Monday, March 25, 2013

The Trouble With Templeton

At SXSW, nights are long and morning comes way too quickly, which is why I expected a sleepy set when I went to see newcomers The Trouble With Templeton at the SonicBids SXSW showcase at Maggie May's at 11:30 in the morning.  Their debut effort, "Bleeders," has many songs with a softer, quieter vibe they could have easily chosen to play at a before-noon showcase, but instead they treated it as any big show, putting a nighttime energy into a morning set.  Letting it all out on stage during numbers like “Bleeders” and “6 Months in a Cast,” the band’s energy had everyone in the audience rocking.  Who needs coffee in the morning when you can start your day like this?

After the show I had a chance to talk with the band, who are from Australia and were in the midst of their first trip to America as a group.  We began by discussing the beginning of The Trouble With Templeton as a solo project of lead singer Tom Calder.  Up until recording "Bleeders," Tom had been playing “a few shows with a different band in Brisbane,” adding, “I just wanted to make a record.”  He did so by recording "Bleeders" using his own equipment in his house in Brisbane, resulting in an album that illustrates obvious songwriting talents and a knack for catchy rhythms with somber tones, making for a stellar debut.  Now, The Trouble With Templeton is a strong force of five, made up of Tom (lead vocals and guitar), Ritchie (drums), Betty (keys and harmonies), Hugh (lead guitar and harmonies), and Sam (bass).  “We’ve all known each other in separate ways over the years,” Tom said. “Betty and I went to high school together, Hugh and I have been best friends since we were younger.”  Additionally, Tom’s brother, a filmmaker, served as an impetus for further introductions: “I was really good friends with Tom’s older brother, who is a filmmaker,” Sam mentioned, while Ritchie added, “We did a film score for one of Tom’s brother’s short films,” when during filming someone pulled out at the last minute and Tom stepped in.  Tom’s brother has also lent his filmmaking talents to the music videos for The Trouble With Templeton, which are artistic, entertaining and point clearly to specific interests like “shlock horror and freaky films,” Tom added, “I used to do a lot of film when I was younger and I don’t really do that as much now, so that’s sort of my outlet.”

Though The Trouble With Templeton (named for a favorite Twilight Zone episode) started off as one, its growth in members has also quickened an evolution in their sound.  While songs like “Home” and “Tired” off "Bleeders," are soft, lilting tunes with gorgeous slow guitar and vocals, newer tunes like “6 Months in a Cast” and “Like A Kid” submit to a much bigger sound.  With melodic guitar-driven beats and a faster tempo, I was curious whether this means a complete departure from the quieter, slower songs.  Though the new sound is much bigger, “No,” Tom assured, “I mean that’s a big part of the songs,” with Ritchie adding, “We’re conscious of space.”   Working with an outside producer has helped hone this new, bigger sound yet maintain this consciousness of space.  Ritchie continued, “He’s kind of brought a lot to it, in a great way.”

Naturally, the addition of more people has brought more influences to the table and to their sound.  “Its so, so eclectic – because so much of our sound is everyone individually contributing,” Tom said.  Sam is a fan of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Tony Williams; with Hugh adding, “I’m a massive Radiohead fan, so I love the ethereal sounding stuff.” He also counts Bright Eyes and Death Cab for Cutie amongst his influences, a sentiment echoed with other favorites like Elbow and The National.  "I love Laura Marling,” Betty added, continuing “and I also had an upbringing in musical theatre.“  Tom also counted The Beatles amongst their favorites, and when asked which album by The Beatles tops their list, unanimous groans went around as if the task of choosing just one was impossible, until an eventual agreement was met on albums like "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver." “I guess the thing is we’re definitely not limited to what we play,” Tom added, “We like all sorts of music.” 

Each band member was introduced to music at a young age, allowing them to grow up around music and form various styles that add a maturity to their sound despite their youth in age. “I got a guitar when I was about two years old,” Sam mentioned, “My grandmother got me a guitar.” Hugh started playing in junior high: “I basically just started playing in like year 8. It was a good distraction from homework and I really liked it. I started playing piano…took a few lessons with that.“ Betty, who now plays keys, says she “started playing guitar in high school. And I took piano after that. Music was always kind of around.”  Ritchie grew up in a house of music with a father who was a drummer.  “He toured Australia a bit. So there was just drums at home already when I was a kid I just played them…because he was a drummer my mom didn’t care about the noise. She was already used to it. So I could just go in any time of the day or night and play.”  And as for Tom? “I guess, I’ve always loved music,” he said, “but as far as writing, I only got into it to write songs. That was the biggest thing.”

With the addition of band members the approach to songwriting has evolved as well.  “The metaphor that I’ve always used is the skeleton. I’ll bring in the skeleton,” Tom said, “some form of something, and then we all flush it out even further.” The songwriting process, inspiration and themes are “different every time,” Tom stated, “For this album-the next one in particular- its just about perspectives and seeing things through different people’s eyes and how perspectives can change here, and in your whole life.”

