Summer Fiction are one of our favorite surprises of 2010. b3sci recently had the chance to catch up with frontman, and singer/songwriter, Bill Ricchini to ask him a few questions about music and life. Check it out:
b3sci: Where can fans expect to see Summer Fiction perform in 2011?
Bill: We mostly play on the east coast, in NY and Philly, but yes, we’re coming to a town near you, hopefully. We’re planning some touring and speaking to some possible booking agents. We also just booked PopFest in NYC for the spring. Possibly SXSW…
b3sci: When people experience Summer Fiction for the first time, is there a particular message that you’re hoping translates?
Bill: I like to leave it pretty open ended and hope the audience or listener brings their own thing to the songs and performances. I will say the music is coming from a place of sincerity and hopefully that comes across on an emotional level.
b3sci: Just listening to the album, you can tell songwriting seems to just resonate in your bones. While your songs seem basic at the core they are complemented by fairly intricate arrangements and counter melodies. What has inspired you to be a songwriter, and what sort of education, experience, or vision leads you down your path of record production?
Bill: Thanks! I’m pretty obsessed with songwriting and arrangement. While I never studied music formally, I think I studied all of my favorite records growing up and somehow that is all in my DNA. I also enjoy producing, I feel it would be hard to give that up to someone, although maybe I will try it if Jon Brion calls.
b3sci: What’s your dream collaboration?
Bill: I’d love to write an album for a female singer and produce it. There are lots of gorgeous pop and torch songs I have ready to go but just need to find my muse… I’d also love to meet Brian Wilson. A while ago, one of the guys from Wondermints passed him one of my demos.. and I heard he liked it! That was kind of surreal… Music for film also excites me. I think Wes Anderson would like this record for some reason. Maybe it is the font choice.
b3sci: Is there a particular track from the album that you feel especially connected to or proud of?
Bill: I think “Kids in Catalina” has been really popping live. I like the construction of that song, the vocal choir and the vibraphone.
Summer Fiction – Kids in Catalina
b3sci: How would you say the music scene in Philadelphia has or hasn’t helped Summer Fiction along?
Bill: Philly has been 100% supportive. Bands, journalists, fans all came out for this record and many good friends from other bands contributed.
b3sci: Here’s a question we love to ask people… hypothetical situation, you’re stranded on an island and you can chose between having with you either 30 songs OR 10 albums? Which take the space?
Bill: 10 albums; no question. I like the thematic element of my favorite records, call me old fashioned but I like the way songs brush up against one another and form a complete thought. That’s what I went for with Summer Fiction. One of my choices would be It’s a Shame About Ray which is a perfect record.
b3sci: What are five things you can’t live without?
2) Digital voice recorder
3) Marble notebook
4) Good food
b3sci: What are five things that you could totally be cool living without?
3) East coast winters
b3sci: Has the internet played a role in the development of you as an artist?
Bill: Uh not sure. I tend to focus more on the message than the media, but the fact that the web is a great tool to share my art is gratifying.
b3sci: How do you discover new music?
Bill: Online, jukeboxes, shows, SXSW, radio, my friend Mike…
b3sci: What are you listening to at the moment? Anything influential?
Bill: The last Beach House record kills me. Arcade Fire and Deerhunter are really on their game… Kurt Vile is great too.
b3sci:In your opinion, what are some of the popular misnomers about being an independent and emerging artist/songwriter in today’s music industry, and with the general, casual listening public?
Bill: Maybe just how much discipline and focus it takes to make a good record.
team b3science recently got together with Steven from Brighton, UK duo Blood Red Shoes while the band were in LA to talk about their new LP, Fire Like This, b-side philosophy, Fugazi, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and more… check it out below:
b3sci:Fire Like This is a killer follow-up LP… how would you say Blood Red Shoes artistically evolved on your second album compared with your debut, Box of Secrets?
BRS: Yeah I think we’ve moved forward with it, especially melodically speaking. I think we write better “songs” than before. It’s not a radical jump, it’s just that we’re mining the same kind of sound but hammering out all the details. I’m much happier with the overall feel and atmosphere of this record, I think it has more depth and I certainly think it sounds more personal and honest. I think the biggest improvement we made was in the vocals really. Just forcing ourselves to sing a take that felt right and not hiding behind double tracks and overdubs as much. Our hope is that it feels more emotionally bare because of that.
b3sci: What sort of chemistry with producer Mike Crossey do you attribute to Blood Red Shoes’ sound in the studio?
