BlackBook Tracks #46: Music Videos Of The Week

Here’s a selection of music videos that were released this week that don’t involve Lily Allen, because you’ve probably already seen that one. Also, you’ve probably read eight different takedowns/celebrations of it. Spoiler alert: there’s no ironic or unironic twerking involved in the videos below, sorry.

Phoenix – “Chloroform”
Lest you forget that Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars and Sofia Coppola form one of entertainment’s top power couples, the filmmaker has stepped in to direct a music video for her husband’s band. The French quartet’s capping off another banner year with the latest single from Bankrupt!, “Chloroform,” a mournful tribute to cruel love. The sepia-toned clip features Coppola’s favorite subject, crying white girls.

Keep Shelly In Athens – “Oostende”
Greek synth-rockers Keep Shelly In Athens soundtrack the kind of passion worth crossing an ocean for, as shown in their new video for “Oostende.” Directed by Brendan Canty and Conal Thomson, the clip follows a couple whose love might be written in the stars, but still can’t quite connect. At the very least, they get to see some gorgeous landscapes along the way. Keep Shelly In Athens’ powerful album At Home is out now on Cascine.

SZA – “Ice Moon”
Over the course of this year, SZA has inducted as a member of the new R&B generation. Hailing from St. Louis, the singer’s been self-releasing work, but that’s not going to last any longer with her quietly attention-getting tunes. The “Ice Moon” video follows SZA on a walk through the woods that’s as dreamy as the track, her fragile vocals both crystal and cotton candy.

Charli XCX – “SuperLove” (Yeasayer remix)
British pop princess Charli XCX is one of the hardest-working people in music, releasing the single “SuperLove” hot on the heels of her debut LP True Romance earlier this year. While the original already got its own video featuring motorcycle gangs and Japanese nightlife, it’s all eyes on Charli for this slowed-down take, brought to you by Brooklyn indie rockers Yeasayer. True Romance is out now on Asylum.

Lucius – “Tempest”
Have you ever been trapped in a house where everything’s a little bit off and you’re being followed by a man who looks like some kind of cult leader and also maybe you killed a guy? No? Experience all that and more in the fever dream that is Leblanc + Cudmore’s video for Lucius’ “Tempest.” The 60s-inspired indie rockers are on a roll after releasing their debut album Wildewoman earlier this year on Mom + Pop.

Chatting With Composer Rob on Scoring the Hair-Raising Thriller ‘Maniac’

When it comes to the most immersive and memorable film scores, the beauty comes in their ability to transcend the screen. The compositions that you listen to long after the credits roll, the ones that stay with you, evoke that specific cinematic sense of pleasure and grandiose feeling that comes with a truly remarkable piece of music created for a very specific moment on film. A good score is not supposed to be manipulative, rather, it should bring you into the psychological landscape of the characters, absorbing you into the world of the film with ease. And with Frank Khalfoun’s bloody good new horror thriller Maniac, French composer Rob grabs us from the first moment of the film with his trance-inducing synth-fueled tones and melodic textures that harken back to a bygone era of midnight cinema.

As the remake of Bill Lustig’s grimy 1980-set horror thriller of the same title, Khalfoun’s film—which stars Elijah Wood—transports the original to a dismal Los Angeles landscape, giving a modern spin to the gruesome tale of a homicidal loner with a twisted fixation with scalps. And with Rob’s moody and melancholic electronic score, that sense of psychological terror and creepy thrill is only amplified. And last week, while taking a moment’s break from touring with Phoenix, Rob and I got to chat about his childhood connection with the film, the personality of the score, and the endless possibilities of composing.

How did your music make its way into the film?
Alexandre Aja, the producer and writer of Maniac, asked me very simply one day. He had listened to another score I did for a French movie called Belle Épine and he loved it and asked me if I was interested in doing this. I  didn’t even hesitate for one second, I said yes right away because doing a soundtrack for a horror movie was a fantasy for me. I was also a bit traumatized as a kid by the original, so I was very excited to be involved.

Did you try to mirror the tone or feel of the original at all? Or was composing for this film a way to do something entirely new?
I tried to not listen to it at all so that I wouldn’t get too inspired by the original, but I knew what was very interesting in it is that you penetrate the mind, mood and world of the maniac. Your point of view is to feel empathy with that guy instead of the victim—I thought that was the key point in composing the music. So I wanted to do something very melancholic and sentimental that’s related to his childhood trauma—very naive melodies and a very soft and childish mood, so that it can contrast with the violence and the horror.

