Tag Archives: Bandcamp

Incan Abraham’s psychedelic world music gives me chills


Songs that make chills run up my spine don’t come along very often. Any band that can make a song like that has my undivided attention. Weeks ago, I heard a song by Incan Abraham called “In Milan” that had that effect on me. And after looking into this band from Los Angeles I found that it was not a fluke.

I like absolutely everything I’ve heard from them. It’s psychedelic pop with a world music influence. I want to say Vampire Weekend on acid or Animal Collective on safari. Hell I don’t know. Just listen to it.

Check out “In Milan” and see what I mean:

Their music is available for free/pay what you want on their Bandcamp page. But you can also order a special hard copy of their latest EP, Ancient Vacation. I did, because I wanted to send a little money their way and have a little collectible. Plus it has an elephant on the cover and I like elephants.

I downloaded everything I could from their Bandcamp page and I enjoy all of it, but Ancient Vacation is the best in my opinion. I like the direction they are headed and think they are going places. I think they would be an awesome pick for next year’s Psych Fest.

Check out Incan Abraham’s website and pay them a visit on Facebook.

I would love to see these guys in Austin one of these days.

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Latest find – Austin singer-songwriter Shakey Graves (This guy’s gonna be huge)

Shakey Graves – an Austin musician with a big future, mark my words.

Every now and then I make a music discovery that is so good and so unexpected it stops me right in my tracks. Last night I was playing the free downloads from the Eye in the Sky Collective and I suddenly heard a song I never heard before that sounded like it might have been around forever – a sure sign of talent and inspiration. “Built to Roam” by Shakey Graves. Just a perfect, perfect song.

And after a bit of digging I got more shocks: Shakey Graves, aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia, is from Austin and has been featured by the Austin Chronicle and on KUT – by other people who were affected the same way by his music. I could have seen him live at South By Southwest if I had known. I will definitely be on the lookout for new chances to see him play.

Furthermore, I listened to his album, Roll the Bones on Bandcamp all the way through, and loved every song. His style is a blend of classic blues, alt country and folk music. Mainly just great songwriting. The picking in some of his songs make me think of blues legends like Bukka White. The songs are available on a “pay what you want” basis. Give it a listen and see if you don’t think it’s worth paying for. We need to keep this man in business. He’s brilliant.

Here is his Tumblr page, which includes dates for upcoming performances. If you’re in the Austin area, you can see him at the Hole in the Wall on Thursday, March 29 and at the White Horse on Saturday, March 31.

Shakey Graves will be performing at the Kohoutek music festival in Claremont CA on April 28 and is looking for other venues in the West – New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, etc. (E-mail him at shakey.graves@gmail.com if you have any ideas.)

“Like” him on Facebook to find out more.

And check out this video I just found, wherein he tells how he got his stage name and plays a really good song:

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Passive Promotion on ‘pay what you want’ pricing

It was interesting to read Brian Hazard’s post on his Passive Promotion blog about “pay what you want pricing” just as I started editing my interview with Ethan Tufts aka State Shirt.

Brian (also a big favorite in the old T61 site, who makes music under the name Color Theory), has decided that the strategy isn’t effective as it puts some fans in an ethical dilemma that they often resolve by not buying the album at all.

State Shirt has a “pay what you want” option for all his albums ($10 suggested, $5 minimum) as well as a “steal all” option. Interesting juxtaposition, but in a way they are actually very much in agreement. Brian has very much embraced the digital world and is more interested in what works for musicians today than in what worked for them years ago.

And by the way, I am a big fan of Passive Promotion, which is geared toward indie artists trying to find their way. He has some great advice. If you’re a musician and haven’t found his blog yet, I would highly recommend it – he’s in my blogroll for a very good reason. I also like Color Theory quite a bit. Very catchy songs. Check out the Color Theory Bandcamp page. 

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Doleful Lions’ Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out of Prison available for download now on Bandcamp

Just got an update to the update from Jonathan Scott of The Doleful Lions. The latest album, Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out of Prison, is available for download on Bandcamp starting today. (The recently-announced digital release arrangement with Jesus Warhol Records is off the table.) The price on Bandcamp is an appropriately macabre $6.66.

