rara chats with: Jenny Lewis

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With the release of Jenny Lewis’ highly anticipated third solo album, The Voyager, out this week; we thought we’d catch up with the Las Vegas songwriter to see what she’s been listening to this month.

1)   The War on Drugs – Red Eyes

Philly represent! Represent! My dad was from Philadelphia. He learned how to play music on a wax harmonica.

2)   Angel Olsen – Acrobat

Angel has the most beautiful voice. She reminds me of Karen Dalton, with short bangs.

3)   Beat Happening – Our Secret

We covered this on the postal service tour, I played the drums on this cut to 15,000 people in Brooklyn! What were Jimmy and Ben thinking, letting me do that?

4)   Bob Marley and the Wailers - Mellow Mood

This is from an amazing comp of early recordings and demos called Fiyah Fiyah. You know what to do to get yourself in a mellow mood, don’t ya?

5)   Brandy and Monica – The Boy is Mine  

This is one of my favourite songs of all time! I’d love to do a cover of it with dee dee penny of the dum dum girls. But who would sing which part?

6)   Califone – On the Steeple with the Shakes (Xmas Tigers)

I love this dude. I love his production and who doesn’t want an Xmas tiger?

7)  Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians – What I Am

Yep, I still love this song! And the entire record.

8)   Eleanor Friedberger - Inn of the Seventh Ray

I think Eleanor told me that someone suggested she write a song about this infamous Topanga canyon hippie restaurant. Well, done Eleanor and the hummous is delicious, too…

9)   Sharon Van Etten – Every Time the Sun Comes Up    

Ah, Sharon. Her voice is like the peach melba desert from my favourite restaurant Antoine’s in New Orleans

10)   The Felice Brothers – Wonderful Life    

This song makes someone I know cry…isn’t it a wonderful life?

11)   Parquet Courts – Stoned and Starving    

I can’t at all relate to this sentiment

12)   Rickie Lee Jones – Chuck E’s in Love

This song is about Chuck E Weiss! Look him up!

Head over to rara now to listen to Jenny Lewis’ playlist.

rara chats with: Darker than Wax

“With Darker Than Wax, the music has been reduced to its most concentrated form. It’s pretty pure and simple, really. Founded by Funk Bast*rd and Kaye (Cosa Nostra), the label is basically a statement and a collection of like-minded musicans, artists and the like.
A statement on the pervasiveness of black music and the influence it has had oncountless genres and sub genres. A statement that it’s all about bringing it into the future. A statement that music should have depth, and that your racial/genetic/cultural make-up is irrelevant – only your soul is”.

With a blurb as strong as the tracks they’re putting out Darker Than Wax are an outfit worth taking note of – these guys are currently riding on a wave of great releases which shows no sign of letting up soon. We decided to have a chat with the two founders about the direction of the label, their new decision to put out physical releases & the rawness that they look for in new artists. 

Can you guys give me a brief rundown about yourselves?  How did Darker than Wax get started?

Kaye: We set up the label at the end of 2010. I think one of the reasons we set it up in the first place was because we weren’t making any headway in terms of our own productions  getting hooked up to the scene in Europe or America. So it got to the point where we thought we might as well do it ourselves. That was one of the main reasons to start the label. After that, there were people who came to us, especially in the Asian region, who weren’t very well represented and we thought that Darker than Wax could be a vehicle to push and promote Asian artists. Of course not exclusively Asian artist, but we did get a big population of Asian artists approaching us because there’s just nobody in this part of the world doing this kind of stuff as a label.

Funk Bast*rd: That was one of the main drivers. I think prior to that Kaye and I have always been involved in music, either producing, DJing or performing together for a long time, so I guess it’s an accumulation of various experiences, collectively and individually. But also, we were running this online radio platform called danceandsoul.com, which was a collection and curation of radio shows from around the world. We’ve always sort of fostered this whole sort of global connection with all these different communities around the world, so that was really one of the drivers as well. Why we wanted to create this whole label: to reinforce ties with people we are connected with, musically and spiritually. Slowly, Darker Than Wax grew organically into this. We don’t really like to use the world label, though. I like to say it closer to being a ‘movement of ideas. It has attracted a lot of artists from all over the world. From Brazil, from the UK, from America, from Japan.  We are 25 strong now, actually.

