FEB040: “REXROTH” by Ry Smith


 
Ry Smith is the musical mastermind behind the once-prolific Long Island folk-pop band Eastern Phoebes. February Records released the Phoebes’ 2011 EP Gypsy Paw. Now, since relocating to Rhode Island, Ry is making music on his own, churning out solo pop gems with a slightly darker tone. REXROTH is a self-proclaimed “record about sadness,” tackling so many of the twists and turns of life.

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The 13-song pay-what-you-want download comes with an exclusive interview with Ry.

…March, April & May: Popfest Preview: Indietracks

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march_april_may_2.5x5The one festival that really needs no introduction: Indietracks. For many people it is the pinnacle of indiepop festivals. For those of us who have never been, we’ve all heard stories. For everyone who has gone and experienced it, they always say the same thing: “You’re going to love it!” The festival has inspired songs (i.e. Northern Spies’ “Swanwick Junction” and Lisa Bouvier’s “Every Year Until We Die”), has a good handful of attendees who return year after year, and hotels are fully booked by Christmas.

So, what’s the story behind the festival? We asked Team Indietracks a few questions to find out!

1. Can you give us a history of Indietracks (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
The festival started in 2007 and was the idea of Stuart Mackay, who worked on the Midland Railway in Derbyshire restoring trains. He thought it would be great to have an indiepop festival there, and amazingly the railway agreed! So they ran a small event in April 2007 with just a few bands and DJs, followed by a first weekend festival in July 2007. Stuart, Emma Hall and Daniel Chapman organised these two events, with a lot of work and support from the Midland Railway team, especially Andrea and John Hett.

From 2008 onwards, the festival grew and invited bigger names like The Wedding Present and Los Campesinos! in 2008, and then Teenage Fanclub and Camera Obscura in 2009 (when we asked Elefant Records to help curate the bill). As the festival grew, more of us joined the team to help with all the work. Stuart, Emma (H) and Daniel have left the team now, and John Hett from the railway sadly passed away in 2009. The current team is Marianthi, Ian, Nat, Alice, Emma (C) and Andy, with lots of work from Andrea, Alan and the railway staff. We’ve all been involved for several years, so hopefully the festival is still in safe hands!

2. What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to apply to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
There’s a few ways we select the bands. We invite bands to send us applications every autumn, and then have a listen to see which ones we like the most. We usually get several hundred applications and have a great time listening to everything! There’s also a wishlist on the Anorak message board, and we always look at that and try and book the bands near the top of the list, as well as picking up on any great ideas further down the list. And then there’s always lots of bands we have in mind ourselves. We try not to have any bands playing two years in a row, but otherwise there’s no rules! 

Hopefully this gives us a varied and interesting festival. This year we’ve some amazing artists that have never played before (Gruff Rhys, The Chills, Dean Wareham, The Popguns, Sweet Baboo), some Indietracks favourites returning (Allo Darlin’, Withered Hand, The Hidden Cameras, The Just Joans), some great overseas bands (Los Cripis, Lost Tapes, The Very Most, Thee AHs) and lots more besides! 

3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing Indietracks?
Never underestimate the imagination of the Midland Railway staff! Every year they come up with something creative and slightly crazy. Last year there was a beach on the festival site, which ended the weekend in perfect condition despite a huge and merry late night singalong taking place there on the Sunday night. They’ve also arranged for an owl sanctuary to be on site during the festival and they also brought glow sticks along one year. Last year’s festival also ended up with one of the bar staff playing “The Last Post” on a bugle at the end of our final disco. We really have no idea what they’re going to do this year! 

4. When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
We’re planning for the next one now! There’s a few bands that couldn’t make it this year that we’ve already asked whether they could play if we hold the festival again next year. And then we usually invite bands to apply in the autumn so that we can start booking from January onwards. We’re writing this in mid-June and we’re still booking bands now — it’s good to be organised, but helpful not to pin down absolutely everything too far in advance just in case someone amazing becomes available at the last minute. We were really pleased to book The Chills in early June this year and fortunately we still had space on the bill when they became available!

5. Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
We’d suggest watching a few bands in the tin tabernacle church, even if it’s a band you’re not familiar with, as the atmosphere in the church is amazing. We’d also recommend visiting some of the railway attractions — the light railway and the miniature railway in the country park are wonderful, and it’s great looking round all the old trains and buses in the transport museum. And remember to go and visit the owls next to the railway canteen (Johnson’s buffet). Oh, and if it’s hot, there’s ice cream in the Swanwick Junction station shop! 

6. What are some of the best and worst Indietracks moments you can remember?
The 2007 festivals were incredible, as we couldn’t believe we were able to hold indiepop shows on such a beautiful location. Over the years, there’s been some really special shows (La Casa Azul, Teenage Fanclub, Edwyn Collins spring to mind first). It’s also been great to see bands that played at Indietracks fairly early on (Allo Darlin’, Standard Fare, Just Joans) come back and play to huge crowds in later years. I can’t think of any worst moments — things have gone wrong of course (eg. the thunderstorms last year that meant moving Camera Obscura to the indoor stage at short notice) but in those situations the fact that all our bands, our stage crew and our audience are all really nice and all help each other to fix things means that those moments  actually  become the best moments too! 

