Photo: Holly Andres
Photo: Holly Andres

The Decemberists Experiment Sonically on I’ll Be Your Girl

The Decemberists are often both revered and pigeonholed as the founders of the modern folk movement – they’ve been playing accordions and wearing suspenders onstage since before it was cool (and commonplace to see) – and plenty a remark has been made about frontman Colin Meloy’s propensity to weave actual folklore into his narrative songwriting.

As bassist Nate Query astutely noted in a recent interview with On Tap, “I think early on, we were defined by the ways we were different from most bands – by having accordion and upright bass and folk instruments and songs with four-syllable words and stuff.”

But if you’ve ever seen the band live or spent a good chunk of time digging into their discography, you know that their skill, talent and creativity extends across any genre-lization. With eight full studio albums, several EPs, and a handful of collaborations and side projects under their belts, The Decemberists have proved that they are a musical force to be reckoned with – with some theatrics thrown in for fun.

The band released their latest album, I’ll Be Your Girl, this March and have embarked on the Your Girl/Your Ghost 2018 World Tour to support it. Many critics are hailing the album as a radical departure from the band’s traditional style and sound, aka the long ballads, operatics and epic poetry-type rock music we’ve become accustomed to receiving over the years.

Certainly, many of the tracks incorporate synths and techtronics, evoking a sort of 1980s video game-style, “analog” alternate reality, and producer John Congleton encouraged pushing toward the less expected choices. But it’s not as if The Decemberists of “The Upside Down” came through a wormhole to create I’ll Be Your Girl. Instead, the album simply crochets together multiple elements the band has used in the past and brings some of the less exaggerated ones to the forefront. After all, even in the most synth-heavy track, Meloy is still singing about a “cutting stone.”

“This record probably is full of some surprises for people, but really, even with this record where we branched out a little bit sonically, I don’t think we did anything we hadn’t already done,” Query says.

And yet, he adds, there is a definite art to staying both interesting and interested in making music together when you’ve been doing it as long as The Decemberists have been.

“When you’re mixing a new record, sometimes you end up building in certain challenges and parameters just to sort of make it interesting. Sometimes, you just pick up a different instrument because if it sounds different to you, [then] you’re going to get fresh ideas or sometimes, you just need to mix things up to keep it going. And I think [on] this record in particular, we tried to do a lot of that and really not be afraid to follow a weird idea down the rabbit hole.”

What is perhaps a more notable divergence from The Decemberists’ norm is the album’s obvious reflection of the zeitgeist. Rather than conjuring whimsical tales of old and allegorical references (though you’ll still find plenty of darlings and rivers and thistle in there), Colin Meloy and the band have been very vocal about how current events and the sociopolitical landscape in America influenced the making of this album.

In fact, Meloy recently described the sensation of moving from despair to humor in an interview with The Atlantic: “We’re having a very shared experience. It’s almost galvanizing, people coming out of the woodwork and saying, ‘Sh-t is f–ked up.’ There’s something therapeutic in looking at the apocalypse and laughing.”

“Everything is Awful,” for example, sounds ironically like The Lego Movie movie song “Everything is Awesome,” but with an obvious dark twist. In “Starwatcher,” an odd and ominous military-style percussion takes hold. And finally, “We All Die Young” has a trippy “Yellow Submarine” sensation with the added discomfort of having the voices of actual children on the track. And even Carson Ellis’s album artwork and accompanying short animations aren’t shy about being provocative – among other images, we see a cartoon version of Donald Trump with devil horns.

So while I’ll Be Your Girl may not be the radical sonic upheaval some have claimed, it does reiterate that The Decemberists are no amateurs. They are a skilled and experienced band influenced by both an awareness of the world around them, the lives that they lead alongside their musical ones and how all of those things are intertwined.

Query, for instance, was phoning from his son’s school where he was volunteering for the day. And while excited for the Your Girl/Your Ghost tour to bring “new stuff onstage, new things on [his] pedal board, new basses and ramping it back up after some down time this winter,” he says the band is equally excited for the opportunity to travel the country to visit spots like Red Rocks, Wrigley Field, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture – a chance to see the people and places that really are America.

