Q&A With Rick Moody

WingdaleCommunitySingers550

Rick Moody’s name will be familiar to anyone who keeps current with American writing. He’s the recipient of several awards and fellowships, including the Pushcart Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. (Never let it be said we don’t keep classy company.) His lauded 1994 novel The Ice Storm was filmed by director Ang Lee; in a roundabout way, we therefore have Moody to thank for Katie Holmes’ big-screen debut. But Moody is hanging around the MAGNET shop this week mostly because of his side job as one-quarter of the Wingdale Community Singers, a remarkable collection of writers, musicians and artists of varying stripe. Once pegged as an “urban folk” group that wrote old-timey songs about modern topics such as cross-dressers and funky Brooklyn culture, the Wingdales just released their second album, Spirit Duplicator, on the Scarlet Shame label. It’s an eerie, jazzy, Tin Pan Alley-inflected collection of songs that revisit the band’s urban roots, but it branches out into the America that Walt Whitman dreamed of, where the sheer size and diversity of our character makes the land a sort of poem all its own. In addition to his writing and recording projects, Moody is guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week.

“Death Is Only A Dream” (download):

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Wrens Watch, Nov. 9, 2009

wrenswatchWe’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Paul Williams.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, January 9 marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—42 weeks ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here). When we checked in with Bissell 39 weeks ago, he took exception with our good-natured sarcasm and quickly ended the interview. After ignoring us for a while, Bissell finally gave us a progress report; it seems that while other bands get together and record, the Wrens stay apart and talk to each other on the phone. Or they do nothing at all. Or they update their Facebook pagesThirty-four weeks ago, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the near future. Thirty-three weeks ago, he didn’t even bother responding to our emails, prompting us to call him an unprolific Ryan Adams. That got Bissell’s attention, who 32 weeks ago apologized (profanely) and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 for the April 6 Wrens Watch. After not delivering, he said he’d come through the next week, but he didn’t. When Bissell ignored us again (Wrens Watch, April 20 and April 27), we speculated the Wrens were actually recording. Or maybe Bissell was just being a jerk. But then he told us 27 weeks ago he’d have a new Wrens mp3 for us. And guess what? The man finally came through. Download a demo of “Z,” which was written and performed by Kevin. We emailed Bissell numerous times to thank him for “Z” and ask him how the new record is progressing, but like we told you 25 weeks ago, he was unresponsive. He did email us a photo for 24 weeks ago, though, so we had that going for us. Which was nice. Twenty-three weeks ago, we got an email from Bissell saying, “Headed to bed but might have something for you.” As reported 22 and 21 weeks ago, other than a strange email from him referencing Fat Albert, we hadn’t heard from him since. Twenty weeks ago, we told you that Bissell, apparently on vacation, said he would have a new song for us “as soon as I get home on Saturday,” but he never came through. Bissell returned our emails 19 weeks ago, but he didn’t send any new Wrens music. He did, however, send a truly tasteless Michael Jackson joke, and since it was actually funny enough for us to tell it to others, we gave Bissell a pass. Eighteen weeks ago, Bissell—on vacation yet again—emailed to say, “Maybe I can actually send a song to you after I get home Sunday.” Then guess what? He emailed us his first new Wrens demo, and like we told you 17 weeks ago, it’s a really good song. Sixteen weeks ago, Bissell emailed us to say he recorded another new demo, but he’s keeping that one for himself. He also said, “Smellmineitsucks,” whatever that means. Though we emailed Bissell repeatedly 15 weeks ago, we didn’t even get so much as a “Smellmineitsucks.” Fourteen weeks ago, Bissell sent this missive: “We gonna see ballgame this summer? And I don’t mean a view of you working your pockets on a street corner.” (We think Bissell just might have a shot at a cameo in the next Judd Apatow movie, Unfunny People.) Anyway, Bissell was supposed to respond to us with his thoughts on the recent 20th anniversary of the first live show by the band that eventually came to be known as the Wrens, but he didn’t. Thirteen weeks ago, we did get an email saying he didn’t have enough free time to “justify replying to explanatory spam from MAGNET,” so maybe Bissell is a (mildly) funny person after all. Twelve weeks ago11 weeks ago and 10 weeks ago, we got nothing. Nine weeks ago, we did find out that the Wrens have shows at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J., scheduled for December 3 and 4, but we didn’t learn this from Bissell. Eight weeks ago, Bissell emailed us a number of times, but he didn’t answer any Wrens-related questions. We did find out that he was scheduled to play a solo benefit show in Brooklyn on October 28 with They Might Be Giants and Nada Surf (they should have called it Nerd Aid), but again, we didn’t learn this from Bissell. Seven weeks ago, when asked what was new with the Wrens, Bissell responded, “Nothing. No things. At all. No recording, no new songs, no get-togethers.” Six weeks ago, we learned that the first Maxwell’s show will feature a setlist voted on by fans via the Wrens website (we requested “Brand New Apartment”), while the second will be comprised of as many news songs the band can play. You get the feeling the first show will probably be much longer than the second one. Five weeks ago, Bissell emailed us to say the Wrens have added a third Maxwell’s show (December 4 at 7:30 p.m.), for which they’ll play The Meadowlands from start to finish. When we told him that Greg mentioned to us that the band has been working on 120 new songs, Bissell replied, “You know how it is, applying the uncertainty principle, both are true. Until you try to confirm either one. So yeah, remember, Kevin’s been demoing the last year or two for the first time? He’s now got more than 100 songs, some totally fleshed out, some just sketches, many really good. And he and Greg have been going over them a couple nights a week. So yeah, from one perspective, the record’s almost done. Nevertheless, we have not recorded a note, so the record is both well under way and yet not even begun.” Uh, that clears things up. Four weeks ago, all we found out was that the Wrens have a Washington, D.C., show scheduled for November 20 at the Black Cat. Three weeks ago, when we asked if there would be other shows that weekend, Bissell responded, “No, not this time. You know us. It’s like the Army Reserve: one weekend a month and just two weeks a year. Without the ‘two weeks a year’ part.” Two weeks ago, Bissell responded to our emails, but he said nothing of interest, other than he’d have some news soon. Last week, Bissell emailed to say the Wrens would be selling a limited-edition CD-R at the Maxwell’s shows that includes “really old pre-Silver songs and at least one new one.” We asked for a copy but still haven’t heard back. This week, Bissell told us the band rehearsed twice and worked on getting its, uh, studio up and running.