Many thanks to Team Indietracks!

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For the full line-up (including interviews with each band), schedule, ticket information, and more, please visit the Indietracks website.

FEB039: “Way Last June” by Cozy Catastrophes

 
Cozy Catastrophes is the solo recording project of Greg Adams. Using guitars, bass, Casios, Moog, glockenspiel and drum machines, and inspired by twee pop, Swedish pop, self-help books and Bobby Rydell’s sweaters, Cozy Catastrophes creates music for teen-age record hops, in-town driving, and lonely hours. The Bloomington, Indiana, resident released his debut album, An Instructive Amusement, in August 2013 on his own Beehive Rebellion Records. The homemade, bedroom-pop recordings of the debut album were clever and slightly cute. Any song called “I Wish This Sweater Were You” was already going to be a big hit among the two of us at February Records. The new Cozy Catastrophes EP, Way Last June, is a bit more electric, but the songwriting is still just as clever as the debut album.

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The 6-song, pay-what-you-want download comes with an exclusive interview with Greg. Cassette versions of Way Last June are also available for purchase directly from Cozy Catastrophes.

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The debut album [from Cozy Catastrophes] has a catchy melody and a good, positive feel.Pop Camp blog (translated)

… March, April & May: Lisle Mitnik/Fireflies

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MAM_banner_greyThough he’s long since left the area, I still have some kind of “New England native solidarity” with Lisle Mitnik. Lisle, the man behind Fireflies, grew up on the eastern seacoast of Massachusetts and, after attending college in California, has settled in Chicago.

Firelies is Lisle’s solo project, which began in 2003. Though the first Fireflies release on a label occurred in 2007, Lisle self-released a few albums for his friends in college. Fireflies has released several albums and EPs and contributed numerous songs to various compiliations over the last 11 years, including his brand new album, “In Dreams,” released on Jigsaw Records in April. In addition to Fireflies, Lisle has also been a member of projects such as Tiny Fireflies, Very Truly Yours, Edine, and Two If By Sea, which released their EP on February Records in December 2010.

Through the loose connections Lisle has with February Records, we thought it would be a good opportunity to ask him a few questions about his musical background in New England, his various projects, and the new Fireflies album.

March, April & May: You’re originally from Gloucester, Massachusetts. When did you leave New England? Why? How often do you make it back to the East Coast?

Lisle: I left New England in 2001 to attend college in California. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision to get out of New England. As I was making my final decisions on where to go, California just seemed to be where life was taking me at the time. The summer before I left, I used to listen to “Goin’ to California” by Led Zeppelin a lot when I would drive around at night: “Made up my mind. Make a new start. Going to California with an aching in my heart. Someone told me there’s a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.” Such are the shallow dreams of a provincial teenage boy. 

I usually get back a few times a year to visit my parents. They have since moved from Gloucester, which is a fairly small fishing town, to the larger city of Salem, home of the witches! While my roots there have been cut somewhat, I still love the feel of New England. I feel quite fortunate to have been raised in such an idyllic place … the gentle sounds of waves crashing, seagulls cawing, and wind rustling through the leaves will always be in my blood.

M,A&M: Having spent a great deal of time in Salem myself and given the presence of Salem State University in the city, it’s most certainly an artistic and alternative type of place. Is this how you remember it? Do you remember there being any kind of distinct music scene in the North Shore area, perhaps one separate from Boston?

Lisle: I think the North Shore does have its own kind of vibe, separate from Boston, the South Shore, or Western MA. The way I remember it now, it’s kind of got a Maine-type of vibe. Progressive, but not Vermont progressive. Passively progressive. Like, “Let’s all just live and let live, and enjoy the scenery.” Everyone has their own thing going. Certainly Salem’s rich history attracts quite a lot of alternative-types of people. Gloucester’s laid-back coastal beauty seemed to attract wealthier people that were maybe a little too alternative for high-rise life in a suit, but then they’re mixed with the working-class fishermen types, so it never felt stuck-up. It even had an independent record shop (Mystery Train) and a venue called Art Space. It was run by the guy that wrote the cult film, C.H.U.D. (Look it up, you won’t be disappointed!).

Toward the end of my high school years, there was a distinct local punk rock scene happening around Art Space. The best way I can describe it was like, hardcore + ska. It was pretty intense. I went to a few shows there, but this kind of music didn’t really speak to me.

M,A&M: How involved in music were you before you moved to California?

Lisle: Before moving to California, my main source of playing music was my piano lessons. I started at a very young age, and continued mostly uninterrupted through high school. Though I was playing my assignments, at this time I think my true involvement with music was getting to know all about it, and establishing myself as a true music lover. My first love with music came from my parents’ record collection, which was filled exclusively with ’60s stuff like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones, but I was into everything. In those freewheeling early days of the internet, I was seeking out more and more music from around the world. I had sophisticated friends from NYC that showed me all about Brit-pop, and a friend in Denmark who supplied me with endless amounts of electronica from Europe.