BRS: Well for one thing Mike is a great engineer, and that’s an art rapidly getting lost in favour of a “let’s throw some mics up and get it into pro-tools as quick as possible and fix it after” kind of attitude. That’s something we respect and value a hell of a lot. Beyond that the biggest thing he brought to us was being hard on us about our singing! He really pushed us as vocalists and I think we absorbed that pressure, especially on the first album, and now we keep pushing ourselves to become better singers. Singing is by far the hardest, most personal, most human, most scary fucking instrument you can learn.
b3sci: Do you have any long-term visions of a specific type of album that you seek to create some day… in the near or distant future?
BRS: I don’t think we have a vision of the type of album we’d like to make. Our band has certain parameters in that there are only 2 members, but beyond that we feel like anything we write together is “Blood Red Shoes”. We’ve been experimenting with piano and keyboard parts recently and writing instrumentals that definitely sit in more of a post-rock kind of universe. I have no idea how these sort of forays will impact on our next record but I feel like we have a lot of other music in us apart from our obvious punk rock side. That being said we’d never feel right making an album full of slow stuff, we’d get bored.
b3sci: Being from Brighton, England, what’s your take on musical regionalism (i.e. bands specifically not from London, NY, LA, major music hubs…)? Do you think it has helped Blood Red Shoes, or has it been an obstacle?
BRS: Well it’s a bit of a myth to start from because most musicians grow up in little shit towns and make their pilgrimage to a bigger town to pursue music. Iggy Pop is from Ann Arbor in Michigan you know? So yeah the focus on those major cities is only founded on the fact that generations of musicians keep moving there. I think Brighton does have a scene and there’s a bit of focus on that, but it’s nothing like if we came from NYC or London where there’s more of a perceived “sound” at a given time. So it’s given us that little bit more freedom to define our identity, that’s for sure.
b3sci: Unlike in the generations of Iggy Pop, today, bands all over the world have the internet. What role do you feel the internet has played in giving exposure to Blood Red Shoes?
BRS: A fucking huge role. We’re in the middle of a US tour and the only reason there are people even showing up is 99% because of the internet. We have zero background here so that’s the only real explanation. The internet has enabled bands with a DIY ethos to get even further than before because they can bypass the industry channels far faster, more easily and more cheaply than ever before and that’s a great thing. In the 80s or 90s those punk bands who got through like Fugazi are legends because they had to set up their whole record and touring network using phones and snail mail, and the fact is, there are a lot of great musicians who just don’t have the fucking organizational skills to do that! The internet has made that much more accessible. On the flipside of course, that means there are ten million more half-arsed bands to wade through.
b3sci: Being an established UK act, and from your experience, what are your general observations about this sort of reception of emerging artists from the UK in the states, and the same vice-versa?
BRS: Well so far, as our first time in the states, it’s been much easier and more welcoming than our first few tours of the UK. I think that does have something to do with us being established across europe first of course, but still, there’s a noticeable difference. I think there’s certainly a similar reception when US bands come over the UK, they’re seen as a bit more exotic and cool because they’re from the US! There are bands in england that are amazing and play to very few people and I find myself thinking, man, if they were from the US, they’d be playing to 5 times the crowd each night…
b3sci: “Box of Secrets” was a B-side on the “It’s Getting Boring by the Sea” single, and is also the name of your debut LP. This leads us to believe that BRS have a special take on what b-side’s should mean to an artist’s catalogue?
BRS: Well unless we’re totally fucked for time because we’re touring loads, our policy is that b-sides should be worthwhile songs, not just some crap you put out to pad out a single release. We’ve filled up releases with demo versions and remixes and we regret that, we were pushed into it by a label we now don’t work with, thank god. If we’re really screwed for time and we need a b-side, we’ll do our best to record something new – it might be a bit rushed or a bit half-formed but that’s at least better than a shit remix or a live version. One example was a song called “Carry Knots” which we wrote and recorded in 1 day off in the middle of tour and I really really like it. B-sides are part of your output and if you have standards, you need to keep them up there. Especially since EVERYTHING will be on Spotify now as well….
b3sci: How do you feel having “It’s Getting Boring by the Sea” synched in the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has (if at all) impacted Blood Red Shoes… especially it being a single from your previous album?
