The 10th anniversary bash tomorrow (Wednesday) at Lit Lounge is a sold out, invitation-only affair that will gather the strange brew that have faithfully worshipped at the house Erik Foss and David Schwartz have built and maintained. When it was built, our scene was in Manhattan. There were a couple of joints in Williamsburg where creative types were developing an art scene that soon developed into a lifestyle. High Manhattan rent escapees constituted most of the crowd. Then, folks like me got on the bandwagon because it’s simply better out there for people like me. Suddenly, it became almost lame to live in Manhattan.
The Oscars are over and done, and although it couldn’t have quite matched the power of "Skyfall," Karen O’s lovely little ditty from the movie Frankenweenie was sadly overlooked. But fans of Karen O and her group, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, have no reason to feel down. This week, the trio previewed a new song from their upcoming album, Mosquito, due out on Interscope this April.
The Yeah-Times-Three get a little funky on new Dave Sitek and Nick Launay-produced single "Sacrilege," which sports a grooving beat and a gospel feel to match the religious title. As a matter of fact, a 24-piece gospel choir backs the song, at times Sly and the Family Stone-revelatory and at times a little eerie. It’s almost like a burned-out future version of the finale from the musical Hair, which is a compliment, I promise. Listen below.
On April 16 you will at long last have access to Mosquito, the fourth full-length from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s been four years since the marvelous It’s Blitz confirmed the YYYs’ status as Last Survivor of The Aughties Rock Revival—and meanwhile claimed the title of Best Album Cover of 2009. This time, the art may go a bit too far?
Supplied by South Korean filmmaker and animator Beomsik Shimbe Shim, the cover of Mosquito is an appallingly neon affair, a mashup of cutting-edge, Pixar-like computer graphics and the haphazard, deliberately gruesome CD sleeves rampant among one-off 90s grunge bands. Maybe, once you’re no longer competing for shelf space at Virgin Megastores, this aspect of music promotion is moot? Or the photographer they liked was busy?
You can also watch this Mosquito teaser, featuring a blonde Karen O. and some punky sounds that could signal a return to raw form after the polished Factory Records ballads of It’s Blitz. Which could help explain the viscerally ugly art. The only other explanation is that they wanted bloggers to ridicule it.
If you haven’t yet heard of artist Brian Batt, you’ll be getting a glimpse soon, especially if you tune into Gossip Girl. We know that not everyone’s smitten for Upper East Side scheming, but this impressive painter makes a cameo in tonight’s episode, “Portrait of a Lady Alexander.” Indeed, the 33-year-old acting neophyte even delivers some lines, in the presence of Chuck and Blair, no less. Guilty pleasure, meet aesthetic skill.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Batt made his way to Manhattan roughly five years ago. At the time, he was working for a Long Island-based band merchandising company, designing t-shirts and other fan-focused products. But, much as he loved it, in 2008 Batt threw in towel, determined to work for himself and bent on painting fulltime.
And now, that’s just what he does. Day in and day out, he collides with the canvas in his Lower East Side two-bedroom walk-up, though soon he’ll be relocating to Dumbo. We can appreciate his need for more space. With two pit bulls, Lily and Zoe, bounding about (not to mention fixating on our feet) and countless large-scale works scattered throughout the apartment, perched precariously against walls and otherwise making it a little difficult to walk without worry, he’s due for—and deserving of—a real estate upgrade.
Batt’s style has certainly evolved over the years, and currently it’s all about gridding and dots. Some depictions we encountered during our visit were of Russell Simmons, Frida Kahlo, and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Just blocks and dots of color making for a magnificent and entirely fresh perspective. No Lichtenstein or Seurat to be seen here.
Our personal favorite Batt original would have to be Venus, which features a gorgeous girl (who looks a lot like Lana Del Rey). She sports a letterman jacket and oversized sunglasses, her long locks billowing in the wind before a body of water. The closer you stand, the more out of focus it is. But back up a bit and the beauty comes together, well, beautifully. We really dig the illusion, not to mention the evident meticulousness. And we aren’t alone. Batt counts among his collectors the likes of Reese Witherspoon and John Krasinski, amid myriad more. Though he can command up to $25,000 per piece, prints are available on his site, signed and embossed, for only $90.