How would you describe the Darker Than Wax sound?

Funk Bast*rd: It’s essentially rooted in black American music, and all of its diaspora. Kaye comes strictly from a jazz background, Blue Note, Impulse! Where I come more from the soul, boogie, and jazz funk background. So those were our roots. With that came a lot of electronic music: hip-hop, deep house. Also Brazilian music. You can say it’s a hybrid of all sorts of African-American music and its cousins and influences.

Kaye:  I think as a label we are very conscious of the fact that music needs to have that punch, that huge dose of soul. Whether it is hip-hop, or electro funk, or a boogie track, or a house track. It’s got to have that element of “blackness” in it.

Funk Bast*rd: The rawness…

Kaye: That very gut wrenching thing that hits you. The down-home bluesy vibe. Not even a sound, but more a vibe. That is what usually pricks our ears first and say “Okay, There’s something there.” There’s always that which we look out for. At the same time, we don’t want to just repeat what this rich tradition has given us, but we want to consciously bring it forward and make it relevant to modern day ears and the modern day sound.

Funk Bast*rd: But also it’s so easy to just jump on certain musical trends, especially right now with social media, and become this huge monster. Darker Than Wax has always tried to shy away from that and really just promote actual diversity in music, and just really try to break down categories of how people define music. And that’s really worked, I guess for and against us. For in the sense that it’s really hard to pin us down; against because it’s really hard to define us at the same time. It’s been an interesting journey for us and the label.

You mentioned that “rawness” is a quality you you guys look for to fit the Darker Than Wax vibe, but how do you end up signing artists who say aren’t in Singapore? Is there a method of recruitment you use?

Funk Bast*rd: Kaye and I have very specific roles in the label. I handle about 80 percent of the A&R.And like what Kaye said, it’s usually that feeling. I just use my gut, my instinct. If whatever that person is producing hits me and I think it’s progressive and fresh, it doesn’t matter what genre it is, most likely I’ll get in touch with him and her and let that process unfold.

Darker Than Wax has a pretty International stable. Can you elaborate on why you choose to search far and wide for talent as opposed to focusing more on say, South East Asia, or even Singapore specifically, for example? What inspired this Internationalist sentiment?

Kaye: I think for us, it really doesn’t really matter where you’re from. Your genetic makeup shouldn’t put you in a hole. If it’s good music, it’s good music. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what age you are, what gender you are, or what country you come from.

Funk Bast*rd: That’s what we really try to do with the label: Break down all these boundaries that don’t really matter. And I guess there is also a certain type of maturity in a musician that we also look out for to be on the label. So we also look across international waters for that. But really, I don’t think the whole international vs homegrown category is that important to us. At all.

What do you think the role of being a record label in an age where basically anyone can post something for free on one of these self-publishing music websites and have it heard by millions of people, if any?

Funk Bast*rd: I think it’s essentially a curation of everything: from the music, to the artwork, to the narrative, to the language that you use. It’s a very basic sort of thing people subscribe to. It’s almost like a brand you create with certain values and if people can connect with those values, then you really start to create this whole demographic and a niche for yourself. That how I think Kaye and I really see Darker Than Wax, which is why we never really like to use the word label, but a movement of ideas.

Kaye: I would agree with that. I don’t look at Darker Than Wax as a label like how a typical label is run. For me, I am just recruiting soldiers to our cause, like a band of brothers.

So you guys are trying to approach the concept of a label as more of a collective really…

Kaye: You could say that.

Funk Bast*rd: It’s almost like Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, to use an analogy. You have Toshiro Mifune who is just collecting this band of thugs and enlisting them to fight against the shogun. In a way, it’s as basic and primal as that. The loyalty thing is really quite important. And you find a lot of our artists really stick together like brothers in a way. It’s quite fascinating.

In that past, Darker Than Wax has been a digital based ‘movement of ideas,’ but you guys are now moving into the territory of physical releases, right?. Are there any specific reasons for this?

