Category: Interviews

PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Exploring the Future of Music Tech with Jolie O’Dell

Jolie O'Dell - Photo by Ken Yeung

Jolie O’Dell | Download this issue of Performer Magazine

Technology reporter Jolie O’Dell established herself as an industry expert with her work in publications like Mashable and ReadWriteWeb. She currently writes for VentureBeat and serves as a panel moderator for the SF MusicTech Summit, an annual conference bringing together technologists and music enthusiasts in San Francisco. In this interview, she shares her thoughts on how independent musicians can best leverage technology.

What are some of your favorite apps/services for musicians?

I like tools like Moontoast Impulse, which helps you embed and sell your album on Facebook. I like tools like StageIt, which allows musicians to create webcam concerts so they can promote them to fans and make a little money on the side. Then there are monitoring tools that are really great like Next BigSound. It’s an amazing and really simple interface for bands to understand what effect they have on the Internet. I don’t know if you’ve checked out the other social media analytics tools, but they’re so big and complicated. Next Big Sound is the closest you’re going to get to a simple, color-coded, push-this-button-find-out-where-you’re-most-popular thing for bands to use.

How can bands create brand awareness online?
Continue reading “PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Exploring the Future of Music Tech with Jolie O’Dell”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Interview with Earbits CEO Joey Flores

Earbits | Link to article in Performer Magazine, a new online radio site, formed a collaboration with the San Francisco Chronicle this Wednesday to provide a curated, location-specific music discovery destination. CEO Joey Flores described in an interview how the idea for Earbits came about and how the site can benefit independent musicians.

What is Earbits?

Earbits is an online radio platform designed to be more of a marketing tool for the music industry. Instead of ads, we’re working to turn airtime for artists into sales of their new releases and merchandise. As an example: Later this week we’re launching a partnership with Relapse Records, promoting a new album by one of their artists. Users will be entered into a sweepstakes by joining the band’s mailing list, which will probably include tickets to shows and a meet-and-greet with the band. Anyone who hears one of their songs will be presented with the sweepstakes opportunity. This is a campaign that we would run as opposed to an advertising campaign for a regular sponsor. Right now, we’re working with about 170 labels, we have 2000 bands on board, we have over half a dozen Grammy winners, and we have festival headliners and platinum artists. We’re trying to create a marketing platform that really helps artists and labels get music out there to listeners and consumers with the eye on the music industry as our core clientele.

How did the idea for Earbits come about?

My background is in performance-based marketing and localized ad network marketing — paid search, media buying and things like that. When it was time to market our album and our shows, we spent about $20,000 trying all kinds of things from Sonicbids to all of these other services. We were taking out ads on television and were doing everything we could to try and promote our album and our shows. It was really ineffective. So my buddy says, “Well, how can we translate what you do during the day — ad networks, performance-based marketing — to the music industry. The problem is that people have to hear it. The reason why performance marketing doesn’t work on the Internet — why Facebook ads don’t really work — is because a visual ad can’t convey the quality of music unless you already know that band. You’re not going to click on it, and half of the time you do, you find the bands are not that great. Our concept is to create a curated place where consumers will actually want to go to discover music and find out who’s playing near them.
Continue reading “PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Interview with Earbits CEO Joey Flores”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Interview with Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl)

Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
GOASTT Official

INTERVIEW: Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
Sean Lennon Expounds on New Project
By: Keane Li

In mythology, the concept of duality follows closely with creation. Day and night, good and evil – the balance between two opposite pairs defines the human existence. This is a relevant citation when discussing The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, a two-person band balanced between opposite, yet complementary parts.

The pair in question is Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl. He, the only son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, has both the benefit and curse of being associated with two of the greatest artists of our century. She, a professional model with deep poetic flair, performs vocal harmonies with him. Their first album, Acoustic Sessions, finds its release on their own label, Chimera Music, named after an equally mythical creature.

Sean is in bed and Charlotte, having just woken him, apologizes if he might sound groggy. The two have been dating and living together for the past year, a relationship that explains the intimacy of their debut. The origins of their project are similarly intimate: “I was looking through her stuff,” Sean recounts regarding Charlotte, “and I found this play called ‘The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger’ from when she was seven. And I called out that I had found it, ‘Hey, what’s this? It would be really cool if we started a band called The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger.’ It was kind of a fluke idea, and she was like, ‘Sure, why not?'”

