Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov ’18

Avid Kurt Vile fan that I am, I have been looking forward to see Kurt Vile & The Violators performing live again in my vicinity for the past six months now. The anticipation was made all the more glorious when the support act was announced: Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird. A veritable feast so to speak and I will of course let you know how this festive occasion turned out, so join me for a review and more blathering on Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov ’18.

It makes my blood boil a bit even though it should be Kurt Vile himself who is the judge on this, but this sticking the “slacker” label on him and “slacker music” on his work, is not quite right. Alright, there’s the guitar music with some of the obvious influences such as Pavement and the appearance of a drawling, goofy, long-haired, slackerly dressed person on stage…fair enough. But there is so much more to Kurt Vile and his music. Steve Gunn, former member of The Violators, and guitarist and songwriter par excellence, should know and in an interview he claimed that Kurt Vile just has it, that ability to write brilliant songs with ease. I do not know how easy it really is for Kurt Vile and his limited vocal range is both just that – limited and one of his trademarks. But on the other hand, if you ever took a closer listen and look at Kurt Vile, you will find a perceptive, witty and touching songwriter, an excellent musician and a down-to-earth, humble person, way beyond the lazy “slacker” label. Also he is an incredibly diligent musician which this year brought him to the brink of mental meltdown due to stress. Not only has he released an album full of the sweetest songs and toured with – it seems – perfect soulmate Courtney Barnett from last autumn on, he has been on the road himself for three years and managed to write and record songs for his new album “Bottle It in”. By no means is he bottling it in on this album, he is lyrically at his sharpest yet and it just seems to flow from his inner self unfettered. Musically he (with thankfully the support of his label Matador) is not restricted to churn out radio-friendly three-minute pop songs (not that there would be anything wrong with that) – the thirteen songs on “Bottle It In” are his lushest in instrumentation yet and the haziness of his four albums before “B’lieve I’m Going Down” has returned, but mostly in a much tighter way. Three of the songs hit the ten minute mark and over. A brave move and a self-confident one and certainly one that his fans mostly cherish. Much to discover then from the new album on this year’s tour.

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

The venue he played that night, November 2nd, Kantine, Cologne, Germany, well, it is a biggish one and as much as I of course am happy for Kurt Vile to go on to bigger things, I miss the intimacy of earlier performances. A big drawback to the venue is having two bars in there and the toilet facilities behind the stage, meaning there is constant squeezing through and movement in the crowd. Also the sound in front of the stage was pretty bad in my opinion, so I moved to the middle where it was fine and then to the back where much of the vibe got lost in people chattering.

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

That constant drone of talking and only the first five rows really being captivated also annoyed me during the faultlessly beautiful and magical performance of music scene stalwart Meg Baird (she of Espers, Heron Oblivion, The Baird Sisters with her sister Laura and as a solo artist playing with the legends of fingerpicking guitar style music) and harpist to the stars Mary Lattimore. Mary Lattimore has had a tremendously busy year too, not only contributing her evocative and experimental and just so right harp flourish to a host of albums, but releasing her solo album “Hundreds Of Days” (Ghostly International) which is sheer bliss and has personally helped me to relax, reflect and restart on many occasions since summer but then she went and finally did an album with long-time collaborator Meg Baird, the breathtakingly delicate and haunting and therefore aptly named “Ghost Forests” (Three Lobed Recordings).

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

We got treated to a fine set of songs of this album by Meg on acoustic and electric guitar and crystal-clear vocals and Mary on her enormous Lyon and Healy harp, “Harpie”, her looping gadget and keyboard. I am getting ready for any comments from behind as to what the hell this performance has to do with the guitar rock Kurt Vile is presenting later. Indeed Mary has been working with Kurt Vile for a long-time and the additions of her harp to the songs on “Bottle It In” range for many among the finest details of the album. But – at least the front bit of the audience – are captivated. My highpoint of Mary’s and Meg’s set was the unexpected delivery of Emmylou Harris’ “Wrecking Ball” which is absolutely chilling. Mary Lattimore and Meg Baird were present at the merch table for a long time during Kurt Vile’s set and afterwards and were very kind to chat to everyone and thanked everyone so nicely for their interest. Och, they’re just awesome.

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

But this meant also, that on this occasion there was no rolling the harp back on stage and Mary joining in on some of Kurt Vile’s songs. A pity, that.

