Thursday, January 29, 2009

An interview with Jason Munn!

So for those of you out there who haven't heard of Jason Munn or his studio The Small Stakes, the Shimmy Shake has a special treat for you! Jason Munn is a graphic artist and has become one the premier graphic artists in music today. He has done posters, t shirts, album artwork, and more for many of today's leading independent and small label bands. If you haven't seen his work, don't read any further and click below (you will be impressed!)

So I first came upon Jason's work without knowing it. In 2005 Death Cab for Cutie released a live EP entitled "The John Byrd EP" and I was instantly impressed by the artwork. It is one of my favorite album covers. Little did I know that Jason did that album artwork. And most recently, Jason has participated in the Insound 20 project that you should totally be shopping! The prints are numbered and signed and are only $30!

And now The Shimmy Shake is pleased to bring you the following interview with Jason Munn...seriously one of the nicest guys in music today.

1. What inspires you more music or art?

I'd say is real close to equal. One of the reasons I got interested in design is definitely because of all the music I was listening to growing up - album art was really inspiring to me and I knew pretty early on that creating artwork and design for bands was something I was really interested in doing.

2. How do your designs come about? Are they created while listening to the albums from the bands in which you are working with? Or is it more about a concept?

The designs are always inspired in some way by the bands, often I'm very familiar with the bands before creating a poster for them, but if I'm not familiar with the band I often research them and use song titles, album titles or other aspects about the band as a starting point to begin thinking of concepts.

3. Is there any one piece that sticks out in your portfolio that is memorable for any reason? Any favorites?

There are quite a few of the posters I am happy with and quite a few that over time that I'm not as happy with of course. The couple of posters I've done for The Books have always been a couple of my favorites.

4. What are the best records you heard in 2008? Anything you are really looking forward to in 2009?

Deerhunter - Microcastle was by far my favorite album of the year, I also liked The Walkmen - You & Me very much.

5. How did the Insound 20 project come about? Has it lived up to your expectations? Was this the first time you had done work that would show up on t-shirts and hoodies?
Matt Wishnow from Insound contacted me last year about the project and asked me to create all the designs. I was pretty excited about the idea because I've always wanted to work on a project like this, a project where everything was part of a series. I'm happy about how everything turned out - I definitely wanted the series to have a consistent look so it was a bit like a family of designs. I've done quite a few t-shirt designs, but one of the trickiest parts of this project was that each of the designs would be printed on a poster, t-shirt and the designs would also have to shrink down to still work on the front of a zip up sweatshirt - so around 3-4 inches.

6. Can you tell our readers about the print making process? One thing I find interesting is how specific your art is. Do ever feel limited by a show poster or a piece of album artwork?

Most of the posters I do are screen printed. I often start with sketches and drawings done by hand and then everything is put together and designed on the computer - choosing my colors and so on. Once the design is finalized I separate the files and begin the screen printing. I don't feel limited by this form of printing or designing at all - I'm happy to work with the limitations and I think the work is stronger because of the limitations.

7. You've worked with creating artwork for albums as well as concert artwork so I was wondering...Album artwork or concert artwork? Do you have a preference either way?

I think I'll always prefer the poster, but I'm happy to get to design more and more vinyl packages as of late versus cd packages.

Thanks again to Jason Munn for taking the time to share with us!


Some random thoughts:
  • How did I miss The Hold Steady last year?

  • Related: Yeah Sapphire is my favorite song of 2008 that I didn't hear until 2009.

  • Does one need to own a full Stevie Wonder album? Aside from Songs in the Key of Life (and maybe Innervisions) Stevie put out a lot of crap. And not just during the 80s. The 70's had some clunkers too (see: Signed Sealed Delivered).

  • If I go out and buy an iPhone this evening, it's all Shelby's fault for playing That iPhone song on his damn podcast last week.

  • Holy crap, I'm going to be a second time daddy in less than two weeks.

  • Cos I'm lazy, Feed the Animals has become my default workout music instead of a proper playlist.
That's really all I got right now.

