Live Preview

Ruinous beauty


LEFT OF THE DIAL Bob Mould seems like a good multi-tasker. The legendary singer-guitarist is just signing out of a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session as he answers the phone in New York for our interview Sept. 9; he’ll play at the Bowery Ballroom the following night.

“Sorry, we went a little over because there were technical difficulties at the beginning,” he says, when I explain that I’ve been watching for the last hour in real time as his superfans — as well as guitar nerds of all stripes, from all over the world — ask him questions.

These queries range in topic from pleas for his explosively influential punk band Hüsker Dü to get back together (“Some things can’t be replicated, and those eight years are best left untarnished”) to interest in his diet and exercise regimens (little to no starches, lots of running staircases when he’s home in SF), wrestling opinions (Mould at one point wrote music for the professional wrestling industry) to “what positions were your guitar pedal knobs at when I saw you play this one particular show?” (generally, 3pm for both).

If the fans seem all over the place, it’s for good reason: Mould’s career is as varied as the people who count him among their heroes. After fronting Hüsker Dü in the early ’80s; he ushered in a higher standard for hard-hitting alt-rock in the ’90s with a new band, Sugar. His solo career has taken him into melancholy singer-songwriter territory, then back to all-consuming wall-of-deafening-sound guitar rock, with forays into the aforementioned wrestling business. In 2011, after decades of being known for his intense love of privacy, he penned an acclaimed memoir about his life thus far, including his tortured early years spent closeted, at times using meth and cocaine to cope.

After that 180, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Mould’s most recent work, Beauty and Ruin (which came out June 3 on Merge), grapples with highly personal territory.

In the first half of 2012, Mould was riding high off the book’s success. He’d just been honored by dozens of younger rock titans who consider him a god — Dave Grohl, Spoon, Ryan Adams — at a tribute performance in LA. He had a new record out, the critically acclaimed, harder-than-he’d-rocked-in-a-while Silver Age, and was celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sugar’s much-loved Copper Blue. And then, in October, Mould’s father died.

“It was not unexpected, but it was still tough nonetheless,” says Mould, who has written candidly about his complicated relationship with his father — an alcoholic who was physically abusive at times, but also introduced him to rock ‘n’ roll, and acted as one of Hüsker Dü’s biggest supporters in the band’s early years.

“[Losing a parent] is something most of us go through, but I don’t think I’d realize how a loss of the size really shifts your perspective…it was an emotional time. And that became the marker for the next 12 months of touring, dealing with my relationship with my family and my work.”

The record takes on four key themes or acts, says Mould: “There’s the loss, and the reflection, and then acceptance. And then there’s moving on to the future, which is how the album closes out. It’s a work about a really confusing experience.”

Backed by Jason Narducy on bass and the tireless Jon Wurster on drums (Mould shares Wurster’s time with Superchunk and the Mountain Goats), Mould channels that confusion into a something like a condensed, theatrical rock ‘n’ roll epic. (His tour for the record brings him to The Fillmore this Fri/26.)

Considering its subject matter, it’s hardly a downer of a record. “I’m sure it confuses some of the longtime fellow miserablists [to hear the bright, upbeat tunes],” says Mould with a laugh. “It’s a heavy record; it’s got its own darkness, but it has an equal amount of light to keep it balanced out.”

Beauty and Ruin also demands to be heard as an album: As a listener, even if you were to shut off the part of your brain that comprehends lyrics, it’s the cathartic, hook-driven guitar thrum throughout these missives — which builds to unrelentingly passionate levels on “The War,” marking the end of side 1 on the record, if it were an LP, before sliding into the naked clarity of “Forgiveness” — that engages your full body, that makes you question whether or not aging affects Bob Mould the way it affects regular humans, because the man honestly sounds like he could sing and play electric guitar and run a marathon at the same time.

Not so, Mould says. On days off when he’s on tour, he tries to talk as little as possible to protect his voice. “I sing really hard, probably too hard for my own good, and naturally it gets a little tougher to recover from that each night.”

When he’s not on tour, of course, he’s home in San Francisco — he’s lived in the Castro for the past five years. And yes, as a guy who made $12 playing Mabuhay Gardens in 1981 with Hüsker Dü, he’s noticed that the scene here has changed in the last few years. But it’s not all doom and gloom.

“I’ll still go to the Independent, Bottom of the Hill, Great American to see shows. I like the Chapel. There are still great clubs. But yeah, historically, when there’s been development — especially these big condo developments — when that’s on the rise in the city, at first, the neighbors are going ‘Oh, we love living next to the nightclub!'” says Mould. “Then they have their first kid, and the nightclub keeps them up at night. And they start fighting the nightclub, and if they get it closed down the neighborhood turns into a really boring place, and they don’t know it until it’s too late. I’ve seen it happen in so many cities around the world.”

“…I’m not certain how anybody can live in San Francisco, with the cost of living and the rents. It’s just such a massive change,” he continues. “Cities change. And we can fight City Hall, fight the developers…but cities evolve. And people who make art for their living are leaving for other places, which is tough because San Francisco has such an amazing history with music and how it’s affected world cultures. I’ve honestly just learned to deal with it.

“Because you never know what’s going to happen. Things change. Maybe it’ll change back.”


With Cymbals Eat Guitars

Fri/26, 9pm, $25

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

Catching up with The Presidents of the United States of America


Though they hit the peak of their fame in the mid-’90s post-grunge era with hits like “Peaches” and “Kitty,” the Presidents of the United States of America have enjoyed a more fruitful and fascinating career than many of their ilk.

From collaborating with Shonen Knife and Sir Mix-A-Lot to starting an indie label to performing a Pokemon tribute song at the Pokemon Black/White American launch party, their career is shaping up to be as long, delightful, and brilliant as their name.

This year saw the release of two POTUSA albums — Kudos to You, their sixth studio album, and Thanks For The Feedback, their first live album.

We had a chance to speak with drummer/singer Jason Finn before the band’s show on Wed/27 at Slim’s.

San Francisco Bay Guardian What are some of your favorite places to hang out in SF?

Jason Finn The traditional hotel for rock bands at least in our place has been the Phoenix in the Tenderloin, and there are three Vietnamese noodle houses within three blocks of there. I don’t know the names of any of them, but I’ve had many a bowl of pho there over the years. There’s a place on Potrero Hill called Chez Maman which I just love, I’ll go out of my way every visit to get there. And then of course you’ve got to have a burrito, and El Farolito is my jam — I’ve actually flown home with burritos from El Farolito for my friends.

SFBG Thanks for the Feedback is the first live album y’all have released. Why did you decide to finally release a live record 20 years into your career?

JF We had a hard drive with all the [recordings of] shows on it on the table while we were having a meeting about something else. We looked at the hard drive long enough and said, “let’s try to do something with this.” We were gonna go through the whole hard drive and pick songs from various shows, but we found this one show from 2011 that had so many songs we were going to pick anyway, and we decided “let’s release the whole show.”

SFBG At one point you were in a band called Subset, with Sir Mix-A-Lot. Do you still keep in touch?

JF [Subset] wasn’t really an official band, but we did eight or ten shows in the Seattle area that were a lot of fun. We did some recordings, but they didn’t really see the light of day because we never really finished them and we’d need someone to mix and release them. Mix-A-Lot is really easy to work with, he’s very talented and very fast. We got those songs together through just a few informal meetings. We played a show with him three or four weeks ago in Seattle. His voicemail box has been full since 2001 as far as we know, but it’s always fun to run into him.

SFBG You’ve played for Bill Clinton, an actual President of the United States of America, in the past. Did that lead to any bad jokes?

JF We actually played at a congressional rally that Clinton flew into, but he wasn’t there when he played. We did get to shake his hand, though. I don’t know if he knew that was our name — he was just in a room with 75 people, shaking everyone’s hand. You don’t get to be a politician of that standing unless you’re very good at shaking 75 people’s hands at once.

SFBG Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring singing drummers, like yourself?

JF Your hi-hat is always a little bit louder than you think it is. Whatever amount of open hi-hat you’re using on a song, maybe close it up just a little more than that. Your bandmates and your sound guy will appreciate that.

Presidents of the United States of America

With July Talk

Wed/27, 8pm, $26


333 11th St., SF

Not just an Animal Collective side project: Entering the Slasher House with Avery Tare


In spite of music videos that are more than vaguely reminiscent of the horror film genre — not to mention the band’s name — the “jazz power trio” of Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks are far more than some campy side project.

Comprised of multi-instrumentalist and founding Animal Collective member Avey Tare, Angel Deradoorian (of Dirty Projectors, Deradoorian) on keyboard, and drummer Jeremy Hyman (of Ponytail, Dan Deacon), Slasher Flicks aim to make sounds that “come from a place that’s not human.” Live music fans will be happy to hear that the group used only minimal overdubs while recording their debut album Enter the Slasher House (out this past April), which is somewhat of a rarity amongst many of today’s crispy jams — and also something that’s immediately evident when Slasher Flicks take the stage.

Avey Tare, aka Dave Portner, spoke to the SFBG about one of his favorite places to play, letting each band member’s personality shine through, and creating an experience for the audience where they can synonymously get lost in something and feel like part of a collective. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks will be playing LA’s FYF fest this weekend before making their second visit to the Great American Music Hall this Sunday the 24th.

San Francisco Bay Guardian You’re clearly a person who likes to stay busy, considering the Slasher Flicks tour and the Animal Collective DJ sets that have been popping up recently. As far as live performances go, do your various projects satisfy different creative needs? I’m thinking about the elaborate stage set up for the Centipede Hz tour, which makes anything else seem minimal, really. Or are the props irrelevant and it’s more about the kind of work you get to produce?

