Hawaii-born, Japan-raised guitarist Dustin Wong first made waves in the indie world deploying frantically precise loops of guitar noise and beauty as Ecstatic Sunshine. Along with second guitarist Matthew Papich, who now records as Co La, Wong's work with Ecstatic Sunshine was a refreshing take on the guitar duo dynamic, eschewing postured doom or aggressive, uncompromising noise for elegantly crowded looped guitar interplay. After Ecstatic Sunshine dissolved in 2007, Wong looked to start a new art-noise-rock project (Ponytail) as well as focus on his solo material. Mediation of Ecstatic Energy, Wong's fifth solo LP and latest on Thrill Jockey, steps away from the strictly guitar-based compositions of his previous material, incorporating samples, found sounds, and more vocals than ever before. While spending a bit of downtime in Japan before venturing on a US tour with the Dodos, Wong gave a bit of insight into his new writing and recording style, a few of his influences, and how he compares working with a band versus going solo.
The material on Mediation of Ecstatic Energy is the first time you've really used vocals. What made you start incorporating them into your work?
I only use vocals when the song calls for it, even when I was in the band Ponytail I would only chime in when it felt natural. In "Speeding Feathers Staring," there is a point in the song where all the sounds created a phantom voice in the background. I heard the phantom voice, so I decided I should actually sing on this song. You can hear this phantom when I'm playing this song live too.
Although Icelandic post-rock outfit Sigur Rós recently parted ways keyboard player and founding member Kjartan Sveinsson, the band has soldiered on as a three-piece. The trimmed line up has continued working at its surprisingly productive pace, recording and releasing Kveikur, Sigur Rós' seventh studio album, and touring the new material all over the world. Orri Páll Dýrason, Sigur Rós' drummer and occasional keyboardist, took a few moments of downtime before the band's show in Norfolk, Va, to discuss the new lineup's dynamic, Kveikur's loose recording sessions, and how the band's appearance on "The Simpsons" came to fruition.
Kveikur feels like the most aggressive and darkest album of Sigur Rós' discography. Did you guys intend it to sound so different?
Not really. We wanted to do something different than our previous albums and we'd been playing around in my garage at my house. We were playing around with some synthesizers and effects and things. The first song we actually finished was the first song on the album ["Brennisteinn"] and we just thought, "Hey, this is something really nice." So we just took it from there.
The new album is titled The Gethsemane Option, which I assume is a reference to the Gethsemane garden where Jesus and his apostles gathered the night before he was put on the cross. Do you think of the album as a moment of peace on the eve of something violent and terrible. Is that what you wanted to convey with this album?
In fact, the conceptual nature of the album came together in an unpremeditated way. It was only after the songs were placed in order that the very strong thematic line became obvious, and the title emerged. It's often said that none of us write our own material, that we're merely channeling energy from a higher being. I can believe this at such moments. The cover was an artist friend's interpretation of the title, and it fits. She just had a few songs to go on [when she put it together]. So much more in that big wide universe than any of us could ever envisage in our personal philosophies.
While some local musicians may be gearing up to play a one-off Halloween covers set, several local tribute acts play out regularly and have built a following by playing other people's songs. Cover and era-specific tribute bands are nothing new to Atlanta. Even when the Sex Pistols made its American debut here on Jan. 5, 1978, local 1960s revivalists Cruis-o-matic opened the show. However, there seems to be a trend now, where show-goers are more likely than ever to walk into a packed-out club and hear a set of Bad Brains, the Smiths, or Weezer songs played by local musicians.
One band that stands out among the city's current crop of tribute acts is Nirvana cover band Nameless Nameless. The band features Ben White (Pacifico, Pasadena, Molly Parden) as Kurt Cobain, Tom Bruno (Tikka, Pet Cobra) as Dave Grohl, Aaron Strickland (Split, Pet Cobra) as Krist Novoselic, and Ben Bishop as ex-Germ turned second guitarist Pat Smear. All four took time to answer a few questions about Atlanta's cover band boom and their shared love for Nirvana.
For some, a cover band is a Halloween project. Some tribute bands pop up in late October play a couple of times per year, at most. That's not the case with Nameless Nameless, as you guys play out often. Why make this a year-round project?
White: We actually did start as a kind of joke for Halloween 2011. Then we played two shows for Halloween 2012. This year, we've just started playing more often for fun and really just keep doing more because people are showing up.
PJ Morton has somewhat of a genre identity crisis. He's a contemporary gospel singer, an R&B artist, and has even delved into the hip-hop world, especially after being signed with Lil Wayne-founded Young Money. The previously Atlanta-based artist is currently part of Maroon 5, touring with the pop juggernauts both as an opening solo act and as the band's keyboardist and backing vocalist. Morton's recent solo major label debut New Orleans features big names like Busta Rhymes, bandmate Adam Levine, and soul legend Stevie Wonder and yet still echoes the gospel spirit of his father, renowned singer and Baptist pastor Paul S. Morton.
You grew up in New Orleans, but how did your time in Atlanta shape your career?
I moved to Atlanta in the fall of '99. New Orleans is what bred me and what gave me my foundation, but Atlanta is where I started, where I chose to be an artist. It kind of gave me my home as an artist. I consider Atlanta the start of my career.
Ahead of Weezer's appearance at Music Midtown, bassist Scott Shriner checked in with Creative Loafing to discuss the band's past, present, and future, its renewed efficiency as a live act, and his thoughts on playing in Atlanta.
So what's new with Weezer? Are you working on a new album to follow up Hurley and Death to False Metal?
It's all a great mystery right now, and more will be revealed soon. The great mystery of Weezer continues.
What's changed the most about Weezer and its fans since you joined the band in 2001?
I don't know that the audience has changed. They're still young people, really. Young people come to the show with their parents who were fans back in the day. As far as the band, I'm going to say I don't think we ever rehearsed as much or sounded as good as we do now. The last two or three years, we've really started cracking down on our live show. There was a period where [frontman] Rivers [Cuomo] wasn't playing guitar, our drummer Patrick [Wilson] played guitar and Josh Freese [A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails] was on drums. We've since gone back to the classic four-piece. I think we sound better than ever. Rivers is one of my favorite guitar players, and I really need Pat to be on drums. For me it's the right lineup. All the stars are aligned.
No Age takes the idea of "do-it-yourself" to the next level. For their latest album, An Object (Sub Pop), the experimental punk duo handcrafted 5,000 LPs and 5,000 CDs, constructed album covers and record cases, stuffed crates, and personally shipped their creations. No Age, aka Randy Randall (guitar) and Dean Allen Spunt (vocals, percussion), formed in 2005 and have since released a number of EPs and four studio albums, including An Object which came out in August. The Los Angeles-based band's noise pop foundation, lo-fi droning, and innovative percussion have made them into a modern art punk mainstay, but it's the DIY work ethic that's drawn more recent attention.
Before playing a show tonight at the Arts Exchange, Spunt took a few minutes to talk about influences, consumerism, and the nature of objects.
When your debut LP Weirdo Rippers first arrived, there was a lot of talk about how No Age's influences were pretty plain to see: the Ramones, the Velvet Underground, Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, the Jesus and Mary Chain. Since then, the group's sound has filled out and changed a good deal, and revealed what is a more distinctly No Age sound. Do you still think of those classic bands as influences?
Not really. I still like all those bands, but I think all of those names might have been from journalists' perspectives rather than ours. I feel like I get more inspired from things that are non-musical, like visual art, books, little glitches in my brain - you know, things you think of, like mistaking what a billboard says when you're driving, and that becomes a song.
I started it in April of 2012. We were doing a Wednesday night thing at Westside Pie. This one night I was at my house, I went through a lot of those old records from when I first started DJing in high school. I thought about just doing [All Vinyl Everything] with just me, but I hit up another DJ and then another and then next thing you know, I had about 15 people that wanted to do it. A lot of the DJs are ready to rock again. We had some help from DJ Red Alert for the one-year anniversary.
It's well documented that you, Ryan, and Zach have played music together since 1991. How young were you guys then?
Yes, it is true that we are in fact an early '90s band and NOT a '90s revival band like many of our contemporaries. Our band was born in 1991 when I was 4 , Zach 5 and Ryan 6. We were so much older back then, we're younger than that now.
Your video trilogy to promote Street Punk got a positive response, both from your normal listeners and by some fans of louder, more abrasive punk and hardcore. Were you hoping to reach a broader audience with these songs, or is that an added bonus?
We weren't thinking about an audience, I don't think. When I think about an audience, I wonder if people who like us are fans of the Chipmunks, and I get weirded out and go on a personal LOL.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?