Education, Education, Education & War
Things could so easily have stayed the same. After more than 10 years, four albums, platinum record sales, a volley of top ten singles and 3 Brit Awards, it would have been simple for Kaiser Chiefs to sit back and coast a while, to enjoy the warm glow of being one of Britain’s most cherished bands.
“At first the songs came from a very personal anger,” explains Wilson. “But then I thought back to what I’d enjoyed writing about in the beginning, with Employment, and what I enjoyed then was looking around and writing about what I saw. And so over the next year I began to write songs about living in this country, about the thoughts that inspired in me.”
Listen: "Coming Home" (radio edit)
Make My Head Sing…
Out April 15, the new album from Jessica Lea Mayfield was co-produced with her collaborator, bassist and husband Jesse Newport and was recorded at Nashville’s Club Roar studio. Of the new music Mayfield comments, “The whole record is just me and Jesse and my drummer Matt Martin. I think a lot of my favorite bands are guitar, bass and drums. I wanted to simplify things. Bands are so big these days, I wanted to get in the studio and make a rock record and hear real guitar tones and something heavy.”
"Make My Head Sing…" follows Mayfield’s 2011 release, "Tell Me", which was produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and was described by Rolling Stone, which named her an Artist to Watch, as “a disarming collision of stark country balladry, dynamic alternative rock and arty electronic pop.” Additionally, the Associated Press asserted, “Tell Me is the portrait of a precocious girl growing into self-assured womanhood and a producer reaching the peak of his powers. It is a dark and moody album, full of delights throughout, and if it doesn’t make Mayfield a star, that too will be heartbreaking,” while Spin Magazine included Mayfield in their “The Next Big Things: 11 Artists You Must Hear in 2011” feature, calling her a “smart-ass country-rock ingénue.” She also made her network television debut on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” performing the album’s first single, “Our Hearts Are Wrong,” which NPR Music praised as “…genuinely moving”.
"Matches a grunge-era deadpan with gnarly leftfield roots music in service of haunting, smoldering rock 'n' roll."--Stereogum
Listen: "I Wanna Love You"
Hush or Howl
Black Pistol Fire is a Canadian Rock and Roll duo that split’s time between Toronto, Ontario and Austin, Texas. Their wild and energetic rock-and-roll sound has been described as a mix of classic southern rock and garage punk, garnering comparisons to early Kings of Leon, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The White Stripes, and Clutch. It's clear that the band's sound spans many different eras and subgenres, relying on a classic rock and roll sound that has been updated for our modern times.
Black Pistol Fire features Kevin McKeown on Guitar/Lead Vocals and Eric Owen on Drums. The two have been friends since kindergarten and began playing music together when they discovered a shared passion for rock and roll music in high school. The two became founding members of rock and roll trio The Shenanigans. With The Shenanigans, they recorded an LP titled Bombshell Baby. After things with The Shenanigans and Toronto got stale, the two wanted a change of scenery and to try out something new. They then packed up their instruments and a bag of clothes and headed south. The band finally settled down in Austin, Texas in 2009 and Black Pistol Fire was born.
Arriving in Austin, the two began rehearsing as a duo. While they had previously done this to write songs for The Shenanigans, there was one crucial difference this time around: there would be no bass to be added later. They soaked up all that the Austin music scene had to offer, and their music developed a more distinctive "southern" sound. Like every good band, they lived in poverty and survived off a steady diet of potatoes while rehearsing, writing, and creating new material in a garage they had rented.
While playing a local Austin hotspot, Producer Jim Diamond (The White Stripes, The Von Bondies, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) approached the band about recording their next record. That album was recorded in 2 separate sessions, mainly off the floor, on to 2” tape. The LP, simply titled “Black Pistol Fire” was released in February 2011 in select record stores in North America, at live shows, and worldwide through ITUNES. The LP garnered a positive critical response from publications such as the Austin Chronicle, Pop Music Matters, and the Houston Press. The band has also seen their music used in television shows such as 90210, Hawaii 5-0, Suits, WWE RAW, Sons of Anarchy and The Protector. Throughout, they have been touring the USA and Canada, completed a successful European tour, as well as playing festivals such as SXSW, and Headlining Rock the Republic, and Mr. Fest. They have supported the likes of Band of Skulls, State Radio, Shonen Knife, and Lucinda Williams.
