Just as my blogging ennui threatened to extend into its third week – my god, have I really not posted since Aug. 27? – it was going to take something pretty special, something different to snap me out of this. Thank you, Calexico.
I’m not sure how a band manages to inject so much earnestness into such ’80s pop cheese, but Calexico has done it here with a cover of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” as part of the Onion A.V. Club’s excellent Undercover series. A song that possesses such a cartoonish quality has been transformed into something with a touch of sincerity, and the finishing flourish feels inspiring. It would have been too easy for any band to cover this ironically. Calexico is too damn good for that.
Says frontman Joey Burns when asked if he knew “any of the other lyrics” before tackling this cover: “I didn’t know the lyrics, no. But I had fun learning the lyrics and looking at what I could do to shape ‘em. So I just kind of edited out a bunch of lyrics. Then I wound up having fun figuring out a melody I could sing them with. So we kind of went the O Brother, Where Art Thou route.”
Calexico, a band all Arizonans should be proud to call their own, released its new album, Algiers, on Tuesday. The band will be at Crescent Ballroom for a two-night stay Oct. 27-28.
Leave it to a former teacher to base a song/video on a literary classic. Phoenix rapper Random (aka MegaRan) left the classroom behind to make the full-time jump into music, but he can’t quite seem to shake the teaching, uh, bug.
And that’s the album that brought us “Buggin’ (The Metamorphosis),” inspired by the Franz Kafka novella. The new video (directed by Max Isaacson) finds Ran playing the role of Gregor, waking up to find himself transformed into a vermin. High school English class was never this fun.
And while you’re catching up with Language Arts: Volume One, Random went ahead and dropped Volume Two today. A harder-working rapper would be impossible to find. That said, our TeacherRapperHero is returning home from tour and throwing a show on Saturday at Hidden House.
I think I speak for Reubens Accomplice fans everywhere when I say this: Finally.
A new album by the beloved Phoenix band, which would be its first since 2004’s The Bull, the Balloon, and the Family, has become a bit like our very own sasquatch – often discussed but never seen. We’ve been teased, agonizingly so at times. I had my own sighting (false, as it turns out), in 2006, of a possible album that even had a title, Mammal Music. Let me put 2006 in perspective for you: I gleaned this information from the band’s Live Journal, which is just a rung below MySpace in the social media wasteland.
Speaking of MySpace, that might be where I first saw news, in 2009, that the band had released an EP and was taking pre-orders for the new album, titled Sons of Men. Three years later, there was something to it: Sons of Men actually is the name of the album, and it will be available this August. No, really. A mural was painted in downtown Phoenix to promote the album with the words: “Available August 2012.” I saw it with my own two eyes. That’s about as close to etched in stone as there is. No turning back now, dudes.
But seriously: I tease because I love. Life tends to get in the way of these things. I don’t have the faintest idea of what Chris Corak and Jeff Bufano – the band’s two principal members – had to go through to get to this point. But I hope to find out more in the coming weeks. I can tell you that Grammy-winning producer/engineer/mixer Chris Testa, who has worked with several locals in the past (Jimmy Eat World, Source Victoria, Kinch, Courtney Marie Andrews), is adding this one to his extensive credits.
Corak also kindly (and quickly) responded to an email to give me some other tidbits, including the track listing (below) and that guest musicians on the record include pedal-steel king Jon Rauhouse (a member of Neko Case’s band), Matt Maher and Promise Ring/Maritime singer Davey von Bohlen, who sings the choruses on “I Love You, But I’m Tired.”
What we also know is this: Sons of Men (that’s the cover art above; click to expand) will be available in August, with a show at Crescent Ballroom on Aug. 10 serving as the album release party. (They are playing shows on Aug. 11 and 12 in California with the Promise Ring.) “Field Science” is the leadoff track on the album, and it’s featured here in the time-lapse video that shows the creation of the aforementioned mural.
Getting the feeling this is going to be worth the wait.
Sons of Men track listing:
1. Field Science
2. This Desert
3. I Love You, but I’m Tired
4. I’m Leaving
5. The Losing Curse
6. Sons of Men
7. Memory Works
8. No Motion
10. Less Pain Forever
Let’s be honest: Recording any cover song takes some level of ballsiness. You have to be respectful of the original but confident in your own spin on the song. And tackling a Grammy-nominated song within about a year of its release … well … that’s pretty bold.
