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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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