Avey Tare I think the longer I play with Animal Collective or even just make music in the live realm the more interested I become with creating some all encompassing submersible experience. Who knows where this will go next. I’ve reached a point personally and creatively where I want to go beyond just showing up at clubs and playing live. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that my interests are deep in the visual art and film world. That said I have been enjoying the more minimal set up with Slasher Flicks. It’s nice to just set up and jam and have that be that. As long as our fans can get lost in something or feel like they had some unique experience then I’m happy.

SFBG How was it that Jeremy, Angel, and yourself came together to form Slasher Flicks? You’ve been cited as the main songwriter for most of the Animal Collective albums, but for Enter the Slasher House you crafted an outline of sorts for the songs on acoustic guitar, and let Angel create melodic lines to flesh them out.

AT Sort of. All of my songs do start on on a skeletal level.  It really depends on what is needed after that or how I want them to be produced. Each song requires its own place and sounds and atmosphere.  A lot of the melodic lines for Slasher Flicks were actually written by me but when it comes down to playing something with other people, you don’t really know what its going to be like til everyone is playing it. For me it’s crucial that Jeremy’s and Angel’s personality gets to shine through so a lot of the rhythms and melodies are sort of loosely placed and left open for their embellishments or reworking etc. You just sort of know when everything clicks. It’s more of a feeling. That’s what playing music with people is about for me. It’s definitely a collective experience, and when you can make your audience feel a part of that collective, then it’s even more rewarding.

Angel and I have been a couple for awhile now. Because we are around each other in creative situations and so aware of how each of us operate it has always just seemed natural that we would work on something together especially ’cause of the respect we have for each other’s talents. I met Jeremy through Angel, actually, but was immediately into his drumming after seeing him play a bunch over the last few years.  For some reason I just got it in my head that I wanted to do a collection of songs for a three-piece. Once the songs were written it seemed logical to ask Jeremy and Angel to play them. I guess we are lucky in that we melded very easily.

SFBG Last year Slasher Flicks opened up for Deerhunter at the GAMH before Enter the Slasher House was released. Are you looking forward to returning to the venue and headlining this time? I was fortunate enough to attend that first show, but after being able to listen to the album at home I realize all the more how fitting the GAHM is for the music — especially the bouncy, funhouse-feel of “Little Fang.”

AT I love Great American. It’s definitely my favorite place to play in SF and one of my favorite places anywhere. I have great memories from playing shows there. I think this size venue is probably my favorite to play.

SFBG Speaking of “Little Fang,” the video for the song was directed by your sister (Abby Portner) yet it still has that undeniable Animal Collective hallmark — sharing similar aesthetic qualities to ODDSAC (a visual album collaboration between AC and Danny Perez). I know that ODDSAC took over four years to complete. How has the process of marrying the audio and visual changed for you since working on that project?  

AT ODDSAC was unique in that we were trying to write the music and make the sounds as the videos were being created and attempting to piece it together as a whole while we worked. It also took awhile because we were working on other records during the process, as well. It’s always tough putting visuals to my/the groups music because I always have such intense feelings and visuals attached to it that are inside of me.  There is often a moment where I have to just give up the resistance to someone else’s vision of the music. It can be tough, but it’s been really rewarding so far and taught me a lot about what I like and don’t like. 


Sun/24, 8pm, $16

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

No shame: Activist-rockers the Shondes celebrate Halloween in SF


The Shondes are a dream come true for music-lovers with a political consciousness. The world can be a rough place, but doom-and-gloom is not this Brooklyn band’s style. With their bright klezmer-pop tunes and soaring, anthemic verses about love, perseverance, and messages of hope, the Shondes are out to better the world — or at least move their audiences to dance hard and sing-along.
Currently touring on their fourth album, The Garden, the Shondes are embracing the power of pop. Whether you’re an activist or just enjoy a good live show, give The Garden a listen and try to get “Nights Like These” or “Running Out of Time” out of your head.
I asked vocalist-bassist Louisa Solomon about the band’s latest album, the causes that are most important to the Shondes, and how their music connects them with their fans:
SFBG Can you start off by telling me about your band’s name? I read that it means “shameful” in Yiddish.
LS We wanted to give a nod to our Jewish lineage, and to reclaim a word that is sometimes used to brand outcasts. At the time, we were doing a lot of activism in Jewish communities, challenging some deeply entrenched norms, and we would sometimes get screamed at and spat on and all that good stuff. It was kind of like, “OK, if I’m a ‘shonde’ for standing up for what I believe in, so be it.” I think it tends to be much more immediately resonant for Jews who have grown up hearing it, but the idea is resonant for most people in one way or another.
SFBG How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
LS Sing-along, spirited rock anthems! The most flattering thing in the world is when our fans say we make them dance and we make them cry; that our music is hopeful. When we are able to impart hope, I feel totally fulfilled. So think of a Springsteen show and a riot grrrl punk show combining their emotional pay off, and that’s what we are going for!
SFBG What was the process of writing and recording The Garden like?
LS We worked really hard on The Garden. When we were touring on the previous record (2011’s Searchlights), we were starting to work through the musical and lyrical themes that came to define The Garden.

“Nights Like These” was one of the first songs we wrote in the Garden song cycle, and it felt like an important step in our evolution. We were embracing the cathartic potential of pop. We went on to write love songs, songs about friendship, and songs about not giving up. We wanted these songs to help people keep going – we were trying to ride the line between sincerity and cheesiness. I think we did OK in the end!
SFBG Can you tell me about “Nights Like These” and what made you choose it as the first single for this album?
LS “Nights Like These” is a good entry point to the record. We’re talking about hopes and dreams and fears and all that poppy stuff, but we really mean it! And there’s also serious musicianship and craft going on.
SFBG Is there a song from The Garden that you particularly enjoy performing?
LS I love jumping up and down during “Nights Like These,” getting the audience clapping along in “On Your Side,” and singing along to “The Garden” and “Nothing More Whole.” I also love singing “The Promise,” which is basically a duet with Eli, and we get the chance to camp it up just a bit.
SFBG Activism is an important factor in the band. Are there any causes in particular that you’re supporting right now?
LS We want a better and more just world, where people have what they need. So there are a billion causes we support! Big ones like universal healthcare, ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine, trans justice, but also we always want to support community organizers as much as possible, who are fighting racism and economic oppression (and tons of other great stuff!) at the local level. So we try to keep our eyes open.
SFBG What is the crowd usually like at a Shondes show?
LS Our fans are completely amazing and inspiring. There tends to be a lot of organizers who come out, and we have a growing number of older folks these days, which I think is awesome! Multigenerational fanbases rule. People who are mostly into punk and people who are mostly into pop and rock; people who are excited about the Jewish stuff and people who just love the music. Everyone tends to be enthusiastic and ready to dance. People very regularly tell us that they are moved by our playing (even to tears). It means a lot to us. It means everything.
SFBG What are you looking forward to most about playing in San Francisco?
LS It’s always wonderful to visit the Bay and play for our awesome people there. Cafe du Nord is one of our favorite clubs in the country; they have a totally heimishe (homey) vibe but are also extremely competent, respectful folks. It’s the best of all worlds as far as I’m concerned. Not to mention it’ll be my first Halloween in SF and I have seriously high expectations! Costumes, people.
The Shondes
With Naïve Americans, the Galloping Sea
Thu/31, 8:30pm, $7
Café du Nord
2170 Market, SF

Just a pipe dream? SF’s Whirr gets ‘Around’


In the cyclical nature of sonic trends, shoegaze has risen from the grave and out of obscurity again. With old guard bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Mazzy Star releasing new material, acts from this generation are following in their footsteps, reviving what was once out of vogue.

And in the midst of this comes Whirr, a dichotomy of sound, layered and simplistic at the same time, wrapped up in a tight package. Formed in San Francisco in 2011, through what guitarist and founding member Nick Bassett describes as basic boredom, the six-piece outfit decries its shoegaze leanings, searching for a heavier sound.

Bassett cites Whirr’s influences as former SST power trio Dinosaur Jr. and European shoegaze band Nightblooms. Despite these influences, critics have been quick to point out that the band also sounds like My Bloody Valentine. Slowdive, and the like. And why not? Much like those forefathers of sound, Whirr has heavy instrumentals that overpower dreamy female vocals. It’s an easy comparison, but also accurate.

And it’s easy to tell that Bassett isn’t exactly thrilled about that comparison. In response, he takes the path of resistance to these accusations.

“We’re louder than them, and I don’t think we really sound like them,” says Bassett.

But the statement that Whirr is louder than MBV is entirely disputable. Known for being the “loudest band on earth” to some, MBV was accused of being criminally negligent by the press while touring to promote Loveless in 1991.

Admittedly, Whirr is also very loud live — and the band has met opposition from venues and crowd goers alike throughout the course of its month-long tour with doom metal band Lycus and shoegaze group Nothing.

“The worst location we played was in Midland, Texas,” says Bassett. “They were blocking their ears and stuff because they thought we were too loud — they probably didn’t get it. Also Washington DC [was bad] because the sound guy wouldn’t let us play loud.”

Formerly of San Francisco black metal band, Deafheaven, Basset is no stranger to playing deafening music. And it seems that references and comparisons to Slowdive are something that have followed Bassett throughout his career as a musician — Deafheaven’s band name came as an homage to the English band.

But in the pursuit of maximum volume, some locations along the way have met Whirr’s arduous expectations. According to Bassett, Tampa, Fla. was the best stop on the road.

Why? “Because we were really loud and got a lot of money,” he says, concisely.

Aside from getting the chance to make lots of noise and get paid, Whirr has had a productive year with the release of a new EP this summer, which was the followup to last year’s LP Pipe Dreams (Tee Pee, 2012). 

Pipe Dreams
is an album of many layers, tossing together slow and kicky uptempo tunes. Some of the guitar riffs on the album, found in tracks like “Toss,” are downright pop-punk. But the band’s newest EP, Around (Grave Face), released in July, goes for a decidedly different temperament. There’s a slowed down pace.

also steps away from Pipe Dreams with its far longer tracks (not one under five minutes) though maintains a heavy, funeral dirge-like sound.

