March 31, 2011
When Casiokids’ frontman Ketil Kinden Endresen approaches, it feels as if David Bowie walked off the silver screen from the Man Who Fell to Earth. The musician from Bergen, Norway has the tall, slender alien features and wears a slim, pale brown suit that only makes his white skin all the more pallid. Casiokids are new to Florida, and— for now— the furthest south they have travelled is Orlando. They are indeed strangers in a strange land.
Endresen expresses his curiosity for the City of Celebration and how Disney-like it might be. But the last sort of cultural experience he needs is an exploration of suburban artifice and the banal. This is the man who, three years ago, spent a month in Lagos, Nigeria with bandmate Geir Svensson exploring the legacy of Fela Kuti in the country’s current musicians.
Fela, who is often celebrated for bringing African music to London in the early sixties and beyond, is a passion for Endresen and other members of Casiokids. Besides their work with Casio keyboards, the band employees African rhythms. “I really like Afrobeat,” says Endresen, “Fela Kuti, and Ghanaian Highlife, like E.T. Mensah. I really like King Sunny Adé, Amadou & Mariam … and some South African music like Kwela music from the sixties and seventies.”
Here’s a tune from Mensah whose rhythm would fit right into a Casiokids song:
Though African rhythms certainly serve as a foundation for Casiokids’ sound (you can download two free tracks from their latest release at the band’s website on Polyvinyl Records), a love of retro keyboards like those manufactured by Casio in the early eighties add the icing on the cake. “I’ve always said that the Casio keyboard is, in a way, the perfect instrument ever made,” Endresen says, “because you have all the different rhythms and all the different instruments there and also a lot of sound effects and colorful buttons,” he adds with a laugh.
He does clarify that the Casio in the group’s sound goes beyond mere gimmickry. “There’s a lot of noise in them, of course,” Endresen says about one of the problems of amping up Casio keyboards on stage. “But we try and use that as an effect.”
The problem with the Casio keyboard for performing artists is the fact that Casio made the bulk of their synthesizers to market for the pleasure of performance in family living rooms, with no need for amplification. With its synthesized keyboard, Casio provided the successor to the home organ. “There’s definitely some particular charm to it when you plug it into amps,” Endresen muses, “and we use a lot of different effects to it, and it’s really fun to play. Some of the songs we do have been really big, and it’s just based around some of these Casio keyboards. They were never really meant to be amped up or anything.”
Though on this night, before Casiokids’ show at the BackBooth, the stage set-up features many more percussion instruments over electronics (read a re-cap of the night’s show here), Endresen says the Casio featured more prominently in the band’s early days. “With me and Fredrik [Ogreid Vogsborg, guitars / keyboards / percussion], we started making things together, and we didn’t have any instruments really, except Casios that we borrowed from friends.”
He says the group really began almost flippantly. “In the beginning, it was just edits of things. We played on top of loops of songs. I remember the first edit we did was New Kids on the Block’s ‘the Right Stuff,’ and we played on top of it with Casios and used parts of the songs in loops and added rhythms. That was the beginning stages, I guess just playing around with it and having fun and being immediate. That’s always been the philosophy of it.”
Between the Casio keyboards and Afrobeat, there is something else at work in the sound of Casiokids. That becomes apparent when Endresen begins talking about collecting records while on his trek in the US. Endresen, who says he “used to work in a vintage vinyl shop in Bergen,” says he has come across some goodies in Austin, Texas and Birmingham, Alabama. “I usually buy jazz or more like electronic things on vinyl.”
When he mentions “electronic things,” he clarifies his passion for the early electronic rock pioneers of the Krautrock scene. “I really love Kraftwerk and Can and Faust,” he says. “These Krautrock bands I really look for because it’s the kind of bands that are really hard to find in vinyl shops.”
Likewise, vinyl is his preferred format for releasing Casiokids’ work, especially when it also accommodates for today’s current technology, like iPods. “We did a release now in the US … that is like double purple vinyl,” he says of Polyvinyl’s limited issuing (only 1,000 manufactured) of Topp stemning på lokal bar (support the Independent Ethos by buying the vinyl on Amazon through this link), whose title, according to the label’s website, loosely translates to “Great vibe at local bar.”
“I think it’s a really nice package because you get downloads for the songs as well,” Endresen continues, “so that package, I think, is the ideal combination because you get something of a very nice item that really gets the most out of the design of the pictures for the release. You also have it both on vinyl, and you can use it for your iPod or your computer.”
He does add that the format he really thinks seems to be dying is one that once sounded the death knell of the vinyl record in the mid-to-late eighties: the compact disc. “Of course, we’ve released CDs as well,” he says, “but what I find these days, whenever I buy CDs… I can’t remember the last time I did that, actually.”
Topp stemning på lokal bar is actually a compilation of songs and extras Casiokids had recorded and released piecemeal over the course of a year, mostly on Moshi Moshi Records, a UK-based record label. A contract with Champaign, IL-based Polyvinyl offered them the chance to gather their recent material into one compilation. “From like, late 2008 till late 2009, we released a lot of singles,” Endresen explains, “and we did collaborations and remixes, and we remixed a lot of people’s songs, so we did a lot of projects and collected them all in this package, this double album.”
Finally, he notes the Polyvinyl deal is much more than an avenue to allow music only released abroad to find a place on US store shelves without the inflated import prices. There are plans for a full-length album of all-new material before year’s end. “We’re working on an album now,” Endresen says, “which I hope we can finish in a month or so.”
He says the main thing that might be in the way of releasing the album any sooner is the band’s tour schedule. “It’s a lot of touring for us always, so it’s hard to find time for us,” says Endresen. “We have our own studio, so it’s flexible for our time, and we did the production ourselves, so we’re currently working towards a release in September of 2011 on Polyvinyl, so I hope that will work out,” he adds with a laugh. “If we don’t tour too much. With Casiokids it’s just an insane amount of touring. Last year we did 117 shows in 18 countries, so it’s been a very intense couple of years for us.”
During 2011’s SXSW, a music festival Endresen says Casiokids has visited three times now, the band premiered one of their new songs. Here is video footage of “Olympiske Leker”:
Endresen spoke much more about Casio keyboards, how the band writes lyrics that are even unintelligible for their countrymen and clarified much hype about some of the theatrical stage shows the blogosphere so promptly… and lazily… associates them with (no, they don’t routinely dress in fuzzy animal suits and have shadow puppet theater at their concerts). More on all that in part 2 of this exclusive feature.
For now, there are a couple dates left in their tour opening for Starfucker (however, the NYC show has sold out):
Mar 31 Philadelphia @ Johnny Brenda’s
Apr 2 New York City @ The Bowery Ballroom
March 30, 2011
Though I wanted to resist, I cannot help but admit that the group’s just-posted new track off their upcoming albums Codes and Keys (support the Independent Ethos by pre-ordering it on Amazon) stuck in my head after one listen. “You Are a Tourist” has a lead guitar line coupled with an echoing, if unintelligible chorus by singer Ben Gibbard that is nothing if not irresistible.
If you head over to the band’s website, you will be redirected to youareatourist.com featuring the YouTube stream of the song:
In about a week that site will feature the premiere of the song’s music video… as it is filmed live in one take. A first-time stunt. The band explains the details on their homepage:
“Make sure to put April 5th at 7pm EST/4pm PST on your calendar: Death Cab for Cutie will be filming a live, scripted, single-take music video for You Are A Tourist, broadcast as it is filmed on www.youareatourist.com.
Directed by filmmaker Tim Nackashi (TV On The Radio, OK Go, Elvis Costello, Radiohead), and conceptualized by frequent Death Cab for Cutie collaborator Aaron Stewart…”
Now the long wait for the album, which is not due out until May 31. But I would not wait to hear the album before getting a ticket to their upcoming tour. The band has already announced tour dates (see those here) and many dates are already sold out.
It sounds like Death Cab’s still got it, so good for those that got their tickets. They have not planned a show for my area of the States (South Florida), yet, though I have to say the last Death Cab concert I saw was quite unmemorable– four guys standing on stage at the Bank Atlantic Center, on the University of Miami campus, playing their instruments and barely moving. Well, with this one song they have convinced me to at least go for another one of their albums.
The two bands, along with the Florida-based Bastard Lovechild of Rock and Roll (aka Le Blorr), packed the kids in at an all ages show at Orlando’s BackBooth. Le Blorr proved to me that today’s young bands, more than ever, are filtering through 70s rock into grotesque hybrid monstrosities with 80s influences. Le Blorr particularly show potential for growth. They need more than just two guys on stage alternating between a keyboard, guitar and drums. The songs meandered in a nice, indulgent love of deep-rooted rock, though it was hard to find hooks in the music. All told, the music certainly comes from the right place.
After Le Blorr cleared their gear, six young men from Norway crowded onto the stage. It was an amazing array of percussion and electronics and a practical miracle these guys sounded as decent as they did in a small, echoing bar. Beyond the technical quality of the sound, Casiokids tore it up on stage and had the audience bouncing off the walls in no time.
Throughout Casiokids’ short set, the grooves were intense and infectious. I had interviewed singer and main songwriter Ketil Kinden Endresen before the show. We spoke a lot about his affection for African music, from King Sunny Adé to Fela Kuti, but also bonded over Krautrock from Kraftwerk to Can. He certainly knows the ins and outs of some of the greatest and varied groovesters on record. It was no surprise that these six flowed and locked so well. It brought me back to the magic concert I saw when LCD Soundsystem took the stage last year in Miami Beach and threw a thousand people into frenzy.
