Five Out Of Five Bobby Jindals for ‘Dosa Hunt’

“This never could have happened ten years ago,” Amrit Singh, the affable Stereogum blogger and director of the short documentary Dosa Hunt, explained to an audience Monday at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg. “If you had told fifteen-year-old me that one day there would be guys in these great bands that looked like me, I never would have forgiven myself for not making this project.” The guys that look like him—Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu and Hima Suri of Das Racist, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder (“the pretty one”), jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, and Alan Palomo of Neon Indian—filled a Dodge Sprinter for the one-day food excursion that had less to do with dosas and more to do with the sort of existential humor of being a first-generation American artist.           

Even with a cuisine as eclectic as dosa—an Indian crepe-like pancake stuffed with potatoes and chilis, served with chutney sauce—I still think of Lewis Lapham’s word on this stuff: “The pleasures of the table [are] those to be found in the company and the conversation rather than in whatever [is] the sun-dried specialty on the plate.” For however gastronomically educational the movie is, the interesting parts all center around the opinions and attitudes slung about in the van. Slumdog Millionaire sucked (“I’m biologically opposed to it,” quipped Kondabolu). The dosa rating system relies on “an alternate universe” wherein Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal doesn’t support bigoted, reactionary policies. Bollywood is embraced as camp. On every socio-political topic, the confident, progressive verdict is followed with a shrug of measured apathy. Bobby Jindal is just a guy. Slumdog is just a movie.

Singh contends, justifiably so, that “the film wasn’t just a vanity project,” but there’s certainly the mark of a fanboy filmmaker not yet jaded by the Merchants of Cool-hood of pop music. The scoring is fantastic—you could watch Yeasayer-laced footage of the Queensboro Bridge all day long. And the music itself, from the tribal beats of “Madder Red” to the Afro-pop tinge of V.W.’s “Giving Up The Gun”, is rife with the political multiculturalism/we-like-what-we-like kind of sentiment that informs most of today’s best popular art. Heritage and ethnicity are points of pride, but you can also say, write, wear, or play whatever you want.

In perhaps the best scene of the movie, Heems of Das Racist (“Well who’s that, brown, downtown like Julie / mixed-race British chicks let me in they coochie”) walks through the aisles of an Indian grocery store in Jackson Heights, knowingly name-checking Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Bisquick (ironic dosa ingredients) with his mug in the camera a la MTV’s Cribs. You sense that the emotional palate these guys have grown up with is part racial consciousness, part where-were-you-when-Kurt-Cobain-died (John Norris, a friend and mentor of Singh’s, moderated the post-screening Q&A). After the final meal, Heems hops in the van and wonders with cheek if the “dosa is a metaphor for the American dream.” Why not?

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Yeasayer Mails New Song To Fans Then Releases Online

It didn’t appear via a secure link or a secret download or even a password-protected and unlisted YouTube video. No, the new song from indie favorites Yeasayer came the old fashioned way: in the mail.

The blog We All Want Someone says that the track, “Henrietta,” was mailed, on a CD and in a lovely case, to fans on the group’s mailing list. Only after that was the song put onto the band’s SoundCloud page and made available to the entire Internet.

Yeasayer, as you might remember, has been kicking around since 2007 when they released the debut album All Hour Cymbals and then promptly became fixtures on the listening device of anyone who fancied him or herself remotely in the know.

The band released their most recent record, Odd Blood, in April 2011. Perhaps “Henrietta” is just a way to whet the appetites of fans before the band goes on the road next month, perhaps it’s a signal that something more substantial is on its way from the band. Either way, the song is gorgeous and perfectly fine to enjoy without wondering what it means.

Members of Vampire Weekend and Das Racist Go on a ‘Dosa Hunt’

The search for proper ethnic food can lead a man to madness, if nowhere else. How could mainstream eateries possibly recreate the traditional dishes prepared by mothers and grandmothers of yesteryear? In Dosa Hunt, Stereogum’s Amrit Singh looks to find an answer to that question. He and Das Racist’s Himanshu Suri collected a handful of NYC-based Indian musicians like Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo, among others, to comb the Big Apple streets in search of a proper dosa, the traditional South Indian crepe. As this promotional trailer opens up, the whole crew is collected into one car, with Palomo explaining his mission on the phone. "Just sitting in a van on a dosa hunt with a bunch of Indian dudes," he says, and from there it’s off to the races. 

Produced and hosted by Singh, it looks like a charming documentary/travelogue that will inform you about things that you’re not very informed about, like the best Indian places in town and just how Palomo gets his acid wash looking so fly. A release date hasn’t been announced, but you can follow the official Dosa Hunt Tumblr for more information.

Yeasayer Remixes and Remasters Denim

“This is the ugliest boho dress ever,” says Chris Keating, lead singer of Brooklyn based trio Yeasayer, holding up what resembles a handwoven, wind-battered flag. “We didn’t know what we were supposed to be doing,” adds guitarist and co-vocalist Anand Wilder, who shrugs before taking off his shirt and trying on the flag, which, when unfurled, looks more like a tattered apron. Over mason jars of tequila and beer, bassist Ira Wolf Tuton chimes in, “It’s like something Orphan Annie might wear.”

Two years after the release of their first record, 2007’s All Hour Cymbals, these three slaphappy late-twentysomethings are back with Odd Blood. And while their debut floored critics with its unexpected mixing of prog-rock, Afrobeat, East Asian and other world music, their second has loftier ambitions: to make people dance. “We wanted to do something a little more pop, a little more physical,” says Wilder. “The last album was more ethereal.” Odd Blood brings energy and circulation back to the once-vital, now-atrophied muscles of rock with rhythm. From complex drum-and-bass anthems like “Ambling Alp,” to the disco-driven desires of “Love Me Girl,” Yeasayer sounds excited and virile, ready for any challenge, even if that includes the mess of art supplies on the floor in front of them.

