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Friday, February 28, 2014

Gone quiet: Aimée Argote talks Des Ark's upcoming, gentler record

Posted by on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Aimée Argote is in Austin, at least through today. The Chatham County-based songwriter behind the longstanding, alternately tender and raging Des Ark is there working on the followup to 2011's Don't Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker. The LP, due out in the fall, gives a home to some of Argote's quieter songs: to that end, she's splitting her recording time between collaborative stints in a Texas home studio and solo work with noted Carrboro producer Brian Paulson, whose credits include Wilco, Slint and Beck. We caught up with Argote to ask about her new direction.

INDY: I was reading that you're going sadder this time around. Can you tell me about that direction?

AIMÉE ARGOTE: Sadder as in sad-quieter: I have a million quiet songs that I don't know what to do with, really, so my idea had always been to do half-loud, half-quiet, since that's how the tours are. And then these sad songs kept building up, and I didn't have a place to put them, because my band lives all over the U.S. 

I just write them alone in my house, and they just keep happening. I have no place to put them, so I thought it would be really good and fun to make a record that was just quiet songs. There's a lot of instrumentation happening, so they're not the quietest songs in the entire world, but they have just been a little bit more solo tour vibe.

I'm glad you made that distinction, tooquieter, versus sadbecause there's some pretty sad-angry on Don't Rock the Boat. So is that rough-and-tumble element going to be totally absent, or just dialed down?

We've got two different guys we're working with. One is kind of more of a rock drummer and one helps create more atmospheres and stuff, so there'll be drums and a couple of guitar licks, but for the most part it's not 100-watt Marshall as loud as it'll go. What I wanted to do was provide a platform to tour in a different way. I've been on tour for more than half of my life.

There's a super-stark difference where it's either me by myself, completely by myself, or full-on rock band, and you need a van and you need a PA and you have to play indoors. I wanted to kind of create a record that would give us an excuse to play around with how we go on tour and how many people can come, and maybe we can take a Honda Civic instead of an Econoline. Maybe we can play at a venue but also play in someone's living room, and it would work that way, too.

I've been booking shows my whole life, so I got a booking agent. I'm really excited about this person who can help put us in different environments, where we sort of have to think on our feet: Is this a tour where we want rock band, or is this a tour where we want solo or is this a tour where we want the lush, pretty thing? All of us are really excited to work with a booking agent to be able to manipulate how Des Ark is going to present itself on that tour.

The recording itself—what did you record with Brian Paulson up here?

The initial idea was to just do it at [Brian Paulson's] house because that's where he's doing his recording now. And the initial idea was it would just be me and him hanging out, hit record and see what happens. We got maybe four or five songs sort of happening and I realized what was happening for me was I was sitting in a room with headphones and I'd record a track and be like, "OK, now what?" There wasn't a lot of direction, and I suffer pretty severely from art brain—you know, talking yourself out of everything and second guessing every move—and it was just really hard. I have made songs where you're recording layer by layer, but I've only ever done that for three songs at a time. Recording an entire record that way was too ambitious on my part.

I have these friends in Austin who we just went on tour with. They all live in a house together and there's this home recording studio. They've all recorded their own records and play in each other's bands. Rhe bass player for Des Ark lives in New Orleans. So it made sense: If I can get down to Austin, then our bass player can come down from New Orleans. I'd be in a house full of people who play every instrument. They're like me, they pick up something and they figure out how to play it, so I felt like it would be a really cool marriage of these really beautiful and clear sounding Paulson sounds with a more lo-fi home recording setup. We're building off what we did there, and I didn't get all the songs tracked with Paulson so I'm building on what I did with Paulson and creating new stuff here.

The guitar player's project is called Heartscape Landbreak, and I went on tour with him [Taylor Holenbeck]. He plays in the Appleseed Cast, so that's how I know him. Then Jordan [Geiger], his roommate who actually has the recording studio, his project is called Hospital Ships. He used to play with Shearwater and a band called Minus Story. They've all been playing music for a really long time and they all have made lots of different kinds of records. I think that's what I wanted; just some really awesome creative power to fall back on that's not mine. I've never really done that before, so that's exciting. I always play all the guitar tracks, so it's been really interesting to be like "you should play that guitar. I could play it but it's yours, you should do it better."

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    Des Ark leader Aimée Argote talks her band's new album.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oh, hell: Ben Folds Five recording new LP

Posted by on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Major-label budget cuts, Exhibit No. 3,456,873
  • Major-label budget cuts, Exhibit No. 3,456,873

Following a MySpace-sponsored reunion show more than three years ago and last year's Folds box set containing some unreleased material, Ben Folds Five is reuniting for its first album since 1999. You can check out Ben Folds' Twitter for updates on the story.

