As part of La Fete 2013, French band Limousine will team up with traditional Thai multi-instrumentalist Yodh Warong to perform a cross-cultural blend of mo lam, jazz and post-rock at Sonic Ekkamai on May 29. BK spoke to the band’s saxophonist and keyboardist Laurent Bardainne about the origins of the Limousine Siam Roads Concert and Exhibition, which also features a series of works by award-winning photojournalist Agnes Dherbeys capturing their tour of the Isaan countryside last year.

How did Limousine form and what sort of music do you usually play?
We were experimental jazz musicians based in Paris who decided to start a quiet project in 2005. Our initial goal was to make our audiences dream through minimalist soundscapes.

How did you first discover Thai luk tung and morlam? What do you find so appealing about these sounds?
Back in 2010, I went into a bar in Bangkok—I don’t remember which one—and discovered luk tung playing. After that I went straight out and bought compilations from Maft Sai’s ZudRangMa Records and Soundway Records.

People like ZudRangMa have worked hard to re-introduce mo lam to a bigger audience; do you think there is an international market for Thai roots music?
Definitely, yes!

Where did you first get the inspiration for the Siam Roads project?
When I came back to Paris after my first trip to Thailand, I was so sad. I was always listening to mor lam, so we just decided to make a sort of tribute to this kind of music with as Limousine.

Why did you decide to document your tour of the Isaan countryside in 2012?
Agnes is my partner of two and a half years. She was living in Bangkok for 12 years but has since come back to Paris. We decided to keep a visual souvenir of our trip to Ubon Ratchatani and we plan to release a photo book and vinyl in 2014.

How did you first come into contact with Yodh Warong?
By chance, David Aknin [Limousine drummer] knew of this kind of music, and he remembered this great molam musician he had seen in Thailand two years before. We were able to contact Yodh over the internet and met him in the summer of 2011 when we started planning the trip.

What can gig-goers expect from the show as part of La Fete on May 29?
A meeting between Isaan music and our sound, which is closer to jazz. In the end you willl dance!

Your press bio describes Limousine’s sound as “imaginary road movie music”; do you think music and travel are inexplicably linked?
Yes, with Limousine we also want people to travel in their head—they can attach their own stories because there are no words in the songs.

As your bio also points outs, Thailand evokes different things to different people; what does Thailand mean to you?
Firstly, I have the intimate souvenir of my real first holiday in Thailand. But Thailand is also Isaan for me now, too. I would say the sweetness and deep spirituality of the country stands out for me.

 

 

LIMOUSINE - La Gaviota from ekleroshock on Vimeo.

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Ahead of their appearance at Supersweet’s Dodos Day Fest (May 18), BK chatted with Meric Long, frontman of Californian indie duo The Dodos, about the simplicity of life on the road and mixing the old with the new.

First off, how does it feel to be loved so much in a far-off place like Thailand?
We really had no idea that we have any fans in these parts, and I won’t really believe it till I see actual humanoids at the show. But it’s awesome if it’s true—the internet is crazy!

In Bangkok, you’ll play two sets on the one day—one acoustic and one electric. Does this pose a challenge to you?
It actually makes total sense, considering that we went from more acoustic to more electric, and it makes it easy for us, we have an excuse to play old stuff. Sometimes it’s difficult to design a set that mixes the old with the new, this way it’s like having one of those plates with the little compartments that separates all the food for you, no cross contamination.

You’ve being quoted before as saying Dodos are first and foremost a live band; do you still stand by that? What should fans of your recorded work expect?
I don’t know why I said that. Seems like an obvious statement, but I suppose it was probably early on when being in the studio was more of a mystery to us. Capturing what you do live is something that takes a lot of work and even luck I’d say, it either happens or it doesn’t. I feel like we’ve moved away from trying to recreate what happens live to just focusing on making a good record. It’s a total different experience and that’s a good thing, otherwise there wouldn’t be any surprises.

