sydney Festival. Tickets on sale now from Sydney Festival.