The band recorded follow up "Big Beat 59" with producer Michael Rocha in Toronto, and it was released in August 2012. As a pre-cursor to the album, the band also recoded the 5 song EP "Shut-up!" a tribute to Little Richard, which was released in May 2012. The band has crossed the country promoting the LP including opening slots with Band of Skulls and a tour with State Radio that included a stop at New York City's famed Webster Hall.
Black Pistol Fire didn't waste anytime when not on the road and recorded the follow-up to "Big Beat '59" in the spring of 2013. Once again the album, Hush or Howl, was recorded with good friend Michael Rocha, this time in Austin, TX. The album has a release date of April 1, 2014 through Modern Outsider Records. The band gained further momentum during SXSW 2013 where The Huffington Post called the band "the next big thing" and "the most energetic and musically versatile of all the bands playing the festival". Things just keep on picking up and 2014 promises to be a BIG YEAR for the boys of BPF!
Listen: "Dimestore Heartthrob"
The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
Courtney Barnett is a Melbourne-based guitar player & singer & songwriter. In 2012 she started her own label, Milk! Records, and released her first EP "I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris" to glowing reviews around Australia. That quickly snowballed into international critical acclaim in 2013 with her second EP "How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose". The two EPs are combined to form the full-length debut, “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas”.
Courtney’s February tour dates sold out weeks in advance, but she'll be back for a full tour to follow in late Spring including Coachella and then onto select major festivals this summer. The official U.S. release of “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas” comes April 15th on Mom+Pop.
“Barnett’s music builds on the wordy irreverence of mid-’60s Bob Dylan and a Byrds-ian blend of psychedelia, folk and country” – Pitchfork
“Tales that unspool like barstool revelations and sound like some hybrid of Kimya Dawson and Kurt Cobain” - Rolling Stone
“Shows off a mind that’s racing at a hundred miles an hour” – NME
Listen: "Avant Gardener" (radio edit)
Skating Polly is an "Ugly Pop" duo made up of stepsisters Kelli Mayo (14) and Peyton Bighorse (18). For the new album, "Fuzz Steilacoom" (out March 18th), the Oklahoma City band traveled to Olympia, WA to record at Dub Narcotic Studios with indie innovator Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening, K Records)! Skating Polly's prior album "Lost Wonderfuls" was produced by another punk legend--Exene Cervenka of X, who has been gushing about the band since she first heard them!
"After I heard the cd I was just so happy that there were two young women out there making such good music on their own in the middle of America."-Exene Cervenka (X)
"In just three years, local rockers Skating Polly already have recorded an album with a punk legend. Who says teenagers are lazy?"-The Oklahoma Gazette
Listen: "Alabama Movies"
2014 sees Sheffield-based dreamers The Crookes release their 3rd LP, "SOAPBOX" becoming the first band to release three full-length albums on Fierce Panda since indie heroes Death Cab For Cutie. Over the past four years they have also released a string of stand alone singles, one mini-album, and racked up an international gig-count that puts most other modern bands to shame, prompting BBC Radio's Steve Lamacq to describe them as “one of the most hardworking and prolific bands of the underground.”
2013 saw The Crookes on tour supporting friend and Sheffield hero Richard Hawley, showcase at SXSW in Austin, Texas (where they were spotted and signed by Modern Outsider Records) and play two critically acclaimed shows in New York, all before disappearing to Italy for two months to record in a secluded church in the Italian countryside. The result was "SOAPBOX", an album that is tougher and more ferocious than anything they’ve previously released.