BRS: Well it’s lead to a bunch of new people finding our band in the UK and US for sure. We were a bit worried it was such an old song, and that maybe people would be confused when they hear newer material like “Colours Fade”, but so far nobody’s commented negatively so that’s cool. It’s nice that it was an english director too, I mean, we’re no nationalists but I thought it was cool that he picked a british band on there amongst the other more established US acts.
b3sci: What would you guys like to see music licensing mean to popular culture and emerging artists in the years to come?
BRS: I think there’s a danger that the licensing stuff is becoming THE way to break a band – The XX are massive largely because of it and i’m very suspicious of that because it encourages bands just to write music FOR adverts or TV shows, and encourages them to put themselves in any context just for the exposure. You have to be careful with that because the context really affects the meaning of your art. I don’t want our band to be the one people know from a car advert because that’s not what we’re about at all.
b3sci: You’ve been playing together for a long time. To you, what are the main advantages and disadvantages of working as a duo both live and in the studio?
BRS: Well the chemisty and ability to lock in with each other musically is much more straightforward, it’s two people looking each other in the eye following where the music takes you. That’s a massive advantage. But yeah we also get really sick of each other on tour and fight more than average I think, just because humans who spend that much time together end up like that. A married couple would at least spend their days at separate jobs…we spend all day and all night together ha ha.
b3sci: What in your eyes are some of the popular misnomers about bands and the music industry among the general, casual listening public?
BRS: For a while people seemed to have the impression in England that we were an “Indie” band which we’re certainly not. In England, Indie means The Smiths, The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand…it’s basically lightweight guitar pop. We’re a rock band…for us the guitar riffs come first. I hope we’ve got past that with this album at least. The other thing is that people assume a 2 piece will be a minimalist thing, and that’s never been our intention at all, we want to sound as big as possible. Raw, yes, direct, yes, but not simplistic and minimal.
b3sci: Which song off of Fire Like This are you most proud of? Is there one you’d like to get back in the studio and rework?
BRS: You have to draw a line once you’ve recorded it. I’m sure there are elements in every song that we’d go back and tweak infinitely but the way to use those concerns is to channel them into the next record. Finding the flaws in your previous album is the best way to give you clarity about what to do on the next one.
b3sci: Which contemporary musician outside of the rock spectrum would you most like to collaborate with?
BRS: I’d love to work with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) if that counts as far enough from the “rock spectrum”. Or someone totally pop just to explore that it’s like to try writing a song that half the planet can get into, that world fascinates me.
b3sci: If you weren’t in a band today, what sort of work could you see yourselves doing?
BRS: I kid myself that I’d try being a chef. But really, I’d just work for bands as a roadie so I could get as close to being a band as possible…
b3science recently caught up with Ben and Ian from Chop Shop Records’ latest signing, Mackintosh Braun about their new LP Where We Are, the digital age, music licensing, fat free soy milk and more… check it out:
b3sci: a band of many influences, how has Mackintosh Braun evolved artistically on Where We Are from the days of your self-released debut The Sound?
Ian: we’ve been writing so much over the last couple of years that we’ve learned a lot about how we write songs together. i mean ‘the sound’ came out in 2008. but we had written all those songs in 2007, so we’ve had a lot of time to develop our sound and the way we write songs. this album gave us a chance to share a bit more of ourselves with the listener, and try things musically that we’ve always wanted to.
b3sci: If time and technology were no obstacle, and you guys could collaborate with anyone… ever, past, present or future, who would it be with and why?
Ian: Ratatat Ben: ian’s got a real Ratatat thing going right now.. they’re great. ummmm, i’m gonna have to say, steely dan. that would pretty much make my dreams come true…
b3sci: how do you feel your synch in MTV’s 2010 season promo has influenced the future and fate of your band?
Ben: i think it’s cool whenever someone wants to showcase your music, and for us it was a compliment when i saw the MTV promo. we can’t really worry about the effect it might have on our future, for us it’s just about getting the music out there and hoping people attach to it.
b3sci: music licensing has come a long way in the last 10 years for emerging and established artists. what was once considered taboo and damaging to an artist’s cred is now of the most sought after opportunities. how would you guys like to see the fate of music licensing evolve?
