By Jenny Eliscu
LSQJun 23, 2022
Proof of Life, the excellent fourth studio album by Nashville-based singer-songwriter Joy Oladokun, has been one of my favorite LPs of 2023, and it's been awesome to see Joy's star rise in recent months. It was a true joy - if you'll pardon the pun - to meet Joy over Zoom and get to know more about their creative journey, growing up in Casa Grande, Arizona, as a child of Nigerian immigrants, coming to terms with their queerness against the backdrop of their religious upbringing. Joy talks about discovering artists such as Tracy Chapman and Bob Marley and King Sunny Adé as formative moments, as well as getting their first guitar at age 10 and discovering their ability to bring comfort to themself and others through their songs. Joy is currently finishing a US tour. You can get tickets here.
After years of admiring Jason Isbell's gifts as a songwriter and storyteller, I finally got to ask the alt-country artist about his earliest sparks of creativity, and it was fascinating to hear his memories of sitting on the front porch, singing with members of his extended family during weekly Sunday evening gatherings, and of listening to his Pentecostal preacher grandfather playing guitar, and introducing him to gospel and mountain songs and bluegrass and the blues. "Music was something that was presented to me as something that was directly tied with family," he says. "The way creative pursuits were presented to me, it was something people did because it made them feel better, and because they could control the machines. And they had grown up very poor and didn't have control over much else. I think that combination of lack of options and just a genuine love for the way the arts were presented to me from the beginning culminated in my identifying with it so closely. And then something sort of made me a fool. Something in there somewhere told me to actually pursue this to the ends of the earth if I had to. That's the part I don't exactly understand." Isbell also talks about his love for Hendrix and Pearl Jam, about the lessons he learned from teaching guitar in his early twenties, how his songwriting process has evolved, and more. Jason and his band the 400 Unit are playing shows at Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium this week and have additional US dates early next year. Following the awesome new Isbell & The 400 Unit album Weathervanes earlier this year, he recently put out a deluxe, 10th anniversary reissue of 2013's Southeastern. You can get a copy, and tickets for the upcoming date, here. Isbell can also be seen in the new Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon.
Alvvays - Molly Rankin
Alvvays have made some of my favorite indie music of the past decade, and although I’ve interviewed them briefly in the past, I loved going long with Molly Rankin from the band for episode 96. We talked about Alvvays’s awesome latest album, Blue Rev, the origins of “Archie, Marry Me,” which had it's 10th anniversary this year, about how Molly started writing songs as a teenager, inspired by learning the chords to her favorite Oasis tunes, what it was like growing up in a famous musical family (her father was among the members of The Rankins, the acclaimed Celtic folk group), how her songwriting practice began and how it has evolved, about her love of gardening and my love of Columbo, and more.
Blonde Redhead - Kazu Makino
On the eve of Blonde Redhead’s first new album in nine years, their excellent Sit Down For Dinner, the band’s Kazu Makino joins the LSQ podcast for episode 95. She talks about how the experience of making her own solo album a few years ago inspired a new confidence going into this Blonde Redhead album; the influence she took from growing up in a household where classical music was playing at a soft volume at all times; the evolution of her songwriting within the band; how a good performance feels like a trance; and more. Blonde Redhead’s North American tour begins in mid-October. Get tickets here.
Episode 94 features an interview with singer, songwriter and producer Andrew Wyatt, whose voice and tunes you probably know from a few different contexts: In addition to being the frontman and lead songwriter for alt-pop band Miike Snow, Wyatt keeps incredibly busy collaborating as a writer and producer with artists like Dua Lipa, Charlie XCX, Caroline Polachek, Lorde, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and many others. The New York native is also a Grammy and Academy award-winning writer of movie music, notably for A Star Is Born, and the chart-topping soundtrack for Barbie, for which he co-wrote key tracks such as “I’m Just Ken.” AND, as if that wasn't enough, Wyatt is currently on the cusp of putting out his first solo album in a decade, Someday It Won’t Feel Like Dying. The album comes out this fall, but a couple of its singles are online here now Wyatt is also a pal of mine, and it was a pleasure to finally do the LSQ podcast with him!
Fresh off releasing "Two Songs I Wrote in 1993 & Recorded Last Week," legendary Australian singer-songwriter Ben Lee joins me for episode 93 (pure numerological coincidence!) to reflect on key moments of musical discovery -- seeing Nirvana play at Big Day Out, starring in a school musical called Uncle Moishe and his Mitzvah Men, recording fucked-up sounding songs on his Tascam 244, hoping to emulate Appetite for Destruction but coming up with something even cooler, figuring out how to get his demo to a record label, and more recent insights about longevity and staying true to your unique vision. He also discusses his songwriting practice today, prioritizing playfulness, supporting young artists, and more. Ben and his wife, Ione Skye, host an awesome weekly podcast called Weirder Together, and their Weirder Together podcast network presents shows hosted by J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and Jello Biafra, among others. Ben will be on tour in September. Get tickets here.
The Strokes - Albert Hammond Jr
"I always said, I felt like, when the five of us are together, the universe does something different," says Albert Hammond Jr, guitarist for The Strokes, of his band's cosmic connection. "From the moment I met them, even before we did anything, all of a sudden the world felt different. I can only explain it like in the Matrix when he sees the numbers, so then it didn't feel that weird when stuff would happen. I didn't know what was gonna happen, but it felt like something was gonna happen."
I had a blast interviewing Albert for episode 92 of the LSQ podcast. I am a massive fan of The Strokes (like, Top 5 all-time favorite bands kind of thing), and feel lucky to have a long history with them. Albert and I have known each other since the band's early days, when I got to write about them a bunch for Rolling Stone, and it's been awesome to watch his solo career develop alongside his band's. His new solo LP, Melodies On Hiatus, is one of his best -- 19 tracks that explore new facets of his musical personality while still brandishing his signature sound. In this interview, we talk about his childhood influences, an era when he was a rollerskating champion, the beginning of The Strokes, his songwriting process, and hopes for the future such as this one: "I'd love to create with [The Strokes], as I'm older. Because I feel like we're so interesting at different times with each other. So even at 60, I wonder what we would create? What would the band sound like? What would we do? Would our strengths and weaknesses change and how would that make our sound change? It still feels so exciting."
The incomparable Jenny Lewis joins me for LSQ #91 and, let me tell you, THIS is one of my all-time favorite episodes. Not only is Lewis an artist whose music I've admired since her days in Rilo Kiley, but over the course of our ~15 years of friendship, I've learned what a hilarious, generous, soulful and inspiring person she is, as well. The release of her excellent new album Joy'All gave us a chance to get together at her place in Los Angeles and dig in on some topics we've never really talked about before, including her parents' old band, Love's Way, her years as a kid actor and how those experiences shaped her approach to her music career, how her love for hip-hop inspired her to start by writing raps, before she wrote melodic songs. We also talk about how her evolution through the Rilo Kiley years, and why it was important to her to forge her own path. Get tickets for her upcoming tour here.
On the occasion of their new 26th studio album, The Girl is Crying In Her Latté, the legendary Los Angeles art-pop duo Sparks (brothers Ron and Russell Mael) join the LSQ podcast to talk about the evolution of their sound; their work with producers such as Giorgio Moroder and Todd Rundgren, and why they value being able to produce their own music nowadays; growing up in LA seeing concerts by British Invasion bands they loved including The Kinks and The Who; getting to witness one of Jimi Hendrix’s first LA concerts; what they’re looking forward to playing during their 2023 tours, and more!
When she started playing guitar at age seven, Sunny War saw herself as the next Slash or Angus Young, a future shredder, certain to be a rock star, and definitely NOT a folk singer. And yet, here we are, it's 2023 and thanks to her excellent latest album, Anarchist Gospel, and a Triple A-radio hit single, "No Reason," she is finally getting well-deserved recognition as one of the most exciting folk singers of her generation. In episode 89 of the LSQ podcast, get to know Sunny's story, and how she went from playing in a punk band called Anus Kings and busking on the Venice Beach boardwalk to performing her ecstatic folk anthem "No Reason" on late night television and embarking on her biggest tour, to date. Get tickets for Sunny War's current tour here.
Japanese Breakfast - Michelle Zauner
To celebrate the release of the paperback edition of her beautiful, best-selling memoir, Crying In H Mart, and its accompanying book tour, the author -- celebrated indie singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast -- joins the LSQ podcast for a conversation that explores her early experiences in both writing and music. She also shares that her next book is already in development, as she plans to move to her native Korea for a year, to learn the language and document the experience. And an exciting scoop: She already has new Japanese Breakfast songs in the works and might even debut some of them on tour later this year!
Black Belt Eagle Scout - KP
KP, the singer-songwriter at the helm of Black Belt Eagle Scout, joins the LSQ pod to talk about their beautiful new album, The Land, The Water, The Sky, recorded as KP was transitioning back to living in their homelands in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, in LaConner, Washington. We talk about how KP first got into playing and writing music, learning to play Für Elise by ear on the piano as a child, figuring out that their favorite guitars are the ones that sound the warmest, learning to play drums at Portland's Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls and later teaching at the camp, getting involved in the house show scene, loving post-rock, being inspired by the musical flexibility of the great Buffy Sainte-Marie, and more.
Ryan Lott and Ian Chang from the experimental trio Son Lux talk about their Academy Award-nominated work on the score and soundtrack for the beautiful, epic film Everything Everywhere All At Once, which is as brilliantly unclassifiable as the movie itself. Their score is nominated for Best Original Score and the end credits tune (a duet between Mitski and David Byrne, who cowrote the tune with Son Lux) is up for Best Music (Original Song) at the upcoming 95th Annual Academy Awards. They also delve into their personal histories with music, from their childhood music lessons and impactful discoveries of artists including Radiohead, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Prince, Miles Davis, Jeff Buckley, Seal and more. And Lott narrates Son Lux's development from a solo project that he began in 2008 as a creative outlet while he was working as a composer for a dance company, to the full-fledged touring band and collaborative unit thanks to the addition in 2014 of Chang and their bandmate Rafiq Bhatia.
The Raincoats - Gina Birch
Post-punk pioneer Gina Birch (bassist and founding member of UK band The Raincoats) joins the LSQ podcast on the eve of releasing her first ever solo album, the refreshing and irreverent collection I Play My Bass Loud, produced by Youth and out this week via Third Man. In episode 85, Birch talks about important music memories from her childhood (hearing her brother's Bob Marley records through the bedroom wall, seeing The Slits in concert and realizing that girls could also play in bands, and more), the early days of The Raincoats and how embracing their inexperience and enthusiastically presenting songs that were still "in the process of becoming" was a key part of their approach. We also talk about her work in visual arts, as a music video and short film director, and more recently via large scale paintings like the one you see a portion of on the new album's cover. Get a copy of I Play My Bass Loud and check out Birch's upcoming tour dates here.
The Mountain Goats - John Darnielle
For the first episode of Season 6 of the LSQ podcast, I was honored to welcome an artist whose words and music I have admired for nearly thirty years now: the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle. In episode 84, John shares fascinating insight into his early creative inklings, the music he loved as a kid, and how he went from clinging to his Aristocats soundtrack to embracing Elton John and the Bay City Rollers and eventually unlocking a secret passion for heavy metal. He also describes his transition from writing poetry on its own to combining his verses with music, initially singing haunting melodies over the sound of static from his black & white TV, and then developing the boombox recording method he used when he started as the Mountain Goats in the mid-Nineties. And we dish about how he got involved with Rian Johnson's new mystery series, Poker Face. (He wrote the music for it with Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed, and also has a small acting role.) Darnielle and the Mountain Goats' Matt Douglas are currently on tour in the U.S. as a duo. Get dates and tickets here.
U.K. artist Kae Tempest, on the first time they ever spit rhymes in public, at age 15: “I remember pushing through the crowd. I remember the tunnel vision. I remember reaching for the mic. I remember, like, the heat, the fever — your whole body beginning to like go into almost like unbearable minute precision-detail slow motion, and then the words. That was 20 years ago. More! And it's the same feeling that I have each time I'm about to approach the mic. It's this, like, deep connection to the word. And I remember the place transformed, people transformed, I transformed. And then from that night, until today, I haven't thought about anything else but rhymes. When you receive that much inspiration from something, and you're able to suddenly give something back, you're able to publish a book or make a record, and you can contribute — you can stand on that line that goes all the way back and your contribution can be felt going forwards. It's the most incredible kind of epiphany moment of achieving balance or things being right. It's my, kind of, life-force, really.” Kae’s latest album, The Line Is A Curve, is a powerful collection of musical vignettes that explore our drive for connection, and it’s one of my favorite LPs of 2022. Kae is on tour in Europe until mid-December and in Australia and New Zealand in early 2023. Get tickets here.
Bartees Strange reflects on important moments during his musical development, including:
- Learning to sing alongside his opera and gospel singer mother, who brought him to most of her performances as a child, until eventually he was singing alongside her. “There's something magical being a child in an opera Hall, hearing sound without microphones, bouncing off of the wood, bouncing off of the space, and then looking up on stage and seeing like a 5’2” black woman who's your mom just fill it. And it's like, ‘I know not everybody's moms do this.’”
- Seeing the hardcore band Norma Jean in a church basement when he was in middle school, and realizing that music — especially live music — has the power to make an entire room full of people feel an energetic connection. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is just a music thing. Like, this is just what happens when music works, regardless of a classical space, hardcore space, or like a gospel space, like music can just do this. And I was just like, ‘how do I wield this magical power?’”
- Moving to New York after a stint working in politics in Washington, D.C., and finding inspiration in the music scene he plugged into there. “I grew up in a very rural area of Oklahoma and dealt with a lot of racism and questions about who I was and who I was allowed to be, and I don’t think I was fully comfortable in my body until I moved to New York City and I started meeting all these artists — like are you familiar with the band L’Rain, Taja Cheek’s band, and Kia and Melanie Charles? These black artists in Brooklyn who I honestly fell in love with and was so inspired by, because I always felt so alone and singular. My whole life, I was the only black kid. And in my musical space, I was often the only black person. And when I was making records, I was often the only black person in the studio, and people didn’t listen to me, they didn’t think I knew what I was talking about. I was struggling with even trusting my gut on knowing if I knew what I was talking about. I had listened to the gaslighting so much that I don’t think I even knew who I was until I saw those artists and I was able to connect with them on a level where I was like, ‘Oh I’m like you. I’m not weird. Actually this is what *we* do.’ And being around them it kind of created the space for me to spread my wings and try some stuff and feel comfortable sharing music with people who understood my experience and where I was coming from, and then once that happened, I was kind of able to lay it all out.”
- How his goals have evolved between his 2020 debut album, Live Forever, and his recently released sophomore LP, Farm To Table. “Honestly, I wanted to kind of show people it wasn't a fluke, like, I could do it again. And that was also why I put it out so fast. I was like, ‘I’m not letting three years pass before I drop another one. Because I don't want people to think ‘Oh, like, that was cute,’ I want them to be like, ‘Oh, Bartees, this dude is a pretty serious cat. He’s gonna stick around.’”
- What he has planned for his first major headlining tour in North America, and why you have to see openers Pom Pom Squad, They Hate Change and Spring Silver. The tour is on the road until 12/19/22. Get tickets HERE.
MUNA / The Womack Sisters
On the heels of their excellent latest LP, LA indie-pop trio MUNA (Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson) call into the LSQ podcast from the road, to talk about their individual experiences falling in love with music as kids, how they came together to form MUNA, and how their approach has evolved over the years. The original ethos remains: “We decided to make music that made us feel good, for sure, but that also had an audience in mind, and that could be useful to an audience,” Katie says. Adds Josette: “Songs that can be used to dance to or that can be used as a mantra to say to yourself when you’re at a really low place. When we say we had an audience in mind, people who need to hear those things are the audience we’ve always had in mind, and that’s always been a guiding force. MUNA has become for the people, and I think that’s why we’ve been able to do this for so long.”
After releasing a single I loved earlier this year called “Blocked,” the Womack Sisters (BG, Zeimani and Kucha) shared their debut EP, Legacy, in early September. When I caught up with them this summer, they had just pushed back the release a bit, so they could add their cover of “A Change Is Gonna Come,” the song made famous by their legendary grandfather, Sam Cooke. We chatted about what it was like growing up on the road with their parents, Womack & Womack, and how they went from roadies to back-up singers to forming their own group. They plan to release a debut LP next year.
This is a special bonus episode for LSQ listeners of a podcast I had an excellent time collaborating on, as producer, with alt-J. Things Will Get Better is a five-episode podcast miniseries that explores the U.K. band's early days, and the making of their incredible, groundbreaking debut album, An Awesome Wave, in honor of its tenth anniversary. Within the series, the band revisit Ash Grove, the old college house where they played their first gig and wrote songs like "Matilda" and "Breezeblocks," as well as other favorite haunts in Leeds; they discover and listen back to long lost demos, including for the song that lends the series its name and fan favorites such as "Portrait" and "Hiroshima"; they catch up with their longtime producer, Charlie Andrew, and their former bandmate, Gwil Sainsbury; and in the episode I'm sharing, I interview the band, LSQ-style, focusing on their childhood encounters with creativity and how their music practices and passions evolved from there. If you like this one, check out the others at anchor.fm/anawesomewave
Sampa The Great
One of the most influential guitarists and songwriters of all time, Johnny Marr (The Smiths, Electronic, The The, Modest Mouse, The Cribs) delves into major moments in his creative evolution, from discovering his love of guitar at age five to finding favorite artists like Marc Bolan and Patti Smith and The Only Ones as a teenager to joining his first band (Sister Ray; he was fourteen, playing with a group of adults) to the early days of The Smiths and how he dealt with the pressure of their fame, when it came to making The Queen Is Dead, in particular. He also explains what aspects of his songwriting practice he's retained over the years, and how he approached his excellent latest album, Fever Dreams, Pts. 1-4. Marr is on tour in North America this month. Get tickets here.
The young San Diego singer-songwriter Jelani Aryeh caught my attention with his awesome tune "Stella Brown" a couple years back, and I really enjoyed his debut full-length, I've Got Some Living To Do, from 2021. But I especially loved the brief interview I got to do with Jelani last year for XMU, and was left with so many more questions for him about these early days in his career as an artist. So here we are, at an episode of the LSQ podcast where Jelani and I dig in further, to talk about influences such as Toro Y Moi, Childish Gambino and The Doors, as well as where his next album is headed. He's currently in the studio, and plans to tour again in the fall and winter.
Transcript at jennylsq.com
Belle & Sebastian - Stuart Murdoch
One of my favorite insights from Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch in episode #75: “Maybe 1994 or 1995, a switch came on, and I started writing better songs. There's no doubt about that. I remember writing a song called ‘Dog on Wheels’ at the start of 1995, and then quickly after that, I wrote a song called ‘The State I Am In,’ a song called ‘Lord Anthony,’ ‘Sleep The Clock Around,' and it suddenly started flowing. There was a moment when I been in my favorite cafe, which I practically lived in — the Grosvenor Cafe — and I started getting the idea for ‘The State I Am In.’ I had a little tune and I took it outside because it was too noisy in the cafe, and the words started to flow. It started coming easily, riding on top of the tune. And I didn't have to ponder the words. And actually I kind of didn't know where the ideas were coming from, I didn’t know what I was saying — it all tumbled out.”
May-24: Rabbit Rabbit, Asheville, NC
May-25: TCU Amphitheater at White River State Park, Indianapolis, IN
May-26: The Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL
May-27: Palace Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
May-28: The Admiral, Omaha, NE
May-31: Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA
Jun-1: Roseland Theater, Portland, OR
Jun-3: Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA
Jun-4: Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
Jun-5: Pappy and Harriet’s, Pioneertown, CA
Jun-7: The Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ
Jun-8: The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Company, Santa Fe, NM
Jun-10: The Criterion, Oklahoma City, OK
Jun-11: Stubb’s Waller Creek, Austin, TX
Jun-13: Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN
Jun-14: Red Hat Amphitheater, Raleigh, NC
Jun-15: Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA
Jun-16: SummerStage, Central Park, NY
Jun-17: Franklin Music Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Jun-18: Roadrunner, Boston, MA
Jul-1: Spain, Barcelona, Vida Festival
Jul-2: Spain, Madrid, Noches del Botanico,
Jul-15 Bristol, UK Lloyds Amphitheatre, Bristol Harbourside
Jul-16 Stirling, UK Cardross Estate, Doune The Rabbit Hole
Nov-13 Cardiff, UK Great Hall - Student's Union
Nov-14 London, UK The Roundhouse
Nov-15 London, UK The Roundhouse
Nov -17 Sheffield, UK O2 Academy Sheffield
Nov-18 Liverpool, UK Olympia
Nov -19 Hull, UK Asylum, Hull University Union
Nov-21 Aberdeen, UK Beach Ballroom
Nov-23 Edinburgh, UK Usher Hall
Nov-24 Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK O2 City Hall, Newcastle
Nov-25 Manchester, UK Manchester Academy
Nov-27 Cambridge, UK Corn Exchange
Nov-28 Birmingham, UK O2 Academy Birmingham
Nov-29 Southampton, UK O2 Guildhall Southampton
Nov-30 Brighton, UK Brighton Dome
Sunflower Bean - Julia Cumming
“Fill in the blanks” - that’s how Grammy-nominated hip-hop, jazz and R&B artist, musician and producer Terrace Martin describes the special sauce he brings to any collaboration. What he means is that he is ready, willing and able to offer whatever tools from his well-equipped creative shed the situation calls for. Whether that’s playing saxophone (which he does at a master level) or putting together players or producing beats or writing melodies, Martin explains that he just wants to work in service to the music and he can truly do whatever the situation calls for. He also talks about how he first found his own creative spark while watching his uncle DJ, and how that taught him to keep audiences completely engrossed in the music. Martin also shares insight into his creative process, and how he approached collaborations with Leon Bridges and Kendrick Lamar, as well as telling the awesome story of how he became his hero Snoop Dogg’s go-to producer. Martin’s new album, Drones, came out in November and his 2020 album Dinner Party: Dessert (with fellow LSQ guest Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington & 9th Wonder) is nominated for Best Progressive R&B Album at the upcoming 64th annual Grammy Awards.
Stevie Van Zandt
It did honestly feel like one of those Wayne’s World "I’m-not-worthy" moments when I first got on the Zoom with the legendary Steven Van Zandt for the interview in episode 73 of the LSQ podcast. Was truly was an honor and pleasure to get to ask him about his creative ideas and process.
Last fall, the musician, songwriter, producer, activist, DJ/radio maven, actor, and more, added "author" to his bona fides when he published his fascinating memoir, Unrequited Infatuations. You should read it. Order a *signed!* copy HERE.
Anyway, in the book, he shares not just the incredible story of his life and careers, but also candid insight into what it takes to achieve mastery in music. He elaborates on some of that in episode 73, and we also get to hear about his early days with Bruce, how the E Street Band’s commercial ascent felt from his perspective, his views on the evolution of rock as an art form, how he tried to “turn the Sopranos into a rock band,” what new rock music excites him, and more.
The brilliant, genre-morphing jazz, hip-hop and R&B artist (and 4x Grammy winner) Robert Glasper reflects on important early moments in his creative evolution: developing his skills at performing arts school in Houston alongside fellow talents like Beyonce and songwriter/producer Bryan-Michael Cox, honing his craft with encouragement from modern greats like Roy Hargrove and Christian McBride during his years studying at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York, collaborating with his college classmate Bilal as his music director, and getting involved with the late 90s Neo Soul scene led by artists such as The Roots and Erykah Badu.
Glasper also talks about his creative process, and how he approaches the collaborations in his phenomenal Black Radio album series, which began with the Grammy-winning Black Radio in 2012. (That LP became the first album ever to debut in the top 10 on four different genre charts simultaneously — a feat repeated by Black Radio 2 the following year.) On February 25th, Glasper will release the highly anticipated Black Radio 3, which features appearances by his frequent collaborator Terrace Martin, Q-Tip, Esperanza Spalding, H.E.R., BJ The Chicago Kid, Common, India.Arie, Ant Clemons, and more. He is also nominated for two 2022 Grammys, for Best Progressive R&B album (for his Dinner Party collaboration with Martin, Kamasi Washington and 9th Wonder) and Best Traditional R&B Performance (for “Born Again” with Leon Bridges.)
Fontaines D.C. - Grian Chatten
Fontaines D.C.’s leader, Grian Chatten, joins LSQ to talk about the Irish post-punk band’s newly announced third studio album, Skinty Fia, which is f*cking excellent, btw. (It’s not out until April, but I was lucky enough to hear an advance, in preparation for the interview.) Of course we also delve into his formative creative experiences — from setting up a makeshift drum kit with boxes and pots and pans to recreate a drum fill in Bad Religion’s “American Jesus” (“There was something so symmetrical about it — it reminded me of a dolphin jumping out of the water and creating an arc in the air…”) to memorizing poems in exchange for football cards (an inspired parenting idea from his dad), to playing in a group that actually won their local battle of the bands, to realizing during early gigs as a frontman that he felt an uncanny sense of calm while performing. Skinty Fia comes out April 22nd via Partisan Records and you can pre-save or pre-order it HERE.
Wet Leg / Kevin Morby & Hamilton Leithauser
Have you heard the song “Chaise Longue” by U.K. duo Wet Leg? Are you as obsessed with it — and with them — as I am? Great! In episode 70, get to know Wet Leg’s Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, who talk about how they overcame their own shyness to become fearless leaders of one of the most exciting young punk bands in years. (Their self-titled debut album comes out April 8 via Domino.) Episode 70 also features an on-the-road catch-up with LSQ alumni Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby, during their co-headlining “Fall Mixer” tour. Hear them talk about what they view as each other’s strengths as a performer, and share news about the music they’re working on currently.
Courtney Barnett, on the unpredictability of inspiration: “Sometimes I just sit down on the couch, and I’m watching TV, and a whole idea will come to me in one. I never know what’s gonna happen, and that keeps it really exciting. It’s sometimes very frustrating, when I feel like I don’t know the answer, and I feel like I’ll never be able to write another song again. And then a week later, I just accidentally write a song I love. There’s inspiration in everything, that’s the most important lesson I’ve ever learned. You can’t just sit down at a desk and bang your head against a wall for six hours and assume some grand idea will come, because the greatest ideas do come when you’re getting a blood test at the local medical center, and you’re sitting in the waiting room reading a magazine — that’s when the best ideas come.” We talk about the poetry of Hendrix’s lyrics, covering Foo Fighters at a high school talent show, the Australian singer-songwriter's awesome new album, Things Take Time, Take Time, and more, in episode 69 of the LSQ podcast. Courtney is on tour extensively during the coming months. Get tickets here.
The War On Drugs - Adam Granduciel
The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel remembers feeling the electricity through the floor and the house shaking, the very first time he played an electric guitar. It was at his friend Jeff’s house, on a rig he admits he's been chasing ever since, and it ignited an obsession whose evolution he discusses in episode 68 of the LSQ podcast. We talk about Nirvana and Bob Dylan and songwriting and being a perfectionist in the studio, and his band’s brilliant new album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore. (There’s a fascinating story about an epic mixing session he and producer Shawn Everett undertook in the album’s eleventh hour; he describes it as one of the best creative experiences of his life.) The War On Drugs tour extensively next year. Get tickets here.
Goo Goo Dolls - John Rzeznik
Goo Goo Dolls' John Rzeznik discusses the music that inspired him as a kid (The Cars, Springsteen, Petty, the Kinks) and how it taught him the importance of melody and each song telling its own story. We also talk about Goo Goo Dolls' early days, touring in a van and crashing on couches (he always brought along blank cassettes so he could copy some of his host's music); what it felt like to have a huge mainstream moment that also alienated some of their original fans; and why he's taking his approach to writing and recording back to basics for the new Goo Goo Dolls album, out in 2022.
On the heels of her fantastic new album, Home Video, singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus describes the path that led to it -- growing up in Richmond, Virginia, finding a passion for creative writing early on, discovering musical favorites like Yo La Tengo and Broken Social Scene, playing her first gigs at house shows, developing her songwriting practice, and beyond.
Manchester Orchestra - Andy Hull
Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull talks about early influences (Death Cab For Cutie, Modest Mouse, the Beatles, the classical music his mother played around the house); his evolving approach to songwriting; how his band's sound has grown to cinematic new heights; what advice he gives young artists who come to him for wisdom about surviving the music business; and more! Manchester Orchestra's new album, The Million Masks of God, is out now, and they are on tour in the U.S. this fall, as well as next year. Get tickets here!
As a producer, writer, recording artist and entrepreneur, Poo Bear is always searching for collaborators who bring out the best in him, and vice versa. "Do you believe in me?," he'll ask an artist who wants to record one of his songs, because for him, the best work arises when there is that mutual passion for each other's work. He's definitely found that zone with Justin Bieber, his most extensive song partner over the past several years. But his prolific work includes hundreds of tunes, for artists as varied as Jill Scott, the Zac Brown Band, J. Balvin and FKA Twigs, to name just a few. In this conversation, we talk about his earliest projects (as a kid, singing in R&B groups in Atlanta, and writing professionally from the time he was 16), how he has evolved his songwriting formula, where he sees pop music going in the future, and more.
Tegan and Sara & Lili from Beach Bunny
Tegan and Sara Quinn rejoin the podcast for a fun, roundtable-style conversation with Lili Trifilio from the up-and-coming Chicago indie band Beach Bunny, on the heels of their recent collaboration on a new version of Beach Bunny's viral hit "Cloud 9." We talk about how the collaboration - where each chorus features alternate pronouns -- came to exist, Lili's early musical experiences, and Tegan & Sara's next book (on twins), and Lili gets some big sisterly advice from T&S about how to deal with trolls.
Tame Impala - Kevin Parker
Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker delves into his earliest musical endeavors -- learning to play his brother's drums, writing songs on one guitar string, playing with his first band at the high school talent show -- and how his attitudes toward songwriting and creativity have evolved since then. He also talks about plans to get back into collaborating with other artists, now that social distancing has relaxed. Tame Impala will also be getting back on the road in the coming months, playing festivals including Bonnaroo and Outside Lands.
Flaming Lips - Wayne Coyne
Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne on the profound influence of punk rock in his life: “Previous to that, you didn’t know that art was fucked up. To be a musician meant, ‘You’ve gotta know music. If you don’t know music, you don’t belong here.’ When really, some of the greatest musicians would say just the opposite — ‘Don’t worry about that, fuckin’ do your thing.’ But in this world, when you’re young and surrounded by a bunch of know-it-alls, everybody wants to tell you, ‘This is how it works and you don’t know nothin’.’ And you’re innocent, you believe them and say, ‘Well, I wanna try to do it my way.’ I was lucky punk rock came along. And I really did relate to John Lydon, I really did relate to the guys in Duran Duran and even Anthony Kiedis and Red Hot Chili Peppers. They just said, ‘Fuck it, we’re gonna do it our way and we don’t care.’ Beastie Boys. Having that inspiration, you can’t know how valuable that is. Suddenly what you thought might be true, they’re living it saying, ‘Yeah, it’s true.’ We started to do more and more shows and Black Flag came through here and played and the Minutemen came though here and played and the Replacements. And all these people, Sonic Youth came here and they would sleep on our couch and we’d talk to them and it’d be like, ‘We’re not alone.’ And I think that’s such a powerful bond, and it’s even more of a bond than just doing music. To know that there’s this thing, that you can do it, you can be a part of it. They’re inspiring you and you’re inspiring them, and it’s amazing. It’s knowing, ‘I’m not stupid for thinking this. I’m not purposely being an outsider.’”
Oneohtrix Point Never
Experimental electronic composer and producer Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never delves into key influences from Chick Corea to Rush to My Bloody Valentine to Nirvana to DJ Premier, in a conversation about his evolving creative process. He talks about growing up as the child of Russian immigrants, recollecting the “beautiful red velvet walls” of the Russian restaurant where his father’s rock band played weekly covers gigs; his early adventures in sampling while working as a video store clerk; his fascination with “the way melody emerges from texture, how an incidental sound can be a rhythm,” as well as “the hallucinatory experience of music” and the “hidden frequencies of life.”
The three members of Houston, TX trio Khruangbin — bassist Laura Lee, drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson, guitarist Mark Speer — share insights into their individual and collective creative journeys. “LL,” as her bandmates call her, talks about learning to read by studying Beatles liner notes, her teenage obsession with Radiohead, and how her approach to art has evolved since she joined Khruangbin. DJ shares memories of being three years-old, playing Barry White songs on his little kids' drum kit, how gigging in a church band with Mark developed into playing in Khruangbin, and which of the band’s recent achievements he’s proudest of. And Mark describes learning how to use his older brother’s abandoned synthesizer as an early songwriting tool, his experiences working at a drumstick factory, his philosophy for Khruangbin’s sound, and more.
Vampire Weekend - Chris Baio
“I didn’t like curse words when I was real young, so my dad would read Spin and get black ink and blot out the curse words for me,” says Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio, explaining how his father helped shape his early interest in music. “He would bring home records he was interested in and it always ran a wide gamut. His favorite musician is Jimi Hendrix and we would listen to so much Jimi Hendrix, but at the same time, I would have been ten years old when he bought his first Guided By Voices album and we would have had that on in the house. Always having music around in the house, reading the Saturday or Sunday paper, that’s how I grew up. There wasn’t one defined sensibility. My dad would buy A Tribe Called Quest, he’d buy Green Day, and so I’d listen to a fairly wide gamut. It’s definitely a huge reason why I’m a musician today.” Baio’s new solo album, Dead Hand Control, is out now.
Fleet Foxes - Robin Pecknold
“I’d write terrible songs constantly, and I just loved it so much,” Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold says of his early years exploring songwriting — a process he began by elaborating on Joni Mitchell and Elliott Smith tunings he’d learned on the internet. “I felt so passionately about it as a teenager that I think every other possibility started to seem unlikely. I just felt like that was what I was going to do.” Episode 56 features a conversation about Pecknold’s creative journey, favorite artists of his including Nirvana, John Prine and Joanna Newsom, how his songwriting has evolved since those teenage years, Fleet Foxes’ beautiful 2020 album Shore, and more.
Beach House - Victoria Legrand
Victoria Legrand, on writing music for Beach House: “It’s like something magical happening. And I believe in that, there’s love, but it’s not just love between us, it’s the whole universe around us and all the things we’ve been reading about the stars and the movies we’ve seen and the pain I’ve felt from talking to people about their loss. It all sucks down into this one moment of pure reaction. I’ve always said music is very personal to [bandmate] Alex [Scally] and I, but it’s not just that I got my heart broken by this guy or girl, it’s I got my heart broken by the whole world. Or all the things I ever heard about somebody’s heartbreak, it’s in me somehow. It’s like this stain and it’s coming out because I hear these tones and these chords and these notes and they make me feel like crying or they make me completely euphoric. That’s the thing that hasn’t changed, but I think it’s become amplified. And that is why I don’t think we’re done making records. Because if that ever stopped, if that really innocent reaction, where all of the angst and all of the sorrow and beauty didn’t just get triggered into something beautiful or something that takes us out of the news or the car-crash, then we would stop, I always said that. But it’s not stopping.”
King Tuff - Kyle Thomas
The dude behind the King Tuff moniker, Kyle Thomas, talks about the punk music he discovered as a kid, growing up in Brattleboro, Vermont; learning to shred by studying Jimi Hendrix; playing in the band Witch with one of his heroes, Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis; how his songwriting has developed since he started King Tuff; the ways that learning a new instrument inspires new song ideas, and more! Support the LSQ podcast at anchor.fm/jennylsq