Jolly and totally down to talk shop, Batt opened up to us about his craft, breaking into television (if only once…so far), and his relationship with L.A. Spoiler alert: New York City wins.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Have you always been into art, even as a kid?
I was always drawing. And, I went to college for illustration at Hartford Art School in Connecticut. Also, my dad was an artist, too.
That’s awesome. Who is your favorite artist, apart from pops of course?
My primary influence is Chuck Close. Chuck Close is the man.
I can see that, for sure. You have a couple reminiscent, albeit distinct, aesthetics. What would you call them?
Pixilated paintings and dot style[, respectively]. [The former] is influenced by the digital era. The reference is like a bitmap. [The latter is] like look[ing] at a newspaper [if] you zoom way in; it’s all dots. It’s influenced by print.
What does this endeavor mean to you?
I’m just so motivated to be painting every day, as much as possible. Definitely more motivated now than ever before. I spend a lot of time; I’m working at least twelve hours a day, seven days a week. There’s so much I want to do, so much I’m set up to do right now. Commissions and pieces I’m compelled to do. I’m the only one here to do it, too. I don’t have assistants or anything, so I just have to be as productive as I can. I work really hard.
It shows. How do you create these pieces? Like, where do you source the initial images?
This [Russell Simmons image] is taken from a photo on the internet, which is something I’m trying to avoid. I want them to be original. Like, with Gossip Girl, I couldn’t show this because I didn’t take this photo, you know?
It’s tricky. So, how did you initially get involved with Gossip Girl?
The head writer bought two of my paintings at a show I had in L.A. They wanted [to feature] a New York artist and were trying to write me into the script. They wanted me to play myself for authenticity. When they first told me, I really [didn’t] expect it to happen. [After some back and forth,] they invite[d] me to do a cameo on the show.
Were you stoked?
I was very interested.
They explained what the scene was going to be; Chuck and Blair come to my studio to talk about a painting. They wanted me to read in front of the camera. That was the final test. I was super nervous, because I’d never done that sort of thing. They just wanted me to be myself.
Did Gossip Girl film here?
They wanted to. Because of the walk-up, it was an issue. So, they came, picked up, like, 18 of my paintings, and recreated my studio out on Long Island. It was cool to see it all recreated.
I bet. So, what was the end result?
It was amazing. The experience was great. They made me feel really comfortable and were really enthusiastic about the work. It was so surreal. It should be great exposure.
Beyond the head writer of Gossip Girl, who else invests in your work?
Probably the most famous person who’s bought work from me is Reese Witherspoon. I did one for John Krasinski a couple years ago, too. It was commissioned by a friend of his. He loves JFK…
Are you bent on depicting famous faces or are you also into lesser-known subjects?
It’s both. I don’t feel as comfortable submitting pieces where I didn’t take the photograph.
And that largely ties back to portraying folks you know or have easier access to than the celebrity (or deceased) set. Tell me about your Frida Kahlo painting.
I think it’s important [to represent] the power of women. There’s not as many female artists. There’s not as much of a presence of female artists. That’s what inspired me. I like subjects who are game changers, who overcome adversity, who stand up for something. To me, Frida totally represents that.
It’s also about doing more obscure icons. People I think are amazing but don’t necessarily get the recognition of, like, Bob Marley, who’s on posters everywhere. [For example,] this is Karen O. from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I love Karen O.
Does anyone ever sit for a portrait?
Used to. But now I take a photograph because I don’t want to make someone wait so long.
Speaking of waiting, what’s your waiting list like?
A year. Some are priority. Some people are anxious to get something; others are, like, Whenever. I’m happy to have a bunch of commissions lined up.
It must be awesome to be an artist who isn’t starving.
It’s the best. I’m starting to pick up some momentum now.
Yes, you may even make it to Art Basel this year. Tell me more about the piece you anticipate showcasing there?
I’ve probably put in 1,000 hours so far. It’s tedious. I really hope they take it.