Ben: music licensing has come a long way, it’s pretty incredible that so many great bands are getting opportunities that they never would have before the current “anti-jingle house” era that we’ve all grown into. i think to answer the question, popular culture and music go hand in hand, so to have it all so accessible now, everywhere you turn, is pretty great in my opinion, it’s helped us tremendously.
b3sci: how does it feel to be signed to Chop Shop Records, and have your vision supported by one of the most influential tastemakers (Alex Patsavas) in the entire entertainment industry?
Ian: it feels like if we planned it from the beginning, it wouldn’t have worked out better than this. it’s a great feeling… Ben: yeah, it’s pretty great to have someone with her vision and ear for music support us like she does, everyone at Chop Shop is amazing. like ian said, it couldn’t have worked out better.
b3sci: first impressions speak millions, especially in today’s digital age of short attention spans. when somebody has the Mackintosh Braun “experience” for the first time, what is the first impression you’d like those listeners to walk away thinking?
Ian: “i’ve been waiting to hear that” Ben: i want them to first feel the goosebumpy feeling in your arms when you hear that hot ass track, then i want them to think “damn, that’s some dopness.”
b3sci: what song on Where We Are do you feel most proud of, and why?
Ben: I was just telling ian that i’m really proud of the title track “Where We Are”. i just think we did a great job on that one, the drums sound great, i love the bridge, i’m just really proud of how that song came together. Ian: I think for me it would be “Made For Us”. One of the reasons is that I love how you can hear both of our personalities come through in that song, and some of the things we tried and experimented with instrumentally, came out really well. there are a few notes in that one that really tug on my heart strings.
b3sci: what song, or artist, made you want to write and share music with people?
Ben: Led Zeppelin had a huge influence on me in my younger days, my mom got me into them when i was in 5th grade. i just always wanted to write music, and create sounds. i’ve never really thought about doing much else, it was the thing that i always had the strongest desire for. i still do. Ian: I would have to say it was The Beatles, when i was listening to the song “help”, john lennon sings the line, “my independence seems to vanish in the haze”. the feeling that line gave me was so electric, that i knew i wanted to write music and try to create that for someone else.
b3sci: given the current landscape, who would be your top three acts to tour with?
Ian: Ratatat.. Ben: how bout Daft Punk, Royksopp or even Air would be amazing. There are many, many bands that we would love to tour with. lots of good music out there.
b3sci: What’s in your iPod? What album/artist is rocking your world right now?
Ian: loving’ “The Suburbs” by the Arcade Fire, and of course anything by Ratatat. Ben: really love Wild Nothing “Chinatown” and i’m also diggin Real Estate “Out Of Tune” right now as well.
b3sci: what are 5 things that each of you guys absolutely couldn’t live without?
2) our studio..
3) is that 5 things??
b3sci: what are 5 things that each of you guys could totally be cool living without?
1) fat free soy milk
2) third eye blind
3) people who ask about your shit, and then talk about their shit right away..
4) traffic in portland getting worse
5) the kazoo, even though jimmy made it sound awesome on “crosstown traffic”.
b3sci: What role do you think the internet will end up playing for music discovery in the future?
Ben: the largest role, it’s so important these days in discovering music. Ian: yeah, we really may not have gotten here without it.
if you’ve frequented Chicago’s local songwriter venues, you might have been fortunate enough to catch one of the scenes newest best kept secrets… experimental folk songsmith Kellen & Me. amidst preparation of his first full length album, b3science caught up with the multi-tasking instrumentalist between sets, night jobs and excessive pondering for a brief Q&A.
b3sci: so you’re a one man band? kellen: yeah, i use a loop pedal for spontaneous rhythms and abstract elements, but i do so that the focus isn’t on the pedal- it’s more on the song and the melodies.
b3sci: do you prefer flying solo, or do you one day wish to rock a band? kellen: at first i thought having a band was the ultimate goal, but what i was looking for wasn’t coming, so i said fuck it, it’s not gonna stop me. in the future a band could be great, but only the right band will do.
b3sci: have to ask. what’s you favorite dental instrument? kellen: umm, gotta go with the mirror.
b3sci: the big one or little one? kellen: the little one they go in your mouth with. i wish i had one of those… i think spys use them to look around corners.
b3sci: while were on the subject, who’s your favorite globalist front group? kellen: you mean like the free masons? yeah them. really anybody that uses symbolic imagery. you know the whole marketing of symbolic things using subconcious imagery. i actually grew up in a town with a whole bunch of masons. their were a bunch of temples with no windows and stuff. they were always kind of interesting to me.
