Simply put, San Fermin is a brooklyn-based pop baroque band. But they're actually so much more than that.
Last October on a cold night I was driving into Toronto and I happened to tune into an interview on CBC Radio with Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the brain behind San Fermin. Ellis spoke about his childhood and how both parents were painters who inspired him to take hold of his own creativity. He was never a singer himself but he loved to create music. I was immediately intrigued. Ellis had composed several songs, then hand-picked musicians and vocalists to perform it, while he orchestrated behind the scenes. Ultimately when you listen to the songs in sequence, they become a dialogue between Ellis's characters. Call it modern day baroque.
Ellis studied at Yale and is classically trained though only plays some piano. But this hasn't held him back. His music is athletic, layered and dynamic. Ellis talks about song order and how important it is to listen to the album by the track as it tells a story. He's not just composing music, he's composing emotions and that's when it becomes music as an experience. Where will it take you next? What is it I'm feeling when I listen to this? How do the songs end? What has someone else's creativity sparked in me?
San Fermin's work has been called a "concept album" because it tells a story between characters from start to finish. His work combines imagination and a unique listening approach that gives devotion to music as an experience.
You can order "Jackrabbit" (2015) here.
Tame Impala (Perth, Australia) has announced that they will be releasing an album this year as a follow-up to their much loved 2012 album Lonerism. Their first single "Let It Happen" off the new album almost broke the internet this week when it was released for free. Not only is it free, it's 7 minutes long so it's like you're getting 2 free songs. How generous.
Let It Happen is a swirling track full of ambience and psychadelic twists - it's almost dancey. Yet there are undertones of anxiety and regret before switching back up to its electric thrill:
"All this running around, I can't fight it much longer
Something's trying to get out and it's never been closer
If my ticker fails make up some other story
If I never come back tell my mother I'm sorry"
It's an exciting time here on the internet because in just one week VNYLFACTORY will be moving from its home in Toronto to Sydney, Australia. Indie music in Australia is a niche industry with a lot of smaller independent labels who are inclined to sign bands because they simply love making music rather than from the motive of making a profit. VNYLFACTORY will be based out of Sydney and we already have a couple shows lined up. Here are three Australian artists we've been listening to:
1. Gang of Youths is a band from Sydney who we've been following for a little over a year now. They've got a post-punk meets The National thing going on, but prefer to describe the mselves as "the work of a drunken jackass and co. making the soundtrack to a Frank Capra movie." Check out "Evangelists".
2. Holy Holy is a duo from Brisbane and Melbourne who released their first EP titled The Pacific in early 2014. The vocals are really interesting, shrill but smooth on the ears. They sound similar to Alberta Cross. Check out "House of Cards".
3. Betty Who is fire. Two things: she's like an old school Katy Perry and you're welcome.
My heart against my skin
Tonight I'm gonna find something true
KYLO is a new indie artist to hit the music scene in Toronto. Coming out strong off the release of her first EP Fields, and eager to experiment with a new sound, Kayla Dunn has cast away any subtle girl-with-a-guitar persona she may have had, and has graduated into a fuller sound made up of atmospheric lullabies.
KYLO's first song "Beyond Visions", from her new EP Cosmic Vapour, is full of sultry tones, rejuvenating instrumentals and a chorus you can't help but sway along to. I had the opportunity to correspond with KYLO about her journey so far.
What led you to cast away the "girl-with-a-guitar" persona? Was it something you wanted to do for a while?
I wanted my music to grow and evolve into a fuller, atmospheric sound. I will always have a love for the raw, acoustic guitar scene but for me and my creativeness at this point in my music I felt that I needed to move on, rather than continue doing the same thing. I do still use acoustic guitar in how I write my songs, but now I just add layers with other instruments and a producer. I knew after I release my old EP that I wanted to do something different, something more bold.
What do you hope people take from your music when they listen to it?
I hope it allows them to just escape for even a few minutes and let all their worries, fears and stresses wash away. I also hope when hearing my lyrics people are able to interpret it their own way. That's what is so special about music. It can mean different things for each listener.
Can you explain the story behind 'Beyond Visions'?
Beyond Visions is about imagining a reality. A universe where everything is at peace with everything, and there is no need to worry about war, famine, politics, oppression and so on. Also it is about escaping into a world that is made in your image.
Watch the teaser for "Beyond Visions" here and listen to the full version below.
Freedom Fry is a catchy little band from Los Angeles who remind me of an electronic Edward Sharpe. This French American pair, Marie Seyrat and Bruce Driscoll (Blondfire), met when Seyrat was styling Driscoll for a music video. Marie was working for Gucci at the time and she played him some of the music she'd been working on. The two hit it off and formed Freedom Fry in 2011. Though still small, they have been gaining a lot of momentum in the last year and have played alongside bands such as We Are Scientists and Echosmith.
