If you were about to get laid in what the ’70s thought the Future was going to be—all lens flare and plastics—then this is the track that you’d play for mood music. Continue reading
Today is Valentine’s Day! This means that you’re probably eating chocolate for breakfast because you can, frantically dialing up 1-800-Flowers to send your girlfriend or mom roses or counting down ’til 5pm so that you can either go watch twelve horror movies on Netflix (or porn) or to a pricey dinner. Continue reading
Photos: Jess Hodge. Top L-R: Sonny Jim Clifford, Chadley Kolb. Bottom L-R: Noel Coakley, Owen Beane, Amy Douglas, Rob Phillips, Matty Maybruck.
A tiki bar chock full o’ bourbon on a porch, complete with palm tree-shaped fairy lights and weather-proofed bamboo railings. This is not a dream. This exists. And it’s a part of Amy Douglas’ home, and the SPF 5000 frontwoman was kind enough to invite the strapping young gents of Coyote Kolb into her sunny abode for a conversation about … well, just music, man. After shooting the shit for about an hour, SPF 5000 and Coyote Kolb—who had brought all their instruments per my request, in case a photo op presented itself—jammed out on the tiki porch, singing ‘60s rock standards after dishing about influences, how much they love jazz and what exactly an Americana band and a “25th-century space disco” act have in common.
ON THROWING THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER:
Amy Douglas: I’m the songwriter in the group and I cannot deal with anything that is not a song. It has to be a song or it will never live on after you. I don’t care what it sounds like. I don’t care if it’s five notes in a row—“Everyday People” is one chord. But it has to be as song.
Sonny Jim Clifford: That’s what’s missing from a lot of dance music, I think.
Amy: That’s what’s missing from a lot of music.
Sonny Jim: I would not disagree with you on that one.
Chadley Kolb: But that’s coming from a philistine, really, of the genre in general.
Amy: We would agree with you.
Rob Phillips: No, it’s fine dude. Like, music is music. And I think when you start stripping away all the structures and the forms and 2000-plus years of history in making modern music, you’re kind of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There’s no reason that the two can’t live happily together and coexist in a meaningful way.
Noel Coakley: I’ve never heard that saying before, and I like it.
Rob: Oh, you haven’t heard that?
Noel: I am a sayings junkie, and I love it.
Rob: Well that’s a good one. You can use that in a conversation to spice it up a little bit.
Owen Beane: Now it’s going to come up in practice.
Rob: “I think we changed it too much man. You just threw the baby out with the bathwater.”
ON LOCATION; C+C MUSIC FACTORY
Amy: I want to start by saying I have checked out your music and I have checked out what you do, and, I love what you guys do. I mean, to have a band that seems by all right a band you would expect more indigenously to be from either something mountain or something rural. Because when you listen to music like yours you’re pulling from so many influences, whether we’re talking about Appalachian influences with real bluegrass and Americana—so that could mean any part of the Appalachian trail—but also, like, the renaissance of musicians like The Band who used the Woodstock region and the Hudson Valley region of New York to have their own renaissance. And, you know, they’ll tell you they were Canadians who played for Dylan and wound-up in Woodstock (where I just was by the way), that, you know, that the south and all of the music, Willie Dixon, blues, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cast. And when I listen to you guys, I think that you could not be a more timely band to happen right now, because people are falling in love with this music again. Very heavily—I don’t know how familiar y’all are with Jace Everett, who does the theme for True Blood. If you don’t know him you’re going to hear him, you gotta get to his manager. And you gotta be like, “I need to tour with this man, you don’t understand.” Because when I first heard your music I went “Oh my God. They need to get with Jace Everett.” That whole like—you don’t even bother classifying what it is, it’s just Americana music with volume. There’s a little ZZ Top in there. There’s a little Johnny Cash in there. There’s a little Bob Wilson’s Texas Playboys in there. And I love that y’all are doing that. Especially considering that no one would ever expect that you’re doing it here.
Chadley: [Laughs] We’re Yankees.
Amy: Yankees, yeah. And that’s something that we’ve also kinda heard about SPF 5000 is “Wow, I can’t believe there’s a group like SPF 5000 in Boston.” So, we might be different sonically, but we share that kinship of being—let’s face it—you know, kind of like odd ducks. You make music and it just don’t sound like it comes from here.
Chadley: You’re right, though, there is kind of a resurgence of Americana music right now. Matty and I went to Newport Folk Festival this year and it was sold out, apparently, for the first time in 50 years, before the event even started. So that’s definitely evidence of that. We were just listening to “White Hot Fantasy” on the way over here. And, uh, having a good time crankin’ it.
Amy: I know you’d never believe this but there are roots way down in “White Hot Fantasy” that come from the same source as the music you make.
Chadley: You’ve got your soul and your R&B in your voice, no doubt about it.
Matty Maybruck: Some C+C Music Factory, a little bit.
Amy: Oh no. [Laughs]
Chadley: Which is a good thing!
Amy: Oh god. We need to fix something.
Noel: C+C makes you sweat ‘til you bleed.
ON HOW THEY DO THAT, EXACTLY:
Noel: So how does that stuff usually come together for you? How do you pull that stuff together?
Amy: Ohhhhh. We’re crazy children. Well, I think SPF 5000 … I’ve referred to us as—
Owen: This whiskey is good.
Noel: Yeah, it’s very good.
Amy: That’s another thing that unites us—we make music that doesn’t sound indigenous to the region, and we are whiskey fiends. That’ll work. SPF 5000—I call us a 25th Century dance band. Now, dance band—especially, like, now, and this is something I’ve spoken to recently about people from New York, where I’m from. I’m actually a New York City girl. I didn’t live in Massachusetts ‘til two years ago. My husband, Dave, is from the area his whole life. I was born in Queens, I lived out on Long Island. I lived on 25th Street and 3rd Avenue two years ago. I came to Somerville and I’d never go back. I love it here. I think this is the tits. For real. But, when I met Rob, two years ago, both of us have the same influences. And both of us are analog musicians. Rob is an outstanding bass player. He is also a great pianist. He is a fundamental musician. And I started doing music when I was a child. I’ve been at it since I was six. And, my whole schtick, as much as I really appreciate things like, a lot of the electronic influences of SPF 5000, I really kind of come more from a purist like—I’m a jazz girl. I love jazz, and I love rock.
Chadley: Sonny Jim just lit up! Watch out!
Sonny Jim: Yeah!
Rob: We both like jazz.
Amy: We both love jazz, we both love funk. Both of us have ties to Parliament Funkadelic. When I met Rob, originally, we only knew that we wanted to do two things. When I left New York City, I had started doing session work for a lot of electronic artists. I started getting into electronic dance music very late in the game. I had always envisioned myself as kind of being in a band that was like Led Zeppelin. I still kind of, deep in my soul, want that polarity. And I feel I’ve achieved that in a much more modern fashion. So when we started making music together, our thought process was all about the analog before we ever thought about how we wanted it, sonically, to carry out at all. So when I met him, I was blessed because, in addition to all of the things I mentioned, he loved them, and, he really is such a knowledgeable, dedicated, electronic dance music fan. And, he was able to say “Hey. Let’s blend these two worlds where we stay very analog in our process,
Chadley: I know I’m curious—and we were talking about it earlier—what your live shows might be like.
Rob: So, Ms. Douglas, amazing vocalist as she is, the front-woman, she’s generally out in front singing the songs, riling up the crowd. We have a live performance vocalist named Damien who performs with us sometimes. I’m in the back kind of manning the fort as it were, so I do some work on my laptop using Ableton Live, which is production software—
Chadley: Yes. Used that.
Rob: I have a DJ mixer, but I’ll also whip out my bass. I have a midi keyboard that I play some synths with. It’s kind of… live hybrid. We’ve got real vocals, I’m kind of doing DJ things but also playing some real instruments on top of that as well.
Chadley: So you’ve got a laptop and a bass and, do you both have mics?
Amy: Both Damien and I do. And because both of us are also keyboard players. I play piano, he plays piano, technically I would have to give Rob the nod and say “The man’s got good fingers,” I’m more of a—
Owen: That’s what your mom said.
Amy: Hey now.
Chadley: Wait—who’s Damien?
Amy: Damien is sort of the equivalent of our Fonzworth Bentley or our Flava Flav. He lights it up, he—
Chadley: He’s the hype man.
Amy: He’s also a really good vocalist. He can really sing his ass off. And when we’re all together we kind of look like an urban Mod Squad, if you will. Damo, he kind of loves to pimp up tuxedos. And then we got handsome over here, and me, and when we’re all together everyone’s just like “Wow.” I have to say that, I think that music in general has suffered. And it’s ironic—we use technology to supplement what we would normally utilize a full band for. Now between the both of us, we are a full band. Rob plays drums. Rob plays bass, Rob plays guitar and we both play piano. And I have been known to play a damn fine kazoo. So, between us, it’s sort of like the Steely Dan-thing. Back in the ‘70s, I think, if we were more like a band like that we probably would have called every cat and been like “We need you for today.”
Noel: So given that you guys have to do multiple parts for recording’s sake, when it comes to performing live, are you then limited to how far you can go off the reservation, so to speak? When you’re playing live do you have to stick to something ’cause there’s multiple parts for each of you?
Rob: I mean, a little bit. Yeah, we do have some limitations from that, but the way DJ technology is, and the way that software is right now, you can actually re-splice stuff in real-time. So I have midi controllers and stuff. You can take—I wanna extend this 4-bar loop and rip it out indefinitely. I wanna just use a keyboard solo. And you have your headphone monitor so you can listen to what you’re doing in real time. So there’s a lot of room for live experimentation with that. Certainly not as organic or as dynamic as a live band, in terms of just how far off you can go. It doesn’t have to be—it’s not just playing to a backing track all of the time, know what I mean?
International electronic music superstars (Trentemoller, Mary Anne Hobbs, Switch) may be headlining, but hometown representation is the name of the game for some of the most talked about DJs, producers playing Together in 2011. Below, an introduction to six live acts that represent an electronic element that’s more than just beats. Continue reading