That’s an interesting mix: melancholic and personal in a way that’s still exciting in a thriller sort of way.
Absolutely. That’s why this movie is so strong, the way you feel watching it is so bizarre because you feel very sad but not what you’re supposed to be sad for. You’re not shocked because of the images, you feel so bad because it’s a nightmare and we’re in his head when we watch it.

Did you read the script before you stared composing? When did you begin the process?
I was lucky enough to be a part of the whole process, so I had the script and also I received the rushes from LA everyday. It went all along with me and it was very nice. I was already very excited then just to see things like light they used, the way they shot, it made things very easy for me and it was very nice. I actually composed all the main music before the end of shooting. The whole process was great.

Scoring a film such as this is even more interesting because it’s entirely POV, so your really subjected to the characters—the maniac—and you’re inhabiting his world at all times and the music has to mirror that for you.
Yeah, we’ve been lucky to find the right angle to do the movie and the music. I was in touch with Alexnadre a lot and we shared this desire for a naive and childish thing to add in the movie—the fact that everything is related to the childhood of the character and his naivety. The music I made could be music for a French cartoon during the 80s, the kind of cartoons we were watching growing up. So it was very instinctive for us and very easy because when you’re a kid everyone thinks that it’s easy and it’s only fun and joy, but actually, everything is scary. Of course you’re joyful when you’re a kid, but you’re also filled with complex fear and nightmares. So that’s the part Alexandre and I tried to explore.

Did you have any direct sonic references when composing? It does harken back to an 1980s horror sound.
Not really, no. The only name drops we had during conversations were Giorgio Moroder, but then obviously we all love movies and the music of John Carpenter. I also love Goblin—who did all of Dario Argento’s stuff—so that’s the kind of music I love to listen to anyway, even when it’s not for a horror movie. It also eases the process of composing because I already love that kind of music which is always very melodic and moody or sentimental, it’s not like proper horror movie. I’m not into that and I didn’t want to do some stressful music, I wanted to do a contrast.

And it’s not manipulative in any way, it just glides with your through his eyes.
Yeah, that’s the thing, just trying to be sensitive and to really feel and get in your blood and in your mind and that should never be explaining what you’re watching but just make you feel.

Do you enjoy the juxtaposition of film scoring and touring around the world with a band?
Absolutely. I have to admit that I’m very lucky because the balance of being alone in my studio and getting very involved in movies, you spend a lot of time alone, but now I’m playing with a successful band touring in front of a huge crowd—it’s just wonderful. But I like composing for movies because the possibilities you have and the different experience working on movie is more interesting than anything else because its always something different.

Who else do you find yourself influenced by?
I love Philip Glass and I’m a big fan of that kind of repetitive music of Steve Reich. Also many french composers from the New Wave, like all the composers for Truffaut and Godard.

Classixx’s ‘Hanging Gardens’ Is An Instant Classic

Los Angeles DJ duo Tyler Blake and Michael David, better known as Classixx, have been remixing their way into the hearts of the masses with their delightful takes on popular tracks like Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” and Gossip’s “Move in the Right Direction.” Now, with a guest star-packed debut album, Hanging Gardens, they’re stepping out on their own, and the results are similarly joyful. Synthy single “Holding On” is an instant arms-up dance-floor classic, but any of these songs would be just as perfect for a summer drive, perhaps down the 101, on your way to somewhere more exciting.

Perhaps NPR’s Otis Hart puts it best: the album “feels vibrant and vintage, unmistakably young and unnaturally nostalgic, all at the same time.” There are bits and pieces of tracks that would feel comfortable in the ‘70s and ‘80s, other that feel like long-lost drinking buddies of DFA or Hot Chip, but none of it feels stale or like a tacky homage. Hanging Gardens is, if you’ll pardon the use of a slogan, an easy, breezy, beautiful album for the summer around the corner. Listen to singles “Holding On” and “All You’re Waiting For” below, or stream the whole damn thing over at NPR before the album’s fully release next Tuesday.