“Something has changed in us” the band says. “We are no longer wide-eyed and naive, but we are still more determined than ever. The world deals blow after blow until its final blow stops you caring… but still we care more than we ever have, we are still resolute in our belief.” "SOAPBOX" was made by hands calloused through hard work and an adherence to an old fashioned way of doing things. “The most obvious theme that runs through the entire album is the idea of The Outsider” frets guitarist and lyricist Daniel. “As a band that seems to suit us… never invited inside, but never wanting to be. I can empathise more with the madman standing on his soapbox, slowly gaining an audience by speaking with passion and honesty."
The hard work has paid off. Whilst on the road The Crookes have built up a cult following known as the “Bright Young Things” and are at the forefront of the nascent New Pop movement in the UK guitar scene. This devoted fan base has translated to sold out concerts around the world including three shows in Tokyo and the main room of the legendary Paradiso club in Amsterdam as well as headlining festivals in Germany, Holland, America and Spain.
The Crookes have recorded live Sessions on BBC Radio's 1,2,4,5 and 6, had their song "Backstreet Lovers" voted number 24 in the Single of the Year Campaign on 6Music and frequently play listed on stations throughout Europe, Asia and South America and being chosen by MTV Canada to represent emerging music from the UK.
Listen: "Play Dumb" (radio edit)
Matthew Hemerlein, the man behind Lo-Fang, is classically trained in violin, cello, bass, piano and guitar, performing all the instruments on his debut record. Highly detailed, the album has roots in electronic, R&B, classical, and folk music, cast through a pop prism.
Listen: "When We're Fire" (radio edit)
In Cold Blood
White Sea (Morgan Kibby) is best known for collaborations and touring with M83. She's contributed to the band's acclaimed release "Saturdays=Youth", and co-wrote the songs including the hit "Kim & Jessie". She returned to the studio with M83 to contribute to their GRAMMY nominated sixth album, "Hurry Up We're Dreaming." Kibby provided vocals, keyboards, and arrangements as well as co-wrote the album's mulitplatinum ubiquitous smash hit "Midnight City" (amongst others), which enjoyed global chart success.
A venerable remix artist, Kibby has remixed tracks for a range of artists including: Lord Huron, The Naked and Famous, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, Imagine Dragons, School of Seven Bells, Active Child, Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine, New Politics and more.
White Sea's debut album will be out Spring 2014.
"...splits the difference between bleary dream-pop and dramatic synth-rock - like M83, then, but with a more sugary melodic sensibility." -- Stereogum
"2014 is gonna be The Year Of White Sea." -- MTV Buzzworthy
"A soaring, beautifully anthemic new single" -- Gorilla Vs. Bear
Listen: "They Don't Know" (radio edit)
who needs you
The Orwells are five guys from Chicago, IL, playing rock 'n' roll music with an unmatched ragged intensity. Cousins Mario Cuomo (vocals) and Dominic Corso (guitar), twins Grant (bass) and Henry Brinner (drums), and Matt O’Keefe (guitar) have been playing together since late 2009, when they were in 9th grade. Although one might try to simply sum up their sound as garage or punk, it isn’t that simple. The Orwells' sound comes from a deeper, different place that is both long forgotten and yet timeless. Their live show is frenetic, charged and feels like it could go off the rails at any moment-with the audience in full participation. NPR called them a "thrilling, charismatic teen garage-rock band with infectious energy".
“FINALLY! Now we’re getting somewhere! That was wonderful.”
-- the man himself after the band killed it recently on Letterman
Listen: "Who Needs You"
Swedish rock duo Johnossi is gearing up for their first US release since their self-titled debut came out here in 2007. "Transitions" is the band’s fourth full-length studio album and for it the band added some strings and invited The Soundtrack of Our Lives founding member and kebyboardist Martin Hederos to join them in the studio. In addition, they enlisted the help of Peter Bjorn and John’s Bjorn Yttling (Lykke Li, Franz Ferdinand, Shout Out Louds) and Miike Snow’s Pontus Winnberg to act as executive producers.
