Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Plans?

With New Year's Eve Weekend fast upon us, I'm sure many of you already have plans to celebrate living through the apocalypse, and ring in 2013.

If not, I came across a couple events worth checking out. First is Wookie Foot's Party at the Cabooze, but if you're willing to suit-up, you can sip champagne at the Dakota, and if you want some good old fashioned Pub singing and corsets, I'm doing some self-promotion for MY first local gig with the Bitter Mash Border Morris at Merlin's Rest.

As it may have become apparent, I've been to a Wookie Foot show or two. I became involved last fall selling merch, and have been floating around since then. The people involved are really cool, and the band itself contributes to various charities striving to, "Be the Change." Some organizations include, the Minneapolis based, American Refugee Committee, Vanviang organic farm in Laos, Global Water International and more. With these great causes and unifying message Wookie Foot always draws a fascinating crowd.

The Next one is Davina and the Vagabonds at the Dakota Jazz Club downtown. I've heard so much about Davina and the Vagabonds, but I've never seen them!
And I think the show's sold out. Sorry about that.

Finally, the party of MY attendance, Merlin's Rest.
This fall, I started rehearsing with a group of Folk dancers who perform "Border-Morris" style dances. Unlike the Morris Dancers of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, adorned in flowy white, with green sashes, bells, and cute little hankies, my Bitter Mash Boys are of a wilder breed. The dancers wear all black, with ash on their faces, and feathers in their hats, and instead of waving harmless cloth, they brashly brandish mighty sticks.

I myself, don a corset and wield mellifluous brass. There will be dancing starting at 7, and then I think we'll be leading some songs too. At 9, I'm taking off for the Har Mar Superstar show at the Triple Rock. My mom won me tickets. I'll let you know all about it. And then, at Midnight, I'll be back at Merlin's for more dancing.

Can't wait.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dear Mr. Dino

They are Maggie, Terre and Suzzy Roche. They do not give out their ages or their phone numbers, and have been performing together since the 70's. Their fantastic harmonies that can only come with shared blood give great life to their quirky, close to home lyrics.

I post this video today, because, I, like the character in the song, "Dear Mr. Sellack" have found the business of becoming famous a bit more complicated than I had anticipated, and today crawled back to Dino's, where I will happily get down on my knees and clean the gunk off the bottoms of the chairs.

At least until I DO get famous.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'Twas The Week Before Christmas, and All Through the State

All these great bands are playing, don't hesitate!

Thursday, December 20th

Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders 8:00pm at the Route 65 Pub and Grub

Acoustic Sunset Guild's Last Thursday show at the Eagle's Nest Lounge 7:00pm

Real Phonic Radio Hour 8:00pm at the James J. Hill Reference Library

Fathom Lane with Actual Wolf and Bethany Larson and the Bees Knees at the Cedar Cultural Center

LA Madness at 7th Street Entry

Friday,  December 21st

Fairfax, AK ON ICE 9:00pm, Landmark Plaza, St. Plaza

Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders at 9:00pm at Norm's Wayside Saloon

The Lone Crows, 8:00pm at the Driftwood
Saturday, December 22nd

Lowertown Blues Band at Dean's Tavern at 9:00pm

An Evening with Scott Lawrence at Hanger 45, starting at 8:30pm

The Annual Eagle's Louisiana Christmas Party featuring Lucinda Plaisance, Max Ray, Eric Mohring, Dan Rowles and hosted by the Faux Playboys at the Eagles Club in Minneapolis

Hookers $ Blow's Rock the Cause 5th Anniversary Party, 9pm at the Crooked Pint Ale House

7th Annual Festivus Party at the Nomad

Sunday, December 23rd

Lady Heat presents, "Santa's Mixed Bag at the Deuce Duece," 8pm

Cadillac Kolstad for Cadillac Kolstad on the West Bank, 10pm at the Red Sea Restaurant and Bar

Hope to see you out and about!
Green Swamp Lily 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Step Rockets, Blast Off!

Yesterday, the magical day of 12-12-12, the last chance we'll have to write a date like that for the rest of our lives, Studio Five had a visit from the Step Rockets. 

Like the aeronautic innovation for which they are named, they fired us off in multiple stages of rock and roll.

Having only come together as they are this year, the Step Rocket pride themselves with being a unique fusion of decades from the swinging sixties of our parents' generation through the new sounds of the turn of the century. They successfully do this in style, energy and even instrumentation. 

If you missed them last night, you can still hear the program in the archives at the kfai website.

There's already a video up here:

Or, if you want to get out in the world, they're playing a show this very night with Vienna at the 331 Club in North East. Music starts at 9:30 and there's no cover! Make it official by checking them out on Facebook.

~Green Swamp

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Os Mutantes, My Bread and Circus

As some of you may know, Sergio Dias of Brazil's, "Os Mutantes" came to town last Friday, leading a rousing show at the Cedar Cultural Center. Knowing I would never forgive myself were I to miss the chance, I made sure I went. It was great, and I want to share its monumental significance.

The favorite class I ever took was an 8 person seminar on, "Latin American History." We started in 1791, Revolutionary Haiti, and worked our way up, reading entire books and passionately discussing them. By the end, familiar with the revolutionary spirit of Latin America, we read "Brutality Garden: Tropicalia and the Emergence of Brazillian Counterculture" by Christopher Dunn.

Like the slave revolts of Revolutionary Haiti set blaze to colonial oppression in the cane fields, in 1968, the field of Brazilian pop-culture became alight with the fire of Tropicalia.

Tropicalia emerged in the late 1960s as a "cannibalism" of many world influences and identities to create a unique entity of rebellion against the structured populist nationalism of Brazil's military government.