M,A&M: Quite a few of your songs, albums, and even some of the compilations in which Fireflies have appeared on have been seasonally themed. The EardrumsPOP Summer’s Here – vol 2 compilation, your winter-themed Butterscotch EP and The Autumn Almanac album, and Little Treasure’s Springtime! compilation. Why do you think this is? Are you at all inspired by nature and, if so, how?

Lisle: I definitely feel inspired by nature. I think this comes as a result of my upbringing in such a seasonal place like New England, coupled with the distinct absence of seasons going to college in the California desert, which is when I started to explore writing songs. I found myself longing for those seasonal markers: cosy winters by the fireplace, beautiful multi-colored autumns, and care-free seaside summers. I had a brand-new life, and I missed all the happy memories I had associated with this previous life, even though I knew I had truly left it behind. It took a lot to come to grips with that feeling of having my tether cut.

M,A&M: How do you feel your songwriting has developed over the years? Do you find that you’re still inspired by the same things or have they changed?

Lisle: I think the main change has been in the point of view of the songs. In the first few years of my songwriting life, I went from living in Massachusetts to living in California, to living in London, back to California, and finally, settling in Chicago. Everything was always in flux, and I used songwriting as a way to process everything that was happening. At that time, my songwriting book was like my journal, and I was making “entries” of new songs 3-5 times per week.

These days, my life is a lot more stable and settled. I’m still inspired by the same kinds of things, but now my songs aren’t always so autobiographical. There’s more elements that come from external sources, such as films, books, and in the case of my recent album, dreams.

M,A&M: While Fireflies in your solo effort, you have been involved in various other projects as well including Two If By Sea, Very Truly Yours, Tiny Fireflies, and Edine. Can you tell us what being a part of these various projects has been like? What have you learned from them?

Lisle: To answer what being in these other projects has been like, the first word that comes to mind is, “refreshing.” When I first started out, it took me a while to find my groove, so I experimented a lot with whatever I could find around. I shared a recording/practice space with some other musicians in my dorm at school, so there was never any shortage of gear around. I tried everything from solo piano ballads to straight up electronics … as I started to figure out my style, I lost some of that kitchen sink, “let’s try this weird thing” approach. I have a much better sense now of what works and what doesn’t. As much as that saves me some time, it sometimes is limiting. Working with other people, and in other styles, helped re-wire my brain so that I can use my experience, but not be limited by it. For example, when I was writing for Edine, I felt that I could write lyrics that were a bit more vulnerable, since I wasn’t singing them. I also was trying to use electric guitar as little as possible. In Tiny Fireflies, Kristine is always pushing me to try things that don’t fit into my normal musical M.O. All this helps to make sure I don’t get too settled in my ways.

M,A&M: You have a song on the new Jigsaw/Dufflecoat Records singles club, appearing on a 7” with Japan’s Wallflower. How did this project come about? What has the experience of being a part of this singles club been like for you?

Lisle: Going into 2014, I had a *lot* of songs that were sitting around that I wasn’t sure what to do with. Chris from Jigsaw originally had reached out to me about doing the singles club, and I sent him a bunch of the songs and told him, “sure, take your pick!” It was from there that the idea about releasing the album came about. He was the one that suggested I share the split with Wallflower as well. I was more than happy to do so since I really like their music. There’s a lot of great indie pop coming out of japan right now … Masami from Wallflowerr also has a band juvenile juvenile … there’s Homecomings, Twinkle Twinkles, and also Boyish, who Tiny Fireflies collaborated with for Between Two Waves on Eardrumspop.

M,A&M: In addition to the singles club, you’re newest album In Dreams was just released on Jigsaw Records. How long did it take you to write and record the album?

Lisle: In Dreams has been brewing since the release of Autumn Almanac in 2011. Since that time, I’d been working on several different styles of songs, and I had about 7-8 songs for each style. Ultimately, the real assembly of the album was an editing process of picking which songs fit together as a cohesive unit. It wasn’t until I had the track list finalized that I realized that part of what held these songs together was the recurring lyrical theme about dreams … I’d been struggling with what to call the album, and it came to me while listening to a track, “En Rêve,” a French cover of Roy Orbison’s song by Tiny Yong. It kind of hit me all at once that all these songs were about dreams, and that was the perfect title.

M,A&M: Who created the artwork/layout for the In Dreams?

mononokeThe cover artwork was done by Nicola Colton, an illustrator based in Ireland. I found out about her from the work she did on the Niko Niko single for Eardrumspop. I sent her the songs, and a dreadfully vague impression of what I wanted and she totally nailed the feel I was going for. It was inspired by Anh Hung Tran’s film adaptation of Norwegian Wood, which is also my favorite book. I wanted to try and capture the dreamy feel of he film through illustration. Nicola also picked up subconsciously on my love of Hayao Miyazaki, and included some animal-esque characters reminiscent of Princess Mononoke. Both films feature a lot of forest scenery. Forests have always felt somewhat magical and dreamlike to me, because they are kind of outside of the human realm. There’s an otherness to them.

M,A&M: Since Fireflies is your solo project, can you take us through your recording process? What kind of equipment do you use?

Lisle: Doing everything myself, it sometimes is a lengthy process. Once I have the basic structure of a song figured out in my head, I start to layer instruments and just see what works, one instrument at a time. Once the arrangement feels “done.” I go back and pick out my favorite parts, and then mute what I was originally doing and build new parts around that part I like. There’s a lot of trial and error, and often times I end up with several completely different versions of songs.

As far as equipment, I tend to use a lot of older recording gear. Ive got a cabinet full of various mics from the ’70s, and some cool vintage compressors, preamps, and such. Though I’m recording into a computer, I like to at least have some interesting flavors going into the digital world. Sometimes I get a little jealous when I hear a really well-recorded indie band, quite high-fi and such … but that’s just not me. When I listen back to old recordings from the ’60s, some of them are quite lo-fi! I can’t really imagine a song like The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright” recorded by today’s proper standards … so, I keep reminding myself of this fact that what’s more important than capturing 20-20,000 Hz, is capturing the emotion of a song.

M,A&M: Of all of the songs on your new album, which are you most proud of and why?

Lisle: “Seventy-seven” is probably my favorite. Of all the songs, I think that one comes the closest to a part of what I’m trying to achieve with Fireflies. It feels like a legitimate Song with a capital “S.” It has a melody, a proper chorus, and each instrument’s part really felt interesting on its own.

M,A&M: Where do you see Fireflies in future? Do you have any distinct goals for the project or for yourself as a musician?

Lisle: My goal has always just been to keep on writing better and better songs. Whether or not I’m really getting better or worse I suppose is up to interpretation, but I think I will always keep on writing. It’s something I just feel compelled to do. As long as people are still interested to hear what I’m doing, I’ll keep on releasing them into the world. When I started, I never expected anyone would really care about what I was doing, so the fact that I’m even doing this interview right now feels pretty special.

On the more concrete side, I wouldn’t mind getting out there and playing some shows, I suppose. I recently did my first public singing of my songs since college during an acoustic Tiny Fireflies show, and it felt like something I wouldn’t mind doing again sometime.

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Thanks, Lisle! “In Dreams” is now available via Jigsaw Records. To explore some of Lisle’s previous releases, visit the Fireflies bandcamp page.

Interview conducted and compiled by Kristin Gill.

…March, April & May: Popfest Preview: Indiefjord

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march_april_may_2.5x5Indiefjord: mixing indiepop with the beautiful fjords of Norway. Who had the brilliant idea to do such a marvelous thing? Silja Haddal Mork and Mattias Lidehäll, of course! Indiefjord is a weekend-long indiepop party in the village of Bjørke, Norway, occurring on July 12-14. Not only will you be able to see bands from Scandinavia and the UK, dance to your heart’s content, and experience the beauty of the fjords, but the community of Bjørke will also be involved, organizing various day-time activities for festival attendees. What more could you really ask for?

To tell us more about the process in bringing these two communities, indiepop and Bjørke, together for the weekend, Silja and Mattias happily answered a few questions for us.

1. Can you give us a history of Indiefjord (dates, organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved? Why did you choose to set up this event?
We (Silja Haddal Mork & Mattias Lidehäll) moved from London to Norway in the summer of 2013. Soon we felt that something was missing. It was the music and our friends. In order to do something about this we (in november 2013) decided to arrange a party for new and old friends and to fill it with our favourite music. Since we both were involved in the London/European indiepop scene (Silja as one of the arrangers of the club “Librarians Wanted” and member of the indiepop netlabel EardrumsPop and Mattias as a member of several Indiepop bands, including Stars in Coma and Lost Summer Kitten), we had no problems reaching out to the bands we wanted to book. The response was strong and positive! The venue we chose is in a small village at the end of a beautiful fjord. We want to give our visitors a taste of Norway at its finest!



2. What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to request to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
We know a lot of bands since almost all of our friends are playing. For us, it was more a matter of choosing the best ones from a bunch of amazing ones. Since it’s our party, we are very picky and only book those who we are personal fans of and people that we like to hang out with. After all, it’s a party for the people playing as well.



3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing Indiefjord?
We soon realized the importance of having the locals involved in the planning. The festival is in a very small village and it won’t go by unnoticed. It’s important that the people living there feel that it’s something they are part of and not an invasion of aliens. The people we are working together with are also great assets in many ways and help us solve problems before they even occur.



4. When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one? Or, if this is the first of such event, when will you start planning for next year?
We started organizing in November, but if we do it again we’ll probably start sooner. The earlier everything is set, the better. There’s a lot of logistics to think about and such issues are easier to handle if you solve them early on. The timeline for this year was: 1. book the venue, 2. book the bands, 3. meet the people that we’re cooperating with, 4. advertise advertise advertise.

