Members of the band OILS are three songs into a practice session in the upstairs of SeedCo Studios, and three of them — Andrew Frederick, Chris Luxem and James Thomblison — have already made their way to the floor.
Sitting cross-legged with eyes closed, Frederick switches between his guitar and reverbed vocals. Luxem perfects the pedals and mixers at his feet. Thomblison, the group’s newest member, looks to his bandmates for cues. Drummer Mark Osman is the only member standing as he plays. Taryn Miller, who recently signed with Domino Records for her solo project, Your Friend, will be joining later in the evening.
The breadth of experience and collaboration between all five OILS members allows for a particularly entrancing textural sound — many songs easily transitioning into jam sessions. It’s not unusual to find any given combination of OILS members performing together on any given night in a multitude of other local projects, including CS Luxem, which has a nearly identical lineup.
“Because we’ve all been collaborating so much, we’re at a point where the boundaries are kind of blurred,” Frederick says. “That’s really exciting because we’re all just going to put a bunch of energy into it and see what happens. We naturally slip into more recognizable genres now because we’ve built a vocabulary to do so.”
Although the lineup has shifted from when OILS first came on the scene in 2010, Frederick and Osman are founding members. OILS released a cassette tape last year and now they have even bigger things on the horizon in 2014: a 7-inch of new material for Replay Records, and a performance at Love Garden’s 24th anniversary celebration in May.
In the cozy and cold home base of SeedCo Studios, which hosts open spaces for musicians, artists and other creatives, OILS has found a revival of sorts for local creativity and partnership.
“I was always looking for ways to combine visual artists with sound artists,” Luxem says. Now that’s made more possible with their recording studio in earshot of artists’ studios, and many local artists, such as Jason Barr, creating original artwork for OILS’ shows and recordings. “Printmakers and musicians have always gone hand-in-hand. They’ve helped make posters forever. It’s an extra piece of merchandise at your show.”
With a busy spring ahead of them, though, it’s the upcoming performances that stand out. “We’ve just been recording so much that we have all these tracks,” Frederick says. “We’re really stoked about playing live for now. That’s the biggest thing.”
Making Movies are making waves. The Kansas City four-piece has received recent acclaim and exposure for its sophomore album “A La Deriva” (Adrift), which expands greatly on the group’s signature synthesis of Latin, Afro-Cuban, Peruvian and indie-pop into one palatable mix. Known for invigorating performances, “A La Deriva" capitalizes on Making Movies’ infectious live energy and growing strengths as songwriters and musicians, with a big assist from respected producer (and Los Lobos player) Steve Berlin. Ahead of their May 10 performance at The Jazzhaus, Lawrence.com chatted with Making Movies vocalist and guitarist Enrique Chi about translating complicated songs for the stage and making music until the day you die.
When Lawrence.com last spoke to you guys in July of last year, you were preparing for the new album, “A La Deriva,” to come out. Now that it’s out, how do you feel?
We’re excited, man. We definitely noticed that everything has grown for the band. The part that’s most rewarding is just artistically it has grown. The music is more challenging, more challenging to perform live, and it’s pushed us to really make ourselves better musicians. At the end of the day that’s still the most fun part of the process.
The media people that get the record and our fans that get it are really getting connected to the songs. And that’s been kind of a growth in it of itself, where [people] are really taking in to account the work and appreciating it […] for what it is. That’s been encouraging. We’re a month into the record being in the world and those are the signs that I see the most growth in, outside of ourselves.
These songs have a lot of life to them, both performed and on record. How do you balance the spirit of the song from record to stage and back and forth?
We’ve done that by trial and error. Most of the recordings were [made] in a very live setting. There are a lot of overdubs, but when you hear the bass, drums, guitar, percussion and lead vocals on 95 percent of the record, all of that happened in one take. So the album already contains kind of a spirit that we have live, but with these extra textures, we have to figure it out. Like, all right, we only have two hands per person, how do we get all these noises to come out? Which ones matter […] and which ones are OK to leave out live? And I feel like the best way to do it is just play. This month as we’re in the middle of 20-something shows, those lessons you learn them as you go.
There are only four members in the band, but it almost sounds as if you are working with a huge ensemble. How do you four achieve such a fluid and rhythmic sound?
A real huge part of that goes to Brendan [Culp, drummer] and Juan Carlos [Chaurand, percussionist] and the creativity [they use] to write their parts. Years ago we were at some Latin club and they were playing a salsa record. Salsa is usually an ensemble of nine people — seven to nine people is the usual standard. We were listening to it through a live PA, and I’m sure if you’ve ever gone to a rock show with a big band, with rare exceptions do you actually hear every instrument and the character it brings. Through a live PA you kind of get the bass stuff, some of the trebbly stuff, and some of the other stuff washes in the middle. So we’re listening to this music in a dance club and I went to Brendan and Juan Carlos and […] said, “Listen to this song, you know what’s happening in this music and know what the conga player is actually playing, you know what the bongo players are supposed to be playing, what the compana players are doing — because you know it. Just listen, what can you actually hear. When we play our music, we should just play what people hear.”
They’re actually leaving out a lot of elements and only playing the accents to create a perception of three or four percussionists. So Juan Carlos will be doing a bell pattern with one hand and hitting the accent tones on the covas and it creates that illusion that there’s two people playing those instruments. Between that, we’ve all had to start singing a lot more — the background vocals make a big difference. My brother [Diego Chi, vocalist/bassist] runs his vocals through guitar pedals and will loop things and sample things. He basically gets to be another instrument that way.
Basically it’s just compressing and having a magician’s touch to make all the elements continuous or seamless...
That’s what people started saying — magicians — about our band. When I was a kid I wanted to be a magician so bad. It’s cool that become a new adjective. It’s our goal to keep the stuff that matters that people hear and focus on that, and I think the rest of it is carried over by the visceral energy of being at a live show.
“A La Deriva” was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, who actually sought the band out. I know that you’ve talked about his influence in getting a looser sound. What do you feel like is going to be the lasting influence of that experience though?
A couple things are really lasting for me personally and as artist. He is a dude who’s nearly 60 but he’s played music for 35 years, he’s on tour with Los Lobos — this year they did a whole year of touring with Neil Young. That’s amazing [stuff] to do, but on his off time he makes records — with young bands like us, [or] Los Super Seven, [or] with Deer Tick — and he works with such fire and passion. That’s something that I worried about. I love making music but am I going to be able to sustain this kind of energy into in 30 years? He’s created a catalog of music that has his imprint on it — and I think that is amazing. Seeing his energy inspired [me to think] that I can do this.
The lyrics to “La Dia De La Muerte” — I wrote that the morning we recorded it and ended up writing some of those ideas into that song. Man, it is possible to be this excited and passionate about me creating music until the day that you die.
“A La Deriva” is somewhat of a concept album about a family falling apart. Was that something that stitched itself organically or was that something you had set out to create?
It was a little of both. I think it was more organic than preordained. A couple of things happened in my life: I had a relationship fall apart and was dealing with a family that had a bunch of insane stuff happen. At the same time we were working with this youth organization that we ended launching a summer camp with for inner-city kids [and we had] some experiences with kids there that impacted us… just seeing their struggles… so those things [filtered through]. I had a shift, too. I realized that I needed to write songs that voice those stories. People don’t realize as we travel, they’re like does Kansas City have Hispanics? Where’d you shoot the video for “Tormenta” [with] that Mexican neighborhood? Did you have to go to California to shoot that? No, we shot that in our backyard, we shot it in Kansas City in the neighborhood I live in. So I realized that we have this opportunity to be a voice for that community.
And as the songs started coming out, I sent them to Steve — we sent him 20 tunes […] and I was hoping he would pick out the ones that I felt had a theme running through them. He was whittling them down based just on how he liked them and we just wound up on the exact same page.
