Æ: Aglet Eaters

Introducing: Wonky Doll and the Echo

Posted in Discover by R on June 29, 2013
(L-R) Kostas Antonakoglou, George Lemons (feat. UV protection), YIOS and Octapus.

(L-R) Kostas Antonakoglou, George Lemons (feat. UV protection), YIOS and Octapus.

Wonky Doll and the Echo – named so because it’s shorter than saying “George Lemons, YIOS, Kostas Antonakoglou and Octapus” but not by much. Wonky Doll and The Echo are from Athens. The one in Greece. If you ever see them, introduce yourself. That’s George on the vocals and the guitar, there’s YIOS on the bass and the backing vocals, you can find Kostas on the synths and the guitar and behind them you have Octapus on the drums.”

First things first – what is up with that name? George says “Our name symbolizes something beautiful and worn at the same time, mainly because of the time passed or its mistreatment. The echo interferes in order to give the essence of sound.”

Wonky Doll and the Echo are three years old – yes really – formed in 2010, by George and YIOS. Says George: “We created some songs we actually liked and we decided to form a band. By that time we met Kostas, whose part is to play the synth and occasionally the guitar. Then, we found Octapus and after a while we became a solid team.”

He continues: “Our first goal was to make songs we enjoy. After that, we realized that many people like our songs too so we started doing live shows and a few months later we recorded our first LP. Wonky Doll and the Echo is a vehicle for artistic expression for all four of us.”

They’ve got a video out – heads up: it’s got blood, scorpions, and a wonky doll (natch). The director of this creepfest is this fellow called Costas Gounaris who the band met through a friend at their album’s release gig in October 2012. Just look at what he made for them… wtf was the brief? Kostas (the one in the band) explains

“We told him we wanted something impressive, so, he came up with the brilliant idea of making a double project, a music video and a short movie. He also proposed getting the budget through crowd-funding (on Indiegogo). And so it happened, in February 2013, thanks to our friends and fans we were ready to start shooting. After two months of pre-production, shootings and post-production, we now all enjoy our first music video. The short movie is still on the post-production stage and we have taken care of the soundtrack!”

It’s more than just mindless gore – you can’t help but feel there’s meant to be some sort of profound message hiding under there. What is it? The band doesn’t elaborate much and George declares elusively that it’s all “just symbolic images of the director, visualizing the lyrics and the atmosphere of the song.” – yes, sure. We believe that.

Here’s what’s interesting: Wonky Doll and The Echo – you hadn’t heard of them till now – but they’ve gone and come out with this, yes, ok creepy, but also impressively executed… music video. Who even makes music videos anymore? And what indie band would invest so much in a video of this calibre? Why a video? Why now?  Kostas puffs up with pride and explains the band’s aesthetic preference: “I cannot vouch for other bands, but we are definitely one of those that believe audio and video mixed together can give a very impressive and artistic result. Not to mention the fact that music videos bring you closer to the audience. And it’s not just music videos, we recently started to add video art on our gigs and it really enriches the atmosphere. It’s perfect!”

Speaking of gigs… what are they like? “Every gig we’ve done is quite memorable,” says Octapus, “but I would choose the one we supported Clan of Xymox, in December 2011, for various reasons. It was our second gig and we were playing for the first time in front of more than 300 people. Plus, at the end of the show, Panos from Geheimnis Records, proposed to start discussing the release of an album in vinyl. After a few months, Pleasant Thoughts was in our hands in vinyl!”

The album – Pleasant Thoughts – is as, if not more, admirably put together as the video. ‘The Cut’, listened to without the visuals, is a jewel. The album’s got the Cure-ish quality that makes it as suited to a dim flat brimming with desperately mingling dark-haired 37-year-olds as to a cable-laden haven of a teenager going through the paces of self-discovery and deliberately imposed self-loathing. Apathy masks depth and aggression masks melancholy. Despite its blatant complexity, YIOS explains: “The album has a DIY production. It was recorded in George’s bedroom which we “redecorated” a bit of course. We were lucky to have all necessary equipment. The biggest challenge was the production process, mainly done by me and George. It lasted for about two months and we spent many hours each day working on the songs. We almost started hating seeing each other.” He laughs.

You wouldn’t believe it if they hadn’t told you – there isn’t the faintest hint of bedroom recording on Pleasant Thoughts. George adds “The more we play together, the more we evolve as musicians. This is affecting our sound that changes day by day. We have a lot of material and we really want to share it with everyone soon. I have to tell you, I’m excited about our forthcoming work. Our new material sounds deeper, atmospheric but with even more catchier rhythms.”

‘catchy’ – not exactly the word I’d go for when describing something this heavy and bleak but HEY, whatever floats your boat. Listen for yourself:

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Interactions in Installments: The Microdance Part 2

Posted in Discover by R on June 10, 2013

that's so shoegaze

Having had quite enough of promo-babble, we move on to the SERIOUS BIT – the one with all the opinions and profundity. Sadly, at this point I cannot think of anything to be opinionated and profound about beyond a long drawn out variation of: ‘so… Bandcamp, huh?’