Kaye: Yeah, we are working on our first vinyl compilation this year I think one reason why a physical release is still important, especially something like vinyl, is because it gives you street cred. Because there’s so many digital labels, everyone is doing their own stuff. But when you have something to show for it in a physical product, I think it demands to be taken a lot more seriously. We realize the importance to have something like that. That’s why we went ahead to plan this compilations. Even though the studies have shown that music sales are down, there are still some intangible benefits from actually saying we have a physical product. And I think the street cred is definitely important in this day and age, because you can say what you want, but if people don’t believe your hype, they’re not going to bother following you.

Funk Bast*rd: At the same time, you could say we started out digitally because like a lot of other labels, we don’t want to fall into the trap of just having the pressure to release on vinyl. A lot of labels fall into that trap. And financially, it’s always a bit of a risk. Kaye and I like to take every step carefully, and plan and strategise, and get to a point where we know we are ready. And I think we are now. It’s about timing, really.

Kaye: We had to play our cards right, because we run a very, very tight ship. People that may not know Darker Than Wax may think we have an office or whatever, but we are really barebones. So we have to be smart with our finances so we are not suffering and paying for it in the long run. Everything has to be pretty well planned.

Funk Bast*rd: Precise and calculated. And we have been quite blessed because so far it’s been like self-sustainable machine, and we’d like to keep it that way actually (laughs)

Tell me more about the compilation coming out.

Funk Bast*rd: It’s actually a compilation in collaboration with another family label from Paris called Cascade Records. I’ve know the guy that runs the label from way back in Myspace days and we’ve always kept in touch. I’ve always pushed his label’s music and they’ve always supported ours. We share the same love for hip-hop and experimental beats and house music. He took his time to grow his labels like us. Eventually we just came together and said ‘I think it’s time to gather all of our artists from our labels and really curate this special double 12“compilations. It should be coming out in May.

Darker Than Wax is based in Singapore: Are you guy’s natives to Singapore?

Kaye: Yeah, we’re both native Singaporeans. I’m born and bred here. D was studying in Australia for a while, and then he came back. It’s really just because we happen to be physically here.

Funk Bast*rd: Also, I really feel that pulse in this part of the world is really centered around Singapore, where everything seems to happen a lot quicker, a lot faster, and a lot more efficiently. So it makes a lot of sense strategically to be based here, aside from the fact that we are natives. To be honest, I have a pride that at least we have a label from Singapore. Singapore has never really been identified as a musical stronghold. But right now, I’m really quite proud and happy to say that Darker Than Wax comes out as one of the first things from Singapore that people will talk about. I think that was secretly driving me and Kaye. 

And I imagine the fact that Singapore is the ‘Tech Hub’ of Southeast Asia doesn’t hurt…

Kaye: Yeah. The infrastructure is all here, if you want to get something set up, it’s pretty easy compared to other Southeast Asian countries.

Funk Bast*rd: We had that advantage. Low corporate taxes and regulations make it easy for small companies like that to get started, basically.

Kaye: And on top of that, it’s funny that even though we’re from Singapore and we’re quite far removed from American and Europe scenes, we actually get a lot of the artists because we have a pretty vibrant night life scene and we have international DJs and live performers coming in almost every week to perform at a club, or at some festival. And we’ve been based here long enough that we get a bit of backdoor accesses to meet these guys and grow our own network which is much more effective here than if we were to go there and start handing out flyers or hook up meetings or whatever. So in a sense, they are coming to us. And we already have access to them because we know the promoters, the organizers, the club owners…

Funk Bast*rd:  And we then organize how to bring these guys back again, so the relationship is continuous.

Kaye: Actually being in Singapore has turned out to be quite strategic for us because we get to build an international network without setting foot out of the country.

Funk Bast*rd: And also interestingly enough, I’m a stats kind of guy, so I like to look at where our listeners are from, and our biggest fan base is from America! And in Europe, especially France.

Kaye: Singapore counts for less than 10 percent, actually. Which is strange, but that’s how it is.

Funk Bast*rd: We actually have an artist from New York named Koetry. Really talented guy. He’s one of the artists we’re going to be promoting a lot this year.

Who in the Darker Than Wax stable are you most excited about right now?

Kaye: Definitely Maxx Mortimer from New Zealand.