This information is all that was contained in something like a press release that Sony Music circulated yesterday, save for one unfortunate screen shot—of an Internet Explorer window, with a Tweet, containing a picture of the band in the studio. (C’mon, intern, right click, “Save as...”) Folds, bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee are set to record through March. Folds said via Twitter that he anticipates a spring release. Congrats, Five, on the laziest album announcement ever.

It's been an uneven few years for Folds, who sounds more and more like just another guy playing a piano. He recorded an album with author Nick Hornby (weird, but sort of cool) and released an LP of college a cappella groups covering his songs (ha!). Perhaps surrounding himself with a real band is just what he needs.

In any case, '90s band reunions couldn't be hotter right now (read: not cool, if you want), so they stand to make some solid bank. The album will be the band's fourth LP and their first since The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.

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    That's right: Ben Folds, Robert Sledge and Darren Jessee, back in the studio.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Airiel Down's military marathon

Posted by on Mon, May 2, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Thirsty for justice: Beaux Foy, in the shades, leads Airiel Down
  • Courtesy of Airiel Down and Phoenix Photography
  • Thirsty for justice: Beaux Foy, in the shades, leads Airiel Down

Beaux Foy isn’t a fan of the evening news: "It pisses me off every time you turn on the news. The only time they mention our troops is when they have casualties,” the Airiel Down front man says.

To counter that, Foy is joining forces with Lowe’s, Pepsi and NASCAR on a campaign to honor the everyday achievements of servicemen and women who “put themselves on the line everyday to help in the greater good of global humanity.” He teamed up with Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.—“all class-A gentlemen”—at a Norfolk, Va., Naval base for the promotion, set to run as a commercial in theaters nationwide, on morning news programs, at Charlotte Motor Speedway and displayed at Lowe’s stores,

In December, Raleigh's Airiel Down shot a music video atop the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier, and this summer the group will play for troops in Guam and the Persian Gulf. The USO of North Carolina will honor Foy with the Heart of a Patriot Award at a ceremony in Raleigh in October.

“I said, ‘We don’t do this stuff for recognition,’” Foy says. “They said, ‘That’s exactly why we want to recognize you.’”

Foy has never been hard to recognize, though, especially while sporting Johnny Depp, Willie Wonka-style eyewear in the NASCAR promotion. “Junior and the boys got a big kick out of it,” says Foy, a bandana and goggles collector. “I said, ‘Hey, you guys have your uniforms on, I better put mine on.”

Big kicks: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Beaux Foy
  • Photo Courtesy of the Band and Phoenix Photography
  • Big kicks: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Beaux Foy


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rapper Big Prince?

Posted by on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Following Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009, BET aired a show called Michael Jackson: 10 Things You Didn't Know. In it, The Roots drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson made viewers privy to some comical trivia about the history of the King of

Not a Raekwon tribute...
  • Not a Raekwon tribute...

Pop’s song “Bad." According to ?uestlove, “Bad” was originally slated to be a duet that featured another member of music royalty—Prince. Prince declined the offer. Apparently, the opening line—“your butt is mine”—wasn’t too appealing to Prince. At a dinner, Prince told Mike, “You ain’t singing this line to me, and I sure ain’t singing this line to you.” Shortly thereafter, “Bad” was MJ's No. 1 hit.

Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of my Prince knowledge. I'm on MJ's team. But thanks to Rapper Big Pooh’s The Purple Tape project, I'm able to brush-up on some Prince history. Produced entirely by Detroit’s Black Milk, The Purple Tape (available here, at the big guy's Bandcamp) captures Pooh rapping above Black Milk’s reinterpretation of close to a dozen of Prince’s most famed hits. Several months ago, Black Milk released this instrumental, Prince-inspired project, Music From The Color Purple, but with his blessings and permission, Rapper Big Pooh decided to make an album out of it. Pooh has been steadily releasing scrimmage projects like this, in anticipation for his next official LP, Dirty Pretty Things. This just happens to be his most outstanding, creative tease yet. For a short making-of documentary on the tape, see HOJTV.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Future Islands (tonight at The Cave) talk Thrill Jockey

Posted by on Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 5:10 PM

Future Islands, at rest, rarely
  • Future Islands, at rest, rarely

It often seems like we're trying to find new ways to describe Future Island's infectious music—essentially, three-piece, bass-and-beat driven emo-soul from dudes that (partially) grew up in Raleigh, moved to Greenville, N.C., and then Baltimore, Md.—on a weekly basis. And it's sort of true: The trio tours as hard as frontman Sam Herring sings, and they don't miss a chance to play in the Triangle. Last week, the band played a packed headlining set at Berkeley Cafe; tonight, they'll play Pizza Fest at The Cave. More on that event in this week's paper. We spoke with Future Islands' smoking bassist (like, literally: dude smokes while he plays) William Cashion last week about the band's new deal with Thrill Jockey Records, one of the finest labels in the land.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Free Electric State signs to Churchkey Records, prepares debut LP

Posted by on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Assloads of cash. Assloads.
  • Assloads of cash. Assloads.