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

Kurt Vile & The Violators entered the stage to a very warm welcome which they ever so humbly and sweetly accepted and went straight into the marvellously and ice-breaking “Loading Zones” of the new album. (If only the sound had been better…) Expert musicianship delivered all the way through the shortish set by Kurt Vile, Jesse Trbovich (bass, guitar, saxophone), Rob Laakso (guitar, bass) and Kyle Spence (drums), managing  to unify the kids, the youngsters and the older generation in their appreciation. A large proportion of the new album was played, interspersed with some classics like “KV Crimes” and “A Girl Called Alex” from earlier albums. I was missing a couple of my personal favourites that might have pumped the lagging middle part of the concert a bit such as “Wheelhouse” but then again that might have to do with the fact that I was in the back at that time and the vibes did not catch on so much there. Then again, you can’t please everyone with a back catalogue like that. Many, many people in the audience had never heard Kurt Vile before his single “Loading Zones” off the new album but I always feel happy that other music lovers find older styles like folk and americana or blues to discover via a totally different angle. Happened to me too and Kurt Vile played a great part in that.

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

Are there any gobsmacking going-ons on stage? No, of course not. Kurt does not even say that much in between songs, being busy with getting yet another guitar or the banjo or the acoustic ready for the next song and that is perfectly fine with me. (Kurt Vile’s guitar rack made me cry with envy almost but then again, unlike him, I would not even deserve them half as much as him).

The band left the stage rather abruptly but did return and gave the fans “Pretty Pimpin” amongst others, the song that is probably his most well-known and caused a huge applause and whoohooing.

A very sweet “I love you all” from Kurt and smiles all round from the band and they were off.

As expected a great show from Kurt Vile & The Violators and supporting Mary Lattimore and Meg Baird. If I had anything to grumble about, it was, that the venue could have been better or more suitable in creating the right vibe. (Which reminds me: It is not very convenient to be asked outside of the venue  for the photo pass en route to getting it! Also the fuss about photo passes by the venue was a bit over the top, considering that in the end there were three (sic!) photographers only on site. Yes, three songs only and no flash, got it a long time ago. Kindly, would the people with the mobile phones turn off the flash as well? And would the security man not propel himself at us a-roaring for making one more shot before the fourth song because I wanted just one photo of Kurt and the banjo? Well, I am sure the orderly was very stressed out with THREE photographers…). Enough of my bawling but the fans enjoyed Kurt Vile & The Violators and vice versa and that is the main thing! Rock on and thank you!

Kurt Vile & The Violators and Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird at Kantine, Cologne, Germany, Nov '18

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

If you are standing outside a venue in a picturesque pedestrian road of a small town and cars with registrations from far away trundle searchingly by and a guy wondering why his friends took him for his birthday, realises exactly, is on the verge of tears, then you know, something big is going to happen. The man overcome with emotion shouts “George Best” pointing at a gig poster in the window and “You are taking me to a Wedding Present concert!!!” That is exactly where his friends have taken him. The Wedding Present play the Nieuwe Nor venue in Heerlen, the Netherlands on occasion of the 30th birthday (oh my!) of their very first album “George Best”. Read now all about that: The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview!

Everyone still had to bade some time at he Nieuwe Nor in Heerlen: First up were support act Strugglers who delivered pretty gloomy hard rocky stuff but musically crafted well and then at 9.30 pm CET the mighty Wedding Present entered the stage with David Gedge on vocals and guitar, Danielle Wadey on bass and vocals, Marcus Kain on guitar and Charles Layton on drums.

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

Sure enough, the promise of “George Best”, The Wedding Present’s first, meanwhile cult album, being performed in full attracted a big and enthusiastic crowd especially since it was announced that this would be the very last time that this event would take place on mainland Europe. Don’t fret, you can still catch up with them (in Germany for instance, with the wonderful Precious Few as support act). Tour dates are here.

But this was far from a retro gig. Sure enough, all of us did a bit of time-travelling during the “George Best” set, each in their own way, some dancing and laughing, some almost crying, some with closed eyes. But there was a brilliant selection of songs from other albums too, also from the masterpiece that their new album “Going, going…” is (no “Brassneck”, no encores – look, this is tradition!) Even “George Best” tracks were delivered in a fresh style that made me want to run out to the kids outside the venue listening to techno, shake them and drag them in to tell them: This stuff is thirty years old – just listen to it, will you listen? No, I did not…wouldn’t want to miss a second of this gig. And whereas I sometimes during concerts get a bit tired or woozy or there are kind of lows in the gig…nothing of this here. One and a half hours flew by like nothing at all. This time-travelling mallarkey seems to be a great thing when undertaken properly!

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

Part of the freshness in delivery were of course first of all Danielle, Marcus and Charles giving a new spin on the classics in a tight performance and then David clearly enjoying the album – see interview below.