But Knesset obviously knew what it was doing. The Phoenix-based band took on “Holocene” by Bon Iver, a track that was up for Record and Song of the Year at the 2012 Grammys. Also, this is a song that white butlers are way into. Be respectful.
Seriously, though, Knesset shows the proper reverence here and infuses an already-great song with the sort of energy guaranteed not to put Blue Ivy Carter to sleep. Stream it below or download it at RCRD LBL.
As someone who recently raised a staggering sum of more than $15,000 for his most recent project through Kickstarter, Phoenix rapper Mega Ran is certainly qualified to offer his tips and tricks for success with the crowd-funding site, which has become an increasingly popular way for musicians to raise capital to record.
True to his roots as a former teacher, Mega Ran has written up a lesson plan to educate the masses on How to Win at Kickstarter, and he’s kindly allowed me to share it here to help spread the word. Enjoy and absorb the insight from a musician who seemingly never slows down.
At 11:24 AM on May 4, 2012, while preparing for a show in Wisconsin, I got a text message.
“WOW!! WAY TO GO!! YOU DID IT!!”
As of Saturday, May 4, I had just finished up my third Kickstarter campaign, and the third time was truly the charm for me, after raising $5,300 out of $2,500 the first time, and then $5,400 out of $2,500 the second time. This time I was asking for $3,000 to create a 3-part album, a comic and video game. I thought it could work out, but never imagined what would happen. So how did it go?
When the smoke cleared, the final total was at a whopping 516% of the desired goal. I beat my last two Kickstarters by an average of $10,000. It’s the third biggest comic book total raised on Kickstarter. I get at least three emails a day asking this question, so I figured I’d help you out by answering it publicly:
How did you raise all that money??
I’m going to tell you something. Although I think I’m a good rapper, OK producer and pretty cool performer, I’m not the best at any of these things. There’s a lot I can do better. Heck, I even hate my voice. But I’ll tell you something else. NO ONE will outwork me, at any level. A year ago this week (May 2012), I stepped away from my teaching job, not knowing if I’d ever have to come back or not. I was determined to make the most of my God-given talents, the biggest of which might be my heart. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done … and I think it was the fear that makes me work harder than ever, because I know that if I don’t hustle, I’ll starve, or have to return to a 9-to-5 job.
If there’s one thing I learned from all my years of teaching, it’s something that my first mentor teacher told me. The best teachers are the best thieves. That didn’t mean to steal pencils and paper from my fellow cohorts, but she meant that in order to stay on top in the classroom, you have to know what works and what doesn’t, and adjust quickly sometimes.
If another teacher does something that works, by all means, use it in your classroom … but do it your way, of course. I’ve watched a lot of teachers in my day, whether in the classroom or on stage, so I definitely picked up plenty of cool ideas to share.
So without further ado, here is Mega Ran’s version of How to Win at Kickstarter.
1. Be Realistic.
Let’s be honest – it doesn’t take $5000 to make an album these days. I have made countless albums for FAR less than that. Anyone asking for that much for a single album is being a little greedy. On the other hand, a Kickstarter project for a high-quality music video for less than that is selling itself (and its backers) short. Be honest and up front with people in the description. Be realistic about promises of delivery dates. Take shipping into account … remember that while it’s tempting to offer them the world for their help, you’ll have to pay for that stuff later.
Being realistic means asking yourself some hard questions.
a) Would I donate to this?: Time to step outside of yourself … is it interesting enough that if you weren’t involved, you would want to be?
b) Is my goal too much? Too little?: ALWAYS consider the fees and the fact that even IF you hit your goal, you don’t get the amount you see on screen.
c) Do I have supporters who would spend money on my vision?
d) The only way to know if people will spend money on you is past success. Musicians: do you travel? Is your music shared socially? Photogs/artists/game developers – what have you done that people know about?
e) Ask yourself, is 30 days going to be enough to get the project funded? It should be. Skip the 60-day option. That brings me to #2…
2. Timing is Everything
As with anything on the Internet, timing is super important. If I hadn’t made a song about Jeremy Lin right after Lin’s second great game and put it online, I would’ve never made an impact. By his fourth good game, there were at least 20 different Lin raps on the Internet. But since I was first, many press outlets, including ESPN, showed love to mine and refused to even acknowledge those.
Think about when your project will start and when it’ll end … is there a big holiday in there? Forget it. Go for the end of tax season if possible, haha.
When do you want to release your project? Consider that it takes two weeks after the campaign ends to receive funding. Give yourself time to fund the project and then to make the project even better.
If you have a friend who’s also an artist doing a Kickstarter at the same time, try to WAIT. Show a little common courtesy … Plus no need to spread your resources thin. You should even use your resources to promote his or her project for some karma points.
3. Seek help…The Right Way!
This past spring on The VS Tour with Willie Evans Jr, RoQy TyRaiD and DJ DN3, we ran into one of my favorite emcees, MURS, in a most unlikely location, Tucson, Ariz. – and at our show. When I asked what he was up to, he handed me a flyer. The flyer was for his Kickstarter campaign. In all the Kickstarter campaigns I had been a part of, we never utilized print media … I don’t know why, just never did. Learned something.
a) Social media promo is best, but also can be the worst – don’t overdo it. One plug a day was my max. Also remember to utilize all social sites – your Facebook friends don’t necessarily use Twitter, or vice versa. Don’t forget about YouTube! Post your Kickstarter video on YouTube as well.
b) NEVER post it on friends’ walls or @ message people direct asking for support. You’ll isolate people you like and eventually turn them against you.
c) Email blasts to your list are golden (if you don’t have a strong list, ABORT MISSION).
d) If you know others who can assist on your project, and are talented, get them involved. More heads working means more people promoting … hopefully.
e) Print flyers and circulate during performances or exposure opportunities (Thanks MURS!): This one helped me big time because I happened to launch the campaign shortly before a big performance and panel at PAX East in Boston. I had 1000 flyers ready to go, and littered the BCEC with them before the weekend was over. HUGE help.
4. Call Up The Homies
I’ll be honest – family and close friends will probably NOT support financially. If you do hit up close friends and fam, just ask them to post/blog it, or like it on Facebook … then be happy if they do put some change down.
Email or CALL people who have supported in the past (no text or Twitter/FB) – but make sure these people like you – or even better, have something to do with your project! See #3.
I hate to use the term “fans,” but if you have people that are very supportive of your art, then they’ll keep supporting if the project is authentic and can benefit them.
My second campaign was one that I somewhat regret – it was to get a ticket to play a show in the UK. I had a blast going, but that was a reward that would not benefit all of my supporters, only the ones there. I should have worked something in that would benefit everyone involved.
Any journalists, semi-famous artists or bloggers that you know should be notified of the campaign immediately … don’t ask them to post it, but if they’re down, they will.
5. Rewards and Research
When I started this campaign, I didn’t think about how far it would go, or how anyone would categorize it. I’d like to consider myself a pretty hard-to-categorize dude, considering that I make two very different styles of Hip-Hop at different times. While creating your campaign on the Kickstarter website, they ask you for your project’s category.
Considering that my “Language Arts” album idea was a music album, a comic book and a video game, I would have to choose one area and stick with it. I went with video games, because that was the aspect that hadn’t been started yet, and that I thought would be the part that would take the most effort to complete. I lucked out, because it turns out that Video Game projects earn the highest dollar amount on average on Kickstarter.
Talk to people who have been successful in each category. Ask them what worked and what didn’t. Look at the top funded projects in your category; today and of all time.
Give great rewards! Personalized stuff works. My best-selling reward in any category in the past two campaigns has been giving the backer a chance to choose the source material or video game we sample, and me writing an original song, about whatever I like, and then mentioning their name in there somewhere.
My friend MC Lars offers the opportunity for him to come to your home to hang out … and he’s a super nice guy, so that’s probably a blast. Offer things that don’t cost much but mean a lot to people. Sign your rhyme book and give it away. It’s no hassle to give someone a Twitter shoutout but it can make someone’s day!
Borrow reward ideas from as many sources as possible (again with the stealing). But you gotta remember to personalize it! People give shoutouts, I go to the next level and do a freestyle rap shoutout.
Research! Be a good student and browse the KS site for cool projects, either like yours or just very interesting. If there are projects like yours that haven’t worked, it might be time to rethink your strategy.
And there you have it. Not gonna promise that this will get you $15,000 or more in a month, but I can say that if you follow these, and have a great strategy, fanbase and campaign, you’ll do great. See you on the interwebs. Peace!
These days, it’s easy to criticize Arizona, but it takes balls to stand up for it.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not gonna sit here and say I’m not embarrassed by the ever-growing list of controversial headlines my home state seems to be making. But when every Tom, Dick and Harry with a Twitter account or website – who have probably never set foot in Arizona – start taking potshots, I start to feel a little defensive.
This is my home, and has been for 25 years. There’s too many people doing amazing work to push Arizona in a new direction – from politics to art to music and everything in between – to let anyone make us feel inferior.
That’s why this new video from local emcee Mouse Powell, for the song “Holding Home,” has struck a chord with me. Arizona needed an anthem for our sweaty summer nights, and this is it. Like the way People Under the Stairs rep L.A. in their own laid-back way, Mouse Powell gives Arizonans something to celebrate.
Anchored to a sample of Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years,” the song takes the listener on a tour of our Arizona – Four Peaks, Roosevelt, Revolver Records, Blunt Club. (Did we mention the sunshine and pretty girls?) When I’m riding around town this summer with my windows down and A/C blasting (because that’s how we do it), I know what I’ll be listening to. Stand up, Arizona.
Never mind that he’s just a nice, down-to-earth guy. I was reminded once again on Friday night during his performance at the Hidden House what a talent Mega Ran is — and he’s right here under our noses, lest any music fan in Phoenix take it for granted.
One need only to look at the ridiculous success of Mega Ran’s latest Kickstarter campaign to get a grasp of his popularity. For his multimedia Language Arts project — three EPs, a comic book and his own freakin’ video game (how cool is that?) — Mega Ran was aiming for a target total of $3,000. He’s reached $12,000. That includes eight people who have contributed $300 or more and one who has forked over $500 or more.
It’s an incredibly ambitious project — he was also hinting at a possible accompanying soundtrack for the video game — but if anyone can pull it off, Mega Ran is the guy. He describes Language Arts as “a story-driven album loosely based on my own life, showing the many struggles of a teacher who also juggles a music career as well as a personal life, while battling an evil much worse than he could ever imagine.”
While we await the fully formed product(s), our teacher/rapper/hero is celebrating the $12K success with a new track called “Up Up Down Down,” a play on the secret code that anyone who played Contra on Nintendo would know.
It’s hard to believe, but this year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Gin Blossoms’ hugely successful album New Miserable Experience.
I am and forever will be curious about how time treats this album and its well of pop hits, especially because the band is from my home state. The whole thing gave me pause when my wife and I were in Henderson, Nev., a few months ago and randomly flipped around the local FM stations in the car — and what should pop up on the radio but a Gin Blossoms song. It really offered a bit of perspective and got me thinking about how the Gin Blossoms are viewed outside of my sometimes insular take on the Phoenix/Tempe music scene. How many times a day in countless other cities, big and small, will you hear Gin Blossoms on the radio?
It’s interesting to consider, and this cover of “Hey Jealousy” for the Onion’s A.V. Undercover series by a “one-off supergroup” made up of members of Cursive and Cymbals Eat Guitars sort of speaks to the general sentiment of the Gin Blossoms. As Jason Woodbury pointed out at New Times, you’ve got Cursive frontman Tim Kasher offering the elitist indie vibe: “I love that you guys put these types of songs on this list … I’m the kind of person who pounces on that brand of humor.” Then there’s Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Joseph D’Agostino, who says: “If Teenage Fanclub played it, it would be like ‘Oh, it’s a classic.’”
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?
Friend of the site Scott Hessel left his gig as drummer for Source Victoria to tour with Gin Blossoms, so I’ll have to check with him to see if the band has any thoughts on this deconstructed cover.
It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that, after listening to Sam Means’ cover of “I Will” – recorded straight to his cell phone – my greatest accomplishment on the iPhone for the day was playing another game of Words With Friends.
This is the first song of what Means (formerly of the Format) is calling a “potential series,” cleverly titled Live From My Cell Phone. “Partly because the songs are recorded straight into the FourTrack Recorder app on my iPhone 4S, but mostly as a cheap attempt to hide the fact they kind of sound like crap.” Come on: “Crap” is a little harsh. Let’s go with “lo-fi.” But seriously, this is a great idea, another way technology closes the gap a little more between artist and fan.
Means, who designed the album art for Source Victoria’s Slow Luck and played piano on the song “I Know You Well,” is teaming up with Photo Finish Records to release a 7-inch, titled Nona, on Record Store Day. So be on the lookout for that.
The show’s promoter, Psyko Steve, commissioned Tucson artist Joe Pagac to paint a mural on downtown arts venue Eye Lounge at First Friday. It was a collaboration with Tigers frontman Charlie Brand to help promote the album and show.
Check the time lapse video of its creation above, set to the new Miniature Tigers song “Afternoons with David Hockney.”