When Durham quartet Free Electric State booked studio time to make the follow-up to their excellent two-song debut demo, they aimed only for the next step in size: Cut an EP, and see if any labels were interested in a longer project. Turns out, they didn’t have to wait.

“Kyle and Steve said, ‘We’re not interested in putting out an EP. We’d rather do a full-length,’” says Free Electric State’s Shirlé Hale Koslowski of Kyle Miller and Steve Jones, who run the Durham label Churchkey Records. “We had the songs, so we said we would record more. It wasn’t our initial plan, but it made sense.”

The band cut the core of the LP over three days in late October at the Mebane studio of producer Jerry Kee. Over the last two-plus decades, Kee has worked with Superchunk, Ryan Adams, Bad Checks, Shark Quest and, oh, about half of the bands in the Triangle. In fact, Koslowski and husband David, who plays guitar and sings in Free Electric State, worked with him in their former band, Gerty! Just before Thanksgiving, they returned to Kee’s to add overdubs and finalize mixes. Chicago’s Carl Saff is currently mastering the disc.

The nine-song LP, titled Caress, features a reworked version of “Hawks,” from this year’s demo release, as well as two new songs that the band has yet to play locally, “Matching Scars” and “The Black Sea.” Those tunes will get their premiere Friday, when Free Electric State joins Irata and The White Cascade for a 10 p.m. show at Slim’s.

The record, though, will have to wait: Churchkey plans to drop Caress in mid-April 2010.“I feel like it’s so far away,” says Koslowski, laughing, “that we’ll have another album written by then.”

For Free Electric State's alternate version of how the deal with Churchkey went down, hit the jump.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tonight: Hoffs, Sweet and a few glorious covers

Posted by on Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 6:49 PM

That Bangle Girl and That Oh-OK Boy
  • That Bangle Girl and That Oh-OK Boy

I’m not lobbying for the position of song-choice consultant for Matthew “Sid” Sweet and Susanna “Susie” Hoffs if the pair decides to release a third volume of their Under the Covers series, following ’06’s Volume 1 and the new Volume 2 (both on Shout Factory). However, I would serve with honor and incurable geekitude. OK, so maybe I am lobbying.

Past the jump are the 10 songs at the top of my Volume 3 wish list. Volume 1 stuck to the ‘60s, whereas Volume 2 was all about the ‘70s. My list reflects the hope that a third volume would be willing to revisit the ‘60s and ‘70s as well as dip into the ‘80s and ‘90s. I did limit myself in one way though: I didn’t choose any artists that are covered on the first two volumes, a who’s who that ranges from The Beatles and Bob Dylan to The Velvet Underground and The Zombies.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blag'ard heads into the studio, readies Capsize 7 archival release (Tonight at Nightlight)

Posted by on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Joe Taylor (left) and Adam Brinson are Blag'ard
  • Joe Taylor (left) and Adam Brinson are Blag'ard

Blag’ard has delayed the release of its second LP, tentatively titled Mach II, to the beginning of next year. Guitarist Joe Taylor now plans to accompany its release by unshelving the long lost Capsize 7 album he recorded with the old alt-rock act in the mid ‘90s before they were dropped from Caroline Records. Fusing the jagged angular spirit of Polvo with Achers of Loaf’s hooks, Capsize 7 was one of the Triangle’s most underappreciated coulda-beens. He brings a similar bristling sound to his new outfit, fueled by drummer Adam Brinson’s sizzling kit work. We spoke to Taylor about the forthcoming releases.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: So what’s up with the new Blag’ard recording?

JOE TAYLOR: The Blag’ard record was pushed back to an unforeseen medical situation in my family, which basically meant I had to derail my life for about a half a year. I got back on track with getting my shit together. We are going to record the record starting in October. We’re going to record with Nick Peterson and start tracking on the 6th—coincidently, the day after my birthday. So it’s a nice birthday present for me, and then we’re doing it on one-inch reel-to-reel. I hadn’t recorded with audio tape in a long time, so I’m psyched to be working with Nick and going down on reel-to-reel. We’re going to do 10 songs, and because of the fact that Fall crept around and we hadn’t recorded the record in September or August, we said, “Putting a record out in November doesn’t make any sense, so let’s just wait.” So it’s going to come out in January.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kaze: First in Flight, a mixtape

Posted by on Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 10:54 PM

A day in the office with Kaze.
  • A day in the office with Kaze.