In Alec Ounsworth’s Home: Where Does This Room Come From?

aleclogoAs far as solo debuts go, Alec Ounsworth‘s Mo Beauty (Anti-) is impressive. The Philadelphia-based Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman travelled to New Orleans to record the album with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and a host of the city’s notable musicians, including bassist George Porter, Jr. (Meters), drummer Stanton Moore and keyboardist Robert Walter (Greyboy Allstars). The result is a mature, confident, 10-song collection that Ounsworth had only hinted at being capable of with his work in Clap Your Hands. He also has a second solo album, Skin And Bones (credited to Flashy Python and available online only), that features members of the Walkmen, Dr. Dog and Man Man. While all this new music is good for Clap Your Hands fans, you get the impression that the band (now on hiatus) is no longer a priority for Ounsworth, who became a father last year and is enjoying family life at home. Ounsworth is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

livingroom400Ounsworth: I am writing this in and, in a way, about my dining room. Inventory of dining room items’ former locations: Berks County, Baltimore, Lancaster, Aix-en-Provence, Mexico City, Bangkok, Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia), Cleveland, Mt. Airy (Philadelphia), East Falls (Philadelphia), Moscow, Cambridge, New York City, Austin and Brooklyn.

MP3 At 3PM: Wiretree

wiretree6564With sophomore album Luck, Wiretree has fused inventive indie-pop instrumentals with soulful, retro-rock vocals. “Satellite Song” is a composite of electro-’80s pop, Jeff Buckley folk and the poetic spirit of Simon & Garfunkel. The Austin, Texas, band’s draw of contrasting influences has veered far away from the clutter of disjointed sounds that could so easily have resulted and instead has been able to create music that is effortlessly cohesive and somehow just makes sense. And here’s a bonus mp3 for “Back In Town.”

“Satellite Song” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SatelliteSong.mp3

“Back In Town” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/BackInTown.mp3

In The News: Julian Casablancas, Peter Bjorn And John, Weezer, Spoon, Liars And Free MP3s

spoonhiresBlack Francis, She Wants Revenge, Love And Rockets and popular comedians including Bob Odenkirk and Tim & Eric will be performing a benefit concert in L.A. on December 8 and 9 for Winston Bertrand, a baby born in February with lymphatic and venous malformations … Former Test Icicles guitarist Dev Hynes will release his second album under the Lightspeed Champion moniker, Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You (Domino), in February … Sub Pop Records has joined forces with KEXP radio host Jon Kertzer to create Next Ambiance, a world-music imprint. Its first release will be from Malian group Bassekou Kouyate & Negoni Ba, scheduled for digital release in December and CD release in February … Former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown was arrested after a disturbance in his home for allegedly attacking his wife. The singer has been released on bail … The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas will be issuing a Christmas single, “I Wish It Was Christmas Today.” It follows the release of his debut solo album, Phrazes Of The Young, which dropped November 2 … If that’s not your Christmas style, check out the free XO For The Holidays Volume II, featuring bands including Blue Skies For Black Hearts and Caravan Of Thieves. Download it … While that might be all right for some, truly unique Christmas fans will make Julian Koster’s The Singing Saw At Christmastime the quirkiest holiday must-have. Download “Jingle Bells” … It may not be Christmas yet, but it’s Peter Bjorn And John’s 10-year anniversary, and the band is feting it in style, with a two-week tour of the U.S. that started last night … Forty years on and still going strong, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band anthem “Give Peace A Chance” is having an anniversary of its own, thanks to a special anniversary edition, only on iTunes, courtesy of Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Julian Lennon. All proceeds will go to the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund … There’s no gift like a Snuggie, and if you’ve always been waiting for a Weezer-approved model, well, you’ve got some issues to resolve. But you’re in luck, because the band has released its own Snuggie, and every purchase comes with a copy of the band’s new album, RaditudeSpoon (pictured) announced the release of its seventh album, Transference, which will be out on Merge on January 26 … Spoon isn’t the only hip young band making a return; post-rockers Liars will release their fifth studio album, Sisterworld (Mute), early next year. If they’re telling the truth, that is … If you’re already nostalgic for the days of summer festivals, Lollapalooza is giving you the chance to pick the bands for its festival next August. Go on MySpace, Facebook or Twitter and submit suggestions for the chance to win not only your dream lineup but merchandise and prizes.

