Kool Kat of the Week: Freaks, Geeks and Playing with Teeth: Aileen Loy Is Ready to Sing the Music of the Devil…Well, Till Someone Loses An Eye

Posted on: Mar 6th, 2013 By:

Aileen Loy, performing with Till Someone Loses an Eye at the Star Bar on Jan. 10, 2013. Photo credit: Jolie Simmons.

ATLRetro has had our eye on Atlanta visual and performance artist Aileen Loy for a long time, and now seems like the perfect time to catch up since her band Till Someone Loses An Eye will be playing Sunday March 10 in a three-month second Sunday series at the Corner Tavern in Little Five Points. The unique nine-person ensemble also will be opening for self-described “rockabilly-porno-metal with a country twist” Fiend Without a Face  and Ricer on Wed. March 6 at the Star Bar. Other band members include  Sam McPherson and Michael A. Robinson (L5P Rock Star Orchestra/DRACULA THE ROCK OPERA); Meredith Greer (The Chameleon Queen); Steve McPeeks (Art of Destruction)Frank Anzalone (Walk From the Gallows)Brigitte Warren (Wicked Geisha Ritual Theatre); and Dee Dee Chmielewski (DRACULA).

To call Aileen an eclectic talent would be an understatement for her passions definitely are eclectic and her talent unquestionable. Her singing voice is unexpectedly deep for a woman and has often been compared to Tom Waits. her costumes are always the very spirit of Bohemian and often feature bones, whether she is in full Mexican skull-face Day of the Dead regalia or  a skintight black pants fronted by a human pelvis and skeletal legs. Still to call her a goth would be selling her short. She certainly displays a passion for the macabre, but she also equally embraces the playful, including the recent Renaissance of carnival/circus culture and even a gypsy steampunk edge. Till Someone Loses An Eye lists its influences as Waits, Nick Cave and Gogol Bordello and its interests as “rusted metal, old time circus culture, cheese sandwiches, small rocks, freaks, geeks and miscreants.”

When she is not making music, Aileen crafts cool, creepy jewelry using prosthetic eyeballs and teeth, and she has experimented in film and just about every type of artistic media. If that’s not multi-talented, we don’t know what is. But enough talking about Aileen, let’s get talking to her.

ATLRetro: Seeing your artwork and listening to your music, we can imagine you being closer to Wednesday Addams than Cindy Brady as a little girl. How old were you when you started down the path to the darker side of creativity, and what pulled the trigger?

Aileen Loy: That’s a fair cop – I was a pretty serious and awkward little girl. I’m not sure how to answer the rest of that question but there was probably a library card involved.

Aileen Loy plays a mean harmonica with Till Someone Loses an Eye at the L5P Halloween Festival 2012. Photo credit: Stephen Priest.

Who/what were some of your early inspirations musically and visually that still influence your work today?

Johnny Cash, Tennessee Ernie Ford, a lot of classical music. My parents had a weird assortment of albums when I was growing up, so I’d go from listening to SONGS OF THE GUIANA JUNGLE, Lord Kitchener, those odd Reader’s Digest collected works of *insert western classical composer or awesome polka guy, here*, lots of Bollywood, Johnny Mathis and a good dose of Kitty Wells, Dolly, Willie Nelson. Rock and roll was kind of special because I got to discover that on my own. Those were the albums we played when the folks were at work or at my friend’s house. Dad went on a “Rock and roll is the music of the devil; we must burn all rock albums and rid the world of it’s horrible influence” phase, so most of my albums stayed in my room hidden safely behind the Mozart and Ravi Shankar. It was an odd time.

Why do you think circus and carnivale culture has made such a comeback and is seemingly in a renaissance in the independent arts scene from burlesque to steampunk to modern-day proud-to-be-freaks shows?

Good question and I don’t really know. I’ve always been drawn to it because it seemed like a magical amorphous place, where one can, not only be exactly what one is, but is encouraged and expected to be fully that – to gain power and reflect competence and heart through what others might view as “freakish.” It’s a place where no one expects tidy and convenient truths. Fantastic stuff. I think I definitely would have felt safer in there as a kid.

Your vocals have often been compared to Tom Waits, which is unusual for a woman. Did you work to create your unique singing voice or did it just come natural?

I’ve always had a little froggy voice, and the vocalists that I really loved had such huge resonance. You could feel them in your chest! So, yeah of course I wanted to sound like them. That would be me, age 5, trying my damnedest to sing Johnny Cash, and eventually I could. I had a voice therapist tell me that I have the physiology for it . My vocal cords are similar to a male’s. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to train that low.