Don’t miss The Decemberists at The Anthem on April 21. Tennis will open. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and tickets start at $45. Learn more about the band at www.decemberists.com.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.anthemdc.com

Photo: Kate Bellm
Photo: Kate Bellm

Kate Nash Looks Inward, Moves Forward

Conventional wisdom will tell you that looking back is generally not something you do when attempting to enter a new chapter in life. But for British singer-songwriter Kate Nash, the opposite proves to be true. The indie pop artist took to her teenage diaries for inspiration while working on her new album Yesterday Was Forever, released on March 30.

“I had a point where I didn’t really know if I was going to be able to continue with music as a career,” Nash says. “I was back and forth from LA to London and going through a lot of archival stuff, and I just pored through all my diaries and had been reflecting on them so much because it was the 10-year anniversary of Made of Bricks.”

Made of Bricks is Nash’s breakout album, hitting the pop scene with a force both sweet and powerful back in 2007, and ultimately catapulting to No. 1 on the UK charts. Last year, she embarked on an anniversary tour in the UK to commemorate this well-loved album dealing with themes of girlhood, crushes and finding a distinct sense of self – all ideas Nash seems to be revisiting with a new perspective on Yesterday Was Forever. Aside from finding inspiration in her own diaries, Nash has also been reexamining what it means to be a teenage girl in 2018, and how that definition has changed for the better over the years.

“I think the teenage girl has totally reclaimed being a teenage girl, and it’s something that you can’t just take advantage of and diss as much as you used to be able to,” she says. “It used to be like, ‘Oh silly little teenage girl writing in her diary,’ and I would be really insulted by that. But now, I think we’ve moved past that and teenage girls have fought for themselves to be heard and taken seriously, and I think that’s f–king amazing. [This album] is a celebration of that. I’m going back to my pop roots a little bit and just trying to be as raw and honest as I can – as I always feel like I try to be.”

The rest of this year sees Nash on an expansive U.S. tour for her new album, including a stop at 9:30 Club on April 30. With new music and a beloved catalog in tow, she says she’s working not only to craft a setlist that her fans will love, but also to cultivate a joyful and inspirational experience for everyone in the audience.

“There are four records to squeeze in now, so that’s kind of challenging. You want to give people new stuff, but then I feel like people come to shows because they also want to hear stuff they know already. It’s finding the right balance […] and finding something that makes sense, and creating this kind of journey onstage. But I think that my aim every time is to just have the funnest time ever. I want people to leave my shows feeling really pumped up and like they can do anything, almost as if they’ve been to one of those conventions where they’re like, ‘You can do this!’”

Nash says she’s excited to reconnect with her growing fanbase while on tour this spring, and quips that she’d like to “see if there’s any wrestling fans coming down.”

She’s referring to her role as Rhonda “Britannica” Richardson on Netflix’s critically acclaimed original series Glow, centered on the bold and colorful world of the syndicated women’s professional wrestling circuit in 1980s LA. Nash and her castmates wrapped filming for season two in January, and she says that her role in the series has felt like a dream job. It’s easy to feel her passion for both the project and her fellow actors when speaking with her.

“This season, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is my life now.’ [It’s] just 15 insane, funny, smart, inspiring, supportive women, and we’re learning how to f–king wrestle. We’re doing crazy things with our bodies, and the whole thing is set in the 80s, which is insane. I f–king love the show and all the women on the show, and I’m so grateful to be part of it.”

To have a career spanning over a decade in any creative industry is a feat, let alone to branch out to others with continued success and candor like Nash. When asked where her confidence and success come from, she again looks inward.

“I think the main thing is to always believe in yourself. It’s so hard to just sit and be comfortable with who you are, and that’s something you should always work toward because no one else is going to do that for you. Let yourself be you – that’s really unique. I think that people are always trying to prove that they’re not themselves. We have to just be ourselves, and that’s f–king cool.”