In Alec Ounsworth’s Home: Quentin Stoltzfus

aleclogoAs far as solo debuts go, Alec Ounsworth‘s Mo Beauty (Anti-) is impressive. The Philadelphia-based Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman travelled to New Orleans to record the album with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and a host of the city’s notable musicians, including bassist George Porter, Jr. (Meters), drummer Stanton Moore and keyboardist Robert Walter (Greyboy Allstars). The result is a mature, confident, 10-song collection that Ounsworth had only hinted at being capable of with his work in Clap Your Hands. He also has a second solo album, Skin And Bones (credited to Flashy Python and available online only), that features members of the Walkmen, Dr. Dog and Man Man. While all this new music is good for Clap Your Hands fans, you get the impression that the band (now on hiatus) is no longer a priority for Ounsworth, who became a father last year and is enjoying family life at home. Ounsworth is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

Quentin550Ounsworth: I am writing this in and, in a way, about my dining room. Q just came in. Quentin Stoltzfus helped me build my studio, engineered my record, played drums and guitar. Now, he is building a chicken coop next to the barn. He is a jack of all trades, I guess. Quentin has his own project, which is currently called The Band Formerly Known As Mazarin. I don’t know what it will be called in the future. Any suggestions? Send them to us! Is Q’s beard getting longer? Yes, I think it is! Video after the jump.

Continue reading “In Alec Ounsworth’s Home: Quentin Stoltzfus”

Film At 11: Dead Man’s Bones

Earlier this year, actors Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields announced their new musical foray, Dead Man’s Bones, a spooky, macabre-themed band that would collaborate with the children of the Silverlake Music Conservatory, a school for underprivileged youth founded by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Appropriately festive, their self-titled debut was released last month by the Anti- label. Their latest video, the self-directed “Dead Hearts,” features a creepy moving sculpture by artist Arthur Ganson titled Machine With Wishbone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we3M1D19DNQ

In Alec Ounsworth’s Home: Alfred Brendel

aleclogoAs far as solo debuts go, Alec Ounsworth‘s Mo Beauty (Anti-) is impressive. The Philadelphia-based Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman travelled to New Orleans to record the album with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and a host of the city’s notable musicians, including bassist George Porter, Jr. (Meters), drummer Stanton Moore and keyboardist Robert Walter (Greyboy Allstars). The result is a mature, confident, 10-song collection that Ounsworth had only hinted at being capable of with his work in Clap Your Hands. He also has a second solo album, Skin And Bones (credited to Flashy Python and available online only), that features members of the Walkmen, Dr. Dog and Man Man. While all this new music is good for Clap Your Hands fans, you get the impression that the band (now on hiatus) is no longer a priority for Ounsworth, who became a father last year and is enjoying family life at home. Ounsworth is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

brendel550Ounsworth: I am writing this in and, in a way, about my dining room. Alfred Brendel plays Franz Schubert’s Fantasia In C, Op. 15, D. 760 (“Wanderer”) through the speakers. I understand and take from classical music as much as I can. I will go to see the Philadelphia Orchestra when I want to see a performance. I have never seen Brendel perform. Along with Tom Waits, he is one person who I am very interested in seeing perform. Has he retired? I think someone might have mentioned that to me but can’t remember. In a way, I guess I have him here now. Is this preferable? Sometimes. Video after the jump.

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MP3 At 3PM: World’s Greatest Ghosts

wgg578Portland, Ore., quintet World’s Greatest Ghosts is set to release its debut, No Magic (Lucky Madison), on Tuesday. The band’s members are said to be Dungeons & Dragons heads and use fantastical inspiration in their music, so the album features endearingly nerdy lyrics and song titles such as “Mazes & Monsters,” “Potions” and “The Royal Court,” combined with lively electric-guitar hooks and swirling synth. Download opening track “Phantastes” below.

“Phantastes” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Phantastes.mp3