Made it to band #1000 on Band of the Day app!

Note: this was first published in Band of the Day app on June 6, 2014

The Strokes

It’s hard to believe that today we’re featuring our 1000th Band of the Day. Instead of exposing you to an unknown band today, we’ve decided to mark this special occasion by taking it back to one of the bands responsible for sparking our own obsession with music discovery: The Strokes. Thirteen years ago, the five New Yorkers -- Julian Casablancas (lead vocals), Nick Valensi (guitar, vocals), Albert Hammond, Jr. (guitar, vocals), Nikolai Fraiture (bass), and Fabrizio Moretti (drums) -- released their debut album Is This It (2001). Almost immediately it received critical acclaim across mainstream and independent music publications, being cited as one of the greatest rock albums of the 2000s and selling millions of copies worldwide. Since then, the band has kept the momentum going with the release of four additional albums: Room On Fire (2003), First Impressions of Earth (2006), Angles (2011), and most recently 2013’s Comedown Machine.

But going back to the Is This It era, it was a time when smartphones and music discovery apps didn’t exist. Most of us discovered new bands the old-fashioned way: radio, television, music magazines, snarky record store clerks...or in my case, snooping through my older brother’s Winamp files on our family’s shared computer. Instead of finding some type of incriminating evidence against him, I double-clicked a song at random, and turned the speakers up. The song was “Hard To Explain” (from Is This It), and I remember this visceral, overwhelming sensation of feeling completely captivated by the music. It sounded nothing like the top 40 radio hits and MTV chart-toppers I normally listened to as a teenage girl coming of age in the early 2000s. Immediately I queued up the rest of the songs on the album, and listened on repeat until I was kicked off the computer.

Needless to say, it didn’t take long for The Strokes to oust 'N Sync as my new favorite band -- lead singer Julian Casablancas was now the top JC in my life (sorry JC Chasez). I bought every magazine with The Strokes on the cover, joined their online forum to meet like-minded fans, and went to all of their concerts when they came through town. One of the most important effects of this teenage devotion was that their music opened up an entirely different world of music to what I had always known. I learned about iconic bands who The Strokes cited as influences, like the Velvet Underground, Television, and New York Dolls; and their contemporaries, like The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Libertines, and Interpol. Music discovery became an essential part of life, a part that I’m now honored to share with all of you on a daily basis.

So today, instead of exposing your ears to the next best unknown band, I hope you enjoy taking a journey through the musical history of The Strokes with our selection of featured songs from each of their five albums. - Amanda Van West (@amandabomb)

#FlashbackFriday: Late of the Pier - Fantasy Black Channel

This is an old unpublished one from Band of the Day, from 2011. Still one of my top albums, six years later. Click here to listen.

From the first few notes of “Hot Tent Blues,” the opening track to Late Of The Pier’s debut album Fantasy Black Channel, you’re in for a circus of bizarre sound effects, and hairpin turns through a galaxy of relentless and awesomely ridiculous songs.

It's a swirling collage of musical ideas and effects—the unifying element being that every song sounds as eclectic as the next. As the instrumental “Hot Tent Blues” melts seamlessly into “Broken,” lead singer Sam Eastgate (who also plays guitar and synths) declares, “Didn't sleep last night, couldn't come down.” It's danceable, but with a sense of yearning as Eastgate's vocal range gradually moves to a higher register on the line “It's all evolution's fault now!”

Although they've all known each other since primary school in a small English village called Castle Donington, the quartet (which, alongside Eastgate includes Ross Dawson, drums; Sam Potter, sampler; and Andrew Faley, bass and synths) didn't emerge as Late Of The Pier until 2004. They started making bedroom recordings, and released a free 14-track demo called Zarcorp, before being signed to a label. After attracting the attention of infamous British record producer, Erol Alkan, Fantasy Black Channel—produced by both Alkan and Eastgate--was released in the UK in 2008.

Considering all of the members are in their early 20s, many of the influences that can be heard on the album are from time periods before they were even born. In the otherworldly, foot-stomping“Space and the Woods,” an almost Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie twang sings out, “Put on my radiation suit and slip away.” And like Gang of Four on an acid freakout, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” has an angular, dance punk feel—with vocalizing “doo-doo's” mimicking the synth riff.

