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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.