interviews 2009

Dhani Harrison

Dhani Harrison

This week's guests are Dhani Harrison and his band Thenewno2. The current incarnation of the fluid group consists of Dhani on guitar, Jonathan Sadoff and Jeremy Faccone on guitar, Nick Fyffe on bass and Frank Zummo on drums. But the group's constant is Dhani, son of the late Beatle George Harrison. The story of famous rock children going out for their own musical glory is nothing new, but Dhani actually resisted this path. After studying industrial design and physics at Brown, he entered the car-racing world. Now he's returned home in a sense with Thenewno2's debut album You Are Here. As Dhani discusses with Jim and Greg, he chose the band's cryptic name in order to give the music some anonymity. He hopes listeners love or hate it based on the music alone, rather than his celeb status. So you be the judge: check out Thenewno2's performance live on the show.

Go to episode 210
The Dodos

The Dodos

San Francisco band The Dodos are mixing Western pop and African rhythms in unique ways. In fact, with their third album Time to Die, they also added vibraphone to the mix. Jim and Greg talk to band members Meric Long, Logan Kroeber and Keaton Snyder about how they shake up the traditional indie rock formula. The trio also reveals its studio trials and tribulations with noted producer Phil Ek, as well as its downtime hobby. Check out the band's live acoustic peformance here.

Go to episode 208
Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Jim and Greg are joined next by the members of Grizzly Bear. The Brooklyn-based band started rather modestly in 2004. Now they've become one of the most talked about groups in indie music today. In addition to notable appearances at Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork Music Festival, the band opened for Radiohead and Paul Simon. Plus, they count Jay-Z and Beyonce as fans! Jim and Greg spoke with Daniel Rossen, Ed Droste, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear on a Sunday morning in front of a live studio audience at the House of Blues in Chicago. There the band performed songs from its latest album Veckatimest. Unfortunately Michael McDonald wasn't there to join them on "While You Wait for the Others."

Go to episode 206
Phoenix

Phoenix

Jim and Greg take on French Pop in the next two segments. First, they welcome up and coming quartet Phoenix. For a while, they were known as“that band fronted by that guy with Sophia Coppola.”But now with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, they are more widely known by American audiences. In fact, you‘ve probably heard them in this commercial. But, don’t hold that against them. The men from Phoenix are huge music fans, mentored by the members of Air. They may make heady references to 19th century Hungarian composers in their songs, but never lose sight of the goals of great pop music. You can hear that in their live acoustic performance on the show, which includes a cover of the Air song "Playground Love."

Go to episode 204
Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco

Singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco visits Jim and Greg this week. Ani is one of the original independent musicians, having formed her own label, Righteous Babe, at the age of 19. She has emerged as a hugely successful touring musician and one of the driving forces in folk music today. Now, Ani is back with her 18th studio album Red Letter Year, her first since becoming a mother. But though it's been described as her“happy”record, Red Letter Year is full of her trademark, political rants including "Alla This," which she performs live on the show. You can also check out her other live songs, "Present Infant," and "November 5, 2008."

Go to episode 203
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She & Him

This week's guests are She & Him. The“she”is actress Zooey Deschanel and the“him”is musician Matt Ward, known to fans as M. Ward. The two met during the making of the movie“The Go-Getter,”and quickly learned they were successful collaborators. They visited the show in 2008 after the release of their first album Volume One. The record is a collection of songs written by Zooey, as well as a couple of covers. Zooey explains that she's most influenced by classic pop songwriting, much of which pre-dates rock ‘n’ roll. You can hear the country, doo-wop and Brill Building influence on the duo's music as they perform their songs "Take It Back" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" as well as two bonus tracks.

Go to episode 196
The Jesus Lizard

The Jesus Lizard

Jimand Gregare joined by the original members of The Jesus Lizard this week: singer David Yow, guitarist Duane Denison, bass player David William Sims, and drummer Mac McNeily. As Jim and Greg explain, The Jesus Lizard was one of the most influential bands to come out of the post-punk scene in the late '80s and early '90s. While they had a number of important recordings on the Touch and Go label, it's live that the band really stood out. They broke up in 1999, but now a decade later, they have re-formed for a number of shows including the recent Pitchfork Music Festival. Before that show they spoke with Jim and Greg and performed live in our studio.

