Tag Archives: amazing baby

Sensing our Pulsing Speakers: Wesleyan on Daytrotter

For those not in the know: Daytrotter is a music website that specializes in three things that I care about, all really part of the same thing: live sessions with artists 7 days a week, giving away download links for these sessions for free, and really dense, crazy write-ups about these sessions that I should really spend more time looking at. If you’ve got other things to do, though, the titles will do just fine (sample from the links section: “A Confusing World At-Large Deciphered By Wolves And Men”).

Among the acts Daytrotter has lured into the studio (presumably under cinnamon-coated pretenses) are some of Wesleyan’s finest — ever-present The Management and recent visitors Bear Hands are among the many, many recordings.

Breaking Motherfucking News: A tip from sneakergaze while I was finishing up this post:

I’M AT THE — never mind, there’s no way that could end well, unlike this apparently upcoming Das Daytrotter sesh. Looks like I’ll be following up on this soon. OFWGKTA/DR collab?

National Weather Service travel advisory: two metric fucktons of links incoming. Read on for a return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Village Voice Discovers the Wesleyan Music Scene

wes-music-sceneThe Wesleyan Music Scene is gaining exposure in the American mainstream media – British periodicals NME and the Guardian have been watching this trend since last year, and the Village Voice has now picked up on it with an article examining how Wes came to be the “epicenter of surrealist Brooklyn pop”.

In contrast to the breathless hype of last year’s NME feature, this one is grounded and pretty accurate in describing the loosely associated group of Wes-to-Brooklyn artists we’ve come to blog and love over the past few years.

The Village Voice interviewed key members like Simon O’Connor of Amazing Baby, Ben Goldwasser of MGMT, Tal Rozen of Boy Crisis, and associate/film director Ray Tintori, who discuss their relationships to Wesleyan, Eclectic, and each other:

[Wesleyan’s] never been known as a particularly “cool” place until now. And if it seems wrong for a tiny, nerdy Connecticut college to be the focus of so much hype, well, blame the British. The music press over there is obsessed with Brooklyn bands, and MGMT’s collegiate circle is obviously irresistible[…] Boy Crisis’s U.K. publicist advertises them as having attended “Connecticut’s prestigious Wesleyan Art College,” a blatant attempt to make it sound somehow fashionable.

That sort of thing drives O’Connor nuts. “It’s not a fucking art college,” he says flatly. “I made the mistake of telling an NME writer that Will (Berman) had left our band to join MGMT, and that was it. We were labeled a Wesleyan band.” O’Connor is currently the only member of his band who attended the school, and he doesn’t think the experience was anything special. “Yeah, we played in bands together,” he says, “but we were music majors. That’s just what you do.” O’Connor and VanWyngarden had a band called Irma Vep that once opened for the Rapture at the Eclectic Society, another institution O’Connor is quick to denounce: “It was exactly like that movie PCU,” he says. “A nerd society, basically.”

MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser was a member of Eclectic, and though he admits he thought of the club as lousy with “hipster assholes” at first, he warmed up to the idea when his friends joined. “I liked being involved in running a performance venue,” he says. “We had the best room on campus for bands to play.” As for Wesleyan overall, Goldwasser disagrees with O’Connor about the experience. “There was definitely something about it,” he says. “There was the usual college drinking/party atmosphere, but people also took initiative to put on creative events. There were bands playing really cool shows on campus”—MGMT among them.

Conversely, Boy Crisis didn’t perform much while at school, and Das Racist and Amazing Baby formed post-college in New York, but the core Wesleyan crowd stayed friends, which won them all extra attention once MGMT blew up. “In some cases, we’ve tried to get their names out there and make people aware of them,” says Goldwasser. “But once we started getting attention, people just automatically started looking at bands we were friends with and bands that came from Wesleyan.”

Also mentioned are Max Goldblatt, the choreographer for many of Tintori’s videos, current student/DJ/producer Leif, Das Racist, and Francis and the Lights.

