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Exclusive Video Premiere: Cian Nugent’s Joyous “Sixes & Sevens”

Exclusive Video Premiere: Cian Nugent’s Joyous “Sixes & Sevens” (photo)

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Doubles, the first LP by Irish guitarist Cian Nugent, is a major proclamation of new young talent. As ambitious as it is evolved, Doubles is a 45-minute album comprised of only two tracks–the patient, practiced guitar-and-electronics meditation “Peaks & Troughs” and the longer “Sixes & Sevens,” a brilliant movement that builds quickly from start-and-stop picking and percussion to glorious full-band redemption.

“Sixes & Sevens” actually works as a bit of a seesaw and a bit of a maze; it moves between exclamatory bursts and ruminative passages every few minutes, occasionally balancing the two in brief, perfect moments. Nugent actually excised three of the songs more bustling minutes for a new video by director Dylan Phillips. Here, the maze metaphor works, as Nugent’s springy composition scores a short and speeding tour along the threshold between a city’s natural and industrial spaces.

We spoke with Nugent about “Sixes & Sevens” and guitarists via e-mail.

In making this video, how did you decide which bit of “Sixes & Sevens” you wanted to use? Was it a decision made in collaboration with the director?

Well, I wanted a part that had everyone who played on the album, and there are only really two sections where this is the case. I felt that both sections stood up on their own pretty well–worked outside of the piece as well as in it. I put both of them to Dylan [Phillips], the director, and he went for this one. I’d still like the make a video for the other one, too.

It’s funny to think about someone who hasn’t heard the full song yet hearing this and then leaping into it, expecting 24 minutes that sound like these three. Was that bait and switch part of the appeal of using that bit to you, or did that one section simply seem like a good one?

There probably is an element of deception to putting forward this part, but at the same time, I’m not sure if any section would give a clear and honest take on the whole. I might as well accept this as an act of deception. Perhaps other parts take a little while to get used to, and I felt like this part was probably the most immediate. When browsing through the cybernet, I know that my attention can be minuscule. If something doesn’t interest me, I just move on.

Oftentimes, musicians that make such long-form pieces insist that they are wholes that aren’t able to be broken into units. Obviously, this excerpt is some attempt to form a smaller unit. How do you feel about that idea–of a long song being one piece, or an assembly of pieces?

When I was originally writing this piece, this was the first part I had. To my ear, it didn’t feel like a short piece; it seemed to have space for development and contrast–that and I think I also wanted to write a long piece! It was a pretty natural process for me to write this as a long piece and one done out of what felt like necessity. I wanted a piece that had a range of different moods and approaches but also felt like a whole. To me, it’s quite fun that this excerpt can mean one thing in context and another out of it. I don’t feel too precious about the piece being a whole, but at the same time, I do think of it as such. I understand that there’s no such thing as correct interpretation, so why hope for it?

Do you think such long pieces of music suffer our shortened attention spans? Did you ever consider breaking this album into shorter parts that are still connected musically, but just include track breaks?

Some friends of mine did suggest the idea of breaking the piece into smaller tracks for the LP, but to me, it felt kind of counter-intuitive to spend so long making a piece work as a whole and then go and break it up. It just didn’t sit right with me.

I think certainly it is difficult to lay one’s focus to a long piece of music, but I think rather than the music suffering it is us who does. I know that when I make myself listen to a long piece of music, I’m often rewarded much more than with a short song, as much as I love those, too. There’s a time for all things. I really enjoy the sense of achievement I get from overcoming my impatience and paying attention to a piece of work that takes some time, be it a film or music or whatever. I think writing and constructing these long pieces was an attempt to exercise some control over my wavering patience, to put some discipline on it, rather than just indulge it, as masochistic as that may sound.

When I was on tour with Micah Blue Smaldone recently, we talked about this and he put it well: You got to fight tooth and nail for your patience in a world that’s doing its best to not let you have it.

Is there a narrative to the entirety of “Sixes & Sevens” for you? Or an idea that runs throughout?

I think there is. I don’t think it’s a didactic narrative, but an intuitive one. There is an element of story and journey to it as far as I see it, but that’s just my perception so I suppose it’s for each listener to decide.

Lately, it seems like guitarists have taken many more risks in folding playing and picking into something larger, something that explores more space. How do you see yourself in that continuum? Who are the heroes you feel closest to, most distant from?

I think people have always been exploring long-form music; maybe it’s happening more now, though. I’m not sure. There are definitely people I feel a kinship with or admiration for in various areas. As far as guitarists, I like Matt Baldwin’s album Paths of Ignition a lot. Everything I’ve heard by Bill Orcutt, and Chris Forsyth’s new one is particularly hot. All of his albums are great. I really like a musician from Portugal, David Maranha‘s music for organ. My friend Chris Hladowski‘s take on long-neck lutes from across the world is always inspiring. Also, the director of this video, Dylan Phillips, is possibly my favorite songwriter at the moment. The songs he writes for The Dinah Brand really floor me.

I try not to indulge hero worship too much, but of course, I love a bit of it, too. I think by nature of their hero stature, though, we feel distant from them, especially because most of mine are always older music. My biggest hero indulgences recently have probably been Neil Young, Alex Chilton and Todd Rundgren–probably at a safe distance.

When did you first start playing guitar? And when did you first start treating guitar as an entrée into these bigger compositions?

I guess I started playing guitar around seven or eight years ago. I started out playing bass and then slowly started messing around with a guitar that was at home. I was always a little fearful of playing guitar because it’s such a ubiquitous instrument, and there are so many people who are good at playing it. For a long time (and, to a certain extent, still), I didn’t think of myself as a guitarist. Guitarist culture is pretty horrible. I started out writing pretty short guitar songs about four years ago, mainly because I wasn’t really able to play for too long! But then I got more and more interested in longer-form music and progressively got more able to do it. I suppose these are my first two compositions of this length.

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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.