Welcome to the latest installment of our weekly feature, Sound Off, in which Jason P. Woodbury is joined by a different guest each week to listen to and discuss three tracks from local Phoenix artists. If you would like your songs to be considered for future Sound Off columns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mitch Freedom of What Laura Says needs little introduction. His melodic, soul-inspired bass playing is the bedrock of the group, giving the pysch pop jams a urgent sense of boogie.
Dude's also a big time music listener, too, always riffing on what records he's currently spinning. Mitch stopped by the New Times offices to listen and discuss some local jams from rapper BobbyBrandNew, old school rockers Crash Street Kids, and the shoegazey Terra Firma, and his own band's songwriting process.
What Laura Says performs at Creamy Radio's Thanksgiving Eve Show at Sail Inn on Wednesday, November 23.
BobbyBrandNew, "Keep Trying" Born in L.A., raised in Texas, and now stationed in the Valley of the Sun,MC BobbyBrandNew released the Now Boarding mixtape earlier this year. Vist BobbyBrandNew's official site for more information.
Mitch Freedom: I thought it was good shit, man. Great production style. In the past year or so, I've really been trying to reacquaint myself with modern hip-hop, because I feel like I was reared on classic rock, but when I first sought out music on my own, hip-hop is where I rested in the beginning. I was brought up in a time with some of the most classic hip-hop [like] Low End Theory, I remember the first record I ever bought on my own was Enter the Wu. So it's really cool to see the transformation that's taken place, and now it's kind of coming back full circle. I enjoyed the style. I really listen to samples, too, to see if I can pick out what it is. The piano sample sounded familiar...
Up on the Sun: I know what you mean about listening to samples. With those De La Soul or Tribe records, you can always go back and listen to the source material. I got into jazz because of that kind of hip-hop. I think it's that way for a lot of people our age. You think of it as this stuff old music, but you hear something and think, "Oh, that's so cool." I didn't recognize anything specific in this, but the production style is awesome.
It hits on some really great roots, as a hip-hop artist you are trying to accomplish. It's a very fine line; obviously everybody has their own thing they are putting out, influences they put into it, but a big part of it for me is creating accessible music on that end. Not too many production techniques, not too [complicated]. That seemed straightforward: a couple of key elements, and also lyrical content. I'm so over all this grandiose and or violent imagery. I mean, the main populace is probably over that, as well. I enjoy a positive story or a positive flow.
As positive as lyrics about being a pedophile can be. [Laughs] I know he's just joking, but I thought to myself, listening to this, even though it came out a couple months ago, I felt like I was listening to the news. When he joked about the pedophile thing I thought of Penn State, and then the chorus, "Is there more to life than just surviving," it felt very Occupy. It's a sentiment I think a lot of people are thinking right now, for really the first time in our generation. Like, "What a minute, am I always going to be poor? Am I ever going to own a house?"
I enjoyed the realistic view point. It's not happening in a lot of hip-hop. I really love Odd Future, but after awhile the lyrical content gets to be a bit much. How many songs can you rap about pot smoke and fucking people? I love the production style and I love the rhyming style, they are always serious MCs, but I just need something I can kind of relate with.
I read in Spin that Tyler, the Creator mentioned he was sick of rapping around raping people [laughs]. He had a record by [jazzy, psych-hop band] Stepkids on.
I love that band.
They are so good, he said something like "This is what my next record is going to sound like."
Crash Street Kids, "Bang Bang You're Beautiful"
Crash Street Kids released a new album, Sweet Creatures, in September. Visit the band online for more information.
Mitch Freedom: That was enjoyable! It was their take on a pretty standard rock formula, but I thought the song was fun and I enjoyed the production quality. It was very kind of old sounding. Good guitar solo. I mean, if you're going to do it, you might as well go for it like that.
I found myself wondering during the second verse of that was the best place for a guitar solo, but I thought, "Eh, that's kind of cool."
It adds to the...
All out rock 'n' roll attitude.
If this is what got played on modern rock 'n' roll radio, I would probably listen to modern rock radio more. This instead of Nickleback? I don't understand why it isn't like that. Who couldn't get into this?
Modern rock radio is either way heavier, or the production quality is really sick and sterile. That had some personality in the group vocals, and the keys were classic. Very Little Richard, old-timey rock 'n' roll style.This embodied every thing good about rock n roll. It's a very simple song, a very simple sentiment about a lady. Classic.
What Laura recalls a lot of classic sounds, too. I imagine the goal isn't to recreate music from the past. This doesn't aim to do that, which is cool. Do you guys have to consciously decide to not dwell in old records.
I don't know. The music for the band comes from a couple of different sources, the songs themselves. None of it really comes from classic rock like that. The more psychedelic side of classic rock, but in terms of the rock sound, it's coming from things more contemporary. If I was to compare what we do to any reference points from the past, it would be Pink Floyd or Frank Zappa, stuff like that. There's no conscious effort to do it any one way.
In This Sign You Will Conquer by TerraFirma Terra Firma, "In This Sign You Will Conquer" This song is a demo for the upcoming Terra Firma LP Eons. The band performs Saturday, December 3 at The Trunk Space.
Mitch Freedom: [This is] has kind of post rock feel to it. I think it's definitely ballsy in this day and age for a band to take a step past that and throw some vocals in the mix. It kind of reminded me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. All very cool, mellow, dark stuff.
I love stuff like this. Late '80s/early '90s music, halfway between the shoegaze's post-punk roots and the more Brit-poppy thing. Doing it is difficult, because you basically stake out an audience, and you're not going to get much farther than that audience. I don't think the average person who wants to go out and hear a rock band wants this kind of droney thing, but I love it.
I hear elements in what they are doing in more popular [indie] stuff. Like you said, it has that late '80s early '90s thing, those things are coming back into that territory, people are exploring those sounds. I think it's brave, because ultimately it boils down to a persons voice, and what they are saying. That's the only discernible element of your band and what separates it from everything else. I think he did a good job; it's unique, and and the production really supported it.
I guess there are more of those elements popping up in a lot of current indie bands. You're right, his voice was cool. You get sick of the same types of indie rock voices.
I think part of what has made stuff like the Weeknd, or Bon Iver, or Active Child, --any of those bands -- so exciting to the average listener is that those voices don't sound like your typical kind of indie voice. I like someone who has a stranger voice, or just a lower voice.
Two things that come to mind: the new Youth Lagoon record. The music is very run-of-the-mill in terms of bedroom pop, but his voice is kind of endearing and weird. That's what sticks out the most on that record. Have you heard King Krule?I won't say much more; you just have to listen to it. That's what makes or breaks it for me. I could be so hard into the music, but if the singer starts singing and it throws me off...I'm completely uninterested.
I'm the same way, but I'm attracted to usual voices. Mac from Superchunk, Tom Waits, Have you heard Karen Dalton - I was camping with some friends and put her record on, and a guy who likes Joanna Newsom thought her voice was annoying. I love it. I love weird voices. And that's what's funny about Terra Firma is the singer doesn't have a strange voice, it's just lower and more traditionally full bodied. I think Creed made everyone afraid to sing in a baritone register.
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Everyone is like, "Oh shit, I don't want to sing like the guy from Creed." But this is really good. It's like drug music. I love drug music, even though I don't do drugs. You have to get into the midset. To say something cliché, to get into the music as a journey. What Laura does that. You go farther out, but you have to try to bring the audience with you, and not leave the audience behind.
It's difficult to make something uniquely your own, but at the same time bring the audience with you. That's why music is a crafted, and there's a lot of thoughts and variables that go into it.