“These songs sound better when we play them live,” Bassett says.

If you’re interested in seeing if Bassett’s claim is accurate (or you just want to damage your hearing, if only momentarily) you can see Whirr at Bottom of the Hill this week. Oh, and bring earplugs just in case. Things might get loud.

With Nothing, Lycus
Wed/28, 9pm, $10
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th Street, SF
(415) 626-4455


Jamaican Queens on major influences, ‘Wormfood,’ and Detroit


The Detroit-based trio, Jamaican Queens, makes instantly catchy, hip-hop-influenced, electronic-soaked pop gems and performs them in a dance-inducing glam pop fashion. Although Ryan Spencer, Adam Pressley, and Ryan Clancy have been laying down beats together for less than a year, they have already released a full-length album – Wormfood – hit their hundredth show, and written album number two (which they’ll record once they’ve concluded their lengthy West Coast and summer tours).

I spoke with Jamaican Queens before they opened for Javelin at the New Parish in Oakland last week. After the boys grabbed a few local brews (Anchor Steam, of course), we went up to the roof and talked about their eclectic sound, living in Detroit, and the projects in the works. If you missed the Oakland show, catch them this Sunday at Brick and Mortar as Jamaican Queens could quickly become your favorite new band. (That’s been the case for yours truly.)

SF Bay Guardian How would you describe your sound?

Adam Pressley It’s hip-hop influenced and really abrasive.

Ryan Spencer It’s also experimental, but at the same time in the veil of pop. And lyrically, it’s very glam. We want to make music that makes people feel some sort of emotion – whether it be good or bad.

SFBG Who are some of your chief influences?

RS Most of the vocals I’m influenced by are dramatic – like the way David Bowie sings or the way the London Suede sings or T. Rex.

AP When we were making Wormfood, I started listening to the Magnetic Fields, and I was heavily influenced by what they were doing production-wise.

RS Yeah, they make very exaggerated pop music and can wrap up a huge amount of emotion in a two and a half minute song.

SFBG What type of music do you tend to listen to on your own?

AP I listen to only pop.

RS I listen to some more avant-garde stuff. I like Cambodian music and Jamaican Dancehall. That’s kind of where “Jamaican Queens” came from: Dancehall music. I love that stuff. But I like music that’s all across the board. Reggaeton. Insane punk rock. Everything. As long as it can make you feel something.

SFBG Do you guys have a favorite song to perform?

Ryan Clancy The dexterity and movement our songs require make them all really fun to play.

AP Our songs could be performed by six people, but we’ve got it so that we can all perform two instruments at once, so I’m playing a bass and a drum pad, Ryan Clancy is playing electronic drums and real drums, and Ryan Spencer is playing guitar and sampler. That’s “Water” right there.

SFBG Who’s behind your “Caitlin” video? The cinematography is unbelievable.

RC The cinematographer is our good friend Dan DeMaggio.

RS Our friend Caitlin, who the song is about, is the main character in the video. It’s a really dark story. She was living with Adam at the time, and her great aunt got murdered. A team of con artists started working for her great aunt and then ended up breaking into her house and murdering her. This is the song we wrote for her when she was going through that. It was a really intense time.

SFBG So, what’s it like living in Detroit?

RS I imagine it’s a little bit like Oakland. It’s a really supportive community, and the art and music scenes are very small so everyone knows each other and all of the bands that seem to be cool work together and help each other. Most of our friends don’t really have jobs, so you’ve got a lot of creative people working really hard on their art.

RC Yeah, I think one of the reasons we have such cool videos is because the art and the music scene are very incestuous. Everyone who’s a good photographer is also probably in a band or something.

SFBG What are you guys up to this summer and fall?

RS We’re doing a lot of festivals throughout the summer as well as working on going to Europe for the first time. We’re also making remixes, releasing some vinyl stuff in the UK, and recording a new album, which will be a long time coming because Wormfood just came out last month.

SFBG What do you think of the Bay Area so far?

RS The weather’s amazing, the people are cool, and it’s really liberal. It’s great.

Jamaican Queens
With Maus Haus, Black Jeans
Sun/12, 9pm, $7
Brick and Mortar
1710 Mission, SF
(415) 371-1631

Catching up with Young Prisms: new video, new process, and those pesky Cure comparisons


At their show at Elbo Room on Friday, Young Prisms are going to play new material that they’ve never performed in front of an audience.

“It should be interesting,” bassist and singer Gio Betteo told me last week at Mission Pie.

Vocalist Stefanie Hodapp added with a laugh, “Especially for us.”

That sort of relaxed good humor seems to define their whole attitude toward making music (past characterizations have used the word “slacker,” which doesn’t quite fit). The band, currently comprised of four members, including Jordan Silbert on drums and Matt Allen on guitar, produced albums in 2011 and ’12, and now wants to take its time creating a third.

Young Prisms have been experimenting with a new process that removes the pressure and constraints of their past songwriting. Now, they create when something comes to them. Betteo has been the primary writer of new material recently but only because he has been feeling inspired to write.

The result, they say, sounds more like genuine emotion and less like grasping at genre such as psychedelic rock or dream pop.

Not that they attempted to fit into any specific category in the past. When asked about the many comparisons that have been drawn between the band and noisy shoegazers such as My Bloody Valentine or the fuzzier Mazzy Star, Betteo and Hodapp looked at each other warily.

“I’m not dumb. I definitely hear it,” said Betteo. ”Whether it’s bands like No Joy and Weekend, that are currently doing it, or bands like Chapter House and My Bloody Valentine and stuff from 20 years ago, we like those sounds. It plays its own role in our writing and ideas, but never intentionally.”

Once, a fan came up to them after a show and praised the song that sounded like the Cure. Though they didn’t know which the fan meant (and suspected the fan didn’t know which he meant), the comparison was apt; they had spent the entire tour before they wrote the second album listening to the Cure. Though they don’t strive to mimic the band, they admit that they are drawn to certain musical ideas.

Over their years of playing together, these musical ideas have shifted. In the writing of their first album, Friends For Now, they didn’t care about creating relatable songs. “We just wanted to make fucked up sounds,” Betteo said. “I wanted this guitar to sound like a fucking car accident, and this drum beat to sound like a headache, a pulsing headache.”

In Between, the second album, represented a few steps toward developed structure and audience accessibility. They wanted to allow people to “find the song in it.”

Their new material, they say, will be a few steps further in that direction.

But they don’t want to lose their experimentally hazy sound, their relaxed outlook, or the sense that they’re in this to have fun. That seems unlikely.

With three out of four members of the band living together (they assured me that their home lives are too boring to merit a sitcom or reality TV show), one can imagine either the chemistry or the easygoingness required to sustain the bandmate-roommate relationship. Whatever the formula, it seems to have worked in the past and will seemingly continue to work as Young Prisms release their next album, maybe in early 2014.

Until that time, they have a new video for their song, “Runner,” a side project called Breathr that’s going to come out in the next couple of months on the label Dream, and shows around the Bay Area.

Young Prisms
With SISU, Chasms
Fri/19, 9:30pm, $12
Elbo Room
647 Valencia, SF
(415) 552-7788

Taking flight with Juan Atkins, co-originator of Detroit techno


Juan Atkins will perform songs from the Cybotron and Model 500 catalogues with a four-piece electronic group, including “Mad” Mike Banks of Underground Resistance, Mark Taylor, and Milton Baldwin, this Friday at No Way Back’s three-year anniversary party at Mezzanine.

When I first Googled “Model 500” the search results surprised me. I expected to find a clue as to why Juan Atkins named his mid-1980s solo music project after what sounded like a blueprint for a piece of consumer technology, like some sort of hyper-evolution of the Model T.

But the choices between a rotary telephone from the post-war period and a newly minted Smith & Wesson revolver, both model 500s in their own rights, left me wanting. When I ask Atkins whether there was any story behind the name, he suggests another way of reading it: “It was something I used to repudiate ethnic designation. It wasn’t named after any model or any particular piece of equipment.”

A more illuminating answer.

For it’s telling that one of the originators of Detroit techno — who first together with Rik Davis as Cybotron not only exploded what was expected of black American music, but also reinvented the possibilities for machine generated music — would substitute android names for human ones.

Already the word Cybotron contained the material trace of the cyborg, spun into rapid particle acceleration by the cyclotron. “Not that I was hiding my name,” Atkins clarifies. “When I first started making music in the ‘80s, the music industry was still really racially polarized. Even in America it still is that way to a certain degree. It was harder to cross over to certain genres, so I wanted to put more emphasis on the music as opposed to the person behind the music.”

Atkins put emphasis on the music in part by releasing it independently on his own imprints, Deep Space and later Metroplex, which is still operative nearly three decades later. But apart from the prejudices held by the industry, Atkins’ music reminds us that the production, distribution, and consumption of music is already caught up in an artificial network of mass production, even on independent labels.

At the very least, it’s contaminated in advance by the prosthetic apparatus that makes possible recording, listening, and performance. The name Model 500 then uncovers another achievement of techno as a genre: it refuses cheap illusions of authenticity by calling into question any pure separation between human creativity and technology, between feeling and artifice.

It’s strange that the sole contender against Cybotron’s “Alleys of the Mind” for the first techno single is A Number of Names’ “Sharevari.” Apparently they were both released only weeks apart in 1981, and no one has properly settled which came first. Once again, the human name, the proper name of the artist, is put under erasure for the benefit of the machine, this time a number: a number of names.

On the one side, we have the deep recesses of the mind mapped onto the neglected alleys of an otherwise manufactured and pre-programmed city. “Alleys” conjures images and feelings corresponding with a post-industrial wasteland, tempered in the shadow of Motown’s ghost and Detroit’s crumbling automobile industry, or as Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner would come out only one year later, a devastating post-human condition in which all life is gradually but inevitably devoured. On the other side, we have charivari, a word associated with all sorts of discordant music, disarticulated syntax, and mutilated proper names.

