music / Columns

Major Bands, Minor Labels 12.07.11: Don’t GAYNG Up On Me

December 7, 2011 | Posted by Nick Krenn

Thanks for checking out Major Bands, Minor Labels, 411mania’s independent music oriented column. Just a quick plug, if you enjoy what you read in this column, I will guarantee your enjoyment when checking out my music blog,, featuring exclusive reviews, columns, and interviews that you won’t find anywhere else. If you check it out, be sure to “LIKE” us on Facebook. I’d love to talk music with all of you guys, even the trolls.

This week in the column I’ve got news on Ben Kweller, Tennis, and Poliça. Plus, check out Hands Mantis, my latest Artist To Keep Your Eyes On.

Also, I’ve got a few Recommended Listening picks featuring new music that you should check out.

Let’s get started…

Ben Kweller Flies A Kite

Unlike some artists who drop trailers for their new albums, Ben Kweller decided to take a piece from every song on his new album, Go Fly A Kite, and create a musical collage featuring the beginning and ending of each of the 11 songs. Go Fly A Kite arrives on February 7 via Ben’s new record label, The Noise Company. Listen to the album’s music collage titled “Heads and Tails” below.

Head & Tails by benkweller

“Heads and Tails” Liner Notes:

1. Mean To Me (Intro)
2. Out The Door (Intro)
3. Jealous Girl (Intro)
4. Gossip (Intro)
5. Free (Intro)
6. Full Circle (Intro)
7. Justify Me (Intro)
8. The Rainbow (Intro)
9. Time Will Save The Day (Intro)
10. I Miss you (Intro)
11. You Can Count on Me (Intro)
11. You Can Count On Me (outro)
10. I Miss You (outro)
9. Time Will Save The Day (outro)
8. The Rainbow (outro)
7. Justify Me (outro)
6. Full Circle (outro)
5. Free (outro)
4. Gossip (outro)
3. Jealous girl (outro)
2. Out The Door (outro)
1. Mean to Me (outro)

Tennis Release New Track

Tennis have announced the follow-up to 2011’s Cape Dory. The new album is called Young and Old and will arrive February 14, 2012 via Fat Possum. The new album was produced by The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney. Check out the new album’s first single, “Origins”, below.

Origins by tennisinc

GAYNGS Branches Off To Poliça

GAYNGS was a supergroup founded by Ryan Olson that brought together an array of talent including Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and members of The Rosebuds. Now some of the GAYNGS-members are branching off to form their own project, Poliça.

Vocalist Channy Leaneagh (formerly Casselle) and producer Ryan Olson make up the new collective using Olson’s pop sensibilities and electronic adventurism as the perfect vehicle for Channy’s recent evolution from a roots-folk band vocalist to a R&B-bred performer.

Work on the album began in June 2011 with the duo writing songs to make up the project’s debut album, Give You The Ghost. Olson masterminded the beats and sequences while Channy applied her experimental vocals, using processing and synthesized textures to meld with the lush, electronic backgrounds of Olson’s arrangements.

In just one month, the album was put together, consisting of 11 songs and featuring outside talent including drummers Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson and bass player Chris Bierdan. With these key additions they headed into the studio, bringing Mike Noyce (Bon Iver) to add his vocals on “Lay Your Cards Out” and “Wandering Star”. To round it all out, the album was brought to Austin, TX, where it was mixed with Jim Eno (Spoon).

Poliça’s Give You The Ghost will be released on Valentine’s Day, the perfect mood setter with its sexy R&B rhythms balanced with an electro, goth-pop mood. Check out the track list below.

Track Listing

1. Amongster
2. I See My Mother
3. Violent Games
4. Dark Star
5. Form
6. The Maker
7. Lay Your Cards Out (feat. Mike Noyce)
8. Fist, Teeth, Money
9. Happy Be Fine
10. Wandering Star (feat. Mike Noyce)
11. Leading to Death

Hands Mantis

Hands Mantis, led by musician Erik Oatman, are this week’s Artist To Keep Your Eyes On, a special look at underground talent that should be on your radar.

The Album: Greatest Hits

The Band — Who? What do they play?

The band Hands Mantis consists of Erik Oatman, and various friends as they’ve contributed various instrumentation to each track over the years. These collaborators include:

Erik Mutzke as Prussia on drums on tracks 1 and 8,
Brett Oatman as Danny Glover on Bass Clarinet for track 2,
Nick Tripi as Machin on drums on tracks 2 and 3,
and Wolfe Nelson as himself on the saw on track 5.

Erik Oatman: We are a loose-knit group of friends who’ve grown up together in Newport Beach playing music and collaborating on various songs and projects. I am currently playing Hands Manits’ music in my current band Cape Sound with Jesse Clark on drums and samples and Zephyr Adee on bass.


Erik Oatman: As these song we’re written and recorded over a 6-year period, starting in high school and ending at the end of college at UCSC, my influences have changed as I’ve gone along. I’d say the groups that influence my raw writing process would be The Residents, Guided By Voices, John Maus, At the Drive-In, Animal Collective, and musique concrète. I’m also very interested in artists with multiple personas and attitudes towards song writing, especially Tom Waits and Shuggie Otis.

How would you describe your sound?

Erik Oatman: Each song is an attempt at capturing a specific mood and idea that informs every aspect of the creative process, writing, recording, editing, mixing, etc. The music come from a stream-of-consciousness and the editing and layering is a type of collaging that solidifies a space and mood. In some cases the production technique overtakes the music itself in my mind as being central to the listening experience.

Where does the name Hands Mantis come from?

Erik Oatman: The name is one that I arrived at on an acid trip. Shallow and vapid, I know, but that’s the honest answer. I was hung up thinking about hands and the various things they can do, both literally and symbolically. The are biological instruments that set us apart from everything else on this planet. I was thinking about the full spectrum of activities and expressions that hands can perform, from construction to destruction, love and reverence to hate and aggression. This also got me to thinking about mantises, sex, death, predation, patience, blah, blah, blah.

From there, you could take it as far as you’d like. I don’t expect people to be nearly as concerned with these elements as I am, although I guess that kind of range is relevant to the spectrum of music I’ve tried to record over the years and piece together for this “Greatest Hits!” album.

What can we expect next from the band?

Erik Oatman: I’m currently working on my next solo album congruently with a live album my band Cape Sound. Several songs from “Greatest Hits!” will be on that live album, including “Bali Shaguar…” and “Wreck Dive”. My current Hands Mantis album will have the same range of genres and production aesthetics.

The more notable differences, hopefully, will be a greater overall production value and further developed atmospheres and musical personas inhabiting each song. Whereas “Greatest Hits!” was a collection of more overtly lo-fi home recordings, this album will be produced within a much shorter range of time and with a less abrasive/muddy atmosphere.

For more of Hands Mantis, check out this cover of “St. James Infirmary Blues” featuring Danny Glover and Machin on bass clarinet and drums respectively; though, this cover will not be appearing on their next album.

St James Infirmary Blues by Hands Mantis

Be sure to check out Hands Mantis’ Bandcamp to purchase their music.

The Head and The Heart – iTunes Session

The latest in iTunes Sessions features folk band The Head and The Heart. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, you may want to now. The instrumentation is energetic and in fine form with Charity Thielen’s violin and Kenny Hensley’s piano still catching attention as they did on the debut. Jon Russell and Josiah Johnson’s tag teamed vocals are clear and infuse the lyrics with emotion. When Thielen’s voice pops in, it adds another bang to an already explosive combo. While some bands could simply “phone in” their performances for a session like this, The Head and The Heart go beyond doing carbon copies of the original songs, adding new life that listeners will enjoy. The two new songs aren’t throwaways either and hint at what’s to come from the band. Read the The Head and The Heart – iTunes Session Review.

Amon Tobin – ISAM

Amon Tobin is an electronic artist known for a dazzling and impressive live show. After hearing his latest album, ISAM, I can understand how it would translate to a larger-than-life scale. The opening track, “Journeyman”, sounds as if something is being constructed with musical building blocks playing Tetris. ISAM is aggressive and unrelenting but quite accessible if you’re a fan of electronic music interspersed with science fiction noises and creepy soundscapes. ISAM could very well be The Twilight Zone in audio form. Read the Amon Tobin – ISAM Review.

Tom HagermanIdle Creatures

I admit that when it comes to instrumental music, I have a hard time getting past the lack of vocal accompaniment. I believe it’s easier to tell a story or convey a message when there are actual words to a song. When only music is present, all I can go by for a blueprint is the song’s title, but even then, I would change most of the song titles to “Boring”. Tom Hagerman of Devotchka fame has released a new solo instrumental album mostly featuring chamber pop string arrangements. Shockingly, it’s not boring. Hagerman’s role in Devotchka has been spent playing a variety of instruments — violin, accordion, piano and melodica – all which carry over to Idle Creatures. These songs are fully realized, exquisite scores that create a film within your mind. I was pulling images from my childhood, my present, and what I hope to be my future and fleshing them out with Hagerman’s beautiful arrangements. Read the Tom Hagerman – Idle Creatures Review.

Tom Hagerman – Granny Old Wound by Paper Garden Records

If you like my album reviews on 411mania, be sure to check out reviews done by me and my buddies on my blog Earbuddy and check out my blog’s Facebook for more news and stories on artists featured in MBML:

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Nick Krenn
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