Broken Social Scene with Do Make Say Think
Thursday, Oct. 19
Charles Spearin is a busy man. The first time I called him for our phone interview, he asked if I could call him back in about an hour and a half so he could take his kids to the park. When I called him again, he was ready to talk, but was just a bit distracted. Every now and then, I could hear someone else in the room talking to him, as well as the sweet chirps of his children.
For Spearin, though, multitasking is normal. As a member of the Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene, he does triple duty, playing guitar, bass and trumpet. He’s also part of the band that will open for Broken Social Scene on Thursday, an ambient outfit called Do Make Say Think.
Other members of Broken Social Scene are also in Do Make Say Think, which makes for a fun but busy live show.
“We’re all part of the music community in Toronto,” Spearin says. “We all got together and just started getting really great reviews. People in the band are pretty mature about it; most of us are in our 30s, so we’re not doing this because they want to be famous. It’s the music.”
Debuting with their album Feel Good Lost in 2001, Broken Social Scene has had a successful run in the Toronto indie music scene. Members of the group include KC Accidental member Kevin Drew, solo artist Leslie Feist and Brendan Canning, who’s also in several other bands. Each member is in at least one other group, but they still make time for Broken Social Scene. The result is pop-rock with dozens of influences and styles, a crowded sound that packs a heavy punch.
“I’ve been in both bands since the beginning,” Spearin says. “But the lines get blurry; Ohad [Benchetrit] co-writes for Do Make Say Think, but he’s also getting more involved with Broken Social Scene, so things get mushier and mushier. Sometimes our production manager comes on stage and plays trumpet. By the end of the show, there might be 20 people on stage with us — it’s a big mess on stage.”
With such a demanding musical schedule, one might wonder just how Spearin and his bandmates manage to have a normal life. Spearin says it’s not that hard.
“All of this didn’t all happen at once, it’s taken a little practice,” he says. “And we have a very accommodating manager, Kevin Drew, who’s the main organizer of the band. He’s a visionary as well, but he also lets everyone have their part — kind of a leader, but he’s in no way telling people what to play.”
But with more than 10 people on stage, how does that sort of freedom not turn into chaos?
“That’s kind of what excites us,” he says. “We’ve got five guitars, different effects on the guitars to make strange sounds, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a different experience in some ways, but the same sense of overdoing it.”
Here are my songs
Friday, Oct. 20
British-born James Blunt knew he wanted a career in music at age 14, when he started playing electric guitar. That future, though, would have to wait. The son of a colonel in the British Army Air Corps, he took advantage of a program that paid for college in exchange for four years of British military service. So when college ended in 1998, the Army was next in line.
His stint included six months serving as a reconnaissance officer during a bombing campaign in Kosovo as well as time with a NATO peace-keeping force in that country. Blunt saw the effects firsthand of genocide in that country, and his song, “No Bravery,” was inspired by that experience.
“You definitely see the extremity of humans and human nature, seeing them at their worst, and at the same time, sometimes through some individuals, I saw humans at their best as well,” Blunt said.
Once his military time ended, Blunt, 29, wasted no time in pursuing music. Through a friend he was introduced to his manager (who works with Elton John’s management company). A key step was landing a showcase at the 2003 South By Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas.
In attendance that night was Linda Perry, the former frontwoman of 4 Non Blondes who has gone on to become a highly successful songwriter and producer. She signed Blunt to her new label, Custard Records, which is affiliated with Atlantic Records.
Blunt then recorded Back To Bedlam with producer Tom Rothrock, and Custard/Atlantic decided to pursue the U.K. market first, releasing the CD in October 2004. So began Blunt’s rise to multiplatinum popularity (the hit single “You’re Beautiful”).
On his fall American tour, Blunt will have a five-piece band. He said his songs have taken on a somewhat different personalitym live — something he wanted to see when he assembled his touring group.
"I just told them, hey look, here are my songs. What do you want to add to them?” Blunt said. “Then they brought their own musicianship to the table. I think that’s why the live show has a slightly grittier feel than the album. For me, I really enjoy the change. If we were just reproducing the album, it wouldn’t be worth coming to the live show.”
No frills rock and roll
Magnolia Electric Co. with Fog
The Art Hospital, Bloomington
Saturday, Oct. 21
Magnolia Electric Co. is the latest moniker for former Indianapolis resident Jason Molina. He started his career as a folkie singer-songwriter under the name of Songs: Ohia, and was the first star of Bloomington’s Secretly Canadian record label. He rechristened his band Magnolia Electric Co., following the album of the same name from 2002.
Gone are the days of Molina’s introspective and sparse folk; they are replaced by a meat and potatoes style of classic rock. The band performs three- and four-chord rockers à la Bob Seger or Bruce Springsteen, grinding them into blue-collar anthems with familiar passages and guitar solos.
Also appearing will be folk hip-hopper Fog, aka Andrew Broder. A former DJ from Minnesota, Broder has consistently constructed difficult and brilliant albums over the last half decade. His blend of bedroom folk tunes with hip-hop scratching and beats is often compared with Beck’s similar genre experiments, but Broder also indulges in music concrete and dense sonic pastiche.
At times, Fog’s songs are so catchy they seem destined to become a new form of garage-rock radio hits, but whatever popular gains are made are routinely muted by hints of twee and A.D.D. A true experimenter, Broder is supported live by a full rock band, and the results are often mesmerizing.
30 Seconds To Mars/Head Automatica
Murat Egyptian Room
Saturday, Oct. 21
When 30 Seconds To Mars debuted in 2002 with their self-titled CD, more than a few people probably thought the band would turn into another Dogstar (fronted by Keanu Reeves), Juliette and the Licks (with Juliette Lewis) or Bruce Willis and the Accelerators.
