Friday, 22 May 2009

Passion Pit

Stool Pigeon February '09

Anyone who paid attention to the tastemaker lists for 2009 will know
the name Passion Pit. In a year mostly devoid of dead-cert success
predictions, one band bucked the trend on both sides of the
Atlantic, largely due to their appearances at the last CMJ festival
in New York, where their capacity for appearing everywhere at every
moment of the day, and congregating the British music industry
in one place without the promise of free alcohol, was unmatched.

Today, while still enjoying the aftershock of that week, singer and
songwriter Michael Angelakos is largely philosophical about it.
Picking up a call from the studio where they are recording their
debut, he’s more interested in making an awesome record than keeping
up with what’s new in buzz bands. However, he is aware of his own
band’s status, and the expectation that comes with it.

“I listen to a lot of groups and there’s a scepticism involved,” he
says, tired from a late night’s recording, “I totally agree with the
people who would say ‘oh it’s just another new band’, cause it takes
a long time for a band to prove themselves. I know we’re really new,
and that’s ok.”

Angelakos sounds more like a slightly disorganised professor than the
next torchbearer of the East Coast sound, and indeed, the rise of
Passion Pit has a similarly disorganised edge. The EP that caused all
the fuss was recorded on whim, as a gift to a girlfriend, and since
then the band have been in constant activity. They don’t have time to
think about most of the mantles being put on them, and the constant
comparisons to last years big indie breakthrough, MGMT, have him

“It’s really funny,” he says, “We wear the same clothes every day,
you know, shitty sweaters, and we’re tired. We’re not aware of up and
coming things, but if people want to compare us to MGMT, then wow.”

For his part, however, he won’t be pandering to public opinion.
“We’re not the kind of band that says ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix
it’,” he says, “None of the songs on the EP will be on the record,
and we’re using a different and larger production. It’s a departure,
and we’re excited to be putting it out.” As if to illustrate the
point, he mentions that the day is set aside for horn arrangements.
It looks like those tastemakers may be able to predict success, but
they can’t predict what it will sound like.

“The whole dance mish mash thing is kind of dead,” says Angelakos.

Long live Passion Pit.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Dev on Steve Martin

Extract from the Drowned in Sound Takeover

On the last day of my DiS takeover, I wanted to cover something that wasn't music. Sure music is fine in a pleasantish sort of way. Sure it fills the silences and heightens the emotions, can make a grown man cry and a girl feel like a woman or whatever, but sometimes you just got to wonder what those other sections in the iTunes store are for.

Enter Lightspeed Champion: Dev Hynes is one of those people who has given up hours of his life adding information to Wikipedia. He knows everything to know about rap feuds, and is passionately vocal about the hierarchy of comic book film adaptations. He recently dressed as the Gingerbread Man to attend an Anime conference, and he will cry real tears if you tell him you enjoyed X-men 3.

I asked him for a little wedge of his specialist knowledge, and he came back with two words: Steve Martin. Apparently he's been obsessed with him from a very young age, for the very valid reason of Steve Martin being a certified genius. You may sneer a little at recent decisions like Bringing Down the House or (sorry Dev) Cheaper by the Dozen 2, but you'd be wrong to, because Martin is one of those people who entirely re-wrote the history of comedy. His stand-up years alone will write off most of his film-choice misdemeanors, and he has not only starred in some of the greatest movies of the last three decades, too many to even list, he also wrote a whole bunch of them. There's no one else who can pull off that kind of goofy, nervous physical comedy, and his surfeit of roles in family-oriented films just goes to show how loveable he is. To paraphrase the Beatles – there's something in the way he moves.

Ask anyone what they think of Steve Martin, and chances are they will find some reason why they love him. Ask Dev, and he will give you 1500 words on why he loves him. And not just one Steve Martin, all the many faces of Steve Martin, from Mixed Nuts to The Jerk, to Little Shop of Horrors to, yes, Cheaper by the Dozen, Bowfinger, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Parenthood, Father of the Bride, LA Story, all of it. Sit back, read this interview and let all those wonderful memories wash over you. It may even intrigue you to see Pink Panther 2, which is out this month. Baby Mama, however, not really worth it, unless you want to get the DVD and fast forward to the Martin bits. Man's a genius, nothing else to say.

Which is the best Steve Martin film?

It depends really. If you are talking about the best film that Steve Martin was in? Or the best performance he gave as an actor? Or the best comedic performance he has give in a movie? Or the best movie that he wrote?

I have an answer for all of these...

The best movie that Steve Martin was in has to be the Ron Howard film 'Parenthood'. Everything was on point during that one. Direction was spot on by Howard, the casting was genius, and as always Howard knew how to get the subtleties of the human emotion across without shoving it in your face. A great movie.

