RAW FROM THE SAW: The Flaming Lips

By Marissa Framarini | December 11th, 2013 | Buzzsaw Magazine

Concert Review

Flaming Lips at Panamania-2.jpg

As lead singer of The Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne takes to the stage on Nov. 10 and ascends his throne for the night—a robotic podium constructed from metal globes and coils of fiber optic lights—rapturous applause erupts throughout Cornell University’s Barton Hall. Then, suddenly, the distorted electric riff to “The W.A.N.D” echoes throughout the venue, and the audience is set in commotion.

Hidden from the audience’s sight, The Flaming Lips—currently on tour for their latest studio album, The Terror— cut straight away into their new material, bridging the sci-fi piano scuffle of “Look…The Sun Is Rising” with the record’s title track, where haunting tones give way to erratic strumming and muffled vocals. The song dies down and smoke disperses, revealing a distressed Coyne, baby doll in hand, trembling in the darkness. Coyne surveys the audience from atop his perch. Grinning, he leans into the microphone and says: “I can smell a lot of marijuana being smoked. Is that legal here?”

Coyne’s eccentric stage presence serves as a mere forewarning to the freakish chaos that would fill the Flaming Lips’ performance—a 90-minute psychedelic experiment into the darkness and sheer madness that drives “The Terror”.

The performance’s theatrics and set list complemented the menacing and foreboding nature of The Terror. Even the band’s classics were adapted to fit the new, ominous mood, like the slowed-down and mid-set performance of “Race For The Prize”. The song, driven by electro-rhythms and a pounding bass line, produces one of the most moving moments of the nights, as Coyne sung out: “Theirs is to win/ if it kills them/ they’re just humans/ with wives and children”.

Taking full advantage of his elevated position, Coyne guided the receptive crowd through an endless and unified swaying and head-bopping party. It created an interesting contrast in energy to the rest of the band, which sat nonchalantly plinking away at their instruments.

The night concluded with a two-song encore, which was kicked off by the synth-smeared ballad, “Do You Realize??”, widely considered to be the Lips’ most popular song. The honor of the final song was given to “The Terror’s” slow-roiling, percussion heavy closing track, “Always There…In Our Hearts”, which fades into a voiceless chorus of clambering drums and guitar distortions. The frenzy of noise was matched with an onslaught of confetti and strobe lights, leaving the crowd in a dazed stupor.

The show may have been lacking the dream-pop tunes of the band’s early days, but it was a Flaming Lips performance just the same—energetic and lively. A light show of epic proportions, the night’s performance proved that even in their 30th year, the Lips are still blazing ahead on the journey to pioneer new sounds and visions.

Dealing Behind Club Doors

By Marissa Framarini | November 7th, 2013 | Buzzsaw Magazine

Examining the EDM drug economy

As the popular American music producer and disk jockey DJ Shadow stated back in 2012, “We are living in a musical renaissance.” Electronic dance music, popularly known as EDM, is the natural soundtrack of a generation born into a plugged-in culture — and according to the International Music Summer Consumer Report, it’s the fastest growing mainstream genre in the United States. A quick look at the salaries of EDM’s pioneers is all that’s need to prove this, with the 10 highest paid DJs amassing a combined $115 million last year alone, according to a report from Forbes.

However, while EDM is growing in demand, the scene’s popularity has been undercut by an inability to shake off the illicit reputation that comes with the genre as an underground, drug-fueled phenomenon. The “outlaw” nature of EDM has only been further propagated by the recent media attention to string of drug-related deaths at electronic-dance events, which has dragged the issue into the spotlight. Two Molly overdoses at the Electric Zoo Festival hosted on Labor Day weekend in New York City resulted in the event’s immediate shutdown, and a total of seven drug-related death at dance events in the United States since March.

The relationship between electronic dance culture and drug use is sometimes attributed to the music industry itself, which is commonly accused of glamorizing drug use. Lyrics from artists from Kanye West to Miley Cyrus have all mentioned “Molly” the slang term for MDMA­— an illegal drug that can be sold either in pill or powder form. The effects of MDMA resemble those of both stimulants and psychedelics, although the drug’s main appeal is the condition of euphoria it produces, which can cause a user to feel more “open” and “connected” to their surroundings —something discos, the first wave of EDM music, attempted to create in underground warehouses.

These tragedies and the growing media buzz surrounding the relationship between EDM and a possibly related drug culture raise questions about the effectiveness of the security of the scene.

Former EDM venue promoter Shane Morris explains that in his experience, it’s not only easier for venues to turn a blind eye to drug use, but that it’s also very lucrative to do so. He said that the electronic dance scene is arranged in a manner that allows individuals and businesses to exploit the genre’s young and often affluent fan base for a handsome profit. He described having taken advantage of the system himself in the past.

“I would get prepaid credit cards from gas stations and would process fraudulent tickets, putting cash on the credit cards from the money I was making selling drugs at a prior event,” Morris said. “The money I was making would sit at my apartment in a shoe box and I would wait until the next event would come up in two weeks, and then I would ‘sub-promote’ events for other promoters. It was good for [concert promoters] because they had higher ticket sales and were guaranteed to get a percentage of the money. I was basically paying them for access to their events, and they couldn’t block me because they didn’t want to lose 200-300 ticket sales a night.”

