Tag Archives: zine

March, April & May: 2016 year-end roundup

This is not a best-of list. This is not a top-10 list. 

Lately, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with year-end “best-of” lists. I love to read them and, usually, hate the results. Boiling down a year’s worth of music into ten (or 25 or 50 or 100) ranked bands or songs or albums just doesn’t really do the trick anymore. And let’s not even talk about number ratings. 

Below, is a mostly-random, un-ranked, un-quantified list of LPs, EPs, tracks and live shows that I enjoyed this year. Some of these I listened to almost non-stop for long periods of time. Some of them I only listened to a few times, but they seriously made an impression. The list is not comprehensive. There’s a lot I left out and a lot I didn’t get a chance to hear. I also included February Records releases because, let’s face it, I like them and I listened to them a lot.

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[LP] Flowers – “Everybody’s Dying to Meet You” (Kanine) — I love this band. Flowers’ first LP was my favorite album of 2014 and “Everybody’s Dying to Meet You” might be my favorite album of 2016, though I won’t commit to that. Check out track 4, “All At Once.”

[EP] Strange Passage – “Shine and Scatter” (self-released) — This Boston quartet channels late-’80s/early-’90s UK post punk. The four-track EP is the kind of thing you’ll listen to over and over. Check out track 3, “Shine and Scatter.”

[live] Miracle Legion (with Winterpills) at The Outer Space, Hamden, CT – July 16 — I’m so glad this band got back together. This show was great. It was also nice to get back down to the New Haven area for a show.

[live] Allo Darlin’ (with Simon Love, Chorusgirl and The Spook School) at Baby’s All Right, Brooklyn – NYC Popfest May 20 — I didn’t know at the time that this would be my last chance to see Allo Darlin’ (and possibly the last NYC popfest as it goes on hiatus). It was definitely worth the five-hour bus ride to New York for their set alone.

[track] Peaness – “Oh George” (House Plants Records) — A smart garage-pop anti-love song to George Osborne.

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[live] Teenage Fanclub (with Skylar Gudasz ) at the Sinclair, Cambridge, MA – Oct. 17 — First time seeing Teenage Fanclub. Did not disappoint.

[LP] Bent Shapes – “Wolves of Want” (Slumberland) — Literate indiepop with a touch of college-rock. From Boston. Check out track 5, “Realization Hits.”

[EP] half sour – “Charm School” (Disposable America/Too Far Gone) — Bratty, punchy “slacker-pop” from Boston. Check out track 1, “Ten Year Tenure.”

[LP] The Very Most – “Syntherely Yours” (February Records) — OK, just a little bit of bias here, but not much. This is a great record. We’d been talking with Jeremy for a long time about teaming up for a TVM release on February and we finally got around to it this year. Jeremy reworked nine TVM tunes into synth-pop songs with guest vocalists. Adriano do Couto of Postal Blue, Colin Clary of the The Smittens, Charles Bert of Math and Physics Club, Lisle Mitnik of Tiny Fireflies and more were featured. The album is still available to download. Check out track 1, “Good Fight Fighting” (featuring Adriano do Couto).

[track] The Monkees – “Me and Magdalena” (Rhino) — That Monkees album (“Good Times!”) that came out this year is actually pretty good. This song is pretty great even if it is written by Ben Gibbard. Gibbard should forget about Deathcab for Cutie and just write songs for Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz to sing.

[EP] The Beths – “Warm Blood” (self-released) — Fun, upbeat New Zealand guitar pop. Check out track 3, “Idea/Intent.”

[LP] Fear of Men – “Fall Forever” (Kanine) — Atmospheric. Ominous. Beautiful. Check out track 6, “Island.”

[LP] The Tuts – “Update Your Brain” (Dovetown) — This album is infectious. Check out track 2, “Tut Tut Tut.”

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[live] Elvis Costello and The Imposters at the Orpheum Theatre, Boston – Oct. 25 — This is the third time I’ve seen EC and the first time I’ve seen him with a full band. Great show.