So be yourself, trust who you’ve always been, and if you want to catch a show where the inspiration is as great as the music, head to the 9:30 Club on Monday, April 30. Tickets to Kate Nash’s show are $25. Learn more about her at www.katenash.com.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Cecily

Music Picks: April 2018

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4

Ana Moura
With stunning vocals, Ana Moura has been a fixture in the Portuguese music scene since 2003, including collaborations with Prince and The Rolling Stones. It’s no wonder legends have picked up on her undeniable talent because whether the lyrics are delivered in English or Portuguese, the aptitude of Moura’s singing ability is truly stunning. In the backdrop are wondrous strings and a steady rhythm section all built to amplify this talented singer-songwriter’s music prowess. Show at 8 p.m. $50-$60. The Barns at Wolf Trap: 1635 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA;
www.wolftrap.org

Ought
Hailing from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Ought is set to give DC some solid jamming music. Featuring songs that care little for your shrinking attention span, the band often features subtle rock tracks lasting anywhere from four to seven minutes on average. They’ll toss some quick hitters in every now and then, but the often slow developing songs are intoxicating as they draw you in and string you out, providing an emotional slowburn. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $15-$17. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 5 – SUNDAY, APRIL 8

Damaged City Fest
Celebrate hardcore punk from all over the world in DC’s sixth annual Damaged City Fest. This year’s featured bands are Limp Wrist, Turnstile, Radioactivity, The Flex & Arms Race from the UK, RIXE from France, Blazing Eye from California and a rare appearance by New York’s Brown Sugar. Check out the rest of the lineup on Damaged City Fest’s website to plan out your weekend full of thrashing and rocking out. Friday doors open at 6 p.m. Friday aftershow at 11:30 p.m. Saturday doors open at 3 p.m. Saturday aftershow at 11:30 p.m. Sunday doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 6

Cub Sport
Sonically, Cub Sport isn’t too much different than fellow Australians Tame Impala. Though the vocal notes aren’t as high, and the music is a little more on the subtle side, Cub Sport also operates firmly with the intention to make easy-listening pop music. With soothing lyrics and a strong use of diverse synths, Cub Sport provides a sensual sound to listeners worldwide. Though pop music can sometimes make you feel empty inside, this group definitely strives for meaningful sentiment, so give them a listen. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. $13-$15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SATURDAY, APRIL 7

The Weather Station
As leader of The Weather Station, Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman brings artistic generosity and joy to her latest self-titled and self-produced album, The Weather Station. Even though she says she wanted to make a rock ‘n’ roll record, the result was closer to a sonic experimentation that touches on feminist politics through detailed prose-poem narratives. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

SUNDAY, APRIL 8

Mountain Heart
Mountain Heart is the band that has been fearlessly revolutionizing the way acoustic music can be presented and played. The band’s name has been synonymous with cutting-edge excellence in acoustic music circles since the group’s creation. Widely known throughout the music industry for continually redefining the boundaries of acoustic music, the band has gained legions of loyal fans both as a result of their superlative musicianship and just as notably, their incendiary live performances. Show at 7:30 p.m. $18-$20. Write-up provided by venue. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Run River North
From whimsical silliness to acoustic melodrama, Run River North is what you’d call a pretty dynamic band. That doesn’t mean they have a character-defining sound, it just means that their range is noticeable. A lot of indie acts have a tendency to hammer away at your eardrums with similar sounds, whereas Run River North has more of a flow to their work, kind of like a river, which I realize is corny, but hey, I’m going to roll with it. Union Stage continues getting diverse bands, huh? Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. $15-$25. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

MONDAY, APRIL 9

Current Swell
With their 2017 release, When to Talk and When to Listen, Current Swell is making waves in the indie rock scene. This Canadian band has gained steady popularity since its inception in 2005, and now they’re touring their best album yet to bring a nice variety of moods and tempos to their fans everywhere. Current Swell is making a stop at Jammin Java, so make sure to buy your tickets now before they sell out. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

MONDAY, APRIL 9 – SUNDAY, APRIL 15

SHIFT 2018
SHIFT, a festival of American Orchestras, returns to The Kennedy Center this spring. With performances by Fort Worth Symphony, Albany Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra and more, this weeklong event celebrates the extraordinary artistry of orchestral musicians. SHIFT also confronts common misconceptions about orchestras and proves why orchestras are so important to artistic expression and development. Various dates and times. Tickets are $25 for each show. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11

