Interviews, Music

Strangers in Fiction: An interview with Senor Senorita

Pulling a page out of the Postal Service book, Phillipines-based acoustic/lo-fi duo Senor Senorita create music by mail; communicating the bits and pieces of their music on and offline before combining their best efforts to create some of the best lo-fi DIY music this side of the Atlantic. Sticking with the basic premise of cover songs for now, both Liz and Marco are keeping Senor Senorita a small project as they juggle daily life and work alongside their music. They will however, take requests.

You can stream their cover of Filipino band Hungry Young Poets at the tail end of the interview.

Tell us a little about Senor Senorita and those involved.

Liz Lanuzo: I’m a writer and marketing consultant by trade. My nose is usually burrowed in beauty and fashion and all things girly. Proof: Projectvanity.com. But once in a while I take a break and read books as well as listen to music. When I have more time, I work with Marco to create our own music.

Marco Dela Torre: Senor Senorita came together via an out of the blue online conversation instigated by Liz. We got to talking then next thing you know we were trading past home demos. Just seemed natural to give it a go. We had a little pre-production meeting, mapping out our steps. But nothing really materialized til months later. I think the day after that meeting I saw Nine Inch Nails live and playing acoustic songs was the farthest thing from my mind. Til I started getting into DIY recording in a hardcore way. Then things sparked back up. And the rest was histoweee.

You were in punk and rock bands previously, what prompted the switch to more acoustic settings?

Marco: Punk rock is still my first love. But I’m open to any genre. I mean I’m listening to Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning” as I answer this. Though I would still apply my punk sensibilities in my acoustic work. Just the idea to create the most out of very little. I had thought turning in a sincere sounding acoustic result would have been effortless. But boy I was wrong. I do find it more rewarding that punk though.

How do you both select the songs to cover?

Marco: Purely out of talks on music we like. One will say “Hey, I like this artist” to which the other replies “OMG I have their entire discography”. When it clicks, it goes on the list. But there have been more obscure pics lately. More challenging ones. Like some old timey Annette Hanshaw tunes.

In a “Did You Know” section, if states that you’ve only “met twice” … truth, or internet rumor?

Liz: Truth. We met only twice, and for no more than ten minutes. We just talked about random stuff, not even about the songs we wanted to make, the direction we want to take…just mumbling some his and hellos and how to use the mic properly. Lol. Truth be told, Marco and I are not close at all. We don’t talk much to each other, even online, where we originally met. So technically, we’re strangers.

The only time we converse is when he strums the track and I sing to it.

Marco: Yeah. We got a Postal Service thing going.

How about your gear/set up— the first track you’ve posted includes mention of Garageband and some studio enhancement— was this a one-off experiment or will you stray from the basic acoustic/lo-fi setting in the future?

Marco: My day job as a graphic designer affords me tools in my various hobbies. And right now my main hobby is DIY recording. It’s a progressive thing and you can sorta hear it in the tunes we play. Earlier stuff were done with Liz singing into a webmic while I plugged straight into my laptop. I just finally put together a decent mic setup. But Garageband is still the go to program just out of necessity and ease. Just a simple tracking and mixing tool. It could evolve to a proper live set up eventually. Soon as our schedules cross more often. Right now its as if we’re astronauts.

Any plans to record in the future for possible release?

Marco: Best I can say is who knows? Just getting our music online was already our loftiest goal. But I’d like to think if ever we get to prepping a release, it’d be our own songs by then.

Do you take requests?

Marco: Why not. It don’t hurt to ask. We would at least consider it. Just don’t expect a speedy turnaround.

Visit Senor Senorita: senorsenorita.tumblr.com

AUDIO STREAM:
Senor Senorita – Rebirth (originally by Hungry Young Poets)
http://mediaplayer.yahoo.com/js

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Music

Something Quiet and Minor and Peaceful and Slow: The Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang

The affinity I hold for the Gaslight Anthem has become difficult to explain. The success in which American Slang has propelled them to is as deserving as I’ve ever seen- an honest to goodness reception fitting for a band so entrenched in the working class ethos they have extolled since 2007’s Sink Or Swim. They spoke like Springsteen, sang songs the way Kerouac wrote, and held strong the values of American rock n’ roll. They were in every respect, the great American band for the current generation. American Slang is an album endlessly rich, the albatross on which they will undoubtedly fly to immeasurable heights with.

Yet, in a strange sense, the success and global reception almost works against the fables they preach. How does one relate to living the hard life when you’re at Glastonbury amongst a hundred thousand strong? Does singing about just getting by lose some of its romanticism when you’re on the cover of a glossy magazine? I never really understood why so many people were in uproar when Dylan first plugged in- maybe I still don’t, but I guess a small part of me compels the question of how an unruffled soul connects to something almost solely written for someone below the line. Is there a greater understanding of certain artists and genres when all of which it celebrates is very much part of who you are?

An educated and well-versed music enthusiast can certainly understand and appreciate various styles, genres, and histories and still remain distant, but will they ever connect to the music the same way as someone who lives a life parallel to the artist does? I’m not sure, but I know that when I listen to Born to Run, I have a far greater connection to it than when I listen to The Rising. So when The Gaslight Anthem start playing stadiums (a very good possibility than I’m actually not against at all), will the music mean the same as when I saw them play in front of 100 people in a small, broken down backpacker hotel on a sweaty August night? People who saw Springsteen in 1972 and then saw him again post-1984 may have that answer.

In the June 2010 issue of Big Cheese Magazine, they describe American Slang as “the pain of a broken heart, salvation from the radio and love by the lights of the bar. The record is a perfect marriage of expert storytelling, superb musicianship and classic melodies.” It is an apt assessment and among the many reasons why it is such a good album. Brian Fallon has traded in his crunchy riffs of The ’59 Sound for more bluesy guitar licks, dropping references to Maria while expanding his already excellent grasp of creating perfect blue collar rock songs. You will be hard pressed to find a writer who is able to inject his music with actual, down to earth substance better than Fallon. It’s genuine, all of it. And my favorite part about it all is that no matter where I’ve traveled and what I’ve seen, there is some intangible connection to the music that will resonate differently for each and every listener. It’s a murky theory I know, and I don’t have the vocabulary to explain it, but with every listen of the closing “We Did It When We Were Young”, I am reminded of life up to this point and I am hit with endless contemplation and reflection. It’s not about whether or not they wrote this song with any such intention, it’s just that it is powerful enough to do so.

Strangely, I feel less compelled to talk about the actual songs themselves; there are many rock critics and writers who will do a far greater job at explaining or justifying the praise with connections to Dylan, Strummer, Miles Davis, and of course, Springsteen. They’ll tell you about the great literary references, the homage to the great cities and trails, and the many emotional highs and lows as painted by the chord progressions and melodies. But for me, it is the lasting impression and continued connection they’ve painted since I first heard them in 2007; that life’s greatest reward comes from an unforgettable journey regardless of the final chapter. It reminds me of the many great pages left to write, and that filling them through your time here is the only reason why we should wake up every day. It does not resonate emotionally (save the closing track) as much as The ’59 Sound does, but it continues to do the greatest thing a band/an album/a song can do for me. The past is part of who you are, the present reminds us of this, and the future will always be unwritten. It is the only part of their music I hope they keep intact no matter where they go and what they do. (SideOneDummy)

[xrr rating=4/5]

AUDIO STREAM:
The Gaslight Anthem – We Did It When We Were Young (from the album American Slang)

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Music

The past is gone but something might be found

There are few things that evoke the grungy/slacker/alternative nation generation more than a damn good Gin Blossoms song. While things like grunge and being a slacker are far removed from today’s cultural sphere, the “alternative nation” was a uniquely 90s social experience that one growing up within would be hard pressed to forget. It painted high school politics and college potential, and while the more tangible qualities of the generation are remembered in old flannel and dirty jeans, the intangible sights and sounds are often provoked by the bands that defined the generation.

News has come that a new Gin Blossoms album is on the horizon, and while not their first since the 1990s (that came with 2006’s Major Lodge Victory– not their best unfortunately), the new material (albeit, streaming 30-second samples at present) is very welcome news to someone that still holds “Follow You Down” very close to their heart-strewn sleeve. Titled No Chocolate Cake, the material previewed is like a glorious sense of deja vu;  nostalgia without a sense of sadness. The sample from lead-off track “Don’t Change For Me” is every bit vintage Gin Blossoms, and the rest of the 11-song sampler is like listening to your favorite 90s soundtrack to the backdrop of your favorite 90s movie. September 28th is the day…

Until then, a look back at two of the greatest songs about the 1990s, the years before and the years ahead, as written by the Gin Blossoms:

“Follow You Down”

“Hey Jealousy” (still my favorite song about alcohol-fueled heartache)

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Music, Videos

Plugged in and ready to fall

In response to the debacle that has become LeBron James’ forever tarnished legacy, I could not help but think of the very best break-up songs I’ve encountered. The choices are great and many, and not including the more accepted mainstream offerings (please, no Guns N’ Roses, no Bob Marley, no Fleetwood Mac, and for the love of all that is good and pure, no Billy Ray fucking Cyrus), some of them are just down right venomous— the way they’re meant to be.

Sure enough, LeBron received his own break up “song” of sorts; a somewhat hilarious (and perhaps, written in a drunken rage) letter from Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert. In it’s horrendously fonted text, Gilbert calls James, among other things, “cowardly” and a “betrayer” … I like this sort of ranting.

Nonetheless, in song form, I tend to gravitate towards Alkaline Trio’s spitefully crafted wordplay when it comes to songs of woe. They’re great at it, and I immediately thought of the song “Radio”, which includes one of my favorite refrains of hatred;

“I’ve got a big fat fuckin’ bone to pick with you my darling
In case you haven’t heard I’m sick and tired of trying
I wish you would take my radio to bathe with you,
plugged in and ready to fall.”

Unfortunately, they never did do a video for it (you can listen to it streaming here), so in place of such fine songwriting, we’ll go with the second best song of hate and regret they’re written; “Stupid Kid.” It’s simple enough, but combined with the video, is a swift song of revenge that hits the mark in just the right places. I hope for your sake LeBron, karma isn’t as big of a bitch.

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Videos

Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “American Slang”

The Gaslight Anthem have just unveiled the video for “American Slang”. Set to New York’s monotholic backdrop, it embodies the band’s beat generation appeal and working class rock n’ roll attitude.

Its aesthetic is unmistakable and evokes all those wonderfully old Bruce Springsteen videos … a comparison that, I’m sure, the band are no strangers to. Yet in an era where videos tend to either embrace excess to no end and/or seek to push hipster lo-fi to extremes (Ratatat’s “Party With Children“- which I dislike with extreme severity), it’s nice to see a video that keeps the essence of the music and style genuine.

“American Slang”

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