What’s the best thing about being on the road?
Life gets really simple when you’re touring, and it can feel like a vacation from your brain. Everyday is decided for you, and all you have to do is take care of your health, try and find some moment in the day for yourself, and perhaps eat something good. It doesn’t sustain itself forever because at some point you start to miss the things that really matter, but it’s a healthy way to be for a while.

Any weird touring experiences?
I remember doing a live session for some TV thing in the UK at like 6am in the morning and we were in this tiny box of a room, sweating profusely and playing toy versions of our instruments to be broadcast to thousands of people in the hope of promoting our band.

It’s been a couple of years since your last album, No Color. How’s the new material coming along?
We’ve taken a lot of time to regather ourselves before trying to write again, and it feels really good to be working on new stuff. We’ll have a new record out this summer and we’re working on another one to come out afterwards. I wouldn’t say there are any great leaps, but we tried a different approach this time and it certainly feels different. I really wanted to work on my songwriting before trying to do another record and hopefully it will show.

Your 2008 album Visiter gained you a lot of exposure, and your last two weren’t quite so well received. Do you feel less or more pressure when writing and recording now?
There will always be the pressure we put on ourselves regardless of how a record is received. I used to think it had more to do with what the expectations are, but after having experienced it from both ends I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. There are a few people who I really, really care what they think—that’s enough pressure already!

On your last album you worked with Neko Case; how was that? Who else would you like to collaborate with?
It was rad. She is rad, and we were very lucky. I want to do a record with Trent Reznor.

We read an interview with you prior to No Color coming out and you seemed rather apprehensive about how it would shape your future career; are you in a good space now?
We were dotting a lot of I’s and crossing a lot of T’s with that record. It left us with a great question mark that I feel we’ve been able to answer at least for the moment, and though my apprehension is still there we’ve had enough time away from music to form our own ideas about what we’re doing and it feels right.

 

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Popscene pulled off a major coup announcing that brooding US synth-rock act Cold Cave would be stopping off at Bangkok on their current “Meaningful Life” tour of Asia taking in China, Japan, Korea and Nepal. BK caught up with frontman Wesley Eisold ahead of the gig at Cosmic Café on May 15.

What triggered your current tour of Asia?
A few years ago I tried to do a similar tour but it fell through. It’s exciting to play larger cities as well as less traditional ones, such as Kathmandu. Sometimes music similar to mine has never been performed in such cities. Of course it’s an opportunity to see places too. The reception has been incredible, humbling. Every show is a strong mix of locals and expats.

You’re currently performing in duo mode; what can we expect?
Electronics. Crude and digital. I’m able to accomplish more with a minimal set-up. I’ve performed with an other person often so this is pretty standard.

Why the regular changes to the live line-up?
I’ve wanted to hear the songs in different capacities. Maybe depending on the tour I’ve added a drummer but as of now I’m enjoying electronics.

While Cold Cave is still very much a solo project, does working with so many different musicians of different backgrounds influence your songwriting?
No, it doesn’t because I write alone.

After this tour you’re playing some high-profile reunion shows with your old hardcore band, American Nightmare. How does it feel to be revisiting that period of your career?
It comes with some perspective. I’ve come a long way. It’s a form of reconciliation. The band didn’t end well. It was sudden and many people never got to see it live.

You’re no longer under contract with a record label. How is that influencing your work?
I’m releasing music through my publishing company, Heartworm Press. I’m releasing music freely as I wish at the moment. Basically I don’t have to follow anyone’s rules but my own.

You’ve recently released a number of seven-inches; what do you find most appealing about this format?
It’s a brief statement as opposed to an album which can be more elaborate. I took Cold Cave back to where I began. This format makes sense to that ideology of home recording and limited edition releases.

You’re also an author and a publisher. Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Are your literary and musical influences one and the same?
I’ve always gravitated toward the French authors like Genet, Celine, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Artaud etc. There is crossover from music to literary influences at times when there are special lyrics. Morrissey, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Genesis P-Orridge and many more. I feel in line with them.

