interviews 2011

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Trombone Shorty

Up next, Troy“Trombone Shorty”Andrews and his band Orleans Avenue. At just 25, Troy has already been playing music for two decades, and professionally for nearly as long. He has recorded half a dozen albums, toured the world and collaborated with a who's who of New Orleans legends like The Nevilles and Rebirth Brass Band, in addition to Green Day, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Somehow he also found time to play himself in a recurring role on the hit HBO show Treme, which takes place in his neighborhood in New Orleans' 6th ward. Jim and Greg were anxious to hear the group perform songs from Trombone Shorty's albums For True and Backatown. They also wanted to hear about Troy's experience after Hurricane Katrina and his philosophy on so-called rules of jazz. Listen or watch and you'll hear (luckily) there are none.

Go to episode 314
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Wild Flag

Wild Flag was this year's buzzed about debut. But, its members are actually industry veterans. Members Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss are two-thirds of the pioneering indie rock band Sleater-Kinney. Rebecca Cole was a mainstay in the Minders, and Mary Timony fronted the band Helium as well as her own solo projects. Brownstein is also well known as one-half of the successful comedy duo behind Portlandia with Fred Armisen. She explains to Jim and Greg that while the band's pedigree is impressive on paper, they didn‘t take for granted that this supergroup would necessarily be super. The chemistry took time to develop, but now that it has, Wild Flag’s live performance is sure to blow your socks off.

Go to episode 311
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Brian Eno

Frequent Sound Opinions listeners know they can count on one thing: Brian Eno references. In fact some have taken to making it a drinking game. The legendary producer and electronic music pioneer seems to come up no matter what Jim and Greg are talking about. And for good reason-Eno is not just an innovator in the experimental world, but a major pop force as well, first as a member of the new wave band Roxy Music, then as a producer and collaborator with David Byrne and the Talking Heads, John Cale, Devo, U2 and Coldplay. He also composes solo work as well, though whether or not he'll use lyrics, singing or poetry is never known. His last album Drums Between the Bells was inspired by the poetry of Rick Holland. And he has a new EP called Panic of Looking. Brian joins Jim and Greg from England and shares his unique philosophies on writing, recording and the studio as an instrument.

Go to episode 310
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Cut Copy

Next up Jim and Greg are visited by members of the Australian quartet Cut Copy. The group merges classic pop sounds with electronic dance beats, but began as just a bedroom project for former graphic designer and DJ Dan Whitford. He added guitars, drums and keyboards to the mix, and the result is a live instrumentation that rivals the production you'll hear on record. Cut Copy performs songs from their recent album Zonoscope, which packs in hooks and a sheen that harkens back to '70s pop radio. Check out video of the band in the studio.

Go to episode 308
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Bob Ezrin

Jim and Greg are joined by super producer Bob Ezrin. And when we say super, we're not just referring to his commercial success, but to his sound. Bob Ezrin makes big, epic albums like The Wall, Destroyer and 10 with metal god Alice Cooper. He also produced Lou Reed's Berlin and the self-titled solo debut from Peter Gabriel. He talked to our hosts about reuniting with Cooper for Welcome 2 My Nightmare and shared studio tidbits. Now we know what a prankster Roger Waters was and how Ezrin captured the crying sounds in "Oh Jim." And who knew Peter Gabriel had such a good sense of humor?

If you enjoyed Bob Ezrin's conversation with Jim and Greg, here are some of our other favorite“behind-the-scenes”interviews:

Go to episode 305
Handsome Furs

Handsome Furs

Sound Opinions continues its run with husband and wife duos. We've had Low, Damon & Naomi and now Handsome Furs. The Montreal electro-pop act consists of Wolf Parade guitarist Dan Boeckner and his wife Alexei Perry. As they explain, the musical pairing came out of necessity more than anything. They just had no space to do their own solo projects. Now they're on their third album called Sound Kapital, which was inspired by Dan and Alexei's travels to Eastern Europe and Asia. There they discovered a vital underground music scene and a new brand of protest music. Those sounds and messages informed the tracks on Sound Kapital. Check out video of Handsome Furs live in the studio.