Indeed, David Gedge kindly took some time out on busy day and spoke to the blog about a lot of things. Enjoy and off to the gigs you go!

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

Offbeat Music Blog: Thank you very much, David, for taking the time on yet another long, strenuous tour!

David Lewis Gedge of The Wedding Present: No worries!

OMB: Let us start at the very beginning if you would. Did you come from a musical family or was it really the punk movement – everybody can do it – that got you into music?

David: Not a musical family in the sense that anybody played anything. But there was always music going on. My parents met in the fifties, in the rock n roll era, so they had a lot of old 78s and 45s from that era going on through to the sixties. So there was always plenty of music being played. But none of them had any idea of wanting to become a musician. Punk certainly had an influence on me because it did open the world to normal people who weren’t classically trained (laughs). You just want to start a band really. Also, I went to school with a band, friends of mine, a band from Manchester called The Chameleons. I don’t know if you know them. I went to university at the same time they formed The Chameleons. The next thing I knew, they had a session for John Peel on Radio One and they signed to Epic Records, releasing singles. And I was thinking, mmmh, wait a minute (laughs), I could do this as well. So when I finished my university course, I decided to take it seriously and start The Wedding Present basically.

OMB: Funnily enough, one of my first interviews when I was still at school was with The Chameleons.

David: Full circle!

OMB: Their drummer John recently died…

David: He did, sadly, yeah.

OMB: Thinking about school days: I always wanted to go to the UK, not to London or the landscapes but to the northern big cities in all their post-industrialist gloom because that produced two good things: Football players and musicians. To a certain degree, it is still a bit like that, but not so much. How do you think, the music scene up north has changed? Do you still see as many young people going for it?

David: I don’t really know to be honest. Certainly, in that post-punk era in the 80s against the 90s, it was a hotbed. There were so many bands coming out of Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow and places like that. Nowadays, I don’t really see it as that focussed on those areas anymore. The bands seem to be everywhere really. I don’t know whether that is because of the internet. It is not quite in centres as it used to be, I think.

OMB: Would you think the youth culture is maybe a bit different now? More consuming rather than creative?

David: The youth culture is different in that we had only music and football basically (laughs). But nowadays there is so much more for kids to do. They can watch movies on their phones and computer games. The world is wide open. There is more choice. Also, there is less money in the music industry these days. I speak to some managers who work with new bands. They always say, it’s rich kids because no one else can afford to pack their job in and go off on tour unless they have got some kind of financial support or kind of family money. It is harder for kids to be in groups these days because nobody buys records anymore. That’s changed it as well, I think.

OMB: You live in Brighton now. You are a Southerner now!

David: Yeah (laughs).

OMB: You also do a festival in Brighton. Would you like to say something about that?

David: I think we did the ninth one this year. We do it (At The Edge Of The Sea) every year. It came because we were on tour once and we were in a cafe and talking about being a musician you meet a lot of people and have a quite intense relationship with them on tour, support bands or people you work with. And then you don’t see them again. You might see them again in ten years, going: “Hello, remember us?”
We just thought it would be nice if we had this event where could see the bands that we like as people or their music again. So we hit on the idea of this little festival. It is not a big thing. It is just in a venue in Brighton and we invite people who…to be honest, it is like being a kid in a sweet shop – I just go crazy. It is bands that I like or bands we toured with and got on with. Sometimes it is ex-Wedding Present members who have a new projects, so they come and play. It is kind of one of my favourites things to do. It is like Christmas almost. A lot of hard work because there is a lot to organise but it is such a good thing to be involved with.

OMB: You have always done things on the side, that is if there is time for things on the side really.

David: I think, we make time. Well, I make time. I never wanted us to be one of those bands who write songs, make an LP, go on tour, write more songs, make another LP, do another tour…I always wanted to do separate projects, Cinerama and the festival and there is loads of things that go off a tangent…have strange ideas and if you can make it work it is worth doing. It is more for me than just the music. It’s all the other things as well.

OMB: During your longish hiatus (1997-2004) you worked as Cinerama which eventually merged back into The Wedding Present. But do you have Cinerama still going on the side as well?

David: Very much so! Actually, it is one of the benefits of the festival that we do every year that Cinerama always plays. So we do at least one thing every year and get together and rehearse. Also, in the last few years we have been doing more. We did a concert in London a couple of years ago where we played with a string section, a flute player and a trumpet player. We filmed that and released it as a DVD. Just recently The Wedding Present played in London, in fact last week, and Cinerama supported them. Again we had strings and a choir. It is kind of there as a side project, like a hobby, but it comes to life when there is an opportunity. It is quite expensive! The problem with Cinerama is that it is really expensive to do in its real form because it involves a lot of musicians (laughs) who don’t play together very often. So we have to rehearse quite a lot which costs time and money. And it has never been as successful as The Wedding Present, so the economic argument for doing Cinerama is not really great (laughs). But we like to do it when we can.

