premiere – canopy hands

– featured image courtesy of verónica von rathonyi gómez –

canopy hands hail from myrtle beach, south carolina, though if you have any preconceived notions about what coastal pop music should sound like, it’s best to check them at the door.  the quartet uses jangly guitars as a touchstone of their aesthetic, to be sure, but equally prominent are robust bass lines, polyrhythmic drum beats, intermittent synth warbles, and thomas hickman’s lax vocal melodies.  the band aptly refers to this deeply-nuanced composite of sounds as texture pop, and it heavily informs their new ep, whelm, out digitally tomorrow and on cassette sometime in july via vacant magic’s nascent tape label.

the closing number on whelm is “lancer,” a formidable whirlwind of a track that premieres here on the dimestore today.  hickman’s vocals are noticeably more fragile from the outset, perhaps a nod to the vulnerability and the state of uncertainty that pervade his lyrics, but it’s the persistent tandem of bass and drums that ultimately dictate the direction of “lancer,” thundering towards an apex of guitars and fleeting synth figures that feels certifiably majestic, if only for a moment.  take a listen below.

premiere – alexei shishkin

Alexei_press_3
photo courtesy of adam smith

the consistency of alexei shishkin’s output has made him a regular fixture on the dimestore since early 2015, when singles from the dog tape began floating listlessly through inboxes and headphones.  shishkin creates the kind of bedroom guitar-pop still capable of turning heads in what’s become a very saturated market of home-recorded music; this past february’s excellent yucca street is a testament to this fact, and we’ll let our review of that album do a bit more talking.

we recently caught up with shishkin via e-mail for a quick chat about the general state of things; as a constant creator, it comes as no surprise that he’s been slowly honing a collection of seven cover songs over the past year, a multi-decade snapshot of influences filtered through his signature aesthetic.  we’re more than happy to help shishkin send it off into the ether today.

the aptly-named covers premieres below, after the interview transcript. dig in.

how are things?  your twitter location puts you in new york these days; has the city been conducive to songwriting?

yeah, good good.  i am indeed in new york now – moved here in december.  it actually hasn’t been very conducive for me, believe it or not.  i’m not very comfortable making too much noise where i live right now, so that means when i practice i try to keep it down, and that’s especially shitty for trying to sing.  i felt most comfortable singing and playing back in portland.  while i guess that’s not actually “songwriting,” i tend to improvise most of the words anyways, so i wouldn’t say i do much songwriting, to be honest.

yucca street has been out for a few months; are you the type to let a release percolate for awhile, or have you started picking away at a new project?

if it was up to me, i’d put out everything immediately when i think it’s done.  luckily, matt (at forged artifacts) tends to act as a filter, so fortunately he keeps me from releasing a bunch of half-baked garbage every week.  but yeah, the next full-length thing is due out this fall, the one after that probably spring 2017. (i hope?)  obviously, there’s this covers thing; i’m also doing a weird little side project called celebrity drum circle and cooking up something with my buddy connor of fjord explorer.  i’m hoping to make a trip to rhode island sometime this summer or fall to big nice studio to actually properly record some stuff, maybe – that’s still up in the air.

this might be tangential to your last response, but i’ve gathered via tweets that you’re not too enamored with performing with a live band.  is your sense of artistry more grounded in the act of creation and refinement of a collection of songs?

haha!  that’s a very articulate way of putting it.  honestly, it would be cool to have a band to write and record with, but yeah, touring and shit just seems like such a hassle: coordinating everyone getting off work at the same time, booking all the dates, finding someone with a van, hauling gear around, etc.  it just seems like a logistical pain in the ass with little to no return.  if i had to be part of a band, i’d rather hang around with a group of friends and write and record and just have a good time.

i listened to the original versions of the list of cover songs you sent over.  some were familiar to me, but most weren’t, yet i could pick out their influence on your work pretty easily.  could you speak on the significance of a couple of them and why they wound up in this collection?

yeah, definitely.

“the only one” is a tune my friend ryan (pollie) of los angeles police department wrote.  in a nutshell, ryan is the reason i even got hooked up with forged artifacts in the first place.  without him, i didn’t even realize it was possible to release the music i recorded.

“tell me when it’s over” is a tune by the dream syndicate, a band from california that was around in the 1980s doing the jangle pop stuff (paisley underground) and they had a really great record called days of wine and roses.

“sunny” is just a fun one to noodle around on; infectious progression.