Aileen Loy fronts Till Someone Loses An Eye at 7 Stages during Day of the Cupcake, Oct. 8, 2012. Photo credit: Jolie Simmons

Tell us about Till Someone Loses an Eye, your latest band. Why the name? And what makes this band special and unique musically?

I thought the name was funny. It could be a threat, an eventuality, or an aspiration. The band is personally interesting to me because everyone has such a widely different back story and vibe from one another, and it informs the music in a pretty cool way.

At an Artifice Club performance in fall 2012. Photo credit: James Curtis Barger.

You list some of your collaborators as “heads of mischief.” What do you mean by that?

I was being glib when I wrote that, just trying to fill a page and get it up. But now it’s very apparent to me that it’s absolutely true on its face, no explanation needed. Lovely troublemakers, all of them.

You’re playing twice this week. Wed. March 6 at Star Bar and then Sunday march 10 at Corner Pub, which is going to be a once-monthly event on second Sundays. Do you have any special plans for either show? Why should folks come out?

Wednesday’s show we’re playing with Fiend Without a Face and Ricer, two reasons right there to come. Second Sundays, we have the whole night to do whatever we want. We could play two full sets just us, or have another band open, or musicians sit in for a song or two. This Sunday, the band, Tulsa, is coming through from SXSW and will be doing an early opener set at 8:30.

A vintage stag pocketwatch sporting a prosthetic eye designed by Aileen Loy.

What are you up to in the visual arts right now? Last time I checked you were making beautiful jewelry involving teeth.

Still plugging away, trying to up the scope of the teeth jewelry a bit and take it to a logical conclusion, not sure what that is. I’ve got a few new projects brewing, but it’s still to foggy to talk about them with any kind of intelligence.

What artistic or musical accomplishment are you most proud of so far, and why?

I’m just happy I’m doing it. Neither was particularly supported when I was growing up, so I kind of always found my own way around. Definitely, a late bloomer.

Finally we had to ask. What’s your favorite whiskey and why?

Is there ever a bad whiskey?

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Charlie Brown Christmas Is What It’s All About: Jeffrey Butzer and TT Mahony’s Jazzy Musical Tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s PEANUTS Score Comes to The Earl & Nine Street Kitchen

Posted on: Dec 10th, 2012 By:

Nostalgic adults and kids will dig Jeffrey Butzer and T.T. Mahony’s jazzy musical tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS.  This year, the duo will be presenting their holiday treat at The Earl Fri. Dec. 14 and Sat. Dec. 15 and performing a more family-friendly reprise at Nine Street Kitchen in Roswell Mon. Dec. 10 and Thurs. Dec. 20. All shows will start with an instrumental set by Jeffrey’s band, The Bicycle Eaters and also feature surf favorites from THE VENTURES CHRISTMAS ALBUM  rendered by Chad Shivers and the Silent Knights.

As noted last year, the seasonal sell-out shows of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS are a labor of love for Jeffrey, a musician/composer whose solo works tend towards the minimalism of the simple Christmas tree in the iconic Charles Schultz special. His band, the Bicycle Eaters, takes a different bend, inspired by Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores, klezmer and gypsy. And he’s been collaborating with recent Kool Kat The Residents’ Molly Harvey lately, too. Frankly that’s just a small taste of the musical adventures of this diverse Atlanta performer and affirmed cineaste, who was our Kool Kat of the Week last March.

ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey to find out more about this year’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, and what’s next for him with The Bicycle Eaters and as a solo composer/musician.

How old were you when you first saw A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS on TV and what did the show and its music mean to you when growing up?

I don’t remember a time NOT knowing who Charlie Brown was. It is like Bruce Lee, Elvis or Grandma, something that seemed to always exist to me. Growing up, it was always my favorite special. I liked how blue it was. Both literally and figuratively. Cartoon music in general affects you strangely. Like Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott with the Looney Tunes, I wasn’t aware of them until I was older and started playing music. But again, it is hard to remember a time when I didn’t listen to that record every year.

How did you and TT Mahony get the idea of developing A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS holiday show, and for how many years have you been doing it?

This is year four. I approached TT after he played a Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits/Nick Cave tribute show I worked on. He is an amazing piano player, very witty , too. I had kicked around the idea of doing a holiday show in the past but never really knew a pianist that could handle Guaraldi. Robby Handley is the best upright bass player I know. Great hair, too. And here is an odd fact about TT. He can jump really, really high. I’ve told him he should find some way to compete. I once saw him jump from the ground onto the top of a Toyota.

I understand last year’s shows were packed. Are you surprised that so many adults are so enthusiastic about music from a 1960s kids TV show/Christmas LP? What kind of comments do you get after your performances?

Yes, we were hoping for the best, that our fans and friends would enjoy the show and hopefully some new faces would come out. But the response has been overwhelming. Last year we had to start doing two nights. As far as comments, the one we get the most is “Can you do an all-ages one too…for the babies?” The reason we haven’t is because. the mood we set in The Earl seems to really suit Snoopy and the gang. It is cozy, dark, and has energy almost like a rock show. We are really looking forward to playing Nine Street Kitchen, it sounds like it is going to turn into a great venue. And playing for children will be a blast. My 3-year-old son Francis is happy he can come out to “Dad’s Show.”

What can audiences expect at The Earl this weekend?

Cookies, dancing… It is basically a big Holiday Party with 300 of your closest, newest friends.

What are you doing at Nine Street Kitchen (in Roswell) to make it even more kid-friendly?

The show will not change much.

Why pair Peanuts with The Ventures? 

Well, the albums were released around the same time for one thing. They are both classic ‘60s albums. They are both easy to dance to.

And what about that opening set from Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters?

My band (The Bicycle Eaters) play Frenchy-Jazzy-Spaghetti Western-inspired instrumentals. We are releasing a limited EP at the show

What else are you and the Bicycle Eaters up to? Any more collaborations with Molly Harvey or new 2013 recordings you’d like to tell readers about? 

We have a vocal album on the way called collapsible with our new singer Cassi Costoulas and French singer Lionel Fondeville, as well as several other great guests: Brent Hinds, Don Chambers. Possibly Molly Harvey.

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Stalking Tender Prey: The Residents’ Molly Harvey, Jeffrey Butzer and Friends Treat You to a Free Nick Cave Tribute Show at 529 on Tues. Oct. 30

Posted on: Oct 26th, 2012 By:

Molly Harvey performs at Black Mass 2011 Halloween show at 529. Copyright Vincent Tseng 2012. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

When Jeffrey Butzer clues us in about a gig, we always perk up our ears. But when Tender Prey turns out to be a FREE Nick Cave tribute show the day before Halloween featuring such interesting denizens of the Atlanta/Athens music scene as Jeffrey, Molly Harvey of The Residents,Cave Women, Andy DeLoach (The Lady Vanishes) and Ben Trickey – and also songs by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and PJ Harvey – well, you betcha we’re ready to head down to 529 on Tues. Oct. 30, declare it our Birthday Party and see what Bad Seeds may be planted or men be grinding.

Yup, we’re bat-crazy about Cave and have dug The Residents for longer than we can remember. There’s this pesky rumor that Residents rarely, if ever, give interviews, but Molly Harvey even was so awfully badass as to answer a few questions. So hell, yeah, we just had to make her the Kool Kat of Halloween Week. For your reading pleasure and because the show is on a Tuesday, it’s no trick. We’re going ahead and treating it to you early…

What’s your earliest memory of Nick Cave and was it disturbing?

I can actually remember where I was, in the living room of a $100/month house in Richmond, VA. My roommate was a big Birthday Party/Nick Cave fan, and he’d play them a lot. I actually did feel disturbed. Nick Cave’s music represented that [part] of the world which was still very unknown to me and seemed out of reach, like a language I never had any hope of learning.

Nick Cave has evolved chameleon-like through a number of musical iterations from the Birthday Party to solo work to Grinderman? Which Nick Cave will you be representing at Tender Prey and why?

We’ll be playing a variety of his music, not sticking with one album or era. We just tried to pick stuff that we like and that is a bit Halloween-y. Looks-wise I am fond of that Bad Seeds fancy bad man look. I’m encouraging suits and nice shoes. We’ll see.  Nick and the Residents certainly seem to share an obsessive interest in the odd, as well as pushing musical boundaries and making people uncomfortable.

Was Nick Cave an influence on you or the Residents or vice versa?

I would say he was probably not an influence on The Residents. I am always surprised by how many artists they DON’T listen to. But I could be wrong – they may be huge Nick Cave fans. I love his music, but I’m not an obsessive fan, and there is plenty of his material that I’ve never heard. So musically/stylistically, he’s not an influence but definitely is someone I admire. I love that no matter what he does, his stuff has a very definite signature, yet not all his stuff sounds exactly alike. That’s a delicate balance to achieve.

Can you tell us anything more about the Tender Prey show, how it came about, and why we shouldn’t miss it?