Three things I never thought I'd hear from Chapel Hill's Kaze:

1. A "Best I Ever Had" remix. Drake? Seriously?

2. Kaze actually singing hooks on more than one song (also featured on his new mixtape is the 9th Wonder-produced single, "Fresh", which features newcomer Mr. Mohalyn singing the hook).

3. Auto-Tune.

While toiling within the local hip-hop scene for the past decade and establishing himself as a hard-life, no-frills emcee, it seems as if Kaze has been surreptitiously preparing to be North Carolina's version of Nelly, the St. Louis hitmaker who was once known as a sturdy, threatening emcee before settling and becoming more lady-friendly at the hips and party-friendly at the lips.

Let's be fair, though: Kaze, as much as perhaps any other artist from North Carolina, has deserved a big break, even if it means a break from what we've long known him for. Several months ago, when Kaze won his recording contract with SRC/ Universal, many of us speculated as to what that meant as far as the direction of Kaze's music. His new DJ Whoo-Kid-hosted mixtape, First in Flight (download here), offers some hints. The finding: Kaze can circumnavigate his way around hip-hop all he wants.

While this isn't the DJ Drama-infused Gangsta Grillz mixtape release that Kaze was hoping for (keep reading), having G-Unit's DJ Whoo-Kid at the steering wheel might just be the next-best option if Kaze wants to keep up with the big boys in the mixtape circuit. The guys over at 2dopeboyz are doing the hosting duties for Kaze's new project.

Hit the jump for our interview with Kaze in March (published for the first time here), not long after the SRC/Universal deal was signed.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Airiel Down cuts new N.C. State fight song: Intense, bro

Posted by on Fri, Sep 4, 2009 at 1:35 PM

"That's why you go to a football game. You want to see someone get knocked the fuck out." Beaux Foy of Airiel Down, at far right
  • "That's why you go to a football game. You want to see someone get knocked the fuck out." Beaux Foy of Airiel Down, at far right

Whether at Carter-Finley Stadium or at home watching on television, most people who saw last night's N.C. State-South Carolina season opener probably thought the 7-3 game was a snoozer. But they didn't watch the game with Beaux Foy and Taylor Traversari of Raleigh quintet Airiel Down.

The pair took a break from recording and touring to witness the debut of their reworking of the N.C. State fight song—a faster, screaming-vocals version that will be played all year as the Wolfpack takes the field—amid 60,000 fans in red.

"They came to us and said there's just a lack of electricity at the start of games," Foy said from his front-row end zone seat, referring to N.C. State's athletics marketing department. "They wanted to make it modern and hard-hitting."

"It's got to appeal to 60- and 70-year-old alums and also to 18-year-old freshman. The song was written in 1923 and we had to try to do something that's not cheesy. It was a daunting task, but we said, 'Let's just play it loud and fast, brother.'"

Though the PA wasn't quite loud enough to do the song justice, Foy and Traversari enjoyed the limelight all evening. They slapped fives with players as they emerged from the lockers and out of the smoke. Heck, they slapped fives with everyone near them—fans, band directors, former offensive coordinators, anyone within arm's length.

Longtime Wolfpack fans might appreciate that Airiel Down kept the traditional lyrics of "come over the hill, Carolin(a/e)" instead of the more modern," go to hell, Carolin(a/e)." Younger folks might enjoy the song's tempo and flair. Download it here, and be prepared to be at least slightly shaken or stunned. For a making-of video, watch this.

Neither Foy nor Traversari went to N.C. State, but they've embraced Raleigh as their home. They recorded a similar song for the Carolina Hurricanes earlier in the year and have plans to perform the national anthem at an N.C. State game later this season.

Provided the logistics of setting up a stage, rocking a show and clearing out in time for the second half are worked out, they will also perform at halftime of the Nov. 7 Homecoming game or the final match up against UNC.

"We support any and all things North Carolina," Foy said. "Everywhere we go, we're proud to be a North Carolina band. We're not a New York band. We're not an LA band. We're not moving to LA. We're an N.C. band, and we're proud of that fact."

N.C. State will continue to play Airiel Down's song, "Gunslinger," at every halftime. Foy sang along with himself last night, throwing rock and roll hand gestures at every chance. He also offered advice on life, love and sport with every play. That's available after the jump. [Editor's note: Trust us on this one. Make the jump.]

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I certainly hope so. I sorely miss their lyrics and sound.

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I was at the show and I loved it!! He earns extra points for coming out and greeting the fans …

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