Getting Cozy With The Joy Formidable

Every once in awhile, a song comes along that stops everyone dead in their tracks with its greatness, and in 2011, that song was “Whirring” by The Joy Formidable. Aspiring DJs at college radio stations across the country lapped it up and threw it on a regular rotation. Any given twenty-something’s earbuds were blasting it at some point over the course of a morning commute to the office. Both veteran rock critics and the self-appointed tastemakers of the blogosphere heralded “Whirring” for its addictive hooks and that inspirational tsunami of a chorus, and for the reality show producers who needed that perfect song to round out the soundtrack to somebody else’s scripted feelings? Game over.

“Whirring” was the perfect pop rock storm of a track from the start, and it’s the track that’s led them to gigs opening for Muse at London’s O2 Arena and an indisputable international rock god reputation. Because of their meteoric success and the rooms—sorry, stadiums—they’ve grown accustomed to playing, it’s a bit of a shock that The Joy Formidable have chosen to introduce Wolf’s Law, their sophomore album slated for a January release, to the States with a slew of intimate, small-scale shows. Before kicking off this run of dates at the Bowery Hotel tonight, we caught up with The Joy Formidable via email to talk about their set list, a shift in creative process in between records and how Wolf’s Law represents the collective, perpetual strength of an unstoppable band with an unforgettable song to sing.

You’re kicking off the US touring efforts behind Wolf’s Law with some incredibly intimate shows at smaller venues. Why did you choose to go this route?
These shows are a special precursor to the touring that will celebrate Wolf’s Law in 2013. They’re a chance to debut the newer tracks in intimate surroundings and in less traditional venues. We thought it’d be a unique way to end the year, a chance to get close and cozy with our audience before the happy mayhem of next year begins.

What’s the most exciting aspect of taking on a tour like this?
We love the interaction, the energy and the vibe of smaller shows. Technically speaking, some quirky venues can be challenging: loading in and out can be interesting, us squeezing on stage can be a pickle, but it makes it memorable. It makes it real.

Going from the O2 Arena with Muse to a 100-person room is quite a jump. Are you changing up the setlist at all to reflect the change in scenery?
The setlist will change, not because of the size of the venue. It has more to do with the audience and giving our vested audience a taste of the new album, as well as tracks from the EP and The Big Roar. The approach never changes. Our intent and the energy is the same whether we play an arena or a tiny basement.

Which songs from Wolf’s Law do you think will soar in this cozy setting?
The new tracks are sounding great live. We’re keen to share them all, and we’ve made sure that all the venues have a PA to cope with either the bombast of “Cholla” or the delicacy of “Silent Treatment.”

Of the twelve songs on Wolf’s Law, which of them almost didn’t make it to the record? Were there any songs that wound up on the cutting room floor, so to speak, that you wish you could’ve included?
There are tracks that aren’t on the album that were written in Maine, but none of them will stay on the cutting room floor. We’ll be sharing them all at various points throughout the year.

What were the changes in approach or style between The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law?
The approach to the songwriting was different. Many of the tracks on Wolf’s Law were conceived with voice and one accompaniment, piano or guitar, which brings a lot of melodic and lyrical focus to the writing. The breadth of instrumentation is different, too—there’s harp, piano, orchestral sections, a lot of texture and color. It’s very direct and bold in its composition. There’s more clarity rather than being part of a mesh.

What was the biggest challenge you saw as a band in making Wolf’s Law happen?
It was compositionally ambitious at times. Tracks like “The Turnaround” definitely stretched our scoring skills. It heightened our appreciation of orchestral instruments, their versatility, their range and their relationship together.

In the two years between The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law, you’ve toured extensively, played a handful of high profile TV performances and become regular fixtures on the major festival circuit. How has touring affected your output and your performance as a band?
If you already have good chemistry and a strong band dynamic, then touring is bound to enhance that and bring another level of intuition. We’re a strong unit. We’ve spent a lot of time together, so there’s a drive in the writing and in the evolution of this band that anything is possible. And that shows on the new album—the creative push, the sense that you can turn your hand to different things and not feel restricted. We want to be artistically brave at every new juncture, but we don’t want to discuss it—we want to be on the same page from the start.

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Your Design Portfolio Looks Great, But How Are You At This iPhone App?

It’s almost time to head back-to-school, or in the case of you recent graduates, time to look for a job and/or unpaid internship to make you more employable. If you’re in any of the so-called "creative" professions, chances are you’ve worked your tail off for years to try to get ahead of an intensely competitive and narrow field. You’ve clawed and scratched and learned all the various expensive Adobe software programs. You’re ready to go out there and impress some firms, right? Well, in the case of Amsterdam design firm Muse, if you want a creative internship position, you’ll have to wow them with your skills on an iPhone game. This spring, the firm recruited prospective li’l worker bees by having them play the popular free app Draw Something and choosing the most unique and creative design made from their prompts.

Obviously there are some socioeconomic implications of relying on a smartphone app to choose your interns (and of internships in general), but some design firms and other creative types are probably going to see this and think, “That’s a great idea!” Forget those years of school or projects you spent weeks on without sleep. Looking for an editorial gig? How are you at Words With Friends? Want to pursue a career in physics and projectile defense? Let’s see you fling those angry birds. So many questions. Watch Muse’s recruitment video below.

Muse Bring the Drama to London Olympics Theme Song

Britain is really pulling out all the stops in showing off its best-known cultural exports for the London Olympics, which are, as of today, only a month away, you guys. With Danny Boyle and Stephen Daldry working on the elaborate opening and closing ceremonies and a former Beatle closing out the opening ceremony with a musical performance, the people in charge of these things clearly had to come up with some head-explodingly-awesome household name to write the official song. The official song of the 2012 London Olympics is… "Survival," by big festie headliners Muse. 

Unlike some of the trio’s biggest hits, such as "Uprising" or "Knights of Cydonia," there’s not this big, dramatic, movie-soundtrack buildup from the get-go. What we get instead is a combination of honking, bouncy piano and snaps that sounds surprisingly upbeat. And then Bellamy kicks in with the very Muse-esque, dramatic lyrics: "I’ll light the fuse / and I’ll never lose / and I choose to survive / whatever it takes." 

The closing notes, with Bellamy’s wailing and a big choral flourish, sound an awful lot like the ending to a Queen song that never existed, which simultaneously makes us sad that Freddie Mercury isn’t around to inject a major dose of kick-ass into these ceremonies, but also relieved that they decided not to go with a hologram—sorry, "optical illusion"—of Mercury as part of the pageantry. 


Roll clip. 

Today In Music Videos: Sigur Ros, Muse, Kanye & More

Songs are great, but sometimes you don’t know you love a track until you see the video. Thanks to the Internet and our insatiable appetite for amusement, the releases these days come fast and furious—check out our own premiere of Theresa Andersson’s “Street Parade” from this morning.

On any given day there’s plenty of great stuff floating around in the cultural ether. Let’s look around shall we?

This is the latest video from Sigur Rós’ forthcoming album Valtari. Each song from the album is getting a video by a different director, this one, for "Varúð,” is from Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir, who created the album’s cover art.

This one is the latest from Kanye West, for his track “Mercy,” which also features Pusha-T, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz.

It’s not exactly a video, but this is the just-released album trailer for Muse’s forthcoming The 2nd Law.

Finally, last night The Walkmen performed two tracks on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Here’s our favorite, “Heaven.”

Adele Bloch-Bauer

The Girl Behind the Gold

Snooki wore a gold mini-dress to her 24th Birthday bash in Las Vegas. Kim Kardashian launched her own perfume brand, ‘Gold’.

But Snooki-Kardashian bling doesn’t begin to compare to Adele Bloch-Bauer, ‘The Lady in Gold”, immortalized in Gustav Klimt’s famous gold-leaf artwork.

The 1907 painting, originally titled, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, was commissioned by Adele’s husband, a Czech sugar magnate. The work was a labor of love and lust for Mr Klimt, a notorious seducer of his models, which might partly explain why he took a leisurely three years to finish this masterpiece.

So who is the lady behind the glitter? Adele Bloch-Bauer was a frequent scenester at the Salons of Vienna, circa 1900s. (The Viennese Salons were the equivalent of TED Talks, “Ideas Worth Spreading”, but with Absinthe and cigars). On any given night, there’d be an elite gathering of artists, intellectuals, writers and anyone who wanted to be inspired by ideas and intelligent conversation. It was here that the waif-like beauty became entwined with the charismatic, sexually charged and irreverent Gustav Klimt. It was during this cultural golden age that Klimt, having pulled himself up from poverty and into fame as a workaholic artist and serial philanderer, created his best-known works. Unfortunately, the gritty details of the affair between Klimt and Bloch-Bauer are left to our imaginations as nothing of their liaison has been recorded. But given Bloch-Bauer’s love of conversation and Klimt’s lusty, animal persona, we could speculate that there was at least some high-brow dirty talk going on.
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But this is just the beginning of the story. During WWII, Bloch-Bauer’s portrait was seized by the Nazis and renamed ‘The Dame in Gold’ to erase her Jewish identity. Sixty years after the theft, the painting became the subject of lengthy litigation between Bloch-Bauer’s surviving family members and the Austrian government, a case that somehow ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The painting was eventually returned to the heirs and sold at auction for a record sum of $135 million in 2006. The painting was purchased by Ronald Lauder, son of beauty industry legend, Estee Lauder. The Lady in Gold now stands as majestic and timeless as ever in the Neue Galerie, NYC.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 


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Candy Darling

Warhol Superstar, Actress, Train commuter.

It was on the late night train from suburban Long Island to Manhattan where the young James Slattery transformed into the lipstick wearing, flamboyantly dressed Candy Darling, the Warhol “It” girl who appeared in Warhol’s films and who was immortalized by The Velvet Underground in the songs, ‘Candy Says’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’.

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Candy came from out on the island,

In the backroom she was everybody’s darling,

But she never lost her head

Even when she was giving head – she said

Hey Babe, take a walk on the wild side,

Said hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.

And the coloured girls go, doo dodo…

The lyrics pretty much capture Candy Darling’s short life. Too poor to live in Manhattan, she would catch the late-night train each night from Long Island, using the hour-long journey to put on makeup and add the final touches to her glamorous look. Once in NYC, she’d hang out in the ‘backroom’ of Max’s Kansas City Nightclub with all the cool kids, who included the likes of Lou Reed, Debra Harry and, occasional cross-dresser, David Bowie.

Warhol may have brought Candy Darling plenty of fame, but he never paid her much money. Hence Candy “never lost her head,” even when she was doop-doo-doing stuff for cash on the side. Mostly though, she would jump back on the Long Island train each night to what she called her “country house”.

Despite being poor (and quite possibly, a poor actress), Candy Darling never gave up her dream of becoming a Hollywood superstar. She landed either big roles in small films or small roles in big films, but never quite got the break she needed. The highlight of her career may have been her 17-second cameo role with Jane Fonda in the 1971 film, Klute.

On March 26, 1974, Candy’s extraordinary walk on the wild side was cut short. She died of leukemia, with hundreds of loyal friends and fans around her in her final hours. Warhol, who was weird about a lot of things, especially death and mortality, did not visit her in hospital, nor did he attend her funeral.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 


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Has Lindsay Lohan Entered Her Dirrty Phase?

We totally got it when sometime actress and lesbian Lindsay Lohan agreed to recreate Marilyn Monroe’s last nude photo shoot with renowned photographer Bert Stern for New York. We understood the impulse when we heard she’d be shooting a topless editorial with Terry Richardson for Purple, even if we thought the simulated threesome seemed a bit much. But now, out of nowhere, comes photos from a recent cover shoot for Muse, in which Lohan and two models purse and pout in a mock-threeway inspired by Kate Moss’ relationship with Johnny Depp. When “Dirrty”-era Christina Aguilera felt compelled to mud wrestle for her fans — a nude Rolling Stone cover, a music video that was crucified by puritans — she rebounded on the strength of a ballad about self-empowerment for the Lilith Fair set. Lindsay, I never thought I’d say this, but it’s time to get back in the studio.

Muse photographer Yu Tsai spoke to the New York Post about the shoot: “The three of them were very sensual and provocative, but Lindsay understands this piece was created not for any sensational value other than artistic integrity… There was never a discussion about pushing the boundaries. She was totally comfortable with the nudity as long as it had artistic integrity… When you see her nipple, it just happened in the moment. She was playing the role of Kate Moss — you’re at a party and you are with a guy you really love and another girl.” Oh, I see. So the naked threesome wasn’t about sensationalism? The nipple-slip cover, the bathroom ass shot, and the feigned orgasms weren’t about “pushing boundaries”? Gotcha. But the saddest part of the young starlet’s seemingly infinite well of attention-seeking comes when Tsai says, “This is her at her best.” Bummer, because I thought she was pretty great in Freaky Friday.

Los Angeles Openings: Muse, The Bazaar at SLS, Parq

Muse (Beverly Hills) – Big hunks of steak at a big hunk of a hotel. ● The Bazaar (Beverly Hills) – Uber-celeb chef Jose Andres finally makes it out west and brings his whimsy with him. ● Parq (Beverly Hills) – Another hotel restaurant. Expect pricey New American, but leave happy this time.