7 posts tagged Music
A few months ago, we came across New York based musician Alexa Wilding and found ourselves entranced. Her music, which features breathy vocals that rise and fall around perfectly plucked guitar notes, somehow takes the chill out of our late winter commute and lends some magic to the swirling snow in the air. Add to that Alexa’s evocative songwriting, which conjures up the fantasy and imagination of childhood, and suddenly the listener is presented with the perfect soundtrack to turn a subway ride into an adventure. Given all of these qualities, it is no wonder that she has been compared to the likes of Florence Welch and Stevie Nicks. This week, Alexa took time out of her busy schedule preparing for the rerelease of her album Coral Dust (to be accompanied by a performance at Rockwood Music Hall this evening) to tell us about her inspiration, influences, and favorite NYC shopping destinations.
When did you first know that you wanted to make music?
Really early on. As I child I danced in ballets like “The Nutcracker,” and when you’re that little, it’s really easy to blur reality and fantasy. You get lost in the lights and the snow and the music. I felt like Lucy in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” when she climbs into Narnia! I missed that escape when I stopped dancing. So at twelve I got really serious about listening to music. I would listen for hours on big headphones to Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, whatever music my mother had lying around and I found it had the same effect - I could go some place else! I felt like I had stumbled upon the biggest secret. One day my mother’s boyfriend left an old guitar at our apartment, and I found my permanent key to that other place. I started writing immediately and never looked back. For me making music is pretty magical. You can time travel, revisit old friends and lovers, live out a dream or a nightmare. But much like the ballet, you can go home at the end of the night, safe and sound.
Where do you find inspiration for your songwriting?
I usually write a song when I’m not sure how I feel about something. It’s my way of safely sitting with an experience, a person, a memory. I’m not as brave in real life, so for me music is a place to explore feelings, no matter how difficult, dark or exciting. There is a joy in coming to terms with a feeling, so while my music can border on dark, I hope the joy of revelation comes through as well. Those are the best songs, I think, the ones where you can totally identify with the singer’s experience, even though it is their own. I’m inspired by New York, having grown up here it is my greatest love after my husband! And while I am a city girl, I am also a plant and flower person, and I find much inspiration from spending time with my plants. Taking care of a small seedling and watching it grow, sometimes struggle, then bloom is akin to writing a song. It makes me very happy.
Who has had the greatest influence over your music?
I tend to revisit the music that hooked me in the first place, the music I heard at home and growing up downtown. Patti Smith, Nico, Lou Reed, Television, Kate Bush, and of course Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Stevie Nicks. This gang never gets old and I check in with them again and again, they remind me to always remain that 12 year old with her head phones! But in terms of a direct influence, Nico and Leonard Cohen. Nico’s solo records with John Cale changed my life when I first heard them. They are sparse and mystical and medieval and from the future at the same time. It’s like going to Narnia! The same with Cohen. It’s their own universe. I strive for that with my own work. The biggest gift would be for a listener to say, this sounds like she’s singing on the moon, I don’t know where I am but I’d like to stay here for a while.
What was your most memorable moment on tour?
Au Revoir Simone took me out on my first tour a few years ago. I was green, I had no idea how tour worked. I followed them around like I was the fourth Simone, the little sister! The first couple of shows were rocky for me - what was I thinking, going out there by myself with just a guitar and my voice? When we got to San Francisco I was determined to fix the situation. I don’t know if it was the beautiful old music hall or the fact that we all did our hair together back stage like in my ballet days, but that night I went out there and one by one people moved closer to the stage until I had the whole hall. I couldn’t believe it. I learned patience that night. I was so grateful that they gave me a chance and in return I gave them everything I had.
What was your favorite on-stage outfit?
Same tour, I wore the same dress every night! It was a black lace Rachel Antonoff dress and I wore it to shreds. Good thing she let me keep it! I was so scared those first few nights that this dress was my secret weapon. I keep all my stage dresses in a special cluster in my closet. They bring back special memories for me. Clothes are truly magical. They can transform you into who you want to be! Fake it til you make it?
What kind of clothes have you most excited for spring?
Up until last year I was always a winter girl. My style seemed to go out the window when the weather got warm, it was really frustrating! I’m pretty boring when it comes to my style in that once I find something that works, that’s my uniform. So last year I felt like I got it down and I lived in leotards, full skirts and wife legged pants, belts and espadrilles. I’m excited to revisit this again! It’s my take on Diana Vreeland meets Stevie Nicks.
What is your favorite place to shop?