Amoramora
With more than 100 shows in 70 different cities in 2017, up-and-coming Amoramora is more than ready to play an awesome show at Gypsy Sally’s. Their jazz fusion, psychedelic bluegrass sound is so groovy, you’ll want to jump out of your seat and dance along. 21+ only. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets $10 advance, $12 day of. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Pale Waves
Formed in Manchester in 2014, Pale Waves is quintessential to the indie-pop scene in the UK. Just take it from a person who tried to see them at SXSW, but was instead relegated to stand in a blocked off street in order to peak into the club they were performing at. No, I wouldn’t say that is the best way to see them, because standing on the street in the cold is somehow worse than actually sweating in a crowded venue. Anyways, when you hear the words “indie pop” I’m sure some kind of music you’ve heard from the genre plays in your head, so imagine that, only better. Also, I have a ton of respect for any band that opts for a literally blank black canvas as single art. Minimalism is the way to go in today’s society, no? Show at 7 p.m. $15. U St. Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 13

Perpetual Groove
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Perpetual Groove has cultivated a long list of touring experience and a dedicated fan base since forming in 1997. Perpetual Groove pairs fan-described anthemic arena rock with an intense, retina-burning light show to bring down the house with an all-encompassing performance. After a two-year hiatus, Perpetual Groove is back and ready to rock. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Pimps of Joytime
Anyone familiar with the Pimps of Joytime live experience knows the feeling: it’s that moment when a deep bluesy groove morphs into a full-on EDM dance beat, or the sensation when the wide-eyed audience collectively elevates in sync with the band’s tangible energy. Just as Brooklyn has changed since the Pimps started, so has the band’s sound. But as Williamsburg gentrifies, the Pimps of Joytime’s diverse evolution keeps the neighborhood’s spirit alive. That spirit goes into the Pimps’ pot, over a soulful roux of rhythm and groove. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 9 p.m. $15-$20. Write-up provided by venue. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Titus Andronicus
With their March 2 release of A Productive Cough, Titus Andronicus sets aside heavy punk anthems of the past to focus more on soul-bearing songwriting by creating a conversational space between artist and listener. Singer-songwriter Patrick Stickles says he’s looking forward to communicating more effectively with his audience now that he’s not so busy yelling at them. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

SATURDAY, APRIL 14

Dead Horses
At the young age of 15, Dead Horses frontwoman Sarah Vos and her family lost everything when they were expelled from the rural Wisconsin church where her father served as a pastor. From that experience, Vos created Dead Horses’ 2016 album, My Mother the Moon, which blends traditional and indie folk while examining the journey of self-discovery. Named as one of 10 new country artists you need to know by Rolling Stone, this is one show you don’t want to miss. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12-$14. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Maya Jane Coles
DJ Maya Jane Coles has collected millions of hits on YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud for her house dub music that she mixes, produces and creates herself, which isn’t as common as you’d think. Her talent has taken her to performances in more than 40 countries, and has brought her multiple awards and features in major publications like Rolling Stone. Make it out to U Street tonight for some great beats and an incredibly fun show. 18+ only. Doors open at 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 at the door. No photo/video allowed. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SUNDAY, APRIL 15

U.S. Girls
This year marks the 10th anniversary of U.S. Girls and founder Meg Remy’s first four-track recordings of self-produced and spontaneous expressions of instant emotion. After a decade of honing her craft, Remy still hasn’t lost that raw emotion that permeates her first few recordings. U.S. Girls is a display of unmistakable feminine energy from the experience of an American woman. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $13-$15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

MONDAY, APRIL 16

Nap Eyes
With a twang reminiscent of Bob Dylan, the laid back rock of Nap Eyes is enough to mellow you out, but not enough to put you asleep. Featuring simple licks and classic rock and roll sound, the lyrics take you on a star-crazed journey through the universe before bringing you back down to earth with universal topics such as depression, insomnia and bad-for-you habits. Sound too heavy? Well, it is, but on the other hand the songs are highly digestible and rather enjoyable. Don’t believe us, well, wake up from your nap and see for yourself. Doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $12. DC9 Nightclub: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

TUESDAY, APRIL 17

Eric B. & Rakim
Relive the late 80s and early 90s at The Fillmore with Eric B & Rakim, a legendary hip-hop duo hailing from Long Island. Of Erik B & Rakim, AllMusic wrote “during rap’s so-called golden age in the late ‘80s, Eric B. & Rakim were almost universally recognized as the premier DJ/MC team in all of hip-hop.” In 2016 they announced their reunion for a 2017 tour after a 23-year hiatus, and they’re touring again this spring with 17 dates in the states. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45. The Fillmore: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18

RZA
If you know anything about RZA, you know about his affinity for retro Chinese martial arts films. From his samples as lead producer and founder of the Wu-Tang Clan and his directing of The Man With the Iron Fists, the rapper, producer, director, etc. always keeps popping out homages to this classic genre. Now, you’ll get to see him tinker with his adoration live, as he rescores the classic The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. The special screening will be filled with instrumentals, beats and effects staight from RZA’s vast collection of sounds. It’s rare we get access to an artist actively toying with his muse, so don’t miss this chance to see one of the most creative music pioneers. Doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m. $36-$45. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; www.warnertheatredc.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 20

Black Star
You should know who Black Star is. In fact if you don’t, maybe this show isn’t for you, because this duo’s contributions to political hip-hop are literally second to none. Made up of rap stalwarts Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), the NYC legends are two guys that have historically aged like fine wine. Though their status in the popular culture may be slightly forgotten by the genre’s neophytes, people who are willing to dig into any sort of rap history will discover a colorful discography chalk full of profound lyrics built to change society for the better. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $45-$75. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

Wild Ones
The neatest aspect of Wild Ones might be the simple fact that their entire sound is DIY. The Portland, Oregon product has been together for seven years and combines a uniquely soothing voice, provided by Danielle Sullivan, with a pace that mimics soothing R&B music, but sonically uses synths to provide a little more energy. Don’t be swayed by the group’s carefree appearance, as the subtext of their lyrics often touches on the perils of romance or the difficulty of being involved in the constantly evolving music business. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $12-$14. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

SATURDAY, APRIL 21

Slushii
L.A. DJ and dubstep artist Slushii is bringing his futuristic bass and trap sound to Echostage. With an album release in 2017 and a trajectory of success that only seems to keep rising, Slushii is perfecting his craft of beat creation to bring out the bass god in us all. Collaborations in the past year with fellow dubstep artist Marshmello have really brought out Slushii’s musical prowess. 18+ only. Doors open 9 p.m. Tickets are $25-$30. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

SUNDAY, APRIL 22

Fatai
This one is soulful. Fatai, an Australian vocalist, has some seriously powerful windpipes as she repeatedly delves deep to produce breathtaking music built on the foundation of her enchanting singing. Because of her location, seeing this artist in North America can prove difficult, and according to her website, she has routinely sold out her stateside appearances. If you’re in the mood for sultry music with gravity and strength, consider seeing Fatai in Vienna. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. $13-$15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

TUESDAY, APRIL 24

Cecily
The DMV’s own Cecily is live at the Anacostia Arts Center fresh off of her latest single release “Pisces,” which sees the talented musician deftly navigate her jazz, soul and R&B influences, creating a medley of sounds. Whether she’s collaborating with a local emcee or standing center stage with the sass of a bonafide super star, Cecily is certainly a local talent you want to catch before she steadily rises through the music scene. Nothing beats an intimate setting with her unique blend of passion and performance. Doors at 7 p.m. Free to attend. Anacostia Arts Center: 1231 Good Hope Rd. SE, DC; www.anacostiaartscenter.com

Preoccupations
These guys are moody. I don’t mean that in necessarily a bad way, but they certainly wear their hearts on their sleeves, if you get my drift. From song titles like “Disarray,” “Anxiety” and “Doubt,” there isn’t much subtlety to their message. This doesn’t stop the songs donning these serious monikers from carrying vignettes of joy, but it does make you listen more carefully for words of wisdom or even relatable scenarios. In a way, the band makes efforts to transfer these feelings into tangible audio, and they do a pretty good job mimicking “Anxiety.” Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $15-$18. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25

