Archive for the 'American Music' Category

Interview: Caroline Lufkin

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

  caroline lufkin interview, where's my love, murmurs, pop, indie, electronic, japanese american

I remember coming home one night from a tough day at work, exhausted, hungry and wet from the rain. Murphy’s law seemed adamant in proving itself to me. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” the law states. And so when I arrived at my doorstep and reached for my keys, I realized that I had left them at my workplace. Nine times out of ten, this would not be a problem, as someone would always be home to let me in. But of course that was not the case on this particular night.

I had no choice but to sit in the cold and wait for someone to return. As the rain clouds continued to mock me with their spitting, I took out my iPod to sooth my pain with music. That’s when I heard the song “Where’s My Love” for the first time.

Upon hearing the song, I was instantly struck with an euphoric sense of weightlessness. My mood went from seething-and-ready-to-explode to calm as a feather. Just moments earlier, I was cursing the rain. After the song, I couldn’t help but remark how incredibly beautiful the raindrops looked as they splashed down onto the wet pavement ahead of me. I began to think that my luck wasn’t so bad, to have been able to experience this kind of transformation, to see absolute beauty in an otherwise gloomy setting, is something I’ll always be thankful for.

The person who wrote that song is Caroline Lufkin. I should say thanks. Thanks Caroline for taking time out of your busy life to do this interview. And Thanks Caroline for sharing your beautiful music with the rest of the world.

You recently finished the European leg of the Mice Parade tour, how did it go?

Mice Parade tour was punk rock….at least for me…traveling with 9 party animals!! haha. Really now…every show with Mice Parade was so special to me! Goodness, sometimes I’ll get so caught up in watching the rest of the band play that I’ll forget to come in with vocals!

Can you tell us about how you came to be involved with Mice Parade and whether or not we can expect you on some of Adam’s future recordings?

Adam was on a mission to find a new vocalist and a friend introduced my music to him. Next thing you know, I was flying to New York for rehearsal, preparing for tour! I think I’m an official member of Mice Parade! Big smile here! In other words, there’s a good chance I’ll be on the next record!

Many electronic musicians like to incorporate projections and other visuals into their live shows. I saw a Youtube clip where you used a smoke machine once. Do you have any intentions of adding more visual elements to your show?

Oh no! The smoke machine was hilarious! That piece of device was not my choosing! I recall having a hard time breathing on stage…then, laughing at its loud entrance. It sounded like a car engine struggling to get going!

Adding visuals has always been my intention! I’ve been gathering clips for a long time! Finally, I’ve found the perfect software program! And finally, bought a computer that can handle visuals!

In that same performance, you managed to force your live partner JJ to sing along to “Where’s My Love” which was hilarious!

I was sick, -fever and all. And at that point, I thought I was going to completely lose my voice. So I looked around and found my solution – JJ.

The crowd loved it. When can we expect you to take to the stage again? Any mini or not-so-mini tours in the pipeline?

My 3rd tour with Mice Parade in January. Australia! As for solo performances, nothing planned. Hoping to at least set-up some local shows! Hoping to tour with my new songs sooooooon!

Before going to music school, had you any idea of the type of musician that you wanted to be? Did learning about the craft change or alter that course?

Before music college, I decided I wanted to study composition. Perhaps, secretly, I prayed that my voice would miraculously become ok enough to do a little singin =) planned nothing further!

Being exposed to a whole world of music styles, instruments, musicians, electronic toys etc., allowed me to play with this and that. Eventually, I found myself gravitating to certain elements… which is what you hear now.

Do you find it surprising then, that so many reviews, be they positive or negative, see your voice as being a special highlight in your songs? I’ve read references to angels (apparently they sound a lot like you, and you tend to make them weep) an innumerable amount of times while reading about Murmurs. I agree with them wholeheartedly, to think that at one point you thought your voice wasn’t okay enough…

Surprising reviewers tend to focus on vocals. I read reviews for entertainment, for a good laugh. Reviews are hilarious. Music is not for judging…or rating how good or bad, technically. At some point, I realized it’s really just an expression. Recently, I heard the most out-of-tune singer/songwriter! But, she meant every note. I understood it, loved it. …when sometimes prodigies don’t get to me. Of course, I feel happy when someone likes my voice. But I could care less if someone dislikes it. It’s not the point. If you don’t like song, then it wasn’t meant for you. Know what I mean?


It’s been two years since the release of “Where’s My Love” on Temporary Residence, how has the ride been so far? Everything you expected?

Sincerely, this has been more than I expected. How lucky am I to have a nice cozy home with Temporary Residence? I get tons of love from my label and this has led to wonderful times, with wonderful people.

Do you find that you have to be inspired in order to compose music? Do you tend to draw your inspiration from sources outside of music?

Music has always come from the NEED to write… as an outlet. Maybe the answer is yes. All my music comes from outside sources.

You mentioned on your Blog that you’ll be coming out with remixes soon. Are they remixes of your songs by other artists?

Yes! Friends of mine!

(The Murmurs Remix album will be available January 8, 2008 on iTunes.)

Speaking of which, how you liking the Lullatone remix of Bicycle?

Magical- in typical Lullatone-fashion! Shawn (of Lullatone) remixed this on a plane ride from Tokyo to the U.S.!

Did you get to see them while they were on their North American tour? I’m quite convinced that Shawn and Yoshimi are the cutest things to have ever graced this soil. 99% convinced.

I didn’t get to see them! I remember being bummed they weren’t stopping in LA, and being so close (making their first stop SF).

Oh man, are they cute! Me = 150% convinced. Maybe you haven’t seen their cute music videos? =)

(As one wise man once said about Lullatone, “Music so cute it’ll make you puke cotton candy.”)

Since we try to expose our readers here at RedRuin to foreign art, do you have any favorite non-American artists that you could share with us?

Oh yes indeed! Off the top of my head…check these out:

Yoko Furusho
Yoshitomo Nara

This stuff is fantastic. I’m especially liking the digital surrealism from the Oculart page. Any foreign musicians off the top of your head you can introduce us to?

Foreign music? Japanese? My sister is pretty insane! Every now and then, her personality comes through, despite her struggles with major label people. –

Olivia Lufkin
Ryuichi Sakamoto
DJ Krush
World’s end girlfriend

How is the second album coming along? Will you be working with Andreas Bjorck again?

Second album is shaping up! So far, it’s been just me writing and arranging. As for other programmers and producers…I may or may not include them. At this point, I’m keeping all these little ones (songs) under my wings until I feel they need something else.

Lastly, do you have any words for your fans?

Of course. It makes me happy to share my music with you. Thanks for allowing me to do so. Love to all!

The Antlers – East River Berlin Wall

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

  the antlers, Peter Silberman, indie music, rock, underground, ??????????????, east river berlin wall, the cold war

Artist: The Antlers
Song: East River Berlin Wall
From album: Cold War (EP)
[Buy other Album|mp3s][Website][Myspace]

This wisp of a song is to waking up on a cold dark morning what Hermit was to waking up on an all too sunny one. It’s a long and longing corner window stare; drained of momentum by an ice-covered outlook and one’s own frozen breath.

The Antlers is the work of Peter Silberman of Manhattan, and you can download other Antlers songs (including the rest of this EP) here, and read them here.

Kayo Dot – A Pitcher of Summer

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

  kayo dot, choirs of the eye, a pitcher of summer, indie, classical, prog

Artist: Kayo Dot
Song: A Pitcher of Summer
From album: Choirs of the Eye
Genre: Proto-neo-classic orchestra-core.
[Buy CD|Mp3s][Website]

This was the first song on a mix CD I gave people for christmas last year. It strikes me as a sort of an apocalyptic epiphany, of waking up into a new reality.

The beginning thaws from complete silence into a glowing hum of gentle awakening. It’s comfortable like being born full grown into a world of warmth and soft white and yellow light and texture. Our world is repose and stillness. Gradually we awake, developing quickly, and soon become curious about the world outside of our opalescent shell. We rise and stretch, and peek around a corner to find an earthen alleyway. We wander out in safety and solitude, but turning another corner we find our niche opens onto a larger public thoroughfare. Stepping out cautiously, we begin to be pulled along by the current of traffic and civilization, beginning to understand the structures and patterns of industry and society. These exciting moments suddenly dampen and blur as we come upon the city’s central monolith. Awe-striking structures rise into boiling storm clouds approaching the city.

We pause, gazing, and time seems to stand still. Apprehension and uncertainty occur to us for the first time. Why are we standing here? Is something out of place? Something wrong? There’s something uneasy about this sudden unexpected silence of mind. And then with a sudden sickening, sinking feeling comes the realization that things are not as they seem; not at all as we know them to be.

Facades and forms start to melt and peel away, bubbling off of every sight and surface. Unfathomable strangeness is unrelentingly revealed wherever we turn our now frantic gaze. The world we knew rushes into and through the streets in streams of flowing ichor, away from us and down into gutters and channels unperceived. A painfully sparkling sharp and crystalline world emerges from our old understanding. It burns into the mind the utter fallacy of trying to understand it. In the end we must succumb to complete abandon, relinquishing the concept of self and existence. We revel in the perfection of chaos in the final instant, and are pulled into slumber once again.

This of course, sounds awkward and indulgently ridiculous… but it’s something like the impression that this song gives me, whether or not it makes any sense.

Kayo Dot, in any case, deserves your attention. Simply stated: they make brilliant and fascinating music, fluid, varied, and inspired. It most certainly deserves to be bought!

Kaki King – Yellowcake

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

  kaki king, guitarist, until we felt red, yellowcake, mp3, indie, virtuoso

Artist: Kaki King
Song: Yellowcake
From album: …Until We Felt Red
Genre: Gossamer Acoustic Core
[Buy Until We Felt Red|Itunes Mp3s][Website]

The voice here is from the ghost of a baby bird, and the music is her afterlife-song about a dimly-recalled tragedy of life. To be fair though, she doesn’t remember it as tragic. In fact, with the haziness of the ethereal curtain it seems almost a blissful memory. The earth was giant golden waves of grain, and the sky a brilliant burst of indigo. There was warmth and comfort and a gentle slide into oblivion. Soon everything melts together in a glowing orange hum.

Now she goes around to other ghosts to tell them that there is another world out there, of indescribable beauty, maybe someday they will be able to see it.

Kaki King is apparently rather famous, if appearing on Letterman or Conan is a measure of anything, but I’m slow ok. One thing you should notice when you listen to this song and then watch those videos is that they are completely different. In the videos she is a virtuoso knife-fighter, amazing to watch and completely untouchable. In the song, she’s reaching out with worn and wizened hands to explain to you what she’s learned in her whirlwind fighting career.

I very much enjoy her previous albums for impressive guitaristry and sense of melodic beauty, but the new album: “…Until We Felt Red” is what you might call a horse of a different color. For one thing, there are other instruments in this cd, and a sense of experimental composition that even verges on postrockishness at points. It feels like she is satisfied with the heights she has attained, and can now feel free to relax and make things that interest her currently. For another thing, there is occasional singing which is the last clue that she is moving from technical to personal.

Overall I recommend all of her albums if you like any of this. Check out more videos on youtube, listen to the songs on herspace (especially the song “until we felt red”), and then buy everything! It’s all quality in my opinion.

Maps & Atlases – Every Place is a House

Friday, August 18th, 2006

maps and atlases, maps & atlases, tree, swallows, houses, every place is a house, math rock, indie

Artist: Maps & Atlases
Song: Every Place is a House
From album: Tree, Swallows, Houses
Genre: Prodigy Taprock
[Buy CD $7.99|Mp3s][Website]

Maps & Atlases is what I might consider a very promising band, which I say probably because I like every one of their songs. There’s virtuoso guitar workmanship, creative melodic phrasing, unique vocal style, impeccable mathish and indieward sensibilities, a penchant for occasional employment of artful restraint, and all that other jargony blah blah.

What it boils down to is that they are consistently interesting; their songs are individual to an extent that hints at a large available reservoir of creativity. I’m definitely looking forward to more from these guys.

Also, you should listen to “The Ongoing Horrible” on their myspace page if you want to get an idea of the variety that they are capable of, even now in their first release.

At Dusk – In the Background

Friday, April 28th, 2006

at dusk, in the background, you can know danger

Artist: At Dusk
Song: In the Background
From album: You Can Know Danger
Genre: Wandery Tumblechordia
[Buy this album][Site]

Good day mateys, and welcome back I say. Today you are getting a deftly stumbling gait of a song. It starts on a morning of typically spanking newness, but soon you’ll realize that it has plans to use its day off for supremely venturous exploits; certain endeavorous enterprises. The sounds, they gallop from cobbleystoned neighborhood streets to wide nature roads with airy space that you can hear and feel. They round a corner and suddenly dive into a somersault at the end of which they jump up, and into the air in a, “reaching for the sky” position with a twist that gets a cumulative 9.5 from the judges.

What I want to say is that the song feels like a rapturously restless amble through everyday spaces and feelings. The kind of feelings that are only possible in the amalgam of remembering certain days of intense living. Maybe then you were wrapped up in heartbreaky drama, but looking back you just remember it as a sort of sepia tone mixed with the feeling of the sun against your skin. It’s an odyssey that feels like it should end with you, exhausted and glowing, sauntering into a convenience mart for a catharctic frozen beverage of your own design.

You can download this song and its 9 brothers and sisters and more than several cousins on their site. And soon you can also buy it, on everyone’s favorite anthropomorphized music buying place, cd baby. Perfect for anthropomorphized songs I would imagine.

John Jacob Niles – Dean of American Balladeers

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Artist: John Jacob Niles
Songs: The Gambling Song of the Big Sandy River | Little Black Star | Brother’s Revenge | The Maid Freed From Gallows
CDs: Tradition Years: I Wonder as I Wander [Buy][itunes]
My Precarious Life In The Public Domain [Buy]
Genre: Appalachian bardic folklore

The music of John Jacob Niles fills my mind with pictures and questions. His voice is from another world, singing somewhere between hymn and howl, it breathes real life into his subjects. His song comes from misty peaks and musty cabins. With dirt ingrained in its deftly roving fingers it weaves stories of lords and ladies, of gallows, gambling and lonesome riverside roads, wanderlust, tragedy, and revenge; of tales that were told when old wives were young.

Many of his songs are rooted in Appalachian folklore; forged in the mountains I grew up not terribly far from. He died in the year I was born, having seen many of the same things that I would soon come to know, yet somehow it’s hard to fathom our worlds even being connected.

Living in a place for a long time will almost invariably blunt your appreciation of its special beauty and personality. Listening to those scenes through the songs of John Jacob Niles is like seeing them for the first time. They can be mysterious and enchanting, and they still have secrets to share.

Unfortunately most of his work is not widely available, (just those two cd’s above) so you’ll have to look for online auctions or local record stores, but it’s totally worth it in my opinion.

Cities – Headstream

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

cities, yep roc, sxsw

Artist: Cities
Song: Headstream
From album: Cities
Genre: Secret Texturerock
[Buy this album][Site]

“Cities” by Cities from Chapel Hill, NC (itself, in fact, a city of some renown), is like a song-clique of above-average but disaffected students that hang out together after school. Each track fits in with its surrounding track buddies, at the same time managing to show off its own distinctly unique personality, its own brand of special.

Take the song Headstream: There’s this guitar right, it’s doing stuff in all the other songs too, could be brooding in a corner or telling its friends a fun story; but in this one it’s burning like a fuse. It lights at :08 and loops and turns until it sets off a whirling chain of spark-filled explosions at 1:54. It’s these kinds of personality things that give the album its character and likeability.

So maybe you’ll like what you hear and would like to hang out with these songs, get to know them a little. Well you could always go see Cities the band at SXSW, as I hear they will be there with a few pals. Or Buy the Album when it comes out April 18th, 2006.