The phrase “my generation” was prevalent during the discussion, as they bounced profound ideas back and forth on topics like creating political art in an age of “subterfuge and obfuscation” or the irony of diminishing human connections in an increasingly digitally connected age. Charlotte, having grown up in a small town in Atlanta, had a significantly different upbringing than Sean, a native of New York City and twelve years her senior. After becoming a model at age 13, she traveled the world and, admittedly, had little connection with mainstream media.

“My only exposure to pop culture was really horrible,” she recalls, “like techno music in Milan. So when I met Sean, I had a lot of catching up to do in terms of musical references and learning everything that happened since.” Sean regards this as a positive quality. With a life surrounded by great musicians, he has what he calls a “library of pop culture” in his head; with a variety of influences from jazz fusion to hip hop to The Beach Boys. “Charlotte really isn’t poisoned by every Duran Duran single and Boy George comeback,” says Sean, praising her ability to create original work without influence.

Their dual natures continue into their songwriting process. Sean, with his penchant for melodies and chords, may be the most experienced in terms of instrumentation, but says he needs to “catch up” with Charlotte in terms of lyrical construction: “I used to just write about how I felt,” he says about his previous albums, “It was more like diary entries. It was sort of like documentaries of Sean’s feelings. And then I met Charlotte, and she was already a lyricist. She won all these poetry awards when she was young and she sort of pushed me to actually take lyrics seriously, as its own art form.”

Currently completing their upcoming “electric” album, the two are often distracted by side projects: “We’re going to put out a little mini-album for France,” Sean says when mentioning their European tour, “We’re still getting around to finishing our opus, or whatever you call it, for next year.”

“Our ‘magnum octopus,'” adds Charlotte. When asked if that will be the actual name, she replies, “It should be.”

Despite an increase in administrative duties associated with running Chimera Music, Sean describes the transition from a major label to self-publishing as “logical” for artists, as it offers more control over creative output. “Now that we have our own company, I think I realize how lucky I am in terms of artists who are less mainstream like myself, who are more indie or left-of-field.”

Charlotte laughs at his comment and cuts in, “I just had a horrible image of you performing with all these back-up dancers behind you in leotards.”

Sean replies, “What do you mean ‘horrible’? That sounds beautiful…”

Throughout the discussion, they readily offer opinions on every topic except one. When asked if they had any advice for other independent artists, they paused. “I don’t know. I think we need advice. I don’t think we have any advice to give,” says Sean. “Yeah, I don’t think we have the right to give any advice because we’re very much like Bambi on ice,” Charlotte seconds, then adds, “I think it’s very unoriginal to try to be obsessed with being original in a day when there’s such a confluence, a critical mass of every variation of everything happening right now. So I think it’s just really important to sort of stick to what you love, and really just try to execute it in a way that feels true to your artistic vision and not be so concerned with the image of it.”

Not bad advice; do what you love. “Yeah, it’s harder than it sounds. It’s a cliche, but it’s hard. You need to succumb to insecurity or the pressure to make a certain type of product.”

At its core, Acoustic Sessions is an exposed experience between two life partners, a joint effort that Sean describes as being more meaningful and fun than any of his previous collaborations with the great artists of his past. Their songs describe a view of the world from two contrasting perspectives, as a lyrical admission from a pair of nostalgics, written from the quietness of their home.

“That’s my favorite time,” Charlotte comments, “to play guitar in bed with you.”

“Yeah, those are the good times,” Sean replies.

Photographer: Sean Lennon

Performer Magazine November 2010


MySpace | Twitter

FEATURE: Maus Haus
An Eclectic Collective
By: Keane Li
July 2010

“Serendipitous” would be an appropriate word to describe the formation of Maus Haus. From their initial meetings to their creative process, everything about this San Francisco electro-synth sextet seemingly fell into place. To achieve the eclecticism in their albums, the band of multi-instrumentalists undergo extensive experimentation in the studio. Anything can happen. Their reversal of the traditional songwriting process has yielded the unique (and very catchy) results presented in their debut, Lark Marvels and their new EP, Sea-Sides. Having already gained considerable regional attention, the band is poised for their first East Coast tour this summer.

Maus Haus is Joseph Genden, Jason Kick, Joshua Rampage, Aaron Weiss, Sean Mabry and Tom Hurlbut. The manner in which the band formed is as happenstance as their studio work. “Jason and I met in Indiana when I was 17, kind of randomly,” recalls Sean. “He had just moved to San Francisco and was back East visiting.” The rest, the band describes, was meeting through friends at shows and “Craigslist magic.” The band solidified in the winter of 2007, and began recording and creating their first material in 2008. “It was a domino effect,” says Joshua. “I think we have a pretty good meeting of the minds. Everyone kind of brings their own idiosyncratic, subjective opinions to the table and things just go wild from there.”