[LP] Math & Physics Club – “In This Together” (Fika Recordings) — Get some of the band’s best EP tracks, B-sides, rarities and unreleased songs all in one place. Check out track 16, “Weekends Away.”

[track] Dexys – “Both Sides Now” (100% Records / Rhino) — This cover from the album “Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul” has been a constant on my YouTube playlist. I want to live inside this video.

[live] The Go-Go’s (with Best Coast and Kaya Stewart) at House of Blues, Boston – Aug. 8 — This show was so much fun. Lots of dancing. Lots of singing along. Lots of beer.

[track] The Pretenders – “Holy Commotion” (BMG/Clouds Hill) — I don’t even want to hear the rest of the album that this track is on — the Chrissie Hynde/Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) team-up that is “Alone.” I enjoy this song, though.

[live] The Cure (with the Twilight Sad) at Agganis Arena, Boston – June 16 — I’m not usually one for arena shows, but I can’t be blamed for sitting in the nosebleeds to see The Cure. Playing a lengthy set and then four encores, I got to hear everything I wanted to.

[LP] V/A – “Constant and True: A Tribute to the Songs of Rose Melberg” (February Records) — Here’s another little bit of horn-tooting. Jeremy Jensen of The Very Most curated this amazing tribute compilation to Rose Melberg and we got the honor of getting to promote it. In all honesty, this album has been consistently playing in my car or in my headphones since it came out. Every one of these 21 tracks is a winner, with covers by The Hermit Crabs, Rocketship, Boyracer, Emma Kupa, Marc Elston, John Girgus, Seapony and more. Copies are still available. Check out track 21, “My Broken Heart,” covered by Rocketship.

— Danny

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… March, April & May: (Not a) Popfest Preview: Going Up The Country

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As we have now come full circle and we’ve reached out to just about every alldayer, weekender, or Popfest that we possibly could think of, this will be our last in the Popfest Previews series. We’re very happy to be able to include Going Up The Country!

If you’ve been at any major Popfest or festival in the UK in the last year, you’ve likely met Christie the Bear and her compassionate companions, Kevin and Linda. Christie accompanies Kev and Linda to various events, indiepop or otherwise, to help raise awareness and donations for Macmillan Cancer Support. Kev and Linda also happen to be the organizers behind Going Up The Country.

GUTC is what Kev and Linda call a “charity indiepop mini weekender.” Taking place each year at The Church in Congleton, this year’s charity pop weekender is being held on the 13th and 14th of June with bands such as The Swapsies, The Mersey Belles, Bodyheat, and many more!

Can you give us a history of Going Up The Country (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
The inspiration came from Bentley Cooke of Manchester-based band Help Stamp Out Loneliness back in 2011. At a gig he made a throw-away comment about wanting to play somewhere in the countryside. That weekend we were guest DJs at a Charity Scooter event at The Church House, our local pub. They had bands playing on a truck outside and we thought ‘Could we put something on here?’ Bentley loved the idea so, in memory of his mum, he chose Christies, the world famous Cancer Hospital, as the Charity and Going Up The Country was born. This year will be our 4th. Previously, it’s just been one day but we’ve added a totally acoustic Sunday this year. We aspired to give it a mini-Indietracks feel, our favourite festival in all the world … I hope we’ve succeeded!

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?
Having never done anything like this before, the process was a bit scary! Kev approached bands that we’d seen and enjoyed, so pretty soon we had our first great line up. Disaster struck when Help Stamp Out Loneliness split up (please get back together!). Luckily, The School stepped in as a replacement so our first stab at promoting an event was a great success. As GUTC has become more known, bands now approach us to play too, so if we have space and they have the right Indiepop feel, then they’ll be considered.

What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing the event?
Don’t have flyers printed too soon. It pays to have someone calm and laid back on the team (Kev) to counteract the one who panics and worries (Linda). Help from friends like Jamie Harrison and Pete & Jo Dale have been invaluable.