Yet, Atkins finds a hint of autonomy in disembodied music, especially in the robotic voice, freed from the social constraints that would root the lyricist in a localized body, and thus delimit its possibilities in a determinate space and time. Working with drum machines and synth keyboards that were made newly available and affordable, Atkins freely allowed the new instruments to guide the course of his music.

“There was no real plan or formula. Even the choice of the words was predicated on how well you can work the software,” he explains. “I used some primitive software — not even a vocoder; it was electronic speech software used for the Commodore 64 computer. The actual delivery of the lyrics was limited by the software, and our vocal skills, to make it work properly; it was really more of a mistake that the lyrics sounded as robotic as they did.”

Chance encounters between human and machine produced unheard possibilities. In “Clear,” a mechanically fissured voice repeatedly calls for the destruction of old programs in order to make way for the new. But an ambivalence wavers throughout; when the electric speech “tomorrow is a brand new day” emerges over a tremendously explosive rhythm, they invoke an anxious threshold between terror and hope.

As a friend of mine, whose intimacy with “Clear” cannot be overstated, put it: I get the impression that tomorrow has gone dark. Ever hopeful, I still have the impression that this darkness bears the promise of a new dawn.

“There’s a whole ideology that goes hand in hand with techno music, or electronic music,” Atkins says. “My way of thinking is that the ideology comes out in the lyrics. They had to be just as profound as the music.” A recently recovered Cybotron song, “Dreammaker,” depicts at least one of the ideological dimensions of Atkins’ machine-generated music: a cosmic escape.

Over drum sequences snared in delay and worming synth lines, an intoxicated voice addresses the maker of dreams to let him take flight “to the stars.” His appeal repeats, whirls, intoxicates. Punctuating the narrative, sound effects of a spaceship taking liftoff to a distant star culminate the song, calling us to imagine an escape from the disappointments and frustration wrought by planet Earth. For only the workings and unworkings of the imagination are able to resist the pressures of our reality. Perhaps Atkins’ music then becomes the vehicle, an unreal piece of futuristic technology, for the flight of the imagination.

The interconnected thread of speed, flight, and escape is also weaved into the more muscular configuration of sound underwriting the signature of Model 500. In “Night Drive (thru Babylon),” the mechanized refrain of “time, space, transmat” buzzes over speeding sub-bass frequencies, as if the intensified acceleration of the song itself could dematerialize and transmutate our own bodies captured in the web of rhythm.

Kraftwerk’s mark is here unmistakable but calibrated to the propulsive swing of funk. The drums reach such overwhelming claustrophobia in “No UFOs” that it violently increases a growing desire for release. But where could we find this release? When listening, I gather the sense that these injunctions for flight don’t invite the decadent escapism that is so often associated with electronic dance music; rather, they subtly indicate the possibility of the unknown, a world foreign to our own, not yet in being.

Much of Cybotron and Model 500 fuels this desire for the unknown, nourishing a nearly forgotten hope, dim and repressed, for renewal, even for the collective transformation in which proper names would no longer evoke exclusion and carry the weight of injustice. “As long as the theme and the recurring thread is the new, or the future, then basically, the future is what you make it,” Atkins reminds us. “Synthesis means to make something from nothing—almost.” He paused, before qualifying the almost. “I would never put a formula onto what the future is.”

No Way Back with Model 500
Fri/16, $20, 9pm
444 Jessie St, SF

Das Racist’s Kool A.D. on hip-hop, baseball, and losing his virginity


Self-proclaimed, “second best rapper with glasses after E-40” and Bay Area native by way of Brooklyn Victor Vazquez aka KOOL A.D. of rap group Das Racist has had quite the prolific past year in the hip-hop industrial complex. 

He and his group Das Racist — featuring rapper Heems and hypeman Dapwell (Dap for short) — released their debut LP and critic darling Relax. Soon after that he released not one but two positively received mixtapes in the span of three months, The Palm Wine Drinkard and the Bay Area homage 51. Das Racist plays DNA Lounge this Fri/12. 

KOOL A.D. took time off from his 10-city tour with Das Racist, Leif, Safe, and Lakutis to rhapsodize with the Guardian about playing for the A’s, his punk band, and getting free weed.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Are you for the Giants/ 49ers or A’s/Raiders?

KOOL A.D. I don’t really care. But A’s.

SFBG If you played for the A’s what would be your stepping up to the plate song?

KAD [Long laugh] “Le Freak” by Chic.

SFBG Where in the Bay Area did you live when you were growing up?

KAD Potrero Hill, Hunter’s Point, Alameda, West Oakland.

SFBG I heard a rumor that you lost your virginity in the back of a fruit truck in Alameda? Can you confirm or deny this?

KAD I lost my virginity in the cab of the produce truck at Paul’s Produce (now called Dan’s Produce I think) where I used to work.

SFBG What are your favorite spots in the Bay to kick it at? What places do you take Heems and Dap?

KAD As a youngster, I went to punk shows in warehouses and houses, kicked it at Donut Shops, burger spots, and Mexican restaurants, dollar ten Chinese, drank and smoked weed in parks. Not particularly good at “recommending cool shit” to people.

SFBG The Guardian had a recent cover story entitled “Is Oakland Cooler Than San Francisco” What’s your take on that? As a Brooklyn resident do you think Oakland could be SF’s Brooklyn?

KAD I lived in both and love both and it always bugged me that SF fools don’t want to come to the East Bay and East Bay fools don’t want to go to SF. I think a large part is because BART closes too early. Never understood why BART couldn’t get it together to be 24 hours.

SFBG Who are some Bay Area rappers you’ve been into lately?

KAD Favorite people making music in the Bay are Amaze 88, Trackademicks, 1-O.A.K., The Coup, Main Attrakionz, Davinci, Young L, Lil B, Kreayshawn, Beed Weeda, Too Short, E-40, Droop-E, Issue, YG, Cuzzo Fly, Stone Vengeance, Las Malas Pulgas, Under 15 Seconds, Fracas, Fucktard,  Reivers, @AAANTWON, Nacho Picasso, Mike Baker, Safe.

SFBG Finish this phrase: “Rap Game [blank].”

KAD Keith Morris.

SFBG Das Racist frequently asks fans to throw various objects on stage. What’s the most outlandish or weirdest thing any fan has ever thrown on stage?

KAD Hundreds of Soy Joy snack bars at a festival in Washington was pretty weird. Also hellof weed, cigarettes. One time in Oakland I asked for money and got like 30 bucks in small bills.

SFBG If presented with the opportunity to join the Illuminati, would you accept?

KAD Depends on what’s in it for me.

SFBG What are you currently working on?

KAD I got a lot of tracks recorded, want do a mixtape or two, maybe an album. I got a punk band called Party Animal putting out a record in December. Got rap mixtape called Peaceful Solutions with Seattle jazz man Kassa Overall. Co-writing for a project called Cult Days.

SFBG I see you’ve been tweeting a lot about Bud Light Platinum, are you fan? Would you and the crew let them use a DR song in a commercial?

KAD Never drank it. But yeah, it’s hard to turn down large sums of money.

SFBG What’s your take on the current state of the hyphy movement? Some say it’s peaked, do you agree or disagree?

KAD Hyphy is a feeling.


Das Racist With Le1f, Safe, and Lakutis

Fri/12, 10pm, $25

DNA Lounge

375 11 St., SF




The Spring Standards on genre jumping, Fleetwood Mac, and SF pizza


The Spring Standards kids grew up together on the Delaware/Pennsylvania border and got their start playing small folk festivals and around the campfire back in high school. After a break from their collaboration, Heather Robb, James Cleare, and James Smith found themselves in Brooklyn, inspired to pick up where they left off. They’ve been playing together as the Spring Standards for four years and released double EP yellow//gold last spring.

SFBG So I understand you’ve been on tour for the majority of the past few years. What’s that like?

HR It’s demanding. The hardest part about it is realizing where your regular life is, but luckily touring comes naturally to us. We love getting out, seeing the country, meeting new people, and having weird experiences. We’re still at that level of touring where, on any given night, we could be crashing with complete strangers, which always makes for some great adventure or strange story.

SFBG How would you describe your genre?

HR It’s rock and roll in the sense that it’s free and liberated expression – it’s loud sometimes and raucous and rowdy sometimes – but we also have really deep roots in folk music, Americana, and bluegrass. We’re accessing old school harmony-driven folk rock that was big in the ‘70s. And every so often we decide to totally jump to a different genre and play a heart-wrencher ballad that has nothing to do with rock and roll or a really loud White Stripes song that has nothing to do with folk music.

SFBG Do you try to channel any specific musicians?

HR I think we do sometimes for specific songs. There’s definitely a track off of gold that’s very Fleetwood Mac and in “So Simple So True” I really tried to channel Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Find the Cost of Freedom.” But, for the most part, I’d say we don’t. We have three songwriters, and I think we just sit down and try to follow what our hearts are telling us on a given day, which can really take us anywhere.

SFBG Can you explain the concept behind ‘yellow//gold’?

HR We hear a lot of different things from a lot of different people about what our sound is, but most consistently we hear that it’s all over the map, which we take as both constructive criticism and praise. The idea for yellow//gold came from wanting to have two opportunities to explore really different sides of our identity musically. We started with this idea of color because it felt intuitive, expressive, and not so limiting. Yellow’s more of the folk-based side of what we do, and gold is the rock-based side. We decided to release them together because they make the most sense when you look at them next to each other.

SFBG What excites you most about playing here in San Francisco?

HR We’re excited to follow up on our June show and love the whole San Francisco scene. And there was a pizza shop I was supposed to visit last time but didn’t get to, so I’ll be looking forward to that!