This song is light, warm and retro-inspired. Marie's Parisian vocals work much like a daydream and take you back to the first few days of Summer when hopes were high and the possibilities were endless.
What do Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes and Mumford & Sons have in common? A beautiful, beautiful thing, my friends. Christian Letts spent years as the lead guitarist for The Magnetic Zeroes and has been foundational in writing many of the band's songs. Recently Letts announced he would be releasing his first solo album Hold Fast in early 2015, produced by Marcus Mumford (who is also heard singing background vocals).
I didn't know this but Letts is an artist in more ways than one. He is also a talented painter who creates some really beautiful pieces to accompany his music. I think this unique approach brings a greater depth to the actual experience of listening to music because it stimulates multiple senses. For example, if we look at Letts' song "Matches", you can emotionally connect to it by hearing the music and feeling the melody, and then visually by taking in the painting he has chosen to pair with the song. This idea of bringing your senses together livens the music and builds a stronger experience for the listener. It's like stepping from two-dimensional into three for the first time.
His songs are really beautiful and the sound is different from what he's been a part of before. He's put out that stands as his alone and is true to his own heart and I'm eager to hear more. I've been thinking a lot lately how there is relief in honesty, especially when you are honest to who you are in the present moment. "Matches" brings to light a soft victory that is built on overcoming darkness.
Hear the distance calling a future man
He will travel back when he can
Looked at death and traded this life for love
Shook his hand and looked to the skies above
Heard the future calling a simple man
He says it's just part of his plan
See more of Christian's art on instagram by following @LettsLettsLetts and listen to "Matches" from his unreleased album Hold Fast here:
As winter slowly rolls in and we begin to add extra layers to keep ourselves warm (because we live in a place where the air hurts our face) it's important to have a good, warm winter album. Each year I find myself gravitating to certain bands that keep me lucid during this hibernation season. Last year it was almost exclusively The National's Trouble Will Find Me (and uncharacteristically a lot of Drake). So this year when I came across Luluc, The National's virtuous little sister, I got really excited.
Zoe Randell and Steve Hassett, natives of Melbourne, Australia, form the indie duo Luluc and have attracted notable fans such as Nick Drake and The National's Aaron Dessner with their magical lullabuys and sleepy harmonies. In fact, Dessner co-produced the band's 2014 album Passerby. Each song reminds me of a childlike dream - nostalgic and sweet. I don't want to write too much about Luluc because I think the album does an incredible job of telling its own story already. What I will say is that it's the perfect album to put on during a quiet morning, make yourself a cup of something and take solace in the fact that you are warm inside while the snow is howling outside. Here's Tangled Heart.
Shakey Graves is one of the best live performances you will ever see - that is if you're able to wrestle someone to the death for tickets to one of his sold-out shows. I saw him perform a couple times at Bluesfest in Ottawa last year and they have since been two of my favourite shows. I had the opportunity to see him again last night at the Phoenix in Toronto and needless to say he has only become more frighteningly good. He attracts huge followings everywhere he goes and the reason is something you wouldn't expect - math.
Alejandro Rose-Garcia plays under the stage name Shakey Graves and has been travelling North America for the last couple years, playing music, out of his suitcase. Literally. The rugged piece of luggage is actually a makeshift kick drum fashioned with different pedals and a tambourine. Combine this with his guitar picking and gravelly vocals and you have yourself a one-man band that is taking people by storm. What makes his music so unique is that he rarely plays it the same way twice. The general outline and lyrics of his songs are the same, but he is able to command his crowds by changing different "performance variables". Depending on the size of the room, atmosphere and mood, he will often puppeteer his audience by throwing curve ball changes in the tempo and rhythm. His unique style is one thing to read about, but to actually experience a live show is totally different from what you're going to get with a recording.
Since last year, he's added a drummer to his sets. The lovable "Boo" came bouncing out for a couple songs and once they started they couldn't be stopped. Boo eagerly engaged and locked in on every twist and turn Shakey threw at him. That's when the war came. Their chemistry was so on point, easily feeding off each other's energy, that it seemed as if they forgot we were there.
Later in the set he began Proper Fence by playfully keeping everyone on their toes with one of his tempos and sarcastically said, "if you love something and want it, you should build a fence around it. And then just stare at it for the rest of your days." Then he looked up and rolled his eyes before jumping into a faster paced rhythm. You can't put Shakey Graves into a category because he'll tear right through it with his spontaneity and ever changing tempos. There's no use in trying to keep up with him. Instead it's so much better to just submit to the music and let him carry you along. Here's a live performance of Roll The Bones.