The Bowery Ballroom
Yellow Ostrich

Yellow Ostrich

Strand Of Oaks, Glass Ghost

Wed, November 14, 2012

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY

This event is 18 and over

Yellow Ostrich
Yellow Ostrich
Before starting on songwriting for Yellow Ostrich's latest album, singer/guitarist Alex Schaaf moved into the band's Brooklyn practice space and immersed himself in the study of such astronomers as Carl Sagan and Frank Drake. Keeping up his day job of digitizing people's old home films by day, Schaaf devoted the next 9 months to exploring the depths of the galaxy from a tiny windowless room, whose lighting he altered to reflect the arrival and passing of daylight each morning and night. Around the same time, Yellow Ostrich drummer/percussionist Michael Tapper ventured into the infinite in a much more literal sense by departing on a sailing trip from Mexico to Hawaii that left him out at sea for nearly a month. Borrowing its title from Sagan's 1980 PBS series, Cosmos expands Yellow Ostrich's intensely guitar-driven alt-rock with dreamy electronic arrangements to mirror the mood of Schaaf and Tapper's retreats away from the everyday world. While the album embodies a sense of both wonder and isolation, Yellow Ostrich's refined melodies and dense yet delicate sonic textures make Cosmos as powerfully intimate as it is dynamic.

"Something I really like about the Carl Sagan way of thinking is how it's a very unironic and sincere amazement at how the world works," says Schaaf, who began Yellow Ostrich as a solo project at age 21. "One of the main things I was thinking about in writing this album is how to take that viewpoint and bring it into real-world life," he adds. "It's one thing to be reading all these books and watching all these movies in a very small room, or–as Michael did–to go out and live under the stars for a while. But trying to inject that pure amazement into day-to-day living in a big city is something completely different."

The follow-up to Yellow Ostrich's 2012 EP Ghost, Cosmos captures that uneasy tension by merging raw guitar riffs, lush atmospherics, brain-bending electro effects, sweetly ethereal harmonies, and earnest but unsettling lyrics. Engineered by Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Superchunk, Sparklehorse) and mixed by Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.), the album saw its inception when Schaaf sketched out skeletal versions of his songs, then brought them to Tapper to begin fleshing out beats and arrangements. Having delved into the work of early-Krautrock and 70's synth bands while on tour the previous year, Schaaf and Tapper set to broadening their sound with locked grooves and textures inspired by artists like Neu!, Kluster, and Kraftwerk. For more help in crafting the sonics of Cosmos, Schaaf and Tapper recruited bassist Zach Rose and keyboardist/guitarist Jared van Fleet (who stepped in soon after the departure of multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez). With Rose and van Fleet further shaping the songs and helping the band to realize their vision, the new lineup of Yellow Ostrich recorded most of Cosmos in the same rehearsal space where Schaaf was living.

Opening Cosmos with the ominous "Terrors" and closing with the hushed, hymnlike "Don't Be Afraid," Yellow Ostrich lace together electronic elements and organic instrumentation to build a mood that's sometimes gloomy, sometimes euphoric, and often an inextricable mix of the two. Throughout the album, Schaaf's fascination with Earth and beyond plays out both literally and as metaphor: there's songs like "In the Dark" (a stark and dreamlike meditation on the journey of NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts), as well as "Shades" (whose urgent guitar lines and frantic piano reflect the anxiety that Schaaf imagines many people felt upon seeing the first published photos of Earth and "realizing how small and insignificant we really are"). Although that fascination bears an undercurrent of lonely melancholy, Cosmos also achieves its own strange brand of bliss on songs like "How Do You Do It" (a joyfully woozy track whose bombastic chorus serves as a diatribe against self-delusion).

One of the album's most exhilarating numbers, "Any Wonder" pairs a swirling soundscape and questioning lyrics that closely encapsulate the thematic heart of Cosmos ("I'm gonna try hard to tear it all apart/I wanna be stunned, don't you?"). In writing "Any Wonder," Schaaf again tapped into Carl Sagan's careful illumination of the romantic side of science. "A lot of people have this idea that when you explain something, you take away the magic and mystery of it," says Schaaf. "But sometimes the actual science of what happens is way more magical than any fiction we could invent on our own."