Funk Bast*rd: A couple of guys. Max Mortimer. This other really young and talented artist Samuel Truth, also from New Zealand.  He’s been blowing up in a really big way the last few months, gaining massive likes and hits and play from so many different channels. There are also a few Dutch beat artists of ours like Trian Kayhau, Jael. This Parisianguy named Monk’. Interestingly enough he’s getting featured in in the next Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings compilation. That’s a really big step. We have huge respect for Brownswood, so getting one of our artists on their next compilation was one of our biggest moves this year.

Kaye: That was quite a big thing for us when they dropped his name. And this other producer from Vienna named Milo Mill$. He’s been on the radar for a while now and he’s starting to get noticed. Yeah, there’s definitely a couple of guys that we know are going to blow up sooner or later, we just have to curate them properly and push them in the right direction.

Well, thanks for talking to us here at rara. We’ve really enjoyed it and are looking forward to hearing more from DTW in the future. Any last words you want to leave us with?

Funk Bast*rd: You can be sure we’re going to stick around for a long time to come. We’ve seen a lot of labels come strong and fizzle, but I think we’re just going to be the annoying little ants that are crawling over your kitchen table for the next 20 years.

Kaye: Yeah, because I think one of the mains reasons why we have been around for so long, not just as Darker Than Wax, but as us. We’ve been in the scene for more than a decade. We’ve seen other labels come and go; we’ve seen other collectives come and go, and we’re still here. And I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we aren’t trying so desperately to try and jump on a trend bandwagon. We’re not trendy people. And strangely enough, even though we’re not trying to follow trends, or set trends, we do it naturally because we’re not thinking about. It just translates as more depth because we have a deep understanding of music from the 1940s to now. Where a new label that wants to come out and release nothing but trap is going to fizzle out and die in two or three because they don’t have anything to go backward to. And we always have the strong roots in music from the classic eras for the 1950s, the ‘60s, the ‘70s and I think once you have that backing you up, you really don’t need to be afraid. You just keep moving forward, and you don’t have to be afraid of what’s coming next, how genres are going to change, how trends are going to change, because we understand the music.

Funk Bast*rd: And we will be there anyway. We will arrive at that point naturally.

Kaye: I think the big thing that differentiates us from quite a few others is that we have that the depth, and we have the knowledge, and we know we have the knowledge.  So it’s how do we take this knowledge and make it last as long as possible.

rara chats with: Magnolia Memoir

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Can you guys tell us a little about yourselves and how Magnolia Memoir got started?

AlexI moved to Chicago for college and wound up as one of the youngest musical directors for Second City. I wound up touring with TJ Miller and playing with Amy Poehler at IO (Improv Olympics) and with all types of other crazy people (in a good way). Then I moved to New York to be a jazz musician. Wound up getting some gigs as a film composer just through my friends and moved to LA, and I still do that quite a bit. And then one thing led to another and I wound up meeting Mela, and Magnolia kind of just took off. Beside that I wound up working as a session player and a composer. I’ve written songs for Iron Man 3, the new Ryan Gosling Flick, as well as playing on recordings for everyone from Fiona Apple to Billy Ray Cyrus.

Mela: I sang a little bit in high school, but really for me I did disaster relief and banking after college, which are ironically very similar. And then I started doing a little bit of voiceover in film and television for animations. At the same time I started writing some music. My father died when I was a little girl. I was visiting family and his grave and learning more about him, and I just put the stories in a journal, and it had some magnolias on it. So, I called it the “Magnolia Memoir”. And a friend of mine introduced me to Alex, who said, “These songs are really good”. I wasn’t a professional writer, but he was really positive. Alex had his Masters and is really talented, but he was very serious, which was extraordinary. And he believed in me and felt like we should follow through. At the time, I thought I could write these songs and sell them to a singer or maybe get a publishing deal. When we got into the studio, which was the same place where Aretha Franklin’s people were working, we had an engineer come in who thought, “This is pretty fantastic” and he really helped us to mic it professionally and record. Everyone believed in me so much, in the music so much, that I had to take it seriously. And All of a sudden we had a publishing deal. Alex is the one who put together the band though…

