The crowd was sparse when we arrived during one of the opening acts at First Ave last night. Thus we were surprised when we stepped out for a coffee and came back to a packed Main Room just prior to Built to Spill’s performance. The cult following showed up and it was evident through the cheers of recognition from the crowd as a riff or drum beat would begin a song.
The band’s 20 plus year history is obvious when you watch them perform together. They are a tight-knit group and it seems as if every note was intentionally chosen as they synchronize and harmonize with one another.
Doug Martsch’s quivery, yet clear tone reminds me a bit of Ben Gibbard or Wayne Coyne or even Neil Young at times, but the similarity to bands like Death Cab or The Flaming Lips mostly ends there. With three electric guitars, a bass and drums and over a century of combined experience as musicians, the band is perfectly set up for the epic eight or nine minute songs (some even longer) which are common on their records. As my friend Kyle put it, they’re just fun to listen to. The evidence for Martsch’s direction and the band members’ commitment to creating the music together is clear when you watch them perform live.
Doug Martsch held down most of the lead parts and Jim Roth and Brett Netson would typically complement him with some crunchy rhythm guitar or ambient whiny guitar sounds. At other points, it was fun to watch all four guitarists punch the rhythm together, playing complementary parts.
Cortez the Killer is a great example of one of the band’s long, impressive jams. Here’s a live performance:
My first thought when I heard this new single from Franz Ferdinand’s forthcoming album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions, (Available August 27) was “Bowie.” That’s a good thing in my book. Between the funky guitar riffs and bass and Alex Kapranos’ sort of “high baritone” vocals I peg it as “Bowiesque” comparing it to songs like Fame and Let’s Dance. After exploring this further, it was no surprise that other fans have compared the band to Talking Heads and that possible influence seems obvious in the new single.
I’m eager to hear the rest of the album. Check out the new single and leave your comments below!
After listening through the self-titled album from Yellow Red Sparks a few times, I’ve determined the biography on the band’s website describes them very well:
“The California based indie-folk trio possess a staggering ability to take seemingly normal circumstances, rewrite them with an uninhibited honesty and wistful beauty, and turn them into vivid scenes as told through their unique brand of cinematic folk.”
I had the tremendous privilege of interviewing Yellow Red Sparks in anticipation of their upcoming show here in Minneapolis on July 21st. Check out the interview below and come see them at 7th Street Entry next weekend!
How did you all meet? Josh and Goldy shared mutual friends when Goldy first heard some of Josh’s songs that were circulating among friends. He instantly fell in love with the songs, tracked drums to them (which were just vocals and guitar), and then got Josh to listen after a show one night. Josh liked the addition, and Goldy has been playing drums with him since. Sara Lynn was a drum student of Goldy who he later learned also played double bass. The rest kind of just all fell together.
How did each of you get into music and when did you decide to make it your career?
Josh grew up in a musical family and played around with a couple of bands before collecting his own songs under the name Yellow Red Sparks. Goldy had wanted to learn drums as a child but didn’t start playing drums until his late teens. Sara Lynn also grew up in a family that fostered and loved music, and started learning classical piano at age six. I don’t think any of us really ever consciously decided that we wanted to have a career in music, but rather just knew that music was something we loved and needed to have in our life. We all feel extremely thankful to be touring across the country doing what we love and visiting all these cities we have never been to before, but at the same time, we are bewildered and amazed at how it all came together.
Who are your influences? What have you been listening to lately?
We generally have a similar taste in music…lots of oldies like Ella Fitzgerald and the Everly Brothers and also newer ones like Elliott Smith, The National, Radiohead, Nirvana, etc. Josh grew up with The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, stuff like that. We just all share a love for solid and heartfelt songwriting. We’ve been listening to the new National album a lot on this tour so far. The song “Pink Rabbits” is our favorite.
What does your songwriting process look like? How has it evolved since the days Joshua was a solo act? Josh writes all of the songs (the melody and lyrics), and usually comes to us (Goldy and Sara Lynn) with a pretty much finished song. Our job is to add drums and bass or whatever other instrumentation we can to enhance the song. Sometimes Josh will come to us with some ideas he’s been messing around with, and then we’ll jam on them together and develop the song that way.
You said the songs on your self-titled release are each pieces of a larger picture. What would you say the theme of that picture is? I would say it has a lot to do with overcoming and persevering through some heavy times. We all go through a lot of emotions, most of which are universal. The songs to me are very personal, but I think a lot of people can relate to them, because we have all felt overwhelmed by our circumstances at one time or another.
Describe your experience working with Grammy winners Ryan Hewitt and Brian Lucey.* It was an honor and completely unexpected. We never would have thought that we would be able to include such respectable names on our first record. They are both geniuses in their own right and totally normal and down to earth at the same time.
What are your hopes for the future of the band? As of now, the plan is to just start touring more so we can reach as many people as we can and just get our music out there. We’re also hoping to start tracking some demos for the next record this winter.
Anything you’d like to say to your Minneapolis fans?
None of us has ever been to Minneapolis before, so we’re excited to come to your city and play for you! Also, tell your friends/brothers/sisters/grandparents to come to the show! And thank you!!!
Here’s the official video for the song A Play To End All Plays. I hope to see you at the show on July 21st!
*The album was mixed by Grammy award winner, Ryan Hewitt (Avett Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, We Are Scientists), and mastered by multi-Grammy award winner, Brian Lucey (The Shins, Sigur Rós, The Black Keys).
I’ve decided that I like listening to Cloud Cult an album at a time, rather than song by song. I just listened through the new release, Love, and I would describe it as fun, uplifting and dynamic. An aspect of Cloud Cult’s music that I really enjoy is how organic the music is, yet how they always have the gang-style vocals and versatility with instruments that gives them the arena rock feel at times.
The band will be back home April 27 and 28 for a couple shows at First Ave and I think it will be a very cool show.