Until we got signed, we tried to play off people’s kind hearts and offered our stuff for ‘pay what you want’ – about 10% would pay above the going rate of a dollar a song, or whatever it is and 90% would pay nothing. I guess we also knew that we were offering a slightly compromised version of what we are capable of (due to time/money restraints while recording) and perhaps felt bad demanding a set price; but giving away music with no other revenue stream from your art isn’t sustainable. What really gets me is at the start of this ‘collapse’ when people used to complain that £15 was extortionate for a CD. I was in a bar one evening and my friend who happened to be buying a round of drinks while talking to me said something to the effect of ‘I would buy the new Deftones album but it’s £15 in HMV, that’s ridiculous!’. Anyway, it turns out the round of drinks he was buying cost something like £22, we left the bar an hour later and that album Saturday Night Wrist is still regularly bringing me great pleasure, healing great pain and helping me finish runs with a sprint seven years later! The political argument behind that is something else; but if it’s straight up quantifying the worth of great music, no £15 is not too much for an hour of wonderful art which is available to you in perpetuity. Another valid point: if you don’t like it, don’t buy it!

A lovely thought, just the place to toss out an optimistic chestnut like: ‘it’s great that you’re making music, but how long do you think you can keep it up?’

Musically, I genuinely believe that this band has the capability for longevity. And if that is the case, whether the money is coming from record sales, licensing or slightly inflated concert tickets doesn’t really matter – the industry has to recalibrate, that’s obvious. I like to think that we make music with a bit of substance and that lends itself to loyalty. I am fiercely loyal to those bands I grew up listening to; the guys who provided me with a soundtrack to my life and shaped my musical appreciation. Those bands worked on a number of levels – the singles drew me in and the deep cuts kept me there. I think we have that too: if something like ‘We Are Made of Evil Things’ draws people in to listen to ‘Fucking Fucker’, then hopefully the latter will become their favourite in time. What else is encouraging is that a band like The Joy Formidable is now enjoying transatlantic success. I’d liken us to them in the sense that they do big, emotive music with enough barbs to catch the ears of the radio indie kids but more under the surface to keep the deep lovers involved; we’re not quite at their level when it comes to production yet – The Big Roar was HUGE – but I think the LP is a critical move for us and I have a feeling we’ll play it well.

This seems as good a moment as any to get a bit meta. Where does the music come from? Why do some people create music while listening keeps the others content? What’s the difference between the two kinds?

I’m not sure there’s that much of a difference, that’s to say I definitely loved music just as much before I began to make it. The difference is that it felt unobtainable; I equated everything to ‘that magical sound’ now, after years in a studio, it’s more like ‘if I dissect this enough, I can work out that he’s running that guitar through 3 phasers, some tape delay, reversing it and only tracking the feedback!’ – I wouldn’t say it’s lost its magic, it’s just magic science that I understand now, rather than something preternatural. I’m almost certainly the least naturally musical person you’ve ever interviewed – so this has been very difficult for me, and it’s hard to explain to someone who loves music as much as I do why I HAD to do this, but those days of practicing guitar for 8 hours were not much fun!

I think that after years of recording, I’m just finding my vocal range and getting comfortable with it. I’m really looking forward to bringing back those super complex 9 minute songs I wrote when I was 20 but didn’t quite have the chops to execute. This band right now is a monster, absolutely the first time I’ve thought to myself – ‘here’s a real opportunity to get those sounds/feelings in my head out there and do them justice’.

I’m the kind of guy that likes to be up there with my idols; I hate the thought of admiring something and not aspiring to it. There’s a lyric in our song ‘Goodbye Lily Laser’: “I punch the sky, I’m ready made, No need to dream, I’m that awesome kid” – Lily Laser is the female personification of that part of me (how clichéd!) that was so complacent with what it was blessed with naturally that it kind of let me become crap and lazy. I woke up one day and realised that the world will overtake you if you let that slip in. So, that song is kind of a message to the part of me that wants to make a life out of music. I’d still rather have been a professional footballer though!

Background noise or sacred vibrations: any hard and fast rules when it comes to listening?

If you’re making toast when Siamese Dream is on, we’re over.

OK – so what should people be doing when listening to Yo Yo @26?

Somehow improving their lives. If I’m really out of shape (which is most of the time these days!) and I know it’s time to sort it out, I’ll put Pantera, Slowdive, Kate Bush, M83 or Deftones on my headphones and go running. I’ll hold my hands up to the sky, you know like I’m some boxing protagonist in a Hollywood film and and feel Godlike – almost immediately after feeling like I can’t even get out of bed; that’s the power of music. Music is an elixir in so many ways, it can heal the mind and the body and I hope ours can do that to at least one person.

Besides that, if it’s hot girls – making out!

Bonus Picture

BONUS QUESTION 1
What is a Yo Yo @ 26?

