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Sound Samples: The Couch

February 26, 2013

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Sound Samples is a SOTO feature meant to provide some insight on what inspired and/or influenced an artist’s latest release. Today’s entry comes from Austin’s The Couch, who have quickly become one of the city’s buzz acts.  You can pick up their self titled album now (it came out late last year) here, and like them on Facebook here.

The band decided to each provide a section of influences, and first up is Taylor.

Taylor Wilkins’s Samples
Its hard for me to say what I really wanted out of our self titled album when we were recording it because it was three months after we had written most of the songs, with the exception of Kick The Can and Aphrodite.  I do know that I wanted to have an album that had a lot of different sounds and textures than the Couch had previously used. A lot of that had to do with adding a lot more organ, acoustic guitar, auxiliary percussion, and backing vocals, but the biggest change was probably the addition of Sara as a lead singer and songwriter.

Some of my favorite rock bands such as Heartless Bastards, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Dead Weather have female leads, and when Sara started playing and writing more material and sharing it with me, the idea that we could use those songs became a reality. As most major changes are, the transition had its difficulties, but I think we all knew once people could wrap their head around the idea of have dual female/male lead, then they could appreciate this album as an eclectic group of songs that demonstrates all our individual love for different kinds of music and sounds.

I chose The Walkmen’s In The New Year because I absolutely love the intensity of the lead vocals and how the organs/drums crash together.

:The Walkmen – In The New Year:

White Denim’s Transparency always struck me as great song that was recorded with a lot of awesome techniques and really unique parts, which is how I wanted some parts of this album to sound.

:White Denim – Transparency:

Dr. Dog’s These Days has a great crunchy guitar tone melody and fantastic groove, which were all aspects of this album that I really wanted to exemplify.

:Dr. Dog – These Days:

Sara Houser’s Samples
The Kills’ Midnight Boom and The Dead Weather albums were in heavy rotation around the time I started writing the songs that would end up on this record. Allison Mosshart has a really cool quality to her voice that both cuts through but also blends really well. I picked Treat Me Like Your Mother because it captures a number of influences – dirty distorted organ tone, biting lyrics, dual singers.

:The Dead Weather – Treat Me Like Your Mother:

Another album I really dove into was The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa. Great boy/girl dynamic vocally. I also love the driving punk rhythm in songs like Something Against You and Broken Face.

:The Pixies – Break My Body:

The Couch album was really my first foray into writing a “rock” record, and I think going into it I was still trying to find a way to fit my voice into this new setting. I do my best to absorb some grit from singers like Mosshart and Kim Deal, but I also listen to a lot of Feist and St. Vincent. Annie Clark’s delicate timbre over fuzzed out guitar sounds so cool to me, and I really didn’t want to miss out on that juxtaposition on this record.

:St. Vincent – Actor Out Of Work:

Nick Josiwick’s Samples
The first time I ever witnessed the Couch play live a few years ago, I was immediately reminded of Led Zeppelin. Everything from the rock hard hitting drums, to the super solid groove and bass lines, all coupled and brought together with face melting leads and vocal intensity and conviction, it was a high energy show that I knew I wanted to be a part of. So fast forward a few years later, and I am actually sitting in my studio with the Couch getting ready to track their most recent album (a moment I couldn’t have be happier about!). We had all done our homework and pre-production and knew what we wanted and how to go about making the album, so we were all very excited and ready. In my role as engineer/producer, there were a few records that I had to go listen to to formulate my ideas on how we would track/mix/everything. One of those records was most definitely Led Zeppelin IV. The music we were about to record was just so reminiscent of that era rock and roll, how could I not?

:Led Zeppelin – Rock And Roll:

Another record I had to listen to again was Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf. I’ve always been a fan of QOTSA and their production value/sound, so I felt like a marriage of IV +Deaf would be a cool representation to try and capture for the Couch.

:Queens Of The Stone Age – No One Knows:

And one last record I just had to revisit was Fits by White Denim. It’s such a raw and powerful album, I felt like some of its influence on what we were trying to accomplish would be fitting.

:White Denim – I Start To Run:

Jud Johnson’s Samples
I’ve never been ashamed to bump Robyn’s music or messages. I had been enjoying her album Body Talk and trying to get my friends to do the same for a long time. The day before going in to do day one of recording the album, Sara and I went to see Robyn and that woman’s professionalism and performance set a standard I hope to achieve one day. Gotta be able to play with the click because Robyn does and she’s the boss.

