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A “Sound” Way to Celebrate Record Store Day in New York, Chicago & St. Louis

A “Sound” Way to Celebrate Record Store Day in New York, Chicago & St. Louis (photo)

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With her flame-red locks and a weeklong international tour, you would be forgiven for thinking Jeanie Finlay was picking up where Santa Claus left off. However, the occasion isn’t Christmas, but another annual tradition worthy of merrymaking and good cheer — Record Store Day, which Finlay is celebrating this week with a whirlwind tour of England and America, including stops at the CIMM Fest in Chicago on April 16th and the Webster Film Series in St. Louis (April 22-24), and the centerpiece of her Stateside appearances, a screening at the Walter Reade Theater in New York on Saturday evening, to show her latest film, “Sound It Out,” a documentary about the last record store in the small North East England town of Teesside that our own Matt Singer wrote after its premiere at SXSW “isn’t just good – it’s important.”

As with most things that carry such weight, “Sound It Out” was born out of humble origins, a personal film that Finlay shot herself in the cramped confines of a store with far more albums (over 70,000) than square feet of floor space where the customers range from dapper older fellows who consider record collecting to be a “pursuit for a gentleman” to black leather-clad metalheads. In a conversation before Finlay embarked on her cross-continental screening tour, she told me she would often target “the shiest person in the room because often they’re the most interesting,” which made it convenient for the director since arguably the film’s most bashful participant is the store’s owner Tom Butchart, a fountain of knowledge of everything pressed on vinyl and a hysterically funny dry wit. (His observation that “Eight of 10 men would turn gay for Morrissey” is a show stopper.)

04142011_SoundItOut3.jpgWhile it took some convincing on Finlay’s part to get him on camera, it wasn’t for a lack of familiarity — the two went to school together and when his store became the last one standing, Finlay took it upon herself to start filming and eventually picked up the support of over a hundred donors on the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo to continue on a 19-month shoot. Although plenty happens within the store, most notably enjoyable in-store performances from the likes of chanteuse Saint Saviour, it was actually the film’s executive producer Dunstan Bruce, the former lead singer of Chumbawamba, who suggested Finlay step outside the record store to capture the town where both culture and the countryside as a whole have been hit hard by the recession, though the Sound It Out shop still functions as a safe haven for all.

“Vinyl isn’t dead,” Finlay says now, despite the fact she confessed at SXSW that she had to part with her record collection two years ago to finance part of her wedding. As she told the crowd then, the film reaffirmed her belief that “Records are much more than blank discs — they’re laden with memories. I don’t think I’ll feel the same way about Mp3s.”

Still, even after “Sound It Out” got the documentarian readdicted to record buying, she won’t have much time to spend with them in the months ahead. Finlay is currently at work on two more exciting music-related documentaries: one, “Orion,” about Jimmy Ellis, a contemporary of Elvis who used his vocal and physical similarities to the King to ride his coattails and simultaneously wore a mask to separate himself and carve out his own niche, and “The Great Hip Hop Hoax,” a film she says “is about lying basically” as it tells the story of two British rappers who remade themselves into a faux California hip-hop act when their music was met with indifference in England.

Surely, no such fate awaits “Sound It Out,” which like the albums coveted by the customers of the Teesside shop captures a particular time and place in a lovely way that will be music to the ears of vinyl collectors and film fans alike, making it a can’t miss proposition as Finlay accompanies it across the U.S. this weekend and rest assured, when she gets back, Tom has already set aside a new pressing of Belle & Sebastian waiting just for her.

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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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.