Odd Blood is out now on Secretly Canadian/We Are Free.

(Clockwise from top right) Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder

Anand Likes Freddy’s Bar and Backroom (NYC)

Backstage at Bonnaroo: Yeasayer & Girl Talk

We spent a pleasant Saturday at the ‘Roo under blue skies and only a moderate amount of mud and standing water. Right in the middle of some dedicated people-watching, when we thought life couldn’t possibly get any better, we snagged a few treasured minutes with Chris Keating, lead singer of Brooklyn-based band Yeasayer, and Gregg Gillis, the sometimes controversial mash-up DJ known as Girl Talk. Gregg attracted a monstrous crowd for his 2:30 a.m. set on Friday night, and Yeasayer, directly followed by MGMT, filled the house and killed it at their late-night Saturday show. Luckily for those in attendance, they threw in a few very catchy tracks from their soon-to-be-released album. MGMT followed suit, and although every single one of the festival’s pseudo hippies/wannabe hipsters was there to pay tribute, no one was feeling their new tunes.

What types of venues are better for your music? Chris Keating: Festivals can be really great because obviously the energy can be amazing from so many people, but I don’t like it when people are 40 feet back. We played Lollapalooza, and there were so many people, they went on forever, but you couldn’t really see anyone. They were so far away. We also did this whole summer of festivals in Europe, and the one show I really remember was when we played at a bar with 100 kids in Zurich. It was right in between all of these festivals. We just stopped at this bar, played a show. It was so good even with the crappy sound system, being sweaty, we couldn’t even all fit on the stage.

You’ve called your music “Middle Eastern psych snap gospel.” Help us with this one. CK: You just have to write definitions sometimes, and people run with it. That’s it. I’m never going to say it again. I was listening to a lot of Middle Eastern music at the time; I like gospel music; I like Jermaine Dupri southern snap. It’s hard to define our music. It’s better than “Contemporary Brooklyn.” If anyone calls us “Freak Folk,” I’ll be really pissed off.

Are you playing with any new gadgets? CK: We have two new drummers. We have a percussionist names Ahmed who was born in Sudan and has played with Of Montreal before. Now he’s part of our band for the next touring cycle. We have a whole new thing going.

Where do you hang out in Brooklyn? CK: Madiba in Fort Greene with South African food. I really like the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal. I hang out at Glasslands a fair amount. We played a “test show” there before we came out here. No one was allowed to come except our sound guy and the bartenders.

Hype us up about the new album … CK: We really pushed electronics on this new record. We’re trying to mash up some new genres. I was listening to some industrial music that I hadn’t heard before that my wife got me into. We mixed a lot of that with some really pretty sounds to get a little more edge to our music. I’m really, really excited about a lot of the sonic textures. A lot of the songwriting is undeniably dancey. I want some of these songs to be club bangers … as much as Yeasayer would do a club banger. This shit is remix-ripe. I think we matured a lot as we were playing shows over the last couple years, since the last record was so ethereal, this is just very focused and very pop. People may hate, people may like it. But I’m stoked.

How did Bonnaroo act as a forum for your music? Gregg Gillis: The organizers were very relaxed, which was cool. I think it was good that I was going last and went on a bit late and beyond that, I come from a background where I used to play very short sets. For many years I rarely played for more than 20 minutes. Last night, they gave me an hour and a half slot, and typically, I don’t like to play that long. I can accomplish what I want to accomplish in an hour, and it can be very intense, and people can go nuts in that hour. I actually prepared more music than I’ve ever prepared to fill that hour and a half. No one stopped me from playing the full time slot, even though we went on late. We didn’t have much security on stage, and people were climbing over the barricade more than they expected, and it got out of control at the beginning — which is typical at a club, not so much at a festival. I liked that. I don’t want things to end, and I don’t want people to get hurt, but I want some level of chaos and I want it to be a free for all.

During your set, the digital screen kept flashing the phrase, “I’m Not A DJ.” Aren’t you a DJ? GG: For six years when I existed on a much smaller level; I had never, ever gotten an offer to do a DJ gig or play as a DJ. Once things started to pick up a bit, we started getting all these offers like, “Can you play three hours at this place.” And I’d never really played over an hour. I had to keep specifying, even though you think this would be cool, that’s not the style of show I play. With any band, you pick an identity, and you make music within that world. A big effort with Girl Talk, for me, has been keeping people from steering it into this dance club world. I never wanted to be up in a booth, and I never just want to be just playing songs. I want to have stuff that’s going to be transformative. Ideally, even though it’s based on samples, I want people to view it as an original music project. It’s an abstract concept and that’s half the fun. I like to push the way people think about what is original music.

How do you feel aboutfans trying to catalogue every song you play in a set? GG: It raises the bar for me when people are bootlegging shows and keeping track of sample listings. Every show has a million YouTube hits and people get to hear what I play every night. Last night, I played bits and pieces of stuff that I worked on during my layover in the airport. It’s exciting that I can make something in the airport, play it, and then it’s forever documented on YouTube. It definitely puts pressure on myself. I can’t just play a show today that would be completely different from last night. It would take me a really long time to do that. I know that people come out to multiple shows, and I like to be in touch with what they’re thinking as much as possible. It makes me want to work a lot more.
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