The Spring Standards
With Dylan Champagne, Ed & The Red Reds
Wed/3, 8pm, $8
Hotel Utah
500 Fourth St., SF
(415) 546-6300

Total Trash adds second Coachwhips show


So, you know how you were super bummed that you forgot to buy Coachwhips reunion tickets for the now sold-out Oct. 27 show at the Verdi Club in San Francisco? Total Trash just announced that it added a second Coachwhips show that weekend – and this one is all-ages and in Oakland, with Pangea.

Coachwhips, as you know, was John Dwyer’s (Pink and Brown, Thee Oh Sees) screamy punk band that existed from 2001 through 2005 and released the excellent Bangers Versus Fuckers LP in 2003. These shows will be hot, sweaty fun.

Total Trash Halloween Bash with Coachwhips, Traditional Fools, Moonhearts, and more
Oct. 27, 7pm, sold out
Verdi Club
2424 Mariposa, SF

new show added:
With Pangea, FIDLAR, Guantanamo Baywatch, White Mystery
Oct. 29, 7pm, $12
Lobot Gallery
1800 Campbell, Oakl.

Get tickets here:

Aesop Rock on Grubstake, stolen gear, and how to get in his barber chair


San Francisco resident Ian Bavitz, better known as Aesop Rock, is a hip-hop maverick with a quick tongue and sharp wit. His je ne sais quois coolness seems to increase exponentially with every move he makes, from collaborating with Atmosphere’s Slug to peppering his rhymes with obscure science fiction references to touring with alternative folk royalty Kimya Dawson to giving haircuts on stage, to writing a song about Grubstake, Polk Street’s notorious greasy spoon and late-night vomitorium.

Unfortunately, in July the rapper had to cancel his show at the Fillmore because his van was broken into. We caught up with Aesop in preparation for the rescheduled concert on September 16.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Welcome back to San Francisco! How do you feel about playing hometown shows?

Aesop Rock Thanks. Feels great playing in this town. SF has been awesome to me for a lot of years and I really like putting on a good show here.  We were crushed when we had to cancel last month after having a bunch of gear stolen – so to be able to makeup the gig in a couple weeks is awesome.

SFBG How did you bounce back from having your gear stolen?

AR It sucked. For the whole next four to five shows we were all in a rut, trying to pull the show back together. Having that happen on literally the second show of our tour really took the wind of our sails. That night I was home on some ‘I just wanna quit…. wahhhhhh’. Once we got back into the groove, the shows picked up nicely and its started to feel OK again. I’m just happy we were able to get it re-scheduled. Canceling is such a giant bummer.

SFBG You’ve been keeping busy lately with your brand new album ‘Skelethon’ and side project Hail Mary Mallon. Do you have any other projects in the works?

AR Yeah, I have a group record with Kimya Dawson under the name the Uncluded that’s getting mixed now, should be out sometime next year. We’ll probably keep touring for Skelethon and then go into touring for the Uncluded project. Hail Mary Mallon is starting on their 2nd LP, and I plan to start writing new solo stuff very soon as well.

SFBG How often do you actually eat at Grubstake? What are some other favorite local spots?

AR If I’m around town I’ll eat at Grubstake once a week or so. I like [Taqueria] Cancun. I like Citizen’s Band for something a touch more pricey but delicious. I love Hard Knox Cafe. Mama’s. I love many places!

SFBG What does a fan have to do to get in your barber chair?

AR Just sign up at the merch table at the top of the night! We only have time to do one cut per night, so it’s a bit of a lottery, but you can’t win if you don’t enter! You can also bribe us and we will rig the act. Bam!

Aesop Rock
Sun/16, 8pm, $22.50 (tickets from the 7/15 show honored)
1805 Geary, SF

The Vaselines move beyond ‘Kurt Cobain’s favorite band’


Hailing from Scotland in the late 1980s, The Vaselines released just a couple of EPs and one full album before originally calling it quits after two short years together. However, thanks to fans like Kurt Cobain, who covered three of their tunes with Nirvana, and exposed the band to larger audiences around the world, new generations have fallen in love with them in the ensuing years.
Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee — the duo behind the Vaselines — reformed the group for a series of outstanding shows in 2008, including their first ever concerts in the United States.

“We didn’t really know what to expect, we didn’t know if anybody would be at the shows, or if they’d be interested, because it had been 20 years, and we had never been to America,” says Eugene Kelly over the phone from his home in Glasgow, Scotland.

In addition to performing at Sub Pop Records’ 20th anniversary festival — the Seattle label re-issued their collected works back in 1992 — the Vaselines played several other shows in the US, including New York and San Francisco, where they were inspired by the devoted fan base that came out to see them.
“It’s a great thing to be able to play songs that were written 20 years ago, and there’s an audience for them, and people want to see us play,” says Kelly.

It was this enthusiastic response that prompted the band to come back together to later write and record a new album, Sex With An X (Sub Pop), which came out in 2010, and perfectly captured the unique and infectious spirit of their earlier work.

“When we started doing a few shows, and then started getting more offers, we thought, ‘we can play the same 19 songs that we’ve got forever, or we write some new songs to make it interesting for us, and try to say something new,’ so we just got down to work doing that.”

Although it had been more than two decades since they recorded together, and the group had a far bigger audience than ever before — one that had been listening to the same small output for a long time — Kelly says that there wasn’t any conscious effort to try to sound the same.

“I think it was a natural thing once we got together and started writing — we decided to not try to be beholden to what the sound was like in the past — they’re different recordings 20 years later, so obviously something is going to be different. We just thought, ‘let’s try to just make a record and hopefully it will turn out to be a good one,’ and not work slavishly to try to copy what we had done [before].”

The resulting album was warmly received by fans, as it contained the same signature ingredients as their earlier work, and the band found that they were also able to move beyond simply being labeled ‘Kurt Cobain’s favorite band’— but that doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate what Nirvana covering “Son of A Gun,” “Molly’s Lips,” and “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam” did for their career.

“We’re quite happy with the association; we wouldn’t really be able to do any of this now if wasn’t for them putting our name into the world, we’re totally grateful. But with the new record, it gave us something else to talk about, and we don’t have to talk about the past — we’re happy with our history, but we’re also looking forward,” says Kelly.

Although the Vaselines won’t be playing any new material at the four shows they’ve currently got booked here in the US, they are always working on new ideas when not on the road.

“I’m writing songs all the time, sometimes it will work for the Vaselines, sometimes it will work for something else at some point— I’d like to do other stuff as well, I’ve always wanted to do a musical, but that’s probably further down the line — I think maybe I’ll do that once I get the punk rock out of my system.”

For now, however, Kelly is happy to continue building on the legacy of the Vaselines, and is encouraged when he meets fans at shows or runs across younger musicians from bands at festivals who tell him what his band has meant to them over the years.

“We only released a couple of records, and the fact that they actually got to the other side of the world, and anybody had the chance to listen to them is amazing. It does make you feel old though when you see these very young people come up to you and say they’ve been listening to you since they were in high school — but if we made anyone pick up a guitar, or bass, or drums, that’s just a great feeling to know that you might have inspired somebody.”

The Vaselines
With Mister Loveless
Fri/31, 9pm, $22
628 Divisadero, SF.
(415) 771-1421

King Khan shares his spiritual side, hosts tarot reading contest


After talking to Arish “King” Khan over the phone last Friday, I got a sense of a more spiritual and sympathetic side as opposed to the notorious showman he’s become over the years. Along with his band — the Shrines, he’ll bring his traveling stage show to the Great American Music Hall on Tuesday. He spoke to me from Berlin, his residence for more than a decade, where he raises his family (yes, the man we’ve seen prance around on stage in sequined undies and flashy, feathery costume is also a father) in what continues to become a rapidly “hipster-fied” artists’ mecca.

Khan touched on his musical roots in Montréal where he was a 17-year-old-punk doing interviews with the likes of Napalm Death and the equally teenaged and “obnoxious” Jay Reatard  for a magazine known in the late 1990s as “Voice of Montréal.” It would later be renamed Vice. In fact one of his earlier bands, the Spaceshits (featuring Mark Sultan, a.k.a. BBQ) had a guitarist who designed the magazine’s current logo.

But it was this environment that would also serve as his training ground, where he’d learn his craft; absorb his antics and prepare to launch his own ritualistic rock and soul experience.

“When I was a kid, I’d be like 10 and watching infomercials for oldies music collections and saw Otis Redding, James Brown, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley. That’s really something essential to rock and roll — people who are characters.”

Character is one thing the ostentatious one isn’t short on, but his backing musicians in the Shrines are nothing to scoff at either. One of them, Ron Streeter, is a veteran percussionist who previously worked for Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder.

Khan told some of Streeter’s story, how he became somewhat estranged from his family; not having seen his brother, a Vietnam vet, for over 25 years. He mentions Streeter had a stroke a few years before joining the band and lost power in half of his body. Khan said he’s always upbeat and that in the beginning, when they were touring, sleeping on floors, doing it “punk style,” that the elder was always fine with it.

“It was like he was reliving his past. Ron has been with us for 12 years. He’s like the grandpa of the band,” Khan said. “I found him when he started playing with people [because he wasn’t doing much anymore] and so I invited him to join. I think the Shrines thing is a big family.”

And for Streeter it would be a family reunion when lo and behold his family finally saw him in Texas on Current TV performing with the Shrines. Khan called it a miracle.

He said while every religion has something to offer, music is his salvation.

“It’s a pretty simple formula. You’re giving off a ritual. A lot of bands forget to do that.” He said some concertgoers revel in what he called an orgiastic, orgasmic experience of uncontainable energy. And he loves that younger people come out to his shows. “It’s great that kids aren’t hypnotized by bullshit,” he said.

While it’s not exactly hypnotism, Khan does partake in reading tarot cards. He learned about this after meeting surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky in Paris a few years back. The maker of Holy Mountain, a film Khan considers one of the most psychedelic ever made, gave him a pack of cards and he considers it an honor (he took it to heart and wrote a tarot column for a French fashion magazine).