Alex: One thing with Mela is that she came to me and said I have fifteen hundred to do a record. She came from banking and Wall Street, and also I have a tendency to have ADD and not pay attention, so I thought she said fifteen thousand! So I wound up calling my dream team of players. And then halfway through the record we went over to her house and everything was gone, and we were like, “Where did everything go?” And she said, “I had to sell it all to pay for the record”. And I said, “Well we’re still five thousand dollars under budget.” …”no we’re eight and half over budget”. Which is kind of how the whole thing took off. With that dedication, everyone just saw it as a band

Mela: And the lineup that was supposed to be just for the recording is actually still intact, except for the drummer. Our original drummer was a jazz drummer for The Manhattan Transfer, but now we work with Matt Lucich, who’s kind of brought that drive to our music. He’s worked with Pat Monahan from Train and Paula Cole and he’s definitely a rock drummer. Aron Forbes, our guitar player, is still with us from the very first recording. And Gordon Bash, on bass.

Alex: Who is on our first record as well…

Mela: Yeah! We’ve been playing together as a lineup since 2010. And now it’s a bunch of brothers and a girl. 

As a band that’s been playing together for 4 years now, how do you feel that your sound has progressed over time? From the first record to the forthcoming, “Pale Fire.”

Mela: Well, I think our first record, Magnolia Memoir, had a certain femininity to it because it was a story about my mother and my father and their love. They met in some great blues places in Mississippi, and so the album has got this sort of Mississippi jazz vibe. It’s very feminine. The second album, Perfect Crime, kind of feels like my story. Like ‘oh my gosh I get to be a writer.’ And you can definitely hear the influence of being in a band with four guys. But this album, instead of being my parent’s story, or my story, is really our story as a band. You can feel the story, and the striving, and the vision. There’s an edge to it that is a very good mirror of who we are as a group instead of just being an extension of me.

Alex: The other thing too is that the first record is really mellow; it was a jazz record. A lot of it, from the bass player to myself, well it was kind of our first big session before we even knew what was possible in the studio. So our first couple records are all live essentially. Everything is really a live take. The majority of the vocals were all recorded live in the room in an iso. This record has also been us learning how to be a studio band, not just a live band, and really sonically exploring. Like ‘oh cool, if we mic it like this way… or if we pull this back we can make the vocals sound huge and really pop.’

Along with the studio, are there any new stylistic influences you guys have incorporated for “Pale Fire?”

Mela: I think there the same ones we’ve always taken in. I think you’ll hear though that in the past we hadn’t been able to express some our rock influences. Like you are going to hear a little bit of The Who in there and some of the indie rock like Death Cab for Cutie and Spoon. I really think you can hear some of our indie and alternative influences that weren’t as apparent on the previous albums, which were a little bit more jazz-leaning. Actually one of the major influences, I’d have to say, is that we have a producer, Brandon Friesen, who is a rock producer and, among other things, close to the Native American Community. He’s really been able to let us maintain our identity, but recognized, even for me as a writer, that Southern kind of rock and Native influence. There’s a heartbeat about the new album that’s I think is going to surprise a lot of people, and it’s really resonating with the people who got to hear it first. As far as Odds And Ends, that’s the first song he produced for us. That’s our story of the band, but you can hear it. It’s very upbeat, and very optimistic sounding, but the opening words are “You’re in a downward spiral now…” That’s kind of how we felt after the last record deal (laughs).

As you mentioned, Alex, you guys were going from being a “live band” to a “studio” band. Did you find that transition difficult? To translate the energy of the previous albums being live takes?

Alex: It went great actually! We were all at the point of being ready for it, too. Speaking for myself, when I first started to record, I came from the jazz world, so I was a purist. If you’re not actually able to play this live, you don’t do it on the recoding. If you can’t knock this out in one take, you don’t record it. I was very much coming from that kind of pompous, instrumental world. And the more time we spent recording, the more time we spent in the studio, we were slowly kind of building to this point. It was a real exploration now. Brandon is amazing now. He’s produced all these A-list acts. And having someone in the studio that really sort of guides you and that you have 100% trust in will help push you to leap off the building and just know there will be a net there creates a real sense of security. This record’s actually felt more creative than anything I’ve ever done. It’s just been such a joy, and I’m sad to be done with it.