“The Bears Are Coming” is like tribal martian music, with an oddly infectious riff that sounds like letting air rhythmically squeak out of a small mouth opening in a balloon. Like many of the other songs on the album, this almost sounds like it could be multiple songs in one. There is a bluesy breakdown of “I saw you wading in the water,” which explodes—there is literally the sound of glass breaking—into a wonderful mishmash of all the freakiness colliding as the imaginary bears have escaped.

But the stand-out track on here comes midway through, with the madly danceable "Heartbeat."It has one of those tempo build-ups that's worth waiting for, the type that brings to mind the feeling of pure elation and invincibility before the night becomes a complete blur. Eastgate assumes the role of erasing any sense of hesitation as he declares, “It's just a line!”

With their jarring tempo changes, hedonistic lyrics, and eclectic musical ideas, Late Of The Pier is not for everybody. It's been described as “anti-pop pop,” but for those along for the ride—enjoy the 42-minute dance adventure that's equally grimy and glamorous.

Treasure Island Music Festival: Phantogram Review

(Note: I originally posted this for Band of the Day)

When you work in music, and you listen to thousands of bands and go to hundreds of shows, there’s an inherently sad thing that can happen. At some point, there’s this neutralization effect in which every new band becomes the same level of “good.” Pleasant enough to listen to while you’re working, driving, or getting ready in the morning. Or a nice night out at a concert, as an alternative to staying in and watching TV — but absent is that special spark that stirs something deep inside of your core, the spark that pushed you into this all-consuming world of music in the first place.

So when you have an experience that reignites the spark, it takes you completely by surprise, punching you in the gut as a visceral reminder of the role that music plays in your life. The steel hit the flint for me this past Saturday during Phantogram’s set at San Francisco’s Treasure Island Music Festival. The sun had just set, and there was a damp chill in the air, with a thin layer of mist hovering above a throng of festival-goers who were bundled up in hoodies and thick coats. Looking out beyond the stage, the bay was like a sheet of jet black satin, rippling gently with the reflection of a twinkling night time cityscape.

The scratchy opening beat of “When I’m Small” began to resonate across the audience, Josh Carter’s somber, yet grooving guitar work elegantly intertwined with Sarah Barthel’s airy vocalizations of “oh, oh, oh, oh.” There’s an almost unearthly, completely mesmerizing duality to her voice; delicate, yet commanding as she sings, “Take me underground/take me all the way/bring me to the fire/throw me in the flames.”

Suddenly out of nowhere, a swarm of artificial, glowing white jellyfish floats through the crowd, completing the mystical atmosphere that Phantogram has conjured in the span of less than an hour. Every single layer of sound swells into an all-consuming moment of pure sonic bliss at the song’s climax, Barthel pulling at your heartstrings and clawing at your soul as she mournfully declares, “I’d rather die/I’d rather die than to be with you.” And in that one single moment, everything is perfect. 

Happy Sinterklaas Day!

Happy Sinterklaas day!Image
This is a very special day in which my people (the Dutch) celebrate the life of dear ol' St. Nick, and enjoy some seasonally-appropriate racism. For those of you who've never heard of this holiday, gather around ye olde yule log (a laptop will suffice) and let your humble narrator tell you the tale:There once was a man called Saint Nicolaas, who’s also been known to go under such aliases as: De Goedheiligman (The Good Holy Man), De Sint (The Saint), and De Pre-Diabetische Bebaarde Kerel (The Pre-Diabetic Bearded Dude).

Every year, around late November, a steamboat from Spain arrives in The Netherlands. And on this boat is a stately, yet stoic, chap ensconced in a crimson crushed velvet suit, sporting a flowing white beard that glistens like the first snowflakes in the dawn’s light. Upon his arrival, he parades down the streets on his great gray steed, Amerigo, welcomed by a gaggle of cheering and singing children. “HIJ IS HIER (he’s here)! HIJ IS HIER!” they shout with glee!

Accompanying Sinterklass is his devoted servant, Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), who’s under strict orders to dress up like a 17th century page in a colorful dress, festooned with a lace collar, and donning a feathered cap, to satisfy his master’s unusual fetish.

On the night of December 4th, the local children are instructed to leave out their shoes by the fireplace, ready to accept the gifts of the generous overlord. After a snifter of brandy, and an erotic romp in the hay, Sinterklass and Zwarte Piet sashay around town, filling the shoes of the good children with chocolate coins, oranges, class A drugs, enemas, and other treats.