I was amazed at the amount of gear on stage. I think I even saw an audience member join in on tambourine. At one point, guitarist Fredrik Ogreid Vogsborg took the mic offstage with him and entered into the crowd to sing and dance along with some of the befuddled mass.
Though often hyped for a theatrical stage show with shadow puppets, those sort of events were only occasional collaborations with a theater troupe. Though I can appreciate an exciting stage show, these guys proved they are much more than a gimmicky theatrical band. They know how to rock.
Here are the second and fourth songs of their set that night:
It was a short wait for Starfucker to come on stage. They set up their own gear— as did all the other bands of the night— and sound-checked the gear themselves. They did some magic and worked out some kinks for a pretty clean, sonic performance. The five-piece Starfucker were also a sight to behold, as a quintet crowded up on the small stage. For $12 at the door, the volume of the quality of musicians this night alone far exceeded many shows I have seen with ticket prices over $60.
Starfucker’s set spanned across the band’s three albums with lots of respect for the popular titles, even if they did not play my personal favorite “Holly.” After the show, they told me they felt the song felt too mellow for how things were going on stage (besides the fact they do not play the song much), and the vibe was right and full of energy indeed.
I was a bit surprised to see that the crux of the energy came from guitarist / turntablist / keyboardist Ryan Biornstad. He played a jittery electric guitar and often turned to scratch on an old Steve Martin record on the deck behind him. His face decorated with what appeared to be red lipstick, which found most its way under his eyes, he knew how to draw the audience in. During the final number, he tested the crowd by leaning off stage. The audience was always there to catch him and prop him back up until he dove in to take off crowd surfing.
By contrast, the low-key songwriter Josh Hodges almost looked like he was sitting on stage. At the start of the show, he ordered the spotlights be dimmed as a swirl of green and red laser lights created a Christmas color-coded interstellar space field over the proceedings. It was a festive, trippy show by a group of musicians delighting in exploring an array of musical angels within a psychedelic/dance rock vibe.
Unfortunately, I only captured most of one song by Starfucker before my camera’s batteries died (I’ve got to learn to carry spares). I close this post with that one song:
Finally, here is the rest of Starfucker’s US tour dates before they head to the UK and Europe:
Mar 29* Raleigh @ Local 506
Mar 30* Washington DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel
Mar 31* Philadelphia @ Johnny Brenda’s
Apr 2* New York City @ The Bowery Ballroom
Apr 5 Boston @ Brighton Music Hall
Apr 8 South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
Apr 9 Rochester @ Bug Jar
Apr 10 Cleveland @ The Grog Shop
Apr 11 Columbus @ Skully’s Music Diner
Apr 12 Chicago @ Lincoln Hall
Apr 13 Minneapolis @ Triple Rock Social Club
Apr 14 Minneapolis @ Triple Rock Social Club
Apr 15 Sioux Falls, SD @ Sioux Falls Orpheum Theater
Apr 16 Omaha @ The Waiting Room
Apr 17 Denver @ The Bluebird Theater
Apr 19 Salt Lake City @ Urban Lounge
Apr 20 Boise, ID @ Neurolux
Apr 22 Vancouver, Canada @ Biltmore Cabaret
Apr 23 Seattle @ Vera Project
Apr 26 Seattle @ Crocodile Cafe
Apr 28 Portland @ Holocene
Apr 29 Portland @ Doug Fir Lounge
Apr 30 Portland @ Mississippi Studios
Apr 30 Portland @ Mississippi Studios
As I stated at the top of this post, much more is coming…
Yes, I shall forgo Miami Music Week, committing the ultimate sacrilege for a Miami-based music journalist. Thankfully, as a blogger under my own command, I no longer fit that description. I get the freedom to flee the dance music-crazed crowds and head north for the dancey-type neo-psychedelic electro-rock of bands like Starfucker and Casiokids who are currently touring together and making several stops in Florida, though not in Miami. Here is the bands’ Florida itinerary:
- Fri., Mar. 25 @ Crowbar in Tampa, Florida
- Sat., Mar. 26 @ BackBooth in Orlando, Florida
- Sun., Mar. 27 @ Jack Rabbits in Jacksonville, Florida
I will head out this afternoon to be in Orlando for the BackBooth show the following evening. But I won’t only be there to see the show and record a couple of videos (see my YouTube channel). This marks the first time I will have the opportunity to produce exclusive interviews for this blog, as both bands have agreed to sit down for face-to-face interviews.