This next album - their first as a full band - will no doubt explore those themes and bring an energy and soul that I witnessed during their morning set at SXSW.  Despite their age (Tom was only 20 when he began recording "Bleeders"), they have approached performing and songwriting with a depth usually reserved for more seasoned musicians.   There is a natural cohesiveness that allows them to showcase their musical chops while continuing to grow as a unit and individually. With the seemingly effortless talents displayed on "Bleeders" and the natural growth on their new tracks, the band is continuing to rise quickly and easily cement their status as a new band to watch.  


Watch on Carson Daly:

The Trouble With Templeton spotlight from Kerry Ware on Vimeo.


Tour Dates:
3/25: New York, NY @ Rockwood Music Hall
3/27: Brooklyn, NY @ Union Hall
4/17: Melbourne, Australia @ Northcote Social Club
4/18: Sydney, Australia @ Manning Bar
4/25: Brisbane, Australia @ Alhambra Lounge

Sunday, March 24, 2013

SXSW Highlights (Video): Night Beds, Diiv, Local Natives, Dawes, and More

After seeing over 20 bands in a 4 day span at SXSW, there were a few in particular whose performances really stood out.  Many were bands I'd heard of but hadn't paid much attention to, but thanks to the beauty of live music, I was introduced (and in some cases, reintroduced) to certain bands and artists I now can't stop listening to. Here are some highlights.

Night Beds
I haven't stopped talking about Night Beds since...well, basically since the sound of Winston Yellen's voice graced my ears.  They were the first act I saw at SXSW, and I decided then and there that regardless of what I saw the rest of the week, it was worth the trip.

Diiv and Local Natives were both bands I wasn't much into prior to SXSW, but seeing them live quickly changed my mind when they performed great sets at the Mohawk outdoors.  A live performance can somehow make your ears hear things you don't hear on an album or a recording, and I quickly realized what I'd been missing.

Local Natives

Lord Huron
Lord Huron performed at the Spinner showcase at The Moody Theater at ACL Live, in a stellar show where they highlighted their folk pop chops in a clean sounding live set.

Natalie Maines
Natalie Maines is releasing her solo debut on May 7th, and performed at the Spinner showcase after Lord Huron, where her amazingly strong and clear vocals were in the spotlight.  While always knowing she had a fantastic voice, her solo performance was an exercise in illustrating just how strong they are, especially on a cover of Pink Floyd's "Mother".  With the help of Ben Harper and her own dad, Lloyd Maines, she tore through her set with sincere emotional rawness, raising goosebumps throughout the theater.

Phosphorescent's new album Muchacho is out now, and Matthew Houck played tunes from it a few times at SX, where I caught him at a venue called Red 7.  He performed a stirring set, bringing the ethereal vibe of Phosphorescent songs into real life.

The new Dawes album isn't out just yet but that didn't stop them from performing some new tunes, teasing us a bit with what's to come when Stories Don't End comes out April 9th.  A solid throw-back rock outfit from LA, Dawes is becoming more and more recognized for the lyrical abilities of frontman Taylor Goldsmith.  With a sound straight out of a Jackson Browne album and an LA canyon, its the songwriting that stole the show for me- lyrics often get lost in live performances, but they seemed to be on full display when I caught them, giving reason to pause and just listen..

The Airborne Toxic Event
I've always wanted to see The Airborne Toxic Event live, because I knew that a band with that much raw emotion on a recording would kill it live. And kill it they did. They brought an insane energy and emotional honesty that had everyone in the place jumping and singing with fists raised.  One of my favorite performances of the week. We're still waiting for their new album, but they recently released a 4 song EP (The Secret) to tide us over until the full album comes out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Emmett Tinley

Looking for a little soft folk music to take you into the weekend? Then head on over to Life Is Awesome and check out my review of Emmett Tinley's solo album. Check it out here. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SXSW Day 3- A Playlist

Day three in Austin brought out an eclectic mix of music with two of my favorite performances of the week- The Airborne Toxic Event and Phosphorescent.  The Airborne Toxic Event just released a 4 song EP called The Secret to whet our appetites until their new album Such Hot Blood comes out this spring, and they performed many of these tracks during their set at the StubHub party on 6th street. In the evening, Phosphorescent played an amazingly perfect set right after Foxygen, with songs from the current album, Muchacho, out now.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

SXSW Day Two- A Playlist

Day Two in Austin brought a wide array of folk and folk pop, with artists like Michael Kiwanuka, Family of the Year, Lord Huron, Iron & Wine, and, in one of my favorite performances of SXSW so far, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks (solo album out 5/7) who was accompanied by Ben Harper.  Natalie did an amazing cover of Pink Floyd's "Mother".  Check it out below:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SXSW- Day One: A Playlist

Greetings from Austin! While at SXSW this week I'll be soaking up lots of great music, so its only right that I share my findings with you.  Check back here for updated playlists and in the meantime, here are some artists I've seen so far.  Here's my Day One at SXSW playlist, featuring Max Gomez, Night Beds, Marnie Stern, Diiv, Cloud Nothings, and Local Natives. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday Listening - Night Beds

With the rise of the single and a la carte listening, albums are becoming a bit of a thing of the past.  Many albums can come across as self indulgent or uninspired- with one or two good songs and a lot of filler.  Which is precisely why the new Night Beds album, Country Sleep, (out now) is on my full album rotation, over and over and over again. No filler, all substance.

My favorite kinds of albums and artists are those that are difficult to put into a box.  Night Beds is that type of artist, and Country Sleep is that type of album.  Is it folk? Sometimes. Pop? Kinda. Indie folk/rock? Yup, that too.  Night Beds manages to take the best of each of those influences and combine them into a unique sound. It is at once catchy ("Ramona"), twangy ("Borrowed Time"), acoustic ("TENN"), ethereal ("Cherry Blossoms"), and emotive ("22").   These sounds are woven throughout, all while backed by the soft, often high pitched and always-longing vocals of Winston Yellen.  There is also a general quietness about the album - an air of far away echoes, of lonely nights in the winter, of being outside on a clear, starry night.  Music often evokes a season.  In this album, it feels of winter, yet it also feels of summer.

Country Sleep starts off with a sleepy a capella which then jumps steadily into the upbeat "Ramona". "Ramona" is the first single off the album, allowing listeners to get a feel for the folky pop elements on the album. It captures heartfelt feelings and longings, yet in a song with a great hook.  Its a song that was made for radio...but gleefully misses all the trappings of what usually constitutes a 'radio ready' track- there's no overproduction, no kitschyness, no over simplistic lyrics - instead giving us a full bodied song that you'll find yourself wanting to listen to over and over again.

A track like "22" stands out initially due to the now-familiar drum beats a la the Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men.  With the polished sound of the drum beat set against a soft backdrop of strings, the calm voice of Winston Yellen, and the faint chirping of nighttime crickets, there is an overall feeling of being outdoors on a starry, summer night- a not hard to imagine thing, given that Night Beds recorded this album in Johnny Cash's old cabin in Hendersonville, TN.

Then there are tracks like "Even If We Try" which pull away from any kind of pop influence to stand firmly on the softer side.  There are elements reminiscent of artist like Iron & Wine, Neil Halstead, or Bon Iver, with vocals clear and at the forefront that give the song a lullaby feel. "TENN" comes in with simple acoustics to close out the album, rounding out Night Beds' localities in Nashville and in the mountains of Colorado.  Each of these tracks, and all those in between, will serve whatever it is you're looking for.  Its an album that manages to straddle its influences, making for a fantastically balanced sound that will leave you feeling fantastically balanced, too.

Try if you like: Lord Huron, Father John Misty, Neil Halstead, Iron & Wine, Bon Iver
Standout tracks: Ramona, 22, Cherry Blossoms, Lost Springs, TENN

More Night Beds:

Check out the Fuel/Friends Chapel Session with Night Beds here.

Night Beds at LHS Classroom Sessions (via Songs for the Day):
Part One:

Part Two:

On NPR's Tiny Desk Concert:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cool Music Stuff on the Internet - Iron & Wine, Airborne Toxic Event, Night Beds and more

Last week I was all excited about some new Iron & Wine tracks that had found their way to the interwebs...aaand I'll just go ahead and stay excited, because it just keeps coming. Ghost on Ghost's release on April 16th can't come soon enough.  (Although these track releases help)

Here's "Grace for Saints and Ramblers":

Airborne Toxic Event has been a favorite of mine since their debut album (2008's The Airborne Toxic Event) which housed the quintessential heartbreak song, "Sometime Around Midnight".  Their 2011 follow up, All At Once, was also a standout, which makes me very excited for their third effort, Such Hot Blood, out on April 16th. They recently released a new track ("The Storm")  on Soundcloud, giving us a glimpse of what's to come on the new record. Hint: more awesomeness. Check it out:

Phosphorescent came out with the lovely track "Song for Zula" a couple of months ago, in what quickly became a song I had on repeat and listened to every time I heard it on the radio or online.  Phosphorescent is actually Matthew Houck, and the new album (Muchacho) is out March 19th.  NPR music is currently streaming it in its entirety, so check it out now before it goes away:

As an added bonus, here's Phosphorescent doing a Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR offices:

I am OBSESSED with Night Beds right now. Here's a little gem from Songs for the Day:

Side note to this, I only recently found out about the Classroom Sessions at LHS.  And suddenly I find myself wishing I went to high school in Kansas.  You can find out more about these amazing sessions here. And while you peruse their site, here's another one of my favorite LHS performances: