Dither, you is awesome!

•May 26, 2009 • Comments Off on Dither, you is awesome!

While thinking of a proper intro for Dither, we were tempted to pull out a thesaurus and just use as many synonyms for the word “eclectic” as possible, as long as it made a modicum of grammatical sense, like some strangely earnest reviewers will sometimes do. Say, something like: Dither, a motley musical group of diverse and wide-ranging tastes and sensibilities, creates unique and multifarious musical performances that are varied in scope, interdisciplinary in style, and kaleidoscopic in texture.

Er, yeah.

All that silliness aside, Dither is a pretty unique quartet and they create music you’ve never heard before. Maybe it’s just our limitations as writers, but it really is hard to capture what they do without venturing into some overly verbose territory, so we’ll let their work speak for itself!

They’ll be playing the Bang on a Can marathon on Sunday, May 31st at the World Financial Center Winter Garden. With 12 hours of music, Bang on a Can itself is a pretty awesome event. Founded in 1987, Bang on a Can has been exposing audiences to the “unknown and unconventional” for over two decades. Check ’em out!

Photo by Emily Weidenhof

YouIsAwesome: What’s your least favorite curse word?
Dither: Damn – what a shitty word!

YIA: You guys have a really cool press photo, where your eyes are “censored” by a fretboard. I have this really strange urge to reach into the photo and straighten out the various fretboards. Do you guys find that urge strange?
D: Yes, but we’re glad you like it! All of our design work is done by the amazing Emily Weidenhof at www.leaninggusset.com.

YIA: You guys are on stage and the passionate, raucous fans have been so moved that they demand one of you to smash one of your guitars to pieces on stage. Whose guitar do you choose and why?
D: Probably David Linaburg’s, just because he’s the new guy and he’s pretty easy going – his guitar is a model of a road-worn telecaster that looks pretty beat up anyway. On that note, Josh’s modified Yamaha Pacifico has a nice smashed-up look to it too. We all kind of beat up our guitars in various ways as we search for new sounds, so this idea wouldn’t be totally out of the question, as long as it has some sort of interesting musical effect.

YIA: James, what advice do you have for young male guitarists out there who also wish to grow a beard?
D: As with guitar playing, or really anything in life, growing a proper beard takes commitment and dedication. While some may have the natural ability to grow facial hair quickly, they will often recklessly shave and trim at the slightest whim. It is really those individuals that have spent time training a few feeble hairs into a glorious scraggly mane who have earned the right to be truly identified by their beard, and they will harvest the fruit of its rewards.

YIA: How well does the word “dither” capture the spirit of your music?
D: Well, it turns our Dither means a lot of things. We originally chose the name because it is a technical term for “intentially applied distortion” that is used when editing both images and audio. However, it has a variety of other meanings including “to tremble and quiver”, “nervous agitation”, and “indecisiveness.” All of these terms can certainly apply to our group!

YIA: What’s something about the world that gives you guys hope?
D: I think we are all in agreement that Eric km Clark gives us hope. Eric is a long time Dither collaborator and friend with an amazingly refreshing musical approach. He manages to get people to listen to his incredibly strange ideas, while always keeping things entertaining and beautiful. Incidentally, he is also very committed to his beard.

Eric’s most notorious musical method is “hearing deprivation.” In this practice, all the performers of a piece are deprived of hearing through the use of earplugs and cup-headphones, which playback white noise at a high volume. This makes it nearly impossible for an individual player to effectively coordinate with the ensemble or to judge his or her own sound. Furthermore, all the players are playing the same exact part. As a result, the music begins in unison, and slowly drifts away into hypnotizing hermetic canons and driving sections of oddly flowing chaos.

Which brings us to a shameless plug: We’ll be playing Eric’s epic piece “exPAT” on May 31 on the Bang on a Can Marathon, which will be performed by at least 10 hearing deprived electric guitarists. This an awesome all-day festival at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, and we are playing around 1:30 pm. Come check it out!

YIA: What do you have to say to people who say that they don’t “get” experimental music?
D: Our advice . . . is to keep listening! As with any label, the term “experimental” can mean a lot of things. To us, it is not limited to any genre or aesthetic. When we us this term we are simply referring to music that is explorative and risk-taking. In this way, without experimental music, we wouldn’t have Bach, Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Led Zeppelin, or Bjork. Just like anything, you’re not going to like all that you hear. However, If you are in any way intrigued by a sound, process, or dramatic effect of a piece, we think it is always worth your time to listen closer and dig deeper.


The XYZ Affair, you is awesome!

•May 4, 2009 • 1 Comment

Upon hearing The XYZ Affair for the first time, you wonder how you ever did without them. Not to be confused with the 1797 diplomatic exchange between France and the US (because, you know, they’ve never heard that before), nor with the band from the Philippines that we randomly stumbled upon, this particular XYZ Affair is starting a residency at Pianos on the Lower East Side starting Monday, May 11.

Lead singer Alex Feder, who is a genuinely awesome fella, took some time out to answer a list of random questions for us and in exchange, the least you could do is check ’em out, no? So that’s the 11th, 18th, and 25th, all at Pianos, all at 11:00pm, and all presented by the good folks at Oh My Rockness.

Oh, and because there’s nothing sexier than four guys feeding each other fruit in their undershirts:

YumPhotograph by Meg Wachter

YouIsAwesome: What’s your least favorite curse word?
Alex Feder: My least favorite curse word? I don’t think I have one. But may I say that my favorite single curse word is cunt. Without a doubt. I personally don’t see what the big deal is, but you just can’t say it in front of girls without somebody being shocked. I once used it in the presence of a nice southern girl and she literally gasped aloud. On the flipside, one time I used it in front of my grandma and she barely even noticed. My brother chastised me, and my grandmother said, “Oh, that’s not so bad. We used to say that in my sorority all the time.” BAM! Love you, Grammy.

YIA: Hilary Clinton is speaking at this year’s NYU graduation. Who spoke at your NYU graduation and what’d you think?
AF: I actually only went to the Steinhardt School Graduation (for those of you who did not go to NYU, The Steinhardt School of Education was the umbrella school that contained the music program, as well as art, education, psychology, communication, and bunch of other random stuff). I skipped the main NYU Graduation. I don’t remember who spoke.

YIA: We’ve been dying to know: In the last few seconds of your second music video for Evening Life, did you guys choreograph that little stumble?
AF: The fall at the end of Evening Life was not intentional. We thought it was funny, so we chose to use that take. If you watch it closely it’s pretty amazing. You can see him losing his balance, awkwardly trying to regain it, and then just falling. That’s Chris, our bass player. If you watch the beginning of our All My Friends video, he accidentally drops his bass. Here’s to hoping he fucks up again for the next video.

YIA: You used some of that Nickelodeon goo/slime in your first music vid for All My Friends. Did that stuff come out of your hair/instruments?
AF: For our All My Friends video I used an old guitar of mine that I hadn’t used for years. It is currently sitting in my room, still covered in the slime that Marc Summers threw on it (dried and crusted over by now, of course), and still with one broken string on it because Danny Cooksey broke a string during his scene. It took two hours and I think 12 people to scrub our apartment clean after the shoot.

YIA: What’s so darn appealing about ice cream?
AF: Ice Cream is one of my favorite foods/things. I would say I eat it probably 2-3 times a week. First of all, it’s tasty. Second of all, it’s a good replacement for a “let’s get coffee” kind of thing. I don’t drink coffee, so if I want a casual get together, Ice Cream is the way to go. I’ve said this in interviews before, but it also makes a great date activity. It’s cheap, which is good for broke folks like myself. And if the date’s not going well, Ice Cream can last as short as half an hour. If it IS going well, then you can take a stroll with your ice cream and stretch things out. Maybe end up seeing a movie. Etc etc. Also, it sets up a sort of adorable, “Look at me, I’m an adult but I still have a playful side” kind of vibe. For real. Ice Cream. Amazing first date.