He explains that in a system where everyone is already getting what they want, no one feels motivated to take more safety precautions.

“To the promoter and agent, that show sold out and everybody is happy. They don’t have to work in such a way that they are asking who are these 250 people that are supposed to show up. They’re not looking for it. If the tickets get sold then they’re happy. The system isn’t mechanized enough or sophisticated enough to track who’s coming in and who’s not. They knew if the drugs disappeared, people would be less likely to go.”

Noting the increasing use and popularity of the drug, Morris said that club promoters, venue owners and other music industry personnel have, consciously or not, arranged a system to profit from the free use and sale of drugs. Based on his experiences, he believes that “the entirety of the EDM economy was built upon the complex relationship between drug dealers and promoters”, and that venue owners supply event-goers’ demands in order to ensure their presence at events. While Morris says that not all venue owners are willing or involved in such a system, they are “tacitly acknowledging” that they will have lower profit margins than their competition.

“The financial mechanisms in place for the electronic dance music economy are designed to attract people who intend to consume illicit drugs,” said Morris. He said that while he no longer “sub-promotes” he knows other managers who are still engaged in a similar business model.

“What you see are promoters, managers and other people who get paid 2,000 to 4,000 a gig, that also sell drugs because they are already there and have access to the event and can get past security. When you work in electronic dance music you understand that drugs are part of the model. You don’t talk about it but you know that they are there. The only reason I started doing it is because I got tired of drug dealers making more money than me. I look at it as very practical, as an ‘oh these people need to go because they’re taking my profit margins.’ There’s a certain amount of dollars being spent by this venue and I’m going to make sure I maximize my profits — it’s simple logistics.”

However, not all venue owners share Morris’s point of view. Dan Mastronardi, co-owner of Syracuse’s Westcott Theatre, a music venue that holds a capacity of 700 people, said that he takes many precautions to ensure that events run safely and smoothly.

“We are very strict with security at our events,” said Mastronardi on the security measures at shows at the Westcott Theatre. “We have a lot on the line and our job is to make sure that we create a safe and fun environment for all fans.”

The Westcott Theatre currently maintains a zero-tolerance drug policy and, and does a full search of patrons before they enter. Likewise, major festivals have stepped up their measures, even employing the use of drug-sniffing dogs or setting strict age restrictions of 21 and above, such as those seen at the most recent festival, TomorrowLand. Some festivals have even taken a big financial investment in security. Smartassets.com reported that the popular Canadian electronic-dance music festival, The Monster Center of Gravity Festival, spent roughly $70,000 in contracting local law enforcement to maintain order throughout the event.

While these guidelines and practices set in place are intended to limit the presence of drugs in the EDM community, Missi Wooldridge, the current president of the board of directors at DanceSafe, a nonprofit organization that provides non-biased educational resources and services at a variety of events, believes that this approach is too idealistic. These guidelines, she argued, fail to provide an outlet necessary to the realities of the current drug culture.

“We can see through drug trends throughout time that drug use is a constant,” Wooldridge said. “You can see the war on drugs is a failure and we absolutely have not decreased the number of people taking substances, and all they have is increased incarceration to show for it.”

While not advocating for the use of drugs, DanceSafe has come under criticism for its harm-reduction approach, which offer suggestions (educational pamphlets) and tools (free water and drug testing kits) to help reduce the dangers associated with drug use. However, this approach concerns some venue owners and event managers, who view harm reduction as an acknowledgment that certain substances are a significant-enough part of the scene to result in this sort of recognition. This stands in stark contrast to the “just say no” philosophy that has dominated the rhetoric of the security policies and guidelines of major festivals.

As a result, venue owners and concert organizers face extreme pressure to avoid negative publicity to their events, and often opt out of the services offered by DanceSafe, out of fear that associating with such a program acknowledges the presence of drug use at their events. This fear was even further perpetuated by the creation of anti-rave ordinances, such as the RAVE Act introduced in the early 2000s—which was not passed but would have made venue owners, event organizers and promoters, and even DJs responsible for the drug use of their patrons. DanceSafe was often denied access to these venues out of fear of implicitly acknowledging the reality of drug use, and therefore taking responsibility for it.

This misperception of DanceSafe, Wooldridge said, has denied concertgoers the proper resources they need about drug use.

“Never once do we go in and tell someone to take a drug or that a drug is safe or any of that,” Wooldridge said. We recognize the fact that drug use is occurring, and it’s medically and morally negligent to not provide [participants] with health resources that can save lives.”

The zero-tolerance policy adopted by most festivals and venues, while strict in nature, has been outgrown by the booming size of the EDM scene. As festivals continue to grow in size and popularity, more blind spots are created, resulting in a faulty system of surveillance that can sometimes leave room for manipulation and corruption. The risks and potential profits are both at an all-time high for venue owners and event promoters, who are forced to choose between maximizing revenue and keeping audiences safe.

Guster lead singer discusses performance in Emerson Suites

When Guster made its debut on the music scene in the ’90s, the Boston-based group emerged and soon became kings of the indie-pop world. Its single “Fa Fa,” off its third studio album “Lost and Gone Forever,” propelled the band to critical acclaim.

Now, just under a quarter century since the group first performed together, the quintet remains an active and influential voice in the industry. Guster currently has a planned stop at Ithaca College on Nov. 3 in Emerson Suites.

Staff Writer Marissa Framarini spoke to Guster’s lead singer and guitarist, Ryan Miller, about the band’s history, its musical influences and its motivation.

Marissa Framarini: What’s different about Guster in its 20-year-long run?

Ryan Miller: Everything, probably — I would hope. We started the band at 18, and we’re now all going on 40. The better question is, “What’s the same?” I think the only thing that is similar to where we started is our sense of melody, our instrumentation and personnel. The three of us that started are still in the band, and that’s probably about it. Same dudes with a similar sound.

MF: Why have you guys decided to maintain such a liberal taping policy that allows users to tape and trade away your music, so long as it’s not for profit?

RM: I don’t want to say that all music should be free, but it definitely has helped the band. I think the policy speaks for our willingness and belief as a band to make music available, especially when we first started. Allowing people access to your music for a low cost, or nothing at all, helps the spread of music.

MF: Who and what have been your biggest musical influences?

RM: There’s definitely been a line of bands that have held careers outside of the mainstream spectrum that have been influences in terms of, “Yeah, you can do this,” or, “You don’t have to be a jam band.” Musically, though, I think it’s all over the place. We’re really up on contemporary artists and a lot of music coming out today that definitely influences what we’re doing now. Then there are bands that we go back to and listen to that are huge for us, like The Band, The Kinks, Harry Nilsson, Wilco and The Shins. We all listen to a lot of music, and we all keep an open mind, and I think a lot of those influences make a way into our music in some way.

MF: You’ve done many covers of songs. How do you choose them?

RM: It’s usually songs that we like. Well, it depends. If Brian [Rosenworcel, drummer of the band] is singing, we choose a song that we all hate the most, and if it’s not Brian singing, it’s a song we believe we can have a fresh perspective on and that we can learn by trying to do it as an exercise in songwriting.

MF: What other plans do you have with the band besides the show at the college?

RM: We’re working towards a record, so right now we’re just getting a bunch of songs together, and I think we’re going to start recording at the beginning of next year. We also generally try to play a few shows Thanksgiving weekend at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, which is kind of our home court, and that weekend has always been very great for us. We’re going to try and resurrect the concept of album shows, where you play an album through in its entirety, which I think can be really interesting. We have so many records, so we’re going to do “Keep It Together” on Saturday [Nov. 30] at the Beacon and “Parachute,” which is our first record, on Sunday [Dec. 1].

MF: What can we expect from your upcoming show at the college?

RM: You know, a bunch of dudes in their 40s playing musical instruments.

Pop band plays high-energy rock show for packed audience

By Marissa Framarini — Staff Writer

Published: November 6, 2013

Immersed in a stream of blue and green lights, sweat dripping from his brow, Ryan Miller, lead singer and guitarist for Guster, took a quick breather Nov. 3 as he looked out into the screaming crowd.

“It’s a dream fulfilled playing here at Emerson Suites tonight,” Miller said, a coy smile spreading across his face. “How many bands have stopped here on their way to the top? At least one tonight, motherf——.”

Guster has become a figurehead to the American indie scene. The group, which began as a college alternative rock band, has evolved in 20 years, becoming a touring spectacle, infamous for its energetic and lively stage presence. The band meshes trumpets and pianos with aggressive hand drumming and a sense of humor.

Miller playfully interacted with his bandmates and the audience, frequently exchanging goofy glances and lackadaisically dancing across the stage, bringing out the band’s animated spirit.

Senior Lucas Knapp, the Ithaca College Bureau of Concerts co-president, said Guster drew in a crowd of nearly 450 students, which is reflective of the 1,200 students that voted in an online survey the BOC conducted in September to determine which band they wanted to see at Ithaca College. The group, Knapp said, appeals to college students for its longevity in the music industry.

“As an organization, our priority is to reflect the student population,” Knapp said. “Guster has been around for 20 years, and they have built up a mass appeal as an indie-rock band.”

Guster’s set followed a 45-minute warm up from local band Second Dam, which brought a respectable crowd of early comers, ranging from college students to middle-aged men, and ended its set with a dancing frenzy. Second Dam’s drummer, junior Andrew Weir, said the concert was not only the biggest crowd his band has played to, but Guster was also the best show he’s seen on campus.

“They were incredible,” he said. “They’ve been playing music together for so long … but they played like it was their first time playing. They still had that energy and passion.”

Kick-starting the 90-minute show was “The Captain” from 2006’s “Ganging Up on the Sun,” Guster’s fifth and most successful record to date, reaching No. 25 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The up-tempo tune paved the way for an energetic and fast-paced evening. Crowd-pleasers and old favorites, from the bass drum–heavy “Satellite” to “Manifest Destiny,” which features a brassy trumpet sample, filled up the majority of the set list, allowing concertgoers to get comfortable and in their groove.

Junior Emma Lazzari, who attended the concert after her friend, junior Emily Healy, convinced her to go, said the show was full of energy from both the band and audience.

“[The concert] was quick moving and at a good pace, just overall, really entertaining,” Lazzari said. “There was a good amount of head bobbing, swaying and tapping of the feet.”

The band continued to show off its high-energy stage presence with Miller’s seemingly endless head bobbing and the many entertaining faces of drummer Brian Rosenworcel as he flailed his arms around for a series of drum solos. Secondary guitarist and vocalist, Adam Gardner, played along, charging across the stage with unrelenting energy.

Even during the layovers between songs, the band did not lose its liveliness. Playful and filled with charisma on stage, Guster displayed a captivating camaraderie. Puttering through a 19-song set list, the group members would exchange instruments with one another, switching from guitar to keyboard. Occasionally, Gardner would play a new instrument the band hadn’t used yet, such as the tambourine or trumpet, on songs like “Manifest Destiny” and “What You Call Love.”

Sophomore Chris Thomas said the band’s constant transformation and unrelenting energy helped to define and make the show.

“One really cool thing I noticed is the variety of instruments each guy in the group was playing,” Thomas said. “They really know their stuff and their songs.”

The set list peaked toward the end of the night with an extended disco dance groove of the “Airport Song.” During a guitar build-up, the stage lights went from steady streams to wildly flashing at full blast to match the tumultuous waves of noises, reminiscent of the club funk that spiraled out of the dance clubs of the late ’70s. The band continued to build up a crescendo of noise, but when the music faded, all that could be heard was the waves of cheers from the excited audience.

Finally, Miller took to the microphone to mock the common encore tactics of bands.

“Thanks, everyone! This is the last song that’s in our set list before we go out and do an encore,” he said. “So, we’ll play this song and walk over there, and you will clap for 10 to 15 seconds, and we’ll come back up to play more.”

Senior Patrick Hayes said he enjoyed the way Miller communicated with the audience.

“The way Ryan Miller speaks to the audience was fantastic,” he said. “They put on such a high-energy concert that even if you aren’t a fan you can’t help but have fun.”

The band rounded out the set with “Happier” and “This Could All Be Yours,” and as promised, after a resounding wave of cheers, it returned for a three-song encore. “Demons” stood out in the encore trail, featuring heavy guitar strumming and shared vocals by Gardner and Miller as they belted out together: “’Cause it’s easier sometimes not to be sincere/ Somehow I make you believe/ When I speak I cross my fingers; will you know you’ve been deceived?”

Guster left concertgoers reeling from the passion it manifested during the performance. Lazzari said she enjoyed the show — even if it meant relinquishing a night of studying.

“I had a test the next day, and [the concert] definitely made me not do so well on it, but I think it was worth it,” she said. “I will remember going to the concert more than I ever will failing that test yesterday.”

Check out theithacan.org/34979 for an interview with Ryan Miller.

Former music student to perform at local Collegetown bar

In the past six years, Adam Day ’07 has released an EP titled “I Stayed Up Late to Make This EP,” almost failed out of college and arranged his own city-to-city tour venture to promote the songs on the EP. The tour, which kicked off Oct. 2, will take Day from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Chicago, including a stop in Ithaca on Oct. 16 at The Nines.

Staff Writer Marissa Framarini spoke to Day about his passion for making music, sleeping on strangers’ couches and the next step in his career.

Marissa Framarini: How did you get involved with music?

Adam Day: Back in high school, I really wanted to be a doctor, but at the same time I was applying to schools. I was starting to write my own songs and play them out live. I realized that maybe music is more of a passion for me than medicine, and at any rate, I thought I could try it out and do music now and go back to trying to be a doctor in my 30s. So, I started to look for music recording programs, and Ithaca really stuck out to me. I crammed and took a bunch of lessons and went to Ithaca College to audition on classical guitar, which is something I never played before. I happened to get accepted to the program and came to Ithaca College as a music school student. I became so involved in playing music, though, that I almost failed out of school. I wouldn’t condone this behavior, but I just cared way more about promoting for my next show, or writing my next song or even recording a record than I did about going to class.

MF: Why have songs like “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” by Death Cab for Cutie inspired you to create cover versions for your YouTube channel?

AD: For starters, it’s a great song. I love the work of Death Cab for Cutie. They had this record, though, on iTunes called “Studio X Sessions” with this really gorgeous rendition of this track “Blacking Out The Friction.” I loved the sound of that recording, and I also really loved “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” and I wanted to see what I could do with the song to make it a multi-instrument recording as well, because the original only features acoustic guitar. It was a really fun thing to do — sort of a rush project. We got a studio for four hours, and it felt like a marathon trying to cram it all in.

MF: If you could have any band cover your songs, who would it be and why?

AD: I have two answers. The first is the last band that really stunned me — Fleet Foxes. I think their “Helplessness Blues” album is one of my favorite albums of all time. I have a lot of respect for their craft and the way they arrange songs, so I would love to hear what they would do with my song. And then, I also have a dear friend here in New York City named Amy Vachal who has a gorgeous voice. It would also be cool if Daft Punk did a cover.

MF: Do you have a favorite memory from being on the road?

AD: There was one tour circuit where I decided I did not want to stay in a hotel the entire trip. My goal at every show was to meet someone in the audience who would let me sleep on their floor. I met several people in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio, as well as Lexington, Ky. I slept on their couches and had breakfast with them, and a couple of them ended up being [my] friends for life.

MF: What’s next for you?

AD: The last record I made was in Ithaca, and I haven’t really released anything since. So it’s been quite a long time. I have a large body of work that I’m really gearing up with some producers and composers to put together and really just want to get them out there.