Yo Yo is a person who lived in Shoreditch, east London at the same point that I did and I met her when she was 26. I think the less said about her, the better. Although, she did provide me with a cool song title. I hope it goes on to become someone’s password!

BONUS QUESTION 2
There is no question
(give your own answer)

We rehearse next to a Brazilian waxing parlour on Brick Lane. We often get girls ringing the buzzer on our rehearsal room and have to politely tell them that they probably want to go next door, unless they can play synth – in which case they’re welcome; before or after their ‘treatment’ – preferably after! We try to politely allude to exactly what establishment they’re looking for without grinning too broadly. It’s a dangerous situation for four men who are going to be in close proximity to each other for four hours trying to make serious art. It’s a surprise we haven’t started to cover Barry White while our minds run with thoughts of what’s going on (or coming off!) next door. There may or may not be a five minute spoken word description of this running through one of our more elegiac recordings!

You’ll find ‘Yo Yo @ 26’, its B-side, ‘Devour’ and much, much more over on TMD’s Bandcamp. If you play synth and want to be a part of The Microdance, there’s nothing stopping you – leave them a note on Facebook, or just get in touch here and we’ll put you through.

Meanwhile, here’s ‘Devour’:

Interactions in Installments: The Microdance Part 1

Posted in Discover by R on June 8, 2013

TMD YY

Alex Keevill, Gavin Mata Hari, Thom Browning and Caleb Clayton – peddlers of sonic smoothies, delicious and rich in fibre.

They may only have a single out but Alex tosses out names and a byline as if the Microdance have existed for a decade or more. They haven’t. Not just that, but they’ve got the blandest formation story in the world. Nothing like ‘we met at art school, brought together by our shared love of pointillism’. According to A:

All TMD members have been complete strangers to me prior to joining the band. There have been quite a few lineup changes in the few years that there has actually been a band. I say ‘actually been a band’ because our first two releases were recorded with just our former drummer, James Davies, and me. Well, we had help with some awesome female vocalists… but the point being, I played all the guitars, bass, synth etc. For a while I had neither the energy nor inclination to put a band together; I just kind of forgot about the dream. Then one day I woke up with the renascent desire to do something massive and magical and the live version of the band was born. Finally, now I can say we’re doing the grand vision justice. This is a killer crew!

If it’s a story you seek, just ask about the paradoxically childlike name meant to represent an expansive, introspective sound. The explanation rocks up before the question’s even left your virtual lips. Now you know – before the band, there was the Microdance.

My wife (then girlfriend) and I used to listen to the Postal Service and we’d try to dance, rhythmically, with the smallest possible movements. A particular favourite for this was the ending of their song ‘Clarke Gable’. We called this ‘Microdancing’. Around about that point I was ready to start a new musical venture and the name just fell into place.

You’ll have heard of the Microdance before. You may have seen them pop up on Twitter, or noticed Alex poking around one of the infinity shoegazer pages on Facebook. They’ve been around for a while, but Yo Yo @ 26 is their very first Official Release (they’re on a record label and everything, egad).

The reason you’re only hearing what you’re hearing now is because these are our first releases through a label. That shifts the focus because we now have a commercial vehicle to drive the music with; so we’re no longer talking about our ‘pay what you want’ releases because we have a bona fide commercial strategy in place. I am immensely proud of all of the stuff I have released; those songs are all brilliant to me for different reasons: The Her Ride To The Stars EP was the first time I ever went ‘pop’ and I love the ‘feel’ of that EP. The level of sophistication on some of those songs was way beyond what I wanted to project. Some of those chords and the amount of guitars going on were crazy. But, no matter how wonderful those songs still sound to me, there’s definitely something missing. I didn’t sing it all that well, some of the guitars weren’t biting enough and the end result is one of partial regret. I guess that’s the case with all of those EP’s: Her Ride, Get Dark and Enemies of Love. I’d say I’m somewhere between 50 and 60% satisfied with them. I’d still love for people to go and check them out because the songs are of a very high calibre and there are those moments of real pride when listening back to particular parts, but there’d always have to be that caveat!

EPs upon EPs – is there a full-length in the offing?

Yes! We are currently in pre-production and I can tell you that it’s shaping up to be very special. We really hope to get it out at some point this year;

He breaks into the press release:

It’s gonna be a bright, hopeful sounding record with a million kaleidoscopic guitars, female/male harmonies that will make love to your soul and drumming that will have jazz fans rockers squirming with delight in equal measures.

Then he remembers he’s now got a label to do PR for him and slips back into Artiste Mode:

Basically, it’s gonna be a PROPER, cohesive album, the like of which we don’t see many of these days. We hope that the record will spawn some kooky b-sides and outtakes – because we really want to convey a focused vision with the long play but have those different avenues to explore the other facets of what we do. Kind of what Devour was to Yo Yo @ 26, I guess.

Haven’t heard Yo Yo @ 26 yet? Put this on loop as you wait for the next part of this thrilling I-i-I

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