Phoenix Finds the Real Thing on ‘Bankrupt!’

Where do you go once you’ve reached the top? Phoenix are about to find out. Following the runaway success of their 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the French rockers have crafted Bankrupt!, which will be released April 23. For Thomas Mars (vocals), Christian Mazzalai (guitar), Laurent Brancowitz (guitar/keys), and Deck D’Arcy (bass/keys), the stakes have never been higher. Phoenix has steadily built a following since first coming together in 1999, but Wolfgang pushed them fully into the spotlight, winning a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. Just as importantly, it represented the band truly finding its identity, casting off its excesses to create something purer and more powerful than ever.

I meet Mazzalai and D’Arcy in the penthouse of The Standard East Village, which offers a panoramic view of lower Manhattan that makes it easy for Mazzalai to gesture là-bas when he mentions the band’s time recording in Chinatown. They’re sporting nearly matching red pullovers, and Mazzalai wears a dark wool blazer that he’s lined with his old VIP stickers. Two in particular stand out: the Grammys and Madison Square Garden. Straight from the arena, the quartet spent three months holed up in the late Adam Yauch’s Oscilloscope Laboratories to begin work on what would become Bankrupt!.

Phoenix 2

“In New York, it was more experimentation and the starting of the process,” D’Arcy recalls. “We didn’t record proper songs, we kind of collected stuff. We didn’t have a song ready yet.” To go big, they had to go home.

“Even at the end of the tour, we were already a bit homesick,” says Mazzalai. “We were listening to French music from our childhood, which we totally forgot. France came back to us.”

And so, they came back to France. After returning to Paris, the band spent a year and a half in the studio. “By the time we go back to the studio after we tour, we totally forget how to make a song and how to make music,” D’Arcy says. “It takes us months to go back to the process. Which is very annoying for productivity, but at the same time, very important for creativity. We start from scratch, which is easier.”

Mazzalai echoes that sentiment. “Every time we do an album, we lose everything,” he says. “The four of us have to rebuild everything. It’s very hard, but it’s fantastic.”

Phoenix 3

When they say things like that, the "Phoenix rising" metaphors are just too obvious to make. But, true to form, the band hid away while plotting their resurrection.

“It’s weird, we almost didn’t read a newspaper for two years,” Mazzalai says. “It’s like we’re beginning to discover the world again.”

In the studio, they rediscovered their music, and themselves. Growing up together in the Parisian suburb of Versailles gave the members of Phoenix an unmistakable bond–Mazzalai is quick to refer to D’Arcy as his brother, though Brancowitz is his actual sibling–but inevitably, it was time to regroup.

“Sound-wise, we’d done the record we dreamed of on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” says Mazzalai. “So on this one, now that we already had the sound, we wanted to go more into songwriting.”

They found that identity with the help of Parisian producer and longtime collaborator Philippe Zdar, who’s also polished albums by Chromeo, Cut Copy, and Two Door Cinema Club. “He’s really more like a member of Phoenix, so his role a producer is a bit blurred,” says Mazzalai. “He mixed a bit less and produced less than our last producer, but he was more involved throughout the process and the songwriting. He’s really part of the family.”

Zdar’s hand is crucial in guiding the band’s long, frustrating recording process. “It’s very annoying when we’re doing it,” D’Arcy says. “We are already pissed off at ourselves. When we won a Grammy, we were like, ‘What? This is really how a Grammy-winning group works?’ But, it’s probably for the best.”

They spent two years gathering the pieces that would become Bankrupt!; the deluxe edition of the album will include a whopping 71 tracks of bonus material.

Phoenix 4

“At the beginning, all the songs on the record were totally irrational,” Mazzalai describes. “If you control the beginning, the song is bad, at least for us. Every beginning of a song, we don’t know where it comes from, and we don’t want to control it. It has to come from somewhere else.”

For all of the challenges involved, Phoenix functions like a well-oiled machine, albeit one that’s fuelled by a patchwork of sounds that must be fit together into individual tracks. “After, we are like scientists—we think about what we recorded and we analyze it,” D’Arcy adds.

If Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix represented the band distilled to its purest form, Bankrupt! sees them at their most textured and experimental. It’s just as obviously crafted as a full album experience, something that begs to be bought on vinyl, but the feel has turned darker and more densely layered.