It’s very good music. Check it out and see if you don’t agree.

And send a little love Jonathan’s way. He could use it.

Jonathan is also shopping the album around for a physical CD release. Anyone with a record label who would like to put out the album can contact Jonathan via the Doleful Lions Facebook page.

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Daniel Knox’s Evryman for Himself to get full label release, tour with Handsome Family set for May

Just got some exciting news from Daniel Knox, one of my favorite recent discoveries. His album, Evryman for Himself, is getting an “official” release from Pennsylvania label La Société Expéditionnaire. I and some other fans managed to get hold of the album before this — and I’m already in love with it — but the album has been “revised, remastered and only slightly re-recorded” to become what Daniel considers its definitive form. Now we’ve got two versions for nerds like me to collect and hoard once he becomes as famous as he deserves to be. The official release is scheduled for May. Folks who bought the first version will get a discount on the new one.

Daniel is also planning to tour in the UK with Brett and Rennie Sparks of the Handsome Family and making an appearance at Amanda Stern’s Happy Ending Reading Series in NYC at Joe’s Pub. Late spring shows are planned for Chicago and New York “and more stateside dates to be announced soon.” (It would be awesome if “stateside” includes Austin…)

If you want to get an immediate Daniel Knox fix, check out the amazing album Disaster on Bandcamp. You can stream it, or download it for $1 per song or $8 for the album.

If you’re lucky enough to live in the UK, see if you can catch one of these shows:

05.09.11 SHEFFIELD, UK GREYSTONE
05.10.11 MANCHESTER, UK BAND ON THE WALL
05.11.11 GATESHEAD, UK SAGE (Hall 2)
05.13.11 NORWICH, UK ARTS CENTRE
05.14.11 READING, UK SOUTH STREET ARTS CENTRE
05.15.11 EXETER, UK PHOENIX
05.16.11 BRISTOL, UK THE FLEECE
05.17.11 LONDON, UK TABERNACLE

If you want to see just how crazy I am about Daniel Knox, read the post I wrote back in September:

Daniel Knox ‘s strange beautiful songs could be future American standards

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Pickering Pick’s tuneful English folk is a Sparkling Thing

Singer-songwriter Pickering Pick

Singer-songwriter Sam Pickering Pick is a man after my own heart — a man in love with words, words sung and words written. Setting his words to music, he paints beautiful pictures and tugs at the heartstrings. I also love his sense of melody and his guitar work. Low key and humble as he is, I think he has huge potential among folk music fans and beyond.

Originally from England, he has been living in the United States for eight years and now makes his home in Sacramento, California. Though his singing accent is a bit soft, he notes that his “speaking voice is just as English as ever.”

Sam has made nine albums to date, plus two EPs. His latest, The Boy in the Back, was just released this year. He is in the process of remastering his other albums in his home studio.

Though I find his guitar work quite beautiful, Sam doesn’t consider himself a hot shot musician. Lyrics are his main focus. “I played guitar and a bit of piano growing up, neither one particularly well, I might add. I’m really not a ‘good musician,’ and I’m just lucky to have long fingers and a sense of rhythm, so that fingerpicking a folk guitar is relatively easy for me. I have always been much more about the words than the music, so Paul Simon and obviously Dylan had huge appeal for me.”

I recently asked Sam what he thought of British singer-songwriter Donovan since I get a bit of a Donovan vibe off his music.

“You know, Donovan is an interesting one,” he said. “A couple of his songs are spectacular, but often I think he’s a bit too sweet for my taste. His fingerpicking is lovely, though. I love that scene in Don’t Look Back where he’s playing in a room of Dylan groupies and Dylan is just really mean to him, but Donovan plays much better. I think the English folk singer I most identify with is probably Cat Stevens [aka Yusuf Islam].” He is also a big fan of English folk singer Richard Thompson.

Sam recently turned 32. He grew up in a town in England called Cheltenham “in the Cotswolds, in the south-west Midlands.” He describes Cheltenham as a “posh town with posh schools, but lots of problems”

Sam himself did not grow up in a posh family, but his father is a notable figure in the music world. David Pickering Pick is a record producer and serial studio-builder who built studios from the ’70s up to the present. Musicians recording in David’s studio include Luther Grosvenor from Mott The Hoople, The Vigilantes of Love, Decameron and Bill Mallonee. “I think Judi Dench was there the other day doing some voice work. Anyway, a lot of English folk royalty over the years…” His studio company is FFG Recording.

“I grew up in Cheltenham, went to school, listened to all my dad’s old folk records from the mid- ’60s through the early ’70s — he gave me a whole stack when I was about 11 or 12,” Sam said. While his friends were listening to Guns ‘n’ Roses, Sam notes, “I grew up on James Taylor, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan. Later on, there was Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, Incredible String Band, etc., but earlier on it was the American folk singers I adored.”

After leaving school, Sam went to London to study architectural history. “Around that time, my first year, I wrote the songs for The Attic Tapes, and recorded them with my dad producing at his studio,” he said.

Sam moved to the U.S. in 2002 after meeting an American girl in London as a 20-year old. He and his wife married in 2000 and recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. They have two children, a 7-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. He has been a stay-at-home father since their son was born.

Sam’s sister Sera recently made some very nice videos of him singing in his home studio. “Sparkling Thing” may be my favorite from the new album:

I’ve always loved “Unseen Hook” as well:



Visit Sera’s Youtube channel to see the rest.

Below are some of the topics Sam and I covered during a recent interview, including RateYourMusic, Bandcamp, TheSixtyOne, LastFM, and his dream of becoming a published novelist.

RateYourMusic

I discovered Sam on RateYourMusic, an amazing website that has grown into a thriving community with a very impressive database of albums and artists. Like me, he was one of the early members of that site back in 2002. I beat him there by just a few months.

“It was a tiny website back then,” he said. “It’s amazing. I’m so happy to see it turning into the resource it has become – one of only a tiny handful of extraordinary truly social media.”

MM: “Me too. [Site owner and creator] Sharifi is such an amazingly awesome guy. Sort of Zuckerberg’s good twin.”

Sam: “I owe him a HUGE amount. Seriously, w/o Sharifi and RYM, I wouldn’t have recorded all the albums I did. And I wouldn’t have reached the people I have reached.”

MM: “I certainly wouldn’t know about you. Or about tons and tons of my favorite music.”

Sam: “He’s on top of my Christmas card list for sure. RYM pretty much changed my life musically.”

MM: “How so? Just by giving you a venue and some networking?”

Sam: “Well, let me see… First of all, it opened up my eyes and ears to a whole world of music I wouldn’t have discovered, which influenced and changed me as a musician. Then, importantly, it provided a platform for me to experiment with listeners. I had played live in London for a while before moving to California, but I never had the feedback I got from RYM. Then, of course, the viral nature of a social website like RYM made distribution of my music very easy in way I had never imagined… I mean, RYM was not conceived as a venue for unsigned/under-the-radar musicians to upload their music, right?”

MM: “From my understanding it was an experiment, to create a database others would contribute to. That part definitely works.”

Sam: “But with the help of [RYM users] Matti, Kevvy, Jon Bohan and a few others, and tremendous support from many more, I was able to use the site as a personal musical forum.”

MM: “It’s an amazing database at this point.”

Sam: “Probably the only one of its kind – almost too complete! Lots of very anal music fans with too much time on their hands… I used to think I was a music geek, but now I know otherwise.”

MM: “There are levels of geek.”

Sam: “I am low-level for sure.”

Aspiring writer

Growing up with a music producer for a father had a big impact on Sam, but he has another passion: writing.

“Music was everywhere when I was growing up. Musicians of all kinds in and out of the house. I used to sit and watch the sessions from time to time, but I don’t remember ever thinking I wanted to be a musician. By the time I was in my mid-teens, I wanted to be a writer and that has never gone away.”

He has written two novels and would love to become a published novelist, but notes, “music is just as much a love of mine.

“You know, writing is just enormously satisfying. The writing process — I get a huge kick out of it. I finished the last novel this summer, right before i started working on The Boy in the Back and when I was done, I felt bereft.”

His novels cover a variety of subjects, including wasted youth, anxiety, sexual tension and murder. His last book was a comedy, which he refers to as “fluffy teen fiction, like Gossip Girl.” He pitched it to some agencies but didn’t have any takers. “I used to work in book publishing, so I know how it works. New authors never get a look-in. Only established names. You have to know someone or be someone.” But he notes, “people will continue to seek out good writing.”

He has toyed with the idea of giving his books away through digital downloads, the way he does his music. “There’s a way it could work. For the Kindle generation.”

Bandcamp

Like other indie musicians I’ve spoken with, Sam is a big fan of Bandcamp.com, which lets unsigned artists stream, give away and sell their music. “I never made anything from my music until I put the albums up on Bandcamp,” he said.

In fact, during our interview, he interjected, “Cool! Someone just bought an album on Bandcamp! While we were chatting. What a coincidence…”

Sam still thinks the website could be better: “It is really cool — but it isn’t perfect. It’s not a cohesive site. There’s no ‘web.’ It’s like a stack of pages, but no cross-references. So one artist is pretty much isolated from all the others and there’s nowhere for fans to comment on artist pages.”

MM: “Yeah, I’ve noticed that. It’s like each artist has an independent website, which is cool in a way, but not very lively for the music explorer.”

Sam: “Exactly exactly exactly. Great for me as an artist, not as a consumer.”

But speaking as a blogger, Bandcamp is pretty doggone convenient as it lets me embed songs and albums like so:

 

Live performances

Sam isn’t currently doing live performances, but doesn’t rule them out in the future. He is a bit stage-shy, but while in London he performed in some important folk venues. “I even played the 12-Bar on Denmark Street one time, probably my most prestigious performance,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking but well-received.” He explained that Denmark Street is “pretty much the epicentre of folk music in London and the UK, and the 12-Bar is the focal point — a live folk club for acoustic artists.”

He finished building a proper home recording studio last year and wants to get comfortable in it. “I am not opposed to playing live, but having been away from the live scene for so long, it is hard to know how to get back into it again,” he said. “I’m not keen on open mic, but i do appreciate that listeners want to see their favourite artists playing ‘in the flesh.'”

TheSixtyOne

I’m the one who talked Sam into joining TheSixtyOne.com. I was gratified to see how quickly he formed a bond with other folk musicians and found his audience. I was a little embarrassed later on, when the site changed into its current artist-unfriendly format, stripping away all those social networking tools. I’m relieved to find that he still thinks his time at T61 was well-spent. His songs are still on the site, though he isn’t seeing much activity there.

Sam: “T61… well… You introduced me to it and I was very excited at first.”

MM: “Yeah. I was trying to win a quest. The Evangelist or something. Plus I thought highly of your music and I thought you would do well there — and you did.”

Sam: “I had had a long hiatus from writing and recording, but something kind of clicked and I was excited about writing again. That was amazing — to be able to be involved in the process, watching people respond to my songs. It was very addictive.”

MM: “It was quite a supportive environment wasn’t it?”

Sam: “The charts, and the front page, etc., the comments I received were encouraging.”

MM: “Yeah. your fans rooting for you, trying to get you on the home page, helping you strategize.”

Sam: “And then, boom. It just ended.”

MM: “Your songs are still up right?”

Sam: “I guess — I never go there any more. Wouldn’t know how to get rid of them.”

MM: “I would leave them. The more places, the better.”

Sam: “I don’t disagree.”

LastFM

Sam also enjoys the popular music website Last.fm, which gives him valuable exposure as a musician. “I have a good relationship with Last.fm,” he said. “They’re good people.” He admits the site isn’t perfect, but is still a fan.

MM: “They’ve got issues too. That duplicate artist thing is a mess and a half.”

Sam: “Oh, yeah, that’s true. There were a couple of Pickering Picks last time I checked… One’s a Sam Pickering Pick I guess. But the communities and groups are cool.”

Speaking of which… A quick Internet search will come up with quite a few Pickering Picks.

Sam: “Ha ha. There are a few notable Pickering Picks. Thomas Pickering Pick is probably the biggest. My family were all famous surgeons. Surgeons to the royal family, etc.” (Gray’s Anatomy was co-written and edited by Thomas.)

With a bit of luck and perseverance, I’m betting that one day, Sam Pickering Pick the musician will be the first Pickering Pick folks think of when they look up his family.

Check out Sam’s website, listen to some of his songs and maybe send a little love his way. I think he deserves a few bucks at the very least for the musical gift he’s given us.

http://pickeringpick.com/

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The Widest Smiling Faces interview — melancholy and optimism coexist



How does an indie musician become successful? I wish I knew. But I am sure of one thing, there isn’t any magic person or company or website out there who will make it happen. You have to do it yourself. New York-based singer-songwriter Aviv Cohn aka The Widest Smiling Faces is just 23, but he’s already got that figured out.

When I first encountered him on TheSixtyOne, he had uploaded “The Only Lonely Ocean,” a song full of shoegaze echoes and alliteration that I knew was destined to be a hit on the site. And sure enough, the song caught on and burned up the charts. I really admired the way he developed his networking skills, making friends, picking up tips and promoting his music far and wide.

Aviv is a largely self-taught guitar player. He had lessons, but mainly used them as a chance to show off his compositions. “I took guitar lessons when I was younger but I never really followed the lesson plan and would go to the lessons to show off my songs,” he told me in a recent interview. “I think though that that was a good fire starter for me, because it encouraged me to get in the habit of regularly composing so I had something new to show each time. But most of my playing style I developed myself I would say.”

Aviv plays regularly in New York City. “It’s been good,” he said. “I’ve played at a lot of good venues like Mercury Lounge, the Knitting Factory, The Bitter End. I had residency at The Beauty Bar in Brooklyn a few months ago.”

He has one album under his belt, The Widest Smiling Faces, which features the song, “The Only Lonely Ocean.” You can download it for free or get a physical copy for $5 via Bandcamp. A second album is in the works, and he is building a website.

As much as I liked the way Aviv handled networking on T61, I had even more respect for the way he handled the demise of the old, community-friendly gaming version of in favor of the new slick version that doesn’t seem to be much use to anyone. While most of the T61 stalwarts (including me) were getting angry and depressed, he took it in stride and simply moved on, found new ways to promote himself. I thought the pic he uploaded to Facebook around that time summed up his attitude pretty well:

A couple of weeks ago, I had a nice little chat with Aviv in Facebook messenger that turned into an interview. I learned a lot about him and we got into some very interesting topics.

First the basics: Aviv grew up in Long Beach, New York, and went to College at Suny Purchase. He got a BA in Media, Science and the Arts. Sounds like a pretty good degree for a practicing musician on practical grounds, but he picked the major for intellectual reasons: “I decided to study Media, Society and the Arts because I felt it would give me more insight into the way art interacts with society.”

The Widest Smiling Faces is essentially Aviv’s project, although he has had some help along the way. “At times it’s had other members; all my recordings have been solo, and for the most part it’s been solo but occasionally I have performed with other people under the umbrella of the Widest Smiling Faces. But for right now it continues to be solo.”

What’s in a name?

MusicMissionary: “How did you come up with the name, Widest Smiling Faces?”

Aviv: “Hmm, thats a bit complicated. I got the name from my head, it just came in there one day, and I thought it sounded good and felt right, is the simple answer.”

MM: “What’s the more complicated version? Now you got me curious.”

A: “I started playing music at around the same time my face started twisting. I used to have a cute smile but I can’t smile the way I used to. All the good feelings from my normal smile left my mouth and went to my fingers when I started playing, so that’s why the music is the Widest Smiling Faces.”

The melancholy smile

MM: “If i had any genre that your music reminds me of it would be shoegaze. Shoegaze is most often associated with melancholy. Yet your stage name and emphasis is on happiness.”

A: “Yeah, you’re right, my music is probably more melancholy than happy though. I think melancholy is one of the best words in the English language as well.”

MM: “Me too, come to think of it. Feels good on the tongue. So is there a kind of irony to your stage name that you enjoy? And melancholy… it is a bit more complex than ‘sadness.’ It can be kind of pleasant, right?”

A: “Well, I think a smile can be melancholy as well.”

Musical influences

MM: “Who are your big influences, favorite bands?”

A: “I really like Sigur Ros and Boards of Canada. I like Radiohead a lot. Neutral Milk Hotel, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Beatles, Nirvana, The Beach Boys…”

MM: “What about Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine?”

A: “I really like the song ‘The Sadman’ by Slowdive.”

MM: “Jesus and Mary Chain…”

A: “That connected with me.”

MM: “Still it doesn’t sound like shoegaze bands are your biggest touchstone. or am I wrong?”

A: “I would say they aren’t my biggest touchstone.”

MM: “I can definitely hear Beatles and Beach Boys. Is there a certain feeling or sound that you go for when you perform live or record? Atmospheric, reverb, etc.?”

A: “Well I guess it depends on the song. I’m usually going for more of an image or a set of images.”

The Only Lonely Ocean: The Storybook

Speaking of images, one of the most interesting Widest Smiling Faces projects was Aviv’s collaboration with artist Daniel Spenser. If you’re a fan of the satirical website, The Onion, you may have seen his artwork. He is also the artist who designed the cover for The Widest Smiling Faces album. That eye-catching, professional-looking cover was one reason Aviv did so well on T61.

Aviv let Daniel hear his music and come up with artwork based on his impressions. The art was fashioned into a book featuring Aviv’s lyrics for “The Only Lonely Ocean.” “He’s an incredibly talented artist and I’m really fortunate to be able to work with him,” Aviv said.

You can see more of Daniel’s artwork here: http://www.danielspenser.com

Marketing and the Internet

MM: “So… We talked last time about your inspirations, etc. Now how about the marketing and business aspects? For example, would you consider yourself an ambitious artist? Do you expect to make a good living from music someday?”

A: “The music industry keeps changing so I don’t really know what to expect. Right now I’m trying to get my music out there as best as I can.”

MM: “How do you view the Internet as a way to promote yourself? Advantages, pitfalls?”

A: “I think it’s an incredible tool, and there’s no question it’s revolutionized music. I think it’s had more of an effect on music than on any other art form. With regards to advantages/pitfalls, I think it’s helped artists spread their music, while at the same time, perhaps made it harder to make the same kind of living.”

MM: “More positive or more negative? Downloading has impacted a lot of artists’ income don’t you think?”

A: “More positive. People are exposed to more music than ever before, more genres as bleeding into each other.”

MM: “What ways have you found on the Internet to promote your music? What has worked well and what hasn’t? And what kind of lessons have you learned so far?”

A: “I think the best way is to realize you’re dealing with humans and not numbers, and to be as real and genuine as you can with people.”

MM: “I discovered you on T61. Was that the first sort of social networking/venue site you used?”

A: “I think MySpace was the first. MySpace isn’t what it once was but I think it’s still useful.”

MM: “So… what would you say are your most useful tools on the Internet right now?”

A: “Myself.”

MM: “Meaning that no magical site out there will make you succeed, you have to do it yourself?”

A: “Yeah, and I think music is the most important thing as well.”

MM: “I thought you did quite a good job harnessing T61 in its old format. What lessons did you learn from operating in that environment? And what lessons from when the site owners made the big change? Are you still getting good use out of it?”

A: “I haven’t used TheSixtyOne in a while, I would love to go back to it but I feel like all my fans have left (maybe that’s not true though). They sent me an e-mail a litle while ago on myspace asking for high res photos, which I updated, but I heard from them since really. And they updated one of my songs with artwork from the storybook themselves, which I thought was a nice touch.”

MM: “What all are you using right now?”

A: “I’m really liking Bandcamp. It’s clean, it sounds good, people like it.”

MM: “I can tell you I like it because it’s easy to embed songs. which for you means the music can go viral more easily.”

A: “Yeah, that’s one of its best features I would say.”

Check out The Widest Smiling Faces’ music on Bandcamp: 

And get to know Aviv on Facebook and Myspace.

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