“heaven is a truck” is because i’m a pavement fanboy (sorry not sorry.)

premiere – y!kes

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photo courtesy of the artist

what was once just a burgeoning electronic scene in eau claire, wisconsin has now blossomed into a vibrant movement, with various subcultures happily coexisting alongside one another.  towards the end of the introspective spectrum lies caleb kamrath’s creative outlet, y!kes; today, he’s releasing a brand new ep, and its lead single premieres below.  on “water,” kamrath is joined by the nascent baby blanket, the result a syrupy union of assured, downtempo production and increasingly forlorn vocals.  take a listen to the entire ep here, and stream “water” directly below.

 

premiere – haunt

haunt band
photo courtesy of the artist

the members of haunt may now split their time between los angeles and portland, but the project’s genesis is rooted in a childhood friendship cultivated in laguna beach.  since forming a year ago, the duo has been stockpiling a collection of nocturnal pop songs that harness many of the salient attributes of chillwave but are examined through a sharply-focused lens.


haunt will release their latest ep, crush, on may 6th via portland-based track and field records.  a short, intimate glimpse into the ep’s construction can be viewed above; below, you’ll find the premiere of its lead single, “perfume,” awash in gorgeous organ tones and armed with a subtle yet infectious hook.  listen in.

premiere – brett

BrettMode_Hi_Res_Art
out march 18th via cascine

washington d.c.-based quartet brett have thus far prefaced their excellent forthcoming sophomore full-length, mode, with two swirling samples of a refined, pristine dream-pop aesthetic.  here’s a third one.  “les ombres” is a confident album-opener, sowing its seeds in a pulsating, mid-tempo soil before blooming into an indelible chorus punctuated by mournful guitars and wobbling synth melodies.

mode is out next friday via cascine; take a listen to the premiere of “les ombres” below.

premiere – reddening west

reddening west
photo courtesy of the artist

buried just beneath the bucolic overcoat of reddening west is an honest, heartbreaking thread of immediacy.  the austin trio will release their debut effort, a gorgeous collection of lovelorn folk songs entitled where we started, on march 4th; today we’re premiering the ep’s second track, “golden light.”

quaint fingerpicking reflects the song’s initial imagery, but “golden light” gradually becomes more melancholic, refracting its namesake as pianos and percussion slip into the texture.  vocalist matt evans doubles down on that tone even after his auxiliary accompaniment fades into the background, delivering a brief, parting lyric that skirts satisfying resolution in favor of a different kind of finality that feels all too familiar.  take a listen to “golden light” below.

premiere – two castles

two castles lead
photo courtesy of kyle lehman

eric charles christenson is somewhat of a renaissance man.  a managing editor at a local magazine and an active member in the chippewa valley’s burgeoning stand-up comedy scene, christenson has also been creating slices of lo-fi pop for years, first as wisconsin built and more recently as two castles.  last spring’s dream room ep found christenson incorporating more electronic elements into his home-recorded template, a practice that extended to, and was refined on, subsequent two castles tracks like “bonfire” and “liquor.”

a new year has yielded new material.  christenson’s latest two castles ep, night talk, is a concise three-song collection (plus a supplemental remix), with mournful vocal melodies stretched across an intimate digital soundscape.  we caught up with christenson outside a coffee shop in eau claire at the tail-end of 2015 to talk about transitioning projects, songwriting approaches, and his involvement in the minneapolis-based collective lowkey radical.  after appearing in a slightly different form on a split cassette last month, the finished version of night talk is premiering in full here on dimestore saints; find the tracks embedded in our exclusive interview, condensed and edited for clarity, below.

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you phased out wisconsin built & started doing two castles towards the end of 2014.  what was the precipitation behind switching projects?

wisconsin built kind of phased itself out.  it was one of those things where we all abruptly moved away, and none of us took it seriously enough that we thought about it when we weren’t together; it just kind of dissolved.  i wasn’t really thinking about playing music that much because i was working and moving around a lot and figuring that whole thing out.  i’d dinked around on some sounds when i lived in minneapolis, but the creative energy in eau claire once i moved back made me want to write songs again.

i always thought of wisconsin built as pretty lo-fi, yet organic in the sense of its instrumentation, but two castles feels decidedly more synthetic.

it’s a shift in production.  i used to worry more about live instruments, but then i started plunking around with electronics and making samples and stuff.  i did that a bit with wisconsin built, like recording weird sounds, then sampling them and repeating it and making rhythmic things out of noise, but it had never been so central to the song.  they were either guitar-driven or organ-driven, basically.  i haven’t lived in a place where i could have a drum set for a long time, and i’ve grown to like electronic music a lot more, so i don’t know, it’s been a natural progression towards starting to think about that stuff.

do you find any tenets of wisconsin built’s core methodology seeping into two castles?

