By now, I’m sure you’re familiar with Shaking Through, a documentary series from Weathervane Music that follow artists as they record one song in two days, start to finish, at Fishtown’s Miner Street studio. The latest episode features the Philly punk trio Cayetana, and gives you some insight into the personalities of each member, how they got together to form a band and most importantly, how good the music sounds. The song recorded is “Miss Thing,” which frontwoman Augusta Koch wrote about her grandmother (we heard an early version in the band’s Key Studio Session last year). Check out the video and listen to the song below.
Toynbee tiles- those clandestine, ceramic squares marked with crudely scrawled chunks of some lost conspiracy manifesto- are everywhere. Ever walk past one? They’re all over Philadelphia. And Chicago. And Buenos Ares. Hundreds of tiles have been placed around the world over the past 20 years by an anonymous tile-placer, more often than not stepped over, torn apart by civic management or otherwise weathered by two decades of simply existing. The tiles don’t draw too much attention to themselves; there’s no Banksy-level gawking involved, but they have left many folks simply puzzled.
“They’re definitely esoteric. They’re cryptic,” says a puzzled Raj Haldar, i.e. Lushlife, between sips of coffee and behind sunglasses in a sleepy South Philly café. (It’s 6 p.m. in November, by the way.) He’s explaining what about the Toynbee tiles drew him to write an 11-minute, multi-movement rap song called the Toynbee Suite.
“I think, like a lot of people, they just piqued curiosity in me. I’ve been walking around town over the last decade and just had very much a passing interest in them,” he says. “That sense of unknown origin gave me a lot of scope to build a narrative of what was behind the tiles. That openness was fruitful for the creative process, rather than writing about a historical fact where you’re limited to structure.”
The Toynbee Suite has dragged Haldar out of his creative comfort zone in a handful of ways. Aside from fixating on a particular, tangible subject matter (“I usually don’t rap about something this specific. My rhymes are more stream of consciousness,” he says), the sheer scope of the project forced the 30-year-old hip-hop artist to work with a slew of outside musicians and producers (“With the Lushlife records, I do absolutely everything. It’s completely DIY”) in a pithy 48 hours (“A three-minute song usually takes me like five months to write and record”). It’s operatic in its construction, divided into four movements, each based on a line from the most seminal and ubiquitous of the Toynbee tiles, the one that reads something like:
IN KUBRICK’S 2001
ON PLANET JUPITER
Recorded at Miner Street Studios in Fishtown, the Toynbee Suite is the latest in a series of installments from Shaking Through, a project from Weathervane Music that challenges musicians to write and record a song in two days, documenting the process along the way. Haldar’s might be one of the most ambitious Shaking Through episodes to date, although he had written the bulk of the Toynbee Suite months in advance. “Even with all that planning, the 48 hours was just so packed,” he says. “The song, in the multi-track, has over 140 tracks. It’s unreal.”
Earlier today, the folks at Weathervane Music debuted the latest installment in their Shaking Through series – a gritty, poppy number from Philly’s Hop Along called “Sister Cities.” The song is loosely based on Günter Grass’ book The Tin Drum, it was written this winter and recorded over the course of 24 hours at Fishtown’s Miner Street Studios. This is something of a change of pace for Hop Along – frontwoman Frances Quinlan is an admitted perfectionist, and their excellent 2012 LP Get Disowned was the result of two years of hard work at Headroom Studios. What was it like going into a situation where they had to finish the song in a day? How did “Sister Cities” grow from its solo beginnings we heard at Quinlan’s PhilaMOCA show in January to the rager we hear today? And will this experience change how Hop Along works in the studio? I caught up with Quinlan at Johnny Brenda’s last week to find the answers to these questions and more.
The Key: How would you say songs, this one in particular, change between when you first write and when you have a finished / recorded project?
Frances Quinlan: This was really different from songs I’ve worked out in the past; it’s been a while since I’ve really felt like I had to beat the shit out of a song. I remember reading this interview with Tom Waits and he was talking about how some songs come to you in a dream and some songs are like a dance. And some songs you have to drag kicking and screaming and, like, fight with them. I really felt like this song was a fight. I remember we were jamming it a while back and everyone was like, “yeah, you know, this is cool.” But we really did not have strong feelings about it until we got in the studio and hashed it out. The structure was the same, but the feeling of it changed in the studio.
TK: So when you say, “when we got in the studio” do you mean you got to Miner Street and didn’t know that was song you were going to record?
FQ: No, we knew. We had no other song that I really felt confident enough to say, “oh sure we could make this work in a day”. This one started out as a very straight song. I thought it was mellow! To me it was like a uniform feeling all the way through, but it was steady and I was like, “that’s what we have, this is what we can work with, we can do something and it won’t be terrible”…you know? But no, we got in there and it was like 75 percent, 80 percent done. It needed some character to it. But that’s why you take that shit to a studio and figure it out! [laughs]
To celebrate the start of Shaking Through Volume 4, Weathervane Music is bringing soul / pop band Ava Luna and experimental pop group Twin Sister to Johnny Brenda’s this Saturday, January 12th. The Shaking Through series was started by local non-profit Weathervane Music to “document the birth of a song,” giving the featured bands two days in Miner Street Recordings to create and record a new track from start to finish. The video series was shortlisted for the 2012 Vimeo Festival + Awards and its catalog includes episodes with Sharon Van Etten, Strand of Oaks, Hezekiah Jones and over twenty-five other artists.
In addition to sets by Shaking Through alums Ava Luna and Twin Sister, this week’s event will feature the premiere of Volume 4 Episode 1 with R&B singer Steven A. Clark and appearances by members of Dr. Dog, The War on Drugs, Man Man and Purling Hiss. Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here. Below, watch the Shaking Through episodes from Ava Luna and Twin Sister. Continue reading →
Volume 3, Episode 8 in Weathervane Music’s Shaking Through series will be released on October 17th. The upcoming installment features Philly-based indie band Auctioneer and you can check out a photo gallery of the session here and check back for the episode later this month.
Weathervane Music is back with a new Shaking Through Episode. This month’s collaboration was curated by The Deli Magazine’s Q.D. Tran and features psych/folk six piece Secret Mountains. The Baltimore band, founded by Jeff Silverstein and Kelly Laughlin, hit Miner Street Recordings for two days in May with the task of writing, arranging and recording a brand new track. The result is the gauzy, reverb-heavy “High Horses”, a song that explores how we deal with loss by coming together. Watch the episode below, and then download the track from Weathervane Music’s Bandcamp here.
Soulful rock experimentalists Ava Luna are returning to Philly for a show tonight at Johnny Brenda’s. They call themselves “nervous soul”; shaking feelings mixed with powerful chords and earfuls of synthesizers. The seven piece group released their debut LP, Ice Level earlier this year on Infinite Best Recordings. They were also featured in Weathervane Music‘s Shaking Through series, watch them record “Water Duct” in the episode below. Ava Luna plays tonight along with Auctioneer, this 21+ show starts at 9 PM. You can grab your tickets here.
The Left Banke has been called one of the originators of baroque pop music. They had their first major hit with “Walk Away Renee” in 1966, only a year after they had been playing together. Their vocal harmonies, classical arrangements, and use of various instruments account for their worthy performances. Check them out tonight at World Cafe Live downstairs at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28 plus processing fees.
Tommy Conwell, better known for his days as the frontman of the Philadelphia band, Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers, plays tonight at Haddon Lake Park. This concert is free for all ages and starts at 7:30 p.m. Get directions and more information here.
Finally, country rock legend and singer/songwriter Willie Nelson is playing at the TD Bank Arts Center in Sewell, New Jersey. He will be joined by his son Patrick and other members of the family. They played at our annual Non-Comm earlier this May, you can listen to that performance here. (via the XPN media player). Tickets to tonight’s performance range from $29-59; the show takes off at 7:30 p.m.
Weathervane Music’s most recent Shaking Through episode features Brooklyn six-piece band, Ava Luna. The episode was curated by Bryan Ujueta and Dev Gupta from Shaking Through alumni Twin Sister. The beat stompin’ soul rockers, fronted by vocalist Carlos Hernandez, use various instruments and dynamic harmonies to create a variety of sounds. They recorded the song titled “Water Duct” for their episode, watch it below. Ava Luna also plays at Johnny Brenda’s on August 8th. You can buy tickets to the 21+ show here
Raphel Cutrufello and the collection of Philadelphia folk musicians who go by the nom de plume Hezekiah Jones play tonight at World Cafe Live. The jammin’ crew was part of Weathervane Music’s Shaking Through series in March of last year, curated by WXPN’s Bruce Warren, when they recorded their song “Borrowed Heart”; check out the episode below. Griz (who just played at Haddon Lake Park on Wednesday with Mike Doughty) is performing a set, and Philly favorites Cheers Elephant round out the bill. This phenomenal line-up of bands starts this evening at 8 p.m. at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. You can buy advance tickets to the show here.
Our friends at Weathervane Music announced their latest Shaking Through session with Brooklyn art-pop group Ava Luna, curated by ST alums Twin Sister. Their recording of the new song “Water Duct” will release on Monday July 16. You can check out an enticing 42-second trailer for the session here, and if you’re feeling particularly daring, download the stem files now and get cracking on your own remix before engineer Jonathan Low’s take on the song is released on Monday.
When Ava Luna was in town back in January, opening for Twin Sister at Johnny Brenda’s, they recorded one of the very first video sessions with Out of Town Films; check out that video here.