:Robyn – Get Myself Together:

Also, this album is great. …  Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

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Sound Samples: Marnie Stern

February 20, 2013

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Sound Samples is a SOTO feature meant to provide some insight on what inspired and/or influenced an artist’s latest release. Today’s entry comes from New York’s Marnie Stern. On March 19 she’ll be releasing a new full length titled The Chronicles Of Marnia, and around that she’ll be spending a couple of months on the road.  If you’re in Austin, be sure to catch her either at SXSW or at Holy Mountain on May 3.  She puts on an electrifying show that shouldn’t be missed.

On another Marnie-related note, in the past we’ve done these and artists have submitted a fairly sizable mix of songs.  Marnie, however, sent four with the following note:

I tend to listen to a lot of the same things, as they never get old to me. Different parts speak out at different times, and most of it has been around for a while. This is the stuff I was listening to when I wrote The Chronicles Of Marnia.

How can you not love that?  So, here’s four songs (with some words from Marnie) that influenced her latest album, which by the way is an absolute blast.

HEART – CRAZY ON YOU

The chorus is what I come back to a lot. It’s emotive and so impactful, and it’s just three words that repeat. I’m drawn to how and why certain simplicities are so effective, and why others aren’t … and I’m trying to learn from them. The intro to this song, of course, is also amazing, as is the singing, and the overall structural build.

DAVID BOWIE – YOUNG AMERICANS

I listened to a ton of David Bowie while writing this record. His voice and is cadence are so fascinating. I read somewhere that he records one word at a time, but I’m not sure if that’s true. There’s a freeness and casualness to this song that I’m attracted to.

WARREN ZEVON – WEREWOLVES OF LONDON

I listened to this a lot for the vocal style and flair. He really has a delivery that’s all his own, and it’s a very fun song. Lyrically, I think it’s one of the best ever because it’s tongue and cheek, but still kind of tough.

ROYAL TRUX -  STEVIE

This is one of my favorite bands, so I go back to them often. This song is so slippery, and that’s part of why I like it. There a ton of influences in there, but the song still sounds 100% Royal Trux. It’s also got a sadness to it that I was interested in.

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Sound Samples: The Calm Blue Sea

October 2, 2012

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Sound Samples is a SOTO feature meant to provide some insight on what inspired and/or influenced an artist’s latest release. Today’s entry comes from Austin-based instrumental act The Calm Blue Sea. The band is all set to put out their new full length, Arrivals & Departures, on October 9 via Modern Outsider. This Saturday they’re having a record release show at Red 7. Get more information on The Calm Blue Sea here.

We each come at our music from such a drastically different perspective and pull songs in ways that were rarely the intention of the idea’s creator. Sometimes the results are magical and other times there are massive rifts between us when we don’t agree, but despite the difficult creative process, the band and the music we make is better for it in the end. Here’s a taste of what influenced Steve (drums), Kyle (bass), and me (guitar/keys/vocals) when we were writing Arrivals & DeparturesChris

:Ambulance Ltd. – Yoga Means Union:

This song has one of the most awesome builds from beginning to end.  It’s the thing I put on when I need a good kick in the ass – something that motivates me. The bass drives so much of what’s going on under all the guitars and really gives a sense of momentum.  I try to bring this approach to TCBS songs by using the bass as a melodic instrument from time to time – little hooks that peek out from the midst of everything else. I really love how this song keeps building more and more … a little more intense each time, and you think it can’t possibly open up any more … until it does.  And wow, what an explosion when it happens.  The rhythmic unity of the band when things get huge at the end is just incredible.  This is a song you should play loudly.  Kyle

:The Antlers – Wake:

The entire Hospice album could go down on the list for me as the biggest influence on this record. It taught me a lot of things about subtlety, simple (yet effective) piano parts, understated melodies, interesting song structures … the list goes on. But what hit me most was the weight of this record. The sadness and emotion crushes you. I love to listen to and create moody, dramatic music. Happiness feels good, but sadness feels much more real to me in music.  Chris

:Bill Frisell – Shenandoah:

For a reason I can’t remember, during a rehearsal I was trying to explain Bill Frisell interpreting folk melodies and how I liked his use of delay units and such. I couldn’t find the version from his East West record that I was thinking of, but somehow I ended up playing the Paul Robeson version off Youtube through the PA and going to the restroom, during which time I’m sure the guys laughed their asses off at me. Something we were working on brought the melody to mind, whether bringing this up affected anything I’m not certain of, but these are the kind of random contributions I pull out from time to time.  Steve

:Caspian – Loft:

I am a huge fan of this band.  From what I’ve heard, this is the first song they wrote together.  It’s a beautiful piece of melody and power all in one package.  I particularly love how the bass moves within the context of the song, sometimes melodic, other times driving and rhythmic.  The tones of all the instruments really work well together and the textures they create are so massive!  There are moments of quiet, almost reflective in nature, that lead to big confident driving passages that seem to get bigger and bigger.   That whole EP is one of my favorite records.  Kyle

:Deep Purple – Fools:

We’ve just lost Jon Lord, so this was on my mind. I’m not ashamed to admit I was listening to the Fireball and In Rock LPs a lot during the writing of this album. Somewhere in a landfill sits a copy of Rockin’ Bass Drum with hand written instructions from my first drum teacher to check out those records. I feel kind of dumb for sleeping on them for so long. I hadn’t owned a proper stereo since pre-Katrina and I put one together around the time we were doing the first sessions for this LP. For some reason most of the gear I bought was from the late 70s-early 80s and buying a bunch of Deep Purple records seemed obligatory. I also made a conscious decision to not play so minimal on this record, so checking out Ian Paice may have put me in touch with some primal rock drummer concept that I had been ignoring for a while.  Steve

:Errors – Magna Encarta:

I went on the road with these guys driving them around the US when they opened the Mogwai tour in 2011. They’d just released Magna Encarta as a single and it was in the set every night.  I love everything about the song but the vocals really stand out to me. Seeing the way that Errors, a mostly instrumental band, incorporated vocals was really inspiring and touched perfectly on the way I saw vocals working for our new material. Steev from Errors showed me the vocal processor he uses on the song and from that moment on TCBS was never the same.  Chris

:Neil Young And Crazy Horse – Winterlong:

Neil Young probably got more air time than anyone else in my house over the last year. When I got married in May of 2011, a good friend gave me a few represses and my wife and I didn’t listen to much else for weeks. Somewhere later in the year this song came on my radar. I hadn’t ever heard the Pixies cover of it, and somehow this version was from a bill that Neil and Crazy Horse shared with Miles Davis during his electric period (which is maybe the most important music to me, ever). Either way, I heard it for the first time and thought “yep. that’s perfect. absolutely perfect. can I have one musical moment in my life like that please?”  Steve

:Other Lives – Black Tables:

It was a tough choice which Other Lives song to put on this list (between Tamer Animals or Black Tables). About 80% of my writing for Arrivals & Departures was on piano (versus 0% of the self-titled) and Other Lives has influenced the way I approach the instrument more than any other. The piano melody and overall sound permeated a lot of the TCBS writing this time around.  Chris

:Pink Floyd – Dogs:

I really love Roger Waters as a bassist, not because he’s technically amazing, but because he always knows when to leave space and when to transition from rhythmic to melodic.  He really holds down the groove well, too. The instrumental arrangement does a really fantastic job of creating compelling textures that keep the song interesting. By the time it comes back in after progressing through a number of movements and a breakdown in the middle, you are dying for that harmonized guitar line – it’s the most satisfying feeling in the world to hear it wash over you!  I love how this song builds anticipation and really sets a deep, unmistakable mood.  Every time I hear the acoustic guitar starting the song, I get really excited for the musical journey I’m about to take.  Kyle

:The Twilight Sad – The Room:

One of my favorite songs by my favorite active band. Everything they do is an influence for me. This song first appeared on their Killed My Parents EP as Untitled #27. Both versions are amazing and I’ve taken bits of inspiration from each in writing for TCBS.  Chris

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Sound Samples: The Sour Notes

September 4, 2012

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Sound Samples is a SOTO feature meant to provide some insight on what inspired and/or influenced an artist’s latest release.  Today’s entry comes from The Sour Notes (with words from frontman Jared Paul Boulanger).  The band’s latest full length, Last Looks, has been available for about a year, but just recently it was remastered and released on vinyl.  This Thursday you can see them play for free inside Stubb’s after Yeasayer is done on the outside stage.  More information on The Sour Notes can be found here.

