Thursday, October 15, 2009

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Interview with: Marc Beatty and Eamon Hamilton of Brakesbrakesbrakes (Part 1)

Posted: 15 Oct 2009 10:12 AM PDT

brakesThe , England band, known as Brakes to me and most everywhere except America, is known under the moniker Brakesbrakesbrakes stateside. Despite the “difficult to say five times fast” name they have when they come visit us, I found singer/guitarist Eamon Hamilton and bassist Marc Beatty to be extremely nice guys, as you shall read in the following exchange between us. In the first half of my interview with them prior to them sound-checking at D.C.’s Black Cat on October 5, they tell me about recording their latest album Touchdown in Scotland, and we have a brief segue into fairy tale land. Have a read!

Mary Chang, PopWreckoning: I am here in Washington with Marc and Eamon, two members of Brakes, or Brakesbrakesbrakes as they are known in America, a name I don’t really like…
Marc Beatty (bassist for Brakesbrakesbrakes): Neither do we.
Eamon Hamilton (singer/guitarist for Brakesbrakesbrakes): Yeah, You’ll have to speak with the Philadelphian funk rock band’s [Brakes] lawyer about that. (all laugh) There you go. But we didn’t want to be “Brakes UK,” because that would have been “brakes uck”.
MC: You mean like the Charlatans.
EH: Yeah, we could have done that, I suppose.
MB: I think anyone who likes us over here [in America] knows us as Brakes anyway.
MC: Yes, right.
EH: In Britain, when you’re doing your driving test, there’s an emergency stop you have to do, when you have to put on the brake at the end. And the [instructor] guy goes, “brakes brakes brakes!” So you see, that has some…well, that’s the only story we can salvage from the depths of our hatred… (laughs)
MB: I dunno. My driving instructor never said that.
EH: Did he not?
MB: No, mine slapped the windscreen instead.
EH: Oh haha, not “brakes brakes brakes”?
MB: No, he said “brakes, now!”
EH: “Brakes, now” eh? (all laugh)

MC: Welcome to Washington. We’re very happy to have you guys here. Have you played in Washington before?
MB: No, first time.
EH: I have with British Sea Power [his previous band].
MC: Do you remember which venue?
EH: Here, actually. We played with , it was just after Pete [Doherty] had left. And err, who was the other band? I can’t remember.
MC: So this must have been seven odd years ago then.
EH: Oh wait, I think it was the Living Things.
MC: Oh yeah? I saw them here in June.
EH: I didn’t like them much.

MC: Your latest studio album, Touchdown, was released in April. I read that you recorded it in Scotland. Quite a hike from Nashville, where your last album [The Beautific Visions] was recorded. How did you like recording there, versus Nashville?
EH: Well, we’ve always recorded in musically rich places. Well, London…(scoffs)…well yeah, London’s musically rich? (looks over at Marc)
MB: London, .
EH: London, , you know, places with great musical heritage. And then we recorded in Glasgow, home of Teenage Fanclub, one of our favorite bands. And the Delgados. You know, everything. So it was just brilliant!
MB: I lived there at the time, so it was convenient.
MC: Is that how you guys decided to record in Scotland?
MB: Yeah, sort of. And also because Fat Cat [Records, their label] has ties with Paul Savage who produced the album. He has a studio up there [Chem19] so we liked the idea of recording there, it seemed like a good thing to do.
EH: And we also used Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, he made a compressor that we used for the album. Then he said what we were doing with it sounded good…
MC: Oh yeah?
EH: …and then he took it away again. (looks semi-crestfallen)
MB: Took it away!
MC: That has historical value now!

MC: So what was it like working with Paul Savage [of the Scottish band the Delgados and also a famed music producer]?
EH: He’s a legend. He let us do everything.
MB: He was really easy to work with. We had about three weeks, and it was a little bit rushed, but we got on really well. Really outgoing.
EH: He cooked us some amazing meals.
MB: Yeah, that was probably the best part of it!

MC: So how would you say that the making of this album different than for The Beautific Visions?
MB: We took our time.
EH: It was rushed, but less rushed! (laughs)
MB: The first album was done in 1 week, the second album took us 2 weeks, and this third one took us three weeks…sort of natural progression really.
MC: I take it you guys work well under pressure?
MB: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

MC: It’s been three years since the second album.
MB: Has it been that long? (sounds surprised)
MC: Did you feel different pressures / inspirations in the process of making Touchdown?
MB: There were a lot of factors. We changed labels [from to Fat Cat] and because it had been quite a bit of time since the last one. We had a bit more time to write the second one, which was really pressured. We sort of…we pulled it off but it was tough. We had a bit more freedom with this one, so we could think about it a bit more.
EH: It was really great to be offered another album, really.
MB: Yeah yeah. We had a bit of a dark year. It had been over a year before that when we’d done some demo-ing.
EH: In the dark tower!
MB: Yeah, we wrote songs in a cold barn in Oxfordshire. In a tiny room…write that down that I’m pointing to this…(laughs while gesturing to small U-Haul truck in the Black Cat parking lot)
EH: Yeah, like 10 foot by 12 foot space.
MB: One strip light. Really tiny place.
EH: And it was freezing cold.
MB: And we got really pissed off at each other. And then after that we took some time off. I forget how long…
EH: We were still gigging in between. Yeah, how long was it…
MB: Hmmm…
MC: Easy to lose track of time when you’re gigging all over the place?
EH: Yeah. It wasn’t long enough though. When we got back together, we still fucking hated each other. There should have been a punchline here, shouldn’t there? (all laugh) I shouldn’t have said that, should I?
MB: The important thing is we get on now! We’ve come through the dark times.
EH: Yeah, we came away from the dark tower. Luckily, Rumpelstiltskin let down his golden hair, and we climbed down and now we’re in the fields.
MB: Wait a minute, I think you’re mixing up your fairy tales.
MC: Rapunzel?
EH: Rapunzel! That’s it! (all laugh)

We then narrowly miss getting hit by a car leaving the parking lot that almost did not slow down when it came right up by us. But there’s more to this interview, much more. Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview with Marc and Eamon coming soon!

Photo: Mary Chang

Brakesbrakesbrakes: website | myspace | BrakesBrakesBrakes Announces October North American Tour, Plans for Single and Live Album | Fat Cat Records Tour Featuring the Twilight Sad, Brakesbrakesbrakes, and We Were Promised Jetpacks @ Black Cat, Washington DC

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Orenda Fink – Ask the Night

Posted: 15 Oct 2009 07:30 AM PDT

If Folk Rock had a face, it would look something like Orenda Fink. Her embodiment captures her talent as though the wind breathed it into her. With writing as powerful as her voice, it's no wonder her latest endeavor simply entrances. It takes strength to hold a soul down and cause them to listen, and this is a journey like none have seen in quite a while. Ask The Night is as real as it gets and as mysterious as you want it to be. orenda

As Orenda's second outing as a solo artist, on top of this being her second project of 2009, Ask The Night is a stand alone work. Taking conflicting emotions to task, Orenda has managed to siphon through the unrequired words and filled her journey with simple concepts that speak volumes.

"Why is The Night Sad," begins with an ominous foreboding, forcing you to question your own night and how it might resemble hers. Her gentle and soothing voice reminisces the humming of the "Shins." Taking you from room to room and opening all the chests with her own lock and key, Orenda manages to unfold a mental wound that seems universal.

Burrowing deeper into Ask The Night you find treasures of pain and pleasure. Some of which is left to interpretation with lyrics like, "Love of a man that didn't belong.." from "Sister" and "In Rooms of silence, we just join in…" from "That Certain-Something Spring." But not to leave us a deep curiosity, she also wraps around the logic of truth and simplicity, allowing us permission to say to ourselves "Now pain is the only word I need to know."

With so much self evaluation, one would think it would need a rest stop of sorts, and that is truly what her track "The Garden" resembles. It's a transition into clarity and hope. It reminds us that Fink is not all about just pain and suffering, she lets us know that it's just a part of the grand scheme, and "If you lose your home, and you lose all you've worked for, if you lose it all, it's alright." The violin sways in like a savior soothing the soul in rough times as a banjo fills in where it was born to go.

Song placement in any LP is so very important as it is not only an artist wanting to display, but also for the listener to receive the complete story without fragments. Ask The Night has that and more, taking us from one place to another with clear transition and motivated vocals. Orenda Fink says at the end of this journey "It's so sad to watch the world go bad" but invites us all to ask it together, and simply stare at the moon, and ask the night.

01. Why Is the Night Sad
02. High Ground
03. Sister
0 4. That Certain-Something Spring
05. The Garden
06. Wind
07. Alabama
08. The Mural
09. Half-Light
10. The Moon Knows

Orenda Fink: website | myspace

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