Fast Romantics Interview with Noteworthy

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Photo credit: Jen Squires

Ivan of Noteworthy here again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org). Make sure to mark your calendar for this Wednesday, June 28. Fast Romantics, an indie rock band out of Toronto with a flair for big Springsteen-style hooks, will be performing at Township (2200 N. California Ave.) in support of their latest album, American Love. I spoke with lead singer/guitarist Matthew Angus through e-mail (pictured 3rd from right) about love in times of political turmoil and rebuilding the band.

Noteworthy: For folks who may be hearing about you for the first time, tell us the origin of the name Fast Romantics.

The name Fast Romantics precedes this band.  It was the result of a brainstorming session we had in the very first version of the [group] many years ago. We just locked ourselves in a room and came out with those words. There’s no meaning behind it really. But when we reformed Fast Romantics a couple of years ago with all these new members, we decided to keep the moniker, and now it’s just one of those meaningless names you give to anybody. Like “The Beatles” or … “Fred.”

NW: The band got its start in Calgary and you recently filmed the video for “Alberta” there during a tour off day spent visiting family and friends. What is one surprising thing about the town that most people wouldn’t know about it?

Calgary is known for the Calgary Stampede and most people in America picture it as full of cowboy hats and boots and rodeos and farms but really it’s nothing like that at all. It’s become a pretty cosmopolitan town with a lot of amazing subcultures and a thriving music scene.

NW: Another American Love track, “Why We Fight” was recently played during a broadcast of this year’s NHL playoffs. What was that moment like and do you have any all-time favorite players from the Calgary Flames?

It did, that was a trip. As Canadians, having your song open up a hockey playoff game is kinda like playing the Grammys, it’s a big deal y’know. You’re talking to a band of mostly Toronto Maple Leafs fans, believe it or not, but Jeff’s still holding out for the Flames. Me personally, even though I’m a Leafs fan, you gotta love former Flame Lanny McDonald. Not only was he a badass hockey player but I went to school with his daughter and met him a bunch, and he’s just a super nice guy. Continue reading “Fast Romantics Interview with Noteworthy”

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Anatomy of a Playlist (Noteworthy 2-27-2017)

 

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Ivan here from Noteworthy (Mondays, 6PM-8PM). I’m back again to give you some insight into how the show gets made and what goes into some of the decision making.

Juggling multiple genres is an essential part of Noteworthy, but in order to make the leap from one sound to the next, I try to make sure that it feels seamless when you’re listening. Think of it in the same way you would a mix CD from back in the day. It’s a key part of what makes the show fun to do and a challenge every week. This dissection will show you how my brain works.

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I wanted to start the show off talking about the BRITs and how it’s always more fun than the Grammys. Skepta’s performance of “Shutdown” gave me the perfect excuse to play a track from one of my favorite 2016 albums and provided plenty for me talk about at the top of the show. The Grammys are afraid of any kind of aggression in hip hop and here is Skepta, lording over England’s biggest music stage in a hoodie with a song that partially mocks those uncomfortable with seeing aggression from hip hop (re: Kanye’s 2015 BRIT performance). Score one for the BRITs. From there, I went to another grime song in the Lady Leshurr track and an old Neptunes track, which has sort of bouncy grime feel if you pair it with the right song.

 

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I knew at this point I wanted to make the transition to mellowing things down (you’ll see why soon enough), so the new Jidenna single was a way to make that bridge since it has enough bottom to it to not be too jarring of a switch-up. Honestly, my main priority was to finally play Gallant’s  “Skipping Stones.” Adrian Younge, Jhene Aiko and a falsetto with classic flair? I do this for the people.