Listen: "Into the Wild" (radio edit)
A little over a year and a half ago, songwriter/composer Keegan DeWitt and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Bullock stripped down a small Nashville row house to build a custom studio. In this space, and together with friend and drummer/producer Dabney Morris, they would record and eventually form Wild Cub around their debut album "Youth". Initially shared digitally a little over a year ago, the album will now see a wide release through Mom+Pop on December 10th as infectious debut single “Thunder Clatter” sits in rotation on SiriusXM’s AltNation.
The album transitions seamlessly between infectious electro-pop, tropical rhythms, and quiet washes of cinematic new wave reflection. It’s this evocative, cinematic quality that characterizes Wild Cub’s songs, influenced heavily by DeWitt’s extensive work in composing film scores (including 2013’s Academy Award-winning short documentary Inocente; 2013’s Sundance Audience Award for Best of NEXT winner This Is Martin Bonner; and 2010’s Cold Weather).
Since its initial small release, press and touring around "Youth" has mounted steadily and surely. Paste, Consequence Of Sound, MTV Hive, and The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog (’12 Acts to Watch at the 2012 CMJ Music Marathon’) all shortly took notice. Things began to take on a break-neck pace of their own in early 2013, with Wild Cub performing at designer Rebecca Minkoff’s Fall ’13 NY Fashion Week show, snagging NylonMag.com’s ‘Band Crush’ stamp and major support from influential station KEXP (“…[Wild Cub’s] brand of darkly-tinged new wave recalls elements of the youthful abandon of John Hughes soundtracks, the baleful allure of Greg Dulli, and the clockwork electronics of New Order’s middle period”), while “Thunder Clatter” was highlighted in Entertainment Weekly’s ‘Singles Swap’ feature.
"Youth" gained notable UK press attention at this time from Clash Music, The Guardian, The Line Of Best Fit, and Top Shop, as Wild Cub’s tracks, remixes, and visually arresting videos continued to premiere in the States on sites including InterviewMagazine.com, RollingStone.com, Noisey, and SPIN.com, among others. The band completed its first two US tours and hit festivals like SXSW (playing eight shows), Hangout Fest, and Lollapalooza (including a sold-out afterparty with UK stand-outs Palma Violets), while Alt Nation began championing Wild Cub as DJ Jeff Regan independently added “Thunder Clatter” to heavy rotation. Roughly 18 months since recording the first rough sketches of Youth in that row house in Nashville, Wild Cub headlined a brimming crowd at New York’s Bowery Ballroom after selling out both the Mercury Lounge and Glasslands a few months prior.
In addition to fall festival dates that include a stop at Austin City Limits, Wild Cub will travel to the UK for two debut London shows in November, where “Thunder Clatter” has made waves on the Spotify Viral and iTunes Top Singles charts after soundtracking a Bose ad. "Youth"’s wide release through Mom+Pop will also include two bonus tracks, “Blacktide” and “Lies.”
Listen: "Thunder Clatter" (radio edit)
Four Foot Shack
How "deconstructed" can a group get? How about just one vocal, one bass, one guitar and a basic beat supplied by stomping on a mini-tambourine-doohickey?
That's exactly what everyone's favorite storyteller/narrator, Les Claypool, is incorporating in his new band, Duo De Twang. While Les is still pulling double duty with the Primus lads, he has also found the time to unite with his old buddy Bryan Kehoe, who fans will recognize from several past Claypool projects.
But unlike Primus, DDT focuses more on the Americana/rootsy side of things. And as evidenced by DDT's live shows and debut album (out February 4th), Les and Bryan mostly mix traditional tunes, popular covers and Primus classics.
Claypool adds "It's surprising how many songs easily succumb to the twang, and can be complimented by the twang. When all is said and done, it's just a hell of a fun project for me right now."
"A rhythmic conglomeration of raw, old-country moonshine music...all through Claypool's unique twang filter."--Rolling Stone
Listen: "Man In The Box" (clean edit)
With noisy synths, rugged drums and catchy melodics, Gemini Club is fully committed to both electronics and rock and roll. The Chicago four-piece has developed a sound that is both classic and driven towards the future. For Gemini Club it's about stepping out from behind the curtain and expanding the palette of what an electronic project can and should be.