The naughty kids? A lump of coal. The really naughty kids? A good spanking with Zwarte Piet’s chimney sweep’s broom, made of the sharpest willow branches, whilst Sinterklass guffaws maniacally, the whites of his crazed eyes glinting in the night that’s as dark as his soul. And for the REALLY naughty children? They’re tied up in Zwarte Piet’s sack, to be transported back to Spain. Nobody knows exactly what happens when they get to Spain; some things are better left unsaid.

So there you have it, the most well-researched, factually-accurate tale of this special holiday. Happy Sinterklaas Day, everyone!

The Strokes New Single: Undercover of Darkness

To say that I used to be completely, utterly obsessed with The Strokes is a bit of an understatement. As a 16 year-old high school girl in 2002, once I heard "Hard To Explain" and "Last Nite", I never looked back.

I joined their official fan club. I went to as many of their concerts as I could. I posted on their music forum. I bought every single music magazine that featured articles on them. I devoted nearly every single blog post to them. I proudly wore their t-shirts. They were even the muses for my high school art assignments:

But, like many young bands on the scene, nothing is permanent. As I grew out of my teeny bopper Strokes-obsessed phase, the band produced two more albums, before pretty much disappearing over the last 5 years.

They never officially split up, but most of the band members were busy with side projects, and it seemed like The Strokes might not ever produce music together again.

Undercover Of Darkness

That is, until today. For the first time in 5 years, The Strokes have released a new song: "Undercover Of Darkness."

This is the first single off of their forthcoming album, Angles, which will be released on March 22nd.

While I was waiting for the song to download (it's available for free for the next 48 hours on their official website), all of those giddy, 16 year-old teeny bopper feelings came bubbling to the surface again.

Even upon listening to the first few notes of the song, and to Julian's distinct, yearning-yet-gritty voice, crooning away ambiguous lyrics, little goosebumps actually formed on my arms.

"Undercover Of Darkness" has the classic, Is This It?-era Strokes sound: upbeat, jangly guitars and a feeling that is simultaneously nostalgic and melancholic.

You know that feeling that you get when you meet someone new, but you feel like you've known them forever? Yet, you're still excited about what they're going to bring to your life, so you want to hang out with them as much as possible to soak up their awesomeness.

"Undercover Of Darkness" is like that new person, and my iTunes is getting a very hefty dose of it--repeatedly!

Hopefully the rest of Angles will live up to the expectations set by "Undercover Of Darkness." In the meantime, "I'll wait for you!"

RIP The White Stripes

I distinctly remember the first time I had ever heard The White Stripes. It was over 7 years ago, when I was 17 years old, and it was the summer before starting my senior year of high school. At this point in my life, I wasn't the music geek that I am today. I listened to whatever was on the radio, or whatever my friends listened to.

It was one of those hot and sticky summer days in Santa Clara, the kind that makes you feel like a Kirkland Signature ham, glistening with sweat instead of a sweet honey glaze. The kind where your ghetto air conditioning (aka spraying a cold water bottle into a fan) just doesn't cut it. On those types of days, my mom and I would escape to the air conditioned confines of Valley Fair Mall.

I remember walking into Macy's Men & Home, looking up at the television screen, and seeing this music video:

At the time, I had no idea who the band or what the song was. But I had to find out. It was so different from everything else that I listened to, but something about it resonated with me.

Later that evening, after probably Googling something like "what's that lego video?", I discovered that the band was called The White Stripes, and that the song was "Fell In Love With A Girl."

A subsequent trip to Rasputin Records, and I was officially the proud owner of "White Blood Cells." I don't know how many times I listened to that album that summer, or since then, but it remains one of my all-time favorite albums.

Candy Cane Children

Come September, I had the chance to see The White Stripes at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. And it was only my second concert ever.

To this day, after going to hundreds of concerts, this is still one of the all-time best live performances that I have ever seen. The chemistry between Jack and Meg was electric, the songs sounded so raw and explosive, and the audience--a sea of red and white-clad people--was hanging onto every note.

I'll never forget how The White Stripes helped set me on the path to a fantastic music scene, or how their music makes me feel.

Like many other 'Candy Cane Children' out there, I'm devastated to hear that they've split up.

But, as they say, the music lives on. Even though I'll never see them live again, I know that I can pop in "De Stijl" or "Get Behind Me Satan" and relive those memories.

RIP, The White Stripes!

