From the early ’80s to the mid-’90s, three UK noise bands defied the construct of popular music. Through distorted guitar chords and digitized reverb, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and The Jesus & Mary Chain built sophisticated pop songs that were loud and romantic, framing the infrastructure for what would later be dubbed “shoegaze.” Eric Green, a New York filmmaker who documents the origins of the genre in his latest film, Beautiful Noise, has obsessed over this style of music for years. But shoegaze, a term from the ’80s that describes the band’s detached nature during live performance, was a term he consciously avoided. “If you look up the history of the genre,” explains Green over the phone from Los Angeles, “a lot of the bands in the film had been playing for years and years before that phrase had been coined. I can understand why people would be apprehensive about it. People don’t like to be pigeonholed.”
In Beautful Noise, Green’s interviews with press shy musicians like Kevin Shields [My Bloody Valentine], Robin Guthrie [Cocteau Twins] and Jim Reid [The Jesus & Mary Chain], reveal these criticisms of the shoegaze movement, and capture their take on the rise, fall, and resurgence of the genre’s sound in contemporary indie rock. Though Green focuses most of the film on his three anchor bands, figures from ’90s shoegazers Slowdive, Medicine and Lush, and interviews with Robert Smith, Billy Corgan, and Trent Reznor, emphasize the influence of the ’80s sound on their own style of music. With upcoming screenings in LA, Lincoln Center in New York and Way Out West Fest in Sweden, we spoke with Green about the 10-year process behind Beautiful Noise, how the media destroyed the shoegaze movement, and why some bands should stop being like Bowie and start being themselves.
With books and films on the origins of shoegaze few and far between, was this the impetus behind making the film?
Honestly, I made this film as a fan, mostly for fans. When me and my wife Sarah [Ogletree], who is the producer and editor, set out to make this movie, we wanted it to be a movie that we would want to see. There were certain choices in the film that we made, that I like to see in documentaries. We knew, being a music documentary, it would have to have lots of music. And for us, it was important that the artists were heard in their own words, so to speak, and not over contextualize them to try and make them seem like they’re saying something different than what they’re saying.
I think that because you’re a fan of the bands you feature, it makes the film more meaningful. With that being said, what does shoegaze mean to you?
I grew up in New York and came into the music late, maybe a couple of years after it had already happened. I didn’t really know the baggage that came with the word, per se. I was never much of a reader of the music magazines. I would read a few of them, but if I was in a record shop, I was hunting down records. The phrase itself started out as an insult. It was basically saying, ‘Oh, these people aren’t engaging,’ which to me couldn’t be further from the truth. If a band is playing earth-shattering noise, who cares if they’re jumping down on stage or not? You’re at a concert to hear beautiful music. You’re not necessarily there to watch some performance. Some people can pull that off. I love David Bowie and obviously he perfected an art form of making his stage performance a spectacle and made it as amazing as the music. But, to me, few artists can really pull that off.
You mentioned that the phrase “shoegaze” is considered an insult to some of the artists in the film. Were there any artists you interviewed who asked you to call “shoegaze” something different, or asked you not to use the phrase?
It was choice early on to not use the “shoegaze” phrase. It just seemed like it would be a block moving forward with some artists, and why blow an interview because of a word? But I guess it was used to describe [British indie rock band] Moose. I remember reading somewhere that [jazz musician] Ornette Coleman didn’t like the term “free jazz,” even though he had a record called Free Jazz. It’s an artist thing. You don’t want to be seen as just this, or just that. For years I didn’t have a word to call the genre. I started slowly collecting all these different records by these bands and never heard the word before. It’s like, how much do some of the bands really sound like each other? There’s a few common connections. In our movie, though, we capture a time period where these groups were grouped together. A lot of these bands were friends with each other. A lot of them were on the same label and there were a few common techniques.
What do you think contributed to the disappearance of shoegaze? And what do you owe to the resurgence of the sound over the past few years?