The Heavy Pets
This funky rock ‘n’ roll band from South Florida was dubbed “a living, breathing force of nature” by Relix Magazine for their expert song crafting and their powerhouse live performances. As regulars on the national touring circuit for over a decade, The Heavy Pets is a group of well-trained and seasoned musicians who weave elements of indie, funk and reggae into a tapestry of sound that’s all their own. 21+ only. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 26

Hawthorne Heights
Feel like reliving your emo days? Come out to the Rock & Roll Hotel to see a performance by Hawthorne Heights, the premiere emo rock band of the 2000s. Bad Frequencies, their first full-length album release since 2013, is set to drop on April 27, so if you’re lucky, they might preview some of their new songs on stage tonight. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 27

Twin Shadow
When I first heard “Five Seconds To Your Heart,” I thought it was a song from a bygone era (*coughs the 80s) I just missed when jumping around those Spotify curated “TOP 80s SONGS” playlists. Instead, it came from Dominican Republic born, Brooklyn bred George Lewis Jr., otherwise known as Twin Shadow. With synths and other electric sounds, the music channels this yesteryear genre, however, Lewis Jr. is able to make the sound his own, and very contemporary, often collaborating with other artists who are interested in pop music from the same era, like HAIM. So even though the drum beats and melodies sound as if they burst from a time machine, know this shadow is firmly a product from an artist of today. Show at 7 p.m. $30. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SUNDAY, APRIL 29

Minus The Bear
To celebrate 10 years of writing and performing their unique music, Minus The Bear is traveling coast to coast on their Planet of Ice Anniversary Tour. With a sound that could only be described as uniquely patched together, Minus The Bear has carved out their place in the music industry by collecting different components from New York proto-punk, progressive rock, hip-hop and IDM, thus avoiding any type of classification whatsoever. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 advance, $30 at the door. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

DSC_2114

Albert Hammond Jr. and The Marias at U Street Music Hall

Albert Hammond Jr., best known as the lead guitarist for The Strokes, played U Street Music Hall on March 27 with The Marias.  Photos: Mike Kim

(Karriem Riggins left) Photo: Courtesy of August Greene
(Karriem Riggins left) Photo: Courtesy of August Greene

Karriem Riggins Talks Supergroup August Greene

After years of toying around with music behind the scenes, the trio of famed artists Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins finally decided the time was ripe for a collective release. Though the three had collaborated previously, 2018 finally saw the release of August Greene‘s self-titled album, the supergroup’s first.

Along with their first official LP, the group also begun touring this year, offering live performances to audiences for the first time. A glimpse of their set was on display during a spirited NPR Tiny Desk appearance from February, and since they’ve only gone on to bring their positive message and politically fueled music to bigger arenas. This is nothing new for the three, as they are all celebrated artists from previous solo acts and bands.

Before August Greene performs at the Kennedy Center tomorrow night, we had a chance to talk to Riggins, the expert percussionist of the group. He divulged on the differences of writing music for live performance and production, the name August Greene and why the group formed.

On Tap: I know you three had worked together before, so how long had you guys been having jam sessions with one another before you decided to form this super group?
Karriem Riggins: The three of us started working together on Common’s Black America, the original sessions were in 2016. Actually, Robert [Glasper] came to Detroit in 2011 and we were just talking and he put it out there, and it was like “we are doing an album together,” and it was written. 

OT: Where did the name come from?
KR: The name is something that Common and I came up with years ago for some random project that we couldn’t get together. It’s something the fans can interpret, it’s mainly something that sounds good and feels good. I was born in August, so that month is very close to me, and [green is] my birth stone as well, so it’s pretty close to home.

OT: Is the music a product of you guys coming together naturally, or did you know what kind of sound you wanted the music to have?
KR: It’s exactly what we do. Being diverse musicians that can play a lot of different genres,  you can play very busy. When you’re accompanying a soloist you have to spark it to get them there. With this situation, it’s a less is more. In many ways we’re accompanying Common, so he can can flow. Robert is great at that as well, as he creates the fire, but he’s a lot like Miles Davis, that quiet fire. Intensity without volume, and I think about that in this style of production.

