IAN SWEET’s Jilian Medford Transforms Anxiety into Gorgeous Garage-Pop

IAN SWEET’s Jilian Medford Transforms Anxiety into Gorgeous Garage-Pop Photography by Eleanor Petry

For IAN SWEET’s Jilian Medford, touring is a form of therapy. 
 
“I feel like I have to tour and play these songs constantly and live with them in order to be meditative and be able to process my mental health issues,” Medford tells AdHoc over the phone.
 
After playing solo shows in Boston’s DIY scene as IAN (a throwback to her high school skateboarding nickname), Medford teamed up with drummer Tim Cheney and bassist Damien Scalise to form IAN SWEET. 
 
The band’s debut album, Shapeshifter, which dropped in September 2016 via Hardly Art, sees Medford processing and pondering those issues—anxiety, depression, panic attacks — on lo-fi, guitar-driven anthems referencing Nickelodeon and Michael Jordan. While Medford’s plaintive, reverb-drenched vocals anchor the record, Shapeshifter is enriched by the trio’s sheer musical chemistry, transforming complex arrangements into undeniably hooky garage-pop. 
 
“It’s IAN when I’m on my own, but they add the SWEET,” Medford says, pausing for a second before cracking herself up. 
 
IAN SWEET plays Murmrr Theater on 10/7 with Frankie Cosmos and Nice Try.
 
AdHoc: Who were some of your heroes growing up?
 
Jilian Medford: Some of my heroes were people my parents were listening to, like Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. They’ve always been heroes of mine as far as music goes, and they’ve shaped the way that I approach and think about music—a more “freaky” way [laughs]. Also, the way they involve theatrics, but not in an over-the-top way, was really influential. 
 
Also, a big hero of mine that comes up in a lot of our music and art that we make is Michael Jordan. My dad was a basketball referee while I was growing up and was always taking me to games and involving me in that world. 
 
The jump from Peter Gabriel to Michael Jordan is pretty funny.
 

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Madeline Kenney's Wandering Curiosity

Madeline Kenney's Wandering Curiosity Photography by Cara Robbins

Madeline Kenney loves to move. In the most literal sense, she’s talking about her Oakland home: “I don’t know if I can pay expensive rent just to be touring all the time,” she tells AdHoc over email, ahead of her headlining set at Trans-Pecos. But getting to this point in her life–California, touring musician–took a lot of moving, both physically and figuratively. Tracing the winding path of Kenney’s life reveals frequent and seemingly random detours: she’s studied neurobiology and has had a nearly decade-long career as a baker before focusing her energy as a musician. 
 
Kenney’s endless curiosity and wandering spirit, though, shows itself in full force through her music. Her debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, is full of musical and lyrical detours–the cascading melody of “Always” seems to be searching for answers; the twinkling piano provides a guide.  On several songs, Kenney loops her voice into a round, with each part singing the same mantra: “Don’t you worry about a thing.” With each piece of her musical puzzle, Kenney contends with her place in the universe, and the simultaneous excitement and uncertainty of innumerable possibilities.
 
Madeline Kenney's debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, is out now on Company Records. Catch her 9/19 at Trans-Pecos with Tall Friend and Trees Take Ease.
 
AdHoc: I wanted to talk about your approach to composition. Your music, to me, is kaleidoscopic, meandering, searching; you layer sounds–fingerpicked guitar, harmonized vocals, steady drums–that create an almost ethereal space. You wrote, arranged, and tracked every song on the album–what’s your thought process when you begin to write a song, and when arranging it?
 
Madeline Kenney: Wow, thanks for such a thoughtful and kind description of my sound!  Sometimes songs come together from a melodic idea on guitar or on my loop pedal, but more often than not I come up with melodies when I'm nowhere near an instrument. Then I have to do the work to put music to the lyrics or melody I've come up with. As far as arranging and layering sounds, I think that comes from hearing many melodies at once and wanting to squeeze everything in.
 

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Cold Beat Gets Emotional

Cold Beat Gets Emotional

Despite lineup changes and stylistic shifts, Cold Beat stays true to its name. Over the course of three full-lengths, the band has never abandoned its signature icy coldwave jaggedness and sensuous pulse, illuminated by Hannah Lew's celestial vocals. On the band's latest effort, Chaos By Invitation, Lew establishes herself as a gracefully multifaceted songwriter, combining emotive lyricism, affecting guitar work, and electronic flourishes. Before she and a new touring band unleash a muscly, fleshed-out incarnation of the new record on September 21 at The Park Church Co-op, Lew spoke to AdHoc about the importance of connecting with one's emotions in a time of crisis—both personal and political—and resisting commodification.