I plan to write proper stories, not just do the Q&A laziness. Granted, I can understand straight Q&As can be insightful as a supplement to stories, as I have often shared the old back-and-forths from my years as a music journalist in conjunction with links to published stories on this very blog (see my archives). I do hope to provide the Q&A portions of these up-coming stories in the form of uncut audio files of the interviews, but these guys indeed have stories to tell…
Starfucker’s tour has so far been rife with struggles, including a broke down van they needed to tow to one of the venues with the group crammed in the front seat of said wrecker. Then there was the arrest of guitarist/turntablist Ryan Biornstad at SXSW… before a show, no less. Besides, it was was love-at-first-listen when I heard their 7-inch single for “Julius.”
Casiokids are a Norwegian band and labelmates with Starfucker. Since they hit the scene in 2006 with the oddly experimental album Fuck Midi (please pardon the language of this post), they have since transcended the gimmick of being a Casio-based band with more prominent guitar work and proper lyrics (albeit still in the native Norwegian tongue). OK, so they probably won’t make the big time like A-Ha, but they create some catchy music.
So, stay tuned. In the wake of Miami Music Week, which will cap off this weekend with the pricey and sold-out Ultra Music Festival (a music festival I have never even attended*), I am still at it, and out to give you some exclusive scoops. Note: if anyone has a burning question they want to ask either of these bands’ members, do share in the comments below.
Here’s Starfucker’s new video, until then:
And one of the latest from Casiokids:
*Back in the 70s, I always related to Johnny Fever in WKRP in Cincinnati and his “Disco sucks” credo.
March 18, 2011
Kraftwerk, the electro Krautrock pioneers from Düsseldorf, have dipped into the app-authoring business with “Kling Klang Machine No. 1.” But, of course, showing their age and their solid position from another era of electronic music (that of the 20th Century), they did get a little help.
Via his blog, Norman Fairbanks, explained he has spent the better part of the past two years coming up with this thing in collaboration with Kraftwerk. In his announcement of the release (it went live last week, actually), Fairbanks stated this is not your regular auto-gen music program: “It’s a novel system that creates music and sound based on realtime data depending on your location that are continuously feeded into the app, meaning the KLING KLANG MACHINE No1 can’t be compared with other generative music apps which mostly utilize pre-programmed algorithms.”
There is a demo on YouTube that you can watch below.
It does indeed seem quite random and interactive. As for how it compares to the dirty, analogue qualities of the early to mid-seventies period Kraftwerk I have always loved (with a special fondness for the Michael Rother years), I cannot say that it does… based on the demo above.
If you want to check it out, you can get the app for your iPhone or iPad by following this link. The US price is $8.99.
March 15, 2011
Ahead of their long overdue sophomore full-length album, Reading, England-based darlings, Pete and the Pirates released their lead single off their new album yesterday. “Come to the Bar” is a digital-only single, and you can get it from iTunes as well as their UK-based label Stolen Recordings right here.
Stolen Recordings have placed one minute previews of both the A-side and B-side on its website, or you can watch the official video for the A-side here:
It’s a long song for P&P, and I’ve been following the band since I heard singer Tommy Sanders’ debut solo album, Lanzafame, under the moniker of Tap Tap, back in 2008. I first wrote about Pete and the Pirates late last year. Sanders’ solo work was not that far a departure from the music of P&P, so a shining to both projects seemed inevitable. Now arrives “Come To The Bar,” the first single from the new album, One Thousand Pictures (due for release on May 23).
I first heard P&P were working on this album back in early 2009. My anticipation waxed and waned over the years. A so-so Tap Tap album offered a hold over, not to mention a dip back into the band’s back catalog, which covered their acclaimed full length debut Little Death (support this blog by buying the CD on Amazon) and several singles and EPs that date back to 2005.
During that time, and based on what I hear on this new track, P&P have turned a corner. Their catchy guitar hooks are still there, but there is also an electronic element that offers a nice decor and gloss to the songs that I have so far heard. If their sound could have grown more luscious, it certainly has. Partial credit should go to producer Brendan Lynch, who has worked with Paul Weller and Primal Scream, among others.
At the end of last year, stranded by a snowstorm that interrupted plans for many in Europe, Pete and the Pirates filmed a video for another song off the new album, “Winter 1.”
It again features a lush quality, this time in the super-affected bass line that anchors the track. The band has made the track available for free on their site. You can still get the mp3 by signing up for their mailing list on the band’s homepage.
I am also familiar with the B-side of “Come to the Bar.” Based on what I hear in the preview for “Good Girl” on the Stolen website, this is a new recording of a song I first heard in 2009, when Pete and the Pirates made their first appearances in the US and recorded some radio sessions. Your can hear how “Good Girl” sounded in 2009 by downloading the mp3 of the cut the band performed for WOXY FM.
Finally, I end this post with the tracklisting for One Thousand Pictures:
Cold Black Kitty
Come to the Bar
Blood Gets Thin
Things That Go Bump
Half Moon Street