OMB: To further creativity and to be inspired by it?

David: Yeah, it is a different kind of music. I always enjoyed that kind of filmic pop music and strings. The Wedding Present really is a guitar band. It is just nice to deviate now and again and do something different.

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

OMB: During your time with The Wedding Present you have been on many labels, your own, independent ones and major labels where you – which was unheard of – kept a high degree of control over your output as well. Now you are back to releasing via your own label Scopitones again. Was that always important to you to maintain the control over your output? Also, with so many changing band members, how was it there, did you let them do something?

David: Yeah, it depends on the project really. I’ve always said that The Wedding Present is made up by everyone who is in the band at the time. So I am not this kind of dictator who says: “This is what we are going to sound like!” I’d be stupid to do that to be honest, because one of the advantages to have all these different people through the years is, they come up with different ideas and different musical tastes and inspirations. Often pushes it in a different direction. But yes, I have always been bloody-minded in having that control and the reason why I started the label Scopitones a few years ago was: We used to have our own label and then we signed to RCA Records and that was fine. Then we signed to Island and that was fine. They were both major labels. Then we signed to Cooking Vinyl which is an independent label and we had less control which was weird to me. Because you think it would be the other way round. After releasing a few things on Cooking Vinyl, I decided that it is not that it is a big label so I am not making lots of money from it. I might just do it myself again and then have total control again. And we hired the same people Cooking Vinyl used, but this time I own the rights and it is totally my baby. We have gone back to doing it ourselves really.

OMB: The control issue with the smaller label is probably a financial question as well.

David: That’s the problem. With RCA we were very lucky because we signed in the 80s when there was a lot of money flying around, so anything we wanted there was no question of a problem. Whereas when we got to Cooking Vinyl, the music industry was in decline a little bit and they were a small label. It was more a budgetary thing rather than a creative thing but even so. I don’t want to write songs, make records and then have a business person sat in a room telling me what to do, do you know what I mean? That hampers the artistic freedom and it is important. I can understand why it is not important for some people who are quite happy to be told what to do. Maybe they want that. In The Wedding Present it has never happened and I can’t imagine that it ever would really.


OMB: You seem to be able to day when making records: “Okay, I leave it like that.” And it sounds still a bit raw and not producing the bejaysus out of something even though with a major label you would have certainly had the opportunity to do that.

David: (laughs) We probably even got more extreme as we went along on those major labels. I think we were lucky because again, the people who signed us, especially RCA had a position of power. But because they’d signed us, we got what we wanted really in terms of engineers and producers. Yeah, but it is the traditional kind of major method to get this kind of band and then bring in a producer and a stylist and take that sort of refuge. But it never really happened to us. Maybe it should have, I don’t know! (Laughs).

OMB: I think, most people like The Wedding Present they way they are really. You are celebrating the 30th anniversary of “George Best” on this tour (which is a bit painful, reminding me of my age). I think when you did the 25th birthday tour, you were first not so sure about doing this.

David: No, right. It was the twentieth actually. There was an idea of a re-release which never happened in the end. But it was supposed to come out in a special format and the label wanted to do that and they suggested we play it live. And I said no, that’s like nostalgia and I am an artist and I am looking forward to the next album rather than looking back. But then I went away and spoke to a few people, my friends and people in the band and fans and everybody said: “Oh yeah, you should definitely do that. That would be brilliant. I’d love to see you play “George Best”. Because when an album first comes up, you don’t play the entire thing because it is new. You intersperse it with other songs people know. So we said we should try it. And I was: “Yeeeeah, okaaaaay.” I suppose, I was a bit unenthusiastic. Then, when we started doing it, I realised I was actually enjoying it. It is very interesting and a bit surreal to actually go back and look at stuff you’ve done twenty, thirty years ago and then reimagine it with a new band really. And it is interesting how they interpret everything differently and for me also, it is like looking at an old diary. Because I changed quite a lot in those thirty years, as people do. It’s almost like I am covering myself. I am covering these songs by a songwriter from thirty years ago which happens to be me. And now I think it is fascinating – I love doing it. Especially “George Best”, it is a really frantic set, very powerful and fast and energetic. It’s really good fun to play live actually.

OMB: Buffalo Tom have done this recently and I think, were a bit apprehensive first and then really enjoyed it and seeing how the songs had evolved.

David: Yeah, exactly! I also came to this philosophical conclusion: The past is as important for a band as the present and the future. I did an interview actually where the person said, by doing older records, aren’t you hampering the stuff you are doing now and in the future. I don’t see that really. In the last few years we have done “Bizarro” and “Seamonsters” just like “George Best” – we did them live. But we still released three albums and still have written new songs. Again, it is like Cinerama, a side project that we occasionally do. I didn’t even plan to do “George Best” to be honest…it only happened because someone last year called me and said, oh, we have this festival in Manchester. Would you be prepared to play “George Best” as part of its 30th anniversary? And I said: “What??? Thirty years already?” It seems not so long ago that it was the 20th anniversary. I was actually quite surprised but again, I asked the rest of the group and they said: “Yeah, we should do that.” So we said yes. We got more invitations as people realised and then we thought we do this little tour. So, this one came as a little more of a surprise to me actually. So maybe we are going to do thirty years of “Bizarro” and “Seamonsters” next, who knows?

OMB: For me it is kind of an out of body experience listening to “George Best” now. It seems far away and at the same time it catapults you back right there and you can sense the atmosphere like it was with the sounds and feelings and smells even.

David: That’s exactly why I like it. You hit the nail on the head there. It is something distant, you never think about it. But then, as soon as you start doing it, you are right back there which is very odd.

OMB: You spent some time in the US. Do you see a certain influence on your music?

David: Totally, yeah. Throughout the history of The Wedding Present we have always been interested in North American bands as well as European bands. A lot of “George Best” is this kind of Velvet Underground chord but just really fast (laughs). Then Sonic Youth and Television and all these bands from the American underground have always been influential…Pavement.

OMB: Pixies?

David: Pixies, yeah. Pixies influenced us because Steve Albini as recording engineer. I remember when their “Surfer Rosa” album came out, I was: “This sounds amazing.” Great songs, but also just sounded brilliant as well. And it was Steve Albini recorded that and so we asked him to record “Seamonsters”, our third album. We always had one foot in America and one foot in the UK, even physically these days.

OMB: If you could sort of say very shortly about each of your albums what you had in mind or wanted to achieve when you made it. (We are a bit late and It is dinner time and plates are being banged and people start flooding in and chatting, but this won’t be obvious in the written format here, so on we go…)


David: (chortling and thankfully going on despite maybe at this stage dying with hunger) With “George Best” we really had no plans. We were just happy to make a record. All the songs we had at the time, we just played them. (David’s very lovely wife comes in and brings the equally lovely Doris, their wee dog, to David for some quality time between driving and soundchecking and interviewing and performing. Doris is being interviewed on the life as a touring dog as well).

Then, “Bizarro” was almost the album that “George Best” would have been if we had thought about it a bit more. It is more of a structured record really with more variety and dynamics.

“Seamonsters”: We wanted to get a bit away from that jangly guitar pop and indiepop stuff. So we used Steve Albini. It is more of a dark rock record I suppose.

“Hitparade” (1 and 2), I don’t really see as an album. It was twelve singles.

OMB: And the covers.

David: And the covers, yeah. What’s the next one?

OMB: “Watusi”.

David: “Watusi” is very interesting because we were really interested in these layers of guitar sounds and distortion and noise. But then we had this kind of idea, what would people do without that – if they didn’t have these guitar pedals and these big rock sounds. “Watusi” was more of a look back to the sixties and seventies. What did people do then to achieve this kind of dynamics?

“Saturnalia” is the most experimental record actually. There are some very odd arrangement ideas in there. We wanted to make a record that was a little more challenging.

Then came the Cinerama time. What next? Oh, “Take Fountain”. “Take Fountain” was going to be a Cinerama LP actually because it was still Cinerama at the time. But then as we were making the record we decided it sounded more like a Wedding Present album. So we released it as a Wedding Present album. That is almost like an album where the two bands join.

“Valentina” was interesting because our drummer at the time became the guitar player. We switched instruments. A lot of the songs are rhythmically interesting. It wasn’t straightforward kind of beats which I thought was cool. Oh, I missed one: “El Rey”.

“El Rey”: We went back to work with Steve Albini again in Chicago. And then “Valentina”. And “Going, going…”.

“Going, going…” is my favourite one but that might be because it is the most recent. It is a concept album basically. It is a story that goes through the twenty tracks and the lyrics are linked and the music is kind of linked. The music, I wanted to go somewhere different but at the same time make references to The Wedding Present’s and Cinerama’s past. It was quite a complicated record to make.

OBM: I call it The Wedding Present’s Ulysses.

David: I remember you saying that on the phone. Yes, it is.It is not a straighforward record. I did not plan for it to be a double LP (laughs). It just became that because of the size of the project.

OBM: Lyrically, you have the seal of John Peel of having written some of the best love songs ever. What more can you ask for? They are usually of the platonic or unrequited or broken up kind…

David: I try and cover a whole range really. It is such a big subject.

OBM: Is there autobiographical stuff coming in?

David: Some autobiographical, some less so. Some from my point of view, some from somebody else’s point of view. I am just very fascinated with the thing people say to each other, especially inside relationships, starting or ending. It works really well in pop songs. If I think back to my favourite songs in the fifties and sixties, it was love songs, then punk. They are the most meaningful lyrics to me.

OBM: So you wouldn’t see yourself as doing political songs?

David: I’d like to and I have tried occasionally but I have just never been as happy. I’ve always thought, it is a bit clumsy. I should probably leave it to people who know how to do that (laughs). I am quite happy to be stuck to my field.

OBM: One last thing for you. You said somewhere, your voice has changed a lot. Even though I think the range both musically and atmospherically has increased considerably, you are still instantly recognisable?

David: It is purely down to experience like anything that you do. It is like a skill. Yeah, the range has increased and there is more texture to it and more dimensions which I can control whereas thirty years ago I didn’t know what I was doing. It is like driving a car.

OBM: Thank you very much for your time, David!

David: Thank you!

Kevin Morby Interview And Gig Review – Support: Jess Williamson

So we are off again to the best venue in the area, Reflektor in Liège, Belgium. I won’t harp about it yet again, trust me, it is the perfect place. Tonight everyone is looking forward to see Kevin Morby play after the release of his third solo album “Singing Saw” (Dead Oceans) that for many already has secured a place in the top records of the year. Having a hectic tour schedule and not much time, I am very grateful that Kevin Morby took some time for an interview which you will find below. Here we go now with the Kevin Morby Interview And Gig Review – Support: Jess Williamson at Reflektor, Liège, Belgium, September 1st 2016.

BTW: Kevin Morby’s web appearances do not give away too much but what I just found now is a description of his life with and because of and despite of music in his own words which you should really read. It was published in The Line Of Best Fit.

Kevin Morby Interview And Gig Review - Support: Jess Williamson
Jess Williamson

Anticipating Meg Baird as support act, I was really, really looking forward to this double whammy of musicianship but alas, Meg Baird will be supporting only later in the year. But, boysohboysohboys, Jess Williamson from Austin, Texas, as support act was a revelation. Within seconds she had enthralled everyone with her amazing voice, only accompanied by some sparse guitar playing. Her songs are wide and high and full of yearning and wonder and heartbreak (and an awesome rendition of “Wicked Game”)

Have a wee listen here – Jess Williamson’s new album is coming out in November 2016.

After a sincere recommendation (“You are all in for a treat”) from Jess Williamson and a short break and not much hullaballoo, Kevin Morby and his touring band (Meg Duffy on guitar, Cyrus Gengras on bass and Justin Sullivan on drums) enter the stage and start rocking. Yep, rocking, swaying, hypnotising. If I wondered how the multiple layers of “Singing Saw” could be translated to a stage or if parts of the audience were expecting a quiet singer-songwriter set…that was soon blown away with this perfect set! My word, that is one tight band and one tight performance! Songs from all three solo albums featured (Harlem River, Still Life and Singing Saw), the latest of course making up the greater part. The band gave Kevin Morby space to sing, solo-guitar and dance. Some songs got a special longer, sometimes quieter, sometimes rougher treatment and the audience was raging. Kevin Morby thanked it by giving a couple of solo encores (one of which a beautiful Townes Van Zandt cover) and then the whole band came on for more. Afterwards no back room for the band, outside on the terrace it was, mixing with the fans, posing for photos, chatting away.

Kevin Morby Interview And Gig Review - Support: Jess Williamson

I expected a good concert, but same as the album, this gig has already made its way into the top ten of 2016…perfect!

There are many tour dates to come in Europe, so don’t miss your chance! You cannot describe the atmosphere in words, you need to be there.

Thank you very much Kevin Morby, all the band, Jess Williamson, Dead Oceans label and Bram De Keyzer (tour management) via Toutpartout and Reflektor, the venue for making this possible!

And here comes the interview (excerpts of which will feature on Kaleidoskop, Mondays, 5-6pm CET www.byte.fm and Offbeat, 8-10pm CET www.novumfm.de).