Hands down my favorite shop in New York is Albertine in the West Village. I grew up in that neighborhood so it feels like home to me, and Kyung’s shop feels like my bedroom. It’s so feminine! She has the most perfect mix of new lines (A Detacher, Mina Stone) and vintage. I always leave perfectly satisfied. My last big purchases there were a Mina Stone moon dress and a vintage floral floor length tea dress from the 20s. Close runners up would be Legacy on Thompson Street (same thing, mix of new and old) and of course, Geminola.
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
To be invisible. I’d love to be a good fairy and make things right for people. I’m too superstitious to do anything terribly naughty!
Images via Paola Suhonen and Sonja Georgevich.
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Panama, a five-piece synth pop outfit based out of Sydney, easily qualifies as one of our favorite new groups. In the midst of a cold, wet northeastern winter, their special brand of sunny indie pop is just what we needed. Their latest release, “It’s Not Over”, is the perfect soundtrack for long road trips to sun-drenched beaches and has us dreaming of summer days and warmer weather. Needless to say, we’ve had Panama’s summery songs on repeat here at the office. And this week, we were lucky enough to have band leader Jarrah McCleary answer some of our questions.
What brought all of you together to form the band?
Well, Cam our bass player and I have been mates for years and we played in our last band, Dirty Secrets together. Lachy, our drummer and I met at a house party a few years ago, and I knew that he was the best around so I asked him if he’d be keen to jump on board the Panama boat. Trev used to be Cam’s housemate and he’s played in a few bands as a guitarist and percussionist so it worked perfectly to invite him to join us. Tim is a friend of friend who I’d known for a little while. The EP had some songs that I thought would really be taken to the next level if we had a saxophonist, and Tim was definitely the man to ask. We’re really lucky to have all of them as they’re great musicians. It also makes a huge difference when you deeply respect the people you have to spend so much time with!
Where do you find inspiration?
I try to listen to lots of music, as much as possible. I think I’m a bit behind the times as I’ve only just started using Spotify but damn, it’s a great source of new and old music! I’m finding it a perfect way to inspire my songwriting. I also like to try to get out of Sydney and see new things when I can as I find it helps my songwriting too. I’m a big fan of long drives and road trips – this is a theme that seems to have wriggled its way into the way I write too.
Is songwriting a democratic process?
I do all of the writing for Panama but I definitely look for the support of my bandmates in terms of their opinions on mixes and demos. I also really value their input in terms of perfecting our live performance.
What is your favorite on tour memory?
So far, we’ve only played one show out of Sydney. We supported Van She in Melbourne about six months ago which was fun. We’re heading off on a short tour of Australia next month so I’m sure we’ll have some fond memories to report back after that. Most of my time overseas with this project has been recording with Eric Broucek of DFA Records fame in LA and then San Fran. We’ve spent some amazing time together working on the EP (just released) and some forthcoming material.
How would your describe the bandmembers’ personal styles?
Musical styles? We’re all very different. Tim our saxophonist is really into funk and disco music. Cam our bass player is the most eclectic person I know. Lachy plays in bands ranging from girl pop to pop punk to grunge rock and Trev is an avid fan of Folk music.
If you were a band of superheroes, what would your name be?
The Panamanians. That’s probably a work in progress name, actually. Keep you posted :)
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Sydney Wayser was looking for an escape from the drudgery of a dreary New York winter and found it in a fictional land. Her new album, Bell Choir Coast, is the result of her journey to this whimsical place in her imagination. A grown-up departure for the French-American singer/songwriter, who split time growing up in Paris and L.A., Sydney has reconciled a childhood spent in two places by creating a world of her own. When first beginning Bell Choir Coast, listeners are immediately transported to Sydney’s fictional coast, but by the end of the album, they inevitably end up in a world of their own, be it sun-soaked beaches or snow-capped mountains. Uplifting and also introspective, Sydney’s music is just what we need to get through what promises to be another wet, gray winter. Here, the singer that has rocketed to the top of our “Most Played” list answers some of our questions.
Did you always know that you wanted to make music?
Yeah! Writing came naturally and I never had any questions as to whether or not I would play music, it was more a question of when I could get out in the world and start making it professionally.
Which musicians have had the biggest influence on you?
Rufus Wainwright, John Lennon, Feist, Damien Rice, Arcade Fire, Fiona Apple, Joni Mitchell, Serge Gainsbourg, Beck… I guess I’d have to throw a little Tina Turner in there somewhere too. I’ll never forget the late night dance sessions I had as a kid. “What’s Love Got to Do With it?” 80’s Classic!
What do you want people to take away from listening to your songs?
My most recent record, Bell Choir Coast, was written about creating my ideal world. I felt stuck in New York and needed a place to escape to. When people listen to the record, I hope they picture themselves floating in the middle of the ocean, or huddled around a fire with their tribe, or kindred spirits.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes in all forms. For Bell Choir Coast specifically, it came from the cities, stories, paintings, authors, films, and countries I love the most.