Go to episode 304
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Bootsy Collins

Time to get funky. Jim and Greg are joined by Bootsy Collins to go through the history of Funk. The heart of the genre is the rhythm. When James Brown wanted to“give the drummer some,”he meant it. In addition, as funk grew so did the development of the black band. Previously, as with doo wop groups, the emphasis was on the singer. Bootsy's own career as a singer, songwriter and bassist mirrors the development of funk. After performing in the Pacemakers with his brother Catfish, both Collins men joined James Brown's backing band The JB's. Bootsy credits James Brown with teaching him the concept of "The One," and they collaborated on funk classics like "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "Super Bad." His next move was to Detroit to work with George Clinton on Parliament and Funkadelic, and he later formed his own group, Rubber Band. His latest album is aptly named The Funk Capital of the World.

To cap off the segment, Jim and Greg talk about two significant funk tracks. Greg plays "It's Your Thing," by The Isley Brothers, featuring virtuosic bass playing by a 16-year old Ernie Isley. Jim goes to Bootsy's home state and plays The Ohio Players' song "Funky Worm."

Go to episode 303
Iron & Wine

Iron and Wine

Next up, Iron and Wine join Jim and Greg in the studio. The band began as a lo-fi 4-track project for folk singer/songwriter Sam Beam. Today, he works with a full band and is selling out shows across the country. Many listeners may also be familiar with Iron and Wine through their contributions to soundtracks like Garden State, Twilight and Grey's Anatomy. Iron and Wine's most recent album is Kiss Each Other Clean, which was produced by Brian Deck. As Sam explains to Jim and Greg, it's a more pop-driven record, inspired by his own early experiences falling in love with music like Fleetwood Mac. But, he didn't abandon his lyrical style, one that is often inspired by the Bible. Check out Iron and Wine's live performance and video.

Go to episode 302
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Damon and Naomi

After the breakup of their first band - the hugely influential indie group Galaxie 500 - husband and wife team Damon and Naomi considered an early retirement from music. But then they began writing songs together. Twenty years later, they're one of rocks longest-running duos. This week Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang drop by the studio to perform music from their new album, False Beats and True Hearts, and share some tips for keeping a band and a relationship going strong over the decades. The key, says Damon, is change.

The couple met when they were just teenagers - students at the same Manhattan prep school. It wasn't until college that they and Harvard classmate Dean Wareham began making music together. (They also went to school with another hot touring act from the past year) With Damon on drums, Naomi on bass, and Wareham on guitar and lead vocals, Galaxie 500 helped to define the dreamy lo-fi sound many call slowcore. The band broke up in 1991 after releasing only three studio albums, but unlike so many of their peers, Damon and Naomi aren't interested in a reunion tour. They say they prefer to keep moving forward. They have eight studio albums to their name and can boast collaborations with musicians like Bhob Rainey, Smokey Hormel and the Japanese band Ghost. As Jim observes, that love of collaboration is just part of their rhythm section mentality.

Go to episode 298
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The Swell Season

This week we listen back to Jim and Greg's 2008 interview with Glen Hansard and Mark‘eta Irglov’a of The Swell Season and the film Once. Glen and Mark‘eta had come in town as part of a whirlwind tour they can attribute to Once’s success. The modest film became a surprise hit with audiences and critics. They went on to win the Oscar for the film's tune "Falling Slowly," and launched a worldwide tour. Now as a kind of real-life postscript to Once, there's a new documentary called The Swell Season that chronicles their rise to success and the end of their relationship. At the time of their conversation with Jim and Greg, the media frenzy was just beginning. Glen, who is also the front man of the Irish band The Frames and opened for Eddie Vedder's summer tour, explains that he's extremely grateful for the success, but wishes he hadn‘t become so media savvy. Mark’eta, on the other hand, just doesn‘t see the chemistry everyone else is impressed by. For her, the movie just captured the way she and Glen really made music. One thing that hasn’t changed with all the fame is Glen's guitar; it's so beat up that its manufacturer is embarrassed. Lucky for us, the sound is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Go to episode 297
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Bob Mould

Like most breakups, band breakups can be agonizing and traumatic, but also opportunities for self-reflection and reinvention. This week Jim and Greg talk to Hüsker Dü songwriter and guitarist Bob Mould about the breakup of his band - on the cusp of what many believed would be their mainstream breakthrough - and his subsequent reinvention as a solo artist. It's a period Mould talks about in his new memoir, See a Little Light, though he rarely discusses it in person. Aside from being one of the most rousing live rock n' roll acts around, Minnesota's Hüsker Dü was amazingly prolific. With Mould on guitar, Grant Hart on drums, and Greg Norton on bass, the band took punk velocity and pop craft to superhuman levels on a series of significant releases between 1984 and 1986: Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig, and Candy Apple Grey. But as Mould recalls, after the band's move to a major label, personal relationships, competition, and addiction proved to be toxic. The crisis came after a disastrous 1987 performance in Columbia, Missouri, when Hart's drug use brought the show to a halt. It was the period, Mould emphasizes, at the end of a very long sentence. The band broke up shortly thereafter. Bob also discusses his retreat to rural Minnesota, where he began experimenting with new instruments and alternate tunings. In 1989, he would re-emerge as a solo artist with another great album, Workbook.