When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
At the end of the very long day you think do we want to do this all over again? Then you wake up and remember just how much fun it was, add in the wonderful feedback and the answer is a resounding YES. Planning is mainly booking the bands so it’s pretty much straight after. If we see any and think ‘WOW we’d love them to play Going Up The Country,’ we usually ask them there and then.

Do you have any inside tips for attendees?
Congleton is pretty sleepy in comparison to Manchester but it is accessible by train and a fair amount goes on musically and artistically. Cheshire is a beautiful part of the world, so come along and have a pint or two of our real ale Pristine Christine, see some excellent musicians, dance your socks off and, to quote one of the best tweets we ever had, have “the most fun ever in a pub car park.” We finish off with an Indiepop Disco in the pub … the locals just love watching everyone bouncing around and think Pristine Christine is made of cherries ….

What are some of the best and worst GUTC moments you can remember?
Nothing catastrophic has happened yet so fingers crossed for 2015, but there have been a few hairy moments. Rain and cold temperatures in our English Summer is always a worry, although we do have adequate shelter! Bands who forget their instruments … yes they do! Highlights are too numerous to mention just so many talented, friendly and extremely generous people from all over the country — even Spain & Germany — having a really great time … can’t wait …

As always, all profits from the weekend festivities will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support, so why not feel good about watching some of your favorite pop bands? Tickets for the weekender are now on sale. Visit the GUTC Facebook group for more info on the lineup and where to purchase your ticket.

… March, April & May: (Not a) Popfest Preview: Pop! South Weekender

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As you’re probably already well aware, the Pop!South 2015 weekender is already behind us and we are entirely at fault for failing to post this in a timely manner! We can only hope that our lovely Scottish friends can forgive us.

Pop!South has been booking pop gigs in the south side of Glasgow for a few years now. Their first weekender, more aptly known as the “All Day-and-a-half-er”, occurred in 2014 and they have kept up the tradition this year, adding an extra night to the festivities. The event, which took place at The Glad Café, included two nights of all-out pop and an afternoon of acoustic sets. February Records band The Swapsies as well as our friends The Mini Skips played alongside bands such as The Just Joans, Withered Hand, Shambles Miller, and many more. From all accounts, the weekend was everything you’d expect: friendly, welcoming, and full of top-notch pop.

Before the weekender, Chris Gillies, one of the many organizers involved with Pop!South, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

1. Can you give us a history of Pop!South Weekender (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
We started Pop!South around May 2013 and enjoyed the gigs we were putting on so much that we thought it would be nice to try something bigger. The first event in 2014 consisted of one full day of music on the Saturday and a slightly shorter acoustic day on the Sunday – this year we’re going even bigger by adding a Friday night gig too.

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?
Basically the main group of us in Pop!South get together in the pub and decide on the bands we’d like to play – simple as that! Obviously you have to have a certain number of acts that are going to guarantee you get people in and you have to make sure you’re not going to bankrupt yourself, but otherwise it’s pretty much all personal choice. Occassionally bands contact us anyway and sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing these events?
That if people have too good a night on the Saturday then they may not be physically able to turn up on the Sunday even if they have a ticket for it! That’s what we learned last year!

4. When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the event ends do you begin to plan the next one?
We were pretty late in getting going last year and it’s amazing to find how quickly bands can get booked up in advance. With the level of bands we’re dealing with that might be that they have another gig or simply that they have to work or go to a wedding that day! We had planned on getting started much earlier this year but it was a busy Summer for everyone and it was September before the first band was asked. Seems to have worked out ok though and we’re very nearly there already. We’re never going to have the venue booked a year in advance like the Nottingham alldayer though!

5. Do you have any inside tips for attendees?
Buy your tickets now – we had to turn people away last year!! If you’re coming from outside Glasgow then have a wee jaunt round the Southside. Most tourists won’t make it this far and they’re missing out. Actually some Glaswegians never make it this far!