For the Cosmos cover art, Yellow Ostrich selected a photograph by Bas Jan Ader, a Dutch artist who created a series of videos in which the force of gravity served as his main medium. An inspiration for "Things Are Fallin'" (the album's epic penultimate track, which starts as a tenderly off-kilter ballad before shifting into a sprawling rock song and finally dissolving into eerie noise), Ader's work also helped Yellow Ostrich tease out that elusive connection between the cosmic and the everyday. "We're living in a time when we're all split up into such small subcultures and everyone has their own personalized digital worlds, which can make it easy to lose touch with the basic principles that rule our lives," Schaaf says. "There's so much that connects all of us and makes us all the same. No matter who you are, gravity's always going to bring you down. I think there's something really beautiful in that."
Strand Of Oaks
Strand Of Oaks
Hard Love, Tim Showalter’s latest release as Strand of Oaks, is a record that explores the balancing act between overindulgence and accountability. Recounting Showalter’s decadent tour experiences, his struggling marriage, and the near death of his younger brother, Hard Love emanates an unabashed, raw, and manic energy that embodies both the songs and the songwriter behind them. “For me, there are always two forces at work: the side that’s constantly on the hunt for the perfect song, and the side that’s naked in the desert screaming at the moon. It’s about finding a place where neither side is compromised, only elevated.”

During some much-needed downtime following the release of his previous album, HEAL, Showalter began writing Hard Love and found himself in a now familiar pattern of tour exhaustion, chemically-induced flashbacks, and ongoing domestic turmoil. Drawing from his love of Creation Records, Trojan dub compilations, and Jane’s Addiction, and informed by a particularly wild time at Australia’s Boogie Festival, he sought to create a record that would merge all of these influences while evoking something new and visceral. Showalter’s first attempt at recording the album led to an unsatisfying result—a fully recorded version of Hard Love that didn’t fully achieve the ambitious sounds he heard in his head. He realized that his vision for the album demanded collaboration, and enlisted producer Nicolas Vernhes, who helped push him into making the most fearless album of his career.

Throughout the recording process, both Showalter and Vernhes maintained an environment that paired musical experimentation with a mindset that defied Showalter’s previous studio endeavors: the atmosphere had to be loose, a celebration of the creative process and a reinforcement of the record’s core themes. “In a time of calculation and overthinking, I wanted to bring back the raw, impulsive nature that is the DNA of so many records I love.” And in keeping with that loose, hedonistic vibe that encompasses so much of Hard Love, Showalter looked to his best friend, Jason Anderson, whose musical prowess and expert shredding augmented the unrelenting energy that would become the record’s backbone.

This uninhibited and collaborative studio experience led to the most dynamic album in Strand of Oaks discography, moving beyond Showalter’s original concept for a singularly feel-good record to something more complex and real. For as much as Showalter wants this record to seem like a party, it’s more than that. It feels like living. “You went away…you went searching…came back tired of looking” is how Showalter begins the title track, a sentiment that epitomizes Showalter’s own mentality in beginning Hard Love. And as the record progresses, so do the themes of dissatisfaction and frustration with love, and family, and success, and aging, both in personal experience and songwriting.

“Radio Kids,” Showalter’s infectious, synth-driven ode to youth and a time when music represented something pure and uncomplicated, perfectly encapsulates his desire for escapism from both his adult responsibilities and a world he no longer recognizes. But if there’s a sun in the Hard Love solar system, it’s “On the Hill,” a psychedelic, celebratory homage to three days in the excesses of that mind-altering Boogie Festival. “On the Hill” captures the true zeitgeist of how Showalter wants this record to feel. “It’s like I had to fly across the world to find out who I was…it was all about getting loose, and connecting with people on a primordial level…letting go of all the bad things, losing your inhibitions, and figuring out what it means to be alive.” The accumulating intensity that Showalter crafts throughout this flagship track seems to effortlessly achieve an almost hallucinogenic ambiance, with images of lighters being lifted, concert-goers embracing, and the magnitude of the moment eliciting nothing less than mass euphoria.

And then, there’s “Cry.”

“Eventually there’s this crushing reality of what it means to hurt someone, what you did to hurt someone…you’re not the victim anymore, it’s not romantic, it’s not a narrative…you just realize you’re the cause of problems.” This noticeable shift in the tone of Hard Love—a heartbreaking, piano-laden ballad with the chorus “Hey…you’re making me cry”—is a sobering reality check in Showalter’s universe. And as Showalter struggles to reconcile his youthful desires with the realities of adulthood, we’re eventually led into the final death rattle of his pervasive partying, “Rest of It.” With its loud, raucous arrangement of sing-along vocals and searing guitars solos, “Rest of It” emerges as Hard Love’s flawless manifestation of an exceedingly fun, belligerently drunk night where you try to forego life’s responsibilities and have one more good time.

Much of Hard Love was either written or conceptualized during Showalter’s post-tour break, as he reveled in the memory of what he considered to be life-changing experiences. But it was during this period that he received devastating news: his younger brother, Jon, had suffered massive cardiac failure. “He was 27 years old at the time…it happened out of nowhere. I flew out [to Indiana] and stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks. They said he had a 10% chance of surviving and they had to induce a coma to prevent brain damage. Sometimes he would start to wake up and look me in the eyes…it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But he got better. That’s all that matters.” In so many ways, it only seems fitting that Showalter’s psychedelic journey, his awakening to drug-fueled excess, the loss of inhibitions, the inevitable reality check, and his subsequent last hurrah be capped with his darkest, most life-affirming experience yet. The title of the record’s final track, “Taking Acid and Talking With my Brother,” represents Showalter’s last-ditch attempt at reconciling his personal life and his impulsions, crafting a clear connection between what were previously considered trippy experiences and the now extraordinary surrealism of witnessing his younger brother’s medical emergency.

And as Hard Love comes to its conclusion, it becomes that much more obvious that the singer/songwriter has grown to something larger and more momentous, crafting a passionate, brazen, and fully realized rock and roll record that captures the escapism of sex and drugs while offering an equally sincere perspective on the responsibilities, complications, and traumas that punctuate our lives and force us to evolve. “Some records are built like monuments, set in stone…I want this record to be burned in effigy, I want it to be burned in celebration of the limited time we have on this Earth.”
Glass Ghost
Glass Ghost
Mike and Eliot met at a wedding gig. They shared a moment of absurdity as the bride and groom danced in zombie-like motions across the hotel's shiny ballroom floor. For their next gig, the two played in Best of Boston, a loose-jawed jazz band that performed at such odd venues as the clothing store Louis Boston, VFW halls, and community centers for ex-convicts and for kids.

Eliot moved to New York and Mike moved to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. In 2005, Eliot co-created the band Flying and Mike joined soon after. In March 2008, Flying had dissipated. Inspired by jam sessions that took place under Mike's loft bed, Eliot and Mike formed Glass Ghost. They quickly discovered that the music was able to speak even with only two band-members, yet they made it a point to strive for bigger sounds using only keyboards, drums and vocals.

In the summer of 2008, in a brownstone in Fort Greene, Glass Ghost recorded the album now known as Idol Omen with producer Tyler Wood, (Joan as Police Women, Luke Temple, Chester French). Idol Omen, (which features Sheinkopf on some tracks), was released in October of 2009 on Western Vinyl recordings. The song "Like a Diamond" was featured on the final episode of the HBO show Bored To Death. Jason Schwartzman makes out with a girl while the smoke from his joint fills the room; in the background are the sounds of Glass Ghost. In 2009, Glass Ghost toured the country with White Rabbits and played shows with Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors, and Here We Go Magic. Glass Ghost is currently gearing up for a new album.

"The overall tone of the band's debut album, "Idol Omen," is one of gorgeous patience and stepping lightly into this new world that's painted silver and frozen blue, white and light pink, a world that begins and ends with someone before a fire, trying to warm themselves back to an operative state, where they can enjoy the tea that's on the stove, the laughter and fresh air in the distance and the way that it makes you feel to recover from a numbing" - Daytrotter
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002
http://www.boweryballroom.com/