PREMIERE: Chicago-Based Experimental Band Ze'ev Releases New Record

Interview by Rivka Yeker

Ze'ev is comprised of Balto, Clyde, and Zack. The band deliberately bends genre and defies expectation of direction and influence. They are one of Chicago's most innovative bands, and GTP is filled with both chaotic twists & turns and smooth comedowns. Hooligan was able to sit and discuss the record itself and Ze'ev's overall sound / intention. 

photo by Kelly Butler

photo by Kelly Butler


 

In what ways is this record different than your previous releases?

Clyde: Kismet, and our previous EPs were very much in the vein of longer drawn out instrumentals and a bit of what I was writing at the time as a small foundation. We were really just starting as a band and building our sound and still are. GTP is a result of what happens when everyone is involved in the writing process as a complete unit.

What message(s) do you want Ze'ev to give to your listeners? 

Balto: We literally tolerate no bullshit. We’ve had our fair share of experiences that have made us so tired. This is an album for a marginalized group made by a marginalized group and we hope for those who are struggling, you feel the love and support we have for each other in this album and take those positive vibes with you.

There is a lot of genre-bending in this record, which is so sick. How did you choose what kind of artists you wanted to be featured on the album since there is no one direction its going in?

Zack: Thank you. Our collaborators were all fellow artists who we've been lucky enough to meet and meld minds with over the years. While creating the record, we knew we wanted to have a full collection of voices driving home the themes on this record, not just our own, and we started contacting people who we knew would be able to take our concept and add their own perspectives, strengthening the overall message.

What makes something "Experimental"?

Zack: Experimental is a hard term to define in an overall sense, but I know Ze'ev uses this term as a description to rid ourselves of boundaries. All three of us bring so many disparate influences and experiences to this project and we never want an arbitrary genre label to hold us back. Saying we're an "experimental band" is a way for us to leave every idea we have on the table and never to be afraid to explore anything, musically or otherwise, that we vibe with. It's always been a goal of ours to shapeshift strictly based on our collective intuition, and in my humble opinion, you keep that communication open by allowing it to stay abstract and unlabeled.

I know your tastes vary. The album feels like a mix of skramz, post-rock, sludge, jazz, and twinkly emo. Who and what inspired the record?

Clyde: GTP stems from so many things. Inside jokes within the band, personal struggles, etc. We could talk forever about musical influences but Funkadelic, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Unwound, Charles Mingus, and of course, Lil B the Based God are deeply rooted in this album.

What do you hope people feel after listening to GTP?

Balto: I hope people feel love, peace, and patience while listening to this album and what I mean by Patience in particular is that I urge you to really hear what everyone has to say throughout GTP.

PREMIERE: Jessica Mindrum Releases Debut EP "Flickering"

Interview by Rivka Yeker


A lot of your songs resemble the innocence of childhood and how difficult it is to leave it. Is writing / creating music a way for you to be connected to nostalgia, or is it more of a way for you to cope with growing older?

I think it’s a little bit of both. Though, to be honest, I’d never entirely noticed that as the common theme in these songs. I suppose I’m dealing with it more than I consciously know. Growing up for me was a hard process in that I consistently feared it--I never wanted to leave the safety of my home. I didn’t even leave home for more than a weekend until I was 15. Later on in my teens, though, there were events that happened in my life that shifted my perspective on home and my childhood--as a result, that feeling of safety and almost escapism that those things had given me nearly went away. I think since that happened, and also just as a result of graduating college and attempting to create my life, I’m trying to regain a feeling of security that I used to have, and realizing that I can’t entirely find it in the places I used to. 


When I listen to your music, I want to curl up in a blanket and stare at a burning fire. Which artists make you feel that way?

That’s good news -- my goal is to get everyone to recreate the last shot in Call Me By Your Name at least once. For me though, there are specific songs that come to mind when I think of that feeling. A few that get me there are "Smoke Signals" by Phoebe Bridgers, "The Last Time I Saw Richard" by Joni Mitchell, "Carissa" by Sun Kil Moon, and there are a lot of songs on Soccer Mommy’s latest album like "Clean", "Scorpio Rising", and "Wildflowers" that have really given me some face time with some fires. 

Is where you are now where you thought you'd be as a kid?