Telly: I want to shift gears a little and talk a bit more about the new single, “Odds & Ends,” particularly the new video. I think one of the cool things about it, and one that I imagine strikes a lot of viewers, is that it features a lot of celebrities, including Will Forte (SNL’s McGruber/Nebraska), Fred Willard (Best in Show), Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond). There seems to be a lot of buzz for you guys coming from Hollywood. You guys both have strong ties to Hollywood, and I was just curious to get your own perspectives on how you think this influences your music, or the way in which people may react to the music?

Mela: I think as far as an influence, we still have our roots as a jazz band. I’m glad we’re becoming commercial: commercial in a way that means popularly appreciated. But in a town where everybody is larger than life, it really keeps you humble. You have a sense of wanting to create something extraordinary. You can’t control the outcome, or how much people like it, but you’d like to create something that’s lasting and honest. And I think when you’re surrounded by so much talent, you want to do that. I think it has influenced us in a way that is very humbling. It’s not about being famous, it’s not about press: it’s about creating art. And we are surrounded by people at such a high level that it makes Alex and I try a lot harder to do something like that.

Alex: I think Gordon, our bassist said it best, and he said “My goal is always to be the one who’s entertaining the entertainers.” When you have a gig and there are people from the Industry there, the compliment of excitement isn’t just ‘Oh, there’s this person you recognize here who made this cool movie at the show.’ It’s ‘Oh, you guys know what great art is, and you’re around great art, and you’ve come to see us multiple times.” And that’s really the amazing feeling about it.

And I imagine reaffirming as well…

Mela: It’s very reaffirming. You put it much better than I did, Alex (laughs).

Alex: And it’s reaffirming because L.A. is a really ridiculous, terrible town. And the city also makes you bipolar because every single day you are offered your wildest dreams, and then they are taken away. And then other things you never imagined could possibly happen will happen. So this city is really good at making somebody bi-polar (laughs). And having friends who are also in the Industry too, who are like “Oh you guys got a record deal…? Oh, I’ve got three television deals and a movie deal! Welcome to L.A. it’s all good. Let’s have a drink!”

Mela: Yep! And as far as even knowing the people, you don’t call in favors unless you really think you’re ready for them. And this was a beautiful opportunity in the video where we just said hey, we’ve got a great song and everyone’s all into it, and showed up that day. And really that’s the song. It’s a pocket full of friends and that’s what’s getting us through. And it certainly is an extraordinary video and I think people are responding to it. But the day itself was a huge party, which was awesome.

 

And now for the part of the interview where reveal my own personal nerdiness. You mentioned that Magnolia Memoir had its roots in a book, in the “Magnolia Memoir” of stories you collected about your father, so when I hear ‘Pale Fire’ I think, literature. So is that a Vladimir Nabokov reference?

Mela: Ironically, no, but there are some connections.

Alex: That’s actually one of my favorite books. I wrote a track on my own, and then gave it to Mela. Afterwards, she’s was like “I love the song. I’m calling it Pale Fire.” I’m like “Oh, like the Nabokov book?” And she was like, ‘what?’

Mela: (laughs)

Alex: ‘You know, like the book. It’s not after the book? That’s probably one of the greatest books ever written. How do you not know that book?’

Mela: We keep each other sane. I know a lot about math. Alex knows about books. We are the perfect pair. But I love the story now. Pale Fire became the title track, but it didn’t start out that way. Pale Fire is about the fiery passion that is required to ignite a revolution of the heart, or mind, or a people. It’s that bright white light that pierces darkness. And I think for us, we were in kind of a dark place as a band a few years ago, not really knowing what to do. But this music was music that had to be made, and it really cuts through our past, for anyone who has heard our previous music. The response has been that it’s so intimate, and vulnerable and present. And that you can feel that light in the album. It’s burning though each of the tracks. From the kind of angry ones to a really, really beautiful track called “Silence & the Ache” that Alex and I recorded in New Zealand. It’s just piano and vocal, and it’s literally the heart of the album, it’s in the middle, but you can feel that flame barely holding on kind of thing.

