Disclaimer: You May Find a Broken Link

So, there USED to be freenapster.com, and it USED to provide access to almost any artist's music. It was pretty awesome, and I linked ~90% of this blog's recommendations to that site. Now, apparently, Free Napster is no more. Booooooo.

It will be a long, on-going task of mine to redirect the links to somewhere you can hear the music, but in the meantime, if you click on a link that brings you to Napster where it asks you to sign in:
1) Be angry at them, for disrupting your chance to enjoy a good song
2) Google the song and still check it out, because it's awesome

If you have another source I should be using, please don't hesitate to send it my way. Email me for that, and any music recommendations, at tracy@groundwm.com. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Q&A with Detroit's Zoos of Berlin, Creators of Good Music

I first heard about Zoos of Berlin from Zoos of Berlin. Keyboardist Will Yates emailed me through this blog with some music on their newest release, Taxis. I was typically behind and it took me a while to play it through, but I'm really glad I did! Their music is very upbeat and slightly chaotic in structure (which is nice for my A.D.D.) and the rounded, laid-back vocals pull everything together just perfectly. It's a polished and sophisticated sound, and I am a fan. Head to their MySpace page HERE to check them out.

Have a read below
to learn more about their DIY production and release methods, childhood influences, their take on today's music industry, some of their favorite bands in Detroit, and more.

This classy, lounge-pop act is heading to the Empty Bottle on Thursday, March 25. Hopefully I will see you there!

Music Per Diem: Zoos of Berlin have a uniquely familiar sound. There's no one direction I could point someone when trying to describe your music; however, I believe mentioning the likes of Bowie, Jens Lekman, Sufjan Stevens and Of Montreal should give someone a relatively close place to start. It's a big-band, lounge-pop sound that feels like receiving a long hug in the warm sun while slightly intoxicated. In an interview with Motor City Rocks, keyboardist Will Yates mentioned that ZOB tries to keep the sound "weird and fresh without getting too far away from being a pop band." Who did you all listen to growing up that likely influenced today's ZOB sound? I love that there's a trumpet in your songs, how did that instrument get involved? I hear you're writing new music, how different is the sound you're making now from Taxis?

(drums) I grew up on the classic and prog rock of the 60s, 70s and 80s since I had a mother who was quite young when she had me and loved to listen to rock and roll loud and dance around. Stuff like Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Beatles, Elton John, The Who, Bowie. Then when I got older I got into crazy metal bands like Slayer and hardcore punk like the Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains. But over the last twenty years my tastes have evolved from working on many records with a diverse range of artists, including Carl Craig, Denaun Porter and Erase Errata.

(vocals, bass) My taste in music was formed by listening to my father's record collection, which ranged from the familiar to the obscure. As a kid I listened most to the Beatles and classical recordings. The decision to start making my own music was made chiefly under the influence of Guided by Voices, however much my methods now differ from Robert Pollard's. His example showed me where to start.

: (vocals, guitar) My father used to sing me to sleep by playing Cat Stevens songs on an acoustic guitar. My parents had a record collection stacked tightly on a low shelf and I remember having access to Mason Williams, Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack. TV music was a big influence as well. My father loved PBS and science fiction and I'd get a thrill from the intro to "Doctor Who." I think it's still one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. "Magic Shadows" was another one. (Along with the music, the artwork in the intro was visually influential for me.)

(keyboards) I grew up playing classical piano. As a young child I absolutely loved (still do) Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet, and then later on I got heavily into playing Debussy on the piano. I got into rock listening to the radio in middle school, and I fell head over heels in love with Smashing Pumpkins' "Siamese Dream" album, and then Radiohead's "OK Computer". Some other major influences for me were the pop-rock of Sloan, Elliott Smith and Ben Folds Five, and some abstract electronic stuff like Autechre and Plastikman.

I might hazard the guess that our new material will be somewhat sparser and darker, but it's hard to say how it will all turn out. We spent many years tightening our playing before we recorded "Taxis." Our new studio allows us to be more spontaneous, and I think the songs will sound much fresher, more cohesive. We won't be covering the same ground again.

The new record... there's a feeling of confidence and joy that's going into the music.

MPD: I really admire the effort put into self-recording and releasing your album, Taxis. The album sounds amazing, and the promotional support has certainly captured people’s attention. It obviously helps having a recording engineer in the band, drummer Collin Dupuis, but I’d like to understand more of how the self-recording process went. Did Collin manage all the recording process, or did other members contribute specific skills? What were the band’s priorities in terms of sound quality? I read in a previous interview with Real Detroit Weekly that some of these songs originated six years ago – how much did the songs change from creation to recording? How much are you able to replicate your recorded sound in your live performances?

COLLIN: Yes, I did most of the engineering. Since I have been making records professionally for a while, it made sense to delegate the engineering stuff to me. Plus we used all of my equipment so I know it better than anyone. Sound quality is always important to us but not to the point where it gets in the way of experimentation. I do like lo-fi sounds used in the middle of really good sounding recordings. I love distortion but blended in so that it is not completely obvious that you are listening to a distorted sound.

DAN: Collin deserves much of the credit for the recordings, but we're all detail-oriented, perfectionist types with a surplus of opinions - finding a way to incorporate the input of every member has sometimes slowed us down, but that has always been the aim of the band. With "Taxis," we strove for a sound that was both polished and natural, but the performances were those we'd spent years honing in concert. With our new record, we may find ourselves learning to play songs after having written and recorded them.

MPD: I understand that Zoos of Berlin also took a DIY strategy to releasing the music. As someone who sends and receives a good deal of press releases and music samples, I can understand the amount of work sometimes required to get attention. In an interview with Motor City Rocks, Will mentions he actually enjoys the work involved in releasing and promoting the music. What types of things do Will and the band do themselves to spread the music? Are there any aspects of the release process you outsourced? Your efforts successfully attracted the attention of Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan, what promotion would you consider the most influential to date? Your upcoming Chicago show is part of tour covering 18 cities, was the tour logistics handled in-house by Zoos of Berlin too? Lastly, you released a music video for “Black in the Sun Room,” what role did the band play in the concept and visual creation?

WILL: I started working on promoting this band a couple years ago, when we released our first EP. I had never tried doing promo before, but I've been really enjoying it. I started just with our Detroit networks, talking to musicians we knew and writers who had covered them, and I've built up my Rolodex from there. We've done almost everything ourselves, but we did use the promo company AAM for mailing "Taxis" CDs out to college radio, just to get our foot in some doors. They mailed the CDs, and I did all the follow-ups.

Our upcoming tour is with another Detroit band called Child Bite. Shawn from Child Bite and I put together this tour for the most part, but Shawn gets most of the credit.

For the "Black in the Sun Room" video, Trevor (our de facto art director) found a video director (Chicago-based Adam Lonczynski) he liked whose style meshes well with ours, and we let Adam take it from there.

Something I love hearing from artists is their opinion on how to best release new music in today’s environment. There are so many variables to consider, and I don’t think we’ve discovered the hands-down best strategy yet. What are your thoughts on releasing music for free, versus for a price? As a physical CD or digital format? Should music be released in a full-length, EP or single format? On a label or independently distributed? Personally, I believe in general that releasing free content regularly is one of the best things an artist can do – whether it be blog posts, video diaries, pictures, tweets or new music. As an artist, where do you see the industry heading?

TREVOR: Art, on the internet, is like sand. It slips so easily through the hands of those that try to control it. It's an infinite place and there are always people who will find a way to be smarter and faster than the corporations/controllers... they'll get what they want for free and with no hassle. There's a beauty to that kind of freedom and access. On the other hand, I am a major fan of album art and I am concerned that it could go away. I need that physical object. But ultimately, I just want people to hear everything without a limit or a price tag. Truthfully, I was really happy to see "Taxis" leak on Rapidshare and Megaupload.

There's no question that to be a musician these days you've got to be OK with giving your music away for free. It's not the 90s anymore. On the other hand, we do actually see sales on online services like iTunes, despite the fact that you could find our album for free somewhere if you tried hard enough, so that's heartening.

Now that cassettes have become cool again I think it's only a matter of time before the CD gets an ironic revival, haha. But seriously, we have CDs because people still buy them, and they seem to still be the standard when it comes to doing promo. Personally I still buy CDs because the quality is still better than your average download.

I think indie bands are best served by releasing full-lengths, since that's what their fans are generally most interested in. For mainstream pop though, I think it would be awesome if they just gave up on albums and switched back to the business model where artists had to have a hit single every month instead of a hit album every four years.

I think no one is really sure where the music industry is headed, but personally I'm excited about what the future holds for Zoos of Berlin. We're happy to just hang out in our studio and record ourselves, so anything else that comes along -- e.g., a tour, this interview -- is just icing on the cake.

For everyone who has yet to experience a Zoos of Berlin show, including myself, how would you describe the live experience? Do you have any superstitions or routines before each show? How different is the crowd reaction in Detroit versus when you’re on the road? What is your favorite part of your live show?

DAN: The rare moments when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

When I see us smiling, when I hear us really clicking, then I know it's all worth it. Will does some great headbanging during one song.

MPD: Name three things you’re loyal to (i.e. a brand of vodka, a coffee shop, a sports team, recycling, etc)

COLLIN: Family, friends, and music.

Let’s play word association.

Broken: String
Chicago: Wind Hand

Sleep: Blue Hotel

The Beatles: Alpha and Omega

Tell me about the Detroit music scene. What bands do you recommend checking out? What are your favorite venues to play? To see a live show? How has the Detroit scene changed since when you first started writing Taxis songs six years ago? Outside of Detroit, what are some of your favorite cities to play in?

TREVOR: Bands or artists to see: Aran Ruth, Outrageous Cherry, Oscillating Fan Club, Computer Perfection. Venues: CAID, Crofoot, Majestic Cafe. Detroit is a freer spirit now, less bogged down by the garage fever. NYC is a favorite city.

I agree with Trevor. My favorite Detroit acts are Great Lakes Myth Society, Lightning Love, Javelins and Child Bite.

MPD: If you could build your dream line-up, who would be on it and at what venue?

WILL: We opened for Field Music in Ann Arbor last week, and I'd say they were definitely on our short list of bands to play with. We'd love to open for Broadcast someday. Longer shots would include Radiohead, Portishead, and Stereolab.

Zoos of Berlin are playing at Chicago's Empty Bottle on Thursday, 3/25, with Child Bite, Old Fake, and Dylan Posa & Three Cheers for One Dead Man.
I will be there.


Janice said...

Interesting interview - thanks for posting this.

Buy GW2 Gold said...

The minute card is definitely beautiful -- along with what a attractive gift. Any kind of lady could be happy to obtain this particular.
Thanks for anyone creativity. Diablo III Gold
Billig WoW Gold

Post a Comment

Snapshots - Summer Festivals 2009