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.

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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?

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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

Eddie Argos: The obviate media Interview

Interview by Brendan Hilliard
Transcription assistance by Mike Ross

Eddie Argos and Dyan Valdes of Everybody Was in the French Resistance…Now!

Eddie Argos, the frontman known best for the three albums with his band Art Brut, has returned with another project titled Everybody Was in the French Resistance…Now!. The group, including keyboardist Dyan Valdes and Art Brut guitarist Ian Catskilkin, is on the road in support of Fixin’ The Charts, Volume 1, an album full of ‘response songs’ to tracks like Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. Eddie took a few minutes out of his busy day to chat with obviate before the band played Schuba’s on Thursday evening.

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I’m from Chicago, and it seems to me that with Art Brut has played here quite often in the past year – including that five night residency at Schuba’s last June. What keeps you coming back to the city with such frequency?

Well, we like Chicago a lot. We did maybe overkill it a little bit. What, we played Chicago eleven times last year? Five at the residency, we played the Green Festival, and then a few others. So yeah, we like Chicago. It was good to place the residency at Schuba’s, but the fact that I got to try everything on the menu, I quite liked that. They have a very nice french onion soup there.

That’s excellent. I saw you at Lincoln Hall last year. That was the only time we were able to get around.

Lincoln Hall? I like that venue. It’s the same guys that own Schuba’s.

What was the reason behind starting “Everybody was in the French Resistance…Now”? How did you choose the songs to write responses to?

I always write songs, really. I was in a car with Dyan [Valdes, Eddie’s bandmate and girlfriend] and that song “Jimmy Mack” came on the radio? I’ve always had a problem with that song. I think I’m quite a bad passenger in the car. I was like “I love the music, but she’s so terrible! She’s such a bitch! She said she’s gonna cheat on the boy unless he comes home.” It’s inappropriate ’cause it’s 1967, and the Vietnam War, so I was kind of grumpy about that. I think I was in Dyan’s head a little bit, so she said “Look, write some words down, and we’ll record them when home.” So, I spent the rest of the journey writing the words in my head, and being quiet. That was the trick. It was just fun to write and record that song. Then we thought we could do more responses. It was a fun challenge.

That’s pretty cool. Was there one in particular that was most fun to write a response to?

I really like Elastica, and I like Bob Dylan a lot. So there’s songs on the albums because I liked the bands. For the one I don’t like, were kind of more fun to write. The Avril Lavigne one was fun to write because it was telling her she’s got mental health problems.

Are there any particular differences that you find between touring England and the United States?

Obviously, America is much, much bigger. Even in Europe – we just drove from Seattle to Minneapolis, which is like three days pretty much, that’s a lot of driving. There’s no way you can do that, even in Europe. You’d be out on the side of it. That’s different America’s my favorite place to tour, really.

I like the culture, here. I like comics. I like…food. I like hanging out. It’s a fun place to play. Europe is too. I don’t know. I just like touring America. I like the way it’s different as you drive across it, yet everyone speaks the same language.

Is there any city in particular you like coming to?

We do love playing in Chicago. That’s why we’ve played it so much. I kind of live on the…west coast now. I had to think about that. West, yeah. [Laughs] I do really like playing on the East Coast.

…Yeah, I mean Chicago mainly, and I really like playing LA, it’s like a hometown show. Those places. We played Madison last night. That was kind of fun, because was quiet.

Madison’s kind of an interesting town. It’s kind of in the middle of the nowhere, but it’s kind of hip. I’ve liked it whenever I’ve been there.

I liked it there, it was good. It was kind of fun.

I know you like comic books, and May 1 was “Free Comic Book Day”. Was there anything you were able to pick it up then?

I knew it was Comic Book Day, because literally every year on Comic Book Day, I’m in a van hundreds of miles away from a comic book shop. That was the first day we drove from Seattle to Minneapolis. There was no comic book shops in North Dakota and Montana on that route. [Laughs]. I didn’t get any comic books this year, or last year. I was doing the same drive last year. Or maybe different part of the world. No free comic books for me this year.

That’s really depressing.

I mean, I bought a lot of comics…I bought the new Flash comic. That was pretty good. I think I’m going to try to find a comic book shop when I’m Chicago tomorrow.

There’s a lot of good shops for that here.

I’ve bought comics in Chicago before.

Quimby’s is a good alternative one in Wicker Park, if you ever get over there. Indie comics and stuff.

Oh, I’ve been there. We did pretty much live in Chicago last year. [Laughs]. We’re playing in Detroit tomorrow. It’s only a four-and-a-half hour drive. So, I think we might have time to take a look about before we take off.

You talked about all the comics you do like, but is there one that’s been absolutely terrible?

I like Mark Millar, who wrote a comic I really like, Superman: Red Son, which I thought was brilliant. I thought because of that, maybe Mark Millar was a really good writer. Then I read Wanted. There’s a film with it too. That was pretty much the worst one I’ve ever read. I read Kick-Ass, and I really didn’t like it. I haven’t seen the film yet. I’m still undecided on Mark Millar. I really like Red Son, but I think Wanted is probably the worst thing I’ve ever read in any format of anything. Book, signpost. Just terrible.

So, you’re in a bunch of bands. I think I counted eight when I was doing my research? Other than Art Brut and French Resistance, what other projects do you plan to record and tour with?

I think my main bands are French Resistance and Art Brut. I’ve got a band Glam Chops, which is just fun, really, because I really like glam music, and everyone in that band loves glam music.

Do you have any upcoming plans with Art Brut at this point?

Oh, yeah, we’ve just started writing the fourth album. Ian [Catskilkin, Art Brut guitarist] is in the French Resistance now, so we’re going to try to write some of the album on this year. It should be out later this year or early next year.

Is anyone producing in particular?

Hopefully Frank Black again. We met him lunch the other day and he seems into it. I like to I’d like to do it with, you know, “Black Francis” again.

He must have been a pretty interesting guy to work with.

He took us out for lunch in his car. He’s got a great big Cadillac. It was loads of fun. It made me really want to start recording an album with him. It felt weird, we were just hanging out [instead of making music]. I want to start recording a new album for Art Brut now! [Laughs]

What is your favorite show moment you’ve been a part of, both as a fan and performer?

We played a college place somewhere, Philadelphia. It was like a weird… just, like, college…  We played in a basement and there was a secret stash of beer in the laundry [room] they’d all be drinking. At the end of the show, the entire room fell over. It was so packed in. Literally everyone fell to the floor. But no one got hurt, which was very funny. I think that was my favorite moment of one of our shows. Watching an entire room of people fall over.

Shows to watch? I really like when people talk in between songs. I could watch John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats in particular. I could watch him just talk. Something like that, yeah. Mountain Goats.

What are you listening to as of late?

Future of the Left, I like them a lot, I listen to that. All of us have suddenly gotten into the Super Furry Animals again. I love the Super Furry Animals. I don’t think they’re very famous here though. Do you know of the Super Furry Animals?

Yeah, but I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to them. But they’ve been on my radar, for sure.

I thought I had all of their albums, but there was like three I didn’t have. We listen to them when we drive. In the van, I listen to a lot of Led Zeppelin that Ian plays.

Which records?

I don’t know, it’s a long drive, I think he has all of them. [Laughs]

Yeah, the Dakotas and that whole thing – it’s a long drive. There’s just nothing there. It’s really boring.

Super Furries are good for a bit.

So, I know you’re a big Replacements fan. If there’s one song you had to hold in higher regard to any others, what would it be?

Aw man, that’s impossible to say! Maybe “Here Comes A Regular”? I love that song. When I first started listening to the Replacements, when I first heard that song, it made me cry a little bit. It’s really embarrassing. I was like, on the train to meet Dyan for lunch. Oh, “Bastards of Young,” they’re all good. I can’t pick one.

There’s a guy in Chicago, whenever he comes to see us play, he brings me like, an amazing Replacements thing. Tonight, he’s bringing me a bootleg DVD of when they played in Amsterdam in 1991. I can’t wait to see that.

Wow! Their last show I think was the “Taste of Chicago” in July of ’91. I thought that was interesting.

Yeah, they did this whole thing where like, the handed the instruments to their roadies, or guitar technicians so the whole set ended with an whole entire different band playing the stage. The Replacements had left.

It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Fat Roadies Play, or something like that.

I think I’m getting a CD of that. It’s weird, when we did that residency in Chicago, every night someone would bring me a present with a home recorded Replacements thing. Chicago’s brilliant, you know? Where else would someone bring you presents like that? It’s awesome.

Jason Anderson: The obviate media Interview

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Very few musicians can match the pure joy that emanates from Jason Anderson. If you are unfamiliar, you probably should watch this video before you read the following interview. The prolific (and incredibly gracious) singer-songwriter took some time out of his day to chat with obviate.

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obviate media: First off, how are you doing?

Jason Anderson: Feeling great right now, thanks. How is Chicago? I miss that place. The Chicago Diner and Veggie Bite are two of my favorite restaurants in the USA. Oh, also, thanks for taking the time to ask me some questions.

Chicago’s pretty good. I’ve never been to either restaurant, but I’ve heard good things. Also, No problem. Thank you! So – Jason Anderson is a fairly common name. Have you ever felt like you had a hard time because of it? Has there ever been any mix-ups?

Not so far. Oh! Once at a show I was announced as Jason Alexander aka George Costanza on Seinfeld. That was very, very awesome. People started booing when I came out because they wanted the Seinfeld dude (just joking about this last part). That also would have been very, very awesome, though.

How old are you, and what’s your day job?

31. I am a music teacher at both a pre-school and a wonderful afterschool center. To give you a sense of how amazing this afterschool center is, we are working with 4th and 5th graders on an original play called JAWS: THE MUSICAL. i am very, very lucky. The center is part of The Children’s Aid Society, which has been around since 1853 in NYC.

And Where do you currently reside?

Brooklyn, NY.

What would you consider your influences (musical or not)?

Lots of stuff. Friends, travel, politics, food, bikes.

Your website shows you recorded an extraordinary amount of material. How do you write so many songs? Where do you draw your inspiration for most of material?

I’m really not sure. Good question, though! I just love music. Also, I have no life. Kidding. Sort of.

I’m curious what the songwriting process is like for you. Are you the type of musician who I could give a person’s name and a few details to and say ‘write a song’, or just the opposite?

I am the first type. It’s funny how specific your example was, too, because check this out: Once my friend and I went to a crowded waterfront on a sunny day, and made a sign that said “Will Write a Song About You for $1.” It was great! I think we made about eighty bucks, and took our friends out to dinner. It was a great day.

You use a lot of sing-alongs in your music, and in your recordings. How did you start doing this? Who comprises the chorus in your recordings?

I just thought it would be more fun to have everyone involved, instead of the strangely skewed, standard orientation of a bunch of people (often) paying to stare at one person or group of people. My goal is connection, not disconnection. And I don’t need a bunch of people standing still looking at me, because I’m really not anything special. The point is that we’re ALL special, and when we ALL sing the music is only better for it.

I am not that good of a singer. All the voices help not only the music, but the feeling, and the sense that this night is a unique moment in our lives that will truly NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN, and if it’s our last night here–our last chance–then we better make it count.

As to recording, on the TONIGHT thing I invited whomever wanted to come to this big wooden gymnasium and we taped the group parts. It was so fun.

The ‘Ghosts and Goblins’ video implied that you used to teach music for kids. What is your background – teaching? Playing? etc…

Yes, I am a teacher. I am almost done with my second year of teaching at two wonderful places in New York City. I work every day. And before I toured for 5 years straight I was a music teacher for 2 years at a private studio. So I did have some background. I also worked at a middle school for one year with special ed kids. That was wonderful.

What have you been listening to as of late?

Phish, Sun Kil Moon, Propagandhi, My Morning Jacket.

Do you have plans to record a new album anytime soon?

Yes, I have one that needs to be mixed and then it will be done. I also have songs for a new one.

How do you choose where you play shows? Do you have a manager or do you do it yourself? I know you played here in Chicago in January at an unlikely location and apparently invited everyone out to eat beforehand? Do you have any plans to tour soon?

I spent five years simply touring and the deal was that anyone who emailed me about playing their town, their house, etc. I would go and play there. Now I have more of a set schedule because I teach, but I still have summers off and a couple other holiday breaks throughout the year. I can also play a bunch in New York City, which is what I’ve currently been doing. I am still really excited to email back and forth with people about show ideas, especially non-traditional ones.

For example, I am talking with my friend Mike about playing a bowling alley show soon. He set up a great show last summer at an outdoor basketball court. I’m also hoping to play some more islands this summer. So far I have played Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Star Island and Monhegan Island. Anyone can email me here: wolfcolonel@hotmail.com. I’ll write back.

Watching some of your live videos, it seems like you use the audience as an instrument, or do as much as you can to get them to participate. How important is this for your music? Do you find the audience is generally receptive to it or not? Are there any really good crowd participation stories? Or not so good ones, for that matter?

It’s important to me sort of personally and politically in terms of wanting to involve everyone and try to break down that weird dumb (to me, anyway) wall between “performer” and “audience.” The person being looked at and those doing the looking. So much of that seems like ego stuff and creating these divides, these perpetually reinforced levels of social or, maybe worse yet, “artistic importance.” That might sound too much like fancy talk, though.

Mostly I just want people to have a blast, and remember that music (I think anyway) is about singing and dancing and sweating and connecting and thinking and feeling and being ALIVE. Not just dressing up “hip” (like everyone else) and trying to be cool (which is apparently accomplished by standing still and looking bored) and then going home and blogging or twittering (is that how you say it?) about “just another indie show.”

But at the same time I don’t want to give the impression that I’m super hardline about it or anything. I totally understand that people enjoy music in different ways. If you don’t want to sing along or stand up, that is okay with me, too. There are other powerful ways to connect that are often removed from tradtional shows, like eye contact, smiles, etc. I really just want to feel like something positive is happening and that everyone in room acknowledges that we are together and we are experiencing something and it is our present tense.

And seriously, isn’t it time to remember the catharsis and release and simple JOY that can be found in a show and how this can maybe be an important catalyst in thinking about looking for beautiful, perfect, exciting moments in our day to day lives, and how they are actually everywhere, if we are open minded and open hearted???

Besides your solo work, do you play in any other bands?

I am always up for playing with my friends and helping them in any way, on drums, piano, guitar, bass, etc. I usually have just as much if not more fun playing and supporting and being a part of their awesome music. I just love it.

What’s one detail about you that a lot of people may not know?

I’m vegan.

Are there any musicians that you would like to play with that you haven’t?

My Morning Jacket is definitely one of my favorite active bands. They seem to come from such a good place; I feel like they love music, love playing music, and really do things the way they should be done, in terms of putting on an awesome show and really believing in that power, in that positive energy. It seems like they are not overly concerned with the fashion of things, but just kind of do what they love to do and I think when you do what you love to do and are sincere and earnest about it, it’s totally contagious.

But I doubt I will ever get to play with them. That would be awesome, though.

What’s next for Jason Anderson?

Well I have to go to the afterschool center in about fifteen minutes. Today I have 5 piano lessons. One of them is a group lesson with Sam and Spencer. They are really great kids.

Thanks for the questions, Brendan.

Thanks for your time, Jason!

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You can visit Jason’s website here. His albums are available on iTunes or by mail order. He also has selectr free downloads available as well.