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A conversation with Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan about creating “Sister Cities” in a day for Shaking Through

FrancesEarlier 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]

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Weathervane Music kicks off Shaking Though Volume 4 with Ava Luna and Twin Sister (at Johnny Brenda’s on 1/12)

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 →

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Watch the new Shaking Through episode featuring Secret Mountains

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.

Shaking Through: Secret Mountains from Weathervane Music on Vimeo.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ava Luna/Auctioneer at Johnny Brenda’s, The Left Banke at WCL, Tommy Conwell at Haddon Lake Park, and Willie Nelson at TD Bank Center of the Arts

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.

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Watch the new Shaking Through Episode featuring Ava Luna (playing Johnny Brenda’s in August)

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

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Tonight’s Concert Pick: Hezekiah Jones w/ Griz and Cheers Elephant at World Cafe Live

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.

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Watch a preview of Shaking Through’s next session with Ava Luna (coming Monday)

Photo by Peter English | Weathervane Music
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.

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Watch the May episode of Shaking Through featuring Purling Hiss

This month’s episode of Shaking Through—the online audio and video collaboration between Weathervane Music and WXPN—features a song by Purling Hiss called “Lolita.” This month’s episode was recorded in early April at Miner Street Recordings, and guest curated by The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel.

From the folks at Shaking Through:

We’ve been hearing about Purling Hiss and its creator, Mike Polizze, for some time now, echoing within the inner circuit of Philadelphia’s most esteemed music elite: Kurt Vile, Richie Charles, The War on Drugs. Local promoters can’t seem to get enough of band as well — their enthusiasm fueled by The Hiss’ huge sound, out-sized energy and classic rock n’ roll vibes.

Adam Granduciel, frontman and guitarist for the Philadelphia-based band The War On Drugs, curated the episode. Of everyone he knew, Purling Hiss was the one he believed would seize the opportunity and create something remarkable, and so he and the band converged at Miner Street in Philadelphia to record “Lolita” over the course of a warm weekend in early April. The result: Polizze’s swirling guitar riffs, and the band’s rebellious rhythm (Mike Sneeringer on Drums and Kiel Everett on Bass), take the listener into a triumphant rock-n-roll landscape, one that can’t be passively pushed aside in today’s music.

You can listen to the track and watch the video below; visit Shaking Through’s website to see photos, interviews, and more from the session.

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Watch the April episode of Shaking Through, featuring Cat Martino

This month’s episode of Shaking Through—the online audio and video collaboration between Weathervane Music and WXPN—features a song by Cat Martino called “I Promise.” Martino wrote and recorded the song with help from Sufjan Stevens and drummer Chris Powell from Man Man. This month’s episode was recorded in mid-March at Miner Street Recordings, produced by Brian McTear and Peter English, and engineered by John Low.

From the folks at Shaking Through:

Ever since meeting Cat Martino during our first Shaking Through session with Sharon Van Etten, we’ve known she’s a woman with a powerful voice. Since then, we’ve watched her collaborate with an incredible repertoire of artists (Sufjan Stevens, The Shins) as she’s developed her solo career. Now, two years later, we were thrilled to bring her back to Philadelphia for another go in the studio—this time, with her work as the focus.

While many wrapped up their SXSW trips, Martino visited us from Brooklyn for a weekend in the middle of March. Enlisting the help of frequent collaborator Sufjan Stevens and Philly drummer Chris Powell (Man Man), she set to work on “I Promise,” an electronic-influenced slow jam about letting go of past relationships.

You can listen to the track and watch the video below; visit Shaking Through’s website to see photos, interviews, and more from the session.

Shaking Through: Cat Martino from Weathervane Music on Vimeo.