aurgasm special posts

Aurgasm Live: Priscilla Ahn

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 by Michelle

singer songwriter // folk

When we first featured Priscilla Ahn back in 2007, she only had a 5-track, independently released EP available. Since then, she got signed to Blue Note Records, released two full length albums and has had her music featured in a number of films and television shows. And last week, she and Charlie Wadhams released a free EP under the moniker Sweet Hearts. She’s been pretty busy! Priscilla was nice enough to take some time to talk with us about making When You Grow Up and played a couple tunes, which we’ve included below!

Priscilla Ahn – “Lost Cause” (Live)

It’s been a few years since your EP and A Good Day came out. For the new album, When You Grow Up, were these all brand new tracks, or were some of these tunes you had written a while back?

Yeah, there’s only one song off the record that I started writing back in the EP days, and that’s “Lost Cause”. Everything else has been written sort of from the last record until now. I named the album “When You Grow Up” because a lot of those were written in a growing period. I took a lot of time to do a lot of reflection and thinking, and I feel like a lot of the songs came out of that.

Can you talk a little about your songwriting process? You’ve got a lot of layers in your songs — vocals, guitar and harmonies. How do you start off?

Well I write the lyrics and the guitar parts at the same time, it sort of just flows together. I’ll make a demo of it, so I’ll record that part, and then — it might not even be harmonies I’m thinking of, it could be other instrument parts — I’ll just sing them, to add something to the demo. [laughs] But they usually end up just being crazy harmony parts. I’ve done a lot of co-writing on this record, and each process for that has been really different.

When you’re co-writing, do you go in with an idea, or is it more collaborative?

The one with Inara [George], that was completely collaborative. We just sort of came up with that together on the spot. The one with Charlie [Wadhams] — I was late [meeting him], so he started writing an idea he got, which was great! The one with Sia; the night before I was meeting with her, I remembered that she doesn’t play any instruments, and realized it was all gonna be on me for guitar. So I actually came up with all the chords and stuff for that song, and then she pretty much wrote all the lyrics, which was really cool. And all the other ones have sort of been collaborative ideas coming together.

The people you wrote with, they all have a number of musical projects they work on (both solo and as part of a band). Do you feel like they’re musical influences as well as being friends, and who are some of your other musical influences?

They’re totally musical influences, because I’m such a fan. You know, I’m their friend but also their fan. Which is awesome because I respect what they do and I trust their ideas. At the same time, it’s a comfortable working environment because we’re friends, so it’s real easy-going. Other musical influences, as of late, I’ve been listening to a lot of Beach House, especially when we were recording the record. Françoise Hardy was an influence. I was listening to a lot of her music when I wrote “Cry Baby” so it was sort of influenced by that. Who else has been an influence…

I mean, not just for this record either, but also–

In life?

Yeah. That’s such an enormous question, I know.

Well, Neil Young is one of my biggest heroes. Andrew Bird is really cool. Growing up I listened to a lot of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Beatles. Radiohead was another big one. Pink Floyd.

Priscilla Ahn – “The Moon” (Live)

How did recording this album differ from your first album? I know you went over to England to record it with Ethan Johns, how did that impact the album?

It was really different, this whole recording experience was really different from my last recording experience. Ethan, he works really old school; we record to tape and he’s very organic. On the last record (A Good Day), I was so used to us doing two or three takes of a song, and we’d piece together the best parts in Pro Tools and then — oh we’re done! When [Ethan] started doing it, he had us play the same song all day, into the next day, and I would think, “This is taking forever!” But then I realized how genius it is, and what a big difference it makes, because it actually puts you into the song. Everyone who’s playing is also in the song, and you all listen to it together, and you find that magic take. And for a producer to have that kind of patience I think is really cool. It’s important to him.

And being in England, at first I was so stressed out because I wasn’t going to have all my musician friends around me, and I was not going to be at home, you know? So I was really freaking out about it. But once I got in there, it was much better for me. When I record in LA, I get really antsy in the studio, and I’m like, “I can’t wait to go home” and I’m not really focused. Whereas being there, what do I have to go back to? A hotel room by myself. Being in another country is also a deadline. I can’t stay there forever. I have a plane ticket for this day, so we have to finish. It was just really focused, and made time go by really fast, which was great. It was a really good experience for me to break out of my comfort zone, and try something new. And I ended up meeting some other really great musicians, like Sam Dixon, who played bass, who’s amazing. And Jeremy Stacey who played drums.

On the first album, you had someone play a saw, there was an autoharp — a lot of cool stuff. There were also a lot of interesting instruments on the new album, an omnichord, mellotron, celesta, marxophone. How did you start incorporating all those instruments in the recording process?

Well, for the first record, we just went in there and whatever was available. Luckily Joey [Waronker]’s studio had all this cool shit, and we were like, “Oh, let’s try this!” But for this album, I wanted it to be a little more thought out before we went in to record. For the sake of time, but also to have a sound for the album. I made a list of all the instruments that I really liked, which were a lot of those, and Ethan had a couple other things like a mellotron, and a really old pump organ. Each old instrument brings it’s own character and soul to the song, I think. For this album I gave it a little more thought, I mapped it out a little more. I went through each song and was like, “This one, I hear this, this, and this.”

Priscilla Ahn – “All You’ve Got To Do Is Fall In Love” (Live) [Benji Hughes cover]

The album includes a cover of Benji Hughes’ “Vibe So Hot”. What made you decide on a cover, what drew you to the song?

For this album, I wanted to do a more upbeat song, and I was listening to Benji’s album and I thought “Vibe So Hot” was so funny and fun.

When you were putting the record together, did you feel the need to include more upbeat songs to balance it out? I know a lot of the songs are slower tunes.

Yeah, I naturally just write slower songs and I wanted for there to be more movement in the album. With the first record, I had so much time to write all these songs, without thinking about it. Without worrying about, “I need this kind of song, that kind of song.” For these songs, they were all pretty new. I was definitely more conscious about it, in a stressful way.

Are there any songs or bands that have caught your attention recently? What music have you been excited about lately?

Well I love Cass McCombs. I’ve been listening to Little Dragon, but they’re a little more known. Oh, Blake Mills. He’s here in LA and his music is really cool, I have his Live in Shanghai EP and it’s so good!

Thanks Priscilla!

Priscilla’s recommendations:
Blake Mills – Cheers (demo) from Live from Shanghai EP

Get a free download of Blake Mills’ Live from Shanghai EP here.

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donthink: Classick #57

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 by Kyle
Cleaning barn stalls on the farm is often accompanied by my Uncle’s radio playing AM stations, and fresh sounds from generations passed inspired me to make a mix where current electronic trends resemble classic gems. Open your ears to 60’s pop, swinging electric beats, deep rumbling jazz, hazy noir, retro boogie, school band funk, swanky smooth sensations, robotic soul, and a safe moon landing. 2002 ErrorFM

donthink – Classick #57 (58min):

  1. Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ [1966]
  2. Cujo – Popsicle [2002]
  3. Defcon 5 ft Bluu – Goodbye [2002]
  4. Louis Prima – Jump Jive an’ Wail (Tranquility Bass Remix) [1956 / 1999]
  5. DJ Git Hyper – Just Face It [1997]
  6. Henry Mancini – Lujon [1959]
  7. Anjali – Lazy Lagoon [2000]
  8. Fingathing – Come on Girls [2000]
  9. Mo’Horizons – Do the Boogaloo [2001]
  10. Shirley Ellis – The Clapping Song [1965]
  11. DJ Shadow – The Newborn Hippopotamus Jazz Rock Machine [2000]
  12. Louise Vertigo – Où est la Femme? [1998]
  13. Jazzanova – L.O.V.E. and You & I ft David Friedman & Paul Kleber [2002]
  14. Michael Jackson – Ain’t No Sunshine (SSY Remix) [1972 / 2001]
  15. Avia – Exil Exit [1998]

Aurgasm@SXSW 2011 – Day Three

Thursday, March 24th, 2011 by Michelle


Pepper Rabbit
Pepper Rabbit’s set at The Orchard’s party on Friday morning was a bit of an odd one — the group’s normally lush and orchestral sound was stripped down as Xander Singh played solo in in front of a small group of us at Bar 96. Xander admitted, “It’s a little weird to hear my music like this.” Weird, maybe, but still a lovely way to start off the day, and hearing the tracks performed that way was a unique experience. A couple hours later, Serena and I were working upstairs in the Convention Center, just outside the Day Stage where the full band was playing a set. I lucked out, catching two sides of Pepper Rabbit, if only by happenstance. Don’t forget to listen to “Harvest Moon” off their debut album, Beauregard below!

Pepper Rabbit – “Harvest Moon”

Brian Wright
Just after Xander’s set, we booked it across town to catch Brian Wright bringing some good old rock and roll Americana to The Belmont. Brian Wright and his band played an energetic set which included a personal favorite of mine, “Glory Hallelujah”, as well as mix of songs from both his upcoming album, House On Fire and his previous two albums. The early set meant a smallish crowd, but the energy levels were high — especially for the small group of fans that crowded in front of the stage! Brian’s new album comes out next week, you can get a quick preview by taking a listen to “Accordion” below!

Brian Wright – “Accordion”
Brian Wright – “Glory Hallelujah”

Kina Grannis
We headed back where we came from to catch singer-songwriter Kina Grannis at Bar 96. Serena, who has been patiently shooting SXSW for us, was a fan of Kina’s already, and in no time it was obvious why. Kina’s songs are sweet with the occasional melancholic hint, but most of all, undeniably catchy — essentially, everything you could want in an pop song. She may have first landed on everyone’s radar because of the Super Bowl contest she won back in 2007, but it’s her nuanced songwriting and charming performances that makes Kina a musician to keep an eye on. She’s re-releasing her 2010 album, Stairwells, next month, and you can check out the song “Valentine” below. Kina also recorded a cover of the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” which you can download here.

Kina Grannis – “Valentine”

We swung by The Ale House to catch Buddy’s set, but even as he started playing, the noise levels from the audience were overwhelming; not a good mix, especially for self-described “wimpycore” that Buddy and his band play. Despite it all, Buddy and drummer Al Sgro played the show like champs, playing a short set of folk-pop inspired tunes from his full length, Alterations and Repairs, as well as a couple new ones. There’s a sweetness to Buddy’s songs, as well as a goofy streak (as evidenced by a Whitesnake singalong to “Here I Go Again” that he started). Early in the set, Buddy mentioned that there were supposed to be six of them on stage, and quipped, “It’s the White Stripes version of us.” Later on they became a trio when Holly Conlan (who was mentioned here back in 2009) came up to accompany him on a few songs. It’s no Whitesnake, but take a listen to “Silent Treatment”, and a live cut of “If We Lived Here” below:

Buddy – “Silent Treatment”
Buddy – “If We Lived Here” (Live)

The Chapin Sisters
The Chapin SIsters were briefly mentioned in our coverage of SXSW last year, when they sang background vocals for She & Him. This year they were front and center at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, with a full band to back them up! Abigail and Lily’s haunting vocal harmonies and ethereal melodies filled St. David’s as they played a collection of songs from their album, Two. A personal highlight was when, near the end of their set, they shed the band and sang an acapella version of “Sweet Light” to everyone’s delight.

The Chapin Sisters – “Palm Tree”

Thao with The Get Down Stay Down
I’ve been a fan of Thao’s for a while now, and we first featured her here back in 2008. Since then, she’s released another full length with The Get Down Stay Down ( Know Better Learn Faster, 2009), and has a new album with Mirah releasing in a few weeks. Antone’s was completely packed just before Thao and The Get Down Stay Down hit the stage — they’re always a blast to see live, but from Thao’s hilarious soundcheck ditty alone, you knew you were in for a great time. (“I always drink Shiner, like a wino. And that’s all right.”) Typically The Get Down Stay Down is comprised of Willis Thompson on drums and Adam Thompson (no relation) on bass, but the stage was filled with a few extras — including a violinist, trombonist, and guitarist/keyboardist. They wailed through a set which included tracks from both their albums, including “Body”, “Know Better Learn Faster”, a sick keyboard solo in the middle of “Feet Asleep”, and my favorite part of hearing “Bag of Hammers” live — the most impressive “three sounds at once” vocal intro you’ll ever hear. The band’s set was a high-energy mess of handclaps, foot stomps, soaring horns and exuberant vocals. You can take a listen to “Bag of Hammers” from We Brave Bee Stings & All and “Know Better Learn Faster” and “When We Swam” from Know Better Learn Faster below.

Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Bag of Hammers”
Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Know Better Learn Faster”
Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “When We Swam”

Ben Sollee
Ben Sollee is another familiar face here at Aurgasm — we previously featured him back in 2008, just after his debut album Learning To Bend released. Since then, he’s released an album with Daniel Martin Moore, Dear Companion in 2010, and has been noted for his political activism, especially relating to his home state of Kentucky. We found ourselves back at St. David’s for the last showcase of the night, where Ben was joined onstage by Jordan Ellis on drums; Phoebe Hunt, Cheyenne Marie Mize, and Tracy Bonham on violin; and occasionally, Abigail Washburn on background vocals. Just before introducing his band, Ben said, “The thing about being an independent musician is that you can’t do it without a lot of help.” That sense of camaraderie and simple joy in playing music with friends pervaded the atmosphere at St. David’s. Ben went on to play a number of songs from his upcoming album, Inclusions, which he described as his search for the answer to the fact that, “More than ever, people are living in urban environments. What does that mean for folk music?” He went on to say that “it can be in the car you hear playing a bass line you dig, and also your grandfather teaching you the fiddle.” I’m not sure what the answer may be, but if Ben’s new songs are any indication, it will certainly be beautiful.

I met Bob Boilen (of NPR’s All Songs Considered) after Ben’s set, and he pretty much summed up my thoughts on the evening:

Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore – “Something, Somewhere, Sometime”

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Aurgasm@SXSW 2011 – Day Two

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Michelle


Alexander Ebert, frontman for Ima Robot and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, debuted his solo effort “Alexander” at SXSW this year. At one point early in his set, Alex said to the crowd, “You have to be a bit forgiving at SXSW” — turns out there was no need for that warning. Despite the heat, Alex and his band had everyone crowded around the small stage, enthusiastically singing and clapping along. Later, he shrugged off all the cheers, jokingly asking “Alright, alright, who paid you guys off?” Though Alex had a band backing him at the Greenhouse, he performed all the songs from his debut album, Alexander, solo. Take a listen to “A Million Years” and “Truth” below.

Alexander – “A Million Years”
Alexander- “Truth”

Sondre Lerche
Sondre Lerche is a long-time favorite of mine, so I was pretty thrilled to hear that Rawkblog & TwentyFourBit had him on the bill for their SXSW party. The scene was a bit calmer over at The Liberty on 6th, which was a bit east of most of the main SXSW madness. Sondre played a bunch of new tunes from his upcoming album, Sondre Lerche, including “Domino” which David Greenwald got video of here: Sondre Lerche – “Domino” (Live @ SXSW 2011). After a couple of the new tunes, someone shouted “Play a classic!” and Sondre asked, “You mean like, The Stones? Or one of mine?” When everyone shouted back, “One of yours!” Sondre quipped, “…of which there are so many!” — but he obliged by playing one of my personal favorites, “Sleep on Needles”. Between the jokes (there was definitely a David Brent reference thrown in there) and the solo performance, Sondre’s set was a great way to spend an afternoon at SXSW. Take a listen to “Sleep On Needles” and his cover of Owen Pallett’s “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” below (another artist we saw perform).

After his set, Sondre was kind enough to give Aurgasm a little shout out!

Sondre Lerche – “Sleep On Needles” (stream only)
Sondre Lerche – “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” (Owen Pallett cover) (stream only)

James Vincent McMorrow
After Sondre’s set at The Liberty, we headed back down to the Rachael Ray Feedback at The Greenhouse to catch James Vincent McMorrow. I’d been hoping to catch him while at SXSW, his debut album Early In The Morning is a beautiful collection of songs, which I’ve been playing on repeat for the better part of the last month. As the evening approached, James and his band played a short set from Early In The Morning. His haunting vocals were the perfect soundtrack to the evening twilight.

James Vincent McMorrow – “This Old Dark Machine”
James Vincent McMorrow – “If I Had A Boat”

Allie Moss
We featured Allie Moss back in 2009, and were lucky enough to catch her one show at SXSW this year! The Creekside at The Hilton Garden Inn is the rare SXSW venue that lets you rest a bit while catching a show. Allie was the first artist for the Bedford showcase, and certainly did not disappoint. Backed by a full band, she played a mix of new songs as well as older ones from her Passerby EP. Allie has a full length releasing later this year, but you can take a listen to “Corner” and “Passerby” from her EP below!

Allie Moss – “Corner”
Allie Moss – “Passerby”

It’s been a couple years since we wrote about Lenka here — Julija first gave us the heads up back in 2008. We caught her set at The Rusty Spurs last night, where she played as part of the AustinROX showcase. She has a new album, Two coming out later this year, and her set was a mix of new songs from that, as well as familiar favorites from The Show. You can take a listen to “The Show” if you didn’t catch it the first time around!

Lenka – “The Show”

Jenny O
At Malalia, there may have been a trance dance party going on upstairs, but downstairs Jenny O. was wowing the crowd with her catchy alt-country tunes. At one point, the audience started their own dance party, dancing along to her upbeat folk rock. Take a listen to “Well OK Honey” from the Honey EP below, as well as a remix from Spirit Animal.

Jenny O. – “Well OK Honey”
Jenny O. – “Won’t Let You Leave” (Spirit Animal remix)

Lia Ices
One of my favorite venues is St. David’s Historic Sanctuary on 7th; and the church’s vast and beautiful atmosphere was the perfect setting for Lia Ices’ dreamy, intricate ballads. At one point she reflected my thoughts exactly when she said, “It’s very nice to be with you in this civilized place among all the chaos out there.” Take a listen to “Daphne” from her recently released album, Grown Unknown:

Lia Ices – “Daphne”

Owen Pallett
After an exceptionally long day of music, we ended the evening with Owen Pallett. The multi-instrumentalist took the stage at Emo’s late in the evening, but was worth the wait. His most recent album, Heartland, was one of my favorites of 2010, and it’s incredible to see Owen perform these tracks live. It was an impossible-to-describe mix of electronic beats, classical strings that was mind-blowing to see live. Pallett also played a cover of Simon Bookish’s “Interview”. However, a highlight may have been when Owen performed an acoustic version of “He Poos Clouds” as he waited for his computer’s soundcard to reboot.

Owen Pallett – “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”
Owen Pallett – “Lewis Takes Action”

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Aurgasm@SXSW 2011 – Day One

Thursday, March 17th, 2011 by Michelle


Toro Y Moi
After one of the longest trips ever, we finally made it into Austin and decided to swing by The Fader Fort and caught their first set of the day, Toro Y Moi. Chaz Bundick (a.k.a. Toro Y Moi) performed to a growing crowd, laying down his unique blend of digital beats, synths and vocals. Take a listen to “Blessa” from his 2010 debut Causers of This and “Still Sound” from his latest album, Underneath The Pine.

Toro Y Moi – “Blessa”
Toro Y Moi – “Still Sound”

Laura Stevenson and The Cans
One of the best surprises of the day was New York based Laura Stevenson and The Cans. Laura and her band played the Riot Act Media day party at The Ghost Room to an entirely too-small audience; the band’s layered melodies, complex instrumentation and Laura’s lovely vocals were the perfect afternoon break. Their new album releases next month, but you can take a listen to “Master of Art” below.

Laura Stevenson and The Cans – “Master of Art”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
We made it over to The Phoenix just in time to catch the last half of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s set at the KCRW showcase. Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott brought their dreamy blend of pop and folk and probably earned a whole slew of new fans as a result. The Detroit duo got the entire crowd bouncing around, and they’ll do the same to you. Check out two tracks from their Horse Power EP below!

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – “Nothing But Our Love”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – “Vocal Chords”

The Belle Brigade
These LA natives have been on my radar for a while, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to see them live until last night’s showcase at The Phoenix. The group is fronted by siblings Ethan and Barbara Gruska, (the latter playing drums with what seems like every band in LA, including Obi Best, who we featured a few years ago). Their band includes Alex Silverman (of Alex & Sam) on guitar, Aaron Arntz on keys, Keith Karmen on bass and Mike Green on drums. The Belle Brigade’s live show was energetic, uplifting and exceptionally earnest; you can’t help but fall in love with them a little bit. Their entire set was a treat, but one highlight was when Barbara went back behind the kit to play drums, and Mike Green stepped up to do the most epic tambourine playing/dancing I’ve ever seen. Take a listen to “Sweet Louise” off their upcoming album below!

The Belle Brigade – “Sweet Louise” (stream only)

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