Do you have any exciting plans for the holidays?
I’m actually moving across the country! I’m packing up my van with all my instruments, boxes, books, my whole life basically, and driving it to LA. The plan is to spend New Year’s Eve in Joshua Tree and coast into sunny LA on the first of January.
What is your favorite vintage era?
The 1920s probably, although I am a sucker for Victorian furniture. Mix a little mid century modern in there and a few hats from the 70s, and I’d be set.
What is your favorite place in the world?
Not sure I have just one, but Paris, the Greek Islands, and Los Angeles would definitely make the cut.
Wiseling Mix Tape: October
Here at Wiseling, we love a good song (almost as much as we love fashion). We are constantly emailing each other new songs and bands, and it finally dawned on us that we should share some of our favorites, new and old, with you. Here are the songs that we’ve been listening to on repeat this month.
Brooklyn-based Ex Cops is on a roll. In the year and a half since the band’s inception by former Hymns frontman Brian Harding, they produced their first EP, White Women, and completed a full length album which is set to be released on January 23. We had the pleasure of catching drift of their dreamy tunes during NYFW during an intimate set atop a sunny rooftop in Soho after the Spring 2013 presentation by fashion newcomer Salas/Voon. With their cool combination of dark lyrics and beach pop sound, this emerging band will definitely stay on our radar. With their first headlining show at Glasslands in Brooklyn on October 23 on the horizon, Brian and Amalie answered some of our questions.
What brought all of you together to form Ex Cops?
I was headed to Montauk and I saw Amalie busking at Penn Station, playing “Little Trouble Girl” by Sonic Youth. I was late for my train and left my number with her. The next week we recorded “Spring Break”.
How do you go about songwriting? Together or individually?
We rely on voice notes and probably send 5 a day.
You use a lot of black and white footage in your videos, why is that?
We watched way too much Bergman.
Collectively, how have your experiences affected the music you make?
Which talent does each member bring to the group?
I think the best part is that all of us, in one way or another, have known each other for years. That, and Leif owns a restaurant where we can drink for free.
What is your favorite experience working together?
Recording the album with John Siket was really great. We did it in a warehouse with no heat, but I’ve never been happier.
If you were a band of superheroes, what would your name be?
The Goonies. Amalie kills the truffle shuffle.
The Canadian indie-pop band Imaginary Cities’ album Temporary Resident is hard not to love. There’s a great variety among the tracks and the combination of soul and indie makes an interesting mix. Marti, the lead singer and only girl in the group, used to be a singer in a soul cover band. The bad performed weekly at bar in Winnipeg, where Rusty (on the left) worked with the sound. One day Rusty asked if she wanted to sing on a Motown song he had been working on. “I did it and we had a lot of fun. I asked him later if he could help me with some songs I’d been working on. We went into the studio and did the song ‘Say You’ which then became the first track on our album” said Marti. They continued creating music together whenever they had time and a year later they had an album and a band welcoming David, Alex and Ryan to the group.
"Winnipeg is actually a really thriving music scene. It’s one of the strongest in Canada parallel to Toronto, but Toronto is much bigger. I find it to be a really welcoming without a lot of competition between musicians. It has a familiar aspect to it, a friendly place," Ryan explained.
On stage the band mostly wears all black wanting Marti to stand out the most. “But even I wear black a lot, even though they try to get me to pop out. Black is my thing. And red lips,” she says describing the exact look she’s wearing as we speak. “I usually like the kind of stuff Feist wears. She looks really well put together, but on the same time very comfortable. I’m all about practicality. I don’t want to pop out of my dress accidentally in the middle on a show, but I like to feel pretty and dress up.”
As teenagers, they listened to everything from Destiny’s Child, Rage Against the Machines and Smash Mouth. Their different musical backgrounds could be one reason their music has a very unique sound. Another reason could be that a single song could be inspired by anything from Sam Cooke’s music to Simpsons episodes. “We find inspiration all over, and that’s probably why there is so much variety in that album. Rusty heard a truck making a certain sound one day” said Marti, Rusty cutting in to explain. “The truck was humming this perfect G chord, and I got all this sweet music in my head and I then wrote a song around that. At other times Marti would just send me a voice note late at night, and in the morning I would write the chords to it. We start songs in all kind of ways. Any sort of small sparkle of inspiration is a good way to start any song.” We are not sure exactly how, but these unpredictable mixes have turned out to be the recipe to some great music.
Order their album Temporary Resident here.
In a Turkish Town
Ritchie Valens • Ritchie Valens (Original Album Plus Bonus Tracks)
Song of the Day: In a Turkish Town by Ritchie Valens