Modern art makes me want to rock out

Earlier today I visited The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. I run hot and cold with museums for the most part, but I was intrigued by both the structure itself as well as the content to make a trip downtown. I wasn’t disappointed. Modern art has always been my favorite type because I feel it’s the direct translation of the artist’s brain. I imagine things abstractly in a similar way, so I always feel very comfortable with the different types of art in these types of galleries. There’s also the added element of learning the backstory behind the art and artist, and it’s all that more fascinating.

Mark Rothko piece

Jackson Pollock – “The Key”

Clyfford Still piece


I joined the class of nearsighted people with the addition of these yesterday. I not-so-secretly harbored a desire to get a nice pair of glasses but never needed them because I had good vision. Obviously, that’s changed and I have these, but I’m still a bit intimidated by them. I’m too self-conscious to post a picture of myself with them, so they’ll have to do on their own. If interested, you can learn more here.

Pearl and the Beard: The obviate media Interview

Unless you’ve been privy to their touring in the past few years, primarily over the east coast, midwest, and at this year’s South By Southwest, chances are you haven’t heard of Pearl and the Beard. Comprised of percussionist Jocelyn Mackenzie, cellist Emily Hope Price and guitarist Jeremy Styles, the trio has made an impact with a string of great releases, including this year’s Killing The Darlings. It’s hard to truly define their sound, but their killer melodies and perfect three-part harmonies pack more of an emotional punch than bands twice their size. Jeremy took the time out of his schedule to chat with obviate before a string of New York City shows next week.


YouTube has some early videos like a version of ‘Twice Today’ from March 2008 as well as some from Pete’s Candy Store that show just you and Jocelyn performing. How and when did the band begin, and when did Emily join?

I met Jocelyn at Pete’s Candy Store as she was there for happy hour and I was there for the open mic. We began working together, quickly wrote songs, and recorded 4 of them. About 4 months later we were at Sidewalk Cafe promoting a show we had soon and saw Emily and fell in love. We asked her to join, and she said yes, and we solidified our lineup.

Are you all classically trained musicians? If not, how did you come to playing your particular instruments?

Only Emily is classically trained. I took guitar lessons, but then just did self teaching, and just watch what other guitarists do. We tricked Jocelyn into playing her instruments, and she’s a good sport for learning them and mastering them so quickly.

Pearl and the Beard don’t really sound like anyone else. What artists influence your sound? Did those influences factor in when recording the new album?

I think we’d all say different things have influenced us, and have changed over the years. I know for me personally I am influenced by the things that are literally around me. Weird noises, or songs I sort of think I hear coming from cars, the shower, or whatever band I am seeing live.

As more people catch wind of what you’re doing, there are more faces at each show. How are you handling that? Is there a particular audience you’d like to cultivate?

Literally everyone is welcome. I’ve often tried to figure out our demographic, and guess who is at a show to see us, and I can’t, and I definitely prefer it that way. We want everyone to feel welcome and loved at a show, because at the end of the day, everyone deserves to feel like they belong somewhere and are loved.

You guys recorded for Daytrotter last July. It’s been almost a year and no sign of a release. What’s going on with that?

What IS going on with that? I have no idea. I recently saw that they put up Best Coast’s session, and that had been recorded over a year and a half ago, so who knows? Those guys record like 4 or 5 bands a day, so they have some backlog I’m sure. I’d write to them and ask for the session before those songs are too old.

The Black Vessel EP is a very interesting piece of Pearl and the Beard history. In a way, it’s sort of a mini “White Album”. There’s the group track, and then a solo track by each of the three members. Was this deliberate? Above all, it seems like a really creative way to peel back the layers.

Thanks. We wanted to release something in between albums, and didn’t want to put album songs on it. Since we are always writing, some songs work for the group and others don’t. We decided just to release something from each of us, since we’re all fans of each other.

Franz Nicolay was a co-producer on your latest record. How familiar were you with his work before you recorded? What was it like having him in the studio?

Working with Franz was great as was working with Dan Brennan, our other producer. We’d been familiar with both folks’ work naturally over the years, as each person is a musician. Working with them in the studio was awesome. Both were focused, and really supportive and gently pushed us to get better performances as well as offer new ideas to songs.

“Hot Volcano” is definitely a standout on Killing The Darlings. It’s always ripped live, but there’s something different about the recording and what you played at the album release show, so it begs the question: Where’s the kazoo solo?

We like to do it different each time we play it live. Kazoo doesn’t seem to translate as well over recorded material, and I think half of its charm is seeing it be played. We like to make it a little special treat for folks who come out to the shows. Just a little something different. Even each kazoo solo is different.

There’s a certain stigma of what a band is supposed to sound with relatively spartan instrumentation, and then you guys get on stage and have such an enormous sound. Is this something you’re aware of? Does the size or location of each show influence how you build your setlist or do you usually go through a particular set from city to city?

I don’t think any of us know how enormous of a sound we have. We are aware of the space we are playing each night and try to be respectful of each venue, so we don’t turn up to 11 in a room the size of an acorn. Every show is different. We vary on which songs we play and how many quiet versus loud songs, we think are appropriate.

Do you have any pre- or post- show rituals?

Usually before a show we like to connect with each other and give ourselves a hug, just to let each other know we are here for the other no matter who is out that, and for that emotional support. After, we usually just talk to people, pack up, and sleep.

What are your day jobs outside of the band?

Jocelyn is a freelance knitter, I bartend and do production work, and Emily is a full time cellist.

Finally, what are your favorite places to go in New York?

To bed?


To learn more about Pearl and the Beard, find out tour dates and to hear and purchase their records, visit their website.

Pearl and the Beard perform ‘Reverend’ from their Subway Sessions appearance.

Interview by Brendan Hilliard

Zeroing in on Heads Up Display

We’re not so far away from the time where technology didn’t dictate every second of every day life. Listening to Heads Up Display’s eponymous album, it’s a reminder of when the world was just a little less complicated.

This record bleeds familiarity in the squall of the guitars, wholehearted vocals and a post-punk rhythm section.  Which is not an insult to the Brooklyn-based trio, their impressive synthesis of the sloppy guitar rock that permeated the 90’s, with a punk
urgency layered with vocal stylings by singer/guitarist Joshua Davis Dillard that would make the crustiest Sunny Day Real Estate fan perk up.

The rhythm section of bassist Steve Pellegrino and drummer Kevin Colden get a nice showcase on “2020 Hindsight”. They’re a remarkably tight duo throughout the record, and on this track, the slow-burn quality fits the band perfectly. They maintain this energy perfectly throughout the song without predictably breaking into a loud
verse – chorus – verse structure.

The album’s best moment comes with the penultimate track, the grungy and reckless “No, It’s Not What You Think”. Frantic harmonics punctuate the opening seconds before it breaks into short, violent bursts. It’s got the same urgency and emotional insecurity of Pinkerton-era Weezer, complete with an atmospheric breakdown mid-song.

In an era that evolves quicker than we can document, it’s pretty special that homespun albums like these still exist. Heads Up Display’s ‘no-frills’ approach is refreshing, showing nothing beats strong hooks and killer riffs. Wearing your influences on your sleeve just might be cool again.

Visit the website for Heads Up Display here.

Jim Joe. Jim Joe!

When I visited in May in the run up to moving here, I spotted this tag on a garbage can in Greenpoint.

Womp Womp!

Since then, I’ve seen Jim Joe’s handiwork everywhere, and I’ve tried to capture it every time I can.

So, who is Jim Joe, you ask?

According to this link at Subway Art Blog, he’s

“…a graffiti artist, currently hyperactive in New York City. He has made quite a name for himself with his simple, sometimes humorous writings, especially in the Lower East Side and East Village, where his tag is ubiquitous. He first caught the attention of Subway Art Blog in February for hitting up the Essex Street station on the J train.”

Fascinating. He’s got a website here, and is also on Twitter. The Subway Art Blog link above has the most comprehensive info I’ve seen so far.

You can see my photos by clicking on the Flickr badge above or here if you’re lazy.

I’ll be posting more as I see them. But if you spot any, please feel free to send along at!