… they never let me in, but i did meet a mason when i was pruning apple trees in wisconsin. he’d told me they’d been watching me ever since i was a young child. he was a very serious man. i didn’t believe him, but it peaked my curiosity.
b3sci: haha do you think their watching you right now? kellen: it’s flattering, i wouldn’t mind if they were. i could definitely use their support.
b3sci: how did you make that incredible video for “Batteries and Frequencies” Kellen: i stumbled on this technique when i was in high school and just kind of started messing with it.. you plug a video camera directly into the audio video output of a television, and then shine the camera into the television. you’ll get all sorts of images from the light feeding back depending on how you hold the camera. you’ll get all of these free association kind of images.
b3sci: what are you looking to accomplish with your music kellen: i’m playing music to make some sort of interpretation of my own inner world and to bring it out into reality, and hopefully people will want to listen to it.
b3sci: when can we expect a record? kellen: yeah i’ve been working on new songs. i have a batch of stuff and hope to have a full albums worth of new material out soon.
b3sci: looking forward to it. thanks for chatting kellen: thanks for having me, bye.
get music from kellen & me here. and check out his video for “Batteries and Frequencies” below..
hot off the heels off their Daytrotter Session, and amidst the preparation of their upcoming tour with Thing One, and Pomegranates, blahblahblahscience caught up with frontman Erick Crosby of Yourself And The Air to talk music, inspiration, el trains and pastry..
b3sci: Erick – as a young band finding their way through the masses, what obstacles have YATA overcome and what have come to be your general feelings about the music industry? Erick: well. when we first started out, everybody in the whole world was like ‘yeah right, the music industry is one of the most difficult to be successful in, so make sure you have a back up plan’ and i was like what the fuck is this, back up plan? that’s just like telling yourself that you’re gonna loose. we came in with that mentality, swinging pretty hard… and after a lot of really hard work, here we are today with a great team of people… i also really like the uphill battle of the music industry, it makes every time that you actually accomplish something that much better.
b3sci: what’s at the top of the hill? Erick: building a long steady career and having the ability to travel and play… then living would be pretty solid.
b3sci: let’s talk glockenspiel. how did it become part of your sound? Erick: we found it on craigslist. i’ve always been a very huge fan of the glock. we had made this plan that every month we would buy a new instrument and bring it into the band. that was the first, and believe or not, i think it was the last? the glock is its own mystery.
b3sci: you seem enchanted with the glock? Erick: yeah it sits in my room, i write on it.. even eat on it too. it’s become an interesting part of my life.
b3sci: nice. so what influences you in your life? it doesn’t necessarily have to be music, really anything that influences you to do what you love? Erick: nature. living. hearing stories about people doing extra ordinary things. not being on your death and wishing that you could’ve done this or that. just everything man, there are always down times, but then you can just see something, anything, and that can change your life.
b3sci: right, think about how many people live their lives wishing they could’ve done this or that? think of all the “greats” and how they lived their lives.. Erick: yeah and even when they (the “greats”) are doing it, they are just human beings. they are no different then you or me. ANYBODY can do something, they just made up their mind and decided to do it… it’s about doing stuff. doing what you want to do and going through it.
b3sci: what other than music must you do during your life? Erick: i want to ride my bike, from here to all over the continent. and i’d like hitchhike across the country too. haha i’m gonna videotape it and then sell it to the travel channel. i have it all made up too.. it’s called “the fat of the land”.
b3sci: haha hell yes! you will inspire sooo many hitchhikers. Erick: haha. man, they’ve inspired me!
b3sci: dig it. so Chicago’s in the house. which el train wins in a race? blue, orange, brown?? Erick: i think, would the brown? i dunno, i think. honestly i never take the el. i’m like bicycle man.