6. What are some of the best and worst Pop!South moments you can remember?
Selling out our first show was pretty special. Only 14 people may have turned up for our second show, but at least we already had that memory to look back on! I thought the Haiku Salut show was pretty magical too and pulling off the weekender last year with so many people having a great time was pretty rewarding. Any time you find yourself wondering why you’re putting in all this time and effort for nobody to turn up at your shows though, you can almost be guaranteed that someone will come up and say to you that they appreciate what you do or put on a show that blows you away. We meet the nicest folk from all around the world and it’s great!

Just because the 2015 Weekender has passed doesn’t mean there won’t be any Pop!South gigs for you to attend in the future. Keep an eye out on the Pop!South website for more info on upcoming events!

FEB041: 5: A February Records Anniversary Compilation


 
February Records turned 5 in 2014 and to celebrate, we are releasing a CD compilation featuring 14 bands spanning the length of our catalog. Most of the songs have never been released and are exclusive to this comp. We wanted to make this project special. We think we have.

Bands featured on the compilation are: The Swapsies, Brilliant at Breakfast, Ry Smith, Onward Chariots, Summer Library, Boy Genius, Lunchbox, Finnmark!, Ghost of Chance, Secret Charisma, The Halamays, Cozy Catastrophes, The Month of June and The Pretty Greens.

In addition to the compilation, we’ve produced the first physical edition of our zine, “…March, April & May.” The 60-page zine includes interviews with 14 bands plus articles on DIY culture in New England and some February Records history.

There are three ways to order — all through our Bandcamp page:
1. The compilation and zine combo is limited to 100 copies and includes a digital download.
2. Download the digital version of the compilation from our bandcamp page.
3. Order the “March, April & May” zine on its own.

Orders of the CD/zine combo received before midnight (U.S. Eastern Time) Wednesday, February 4, will be entered for a chance to win a February Records feltie keychain made by Lynn Chan, The Quirky Girl Crafter.

Click here to order.

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… March, April & May: (Not a) Popfest Preview: Big Pink Cake Christmas Party All-Dayer

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‘Tis the Season! It’s nearly that time of the year: holiday gatherings, mulled wine, festive sweaters and, of course, the Big Pink Cake Christmas party.

London’s pop outlet Big Pink Cake has been organizing a Christmas-themed all-dayer for the past several years and 2014 is no exception. This year’s lineup is chock full of incredible pop acts, including February Record’s own Finnmark. The intimate gathering, happening this Saturday (13 December), is not to be missed if you’re in London. A little last minute, we asked one of the organizers, Matthew Rimell, a few questions concerning the event.

Can you give us a history of the Big Pink Cake Christmas Party (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
Well we’d been putting on gigs for a while in both London and Bristol, but decided that we kind of needed to scale back a bit because of how busy we all are … A Christmas party seemed like a nice idea, to get friends together and bands that we liked. Heather and I had put on indie pop weekenders before, in Bristol and although we love doing them they left us physically exhausted, an all-dayer seemed like a better burst of activity and then having the next day to recover … Or not.

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?
Well it’s sort of floating around in my head for a little while, leading up to summer … It’s a combination of asking and being asked … Bands that we really like, have put on before or bands that have grabbed us by going to gigs throughout the year. A lot of bands though have become friends over the years, so we love them and the bands their in — what better excuse to have a party.

What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing the Christmas Party?
Try to sort out most of it during the summer when you’ve got a bit more time … Otherwise it can get a bit panicky when September happens and people are too bogged down with stuff … I think it’s to give stuff plenty of time because things change, new things might have to be thought about … I think time is a key issue.

When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
During the summer time when my job is much less of a strain … I love August! I wish it was August all the time … But I’d get bored wouldn’t I? Maybe not … I think organisation is a bit too grand really … It’s a bit of a thought, a bit of passion, then an action with hopefully a yes as the desired response … We aren’t that organised and I don’t think we’d want to be. Fun has to be the main element, or forget it.

Do you have any inside tips for attendees?
Not really, just enjoy yourself and have a lovely time … You’re amongst kindred spirits, who are there for the specialness of the quieter afternoon session upstairs by the Christmas tree and chandelier … Come and join us all for a curry during the break if you like and then jump up and down to the full on electric session in the cellar for the evening. We love both sessions, they present something different and special … But mostly its friends coming together … it really is a great feeling to be around people coming from all over the world for our small little event.

What are some of the best and worst Christmas Party moments you can remember?
Not really any worst ones (yet) … Although Heather and I did get a bit ‘silly’ when we couldn’t have the Christmas tree last year … Heather and I are old and best friends from school … Sometimes we can get a bit daft — you know, in the way best friends can get. The best bits are too many … Seriously, we love seeing everyone having a lovely time, making friendships and smiling. The bands also, every single one that we’ve had has been totally special and have made it for us and everyone else. There are literally too many bands that stick out for me … But mostly it’s the atmosphere created by everyone … That’s the reason why we do it.

For more information, check the event page here.

5-Year Anniversary Compilation and Zine

I know we’ve been a little quiet over here lately. We still have a few interviews to finish up for our Popfest Previews series and another EP release in the works for early next year, but we’ve also been working on something a bit bigger. Something we’re now ready to reveal to you.

February Records turned 5 this year and, to celebrate, we are releasing a CD compilation featuring 14 bands spanning the length of our catalog. Most of the songs have never been released before and are exclusive to this comp. We wanted to make this project special. I think we have.

The CD will feature bands from our current roster, including Finnmark, The Swapsies, The Halamays, Cozy Catastrophes, Ry Smith, and The Pretty Greens. However, we wanted this compilation to celebrate everything the label has accomplished over the years, so we reached out to bands we have worked with in the past, such as Lunchbox, Onward Chariots, Ghost of Chance, Brilliant at Breakfast, Summer Library, The Month of June, and Secret Charisma. There is even a track from NYC’s Boy Genius who has played more than a few gigs that February put on in the early years though they never officially released on the label.

In addition to the compilation, we’ve decided to produce the first physical edition of our zine, …March, April, & May. The zine will include interviews with each of the bands represented on the compilation plus much more.

Though a physical release date has yet to be set, we are aiming to have everything printed, pressed, stamped, and sewn together by the middle of December. We’ll be updating you of our progress along the way because, let’s face it, this is the first time we’ve done anything like this and we’re excited to share it all with you.

Kristin & Danny

Compilation contributors:
Boy Genius
Brilliant at Breakfast
Cozy Catastrophes
Finnmark!
Ghost of Chance
The Halamays
Lunchbox
The Month of June
Onward Chariots
The Pretty Greens
Ry Smith
Secret Charisma
Summer Library
The Swapsies

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

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We love that there are more Popfests cropping up all over the world. It seems as though people are really taking their love for pop music and combining it with the pride of their culture. Lima Popfest is certainly no exception to that. This year will be the very first year for the festival, celebrating the pop bands and DJs of Latin America. We know where we wish we could be on the 17th and 18th of October!

1. Can you give us a history of Lima Popfest (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
Since I returned to Lima in 2009, I felt the need to have a Popfest in Latin America. I became an active part of the independent pop scene when I joined the noise pop band Eva & John in 2011 and I remember having long conversations with Roque from Cloudberry Records about organizing a Lima Popfest. Earlier this year, I talked to my friend Carlos Luque from Camisa de Fuerza and he supported the project. Inspired by the Sao Paulo Popfest and the Madrid Popfest, we started working on the first edition of Lima Popfest which will be held on October 17th and 18th in Downtown Lima.

