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Exclusive download and interview: John Butler Trio’s “Revolution”

Exclusive download and interview: John Butler Trio’s “Revolution” (photo)

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Australian songwriter John Butler has five studio LPs and four live albums, which should tell you what you need to know about his aims: He thrives in the live environment, where his dialogue can engage, where his John Butler Trio can stretch and embolden his rock and where he can put a little more grit into anthems like “Revolution.” Indeed, “Revolution” is a call to continual action by the concerned citizens of the world and an acknowledgement that change can come gradually, if we keep it as a consistent aim. Download “Revolution,” taken from Butler’s new Live at Red Rocks set, here.
Butler plays Terminal 5 in New York tonight and tomorrow night. He’s on tour throughout September.

You’ve enjoyed a lot of international success, yet you’ve stayed in Australia. Why?
That’s just where my heart is; my heart’s in Australia. I’ve lived over east in Australia, and I spent a short time in New York. I spend a lot of time on the road– eight months sometimes on the road or a year. Australia is where my spirit feels the most at home. I’m not really interested in moving to New York, or London, or any other place to further my career. I leave home enough to further my career. I don’t need to completely move away from home.

Every time you leave, what’s the hardest part? What’s the best thing about returning?
It’s hard to leave home and leave my family, but luckily, we travel together a lot–me, my kids and my wife. I’m meeting them in five days in New York, and then we travel. I’ve been away for three weeks, but we travel for the next month and a half together. We have a family assistant; she’s also a qualified teacher, so she teaches our children on the road. We try to stay tight in one way or another, physically or emotionally.
Leaving them doesn’t get easier; it just gets harder. The best thing about coming home is about a week after I get home. I can settle. It takes about a week for everything to settle again. We’re annoying each other, me and my wife, for about a week, and then it’s all back to normal. The best thing about home is really just being with family–going out in the garden, making tree houses, lighting a fire in the back yard. It’s the simple things that are often the best.

Do you write best at home or on the road?
I definitely get a lot of writing done when I’m at home, but I also get a lot of writing done when I’m on the road. Inspiration can come at any time. When I have enough time off, lots of songs will come, and when I’m off the road, they come quite rapidly. But they come regularly whether I’m on the road or off the road. Things get into my mind, and they’re like little spirits that want to have a life. They choose to have a life through music.

Tell me about the song “Revolution.” How old is it, and what inspired it?
It’s a couple years old. In my country, like yours, often it’s hard not to look around and feel like there’s something happening on a global level. A lot of it’s quite disturbing. It’s hard not to look around and try to ask the questions, “Does anybody see the insanity that’s going around at the moment? Is it just me, or has anyone else seen this craziness, this madness of destruction, whether through war or killing people through the economy?”
Countries are starving because of the World Trade Organization or the World Bank or from mining the hell out of the world. My state is completely infested with mining companies that are basically digging holes everywhere and are disenfranchising people in the process. When I look at all this stuff, it’s quite overwhelming. As a citizen of the world, it doesn’t feel natural, and it doesn’t feel right.
The song is an observation of those things and trying to find some redemption in it. It’s so overwhelming to be completely surrounded by that feeling all the time; I had to find some redemption and to take back the definition of revolution. The word has been completely manipulated by moneymakers, whether it’s the Pepsi revolution or the digital revolution or the revolution in new underwear. Whatever it is, the revolution is completely impotent. So I had to find out what revolution meant to me.
Revolution looks like evolution with an “r” in front of it. Having to look around, and seeing what’s happening on the planet, I try to focus on the good things and realize that revolution, although it’s extremely slow and painful, is underway as we speak. It’s not something that’s going to come around one day; it’s happening as we speak, but it’s just happening very tediously.

I’ve been reading this book by another Australian thinker, Paul Gilding. It’s called The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World, and it’s about the revolution the world will soon face. Is Australia on a vanguard of these sorts of politics, or the opposite?
I don’t think Australia is on the vanguard of anything. We pollute more than America per capita; we’re fucking shocking. I wouldn’t even call myself an environmentalist, or a socialist, or political activist. I’m just a human being who sees the world and goes, ok, “What’s the safest, cleanest, most sustainable and respectful way to go about this? And that’s common sense.” You want to mine some land and do it in a way that’s environmentally sound, economically sound, that’s–in a community sense, in a social sense, in a cultural sense–sound and sustainable, I don’t have a problem with it. The problem is, at the moment, our countries are run by multinational companies that aren’t a part of any country. They are completely beyond it–the roving, clandestine, fucking multinational companies. They are interested in how we can get our crap, and our junk, and our drugs that we’re addicted to, in the form of oil and iron ore and whatever else, as quickly as possible without having to be responsible for it. It’s cheaper; they’ll cut any corners to do that.
I see that insanity, and as a human being, I have a problem with it because it doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t how I was brought up, and I don’t think it’s how most of us were brought up. We were brought up to respect people. We were brought up to clean up after ourselves. We were brought up to, if you break something, fix it; if it’s going to run out really quickly, then replace it. Yet our leaders and these organizations don’t go by those rules at all. There’s a fundamental problem in how the system that we live in is running. It’s not sustainable. Songs like “Revolution” and “One Way Road” are just me trying to make sense of this.

What do you hope songs like that accomplish? Are they part of a movement, or are they meant to inspire one?
I definitely think it’s part of a movement, and it has the power to manipulate, or at least move, people emotionally. Great art does that, whether it’s political or not. You can definitely move people through art, and this is the power of art. That’s why advertisers, corporations and politicians have used music for a long time. It moves the masses. I think music can be part of a positive change on the planet, whether you sing about revolution or not.

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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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