Are you a big fan of King Khan & The Shrines and tarot cards? Want King Khan to read your tarot? If so, please email describing why you want King Khan to do your personal reading. It’ll take place on Tuesday, Sept. 4 before their Great American Music Hall show in SF. All entries must be received by noon this Friday, Aug. 31.

King Khan and the Shrines
With Apache
Tues/4, 8pm, $16
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF

Deltron 3030 is back


After releasing their self-titled debut LP to cultish acclaim in 2000, Bay Area hip-hop supergroup Deltron 3030 mysteriously dropped off the radar for over a decade, resulting in borderline Chinese Democracy levels of superfan speculation. Now, with their follow-up, Deltron Event II, finished and slated for release this fall, the trio is going all out on their first North American tour since the project’s revival.

This Sunday, rap icon Del the Funky Homosapien (or Del tha Funkee Homosapien), producer Dan the Automator, and turntablist Kid Koala, will descend upon Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheater on their second Rock the Bells tour stop as Deltron 3030, for a homecoming spectacular determined to exceed their devoted fan-base’s already lofty expectations.

As demonstrated by the triumphant live premiere of Deltron Event II in Toronto this past June, and in the YouTube videos that circulated in its aftermath, the trio’s comeback tour is anything but a low-key affair. “We’re literally bringing a string section, a horn section, and a choir,” Dan the Automator told the Guardian over the phone from his SF studio. “I mean, rap doesn’t do that. We’re in our own lane. There’s no actual comparative group to deal with, except ourselves.”

Dan’s assertion would recall Mike Tyson’s infamous post-prizefight gloating, if he weren’t totally right. Truth be told, Deltron 3030’s ambitious live approach presents a striking departure from hip-hop’s bare-bones, DIY origins.

“It’s an experience,” Del said from his home in Oakland. “It ain’t the same old walkin’ back and forth, two turntables, yelling in a microphone, not really doing nothing… This is an extravaganza.”

Having produced, recorded, and engineered a vast range of musical projects, from Kool Keith, to Gorillaz, to Primal Scream, Dan is no stranger to ambitious undertakings. However, the logistical planning of Deltron 3030’s current touring lineup stands tall as the mightiest accomplishment of his career thus far.

“I came up with the idea, and everybody else helped pull it off,” Dan explained. “Then, we had to do charts, score the music, get all the people, find how we can get that many people to a place. I don’t want to say it was a stupid idea, because it was a great idea. [Laughs] It was an incredibly naive undertaking, but it’s awesome that we got to do it.”

Del was similarly awestruck at the depth of Dan’s achievement. “It’s amazing, to me, how he had this vision, and really made it happen. Of course, it took some work, but he’s up there with the tuxedo on, with the baton in his hand, conducting. And I’m like, ‘Wow! OK, this is really happening.’ Plus, for some reason, I don’t know where his power comes from. I guess, because he’s the Automator.”

Whereas Dan functions as Deltron 3030’s chief organizer, and the primary force behind the project’s aesthetic foundation, Del is largely responsible for the underlying mythology. Set in an Orwellian dystopia, 1000 years in the future, and filtered through the observations of protagonist Deltron Zero, Deltron 3030 evoked the structure of rock operas such as Tommy, Ziggy Stardust, and The Wall, in its insistence upon narrative drive and the establishment of a distinctive universe all its own.

Partly in response to tumultuous changes in the real world since 2000 (9/11; the ensuing police state, and wars in the Middle East; Occupy Wall Street) Deltron Event II illustrates a society that has only grown bleaker and more demoralized.

“It’s a Mad Max type of world,” Del philosophized. “Everybody went too far, so to speak. Everything is just trashed; there’s no law; criminals just took over the streets, basically, so you just gotta get in where you can fit in, just make it happen however you gonna make it happen. It’s like anarchy, basically. It’s everybody for themselves.”

From his home in Montreal, Kid Koala discussed Deltron 3030’s futuristic approach, and its capacity to address the zeitgeist of 2012 more effectively than a narrative set in current times.

“Even though it’s set in the future,” he explained, “it’s not really about us being on some crazy laser quest… it’s actually talking about real issues. The economy, the class system… but, I guess, had we set it in the actual present day, it would just come off as more preachy, or something.”

Given the largely personal, apolitical nature of Del’s solo material, and his much celebrated work with Hieroglyphics, his resistance to heavy-handed politicking is understandable.

“Deltron is kind of separate from what I do with Del. With Del, I try to be more direct, to the ground, to the earth, try to talk directly to people. And it’s usually about real life situations. Just being able to deal and cope with personal types of problems or issues… and just striving. That’s what that’s about. With Deltron, I just tried to make a novel and put it in a musical format.”

Outlining his literary approach, Del cited Orwell’s 1984 as having a major effect on Deltron Event II’s conceptual framework, but the project’s key influence behind might come as a surprise.

“My main inspiration came from Megaman X,” Del explained. “It was the same game, basically, but the graphics were stepped up: more glossy, more futuristic, just looked real spiffy. It wasn’t as bubbly and cartoony as the first one. It looked modern. You had modern types of weapons and stuff. It really sent [me] a message, like, ‘Ok, that’s how you can do Del, too: put him in this future world, and he’ll be the same Del, but he’ll be able to do different little things that the regular Del can’t do.’”

High gloss, modern weapons, and a world gone down the tubes: that’s the state of affairs in the Deltron universe, circa 3040. But, despite the hopelessness of the world they’ve created, Dan, Del, and Koala are confident in Deltron Event II’s ability to justify a 12-year hiatus.

“I think it crushes the first one,” Kid Koala proclaimed. “The three of us, individually, are just better at our crafts now. We just tried to raise the bar on ourselves, really.”

A glance at the Rock the Bells lineup reveals a wealth of esteemed artists, and genuine game-changers in the world of hip-hop: Method Man and Redman, Ice Cube, Nas, Common. However, Deltron 3030’s almost absurdly ambitious live approach puts them in an entirely different league.

“As far as the artistic aspect, intrinsically, there’s nothing like this,” Dan insisted. “There never has been, and I doubt there ever will be.”

Deltron 3030
Sun/26, 6:45-7:45pm
Paid Dues Stage; Rock the Bells
$265 for two-day tickets
Shoreline Amphitheatre
1 Amphitheatre, Mountain View

Hey SF, RZA is coming


The Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, and his highly influential production sound, are much too easily taken for granted. You’ve got his Minnie-Ripperton-on-helium tape speeding methods, to which Kanye will forever be indebted; the filthy, resinous 36 Chambers aesthetic that’s informed everyone from MF Doom to Portishead; his prophetic, narrative skits that have irreversibly shaped the dynamics of the hip-hop album.

Even after 20 years in the biz, the Staten Island icon and famed kung-fu fetishist continues to shepherd the hip-hop form in bold, new directions. Expect RZA to reinforce his prestige when he takes the Mezzanine stage this Thursday, with a full live band in tow.

It’s worth noting that, despite his prolificacy, RZA has just one proper solo record under his belt. This makes the prospect of a live show all the more compelling, as his discography offers a seemingly endless diversity of material to cherrypick from. Of course, there’s the Wu-Tang archive, and his productions for colleagues like Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man; his recordings under the Bobby Digital moniker; his wide-ranging collaborative efforts, including work with Nas and System of a Down; his kung-fu-centric soundtrack contributions for the likes of Quentin Tarantino (with whom he also worked on his own upcoming film, The Man With The Iron Fist, directed by RZA and co-written by RZA and Eli Roth) and Jim Jarmusch.

Adding to the mystique, is the relative lack of publicity surrounding the lineup of RZA’s band, and its plans to approach his almost entirely electronic production sound. How will a live drummer approximate the precarious, lo-fi thud of his synthetic beats? How will the melodies and samples be replicated, and on what instrumentation? And, perhaps most intriguingly of all, what effect will live, human interplay have on the loop-based foundations of his recorded output? The addition of a live band to RZA’s domain raises an abundance of tantalizingly unanswerable questions. For those fascinated by musicians pushing themselves into exploratory situations, this live appearance ought to be nothing short of essential.

9pm, $25 advance
444 Jessie, SF
(415) 625-8880

Dum Dum Girls drummer Sandra Vu doubles as SISU’s lead singer


If you’ve ever caught Dum Dum Girls live, you’ve likely asked yourself, “who is that babe with the flying black hair who’s slaying on drums?” That’s Sandra “Sandy Beaches” Vu, the quartet’s drummer, who also fronts her own music project, SISU (pronounced “see-soo”). Her band mixes minimal electro beats and synth with guitar, bass, and flute, all surrounded by Vu’s ethereal voice, a far cry from Dum Dum Girls’ chainsaw surf guitar and singer Dee Dee’s vibrato.

This tour, SISU joins Dum Dum Girls as the traveling opener for most nights including Mon/21 in San Jose (though not in San Francisco, Tues/22 – but hey, Sandy will still be there, pounding away with DDG). SISU’s totally DIY (hence, highly limited) hand-numbered CD-Rs will be available on the West Coast tour.

I spoke with the tireless Vu during a quick van ride during their joint tour, in her Los Angeles hometown, discussing doing double duty in the lineup, feeling naked on stage, and beats that sound like a giant’s stride.

SFBG Can you tell me about SISU’s formation, when did it start, and how did the idea come together?

Sandra Vu  I was in a band called Midnight Movies, we were signed to a small label and we were on track to “go big” but it never happened. I had put everything into it at that point, and had structured my life, day job, and so on to make playing music my life.

So when we split, I was pretty confused about what to do next. I had always written songs and generally messed around with recording multiple tracks of myself since I learned how to use a tape deck.

So I just decided to write songs for myself, and learn how to use the computer as a home studio. This was before Garageband so it was a little more esoteric back then to record on a laptop. My goal was always just to keep it going and play music with my friends if they would join me.

SFBG Who else is in the band now?

SV Ryan Wood also played in Midnight Movies. We had that special rhythm section bond and had become really good friends. He’s a talented songwriter and guitar player in his own right. He’s pretty much the other half of the SISU brain. More than playing guitar and keyboard, he’s the band engineer.

We have done a lot of self-releases, so I’ve made him responsible for the sort of technical aspects of the band, which I think plays a big hand in the sound of the band. He is a synth nerd and fine tunes a lot of sounds that we end up using. Then there is Nathanael Keefer on drums, Rebecca Calinsky on keyboards, and Chris Stevens who joined us on this tour on bass guitar. They are the best!

SFBG When did you start drumming? And when did you pick up other instruments?

SV I started playing drums when I was 13. I taught myself guitar around the same time as well, if not before. My first instrument was the piano, I think around age 7. In second grade, I joined the school band and learned the flute.

I wanted to play drums for a long time, but picked up guitar and flute along the way because it’s a bit inaccessible to get a drumkit. You know, it’s expensive, takes up a lot of room, and super loud – basically, every parents’ nightmare. I realize it sickens people to hear how easily it came to me, but it really didn’t. I worked hard at it and spent many many hours playing and obsessing.

SFBG Has SISU opened for Dum Dum Girls before this tour? What’s it like doing double-duty at shows so far?

SV No, this is the first time. We had talked about it before, but it hasn’t happened until now! Now that I’m a few shows in, I can tell you that it’s pretty stressful. I thought we had no time to hang out playing in one band, we absolutely have zero time to grab dinner after soundcheck with friends now because I have another soundcheck right after. Overall, it’s more mentally tiring than physically. I don’t think I could drum in two bands in one night though, that would just be too intense.

SFBG Do you see any similarities between the two bands?
SV They are very much separate. Dee Dee and I have overlapping taste in music, but the outcome of our bands are very different. For one, there are no synths in Dum Dum Girls, whereas SISU songs are often centered around synth sounds. In SISU, I play the guitar very sparingly and hardly ever use complete chords.

SFBG Any other musicians, songs, or albums influence SISU?

SV  Some unexpected influences are Serge Gainsbourg, DJ Shadow, and Vashti Bunyan. There is one DJ Shadow song that I was sure inspired our bass sound, but I went back and listened to it, and it was much different than I remembered. It was strange that I was inspired by an inaccurate memory, and even stranger that what we came to could have been drawn from much more obvious band, like the Cure.

SFBG Anything non-music related influence SISU?

SV The song “Infinity Net” on our new EP was inspired by artist Yayoi Kusama and a conversation I had with a friend. Sometimes I will let a visual idea dictate sounds and rhythm in a song. It’s easier for me to describe sounds as visual than in words, for instance, I always describe to Nat, our drummer, that the beat is like a giant slowly stepping, which would give the song a weighty downbeat. So, in a nutshell, yes, things like dots and giants will influence SISU.

SFBG Is there a huge visceral change switching between drummer and frontperson?  

SV Completely. I often don’t see audience faces from the drums. And if I do, I have this cage of drums and hardware before me. In front, it’s just me, my guitar, and the feeling of utter nakedness. Singing is the most vulnerable thing I can think of doing in front of a bunch of strangers, apart from literally going naked.

SFBG Who writes SISU songs, lyrics?

SV I’ve written and arranged almost everything that we’ve put out. I like to collaborate on lyrics with friends occasionally. The invitation is always open to my bandmates since it is usually the last thing we add. “Light Eyes” lyrics were written by my friend Deborah Uytiepo. I had originally written the song not for SISU, but for an unnamed project. I like to experiment that way, involve my friends and open up my world to people who aren’t musicians. I create everything else alone and typically between the hours of 2-8am, so it’s nice to engage that way.

SFBG Is ‘Demon Tapes Vol. 2’ available only in CD-R format?

SV For now, yes. My friend just brought up the idea of putting the first and second Demon Tapes EPs together in an actual cassette tape, which will probably happen a bit later. I wanted Vol. 2 to be a cassette tape, but in the end, CD-R is more suited to our DIY production process. It’s faster to burn CDs and easier to customize packaging. I would have ruined cassettes if I tried to spray paint them.

SFBG Is it meant to be a follow-up to the ‘Demon Tapes’ EP?

SV I like the idea of seriality, but the thing they have in common is that they are demos. They are first-takes of ideas as they first happened. We left in a lot of technical mistakes and things I knew I could have performed better. Half the time in SISU, we are deciding whether or not to “fix” stuff, but we often don’t, even if it’s not a demo. The other common thing between the two is that we produced and did everything ourselves. Ryan knows how to mix and record and we are both graphic designers. I played nearly every instrument on both. It is half out of necessity and half that I actually enjoy every step of the way. My fingerprints are literally on each and every CD that goes out.

SFBG Any plans to record a full-length?
SV Yes, we have one “in the can” as they say. It should be in the cannon, but instead it’s waiting in some can somewhere. It was supposed to come out last year, but we had some difficulty planning a release date around my schedule with Dum Dum Girls. I’m already thinking about the next record, but we are still figuring out a way to release that one.

Dum Dum Girls
With SISU, Young Prisms
Mon/21, 8pm, $14
Blank Club
44 S. Almaden, San Jose
(408) 292-5265

Dum Dum Girls
With Tamaryn, Young Prisms
Tue/22, 8pm, $17
333 11th St., SF
(415) 255-0333


SF-born legend Terry Bozzio on UK’s reunion, his dad’s accordion, and the importance of drum lessons


Bay Area-born and raised drummer extraordinaire Terry Bozzio (who plays the Regency Ballroom Fri/18 with reunited band UK) has performed with Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, Jeff Beck, Fantomas, and a host of other musicians over the years. Recognized as one of the best modern drummers, he has recorded a variety of instructional videos, been honored by Guitar Center’s RockWalk in Hollywood, and has created some of the most insane custom drum sets ever seen on stage.

Bozzio’s amazing talents will be on display live tonight as he performs with the reunited prog rock super group UK — with whom he originally played from 1978 through 1980 — which also features John Wetton (King Crimson, Asia) and Eddie Jobson (Frank Zappa, Roxy Music).

Born in San Francisco, Bozzio’s family moved to Marin County when he was in third grade. His father had been a child musical prodigy, playing the accordion on stage in San Francisco when he was only four years old, and continued to occasionally play when he was older and had a family.

“People would come over for a Sunday dinner, and they’d beg him to play the accordion — he would begrudgingly pull it out, but within a few chords he would silence the room, he could just hold them in the palm of his hand,” says Bozzio over the phone during a recent tour stop in Portland. “To witness that power was something I was very jealous of at an early age, and now having experienced being able to do that — so I’m told — I credit him with having inspired it.”

When Bozzio started playing a musical instrument himself a few years later — the drums — his father would often give advice to him and his band mates when practicing in one of his first groups, Blue Glass Radio, a combo comprised of friends from middle school. “I was pretty much a rock’n’roll, play by ear kind of guy until I took six months of drum lessons which were very, very key and important for me, when I was 15 or so,” says Bozzio.

“My last year at Drake High School I started to study music seriously, and continued to study jazz and classical at College of Marin; I graduated from there with a commercial music degree — just an A.A. degree — but that was enough to prepare me for what was going to happen within a very short time.”

Bozzio soon began playing a wide variety of musicians, in many different styles, and after some time found himself with a reputation as being one of the best drummers in the Bay Area, which eventually led him to being asked to join Frank Zappa’s band. From there, Bozzio has gone on to perform with an incredible amount of world-class musicians over a nearly four decade long career.

With this UK reunion, Bozzio says he is having fun looking back and re-examining that particular portion of his musical legacy.
“I’ve always been proud of that music, and I think both John and Eddie are tremendous musicians with a great history in rock’n’ roll, making great contributions. When you listen back to some of this stuff, it impresses you because you kind of listen with fresh ears.”

Performing at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco will have a special hometown meaning for Bozzio — he saw his first rock concert at the Avalon Ballroom, which was what the venue was called in its first incarnation back in the ’60s.

“My dad and my uncle took me down, I remember clearly, we saw It’s A Beautiful Day, Canned Heat, and Vanilla Fudge. I’ve never been back, so this will be the first the first time since 1965 that I’ll be there!”

With UK set to play in Europe and Japan after the U.S. leg of the tour is finished, Bozzio’s schedule shows no signs of slowing down, and the talented musician is grateful for the opportunities he’s been given.

“The power of music is a very spiritual and amazing thing—I’m 61, and for almost 40 years I’ve been making a living as a musician, without having to get a day job—I consider myself very lucky, the stars have been lined up for me.”

Terry Bozzio with UK
Fri/18, 8pm, $65-$99
Regency Ballroom
1290 Sutter, SF

Q&A: Alaina Moore of Denver’s Tennis


Some people look to surf pop as their go to summer soundtrack. But what if, for once, you were to venture off the shore and in to the deep blue sea? You will need a sailboat and a perfectly warm, hazy breeze to put wind to your nautical journey.

Tennis — made up of husband and wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley along with drummer James Barone — is an indie-rock band from Denver that began on board during the couple’s eight-month sailing expedition.

In anticipation of the band’s sold-out show tonight at the Independent, Moore talked with the Guardian during a phone interview about how their post-college nomadic experiment turned in to a band.

How did you and Patrick first meet?
Alaina Moore Patrick and I met in college in a class where I happened to be one of the only two girls in the entire class — so the odds were in my favor I suppose. We became best friends, and years later, here we are.

Why “Tennis?”
AM No reason really. I would tease Patrick a little bit about playing tennis seriously when he was growing up because I grew up in a neighborhood where there wasn’t even a tennis court in sight — people only played basketball.

But besides that, it literally means nothing. When we named our band, we didn’t even consider ourselves to be a band and there were no plans on playing on stage ever.

SFBG What motivated you to make music, and more specifically, these types of retro-styled records?
AM I had a rediscovery of 1950s pop music during our sailing trip. The Shirelles song, “Baby It’s You,” happened to be playing in a bar. And I mean, who doesn’t love that song?