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?
For this first edition, Roque, Manuel (Eva & John) and I suggested some bands from Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Brazil and Peru. I remember the first bands we contacted were La Ola que Quería ser Chau and Las Ligas Menores from Argentina because they make some amazing songs. Later, Trementina and My Light Shines for You from Chile. We also contacted some great bands from Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, and the band Peru from the UK, but it was a little more difficult to get them here due to the distances and other issues. For the Peruvian bands, we chose them because we think they are some of the best in the local scene. For future editions, we will be accepting applications to expand the lineup. After we launched the festival, we have been contacted by artists who make great music and they need to be heard.

3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing a popfest?
Well, it is our first edition so there are a lot of lessons to be learned yet.

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 will take a couple of months off after the first one. So, in January 2015 we will start planning the next one.

5. Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
Just to have fun and get ready to jump and dance with these amazing bands. If they are coming from a different country, they must try our amazing food, drinks and maybe take some time to visit Cuzco, Arequipa, Trujillo and other cities in Peru.

6. What are some of the best and worst popfest moments you can remember?
It is the first one so we are expecting to have more “best moments” than worst to tell you about in the future. Thank you for the interview. We invite everybody from all over the world to come to Lima in October to enjoy some of the best indie pop bands from Latin America.

Thank you, Daniel!

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For more information about Lima Popfest, please visit their Facebook page.

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

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For the past 5 years, Popfest Berlin has been hosting a series of international bands in their German city. This year is no exception! Over the course of a weekend (September 26th and 27th, to be exact), bands from Spain, the UK, and Germany will play to an enthusiastic crowd in the Grünen Salon. Instead of drinking lots of German beer, as Sandra suggests doing, we will be stuck wishing we were there!

1. Can you give us a history of Popfest Berlin (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
We started in 2010. I had just moved to Berlin and met Uwe and Olaf from Firestation Records. I hadn’t been involved in the indie pop scene here before and I was wondering if there are enough people out (t)here to start something like a Popfest. So I set up a Facebook group called Popfest Berlin. Within hours it had over 100 members and everybody was asking: when and where?! I was overwhelmed … but I had actually no idea how to organize it! 😀 Anyway this was the point of no return! Luckily, Uwe had already organized lots of parties and concerts, and some days later the venue was fixed and we (Uwe, Olaf, Andi from the Pop Assistants and me) could start working on the first Popfest Berlin line-up.

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?
The only rule is: More pop less shit! When it comes to choosing bands, we all have a quite different taste, though it’s all indie pop. This makes our meet-ups sometimes really heated! 😉 We don’t have an application process and contact most of the bands on our own (which is quite hard sometimes!), but are always happy about requests by bands (and fans)!

3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing Popfest Berlin?
There’s never enough free beer for the bands! And, unfortunately, also there’s never enough money to pay the bands fair 😦 This is really a serious problem, since most of our bands come from abroad and have high traveling costs. We are really grateful for their effort!

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?
Usually, right after the Popfest we are so excited, that we can’t wait to meet up again and discuss about the next line-up! But then we take a small break and start about eight months before the next one. It surprises me, but we got quite organized over the years!

5. Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
German beer! Loads of! And stay on the dance floor until 5 o’clock in the morning!

6. What are some of the best and worst Popfest Berlin moments you can remember?
My favorite moment was when Amelia Fletcher used my tambourine on stage! I bought it ages ago and never had a use for it, but I knew one day it would get its 45 minutes fame 😉

Well, the worst one. As I said before, there’s never enough money, and there was one time where we didn’t sell enough tickets. That was really disappointing, but didn’t keep us from going on! Because all the people, who have been to our festivals, are so thankful for setting up Popfest Berlin and bringing indie pop to Germany!

Thanks, Sandra!

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For more information regarding the line-up, tickets, etc. be sure to visit the Popfest Berlin website.

…March, April & May: Popfest Preview: Indietracks

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The 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.

… March, April & May: Lisle Mitnik/Fireflies

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Though 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.