AdHoc: Chaos By Invitation showcases real stylistic fluidity, both within the record and in comparison to your previous releases. What other artists or genres have helped facilitate this shift?

Hannah Lew: When I’m in a writing zone, I tend to only listen to what I’m making. I get really insular and I almost don’t even listen to music while I’m recording. But I think that the process is what really led the songs to the more singular style. I was just writing a lot at home with a computer. It made for a more solitary process, in which I was zoning out in a computer program a lot more—and then fleshing it out from there. It was a tunnel-vision way of doing things.

Actually, one of the songs, “Strawberry Moon,” my husband Andrew helped me write, just at home. I was like, “I’m struggling with this song!” and he helped me finish it. We then toured with it as a band and added things to it. It’s been an interesting process: I recorded things at home and brought the sessions into the studio [from there]. At a point, I didn’t really have a band. One of my bandmates was having a baby, and the other one was in five bands, and it was a lull. [Cold Beat guitarist] Kyle [King] was half-in, half-out; he came to the recording session for a day or two, but, for the most part, I was just sort of in there. I did some post-production stuff with Mikey Young [of Australian post-punk outfit Total Control]. But, for the most part, it was an in-the-computer process.

Since the formation of the [touring] band, there’s been so much fleshing out, and people have brought so much of themselves to it, that it’s like the live version is its own incarnation. For that reason, we’re bringing this exclusive tour tape with us on the trip—that’s the Part Time Punks sessions that we’ve done that are different versions of the songs. The album is kind of like the demo, and the Part Time Punks versions are the band playing the songs.

How has this more electronic approach changed your relationship to your songs in a live setting?

The live set has definitely changed. The songs were written, and then they really came to life when people brought so much to them. There’s even new parts on the album that we played live—I’m like, “Damn, I wish that we’d played these for years before I wrote the album.” But it’s just it’s own thing. But it’s definitely what makes it worth seeing us play live. The people in the band right now make us the best lineup.

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Evan Zierk: "Bending"

Evan Zierk:

Evan Zierk's new album on Atlantic Rhythms dissects our understanding of time and perception, the tones vibrate a space within. Zierk's skillfully blends together a minimal palette of sonic textures to create a vibrant world that swirls around your skull. Drifting/Bending simulates a loss of gravity, akin to an out of body experience, hovering as an observer. Zierk's gliding arpeggios dance from ear to ear, their pulse moving like a newly formed organism. Evan Zierk is joined by longtime collaborator Nate Mendelsohn playing alto saxophone, whose presence further adds to the feeling of drift, “Bending” causes an awareness of the complexities of perception and sensation. Spatial cognition is left behind, these deeply transfixing and spiritual tones drown out any other input. 

Drifting/Bending is out now on Atlantic Rhythms.

Lou Rebecca Shows Her Grace In "Fantôme"

Lou Rebecca Shows Her Grace In

Though she relocated to Austin, TX, a few years ago, Lou Rebecca’s hometown of Paris—not the one of Wim Wenders’ notoriety—is never too far away. Rebecca sings in both English and her native tongue, and in the self-directed video for “Fantôme,” first single from her upcoming debut EP, she pirouettes, sings, and broods through several archetypal environments: austere living quarters, a hard wood floor adorned with golden flowers, a dim red performance space. Each shot, each location, every action is striking, and finely-orchestrated to boot. As in her songwriting, Rebecca's directorial style and visual cues build from a foundation of poise and grace. The entire program feels like a dance routine, and I don’t just mean the parts where there’s, you know, actual dancing—the wavering space between physical bodies and the places they inhabit provides weight. It’s largely responsible for the video’s emotional tension and suspense, and makes “Fantôme” a joy to watch time and again.

Lou Rebecca is out January 12 on Holodeck Records.

This Gorgeous Country Tune Was Nearly a Decade in the Making

This Gorgeous Country Tune Was Nearly a Decade in the Making

First impressions are often simple ones: how can a passing glance reveal one's full complexity? Honey Harper’s debut, “Pharaoh”–his very first release–is an exception to the rule. The loping country tune shimmers and shines as it leads the listener through a nostalgic, reverb-soaked vocal melody and a beautiful pedal steel riff. It feels carefully constructed, with each detail adding to its slow beauty.  “The song kept re-appearing in different forms at different times,” says Honey Harper.  “The lyrics were written in 2008, the melody was written in 2014, [and] it was completed in 2017.” Kudos to Honey Harper–perhaps the best things are nearly a decade in the making.
 
Honey Harper's debut EPUniversal Country, comes out November 10 on Arbutus Records.  Catch him at Union Pool on December 14.
 

Get Bodied By Byron Westbrook's "What We Mean When We Say Body Language"

Get Bodied By Byron Westbrook's Photography by Fana Feng

There's something singularly sublime about the goosebump. The way it prickles, nesting in the skin, all the while retaining a trace of the otherworldly. Byron Westbrook's latest piece, "What We Mean When We Say Body Language," off his upcoming Body Consonance LP for Hands in the Dark, not only elicits the goosebump but also plays with it, interrogating the uncanny connection it makes between the physical and the immaterial. Working to enhance and exploit the binaural qualities of stereo production—that is, the auditory illusion of a third tone produced when two slightly dissimilar tones pass through each ear—Westbrook fashions a horizon of dynamics, timbre, and feeling that shimmies and shimmers as the song swells across time. So close to each other, the binaural tones seem to skid against one another, against the ear, against the neurons. This dalliance, tense but generative, delivers a trace, a phantasmagoric residue that glows between two palpitating poles. And, though illusory, the binaural trace makes its mark on the body—as a fugitive cognition, an unthinkable body language that only exists in a fleeting excursion into the auditory cortex. Between the droning digeridoo and the brimming drum line, Westbrook cathects this sublime third dimension, one beyond the binarisms of anatomy and sound and fixable identity, into one that coagulates, consummates, consonates with the body. Good luck getting through it without a shiver.

Sapphogeist Embraces Wondrous Pop On "Holding On"

Sapphogeist Embraces Wondrous Pop On Photo by Nikki Sneakers

Zoe Burke’s first release as Sapphogeist, a self-titled affair on the inimitable No Rent Records, was a sea change. After a tenure shrieking in power electronics provocateurs Reverse Baptism, the transition was profound, but well done and oh-so-satisfying. Songs like “Ultramortal” and “A Lie” boasted finely-barbed, sharp, unmissable hooks, transfiguring the listener into something like Frank at the end of Hellraiser. Though bookended by pop bangers, Sapphogeist still had extended passages of avant-garde, noisy instrumentation. On her Bank Records follow up, Mar A Lago, Zoe maintains an ethos of experimentation, but plunges fully into the realm of industrial-soaked R&B. “Holding On,” track two of Mar A Lagooriginally a Bernard Herman composition, moves through evolving electronic textures. Beginning with an austere vocal pattern and simple synth section, the track warps into utter revelation as it crescendos and breaks about two-thirds in. The tracks on Mar A Lago show maturation and elegance, making for another essential grab.

Mar A Lago is available to purchase on Bank Records.

Photo Gallery: Mount Eerie's Haunting Show At Murmrr Theater

Photo Gallery: Mount Eerie's Haunting Show At Murmrr Theater Photography by Nick Karp

On Monday, Mount Eerieaka Phil Elverumgraced Murmrr Theater's stage for the first of two nights, playing songs from his latest record, the singularly sparse and haunting A Crow Looked At Me. The ever-gracious Nick Karp was on hand to take photoscheck them out below. 

Mount Eerie plays his second show at Murmrr tonight (9/12) with special guests Loren Connors and trumpet/saxophone player Daniel Cartermake sure to grab tickets before they're gone.

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Beverly Discuss Artistry in a Time of Crisis

Beverly Discuss Artistry in a Time of Crisis Photography by Ebru Yildiz

Beverly makes indie rock lucid in all senses of the word—from their ebullient guitar work, to their limpid lyricism, to the hyperrealist art adorning The Blue Swell, their latest record for Kanine. Distilling the sounds of their forebears—including My Bloody Valentine and The Breeders—and the thrum of the New York scene, the Brooklyn-based rockers concoct a radiant mélange of melody and reverb. Ahead of the band's show September 12 at The Park Church Co-op, vocalist and guitarist Drew Citron spoke with AdHoc about the interconnected processes of sound engineering and live performance, as well as the role of the artist in this time of crisis.

AdHoc: You’ve been a band for about three years now. In that time, Beverly has gone through a lot of changes, including parting ways with Frankie Rose and gaining Scott Rosenthal. Do you feel like you have a firm grasp on what music and art you want to make through Beverly? How has that changed or stayed the same over time?

Drew Citron: Yeah, I mean I have always had a pretty firm grasp on the music because 90% of the songs are written by me. So in that sense, it's stayed the same. If anything, the direction of the band has become more focused over time, as I've gotten more confident with writing, singing, recording and performing.

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