Chuck Berry Poked Me In A Gang Bang: The Postelles Tell All!

“My name is Daniel, and I'm here for the Gang Bang!” It's less than ten minutes into my interview with The Postelles' Daniel Balk (vocals, guitar) and John Speyer (Bass), and somehow we've stumbled onto the topic of the little-known McDonald's secret menu. We're sitting backstage at The Independent, the location of this New York City band's first-ever concert in San Francisco, and the band seems eager to show the Bay Area hipsters what they have to offer.

And what they have to offer are succinct, endorphin-inducing songs that sound like the brainchild of The Strokes and Phil Spector after drinking dozens of Tom Collins and playing vigorous rounds of canasta.

After being in San Francisco for just a few hours, I ask the guys what excites them most about the city, and what they've had a chance to see so far.

Daniel: We've heard it's a great city, so I think everything excites me right now. John: I think it's also like a really rich city, in terms of musical history. D: And rich people. J: That's what's really exciting, we're hoping to meet some rich people! (laughs) What have you guys seen so far? D: We got here an hour ago, so not much. J: We saw this Jordanian kebab place (laughs). D: We saw you! J: We got some great coffee. It was really good coffee! (Note: It was at Bean Bag Coffee House on Divisadero) J: Yeah, at the bean place. It was really good. I got the Sumatra blend. Ooh, fancy. Was it like Fair Trade, and organic? J: I hope so, because I only drink that. 'Cause that's really easy on tour. I guess so. J: No, it's not at all! (laughs) Organic food is the hardest thing to buy on tour. D: McDonald's is easy! Did you know that McDonald's has a secret menu? J: No, like In-N-Out? I dunno, I was reading this article and I saw that they have one called 'The Gang Bang.' D: The 'Gang Bang'?

J: "Hi, welcome to McDonald's, I'm here for the gang bang!" (laughs) D: Are you sure they were talking about McDonald's?! Yeah, apparently it's like a Big Mac with a chicken sandwich stuck in the middle. J: Can you order it animal-style? "Can I get the Gang Bang, animal-style?" I dunno! D: "I'm here for the Gang Bang...animal-style!" It sounds better in my voice. J: Yeah, you are the singer. It's more natural. Your vocal quality is higher. I think you guys should sing that tonight. You should make a song about the Gang Bang. D: When I walk on stage I'll say, “My name is Daniel, and I'm here for the Gang Bang!”

Getting Poked By Chuck Berry

Feel like getting gang banged by The Postelles? You can try your luck on Twitter. Like many up-and-coming bands these days, The Postelles are no strangers to the power of social networking. So how has new media has affected their interaction with fans?

D: It makes it more personal. Because immediately after a show you're already getting a few responses like, “Great show!” J: Or, “Terrible show!” D: Yeah, “Terrible show!” And then we say, you know, “Fuck you!” back (laughs). No, it definitely makes it more intimate. J: I think the coolest thing is we went on Facebook and asked where should we go. And people actually told us. D: We literally went on and said, “Where do you want us to play?” J: And half of them were St. Louis for some reason. D: Probably because of the Kings Of Leon. J: Oh yeah. So we were like, “Ok, we're going!” And we went! D: It was funny because there were like 70 responses and we were like, “I dunno. Should we go to St. Louis?” And the next response was from Chuck Berry. And he was like, “Yeah you guys should come to St. Louis!” (Jon laughs) And then he poked me! Wait, Chuck Berry poked you on Facebook? J: That should be your headline! This is breaking news! D: And then I poked him back. (laughs) J: He's totally lying. I actually have a friend who works at Twitter who's coming tonight, so there you go, social networking! D: Nice change of subject! Jon's actually a pathological liar. J: You're a pathological liar. Twitter's actually gonna be here! I'm gonna tweet my friend from Twitter, here, from the stage. So how was Chuck Berry? D: It was awesome! Supposedly he “dug” us. He dug you? J: According to the keyboardist. We're telling everybody that! Are you gonna put that all over Twitter? J: Chuck Berry says, “I dig you!”

D: I actually tattooed it to my chest. That is a good tattoo to have. J: You don't wanna know where it is. D: I said chest! J: Yeah, but that's not true. (laughs)

Their Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard

True or not, it's hard to imagine Chuck Berry not digging The Postelles. Because what other band would play my ridiculous photo game?