i think so.  well, a little bit.  i mean, i didn’t completely throw out the playbook; i feel like the songwriting is still the same.  i write songs in two chunks usually: a theme and a verse, and then a chorus.  it would just be two halves, and then i wouldn’t go back to the verse or anything.  just do it and get it over with.  so that’s kind of the same; i still find myself writing two castles songs in chunks, but they’re just more complex chunks.

night talk feels a bit sharper, more pristine.  is that an evolution of what you want your sound to be like, or is it more a result of you learning how to get the most out of your setup?

i think it’s both. two castles has been a learning process.  i’m playing live instruments, but they’re midi-controlled, and i’m learning computer programs and patching sounds and learning how to manipulate new effects.  there’s certain tricks electronic producers have that acoustic artists don’t, so it’s learning how to do all of that while maintaining the lo-fi aspect.  

i felt like the wisconsin built concept was a bit too lo-fi, even for my tastes.  it used to be okay with me when i was casually putting stuff out, but it frustrated me when i started taking things more seriously.  i still crave that lo-fi sound and want to produce that and have it be accessible.  you can still make it fuzzy and sound like you know what the fuck you’re doing, you know?  people don’t trust lo-fi music because they don’t think the artists are taking it seriously, but adding an extra level of intricacy gives me a little more clout, which is nice.  i think people trust that the lo-fi thing is on purpose when everything else lines up.

these are all songs i’d written this fall, or added to and figured out.  “two tuff” is probably the most straight-up pop song i’ve ever written.  when you write a chorus like that, it’s hard not to repeat it.  it’s definitely the biggest song i’ve ever done; everything had been sort of minimal up until that point.  i want to be thought of as someone who’s good at pop hooks and can writing interesting and complex songs, not just someone who makes shitty lo-fi stuff.

are you listening to anyone different on purpose to go after that sound?

i’ve gotten into the soundcloud game; that’s where i find the majority of my music.  people are putting out half-beats all the time; it’s really casual, and you can see how that creative process works.  i’ve been trying to find lo-fi stuff, but there isn’t a lot.  a lot of people rip vinyl, make it lo-fi and add chill hip-hop beats behind it and have all their album artwork as anime characters, but i don’t know if anyone’s going at it as seriously or at the same angle as i am.

jamie xx has some lo-fi flourishes in his work; i loved his record that came out.  people like shlomo have that lo-fi flavor while keeping really fast hi-hats and fuzzy bass tones.  i fuck with that vibe.  my older stuff is shlomo-influenced, shuffly sounds and stuff.  i’m still listening to a lot of indie rock, and i think that comes through.

you’ve been doing releases a bit differently than before: a string of singles and now this ep.  is this a more desired way of putting out material now?

i used to detest this, but this is what a lot of mainstream pop artists do: they just put out five singles and then drop a six-track album or something.  i don’t need to drop an album or anything.  i don’t have enough songs where i’m jonesing to release a huge statement piece.  i enjoy making songs, so when i finish one i have the urge to put it out.  i feel like that’s an efficient way to do it; you make sure people hear each song, and it’s a gradual way to get people into your stuff.  when you do that too, people can see your progression as an artist.

you don’t see yourself ever putting out a full-length?

not for awhile.  eventually, probably, but at this point i’m fine just doing a little bit at a time.  it’s easy for people to digest, it’s easy for me to make.

two castles kelsey smith
photo courtesy of kelsey smith

how are live shows going?

i’ve been playing some really sweet shows, like the local aire festival and leaqfest.  i played at lake house a bunch of times; we had a show at the mousetrap in october with ego death from the twin cities and danger ron & the spins.  i think people fuck with it; when you’re a lo-fi person, the sound is always dicey, no matter where you play.  sometimes it sounds amazing, like at local aire, and other times it just sounds like fucking trash.  i’ve had more really good shows than the handful of weird shows that have happened.  i really fuck with this material though, more so than with the wisconsin built stuff; i never really felt good about that.  but it’s nice feeling confident about the stuff you’re putting out so you can actually give a shit about what you’re doing.

it seemed like everyone left in the eau claire scene in the fall of 2014 started merging together, started working with each other exclusively on new projects, so i wasn’t too surprised to see lowkey radical come out of that.  i’ve only really talked to eric (wells, bka sayth) about it; what’s your level of involvement?

the lowkey radical thing acts more as a collective than as a label.  eric hit me up about it awhile ago.  we were already playing shows together and collaborating on different things; alex (tronson, bka north house) and i are making songs together, alex and serena (wagner, bka sniffle party) are making songs, serena and i are making songs.  it was sort of a natural spirit of collaboration.  we all have different styles, so it made sense to put an umbrella on it.