Like that other Wes entertainment syndicate, the current crop of Wes-related artists is dubbed the “Wesleyan mafia”:

It’s like a ladder,” [Tintori] says. “When somebody moves up a rung, they reach a hand down to the next guy.” It’s the kind of career mechanism a lot of people would love to latch on to, and Goldblatt suspects they’re already trying. “There must be tons of kids in neon Wayfarers writing wild, psychedelic essays to get into Wesleyan now,” he says. The frightening thing is, he’s probably right.

Looking at you, class of 2013!

Read the whole article:

Village Voice: The Wesleyan Mafia: MGMT, Boy Crisis, Amazing Baby

Spotlight: Amazing Baby

For awhile, I only ever saw or heard Amazing Baby mentioned as one among the many proliferating Brooklyn/Wesleyan bands, and usually in the same sentence as MGMT. Descriptions of their “psychedelic” music didn’t do much to distinguish them from the others, and neither did this video for “Pump Yr Brakes”. And an opportunity to form an actual opinion was lost when they couldn’t make it to their scheduled show at Eclectic in January.

A few months later, they’ve done quite a bit to break out from the pack since their UK trip with MGMT last year: playing a successful run at SXSW, touring all over the place, getting excellent early reviews for their debut album “Rewild” before its official release next week, and rocking hard enough to earn lofty comparisons to the likes of T. Rex and Frank Zappa.

amazing-baby1

Rolling Stone named Amazing Baby a Breaking Artist this week:

On their stunning debut album Rewild (out this month), Amazing Baby deliver tunes that are at times thoroughly vintage and refreshingly futuristic: “The Narwhal” sounds like Led Zeppelin at their druggiest and most mystical; “Invisible Place” soars and swoops like Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” and “Kankra” builds into such an anthemic frenzy, you’ll be oozing serotonin for days.

The crew also have a wonky sense of humor […] “We’re all like super emotional screwed up dudes,” says [Will] Roan. “It’s not all about raging songs — we’ve got a pretty strong sense of musical aesthetics, even if our lyrics are totally ridiculous sometimes.”

A strong endorsement! Psychedelic turns out to be an appropriate descriptor of the music, but find out for yourself. Download “Smoke Bros” for free on their site, and listen to more tracks on Myspace.

The band started as a loosely organized project in Brooklyn with alums Simon O’Connor ’05 and Will Berman ’04, and O’Connor’s friend/ringtone factory coworker Will Roan (who went to Bard). Berman left to go on tour as MGMT’s drummer in 2008, and over the course of the year the group took shape as a quintet with Rob Laaxo on guitar, Matt Abeysekera on drums, and Don Devore on bass.

Fun facts about the Amazing Baby/MGMT relationship, from Rolling Stone:

O’Connor used to room with MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser at Wesleyan. “We’ve all slept with the same girls,” says Roan.

Here is the video for “Headdress”:

If you’re in New York or California, you’ll have a few chances to see them this summer – check the tour schedule.

Wesleyan lights up Huffington Post

In case you forgot why we rule, allow yourself to be reminded by this Wesleyan-centric article, The Awesome-ization of Wesleyan University,” published yesterday on The Huffington Post.

President-elect Barack Obama was the key note speaker at the 2008 Wesleyan Commencementpassing on valuable advice…

…and blessing a new crop of Brooklyn bands! 2008 brought MGMT and Santogold to the pop culture limelight and 2009 has the chance to be an even bigger year for the New England university. Fader Magazine, the current de facto guide to cool, recently profiled the university’s music scene and the numerous internet buzz bands nurtured by co-ed dorms and naked parties.

Not to say that the influx of Wesleyan bloodlines into the experimental music scene should come as a surprise. This is the same university that previously boasted the best acid labs in the country, employs experimental jazz pioneer Anthony Braxton as a professor, and is the alma mater of hip hop impresario Bobbito Garcia.