But that night, I started noticing the way the voices sound, the ways the song was mixed, and how the drums were recorded — I never noticed those nuances from an old song before. We started making music emulating analog recording techniques from the ’50s and ’60s, and it unraveled in to us writing a record of our sailing trip.

SFBG A sailing trip with just you two?
AM Yeah, we went on a trip around the Eastern Seaboard of the North Atlantic. Patrick and I had been together for about a year when we started trading literally every material possession that we had for a sailboat. We were poor college students then and didn’t have that much, so we sold every single thing, emptied our bank accounts, and traded our entire lives for the trip. 

SFBG Did you start writing songs for the first record at sea?
AM We didn’t really write anything that was meant to be a song until six to eight months after we came back from our trip. But a lot of the lyrics for the first record were taken from my ship log. I took very careful journal entries. And in that sense, the narrative of Cape Dory is very straightforward and linear.

SFBG The mood for your songs are pretty breezy and light-hearted.  I can’t imagine the entire trip was smooth sailing though. Were there any rocky moments?
AM Oh, there were plenty. The most difficult part of the experience for me was how trying and often scary ocean sailing turned out to be compared to what I imagined romantically in my head.

Sailing is technically, psychologically — really hard in every possible sense. I would say an even mix of the lyrics of Cape Dory reflect some of these dark parts of the experience.

Do you still find time to sail now that you’re on tour?
AM We still have our sailboat and think that it’s a great way of turning our lives upside down. And by that, I mean that it feels like a clean slate whenever we come back from a trip. Being on tour and living on the road, in a bus, is a really weird lifestyle that makes us increasingly more misanthropic. But then we go sailing for even a month and we become hopeful and optimistic about humanity again.

How is it working with your husband?
AM We’ve learned that two cooks in the kitchen is all we can handle as far as song writing goes. But it is honestly really hard at times to have this intimate of a relationship and work together too. So on the road and on stage, it’s very important to have a full band with other creative minds involved in translating our songs from paper.

SFBG Has the success of Cape Dory influenced the way you two produced Young and Old?
AM The writing process for our second record was a continuation of our experience with Cape Dory. We’re still figuring out what “success” even means to us, because everything is so relative. In music, sometimes all others can do is compare you to other musicians.

And it’s hard even for us to wrap our heads around our own position because of how ambiguous music is. So we try to look inward, keep writing songs as long as it feels good to us, and produce what we’re happy with.


With Wild Belle
Mon/30, 8pm, sold out
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421

Heads Up: 8 must-see concerts this week


This week, most of the crucial shows are hella local (as is that faux pas slang). What can you do? We’re all cogs in the Bay Area machine. And we happen to have a lot of impressive musicians within spitting distance. There are cheap shows spread across the hyper-local map starring Religious Girls, French Cassettes, Midnite Snaxxx, Thee Oh Sees, and Il Gato.

A few non-locals made the list too, we can’t all be #based here, of course – where would the fun be in that? Visiting out-of-towners Polyphonic Spree, Caroline Chocolate Drops, and more, remind us that bands like to tour here too. Give them your hard-earned cash to support the ubiquitous hard-wrought traveling musician travails.

Here are your must-see Bay Area concerts this week/end:

Polyphonic Spree
Reach for the light with the colorful, cultish goodness of joy-poppers Polyphonic Spree, still spreading that spaced out cheer.
With New Fumes
Tue/3, 8pm, $20.
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF

Il Gato
Baroque pop excellence returns — for those playing along at home, Il Gato graced the cover of the Guardian’s fall preview way back in 2011. Now the band is hard at work on its next album, and it recently set up a Kickstarter campaign to help ease the costs.
With Passenger & Pilot, Red Weather, Drew Victor
Thu/5, 8pm, $10
Cafe Du Nord
2170 Market, SF
(415) 861-5016

Religious Girls, Mister Loveless, B Hamilton, French Cassettes
Not only are these all delectable Oakland acts (save for French Cassettes: SF) – including returning GOLDIES champs/tribal percussionists/weirdo synthsters Religious Girls – but this show is an Art Murmur freebie. Show up early to catch all the acts, and remember to tip your bartenders.
Fri/6, 6pm, free
1928 Telegraph, Oakl.
(510) 451-8100

Thrones is just one dude: Seattle’s Joe Preston, the metal-grinding doom bassist/Moog-enthusiast who’s spent time on tastemaker labels Kill Rock Stars and Southern Lord, and played alongside Earth, the Melvins, and High on Fire.
With Helms Alee, Grayceon
Fri/6, 9:30pm, $10
1131 Polk, SF
(415) 923-0923

ALL THE CHILDREN SING: Adobe Books Benefit Concert with Thee Oh Sees
Psych-garage rock experts/locals Thee Oh Sees swoop in to support Adobe Books — the event is a fundraiser for the beloved shop suffering an imminent rent increase. The benefit also includes more real live rockers, a silent art auction, and stand-up comedy by local comedians George Chen (whose own experimental noise band, Chen Santa Maria, plays Bottom of the Hill Mon/9) and Anna Seregina.
With Sonny and the Sunsets, the Mallard
Sat/7, 8:30pm, $10-$20 sliding scale
2948 16th St., SF
Facebook: All The Children Sing

Carolina Chocolate Drops
This Grammy Award-having old-time string band from North Carolina just released its seventh joyous, foot-stomping blues album (Leaving Eden) and has a song (“Daughter’s Lament”) on the lauded Hunger Games soundtrack.
Sat/7, 8pm, $20
333 11th St., SF
(415) 255-0333
Check this killer banjo-and-fiddle cover of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ‘Em Up Style”

Bear in Heaven
“In the kaleidoscopic video for the album’s charming lead single, “The Reflection of You,” cameras zoom in and out on [Jon] Philpot, guitarist Adam Wills, and drummer Joe Stickney at a rapid pace as strobe lights flash beneath them. It’s a hyper-stimulating, entirely accurate depiction of the band’s sound; once the rollercoaster ride is over, you can think of nothing but jumping back in line and doing it all over again.” (Frances Capell).
See Frances’ full story in this week’s issue.
With Blouse, Doldrums
Sun/8, 8pm, $15
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421

Midnite Snaxxx
Oakland’s favorite punky, lo-fi garage rockers, Midnite Snaxx — featuring Trashwomen’s Tina Lucchesi, and the Guardian’s Dulcinea Gonzalez, formerly of Loudmouths — return to the cavernous inner Knockout sanctum.
With White Murder, Glitz
Sun/8, 9pm
3223 Mission, SF
(415) 550-6994

Bachelorette’s computer folk lands in Oakland this weekend


Ask the initially shy New Zealander Bachelorette how she makes music, and you’ll get a fascinating mouthful.

“Some of the stuff I make, it’s almost psychedelic disco, other times I think the music is quite folky,” she begins, “in that kind of computer-based way.” Pausing she then adds, “Lately people have asked me to describe the style and I describe it as computer folk. The computer is my folk instrument. It’s just me on stage and I have a couple of computers and samples and a guitar, a lot of sampling and looping live – I construct the songs differently every time I play, so there’s an element of improvisation.”

Recorded, at least on her self-titled LP released in 2011 on Drag City, the songs are at once soothing and eerie – Bachelorette (aka Annabel Alpers) lets her voice echo over pulsating synth just long enough to create alien unknowns, light-years beyond the realms of modern folk. In songs such as “Polarity Party” she could have slipped in the Drive soundtrack undetected, yet the very next track “Sugarbug,” which begins with the tinkling of a toy piano, would never have worked with all that ’80s-cool smoothness. Her voice subtly hits emotional high notes here, and the slowed-down-to-a-crawl procession of keys and solitary drum beats build to a shimmering crescendo. Then the album takes another turn with Velvet Undergroundian “The Last Boat’s Leaving.”

This casual variety should be of no real surprise once Bachelorette’s background is examined. She grew up in NZ adoring the Beatles, then as a teenager began exploring the local underground scene, discovering bands on the Flying Nun label like Tall Dwarfs, also finding a lifelong love of atmospheric 1980s act Cocteau Twins and ’60s psychedelic music, Syd Barrett, and the Kinks. She joined a teen band called Hawaii 5-0 that was “very unambitious psychedelic surf pop.”

Then came a shift in theory. She earned a bachelor of music, majoring in composition and focused mainly on computer-based composition. “I enrolled so I could use computers because I had ideas I wanted to make using multitasking before I knew how to use them.” She then spent an honors year studying in Auckland.

“That’s where I started making music for Bachelorette,” she explains. “I got distracted when I was studying composition because we had to make this art music, I probably would’ve failed if I made pop music – I spent four years having to make pretentious academic art music.”  Though she notes, “it was good training because it broke me out of my songwriting habits from bands before university. I ended up getting waylayed for four years then started making pop music again.” Bachelorette is slightly experimental but still has that pop sensibility, she says. Agreed.

She chose the name “Bachelorette” because of its simplicity and gender indication. And she just liked the way it looked when she it written on a piece of paper. “I thought the word written down suited the minimalist aesthetic [of my music] and of course it’s fitting because I’m a woman making music on my own.”

Lately, she’s been listening to a lot of folk music from China and parts of Africa. “I’ve never been any good at trying to replicate other sounds, I try to filter and turn it into my own thing. I imagine that listening to indigenous folk music would somehow influence my own music but it’s hard to say how.”

Now based out of New York when not out playing shows (though she still goes back to NZ every year), Bachelorette has been touring the U.S. since the start of 2010, with a brief touchdown in Baltimore last week to help a friend mix his own album. After that she’ll pick back up on tour with Magnetic Fields, which brings her to Oakland this Saturday.

“It’s really great playing to their audience because they’re a really great band with a great following. And it’s nice to play to new audiences.“

With Magnetic Fields
Sat/24, 8 p.m., $35
Fox Theater
1807 Telegraph, Oakl.
(510) 548-3010