The best performance Steve Martin has given as an actor would have to be 'Planes , Trains and Automobiles' or 'Roxanne'... but I shall discuss 'Planes , Trains...' as I think his talent is vastly under-looked in this movie in regards to how big it became and the comedic connotations applied to it when brought up in thought.... as usual for a John Hughes movie... you look back on it remembering a lot more comedic or classic elements than may actually be in the film. I remember thinking all kinds of shit happened to Steve Martin and John Candy's characters... but when you view it again, it's really only a few incidents. But anyway this is the best role for acting steve martin has been in. He plays the character Neal Page in such a genuine believable way. You have to remember that Steve Martin really had never played that kind of person before in a movie. I guess you could say he developed the high strung-ness somewhat for his role in Nora Ephron's 'Mixed Nuts'... but he is a delight to watch in 'Planes Trains...'.

Now, for the best comedic performance he has given in a movie I first have to mention, I think period when he wasn't actually in movies, so his appearances were cameos are golden. Great moments, he'd pop up.. have 5-10 minutes on the screen, and outshine everything and everyone else. The muppets movie cameo as the waiter.. 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts club'... a classic time..

But I guess his funniest performance would have to be ... god this is tough, Maybe 'The Jerk'. But that was his first movie, and I don't think it particularly ties in with the rest of his movies. 'The Jerk' is really like a celebration and goodbye to his stand up.. it features countless routines he would do, that he just wrote into the film. The very first line of the movie was what sparked the whole idea of making the film..(being born to a poor black family)..His best film as a writer is without a doubt 'Man with Two Brains'. It's the perfect combination of his writing, Love story, comedy, insanity, irony... it has everything. It's such a wonderful film and story, and he himself is amazing in it. Even referencing his stand up at several points. A masterpiece of a movie.

A lot of people say his quality control has nosedived in the last 20 years. What do you say to them?

Well, I assume you are talking about since 'Parenthood' in 1989. And I can definitely see your point.The main thing you need to remember is apart from movies like 'L.A. Story' (another great example of Steve Martin's writing for film) and a few others, he stopped writing the movies he was in, and solely appeared in them.

The 'Father of the Bride' films are great, 'Mixed Nuts' is awful... 'House Sitter' is great, and 'Sgt Bilko' is pretty good. They may not match up to earlier standards but that is o.k... I feel his Bibliogrophy during this period more than makes up for that.

Which era of Steve Martin is your favourite - stand up, anarchic movie star a la 'The Jerk' and 'Pennies from Heaven', 'L.A. Story'/ 'Roxanne' era, Dad in every film in the 80's or 'Cheaper by the Dozen'? How do you feel about 'Cheaper by the Dozen'?

'Cheaper by the Dozen' is incredible... I take delight in anything that unite Tom Welling with Steve Martin.

I view every era in a different light thought.. maybe if I had to say something negative, late 90's early 2000's is my least favoured period.

What do you think of Keanu Reeves in Parenthood?


Do you think 'Bowfinger' was a rare return to form for Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin? Do you think they'll ever do it again?

They would never do it again because Steve Martin is on another plane than Eddie Murphy... It's something I don't think most people realise. But Steve Martin is someone that has had multiple grammy records... two for comedy, but one for best country performance in 2002, in the banjo world he as seen as a master of a five finger technique where you push down with your nails rather than plucking the strings. He has written some of the toughest banjo music to play in the last twenty years.

He as had countless best selling books, ranging from novellas, to prose, memoirs, and plays.. and his intelligence is completely out of this world. The fact that he got famous for his comedy in the late 70's is astounding considering the stuff he was doing, the techniques and ideals he was going for and the whole idea of "Anti- Comedy".

Eddie Murphy recorded a hit single with, written and performed by Rick James. I'm aware people would LIKE to think that this is a more incredible feat..but get real.

Did you see him in 'Baby Mama' and '30 Rock'?

Unfortunately I did see 'Baby Mama'... and it's episode four of new '30 Rock' right? I'm waiting for the season to end so I can watch them all in one go online. But I guess, tied into this.. somewhat, I was in the Rockerfeller center last week to see Steve Martin host his 15th SNL. That was incredible.

[note- unfortunately the Steve Martin episode of 30 rock is not the best one. Series three picks up pretty quickly though after they quit with all the celebrity cameos.]

Do you care for the 'Father of the Bride' series?

I do. A lot.

Am I right in my conviction that a movie without Diane Keaton is NO MOVIE AT ALL?

A Real Estate investment without Diana Keaton is No investment at all!!!

Are there any things that I've missed out about Steve Martin that you need to add?

Lots, do your goddamn research !!!!!!!

Have you heard his joke about the sprocket?

HAHA, of course!! It's on 'Let's Get Small'. That right there is a prime example of what I meant about I have no idea how he got huge in the 70's... telling jokes that are intentionally weird and not funny... he had this whole thing of not telling punch-lines also... that way when the laughter would come it would be more natural. A true genius.

Which is best Steve Martin live CD?

Maybe A wild and Crazy Guy. He was flying high at that point.

What current comedians are worthy enough to follow in his footsteps?

I don't really like comedians.