The prominent figures of Tropicalia; Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and Os Mutantes fall in line with other visionaries of the time time, including Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors who also pushed the boundaries of popular convention.

Os Mutantes shared the stage in Sao Paolo when fellow Tropicalia activist Caetano Veloso spoke most clearly of what the movement represented. Met with disapproving boos aroused by their shocking wardrope choices and anti-establishment messages, Caetano Veloso said the following:

So this is the youth of today that want to take over power? you have the courage to applaud, this year, a music, a type of music you would not dare to applaud last year! this is the same youth that will always, always, kill tomorrow the old enemy who died yesterday! you do not understand anything, anything, anything, absolutely nothing!

Os Mutantes, originally consisting of Rita Lee, Arnaldo Baptista, and Sergio Dias released their first album in roiling 1968 and became a significant icon of Tropicalia, donning outrageous costumes for their correspondingly theatrical performances. Also that year, The Mutants featured on the title track of a compilation which is now considered the manifesto of the Tropicalia movement, "Tropicalia: ou Panis et Circencis."

The title of this album, "Bread and Games" comes from Latin satire and refers to a political state where a population is lured away from real issues by distractions employed by a corrupt government. In Brazil, which had been under military rule since 1964, these were fighting words.

Finally, considering my excitement for the riveting historical context surrounding Os Mutantes, I spent all of Friday in a tizzy of anticipation for evening. Once there, positioned in the middle with a proper view, adequate dancing room and supportive companions, I lost myself further in the performance itself. History served as a mere backdrop to the extremely tight musicality and vibrant storytelling of the group. Carried through time, and continuing to forge their own unique edge, Os Mutantes transcended time. I dance, dance, danced in revolutionary 1968, right here in Minneapolis!

-G. Swamp Lily

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Sunny Era's Triumphant Return

I am REALLY excited for tomorrow's LFS5.

Two years ago, I decided to go to a show at the Cedar Cultural Center. To celebrate a CD release for the Poor Nobodys, The Sunny Era and the Brass Messengers came to play. Come to think of it, this may have been my first time seeing ALL of these bands! The Brass Messengers remain among my very favorites, and even after a failed audition I persist in my quest to reach their caliber. The Poor Nobodys continue to stand out in the area as well.

Yet another happenstance occured that evening. In fact, no longer able to keep evesdropping on the concert goers ahead of me, I jumped into their dialogue, only to discover I was speaking to The Thug himself!

Now that we can see the significance of tomorrow's show, let me tell you about what we're going to hear. 

The Sunny Era is a three piece ensemble consisting of Erik and Laila Stainbrook, and Rob Foehl. I've always been blown away with Laila's performances, considering in the course of a show she'll wrench your heart strings as only the sincere tones of the violin, clarinet, accordion and hey why not the keyboard, can. 

And she's just one member of this vastly versatile group!
With their extensive instrumentation, they present a sweeping range of mournful, heartfelt and driving world music with a rooted local flare.

According to their website, their new album travels away from these ethnic roots to a more "rockin" style. Personally, I really dig the gypsy groove they've got going, but I can't wait to hear their next album, "Lost in the Sea of Ghosts" which gets released at the Cedar Cultural Center on November 29th. We should all go check it out, but I also have a hunch we might get to hear some new stuff tomorrow at 10 on Live From Studio Five!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Happy Belated Halloween, Live From Studio Five Listeners!

I regret not being around last week, I was enlisted in the care of two very large dogs more than one bus ride away. It sounded like everyone had a good time, and here's a link to access the flikr photos and a video!

Tonight, everyone is abuzz over Mayda. I just helped carry up some drum equipment, and now they're getting set up in a very cluttered Studio Five. We are in the midst of a record sale, and when I arrived today, I could barely see the floor through all the boxes of vinyl and Cds.

We pushed things to the side, and now from what I can hear down the hallway, it's going to be awesome.

Mayda and her band out of St. Paul perform Hip Hop, Rock, and Soul. Mayda herself recently toured Korea, and she's definitely someone to follow in our area!

I'll be back with some follow up after the show!    

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Cause, Uptown

With all the excitement of the last couple months finally simmering down, I've been trying very hard to reestablish my introvert status.

Making concerted efforts at "self time" and reflection, meditation and hiding from roommates...
Yet, even with a staunch commitment to solitude, by 8pm I'd watched enough Netflix, paged Tumblr dry and even updated my Facebook status. I had no choice but to go up Lowry Hill for some wine.

By that point I was lonely of course, and had to hit the streets.

Though I've been in this neighborhood for 5 months, I'm only now discovering some of what it has to offer. The Lowry for example has delicious breakfast, this after months of lamenting of NO PLACE to have someone else cook eggs for you a la Hard Times.

The Cause Sound Bar is another one of those places.

After a ska show at the Nomad last spring, someone told me to check out another band at the Cause. "Free show!" they said, "And right in Uptown!" I was excited because I was just about to move to that area, so many possibilities!

Aaaand, a whole season later, I finally checked it out.

There were two bands playing, "The Blonde Stripes," a White Stripes Tribute band, and "The Word Party." Simply the name, The Word Party was enough to intrigue me. Being a nerd myself, I love words! Why not party? That, and it brings to mind thoughts of Scrabble and vast vocabularies. I showed up for the last few songs, got my dance on, and then went out side to socialize... I admittedly did not see any of the other band.

I talked to Nick, the Word Party's guitar player, and was truly impressed when it was HE telling me about Rasputin's notable appendages, and not the other way around. Like it usually is.

I think "Nerd Rock" is an appropriate genre for me.