For sure. So, does New York inform your art? This area?
It’s always inspiring to walk around the neighborhood. I’m lucky I have dogs. Gets me out of the apartment.
But soon you’ll be abandoning the Lower East Side for Dumbo. Are you ready to say goodbye to Manhattan?
I’m freaking out. I’m majorly freaking out.
I would be, too. Lastly, your manager’s based in L.A. Can you describe your relationship with the West Coast?
There’s so many opportunities for artists out there now. It’s really refreshing to have New York artists [going] to L.A. The general population in Los Angeles is all about it. There’s so much to take advantage of. It’s really positive and beneficial to be involved in some way. It’s also nice to recharge a little bit, too. I love going back and forth, absorbing what both places have to offer. I don’t think I could live there full-time, though. New York is just so amazing.
The sixth studio album from Liars has a funny name. It’s spelled WIXIW and pronounced like “wish you.” No matter how odd the title is, however, the music from the band that rose to indie fame alongside Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs in an early aughts New York City is, as always, excellent.
The record won’t be out until June 4, but lucky for you it’s already streaming. Before you listen to the album, though, you might need the band to explain a few things.
Thankfully there’s a video for that.
And maybe you want to check out the Todd Cole-directed video for the album’s first single, “No. 1 Against The Rush.”
OK, now you’re ready to hear the record. Check it out here.
It’s been years since the New Rock Revolution hit and bands like The Hives (and The Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Interpol, et al) took the airwaves, bringing guitar rock back into vogue after the Ashanti-soaked early aughts.
The Hives, direct from Sweden, were one of the most successful of those groups, gaining serious traction thanks to songs like the undeniably catchy “Hate To Say I Told You So” and their habit of wearing matching black-and-white outfits.
And while the band has remained active, winning international awards and releasing albums, they’ve more or less dropped off the American rock radar. Until now. The video for “Go Right Ahead,” the first single off the forthcoming Lex Hives – out June 5 – was just released, and it showcases the Hives in very fine form.
The video was recorded live in the band’s studio (owned by ABBA’s Benny Andersson) on the Swedish island of Skeppsholmen and shows off a tight sound and not-at-all-diminished flair for foppery, thanks in part to the fancy camerawork of Travis Schneider.
Does this mean a revival for all of those bands that brought guitars back onto the radio in the early part of the millenium? Probably not, but once again The Hives are showing us they know better than anyone how to scratch our garage rock itch.
It’s been almost five months since New York-based soul DJ Jonathan Toubin, who works under the name DJ New York Night Train, was involved in a devastating accident in a Portland, Oregon hotel room. If the outpouring of support for Toubin, which came in the form of fundraisers from Los Angeles to New Orleans and beyond featuring a who’s who of New York DJs and talent from the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, wasn’t impressive enough, the man himself is already up and about and ready to get back behind the turntables.
Not only will Toubin be spinning tonight at Jack White’s sold-out show at Manhattan venue Webster Hall, but Sunday he’ll be celebrating alongside friends like Ian Svenonius and local buzz band K-Holes with a party at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl. Other upcoming dated include a May 12 and a June 9 set at Glasslands, a July 7 set at Lincoln Center for the Midsummer Night Swing, July 21 and August 18 sets at Glasslands and a September appearance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in Asbury Park, NJ.
Back in December, Toubin was sleeping in a ground-floor Portland hotel room when a taxicab drove through the room’s wall, trapping him and causing serious injuries. And while friends and fans should be thrilled to see him back at work, it seems like something Toubin himself knew he would be doing again. As his mother recounted to the Times, the day of the accident his doctors heard him make one request: “I’ve got to have my records.”
Toubin’s best known for his high-energy, soul-infused sets. To get an idea of the sort of music the beloved DJ plays, check out a series of his playlists below.
Possibly! A video that cross promotes the new Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers film Where The Wild Things Are, soundtracked to the song Karen O contributed to the film (“All Is Love,” credited to Karen O and the Kids), is part of a new anti-obesity campaign encouraging children to play outside, away from their computers, where they can’t click on things that will make their lives better. Insidious! What would Beth Ditto say?!