Continue reading “Anatomy of a Playlist (Noteworthy 2-27-2017)”

Kandace Springs on Noteworthy

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Ivan of Noteworthy here again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org). I’m back to share an interview with Kandace Springs that I aired on this week’s show. She’s a jazz singer/pianist from Nashville who just released her debut album, Soul Eyes on Blue Note Records and has even shared the stage with Prince. The album features production work from Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers (the guys who discovered Rihanna) and Grammy-winner Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock). We talked about why she decided to go in the direction of jazz for her first album after working mostly in R&B and hip hop before and watching movies with Prince. Listen to the interview below and keep up with Kandace at kandacesprings.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Open Mike Eagle, Saba & Air Credits at Double Door – 7/7/2016

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Open Mike Eagle (Photo credit: Red Bull Sound Select)

Tune in to Noteworthy with Ivan every Monday night from 6:00-8:00 at uicradio.org. Also, like the Facebook page and check out past interviews and segments on Soundcloud

It’s no longer a secret that Chicago boasts a very vibrant hip hop scene, with top quality projects getting national attention seemingly every year. The latest Red Bull Sound Select show curated by Consequence of Sound at Double Door only further cemented what a good thing we’ve got going on here. With performances by Air Credits (a collaboration between ShowYouSuck and The Hood Internet), Saba, fresh off an appearance on Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book and headliner Open Mike Eagle, who has his roots here in the city, the night served as a reminder of how spoiled with riches we’ve become in recent years.

Although Open Mike Eagle might have seemed an odd fit with the other acts on the bill who still call Chicago their home and embrace the city’s sound in a more traditional manner, there were still a loyal number of fans who found a kinship in his quirky demeanor. The eclectic set found him rapping over an array of samples such as Lenny Kravitz’s “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over” and Sterolab’s “…Sudden Stars” in truncated bursts that suited his status as an outsider. By programming and queuing up the music himself through drum machines, pedals and a laptop, OME’s performance was more intimate than the artists who took the stage before him and was a natural fit for songs like “Qualifiers” and “Very Much Money (Ice King Dream)” that double down on being social outcasts.   Continue reading “Open Mike Eagle, Saba & Air Credits at Double Door – 7/7/2016”

METZ at Empty Bottle – 06/23/2016

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METZ (Photo credit: Red Bull Sound Select)

Tune in to Noteworthy with Ivan every Monday night from 6:00-8:00 at uicradio.org. Also, like the Facebook page and check out past interviews and segments on Soundcloud

Ever since Curbside Publishing released an oral history of the Empty Bottle a few weeks ago, I’ve been itching to catch a show at the legendary venue. Sure, I’ve been there countless times before, but reading about the experiences of so many others had me anticipating the next time I would be there.

With its intimate size and low frills decor, there’s always a high probability of a concert there having a communal experience if the energy is right. Thanks to Red Bull Sound Select, catching METZ, a ferocious Canadian trio signed to Sub Pop, at the Empty Bottle satisfied my itch as they blasted through songs from their first two albums in blistering and abrasive fashion.

“Who’s here to f****** party with us?” lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Edkins questioned a receptive audience near the top of their set before they went full throttle into one of their signature tunes, “Get Off.” The crowd enthusiastically answered the call as they had to be reminded only a few songs later about Empty Bottle’s no crowd-surfing policy, to which the band pleaded for someone to be let back in as they were escorted out for violating the rules. While there were no more incidents or pauses during the rest of the set, there were plenty more opportunities to bounce around with moments like the pounding riff of “Knife In The Water,” the noisy intensity of “Wet Blanket” and the wildly whipping hair of drummer Hayden Menzies sending the crowd into a frenzy.  Continue reading “METZ at Empty Bottle – 06/23/2016”

Frankie Cosmos at Lincoln Hall – 04/27/2016

Greta Kline
Photo Credit: Matthew James Wilson

Tune in to Noteworthy with Ivan every Monday night from 6:00-8:00 at uicradio.org. Also, like the Facebook page and check out past interviews and segments on Soundcloud

Listening to Greta Kline, better known as Frankie Cosmos, through headphones or even speakers, is like eavesdropping on someone in their bedroom. There’s a hushed tone that permeates throughout as Kline wittily observes even the most minute details of her life and the relationships she’s built with others in what feels like a private manner. In front of a sold-out (and very attentive) crowd at Lincoln Hall on Wednesday, the eavesdropping continued on a collectively larger scale as Kline calmly and delicately opened up her world to a bigger room through a bevvy of wispy lo-fi indie pop that rarely clocked in above two minutes. “This is literally the nicest place we could be,” she said of Lincoln Hall and Chicago in general. “This is like the parents’ house of venues.”