Critics tend to call your music dark or “goth,” but lyrically this isn’t always the case. At the threat of similarly pigeon-holing yourself, how would you describe the music of Cold Cave?
It’s very personal music. It’s dark, yes, but not without optimism. I guess it’s realist. The sound has varied a bit instrumentally but my heart has been the constant.

You moved around a lot as a kid; would you say that’s predisposed you to a life of touring or influenced your art in any way?
I’ve learned that not everything is transient but most things are.

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As a member of Japanese noise-rock veterans Melt-Banana, Ichirou Agata has been befuddling audiences all over the world for some 20 years. The guitarist and songwriter, who usually wears a surgical mask on stage, spoke to BK ahead of their show at SOL Space on April 6.

It’s been a few years since you last released new material; are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes, we are working on a new album. We are planning to release it during this year.

For someone who isn’t familiar with your work, how would you describe Melt-Banana’s music?
It sounds like “gagagagakyakyakyagogagaga!”

What’s the weirdest thing anybody has ever said about your sound?
Some people did not notice that there was no drummer on stage.

The crowds at your shows are renowned for being pretty wild; what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen from the stage?
Dogs were running around in Holland, some kids kept doing backflips from the stage in Italy. These are the things that come across my mind right now.

What’s the strangest or most frightening experience you’ve had while on tour?
We hit a deer in the USA and our van broke down. We were afraid of canceling the tour, but many people helped us to keep going, so it was a great experience in the end.

How do you write your lyrics? To some people they might seem nonsensical, but what are you attempting to say?
When I write lyrics, I look up an English dictionary and pick out words that sound interesting to me and have neat pronunciation. And starting with these words, I use my imagination. I don’t think there are strong messages in my lyrics like some political bands’ songs. But there is some meaning at least if the lyrics are made up with words. Maybe some people see, and maybe for some people it is nonsense. I guess it is up to the people who read them.

What can you tell us about Melt-Banana Lite? Do you ever still perform under this guise?
We don’t use guitar or bass, but low-end noise and air synth which is electric equipment like the theremin. If we get an offer to play shows as Melt-Banana Lite, we do it.

In Bangkok you will be playing in a small, intimate art gallery/live venue that can only fit about 150 people; what type of venue do you prefer to play?
Once we played in a very small locked up barn, and we liked it. And we also enjoyed playing in a big arena when we opened for Tool. Actually we don’t mind the size of the venue or number of people. If we have a good enough sound system, we can play a show.

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The guitarist of Japanese post-rock veterans Mono, Takaakira Goto, chats to BK about the band’s evolving sound and the inspiration behind their most recent album, For My Parents (2012), ahead of their show at the National Theatre this week (Apr 3).

Mono is often categorized as “post-rock”; how would you describe your current sound?
I just think it’s important for the audience to engage, connect, and decide what the music means to them. At this point, I’m not sure how to define our music. It kind of bleeds into a few different genres now, such as classical and instrumental rock. Music can be a visceral, spiritual experience. It has the ability to communicate a sort of transcendence from the chaos of everyday living. Our music has evolved because we’ve changed as human beings over the years. We’ve developed a certain dynamic as a quartet so, hopefully, we’re willing to take larger risks in composition.

Your last album, For My Parents, featured a lot more orchestration than previous releases; what was the response like from fans?
We knew that the response would be mixed, but felt that it was something we needed to do. Our audience has been very supportive so we are thankful for that. Classical music has been a part of all our childhoods so we were always curious about incorporating more orchestration into our albums. This orchestral sound was something we wanted to create specifically for Hymn to the Immortal Wind (2009) and For My Parents. We'd experimented with strings on earlier albums but didn’t feel ready to take the full leap until Hymn... It has been an incredible learning experience.

The title of your last album, For My Parents, and its track titles, suggest a time of reflection and nostalgia. What was the inspiration behind that?
We hope to leave enough space for our listeners to interpret the music however they choose. But the story behind For My Parents came from the understanding that we all eventually lose the ones that made us. It’s the way of nature. How do you stand by the one that created you? How do you stand next to your home, the place that created you? For this album, we went back to our roots. It’s something that we wanted to do while we still had the chance. I think the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (2011) unexpectedly stirred up emotions about our homeland and families. It made us think about how fleeting, and sometimes fragile, moments can be.

Are you guys working on anything new?
Yes, we are already composing songs for a new album and hope to get started on recording.

Your music often gets compared to film soundtracks; is this something you’ve ever considered working on?
Yes, I think powerful storytelling in cinema has influenced us. I love films that tell epic, poetic stories in subtle ways—films that allow space for people's imagination. We’re always open to collaborating with filmmakers.

In Bangkok you will perform at the National Theatre (a beautiful, old, all-seated venue that usually plays host to classical drama); does playing venues of different sizes and styles alter your performance?
Sometimes, yes. We love playing in places like the National Theatre because it has a history and story. But we love to play live anywhere, whether it’s a small venue or a giant church.

How do venues and audiences compare across the world?
It’s a beautiful experience to play our music on different continents and feel no disconnect between us and the audience. This is the universal language of music. We’re all in a room sharing the energy of a song, and in that space we remember that all humans derive from the same source.

What’s the best thing about touring? What’s the hardest thing about being on the road?
Sharing special energies with our fans is the best, and long drives are the hardest.

You last played Bangkok in 2011; what are your memories of your time here?
It was a really amazing show—the lighting, atmosphere, a lot of good energy...we loved it. We hope to bring old songs and new songs to our show in April. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again.
 

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This four-piece post-rock band, made up of musicians drawn from Japan and Ireland, as well as Thailand, takes its inspiration from the likes of Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky, with a sound that is grandiose yet brimming with subtleties. We like them so much we named them one of Bangkok’s best new bands for 2013. BK caught up with their frontman Hayato Imanishi ahead of their appearance at this weekend’s Neighborhood garden party at the Neilson Hays Library on Mar 16.

How did the band form?
Withyouathome started as my home recording project in the summer of 2011. Once a few songs were recorded and uploaded online, I recruited band members through a social networking site to perform live shows. Soon Wit (drums), Job (bass) and Adam (guitar) got in touch and the four of us started rehearsing. Thankfully, we clicked.

How would you describe your sound?
Post-rock, a subgenre of rock music that uses typical rock music instruments (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, etc.), but is focused on the art of soundscaping rather than writing great riffs. It’s often entirely instrumental but we have vocals on most tracks.

What are your inspirations?
The universe, humanity and all the small things that happen in our everyday lives. We focus on both the world inside our body, and outside.

What do you think of the Bangkok live music scene right now?
I spent over 10 years in the UK before here, and in comparison, Bangkok’s scene is still tiny. There is enormous potential though! Especially in the past year or so, we’ve seen some highly-motivated people take matters into their own hands, which is exactly what we need for a lively scene. Labels, venue owners, promoters, bands and music lovers are all ensuring there’s a steady stream of live shows that keeps the scene active. But bands need to work for the scene, and not only for themselves.  I still see too many bands who turn up to shows, play a half-assed set and go back home straight way. They have no interest whatsoever in supporting the people who have organised the event. We are all in it together: venues have to pay rent, promoters have to pay for equipment hire, and bands need money like everyone else.

Favorite live venue in Bangkok?
Harmonica. The owner Put is a great musician himself and he’s been in bands. He knows what we’ve gone through. With that understanding, he opened Harmonica, where bands can play for free, with great equipment and in a nice atmosphere—not to mention a convenient location! It has given so many bands their first shows and provides a home for many promoters. There is no other venue in Bangkok that can deliver the quality Harmonica does at such a low cost.

What can you tell us about the Neighborhood garden party?
It’s organized by a very enthusiastic young group called Neighborhood. It’s a rare opportunity for us bands to make some noise at a library and we are very excited to be a part of it. It’s great to see young people taking the initiative to organize something themselves and we’re happy to have been invited! All the bands sound very different from each other but are awesome all the same. This is a unique chance to see some of the best music the Bangkok indie scene has to offer right now.

What are your future plans?
We released our debut album last year [Our Lives Are All Very Forgettable Events In The Universe] and we’ll mainly be promoting that this year with regular live shows. But we’re constantly writing, so whenever there is enough new music we’ll be releasing it. We are also really hoping to play abroad this year—maybe Malaysia, maybe Japan... not sure yet!
 

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Californian garage-rockers Thee Oh Sees are bringing their explosive live show to Cosmic Café on Feb 28, presented by Popscene. Led by mercurial Bay Area musician John Dwyer, the band are renowned for pumping out both three-minute pop-rock nuggets and psychedelic extended jams, averaging more than a record a year over the best part of a decade. With new album Floating Coffin due out April 16, BK caught up with the band’s bassist Petey Dammit ahead of their Bangkok visit.

First up, how were the All Tomorrow’s Parties concerts you just played in Australia? It’s quite a time to be appearing on the same bill as My Bloody Valentine…
ATP Australia was wonderful! It was a really great time and an honor to be playing with so many amazing bands. They do a really great job with that festival and always have a really nice set up, so you can really enjoy everything that is happening. It’s a complete mind-blower to know that you played on the same stage as Swans and My Bloody Valentine. It is also such an honor not only to share a stage, but to be able to see them perform and walk past them in the hotel lobby the next morning!

What brings you to Thailand?
We have never been here before and it seems like such a beautiful country. This is our first time playing in Asia, so this part of the tour is all new and amazing for me. I'm just happy that we are allowed to come to Thailand and play a show!

What can you tell us about your forthcoming album Floating Coffin: how was it recorded? How is it different from previous records?
Floating Coffin was recorded at a studio called The Hangar in Sacramento, California. An insane amount of albums have been recorded there and it has a long history of incredible releases. Unfortunately, it will be closing down very soon so we wanted to get in there and record another album while we still had a chance. We used our good friend Chris Woodhouse [producer of previous albums Master’s Bedroom…, Help, Warm Slime, Putrifiers II, etc.] once again because he is a wizard and probably knows our music better than we know it ourselves. It was recorded live with a few overdub tracks, like most of our recordings, and I think it is a good natural progression from our previous releases. This one will also have some incredible string arrangements on it to mix things up and give it a nice flavor.

You guys are so prolific. Do you have a long-term plan for releases or is it just like a natural flow?
There isn't a plan for our recordings, we just write songs and then record them at our own pace. We don't really think about what you traditionally can or can't do in music or recording, we just do what we do when we have the time to do it. It's better to be busy than bored so that translates into a lot of touring and recording for us.

Which do you prefer: recording or touring?
They are both great. I feel really fortunate to be doing what I am doing in my life right now. I suppose I prefer touring, though. I knew growing up in a small town that if I lived a normal life I would never get to see the places I'd look at in books or travel very far from home. So after discovering music I worked really hard to get to a place where I can use music to see different countries and enjoy different cultures. I really am living the dream right now!

Does the band prefer to play small clubs and house parties over the bigger venues?
It's a bit of a silly question. You can drive a super-expensive brand new tiny sports car or a beat up 1953 Cadillac and get massive amounts of enjoyment from each one.

Your live shows are renowned for being pretty rowdy; has it ever got too out of hand?
There have been some pretty crazy shows, but nothing too wild. There was a great show I remember in Montreal where I started to feel a little sea sick because the crowd was swaying back and forth so violently I felt like I was on a boat!

With such a big back catalog, how do you decide which songs to play live?
We have a limited number of songs we remember very well; for each new song we write, an old one gets removed from our memory bank. These all get written down on a piece of cardboard that is in John's guitar case and he picks and chooses them at random at the start of a tour. A few shows into a tour we've worked out a set list and we just go from there.

Thee Oh Sees started out as a solo project for John. But over the years, the band has grown quite a bit. What is the songwriting and recording process like now?
It's always been John coming into the rehearsal space with an idea, then we add our own bits to the mix. I suppose he is the chef, while we are the sous chefs!

How do you stay sane on the road?
I don't.

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BK chatted to Taiwanese-born Canadian avant-pop musician Alex Zhang Hungtai, better known as Dirty Beaches, before he rides into town this week to play gallery-cum-live venue SOL Space (Feb 24).

A lot of your songs deal with concepts of traveling or being on the road. Does this come from touring or some sense of displacement?
Both. I think how you live your life will ultimately influence what you create in your work, one way or another, whether conscious or not.

Continuing on that tack: your life’s been spread out among so many different places. How has your music been shaped by those migrations?
It’s made me a lot more sympathetic to people who are displaced. I personally think being a minority in a foreign country is the best education ever. It teaches you the reality of the world we live in, and when you see someone in need, you look at them very differently. That’s reflected in my music as well: I hold no loyalty to any sound, or genre, because it makes me think of nations, nationalism, identity, racism—and I fucking hate racists. Musically I want to be free. I wish to have multiple visas which allow me to travel across multiple borders and be free from prejudice, or other people’s ideas of "who" you are. Your experiences define you. Don't let other people categorize you. Your individual experiences are what make you unique. Even if they are boring experiences. They are you. And real.

How did you first get into playing music?
By accident, an Indonesian friend of mine had a metal band and asked me to join on vocals. They kicked me out of the band a year later, but then I started writing songs myself.

There's a heavy influence from past music in your work. Do you think there's danger in too much nostalgia?
Only in Badlands, as it was a concept album. For my entire catalog, please go to: dirtybeaches.bandcamp.com where you can hear all the music I’ve made since 2005.

You’ve talked a lot about approaching your music much the same way as a film; what particular films have influenced your music?
Mostly [Hong Kong Second Wave film-maker] Wong Kar-wai movies because I like the theme of time and the portrayal of displaced people.

I read a while back that you were scoring several films; what’s the latest on that front?
[I just did the score for] WaterPark, a Canadian documentary film about an indoor beach/water park/surf machine, inside a shopping mall in West Edmonton, Canada.

You’re set to release two-LPs-in-one in May this year; how do these differ from one another and your previous works?
It’s not so much different from my work pre-Badlands; the only difference is the surface, the style, and the sound—the core and content is always the same. I'm always making albums about lost, displaced people, with no home to return to, in exile, drifting, etc. Aesthetics and surface are disposable, like fashion. But who you are on the inside fundamentally, is what’s important. It’s like an internal compass. 

You’re quite active on Youtube, occasionally replying to comments from fans (both positive and snarky); is the internet a help or hindrance to what you do?
No, nothing is ever perfect in this world. If someone can rise from doing shitty jobs like working in a kitchen and recording music at night in their bedroom, to touring the world, then I say the internet is amazing. All the little bad things that come with it are just what come with the good things about the internet.

You’re now performing as a three-piece; what can we expect from your show in Bangkok?
Expect no fake shit, like bands playing old songs like a routine. We don't do that. We play our hearts out, because it’s mostly new, unreleased material or re-arranged songs. We give everything of ourselves in what we do, because we are given an opportunity to be ourselves as artists, so why act like "we have to play the songs people know" as musicians? Then I might as well quit music and go back to work in real estate and make more money—this is a very Asian philosophy! 

What’s the best thing about being on tour?
Food, adventures, landscapes—it plants seeds of multiple ideas that will later grow into something else.

Is your lo-fi sound a necessity or an aesthetic choice?
What do you think after reading this interview so far? I'm Chinese, I will use the cheapest way to make a record, and that’s what I did. Now digital recording is cheaper, and that’s what I'm doing now. It’s important to be realistic and make records your own way. Don't let other people tell you what to do. When I was doing cheap tape recordings at home, everyone hated it. Then it got popular. Well, the truth is, it’s not what equipment you use, it’s how and who is using the equipment. 

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