Processed with VSCO with kk2 preset

“Indie Junk” & Slav Squats: The World of Nakamara

Photos by Jhad Francis. Interview By Jon Birondo.

self-proclaimed “indie junk” trio Nakamara

There’s no excuse; not anymore, at least. In this day and age, making music – even alone – is a feat anyone can do. You just need an instrument, the internet, a computer, and a determined mind. But when you have the right people, the right environment, and the right area, great things can come into fruition on a larger. Such is the case for Nakamara, a Denton-based trio composed of college students who describe themselves as “indie junk” (indie rock, jazz, and funk). Beneath the comical demeanor and colloquial banter, lies a trio of passionate musicians whose self-titled debut Nakamara, was one of our favorite albums of 2016.

Denton is famous for its house show scene; in the midst of multiple closures of popular “venues”, Nakamara is struggling to find an audience through the only way they know how: impromptu shows in someone’s living room or backyard, performing on the verge of a noise complaint. But before the numerous shows across North Texas, the three were relatively strangers. Wiley and Sam met in their freshman dorm, Wiley hearing Sam jamming with a friend on the first day of moving in; while Azael met Wiley through mutual friends going to house shows. Azael was a late addition however, being the second bassist Wiley & Sam have gone through.

vocals & guitar (Houston, TX)

“I feel we all met because we had something to say musically; and were ready to start ‘yelling’ in terms of music. Just screaming out all our creative shit.”

Sam expressed a deep admiration, and necessity, for collaboration when starting out. Prior to their debut’s release, the trio collaborated with Troy Garrick of fellow Denton act OG Garden, even going as far as creating a music video (below), with the help of the UNT Short Film Club. Decker elaborated on the collaboration saying “we [Garrick & Decker] met at a couple of open mics, and we respected each other hard core as musicians. When I asked him to record the feature, I was like: “I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I know it’s going to be great. It was a dream come true to have him nail it on our song, and have that feature in our back pockets ya know? So when we went to do the music video, I decided to do that song. I was like, let’s bring Troy in. He deserves some credit; and make this music video goofy, and fun you know?” “That’s what real art is,” elaborated Reid, “when you just know and respect someone so much that you just know they’re going to nail it. It felt really good.”

Directed by Decker himself, no one (not even the producers) knew what he had planned. Martinez commented on the ambiguity of the project stating “when people asked Wiley and I, what going to happen in the music video we [had] no idea. If we could tell you, we could”. The ambiguity added to the absurdity of it all, and based off of positive feedback from friends and fans, it paid off.

Azael Martinez

bass (Fort Worth, TX)

“Every time I go to a house show, I get really inspired. [Not everyone] in the crowd knows the bands that they’re seeing, they just go to have a good time. It’s great to know that we could be contributing to people having a good time.”

A bulk of Nakamara’s songs were written more than a year ago, but Decker explained that “I knew that these songs could be better, and eventually be really good. Mostly I hear the songs in my head a lot, and that’s what makes me pretty good at songwriting: I constantly hear the way I think the song would be good. When we start jamming, Azael and Wiley add to it, and we find an awesome compromise.” The songs range from topics such as relationships to parties to love. Reid states “I see our music as feeling”; and that clearly shows through the soulful bass lines and equally as youthful themes and ideas peppered throughout the record.

In the middle of a discussion about songwriting, and their techniques to crafting them, Reid interjected saying “When we write a new song totally from scratch we just sit down, and I say [to Sam] just play some chords and stuff. And, the way I like to do music – and we would all give our input – but when it’s kind of on my shoulders, just play some really nice chords; like let’s try to play something jazzy. Once we get [reach] a point where there’s a feeling there, like there’s some emotional content, then we [experiment]: play it double time, or play it half as slow. Or do this rhythm.” In the middle of the riffs and flashy drums lies an emotional core that’s undeniable. “The lyrics are important, but not the most important part,” Sam says; Wiley finishes by saying “The lyrics are just an expression of the feeling; the feeling is what we spend most our time working on.”

drums (San Marcos, TX)

“When I first came up to Denton for school, I left my drum set cause I highly doubted that within the first semester I would have a band. But on the first day, I heard drums down the hall in my dorm. A couple days after that we had our first gig.”

As three different musicians and people, I asked about individual inspirations. “The Strokes,” muttered Martinez “Radiohead [too].” Guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. being a big influence for Martinez (whose mind was later blown when informing him of my prior interview with Hammond Jr. back in 2014). Reid’s influences included The Robert Glasper trio, Animals As Leaders, and John Bonham. Reid’s drumming style, in the midst of the band’s funk and jazz influence, manages to be incredibly technical, with little fills and cymbal flourishes scattered throughout – filling any space of silence or monotony. Reid describes it as a “stream of consciousness” expression, drawing parallels between his drumming and his self-described “technical” visual art. “I really like focusing on technique and detail in everything I do. It’s such a beautiful thing when you become invested in every little sixteenth note; I just lose myself. It’s fun; I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore”, Reid jokes.

Decker personally cites Radiohead, Black-sploitation funk, Kendrick Lamar and dance music as his main influences. He says “I just mainly copy artists I really like”; the trio covered Lamar’s “King Kunta” at a house show I attended; when I inquired about it they responded saying “we covered ‘King Kunta’ at a show. When we covered it that was the first time we played it. We never practiced it beforehand. I [Decker] learned the bass, and told Azael to pat on the E minor, and once I started playing the groove the crowd took the mic away.” “It’s not our song, but we’re there to have a good time too.”

Nakamara opens and closes with these beautiful soundscapes, which Decker attributes to Pink Floyd’s landmark record The Wall saying: “in my defense, I wanted something that would hook people into the album”. The pieces showcase a sound that makes the trio seem much bigger than what they are. And for a band beginning in college, they feel that encapsulates not just the college experience but particularly a year in the life – filled with ups, downs, and struggles. While music is crucially fundamental in their lives, they feel that they can provide some “flavor” in the midst of a underground music scene clouded with shoegaze and noise bands. “It’s cool to just have fun. You don’t have to be depressive all the time. You can just go to a show and get lit, and have fun,” says Reid, “we’re like a rare commodity as far as [Denton’s] vibe is concerned with.”

“I want us to be identified as “indie junk”. For the record, we are “indie junk”. It’s indie jazz funk.”

Nakamara is another band in a sea of other bands trying to find their sound and hone their skills as growing musicians and artists in a climate of political turmoil, and a community that really holds the arts very dear to the city’s identity. “There are so many shows I go to and no one is moving because there is nothing really inspiring anyone to move; and that’s my whole thing. I want people to move” says Decker. Playing local creative space 1919 Hemphill, Reid notes the clear distinction between the heavier bands on their roster and their sound: “People were jumping and dancing; and that’s exactly what I want to see.” Decker closed the interview saying “when people go to house shows, they have NO idea who you are. When they go to see you for the first time they may have listened to a demo, or have heard of you – but they have never listened to your music. So they’re not going to be singing along to any of your songs. The whole philosophy for our band, I feel, is: make something that, on the first listen, you’re moving too.”

Make America Jam Again.

Print

“Near To The Wild Heart Of Life” Japandroids

Japandroids

Near To The Wild Heart Of Life Album Review

ANTI- Records

Released January 27, 2017

Genre: Noise Rock, Indie Rock, Heartland Rock

The greatest analogy I’ve heard used to describe Celebration Rock (from a source I cannot remember), likens the 2012 record to (and I paraphrase) “a friend that comforts one in need, placing their arm around your shoulder, and reassuring you that this shit you’re going through happens to everyone.”  It highlights an important concept in the realm of art – music, film, literature, what have you – and one that youth should all be able to express/feel once they grow up: empathy. Japandroids make visceral and fist-pumping noise rock tunes that will prompt group choruses, another round of beers with your buds, and the promise of a hopeful tomorrow. With this new record, they fuse heartland rock into the fold driving home the narrative of belonging, and the importance of struggling with change when growing up.