OT: You’ve been in a lot of groups and performed solo a lot as well, do you think a group like this only works with more seasoned veterans, for instance would this same group have found each other in this way, say, 15 years-ago?
KR: No, but I think we try to approach it differently. We approach the music as the first time I’m doing music. I don’t want to know exactly what to do with it until after. I don’t want to sound like an old school veteran, because that can be boring. I want to approach it with a new mindset. I don’t want to be a traditionalist, and I want to create the new.

I just try something I’ve never tried before, it’s like going out on faith really. I started with the drum idea for “No Apologies,” because I usually warm-up and then write music with tracking on, but they liked what I was doing to warm up, and I was like ugh, I don’t know if I can do that again. 

OT: You can definitely hear the experience in the music as well, as the songs are pretty subtle, maybe even minimal. Was that a focus for you guys, to really flesh out what kinds of things you wanted to stand out in the songs?
KR: Not really, it all kind of came naturally. I think we’ve recorded a lot of music, and the music we recorded and he connected to he immediately wrote to. Everything he wrote to, made the album, and we knew exactly what it would be. We might have to release the leftover instrumentas

OT: Did you guys know you wanted the music to be motivational and political, or did that also come about naturally when jamming?
KR: No, but you know what it is, we’re all kind of motivational and positive people. We were all like minded in that we wanted to do this kind of music, we all love that song “Optimistic,” and we all shared that sentiment of loving that song, and what it meant in times of stress. I played it in the studio one day, and we shared that same love, and Robert suggested we should do it. We didn’t know who would sing it, but he knew Brandy would crush it. I spoke to Jimmy Jam [of Sounds of Blackness] and he sent his love and that meant a lot to us. It’s good when you can do a remake and the creators of the song like it, love it and feel it.

OT: How is your approach to music making different when you play live drums as opposed to producing for others, is there a shift in process at all?
KR: Well you know, when I’m programming I’m trying to do make something that I would play, just the different nuances and things that I could play. When I produced the Black America album, there’s a lot of samples on there, and [August Greene] is totally different from that. We wanted it to be live focused. I think it’s important to be able to articulate yourself on multiple instruments, whether it be in a program or on live drums. I want to learn all these things to get ideas out, and there’s no wrong way. Some producers just use the mouse, and put the cursor right on the beats, and boom there’s all your snares and kicks.

OT: Is there any difference, maybe from even an ego perspective of being a part of a band backing a rapper, with his name on the marquee, as opposed to being in a group like this one?
KR: I think it’s a different situation. I feel like we all had our input and our sound in the music, and it has a piece of all of us in there. Common spoke that when you hear the music, you hear what we all listen to. We’re all in the music, and his trainer at the time we were recording said we have such a great sound as a unit. I’m just a musician and I love to play, so I like being in both situations. That’s what a lot of our favorite musicians did, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones, but when it was there time to shine they did their thing.

OT: You guys just started playing live earlier this year, has that experience been what you thought it would be? How much fun are you having being a part of August Greene?
KR: Oh, it’s so dope. Sometimes we think “ah man we only have one album worth of music,” but we have so much to say, and we end up running over. We’ll have five minutes left and we won’t have even been through all the songs. We’re still fine tuning the show, and there’s so much we have to say. The SXSW was really crazy, and the energy was through the roof. The way we do it is we stay on a groove, and it feels so good. There’s different syncopation in it, and that’s why a lot of the songs are so long.

August Greene’s Kennedy Center performance starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 29. Tickets are $39-$149. For more information on August Greene, follow them on Twitter at @Augustgreeneband

The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org 

 

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Walk Off The Earth at Fillmore Silver Spring

Walk Off The Earth is an unconventional, multi-talented five-piece musical phenomena that is currently taking the world by storm. Based in Burlington, Ontario (just outside of Toronto), their brilliant 5-people-playing-one-guitar interpretation of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” recently exploded on Youtube garnering well over 35 million views in under 2 weeks. Now they’re touring nation wide, including a stop at the Fillmore Silver Spring. Photos: Nathan Payne

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Rock & Roll For Children Benefit at Fillmore Silver Spring

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013 Inductee and Double Platinum Award-winning  Ann Wilson of Heart played on March 17 at The Fillmore Silver Spring to benefit the Children’s Inn at the NIH. Photos: Mark Raker

