Roots & Routes: Vandaveer

A photo essay of a band on the road.

The hugs goodbye always last a little longer than the hugs we share in greeting.

One a.m. finds us on a quiet, tree-lined street in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. Vandaveer has just finished a run of east coast shows with a gig at Gypsy Sally’s. Frontman Mark Charles Heidinger pulls the van — crammed full of guitars, drums, keyboard, pedals, merch, and luggage — up to the home of a longtime friend with whom the band will be spending the night.

A cab is waiting to take me to Union Station, where I will board a three a.m. train back to New York City. Too tired to find the right words, I try to convey my gratitude in the embraces we exchange. Then I conduct the requisite check: backpack, camera bag, phone, wallet, ID.

I will never quite understand how bands don’t leave a trail of items behind as they criss-cross the country. Or maybe they do. Hansel & Gretel breadcrumbs of touring, to find their way back to the start.

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I get into the cab. As we pull away, I gaze back to see Mark and Tom ascending the steps. Their last night away from home for a while.

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“Light”: Haunting, hazy folk from Jon Bryant

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Leap days are in-between spaces, and it’s fitting timing for the release of a new album from Canadian folk artist Jon Bryant. Both lyrically and sonically, Twenty Something explores that liminal space between what is known and comfortable and what is in the hazy beyond.

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On Nina Simone and noir: A chat with The Duchess and The Fox

This is a story of the chance encounter behind the seductively stormy ballads of The Duchess and The Fox.

On a balmy summer night, Andrea Diaz (of Superhuman Happiness) wends her way home from rehearsal and stops by Manhattan Inn. Joe McGinty, former keyboardist for Psychedelic Furs and session musician for the Ramones and Ryan Adams (among others), is hosting live piano karaoke.

Andrea requests a Nina Simone song. Joe plays; Andrea sings. Then she slips out without a word, leaving only a scrap of paper with her contact information.

That exchange was the genesis of The Duchess and The Fox. From the midsummer meeting came a collection of modern noir ballads, with inspirations ranging from Burt Bacharach and Lee Hazlewood to the aforementioned Nina Simone and Scott Walker.

Last night, The Duchess and The Fox hosted a record release party in the most fitting of spaces — the dim, speakeasy-invoking Red Room in downtown Manhattan.

Continue reading “On Nina Simone and noir: A chat with The Duchess and The Fox”

After Dark: A chat with Wray

“Hypatia,” the title track from Wray’s sophomore album, feels alien, yet organic; dreamy, but defined.

The band’s use of gauzy layers of distortion and motorik/ostinato rhythms draws comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and Neu! To my ear, there’s something about the southern roots of this trio that lends muscle and sinew to the spun-glass textures associated with dream pop and shoegaze. But don’t take it from me — Wray has caught the ears of critics at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (paywall).

The percussion in Wray’s songs leans inexorably forward without disrupting the ethereal mood. The resulting ambience reminds me of a time-lapse video where city night lights, viewed from above, take on the appearance of electronic circuitry or perhaps some complex organism, its arteries pulsing.

W1I recently saw the Birmingham band — David Brown (bass, vocals), Blake Wimberly (percussion), and David Swatzell (guitar, vocals) — perform at The Gutter in Brooklyn.

Afterward, David B. and Blake answered some questions by email. Topics include: visual effects used at shows, road snacks, and favorite books. (Spoiler alert: Blake names After Dark as a fave. I love Murakami and I think Wray’s music complements the Japanese novelist’s semi-lucid dreamscapes with their unresolved contradictions.)

I asked them the silliest question I’ve ever posed to a band: Which astrophysicist would prevail in an arm-wrestling tournament? Their answers are sublime. The interview & Wray’s upcoming tour dates are after the jump.

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Its First Wild Promise: January Roundup

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world. –F. Scott Fitzgerald

Well hey, New York. Here we are, about a month in. Winter Storm Jonas gave me an excuse to curl up in my 9:30 Club sweatshirt (miss you, DC) and go through photos from a series of dance-away-those-winter-blues shows. I’ll share these pics & tunes with you over the next few posts. Let’s start with some Alabama soul from St. Paul & The Broken Bones and rootsy rock from Banditos.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

“For all y’all in the front row, I’m sorry. It’s gonna be like Sea World–” Paul Janeway warned on the second of two sold-out evenings in New York (the first at Carnegie Hall, the second at Bowery Ballroom). We loved every bit of it, sweat and all. Continue reading “Its First Wild Promise: January Roundup”