20 Watts

20 Watts Video: Gang Gang Dance @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (1/15/10) by tjwell01

PREVIEW: Gang Gang Dance’s MySpace

It’s not everyday I totally misread a band, but then I have one of those brain fart moments, like when I saw Gang Gang Dance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. For some reason, I thought I was walking into a techno-mashup DJ party, but it turned out to be more like a tribal rain dance festival. The crowd was swerving and jiving like it was the summer of 1969, and the whole time I felt like I was missing out on the psychedelics evidently being passed around. No matter, because even though the concert was a bit dull, it was fascinating to watch–especially their fidgety hipster mascot wearing the wool mask.

–Jett Wells

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Q&A: 20 Watts Interviews Sleigh Bells by tjwell01

Derek Miller (left) from red-hot new band Sleigh Bells checks in with 20 Watts to talk about producing the debut LP and how the odd couple made the perfect match.

PREVIEW: Sleigh Bells’ MySpace and live performance on Pitchfork TV

Major breakout electronic/heavy-metal/hip-hop duo, Sleigh Bells, a.k.a. Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, lit up over night after they performed at this year’s CMJ Festival in New York City. Krauss loves pop and Miller loves heavy rock, but somehow and someway, Sleigh Bells became one of this year’s hottest bands and made our “The Five.” While the band is on hiatus recording their LP and tucking away from the shows, Miller spared some time to chat it up with 20 Watts about the new album and adjusting to the suddenly high expectations.

20W: I hear you produced the EP. Do you plan on producing the LP by yourself?

DM: I plan on doing about 90 percent of it on my own, but will likely bring in a co-producer here and there to help me when necessary. Shane Stoneback will be engineering, and the bulk of the record will be made at his studio, Treefort.

20W: How do you go about fusing your metal influences with Alexis’ pop taste?

DM: Well we are both huge pop music fans, whatever that means these days. Alexis is really into soul. early rhythm and blues, while I tend to go for slicker, punchier records from the last two or three decades. The heaviness is something that is less in my ears and more in my blood.

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20 Watts Talks to Nils Edenloff of The Rural Alberta Advantage by Eric Vilas-Boas
Nils Edenloff (right) of The Rural Alberta Advantage talks to 20 Watts

Nils Edenloff (right) of The RAA talks to 20 Watts

PREVIEW: Download The RAA’s “The Deathbridge in Lethbridge” MP3
RELATED COVERAGE: Positive Jam: Exclusive Coverage on 20 Watts, 20 Watts Reviews The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Hometowns

Signing to Saddle Creek, releasing an acclaimed debut, and touring extensively have made this a pretty banner year for The Rural Alberta Advantage. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Nils Edenloff talked to 20 Watts just the other day about his experiences, the band’s origins, and our mutual affinity for The Antlers and Neutral Milk Hotel. The RAA’s Hometowns was re-released by Saddle Creek earlier this year and you can catch The Rural Alberta Advantage playing the Positive Jam at Stewart Park, on the beautiful shores of Cayuga Lake, at 1:30pm, on Sunday, Sept. 6!

20W: So to start off, why do you call yourselves The Rural Alberta Advantage? What’s the origin of the name? Did you guys ever go by any other name?

Edenloff: It’s the only name we’ve ever used. It has to do with looking back on Alberta — where I grew up — and we make a lot of references to it. The name actually comes from a play on a provincial slogan, which is now defunct, called “The Alberta Advantage,” championing the oil sands industry. My brother once emailed me the suggestion, and it stuck.

20W: How long have you guys known each other? How did you meet?

Edenloff: We’ve known each other for a long time. Paul [Banwatt], Amy [Cole] and a friend of mine used to play in another band called Clementine. Eventually Paul and I started co-hosting open-mic nights. The first year, there was kind of a fluctuating line-up, with nothing really set in stone. I think when the three of us started playing together — Paul, Amy and myself — that was when the band really started, in February, 2006.

20W: The RAA signed to Saddle Creek earlier this year after Hometowns took off. Has the experience of being signed to a major indie label changed your approach to music at all? Continue reading

Rubblebucket at The Bell House by cweeks88

Dancing the night away

PREVIEW: Download  Rubblebucket’s “Bikes” MP3
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Emerging Artist: Rubblebucket Orchestra
VIEW: Photos below the jump

The lounge and bar area of Brooklyn’s The Bell House had less people sitting on the stools and chilling on their couches Friday, August 7, than usual. Instead, most of the people were in the back venue listening to some extraordinary live jams while chowing on waffles (Funk ‘n’ Waffles that is).

By a quarter to midnight Syracuse’s own Sophistafunk had ended their high energy performance that included a guest horn section from Utica whose saxophonist was especially feeling the groove. They blew the audience away with her insane improvisations. After such a finale it was hard to see how anything could follow up such a tour de force. Yet based on this writer’s experience, Rubblebucket Orchestra (or Rubblebucket—as they seem to be calling themselves now) have developed reputation of always miraculously exceeding expectations as they did in this show.

The way they entered the stage at The Bell House was uncharacteristically low-key, as the nine-piece band simply walked on stage by midnight and put their instruments on. My encounter before, with Rubblebucket was much different. It was at Syracuse’s Funk n Waffles and the show started with lead band members Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver entering from the front door — with a confident swagger that personified cool as they blew into their respective instruments and banged on a bucket, heading toward the stage and jamming into their first number as if it were nothing. Continue reading

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Emerging Artist: Rubblebucket Orchestra by cweeks88

Looking like the cast from Heroes

Looking like the cast from Heroes

PREVIEW: Download Rubblebucket Orchestra’s “Bikes” MP3

Whatever rubblebuckets are, as long as they make awesome music they’re okay with us. Over a year after releasing their bopping debut Rose’s Dream and tireless touring all over the country in their van (affectionately named “Puppy”), Rubblebucket Orchestra are preparing to release their second album: Rubblebucket. To whet our appetites for the October 1st release, the band have given away their first single “Bikes.”

With singer/saxophonist Kalmia’s light-hearted “la-la-la’s,” the single begins like a careless stroll through the park when suddenly, in distinct Rubblebucket-fashion, the song quickly builds with the other eight pieces of the band entering into the funky mix. When the Chicago-esque horns in the song come in, they let you know that this band means business.

What soon follows are Kalmia’s hypnotic lyrics that fall in place with the latin-funk rhythms and the horn section melody that comes back in between lyrics. All in all, “Bikes” is just as enthralling as anything they have put out before.

Look out for them on their upcoming Northeast tour that’s starting at The Bell House in Brooklyn on August 7th!

— Charlie Weeks

Memories and Photos from Siren 2009 by Eric Vilas-Boas

Frightened Rabbit rabble-rouses at Saturday's Siren Festival

READ: 20 Watts’ exclusive interview with Siren opener Tiny Masters of Today
VIEW: 20 Watts’ festival photo gallery, under the jump

Life doesn’t get much better than listening to free live music on a blazing hot summer’s day while chowing down on some cheap, sub-par hot dogs. To all those who don’t reside in the New York area or just couldn’t make it out to Coney Island on Saturday, let’s just say we’re very sorry you missed out.

Luckily for you, however, we’ve compiled a list of the best bands that graced the stages by the boardwalk this weekend. And when they play in your area, you better not miss them. Highlights of the day ran the gamut from fifteen-year-olds to the veteran ’90s indie-rockers that make up Built to Spill. Two types of shows permeated Siren this year: those driven by gimmicks and those driven by musicianship. The best acts melded the two strains together and struck a balance.

Tiny Masters of Today, made up of fifteen-year-old Ivan and his thirteen-year-old sister Ada (with an unnamed drummer), opened up the day for the audience at Siren.

There wasn’t much of a crowd yet when they started, but considering these kids are much younger than most readers of this blog and played at the same stage and on the same day as Built to Spill and Japandroids, they held their own remarkably well. Ada even went so far as to amicably explain that the “President” referenced in one of their songs was George W. Bush, not Barack Obama. With short song lengths and smatterings of political lyrics, it’s ironic that they played some of the purest punk rock of the day despite being born twenty years after the genre first surfaced.

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Despite the heat, Japandroids rocked out like a coked-up White Stripes

Speaking of Japandroids, if there were any band at Siren with too much pent-up energy, it would be this duo. Playing garage rock like a coked-up, bastardized version of the White Stripes, Japandroids murdered their set, pulled it from the grave, and kicked it in the face like so many of the beach balls floating around the stage and crowd. Japandroids offered a warning before starting, with guitarist Brian King commenting on how much room he had to move around on the stage and how he felt like “the f**kin’ Stones” as a result.

Japandroids played one of the most dynamic, talented sets at Siren, and indeed, seemed to love doing it. When drummer David Prowse wiped his forehead with a towel after 20 minutes of nearly nonstop frenetic drumming, King chastised him for his weakness: “The f**kin’ towel? Really?”

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Editors Pick #140: Best Sets at Siren by caitlindewey
20 Watts picks our favorite sets at Siren

20 Watts picks/predicts the best sets at Coney Island's Siren Festival

As phenomenal as it is to see a bunch of awesome bands together, music festivals do have their drawbacks.  There are crowds, for starters — huge, unpredictable, often inebriated masses, which will crowd you out from the front of the stage, crowd surf at totally inappropriate times, and elbow you in the face when you’re trying to take a photograph (…not that I speak from experience, or anything).  There’s the food, which is always overpriced and almost always inedible, depending on how much you’ve had to drink.  Then there’s the sweltering heat, the sunburn, the tall dude who had to stand RIGHT in front of you, the gaggle of 16-year-olds giggling at the rear.

But the biggest problem of all, by far, is choosing which bands to see when several sets occur at the same, or almost the same, times.

Coney Island’s Siren Festival is kind enough to stagger their sets.  But in case you don’t want to sprint from stage to stage, or (God forbid) take a breather between the hours of 1:00 and 8:00, these are my personal Siren picks.

1:00 — Tiny Masters of Today [Main Stage]

Adolescent duo with serious industry cred splat out bratty punk anthems.  Are they awesome because they’re barely in high school, or because the chorus on “K.I.D.S.” is so fun to jam out to?  I’m not entirely sure, but David Bowie’s called their work “genius.”

2:00 — Micachu & The Shapes [Main Stage]

Unconventional and often inaccessible “pop,” played on customized or homemade instruments.  One part garage, one part glitch, and several parts awesome.

3:00 — Japandroids [Main Stage]

Simple, straightforward, no frills garage rock that could have come straight from the 1990s.  Something that sounds this fun on an album must be really incredible live.

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