“For us, it’s like it could have been made by a different band,” D’Arcy says.

While it’s not immediately obvious, there are more than a few glances toward the band members’ ‘80s upbringing, particularly in the use of vintage keyboards. More notably, they joined forces with another headline from summer 2009 after purchasing the mixing console used on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. “There’s real magic in it,” says Mazzalai. This may be what makes the new material sound familiar upon first listen, but don’t expect any overt homages to Jackson.

“Your mind as a musician is shaped when you’re a teenager,” D’Arcy says. “You have some traumas or musical shocks when you’re a kid, and then you start to produce this thing you had all of your career long. It’s expressed in different ways each time.”

The band may all be in their late 30s now, but their enduring youthfulness becomes even more clear as Mazzalai talks about their updated sound.

“I picture myself when I was 10 years old, on the west coast of France, on the beach with an ice cream,” he says. “When you listen back to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, it’s very dry compared to Bankrupt!, and more austere.”

Phoenix 5

While there’s plenty that mines from the past, there are also glances forward. Simmering synths woven throughout the album serve as reminder that these guys hang out with Daft Punk, and frontman Mars has cited the classic 1968 sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as an influence on the new material. He sang of “past and present” on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix hit “1901,” but now the tension is found between past and future in a way that’s both unmistakable and impossible to completely pin down.

“The goal is to lose something, looking for an emotion we don’t understand,” Mazzalai describes. “That’s what we are happy about in songwriting. Now we have to explain it, and it’s very hard. Why those words? Why those chords? It’s emotion, it can’t be explained. We don’t know, and we love it. We love the fact that we don’t know, it’s still a mystery.”

They’ve always had a tone of lingering discomfort, but the sense of isolation comes through more powerfully on these new songs, particularly on the wistful “The Real Thing” and standout track “SOS in Bel Air.”

This may be the result of willfully ignoring their success. “My Grammy is actually at my mum’s place, on the piano where I learned to play,” D’Arcy says. “We’re really happy about getting all of this, but at the same time, it’s good to know you have it.”

The same goes for Mazzalai. “I had it in my living room for a day, and it didn’t feel it right,” he says. “It’s not for me, it’s for my mum. I don’t really want to see it.”

In some ways, it’s easy for them to overlook their own accomplishments. Though Phoenix may be the most prominent ambassadors of French rock in the States, they’ve never made quite the same splash in their own country, where homegrown talent is frequently pushed aside in favor of imported chart-toppers from the UK and US. (At the time of this writing, Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” is France’s number one hit.)

“France is like a bubble,” D’Arcy describes. “For many people, it’s the third world of music. It’s kind of good, we still feel a bit special.”

For a band that’s spent more than a decade earning its high profile, it’s mind-boggling that they have territory left to conquer. Still, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s too much to have success right away,” Mazzalai says. “The flavor would be a bit bitter, it would be too easy. We love to suffer. It was a long process, so we enjoy every moment. In France, it’s the same. We are becoming bigger and bigger, but with no compromises.”

Humble beginnings are hard to forget, and these former suburban boys are no exception. “When we were teenagers in Versailles, a town with no venues, we played just for ourselves,” Mazzalai says. “That’s why we created, the four of us, with no pressure from the outside. We are still like that. We cherish it, on chérit. It’s important for us, gives us more freedom.”

At this turning point, upon the release of Bankrupt!, it’s never been more important that Phoenix do things their own way. They’ve embraced the chaos of creation while picking up the pieces and arranging them in perfect harmony. They know themselves, but are willing to let instinct take over. As listeners process the rebirth of Phoenix, so will the band itself.

“Every day, I have a new vision of the album,” says D’Arcy. “It’s evolving.”

[Photos by the author.]

The Hood Internet Mashes Up R. Kelly and Phoenix for You

In case you missed R. Kelly dropping by Phoenix’s set at Coachella over the weekend, Chicago-based masterminds The Hood Internet have you covered. Sure, you can just replay that grainy YouTube video over and over again, or you can be a grown up and download a professional mix of "Ignition (Remix)" and "1901." Has your brain exploded yet?


[via @lindseyweber]

Of course, you’ll probably still want to watch that grainy YouTube video over and over again, right?

Smooth Tuesday Jams: The French Touch

Continuing with our themes, I’ll be exploring the smooth vibes explored by France, often deemed the French Touch in house and dance music. The French are already pretty smooth with their language, food, and fashion, so it’s really not shocking that a lot of their music is smooth as well.

Come check out our next Sea Level party at Tender Trap in Williamsburg on April 10th at 9 PM. We will be continuing to throw them every second Wednesday of the month! More details available here.

Sébastien Tellier – "Look" (2008)

Following in the footsteps of Serge Gainsbourg, the original king of French smooth, Sebastien Tellier has experimented with various genres and styles, but they are always smooth and always for the ladies. Here is a stand out tune from his 2008 record, the aptly titled Sexuality, complete with incredible cover art.

Breakbot – "Another Dawn" (feat. Irfane) (2012)

Channeling the smooth of many legends past and filtering it through a contemporary lens, French artist Breakbot released his fantastic By Your Side LP last year. On this particular cut, he channels Michael McDonald, with vibes that heavily remind me of this one.

Air – "Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi" (1997)

Air are the masters of bachelor-pad, electronic-space-jazz lounge, and they have progressively become more pop driven. Their earlier stuff, though, was pure instrumental smooth. This is one of those tunes.

Phoenix – "You Can Blame It On Anybody" (2004)

Everyone knows Phoenix now as a result of their popular album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and their songs’ inclusion in car ads. What many people don’t know is that, before they were making sort of generic indie rock, Phoenix was making incredible smooth jams like this one on their first two (and partly third) records. I can listen to the vocal harmonies in the beginning on loop forever.

Daft Punk – "Something About Us" (2001)

There’s not much I can say about Daft Punk that hasn’t already been said: they are a big reason house music is popular all over the world today. This is taken from their definitive masterpiece, Discovery, and is a deviation from the rest of the record’s upbeat dance tunes, instead opting for a laid back smooth love jam.

Alan Braxe – "Voices" (2013)

Another master of the French touch sound that defined French dance music in the late ’90s-00s, Braxe, who has often collaborated with Fred Falke, was known for his lush synths, emotional chord changes, and funky bass lines. This tune illustrates much of that nostalgic beauty.

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Phoenix Returns to Provide You With ‘Entertainment’

When you mix your new album on the same recording equipment that made Michael Jackson’s Thriller, one of the greatest pop achievements of the past ever, there’s a lot of pressure to make something good with it. That’s what French rock group Phoenix are setting out to do with their upcoming album, Bankrupt!, the follow-up to the well-liked Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, recorded with the mighty console they purchased on eBay. 

The album isn’t due until April 22nd, with the band already lined up to tour this summer and play a number of festivals including Coachella and Primavera Sound, but yesterday, we got our first preview with the release of lead track, "Entertainment." The results certainly lead up to the name—a bouncing beat, synths for days and a single that will be in your head for days, but you’re not too sad about that fact. Listen and check out the neon-lit lyric video below. 


Robert DeLong is an EDM Artist on the Rise

Seattle-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Robert DeLong has a flare for the alternative. In a good way. The 26 (soon to be 27)-year-old EDM mastermind, dubbed a Young Artist to Watch by MTV, has the music scene in his hands—quite literally. Indeed, among the myriad instruments he manages to maneuver during performances are Wiimotes and Joysticks, rigged like MIDIs and adding edge to his already memorable brand of booty movin’ tunes.

Seriously, though, this whiz kid’s got the chops and multitasks better than the best of us—in front of an audience, no less. He’s a one-man-band who sings, drums, and fiddles with game controllers and keyboards, sometimes going so far as to incorporate guitar, too. His live set is something to behold, a sweaty mid-twenties talent, hair slicked down in an exaggerated comb-over, putting every effort into churning out original numbers while keeping the beat.

“I’m always writing songs,” says DeLong, whose debut album, Just Movement, drops today. Makes sense, since he constantly rocked out in bands back in high school. Now he’s signed to Glassnote, label to the likes of Phoenix and Mumford & Sons.