b3sci: when people hear Yourself and The Air for the first time, what do you guys want them to walk away thinking? Erick: hmm, i’d want them to walk away thinking ‘wow, i didn’t expect that’. i don’t want them to walk away thinking ‘oh these guys sound like them‘ which is hard because that’s why we know music, because of what’s been done before. but to be surprised and have someone appreciate it, even if they don’t like the music, if they can appreciate it still, that’s always the best.
b3sci: what makes a great song? Erick: movement man. it’s gotta give you the chills. you know, those songs. songs that can make you forget where you are. they take you on their ride, be in their world for that moment in time.
b3sci: what songs do you come back to that have that effect? Erick: “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” Smashing Pumpkins. being from Chicago I have so much love for them, what they used to be and what they’ve done. “Space Oddity” is my all time favorite song of forever. and all The Beatles, it’s all like that you know?.
b3sci: what’s your fav numetal group Erick: what is that?
b3sci: haha you know, like your linkin parks, limp bizkets, blahblah late mid-nineties radio. that’s all i got, I was hoping you’d know… Erick: umm shit man, i have no.. i don’t know.. i don’t rock that way dude. ask my bassist and you’ll get a legitimate answer.
b3sci: what’s your favorite italian pastry Erick: hmm, i only know the one, it’s the one that i eat. its got a cream in it..
b3sci: is it a cannoli?? Erick: yeah that the one. that’s pretty good. i dig that. i feel bad, i don’t know any italian pastries..
b3sci:it’s cool man, you, me, Major Tom – we’ll grab a beer sometime and talk italian pastries. i’ve got the book on it. Erick: oohhhoooo, it’s on! i need the education.
b3sci: so Daytrotter = new music? Erick: yeah it was a great experience, i’m a big fan of the site. we decided to track a few of the new songs that we’ll be recording for our new album in November.
b3sci: they sound great man! we’ll be looking forward to the record. bowie and pumpkins going out to YATA. keep it real. Erick: peace!
The Giving Tree Band are a Chicago based bluegrass group well deserving of their growing attention amongst bluegrass and indie folk enthusiasts. Not only do they write great songs, they have a particular eco-friendly dedication. For example, The Giving Tree Band recorded their new album Great Possessions in a solar powered studio, using recycled instruments, wearing clothing made out of recycled materials, with only bikes for transportation, and are releasing the album on CD’s made out of recycled materials… Blahblahblahscience got the chance to catch up with Giving Tree’ banjo player Todd Fink to chat music, lifestyle and of course science fiction:
b3sci: Todd – what’s your favorite sci-fi flick? Todd: The original Star Wars Trilogy. I love the Force, Light Sabers and lifestyle of the Jedi. In fact I seek to become one after my time in the band… you know, bands are basically the closest thing we have to the Jedi nowadays..
b3sci: If the way of the Jedi is the ideal lifestyle, then how would you describe the way of The Giving Tree Band? Todd: Our band offers people a way to live. All the greats… The Dead, Sex Pistols, Ramones… the genre of music doesn’t matter, they all offered a lifestyle. The Giving Tree Band seeks to inspire and educate the public and artists about a healthy lifestyle, but with a business sensibility. Every single person is unique and has their own unique qualities… which can be connected on a variety of different levels.
b3sci: epic! Todd:Really, we just seek to remind people what they know about themselves and what they aspire to be.
b3sci: so why then is music your inspiration? Todd: I feel like playing music was inherited. My father played the piano and my mother is a HUGE concert fan. In fact I was named after Todd Rundgren, it seemed to just become natural that I play.
b3sci: So who musically inspires you? Todd: I have been inspired by British jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, in particularly by his attitude and lifestyle. He stood up and said no to alcohol and drugs and is the only one from that Miles Davis Bitches Brew era still performing. Music was his drug. I am also inspired by Stravinsky, especially the way he was able to break his day up into specific times and dedicate them to music. Inspiration today? Artists like Fleet Foxes come to mind, with less of an influence but more of an appreciation for what they do musically… the rock and roll with folk elements.
b3sci: Todd, The Giving Tree Band are kickin. Thanks man! Todd: Peace!
Great Possessions is due out August 18, 2009. Get Giving Tree Band music here. Learn more and listen more here.