5. 

Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
Always expect bad weather. It will rain and it will be a lot colder than you can ever expect. If you bring warm clothes that can keep you dry then everything else will be a joy! Dancing helps too, so that’s our biggest recommendation!!



6. What are some of the best and worst moments of any Popfest that you can remember?
Best: 
Mattias: ‘Allo Darlin at any festival/popfest. I’ve cried tears of joy in several parts of the world while attending their gigs.

Silja: The very start of Librarians Wanted: me and my friend Roo met David at Indietracks 2010, we were dancing to Stars in Coma and decided to start a club in London. We decided we’d try to book that band one day, and nearly a year later we did — and that’s how I met my Indiefjord-co-organiser and boyfriend Mattias, he played in that awesome band. Everything is connected to Indietracks! It was also a great highlight to DJ there in 2011 with Librarians Wanted, felt like we were coming home.


Worst:
 Mattias: Playing keyboard with Stars in Coma at Indiepop Days Berlin in 2010. The sound of the keyboard was barely audible and I had no idea what I was playing. At the last song I just gave up and went out in the audience and danced instead!

Silja: None! Popfests are 100% happiness to me. There should be more of them! Especially in Norway…

Thanks, Silja and Mattias!

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There are no traditional tickets to Indiefjord, instead you contribute a donation that will go toward the bands and the overall community. For more information on the donation process, the activities scheduled over the weekend, and how to get to Bjørke, visit the Indiefjord website.

…March, April & May: Popfest Preview: Roma Popfest

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march_april_may_2.5x5I’m going to let you in on something I’m not especially proud of – I had no idea Roma Popfest existed until a few months ago. Awful, right? Where have I been? The U.S., I presume – that faraway land where we are quite removed from so much.

Now that I’m aware of such a great event, we want to share it with you! The women behind Frigopop are also responsible for Roma Popfest. Their reasoning couldn’t be any better: As their website suggests, “there is a Popfest in New York and one in San Francisco, another in London, Berlin, Madrid. Why not to Rome?”

As you will read, the 2014 edition will be the fifth year for the Rome festival, occurring on 16 and 17 June at Traffic Live Club and Le Mura, respectively. This year you can expect a mixture of folk, synthesizers, dreampop, and even a band labeled as “swaying palm trees” via Google Translate. I’m on board, what about you?

1. Can you give us a history of Roma Popfest (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
The first edition of Romapopfest took place in 2010, and there have been one every year ever since, so for next June we’re preparing the fifth edition! At the beginning we were five girls organizing pop concerts and dj sets in Roma, and we just thought it was a good idea to create a popfest in the city; we started to work on that. Since the third edition, three of the girls left so now it’s just me and Priscilla De Pace, but we’re often helped by friends.

2. What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to apply to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
There isn’t a specific rule, we just try to combine our preferences to those of our audience: we contact the bands but sometimes we might also accept applications. Unfortunately, indiepop as a genre, is not very popular in Rome, so usually we have to cross out some bands we really like but who won’t bring any people to the show. That is why we often focus on Italian pop bands; they’re really great, even though they might not be very popular outside our country. If you need some examples, go check Green Like July (they’re playing this year’s Popfest!) Brothers In Law, His Clancyness, Dumbo Gets Mad and many others … Anyway our headliners this year are The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, I think you might know them … :)


3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing Rome Popfest?
Free drinks for bands, as well as balloons on the stage, are never enough.

4. When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
We usually begin six months ahead. There’s isn’t a specific timeline, we’re quite unorganized. But we know the things that have to be done so we just try to do that in time for the shows!

5. Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
Festival totebags are always amazing and very cheap, so buy them! Let the festival atmosphere follow you during summertime.

6. What are some of the best and worst Rome Popfest moments you can remember?
I think one of the best moment I can recall is the first edition, 2010. The response we had has been amazing, people were really very happy to be there. 

The worst moments were probably those spent working hard to hand out flyers and to build stage designs with our own hands….!

Thanks, Frigopop!

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The entire lineup (including biographies), ticket information, directions to the venues and more can be found at the Roma Popfest website.

…March, April & May: Popfest Preview: NYC Popfest

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march_april_may_2.5x5For our next interview, we switch coasts and focus on New York City. We could honestly ramble on and on about the glory of NYC Popfest. Given that February Records was strictly based in the northeastern corner of the US up until very recently, NYC Popfest has always been our go-to weekend. We say it every year and 2014 is certainly no exception – Maz and Clyde have once again outdone themselves.

The festival will take place in various venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, beginning on Thursday, May 29th and ending with an all-day affair on Sunday, June 1st. Various U.S. States, Australia, Europe, and the Dominican Republic are well represented this year with an incredibly strong balance of debut performances, reunions, and some of the most popular current bands in indiepop.