Last Looks is the fourth full length and sixth overall release by my band, The Sour Notes.  I spent a number of years being part of a group in Houston, but after the project dissolved I decided it was time to give it a shot on my own.  So, I quit my ad agency job and moved to Austin, where I found myself slinging popcorn at the Dobie Theater.  From there I met some good folks, then started a band.

Much of Last Looks developed and took form as a dedicated group. This let us knock it out quickly. Recorded between a summer and winter tour, a Kickstarter allowed us to release it immediately (rushed, foolishly without any promotion). It was a very exciting period for us.  When we were putting the album together we had just gotten into SXSW, CMJ and others for the first time, and we felt an urgency to maintain that energy – a strain that eventually turned on us, pulling us apart. By the time we finished it up, the last three songs to be recorded were done by just the drummer (Taylor) and I.

In that bittersweet stretch, I found myself listening to Last Looks frequently. It’s a bit of a hodge podge, but in general I feel drawn to the songs because they’re poppy, yet epic and they have an element of quirkiness that haunts you long after all is said and done.  The album also falls in line with something that I think is really important, which is that each of our releases should be different in some way.  Because, as David Byrne has noted, “Say something once, why say it again?”  On Last Looks the difference comes from us choosing to cut synths in favor of loads of string and horn arrangements (courtesy of Maurice Chammah and Matt Puckett of Mother Falcon). It made the album much louder and more aggressive, but it’s still poppier than anything else we’ve ever done.  I like that.

Here are some songs that will you give you an idea of where our heads were during the crafting of Last Looks.  Thanks!

:The Veils – Calliope!:
:Wire – Mannequin:
:Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Electricity:
:Broadcast – Poem Of Dead Song:
:Radiohead – There, There:
:John Cale – Paris 1919:
:Chisel – Do Go On:
:The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight – Single Edit:
:Built To Spill – Stop The Show:
:Jawbreaker – Million:
:Spiritualized – Come Together:
:Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World:
:Joan Of Arc – (I’m 5 Senses) None Of Them Common:
:David Bowie – Soul Love:
:The Idle Race – Days Of The Broken Arrows:

Want to have a copy of Last Looks on colored vinyl for yourself?  Then either shoot an email here or leave a comment.  We’ll pick a winner at the end of the week!

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Sound Samples: The Eastern Sea

August 6, 2012

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Sound Samples is a SOTO feature meant to provide some insight on what inspired and/or influenced an artist’s latest release.  Today’s entry comes from Matt Hines of The Eastern Sea.  Their new full length is titled Plague, and is currently available.  The band is also set to play KGSR’s Blues On The Green this Wednesday.  If you’re not in Austin, there are some other tour dates lined up, and those can be seen here.

Good pop music should lead, much like a skilled dancer leads, with a gentle force that makes new steps seem familiar. My favorite pop always retains this unique leadership quality, even if it has to divert from the rest of the genre’s typical characteristics in the process. In my role as a practitioner of pop composition, I struggle with questions of responsibility when it comes to leading the listener: Why should the listener trust me? How much force is too much? Is it morally justified to lead anyone toward anything? While I may never truly have an answer to these questions, I often compromise with myself by insisting that The Eastern Sea has become a balance of familiar and foreign, a mixture ease and difficulty.

On our new record, Plague, my focus in writing and arranging was to ease the listener into a headspace in which the songs could function comfortably. In other words, listening to the album in its entirety should feel painless, even despite the frequently changing narrative path, the jarring number of transitions, and the general density of content. In my opinion, since we are also a relatively unknown band, we have no choice but to take a strong lead, giving our partner (the general listening public) a reason to even say yes when we ask them to dance.

Here’s a mix of songs that I believe effectively demonstrates the steps I’ve learned over the past few years.

:Earlimart – The Hidden Track:
:Sufjan Stevens – No Man’s Land:
:Bat For Lashes – Daniel:
:The National – Apartment Story:
:The Appleseed Cast – Fishing The Sky:
:Foals – Total Life Forever:
:Bill Callahan – Eid Ma Clack Shaw:
:Scott Walker – Rosemary:
:White Denim – Tony Fatti:
:Broken Social Scene – Cause Equals Time:
:Doves – Kingdom Of Rust:
:Bee Gees – How Can You Mend A Broken Heart:
:MGMT – Song For Dan Treacy:
:Jens Lekman – A Postcard To Nina:
:Beach House – Used To Be:

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