Recently, DeLong released a video to accompany his catchy track “Global Concepts.” The visual rendition of this f-bomb laden rhythmic ditty features a foggy interior, warehouse-like, smoke somewhat obscuring the agile dancers in the background. Tube lights suspended from above flicker and flash whilst DeLong engages in various aspects of performing, most notably wandering around and gesticulating with Wiimote or drumsticks in hand, or hitting his steel drum to excellent tribal effect as he marches subtly in place. Towards the end, the space is overrun with revelers, morphing into an all-out party you wish you’d been invited to. (The platinum blonde mop you may glimpse amid the shadows belongs to talented dancer James Koroni, the individual responsible for my introduction to and fast fandom of DeLong.)

Another nuance unique to DeLong is his affinity for orange, which he wears with pride in the shape of an “x,” big and bold on a classic black tee, as well as painted with precision on his cheekbone in the shape of a lightening bolt. More on this defining aesthetic to follow.

New Yorkers can catch DeLong in action on February 15 when, as part of a greater tour, he plays The Studio at Webster Hall. Festivalgoers will have several opportunities to indulge as well, from SXSW to Coachella, Ultra to Governors Ball.

Not long ago I sat down with the confident up-and-comer at The Commons Chelsea, one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, where over iced tea we discussed the multi-instrumentalist’s inspiration, interest in hacking HIDs, and what it all means.

What’s it like being dubbed a Young Artist to Watch?
It’s great. I grew up watching MTV, so it’s cool. Wild ride. Exciting. Surreal.

How have people reacted? Any super fans?
Nothing too weird so far. But, it’s definitely getting weirder. After the video came out, all of a sudden friends from high school started reaching out, sending messages. It’s fun to hear from people I haven’t heard from in years. But, it’s just funny.

I bet. Did you always know you were going to go into music?
Near the end of high school I knew I was going to do music. I started out thinking I was going to be in science or something. But, I was better at [music]. I think people knew I was a musician, but I don’t know if people knew I was into electronic music and that I was going to go that route.

What would you be doing if not this?
Since college, all of my jobs have been music related. I taught drum lessons, so that was my thing. If it wasn’t music at all, I guess I’d be going to school.

To become a scientist.
Yeah, I guess. [Laughs]

So, tell me more about this Wiimote rewiring…
You can hack [a] human interface device, anything from Gamepads to Joysticks, and turn it into a MIDI. Basically, the idea is you’re just sending information to a computer and can turn it into whatever you want. It’s the same thing as having a knob, slider, drum pad. It’s all the same if you can hack it and make it work for you. I found out you could do it, it seemed interesting and it’s cheaper than buying a bunch of expensive musical equipment. And it’s fun, people like it.

How many instruments do you have up onstage with you?
Three different electronic things, two computers, game pad, Joystick, Wiimote, six pieces of percussion, drum set, keyboard. Like, 15-20 things. Sometimes I’ll have a guitar. Oh, and two microphones.

Wow. That’s a lot for one guy to keep track of. So, are all your shows like the last time you performed in New York? No pauses between songs, stuff like that?
The show is always continuous and flows together. When I do a longer set, there’s more drumming. I play guitar sometimes, too. It’s high-paced. Jumping around doing a lot of different things.

I’m getting that vibe. You sampled Moby when you last played live in NYC. Have you been a long time fan of his?
When his album Play came out, I was probably, like, 12. That was when I first started experimenting with making electronic music, because it was kind of accessible, mainstream electronic music for the time. It was kind of something I grew up with.

Aww, an audible homage. Thoughts on our fair city?
I love this city, but Manhattan is a little terrifying. And it’s a little colder here. Do prefer the warm. Other than that, it’s beautiful. It’s awesome. Good people.

Who else besides Moby inspired or inspires you?
The songs on the album especially are an amalgamation of a lot of songs over the last four years, so it’s a wide variety of things. I grew up in Seattle, so there’s the whole indie singer-songwriter vibe that I kind of grew up with, like Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, Modest Mouse. I think you can hear that whole Seattle sound in the way I write melodies. As far as things I’m listening to a lot right now, I’m listening to Lucy and Sports. I also grew up listening to a lot of Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Talking Heads. Those are some of my constant jams.

Can you tell me what inspired the lyrics behind “Just Movement”?
“Just Movement,” the first track, is sort of the thesis statement for the album. It was written right after college, a time of mental exploring. Just movement: the idea that, if you take this reductionist perspective, everything we do is just atoms moving around. It’s all meaningless. But, once you break it down, where do you go from there? Just movement, the double entendre. Dancing, philosophy. Take it or leave it.

Have you yourself always been into dancing? I’m thinking, too, of “Global Concepts”…
I go out dancing a lot. Do a lot of jumping around on stage. I think that’s an awesome thing. It’s the oldest response to music that human beings had, so it only makes sense to think about that. For a long time I was in the indie scene and no one dances. Everyone looks at their feet.

[Laughs] Shoegaze. How would you describe the music scene in L.A.?
It’s actually pretty cool. There’s definitely a burgeoning DIY electronic scene in Los Angeles. L.A.’s big. There’s always something happening. You can always see new music. It’s good stuff.

So, how did the face painting start?
The whole thing was a group of me and my friends called the Tribe of Orphans, a bunch of people who hang out and go to dance events and stuff. It kind of just evolved over time. My girlfriend Heidi face paint[s] at shows.

So she’s your professional face painter. Does she paint in real life?
Besides face painting she does studio painting and stuff, so it’s great.

Why orange?
Initially? That’s the color paint that shows up the best under black light. It glows the brightest.

Has anyone ever said something to you about your “x” symbol? How it very much resembles the “x” symbol of The xx?
Yeah, people have said that before.

Does it piss you off?
It does a little bit. It doesn’t really. I didn’t even know about them, that that was their symbol. The “x” just was kind of an organic development. My girlfriend had painted it on my headphones probably three years ago or something, so it was before that first The xx album came out. It was just kind of a simultaneous [thing]. We both did it. And then they became famous first. It’s just an “x.” It is what it is.

Emblem wars aside, what’s the greatest challenge of all this?
I think the greatest challenge is to not get sick all the time from running around. But, I have a lot of energy and this is what I wanted to do, so it’s all working out. So far. I get to do what I love. I love playing shows. That’s what it’s all about.

Photo by Miles Pettengell

BlackBook Tracks #24: Prelude To Seasonal Affective Disorder

Is it gloomy today, or what? This week’s picks ended up involving a lot of vaguely melancholic dance music, so I hope you’re into that kind of thing. This is really just a precursor to when it’s February and there’s a blizzard going on and I hate everything and start filling up this column with just covers of the Smiths.

Owlle – “Ticky Ticky”

Rising French artist Owlle doesn’t have many songs released yet, but what’s out shows plenty of potential. Her latest, “Ticky Ticky,” balances her haunting vocals against a danceable beat. Emily Kai Bock (Grimes’ “Oblivion,” Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again”) directed its striking video.

Ava Luna – “Ice Level”

Would you like to go to a surrealist urban woodsman dinner/costume party? Minimalist funk band Ava Luna invite you to a weird world in the “Ice Level” video.

Team Ghost – “Dead Film Star”

Do you like French electro-rock? I like French electro-rock. Here’s the title track from Dead Film Star, the new EP from ex-M83 man Nicolas Fromageau.

Autre Ne Veut ft. Mykki Blanco – “Counting”

Brooklyn electro-pop maestro Autre Ne Veut will take you to a higher plane. Watch him team up with rapper Mykki Blanco in the solemn video for “Counting.”

Katy B ft. Jessie Ware and Geeneus – “Aaliyah”

Party-loving every-woman Katy B is back, and she’s announced her return with a free EP that dropped today. “Aaliyah” sees her singing with another soulful Londoner, Jessie Ware.

Chromatics – “Ceremony” (New Order cover)

Chromatics add some dramatic flair to the New Order/Joy Division classic in this pleasantly oozy cover.

Phoenix – “Lisztomania”

Phoenix have finally announced a new album, four years after the runaway success of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Party like it’s 2009, vive la fête!

Fort Lean – “Do You Remember”

Overheard at the Brooklyn quintet’s show last night: “I like that the singer can actually sing. You don’t hear that a lot these days.” Frontman Keenan Mitchell shows what he’s made of on this cut from the Change Your Name EP, a charming slice of indie pop-rock that flirts with nostalgia.

Baby Monster – “City Of Lovers”

Dearest Baby Monster, I am so sorry that I did not pay more attention to your City Of Lovers EP earlier this year. Your resonant, chilled-out electro-pop is really quite lovely. xoxo, Katie.