I think there were a couple of different factors. I don’t believe in absolutes, but when we’re thinking about bands like Slowdive, they got to the point where they were getting horrible reviews and write-ups from the press. They were ultimately dropped by Creation [Records]. But then they regrouped, started a new band and were well-received and signed to [record label] 4AD. They all have successful solo careers now and have ultimately reformed. But at the time, how do make it as a band if you’re getting bad press, your record label is not behind you, and you’re not making money? You can probably think of some meme’s in your head when I say this, but there are bands that people write horrible things about in the press, but if they’re selling millions of records, they’re not going anywhere. It’s almost like, by writing about them, they [journalists] are perpetuating those bands in a way. If something is selling, it’s going to go on. If something isn’t selling that well, the road is a bit harder.
A reason why I think the music has resurged is because every good music has its day. Whether it’s the day it resides in or 20 years later, if it’s good, it will stand the test of time. What is even truer about that statement today is the internet. People can type in any one of these songs, albums, band names and easily listen to their records instantaneously. So eventually, it just found its audience again, be it not a paying audience, but how else can you explain thousands of people watching Slowdive at Primavera Sound? Ultimately, the angle of all this is that I wanted to put a spotlight on what I feel are really groundbreaking bands who put out amazing works of art that should be listened to and enjoyed and not be buried in time.
The idea for Beautiful Noise came to you 10 years ago. What was the process like from the beginning stages of the film to the finished project?I thought of the idea in fall of 2004 and started getting serious about it in spring 2005. I started doing interviews and writing people; calling people. I didn’t really know anybody in this circle of people and just kind of made my way through. I told everyone what my intentions were with the film and managed to get most of the people we wanted interviewed in the film. It wasn’t a full-time project but a nights-and-weekends-project that took about a year to edit. It went through subsequent cuts and it was around the end of 2008, early 2009, when we were shopping it around and then world economy collapsed. The DVD market had collapsed as well, which was the lifeline for many independent films. People don’t tend to go to theaters to see independent films, they find them on DVD. With the sales aspect of DVD’s dropping, there were people who were hesitant to back a movie like this, which is arguably a niche movie.
Then I read about Kickstarter. I looked on the site and didn’t see a lot of big-ticket items on the website at the time and just thought, ‘Maybe this is going to have to wait a little bit.’ I just saw different projects on there that wanted a few grand [in donations]. Music rights and video rights and licensing still takes a lot of money, even in the limited regard that we wanted it for our film. So in 2012, we launched the Kickstarter campaign and we were successful. It’s been quite a ride.
Out of everyone in the film interviewed, who was your favorite person to talk with?
I loved talking to everyone, really. Some people I’ve stayed in touch with and have become dear friends with, and some people were just wonderful to interview. Obviously, Kevin Shields sticks out. It was a long interview and we talked about a whole range of topics; some non-music related. Robert Smith was amazing and Jim Reid was a really warm interview. I liked a lot of the tones of some of the interviews. They were very thoughtful. We had to be really incisive with who we interviewed and when we interviewed them, because of time. On one day we interviewed [former Jesus & Mary Chain guitarist] Bobby Gillespie at 9 AM, and then we took a train to see Robert Smith. A lot of interviews happened all in one day.
I think that speaks a lot about you as an interviewer, that you were able to conduct conversations with musicians who don’t grant many interviews to the press.
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. We made a fan movie; there are no “gotcha” questions. We weren’t looking to corner anyone with anything, or make a TMZ-like movie where we wanted to talk about who dated who or people’s drug habits, or shoehorn-in on some political statement about the bands. The music rose above that. The music is user-friendly. You come into it with who you are. Like Robin Guthrie says in the opening minutes of the movie: ‘It’s impressionistic music. You take from it what you want.’
That’s one of the beautiful things about a lot of the music that these bands made: it wasn’t clothes that you had to wear in order to enjoy this music, or an attitude that you had to have or a certain belief system. It’s probably one of the most diplomatic genres, if you will, in music, because it touches so many different people and so many different feelings.