The article also highlights four Wesleyan bands to look out for in 2009 complete with sample tracks: Boy Crisis, Amazing Baby, Bear Hands, and Francis and the Lights. (Plus two songs by honorable mentions Bottle Up and Go and Das Racist.) Thanks for the free PR Huffington!

[edit 11:15 am, Sheek]
FYI, the article’s by Steve Pristin ’06, of ISmellLikeMoney.com.

Aural Wes On Fader: Wesleyan’s Breakout Bands

Last week Fader posted a condensed conversation between Wes alum editor Eric Ducker ’00 and Aural Wes editor Anna Wiener ’09 in the online column “A Rational Conversation Between Two Adults“, about campus reactions to the off-campus success of Wes-affiliated music acts.

Topics discussed: the MGMT/Management generational divide; more MGMT lore; Santogold‘s apparent ambivalence towards Wesleyan; the Brooklyn/Wes connection; and the status of up-and-coming acts like Amazing Baby, Bear Hands, Boy Crisis, Francis & the Lights, and Das Racist.

The transcript follows:

Eric Ducker: How aware are Wesleyan students that two of the biggest success stories in emerging music this year went to Wesleyan?

Anna Wiener: I think students here are very aware of it. There’s a funny divide between older students who have ties to some of the people in these bands, and the younger kids, who probably listened to MGMT and Santogold at their high school proms and thought it was really rad that their future school was tied to these artists.

ED: When did MGMT graduate?

AW: 2005. They were still something of a presence when I arrived in 2006, playing a couple shows on campus before they got signed. 2008 (last year’s seniors) was the last class to overlap with them. So for some people, they’re part of Wesleyan lore, and for others, they’re Andrew and Ben, those friends who wore shoelaces around their heads and danced in snowsuits to their iPod.

ED: They were called The Management when they were still in school, right?

AW: Yup. I think some people saw The Management to MGMT transition as a turning point, indicating their success (or their “selling out,” depending on who you talk to).

ED: How do most people regard their success now?

AW: There are definitely mixed reactions. I think the most telling is that the kids who used to listen to The Management—the alternative kids, the Eclectic kids, the boys who wore girl pants because they weren’t selling skinny jeans yet—no longer play MGMT songs at parties, and suddenly kids who you would never have expected to be into psychedelic synth pop are blasting “Time to Pretend” at keg parties. MGMT played a show last year right around the time that “Kids” was hugely popular, and it was a huge deal. It was in the largest venue on campus, tickets sold out very quickly and a lot of the audience were freshmen, class of 2011. There are equal parts pride and resentment, I guess you could say.

ED: That makes sense. When the Vampire Weekend album came out in the beginning of this year we did a story on the reaction from the people who ran Columbia University’s radio station. It was a mix of bemusement, happiness and mild putdowns. I imagine as the year has gone on the putdowns have become less mild.

AW: I think that’s to be expected. And it’s especially accurate at Wesleyan, This is a place with a lot of musicians and a lot of people who really care about music, who are really paying attention. Even here, there’s a similar reaction to Vampire Weekend—they played Wesleyan in 2007 and it was a really fun, small show in the dining room of Eclectic. Then they blew up, were playing Summerstage in New York, etc, and people were like, Enough already, let’s move on.

ED: When it was The Management, were they a real band or was it a silly project of theirs?

AW: The Management were a real band. Apparently they played some festivals in Connecticut, at NYU, and in Memphis and South Carolina. Also they played Battle of the Bands, and performed at our annual Spring Fling with GZA. It definitely wasn’t just a silly project. They had an EP by 2003/4, I’m pretty sure, and there was a performance in 2005 called “The Management vs. God” that was held in the Wesleyan chapel during prospective students weekend that I believe was part of either Andrew or Ben’s senior thesis. It was a whole theatrical debacle, from what I’ve heard.

ED: Details?

AW: Debacle might be the wrong word. Maybe “explosion,” in the positive sense. Lots of costumed monsters (?) crawling around the chapel, over the audience, hanging from the balcony. They also had a scoreboard at the front of the chapel, GOD vs. The Home Team.

ED: Who won?