do you think having that collective platform helps broaden your accessibility to audiences that wouldn’t otherwise find you?

i’ve seen it, yeah.  we dropped this tape and now i think a lot of people are going to hear my stuff that haven’t before because of sayth.  i don’t want to feel like i’m leeching off his popularity, but anytime anyone releases something, the squad just puts out the call and you make a big splash on social media.  it’s teamwork.  it’s a lot easier to go at something from a collective standpoint, to think about where the label’s at and how your stuff can fit into that puzzle.  if any one of us happens to blow up, it would have this residual effect on everyone else.  we’re all taking bets on each other, and it helps that we really actually fuck with everyone else’s music.

we can collaborate on different things musically, but i can hit eric up about a show or something, we can share a pool of resources and brainpower.  the label elevates the level of our music, i think; it’s nice to have people to bounce ideas off of, especially when you’re a solo artist.  alex and i always bounce beats off each other. he’s the person i send all my stuff to, even when it’s not done.

do you want to step back and do more physical releases?

i think so.  i think i could put this ep out on cd or something.  it would be nice to have, especially after a show, because people might really like the music, but i’m relying on them to go to my soundcloud page. and i’m not even telling them to do that when i’m on stage.  i’m having fun writing songs and playing shows, but if i’m going to take this more seriously there’s going to have to be more stuff like that.  the fact that i’m not relying on this financially helps.

does that lack of urgency help your creative process?

i think so, yeah.  i’m a slow writer in almost everything.  it takes me awhile to fully form an idea, so this gives me time to get things right.  i take a lot of old ideas and let them sit for a minute, then revisit them and polish.  i’ll make a minute-and-a-half beat and i’ll bounce that, put it on a mix cd and drive around listening to it in my car, maybe write some lyrics to it and record them on a voice memo.  if you listened to the voice memos on my phone it would be hella embarrassing because you can barely hear the beat through the speakers and it’s just me belting while i’m watching traffic hoping no cop sees me.

it takes time to collect all the pieces i need to feel good about a song.  that happened with “porch.”  i had an old version of that song that i thought was done and i was sitting on it forever, then i revisited it and added some layers, and now it’s ready.

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you can acquire a digital copy of night talk by navigating to this link.  for more two castles information, click any of the following options below.

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premiere – baby blanket

bb blanket
photo courtesy of the artist

lowkey radical is the arts collective you never knew you needed.  the minneapolis upstart boasts longtime dimestore favorites like sayth and two castles as members, but also plays host to a handful of younger, promising artists.  luke mathison sang the hooks on the sayth and north house collaborative ep body pillow under the moniker baby blanket; his warm, syrupy tone established the mood on “maybe god is afraid of us?” and foreshadowed the aesthetic he toys with on his debut solo effort, “i never liked my birthday anyways.”  on “birthday,” mathison embodies the song’s downtrodden title with a maudlin vocal turn, languidly developing over a nocturnal beat co-produced by north house.  after signing off with the evaluation “we both have some growing to do / me more than you,” the track veers off into a beautiful instrumental coda, replete with a melancholy synth line that pines for the song’s central figure.  “i never liked my birthday anyways” is premiering here on dimestore saints; take a listen below.

premiere – sayth

sayth
photo courtesy of spencer wells

eric wells is a fixture in wisconsin’s diy scene right now.  he gigs constantly around the state and frequently crosses the state line to rap in the minneapolis/st. paul area; when he’s not performing, wells dedicates a majority of his time to tirelessly promoting the other local musicians around him, enthusiastically sharing their new work via co-ordinated social media blasts and plugging all-ages events.  this tireless networking has yielded fruitful results; much of this past year has been spent developing lowkey radical, a burgeoning record label that hosts many of wells’ most-trusted collaborators.

one of the label’s first releases will be body pillow, a four-track co-op between wells and alex tronson, a minneapolis-bred producer who performs as north house.  the duo chose to eschew conventional release format, opting instead to slowly share each song individually before sending out pre-ordered physical copies; so far, body pillow has featured “pink pistols” with its searing macklemore slam and “a formal apology to grandma wells,” a non-sequitur-laced commentary on awkward family vacations with a prominent guest verse from wealthy relative.

 

the project’s third single, “maybe god is afraid of us?”, is comparatively introspective, defined by a murky, futuristic north house beat and a heartbreaking display of vulnerability from wells as he anticipates the inevitable end of a relationship.  compounded by an indelible guest hook from baby blanket, the track is a pensive comedown, providing extensive levels of depth and contrast to body pillow as a cohesive unit.  “maybe god is afraid of us?” is streaming for the first time ever right here on dimestore saints; listen to the premiere above, and read on below for an exclusive interview with sayth about the creation of body pillow and his plans for the new label.

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you worked with north house a bit on bad habitat last year. what led the two of you to want to make a fully collaborative project?

since the release of bad habitat, north house has become one of my best friends.  last winter i started performing with him more and more, just to have someone else to jump around with on stage and hang with in green rooms.  i have a lot of respect for his drive as a producer.  he’ll sit down and spend whole days working on one beat and he’s constantly posting them on places like reddit’s r/futurebeats, searching for critique and feedback.  i’ve seen his production style improve and evolve solely from having the ambition to ask for help and take advice.  this ep just felt really natural; i’d have new raps and be like, “you got any beats?”  he’d play me something and i’d jump around and just start rapping to it.  that’s how the whole thing happened; we just did whatever felt right.  i love working with him because he has his own lane and an impressive body of solo work.  he’s also one of the easiest people to travel with and likes to party just as much as i do, so that doesn’t hurt.

what’s the ethos behind body pillow?  what frame of mind were you in when writing its material?

the bulk of this project was written in late 2014/early 2015, in the cold wisconsin winter.  i was drinking a lot of whiskey and living on a shoestring budget.  to me, each track on body pillow seems to have a more concrete theme than bad habitat’s songs did, though that was never my intention setting out.  for example, i wrote my verse for “a formal apology to grandma wells” about a vacation i took with my family to north carolina where i basically just drank johnny walker red and sat by the pool the whole time feeling like a loser.  when we took the trip i had just turned twenty-one and was living illegally in a tiny shared room near downtown eau claire, still unsure if dropping out of college was the right choice.  pair that with a week-long family reunion in a house with all of my cousins and you get a verse full of self-doubt and uneasiness.

the two tracks released so far lean heavily on outside contributions, be it videography or a guest verse.  how important have your friends been to the shape body pillow has taken?

very important.  in the last year i’ve really started surrounding myself with friends that create music-related content in some way, whether that’s design, video work, beats, raps, whatever.  a solid portion of navigating my place in music has been figuring out what i’m good at, and what my friends are better at.  i can rap, but i can’t design my way out of a paper bag or storyboard a video – well, i could, but not on a professional level.  i feel very blessed.  dan forke, whom i’ve been friends with since middle school, has done wonders as my art director.  my brother spencer is a professional photographer and is super experienced with video work.  north house knows how to master a track in a flash, and make it sound radio-ready.  that’s the idea of lowkey radical: we all contribute our strengths to each other’s art so that the content we put out is the best it can be.  sayth on a surface level is just me rapping, but there’s a squad of people helping me out.

the production on “maybe god is afraid of us?” feels a bit darker and more cerebral than other tracks on body pillow.  did this inform your lyrical direction at all?

i actually wrote those two verses to a riley lake beat.  i played two shows with him in early november of 2014 and he gave me a beat tape he had produced.  after i wrote it i asked him about the beat and he said rory (ferreira, aka milo, aka scallops hotel) had already claimed it.  so then i found this north house beat and i thought the verses fit really well.  i wrote the hook in january and tried to sing it with some autotune but it was sounding really goofy.  then we added luke (baby blanket) recently and it felt solid right away; his voice already sounds autotuned.

“maybe god is afraid of us?” feels very tender.  can you speak to your headspace for this particular track, abstractly if need-be?

i wrote that song while i was in a relationship and essentially predicted its expiration.  the song is about losing productivity to love and the anxieties that come with that.  love is expensive.

what’s next for you?  are you going to play out with the body pillow material for awhile, or are you looking ahead to new projects?

we’re cutting more tracks for a november or december release.  i moved to minneapolis recently; i’m living at a basement venue called green greens with alex adkinson (formerly of soflty, dear) and he basically has a studio in his room so we can record whenever we want.  i love living here.  i sleep in the basement and it’s grungy and i feel like a pirate.  tickle torture is playing here in september; i love that i can sit in my bed and watch bands play.  luke, wealthy, and north house are always around so we’re cooking up new songs all the time.

as far as immediate releases go, i’m focusing most of my effort on getting out eps for the rest of the label.  dan has one set to go for late august, astral samara is dropping his debut tape in september, and we have a lowkey radical compilation tape coming out in october.

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one more collaborative track from sayth and north house is due soon.  we’ll also be following the developments of lowkey radical closely as the fall progresses.  stream “maybe god is afraid of us?” one more time to let it sink in, and then visit sayth and north house on all of their socials.

bandcamp / bandcamp
facebook / facebook
soundcloud / soundcloud
twitter / twitter