Well, you should come out because aside from our band, there are about 17 other acts (or two or three) doing great stuff: Leonard Cohen tunes, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits. It’s going to be high caliber songwriter night with a bunch of solid musicians. And did anyone mention it’s FREE? It’s free. So that’s always good. We did a Halloween show last year at 529 that was a lot of fun, so we thought-what the heck. Let’s do it again. And there will be puppets.  This is going to be a totally fun night, because everyone knows these songs we’re playing. All the bands that night are paying homage to artists we love, so right there it sets a really positive note up for the night. Jeffrey and I participated last year in a Halloween show at 529 that we called a Black Mass. It was silly and tongue-in-cheek, but I wasn’t interested in even parodying that energy this year. This is more celebratory.

You’ve been with the Residents, hang out with Jeffrey Butzer, and now you’re doing Nick Cave. Do you ever do anything musically that could be classified as remotely normal? Would you ever want to?

Normal like…doing commerical jingles? Or Christmas caroling? I would. No one asks me to, though. I actually auditioned for all these theaters here and didn’t get one call, so I think I should stick with weird. Normal people don’t usually really care about what I do.

The Residents, "Demons Dance Alone" concept album 2002. Photo courtesy of Henrik Kam.

How did you meet up with Jeffrey Butzer anyway and aren’t you collaborating with him on some stuff?

Jeffrey and I met through our mutual friend Matt Steadman, who is also playing guitar in the show. I guess Jeffrey was a Residents fan, and Matt and I worked together, and someone mentioned something and – voila! We are trying to collaborate on some stuff. We really want to make some original work together. It’s a matter of us being in the same place for enough time to develop something. But the wheels are turning for putting a little band together and doing original stuff. We’ll see.

This isn’t you, is it? http://www.mollyharvey.com/ Are there ever any uncomfortable mix-up moments and what would you say (or sing) if you were asked to lead a corporate soul woman leadership forum?

I actually have been told that there is a girl in [San Francisco] who pretends – or at least used to pretend – to be me. She apparently gets very drunk and blabbers on and on about her and The Residents. I hated hearing that. That’s the kind of thing that may have created misunderstandings that I don’t even know about. As far as the Corporate Soul Woman, I WISH I would get some of her clients. I’d tell them to listen to their hearts, but only for the month, that at the end of the month they’d have to come back and get checked out by me so I could give them more timeless wisdom.

What else are you up to right now, and when you will be playing live next?

I am momming it up. I have a young child and that takes up pretty much all my time. Creatively, I am a sewer. That came out wrong. I like to sew. I make things with fabric. I am also working on fleshing out a character who I hope will be singing with Jeffrey before too long.

The Residents at The Fillmore, Halloween, 1997. Photo courtesy of Henrik Kam.

Finally, since it’s Halloween and you have been known for some pretty insane stage costumes, are you willing to give a hint as to what costume you’ll be wearing? Any favorite place to shop for over-the-top clothing in Atlanta or Athens?

Funny, I have no intention of dressing up this year in any costume. Maybe that’ll change between now and next week, but if anything I sort of just feel like looking nice, like being onstage is a special occasion that I want to honor with a dress and matching socks and washed hair. Since dressing up for me has been the norm in my musical career, I want to explore and see what it’s like to create characters solely with my voice, face and body. But shoot, maybe I’ll find a great wig between now and then and that desire for realness will be over! Shopping-wise I have found some great, funny things at Rainbow, but thrift stores are always my favorite places to find that unintentionally over-the-top outfit.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: A Chanteuse and a Cello: Atlanta Newcomer Nicolette Emanuelle Channels Kate Bush and Nick Cave at Kavarna on Sun. Oct. 28

Posted on: Oct 24th, 2012 By:

 

Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

An Evening with Nicolette Emanuelle is an intimate concert by an intriguing new Atlantan on Sunday evening at Oakhurst coffee shop/wine bar Kavarna on Sun. Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. The singer/songwriter/burlesque performer hasn’t been in Atlanta long, but she’s already made her mark with a volatile voice and songwriting style that’s been compared to Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey. Our Retro heart, though, beats to another side of Nicolette – the influence of Kate Bush and Nick Cave. She has a passionate love for the piano and even more for the cello. She had the chutzpah to apply for and score a grant to produce her first rock album, as well as a striking look and a fearlessness in revealing costumes that has been drawing attention at local club events. Oh, and she says she gives great hugs! Needless to say we were just curious enough to make her Kool Kat of the Week!

Can you talk a little bit about what it means to be compared to Kate and Nick and the influence of these two artists on you?

I consider it to be a huge compliment when someone compares me to Kate Bush or Nick Cave. I was raised on Kate Bush, and I have memories of pulling the endpin all the way out on my cello so I could pretend it was a bass to do the choreography from the “Babooshka” video. Nick Cave I wasn’t introduced to until later in life. I fell in love with MURDER BALLADS, and I’ve been a fan ever since.  The only cover I will be playing at this upcoming show is a Nick Cave song in honor of Halloween.

