DID YOU READ

Premiere: Manchester Orchestra “Simple Math”

Premiere: Manchester Orchestra “Simple Math” (photo)

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Every once in a while a band really surprises you. Manchester Orchestra’s new album — and especially the title track “Simple Math” — does just that. The band’s sophomore album “Mean Everything to Nothing” was hailed as a masterpiece, which meant there were a lot of expectations for the young band’s next effort. But instead of living up to those expectations, Manchester Orchestra far surpassed them. Their new album, “Simple Math”, due to hit stores on May 10th, is an album of intricate beauty and well-crafted songs, that reveal a depth of emotion far belying their youth.

The title track is a dense five minutes that builds from a quietly haunting starting place to a beautifully soaring and string-backed crescendo. The band is at their best in the song, layering rhythms on top of each other to create complexities of sound that you don’t come across very often. The lyrics speak to a new-found and perhaps hard-won maturity for the group, but whatever turmoil lead to this rich sound, it’s the fans who have really won. The video that accompanies “Simple Math” reveals the dark thoughts and intensity of emotion interwoven into the song. Made by legendary directing duo Daniels, the video is heartwrenching and beautiful and raises questions that may not have an answer. With no further ado, here is the video for “Simple Math”:

As the band prepares for the release of their third LP, frontman Andy Hull took some time out of his busy schedule to chat about the album, the state of Southern rock, and how Built to Spill may be the best band ever.

You haven’t updated the blog on your band site since November. What have you been busy doing?

Ha! That makes me feel bad. But, we’ve been writing an album. So we’ve been busy doing that. We haven’t taken any time off since …when was that blog updated?

November.

Yeah, then. We just started jamming and writing and creating this new album. It came out of nowhere. It just had to be written, I guess.

What can you tell us about your new album?

It’s really really honest to the point that it’s kind of embarrassing for me. It is just so personal. It tells the entire story of the time me and my wife almost split up. It is a conversation between me and my wife and God and each piece is like a puzzle piece, not a song. Musically it’s really cool. I think it’s really good and it will surprise people. I don’t think people don’t expect us to be as good as we are on this album.

What do you mean?

I think people expect us to make a certain type of music or sound. So this album may be really surprising. It’s like if Brian Wilson was trying to write [Built to Spill’s] “Perfect From Now On”. Built to Spill is my favorite band, their songs and albums are filled with amazing phrasings. Every lyric is simple and amazing and really reminds you of a time and place. So on this album, I’m really lyrically trying to not be lazy. I’m trying to evolve and create something that is beautiful and maybe painful. Like Doug Martsch’s lyrics. He just paints a picture of a place so clearly. I remember when I first saw an Albertson’s [a grocery store referenced in the Built to Spill song “Big Dipper”] and I instantly remembered the feeling of the song. It happens to me all the time with the Mountain Goats too. Like, oh those are street names. I am just really obsessed with lyrics that paint a picture and repaint it. I like writing a phrase and then contradicting it.

Who other musicians are you drawn to?

Neil Young. And my parents let me go see Wilco for my 18th birthday. I saw them and the Flaming Lips at Madison Square Garden. The Weakerthans,; their songs are unbelievable, just filled with life shattering emotion. I’m also a big fan of Grandaddy. Tastes change, though. I used to be Death Cab fan, now I relate to and admire Modest Mouse more. Pedro the Lion was always really important to me.

Because of your Christian roots and upbringing?

Yeah, I come from a family of preachers. My father and my grandfather were both preachers, but very different preachers. Each of them had really different relationships with God. My dad is far closer to parts of me. When I started this, he switched careers because he didn’t want it to limit me. My dad still runs a radio show that airs in Tennessee at 4 a.m. He married the most brilliantly artsy lady, my mom, and I get a weird split of both of them. So I could make music, but I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything that wasn’t deemed Christian. So Pedro the Lion was okay.

This album is being billed as a concept album. The best concept albums range from the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” to Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”, what is so appealing to you about making a concept album? Was it just a story that needed to be told?

Most concept albums probably didn’t start out as a “concept”, but an album that grew inside. We were jamming and playing and a story came out. It was clear that we were telling a story, but I know people are going to put their own stories on top of it to tell their own. I want people to know that this is legitimate and that I intended them to interpret it. This album is not about self-loathing. It isn’t meant to be dramatic for self-fulfilling reasons. It’s personal. It’s about a really low and difficult time in my life. I wanted to write about it, but I wasn’t going to put my life, my wife and my life out there without her approval. But my wife approved of it. It was our story. It’s a three-way conversation between her and I and God. It needed to be made, but I want people to be able to apply it to their lives.

Well, in that case, making a concept album is pretty brave.

It was supposed to be! I mean, it was what had to be written. It wasn’t supposed to be about fans. I couldn’t write a single if I had to. I mean, I could, but it wouldn’t be natural. I have to write what comes out.

Do you think being from the South plays into your music?

Definitely. It’s what inspires me. You have to be influenced by where your from. I moved to Toronto for seven years while my dad was pastoring. So I lived in Georgia for seven years and Toronto for seven and when I got back to Georgia, I realized what parts of the South I had kept and what had left. A lot of the bad parts — like the racism — left and that was a good thing, but the stuff that remained is really important. It really influences me.

Between you and Iron and Wine and the Avett Brothers, do you think Southern Rock is being reinvented? Not that there’s anything wrong with Lynyrd Skynrd or the Allman Brothers.

There’s definitely nothing wrong with Skynrd or the Allman Brothers! But we are more riff-y. I think My Morning Jacket sounds more Southern. But the problem with calling something Southern is that there’s the blues and there’s country and there’s Southern. There’s even a difference between country and new country. I am proud of what we have made and where we are and where we are from. I think Georgia has a lot to do with it.

Did you see The Avett Brothers on the Grammys?

No I didn’t, but those boys deserve it. They work really really hard.

I saw that you are playing in Manchester next week. Are you worried that old people will be confused? Or that Morrissey and Peter Hook will come pummel you for swiping their town name?

Ha! No we’ve been touring around the world for years. Our first time in Manchester, people may have been a little confused. But our fans there are the best. They have a lot of hometown pride.

Your admiration of Weezer is well documented. Do you have tickets for the Pinkerton tour?

I wish I did. I wish I had tickets to anything, but we are gone all the time. So as much as I wish I could see that tour, no tickets. I am really excited for him to release his b-sides — or rather unfinished album–The Songs From the Black Hole. I’m really excited for that.

Last question is if you could only listen to one band for eternity, would you choose Built to Spill, Weezer or Neutral Milk Hotel?

Built to Spill. Definitely.

Manchester Orchestra’s new album “Simple Math” is available for pre-order on iTunes now and will be released on May 10th.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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