Will Ferrell...opinion?

End of Interview.

Will Ferrell is funny. In our opinion his website has overtaken cranking in the top ten antidotes to boredom of all time. Go here for a few of the best videos

Monday, 9 March 2009

Eugene McGuinness

Published in Stool Pigeon in November. I'm worried that I made Eugene sound like he was being rude. He wasn't, he was being funny, I'm just not a good enough writer.

"By the way," says Eugene Mcguinness, "Don't put any exclamation marks in the interview. They always put exclamation marks in interviews. You can just picture the guy who said it with their eyebrows raised and a massive stupid grin on his face."

Deadpan, sipping on a Tiger beer at the Social on London's Little Portland St, McGuinness is being somewhat instructive over the course of his interview. This town being the way it is, he is already familiar with both the interviewer and the photographer, and is either batting away questions with absurdist quips, or commenting on how best to write the piece when it's done. It's a little like hitting a tennis ball over a net and having your opponent throw back a fish or a shoe.

"Come on," he teases, "this is going down like the Titanic."

Sure, if the Titanic was sunk by awkwardness. McGuinness makes the kind of music that attracts the hardcore music fan, the kind who is militant about quality and encyclopaedic in obsession, but today his own view of his music is so flippant, it might serve to break the hearts of anyone who has ever tried to find meaning in it. The album, which has come out two days before the meeting, is self named, he says, because he 'couldn't think of anything else', and he stands on the cover staring intently into the camera, wearing nothing but a leotard and a fencing helmet, for no reason other than he liked the way it looked. If he wasn't surrounded by people he would consider his peers, you would think him dangerously nonchalant, but on this occasion, he's probably just being funny. Funny, however, doesn't get you answers.

"What's happened since your album came out on Monday," he is asked.

"I've had a bean salad," he replies.

"Are there high expectations from a label perspective?"

"Not in these serious times. Doesn't credit crunch sound like a cereal?"

It's a nightmare, and don't even begin to ask him about his lyrics. On the pretence that he doesn't think about them enough, but probably because he doesn't want other people telling him what his lyrics are about, McGuinness is being exceedingly literal about everything he's asked. Tell him you like how he writes about London, and he will make you list every song that mentions it, and counter with a list of the ones that don't. Ask him what God In Space, the haunting and absurdly beautiful album closer, is about, and he will claim: "I just try and make the words rhyme." Furthermore, tell him that the strings sound cinematic and he will tell you that all strings sound like that because they are 'classy' and no, he doesn't know any Brian Wilson. Hold on. Pet Sounds? Oh yeah, he's heard of that.

"It's hard doing interviews and things," he explains later, "I don't have any concepts about my music. Nobody can be Bowie, nothing shocks, there's nothing I can say in interviews to surprise anyone with. I just have to write good songs."

So does he have no agenda whatsoever with his music?

"I want it to be uplifting," he says, "I can't be dealing with too much unrequited love. I want my music to be uplifting, which makes things seem good and beautiful in its own non-glamorous way."

It's the first statement he's made all day, other than a truly inspired argument against pop snobbery which brings into question if he's ever seen the inside of an art gallery ("Music isn't supposed to be interesting, stuff in museums is interesting." "Well they put art in museums, and music is art." "Yeah well they put stuffed leprechauns in museums too." "Eugene, nobody puts stuffed leprechauns in museums."). However, his lack of statement is something of a statement in itself. If he's already made the album and written the songs, why does he need to further explain himself in interviews? "This stuff doesn't mean anything anyway, I don't read it," he says, "the only thing that means anything is lots of people liking your songs. And it's better if they draw their own conclusions." Furthermore, he says, "I can't make sweeping generalisations about my album, I can't pretend there was an umbrella aesthetic."

In an industry where music is rarely unaccompanied by a carefully composed back-story, and when most emerging artists are so good at spinning their own mythology, you wonder if they didn't start out in PR, to speak to someone who claims not to have conceptualised anything is unique. But, admirable as it is that he refuses to deal out what he considers bullshit, it does seem the boy protests too much. Does he really draw no inspiration from nursery rhymes, even though his last album quoted Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and this one contains a song called Rings Around Rosa? And does he really not detect an element of nostalgia in his work, despite songs such as Those Old Black and White Movies are True? By the time the decision is made to quit the interview and go find his record in a shop, it seems pretty clear that none of these questions are going to be answered. "Sorry I've been flakey," he says, looking sheepish, "Was it a total disaster?"

It was not a total disaster. The casually named Eugene McGuinness is still a great album, whether it was constructed carefully around a theme or puked onto an 8-track the night before mastering. Like McGuinness attempted to say himself, music means something different to everybody who hears it, and the person who makes it should be secondary to the result. But why, if he thinks so little about it, does he do it in the first place? On this, the boy is finally clear.

"Because music is the best thing in the universe," he says, "and there are people who allow me to do it. Those loons!!!"

Sorry, Eugene, it had to be done. You don't read your own press anyway.