One sure fire way to tell when a piece of popular entertainment is going to be high quality is by the number of incongruous guest stars shoe-horned into it. Like putting hip hop artists who’ve never acted before in their lives into major studio releases, for example. Always a winner. Looks like we’re in for another completely organic and in no way calculated grab at cross-demographic blanket coverage with the next album from Avicii. The Swedish hit-maker, aka Tim Bergling, last seen causing mass casualties at a show in Boston, has got a clown car of an album in the works, according to a recent interview with Rolling Stone.
Avicii has collaborations on deck with Chris Martin of Coldplay, Jon Bon Jovi, Serj Tankian of System of a Down, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (called “No Pleasing a Woman” — which, am I right fellas?), “a reggae duet between Wyclef Jean and Matisyahu”, and, presumably, a track with a hip-talking, street smart, skateboarding cartoon dog.
“I love it,” Bergling says of the song, “but I don’t know what to do with it yet.”
How about this:
The world awaits with breath that is bated for new music from Lorde, but so far besides some vague references to new material, there’s no concrete timeline for it. Lucky for us then that Diplo just hit us with pretty much the next best thing. It’s called “Tennis Court (Diplo’s Andrew Agassi Remix),” and it takes the first track off Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine and laces it with elastic synths and chopped up drums, enough to transform the song from gloomy ballad to a bouncy summer jam. Listen to it below.
In the hallowed halls of NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center, the electro-pop duo Broods are gearing up for their North American TV debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers, yet another sign in a string of many that this brother and sister from New Zealand have broken out in America. Caleb and Georgia Nott, who are 22 and 21 respectively, hit it big last year with their gauzy anthem, “Bridges,” and they’ve been fighting off the Lorde comparisons ever since. You can see why. Besides the obvious New Zealand connection, the Notts share Lorde’s producer, Joel Little, who’s helped them craft the same kind of swirling and infectious pop morphine that made their a countrywoman a global phenomenon. Hours before they hit the Late Night stage to perform their latest single, “Mother and Father,” Caleb spoke with us from the show’s green room about the duo’s rising fame, their first time in the United States, and why he gets really drunk, really easily.
How are you feeling before your big American TV debut?
I’m not too sure. I usually feel nervous about 10 minutes beforehand, but that’s for anything. Even our own shows.
Broods is getting more recognition by the day. What’s it like?
It’s pretty nuts. I try to take it day by day or else I’d lose track of things. But it’s crazy.
What’s interesting is that Broods hooked up with Lorde’s producer, Joel Little, before any of you became popular. How did that happen?
We first met Joel during this Battle of the Bands competition in high school. Our band won and Joel was one of the judges. He got in touch with us and introduced us to his manager, who is now our manager. He’s been around for about three years now and kind of shaped us into who we are now.
When you saw Lorde blowing up, did you think, “Oh man, Broods could be next”?
When Joel first played me her first track, I was just like, ‘Fuck. This is pretty darn good, we need to step up our game!’ I couldn’t have imagined any of the success Lorde has, let alone us. It’s a pretty amazing thing that’s happened for New Zealand music.
When was the first time you came to America?
It was actually to sign our record deal (with Capitol Records), which was in December of last year. They flew us over in business class, where we had never been in our lives; we were like a couple of kids in a candy store. People were looking at us like, ‘Why are these kids so excited?’ From the airport we went straight to the Capitol Building, and it was fricking nuts recording in Studio A where Frank Sinatra recorded. When we first got to Los Angeles, we were like, ‘What is this place?’ It was so dirty to us because New Zealand is so incredibly clean, and full of wildlife and nature. A city like L.A. was pretty new to us. There was also a cold snap that first day, so we were told to put our jackets on. When I walked outside, I was like, ‘What the hell is this shit? It’s like summer!’ So I was walking around in a t-shirt and shorts.
Throughout everything that’s happened Broods in the past year or so, what has been the coolest experience so far? Has there been a moment where you’re like, “Damn, is this real?”
