SUFJAN STEVENS is back! This record will break your heart in the best of ways. He’s come back to his stunning folk sounds which we all know and love. Intimate, fragile, honest, a record to really make you stop and think about life.
The story behind the album is well-known. Carrie & Lowell is titled after Stevens’ mother and stepfather. Carrie was bipolar and schizophrenic and suffered from drug addiction and substance abuse. She died of stomach cancer in 2012, and spent her life in drifting in and out of Steven’s . His stepfather, Lowell Brams, was married to Carrie for five years when Sufjan was a child. Brams currently runs Stevens’ label.
Many are claiming it’s his best album yet. It’s delicate, beautiful and it’s one of my absolute favourites this year.
Ever wondered what Gang of Youths plan on doing with their band name when they’re not youths anymore? FrontmanDave Le’aupepe took 3 minutes 52 seconds (exactly) out of his day to answer the tough questions, and to let us know what his dream trucker hat would be.
As you’ve said in many other interviews, ‘The Positions’ is about terminal illness and the associated feelings / struggles that rise up alongside it. Music is often seen / used as a healing mechanism – did you find the album’s writing/recording process to have significant effect on the healing process that came after these events?
I probably came to a point in my artistic trajectory where I realised that I needed to cut the bullshit, sit the fuck down and be entirely honest with myself about the way my life was looking and why the shitty music I was composing at the time wasn’t reflecting that adequately or truthfully.
When I began writing with the intention of a) producing something as a gesture of love for my paramour and b) unleashing the torrent of rage, terror, fear and hope curdling violently on a subconscious level upon nobody in particular, the true healing properties of music became more and more self-evident. Catharsis is beautiful when it is constructive and I found that I became less infatuated with the tragedy itself and more fixated on what I could do contextualise it, compartmentalise it and reanimate it into something life-affirming.
We read that the album took nearly three years to make – how much did the ideas / vision / music change throughout the drawn-out process?
We maintained a pretty even sense of what our vision was — to make an ambitious, melodic, life-affirming and emotive LP that would stand the test of critical scrutiny but also find its way into the hearts and ears of anybody who would give it a shot. We desperately wanted our record to connect heart-to-heart without being predictable or too sentimental. The band line-up, songs and production style however changed significantly. We re-recorded a lot of material and I wrote a tonne of new material after the first recording sessions with Kevin McMahon as my unbelievable shit show of a personal life became shittier and more convoluted. A few of the tracks that weren’t going to make it onto The Positions like ‘The Diving Bell’ and ‘The Overpass’ found their way back as tracks we intended to include in the sequence like ‘Benevolence Riots’ and ‘Riverlands’ and ‘Evangelists’ were dropped. A lot of the reasons we changed sequencing so much is because for much of the time it took to make the fucking thing sonically and thematically everything seemed pretty bipolar.
Your songs tend to sway towards the drawn out, grandiose end of the spectrum. What is this trend informed by – your musical influences, a desire to create a certain vibe / atmosphere?
Hahaha we do, don’t we. I suppose I’m drawn to tension and release as a musical device, elongating the ascent to the climactic musical or lyrical moment on LPs like Daydream Nation, Spirit Of Eden, Born To Run, and Joshua Tree. I know it’s not cool to admit that U2 was important source material, but we did make an hour-long concept album about cancer so clearly ‘cool’ was never on the cards for us. I also feel like I wanted to take time with these songs and not to rush the narrative — longer durations lend some breathing room, so maybe it also just worked out that way as I was writing everything.
Since these songs are so deeply personal, what is the experience like playing these songs live? Do you find it to be a confronting experience, or is it somewhat therapeutic?
Both column A and B are applicable here. The visceral gratification of yelling about all this shit to a paying audience is addictive though — I have the gift and the curse of turning anything I love into a drug, so maybe I’m addicted to both the respite and the pain. I do know this though; I never want to play a show that costs me nothing, that doesn’t deplete me or drain me of my essence or humanity. I never want to strut and fret upon a stage for a measly and pitiful hour spewing falsity and insincerity and indigestible bullshit. You can call me mawkish or too earnest, you could say I care too much if there is such a thing, but goddamnit I’d rather be those things and denigrated by cynics and assholes than unmoved and benign, chickenshit and cowering in the wake of some neophyte ‘tastemaker’s’ opinion like it’s this impossible, unbeatable leviathan. No thanks. Gimme the blood and the sweat and all that other shit. We like caring. Caring is kryptonite to posers.
On the topic of playing live, what’s been your favourite show and venue you’ve played to date?
Playing at Webster Hall in NYC with Sky Ferreira and Smith Westerns was fun. It just sticks out as a good time had by all.
What are the band’s favourite songs and artists of the moment? Are there any Australian acts that are standing out to you?
I can’t really speak for the others but a friend of mine named Andy who works in music introduced me to an Italian metal/post-hardcore band called Amia Venera Landscape. They released an album in 2010 called The Long Procession that is one of the most fucked-up and exciting heavy albums I’ve heard in a really long time. ‘My Hands Will Burn Fist’ is my favourite song from the record. In terms of Australian artists I’ve been listening to Tkay Maidza pretty much non-stop in between all of the evil heavy music I digest. My friend Jess who goes by the name Montaigne emphatically suggested that I listen to her music, so I did and lo and behold, I’m now a weird ass fan boy.
When you guys aren’t youths anymore, what are you going to do with your band name?
Good question and no idea. I think we’ll be ok because Reagan Youth and Sonic Youth are still kicking around so that gives me hope. I’m only 23 though guys, gimme a fuckin’ break!
Last up, what would you spend your last $50 on?
Probably something stupid like a custom made trucker hat that says “quit yr. bitchin’” on it because I am a classy motherfucker and everybody likes funny hats.
GANG OF YOUTHS’ DEBUT LP ‘THE POSITIONS’ IS OUT NOW.
From start to finish, this album is 100% excellent. Great songs, written by guys in their early 20s about telling Mom and Dad to SHUT UP AND LEAVE THEM ALONE.
1) 1989 – Taylor Swift
Legitimately incredible album. Every song is a pop masterpiece and Tay-Tay has the most incredible voice. T-SWIZZY 4 LYF.
x Dom Miller is manager of Fox & Fowl, The Phoncurves, Ben Salter and a bunch of other rad acts… he also books some rather great venues around town including Southside Tea Room, The Scratch, Eat Street Markets and Shady Palms.
Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just SitI just love how Courtney Barnett feels like she’s given us two albums, but really this is her first. When those first two EPs of hers were combined onto one record/package, I knew she was going to make a killer debut album – those EPs feel like a lifetime ago, but are still so familiar. Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit is new, it’s really fresh and familiar with a real 90s feel to it. She’s grown heaps, become more mature and more dark and serious, but somehow still manages to deliver those lyrics of hers with tongue planted firmly in cheek and very playfully.
It makes me really happy to see this, a young woman from Australia killing it overseas but is still someone we can all relate to some degree or another
FAVOURITE TRACKS: ‘Dead Fox’, ‘An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In NY)’
triple j Unearthed High alumni Asta recently exploded back onto the scene with latest single ‘Dynamite (feat. Allday)’, so we sat down with her to chat outfits, river dancing, and of course, music.
We are absolutely loving ‘Dynamite’ at Mucho-Bravado. It’s been going gangbusters and getting some serious spins on triple J. What’s the inspiration behind the track?
I was inspired by taking a break from the big city smoke. It’s a track full of energy and soul. Something I had a lot of fun with!
‘Dynamite’ features everyone’s favourite hip-hop dude Allday, how did you guys meet and come to collaborate?
I met him at a show in Sydney when he was touring. The track was begging for a rap! As soon as I heard his voice on the radio I knew it would work really well with the the vibe of the song.
You just wrapped up your ‘Dynamite Tour’ – how did it go and can you give us one highlight?
It was very short and sweet! The biggest highlight would have been an 8 year old girl writing me a letter and making me a bracelet. I love being a role model to young aspiring singers!
Your onstage presence is incredible and the costumes that you wear are stunning. Would you say you have a favourite out of all of those amazing outfits?
I get my costumes made by friends and young local designers which is always so much fun. Hardly buy anything new and love to recyle by using vintage fabrics. When I wear a big jacket or cape it makes me feel safe and strong. I think my favourite outfit so far would have to be this peachy satin jacket I’m wearing now!
We are psyched to see you on the road again in May with Allday and Gill Bates. What other plans do you have in the pipeline for the near future?
I want to put out a record and i’m really excited with the team of people i have gathered around me from all corners. Lots more collaborations to come I hope!
What are some of your interests outside of music? We hear you wanted to be a river dancer when you were young – do you still enjoy the occasional ‘Lord of the Dance’ performance?
I actually heard the guy is a gross sleeze and slept with all the girls! So I’m glad I didn’t pursue that dream. I love doing bare body classes as well as cooking and learning a bit of French at the moment. Is online shopping a hobby? I’m good at that.
And finally, what would you spend your last $50 on?
A good idea would go to the Casino and put it on red. But knowing me I’d really just spend it on some raw slice and a new handbag.
Catch Asta on Allday’s ‘I Should Be Working On My Album But I’m Doing A Tour National Tour’ throughout May and June. For dates and tickets, visit http://alldaytunes.com/.
A whole lot of music gets spun 24/7 in the Mucho office. Here’s some of the tracks that’ll be getting all the repeat listens this month!
Jarryd James, ‘Do You Remember’
Vallis Alps, ‘Young’
Tkay Maidza, ‘M.O.B’
White Shadows, ‘Give Up Give Out Give In’
Ecca Vandal, ‘Battle Royal’
Rolls Bayce, ‘Mutate’
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, ‘Multi-Love’
Blur, ‘Go Out’
Alabama Shakes, ‘Don’t Wanna Fight’
Courtney Barnett, ‘Pedestrian At Best’
Everything Everything, ‘Distant Past’
Hot Chip, ‘Huarache Lights’
Pearls, ‘Big Shot’
Phony Ppl, ‘Why iii Love The Moon.’
BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah, ‘Sour Soul’
Drake, ‘Know Yourself’
Kendrick Lamar, ‘The Blacker The Berry’
Ibeyi, ‘Mama Says’
#1 Dads, ‘Nominal’
Jesse Davidson, ‘Laika’
Gordi, ‘Taken Blame’
Big Strong Brute, ‘Wedding Pages’
The Wombats, ‘Greek Tragedy’
Dick Diver, ‘Waste The Alphabet’
Dorsal Fins, ‘Mind Renovation’
Modest Mouse, ‘Lampshades On Fire’
Death Cab For Cutie, ‘Black Sun’
Father John Misty, ‘I Love You, Honeybear’
Kagu, ‘Shadow of the Wind’