Okay, so it’s not vehemently anti-fat, and it’s more pro-exercise, and yes, obesity is a serious problem in America amongst the youth … and bloggers … but still! Judge for yourself whether or not Karen O’s judging the kids. Now we know what Y-Control is: Y-our Food.
All Points West, and all of its muddy, stylish, musical glory, has ended. What’s left of Liberty City can only be described as a term Chris Martin coined during his closing set: “a mud jacuzzi.” It’s only the second year for the young festival, and already we’ve witnessed vast improvements, including more booze options, interesting sponsor gimmicks, and a continued growth in lineup quality. I could sit here and wax poetic on the Rita’s Italian Ices, Twix breaks, the H & M golf ball shaped tent, feeling at one with nature (and whatever else was in the sludge) and basic spiritual awakenings, but I’ll let other concert goers who also got down and dirty, do the dirty work.
Ben Barna Who were you most excited to see? Jay-Z. Best performance? Jay-Z. Perks to having a VIP ticket? I didn’t have a VIP ticket, but the media pass got me backstage, partly I think, because security just didn’t care enough to stop me. Most memorable part of the festival? Eating Karen O’s leftover salad. Beers. Food. Reasonably priced? No. $6 for a slice of pizza and $7 for a small cup of bud is in no way reasonable. Thankfully, $7 for a pint of Smirnoff is. Worst thing about commuting to the park? Nothing. The ferry ride was much cheaper this year and very convenient. What needs to improve for next year? Just the lineup!
Eiseley Tauginas Who were you most excited to see? Arctic Monkeys. Best performance? The Ting Tings. Worst performance? My Bloody Valentine. The sound system sucked on the main stage for this performance. I think I busted an eardrum and I wasn’t even relatively close to the stage. Most memorable part of the festival? People went nuts during Tokyo Police. Great crowd response. Also, people watching. More goth freaks this year. Strangest festival fare? Butterfly Fries. They were not fries at all! It was a giant plate of potato chips. Best festival food? Chicken fingers. I’m a traditionalist. Worst thing about commuting? The ferry line on the way back (but we skipped, because I was backstage like a baller). Did go out after? Tried to go to Frying Pan, to keep the “I’m on a boat” energy- post-ferry, but almost fell asleep at the bar. What they improved on from last year? Beers! Seven beers rather than five like last year. Also, it was easier to locate APW volunteers and staffers to ask questions. Last year I walked around for what seemed like hours wondering, “Who works here?” What needs to improve before next year? The “designated drinking area”. Ridiculous.
Cayte Grieve Who were you most excited to see? Jay-Z. Best performance? Coldplay. I felt like I really connected with the audience, and I felt like the band really connected with us. Surprisingly good show? Silver Sun Pickups. Their show was great, but the mosh pit that broke out for them made it especially wonderful. It set the mood for the rest of the day. What surprised you overall about the festival? That it was even better in the rain. It was way too hot on Saturday. Friday was just a muddy shit show. Sunday was a nice mix. Beers. Food. Reasonably priced? I sussed out some good deals. The vegetarian lo-mein was only $4. But then again, who eats Chinese food at an outdoor festival? Meanwhile, I expected the beers to be more expensive than $7. Perks to buying a VIP ticket? When I arrived solo on Sunday, there was a 45 minute wait to get in. With the black wristband, I got to breeze right in. Most memorable part of the festival? Karen O. She’s just magic to watch. I rocked out harder than I did for anything else. Also, Coldplay’s cover of Billie Jean, and Jay-Z’s freestlye. Worst thing about the commute? Does the ferry have to be so expensive every day? They should sell a 3 day pack. Did you do anything before? Baogette Did you do anything after? The novelty of being covered in mud was just too much fun, so we decided to go to fancy places. We had a martini at Delmonico’s although it was pretty much closed. One night we went to Hudson Bar and Books. What needs to improve before next year? More sponsors. I found the free Twix, free American Spirits, and the cool H & M tents to be a refreshing way to break up the day- and it made the products memorable.