Maus Haus, as a band name, was essentially meaningless, used as a placeholder that became something more. “As long as we can spell it in German,” they say half-jokingly. And what was originally a side project for a team of musicians in other bands certainly became something more. While their releases leverage the support of indie labels for distribution, the band is currently unsigned and spreading like wildfire primarily through word-of-mouth, supported by the strength of their live shows and recorded work. Says Jason: “Our first demo was a five-song unmastered CD-R and [Joshua] hand drew on it. We used to send those out to people and we basically had something posted on our MySpace page that said, ‘If you want one, just ask.’ So we were doing free demos until our record came out. And a lot of people took us up on that. It was really cool.”

With the exception of their original CD-R demo, the band chooses to bypass the CD medium for vinyl and digital download. “CDs are dead,” Sean says quickly. “Vinyl is really a beautiful product,” adds Jason. “You make a record, it’s very tangible. It’s very physical. And a CD, I don’t think anyone’s really gotten that attached to their discs. You can feel the grooves on a record. It’s very tactile and I think we would do vinyl and CD if someone wanted us to, but it just so happened we really felt strong about vinyl. It was our first priority.”

While each member of Maus Haus brings with them unique influences, the band finds its primary inspiration in krautrock and 70s disco dance. In contrast with many electronic groups, Maus Haus purposefully aims for a manual, more organic feel to their rhythmic repetition. The band prides itself on foregoing any form of sequencing in their live work, preferring to perform as many of their sounds as they can in fashion with their vintage influences. “To me,” says Jason, “I hear real human beings playing. Even if they’re trying to be repetitive, there’s people trying to be mechanical, and to me that’s way more attractive than having these things that are programmed.”

The band uses innovative methods to work together when gathering six independent minds might be difficult. An established web server allows each of the members to contribute musically from their homes. The inventiveness in their sound owes itself partly to their creative flirtations from the intimacy of being alone. Says Jason, “On recordings, it’s like anyone could be anybody. And I think that’s just how we like to do it, because the way we create songs is pretty strange. A lot of it comes from a couple of people working together alone in a recording situation and then bringing it to other people. And that’s actually a precedent that was set the first time any of us got together.” In crafting Sea-Sides, however, the band modified this precedent by planning more of the songwriting process – composed bridges and transitions – in order to piece together the best of their recorded moments of inspiration.

“I think one thing that sets us apart from other bands,” says Sean, “is that recording is a big part of our writing process. Usually a song idea will come out of recording and experimentation as opposed to people jamming together and coming up with things on the fly. And I think this adds a different kind of almost surreal element to a song once you create something in this recording world and you learn to play it later. You’re playing straight from your brain instead of through your fingers. You learn with your fingers what to play.”

But where artistic talent and ideals meet, so often is conflict found. “We definitely have our points of disagreement but that’s what’s great. I think disagreements really help,” says Jason. What kind of disagreements, specifically? “Fistfights. Long email threads,” Sean jokes. “Unfortunately we’re not at the point where we can afford a therapist,” adds Jason, “but if we ever could, we probably will. (laughs)”

As the band admits, “between six people there are 300 opinions.” So how does a six-person band of involved artists work together and sustain a healthy team relationship? “Lots of communication,” says Sean. “I don’t think you can be creative or collaborate with someone unless you know them, unless they are your friends, unless you understand a certain element of their brain or their spirit or however they work. Because, otherwise, it’s like you’re playing on top of each other. I think that’s a big part of what true collaboration is. My advice to independent musicians is to only make music with your best friends.”

Jason continues: “I think the basis of friendship means that you can have conflict and you’ll be able to survive it because it’s an understood thing that everyone’s going to say what they think at any given moment. It becomes an easier thing to deal with because you realize that we’re going to fight about this, but, no matter what, we’re going to be friends at the end of the night. That’s kind of what family or best friends do. Ultimately, we’re talking about music here, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t go home in our heads.”

Their advice to other bands: “Tour as soon as you can,” says Jason, “and play with bands you believe in.” Joshua adds a piece of advice that can ultimately apply to all facets of life, “It’s important to ask yourself, ‘Am I having fun?'”

In speech, Maus Haus exhibits the same eclectism and mature artistry prevalent in their music. And, as the interview came to conclusion, they depart by handing over a lone pack of Pop Rocks, in concert with the controlled randomness that so defines their work, casually with a disclaimer: “Don’t eat these while driving.”

Link to Maus Haus feature
Download Performer Magazine, July 2010