Did you grow up Goth or is that a rhetorical question?

Well, my wardrobe was all black from the ages of 14 -18, but I’m not entirely sure if it was a fashion statement or laziness when it came to fashion. I was much more of a orchestra/drama/band nerd than anything else.

How did you decide upon the stage name of Nicolette Emanuelle?

Emanuelle is my middle name and also a family name. I identify more with the name “Emanuelle” than I ever have with any of my last names – of which there are three.

Lots of artists are raising money for their albums via crowd-sourcing, but you did it for your album PINAFORE the old-school way with a grant from a county arts council. How difficult was that, and are musicians overlooking that opportunity? 

I have my ex-girlfriend Laura to thank for that. She had a history in non-profit work and had written many grants, so when we found the Regional Artists grant [from the North Carolina Arts Council] we decided to go for it. I put together a sample of my work and she wrote the proposal and helped me with the budget (she also played drums on the album). When I told my peers what I was doing they insisted that no one would give a grant for rock music, but that just made me want it even more.  We were ecstatic to find that not only did we get the grant, we got the full amount that we asked for.  I encourage any musician, no matter what their genre to use whatever resources are out there to produce their work.

Grants are a good resource if you have a specific project you are trying to fund, like an album. When considering your proposal keep in mind how your project will benefit the organization, pay attention to their mission and carefully read the grant requirements, then read them again! We went from the angle that not only would recording this album help my music career and allow me to contribute more to the artistic community, it would make the ASC visible in the alternative community. A lot of people didn’t know about the ASC and if they did they didn’t think they would support that part of the artistic community. Some of my peers in that area are now utilizing the many workshops that the ASC holds to help artists become better business people so they can make a living off their work.

Nicolette Emanuelle and her cello. Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

You just moved to Atlanta? Where are you from originally? What drew you here now and what do you think of the music/performance art scene in Atlanta now?

I moved to Atlanta in February – I had visited back in ’97 but never lived here – after a few months of wandering from state to state trying to decide what to do with myself. The most recent place I called home was Seattle; I left there in December, 2011. Originally? I always found that to be an interesting question, and people ask it often. My dad was in the Navy, so a little here, a little there. I love the arts scene here; it is very eclectic and there is a lot of talent.

You’ve said how much you love playing the cello. What is it about this very old-school instrument that appeals to you so strongly?

My cello is my husband, it’s always been there for me even when we were fighting. There was a time when I tried to step away and, but people would call me up with work.  I would ask it “why do they want you? Can’t they see how in love I am with my piano?” and it would sigh that low mournful sigh. Then we learned to communicate and the more we played the better we got; then one day I realized that I was in love with my cello. It is a very different kind of love than I feel for my piano, more like a familial love. You know those relationships you have that exist because you went through some shit together and came out on the other side stronger? That is my cello, it is my voice. It has been my voice when I couldn’t communicate any other way

Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

Kavarna is an intimate musical venue. Can you talk a bit about what you have planned for your performance this Sunday?

All of the songs I will be performing were written between June 2011 to present. I was happily married to a wonderful person. I loved Seattle and loved living on Capitol Hill. I was performing burlesque, training in the aerial arts with a fantastic group called The Cabiri, and I had a loving four-legged companion named “Charlotte.”  I was pretty content with my life, and then I lost everything. It was like a bad country song: I lost my husband, I lost my dog, I lost my home, and then things got worse. I started down a decline and couldn’t recover.

So after two years of producing barely anything music-wise, I was inspired to write. It started when I was packing some of my things to move into a room I was renting after we decided to separate. I found a poem Fritz wrote called “I-Centric” and made a song out of it. It is a very personal set, and so I wanted to play somewhere low-key and intimate. I want to take the audience on a journey with me, and if one person hears something that they can relate to or can take something positive away from it, even if it’s as simple as “I like that groove,” then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. It’s a story, my story on how I came to be in Atlanta miles away from everything I knew and loved. The good news is I have found new things to know and love.

Nicolette Emanuelle as The Cheshire Cat. Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

You also do burlesque and performance art, and have been seen out at club events in some racy outfits. Can you talk a bit about that persona? How does that compliment your music or is it more about having fun with expressing a different side of you?

That is a complicated topic! It first became a way for me to take back my body. It was taken without my permission, and for years I hid under baggy clothes thinking it would protect me somehow. I hated my body and felt betrayed by it. It took a very long time for me to even get to a point where I felt comfortable showing my legs in public. For years I didn’t even own a pair of shorts, and if I wore a skirt, I would wear like two pairs of stockings. I had to re-learn how to love my body. Aerial trapeze helped a lot with that; it allowed me to start trusting my body and what it could do. I started to become impressed that I could climb ropes and flip around bars like when I was a kid. Burlesque taught me that it was okay to be sexy and have fun, that my sexuality was not a curse – well that and years of therapy. I started to notice that while my music always came from a place of pain, burlesque and performance art came from a place of  joy. I need this persona to balance the other one. The funny thing is I don’t feel naked when I’m performing burlesque or out at a club. I feel the most naked when I’m playing music.

What’s next for Nicolette Emanuelle?

I need a drummer and a string player! I would like to put together a band, record my new material and have highly artistic videos made for each song. Then I want to release each song/video a week apart until the whole album is released, then have a big CD release party. At the CD release party I would like to have performance artists and burlesque performers come up with a piece for each song to be performed at the party – and recorded. Then I want to release a DVD of the videos, performances and songs. Then I could cross-promote on film sites, music sites and performance art sites. I’m really excited about this idea and this show is the first step. I’m really hoping some musicians see it, like it and want to play with me. There is nothing like having people to work with who have faith in your vision.

Finally, just how good are your hugs?

Well, you’ll just have to come out to the show see for yourself.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Nervous Curtains’ Sean Kirkpatrick Channels John Foxx and Magazine and Explains Why the Last Thing the World Needs Is for His Band To Be Funky

Posted on: Apr 3rd, 2012 By:

When Dallas band Nervous Curtains listed post-punk experimental synth groups Magazine and early Ultravox (John Foxx/pre-Midge Ure) as two of its biggest influences, it was enough to make us prick up our ears. They’re playing Drunken Unicorn this Thursday April 5, and after reading a bit more and listening to their cut Wired to Make Waves,” we were sold on making band founder Sean Kirkpatrick Kool Kat of the Week. Fortunately he was happy to grant a last-minute interview and open the door into the world of Fake Infinity, “where everything you know is wrong.” Read on to find out more about the band’s unique sound and influences and why you better get out Thursday night and see Nervous Curtains with us.

What’s the secret origin story behind Nervous Curtains?

I was playing piano, keyboards and samples in the band The Paper Chase for about 8 years. I wasn’t the singer or songwriter for that band,but I’d had this role in previous bands. I put out a side project solo album in 2007 so that I could get back into the pursuit of my own musical vision. I asked Ian Hamilton (synth, organ) and Robert Anderson (drums) to back me up for some local release shows in Dallas. We kept playing together and developed a sound that far surpassed what I had originally hoped to accomplish. In 2008, we named the band Nervous Curtains and recorded the material that would become our first album OUT OF SYNC WITH TIME (2010). In 2010, The Paper Chase went on hiatus, allowing me to focus on Nervous Curtains full time.

Can you tell us a bit about the world of Fake Infinity?

It’s a failed utopia, a place for all the big dreams that didn’t quite pan out. It’s the glimpses of euphoria that didn’t sustain in the long run. After the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, we’re left with a wicked hangover. This isn’t the glorious future we were promised and we thought we deserved. So what we do with it now is our own decision. It’s the end of something false but could be the beginning of something real and finite. Sonically, we attempt to capture this setting with a mix of otherworldly synthesizers and echo effects and very gritty and grounded rock and roll sounds.

Not a lot of people even know Magazine and Ultravox, especially the earlier John Foxx incarnation, nowadays. How did you discover them and why do they inspire you?

We used to do a cover of “Someone Else’s Clothes” off Ultravox’s SYSTEMS OF ROMANCE. John Foxx’s solo album METAMATIC is a big influence as well. I have been a fan of this stuff for a long time – at least 12 years. A friend let me hear the first Magazine album a few years ago. I’d been seeing the name forever but didn’t realize what they sounded like or that they had connections to all these other bands: The Buzzcocks, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Siouxsie and the Banshees. It just blew me away. It felt like a band that was made just for my tastes. The songs are incredible. The synth and piano work is stellar. The lyrics are really something special.

We are avid record collectors and enthusiasts. We keep up with a certain amount of new bands, but a lot of the music that we really love was created in the 1970s and 80s. Fifteen years ago it took a lot of work to discover this stuff. I remember hearing Television, Wire, Gang of Four, Can and La Dusseldorf. Even just discovering that Talking Heads, OMD and Gary Numan had these really dense, well-developed albums – not just singles -felt revelatory. This was always discovered through making friends that were as crazy about music as I was. Now information is much more accessible. It’s so easy to find much more obscure bands through blogs, youtube, reissue labels, rampant mp3 sharing, etc. Recently I’ve been listening to Pel Mel, The Wake, The Chills, Second Layer, Pink Industry, Scattered Order, Sort Sol, Vorgruppe, The Lines,  Modern Eon.

Nervous Curtains perform at Lola's in Dallas.

One of the words you use to describe the band is “synth-pop.” To many, that conjures up images of early ’80s Brit pop bands like Flock of Seagulls and Duran Duran, but Magazine and early Ultravox produced a darker, more gritty version. Can you describe what you’re going for those folks who might be confused?

Well, to be fair, I generally use the term “post-punk synth rock.” I don’t use the term “synth-pop” in describing Nervous Curtains to avoid the types of connotations that you allude to. We are trying to take past influences and create something new, exciting, slightly dark and dangerous with them. Too many bands that use synthesizers are just creating a purely retro pop sound, and we are not interested in this.

What other classic bands or sounds does Nervous Curtains count as influences or inspirations?

Polvo, The Minutemen, Echo and the Bunneymen, Harmonia, The Kinks, ZZ Top, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Tuxedomoon, Thin Lizzy, Slayer, Sonic Youth, early Simple Minds, Flying Lizards, early New Order, Bedhead, John Cale, The Birthday Party, Chrome. We’ve been listening to a lot of funk music and afrobeat. This is probably more inspiration than influence. It’s important to proceed with caution in these territories. The last thing the world needs is guys like us trying to be funky. That said, we love Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, Orchestra Polyrythmo de Catanou, James Brown, Stax Records, etc. Oh, we listen to a lot of metal too. Classic, doom, black, stoner, thrash.

I love the way you describe “It’s the End of Eternity” in your bio, i.e. ‘the song is a landscape
where discarded metal bakes on the broken concrete foundations of abandoned buildings and carefree summers of youth have given way to oppressive heat waves.” You obviously take time and care in composition. What’s your process like?

That song took me probably over a year to write. It’s a result of enduring the cruel and merciless Texas summers. Summers used to feel so fun and carefree. Now I associate them with doom and dread. I drive around and see everything just withering and dying in the heat. Buildings that once looked new and full of promise are collapsing in the elements. It took a while to figure out how to capture all that without getting too literal or being too much of a downer. I eventually found a pattern that worked for this and it led to a resolution that lightened up in the end. That resolution is like the first Fall morning when you walk outside and there’s a chill in the air. It’s such a relief after enduring the brutality of a heat wave. I write the music and lyrics and bring them to the band. We arrange the songs together and work extensively in getting our parts and the dynamics to come together as a whole. Then, sometimes things change and evolve in the studio or through playing live. It’s the nature of the creative process.

What song have you done that most encapsulates the band’s vision and why?

I can’t narrow it down to one song. Fake Infinity as a whole encapsulates our vision. It touches on a wide range of styles and influences while maintaining what I see as a singular vision.

What’s the alt music scene like in Dallas right now? Is Nervous Curtains one of a kind or part of a movement?

We don’t see ourselves as part of a scene. We do what we do and have a decent following for it. Sometimes we fall between the cracks. We’re too synth-y for some of the rock crowd and too pop/rock for the art/synth/electronic crowd. But that allows us to appeal to a wider range of folks. There are some interesting acts using keyboards in the Dallas [area] that we fit well with such as Pinkish Black, New FumesDarktown Strutters, and Diamond Age. But there are plenty of good bands, and we like to play with all types of acts.

Nervous Curtains at City Tavern in Hampton, TX.

What do you have planned for your gig this Thursday at Drunken Unicorn?

We’re very excited for our first Atlanta show. I always had great experiences at the Drunken Unicorn with my old band. We’ll be playing most of the new album and maybe a song or two off our first album.

What’s next for Nervous Curtains?

We’ve been so consumed with supporting this album and will continue to do that for quite a while. We’ve got this two-week East Coast/ Midwest tour, then some shows in Texas and the surrounding states throughout the following months. We’re making a lot of videos and doing whatever we can to get people to hear this record. Doing all this plus booking the shows handling everything else is so consuming that I have not had time to write any new songs. At some point, we’ll have some time to work on some new stuff, I’m sure.

NOTE: All photos are courtesy of Nervous Curtains.

 

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Charlie Brown Christmas Is What It’s All About: Jeffrey Butzer and TT Mahony’s Jazzy Musical Tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s PEANUTS Score Comes to The Earl & The Earl Smith Strand

Posted on: Dec 16th, 2011 By:

Jeffrey Butzer channels Schroeder & Vince Guaraldi in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, his annual holiday show with TT Mahony.

