Grades for graduation candidates are due Monday at noon, so hopefully at least those folks graduating are no longer procrastinating on school work. Whether or not you’re still working, this short and sweet procrastination destination is for you, with some nice dancing, reassurance that you’ll figure things out whether or not you graduate, and a reminder that “It’s Alright 2 Cry.”
In a time long past, before the events started flooding in, I wrote a post featuring Wesleyan artists’ latest music. The world was full of promise in those halcyon days. Now, the first week of classes is almost over, I still haven’t bought any of my textbooks, and two more submissions of recent Wesleyan-linked releases have come in, this time under condition of anonymity. Spooooooky.
Soldier on for more than 90 minutes of free music!
The 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.”
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
More Wes music Youtubes. Might as well call this the South by Southwest post, two months after the fact as it may be. Oh well:
Boy Crisis for ten minutes in the Aces Lounge at SXSW:
Francis and the Lights does “Striking” in the Fader Fort at SXSW:
Formerly listed in the Wesfest event catalogue as an “alumni music extravaganza“, this is still happening and will be as extravagant an affair as promised. Featuring Francis and the Lights, Das Racist, Acrylics, Tall Tales, it’s a big night for music this semester.
Tickets go on sale Monday in Usdan at lunch, and will be sold all week at lunch until Thursday: $3 in advance, $5 at the door.
Date: Thursday, April 16
Time: 9 pm – 1 am
Cost: $3 in advance, $5 at the door
FRANCIS AND THE LIGHTS
Wesleyan alums Francis Starlite and Rene Solomon ’07 bring their insanely enjoyable funky/soul/percussive/80’s-revival jams back to Eclectic after their wildly impressive show in 2007. Their success has only increased since then, with shout-outs in Time Out NY, MTV, and The Village Voice.
“Based on his live show, we’d say Francis’ own personal goals are to become the next 1) Hardest Working Man in Show Business 2) His Royal Badass.” – The Fader
Featuring Victor Vasquez ’07 of Boy Crisis fame and Himanshu Suri ’07, most of the campus is probably already pretty familiar with their classic party hit “Pizza Hut/Taco Bell”. Their hilarious brand of hip hop (aka “WEED EDGE/HARE KRISHNA HARD CORE/ART RAP/FREAK FOLK MUSIC” -myspace) will make you dance (and be hungry) all night.
“If you listen to “Ring Tone” with a bong in hand, these lyrics will have you rolling on the floor on top of Doritos (i.e. the track mentions George of the jungle, guapo, taco, apostles, Coca Cola, and Motorola in one big ass rhyme).” –RCRD LBL
Featuring ex-members of Wesleyan band Stylofone, as well as Jake Aron ’08 and Sam Ubl ’08, these newcomers are about to hit it big. They play beautiful, dreamy, shoe-gazey tunes with harmonies that are almost chilling. Fresh off of a mini tour with Chairlift, they’ve already had an interview in Epilogue Magazine. They’re about to be huge. Don’t miss out.
This is the new project of current Wes students Fareed Sajan ’09, Adam Tinkle ’08, and Josh Koenig ’09. Says Fareed:
“TALL TALES is a dark brand of folk, with banjo, pedal steel, nylon acoustic stringed guitar and all. The rhythms are tribal, the words are fake. For fans of Grizzly Bear, Mt. Eerie, Sigur Ros.”
Another up-and-coming Wes act that’s been previously mentioned on this site without explanation:
Francis and the Lights, led by Francis Farewell Starlite, with Rene Solomon ’07 on drums, have been gaining attention for their distinctive sound as well as an “eccentric and engaging” stage presence which Aural Wes called one of the most refreshing sets to grace Eclectic’s ballroom in a long time.
Francis and the Lights’ synth-laden tracks have the kind of funky guitar riffs and crooning, wide-ranging vocals which likely elicit a wave of nostalgia for 80’s pop. Put initial reservations aside and you’ll find a densely-layered aural experience, with soulful slow jams and meticulously crafted beats.
A somewhat cryptic band biography, via Better Propaganda:
The band’s sound is propelled by two live drummers playing in conjunction with sequenced percussion, balanced with intertwining guitar and synth parts. The band was formed at Wesleyan University – their first show was a performance of the posthumous Otis Redding record “The Immortal Otis Redding” in its entirety. After secluding himself in Oakland, CA to write songs, Francis Starlite drove cross-country in a decommissioned postal truck and formed the current incarnation of the band in New York.
Instead of signing to a major record label, Starlite recently announced the incorporation of Francis and the Lights, LLC, with a $100,000 investment from the Normative Music Company, a unique move which gives him complete control over artistic and business decisions and suggests big things to come.
Both EP’s, Striking and A Modern Promise, are available for free download at the group’s website. Check it out – I especially liked “How Could You“, “On a Train“, the more upbeat “Striking“, and the synth-heavy “Strawberries“, which has a little opening riff harking back to Prince’s “Little Red Corvette“.
Also streamable on the site: mournful covers of Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and Kanye’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”.
Below, the video for “The Top”, a hypnotic, uncannily Prince-like track which sufficiently displays Francis Starlite’s fly moves:
President-elect Barack Obama was the key note speaker at the 2008 Wesleyan Commencement – passing 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.
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.
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.
What looks to be a sweet launch party for startup brand Apliiq is happening on Friday, January 2nd, at Public Assembly in Brooklyn.
Event organizer Steve Pristin ’06 (of I Smell Like Money) promises an evening of music, dancing, drinks, party, laughs and high fives all around, with apliiq and karmaloop goods on display and available as giveaways.
Francis and the Lights will be playing live along with Theophilus London, with DJing by Superdunny and Friends with Benefits.
So, kick off the first weekend of the year with Wes people in Williamsburg, see Wes band Francis and the Lights for free, maybe get some free gear, have good times.
Date: Friday, January 2
Time: 10pm – 4am
Place: Public Assembly in Brooklyn, free
The sold-out Halloween show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn is almost entirely fronted by bands containing or composed of Wesleyan alums:
10/31 Music Hall of Williamsburg:
Francis & the Lights