Yes. For me, it was playing a show in Studio B at Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles recorded all their albums. I was just kind of standing there in my own world, frozen.
Let’s backtrack for a bit. Tell me the Broods origin story. How did it come together? You were in New Zealand?
Georgia and I have been making music since we were kids. We started off just playing other people’s songs for years, just the two of us acoustically. When we got to high school we started writing because we had a great music teacher, and he would encourage you to write and perform on a regular basis. In the later years of high school we started playing in a band together, but it wasn’t until April 2013 when we started writing for this project.
How did you come up with the name Broods?
Our manager did. We were about to release something, and he was like, “You guys are going to need a fucking name now.” We couldn’t think of anything that was any good. And then he asked me, “What about Broods?” It sounded like a skin disease to me at first, but I thought about it after two weeks and it just works. There are a lot of meanings: brooding music and deep thinking; that’s how we write. Also a brood is a family of birds, which ties into the family thing.
Congrats on the latest single, “Mother & Father.” It’s really taking off now.
The song is kind of a different topic than what most people are writing about at the moment; it’s not a love song. It’s basically about leaving home and becoming indepdent on your own, and not just saying goodbye your parents, or your family. It’s about leaving everything that was familar to you growing up that you got used to, and kind of flipping that on its head.
Is it based on your own personal experiences leaving New Zealand to go on tour?
Not so much leaving New Zealand, but leaving our hometown. It’s more Georgia’s experience than mine. I’m not a homesick person, but Georgia is a severely homesick person.
The Broods debut album is coming out soon. Are these tracks you’ve been working on for years, or are they all new?
“Bridges” and “Never Gonna Change” are the only songs from the past on it. The rest, including “Mother & Father,” are fresh from scratch; we wrote and recorded the whole thing in five weeks. It’s all very new. We wrote the last four songs in the past five days.
Wow. That’s a pretty impressive output.
We don’t muck around.
What’s it like having someone like your sister Georgia to experience this with? Most singers just go at it alone, but you have your sister to you know exactly what she’s going through, and she knows exactly what you’re going through.
It’s fantatsic to have someone so familar to you with you on this journey. She’s someone I know inside and out, and I’m someone she knows inside and out. It’s like taking your best mate around the world for your job.
What do your friends and family think of Broods? They must be going crazy.
I think my parents do, but they don’t do it in front of us. As for my friends, I’m definitely getting a few messages from people who I don’t really talk to too much or haven’t talked to for years, and now all of the sudden they’re interested in hanging out. My friends who have been my mates throughout the years treat me exactly the same. If I ever became too big for my boots they’d probably slap me in the face. They’ll bring me back down to earth if I need to.
You recently turned 22, so happy belated birthday. Are you partying?
I don’t like to party on the road so I can be at the top of my game for these sort of interviews. It makes it really hard if you want to go drink, because the next morning you always have to get up early and travel somewhere. So I kind of stay off it, and then when I go home, I just get wasted because my tolerance for alcohol is zero since I turn into a lightweight while on tour. I can’t keep up with any friends when I start drinking again.
When you think about dance music from Scandinavia, the cramped city streets of Mexico might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but that’s part of why the narrative at the heart of Robyn and Röyksopp’s new video for “Do It Again” is as compelling to look at as the song is to listen to. The video, from the super-trio’s latest EP of the same name, follows an insurrection (featuring cameos from the Norwegian producers), a woman taking her first steps out of a hospital bed, two lovers hungrily devouring one another, and Robyn, proving that, even tied down by ropes, she’s an unstoppable dancing force.
This video, which emerged on the internet yesterday, combines everything that we love to like and share and talk about and make content about and receive content about here on the online: Kanye West and #teens. It’s a rare video that let’s us see those two things combined into one!
The video was shot at the opening of the 6th Ave. location of Fat Beats in New York, Complex says.
DJ Eclipse, who was one the manager of the store, sent it along to them with some reminiscing on the occasion:
Yesterday I started converting old Hi8 video tapes to DVD and came across some interesting footage from that day. Now we had a lot of the usual suspects in the place that day such as ILL BILL, Arsonists, Lord Finesse, Adagio, Breeze Brewin, A.L. Skills, Percee P, J-Live, Mr. Live, Chino XL, Al Tariq, Black Attack, Xzibit, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Rawcotiks, Ak Skills, Rob Swift, Roc Raida, DJ Spinna and many, many more. But what took me by surprise was the appearance of this 19-year-old kid who at that time nobody knew. At least in NYC.”
The annual Pitchfork Music Festival is set to kick off today in Chicago, and, as usual, the taste-making website has curated a lineup of talent on the cutting edge of the music scene. With some 50 bands spread out over the course of the weekend, it can be hard to narrow down which ones to pay the most attention to, which is why you should leave it to the professional music critics like me to do the listening for you. Here’s a list of the bands from the lineup that you absolutely must know about if you want to be able to consider yourself a true music fan.
Beck Hansen, sometimes stylized as simply Beck, is a song-writer, musician, and trend-setter whose experimental genre-crossing, but still mainstream-appealing concoctions have had critics buzzing. The California-based artist is capable of jumping from a delirious funked-up, retro-style dance number, to more maudlin, acoustic compositions. Keep your eye on this guy, because he’s going to be talked about on websites for a long time to come.
Neutral Milk Hotel
Imagine music that’s “sort of like Wilco, but dreamier” with a singer that looks “like someone out of Duck Dynasty” and you’re part way toward encapsulating this Georgia-based collective. Led by the aforementioned beard-haver Jeff Mangum, little else is known about this band, whose releases have been shrouded in mystery, as they tend to avoid the spotlight. Still, their outre-folk and indie warbling have rocketed them to the top of most music critics best of the year lists, so you’d do well to catch them now before it’s too late.
A lot of people in the indie rock community are down on EDM, or Electronic Dance Music, of late, but there’s always room for artists who can really get the crowd jumping, like this Italian DJ who’s made a name for himself by collaborating with the likes of Daft Punk and others.
The shoegaze revival is alive and well. The style of music, popularized in the late eighties and early nineties, utilizes cascades of feedback manipulated into ethereal, noisome, but melodic sketches. If you don’t know about this band by the end of the weekend you’re a fucking idiot.
“What a terrible thing to do to the one who loves you,” goes the first line of “What a Terrible Thing to Do”, and that’s about all the hook I need to get me invested in this woebegone story on a dreary Friday morning. “When the touch of your skin means everything to him and to you it means almost nothing,” it goes on, as Steff Koeppen, front woman of the Tuscon-based from Steff and the Articles ignores her lover as he leaves her in bed. Yikes.
This fun-loving band photo is not an accurate representation of the mood of this video! I want my money back.
“The song revolves around a feeling of guilt derived from not being able to love someone back, but still using their love to fill a certain amount of loneliness,”Koeppen tells me. “More specifically, it speaks of two people experiencing intimacy on different emotional levels. The video reflects this personal experience of mine during the aftermath of a past relationship, as represented by the contemplativeness of my character and the overall disconnect between both characters.”
The dissolution of the relationship plays out against the backdrop of a 50s-style vintage decor, which, she says, represents, despite its shortcomings, nostalgia for the relationship.
Anyway, go hug someone you guys. And hope they mean it when they hug back.
BEWARE: the post-punk band of boys called Eagulls aren’t what they seem! Their music is intense, their videos are dark, and their shows are chaotic, but in person they’re sweet and sincere (unless they’re making fun of us and we just can’t catch it through their delightful accents). They glamoured us on the new episode of Everything is Embarrassing, which is more embarrassing than usual, since we got locked out of our own set (the dearly missed BULLETT Shop). We spent several sweaty hours scouting the city for a shady tree to film underneath, until we realized trees don’t have outlets. Luckily, Black Tree NYC does and let us film there instead. (The Black Tree folks are as generous as their sandwiches are delicious).