Anyway, I had to make a phone call, and my blog vibe is shot. Whatever the case, The Cause is great, free shows, cheap beer, near by, and I had an excellent time rocking out with fellow nerds. Here's a city pages article:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Climbing Trees and Disaster Birds

Here I am, Live, from Studio Five (Two, actually, if you're going to be technical) on this, Wednesday night, and you know what that means!

As I am still getting into the flow of blogging here, and you've but just met me, my posts probably won't be THAT good,

but for tonight, I want to say a little about Climbing Trees, which I had the pleasure of seeing some of last week.

First, I'll hook you up with the live stream:

And then, I'll show you this:

It's from last year, but it's a good song. I liked the band Climbing Trees, I only stuck around for a bit, but they're definitely a group I'll keep on my radar. I can see myself rocking out at a concert with them, or cranking them up for a day of productivity.

But now, the more I listen, I realize how sexy they are. They seem to be aware of this, as their reverbnation page bio says, "Springing out of depths of the Minnesota "Turtles" music scene comes Climbing Trees with competent grooves that makes your girl shake her tittys. The Climbing Trees are a clammy plamed, jetsetting drunken orgy of the ears."

Or maybe I'm the only one that finds "clammy palmed ear orgies" sexy. It also helped that their drummer Vincent, disrobed right off the bat. Granted, studio Five gets pretty steamy, but some do it better than others. I was sad that the wrestling mask was also a casualty however, this band definitely holds up its image.

From here, I start prepping for tonight's band, "Disaster Bird."
I saw them hauling equipment through the hall way. According to their facebook, I can tell I'll like them. Their instrumentation includes a trumpet, accordion, glockenspeil AND mischief. I'm going to go shmooze so I'll have something to write about next week!

Also, I've had an ear worm this week, "The Sunny Era." The Thug told me they've already played for us, and that makes me sad, but I'll write more about them later too. I promise.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Greetings and Salutations

Hello, internet,
It is I, Greenswamp Lily, and I hereby humbly begin to follow in the foot steps of our worldly Erica.

I have been dubbed "Temptress" and "Events Editor" of KFAI's Live From Studio Five, but in my four months of haphazard attendance as a KFAI volunteer, I've learned a range of skills, but mostly, I post on Facebook so everyone and all their friends listen on Wednesday nights. Now, from the comfort of my cheap apartment, I begin my career as a LFS5 blogger.

I've blogged before, for my dear Alma Mater, Augsburg College (it's so weird actually using "alma mater" in a sentence!). It was/is(?) a blog for incoming students to have an inside look at Auggie life. I don't feel like I did it justice, I had a ton of fun at school, but never found the time to share it. I still keep it. It's all right. I think.

Some more about myself,
As suggested, I am a recent graduate of Augsburg College, where I studied History and Women's Studies, in addition to a fair helping of music. I played my trumpet in Concert Band, Jazz Band, Brass Chamber, and Pep Band, and took lessons from Lynn Erickson, trumpet player for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

I'm still not that good.

This spring, I joined the band, "The Drug Budget," and popped my rock star cherry in a bar in Madison, just weeks after going to my first practice. I think it would be hilarious for us to play LFS5 someday, because we consist of 11-18 people and would pack poor little studio five to it's hot and sweaty gills.

In August, I started my second season as a Royal trumpet at the Renaissance Festival. I say "second season" but mean only as a trumpet player. I've been at the festival my entire life, and with each year I become more and more entrenched. This lead to another fantastic opportunity that I embarked in just last week.

The story goes like this:
I was up on the Morris Dancer Knoll in the Ren Fest camp ground, probably eating cheese, drinking tasty beer and flirting, when a woman over heard my chat and said, "You play trumpet?"
"Yeah," I said, "for the king."
"Do you want to play trumpet in a rockin' girl band with boy dancers?"
"Hell yeah I do!"
"Are you ok with wearing a corset?"
"Hell yeah I am!"
"Great. We're called, 'The COCKTAILS.'"

I've been to two practices, I don't suck, and Border Morris dancing is sexy as hell.

Oh yeah, and I'm interested in Radio. Who knew?
In high school, I Dj'ed for KBEK 95.5fm, Mora, Live and Local Radio, playing the songs from the Best Times of Your Life. It was the coolest job a 17 year old could have, and I had a blast. I'd intended to continue that into college, but even with KFAI just down the street, I didn't have the time. So now here I am, hanging out with radio people-who really are the coolest people- and cutting my chops bit by bit in public radio. I often doubt the future of radio, but I think that there is still plenty of fun to be had by all, and in the long run, I think it would be great to stay involved in one way or another.

Who knows, maybe some day the Thug will let me co-host!

So there's me in a blog shell.
I would tell you about the awesome music of Climbing Trees, who we heard last Wednesday, but they deserve a post of their own.

Farewell until the next post.
I look forward to our time together. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Fond Farewell

Dearest Readers:

First and foremost, thank you for joining me in the creation and steady building of this blog. It has been a blast bringing you the latest music news, artist interviews, and booking bands for the "Live From Studio 5!" program, but the time has come for me to bid adieu to KFAI and focus more on my family and foodie endeavors. The archives will remain online and "Live From Studio 5!" will still air every Wednesday night from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI. I encourage you all to tune in.

Thanks again for your readership and for supporting our local music scene!

Erica Rivera

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Deck: Sleep Study

Our in-studio guest tonight is Sleep Study.

Per the band’s bio:

In under a year, Minneapolis rock quartet Sleep Study has caught the attention of audiences and critics whenever they’ve stepped on stage. A promo video for their song “Flower Girl” amassed 50,000+ views on youtube in less than two months. And despite not having yet released a record, they were invited to play an official showcase as well as several unofficial showcases at the prestigious SXSW music festival.