Ain't his birthday but he's got his name on the cake...

I really hope Lil Wayne wins Album of the Year.

His interview in GQ last month was simultaneously derisive, prolific, reserved, normal and bizarre. On the scene right now, there is no other greater rock star.

And I mean rock star. This guy gets high off cold syrup and weed (at the same time!!). He's got a bazillion tattoos. His album this year was sick.

He fucking thinks he's from Mars!

I mean, Lil Wayne is larger than life, and damnit, that's how I want my rock stars. Fuck these panty waist Jonas Brothers (don't want no chastity) or whatever else.

If you're not liking Lil Wayne, you should.

Indie Sammies

So Rachel Ray is hosting a SXSW party. And it's featuring The Hold Steady.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

I don't like Rachel Ray, not because of her cutesy sayings or the way she has democratized, demystified, and simplified cooking (that is actually something she should be applauded for).

No, I don't like Rachel Ray because she's on fucking everything. She's on 29 different shows on FoodTV. She's endorsed the hell out of everything in my grocery. She's gone from this sort of Martin Luther of the culinary world to this overexposed imp. I don't get that. And I don't like it.

So I don't know quite how to place her SXSW event. I mean, on one hand, this brings major exposure to bands that need it (maybe not Hold Steady. People love the fuck out of them).

But on the other, this is just about getting Rachel Ray's name and brand out. Which sucks.

I'm going to go make a sammie and think about it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's the deal with Adele?

I've had Adele's 19 for quite sometime now. I gave it one listen and never did again.

This girl has an incredible voice. I mean, she has one of those supadupa amazing sounds, all smoky and jazzy.

But WTF is up with her music? It doesn't go with her sound at all. It's all sleepy and sparse.

So are we now giving out Grammy's based on vocal ability alone?

Sigh. I'm getting sleepy listening to it.

The lovemaking will begin now!

Ran across a site today for a product called The Love Trainer (mildly NSFW). This awesome love enhancement tool is brought to you by SEGA toys (of course only the Japanese could make something this odd). Nothing says 'sex' like makers of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Essentially a headset and a heart monitor, it whispers into your ear when to take it to the next level, give your partner some extra juice (but be forewarned, that not all the ladies or dudes enjoy the hardfucking).

How is this music related? You can pipe in music from your iPod while gettin' busy.

Valentine's Day is around the corner fellas. Tis might be good for you and your woman.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What We're Listening To - Cut Off Your Hands

One of the ultimate downsides to not having a computer was that I lost two weeks of pittering around eMusic to find something to download. But I came back with a vengance, and blew through 26 credits in one day.

One of the albums I picked up was the Cut Off Your Hands late 2008 debut, You and I. I'm a sucker for power pop, fast synthy guitars, and lead vocalists that seem to be trying to out-Cure The Cure. These cheeky little New Zealanders do all of that.

It starts off with jaunty "Happy As Can Be" and picks up steam from there. It slows down and tenderizes with the teen love song "Oh Girl." The songs are all rather youthful when you think about it ("Let's Get Out of Here", "Heartbreak"). It's not very adventerous sonically (you can only play the same three chords so many ways), but it's still a good listen.

And you thought jermaine and Brett were the only good things musically to come out of New Zealand.

Shopping Pr0n

A friend of mine just started a new blog dedicated to shopping and looking good. It's called Shopping Pr0n, and it's solid. She's been doing something small scale on the side for awhile on her other private blog, but like The Shimmy Shake, these things kind of take on a life of their own.

She's good at putting items together, snarky at what celebs where, and will always point you to a good deal. She does both women and men's fashion, so dudes, check it out too.

I know it might seem indulgent to think about $2k Prada suits during this time of record layoffs, but if your reading blogs about music, chances are you got some free time on your hands. And you probably need new clothes to boot.

Check it out. I think you'll like it.