Want more Mould? Listen to Jim and Greg's 2008 interview with Bob here.

Go to episode 295
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tUnE-yArDs

tUnE-yArDs's second album w h o k i l l made it onto both Jim and Greg's lists of the Best Albums of 2011 (so far). This week, Jim and Greg are in the studio with the creative force behind the band, New England native Merrill Garbus. Garbus has come a long way since her days as a professional puppeteer, when she performed for modest crowds with the indie act Sister Suvi and lived with her parents. This month the Oakland-based musician will be one of the most anticipated acts at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Like one of her early influences, Paul Simon, Garbus incorporates plenty of African polyrhythms and vocal textures into her music, and she doesn't shy away from discussions about cultural appropriation. She also takes huge risks as a live performer, looping her voice, drums, and ukulele onstage to become a veritable one-woman band. She performs the feat live in the studio, taking Jim and Greg through the beginning of "Powa." With the backing of bassist Nate Brenner and a hefty horn section, she also performs "Doorstep" and the band's breakout song "Bizness."

Go to episode 294
Songwriters Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil on Sound Opinions

Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil

It's always interesting to get the backstory behind our favorite music and hear from producers, songwriters and session musicians. So this week Jim and Greg talk to songwriting duo Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. The husband and wife team made their mark during the Brill Building era of the 1960s alongside other hired guns like Carole King & Gerry Goffin and Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller. Barry and Cynthia talk about the friendly competition between songwriters during that time and how they came up with classic pop tunes like "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," "On Broadway," and "Kicks." They also wrote "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," but as a single for Barry…not The Animals. Barry and Cynthia recently received the Johnny Mercer Award presented by The Songwriters' Hall of Fame. And Cynthia has got something for the younger set as well: check out her children's book Rockin' Babies.

Go to episode 291
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Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire has had quite a trajectory. First they were a group of anthemic art rockers from Montreal. Then they released Funeral, a successful first effort on Merge Records, followed by Neon Bible, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Chart. They were invited to open for U2 and their latest release The Suburbs won the top prize at last year's Grammy Awards. Jim and Greg spoke to Régine Chassagne and Will Butler a couple of years ago, and now we've managed to fit all seven musicians into our studio for a memorable live performance. They also talk to Will and bandmate Richard Parry about the“shock and awe”of winning a Grammy, performing during the Wrigley Field seventh inning stretch and why folks still wonder, "Who the F is Arcade Fire?"

Go to episode 290
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Mike Watt

By the early 1980's, punk had become less about sticking it to the man, and more about conforming to a set of rules. Then came The Minutemen with Double Nickels on the Dime, the 1984 album that threw out the punk rulebook. This week Jim and Greg are joined by Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who founded the San Pedro hardcore group alongside drummer George Hurley and larger-than-life lead singer and guitarist D. Boon. The Minutemen weren't afraid to experiment with their sound, incorporating jazz and funk, as well as "Econo"—a lo-fi, DIY attitude that would later inspire indie rock. Ever the motor-mouth philosopher, Watt waxes poetic about jamming econo, the true meaning of“Double Nickels on the Dime,”and his idea of a "Hot Topic."

Go to episode 287
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Low

Next up, the Minnesota band Low visits the studio to perform songs from its recent album C'mon. Low is often inaccurately labeled“slowcore,”because of their quiet sound. But they also know how to rock out and tackle everything from the war in Iraq to religion in their songs. Founding members Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk are not only band mates, but husband and wife and practicing Mormons. And after nine albums, they've gained a faithful following, which includes Robert Plant. He covered two of the band's songs on his last release Band of Joy.

Go to episode 286
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Titus Andronicus

The members of Titus Andronicus named their band after a Shakespeare play, their first album after a Seinfeld reference, and the latest called The Monitor was influenced by the Civil War. Needless to say this isn't your average punk band. During their visit to Sound Opinions, lead singer Patrick Stickles talks to Jim and Greg about his book smart lyrics and New Jersey roots. They also perform live.

Go to episode 284
Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers

The term "Southern rock" brings images of long hair, confederate flags and Lynyrd Skynyrd to mind. But when it comes to the Drive-By Truckers, you have to push that all aside. Patterson Hood, son of Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood, and Mike Cooley formed the group in Athens, GA in 1996, and since then they've consistently toured, recorded and pushed the envelope of Southern sound. In 2001 people took notice with Southern Rock Opera. Now three members of the band, Hood, Jay Gonzalez and Shonna Tucker, stop by the studio to perform new tracks from Go-Go Boots, as well as an Eddie Hinton cover.

Go to episode 282
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Butch Vig

Next you'll hear Jim and Greg's 2008 conversation with producer Butch Vig. He has worked on some of the most notable records of the past two decades including Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins, Dirty by Sonic Youth and Nevermind by Nirvana. In addition, he's a founding member and drummer for the band Garbage. His most recent production effort is the new album by the Foo Fighters, which Jim and Greg review later in the show. Butch talks to our hosts about some of his more memorable recording sessions. He quickly learned that a producer is as much a therapist as anything else. And he confirms the idea that geniuses are not always the easiest people. Luckily the end results make it all worth it.

Go to episode 281
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The Vaselines

The Vaselines join Jim and Greg in the studio this week. The Scottish indie pop group was founded in 1986 by Eugene Kelly and then girlfriend Francis McKee. And then only three years, two singles, and one album later, the couple and the band broke up. But their sound managed to make its way across the pond, getting college radio airplay and the notice of emerging bands likes Mudhoney and Nirvana. In fact, Nirvana would go on to cover a number of Vaselines tracks, including "Jesus Don't Want Me For a Sunbeam," which they performed on MTV Unplugged in New York. Cobain convinced the band to briefly reunite and open for Nirvana in 1990. Now two decades later, the Vaselines are back together with a new Sub Pop release called Sex with an X. That's a lot of effort to avoid the sophomore slump. Eugene, Francis and the band perform tracks from the album, as well as an old gem. Check out the songs and the videos.

Go to episode 276
Jac Holzman

Jac Holzman

Before there was a Merge or a Matador there was Elektra Records. The great American label recently celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, and its founder Jac Holzman is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month. Jim and Greg talk to Jac about launching Elektra as an independent folk label out of his dorm room in 1950. Eventually the roster grew to include every genre of music – blues, rock, funk, world and pop. It became the home to The Stooges, the MC5, Love and Queen, and, Jim adds, some notoriously difficult personalities. But Jac insists no artist was too hard to handle. He did use caution when out drinking with Jim Morrison, however.

Go to episode 275
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Gang of Four

When your musical heroes have their own musical heroes, you know it's worth checking out. And one name that always gets checked by everyone from Franz Ferdinand to REM is Gang of Four. The British band debuted in 1979 with Entertainment!, an album that showcased Andy Gill's unorthodox guitar style, Jon King's smart lyrics, and a whole lot of danceable groove. The band is still going strong on its latest release Content, and Jon and Andy sat down with Jim and Greg while they were on tour.

Go to episode 274
Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan

Rock is filled with great duos – with Jim and Greg at the top of that list, naturally. But coming in at a close second is Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, who join Jim and Greg in the studio this week. Many people know Campbell as a former member of the Scottish pop group Belle and Sebastian. And Lanegan is the iconic voice behind the Screaming Trees. For their collaboration, it's Campbell who takes the reins with songwriting and production. Lanegan, they joke during the interview, is just her tool. It's a role he relishes, even if Campbell can be a bit of a taskmaster. And you can't argue with the results.

Go to episode 271
Superchunk

Superchunk

It's a cliché to say it, but when you look up "indie rock," you do in fact see a photo of Superchunk. Since forming in 1989, the North Carolina quartet have helped establish indie rock's DIY model, as well as its sound. Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance and guitarist Mac McCaughan also founded Merge Records, one of the music industry's most successful indie labels. The label is still home to the band, as well as The Arcade Fire, Spoon and Teenage Fanclub. Mac, Laura and bandmates Jim Wilbur and Jon Wurster talk with Jim and Greg about how they've done it their way for so long. They also perform songs from their most recent release Majesty Shredding.

Go to episode 269