Those bands featured well-known actors and none of them has established themselves enough musically to be seen as much more than sidelights to the acting careers of their most famous members.
But with the release of the new CD A Beautiful Lie, it’s looking like 30 Seconds To Mars will become a legitimate, long-term pursuit for frontman Jared Leto.
Leto, whose acting credits include parts in such high-profile films as Panic Room, Fight Club and Alexander, is fully dedicated to the band and his acting career, according to his brother and 30 Seconds To Mars bandmate, drummer Shannon Leto.
“He’ll take the time to do both,” Leto said. “I respect his ability to perform the way he performs, both acting and musically. I haven’t met many people in my life that multitask the way he does and he has the conviction [for both].”
Jared Leto’s commitment to 30 Seconds To Mars is evident from the events that preceded the release of A Beautiful Lie. For one thing, he and his bandmates spent three years working on the project, eventually whittling 40 songs down to the 10 that made the CD.
More significantly, 30 Seconds To Mars grew into a full-fledged band, with the addition of guitarist Tomo Milicevic and bassist Matt Wachter. These weren’t just token additions to fill out the lineup. Milicevic and Wachter were encouraged to become fully involved in the songwriting and arranging for A Beautiful Lie.
“We’re all artists,” Leto said. “We all have a voice and we want our voices to be heard. The four of us have a common goal and you shoot for that goal and you pick what is best for that song. You take the personalities out and you look at it objectively. You just pick what works best for the song and what works best for the album.”
Coming into her own
Monday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.
From playing at CATH coffeehouse to opening for Judy Collins, Amy Speace has come a long way in the last five years. CATH Inc., the acoustic venue at 54th Street and College Avenue that closed in September 2004, was the second stop on her first-ever tour. Speace has spent the past year as Judy Collins’ opening act and winning folk festival and songwriting awards. Her latest release, Songs For Bright Street, is on Collins’ Wildflower Records.
When asked about Judy Collins and Wildflower Records, Speace felt like she was giving a pageant contest answer: “It really has been a dream to open for Judy. She’s one of the first voices I remember from the radio … and she has always been that voice, so iconic.
“As a singer-songwriter working in a folk-based idiom, there are maybe a handful of artists that all want to hear us and nod their approval, and Judy is certainly in that group.”
Speace says that standing backstage listening to Collins sing is incredible. The first time she met Collins, she was distracted by the color of her eyes. Speace managed not to blurt out “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes” and instead greeted her with a very proper “nice to meet you, Ms. Collins.”
Songs For Bright Street is a great collection of Speace’s songwriting talents. Her music is pop-folk with a bit of alt-country tossed in. She will be performing that album and has promised some new songs.
Speace is looking forward to playing in the house concert intimacy of Indy Hostel and enjoying a good run on the Monon Trail.
Clowes Memorial Hall
Monday, Oct. 23
The latest CD from the Indigo Girls, Despite Our Differences, involves a series of firsts: the duo’s first project for Hollywood Records, their first album produced by Mitchell Froom (Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow) and their first recording sessions in California (at Froom’s home studio).
Despite Our Differences is filled with tight, acoustic instrumental tracks that back the Indigo Girls’ unmistakable, well-honed vocals. And the topics covered in the songs on the CD range from relationships to social awareness.
The first song on the CD, Emily Saliers’ “Pendulum Swinger,” takes swipes at both President Bush & Co. as well as institutional sexism.
“When I wrote the song, I was pissed off at the administration, and at the [Catholic] church. It’s a very feminist song,” Saliers says.
“We, as a country, really need to be more thoughtful. And this administration has not done that. Before we sent troops into Iraq, everyone I hung out with knew it was going to [turn out to] be awful.”
One of the few guest artists on the album is Pink, an artist that Saliers and Amy Ray really admire. “We think she’s the best. Pink came into the studio, not knowing the song; but we got it done so fast that we went outside, drank some wine and talked politics when we were finished with [‘Rock and Roll Heaven’s Gate’].”
When it came time to sign on with Hollywood Records, Ray and Saliers had lunch with the label’s president and A&R executive. They made their position very clear right from the start.
“We told them up front, ‘We’re a queer band, and we’re politically outspoken. We don’t want to be messed with!’ And they went with it all the way.”
The Indigo Girls have been performing together for 25 years, since their high school days. And it’s a relationship that Saliers admitted gives the pair opportunities to work as individuals as well as a team.
“There are a lot of elements in our relationship. Amy is a great musician and a great person. She has had her own independent record label for 10 years. I own a restaurant and have written a book with my father. We have our own lives and careers away from the Indigo Girls.”
As far as the music that she likes to listen to, Saliers said that the “coolest stuff I’ve heard lately my friends have found on MySpace, or just surfing on the Internet. The talent that is out there these days is so remarkable.”
The lost art of Southern rock
The Bluebird, Bloomington
Tuesday, Oct. 24
The Drive-by Truckers started as a genre experiment, dedicated to rediscovering and recontextualizing the long lost art of Southern rock. The style had become a parody of itself, and the luster of the old Southern rock giants, Lynard Skynard and the Allman Brothers, seemed destined to become lost on generations to come. When the Drive-by Truckers and its familiar three-guitar lineup take the stage, the earnestness and passion of the performance gives way to any worries of an inside joke or cheekiness evident in the band’s name.
The band has a trio of songwriters, but the obvious lynchpin is Patterson Hood. Hood released a solo record of four-track demos called Killer and Stars in 2004 that harkened back to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. The album, like Springsteen’s, went a long way to crediting the gritty brilliance and songwriting intelligence that underscores the hard-driving rock of the band.
Though the Drive-by Truckers have seemed to be on autopilot for their last few releases, the band was built for the joys in its long and slow-burning live show.