Going back to influences, I wanted to discuss some of the selections for the playlist you guys provided rara.com. You mentioned earlier The Who being a more apparent influence on the new record, so can you tell us about the “The Real Me.”

Alex: The Who was the first rock band I ever got into. I was obsessed. And “The Real Me” is just the most unhinged thing ever. You can really feel that they captured a moment that if recorded five seconds earlier or five seconds later would have been something completely different. The entire thing, from the dirty horns and the way they’re used, which aren’t traditional, especially in that era. How the whole song feels like one giant bass solo. The way that it’s so complex and so unhinged, you feel like it happened on a tightrope and is about to collapse, which is something we strive for ourselves.

Mela: Well, following from The Who, there are quite a lot of people on this list that are independent or indie artists. In the last five years, things have really changed. Things that you thought would never be on the radio are really taking hold. We were in New Zealand when we first started writing this new album, and Macklemore’s Thrift Shop came out, and seeing that was a huge change. Regina Spektor, Amanda Palmer: these are all people we connected over, even though Alex and I came from very different backgrounds. We actually share a certain love of music. I’m overall pretty excited about the music industry right now. I think people were worried about the Internet and playlists and how it feels like you’re in a candy store every day. But you have something you love, and then there are all these platforms that say, ‘By the way, you’re really into the Dresden Dolls. Or The White Stripes. So here are some other folks you should check out.’ Every day when I’m looking for music, I’m overwhelmed by how much more music there is that moves me. And I think 10 years ago, that wasn’t as easy. These were all super random, and you had to dig a little deeper to find them. I’m pretty excited right now that those things that we used to really hold on to, and I’m not saying we don’t hold onto our favorites anymore, but there are a much bigger bag now.  And there’s a community of other listeners who love the same thing. It feels like such a huge community, instead of the five people you met at Amoeba Records that were really kind of in the corner.

Another song that jumps out at me personally on the playlist is Ruby’s Arms” by Tom Waits who I feel is in a similar vein of taking traditional musical elements, particularly jazz, and updating them.

Mela: We love Tom Waits.

Alex: I’m obsessed. Actually picking a Tom Waits song was painful, because I could have thrown thirty or so Tom Waits songs on there.  My whole playlist could easily have been Tom Waits. It’s funny, I actually first heard him backstage at Second City. Some of the actors were playing The Heart of Saturday Night and I was like, ‘What is this?’ That’s my all-time favorite records. It’s the perfect combination of jazz, spoken word, avant garde, rock, pop. I love everything. Bad As Me, his latest, is one of my favorites too. The thing about Ruby’s Arms for me as a Tom Waits fan is that it’s kind of the the one that bridges everything. You can hear the early Tom Waits and the later Tom Waits of where he’s going and what he’s becoming. That’s kind of the one song that I feel can really show who he is. If you play someone that song you can almost jump to almost any other song and they can hear the similarities. As opposed to if you were to play someone Ol ‘55 and then Bone Machine, they’d be pretty confused. Or God’s Away On Business. They would be like, ‘Wow that’s the same thing? That’s the same person.’ But with Ruby’s Arms, I feel like could play anything that came afterwards and people would understand that it’s the same person, the same artist. Also every time I hear it, it breaks my heart and makes me stop what I’m doing and just sit and listen. To me, Tom Waits has always sounded like a demon that’s been allowed to go to heaven for a weekend. It’s this very bittersweet celebration of life and beauty, but with a certain darkness underneath it. He’s the one person I can always listen to.

Mela: Tom Waits is just a force. He’s transcended genres, and the status quo. And I think as a band, all of these artists on this list, have reminded us that our honest voice, or our story, has the ability to resonate. And as we’re writing, both Alex and I are aware that we’re actually talking to someone out there, and connecting. And seeking to do what some of our favorite artists have done, which is walk the wire.

I know you guys play a lot of shows in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area, but are there are plans for maybe a national, or even an international tour in the near future for the rest of us who aren’t in Southern California?

Mela: Absolutely. We’re actually talking to booking agents right now. We’re looking forward to getting out more. We’ve been really lucky because some of my animated series have flown us out to Australia and New Zealand, or the UK.  But then it’s like ‘What about America?’ We’re super looking forward to that. We have some meetings this week and look forward to announcing some dates soon.

