Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gardening with Robert Dale of Belgian Fog: An Interview

Just last week, I posted on Seattle pop artist Belgian Fog, who -- in real life -- goes by Robert Dale. Robert was kind enough to answer a few questions, as his internet presence is currently rather elusive. Thanks, Robert!

Choir Croak Out Them Goodies: You're originally from L.A.; what made you relocate to Seattle? L.A. is a bit oversaturated with artists but there are also many more connections to be made here -- do you think moving to Seattle will have helped or hindered your music career in the long run?

Robert Dale: That's a good question, I have no idea. I've lived in Seattle now for a few years, my family moved when my dad switched jobs and I decided to stay. It's a great city and I've met a lot of wonderful people but I also record by myself still and release music that way so... who knows.

CCOTG: It seems you only have about three finished songs available. How long does a song typically take you to write and record, and how much more stuff do you have in store at present?

RD: I'm always working on music and the length varies. The first couple tracks took a long time to release for extraneous reasons. But, I'd love to release more music, more quickly.

CCOTG: You're an assistant at KEXP; has this helped you learn anything about promotion or trends in music, and has working there helped you in any way?

RD: I love working at KEXP and I've learned a ton from being there, but not really anything specific about the business. I've learned a lot just from people and about music in general from helping out with Kevin's show and stuff. [Dale is the assistant to DJ Kevin Cole, who has gone on record as a fan of Ramonesersize!]

CCOTG: Your lyrics are unexpectedly honest and cover topics that don't necessarily get used in music, at least in your genre. How much of the material stems from real life? If it's directly inspired by your life and mind, are you at all afraid of anyone in particular hearing your songs and reacting?

RD: Haha, thank you! Some of it is real life, some of it is created. There isn't much that I'd be afraid of anyone in particular hearing. I've mentioned this before, but, I like creating realistic characters and communicating through them, some of it is from my own life of course though too.

CCOTG: How involved in music do you hope to be in the future? Do you hope to "make it big," manage a basic career in music, or do this as a hobby? At what point do you think you'll be happiest as an artist?

RD: I do love music and any opportunity to be involved with it is great. I think being able to record and release music myself at present and have people interested is quite an honor in itself.

CCOTG: Who are some of your favorite musicians, writers, artists, and what most inspires you?

RD: As far as music, probably a lot of what you'd expect: Dave Fridmann, Passion Pit, Melody's Echo Chamber, etc., as well as David Wise, things from early ‘90s popular culture, SNES soundtracks in general. I read a lot of sociology and psychology, sometimes pop-science, anything applicable to me. All of the above inspires me!

CCOTG: What would you be doing with your time if you weren't as interested in music?

RD: Oh, writing, gardening, cooking, reading, film, surfing...any chance to create, I imagine I'd be involved with.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Will Stratton's newest fantastic album was released today.

After 2012's brilliant Post-Empire, it was unclear what, if anything, would follow. Will's woven some of the most stunning and vivid imagery into his songs, and while he's also a soothing singer and a skilled guitarist, his musical ability never gets in the way of his songwriting, which is first and foremost honest and true. It's been a joy to hear these demos as they've been released, wonder what they'd become, hope that they'd become something specific, and then hear the final product only to discover that the finished versions of these songs are exactly what I'd hoped they'd be.

If you could read anything in preparation for this album, have a look at this blog post of his (dated February 2014) and this one (dated September 2013), and most importantly, this one (dated June 2013).

And then, of course, purchase the record, because it's just been released today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lament life with Belgian Fog.

Generally, I don't post anything remotely electronic in this space because, frankly, I have a difficult time connecting to music made with a laptop. Perhaps I'm a luddite or purist for requesting guitars and drums of my entertainment, and maybe I'm fated to lag behind in the music world, in the long run. So be it.

That said, I received a recent note from someone whose music I finally found relatable, and though he lacks a full band, his stunning voice is what gives his music the human connection I require. Seattle resident/Los Angeles native Robert Dale, who records under the name Belgian Fog, sings with a slurry, low mumble, like some sort of hybrid of Andrew Bird and Lana Del Rey, funnily. But he beautifully and gracefully delivers lines about the impending end of a hopeless relationship ("I'm much too lazy to make things right"), disappointment, mental illness. Curiously, there's no dichotomy between dark lyrics and misleadingly major chords, only music of a relaxed pace that matches the distance of depression and indifference -- rather fitting as well as a unique musical accomplishment.

The following three tracks are all there seem to be thus far, and they range in age from one month to one year. At this point, I'm betting that Dale's more talented than the artists he's about to be lumped in with.

Mmmmick Harvey.

Really quite delighted about this one and all the good history behind it. Mick Harvey -- guitarist for the Boys Next Door (later the Birthday Party) and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey collaborator, and solo artist -- is re-releasing his 1995 and 1997 Serge Gainsbourg tribute albums as a double-disc set on May 6. Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants, second round, will accompany a number of European shows, though there are sadly no U.S. dates in sight.

Check out how far he's come and what he's done with others, not to mention his dashing pompadour!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Unbearably Prolific -- It's Great Western Plain!

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote of Dead Trend, a group out of Maine that channeled Black Flag and initially served to promote a book in a very meta sort of way. It was a novelty project, albeit one that was very well done.

As it turns out, members of the group have a second/primary band, Great Western Plain. The trio's fourth release in two years, Elastic Smile, is more "Teenage Riot" than "TV Party," hopelessly Gen X, and though also dripping with nostalgia, is authentic and modern enough to fit the roster of, say, Merge, whether twenty years ago or today. It's genuinely enjoyable for its freakouts, temperate vocals, and guitar enthusiasm.

In fact, Elastic Smile is so modern that it's been released on a limited cassette pressing. They're pretty with it in the context of music trends, I'd say.

Have a listen, and then visit their 2013 release, Lure and Kitsch/Flutter and Slack.

Tee Hee (Snicker, Snicker)

Well, it's been a long hiatus, hasn't it? A return should be thrilling after three weeks of silence 'round these parts, so here's a bit of a thrill.

Remember when this happened? If R&B is quietly popular among the experimental crowd -- it not-so-quietly already made its way into the greater indie rock world, hence why Solange was a no-brainer at FYF last year -- then it's in a good position for its dirtiest past to be updated with unlikely instrumentation and ambiguous irony. Jon Pfeffer, onetime brain behind Capillary Action, is now a solo act, and this new bit from him is wacky, intelligent, elegant, and exciting all at once. Give it a go.