How Cosmos, Carl Sagan, and Space Influenced Yellow Ostrich

Categories: Indie Rock

Courtesy of Yellow Ostrich
Yellow Ostrich

In the video for Yellow Ostrich's "Mary," a young girl dashes through woods, then trips and falls in slow motion. The cover for Ostrich's fifth album, Cosmos, features a still from videographer Bas Jan Ader tilting sideways, ready to fall. Likewise, the album features a track called "Things Are Fallin'." It turns out that dropping, tumbling, keeling over, and other cruel gravitational tricks are popular themes for frontman/guitarist Alex Schaaf to explore.

"It's the line between stuff like Jackass -- oh, people falling down, something funny to laugh at," Schaaf says via phone. "Gravity is such a simple thing. We take it for granted. It's acting on everyone here at the same time. We're powerless against it, something that's such a huge thing that we don't think about . . . It's like an alternative to religion, kind of -- the huge forces that control our lives that we kind of take for granted."

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How John Muir and Nature Inspired Bon Iver Drummer S. Carey

Cameron Wittig
S. Carey

Sean Carey's Range of Light begins like the still quiet of a forest morning.

"Glass/Film," the opening song of Carey's second full-length album, comes with the distinct sense of an awakening, starting with a heart-beat drum and slowly building, a soft guitar, a flash of horn.

Carey says the album is named for what naturalist John Muir called the Sierra Nevada range, and that grand, panoramic beauty of the mountains is something that inspired his songwriting.

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Through Success, Pains of Being Pure At Heart Still Yearns To Grow

Categories: Indie Rock

Shervin Lainez
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

At first glance, the image appeared to be just another photo, the kind of day-to-day self-documenting that floods online interactions these days: A young man sitting on a chair holding a guitar against bare white walls. Around him are keyboards, amps, and other equipment. It could have been anyone: someone showing off their New York apartment; a music major posing in his first dorm room; a musician simply looking pensive in the studio. Looking a little closer, the caption explained it all. It was singer/guitarist Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in a studio in London, and he was working on his band's next LP.

In this age of smartphones and social media, bands have to find innovative and clever ways to generate buzz. The New York-based band, who takes their name from a short story written by Berman's friend, embraced this and announced their newest album via Instagram.

"I wasn't intending on announcing it that way," remarks Berman.

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MS MR Take It to the Stage (Not Without Difficulties)

Courtesy of the artist
MS MR are scheduled to perform Wednesday, April 23 at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
It's a beautiful thing when the pieces fall into place. For Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow, the creative forces behind MS MR, the New York-based synth-pop duo currently supporting Grouplove on a nationwide tour, serendipity was strong at work during the band's inception. While studying at Vassar College, Plapinger having majored in media studies and Hershenow in urban studies, both members juggled extracurricular artistic endeavors that contributed to MS MR's direction. It was their academic pursuits, however, that were more key to the band's foundation than anything else.

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How Big Boi Inspired Phantogram's Latest Album

Courtesy of Republic Records
Phantogram is scheduled to play the Marquee Theatre on Friday, April 18.
It is every artist's goal to be the next new thing -- clich├ęd as it is, any creative will eventually admit this desire. Few can make one radical thing while even fewer continue to deliver intriguing material. Phantogram, the electronic psych-pop duo from upstate New York, fall into the latter category, catching the ear of coffee-sipping Pitchfork critics and Southern rap legends alike. For vocalist/keyboardist Sarah Barthel and programmer/multi-instrumentalist Josh Carter, it's been a long and calculated venture, but a fruitful one at that.

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Boyfrndz's Scott Martin: "We Want to Create Our Own Niche"

Boyfrndz is scheduled to perform Sunday, March 30, at Last Exit Live.
Pushing any kind of artistic endeavor through to the finish line is a process destined to involve evolution. Practically no book, drawing, film, album, Play-Doh sculpture, or whatever comes through looking exactly the way its creator originally envisioned it. If Scott Martin wasn't already aware of this reality, he experienced it firsthand as his band, Boyfrndz, came together in 2011.

Initially, Martin imagined the outfit as "a weirdo punk-type band" — think aggressive instrumentals and melodic vocals -- inspired by the likes of underground stalwarts Fugazi and the chaotic Tera Melos side project Bygones.

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Snake! Snake! Snakes! on Reinvention, New Material, and Why Playing Scottsdale Sucks

K.C. Libman
Jon Messenger, David Cooper, and Chris Sanchez of Snake! Snake! Snakes!
Without reinvention, there would be nothing new worth being inspired by. For Snake! Snake! Snakes!, an alteration came with the coming and going of band members and a new option to simplify the band's entire approach.

At its writing core is bassist Chris Sanchez, drummer David Cooper, and guitarist/vocalist Jon Messenger, who are joined onstage by guitarist Dan Tripp. Coming together in 2006, Cooper, Messenger, and Sanchez are guys who seem to have matured in a fraternal sense, evidenced by spending an hour with them cracking Miller Lites, talking University of Arizona basketball, and trading war stories in their Icehouse practice space.

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Dr. Dog's Scott McMicken on Their Arizona Connection, Lineup Changes, and Poor Press

Courtesy of the artist's Facebook page
It's rare to find a group that can go from being a cassette-recorded basement pastime to a full band that's able to translate dazzling musicianship from the album to the stage. Such an evolution is rarely seamless, however. Dr. Dog -- whose brand of psychedelic-tinged, harmony-driven pop was once the outlier and is now an influencer -- is no exception.

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Cults' Brian Oblivion on Changing Expectations and Getting Dark on Static

Courtesy of Cults
There's no more sun in Cults' eyes. The Manhattan-based indie-pop act best known for the cloyingly sweet singles "Go Outside" and "Oh My God" have returned with Static, a departure from what set sights on them in the first place. The only familiar part of their aesthetic is the album cover itself, placing vocalist Madeline Follin and vocalist/guitarist Brian Oblivion's silhouettes at the forefront. Most everything else, however, is different.

"We setting out to make a darker, more aggressive record, but I think a little bit about it also, was like muso stuff," Oblivion says. "I was really into making chord progressions that work but aren't in the same key sound nice and pleasant. A lot of Halloween music is like that -- there's like one chord that's really wrong then with the next chord you're right back. It kind of takes you on a roller coaster ride."

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Father John Misty's Josh Tillman on Fearlessness and the Human Condition

Courtesy of
Josh Tillman sighs into the phone, taking a breath before launching into a personal sentiment that's a signature of his tell-all take to his music -- something he's fond of exploring rather than simply talking about his inspirations. As the man behind Father John Misty, the psych-folk act that's followed his work with both Fleet Foxes and his previous solo project J. Tillman, he's no stranger to plumbing the depths of philosophy to create his own narrative.

At the moment, we're talking about his approach to his songwriting, often laced with Tillman's off-center and sometimes absurd sense of humor. "I think all humor is rooted in tragedy, and it is rooted in sadness, and it's rooted in the deficit of the human experience," he says. "There's this deficit where what we expect out of life and what we get, and the remainder there is the thing that comedy addresses. If you touch on topics that are sensitive enough, people are going to laugh whether it's funny or not. I think that that's a lot of what I'm doing with the music."

Whatever it is, it's working.

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