Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Last Night at Mojo's

I recently befriended one Billy Schuh of local heroes, Foundry Field Recordings. He invited me out to the vastly under-publicized White Rabbits show at Mojo's last night. I didn't make it on the guest list, but I did make it through the door.

Let me first get the White Rabbits out of the way.
This band left COMO for the greener pastures (musically-speaking) of Brooklyn a couple of years ago. Since then, they have turned their sound (that falls somewhere in between Vampire Weekend and The Walkmen) into a recording contract with TBD Records (Radiohead's label). It's the classic story of small-town boys head to the big city to become stars only to succumb to drug-riddled orgies with random sea life and end up on VH1's Behind the Music right before their triumphant reunion tour. (Actually, I made up that last part. They will become big stars shortly.)

I was surprised to see the band so nervous and unsure on stage. I mean, these are their old stomping grounds. Their parents were in the audience. Thanks to what I assume was a sizable advance from their new label, they will never work a day job in their lives again. Playing Mojo's should be old hat. It should be comfortable.

It was tough to watch the band nervously look around and continually ask for monitors to be turned up. It's as if there's all this new pressure on them to succeed. Luckily, it did
not affect the music. They played all the "hits" and kept the set short. I like short sets. Short sets leave me wanting more. The Rabbits' performance made me wish I could travel to KC to see them open for two of my favorite bands, Spoon and the Walkmen. Oh well.

Back to Mr. Schuh.
I have to admit that I haven't always cared for Foundry Field Recordings. I had only seen them once in their previous incarnation, opening for Spoon at the Blue Note. Let's just say that I didn't find it inspiring. In retrospect, I had expected other openers and was mainly interested in seeing whether Spoon could play a good show for once.

Then, somewhere along the line, Billy contacted me on MySpace. We talked. We met up at the Eastside Tavern. He turned out to be a nice guy with similar interests in music and education (and a few friends-in-common as well). So, I decided to give Foundry a second chance.

I gave his record, Prompts/Miscues, a good listen. Earlier exposure to the record gave the sense of another shoe-gaze band with too many layers to determine whether the songs were any good or not. However, since Billy's such a nice guy, I listened again. Upon further examination, I found a pop sensibility that I had missed before. The songs tended to lean closer to poppier fair like Rilo Kiley or The Shins rather than be My Bloody Valentine or Ride rip-offs.

This is why iTunes (and its ilk) is bad for music. No longer do people take the time to listen to whole albums. 30 second samples make or break bands. We don't look for hidden gems anymore or listen to albums in their intended sequences. I forget to do this from time to time, but I think I found the Foundry Field Recordings with a little of that old-time effort.

Anyway, last night was another new TFFR discovery. Billy debuted a new version of his band, complete with cello and half of a drum kit. Acoustic guitar and singing duties were handled by Schuh, of course. What was revealed was that pop sensibility I had to search for in the recorded work. This time, the pop sheen was out in front. I heard pieces of the Shins and the Cure with some start-stop action and nontraditional song structures.

I gained a better appreciation for TFFR's older material, but the new songs have me really excited for future releases. I'm hoping Billy will share this material with me as it was the highlight of the evening.

It all goes to show you that sometimes you have to look a little deeper for the good in your situation...even if it is in Misery.


Lauren Kilberg said...

Billy is a class act, if I may say so. I've been excited for some time to hear the new line up. Still waiting.

Jake said...

I had no idea about White Rabbits being from Columbia. That's pretty awesome, I will have to give them a listen. I also agree to an extent on the preview option on music stores like iTunes. It does wonders for pop-sensations, but I imagine it could ruin careers for a band like, say, Godspeed You Black Emperor.

Huey said...

I concur with the itunes comment. It is sad that many from this next generation will most likely miss the enjoyment of listening to whole albums and appreciate the "hidden gems" as you say. Or missing out on albums that may "grow on you" after several rotations of their whole albums rather than the 30 second snippets you speak of. Those are some of the most enjoyable parts of the music experience (along with live shows).

gemmanuel said...

Wow, I really like Foundry Field Recordings' Prompts/Miscues (I get a real Grandaddy vibe) and am very happy to now know a little bit more about them/him. Thanks. When's the new album with the new lineup coming out?

comoprozac said...

Billy said that he pushed the record's release to early next year. Apparently his label has a couple of other things coming out before then.