The band is cognizant of the fact that electronic rock must expand it horizons or else audiences will grow tired of the often-detached nature of electronic performances. With this mindset Gemini Club has created a raw experience with a not-so raw instrument so that to provide an experience that you can rock out to. Gemini Club is the rock band reprogrammed.
Gemini Club has shared stages with artists as varied as Metric, AWOLNATION, Two Door Cinema Club, Flosstradamus and Chromeo.
Listen: "By Surprise"
Since 2006 — when Scott Butler, Landon Thompson and John Aldridge formed The Black & White Years — their sifter has been shaking beyond the status quo. They’ve released two albums and one EP. Topped radio charts. Shifted directions. Nearly broken up. Added members. Won awards. And now, a mere seven years post, what’s left at the bottom of the sieve are the undeniably solid pieces of a band arriving at a capstone.
"Strange Figurines", due to hit earbuds on January 21, 2014 on Modern Outsider Records, is that stone. It is the unalloyed chunk that endured best and worst times, youthful decisions, egos, changes, collaborations and maturity, to become an album embodying not just style or substance. But a perfectly mixed cocktail of them both.
Discovered at SxSW in 2007 by Talking Heads’ and Modern Lovers’ Jerry Harrison, The Black & White Years debuted their first full-length, Harrison-produced record only a few months later. Following the success of their introductory LP, they fronted the national stages of CMJ Music Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest and Austin City Limits Music Festival, not to mention the international rostrums of London’s Wireless Festival and Cannes’ MIDEM — where drummer Billy Potts climbed aboard. “Power to Change,” their uniquely mysterious pop anthem and first single, made waves on college And commercial radio, scoring them an armful of trophies at the 2009 Austin Music Awards.
The Black & White Years' Scott Butler is a songwriter. One who would prefer to do that above all else. He is an intellectual, a reader, a science fiction nut. Ergo, it’s safe to assume he’s also an introvert. But on stage, he comes alive. Singing, playing guitar, pounding keys. And dancing a moustache around a microphone in a confident Freddie Mercury-like staccatoed strut. His balance in it all? Landon Thompson. Quite literally, on stage, he lends his pitch for flawless harmony and expert licks on lead guitar. Then, there’s bassist, John. The cayenne to Scott and Landon’s pepper & salt. The kick he brings starts with his stage presence. Wild curly hair, bouncing as he stomps and jumps, a caged animal released upon first low and full note. Pulling John from far left to near center is the rooting cadence of Billy Potts. Billy is focused. His entire being is comprised of a series of creative beats. He is the group’s rhythmic foundation, the conduit of everyone’s hard wiring.
Then, as if the deck wasn’t quite stacked enough, accidentally in walks the delicate and honest Adrienne. Wife to Scott, she is the picture of beautifully demure couched in a complete lack of pretentiousness. And when she opens her mouth, it’s hard to believe this wasn’t her trajectory all along. In fact, after 12 years together, Scott didn’t even know she could sing. But as the writer incessantly writes without pause for executional realties, he penned a track that begged for female vocals. Believing this one had promise, he switched into demo mode, enlisting the closest soprano he could find. So in the bathroom of Scott & Adrienne’s South Austin home, The Black & White Years’ secret weapon shyly stepped up to the mic. Once everyone picked jaws up from the floor it was unanimously decided: this is the new Black & White Years sound, forever more. Amen.
The word the band kept coming back to in the making of Strange Figurines was “coherent.” And in the studio, they all worked ad nauseam, perfectly capturing every nuance of their personalities and delivering on such. So that, ultimately, what we are left with is not just a cornerstone, but a rare gem. One whose brilliance shines as it’s enjoyed top to bottom, over and over again.
"...extremely danceable, discotheque-ready tunes, Austin's the Black and White Years seemingly leapt out of a portal from the late 1970s..." - Spin Magazine
Listen: "Embraces" (radio edit)