Review: ’90s band turns blind eye to hits in concert

By Marissa Framarini — Staff Writer 
Published: September 30, 2013

For the sold-out crowd of nearly 5,000 people at Cornell University’s Homecoming Concert on Sept. 21, the night was simply a reminder that not all childhood dreams translate into reality. Concertgoers expecting to see Third Eye Blind, which “rocked” the top-40 charts of the ’90s, might have been disappointed to discover the mediocrity of the band’s live performance.

Kicking off the night was the newcomer indie-pop trio, Basic Vacation, which just finished a leg of tour dates with Owl City. While an opening act was never advertised, the band was greeted warmly upon declaring the audience “one of the best-looking and biggest” it had experienced. After a quick set list, including a sped-up, guitar-driven cover of the Tears for Fears’ ’80s hit, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” the band shimmied off the stage, leaving the crowd dancing with anticipation.

Sure enough, following a 40-minute stage layover and repeated chants of the band’s name, the lights dimmed once more, this time to allow Third Eye Blind to emerge to a roar of screams and cheers. But when the band began playing the opening chords to its lesser-known and falsetto-riddled track, “Narcolepsy,” the crowd grew silent and began to mumble to one another. To make matters worse, the audio mix was poor, with the drums overpowering the rest of the band, making popular hits like “Never Let You Go” and “Graduate,” which usually feature distinguished electronic-rock swing intros, unrecognizable when they came around.

Audience members weren’t the only ones lost in translation. The band seemed unsure of itself and what type of performance to give. While excitement peaked in the crowd as Third Eye Blind indulged in its well-worn hits, slower and more serious songs constituted half of the set list, bringing the energy down tremendously. The band even pulled out an acoustic version of its infamously controversial song, “Slow Motion,” which discusses violence and drug use.

“This song used to be banned,” explained the band’s lead singer, Stephan Jenkins. “Record companies used to have this power to tell you what you can and cannot do. Now things have changed.”

Throughout the show, it seemed as though the band members were losing touch with the audience. Offers to play new material from its upcoming and final album were met with a resounding wave of objections from the crowd, requesting for the band to stick to the hits. Jenkins, however, ignored the negative feedback, insisting this is really what the crowd wanted, “because it’s college and you like to try new things and experiment.”

The band then began to play “Sherry Is a Stoner,” a track created in effort to embarrass the band’s tour manager and his wife. If it were not for the title alone, the lack of serious depth or originality in the song would be enough to do the trick. To make matters worse, the band attempted to mask its hackneyed sound with over-the-top falsettos that Jenkins just couldn’t seem to hit and odd transitional “do, do, do” vocals in between the bridge and chorus of the song.

The show ended with the fading, military-like drum beat and distorted bass line on the band’s emotional and mid-tempo ballad, “Jumper.” The song was one of the most captivating of the night as Jenkins and the audience joined forces to sing out the track’s somber chorus in unison: “I wish you would step back from the ledge my friend/ You could cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in.”

The band briefly returned for an encore of “God of Wine” and its first hit single back from the 1997 album “Semi-Charmed Life.” Although the band gave the audience what it demanded in its encore, the last two songs were played with low energy and enthusiasm. The band departed the stage without the booming applause and cheers it had enjoyed only a few minutes earlier.

Undoubtedly, most of the attendees had come to the concert in hopes of revisiting the youthful spirit and nostalgia of their middle-school days, not to witness a series of middle-aged men sing about drug-riddled nights and stumble across a stage. The crowd needed more energy and liveliness to get them through the semi-charmed concert.

Overall rating: Two out of four stars

Review: Modern band brings back ’80s sound

By Marissa Framarini — Staff Writer

Published: September 25, 2013  

On its self-titled debut album, The 1975 gives a nod to one of its greatest influences: the ’80s. Just like a John Hughes film, the sound of the album transports listeners back to a time of synthesizers, infectious beats and Morrissey-coiffed hair styles.

Drawing inspiration from Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, the quartet has put together a 16-song album reminiscent of the white-punk noise that dominated the the time period. Unlike the line of traditional one-hit wonders from the era, such as Devo and Dexys Midnight Runners, The 1975 puts up a daring opposition to the play-once-and-move-on mentality.

The album is packed with riff-heavy hooks and sing-along choruses, especially in catchy fan-favorite and fourth track on the album, “Chocolate,” which debuted as a single in January.

The track has since gained international notoriety and airplay for its big, blocky rhythm and blues drum loop and futuristic beats.

Following up that number is the latest hit from the band, “Sex,” in which lead singer and guitarist Matthew Healy croons about the angst-ridden life of falling in love with a girl who’s got a boyfriend anyway — a lyrical gem played down by overlapping guitar licks and a series of clashing drum beats. “Sex” sets a new, raw tone for the band, both musically and lyrically, providing the proper transition to a string of dance-pop power ballads featured exclusively on the second half of the album.

The record finishes out to the tinkling of a piano and the whimpering cries of Healy on “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You,” leaving the album in silence and letting the lyrics speak for itself: “I know it’s me that’s supposed to love you/ And when I’m home you know I got you.”

The 1975’s experimental blend of R&B, modern soul and alternative rock results in a bold and diverse sound, making this album worthy of being put on replay.

Tuning In To The Local Sound

Tuning In To The Local Sound

By Marissa Framarini | September 17th, 2013 | Buzzsaw Magazine

IC Students Create Local Music Discovery Website

With many of the nation’s most popular radio stations available online, including Ithaca College’s own WICB and VIC, it’s hard to ignore the radio industry’s shift toward online streaming. Today, more than 5,000 unique online radio stations are listed on the Internet radio network Live365.com, along with an additional 13,600 FM-format stations listed at Radio-Locator. Compared to the dozen or so “traditional” channels offered on the FM dial in any given location, there’s every reason to believe that the Internet will host a stream more in tune with your musical tastes. 

However, while online streaming allows listeners to find a broader selection of stations, it still tends to leave one corner of the music scene underrepresented: local music. Despite the promise of customized stations, many online radio listeners wind up buried beneath mainstream-focused “personalized” playlists that attempt to please the greatest possible number of listeners. Since many of these programs aim to cater to a larger audience, they often lack the settings and features to properly individualize each station. 

According to Professor Doug Turnbull, an Ithaca native and assistant professor of computer science for Ithaca College, most modern online radio services have two major oversights: the voices of the listeners and local music scenes.
“There’s a huge hole in these types of services and music recommendation systems,” Turnbull said. “I was involved in a start-up company and investors would tell me there’s no money in local, obscure music. They might be right in terms of a business model, but as a community-oriented project, this can stimulate both the local economy and arts scene.” 

In response, Turnbull created the non-profit, personalized internet radio station “MegsRadio”, naming the project after his wife. The primary goal of the station is to increase customization options for the listening community with interactive features that highlight consumers’ interests, along with Ithaca’s local music scene, which has long been important to Turnbull.
Growing up in the area, Turnbull said he was an active participant in the Ithaca music scene throughout his high school years. Turnbull recalls attending shows four to five times a week, sometimes for gigs with his own band. He even admits to sneaking into 18-and-over shows at the age of 16 after befriending the bouncer at The Haunt. 

“At these shows, I would just sit in the back in awe,” Turnbull said. “I was blown away by the local music scene. Even returning to Ithaca after fifteen years, the scene is strong as ever with things like Grassroots, Porchfest and more.”
Turnbull began envisioning such a system while completing undergraduate research at Princeton Sound Lab in the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, the idea didn’t take shape until this year, when he and Cornell University professor Thorsten Joachims were awarded the National Science Foundation Information & Intelligent System grant to study music recommendation and automatic playlist creation. 

The grant money, which will allot Ithaca College with $186,000 over the course of three years to support undergraduate research, has allowed Turnbull to recruit a team of six students, along with two faculty members: Brian Dorzoretz, Manager of Recording Services at the Whalen School of Music, and Professor Adam Peruta, of the Department of Strategic Communications. The group worked together over the summer to design, create and establish the algorithms that would become the foundations of MegsRadio, which launched earlier this month. 

While MegsRadio operates on very similar practices and principles used by other recommendation systems like Pandora and Google, Turnbull and his staff believe their station will provide the Ithaca community with something never offered before: a personalized radio system that contextualizes popular artists and links them to local acts and events. 

MegsRadio functions through a series of algorithms, in which specific artists and songs are “tagged” by information collected through social analysis. This usually requires a user to search the web for common themes or key words noted in articles about the artists or given song. These tags can include anything from the genre of music, like “rock”, to adjectives or emotions describing the artists. For instance, Miley Cyrus might be tagged with the word “twerking.” 

However, traditional algorithms often ignore local artists, whose sounds may not be as publicized on the Internet. The MegsRadio team resolves this by completing a series of audio analyses, where they analyze digital tracks through a computer for common and related themes. Currently, MegsRadio offers more than 8,000 artists with more than 2,000 unique tags.
Kristofer Stensland, senior computer science major and user interface designer and backend developer for MegsRadio, said that this tagging system allows for more frequent and current overlap and discovery, linking local acts and more well-known artists.

“On sites like Pandora, if you type in ‘reggae music’, you might not necessarily get the smaller, local acts,” Stensland said. “The big part of MegsRadio is to incorporate music people are familiar with and local artists that are similar.”
MegsRadio allows consumers to not only discover local artists, but also the local scene. Paired with the music, Alex Wolf, a senior computer science and film double major responsible for designing the site, said MegsRadio offers interactive features to help engage the listener. 

“You get the music side of MegsRadio, but there’s also an interactive side—the events part,” said Wolf. “It gives you a whole list of the bands that are coming and when. Our hope is to get people to not only discover the music, but also get involved and see these artists in the community.” 

Looking forward, the MegsRadio team hopes to expand the message of the project into a number of formats and cities. The team is currently developing Android and iPhone applications for the station, along with a new portal that allows artists to directly upload and tag their music on the site. In addition, the team has looked into expanding the project into other regions and cities following a “Craigslist model”, where they expand to areas that demonstrate an interest in hosting unique MegsRadio channels of their own. 

Regardless of the project’s expansion, Turnbull says one thing will always remain the same for MegsRadio and its branches: a focus on the community. 

“The local angle is huge,” Turnbull said. “I’m a big believer in local food, local economy, small business. The whole works. Justin Bieber can come and sell out a stadium in Syracuse, but that’s really only helping the record company and not the local scene. This is not going to ever be a for-profit venture. This is meant to be a community venture.”

An Independent Existence

By  | March 28th, 2012 | Buzzsaw Magazine

Stories of life off the grid

With an increased and ever-growing demand for technology, it may seem nearly impossible to log off Facebook or go without electricity. However, thousands of Americans each year are choosing to “unplug” in favor of a simplistic life, living off the land.

The concept of living off the grid, or in other words, independence from one or more public utilities, has jumped into national prominence over the last few years. Nick Rosen, author of Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government and True Independence in Modern Americaestimated in a 2010 article for USA Today that about 750,000 U.S. households were living off the grid, with an expected increase of 10 percent each year.

Amid soaring electricity prices and high unemployment rates, individuals are looking for ways to cut down on expenses. Since energy in off-the-grid housing is primarily based off solar panels and other environmental-friendly energy sources, electricity bills become a thing of the past.

Nick Weston, author of The Treehouse Diaries, which tells the story of the six months he spent in the woods of southern England living off-grid in a tree house, said finances were the main reason he started the project.

“Why did I have to spend so much money on bills, rent and other pointless things I didn’t need, when nature has been the ultimate provider for thousands of years?” Weston said in an email.

For the Kuncaitis family, the pressures of everyday life contributed to their decision to move to the countryside, to an Amish farm in western Michigan. Angela Kuncaitis said there was “friction” between her viewpoint and the structure of society, which often places an emphasis on personal appearance — something that wasn’t as much of a priority for her.  Kunicaitis also longed to have a stronger relationship with her children and husband.

“The decision to go off-grid was about me and how I wanted to live my life,” Kuncaitis said. “I had to get out of the box.”

Living off-grid allowed Kuncaitis to explore the way they truly wanted to raise their family. The family does chores and daily farm tasks together, and at night they crowd around a single bright light in the kitchen to recap the day’s events.

Kunicaitis said that the farm provided the family with a community, as they were exempt from most societal pressures often present in mainstream society. She said prior to moving to the farm, her children were pressured to conform to society’s standards for appearance, but with their arrival in the countryside they tossed away the make-up and just ran freely outside.

“It was a beginning for us, it was freedom and it was so beautiful,” Kuncaitis said. “I just knew that this is who I was and how I wanted to raise my family.”

Beyond just the search for liberation, living off-grid becomes a search for one’s identity. Corbin Dunn’s decision to live off-grid in a tree house for five years in Santa Cruz, California was more about feeding his desire to be surrounded by nature than to escape society. For the duration of the adventure, Dunn had the treehouse wired with some electricity and water, and even sought out an office job at Apple on Cocoa. The treehouse was more of his spot, something to identify with.

“I built 90 percent of the treehouse myself,” Dunn said. “It really was my own place. It was kind of my own identity, my own thing.”

Weston eventually became unhappy with the low-income lifestyle he was living in London and nostalgic for the simplicity of his childhood. He returned to the countryside to live in a self-sufficient manner.

“The treehouse was the catalyst I needed to change my life and put it back on track and in the direction I wanted to be going,” Weston said. “I think the reason going off-grid is so appealing is because it is a metaphor for all the things you could want in life: Being your own person, not having to answer to anyone else and being responsible for your own future.”

While living off-grid is supposed to be a life of simplicity, it is difficult to pull off in the modern world.

The Kuncaitis family reexamined their lifestyle after a member of the family got severely sick last year. In January they invested in a washer, dryer, three outlets, a lamp and an indoor toilet.

Dunn, on the other hand, said that he never saw living in the treehouse as a permanent residential option.  Factors like the location of his job and desire to maintain an electrical car prevented Dunn from seeing off-grid living as the best choice for him.

“I think it’s possible to break off the grid completely, but it’s very difficult,” Dunn said. “You have to make some choices. You have to give up some things.”

Beyond maintaining a lifestyle of off-grid living, Kuncaitis said the real difficulty is breaking off from mainstream ideals and pursuing the lifestyle you want.

“Everyone is looking for the utopia,” Kuncaitis said. “People are sick of the rat race. People want liberation but they just don’t know where to start and how to get off the hamster wheel.”

Lead vocalist finds inspiration

By Marissa Framarini — Staff Writer 
Published: January 26, 2012

In an age where many concert tours are cancelled due to poor ticket sales, indie-dance band Rubblebucket has used the live performance setting to its advantage. Since the release of its debut album in 2008, the band has been touring frequently and earned the Boston Music Award for “Best Live Act” in 2009.

Tonight, the band will perform at Castaways. Doors open at 9 p.m. for the 10 p.m. show, and tickets will be available at the door for $15 each.

Staff Writer Marissa Framarini spoke to Rubblebucket’s lead vocalist, Annakalmia Traver, about the band’s latest efforts, inspiration to perform and their upcoming visit to Ithaca.

Marissa Framarini: Rubblebucket won the 2009 Boston Music Award for Live Act of the Year. What do you think makes your concerts so successful?

Annakalmia Traver: There must be something in the music. It’s really danceable and rhythmic, and the lyrics are positive. People see that we’re invested, so they want to become invested and dance without a care. We are working on our visual showcase and trying to use crazy neon banners. This tour we’re going to use two giant robot puppets, but I’m not sure if they will fit into Castaways.

MF: What inspires the band’s music?

AT: Initially, we were all inspired by Afrobeats. Our sound has evolved since then, though. We still love Afrobeats, but we have gotten closer to the heartbeat of rock and roll.

MF: “Came out of a Lady” is one of your biggest hits. Did you know this song was going to be so successful when you were recording it?

AT: The first time we played this song was in Ithaca actually. That was the moment when I realized this song was really powerful.

MF: There are eight people in Rubblebucket. Is it difficult to make your voice heard in the music production?

AT: It definitely is hard to balance and make sure that everyone is heard, but we all have different roles in regards to writing and producing. Usually Alex Toth will first record demos on GarageBand and then bring it to the band. After that, usually everyone fills and adds in. Our recordings are definitely a collective sound.

MF: You recently worked with producer and engineer Eric Broucek, who also worked with bands like LCD Soundsystem and Holy Ghost!. What was working with someone of that stature like?

AT: He has genetic blood for music, and you could totally sense it. I don’t think the band realized what we were getting into when we decided to work with Eric. We knew he was really talented and experienced, and the outcome was definitely great. He got the punchy, sort of disco stuff, for the rhythms we wanted. We loved the results.

MF: Rubblebucket’s cover of “Michelle” by the Beatles has received a lot of praise. Why did you decide to cover such a popular song?

AT: I love the song so much. Also, I just lived in France for 10 months, so I had French stuck in my head and really have ever since. At the time, I was having these really intense dreams of going back to France. They were not bad dreams, but the fact that I couldn’t get rid of them really disturbed me. I think recording “Michelle” was my escape. Writing and singing in French helped me process all of the dreams.

Milk Carton Kids spill details on recent successes

By Marissa Framarini—Contributing Writer 
Published: September 28, 2011

Most popular music hits rely on auto-tune and danceable beats, but Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids — a minimalist duo — are gaining national recognition for their old-time folk gems.

In March, the duo released its first album, “Retrospect,” followed in July by “Prologue.” Since then, the band has garnered more than 20,000 downloads for each record. It is now headlining a tour across 40 cities, including a stop in Ithaca tomorrow.

Contributing Writer Marissa Framarini spoke to Ryan and Pattengale about their current tour and musical style.

Marissa Framarini: How would you describe your music?

Joey Ryan: We refrain from trying to describe our music. It’s an often-lamented fact of musicians that it’s hard to describe your own thing.

Kenneth Pattengale: Our dear friend Joe Henry said something really nice about us. He likened our album to a “terse but tender film by Elia Kazan.”

MF: What is your writing process like? Do you ever feel like you don’t want to bring personal information to your songs?

JR: We save the songs as the one place where personal information can go, whether it’s masked in another form or not. But I guess music is the one place where I don’t feel bad at all being extremely personal. And where I do feel uncomfortable — do feel a little less appropriate to be personal — is in any other sort of format.

KP: While it’s very important to find a personal aspect to whatever you write, that’s not to be confused with imaginative storytelling. Both Joey and I have various degrees to which we add our own experience or personal emotion to a song. For me, the minute that I am inspired to write something, I allow myself to lean on the rope as far as creating a story that may not be entirely truthful. It’s important, not necessarily to just have a personal experience, but to explore ways to make a personal connection and identification to fiction.

MF: You two are known for your acoustic sound and folk tunes. Do you listen to any music people might find surprising?

JR: I have a history of music-listening peppered with surprises. I guess not so much anymore, but I used to listen to things that would definitely surprise people who think of us as being squarely in the folk world. In high school, I used to be able to recite all the lyrics to “Forget About Dre” from Dr. Dre’s album “The Chronic 2001” featuring Eminem.

KP: Last week I listened to five Destiny’s Child tracks in a row, and I didn’t turn it off.

MF: Why are you giving away both of your albums online for free?

JR: There’s a screen answer and a bunch of other self-deprecating answers, but the real answer, I suppose, is that we always envisioned ourselves as a live band. We thought from the beginning that our success and failure was going to be based on our ability to put on a compelling live show and stay on the road pretty much non-stop. What is driving everything is our free downloads. People are sharing our music and linking to the free downloads consistently, so we’re becoming really widespread in an enthusiastic way.

MF: Do you have any crazy tour stories yet?

KP: Well, I just finished an ultimately unsuccessful sting operation to obtain the things that were stolen from our car in Minneapolis. The most identifiable thing that they stole was my laptop, and it appeared on Craigslist the very next day, so the Minneapolis Police were kind enough to indulge in a sort of six-day operation in order to try and get my laptop back. Turns out the serial number didn’t match mine, so the whole thing was kind of a loss.

MF: You released your first album in March and you already have national recognition. Do you ever wish for things to slow down?

KP: Well, that thought hasn’t crossed my mind yet. I guess in practice, it would lead to a more healthy social life for Joey and I, but definitely the busier we are, the better. We are in the music business not to try and become famous, but to reach as many people as possible. The faster it’s happening, the better for us, and the quicker we’ll achieve our goals.

If You Go

Milk Carton Kids
When: 8 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Delilah’s on Cayuga
How much: $10 at the door