Go to episode 195
St. Vincent

St. Vincent

This week Jim and Greg welcome singer and musician Annie Clark, otherwise known as St. Vincent. After making a name for herself by touring and recording with Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree, she recently released a second solo album called Actor. St. Vincent blew our hosts away at this year's SXSW festival, and Greg is already calling Actor one of the best albums of the year. They were excited to have St. Vincent along with her band into the studio for a live performance and conversation about dirty tour buses, digital oboes and Disney cartoons.

Go to episode 189
Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain

Many people know Anthony Bourdain from his many books, his TV show "No Reservations," and his successful restaurant Les Halles. But, you may not know that he's a die-hard rock and roll fan. In 2007 Bourdain chronicled his punk past in the Spin essay“Eat to the Beat,”and when he was in town on a book tour, Jim and Greg invited him into the studio to talk turkey (and rock).

Anthony, or Tony as he likes to be called, explained to Jim and Greg that there are a lot of connections between members of the food world and the music world, the first of which is simply the hours. Both subcultures are nocturnal pleasure-seekers who often frequent the same greasy spoons and the same dive bars. But on a more cerebral level, music geeks and foodies are both obsessed, both opinionated, and both hate Billy Joel. Tony explains that when he's serving up grub to guests he prefers the tunes of Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, and even Connie Francis.

During this episode we also hear from other music-loving chefs from around the country including:

Go to episode 187
Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor

Jim and Greg are joined by Trent Reznor this week. The Nine Inch Nails frontman is one of the most innovative and inventive musicians out there. He not only created his own“sonic palette,”but his ideas about business are equally unique. In 2007 he released Year Zero, a multimedia experience that was more than just an album. He followed that up with a slew of free and almost-free web releases. He shares with Jim and Greg his frank thoughts about how the record industry is digging its own grave. He explains that this current Nine Inch Nails tour will be his last, and shares what he thinks about the career choices of his former alternative peer Chris Cornell.

Go to episode 186
Steve Earle & Townes Van Zandt

Steve Earle

Jim and Greg are joined this week by musician Steve Earle. Earle was a guest on Sound Opinions last year. This time around it's not his own music he wants to talk about, but rather that of friend and mentor Townes Van Zandt. Earle recently released an album of Townes Van Zandt songs called Townes. He believes that the Texan ranks up there with the best American songwriters. He wrote what he knew, and for the most part, that was himself. Earle blames alcohol for his mentor's demise, and hopes this album exposes that great catalog of songs to more people.

A lot of people have heard of Townes Van Zandt, but not as many have actually heard him. Following their discussion with Steve Earle, Jim and Greg highlight two songs voiced by Townes himself: "Tecumseh Valley," which illustrates the songwriter's tragic, but beautiful melodies, and "Pancho and Lefty," which reevaluates the myth of the West.

Go to episode 185
Dan Deacon on Sound Opinions

Dan Deacon

Jim and Greg's guest this week is Dan Deacon. Or rather, Dan Deacon's guests are Jim and Greg. He welcomed our hosts for a conversation and live performance before his recent show at the Metro in Chicago. Dan is known for creating electronic magic with his laptop computer and keyboards and for his energetic, unique performance style. He's often right in the middle of the audience, sweating and dancing — nerd punk style, if you will. For Jim and Greg he stayed onstage with his band, but the music was no less amazing.

Go to episode 183
Photo of Nelson George

Nelson George

Music critic, author and screenwriter Nelson George joins Jim and Greg on the show this week. His many books have become cornerstones on American thinking about hip hop, soul and pop music. Now he has a new book out called City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success. After years of exploring the lives of others, including Chris Rock, James Brown and Russell Simmons, Nelson took himself on as a subject. He relays his experience growing up in Brownsville. Music and art gave him a way to experience the outside world and later became his ticket to success. He even made his way to Hollywood, writing and producing the hip hop parody film CB4.

Go to episode 182
Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand

Next up Jim and Greg are joined by Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy from the band Franz Ferdinand. Many people will be familiar with the Scots' 2004 hit "Take Me Out," but they've since gone on to do two more albums. Their most recent, Tonight, shows the band experimenting more. As Alex explains, they like to keep fans surprised — whether it's with a lengthy house track, unique sense of style or even a live acoustic performance of the songs "Katherine Kiss Me," "Darts of Pleasure," and "Walk Away." Alex further confounded expectations by taking a turn as a food author with his 2006 road food memoir Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand.