Not just nostalgic adults, but kids, too, will get to enjoy Jeffrey Butzer and T.T. Mahony’s jazzy musical tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS this year with the duo presenting it at two Earls – first at The Earl Fri. Dec. 16 and Sat. Dec. 17 (both 9 p.m.) and then at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta Tues. Dec. 20 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.). All shows will feature an opening instrumental set by Jeffrey’s band, The Bicycle Eaters, and surf favorites from THE VENTURES CHRISTMAS ALBUM  rendered by Chad Shivers and Friends.

The seasonal sell-out shows of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS are clearly a labor of love for Jeffrey, a musician/composer whose solo works tend towards the minimalism of the simple Christmas tree in the iconic Charles Schultz special. Inspired by melodic French musette, pieces on two albums SHE TRADED HER LEG (2006) and THE GARDEN OF SCISSORS (2009), both released by Lona Records, incorporate such eclectic instruments as accordions, bass drum, piano, glockenspiel and—perhaps inspired by a childhood admiration for Schroeder—toy piano. His band, the Bicycle Eaters, takes a different bend, inspired by Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores, klezmer and gypsy, the former suggesting that their opening set will be more than appropriate for a vintage art deco movie theatre like the Strand. He’s also down a film soundtracks (Raymond Carr’s WILD IS THE WIND), collaborated live with Molly Harvey of The Residents and has ventured lately into the world of live scoring to Buster Keaton’s THE BALLOONATIC. And frankly that’s just a small taste of the musical adventures of this diverse Atlanta performer and affirmed cineaste.

Today though, ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey to chat about A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, what to expect at The Earl and The Strand, and what’s next for him with The Bicycle Eaters and as a solo composer/musician.

How old were you when you first saw A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS on TV and what did the show and its music mean to you when growing up?

I don’t remember a time NOT knowing who Charlie Brown was. It is like Bruce Lee, Elvis or Grandma, something that seemed to always exist to me. Growing up, it was always my favorite special. I liked how blue it was. Both literally and figuratively. Cartoon music in general affects you strangely. Like Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott with the Looney Toons, I wasn’t aware of them until I was older and started playing music. But again, it is hard to remember a time when I didn’t listen to that record every year.

How did you and TT Mahony get the idea of developing A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS holiday show, and for how many years have you been doing it?

This is year four. I approached TT after he played a Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits/Nick Cave tribute show I worked on. He is an amazing piano player, very witty , too. I had kicked around the idea of doing a holiday show in the past but never really knew a pianist that could handle Guaraldi. Robby Handley is the best upright bass player I know. Great hair, too. And here is an odd fact about TT. He can jump really, really high. I’ve told him he should find some way to compete. I once saw him jump from the ground onto the top of a Toyota.

I understand last year’s shows were packed. Were you surprised that so many adults were so enthusiastic about music from a 1960s kids TV show/Christmas LP? What kind of comments did you get after your performance?

Yes, we were hoping for the best, that our fans and friends would enjoy the show and hopefully some new faces would come out. But the response has been overwhelming. Last year we had to start doing two nights. As far as comments, the one we get the most is “Can you do an all-ages one too…for the babies?” The reason we haven’t is because. the mood we set in The Earl seems to really suit Snoopy and the gang. It is cozy, dark, and has energy almost like a rock show. We are really looking forward to adjusting it for a sitting crowd at The Strand. We love the room. It is like a miniature Fox Theatre. And playing for children will be a blast. My 2-year-old son Francis dances every time he hears “Linus and Lucy.”

What audiences can expect at The Earl this weekend?

Cookies, dancing… It is basically a big Holiday Party with 300 of your closest, newest friends.

What are you doing at The Strand to make it even more kid-friendly?

The show will not change much. We do have a kid’s choir with us at the Strand!

Why pair Peanuts with The Ventures?

Well, the albums were released around the same time for one thing. They are both classic ‘60s albums. They are both easy to dance to.

Jeffrey Butzer. Photo credit: Melissa J. Butzer.

And what about that opening set from Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters?

My band (The Bicycle Eaters) play Frenchy-Jazzy-Spaghetti Western-inspired instrumentals. We are releasing a limited EP at the show

What else are you and the Bicycle Eaters up to? Any 2012 gigs or recordings you’d like to tell readers about?

We almost all have children, so we’ve been laying low, only doing select shows. But we will have an official release for our new 7” at The Earl in March. I’m also working on a score for PETER PAN at The Center for Puppetry Arts. Then I have a solo record coming out named COLLAPSIBLE. Then off to play some dates inPoland.

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2019 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress