Or, the Whale prefers a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll
Back in the early aughts, when he was studying for his bachelor’s degree in history, Alex Robins was playing in a punk band. He recalls—with a chuckle—his passion for a decidedly heavier genre of music than the sometimes woeful, sometimes rollicking brand of alt-country for which his San Francisco group, Or, The Whale, is now known.
“I was super into metal in college,” Robins says. “I was like, ‘More solos! More time changes!’”
These days, while he certainly still appreciates “the physical capabilities of humans being able to shred that hard,” you won’t hear an Or, The Whale song featuring blistering Phrygian sweeps and pinch harmonics screaming out of Mesa Boogie half stacks.
The recruits and rumors behind a Disco Biscuits side-project
What does a working musician do during downtime? If you ask Conspirator founder and bassist Marc Brownstein, the words “down” and “time” exist in his vocabulary but never combine into one.
When not on the road with his home project, Philadelphia electronic jam band Disco Biscuits, Brownstein is a father of three and co-chair of the voter registration group Headcount, all while nurturing numerous side projects—one of which is Conspirator, the brainchild of Brownstein and Disco Biscuits keyboardist Aron Magner. Since 2004, Brownstein and Magner have been creating instrumental electronic jams slightly more stern than the playful Biscuits sound.
Wilco guitarist Nels Cline takes on his own trio
I’ve just caught veteran guitarist Nels Cline in a Chicago studio in between takes with none other than Wilco, but, quite frankly, Cline’s biggest project is furthest away from my mind.
Though he’s been best known as the lead guitarist of Wilco since joining Jeff Tweedy’s rotating cast in 2004, Cline’s career stands amongst some of the most prolific musicians ever; he’s recorded with such an array of collaborators that the word ‘eclectic’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. He’s also probably one of the most affable artists around, as our chat confirms, and the experimenter’s jazzy Nels Cline Singers (joined this week by Cline’s wife, former Cibo Matto member Yuka C. Honda) will be descending upon Don Quixote’s this Friday, Feb. 4.
The Dead Kennedys return with punk compassion
In 1980, I came upon the first Dead Kennedys album, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, with my outcast friends and soon discovered that the DKs were a gateway band into a new experience called punk rock. The band played energized, socially conscious songs of hidden histories and political critique, often served up with a twist of humor. Thirty years later, we can still dance to live versions of “California Uber Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia” with the Dead Kennedys, which will be blasting the Catalyst on Saturday, Feb. 5, with The Disciples and Ol' Cheeky Bastards opening.
Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird goes loopy in church
It’s kind of appropriate that Andrew Bird hails from the Windy City. If you’ve never heard the anointed expert whistler pucker his lips, it sounds like an eerie breeze through the trees, maybe more akin to extraterrestrial avifauna or solar wind than anything earthbound. One might call them Bird calls.
Forming his mouth more like an instrument than an organ, it’s no surprise that the multi-talented indie darling Mr. Bird is slated for two nights at the Rio Theatre, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28 and 29.
“The whistling came out of playing the violin,” explained the multi-instrumentalist to online publication IndieLondon in 2009. “The violin is an extremely painful instrument to learn to play and the whistling was so casual. There’s a certain geometry and fluidity to it.”