I guess it depends on what aspect of my life I’m looking at. Professionally, I think I am. As a kid I had that sort of delusional confidence where I believed everything I wanted would come true (that I’m sure is bolstered by growing up as a white, cis, hetero, middle class kid, but……...I digress).  I haven’t checked all of my boxes, but I’m pretty close. I wanted to work in music, and right now I do. I have a job that I love and it allows me to pursue the art that I love, and I’m consistently grateful and feel so lucky to be where I am. Personally, though, I think I still have some growing up to do. I thought I’d be further along in my development as a human person. I thought I’d feel a lot more like a capital A Adult than I do. Though I suppose that’s just the human condition? Who’s to say. 

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What direction do you want to head in as an artist?

I want to continue becoming a better songwriter. I’d like to write a happy or upbeat song that feels genuine. I’d like to bring some songs to life with a full band, and explore areas that for a long time I thought weren’t in my wheelhouse--like louder arrangements, songs using my electric guitar. This really feels like the beginning for me, even though I’ve been writing for the better part of a decade. I’m excited to see what can happen when I add more people to songs that have always been entirely mine. 

The singer-songwriter genre has always been very confessional. Would you say that you're most vulnerable in your music? 

At first I was going to say no because I can be pretty vulnerable with people if the moment feels right, but then I thought a little harder and realized that the answer is a hearty yes. I recently had a conversation with someone about something I’ve written about and can sing about on a stage, but I couldn’t find the words or the courage when it came to a face to face discussion. It’s easier to write and sing into the ether than confront some things with an immediate response and an immediate audience. 

On your bad days, what are the things you think about to feel better?

Well, I will admit that on my bad days I initially wallow in it. After that’s over though, I suppose I think about physical places that have made me feel calm and good. There’s this creek in Williamsburg, Virginia that is hidden in the colonial area, away from all the tourists and behind an old house. I used to walk there on the weekends and sit for a while. I miss it. But thinking about it, knowing that it’s out there, is a good feeling. 

REVIEW: Youth Code and Chelsea Wolfe and the Metro


"It was refreshing to watch women take other women on tour and reclaim heavy music as theirs."

 

by Rivka Yeker

As a kid I dreamt of being goth and looking as cool as Evanescence’s frontwoman Amy Lee. She was my idol (next to Avril) and the foundation of my music taste, specifically the part that loved metal. I wanted black nails and black outfits and corsets and in every game that I was allowed to customize a character, I’d make the goth self I’d always aspire to be.

Years later I feel more like an androgynous Emo person than a goth queen like Amy, but those goth-loving roots never escaped me. They still rest idly by deep in my taste in just about everything. Seeing someone as powerful and all-consuming as Chelsea Wolfe felt like my younger self’s dreams coming true.

The night started with Youth Code, a band I discovered by once making a Facebook status looking for new music recommendations. It was right after their recent tour with Code Orange so I spent hours of watching live footage of them going absolutely nuts on stage. They’re pretty much everything I could ask for in an industrial sounding electronic hardcore band. The band consists of Sara Taylor (vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, sampling) and Ryan George (backing vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, sampling), two very passionate and talented humans who know how to put on an exhilarating set.

The two of them didn’t stop moving. Sara Taylor stood strong with a shirt that read “eat my entire fuck” and her voice, a strong surge of deep screams, filled the room in harmony with the vibrating synths. There was a moment where she came down to the crowd during my personal favorite song of theirs, “Transitions”, off their latest record Commitment to Complications and let the person in front of me (who had clearly seen this band before) take the mic. To which me and a few others joined them in yelling “I'm nailed to this earth in the wrong fucking skin / The pain of pushing forward giving way to caving in.” I felt like I was 16 again and it was perfect.

It had been years since I was last at the Metro so seeing a band like Youth Code allowed me to dance and mosh and get just as wild as them, but the crowd was a little stiff. It was an 18+ show and I’m sure everyone was mostly just there to be blown away by Chelsea Wolfe’s set, but Youth Code makes too catchy of a sound to not lose your shit. Afterwards my friend and I started talking about what it means to get older and what becomes less okay at shows, how there is a sort of unwritten rule created to sustain coolness. I shrugged it off since I was on such a high from Youth Code’s energy.

Shortly after Youth Code left the stage, the tone had shifted into something just as heavy, but darker, slower, and with more guitars. Chelsea Wolfe has a presence that encapsulates an entire entity. She wore these huge chunky high-heeled shoes that lifted her taller than she already was at 5’9. Her eyes were masqueraded with black make-up that made her look haunting and powerful. With her long black hair and long black dress, she had successfully embodied the goth queen that I think everybody in the crowd, including me, was prepared to worship.

She had started her set with songs from her latest record Hiss Spun which was just released in September. The record itself is filled with more metal elements than folk, which makes Wolfe’s discography so interesting since each album seems to achieve a different sound while still managing to maintain the same overarching dark mystical aura. The lights that lit up the band were mostly a deep red at first and during the track “Vex” off the new record, Sara Taylor from Youth Code joined Chelsea Wolfe on stage. It was a powerful and moving collaboration of two women who reclaimed genres that have traditionally been dominated by men as they gripped the mics with a sort of ferocity that exuded confidence and control. I felt my body shake from the intensity of the two of them together, knowing my younger self would’ve been elated and inspired by two women looking like badasses fulfilling something I wish I could’ve done.

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Chelsea Wolfe played for a solid hour and a half but it didn’t feel that long at all. Even as she approached her encore songs, I didn’t want her to leave the stage. She finished the night with a mind-blowing performance of “Scrape”, the last song off her newest album. She sung in a few octaves higher than any other song and did not hold a guitar. She held the mic closely and used the entire stage as a platform, allowing the lights to guide her and to consume her. Her silhouette was seen moving along with the music, guitars and drums all synchronized at once, and then the lights flickering off and then on, she stood and then fell while singing “My body fights itself inside / I feel it bow, this mortal hold.”

After feeling like I was held in a chokehold throughout the entirety of that last song, when it ended, I felt free, but all I wanted was more. She was mesmerizing, a magnetic pull into a dark embrace; one that felt grounded in femininity and fierceness.

I think that’s what made the show so important for me. It was refreshing to watch women take other women on tour and reclaim heavy music as theirs. I think we often pair heavy music with masculinity because it is a fairly male-dominated genre, but when women like Chelsea Wolfe take the stage, she presents and performs femininity while simultaneously melting the room with guitars. To me, femininity can be just as dark and just as brooding, just as intense and as deep as masculinity is perceived to be. There is so much power in a feminine essence and I feel moved by it when it takes on a form that defies feminine standards and celebrates them at the same time.

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What Is Classical Music?: An Interview with Roger Goula

When Roger Goula’s Overview Effect was first brought to my attention, I was immediately intrigued. Being a huge fan of ambient sounds with a classical foundation and a modern electronic twist, I knew that this was something I was deeply interested in. This album embraces the sounds that feel like space would if something so serene and chaotic could exude noise. The album is a journey, one that tells a story of the unknown, the stars, and how they exist elsewhere yet amongst us all at once.


There is a whole wave of neo-classical artists like Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds, that create music that I always describe as cinematic because it is music I can visualize. What does the music you make symbolize for you?

It’s an interesting question because I also write film music, and I don’t know what came first. I don’t know if I became a film composer because I write this kind of music or if I write this kind of music because I’m also a film composer.

What I do know is that my music always has a narrative to tell. It might be quite hidden at times or very exposed other times, but somehow, since I can remember, music, for me, has always related to telling a story. It symbolizes a very deep feeling, I guess. It’s not explainable with words.

Your approach to creating music relies heavily on existential thought. What do you do, specifically, with your compositions that can portray this idea of the galaxy vs. individual being?

I see my music sometimes as a philosophical reflection that can’t be explained with words. There are many philosophical thoughts behind Overview Effect (which didn’t necessarily come when writing). I had a very broad thought of how it had to sound, and somehow the philosophical thought came after and fit perfectly. Generally speaking, the album is about how our existence/condition relates to our world.

I've always been fascinated about physics and astronomy. My grandad had a telescope at home and we used it to look at the planets every night. Somehow, without really knowing how, I acquired some knowledge in astronomy.

So you make the music first and then apply the thought? Kind of like, making the music is translating your thoughts into notes?

Somehow yes. But one complements the other. It’s always like doing research about yourself. I didn’t start writing saying, I’ll write a piece called “Pale Blue Dot” that will do this and that. Not at all. I wrote this album very intuitively and then after, I realised all of the songs related to one another and it all made sense. The titles fit perfectly and the journey of the pieces made sense to me. I wanted to be honest with the material and that’s what came out. Many people tell me that this album is very much me. That pleases me because it’s very difficult to do that.

Are you classically trained in anything specifically? How did you learn all the instruments you play?

Yes, i did study classical guitar and composition at the Barcelona Conservatory. I compose a lot on the piano too...and my computer. For my film music I started to learn other instruments, like all the plugged instruments and some brass and wind..but those are not in this album.

How did the electronic influence come into play?

I’ve always been doing electronic music. I’ve never trained on that, just learned the necessities. Two things I always been fascinated with since I was a kid have been music and inventions. I used to make my own instruments and record them on a tape cassette and I still do that. For me, composing is an invention; a discovery.

What direction do you think “classical” music is heading into?

It’s an interesting question because I think many people confuse the terminology. Classical music... what is it exactly? “Classical”...I mean, is Stockhausen a “classical” composer?  I don’t think so… yet we still call it classical. Or is “classical” playing the “old” stuff like the “old” instruments? I’ve been in classical music for 25 years and I am more and more confused.

If we think about the “classical” composers, they were always innovating and challenging the scene and their peers. At the time, it was contemporary music. So I feel the same. I’m writing the music of my time with instruments (which is anything that makes noise) of my time. It’s funny because it has such a conservative name for something that is looking forward.

Are there any movies you wish you could’ve done the scores for?
Definitely Blade Runner.

Who are some of your biggest influences?
Johann Johannson , Max Richter, Bach! Always Bach! He was a big inventor… a lot of renaissance polyphony.  Also Vivaldi. This is controversial..but big symphonic music doesn’t say much to me...I recognise its beauty and admire the composers…but…I’m not so keen on romantics.

Satie, Debussy...Inventors again..Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, Hildegard Von Bingen, Gesualdo, Rameau, Authecre, John Cage, Hauschka, Bjork, Radiohead, Steve Reich, Glass, John Adams, John Coltrane, John Zorn, Arvo Part, Gorecky, Penderecky, Aphex Twin, William Basinski, David Land, Murcof.

Is there anything you wish people felt or understood when listening to your music?
I would love for people to feel an admiration for the infinitude of space and at the same time feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to live. I want them to feel hopeful. If they can grasp that feeling just for a second; that feeling of belonging to the universe where all entities matter and relate to each other, I would be very happy. I think there are composers that look at earth. They write for feelings. Other composers write for something bigger. They write to try to understand our existence. I am slowly realizing that I am the latter.

Accepting Absurdity in 'The Brand New Testament'

Courtesy of Music Box Films

Courtesy of Music Box Films

Jaco Van Dormael’s latest film The Brand New Testament explores the overlap of fantastical realism, dark comedy, and existentialist thought. The result of these concepts clashing is an exceptionally witty and enjoyable film about God. In The Brand New Testament, God lives in Brussels, Belgium, in a high-rise apartment that he never leaves. He controls the world through an isolated PC in a room that no one is allowed to go in. He is abusive towards his wife and daughter Ea, and his son Jesus Christ, or JC, is now a small statue resting in the family’s home.

The film follows the narrative of Ea, as she rebels against her father and releases everyone’s death dates straight to their cell phones. As news breaks out about the times of people’s deaths, Ea decides that she is going to rewrite the New Testament and confides in her brother JC to figure out how to go about it. He tells her to choose apostles and that it doesn’t matter if they are random because nobody will know. Ea selects her new set of apostles from her father’s cabinets filled with cards representing every human alive on earth. After deciding on her six new apostles, she makes her way down to Earth, where she meets a homeless man who will be her scribe in creating the Brand New Testament.

The film’s style is heavily influenced by Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie (2001), everyone’s favorite whimsical French love story. While The Brand New Testament is by no means solely a love story, there are many stories woven throughout the film. It focuses on the lives of each of the apostles, and as mundane and standard as they are, they become quite enthralling with the help of Ea. She brings light into their somewhat dim existences, reminding them that their life will one day end and that they should fulfill the desires they wish to achieve.

The Brand New Testament is a rich experience, one that not necessarily questions God’s existence, but laughs along with it and the ridiculousness of life itself. It is a film that asks a whole lot of why not? Meaning it makes the moves it wants to make and doesn’t seek for approval, because it understands its own absurdity. It goes where it wants to go and never takes itself too seriously. Enjoyable to watch, funny, and loaded with a talented cast, The Brand New Testament reintroduces what it means to examine and comment on a universal thought while managing to maintain a zany dream-like world that we all sometimes find ourselves wishing to live in.


Check it out in a theatre near you!