CD Giveaway From Kristin Andreassen

The loveley ladies from Sometymes Why

So back in November, I reviewed Kristin Andreassen's Kiss Me Hello. In December I had the privilege of interviewing her as well. Just an all around nice person, she offered to send some swag this way for me to give out to you crazy kids.

Well, we finally got the package (actually, the day my computer crapped out I got it), and she really went over the top (Thanks Kristin!!!).

There's 6 CDs in there from her other band Sometymes Why, with promises of posters and other stuff to come.

So here's the drill. If you want a CD, leave a comment on this post. It's gotta have an email address attached to the name, or I can't get in contact with you. I'm not gonna spam you or anything. Our two previous winners from the last contest (Shelby M. of Dallas Texas and Adam N. of San Francisco) can attest that this isn't some sort of scam.

Contest will end Thursday, February 5 at 11:59 pm. I'll randomly pick people the next day, post winners and send emails out.

As always, tell all your cool ass friends! Even your not cool ass friends!

I didn't forget about ya

Hey there!

I know, we do this dance occassionally. You've probably been checking in dutifully, only to see there are no posts. And again, I have to apologize. But I have a really good reason.

My computer died two Thursdays ago (before the Inauguration). I wasn't too worried about my music collection (I'm a huge proponent of frequent backups). But since I can't really listen to new music at work (thanks government firewall!), it really limited my ability to get new stuff. Coupled with the influx of family and all the inauguartion stuff that went with it, it was a bear.

But now I'm moving at 200 mph and getting caught up on a lot of old stuff. Today you're gonna get a glut of reviews, random thoughts, and even another giveaway.

I know. It's like my little make up present to you.

Cos I love you all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The LA Times has a fascinating article on the rise of gay hip-hop artists (calling the music "homo-hop" just seems deragotory, but that's what it's refered to as).

I'm constantly amazed at how America's youngest indigenous musical art form (just over 30 baby) is still constantly changing, adapting and growing.

A Grand Don't Come For Free

Woo hoo.

We did it. We've hit 1,000 visitors. I won't get into the breakdown of repeats vs multiple page loads vs unique visitors (that's for our nascent Taking on Goliath advertising department). But I will say that on the whole, I'm pretty pleased. Just to compare, my startup costs have been none, zero promotion, all done in my spare time, and I've had over 1,000 page views.

I could never do this with a print publication. Even some Xeroxed copied product would've cost me a pretty penny. And there's no way 1,000 people wouldv'e seen it or read it (not that I'm saying 1,000 people have read the blog. Cos that's just not true).

But I want to say thank you to all the people who check in their readers, or gasp, plug in The Shimmy Shake into their address bars occassionally. I try to be a faithful blogger, but it doesn't always happen. But thanks for sticking with me.

Thanks for all the comments and love. Thanks to all the bands who've been kind enough to sit through one of my torture-light amatuer interviews.

Thanks to all the hustlers. And most importantly you: the customer.

Drinks is on the house.

Interview with Tim Kyle of Wild Light

So, I've been listening to the new Wild Light album (review to come soon) pretty much consistently since they're amazing PR people sent it to me a few days ago. Tim Kyle, the lead singer for the band, was kind enough to answer a small slew of questions for the blog before he and the guys went out on tour with Tapes n Tapes.

These guys are going to be huge in 2009.

Shimmy ShakeFirst, how did Wild Light come to be? I read in a press release
that you guys all grew up together. How long have you been playing?
What's the backstory on Wild Light?

Tim Kyle, lead singer for Wild LightWell, we all knew each other when we were younger, Jordan and I (timothy) were in 4th grade together after I moved to New Hampshire and was the new kid in class, then we started writing songs together when we were like 13 or so. Then in high school we recruited Seth Pitman (with whom i went to high school) to start a band, and later Seth Kasper became our 2nd drummer. This was the final line-up of our band in high school. Then that band split up and we all went our separate ways with no expectation of ever having a band together again, but then in summer 2005 fate intervened decreed that we start Wild Light. We moved into a shit-hole cold house in Quincy just south of boston where we wrote, rehearsed, and suffered for a couple years before things started to happen.