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Billie Eilish at Black Cat

With an appetite for the gliding, glassy indie pop of artists like Aurora and Lana Del Rey and the distorted menace of Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, Billie Eilish listens to music the way that most watch movies – entirely undefined by genre. This bleeds through into her own unique style of music, and she brought it to the Black Cat on March 21. Photos: Mike Kim

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Coast Modern and SHAED at 9:30 Club

Indie pop duo Coast Modern, known for their 2015 single “Hollow Life,” consists of Luke Atlas and Coleman Trapp. The duo played with local band SHAED on March 19 at 9:30 Club. Photos: K. Gabrielle Photography

Photo: Gaelle Beri
Photo: Gaelle Beri

Darlingside Brings Camaraderie to Union Stage

Indie folk band Darlingside’s four members are college friends turned bandmates, and they’ve have been playing together for six years. After knowing each other for over a decade, their friendships and collaborative process have evolved alongside the band’s sound. Before they play Union Stage on March 31, On Tap chatted with Harris Paseltiner (guitar, cello, vocals) about the band’s U.K. tour, who is the best at disc golf, their most unique show and their love for microwaved, coffee cup quiche.

On Tap: You guys get out and play disc golf quite a bit.How competitive are you, and how would you rank the band’s disc golf skills?
Harris Palestiner: I just recently learned how to play. We were introduced to it by our sound engineer, DJ, who said it was a great way to get out and experience the different places that we get to visit. We’ve played some incredible courses – the Southwest desert ones are pretty awesome, and they have cacti everywhere. I pretty much go out just for the experience, but Dave [Senft] and Auyon [Mukharji] keep score and are getting good.

OT: Who is the band cook, and what is their signature dish?
HP: We actually all enjoy preparing food, however Auyon has definitely taken the lead for us when we are in the studio. While we were recording [our new album] Extralife, he would go to the grocery story every day and cook us dinner. He has gotten very creative on a George Foreman grill. He’s made lamb chops, squid and a bunch of other stuff. My favorite Auyon meal is his microwaved quiche in a coffee cup. It is so good.

OT: We noticed that you all post #trysomething on some of your Instagram posts.  Are you actively trying to start a new movement?
HP: I wouldn’t say we are actively trying to use the hashtag, but we do love to try new things since we travel around so much. We love trying new restaurants and cafes in each city, and enjoy hiking to see the natural beauty of each area. Part of being on the road is getting out of our comfort zone with our experiences. Auyon is our director of special projects and he is very good at looking up exciting things to do when we are on the road. Recently, we just tried jujutsu in San Francisco and that was definitely different for me. Being on the road with friends is a huge plus for us.

OT: What is the most unique venue or show you’ve ever played? Anywhere cool back in the day before you were super official?
HP: I was just thinking about this the other day. I was looking at photographs from six or seven years ago when we played on a floating raft that was off the shore in Cape Cod. People were hanging out on the beach and swimming all around us. We weren’t attached to anything. We literally had to take a boat to the raft. We had a generator that was running off of a boat that was next to us, and whenever a wave came along, we would have to hold on and make sure none of us (nor our instruments) fell off the raft. It was our strangest venue logistically, but it was super rewarding. It made for an awesome experience.

OT: What is your favorite song to play from Extralife?
HP: “Eschaton,” the fifth track on the album, has electronic textures that we haven’t had in the past. It is challenging to play an acoustic guitar with electric mixers, and figuring out how to make that work has been a fun challenge for me. It’s really coming together!

On Tap: You guys were recently on tour overseas. How has playing abroad impacted your perspective on music? What’s your favorite memory from your time over there?
HP: We’ve had a great time getting out to the UK. We’ve loved the mainland in Europe and Denmark, and have really enjoyed seeing the small towns in the countryside. We’ve gone to a lot of places that we wouldn’t get to go if we were just going there on vacation. I’ve been surprised at how universal music is; I was worried about playing folk in other countries, but people are willing to listen to new and different sounds. Our fans come together as a community to listen to music wherever we go.

Catch Darlingside at Union Stage on Saturday, March 31 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18-$25.

Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; 877-987-6487, www.unionstage.com