Go to episode 181
Willie Nelson

Joe Nick Patoski

This week Jim and Greg are joined by Texas music authority Joe Nick Patoski for a discussion about the life and career of Willie Nelson. In his many decades making music, Willie has never fit into any boxes—rock/country, religious/profane. But, as Patoski reveals in his book Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, that is what makes him such an amazing musician and such a thriving American icon. Jim and Greg discuss with Joe Nick the difficulties Willie had in making the transition from a songwriter to a successful solo artist. They also talk about his family history, his outlaw status, both literal and figurative, and his role as the“zen bubba”of pot.

Go to episode 180
Jill Sobule

Jill Sobule

This week's guest is Jill Sobule. Jill first got attention with her 1995 hit "I Kissed A Girl" (not to be mistaken with the current hit.) So after years of maneuvering through a crumbling music label system, she decided to try something new. Last year she solicited donations from fans directly and raised $75,000. Now she's back with her fan-funded album, California Years. Jill performs songs from the new album, and is also joined by friend and performing partner Julia Sweeney.

Go to episode 178
Blitzen Trapper

Blitzen Trapper

A few weeks ago Greg recommend our Rock Doctors patients check out Furr by Blitzen Trapper. Now we have the band live in our studio for a conversation and acoustic performance. The Portland indie rock band, led by Eric Earley, has been gaining momentum after touring with Sub Pop label mate Fleet Foxes. Blitzen Trapper's music is often compared to classic American rock of the late '60s and early '70s. But as Earley explains, every musician is influenced by the past. And despite a familiar sound, there's still a sense of mystery and originality. You can hear it in the songs the band performs live in our studio.

Go to episode 175
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Neko Case

This week's guest is a repeat offender. Neko Case returns to the show to discuss her new album Middle Cyclone. Neko doesn't want to give away too much though. She explains to Jim and Greg that she likes to leave a bit of mystery for the listener. Along with mystery, the singer-songwriter has packed this album with passionate tales of tornadoes, killer whales and mating frogs. And, she is literally a“man eater,”as you can hear in the song "People Got a Lotta Nerve." Check out all of the live songs Neko performed with vocalist Kelly Hogan and guitarist Paul Rigby.

Go to episode 170
Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit

When some people go through a break-up, they turn to their family, friends or a pint of ice cream. But Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit turned to songwriting. In fact, the Scottish quartet's new album Midnight Organ Fight, was almost entirely inspired by the devastating end to a relationship. As he and bandmate/brother Grant Hutchinson explain to Jim and Greg — the music ended up being cathartic, not just for them, but for audiences as well. Scott, the group's singer and guitarist, has moved on to a new relationship, but the heartbreak lives on in songs like "Poke" and "The Modern Leper, which you can hear performed live in our studio. Hear all the songs here.

Go to episode 169
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The Numero Group

A few times a year Jim and Greg host their Buried Treasures show where they bring in their favorite under-the-radar albums. But, as our hosts admit, they are not nearly as obsessed as many avid music collectors. So this week they turn to the ultimate Buried Treasure aficionados: Numero Group. Rob Savier and Ken Shipley are two of the founders of this Chicago-based label, and they talk to Jim about how they fanatically scour record bins and auction sites across the country to locate otherwise forgotten musical gems. They also share some of the songs from Numero Group's first album compilation, Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label.

Go to episode 167
The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

Jim and Greg welcome The Hold Steady this week. The Minneapolis born, Brooklyn bred band are on tour to promote their 2008 album Stay Positive. Our hosts talk to lead singer Craig Finn, guitarist Tad Kubler and keyboardist & accordionist Franz Nicolay about their“meat and potatoes”style of rock and roll. Greg notes that comparisons are often made to Bruce Springsteen, but the band also cites Nick Cave and Bob Dylan as influences. Jim explains to the band that he was not immediately a Hold Steady fan, and was only converted after seeing them live. Craig, Tad and Franz explain that they are happy to convert him. That, of course, is the power of rock.

Go to episode 165