The album opens with a by-the-books Japandroids track, and it’s a welcome listen; the flaming guitars are righteous and true, and the chorus just begs to be sung by pals in a bar at two in the morning. “North South East West” brings in some heartland rock/country twang, but remains close to Japandroids’ M.O of group choruses and good times. “True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will,” a great fusion of noisy guitars and sustained heartland rock catharsis, is perhaps the best fusion of this new Japandroids sound here. The boldest move here however, is the near seven-and-a-half minute “Arc of Bar”, which begins rather jarringly with some synth repetition, before Japandroids bring back the group choruses and good feelings that we have all known to love about them – sustaining this feeling through repetition and prolonged group choruses that keep this feeling of comfort ubiquitous.

Despite these highlights, Japandroids fail to surpass Celebration Rock, and the ideas run out of steam almost halfway through the record. “Midnight To Morning” is pure Springsteen, up to the meditations on home and going back to a place of the past, and its fusion of noise rock and the warmth of heartland rock runs pretty dry and becomes a little one-noter. “No Known Drink Or Drug” is a return to the basics, and not even the chorus could provide that certain emphatic response it is so meticulously constructed to provoke. The album closer is a rather forgettable foray into the rustic acoustic guitar balladry that Japandroids introduce to us here, and it doesn’t cap the album off with a bang and the end result leaves one wanting more.

By fusing Springsteen-influences, synths, and their by-the-books sound, Japandroids come back with an album that shows them able to experiment while holding true to their sound. However, this new record here does not deliver the same enticing results of camaraderie and youthful bliss that they can deliver with a fiery intensity. The songwriting has improved by a tad bit, with Japandroids smoothly crafting songs about growing up and heading home; but here, the charm and passion of simply going through the struggles as a youth are long gone, and in has come the uncertainty and malaise of young adulthood.

FAV TRACKS: Near To The Wild Heart Of Life, True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will, Arc of Bar

LEAST FAV TRACK: In A Body Like A Grave

SCORE: (6.5/10)

Thundercat

THUNDERCAT ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM; ENLISTS KENNY LOGGINS & MICHAEL McDONALD FOR NEW SINGLE

Brainfeeder and bass legend Thundercat has announced a new record, his third full-length following his  2015 EP The Beyond/ Where The Giant’s RoamIt’s called Drunk, and it’s out on February 24 via Brainfeeder Records. According to a press release, “the album is a 23-track epic journey into the often hilarious, sometimes dark mind of the Grammy-winning singer/bassist and finds a few of his friends joining him along the way including: Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Wiz Khalifa, Kamasi Washington and Brainfeeder mastermind Flying Lotus.”

Here’s the album art:

drunk-main

In regards to the new single, Thundercat states:

“These are guys that I’ve listened to and where I felt that I’ve learned that honesty in the music. Kenny Loggins is one of my favourite songwriters.” Loggins was the one that suggested bringing McDonald in on the track and, Thundercat adds: “I think one of the most beautiful moments was realising how amazing Michael McDonald is. He would go through so many ideas and have so much to offer.”

Thundercat also notes: “That song to me is about going down the rabbit hole, taking you to another place… On the edge of dark, there’s the brightest light. It means a lot to me in the sense of… the experience that I’ve had growing up with friends and people that I’ve been around where it’s inviting them into where I come from emotionally. Sometimes it’s a pretty intense thing. The point is how weird things can get. I feel like it’s very funny that, in a way, of course Michael McDonald and Kenny would be there.”

Pre-Order the album here. 

Listen to the new single below:

 

fortress-festival-2017-lineup-752x440

FORTRESS FESTIVAL DEBUT LINEUP ANNOUNCED

North Texas is a steadily growing scene for rising music, and 2017 should be an indication of great things to come. With Oaktopia in Denton showcasing some notable acts this past fall, Fort Worth is proving itself to hold itself against many of the numerous festivals in the DFW area. According to a press release, the inaugural festival will celebrate music and culture with some of the best rising acts of our time, including PNG favorites Run The Jewels, Flying Lotus, Whitney, and Purity Ring. As a big addition, shoegaze pioneers Slowdive are on the roster as well. Smaller, local acts such as Sam Lao and Blue, The Misfit are on the lineup as well.

See the full lineup here.

Purchase tickets here.

1ed248049f7080c809642e513d00e853

“Run The Jewels 3” Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels 3 Album Review

Run The Jewels, Inc.

Released December 24, 2016

Genre: Rap, Hardcore Hip Hop, Political Hip Hop

Currently one of the hottest acts in hip hop, Run The Jewels return a year later to drop the third installment of their cartoonishly violent and politically charged hip-hop. One can imagine a lot will be said on the political side, considering the current social climate in America surrounding the new ‘President.’ Going into RTJ3, I was worried that I would get 50 minutes of bashing the same unnamed “politician” over and over again. I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of topics and sounds that El-P and Killer Mike tackle on this project. Minus a few slightly-too-extra lines, RTJ3 might be the most interesting collaboration between these two emcees yet.

The album kicks off with the song “Down,” which is much less aggressive than the average RTJ track. It’s not terrible but because it subverts the expectation for intensity right off the bat, it’s harder to appreciate. The rapping is honest about not wanting to improve one’s life and not encounter old struggles. Other than the honesty nothing stands out. After that, the album cranks out consistently impassioned and hyped tracks, which is expected from this duo. In summation, every beat is noisy and every bar is hard. Not every bar is GREAT, though. I can only stomach the cartoonishness so much. “You ain’t lived you life ’til you’ve seen a bad b!tch eat your wife like a savage.” I can’t even say I think it’s funny. I just feel like I watched a bad episode of Ren and Stimpy.

Most of the lines on here are not corny, however. All of “2100” is a response to the crazy political climate that we’re in but it balances being vindictive without being too preachy. I don’t want to waste time listing dope bars because you wouldn’t listen to the whole album. One thing I will say is that the Danny Brown feature on “Hey Kids” and the Zach De La Rocha feature are easily in the top 3 best moments on the album. Rest assure, RTJ3 is a great way to tackle 2017.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACK: Hey Kids, 2100, A Report To The Shareholders: Kill Your Masters

LEAST FAV TRACK: Down

Score: (8.0/10)

20887656331_3a8fe890f7_b

FATHER JOHN MISTY RELEASES NEW SINGLE “PURE COMEDY”

Father John Misty is back with new single & music video. It’s called “Pure Comedy,” and it tackles subjects ranging from Rihanna grinding on concert goers to memes to John Cena to Trump’s inauguration to Obama’s departure, and more! Watch it below!

Read our review of his 2015 record I Love You, Honeybear.

xx_iseeyou_4000

“I See You” The xx

The xx

I See You Album Review

Young Turks

Released January 13, 2017

Genre: Indie Pop, Indietronica, UK Bass, Alternative Dance

The xx’s second LP Coexist wore out the trio’s minimal dream pop to an almost dreary degree; the years following their debut found a plethora of acts following suit in the group’s style that clouded up the indie scene with dream pop acts left and right. By 2012, Coexist’s presence was another redundant addition in The xx’s oeuvre. Following producer and member Jamie xx‘s  stellar In Colour, The xx’s sound was asking for a renovation and sonic push into new territory. With I See You, the trio have moved ever so closer towards a more varied, colorful, and richer tone.

The xx’s dream pop sound is a skeletal and intimate one, but also a rather limiting one. Jamie xx brings his colorful production to the table here, expanding the group’s sound towards colorful passages and engaging directions. The opening track “Dangerous” opens with blaring horns, that are supported by a house drum beat. Vocalist romy Madley-Croft’s voice is less awkwardly romantic here, showing better enunciation and conviction; bassist Oliver Sim’s voice is drearily monotone and, at times, detracts on the record. For example the following track, “Say Something Loving”, has a beautiful duet between the two, separately. The way the different vocal performances work in tandem with the instrumentation, do not mesh well and are constantly clashing at each other amidst the creative production.

On “Lips” Madley-Croft’s vocals mesh well with Sim’s, as the song’s sparse instrumentation is greeted with bold experimentation by way of middle-eastern-like horns (?). It adds a new layer of depth to the intimate sound, and spices up the romantic lyrics in an engaging way. The noisy production on the aptly titled “A Violent Noise” is not as dissonant as one would expect, but is still boisterously chaotic. The main detractor is Sim’s vocals which are stunningly bland and monotone; and it doesn’t help when his vocals cover about 80% of the song’s lyrical content. His way of delivering the vocals in a bland and uninteresting way distract from the obviousl throbbing and emotional core of the album’s songs.

But what they fail to accomplish in singing, they make up for it in really engaging and varied instrumentation. “Performance” is the naked and spare ballad at the centerpiece of it all. Madley-Croft’s vocals are rather devastating, and the string arrangements that close the song feel like a passage ripped from Radiohead’s latest record. The promotional single “On Hold” is The xx at their strongest, in terms of this new direction. The Hall & Oates sample is perfectly placed into a driving dance beat that is equally soothing and energetic.”I Dare You’s” percussion follows this as well, with a cute little riff that just begs to be hummed in the dead of the night. “Test Me” closes the record on a solemn and a glitchy note, adding a bit of malaise and amiguity to the youthful romance so heavily expressed.

I See You is a better improvement than Coexist, and a step forward in the right direction. Jamie xx’s penchant for a soul sample is evident here, but these sample based tracks make up only half of the record. The second half, however, sound like refined versions of classic xx tunes. Sometimes with better vocals; sometimes with better instrumentation; and sometimes with a more engaging emotional arc. While it isn’t a consistent or refined record, it shows that The xx have the strength to make something new while still echoing back to their roots.

FAV TRACKS:  Dangerous, Lips, Performance, On Hold, Replica

LEAST FAV TRACK:  A Violent Noise

SCORE: (7.0/10)

doc132.slowdive.digi.starroving.1600

“Star Roving” Slowdive

Slowdive

“Star Roving” Track Review

Dead Oceans

Released Janaury 12, 2017

Genre: Shoegaze, Dream Pop

*With the start of the new year, we are going to begin rating our tracks as “YEH, MEH, & NEH”, abandoning the old form of giving tracks a numerical score.*

Seminal shoegazers Slowdive come back with their first single in 22 years; a track that is just as soulful and heart achingly beautiful as their discography suggests. But it isn’t so much as a return, but more of a revisit. Slowdive have not changed their formula too much, and this new track bears the elements and hallmarks necessary to grab the attention of fans to recognize Slowdive are now present in the new millennium. The song begins with a gorgeously hollow yet melodically beautiful chord that is repeated throughout the song, before pulsating drums and ethereal vocals drift into and out of the reverb. it’s by-the-books Slowdive, and should not detract fans expecting simply a comeback from one of the 90s’ critically acclaimed acts. The song’s power, its soft and vulnerable soul, at the heart of the noise and reverb, proves to keep the conversation going and has some gravity to instigate repeated listens.

Slowdive are back, and while this track is not anything stellar, it only provokes discussion of what is to come. In my opinion however, give this a few listens.

SCORE: MEH

GORILLAZ

WATCH: GORILLAZ RETURN WITH NEW ANTI-TRUMP SONG “HALLELUJAH MONEY”

The Damon Albarn-fronted, genre fusing group, Gorillaz, are back with a new song – their first in six years. It features Mercury Prize winning singer Benjamine Clementine. It is not the first single from their new record, which is out later this year. In the accompanying video, Clementine sings from Trump Tower with anti-Trump lyrics and themes, along with eccentric background visuals to accompany – just in time for Inauguration Day.

In a tweet promoting the video, Gorillaz stated:

Have a look at the video below via Uproxx.

 

japandroids_press_photo_by_leigh_righton