"And Now for Something Completely Different..."
That line is of course a Monty Python reference but it really applies to this particular edition of "A-Sides," which finds three completely different artists sharing their craft in a typical laid-back setting. First up are Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds, a Brooklyn-based nine-piece whose funk, rock and soul infusion have garnered them much-deserved attention. The band was formed in the Catskills by brother-and-sister tandem Arleigh and Jackson Kincheloe. The pair recruited their cousin Bram, and signed up a clown-car of additional talents (Aidan Carroll, Sasha Brown, Ryan Snow, JJ Byars, Johnny Butler, and Phil Rodriguez) to shape their unique sound a few years back. Their new album Pound of Dirt just came out, and the band (fronted by pint-sized powerhouse Arleigh) have been out supporting it in 30 cities. The band crammed inside a studio at the Music Conservatory of Westchester earlier this month, performed their track "Millie Mae," and discussed the song, their traveling show, and anything that came to mind on a delightful Wednesday morning in White Plains, NY.
"Millie Mae" Performance
Sister Sparrow Interview:
With our next artist, we go from American roots music to songs that will make you want to dance (even if you have two left feet like me -- Eugene Levy Best in Showstyle). You know when I was in Rome a few years ago, the hotel concierge asked my wife and I if we "liked the nightlife." Specifically, the gentleman, who was in his early 30s, sported a George Clooney circa ER haircut, and had the worst sprayed-on tan you'd ever seen, suggested a dance club for us to visit and said soon after, "I don't know if you like the nightlife... I like the nightlife." I tell you this meaningless story, because BLUSH clearly like the nightlife, and their songs will make you shake your hips and dance your ass off.
The girl group from Asia, whose members were chosen each from a different Asian country, burst onto the music charts last summer with their pop hit "Dance On," which hit #1 on Billboard's Dance/Club Play charts. Another track, "Undivided," which featured Snoop Dogg on the mic, reached #3 on that same chart. BLUSH (Victoria, Natsuko AKA "Nacho," Angeli, Ji Hae and Alisha) became the first Asian artists to land in the Top 3 on a major chart in the states with their debut single. What's even more impressive -- to me anyway -- is the group have already opened for Justin Bieber and The Black Eyed Peas and have appeared on So You Think You Can Dance without releasing a full-length album yet. Last week, the insanely attractive and talented girls filmed an "A-Sides" at the Conservatory, and performed an acapella version of "Undivided." The song will be featured on their debut EP out May 1. Watch. Listen. Blush.
Mark Stewart ends this eccentric "A-Sides" trilogy. The musician/artist, who founded the 1970s punk act The Pop Group, just released The Politics of Envy, a new album which features a series of gifted musicians including Kenneth Anger, Gina Birch of The Raincoats, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Daddy G of Massive Attack and Jesus and Mary Chain bassist Douglas Hart backing up his unique vocal stylings.
Throughout his career, the performer who I'm dubbing "Mr. Anti-Establishment" has worked with everyone from Trent Reznor to Tricky, and has forced us to think hard -- which can hurt sometimes.
Below, the artist performed his track "Codex" and provides this column with an interview that will definitely have you thinking "WTF" and more.
Mark Stewart Performance and Interview:
About A-Sides with Jon Chattman
Jon Chattman's music series features artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometimes humorous) way. No bells, no whistles -- just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, I'm hoping this is refreshing.