That moment of gratitude came early in the set, which for the first half mostly included songs from her latest album, Next Thing, which was just released this month. It was a unique approach since loading up on new songs at the very beginning can sometimes be a tricky ordeal for an artist since the best crowd reaction will usually be for the more familiar songs, which can affect the flow of a concert, but given how receptive the people were to newer tracks like the catchy introspection of “Fool” and the airy yearning of “Too Dark,” it was exactly like being at an house where the utmost respect was shown.

Although brevity and tenderness were on heavy display, there was also time for a little fun as Maryn James of opening act Yowler along with “two Chicago friends” participated in a choreographed dance with keyboardist Gabby Smith and bassist David Maine during “I’m 20.” The slightly Macarena-inspired dance drew the biggest applause of the night and made an already charming band more endearing, especially with lines like “I’m 20, washed up already/I’d sell my soul for a free pen” providing further smiles. Kline even took the time to apologize for swearing at an all ages show after using the word “frickin'”, only to sincerely apologize again immediately when she realized the next song, “Being Alive,” legitimately used an explicit word.

The 2nd half of the show turned into a mini-sing-a-long for the faithful as Kline delved into older fare like “Birthday Song” and “Korean Food.” “I heard about being young/but I’m not sure how it’s done/Thought I heard a mumble/Something about fun” she sang to an intensely focused crowd during “Young,” who much like her, were probably still learning and absorbing everything life had to offer and found a kindred spirit in her. The muted drum set of Luke Pyenson provided the appropriate backdrop to let Kline’s soft vocals cut clearly and not drown out the crowd either. I’ve always held Lincoln Hall in high esteem in regards to sound and this balance of quiet and loud dynamics made the entire performance more intimate than I had anticipated and further confirmed what I believed about the venue.

In less than an hour, Frankie Cosmos burned through 21 songs without an encore. As quietly as they came on stage, the show concluded just as gently, which is how most discreet conversations involving deep sharing in the bedroom end.

Setlist

Correctly
Floated In
If I Had a Dog
Sinister
Fool
Too Dark
I’m 20
Tour Good
On the Lips
Outside with the Cuties
Is It Possible / Sleep Song
Sappho
What If
Embody
Being Alive
Buses Splash With Rain
Leonie
Birthday Song
Young
Korean Food
O Contest Winner

Next Thing (Bayonet Records) is out now and you can follow Frankie Cosmos on Twitter (@frankiecosmos).

Jessy Lanza on Noteworthy

 

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Ivan of Noteworthy here (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org). In addition to playing music from all kinds of genre on my show, I also have guests from time to time. On this past Monday’s show, I talked briefly with Canadian electronic artist Jessy Lanza ahead of her show on April 6th at Metro opening for Junior Boys. She co-produced her debut album, Pull My Hair Back, with Jeremy Greenspan of that group and the result was a sensuous slow burn of an effort heavy on midnight synths and classic R&B drum patterns. Her next one, Oh No, will be released May 13th on Hyperdub and promises to pick up the pace on the dance floor if the early songs are any indication. Listen to the interview below and check her out at jessylanza.com and on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Young Buffalo Interview w/ Noteworthy

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Ivan of Noteworthy here again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org) to tell you about a band called Young Buffalo hailing from Oxford, Mississippi. Their debut full-length, House, was released earlier this year and featured a bounty of wonderfully hazy harmonies along with some classic power pop crunch and a few layers of synths. They’ll be in town this Sunday at Township (2200 N. California Ave.) on Nov. 22, which was switched to from the original venue at Abbey Pub. I spoke with band co-founder Jim Barrett (pictured second from right) to find out a little bit more about the band.

Noteworthy: How long has Young Buffalo been around?

Young Buffalo has been a band since the summer of 2009, so a little over six years now.

NW: As I understand, you and Ben Yarbrough (the other co-founder) have been writing together since you were teenagers? 

Yeah, we had some middle school bands and some high school bands where we played some shows and then started Young Buffalo transitioning to college.

NW: In what ways has it been easier having the same writing partner since you started and in what ways have you still been able to learn new things? 

It’s been great that Ben and I have worked together for so long because we get to narrow down the quirks. There’s not much mystery, so you can get things done a bit easier having gone through a lot. As far as learning stuff, that always sort of happens. It moreso happens apart when we work on stuff while playing in different bands and come back with ideas.

NW: How did you guys come up with the title for the latest album, House

It was originally going to be a different title. The middle song, leading off Side B, “My Place,” was originally called “House,” actually. Once we had the track listing in place, we reworked it a little bit and kind of realized it appeared at a certain point of the record and tied together a lot of things. We figured that it represented the album well. Also, whenever we record demos and practice and get ready for shows and stuff for all these other spinning wheels, it’s at Ben and Will’s (keyboardist Will Eubanks), so that fit into the theme as well. Taking in all that, it just felt right to call it House.

NW: What are some of the guitar sounds you’re proud of on the new album? Something that you did in the studio that everyone may not catch the first time around?

There’s this guitar in the first song called, “Man Of Your Dreams” and at the end of it, it kind of breaks out into a a bunch of stuff going on. It was a Danelectro baritone guitar with a really cool Spaghetti Western sort of strum. It’s really subtle, kind of mixed in the background. I’m proud of that. I think it was one of the last things I recorded on the record.

Some other guitar sounds from the album was this really awesome pedal steel sound on the song “Cliff Diver” that Ben got that we went into it not even thinking we would need. I’m sure there’s more, but it’s been a while since we recorded that album so I forget. It’s been a few years.  Continue reading “Young Buffalo Interview w/ Noteworthy”

The 2005 Edition of Noteworthy

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Greetings everyone. This is Ivan from Noteworthy once again to let you know what I’ve got in store for the show. This upcoming Monday, from 6:00-8:00 (which you can listen to live right here at http://uicradio.org), I’ll be going ten years into the past to play nothing but songs from 2005. It’s something I do every year where in the fall, I put together a Noteworthy where I go back a decade and in the spring, I turn the clock back even further to twenty years. While I can’t cover everything in two hours, you can definitely expect some huge hits from back in the day along with choice cuts from albums that were considered among the best.

While 2005 will have its place in history as the year that YouTube began and Tom Cruise physically assaulted Oprah’s couch, there was still a ton of memorable music being released. I’ve even started reminiscing on my Facebook page about some of the great singles we were blessed with, but I’d like to take the time right now to share my top five favorite albums from that year:

Continue reading “The 2005 Edition of Noteworthy”

Royal Tongues Interview w/ Noteworthy

Ivan of Noteworthy here once again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org) to introduce a band that I’ve played on the show before. Their name is Royal Tongues and they’re a fun alternative pop duo based out of Buffalo, NY. Patterns and Shapes, their debut EP, was just released in March and is a synth-filled collection of songs aimed at arena domination. I had the chance to speak with band members Aaron Bonus (pictured left, above) and Justin Gammella through e-mail and you can check out the conversation below.

Noteworthy: So how did you guys meet?
Aaron Bonus: Through a mutual contact. We set up a writing session and wrote “The Balance.” We knew we had something special.

NW: How did you come up with the name Royal Tongues?
Aaron: Lorde’s “Royals” and Joywave’s “Tongues” were both on [alternative] radio at the time. We never cared too much about the name overall. Instead, we wanted to define the name by how we sounded.

NW: What role do you play in the group?
Aaron: I mostly sing live, but recording-wise we both do a little of everything.
Justin Gammella: Keys and harmonies live. As the set grows we are both planning on playing more instruments live as well.

NW: An easy comparison to make with your music would be groups like Passion Pit and Grouplove, but you guys just recently released a cover of Alabama Shakes’ “Don’t Wanna Fight.” What other types of music or influences would people be surprised to find that you’re into and how did you decide on that cover?
Justin: I think mine and Aaron’s wide range of influences is what makes our sound. We are fans of a lot of the alternative and pop music out now but also love ’70s disco, ’90s hip hop, ’80s pop, the ’60s etc. It’s really all over the place and we try to incorporate every influence into every song but especially in the cover.
Aaron: I really loved the song from first listen. I can tell the lyrics are coming from a place of truth and [Brittany Howard’s] voice captures that. I knew I wouldn’t be able to quite get the emotion right, and besides I felt like the chorus could translate to a more disco vibe. So we did that.

Aaron: As far as other music that would surprise you: Nickel Creek, Coldplay, Neutral Milk Hotel.
Justin: For me, Brand New, Justin Timberlake and Regina Spektor.

NW: Your music is so bouncy and synth-oriented that it feels like only a matter of time before I hear a Royal Tongues song appear in a commercial. Do you have any current favorite ad placements of songs that caught your ear and eye?
Justin: I think Foster The People being in almost every commercial when their album came out was huge for alternative music being in commercials.
Aaron: The Bleachers’ Chase Apple Pay commercial was great. Even had him and the band perform in it. Good things are in the works though. Stay tuned.

NW: What’s your songwriting process and how do you know when a track is finished?
Aaron: First off, great question. It really depends. Sometimes we play it live for a while then go back and make the right changes and adjustments with feel taking the lead.  Sometimes, we show a demo to our team and they go nuts over it and push us to just get that version mixed.
Justin: It depends. Sometimes Aaron has a melody that he’s been messing with and we’ll start with that or I’ll have a beat or some sort of a production and we’ll start with that. But usually our best songs, in my opinion, come when we are both in the room and start fresh and just see what happens.

NW: What were your goals going into the writing and recording of the Patterns and Shapes EP?
Justin: We really didn’t have any to be honest. A lot of the songs were written and recorded without an exact project in mind. We were just writing what we thought we would want to listen to to put us in a good mood.

NW: Would you care to explain the title and the artwork?
Aaron: The title came from “The Balance” lyrics, the pre-chorus to be exact. The cover was just a representation of the beginning. A pile of dirt and rocks. For us to build from, if you will.

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NW: I saw on Twitter recently that you guys were playing Mario Kart 64. This is a potential fisticuffs inciting question, but favorite character and course?
Justin: Mario/Wario Stadium.
Aaron: Toad/Rainbow Road.

NW: Rainbow Road is indeed classic. When do you think Royal Tongues will make it to Chicago?
Aaron: We’ll actually be there May 6th with Step Rockets at Beat Kitchen.

NW: What’s one track from the EP that people should check out immediately if this is the first time they’re finding out about you?
Aaron: Well if you ask me I would say “Just Want To Live” is our favorite on the EP but “The Balance” seems to be creating the most reaction.  I guess it just comes down to who you trust more.
Justin: I would say the opening track, “Rollin’ On.” In my opinion it grabs your attention and makes you want to keep listening to what else we have to offer. Which is why it’s the first track on the EP.

If you want to keep up with Royal Tongues, you can like their Facebook page and make sure to listen to Noteworthy with Ivan Mitchell every Monday from 6PM-8PM at http://uicradio.org.