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Frontier Records reissue Philly’s Lilys’ debut In the Presence of Nothing

Kurt Heasley of Lilys | photo by Noah Greenberg | via WFMU.org
Kurt Heasley of Lilys | photo by Noah Greenberg | via WFMU.org

This January 13th, LA-based indie label Frontier Records will reissue In The Presence of Nothing, the shoegaze-y debut from Philly cult rockers Lilys. The physical, double LP version is limited to only 300 copies, so if you want to get your hands on this slice of indie rock history, you’ll want to pre-order it sooner rather than later. (Seriously — the ultra-deluxe pressing just went on sale yesterday, and it’s already gone.) Continue reading →

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I don’t know where the heck the Lithuanian Music Hall is but Lilys are playing there and that’s amazing

Kurt Heasley of Lilys | via wfmu.org
Kurt Heasley of Lilys | via wfmu.org

If you know anything about the Philly psychedelic cult faves Lilys, it’s that seeing them live is like spotting a Bigfoot – super rare / possibly imaginary. With good reason; mastermind Kurt Heasley is a studio perfectionist moreso than an active performer, and his live band has featured literal scores of members and collaborators over the year. (City Paper charted their family tree back in 2006, and it was pretty robust – and admittedly incomplete, even leaving a blank space reading “Are you a Lily? Fill in your name here.”)

But Heasley has re-emerged from the shadows this year, first to play a robed cult-leader who burns Creepoid alive in the “Dried Out” video, and next to announce his first live show in eons at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. Regarding the latter, the initial reaction from Philly fans was a mix of “yay!” and “Brooklyn? And not Philly?? What the hell is that shit???”

But a Philly show was in the works the whole time. Continue reading →

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How great does this documentary on Philly’s Lilys look? (UPDATE: new music!)

Photo by Michael T. Regan | michaeltregan.com

Kurt Heasley’s explosive, exploratory psych-rock outfit Lilys had a big hand in shaping the Philly indie rock scene of the 90s and early aughts. But it also remains one of the scene’s most enigmatic, from the three-dozen contributing members it boasted over the years, to Heasley’s own guarded, unpredictable persona. (For an exploration of the man behind the music, this City Paper cover story from a few years back is a good place to start. If you’re not familiar with the music, take two minutes and bop to “A Nanny In Manhattan.”)

With the last Lilys album on record being the 2006 fuzz-pop collection Everything Wrong is Imaginary and Heasley relocating from Northern Liberties to the Blue Ridge Mountains a few years back, the future of the project became uncertain. But an acoustic appearance from Heasley at the Chickfactor 20th Anniversary in Arlington, Virginia, earlier this year indicated some semblance of activity, as does this post about an in-progress documentary, Everything Wrong Is Imaginary, that appeared on Philly blog Phawker yesterday. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Chris Smith

Chris Smith | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

When you speak with Chris Smith, you don’t get the impression that it’s a nervous energy, so much, that drives the discursive discourse — or even that the discursiveness is necessarily a negative quality, in his case. Rather, you immediately understand that he just has so much to say about all of his rich experiences, that he’s thought so deeply about it all: from the city streets he’s stomped for his decades living here, to the venues he’s played, the neighborhoods he’s called home, and most of all to the expansive community of musicians and artists and friends that he clearly feels so fortunate to have.

Smith is a veritable encyclopedia of music knowledge — for all music, sure, in the way you might expect or hope any passionate musician to be — but specifically and profoundly for Philly’s scene. He can’t seem to be able to say enough in his adoration for what this city’s managed to cultivate, over the past twenty years and even earlier, and parts of the conversation can begin to  trend toward extemporaneous encomium.

But although the multi-instrumentalist’s psych-folk outfit Espers were a beloved staple of Philly indie music back in their heyday, some 15 years ago now — back in the days when he wore his straight hair a lot longer — you don’t catch Smith dwelling much on that, beyond a passing reference, even if you might have hoped for a tale or two. In fact, he never even really references or plugs his own band’s really remarkable catalog and achievements at all, but instead directs almost of all of his acclaim outwards. From his accounts, you end up with a much broader picture of a reverie that wanders between the actual brick-and-mortar record stores of South Street record stores, through recurrent Philly occasions like First Fridays, his exploits and encounters with local artists and poets, and into a cheap rental property in the mid-’90s with his indie-rock compatriot Steve Gunn for a snapshot of the sometimes-controversial revitalization the Northern Liberties. And on top of all that, Smith is uniquely poised to be able to offer both an insider’s and outsider’s perspective on the Philly’s arts culture, as well as both a successful musician’s and a successful indie-record-label-owner’s perspectives on how to enable yourself to be both — even in a place that artists can sometimes have the tendency to malign as unconducive to that sort of professional growth.

At one point in this interview, after all of that, Smith catches himself, and feels the need to advise you that he’s not usually an unbridled optimist, lest you begin to feel your Philly-stiffened upper lip start to soften on the spot from all of his exuberance. Frankly, you really don’t buy his reminder.

Still kicking around in Philly, Smith is mostly focused these days on continuing to build remotely his record label, Paradise of Bachelors, based outside of Durham, NC, in partnership with co-founder and Carolina counterpart Brendan Greaves. The label has been blowing up lately, most recently offering new releases from The Weather Station and Gun Outfit — not to mention this fantastic and seasonally relevant sci-fi literature review. ”Paradise of Bachelors,” declares Smith after the interview ends, “Just check it out!” True to form, he adds after a short pause, “That’s about it . . . I’m so bad at plugging myself.” Continue reading →

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Sounds of Psychedelphia, Part Two: The revival of the 90s

Lilys | photo via Bandsintown

Sounds of Psychedelphia is a three-part series exploring the history of psychedelic rock in Philadelphia. this month, we begin by studying the scene’s origins in the late 60s and early 70s.

As the 60s psych rock revolution faded in the U.S. and England, giving way to the complex, technically dense sounds of progressive rock and the spectacular grandiosity of glam rock, the barrier of entry for rock and roll was at an all-time high.

By the late 70s, punk had come in like a tidal wave, sweeping the table clean and emboldening a new generation of musicians to pick up instruments and play, regardless of experience or technical proficiency. Punk had leveled the playing field, birthing a vibrant DIY (Do It Yourself) culture that thrived in basements, practice spaces and squat houses around the world. The artistic freedom that punk opened up led many bands of the post-punk generation to begin to experiment with new and old sounds. While some post-punks took the music into previously uncharted waters, cross-pollinating punk aesthetics with dance beats, free-jazz, noise and icily dramatic electronica, many musicians began to look back to the psychedelic sounds of the 60s for inspiration.

Following this trend, bands in cities hit hard by punk — San Francisco, Chicago and most notably Los Angeles’ notorious “Paisley Underground” scene — began to experiment with garage rock and acid-fried neo-psychedelia. The city of Philadelphia was no different, seeing a number of its artists by the 1990s begin to explore the psychedelic sounds of the past with an eye toward the future. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Dominic Angelella

Dominic | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Dominic | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

There’s a bit of a music scene in-joke that circulates about Philadelphia psych-rock cult faves Lilys; so many people have contributed to that band in its 25-year existence that founder and songwriter Kurt Heasley probably couldn’t tell you all of them. Dominic Angelella has experienced sort of the opposite situation in his career; he’s founded, jammed with, recorded and parted ways with so many bands since coming to Philadelphia from Baltimore in 2005, there will probably never be a true and complete chronology of them all.

We’re pretty sure Angelella has never been in Lilys, for what it’s worth. But looking just his higher-profile projects: there was the long running DRGN King, which disbanded last year after two great records on Bar-None; there’s Lithuania, his longer-running punk duo with Eric Slick of Dr. Dog; there’s mewithoutYou, with whom he is currently a touring bassist; there’s Hop Along, where he was an early touring guitarist. And, of course, there’s Dominic.

That’s his first name, true, and it’s also the name of his first truly solo project, which releases its debut LP Goodnight, Doggies. this Friday on Lame-O Records. Back in the fall, The Key brought you the news of his new album alongside a wide-ranging conversation with his onetime bandmate / current roommate, Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan, where the two unpacked Dom’s musical journey. This week, we specifically talk Philly for his High Key Portrait Series spotlight. This interview took place in early 2016, and he shares favorite faces and favorite places in the city — and is our first interviewee to give a diplomatic answer about Philly beer! This Friday, February 3rd, Angelella headlines Johnny Brenda’s (his fav venue) to celebrate the release of Goonight, Doggies. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Light Heat just dropped a surprise EP called The Silver Light Late Night

Light Heat | Photo via facebook.com/lightheatlightheat
Light Heat | Photo via facebook.com/lightheatlightheat

This fall, longtime Philly explorer of sonic space Quentin Stotzfus has surfaced again with his experimental rock outfit Light Heat. First there was word that he would open the show for this Saturday’s rare gig from Lilys, which is (ahem) sold-out as of this morning. Fear not, though – to tide us over until the next Light Heat gig (which it seems will happen sooner than the next Lilys gig), Stoltzfus went and dropped a streaming only EP yesterday called The Silver Light Late Night. Continue reading →

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Watch Creepoid’s haunting new video for “Dried Out”

 

Creepoid | Photo by Jammi York
Creepoid | Photo by Jammi York

Creepoid‘s new video is, simply put, creepy. Would you expect otherwise? The video finds the band wandering through California’s Colorado Desert guided by a mysterious hooded man – played by Philly music icon Kurt Heasley of Lilys – performing various rituals with the band’s haunting cut “Dried Out” presenting a perfect soundtrack. The footage by director Mitchell Wojcik slips in and out of focus, making the piece even eerier, culminating in a fiery ending on the banks of the Salton Sea. Continue reading →