Collectively, the members of Sleep Study have shared stages and played on recordings with Al Kooper, Kid Dakota, Jeremy Messersmith, Owl City’s Breanne Düren, Mayda, Bella Ruse, The Honeydogs, Minor Kingdom, Rogue Valley, and more.

Sleep Study is a natural cooperative of strengths from all members, combining Ryan Plewacki’s (vocals/guitar) brand of Brit flavored rock with Justin Hartke’s (bass/vocals) jazz upbringing and Cory Eischen’s (keys) lengthy pop background. The calculated drumming of Alexander Young solidifies their retro sound.

Sleep Study’s unapologetic dedication to their modern take on a 70’s pop sound has snagged an impressive amount of interest while the band attempted to fly below the radar to construct their debut record.

The fresh, young band has performed at premier venues and events throughout the Twin Cities, contributed to compilation albums with Minneapolis’ finest and established musicians, and completed their debut record with the help of The Honeydogs frontman, Adam Levy.

Nothing Can Destroy, the ten song debut full-length, can be expected to be released in early summer of 2012.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" tonight from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio (90.3 FM in Minneapolis and 106.7 in St. Paul) to hear Sleep Study's session!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: Daughter

Granted, Daughter is not a local act. Nor is it new music, but I recently discovered the bare bones, three-piece band and I can’t stop hitting “repeat.” Daughter is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Elena Tonra. Along with her guitarist boyfriend Igor Haefeli, and drummer Remi Aguilella, Tonra creates a moody mix of bedroom folk, indie rock, and techno pop that is both emotionally evocative and aurally addictive (not unlike infatuation itself). The band has released two EPs (His Young Heart and Wild Youth), and is working on its debut album. As for live shows, unless you have a trip planned to England, Germany, or Iceland, you won’t be able to catch this intoxicating trio in concert anytime soon. ‘Til then, this tune, “In The Shallows,” will have to tide you over.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more irresistible earworms!

- Erica Rivera

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hot Summer Concert Announcements

Here are two upcoming shows that promise to be hotter than a Twin Cities' efficiency apartment this month:

Photo by Darin Back

In the second installment of the new, intimate concert series Live Letters: An Evening With Friends, Chris Koza of Rogue Valley will put together a top-secret (but certainly spectacular) line-up of acoustic acts. The show will once again take place in a private loft (hopefully one with AC?) on Thursday, July 12, at 7 PM. Tickets can be purchased here.

For those craving Americana tunes, check out These United States at the 7th Street Entry on Saturday, July 21!

Photo by Todd Roeth

You can find our Q&A with TUS frontman Jesse Elliot here. Tickets for this show are available via eTix.

Beat the heat with aural distraction, ice, and plenty of alcohol!

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more concert announcements!

- Erica Rivera

Friday, June 29, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: Bad Bad Hats

Bad Bad Hats are a fun, infectious duo based in the Twin Cities. Kerry Alexander (Vocals, Guitar) and Chris Hoge (Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drums) released their debut, a 3-song EP titled Grow Up, in February and are currently offering the tunes as a free download on bandcamp. We are really looking forward to hearing more from these quirky up-and-comers!

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio.

- Erica Rivera

Monday, June 25, 2012

In-Depth With Caroline Smith

Photo by Amanda Johnson

At the tender age of 18, singer-songwriter Caroline Smith cut her teeth on the Twin Cities’ music scene at the 400 Bar, the West Side watering hole that has served as a launch pad for adored local artists like Mason Jennings.

In 2007, Smith joined forces with Arlen Peiffer (of Cloud Cult), Jesse Schuster, and Colin Hacklander. A year later, the quartet released their debut album, Backyard Tent Set under the moniker Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps. The group has since completed several national tours, shared bills with big Indie acts like Dawes, and received substantial critical acclaim for their quirky, storybook-style folk music.

While the band’s latest release, Little Winds, veers into new sonic territory, loyal fans will continue to be wooed by Smith’s heartfelt and unforgettable lyricism as well as her feisty, youthful energy. Don’t be fooled by Smith’s seemingly precocious nature, however; this chick knows her stuff and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself.

 I spoke to Smith in anticipation of her next big gigs: opening for DeVotchKa at the Minnesota Zoo on July 6, a show with The Jayhawks in Duluth on July 7, and a two-night-stand at the Minnesota State Fair on August 25 and 26.

You’ve said that the making of your latest album was a trying time for the band because you were “in transition.” What about the process made it so intense?

Caroline Smith: We weren’t prepared to write the songs that came out. Everyone talks about how different our first album is from the second album and it’s true that the two are very different, but we didn’t do that intentionally. When we were writing these songs, they were just coming out of us. It was very jarring. We were asking ourselves, “Is this who we are? Is this what we do?” We fought against it, but the songs ended up being a balance of all of our personalities. It was challenging to accomplish everyone’s ideas in one project. There was some fighting, a lot of tension. But we came into our own because of it. No, that’s the understatement of the year. We almost broke up because of it. But we came through and we’ve had an amazing year and we’re all really excited about the music that we’re making and we’re all very proud of this album.

I just saw you play at the Live Letters’ An Evening With Friends Event, and I wanted to ask you, as a performer, how the experience differs when you play in a small venue like that versus a larger space. Do you have a preference between those?

CS: I prefer playing smaller venues. My favorite venue is the 7th Street Entry, but we’ve grown past that. It’s kind of sad. But, yeah, I like intimate, acoustic shows. Playing in a room of people listening is more relaxed and laid back. The stress and excitement of a big show is fun, too, but that’s not really why I write songs.

Photo by Jenn Barnett

At the Live Letters show, you covered a Beyoncé song (“Why Don’t You Love Me”). First, I want to say that I hope you record that, because it was awesome.

CS: Thank you.

And then I wanted to ask you if exes inspire most of your songwriting, and if bad relationships provide better material than good relationships do?

CS: I hate to be the woman who has to say this but, yes. If you’re in a safe, steady relationship, the writing comes harder. I used to write a lot about exes, but I’m in a relationship with a great guy now and I’m happy, so I don’t write so much about boys anymore, at least not from my personal experience. What I’ve been doing is taking from my girlfriends’ experiences, and I get to write vicariously through them. They’re advice-based, empowering songs.

Could you speak to your experience of being a female in the male-dominated music industry, or is that something that you’re not even aware of? Are you just one of the boys?

CS: I am constantly reminded that I’m in the male-dominated music business and it’s really frustrating. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve worked on my craft, not only as a songwriter, but as a singer and an entertainer and a musician. I know how to use my gear and my levels, but sound guys will talk to me like I don’t know what I’m doing and I want to say, “I got it.  I’ve been doing this a long time.” It’s almost belittling because no asks the guys in my band anything, because the assumption is that they know what to do with electronics.

We’re a band that is always on tour, so I see these things all the time.  If I say something gross between songs, people notice, but if a guy were to say those things, no one would care.  I try to rub up against it. I play with aspects of it. It’s very fulfilling as woman to do that, but the reality of touring is frustrating sometimes.

They probably won’t like me saying this, but the dudes in my band are a little effeminate. They talk about their problems and they’re respectful.  They’re in touch emotionally.  They take care of me.

How do you deal with unwanted attention from male fans?

CS: That gets tricky. We were playing a show with Trampled By Turtles—have you ever been to a Trampled By Turtles show?


CS: Then you know: their fans get really rowdy. They don’t have a lot of girls open for them or playing with them, so I don’t think they were prepared for this, but we were playing and it was a crazy, drunk, raucous night and there were a group of guys heckling me and saying offensive things, and I was like, “How do you perform through something like that?” I don’t know. My mom taught me to be strong. I don’t take a lot of bullshit. I’ll say, “You’re in my comfort zone” or “Don’t touch me” or “Back away.” I’ll see a guy coming my way and think, “Oh, no, I know exactly what you’re after” and throw the hand up. The creepy Facebook messages are less threatening. I laugh about those in the van with the guys in the band. So let this be a warning: if you send me a creepy Facebook message, it will get laughed about.

Smith (left) with Trampled by Turtles frontman Dave Simonett (far right)

As you mentioned, you’ve shared stages with big names like Trampled By Turtles, but I’m also thinking of Dawes [whom Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps opened for on New Year’s Eve] and soon you’ll be opening for DeVotchKa. Do you ever feel intimated by these artists or is it just business as usual? Do you ever get starstruck?

CS: Trampled By Turtles are my buddies, I mean, I know they’re a Top 4 artist now or something, but I think of them as my buddies. Minneapolis is a really supportive community, but I don’t think I’m above it. It’s great when national artists come through and they get to see the best of what we have to offer. I got starstruck when I met David Bazan. He said, “I really like your music,” and I thought, “I’m going to pass out right now!” I’m the worst at being starstruck. When I met David Groth—he’s my favorite person in the whole world—I almost died.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve written a song?

CS: Hmm… [Pause.] The weirdest place would have to be on the beach, waking up in Crete, which is off the coast of Greece. But I don’t usually write songs in strange places.

Do you have a structured schedule for songwriting?

CS: I do. I usually write in my bedroom. Sometimes in the van, though I can’t do much with a song there. I also have a huge, irrational phobia of writing in front of other people.

Photo by Emma C. Cook

If you were to voice a fairytale character for a Disney film, which one would it be?

CS: I don’t watch many Disney films, but I guess it’d be The Little Mermaid.

What is your favorite State Fair food?

CS: Fried pickles.

Is there anything on your iPod that you’d be embarrassed for people to find out about?

CS: Dave Matthews. Nobody will every understand it. They will just tease me ruthlessly for it. I went into hiding for a while about how much I like Dave Matthews. Then I came out and said, “I am a fan!” and now I’m back to keeping quiet about it again.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more local gems!

- Erica Rivera

Friday, June 22, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: Culture Cry Wolf

Local eclectic collective Culture Cry Wolf play a rollicking mix of punk, ska, rock, and pop, and cite many other genres as sonic influences. Employing an arsenal of instrumentation, this six-piece is guaranteed to get you grooving on the dance floor. The band has shared stages with national music celebs like Macklemore as well as Minnesotan musicians Sims and Cecil Otter (of Doomtree). This video, for the tune “Me, Myself, and I” was released on June 19. See them perform this song—among many others—live at the Triple Rock on June 27.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more new material from Twin Cities musicians.

- Erica Rivera

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On Deck: Matt Jennings

Our guest tonight is Matt Jennings.

Matt Jennings grew up in Pittsburgh mimicking hard rock guitarists as a kid. After moving to Minneapolis for college, he studied abroad in Mexico and later taught English in China. In Mexico, he was entranced by the sound of mariachi trumpeters and violinists practicing on the streets. And he learned the basic techniques of mariachi guitar firsthand from a man named Nacho. In China, he played in a live karaoke band and a Chinese hard rock band, while spending countless hours watching the South China Sea out his apartment window with a $20 Kapok guitar in his hands.

After soaking in how these different cultures use rhythm and melody, and learning that essentially every note in the chromatic scale is free game in bebop, he transformed his melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic hard rock roots into something akin to an open-minded journey around the globe. Upon returning from abroad he hit the American music scene with his own brand of International Rock.

Since then he has self-released two albums and toured the country extensively, sharing the stage with acts such as Bombino, Zee Avi, Ozomatli, Los Amigos Invisibles, The Beautiful Girls, and his brother Mason Jennings.

His latest self-titled EP was released in December 2010. It was produced by Adam Topol (Culver City Dub Collective, The Living Room, Jack Johnson) and features members of Ozomatli, CAVA, and Dengue Fever. It is available at CDBaby and iTunes.

Tune into KFAI (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul, or stream online) between 10 PM and Midnight tonight to hear his in-studio performance!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Take Five: An Interview With Cory Chisel

Raised in Appleton, Wisconsin by a Baptist minister father and a piano-teacher mother, it’s easy to see why themes of faith, death, desire and redemption circulate through Cory Chisel’s music. His handcrafted blend of Americana, folk, and gospel sounds create a spellbinding sensation for listeners, evoke haunting, pastoral scenes, and make for a memorably intimate live show.

Chisel’s full-length debut, 2009’s Death Won’t Send A Letter, was produced by Grammy-winning Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, White Stripes) and featured members of Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket, and the Raconteurs. The album was described as a “dark and urgent rock and roll vision” and led to collaborations with the likes of Brendan Benson and Jack White.

Chisel’s right-hand woman is Adriel Denae, the angelic vocalist who accompanies him on recordings and in performance. 

Together, Chisel and Denae are gearing up to tour with Norah Jones this summer. I spoke to Chisel in anticipation of the June 26 release of the new Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons album, Old Believers, and the band's upcoming appearance at the Turf Club on June 28.

Most interviews with you begin by mentioning that your father is a Baptist minister and asking about your spirituality. 

Cory Chisel:  Yeah.

So my question is: are your childhood experiences still influencing your music today or do you have a set of beliefs that are unique to you?

CC:  My beliefs have grown stronger and stronger and farther and farther away from what I learned as a child.  I draw inspiration from all types of spirituality, but I’m just as influenced by gospel, blues, and R&B.  People enjoy my music regardless of what their spiritual beliefs are or what God they believe in.

Does the title of your new album refer to anyone in particular?

CC:  It does.  It’s a reference to a type of person, but I don’t mean “old” as in outdated and archaic.  “Old Believers” is a phrase I came across in a book; it’s a reference to the Orthodox and the people who rejected the constraints of the church, but that’s not the way I’m using it in the album title.  I’m thinking of it as a guy who’s been down for a long time, but is still a steadfast human being, a journeyman.  It’s the type of person who is interested in growing.  It’s almost a religion unto itself.  I know a lot of people like that.

Nature seems to be a critical part of your songwriting.  How do you stay connected to nature when you’re on the road?

CC:  It’s a big struggle.  There’s a lot of fucking concrete between here and the Coast.  I guess that’s why I put nature in my songs; that’s how I pack it up and take it with me.  I feel most at home in the woods.  I feel like my real self when I’m there.  The difficulty is to find that in a place like New York City.   Unless you can curl up inside a song.

How did you come to partner with Adriel? 

CC:  We met when we were younger--25 years old--at a show I went to in support of a friend who had passed away.  That night was already a heightened experience because of the emotions about this person and the celebration of his life, and then Adriel walked in with the band she was playing in at the time.  When she started singing, that was it.  I was over the moon.  I knew I had to do whatever it took to work with her.

Does she do any of the songwriting?

CC:  She does.   It’s definitely a collaboration.  Her role is also being the main source I run every song by.  She’s my first audience.

Yet her name isn’t in the band title.  Is that intentional?

CC:  Adriel came into the Wandering Sons when it was already formed, but our relationship has become a collaboration.  She has been my most consistent wandering son.  She’s also working on some songs that she’ll release on her own, so she’s saving her name for when the time is right for her music.  When that happens, I’ll be her wandering son.

You once did an ad for Lucky Brand Jeans.  If you were to ever endorse a product again, what would it be?

CC:  That’s a tricky question, because I only endorse things that have a soulful approach.  When Lucky came to me the first time, I needed to make money just to stay alive.  The reason why I was interested, though, was because they wanted to partner with us as artists.  It wasn’t about modeling.  It was a mutually beneficial arrangement.  My record label wasn’t going to put my name on a billboard, but Lucky was.  And they were going to talk about my music.  If I were to do something like that again, it’d probably be for something I use every day…like wine.

Perusing your Facebook page, it looks like hats and painting are some of your other favorite things.

CC:  I’ve always had a fascination with my grandfather’s era.  The men always looked sharp—you know, unless it was late at night—but it stood out in my brain that men wear hats.  They were fancy, and that’s right up my alley.

And paintings…I just really love them.  If I had a dozen or so lifetimes, I would get into painting from an early age.  I draw more inspiration artistically from paintings than I do from music.

And wine…I’m just really interested in how it’s made.  It also helps with self-consciousness.

Your hometown, Appleton, is known for its cover bands.  Can you speak more to what the music scene is like there?

CC:  It’s changed a lot; whether or not we had anything to do with that, I don’t know.  Initially, no one started a band in Appleton to go anywhere; it was mostly out of boredom.  Appleton is a completely agreeable place, so if you were feeling disenfranchised, your choices were:  break the law or break shit or rock n’ roll.  

There were no venues for original music then, so the only places you could play were things like German Fest, and they wanted a certain kind of music.  That’s where the cover band thing started.  It’s like a get-together in a house; rather than play a song you just wrote, you and your friends would rather sing a rendition of an Elton John song.  It wasn’t intrinsically sad, but I wanted to focus on new ideas, not revel in party music.

If you were to cover a rap song, what would it be?