So, we asked Maz to answer a few questions for us about this year’s NYC Popfest. We’ve had our own adventures and experiences in NYC and we strongly urge you to take Maz’s advice regarding the subway!

1. Can you give us a history of NYC Popfest (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
The history of NYC Popfest actually goes back to 1995, but it was called Tweefest back then and it was an outgrowth of the indiepop mailing list. Popfest returned in January 1997 as a bicoastal event, and it featured bands like Holiday and The Push Kings. The current version of NYC Popfest began in 2007 with half a dozen organizers. Four of the organizers continued the festival in 2008. My friend Clyde was one of the original organizers and he asked me if I was interested in organizing the 2009 festival. At the time, I had experience booking bands at our indiepop dance party called Mondo. I had a great time at both the ’07 and ’08 Popfests and naturally jumped at the opportunity to be involved in 2009. Ever since 2009, Clyde and I have been organizing Popfest. 2014 marks our 8th consecutive year!

2. What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to apply to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
We contact most of the bands that end up playing at NYC Popfest, although there are a handful each year that have asked to play. We don’t really have a formal application process, but do encourage bands to contact us if interested in playing. It’s challenging to only choose 30 bands each year as we get hundreds of requests. We don’t have any hard rules as to who can or can not play, but we try to change up the lineup significantly from year to year. Since NYC is renowned for its diversity, we aim to attract an international lineup. Bringing in bands from around the world, as well as from different eras of indiepop, is especially important.

3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing NYC Popfest?
Try to relax and enjoy the festival because it goes by extremely quickly.

4. When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
I usually take June-August off completely from any Popfest planning. Then I begin contacting bands in September or October.

5. Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
If you’re coming from out of town, make sure to plan at least a few extra days before or after Popfest to enjoy NYC. And plan ahead if traveling by subway, as NYC public transportation can be unpredictable on weekends.

6. What are some of the best and worst NYC Popfest moments you can remember?
The best moments were seeing bands I never thought I’d get a chance to see live, like The Wake and Close Lobsters. And meeting so many wonderful people from around the world.

The worst moments are the near heart-attacks I would get when a band would have trouble getting into the U.S. — whether it’s due to a volcano or delays at an airport. There was also the time when The Monochrome Set tried to come to their own after party and were turned away by the bouncer because they didn’t have IDs! That was sad.

Thanks, Maz!

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For more information, including ticket information, mass transit directions to venues, lineups and times, check out the official New York City Popfest 2014 website.

…March, April & May: Popfest Preview: San Francisco Popfest

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march_april_may_2.5x5 In the U.S., May is about to end in a whirlwind of excitement. We have certainly missed San Francisco Popfest, haven’t we? This year, the West Coast event is back and with an incredible international lineup, bringing the Bay Area fans what the organizers are calling “four epic days of indie pop magic.” With bands like Rocketship, The Softies, The Zebras, Boyracer, and Lunchbox to name but a few of the acts, Memorial Day weekend is bound to be just that: indiepop magic.

Occurring in various venues throughout the city, San Francisco Popfest will take place from the 22nd through the 25th of May. One of this year’s new organizers, Josh Yule, answered a few questions about his experiences with setting up SF Popfest for the very first time.

Can you give us a history of San Francisco Popfest (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
I believe SF popfest goes all the way back to either ’98 or ’99. I was recently talking to Mario of Kids on a Crime Spree (SLR & popfest alums) who is one of the original organizers. He mentioned how it started and how at first it was just a bi-yearly event. I recently noticed in a past-shows link for The Aislers Set where they had 7/8 1999 as playing with Rocketship for the SF Popfest. So we have some proof this thing has been around for quite sometime now. Aaron took on the event for the remainder of the years and had some great lineups.

How I got involved was Aaron had approached a friend of mine that I did a monthly with here in SF, called shine on, about helping out and DJing a few of the popfest events. We of course graciously accepted and, from what I understand, Aaron retired and passed the torch on to us. I hope to run into him at some of the shows this year!

What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to apply to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
The process is not too intense or choosey. We just approach bands we would like to see and hope the rest of the Bay Area feels the same as we do. Of course we stay genre specific, and this year I did get a few submissions from bands to play that in my opinion had never heard of the SF popfest prior, and for that matter, probably thought the word twee was just a misspelling of the word tweet.

What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing SF Popfest?
I have definitely found a few more grey hairs on my head, but have learned to take a step back when things get too out of control. After all, this is strictly for fun for me. It is not a job. Ya know some people collect hot dog paraphernalia and some people like to book popfest shows. I just happen to enjoy doing both as a hobby. But as far as what it has taught me, I have learned that all these people playing these shows genuinely love the indie scene and do it for the music, not the money. I look up to some of these bands more than I did in the ’90s now, and I feel as though I have made some really fantastic new friends in these last few months.

When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
Well, last year, I was a little wet behind the ears and learned to start earlier. So from here on out new years day is when I will get started. Actually, today, I was contacted by one of my favorite  Scottish indie pop bands about them possibly playing next year. I can’t say who it is yet, as I do not want to curse it, but it’s pretty awesome!!

Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
Be sure to apply lots of sunscreen and keep well hydrated when attending Coachella.

Thanks, Josh!

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Popfest attendees who purchase four-day passes will also receive a limited-edition cassette featuring rare tracks from this year’s line up. That sounds like incentive to me! Additional information regarding those four-day passes, individual tickets, bands, and participating venues can be found at the SF Popfest website.

Check out our exclusive interview with Tim Brown of Lunchbox, who will be playing the festival. And download our re-release of Lunchbox’s 2001 EP “Glow Like There’s No Tomorrow.”

…March, April & May: PopFest Preview: Copenhagen PopFest

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march_april_may_2.5x5Now that Birmingham Popfest has wrapped up its weekend, which appears to have been a tremendous success, and with the Oddbox Weekender just days away, we bring to you yet another festival that looms on the horizon.

Copenhagen Popfest is being organized by three musicians and pop fans — Morten, Kasper, and Mikkel. There hasn’t been a festival in the city since 2010, which was clouded (quite literally) by the volcanic eruption on Iceland. As Mikkel tells us in our brief interview, it caused some problems. So, years later, the three of them got together and organized the popfest themselves, taking place on May 16th and 17th at Huset-KBH.

What can you expect to see? Some incredible indiepop bands from across Europe including Sweden, England, and Spain. Mikkel also gives some tips if you’d like to experience a bit of Copenhagen, too!

1. Can you give us a history of Copenhagen Popfest (dates, organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved? Why did you choose to set up this event?
There was an edition of Copenhagen Popfest held in 2010. A lot of great bands played, and a lot also unfortunately got canceled due to the volcanic eruption on Iceland that resulted in a flight ban over Europe.

 At the time, Kasper, Morten and I played in a band called Ampel that performed at the Popfest, and we really enjoyed the great mood that surrounded the entire thing. 

Since then, we kind of hoped that someone would set up a Popfest again here in Copenhagen. We have attended a few other popfests across Europe, and when we went to Popfest Berlin in October 2013, a loose talk about “what if we did it ourselves?” turned out in us shaking hands that we’d be the ones to make it happen.

 The reason we decided to set it up was that there were just so many great bands that we’d like to see play here in Copenhagen, but it seems that they never get booked to play here. And that is too bad!

So now — half a year later — we’re looking at a two-day popfest (16th and 17th of May) in a venue that fits 150 people and with way greater bands than we’d imagined possible.

2. What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to request to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
Well… As we announced in January that we were doing a popfest in May, we had already made arrangements with 3 of the bands on the poster and decided that we wouldn’t fit more than 9 in on the main stage. But as soon as we broke the news, we were swarmed with requests to play from bands from everywhere, which was a very nice surprise. 

It took a lot of talking back and forth and a lot of listening to, but there really was only one rule to “make the cut” — We three had to like the band for them to be taken into consideration, and then it had to include elements of indie pop of course.

3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing Copenhagen Popfest?
It’s not as hard as it seems to set up a Popfest. We really wish that more people would do like we did. 
The result is very satisfying and you receive so many happy wishes and emails for doing so.

That. … And then not to think that a band “might not want to come and play anyway,” and therefore keep from contacting them. It takes nothing to ask them. The worst thing that could happen is that they’ll reply with a “thanks, but no thanks…”

4. When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one? Or, if this is the first of such event, when will you start planning for next year?
This is the first time we arrange a popfest, and we’re not sure yet if there will be a 2015 edition. But so far we haven’t lost the drive, and we’d sure like to give it shot again some time.

5. Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
If you are used to cycling, rent a bike for a few hours and experience Copenhagen like we do. It is really the easiest way to get around. If the weather is nice, try out the spiraling tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke (The Church of Our Savior) in Christianshavn. It’s quite like nothing you’ve tried before.

At the popfest: Best to be there on time and bring your best dancing shoes. Working 4-5 bands within the limited time frame means that we must follow the schedule pretty tight and start on time to end on time.

Besides all this advice, it is our experience that popfest attendees are quite capable of throwing great parties as long as you set the frame. They are all very nice to be around and enjoy everything that a given popfest has to offer. We’re sure Copenhagen Popfest will be satisfying to the attending crowd too… We’ll do our best.

6. What are some of the best and worst moments of any Popfest that you can remember?
The best moments are almost too many to mention, and I’ve already mentioned when Ampel played, but I do recall Roadside Poppies playing Copenhagen in 2010 quite vividly. They wore home made volcano hats and they played a cover of “Cross the Lines” with the only Pocketbook band member, Jonny, that was able to make it over here due to the ash cloud and the flight ban playing the drums. Great fun!

The worst moment? There was a time at last year’s Popfest in Berlin, where a friend of mine talked me into drinking absinth with him – The day after that wasn’t my finest hour….heh

Thanks, Mikkel!

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For news and information on the line-up, tickets, and even helpful advice pertaining to getting around Copenhagen, visit the Copenhagen Popfest website.

Will we see you there?

… March, April & May: Festival Preview: Oddbox Weekender

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march_april_may_2.5x5 Odd Box Records is turning five!

To celebrate the happy occasion, Odd Box label boss Trev is throwing the 4th annual Odd Box Weekender the first weekend of May. Taking place in various venues throughout London (Friday at Power Lunches, Saturday at Macbeth, and Sunday at the Lexington), the Weekender is chock full of bands from the US and the UK. As the Facebook event states, “It’s also a BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND so no fear of an early start on the Monday.”

The Weekender has been occurring steadily on the same weekend in May for the past four years now but Trev is certainly no stranger to organizing gigs in general. We asked him for a little background on the Weekender and got some great insight into how he’s been managing such an undertaking for the past few years.



1. Can you give us a history of the Odd Box Weekender (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
Odd Box Records is just me. I used to be involved with Lost Music Records before I started Odd Box. We used to put on pop shows (me and a couple of friends). That ran into difficulties and I was feeling constrained by the need to compromise on band choices and so on. In 2009, I decided to leave/bring Lost Music to an end. The plan then was start Odd Box and continue running a record label and not do any shows, but that kinda didn’t pan out as I planned, as Odd Box became heavily involved in promoting shows. So after two years of running Odd Box, I thought I’d hold an all-dayer to celebrate the 2nd “birthday” of the label — that event took place in May 2011. There were so many bands that it soon morphed into a two-day “weekender” and hence the weekender was born. It’s happened the first weekend of May ever since. This year is the label’s 5th Birthday and the 4th Annual Weekender. It’s also the first time I’ve run the weekender over 3 days (although I did do a warm up show on the Friday last year!).

2. What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to apply to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
As it’s just me, there is no process apart from me liking the band and asking them and hoping the band says yes. There are a few bands that, for one reason or another, I’ve asked that have been unable to play, but for the most part bands seem keen to play. Some bands have “applied,” but I tend to discourage this as I want the weekender to be a balance of showcasing bands on the label and picking what I consider to be a selection of the most exciting new bands. There are always too many bands I want to book, and I can only ever fit in about 20-25 bands over the weekend. It’s also a delicate balancing act when looking for headliners, but I try and make sure the line-ups are fairly weighted towards new bands, but I have had a few more established bands play too. I also like to mix it up and pick bands you often wouldn’t see at a regular indiepop fest, simply because that’s where my taste lie — somewhere between indiepop and noisepop. I don’t have a rule about bands playing 2 years in a row, as that would often rule out a lot of Odd Box bands which is part of the reason for doing the weekender. I think a fair few bands have played two years in a row!

3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing the Odd Box Weekender?
Pffff, lord knows. I should try and do less maybe! You probably shouldn’t get drunk on the Saturday and try to pay the bands twice when you’re a little too refreshed (no, no, no that has never happened to me ;-)). Keep a timetable and try and stick to it. Have fun. If it stops being fun stop doing it.

4. When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
I usually start planning for the next one after Indietracks ends (so early August). It seems sensible to try and have an idea on venues and potential headliners early on — but first bookings aren’t usually confirmed until just before Christmas. After that, I like to get everything booked by February so I can start promoting the event to try and make it a success.

5. Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
Not really! Enjoy the weekend and take a chance on new bands is probably the key thing. As the venues often change year on year, so I can’t really recommend places to eat/stay! But I suppose my tip for the all dayer would be to get there early on the Saturday so you don’t miss out on some of the exciting opening acts.

6. What are some of the best and worst Odd Box Weekender moments you can remember?
Every year it just always feel like the best time. It’s a tremendous thrill seeing bands you’ve chosen (many relatively unknown bands too!) getting a good reaction and it’s lovely to see a bunch of people having a fab time listening to new music. I think when The Chasms played the Windmill in 2012 stands out for me as one of those moments that I find hard to forget — nearly everyone there had no idea as to what to expect as they unleashed their wall of noise sound. The Chasms didn’t play live very often and both their London shows were for Odd Box so it was a thrill seeing them confront and confuse the audience a little. I like the bills to be nicely varied. Elsewhere I’ve enjoyed sets by all of the Odd Box stable down the years — it really is hard to pick a favourite or best moment. I mean Standard Fare wowing the Buffalo Bar was special, as was the double-drummer assault of Methodist Centre. And getting a crowd of unsuspecting people all really getting into at Martha before they had played many “popshows.” And those three examples are all from the Sunday in 2012! And every day has had these moments that I’ll cherish forever.

As for worst? Falling asleep a little worse for wear one year at The Windmill when I was supposed to be DJing was probably something I regret. I don’t tend to DJ the weekender anymore as I simply have too much to do!

Thanks, Trev!

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You happen to be in luck, too. Very few weekend passes are still available, so don’t hesitate to snatch one up while you still can! Click here for more ticket information, including weekend passes.

Odd Box artwork by Andy Hart. Odd Box Weekender poster by James Indiehorse.