AW: I think the Management won the battle, but not the war.

ED: Sounds about right. Are the feelings towards Santogold different, since there is so much more distance in terms of time?

AW: I think so, actually. Although there is some negativity there, especially amongst people who book shows on campus. She’s turned down several offers to play here, including an offer to play Spring Fling, which tends to draw fairly big names. There is also a difference between MGMT and Santogold in that MGMT were launched right out of Wesleyan, whereas with Santogold the connection seems much thinner.

ED: What are the current feelings on Amazing Baby, who are even more recent graduates?

AW: You know, Amazing Baby doesn’t have a lot of buzz on campus yet. We’re trying to bring them to play a show here next semester, so maybe then. People are following two other bands a lot more closely, Bear Hands and Boy Crisis. I think Amazing Baby still have that feeling of being our best kept secret.

ED: They already have a pretty respected publicity company and are getting more press, I’m not sure how longer that secret is going to be around.

AW: Right. It’s funny, actually—they’re all over the place in Brooklyn (my hometown), but not so much at Wesleyan, although it is spreading here. I would have thought that trajectory would be reversed.

ED: Did they exist at Wesleyan? Or did they come about post-graduation?

AW: I’m not sure. Their members are before my time, but I’m pretty sure they did not exist as Amazing Baby here. Simon O’Connor and Will Berman (of Amazing Baby and MGMT, respectively) were in a band together called Monsters of Rock, but I don’t think Will Roan (now of Amazing Baby) was involved. It’s possible they played in different combinations and under different monikers.

ED: It would seem to me that now would feel like an exciting time to be an aspiring musician at Wesleyan. It must feel like success, in some form, is a possibility. Aside from the bands we discussed there’s more—Shy Child, Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls, The Mobius Band, etc. When I was there, all people could really look to were the bassist of Girls vs. Boys, Atom & His Package and Dar Williams.

AW: Definitely. And there does seem to be some camaraderie amongst emerging Wesleyan groups. MGMT and Boy Crisis have played shows together in New York, and it sort of feels like they’re pulling their friends—who, don’t get me wrong, are fully deserving of success themselves —into the fold. When MGMT played that big show here last year, they had Bear Hands open for them. And Bear Hands had played a bunch of very successful shows on campus already, but their opening for MGMT was a great way to get exposure amongst social groups that may or may not be showing up regularly to concerts on campus. Not to mention that Wesleyan somewhat notoriously feeds straight into Brooklyn. So some of it is just being in the right place at the right cultural moment.

ED: Who’s your favorite Wesleyan alum group?

AW: This is hard. It’s maybe a draw between Bear Hands and Francis & the Lights. But I have my fingers crossed for Das Racist, I think they’re the next breakthrough artists from Wesleyan.

ED: Do you still listen to Oracular Spectacular?

AW: Only in the privacy of my bedroom, shades drawn, lights off, headphones on. That being said, if “Electric Feel” comes on at a party, everybody is going to dance. And if “Kids” comes on, the floor might cave. Haters here really only talk the talk, but when the opportunity presents itself, they’re going to get down like anyone else.

ED: It’s true. I talk a lot of shit about Michael Bay [Class of 1986], but I saw the shit out of Transformers. And I saw both of the National Treasure movies from Jon Turtletaub [Class of 1985], which I liked better than Transformers.

Aural Wes: meta
Fader: Reaction to Wesleyan’s Breakout Bands

Boy Crisis in the Guardian

The Guardian profiles Boy Crisis, with an in-depth anaylsis of the group’s interpersonal dynamics, as well as their strategies for pre-emptively dealing with hipster douchebag media:

With two members dating fashion designers and a look and sound that suggest their twin spiritual New York homes are notorious disco haven Studio 54 and punk mecca CBGBs, Boy Crisis have every base covered. And they preempt any criticism by telling you what your opinions are before you’ve expressed them. In London to promote their debut single, they can even see the accusations of riding on the coattails of MGMT – their friends, and former contemporaries at Wesleyan University in Connecticut – a mile off.