CC:  That’s a good question.  I really like Wu-Tang Clan and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.  He has a song called “I Like It Raw” that I’d like to cover.  If I were to do it more seriously, maybe something by The Roots.

What are some of the places that you like to visit when you are in the Twin Cities?

CC:  I lived in Minneapolis for a while, actually.  It’s one of my favorite places.  There is every type of pleasure to be indulged.  I’ve gone to grimy shows at the 400 Bar to some of the best shows of my life at First Ave.  I went down to the new Twins stadium; that was fun.  And Minneapolis has great record shops, of course.

Where do you envision yourself in 50 years?  Do you think you’ll still be doing the same thing?

CC:  Still doing the same thing, but hopefully with a little more swagger.  [Laughs.]  My dream would be to have a little place everywhere.  I had a house in Wisconsin and discovered that wasn’t really for me.  Now I have a one-bedroom in Nashville.   I could see myself traveling to Europe, having a place in Scotland.  If I really put my money where I wanted to, I would just live free.  Spend time on the Iron Range—my family is all from Minnesota and still lives there—so a cabin on the lake would be nice.  I guess I’ll have to sell more records or rob banks to make that happen.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio to stay up-to-date on all the amazing artists touring through town!

- Erica Rivera

Friday, June 15, 2012

Live Letters Concert Series Debuts

Last night marked the launch of "An Evening with Friends," the concert series hosted by the Live Letters music photography blog. The show took place in a private loft in Minneapolis and featured Gabriel Douglas (of 4onthefloor), plus surprise guests James Diers (of Halloween Alaska), Caroline Smith (of Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps), and Savannah Smith. The intimate atmosphere and mostly acoustic set-up was a refreshing change from the status quo on the Twin Cities scene. Artists played both original material and cover songs, including tunes by Beyonce, Prince, and Bruce Springsteen. 2 Gingers Whiskey sponsored the show.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more happenings on the Twin Cities music scene.

- Erica Rivera

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: Motion City Soundtrack

Hometown heroes Motion City Soundtrack have been rocking out all over the world since 1997. Their fifth studio album, Go, was released on June 12 as a collaborative effort between Epitaph Records and the band's own label, The Boombox Generation. The band returns to the Twin Cities on June 23 for the River's Edge Music Festival on Harriet Island.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more local acts that made it big!

- Erica Rivera

Friday, June 8, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: A. Wolf and Her Claws

Aby Wolf has been mesmerizing local audiences for years with her sultry, layered pop vocals.

Photo by Sharolyn B. Hagen

In 2011, she joined forces with Joey Van Phillips (Drums, Vibraphone), Linnea Mohn (Keyboard, Vocals), and Jesse Whitney (Synth) for A. Wolf & Her Claws. The quartet released their first album of avant-garde yet elegant dance-ready tracks in April 2012. Expect to see A. Wolf & Her Claws out and about this summer, with spots already booked at Bastille Day and the Basilica Block Party.

This video, for the song "Drama Queen," was filmed by Dan Huiting and features several sexy night shots of the Twin Cities skyline.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more musical surprises.

- Erica Rivera

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Deck: Painted Saints

Our guests tonight are Painted Saints, comprised of Paul Fonfara (Vocals, Guitar, Clarinet, Viola, Bandoneon, drawings and paintings), Jonathan Kaiser (Cello), Josh Granowski (Bass), Kelly O’dea (Violin), and Chris Hepola (Drums).

Per their bio, "Painted Saints hail from Denver/Minneapolis and do the ever so popular spaghetti western-heroin klezmer-chamber country-sad bastard thing. They write tin can and twine romances in a color of rust with backdrops of long wind swept open roads framed by tangled barbed wire and naked telephone poles. Their songs are of ashtray broken hearts and landscapes of beauty and sorrow borrowing harmonies from old Eastern Europe, the desert southwest and the sentiments of working class rust belt Americana. they are also really into pompous descriptions."

Tune into KFAI (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul, or stream online) between 10 PM and Midnight tonight to hear their in-studio performance!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In-Depth With Remo Williamz

“There are worst things to be than in demand,” Remo Williamz says when we finally connect after a game of phone tag.

Williamz should know. He’s been hustling on the hip-hop scene since the late ‘90s.

“I did this backwards,” Williamz says. He tells me his unusual story of starting out in the music biz at the top, in “huge studios I had no business being in,” visits to Motown and Universal records, a recording “boot camp” that produced 13 songs in two weeks, and an intense period of traveling to and from L.A., Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

When Williamz finally settled in the Twin Cities and emerged on the local music scene, “Where the hell did you come from?” was the predominant reaction.  It took time to break through the Minnesota (n)ice veneer and connect in a genuine way with his “circle of cats” that include Kanser and Unknown Prophets.

“I haven’t done a ton of branching out,” Williamz says.

What he has been doing is working hard on his latest release, On Location, an LP four years in the making.

“It’s pretty sobering,” Williamz admits. “I learned patience with this album.”

When asked if there’s a theme surrounding the On Location songs, Williamz says, “I’m trying to show off versatility. It’s extremely well-rounded. There are a good amount of love songs. The ‘Baby, I love you and I want to move in together’ song, the breakup song, the ‘I hate my girl, but I like you’ song. There are songs about religion, about friendship, about running into someone you haven’t seen in a while. In the past, I’ve written about the experience of a dope fiend, of what rehab is like. I write relatable stories.”

Though the heft of the material sounds like reason enough to necessitate a gestation period between releases, Williamz says the delay was mostly due to finances.

“The scene is so unpredictable. I’ve had songs ready and been in a few situations that dried up due to working with someone who was an egomaniac, unreliable, or both. There are a lot of guys on the local scene who are in it for weird reasons.”

Williamz’s response has been one of “establishing a presence, having faith, and making a flagship capable of moving forward.”

With his new album, Williamz’s aim is to create a work of art that fans will hold onto, something that will stand the test of time, a collection of songs that can be appreciated long after the initial buzz has waned.

“Artists fall into a pattern of just trying to prove they can rap,” Williamz says. “But an album shouldn’t be a talent contest every time a beat comes on.”

What listeners will notice on the new release is how Williamz will use his voice to mirror the “delivery of a natural conversation.” When one is excited, one speaks faster. When one is telling a secret, the voice softens.

“I go from a melancholy whisper to full-on yelling and everything in between,” the rapper says.

When asked to compare and contrast the hip hop scene in the Twin Cities to musical communities nationwide, Williamz cites the sheer number of acts and the fulfillment of fans as strengths of Minnesota.

“There is definitely a good amount of opportunities to build together. That’s what’s behind the vibe we give off nationally. Of course you will also run into people who think it’s predictable. We live under that stigma, but it’s more of a talking point.”

The way Williamz sees it, there are different approaches to hip hop music in the metro.

“It’s a supportive community, but there are some people that are more entrepreneurs than they are rappers. They might have a studio where they bring in nine to ten acts a week to record, and seven aren’t making worthwhile music, but they pay the bills that way. That takes a certain kind of moxie. For me, music is personal, both in exploration and in execution. I would hate myself if I lived like that.”

Williamz, a refreshingly upfront interviewee, chooses his words more carefully when the subject of the Twin Cities Hip Hop Awards (which was cut short this year due to brawls in the crowd) comes up.

“It’s sad. I personally haven’t gone [to the awards] in years, since the first time I was scheduled to perform. It was supposed to be my big moment.”

Fights broke out—and broke up—the ceremonies that year, too.

“The scene needs to find a way to cater to the people so it won’t happen again,” Williamz says. “You simply can’t have enough security to stop that kind of activity if that’s what they’re determined to do. I’m not saying they shouldn’t market to people who aren’t prone to doing that sort of thing, but hip hop does carry with it that ultra machismo, negative tone.”

Williamz wonders aloud if a theater setting would be more conducive to a civil crowd, but “it’s not like he [the organizer of the TC Hip Hop Awards] can call up the Pantages Theater and ask to have it there.”

Conversation shifts to Williamz’s vision for the future of his career. “I’d like to be making music at the point where it pays for itself. The market is so oversaturated, but I’m trying to put out a real, worthwhile album that an eclectic crowd can appreciate.”

When asked to pinpoint his aspirational sweet spot, Williamz indicates somewhere between a superstar like Drake and a down-home hero like Zach from Kanser.

“Right in the middle of those two,” Williamz says with a chuckle. “I hope that when fans hand me $5 in exchange for something that took me four years to make, it will be seen as an act of trust. It will mean that they’ll ride with me.”

Williamz performs on June 21 at Honey along with Sadat X. His new album drops in late July/early August.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more Q & A's with local artists!

- Erica Rivera

Friday, June 1, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: Kristoff Krane

Kristoff Krane’s musical style can’t be contained to one genre. A singer-songwriter who’s been known to whip out an acoustic guitar and croon like Bob Dylan one minute, then spit freestyle the next, this rapper is pure firecracker spunk. An artist who thrives on audience responses to his music, Krane often eschews the stage for up-close-and-personal performances with his fans mere inches from the mic. The intense tunes, paired with Krane’s unparalleled passion, leave you energized, if unsettled, long after the show is over. ‘Til his next live appearance, this video will have to tide you over.

"Birthday Song" is the first music video from Krane's new release fanfaronade. The album is available as a free download on bandcamp.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more new local music.

- Erica Rivera

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Live Letters To Host Intimate Concert Series

Live Letters, the new music photography blog helmed by shutterbug Sara Montour, recently announced its Evening With Friends concert series.

Per the site’s Facebook invitation, Evening With Friends are “small, intimate concerts designed to bring a unique live music experience to the Twin Cities. Each Evening With Friends will be hosted by a musician or band that will then hand-select other songwriters to join them for the evening. All musicians will start the night on stage together, taking turns playing songs, and the evening will end with an acoustic set from the host band.”

The first show will be hosted Gabriel Douglas, best known as the bearded frontman of the 4onthefloor, and will take place at a private loft in Minneapolis on Thursday, June 14 at 7 PM. Surprise guests, guaranteed to be incredible, will also be on the bill.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased via Brown Paper Tickets. Because of the intimate aim of these concerts, space will be limited.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" every Wednesday from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more on local show happenings!

- Erica Rivera

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Deck: Me And My Arrow

Me and My Arrow is one of the most ingenious acts to emerge on the Minneapolis music scene. Fronted by Jacob Grun (owner of The Sound Gallery), with a multitude of members onstage at any given time--and a slew of instruments in tow--Me and My Arrow are like the Minnesotan version of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. The group’s hippy-ish vibe and avant-garde tunes will alternately mellow you out and rock your world.

Per the band's bio: "Like a tidal wave of sound Me and My Arrow's musical performances soak through every pore of the human body. The blend of strings, pianos, synths, guitars and urban clanging make for an orchestral sound that is larger than large. The pieces fit together in unique ways, coming together to create a new sonic palette the likes of which haven't been heard since the invention of the sonic boom. When the band comes together to vocalize either in harmony or unison one cannot do anything but feel. With every show the band gets better."

Tune in to KFAI (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul, or stream online) tonight from 10 PM to Midnight to hear Me and My Arrow's live in-studio performance. The band will be debuting a new single on-air!

- Erica Rivera