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Interview with Chris Wade of Dodson and Fogg

29 May

Purple Dog Records is based in the US but we certainly don’t limit ourselves to a specific region when it comes to discovering independent musicians.12750544779bc5e91347700601 I was recently made aware of a band called, Dodson and Fogg from Leeds led by the very talented, Chris Wade.   Their second album, Derring Do hooked me immediately with a beautiful acoustic introduction. The whole album continues heading steadfast toward prog folk perfection. The word, “chill” is often overused in describing music but damn it, I can’t think of anything else to call it. It’s just so good. With songs like “The Leaves They Fall”, and “What Goes Around” it’s hard to tell in what era they were recorded. Chris Wade’s musical style gives the impression of a man who could have been friends with John Lennon, but by no means is he repeating the sound. Each song had a timeless quality and a brand new feeling attached to every guitar lick and yes, even trumpets (trumpeting?). I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris about his band’s new album coming out this July among other fun tidbits of information.

PDR: Have you written and performed music prior to Dodson and Fogg?

CW: Yeah, I started playing music when I was really young. Me and my brother started learning guitars early on. Before I had a guitar I remember making one with rubber bands and an ice cream tub. I was always obsessed with music. I remember my first favourite c wadebands were Nirvana when Kurt was still alive, when I was 8 or 9, and Black Sabbath, who I was totally obsessed with, and who I still love to this day. I started collecting their vinyl and saving pocket money to go to Relics in Leeds to get the records. We started writing songs then, me and my brother… well, I say writing. My dad has some tapes of them and they are grotesque haha. In my late teens I had a 4 track tape machine and used to make demos in my bedroom whenever I got home from work, back then I worked at a toy shop which was a fun place to work. And in my early 20s I had a band with my friend Shawn and my brother, which then turned into a band with my brother and my sister, and that “line up” did some gigs in Leeds where I live in around 2007 and 2008 I think. But that was more straight forward punk rock really, not like what I am doing now which I prefer. We were playing in some really ropey venues sometimes, but family and friends always came along and made parties of these gigs. That fizzled out though, and I started  writing and illustrating in about 2009 and left music for a while until last year when I made the first Dodson and Fogg album. I firstly wanted to be a fiction writer, and did some really weird broadly comic novels that were made into audiobooks, narrated by Rik Mayall and Charlie Chuck, but there was no way I was going to be able to get that into a proper direction. Some of them stories were just mental, haha. This is different though, and really satisfying.

Chris Wade and Rik Mayall
*Editor’s note – If you are a fan like me of that complete bastard, Rik Mayall then you’ll love “Cutey and the Sofaguard”.

PDR: Who are some of your main influences? 

CW: Well I love Black Sabbath and I also listen a lot to early Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Incredible String Band, early Leonard Cohen, Kinks and especially Donovan, who I think is just a brilliant artist. There’s loads of stuff I listen to. I really like Goldfrapp at the minute, been listening to Air as well, and Amy MacDonald, alongside Yes, and early King Crimson, the first two albums in particular. But I don’t know how much they have influenced me knowingly. When I make music it comes out naturally and I know I am happy with a track when I feel I could put it on myself and listen to it for pleasure. So maybe musical tastes just seep in for any artist subconsciously affect what music they record. I basically like to record music I could listen to myself I think. That’s why I never understand the bands or artists who can’t listen to their own songs. It’s questionable, like almost as if they’re in it for the money really, as Frank Zappa might say. But I will say that any band recording and mixing music these days, and paying close attention to it, HAS to be influenced by The Beatles, even if they don’t know it…

PDR: One of my favorite songs of yours is “All Day Long” (featuring Celia Humphris of Trees) off of the debut album. How did she become involved?

CW: Thanks, glad you like the song. My dad has always been a big music fan and he was into Trees when I was a kid. First he had two of their tracks on these old samplers, one of which was called Fill Your Head With Rock (a classic compilation that anyone reading this should check out) and then he finally got a hold of their two albums, On the Shore and Garden of Jane Delawney. I was a fan right from then thanks to my dad and I interviewed Celia in 2009 or 2010 for my Hound Dawg Magazine (which was a free online PDF then, and now it’s a print magazine) and asked her about the band. I hadn’t stayed in touch with her though, but in around May or June last year I sent her some tracks to see if she was interested in collaborating and I could not believe it when she said she would sing on them! That’s when I took this project seriously and dived right into it. She is one of my favourite singers, her voice is a proper instrument in itself, and on Derring Do she is doing all sorts of amazing things I wish I could do with my voice. On All Day Long as well, like you say, her voice on that is fantastic. I used three or four of her harmonies on that and mixed them all together. Worked out great I think. 

PDR: Do you have a preference of one song over another? I can imagine it’s almost like playing favorites with a child though.

CW: It’s weird answering questions about your own music. It’s funny because the Dodson and Fogg first album was only released last November, and most of these songs are pretty new to me really, so it’s hard to look at them in a retrospective way. I will say though that Meet Our May, I wrote that when I was about 18, ten or so years ago and All Day Long comes from a melody I had in my had for years and never did anything with. So them two, and Crinkle Drive off the first album with Nik Turner of Hawkwind on it, I do have a soft spot for them chappies. To be honest though, the next album has my own favourites on it so far. I am really pleased with it.

PDR: You also have a solo project released, titled, “Moonlight Banquet”. How does this differ from your work in Dodson and Fogg?

CW: That was a side thing really, because I had these instrumentals that didn’t quite fit with Dodson and Fogg and my girlfriend said ‘why don’t you release them?’ So it isn’t really a major project or anything but it is a nice way to use some ideas I really liked and never got round to releasing. They’re longer and more progressive I suppose, with extended solos and worked out sections. Fun to do actually, but Dodson and Fogg is definitely staying as my main focus. Working at home though, and with music being my hobby as well as a job type thing, I have plenty of time on my hands to try all sorts of things out. 

cover bigger file-page-001

PDR: Finally, do you think of the third album, “Sounds of Day and Night” as a continuation of the last two or are they all completely separate concepts?

CW:Well the third one is kind of following a concept, different characters so to speak and situations from the morning to the night, all kinds of scenarios and set ups, but it sounds similar to Derring Do, with the instrumentation and production. But it also sounds a little different too. It’s hard to describe it, but I kept working on it, rewriting songs and getting rid of certain tracks, then bringing in new ones from around January when I started recording it (just before Derring Do came out) and it was last month or so when it actually started sounding like a step on from Derring Do. I’m finding myself listening to the albums and thinking that if they sound like a progression from their predecessor I am doing something right and pleasing myself. Then I think, well if I am happy with it, the folks who liked the other two albums might be up for it too. You have to not think about the whole process too much, as you know as a writer, because if you look too far into it  you end up taking it too serious or you risk over analyzing your stuff and taking the fun out of it all. So while it is a little different in some of its moods, it is also like a continuation, but broadening the scope hopefully. That said, Celia is going to be singing on it again so it is nice to have her on board, and there are some other possible guest artists, but I won’t say who just in case it doesn’t happen. Also, my girlfriend Linzi Napier is a painter and she has done the cover art for the next album, one of my favourite pictures of her’s. She has an exhibition in July which we are both excited about and some of the work for this next album will be on display.

Thank you, Chris for taking the time to chat! Be sure to check out Dodson and Fogg’s latest album “Sounds of Day and Night” coming July 2013. Let him know what you think!

Article and interview by Erin Gavin
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Stars shine at The Metro; Milo Greene a pleasant surprise

25 Mar

Although they’ve been around since 2000, Stars is still going strong. The Canadian band came to Chicago’s The Metro on Saturday and played a sold-out show that was well worth the admission price.

Said the Whale
The night’s first act, indie rock band Said the Whale, wasn’t bad. They just didn’t fit the sound of the other two groups. The 5-member Vancouver band played an upbeat set that would have been perfect for a day at the beach. I wasn’t struck by anything particularly original, although I was impressed by the keyboardist’ ability to play the piano and sing for an hour while smiling the entire time. Check them out for an entertaining listen, but not much more.

Milo Greene
Milo Greene was the surprise of the night. Weaving complex memories that put in mind Explosion in the Sky, the instrumental-heavy group belted a cover of Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago” that may have been better than the original, alongside original compositions that will have me going back next time they’re in the city. Haunting and ethereal, their sound sticks with you long after their set is over.

 

The Stars
I expected the headliner Stars to be good, and, aside from a few moments when Torquil Campbell’s microphone was inadvertently switched off, they were. Campbell and lead female vocalist Amy Millan (also of Broken Social Scene) have distinctive, story-telling voices that sound just as good (actually, better) live as they do recorded.

What I didn’t expect was for Stars to be absolutely, mind-blowingly awesome. The music was good, yes, but the performers were great. Every single one of them threw themselves completely into what bordered on a two-hour show. They performed with an intensity I have rarely seen in a live performance and it made for an amazing concert. Even if you aren’t that in to indie pop with lyrics waxing cynical on love and sex, The Stars are worth it.

Of particular note was the closing number, which Campbell sang as an acoustic solo. Many Stars songs almost spoken lyrics, but Campbell proved his range and left the audience hypnotized with the power of his voice.

Bands hit the road young

27 Feb

As a twenty-something, I and most of my friends are caught in near constant crisis as to what exactly we’re supposed to be doing with our lives. It’s especially comforting, then, to discover some musical genius apparently starts young: all of the following bands formed in high school.

We may have some catching up to do.

The XX
Hailing from London, The XX (Oliver Sim, Jamie Smith, Romy Madley, and former member Baria Quereshi) got together as high schoolers back in 2005 and released their debut album, “xx” in 2009. Having seen international success, the group will be a headliner at Bonnaroo 2013.

Fleet Foxes
Founding members Robin Pecknold and Skyler Skjelset started playing together after meeting in high school. Due to lack of funds, their first songs were recorded in houses and garages, but local shows quickly won them attention. Their debut album went platinum in the UK.

Van Morrison
Although the Emerald Isle’s Van Morrison didn’t rise to fame until the mid-60’s (after a stint with Irish band “Them”), he started playing everything from guitar to saxophone to the harmonica back as a teenager. Known for hits such as “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondanace,” Morrison performs to this day and has won six Grammy Awards. He’s been inducted into both the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Local Natives
Indie band Local Natives formed after guitarists Taylor Rice and Ryan Hahn and keyboardist Kelcey Ayer met in high school in Los Angeles. After recruiting Matt Frazier (drums) and Andy Hamm (bass), the bandmembers crammed into a house in Orange County to put together their debut album, “Gorilla Manor.” The album debuted well and they’ve since toured with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and played at Lollapalooza.

Thriving in the Chicago music scene

9 Jan

The music of the Chicago-based indie rock band Passerines might intitially seem laid back, but a closer listen quickly reveals the heavy layering of melodies and diverse influences (from jazz to David Bowie) that make up the group’s unique sound.

Chicago's three-piece Passerines.

Chicago’s three-piece Passerines.

The three-piece band – founded by Tim Young (vocals and guitars), with Kevin Fairbairn on bass and Taylor Page on drums – is new to the Chicago music scene, having formed summer of 2012. However, the group (named after the scientific term for “songbird”) is already glad to call the city’s music scene home.

“There are a lot of music scenes to be involved with in Chicago,” said Young, who considers them most heavily involved with “the punk-rock, do-it-yourself scene.”

The DIY/newness of the band means “doing everything yourself – paying for everything yourself, getting press yourself.” However, Young was also excited the group is still growing and exploring their sound.

“We’re still really new,” he said. “The guys are really into rock, underground ground…where I’m a little bit more interested aspects of jazz and classical music.”

With finances the DIY-band’s greatest challenge, the band’s current project – their upcoming EP (look for it sometime in March) – will likely be an online-only release.

However, “we would love to press vinyl,” said Young. “The intangibility of an MP3 is just boring to me. I think with the digital age, a lot has been lot in regards to musicians being paid and being able to sell their work.”

And, while Young acknowledged the struggles faced by bands attempting to be financially viable, he remains optimistic, hoping to have a whole album released and be touring the country within the next year or so.

“So far, a lot of roads have opened up to use. [Chicago] is a great place to come to and start playing. We’re fresh into it and that’s really exciting.”

See them at: Jerry’s – January 12, 9 p.m. ($5)

The Subterranean – January 31, 8:30 p.m. ($8)

Listen to their album here.

Maps & Atlases, give in to your desires

3 Jan

This past Sunday night, a return to Schuba’s tavern resulted in a 3.5/5 star show by Chicago’s Maps & Atlases.

A summary in 50 words or less: I got the impression they would have liked to play a purely-instrumental jam session and abandoned that whole “lyrics” nonsense. Maps & Atlases, as a member of your audience, I WOULD FULLY SUPPORT THIS DECISION. No-lyric songs = some truly intense music.

The show was opened by Gypsyblood. I spent half the time being impressed by the twist they put on what risked being mind-numbingly generic rock and half the time being impressed by how much their guitar player was into each song.

Check back next Tuesday (Jan. 8) for an interview with the Chicago band Passerines.

Peter Bradley Adams: If you didn’t go, you missed out

18 Dec

As of three months ago, Peter Bradley Adams is a proud homeowner. Oh, and he once bailed himself out of jail in Calhoun County, Georgia.

Saturday night, a mere $12 got me into Schuba’s Tavern to see Peter Bradley Adams, a melancholy indie/folk singer and songwriter who occasionally borders on country. I’ve been a fan for a while, so much of the show was familiar – but it was a familiar that was better than anything I expected. In person, Adams plays with an intensity that draws you in before you realize what’s happening.

Whether strumming old favorites, new songs, or using a guitar to play things written for piano, Adams put on a show that was at times humorous (he was unapologetic if he forgot the words to his own songs) and that sometimes left me aching with nostalgia for…something. And with so many songwriters obsessed with love and only love, it was refreshing to discover Adams’ songs are obsessed with something else: weather.

Opening for Adams was Chicago-native Haroula Rose. Awkwardly endearing, her lyrics reflected interests all over the map (“I have this whole sociological theory about why people in Los Angeles get plastic surgery,”) although her songs sometimes blurred together in the similarity of melodies.

The highlight of the show, however, was the two songs Adams and Rose sang together. Their voices blended so well it sent chills down my spine.

If you missed Adams while he was in Chicago, just make sure you don’t repeat the mistake next time.

Oh, and can I just say what a great venue Schuba’s makes? The back room, with its wooden paneling, dark lighting, and isolation from the bar gave a true tavern feel that made it easy to connect with the performers on stage.

(…right, the Calhoun County thing. After being pulled over for a broken taillight, Adams got hauled off to jail when it turned out his license was suspended. He convinced the clerk to drive him to a motel and “stayed there for two days until I convinced an ex-girlfriend to drive down from Nashville and pick me up.” In court, the judge asked him what he did for a living.

“I write songs in Nashville,” Adams said.

The judge looked him straight in the eye and said, “I used to write songs in Nashville.”

All charges were dropped.)

See him at: No concert dates currently posted, but expect a new CD around late January.