British upright bassist Oliver Steadman still recalls the help wanted ad like it was yesterday, on a webite in Oxford where people look for musical instruments for sale. But this one said “seeking a bassist for alternative-pop band.” Being only 17, he didn’t know what that oxymoron meant, so he went to meet them. “They” were keyboardist Jon Quin and singer-guitarist Brian Briggs, who went on to form the quirky folk-rock ensemble Stornoway with Steadman and his percussionist kid brother Rob, then 15. They had no choice, with Steadman being the only bassist who responded. Read More
Members of the decade-old Swedish quintet Shout Out Louds have plenty of outside pursuits to keep them busy.
Bassist Ted Malmros makes videos, short films and TV commercials in his spare time, and bandleader Adam Olenius and guitarist Carl von Arbin do freelance graphic-design work that often includes the group’s cutting-edge posters, T-shirts and album covers.
“But I think our biggest interest when we’re on tour — after music — is food,” Olenius says. “We’re obsessed with finding the best local place to eat, and just finding good food on the road, in general.” Read More
“Love Lust Faith + Dreams,” the new fourth recording from Jared Leto’s alt-rock outfit 30 Seconds to Mars, is nothing if not apocalyptic.
It opens with deceptively jazzy horns of “Birth,” but downshifts into Wagnerian epics like the fallen-empire study “Conquistador,” the morbid piano dirge “End of All Days,” the rattlesnake-percussion “Northern Lights,” and the majestic single “Up in the Air,” with the brooding lyric “Is this the end I feel, up in the air, f****d up on life?”
Reflecting on the magnum opus, the singer laughs. Read More
Cutting-edge neo-soul stylist Janelle Monáe, who dreamed of having an entire orchestra as the wind beneath her futuristic songwriting wings, is overjoyed to be performing with the San Francisco Symphony Thursday night. The concert will feature intricate, Fritz Lang-inspired tracks from her records “Metropolis: Suite 1 (The Chase)” and “The ArchAndroid,” and perhaps an upcoming third, “The Electric Lady” (already known for the new single “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu). Monáe, who typically wears a dress suit, will be perfectly attired for the occasion. Read More
Listeners don’t need to know the narrative behind her new fourth effort, “Once I Was an Eagle,” to fully appreciate it, according to English neo-folk chanteuse Laura Marling. But she’s happy to recount it. Read More
As a kid, Olly Murs heard the adage that only two career paths that could lead a lad out of England: becoming a rock star or a professional soccer player. He was counting on the latter.
“Football was something that I loved massively,” he says of his years playing semi-pro for Whitham Town. “I used to just work 9 to 5 at a job and play football, and it was a non-league team, but I was trying to break into professional. I never had anything else to look forward to, really.”
And then? The accident. And everything turned bleak. Read More
Sometimes discretion is simply the better part of valor — just ask Paula Cole. After winning a 1997 Grammy for best new artist — and composing the addictive theme song to “Dawson’s Creek,” “I Don’t Want to Wait” — the Berklee-schooled singer-songwriter saw the writing on the wall. “There was a huge change in the culture,” she says. Read More
On her BRIT Award-winning 2007 debut, “Made of Bricks,” Kate Nash was a Strawberry Shortcake-faced English teen who traded in whimsical sung-spoken folk ditties.
She’s grown up.
Now 25, she’s got a new fashion sense, a Rogue-from-“X-Men” hairstyle, a bratty all-female backing band, a punk album called “Girl Talk” (penned after her breakup with The Cribs’ Ryan Jarman), and an acting career in movies such as “Syrup,” “The Powder Room” and “Greetings From Tim Buckley.” Read More
Decadent Finnish rocker Ville Valo has never gone in for self-analysis. Always moving so fast with his Goth-metal outfit HIM, he barely has noticed the nearly two decades flying by since its formation.
But for the band’s melodic new CD “Tears on Tape,” he was forced to stop and take serious stock, because a nerve-damaging hand injury sidelined his drummer Gas, and the group, for more than eight months. Read More
Sam Beam, like Alexander, can survey his kingdom and weep for lack of further worlds to conquer. At this point in his career, under the sobriquet of Iron and Wine, the folk singer has mastered every art form he’s attempted. He’s directed short films and videos, written screenplays, painted or designed almost every album cover in his catalog, and – while he was first setting his Rimbaud-evocative poetry to music over a decade ago – taught film and cinematography classes at a Florida university. He plans to helm a feature-length movie in the near future. Read More
“This album should be played loud,” read the line notes of “Small Fires,” the new third outing from Bay Area blues-rockers The Stone Foxes. And rightly so. The disc – anchored in the gravelly vocals of frontman Spence Koehler and fiery harmonica of his drumming brother Shannon Koehler) crackles with Willie Dixon fervor, from the sinewy “Everybody Knows” to a stomping “Ulysses Jones,” a gravelly “Cotto,” and the forlorn “Goodnight Moon,” sung from the perspective of a homeless man. Read More
Hayley Williams — the next twang-friendly Taylor Swift?
It could have happened, says the frontvixen for pop-punkers Paramore, whose self-titled fourth album just debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Read More
British synth-pop perfectionist Little Boots had a specific mood in mind for her new sophomore effort, “Nocturnes,” and its New Order-ish percolators such as “Motorway,” “Broken Record” and “Beat Beat” with its telltale line “Every night that you’re sleeping/I stay awake until dawn.”
“It’s got a real nocturnal feel,” says the keyboardist, born Victoria Hesketh. “But even though it’s dark, there are still fun songs like ‘Beat Beat,’ where you’re getting ready to go out. So it’s really more of a full-spectrum experience of the night.” Read More
Lovable English eccentric Robyn Hitchcock often finds himself in remarkable situations, from 2008’s expedition to Greenland to study climate change to co-starring in Jonathan Demme films "The Manchurian Candidate," "Rachel Getting Married" and the concert documentary "Storefront Hitchcock." A few months ago, while visiting his daughter Maisie in Berlin, he unexpectedly went with her and Michael Stipe to Yoko Ono’s birthday party, where he and Stipe ended up singing "Give Peace a Chance" onstage. Read More
Singer-instrumentalist Francoise Cactus of the eclectic French-German duo Stereo Total may not be Mother Goose, but she’s got her share of enchanting tales.
Given the last name La Hove at birth, the performer says her adopted surname has a fabular origin: her obsessive-gardener mother, who brought outdoor plants in for the winter.
“She always put all the cactus in my room. I was really afraid when I was small, thinking, ‘Oh, no. If I move in my dream, I’ll be stabbed by all this cactus!’” she says in a charming Burgundy accent. Read More