Kevin Morby Interview And Gig Review - Support: Jess Williamson
Kevin Morby

Interview with Kevin Morby

Offbeat Music: Thank you very much for taking the time, because you must obviously be dog-tired. from the touring and waiting around and doing loads of interviews as well. I was wondering: You moved a lot as a kid and you were probably bothered by it a bit or you did not like it very much. How do you find tour life?

Kevin Morby: It’s kind of the same. I actually didn’t mind it too much as a kid. I just kind of mind it as I get older. But because I am doing it for music and a career – I always have that in mind – it becomes bearable. But I like it. I like leaving a place and having a destination in front of me.

Offbeat Music: Well, you are going to all these places but isn’t it like being in a time capsule, like standing still?

Kevin Morby: Yeah, sort of. What’s funny about being on tour is, you have a routine. You have a very strict routine that you stick to every day. So it is almost harder for me to be at home without that routine. Then I don’t know what to do with myself. So in that way touring is good. It is so structured. You become like an animal. Maybe an animal is not the best word for it.

OBM: A robot?

KM: A robot, yes, exactly.

OBM: Your album “Singing Saw” was very well received. Congratulations on that. It is a beautiful album.

KM: Thank you!

OBM: It seems to be truly yourself now, distinguishing you from the musicians you were often compared to, Steve Gunn for instance or even Kurt Vile. Do you see it that way, that you found your own niche with that album?

KM: Yeah, I think I kind of am coming into it which comes from a lot of touring and continuing to make records. For any artist it gets to a point, if you do it, you inevitably start to create your own thing. You start to figure out who you are as you go along.

OBM: When you set out to do “Singing Saw”, what did you have in mind?

KM: Basically I wanted to create an atmosphere. I wanted to make a record that was very much its own atmosphere, that wasn’t too easy to find elsewhere. So if you wanted that sort of feeling, you’d have to listen to my album.

OBM: So did that work out for you or were there moments where you thought: No, that’s not it…I can’t get…it’s there but I can’t grab it.

KM: I had moments like that. But in the end when I was sitting with it and it was all finished, ready to be turned in, I felt good.

OBM: You felt happy with it?

KM: Yeah, for sure!

OBM: Your lyrics: Are they autobiographical or do you take on a persona or are they totally abstract?

KM: They are a mix of both. It’s kind of how I figure people who write fiction novels must go about it where it kind of starts autobiographical and then it takes on a character or it starts as a character and then you introduce elements of your own life into it. So that’s how I work. Nothing is one hundred per cent autobiographical and nothing is one hundred per cent a character.

OBM: Also maybe to make it accessible to everyone?

KM: Sure, yeah. I guess I don’t really have that in mind but maybe just accessible for myself often. You know, I am not much different from other people. That then makes it accessible to others.

OBM: In how far has your Kansas background influenced you?

KM: I think more just in the cadence of the music. I don’t really sing or write songs about Kansas or about the Midwest. Since I grew up there, it is just sort of in me – that sort of mannerisms and that sort of mindset: Those make themselves into my music.

OBM: More subconsciously?

KM: Yeah.

OBM: You said somewhere that your new album is more like a room people can retreat to. I find that with its variety in styles and multi-layered textures, it is more like a house.

KM: I like that!

OBM: How do you find that? What kind of atmosphere are people going to find there?

KM: That’s what I was saying with creating a feeling, like a specific feeling for the record. I just wanted to create something that is like – how do I say that…the reason I called it “Singing Saw” is because a singing saw produces a sound that is beautiful but also eerie. I wanted to create something like that. I like you saying that it is like a house because there are different feelings and elements to the record – it is not just one. I wanted the overlying feeling to be something that is beautiful but also melancholic…and eerie if that makes sense.

OBM: Did the label make that possible that you could take your time and really develop a sound that you liked and repeat it with other instruments and put more layers in it or was that be essentially the new Kevin Morby anyway?

KM: I think the label had a lot to do with it just in terms of what they could offer me. It sounds sort of cheesy to say but since there was more money involved I was enabled to take more time. It just bought me some time. This is the first record that I wrote without other people. Usually I had written playing with a band or playing with the producer. But with this, I wrote the whole thing and sent it to a producer. Because I was able to create it all on my own, I didn’t really have any outside input. So I was able to break rules that I don’t think I would have broken had I made it with other people. Having that time and the space alone to really sit with my songs, allowed me to break my own rules and go into some uncomfortable territory and explore that.

OBM: You said it is a bit eerie and melancholic and beautiful as well. Other people said that it is like otherworldly, not connected to reality, travelling to a place where this space and time exists all the time.

KM: Uhuh, yeah, that is right back to wanting to create its own atmosphere, so I am glad that people said that. It is wanting to create its own life form which would be otherwordly. It is not something that you can necessarily find outside of music. I wanted to create something that was very dreamlike, like a seamless dream that had a lot of ups and downs.

OBM: Is there music from your past be it from Woods or Babies or from your first two albums that you cannot identify with anymore?

KM: I can identify with them. As I get further away from The Babies it seems like the band that I had when I was young. When I listen to some of those songs, I am proud of them but it feels very much like I was figuring out how to write songs or figuring out how to sing. And I am still figuring out those things but it is just each one more and more. But with Woods I was never part of the creative process – I was more in the live band. I’ve actually always been able to listen to Woods as a fan.

Kevin Morby Interview And Gig Review - Support: Jess Williamson

OBM: You have a tour band with you? Would you tell us something about them?

KM: Well, there is Justin Sullivan who plays drums and he also played drums in The Babies, so we have been playing music together for a long time. And there is Meg Duffy who plays guitar. She is very, very talented. And then there is Cyrus Gengras who plays bass – he is also very talented.

OBM: They didn’t play on the album, you just have them with you on tour now?

KM: The only person who played on the album was Justin. Justin Sullivan played on a couple of songs but the rest did not.

OBM: What would your perfect gig look like?

KM: My perfect gig, I think, it would start kind of early (laughs), probably in the Bowery Ballroom in New York. That’s my favourite venue. I think I’d be able to do with a big band, the horn players and back-up singers and all that. We’d have one opener and then we would play. That would be my perfect gig. And my parents would be sitting in the balcony.

OBM: Is there any question that you have never been asked in an interview and you’re sitting somewhere and thinking, oh, I’d like to be asked that!

KM: No, not really. You know, I always wish that people would ask more about specific lyrics. I think, sometimes people assume you don’t want to talk about specific lyrics. But with me it’s kind of fun when people ask me about those sorts of things because it is almost like I don’t have the answers to them and then I have to figure it out. If that makes any sense.

OBM: Because you have to go back there and think about it.

KM: Yeah, it puts you on the spot in a fun way.

OBM: Thank you very much for taking the time (Jess Williamson is starting her support act very soon and Dorothy, Kevin’s guitar needs to be tuned still).

KM: Thank you, great questions!


Mary Lattimore gig review

Mary Lattimore from Philadelphia travelled our shores with Great Lake Swimmers after the release of her new album “At The Dam” (Ghostly International) that is spinning in the Offbeat household non-stop and was so perfectly prescribed by someone writing in to BBC Radio 6 that I cannot but quote it: “Preparing for a holiday, listening to “At The Dam” which was inspired by her experiences on tour. What could be more perfect?”

Mary Lattimore is one busy woman and it is not an easy feat to travel to Europe with her chosen instrument – the harp. So you were well advised to use the opportunity to see her playing live. More on Mary Lattimore here in this blog as well.

We had the chance to see her at Muziekgieterij in Maastricht and when she sat down at the her harp, loop thingie (what DO you call it?) on lap, no microphone, the audience was very curious. Now let me add a little to that: You have here a master of her rare instrument, classically trained and on top of that having played with what reads like the who is who of modern music and yet Mary is down-to-earth, very funny and very kind. It was such a pleasure meeting her again and hearing her perform as well of course.

She treated us to a couple of pieces of her repertoire, ranging from the almost classical to the way-out-there experience.

The amazing mixture of her harp playing and interspersing it quick as a flash with loops and creating a soundscape that totally draws you in, was lost on some maybe. Others were absolutely thrilled to be introduced to her. The very few people who might not have quite connected were amazed in the end with what ease Mary joined and accompanied Great Lake Swimmers for one of their last songs of the eve. Yes, she CAN!

It is wonderful how Mary Lattimore gives harp music a new lease on life and us sound experiences that lull you in, shake you, stir you to eventually console you again. Those pieces will of course develop more of a life of their own in each listener’s mind as they are instrumentals, no lyrics and sometimes titles that you might not have any idea about and certainly not have in mind what Mary did. (Thinking about “Jimmy V” here – not known to too many Europeans or, yes, Mary, I must harp (er) on this: Welsh Corgis In The Snow (can’t get over that one).

I am not too worried about the poor Corgis anymore though as Mary is a dog-lover if I ever saw one.

The end of Mary’s performance saw enthusiastic, awestruck, some bewildered and yet taken aback faces.

I cannot see the video below (aaaawww, thanks German GEMA (royalties company) but I am sure most of you can. Just to give you an impression of what the music of At The Dam is like.

Still, even though you could listen to Mary’s music at home, it is still very impressive to see her live at work. I did not film anything but there is a wee clip I found from this tour, so I’ll point you to that: