OK Go's Music Videos Still Reliably Inventive

Categories: Indie Rock

Gus Powell

From treadmills to paint guns, OK Go has always been pushing the creative envelope with DIY music videos. For their latest single "The Writing's On the Wall" from their new Hungry Ghosts album, they were faced with the challenge to pushing the envelope a little further.

Using more than 20 illusions, 70 crew members, and going through about six takes before deciding on "the one," the music video for "The Writing's On the Wall" weaves in and out and over and under through a warehouse of carefully-placed shapes, carefully-painted walls, and delicately-planned timing to portray the one-shot wonders of OK Go's collective imagination.

"Most of our work was in pre-production: making sure odds and ends lined up, the timing of movement was perfect, and that the pace cohesively flowed around the room," explains Tim Nordwind of OK Go. "In post-production, we did just a bit of color correction to make some of the colors pop out more, and eliminated some shakiness."

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Searching for the Human Side of Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes

Categories: Indie Rock

Courtesy photo
Of Montreal

It's noon on a Friday and I'm sitting in my living room. Laptop is on my lap, my phone is plugged in, and Garage Band is open as I begin to type the project's title: Kevin Barnes. I'm not ready. It feels like my blood has been put through a SodaStream and pumped back into my body carbonated.

If you don't know, Barnes is the singer and songwriter of the Georgia band of Montreal, which began as Barnes' solo project but quickly added members. Of Montreal's performances became increasingly opera-like, with elaborate visual art setpieces, and Barnes quickly made a name for himself such stage antics as cross-dressing and performing naked. However, it's his heart-wrenching, bookish lyrics set contrastingly to funky, danceable music that gives the band its enduring appeal.

I can't do this. I run to my kitchen and pour a shot of mezcal. I go outside and chain-smoke three cigarettes. My hands are shaking more than their typical mild tremor. I take another shot. Maybe that was a bad idea. Maybe this was all a terrible idea. What did I sign up for?

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How Metronomy 
Frontman Joseph Mount Got Scooped by Daft Punk

Categories: Indie Rock


When Joseph Mount of London-based Metronomy listened to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, he realized he'd have to change the direction of "Boy Racers," the most upbeat song on his band's 2013 album, Love Letters. He had intended to have the song include a German narrator speaking about how fast boy racers can go, but when he heard the helmeted duo's "Giorgio by Moroder," on which the architect of disco himself tells his life story over grooves created by the electronic music icons, Mount wasn't sure where he wanted to go with the song.

"The whole premise and outcome of the song would have been very different [from Daft Punk's]," Mount says. "The reason why I had been thinking about it was because we had been spending a lot of time in Germany. There's something about the language and its delivery that always seemed quite nice, like Kraftwerk, with the German monotone voice."

The track became an instrumental piece. "Boy Racers" really didn't need vocals on it, anyway. It's the perfect standout song on an innovative electronic album that looks for warmth in analog. Love Letters, inspired by '60s psychedelia and '70s soul, was recorded at East London's Toe Rag Studios, where all recording is done on magnetic tape (White Stripes recorded Elephant there). This forced Mount to take his time with the songs.

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Jean-Philip Grobler of St. Lucia Loves '80s John Hughes Movies (Go Figure)

Categories: Indie Rock

Courtesy of St. Lucia
St. Lucia

Jean-Philip Grobler of the synth-pop band St. Lucia has traveled internationally since he began making music at 12 years old. It's hard to believe that Arizona has not yet been a pit stop.

"I have never been [to Arizona], but all the pictures I've seen are absolutely beautiful!" Grobler exclaims. "I would love to drive out to the desert and have dinner or go on a hike and go golfing."

Grobler is originally from South Africa, where he says, "being successful in music, or in anything at all, is extremely difficult." After originally making plans to study architecture, he had come to the conclusion that music was the thing he had always wanted to do.

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The New Pornographers Are Masters of Joyous Indie-Pop

Categories: Indie Rock

Chris Buck
Pop spunk: The New Pornographers have made a great new album.

It hardly seems that 14 years have passed since Canada's New Pornographers dropped their debut full-length, Mass Romantic, upon a whole lot of virgin ears. To say that the indie power-pop band's initial offering was well-received is an understatement.

Critics went cuckoo for it, and the recording found its way onto several of that year's "best of" lists. Music lovers were equally smitten, eating up its addictive mix of powerful guitars and drums layered with diverse instruments like synthesizers and pipe organs and delectable vocals from multiple members. Smart, harmonious, and gritty, the recording was the foundation on which a base of devoted fans was built, about which founding member/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist A.C. Newman says, "As a musician, you always hope that someone is going to listen to what you do and like it. And, of course, you hope it becomes popular. So, of course, I hoped for it but didn't expect it."

Like the other members of the New Pornographers, Newman was active in the Vancouver music scene, playing in bands like Zumpano and Superconductor (whose song "Shaved Temple" is on this writer's list of all-time favorites) prior to the band's formation.

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Belle & Sebastian Guitarist Pined for Scottish Independence

Categories: Indie Rock

Thumbnail image for belle-sebastian-civic-space-park-photo.jpg
Belle & Sebastian

UPDATE, October 7, 2014, at 11:37 a.m.: Due to expected rainfall, the Belle and Sebastian concert has been moved to the Orpheum Theatre.

Belle & Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson hoped to be celebrating Scottish independence. What better way to commemorate 18 years of making music, the re-release your out-of-print vinyl back catalog, and your first-ever Phoenix appearance in a place (Civic Space Park) putting on its major-concert-venue pants for the first time?

Alas, despite polls to the contrary, the Scots chose not to break with England. He had a feeling the referendum might fail, yet it still surprised him.

"I'm bitterly disappointed," Jackson, a Glaswegian, says. "It's a great opportunity lost, seems like. But I think something irreversible has happened. There's been a major shift. I'm one of them. I was opposed, but I've been thinking about it over the last year and thought, 'Yes, let's try it.' It's a bit of a step into the unknown."

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Billy Sedlmayr's First Solo Album the Product of Prison, Art, and Age

Categories: Indie Rock

Jacob Sullivan
Billy Sedlmayr's new album is a lifetime in the making.
It's said you have your whole life to write your first album.

Tucson songwriter Billy Sedlmayr would probably laugh -- one of the distinct, wheezing chuckles the Tucson songwriter punctuates most of his statements with -- at that sentiment.

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A Band of Aliens Takes Over Foxygen's New Album

Categories: Indie Rock


Last time around, Foxygen proclaimed themselves "the 21st-century ambassadors of peace and magic."

The mischievous, fun-loving, experimental psych-rock band -- formed and fronted by songwriting partners Jonathan Rado (guitar and keyboards) and Sam France (vocals) -- sound well beyond the 22nd century on its new release ...And Star Power.

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Tim Showalter of Strand of Oaks Discovered Rock, and It Healed Him

Dusdin Condren
Tim Showalter of Strand of Oaks

Tim Showalter made his name as Strand of Oaks over three albums of dark folk music, a mysteriously enticing mix of dreamscape sci-fi lyrics and a simmering, powerful delivery.
Unsatisfied, however, because of a key missing piece, Showalter turned everything upside down for Strand of Oaks' fourth album, HEAL.

"What changed the most on this record is I finally was myself. I finally was able to do what, either secretly or not secretly, I always wanted to do -- make a record like this. And I didn't possess the confidence to do it, the confidence in my songwriting or my guitar playing," says Showalter during a phone interview from a tour stop in Pittsburgh just two days after making his national television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

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Brit Band Thumpers Sounds Like Summer

Categories: Indie Rock


There's something about catching a band at a festival, especially when you don't know them prior to seeing them," says Marcus Pepperell, one half of London's alt-pop duo Thumpers.

He should know, given how many festival gigs his band has graced: MIDI Festival, Camden Crawl, Blissfields, South by Southwest, and more. When we called Pepperell, Thumpers had just returned from playing Secret Garden Party, which the band described as a "sort of free love, hippie-style kind of festival, which is unusual for us. We were playing a stage standing on broken branches. It was a highlight because it's the first festival this season that we've actually been able to stay over at and experience a lot of good bands."

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