What is the photo game? Let's start with a brief background story:

I found a used roll of film in a camera at a charity shop in London. A small donation later, and the mysterious roll was mine!

Last week, I finally made the trip to CVS to get it developed.

The following photographs were the only pictures on the entire roll of film. Let me just reiterate that I have no idea who these people are, where these pictures were taken, or even when they were taken.

So I've asked Daniel and John to look through the photos and decide what music these people might be listening to in each one.

Photo #1

D: I would say “YMCA” by The Village People. J: Yep!

Photo #2

J: The second Girl Talk album! D: I would say “YMCA” again!

Photo #3

D: Ooh, “My Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard”! J: Yep! Yep, definitely.

Photo #4

D: Uhh...”Thong Song”! J: “Thong Song”! (laughs)

Photo #5

(Both are momentarily consumed with laughter on this one.) D: I would say “Smells Like Teen Spirit”! J: That was sweet! D: That was a fun game, can we keep playing that game?

The Postelles: Coming To An Underwater Venue Near You! (Maybe)

The photo game may be over, but it's never too late for the money game.

Ok, so if you had all the money in the world... J: Which we do. D: Yeah, because we're robbing a bank tomorrow, like we said before. What would be your dream gig? I'm talking location, line-up, everything. J: We would probably play underwater. Like, accessible only by submarine. And, uh, you know that John Lennon is still alive? He would probably headline the festival. John Lennon would headline the festival? D: Huge, breaking news! J: Dude, he's been living in Argentina all this time! D: Juan Lennon? J: Yeah, and Elvis is still around. He's old. D: And where does he live? J: In Argentina! Yeah dude, and Tupac! So John Lennon, Elvis, and Tupac would headline the festival under the sea, accessible only by submarine. And Roy Orbison would probably open for us. D: You did not answer that question, at all! You know what? You're a pathological liar! J: You're an avoider! D: We're breaking up! So much breaking news in one interview! D: This will be the first night we're not sleeping together in one bed. J: That's true. Aww, separation anxiety? D: We both have girlfriends, and when we get back to New York we have to tell them that we won't be sharing a bed with them. J: For two nights! And then we'll do a four-person bed. D: And so the girls will have to stand on the side of the room and just watch while we hold hands and cuddle. I guess that kind of answers my next question... D: Do we have girlfriends? Yes, we have girlfriends. No, how do you unwind on tour? J: Cuddle! D: Well, I like to preserve water in the shower. Let's put it that way... J: Billy (Cadden, drummer) and I do crossword puzzles. Or I try to do Ab Ripper X. [youtube=] P90X? J: Yes! Well, this is more hypothetical. Billy's like, “You know what? I'm gonna drink a lot tonight and then go home and do Ab Ripper!” D: But we have gone to the gym. J: Yup, we have been going to the gym. What, the YMCA? J: No, we've actually gone to the gym! It's hard on the road to stay in shape, but we try to do it. Brian, our tour manager, is actually our life coach. D: Our life manager! He's like the Tony Robbins of the tour? J: Yeah, and he's also an amazing driver.

Breaking News (again!)

Ok, so you guys have probably heard that Coachella has sold out. D: No, breaking news! Yes, breaking news again! How would you go about sneaking into Coachella? D: It'd be nice to actually play Coachella. J: We'd dress up as a band, probably. Just walk right in. D: People always say I look like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so I'd probably just walk in and say I'm Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

J: Billy looks like everybody. Billy's one of those people that people always say he looks like someone, every attractive person. So what's been your proudest band moment so far? D: Wow, good question. I would say playing in Iceland was really cool. J: Yeah, Iceland was cool! And finally, what's next for The Postelles? D: We have a show in like, twenty or forty minutes. That's literally what's next for us! Well, we're gonna be touring a lot. Our debut album comes out in April.

Thanks, guys! To hear the full, unedited (but shitty audio quality) interview, click here.

The Postelles are Daniel Balk (Vocals, Guitar), Billy Cadden (Drums), David Dargahi (Lead Guitar), and John Speyer (Bass). Be sure to check out their website here to stay up-to-date on the latest news, and to listen to some sweet tunes!


The Postelles unedited audio interview

Wordpress has a fancy new feature where you can use your cell phone to directly post audio content to your blog. I interviewed The Postelles last night at their debut San Francisco show. The following is the full, unedited (albeit questionable audio quality) interview: [audio|titles=Audio Post]