YIA: “The Alien and Sedition Acts” is also a perfectly good band name…
AF: You’re correct. It would also make a good album name. Haymarket Riot would also make a decent band name, but it sort of sounds like a punk band. I’ve always rather liked our band name. One time a writer for Vanity Fair online listed it among the worst band names he had heard. What a cunt.

Ice Cream
Courtesy of Papermag.


•April 28, 2009 • Comments Off on Newspeak

No, we haven’t gone all 1984 on you, but we do want to know why you’re not listening to Newspeak right now and let you know that we are back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Sure enough, as we predicted two weeks ago, the New Music Bake Sale was pretty darn cool. And sure, we got the address wrong and ended up wandering Clark Street for about ten minutes and when we stopped in a bodega to get some help, the man behind the counter was screaming “YES” repeatedly into his phone at one of those automated tellers, but we eventually realized that it was taking place on Henry Street, not Clark, and ended up having quite a musical blast.


We found Newspeak to be particularly interesting, as they are self-described explorers of “the grey area where music and politics mix”. They are a flexible five to eight piece ensemble and that night, we saw them with guitar, drums, voice, violin, cello, various woodwinds, synthesizer, and a ginormous xylophone. And even though we sat just a little too close to the speakers and were unable to hear and speak at an appropriate indoor volume for about four days, we’re looking forward to a second edition of the Bake Sale.

And yeah, they do sit down to listen to the acceptance speech. =)

A Gathering Storm

•April 27, 2009 • 1 Comment

Today, we would like to know, “Why aren’t you watching the original ‘A Gathering Storm’ PSA, aka inadverdant comedy sketch?”

To be honest, we were intentionally staying away from mentioning parodies of National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) baffling PSA, A Gathering Storm, because A) NOM doesn’t need any more attention and B) other people have already done hilarious jobs dealing with it. Also, this blog is about awesomeness and regardless of the issue, we just didn’t think anything that encourages you to deny rights to other people is awesome in any way. We’re also not really in the business of making fun of things, and it’s hard not to when the issue at hand is so divisive, so we wanted to stay away.

But then we thought about it, really thought about it, and realized that A Gathering Storm is actually worth spotlighting, because its comedic value is undoubtedly awesome. Sure, Stephen Colbert’s, available here, was hilarious and Funny Or Die’s Liz Feldman/Mike Rose-penned A Gaythering Storm captured the mystifying earnestness of the original perfectly, but none beats the inherent humor found in NOM’s very own version.

Who thought that it was a good idea to manifest the metaphor of “a gathering storm” with an actual gathering storm? Why do you have the accented guy speak the least amount of words possible, stressing his accent in a ridonkulously comedic way? How about the former-E! News-anchor-Patrick Stinson-soundalike who, when announcing that hope is on the way, does so against a backdrop of a clearing sky, giving way to a 300-esque (which featured 300 well-muscled, largely naked men fighting and, uh, falling all over each other) yellowish sky? Listen Damon Owens, you may be a part of NOM, but you ain’t Moses.

So really, regardless of where you fall on this issue, you cannot deny that this is probably one of the most unintentionally funny things you’ve ever seen:

New Music Bake Sale

•April 13, 2009 • 1 Comment

Our question of the week begs, “Why aren’t you going to the New Music Bake Sale?”

On Friday, April 17th, nine very up-and-coming groups will be playing at the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. Doors open at 6:30 and the music will start at 7:00. $15 gets you in, where you get 2 drink tickets, a bunch of baked goods, and some aural stimulation. Yeah, we had a little mental giggle with that, too.

If we’re going to judge solely on band photos, we’re especially excited for Dither:

Photo by Emily Weidenhof

But since we dig oh-so-deep with our interviews, what with our hard-hitting questions and all, we can look beyond just the surface and tell you that every single act on Friday night will rock your proverbial socks in some way, shape, or form. On the list to perform are So Percussion, Lisa Moore and Martin Bresnick, Lukas Ligeti, Newspeak, ACME, JACK Quartet, loadbang, and Ensemble de Sade.

Cate Song, you is awesome!

•April 5, 2009 • 2 Comments

Cate Song provided what is easily the most philosophical answer we’ve ever gotten for our default first question, which says a lot about this previously aspiring philosopher-accountant-American Idol hopeful-turned indie musician. A little confusing? Read on and learn more about the somewhat circuitous road her life has taken before arriving at this point, where she finally gets to sing her heart out, tickle the ivories, and shed some of that accounting persona. With a last name like Song, did we really expect anything less?

She will be playing a a string of shows come May, so be sure to check out this powerful songstress when she comes to a city near you…

Photograph by Edmond H Lee

YouIsAwesome: What’s your least favorite curse word?
Cate Song: Well I think curse words are dumb and curses should be banned from language altogether. (Laughs). Not really. LEAST favorite? What an interesting question…hmmm. I’ve become somewhat indifferent to curse words. I mean, they’re words, right? If a word can be used to describe something in a better way than other words, then use it. I’m not sure why we designate certain words as “curse” words. I guess it gives certain people a sense of morality? And others a reason to be rebellious? So yeah, I don’t have a least favorite.

YIA: With a last name like Song, you’re pretty much destined. Wouldn’t it suck if your last name is Accountant or something like that?
CS: OMG, perish the thought!

YIA: What’s your favorite effect on the keyboard?
CS: I grew up playing classical piano and so I’m kind of programmed to love acoustic/grand piano sounds. Especially those on the better Yamaha keyboards. I also do love the Hammond B-3 organ sound and any wurly kind of sounds, but don’t use them that often. The applause sound effect is pretty cool too; I can give myself a nice round of applause after every practice.

YIA: Can you explain the process of getting your songs on iTunes?
CS: Well you call Steve Jobs and then tell him that you’re Cate Song and then he takes care of it. Or you can go the traditional route and sign up for online distribution at cdmakers.com.

YIA: Gosh, who doesn’t like Womanizer and I Kissed a Girl?
CS: Seriously, like, for sure, like totally, like I think I just broke a nail! I think we’ll look back at 2008 and wonder about the failure of a year it would’ve been without those songs.

YIA: Unlike some other musicians/singers, you didn’t start “singing as soon as you could talk”…so what did you do as soon as you could talk?
CS: I ate, my friend. I ate. Oh, that doesn’t make sense, does it, because I obviously ate before I could talk. But anyways, that’s still my answer. I ate a lot as a kid. That hasn’t changed into my adulthood.

YIA: If you could be any other person in the world alive right now, who would you be?
CS: Man, so many choices. Octo-mom is up there. I mean, how DID she generate all that publicity? Mariah Carey too. I’m curious to know what it feels like to be the best singer in all of history.

Editor’s Note: Yeah…we don’t think she’s being sarcastic about the Mariah Carey comment. We thought she was too. 😀

YIA: If there was one thing you could change about college, what would it be?
CS: (Laughs). You’ve opened up a can of worms. Only one thing? I’d throw practicality out the window and change my major to philosophy, which is what I wanted to do from the beginning. The last 10 years of my life would have been so different if I had taken a chance and just went with it. But no, the logical side of my brain took over and said, “You need a job after graduating,” so I did accounting. Then maybe Nigel Lithgoe would’ve said “You sing well for a philosopher” at the AI auditions. Which is like a life-transforming difference from, “You sing well for an accountant,” which is the response I really got from him.

Jeff Chiba Stearns / Yellow Sticky Notes

•March 22, 2009 • 1 Comment

All right folks…time for another installation of Why Aren’t You…

The question today is, “why aren’t you watching Yellow Sticky Notes by Jeff Chiba Stearns right now?”. The very awesome animated short film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, chronicles the previous nine years of Stearns’s life against the backdrop of major global events on, you guessed it, yellow sticky notes. But enough words from us; we’ll let the film speak for itself. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words and with over 2,300 yellow sticky notes used, we’ll give you a moment to take it all in.