Any last words you want to leave our readers with? What we should be looking forward to from Magnolia Memoir in the future?

Alex: A lot more. As cliché as it is, with us, we’re just now getting started. We’ve just really come into our own.

Mela: I agree.

Alex: The second the record was finished, I could not wait to get back into the studio and start recording more and start working on new songs. And I’m equally excited to explore these songs live and start touring and really playing with the more. It’s the first time I’ve completed a project and been this excited to play the songs live and not be done with them. As well as starting to create new songs.

Mela: Definitely. And I’m looking forward to people getting to know, not just Alex and I as writers, but the band. There’s a friendship and a story and a tightness that’s magic. Not just when we write, but when we play live. I’m looking forward to connecting to fans. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. It’s a pale fire, its magic when we get to play together and explore the music and connect with people. I’m looking forward to doing that.

And I’m looking forward to the new album, and hearing much more from Magnolia Memoir in the future as well.

Check out Magnolia Memoir’s very special playlist here – exclusively on rara.

Should Anyone Care About The Brit Awards?

Long has it been a source of debate & confusion as to what role The Brit Awards play in British music.

It’s all a bit misleading to be honest because the name itself makes you think of the golden years of Brit Pop when Oasis and Blur ruled the radio waves – along with Elastica who everyone sort of forgot about – and the rest of that ilk. You imagine two fingers being shown to the nation, you imagine The Spice Girls in their prime riding their wave of slightly askew feminism, you imagine Jarvis Cocker malingering around looking like he might have nicked something. That miniature statue of Britannia is suddenly a symbol of all things that Great British music stands for.

But, in reality – is it?

What does a Brit Award endow an artist with? What kudos does the award now hold? Does anyone start out their career to get one? And when they do get one – what happens as a result? Are we just all hanging onto what a Brit Award used to stand for? Did it even stand for anything in the first place? Why don’t they nominate anyone who isn’t a massive success story?

This year’s nominees are as you’d expect from the Brits – no HUGE surprises and ultimately looks a bit like a well known London radio station’s Wednesday morning’s playlist but heck, we’ll still end up watching it whatever happens because in reality they put on an alright show every year and it’s nice to see the bloopers coming through. 

And it’d be interesting to see whether whoever presents it this year will be as funny as the year Samantha Fox presented it with Mick Fleetwood.

Nominees here:

Best Producer
Ethan Johns
Flood & Alan Moulder
Paul Epworth

British Breakthrough Act
Bastille
Disclosure
Laura Mvula
London Grammar
Tom Odell

British Female Solo Artist
Birdy
Ellie Goulding
Jessie J
Laura Marling
Laura Mvula

British Group
Arctic Monkeys
Bastille
D
isclosure

One Direction
Rudimental

British Male Solo Artist
David Bowie
Jake Bugg
James Blake
John Newman
Tom Odell

British Single
Bastille
Calvin Harris
Disclosure
Ellie Goulding
John Newman
Naughty Boy
Olly Murs
One Direction

Passenger
Rudimental

British Video
Calvin Harris
Ellie Goulding
John Newman
Naughty Boy
One Direction

Critics’ Choice Award
Chlöe Howl
Ella Eyre
Sam Smith

International Female Solo Artist
Janelle Monáe
Katy Perry 

Lady Gaga
Lorde
Pink

International Group
Arcade Fire
Daft Punk
Haim
Kings Of Leon
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

International Male Solo Artist
Bruno Mars
Drake
Eminem
John Grant
Justin Timberlake

MasterCard British Album of the Year
Arctic Monkeys
Bastille
David Bowie
Disclosure
Rudimental

#hibernation – Our Music Guide

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Hello One & All

Welcome to a new year and some miserable weather.

To  help you out with this we’ve curated some special playlists to help you hibernate through the rain, the snow, the fog, the sleet, the mist, the wind, the low cloud cover, the hail, etc. 

Try it out here on rara and let us know what you think

COMPETITION TIME: Your chance to win 6 m

COMPETITION TIME:

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