So how do Boy Crisis differ from their psychedelic friends? “We’re poppier than MGMT, in that Warholian, media-slutty sense,” [Victor Vazquez ’06] says, “We’re more of a Chic/Prince/Talking Heads type thing.”

…Vasquez does this a lot – veers between teen-mag frivolity and degree-level scrutiny. “We’re Brian Eno and Timbaland’s love child,” he decides when asked for a capsule definition of their cerebral pop-funk. But when I bemoan the dearth of current “indie” bands fusing rock and R&B, he fires back: “That’s dangerous territory.”

I’m not sure what he means until a week later, when he sends me an email that is so long and painstakingly argued, it takes a further week to absorb his thoughts on the problem of white rockers assimilating black dance music. Phrases such as “cultural appropriation” and “reverence for concepts of aesthetic hierarchies” fairly trip off his keyboard.

The rest of the band, interviewed together in a north London pub, are flippant when probed about the music and meaning of Boy Crisis. But you get the impression that, alone, they’d be as unashamedly analytical as Vazquez

The “Eight other Brooklyn bands worth checking out” list also includes Wes alums Amazing Baby and Das Racist.

The Guardian: “You can’t be too smart to make pop”

Brooklyn-via-Wes Bands in Nylon

Ok here is more beating you over the head with this Wesleyan/Brooklyn thing- page 132 of this month’s Nylon magazine features “Brooklyn Bands” as a reason to feel superior about being American: “In New York’s most populous borough, you can’t toss a PBR can without hitting a good musician.”

Repping Wesleyan among said bands are Amazing Baby, Bear Hands, and Boy Crisis:

  • amazing baby: Though less than a year old, Amazing Baby play psychedelia like they spent the lat ’60s turning on and dropping out.
  • bearhands: An upbeat, occasionally pop-y four-piece that sings a hell of a good reluctant love song.
  • boy crisis: Boy Crisis is what Prince would sound like if he was actually five guys from Brooklyn. We really hope they tour with Girl Talk soon.

See if you can spot Ted Feldman ’09 (Bear Hands), Lee Pender ’07 (Boy Crisis), and Victor Vasquez ’06 (Boy Crisis) in this Brooklyn scene summer camp photo from Nylon, below:

NME on Wesleyan: a "Nest of Noise"

The latest periodical to cover Wesleyan as a hotbed of entertainment talent is British music magazine NME, which devoted a two-page spread this week to investigating our “nest of noise” which “has spawned artists such as MGMT, Amazing Baby and Santogold – and there’s a lot more to follow.”

It was clear that NME had a thing for this school and its products (for good reason), but damn, way to blow up Wesleyan’s uniquely hip legacy!

From all that’s visible from the linked page, there’s a picturesque photo of North College, a map indicating the distance between Middletown and New York City, a quote from Ben Goldwasser of MGMT about Wesleyan’s instrumental place in the chronology of his life, some pictures of Wes-graduated acts, and an inset about British schools which have supposedly reached a comparable level cool.

If anybody’s got their hands on a copy of this week’s issue and can send us a scan (is NME even distributed here?), it’d be much appreciated.

[edit, 10/24 11:30 am] The Wes homepage put up a full-page scan of the article, read the whole thing here.

It’s pretty effusive about the Wesleyan students’ creative potential, though some details are somewhat inaccurate – “The place is strewn with flyers advertising bands, films, plays and other artistic endeavours cooked up by bored students trying to entertain themselves in this largely rural part of the world.” Um, right.

Media relations director David Pesci calls Wes a “crucible of creativity”, where live music permeates the air in warmer months, and due credit is given to past professors of experimental music and ethnomusicology for building up the Music Department.

Santogold and members of MGMT recount their college experiences, and shout-outs are given to recent/current campus favorites Red Wire Black Wire, Bear Hands, and Bottle up and Go as examples of the wide range of musical styles formed here. Overall, not bad publicity at all.

NME: A Different Class
Full Article PDF