Aside from the lyrical connections, you have these almost suite-like interludes. There’s a lot of ambient flourishes and swells that connect the songs together. Was that something you were focused on when you were recording the album, too?
Yeah we did. We were definitely more cautious about including some of those interludes and having them tie to each other. We were conscious of trying to make it feel like it ran together. Then that’s where Steve’s influence — I’ve talked about this a little bit before — he allowed us not be afraid of that, to not trim the weird reverse guitar solo on “Ciego Sin Querer” into a shorter thing or to allow the intro for this song to be long and take a minute to get all the way into the tune.
If you go: Making Movies, 10 p.m. Friday, May 10, at the Jazzhaus, 926 1/2 Massachusetts St., $5
Farmer's Ball is KU student-run radio station KJHK's annual battle of the bands — a competition held since 1994 that has crowned winners ranging from rapper Stik Figa to funk band the Will Nots. This past Saturday, eight bands performed and more than 250 audience members voted at the Bottleneck to choose the four finalists below, who will compete in the finals this Saturday.
With ties to local band Quiet Corral, Brain Food aims to bridge "the gap between electronic and song-based music."
Instrumental, shoegaze rock. Forrester performed a recent KJHK in-studio performance in atypical low lighting. Nice.
Spirit is the Spirit
This five-piece rock band has a trippy music video for their song "Pillows" and an energetic stage presence that usually sparks a dancing crowd.
You can see all four bands perform at the Bottleneck this Saturday starting at 10 p.m. — the show is 18+ and costs $5. Vote for your favorite band at the end of the night. The crowd favorite — announced shortly before 2 a.m. — will win $3,000 in cash, and second place will win $2,000.
With each iteration every year the Austin, Texas-based arts and technology festival South by Southwest proves to be an important cultural test kitchen and showcase for music, film, interactive games and social media. The 2013 conferences, as they are often referred to, recently started March 8, and every year a host of regional, national and international acts make the trek to Texas’ state capitol, often raising the necessary injection of funds by playing SXSW launch parties like the SXSWFest, recently held at the Jackpot Saloon.
Breaking this year’s acts into demographics, The Atlantic’s Richard Florida and colleague Patrick Adler, analyzed official SXSW musical acts and arranged them according to geography, as a way to chart the “geography of indie music.” Austin of course dominates with the most acts, given the city's hometown advantage, with other metro centers like New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Chicago representing large as well.
But Adler also analyzed the number of official acts per 100,000 people, and something surprising (or perhaps not) shines through, with college towns like Athens, Ga., and Bloomington, Ind., rising to the top. Our own fair city gets a pretty sizable representation using this metric, coming in at sixth place. But this doesn’t account for the number of unofficial shows, like the MidCoast Takeover, which features Lawrence and Kansas City acts like Cowboy Indian Bear, The Dead Girls, Spirit is the Spirit and The Soft Reeds.
Of course this representation probably does not surprise Lawrenician music lovers. We have known for some time that our small college town, and the region as a whole, has an awesome, thriving music scene. The New York Times even noted in 2005, “Lawrence is now perhaps the most vital music scene between Chicago and Denver.”
Not that any of this makes you feel better as your lucky friends tweet and Instagram from Austin all week. There’s always next year.
I’m still undecided what I will be this Halloween--it’s a toss up between Slutty Batman or Zombie Romney--but the region is playing host to a wide range of Halloween rock shows, that give me plenty of time to come up with something.
What: Scary Manilow’s Annual Halloween Hootenanny
Where: Replay Lounge
Who: Former Spooklights frontman Scary Manilow (Rob Gillaspie) hosts this Halloween party with performances from Ponyboy, Pale Hearts and Sister Rat.
Fear Factor: Scaaaarrrrry Manilow
What:: Big Gigantic, Griz and DJ Kimbarely Legal
Where:: Liberty Hall
Why:I didn’t know it was possible to be dense and cheesy at the same time, but Boulder, CO powerehouse duo step up to the plate with a sound that deftly moves from heavy bass beats to softcore downtempo.
Costume Contest: Yes! Winner gets a free ticket to Wakarusa 2013
What: Goomba Rave: Spooky Edition
Where: The Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire Street
When: Tonight at 9 and tomorrow, following Junior Brown's 8 p.m. performance
Who: Regular Goomba Rave kids putting the town's most raucous party with a spooooky twist.
Costume Contest: Oh yes!
What: Al-O-Ween IV: Reckoning
Where: SeedCo Studios, 826 Pennsylvania
When: Friday, 9 p.m.
Who: The fourth annual fundraiser and Halloween party in honor of Alec G. Waggoner benefiting a KU Endowment facilitated scholarship for a student in Geology, featuring Baby Jessica, Gucci Dan, Andrea Perdue, Agent X-12, Plain and Cyrus Dayani.
Check out "Out in the Darkness" by Plains.
What: The Halloween Costume Party Weekend
Where: The Boobie Trap, 1417 SW 6th, Topeka, Kansas 66606
When: Friday and Saturday
Who: A smattering of local acts including the always great The Dead Girls convene for a two-day bash over the weekend. Friday features metal acts My Father's Gun, Confined in Flesh, Ewreckening and Death of the Party. Saturday's rock party features Face for Radio, Bullet Proof Tiger, The Dead Girls, Chris Aytes & the Good Ambition and Lo Pan's Revenge.
Fear Factor: Topeka
Costume Contest? In the title, yo.
What: Halloween Rock Party
Where: Frank’s North Star Tavern, 508 Locust Street Lawrence, KS 66044
When: Wednesday, Oct. 31 (Bonus Points for actually being on Halloween)
Who: Monzie Leo and the Big Sky, Dear Rabbit, Olassa, Drakkar Sauna, Long Shadows, and Black Christmas
Fear Factor: It’s going to be in the basement.
Below check a video of Drakkar Sauna performing at a festival:
Where: The Eighth Street Taproom, 19 E. Eighth Street
When: Wednesday, Oct. 31
Who: The Rackateees, Copyrights, Rooftop Vigilantes, and Two Cow Garage
Fear Factor: This is last local show for a while for hometown heroes Rooftop Vigilantes
Costume Contest: Dressing up is encouraged. Who’s gonna stop you.
Electronic music under the stars, a drums-led dance party at the Bottleneck, folk and blues at the Granada, and salsa and funk at the Taproom—it’s clear that tonight in Lawrence, you can see nearly any genre of music. (Here's a comprehensive list of tonight’s shows.)
The Replay Lounge must have gotten the memo, because their lineup tonight features it all, too.
From 6 to 9 p.m., a matinee show will feature Kristie Stremel, a singer/songwriter originally from Hays, Kan., who you may remember from the ‘90s bands Frogpond and Exit 159. Kansas City’s Tiny Horse will also be playing the matinee show.
Later in the evening, you’ll find Lawrence metal band Hammerlord and Kansas City metal band Hellevate playing inside the Replay at the “Pre-Hammerween Party.” It’s Hammerlord’s only show in Lawrence all year, and is a precursor to "Hammerween III" at the Beaumont Club in KC later this month.
Meanwhile on the patio, Lawrence’s DJ G Train and St. Louis’ DJ Mahf will be leading what is bound to be a huge dance party. It's part of G Train's monthly series on the first Friday of each month. They've played together before—see the video below to get an idea of what their set is like.
The cost of shows tonight at the Replay is $3.
He emailed me yesterday to say — good news! — it will be available for download on Saturday, and special CD packages (including artwork by his brother and sometimes-collaborator, Dan Billen) will be available in local stores in October.
Billen will have a record-release party Oct. 5 at 1819 Gallery in Kansas City, Mo., as part of First Fridays.
Here's a Bandcamp sneakpeak. Downloads will be available on Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon.