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Major Bands, Minor Labels: You Can Take A Firehorse To Water, But It’ll Extinguish

November 29, 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, Earbuddy.net, 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 Sufjan Stevens & The Roots, Broadcast, and Lana Del Rey. Plus, Firehorse’s Leah Siegel spoke with Earbuddy writer and 411mania alum, Chris Bell, about many topics. I’ve got a piece of the interview for your reading pleasure.

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

Let’s get started…


Sufjan Stevens Appears on The Roots New Album

Indie singer and multi-instrumentalist, Sufjan Stevens, will appear on The Roots new album, undun, a concept album about Redford Stephens. Previously Sufjan Stevens used Redford Stephens as inspiration behind the track “Redford” on Stevens’ highly celebrated concept album Michigan.

On Michigan, “Redford” was a short instrumental piece, but The Roots have expanded on it for their album into four parts and asked Stevens to play piano on the opening. Below is what ?uestlove had to say about the collaboration.

We’ve always loved the song “Redford” from Michigan. So we close the new album with a cover of “Redford.” We stretched it out into this four-part movement. Part 1 is Sufjan at the piano performing it. And then Part 2 is a string quartet that we had interpret it. Part 3 is myself and D.D. Jackson, who is an avant-garde piano player. He’s probably one of the most dangerous pianists — I don’t know how he doesn’t have carpal tunnel now. But he just destroys, literally, destroys the piano. The final movement, which ends the record, is essentially the beginning of the story. But it’s the last thing you hear. It’s a very powerful piece of work.

Check out the first piece below:


Sufjan Stevens – “Redford (For Yia-Yia And Pappou)”

Broadcast Announce New Album

Much loved electronic act Broadcast suffered a terrible loss at the beginning of this year when the group’s singer Trish Keenan died of pneumonia at the age of 42. Keenan’s vocals were inspired by singers from the 1960s, a technique that is widely used now. Broadcast has been cited as a main inspiration for Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, and Cox has stated that Atlas Sound’s latest album, Parallax was inspired by Keenan.

Broadcast member James Cargill spoke with Under the Radar magazine recently and said that Broadcast is working on a new album, the first since Keenan’s death. Keenan will be featured on the album through material that was recorded before her death. “Trish left a lot of tapes, four-tracks and stuff, and I’ve been going through those. It’s difficult, and I’m connected to it at the same time. It’s wonderful, but I’m also feeling a sense of loss,” he said.

Lana Del Rey Gets A Tiger

Well, the tiger is for her new video apparently. For the filming of the video for Del Rey’s title track to her album, Born 2 Die, Del Rey told NME that she hired a tiger. “Tigers don’t come cheap,” she said. “It’s a controversial video.” No details as to why the video is controversial, but I’m guessing that she kills it…just kidding you tiger lovers. Del Rey’s new album is set to release January 31st in the US. Watch “Born 2 Die” performed live in Paris below.

Damn, she’s sexy.


Interview with Leah Siegel of Firehorse

Earbuddy has been on a roll lately with interviews. Earbuddy writer and 411mania alum, Chris Bell, had the pleasure of interviewing singer/songwriter Leah Siegel of the band Firehorse. If you haven’t heard them yet, I implore you to find them immediately – great stuff (more later in my Recommended Listening Picks). Anyway, check out some of the interview below.

Chris Bell: I’d like to start at the beginning and talk a bit about what got you into music. (Assuming you grew up there) What was it like growing up in New York? Having lived there myself for a good while, I honestly can’t imagine what it would be like to have that much art and culture around you as a child. Do you remember the first record that really took full hold of you? Why?

Leah Siegel: I didn’t grow up here actually. My parents moved from Manhattan to DC just before I was born and to London shortly after that where we remained until I was 5. Then back to the DC/Virginia area, spending holidays and summers up in NYC where the rest of the family remained. My parents did a great job of exposing me to art and culture and would have no matter where we had ended up. They started me on violin when I was 6 years old and I listened to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band obsessively. I found it in their vinyl collection, learned all the lyrics and choreographed routines to most of it. I’ve never really thought about why I loved the Beatles so much…that record in particular – I remember staring at the artwork, like I was to figure it out, wondering what it meant… the songs are written in terrific detail and go deeply into the imagination. And I was a dreamy kid, so that’s where I lived…

CB: And So They Ran Faster is Firehorses’ first LP, but this isn’t your first album. Working before as a solo artist, I have to imagine that you were purposefully coming into Firehorse with a different creative approach. I was wondering how that approach differed from your solo releases and how the band came together.

LS: You’re correct regarding the approach, but I still play with the same band. They’ve been with me since I started playing in New York.

CB: The other members of Firehorse are no rookies to the music scene. Tim and Brian have worked with national acts like Rosanne Cash, Loudon Wainwright III, Sharon Jones and Joan Jett. Then you have a producer like Geoff Stanfield added into the mix and I’m starting to think I would feel a little intimidated having these people looking at me for direction. How do you handle those relationships during the creative process and in the studio? Do you think of yourself as the bandleader, or as one amongst the group?

LS: I remember being intimidated by my bandmates when I first started playing with them 7 or 8 years ago. I was pretty green back then. Yes, I’m the bandleader. I write the songs and direct the guys towards what the intention is, and then they find the sounds and write the parts they’ll play. I’d say the highest degree of collaborative effort comes from my producer Geoff. We’ve had it out a couple of times maybe, but we speak the same language and he was really my first big supporter.

CB: We’re currently in a time when a lot of band’s in the Indie community, and particularly in Brooklyn, use the 1980s as a reference point. What was different about this record for me, and one of the reasons I really enjoyed it, was that it seems like it harkens more to the 1990s. The production is flatter, these are individual songs that aren’t tied together by some kooky concept, there is a much lower reliance on studio effects/gimmicks, the styles vary from track to track instead of sounding ‘samey’, and I can hear a lot of similarities with artists like Jeff Buckley, Fiona Apple, Massive Attack, and even early Radiohead. Is that something you were aiming for, or just a happenstance?

LS: I’d call it happenstance. Or it was just the way I was raised to listen to music. Or maybe the way I was raised to live life? Why write the same song twice let alone a whole album of the same song… I guess that might be very “90s”. Also, I get bored easily so I need to keep challenging myself to find the beauty or the fun in different ways, sounds, ideas…

CB: One of the great strengths of this record, for me, is that the focus seems to be away from gimmicks or pretentious origin stories involving cabins, and on the strength of the songs. My favorite example is the song “Puppet”. That song has this fantastic slow burn build to that giant vocal performance at the end of the song. It reminded me of how Elvis Costello would structure his songs entirely around the story. I was hoping you might talk a bit about that song and how you approached recording it.

LS: Hmm…it’s a pretty complicated song conceptually and lyrically. I can say that during that period of writing, yes, my songs were lyrically based and my melodies sprung from them, and my accompaniment was written to wrap around all that. When we tracked it in the studio it was basically a wall of sound. The song itself is so dense and the way I was having the band play the song was only making it more so. So Geoff ripped it apart in post, as he did with much of the record. Smart guy.

For more of the interview, including what Leah thinks of her St. Vincent comparisons and some quickfire trivia, read it in its entirety at Earbuddy. Special thanks to Leah Siegel for being so cool and kind to answer our questions.


Young Buffalo – Young Von Prettylips EP

Possibly named by an Indian Chief, Young Buffalo are a trio of youngsters (between 19 and 21 years old) from Oxford, Mississippi. Oxford is the home of Fat Possum Records, though this release is coming from Cantora Records. Oxford is also close to home to me, which made me more interested in hearing what Young Buffalo has to offer. Based on their appearances in the press photo that I received in my email, I was expecting something rough — lo-fi garage rock to be exact. However, looks can be deceiving and though Young Buffalo’s members are portly, disheveled fellas, there music is quite…beautiful. I’m not lying. Read the Young Buffalo – Young Von Prettylips EP Review.

The Amboys – Led Into The Woods

The Amboys are a folk-rock group out of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Much like another, “Up-North” folk rock group, O’Death, The Amboys’ music sounds influenced by southern rock bands. Much of Led Into The Woods is a rowdy mix of bar songs that could be heard coming from behind a cage as patrons chunk beer bottles. Then there are songs like “Ashley Meets The Wolf” and “In The Woods” that go deeper and suggest that The Amboys are worthy of merit other than “just another bar band”. Read the The Amboys – Led Into The Woods Review.

Firehorse – And So They Ran Faster…

You read the interview; now check out the album. Seriously excellent that you should not miss. Read the Firehorse – And So They Ran Faster… Review written by Chris Bell.

With LionsTouch The Sound EP

Despite being a two person team, With Lions are big on ambition. The duo of Christian Celaya and Woody Ranere were once the singers/guitarists for their own respective bands, New York City’s Benzos and Baltimore’s Lake Trout, and came together after a shared tour spot in 2005. Their collaborative effort known as With Lions works as both a band and a production team composing scores for television and film. You may be wondering why we’re just now finding out about With Lions considering the years that they’ve been together. Where’s the music? Well, there’s lots of it…so much that the group is releasing a string of four-EPs-a-year beginning with Touch The Sound. Uninterested in being constrained to a particular sound or genre as in their previous bands, Celaya and Ranere have blazed through a multitude to create a new experience on each EP. Read the With Lions – Touch The Sound EP Review.

G-Side – iSLAND

Huntsville rap collective returns with their latest and possibly greatest album. Read the G-Side – iSLAND Review written by John Downey.


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:

Comments are always appreciated, and I would really like to hear from you guys through email (earbuddymusic@gmail.com) or Twitter. You can follow me @earbuddy so that we can chat about all kinds of things. Thanks for reading.

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Nick Krenn
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