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So what was your excuse for not being at The Sinclair Wednesday night, March 25th? The freezing rain just before the 7pm opening of the doors? You still can’t tell if your car is under that pile of snow on the right-hand side of the street or under the one on the left? Whatever your excuse, you’ll soon realize it wasn’t enough after the number of people you come across in the next day or two who rave about the show.
Headlining the show was Big Data, who are coming off the release of their first full-length, 2.0, on March 23rd. Big Data is the brainchild of Manhattan native Alan Wilkis, who now resides in Brooklyn along with the rest of the band, and features the accompanying, siren-sultry vocals of Lizzy Ryan.
Wilkis describes the band name and the focus of the lyrical themes as, “A paranoid electronic music project from the internet, formed out of a general distrust for technology and The Cloud (despite a growing dependence on them).” I had a chance to speak with Wilkis after the show and he elaborated on the concept a little more:
“All the songs are about or inspired by stuff happening in technology…paranoia, privacy, freedom, Edward Snowden, social media. I work with a different vocalist on every song on the recordings and with each person I work with we try to pick some topic and that’s always the jumping off point, but then we try to frame it in the way that you could read it as a pop song, albeit a weird pop song but a pop song, but if you look for it, the double entendres and technological references are in there. You don’t have to read it that way but you can.” Asked about the track, “Business Of Emotion (feat. White Sea),” Wilkis went on to explain, “That was about the Facebook mood experiments that went on in 2013 and popped up in the media in the summer of 2014. Basically what happened was, Facebook conducted an experiment on 700,000 people without their knowing it and the way it worked was that for half of them, for a week, more positive things were showing up in their news feeds and the other half they skewed it a bit more negatively. [Facebook] then recorded what people were then more likely to post in the following week and … people that saw more negative stuff were basically more depressed. So what is basically a big, giant mood manipulation experiment, without anybody’s consent, at least openly, but technically just by signing up for Facebook, they can do whatever they want with you because it’s all buried in the terms of service. Nobody was ‘hurt’ in the process but it’s just sort of horrible knowing that it’s possible…and opens a lot of scary doors that we probably should’ve seen coming.”
Wilkis says that if you don’t know the story behind that song, “It could [sound like] just a generic, stupid, make-you-feel-good song, but it’s very much not about that.” Appropriately enough, Big Data included a great cover of Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes” which, if they ever release, I will be the first in line to purchase.
2.0, released by Warner Bros., features their standout hit from 2014, “Dangerous (feat. Joywave),” which Wilkis co-wrote with Joywave frontman Daniel Armbruster. Dangerous hit number one on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart in August 2014 and was featured in an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, accompanied by Joywave. As Wilkis mentioned above, just about all of the tracks feature guest artists, including Twin Shadow and Jamie Lidell. The music can be described as electro-rock with a rhythm section given as much, if not more, emphasis as the synth/computer loops. Two other previously released EPs from Big Data are 2013’s 1.0 on Alan Wilkis’ own Wilcassettes label and 2014’s 1.6, on Warner Bros., which features remixes of “Dangerous”.
The second act featured Minneapolis’ ON AND ON. Their moody-pop synth and guitar rock sound kept you fixated while offering a bit of a change between the first and second acts. Their 2013 debut, Give In, on Roll Call Records, continues to get the attention it deserves, and the crowd’s reaction is all the proof you need. Visit their website to learn more, and check out their single “Ghosts”:
Brooklyn’s CHAPPO kicked off the night and helped thaw the crowd with a jumpy and interactive pop, psych-rock sound. Lead singer Alex explained to me his take on the genre-labeling of the band after the show.
“I feel like we get a lot of, ‘It’s hard to pin you guys down, you have a distinct sound, your own thing.’ I’m sure that’s with every band and every genre in some form or another but we sort of lean towards psychedelic rock. I don’t know, it’s got a little ’60s surf-rock meets a little ’70s psych and we throw in a little straight-up rock and a little electronic pop.” I was pleased to hear that, if only for vindicating the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard his unique voice for the first time. Immediately I thought of David Diamond, lead singer of the ’70s rock band The Kings, probably best remembered for their huge hit, “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” from 1980. If you’re still unfamiliar then you know your extracurricular assignment for the day. Unlike The Kings, who were a one-hit wonder, CHAPPO is a band you are bound to continue hearing about.
Their second album, Future Former Self, is to be released on May 9th on Votive Music. Their debut, Moonwater, was released in 2012 on Majordomo Records. Alex also mentioned the handful of EPs floating around on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Spotify.
Here’s a catchy number from their Moonwater LP, “Come Home” that has passed 300,000 hits on YouTube.
One of the reasons why I subscribed to Guitar World this year was because I wanted to see who the up and coming guitarists are. The latest issue of Guitar World features two new guitarists and a familiar one. The man above is Tosin Abasi who is a monster on guitar! Granted I am a little hesitant when it comes to more than just six strings on a guitar. To me, its just another gimmick. The first time I saw a seven string it was on Steve Vai’s GEM Guitars through Ibanez. Did it make a real difference in his playing? Not really. However with eight strings, now you open yourself to more open chord voicings. I really wish I had the time to invest in playing these instruments. I barely have time for a six string never mind eight. What about the chapman stick? Forget it! Anyway, Tosin’s band is called Animals as Leaders, very prog rock. Don’t let this deter you if you have an aversion to such music, it has a broad definition. It can be entertaining without being wanky. That being said, take some time to expand your mind and enjoy!
Tomorrow, Monday, March 23, Tufts’ own “tall, grunged-out trio” Cave will be broadcasting their new EP, “Tiny God,” on WMFO’s Funkin’ Gonuts.
Two thirds of the group, which delivered two hugely well-received performances at Applejam shows this academic year, will be sitting down with WMFO’s Jane Acker to answer the questions that have been on everyone’s mind since the band burst out last fall. Funkin’ Gonuts will be the only place to hear “Tiny God” ahead of its official release, so be sure to tune in at 11 AM sharp so you don’t miss a beat. As always, you’ll find the broadcast at 91.5 on your FM dial in the Medford/Somerville area, or worldwide at wmfo.org.
Well actually it isn’t, the man pictured above is none other than Andy Fraser. Andy was one of the founding members of the band Free. I loved Free, this is the first band I remember Paul Rogers playing in. The band was phenomenal yet very short lived. The death of Paul Kossoff would ultimately be the literal death knell of the band. I have yet to play “All Right Now”. I guess largely because you can hear this on any commercial radio station. That also happens to be the song Andy co-wrote. He never gained any notariety after his days with Free were done but his legacy with Free will live on literally forever. They were good, solid, rock n roll. Man, I really miss those days alot. Anyway, below is his last interview was from this years after party at the Grammys.