SSHow would you describe your sound? Who are some of your influences?

TKGiven the choice, I would not descirbe our sound at all. But we usually don't get that choice, so I try to say something evasive and ultimately not very helpful. I would call us, "Classic Rock." or "Metaphysical Pop" or "Major Label Indie" or something else that doesn't really mean anything. But to be sort of serious, I think we just make pop music. We care about melody and lyrics, and stuff that likewise cares about those things are what we tend to be influenced by. Rock N Roll peaked early, the Beatles and Dylan did it the best and we're all just trying get a piece of that action.

SSYou all have a pretty extensive tour pedigree, opening for some of
the biggest names in indie rock (Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT,
Tapes N Tapes). How'd that come about?

TKAll our shows have come via friends and booking agents.

SSIt's been almost two years since you put out the red-covered "EP."
What are we going to find different between that and "Adult Nights"?
What have you all gained in that interim?

TKThe production on the album is more 'produced' than on the EP fer sure. Maybe not quite so dense. You could say it is a little more 'slick.' The songs are also more concise, and shorter than they used to be. Rob Shnapf pushed us to cut out a bunch of stuff that didn't really need to be there out of the arrangements. As for what we have gained since the EP, Rob also pushed us to learn how to tune, which is something we'll probably need this year.

SS"California On My Mind," the first single from "Adult Nights," is
just a great song (if not altogether radio friendly). First, I can't
imagine you disliking The Golden State (or just the Bay Area) that
much, but it's fun singing it. And the new version of "New Hampshire"
is more upbeat. Does the rest of the album carry over that energy?
What are some of your favorite songs from the new album?

TKYeah, everybody in our band loves California. That song is more about a bad day than hating the state of California. It could be anything, it's just about feeling pissed and frustrated and so you say, "fuck -----," -whatever happens to be in front of you. I think yes, the album is more upbeat than our EP and demos.

SSYou're putting the album out with StarTime and Almost Gold records,
who distributes through Universal. That's pretty big time. Talk about
the move from unsigned indie band to working with the majors.

TKActually we're mainly on Startime right now, which goes through Columbia not Universal, but your question still stands. So far our label situation is a good mix of working with a major and an indie, in that we mostly only deal directly with Startime who is a tiny 3 person office of people who know and like good music and aren't going from working on our record to working on the new System Of A Down album within the same hour, or something like that. Not too much dealing with suits so far. But then, when and if we should require, Columbia's muscles are there if things start to take off, they will be there to push it. My understanding is that they like the record as well, so that's good. In general, I really can't complain so far. I think it feels kind of cool being on a major. All the bands we loved growing up were on majors. It's not really as fashionable anymore for the coolest indie bands to be on a major, seems to make people pretty suspicious, and not totally without reason. But hey, The Clash was on a major, the Cure was on a major. There might not have been many other options at the time, but those bands wouldn't have been the "larger-than-life" kind of bands they were without being on a major. Then of course the flipside is stuff like the fact that Joe Strummer had to pretty much sit out the 80's while his terrible contract ran its course. But that kind of stuff is less common now, and we definitely were careful not to sign a stupid contract after hearing those kinds of stories, and being unsure about majors to begin with, but no one was trying to pull anything over on us anyway. So far, so good, no complaints. For people like us who aren't very good at dealing with all the day to day logisitcal and pragmatic details of making a band run, having somebody organized and competent getting shit done is comforting.

SSThe Boston Area loves you. And that's not an easy feat, considering
there is a ton of great music coming out of there. How important was
it to play locally and develop that fan base, and what do you take
from it when playing in across the States or in Europe?

TKIt's funny, suddenly Boston supposedly loves us, but nobody ever came to see us when we lived and played there, except for our friends. We never really got any press or attention there until we started making a more national splash. We headlined a show at TT the Bear's the night before we flew to LA to start making our record and there were 4 or 5 people there. But we just got that award from the BMA's, which was kind of cool. Hopefully now we can start to make friends with Boston.

SSThis winter/spring tour with Tapes N Tapes is pretty much going to
take you all across country. What are you looking most forward to on
the tour?

TKWhat I'm looking forward to about the tour the most is just getting in a groove, shaking the rust off, and getting tight with our playing and performance. Rehearsal can only take you so far, for us, we've got to tour to really get into a good zone playing-wise. I'm looking forward to just playing everyday.

SSWhat are you currently listening to on your iPod/CD
player/8-track/gramophone? What can't you get enough of?

TKMy ipod is broken and I have no money, so I've just been listening to the radio when I drive, mostly stupid classic rock stations, pop stations. Stuff that rots your brain. Sports radio. If I could listen to some music, it would probably be Morrissey, Bob Dylan's last Bootleg thing - Tell Tale Signs, I like the last Wolf Parade record. Maybe some classical stuff, Bach and Ravel.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Hey there and Happy New Year!

I'm sitting on some really good stuff right now. We got a pretty solid, unexpected interview coming down the pipe. And some new, never before heard music as well. But all in due time.

I'm kind of at a blank right now for new music. It seems everyone took the last two weeks off, and I've resorted to reading random blog posts and then forgetting to get the music.

And damnit, eMusic keeps wanting me to download weird country music.

But Auld Lang Syne man! Suggest something for me to listen to.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

We Get Letters - Updates from Kristin Andreasssen

Kristin Andreassen, who we interviewed earlier last month, sent over a letter about her song of the month club and the rebroadcast of her November 2008 performance on A Prairie Home Companion.
Happy New Year!

One or two of the songs I sang on A Prairie Home Companion are going to be re-broadcast this weekend (January 3-4) as a part of their 2008 Rewind show. Isn't that cool? So if you missed the live version in November you could check it out. See for stations and broadcast times.

Also, remember that song-of-the-month-club idea? Well, I've got it sorted out and you can sign up any time.

I'm calling it the Second Saturday Songs Club because I'm going to release at least one new song on – bet you can't guess when – yep, the second Saturday of every month. Starting February 14th. (Valentine's Day -- ahh... what a great present for your loved one. I'll make it a love song I promise ;-).

Click here to find out more.

I think that's all there is to report right now.

- kristin

Kristin also has some tour dates coming up from New York all the way up into New England. So if you can, drop in and see her.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What I'm Listening To - Wild Light

The LA Times does a stand up job of covering the entertainment industry. It's got an Oscar blog, a TV blog, one about the business of entertainment. But for me, the best is it's music blog, Pop & Hiss.

It's very LA-centric mind you, so some of the posts revolve around performances out there. And I've always found Californian musical tastes to be mirrors of that 49er gold rush, free spirit, car centric western lifestyle. It doesn't really appeal to me on a whole, but nonetheless is fascinating.

All that said, Pop and Hiss ran a feature last week of 2009 artists to watch, and they run the gamut from hip hop, the roots rock, to world music. But I was most intrigued by a Boston band called Wild Light, a group that makes unapologetic big pop music. They've got a touring pedigree that's pretty certified: Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, on tour now with Tapes n Tapes. And they just won best Outstanding Rock Act of the Year from the Boston Music Awards.

I got their four song EP after reading the article, and it holds up well. It's full of those jangly guitars, driving drum beats, great harmony vocals. I found myself humming 'New Hampshire' all day. And their song "California On My Mind" off their yet to be released album is lyrically very simple, but has probably one of the best East Coast-Hates-West Coast refrains ever ("Fuck today/Fuck San Francisco/Fuck California"). I'm not sure how you can hear it and not love it.

They've got a pretty extensive tour coming up in support of their debut release "Adult Nights." Check them out.

Get Wild Light's "EP"
Buy from Amazon
Download from eMusic

Sign up for Wild Light's mailing list and get "California On My Mind" for free