DR. DOG, NATHANIEL RATELIFF, "RHYTHM, ROOTS & WORLD CONCERT SERIES"
400 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ, 85003
This event is all ages
It took four years for The Lumineers to follow up their platinum-plus, multi-Grammy-nominated, self-titled debut -- which spent 46 weeks on the Billboard 200 and peaked at #2 -- but 'Cleopatra' is well worth the wait. After exploding onto the scene with their monster single, "Ho Hey" (which spent a staggering 62 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #3) and its follow-up, "Stubborn Love" (recently featured on President Barack Obama's Spotify playlist), The Lumineers spent a solid three years touring six of the seven continents. During that time, The Lumineers -- whose original members Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites founded the band in Ramsey, New Jersey back in 2002 -- earned a pair of Grammy nominations (Best New Artist, Best Americana Album), contributed two songs to 'The Hunger Games' franchise (including the hit Jennifer Lawrence/James Newton Howard collaboration, "The Hanging Tree") and sold an impressive 1.7 million albums in the U.S., and 3 million worldwide.
'Cleopatra' proves Schultz and Fraites -- along with cellist/vocalist Neyla Pekarek -- are neither taking their good fortune for granted, nor sitting back on their laurels. With the help of producer Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers, The Avett Brothers), the man Wesley calls "our shaman," the band ensconced themselves in Clubhouse, a recording studio high atop a hill in rural Rhinebeck, N.Y., not far from Woodstock.
The Lumineers then set about trying to make musical sense of their three-year-plus roller coaster ride. Their skill at setting a visual story to music comes through amidst the delicate, deceptively simple acoustic soundscapes. This time, though, bassist Byron Isaac provides a firm, low-end on the apocalyptic opener "Sleep on the Floor," a ghostly tune about getting out of town before the "subways flood [and] the bridges break." It's a densely packed, cinematic song that echoes Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" and John Steinbeck's 'East of Eden' -- which were models for the record alongside Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Jack Nicholson in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'
"We took the same approach this time as we did with the first album, recording demos in a small house we rented in the original Denver neighborhood where we first moved," explains Wesley, contributing the lyrical ideas while collaborating on the music with Jer, who tackled a variety of instruments, including guitar, the very prominent piano and trademark tribal drums.
"Wes handles all the lyrics", says Jeremiah, "and Wes and I come up with all the rest together -- music, melody, and structure. There are no rules or titles in our writing process, just merely chipping away slowly until we both agree we have something fantastic."
"The record is our greatest hits reflecting what's happened to us over the last three years," added Wesley. "We tried to come up with the best possible version of every song, so we recorded a lot of different iterations, changing the tempos, dressing 'em up, stripping 'em down. It took a lot of work to make them sound so easy. We're very passionate about the process. It was a very intense and beautiful experience. There was a lot of battling, a lot of tears, but some amazing stuff came out, and at the end, we were much better off. It transformed our relationship."
'Cleopatra' is named after the title track, inspired by a woman from the Republic of Georgia, an acquaintance of Wesley's wife's best friend whom he met while visiting there. The hard-bitten woman drove a taxi with a can of beer between her legs and a cigarette dangling from her mouth, having survived a hard-scrabble life, pining for the man who got away after her father died. "There was this level of defiance about her," nodded Wesley. "She was accepting her fate, but still felt misunderstood."
'Cleopatra' also deals with what Wesley terms "the elephant in the room," the band's success and the way it can sometimes put a target on your back. The syncopated piano rolls in "Ophelia" ("I got a little paycheck/You got big plans/You gotta move/I don't feel nothin' at all"), the organic sound of fingers squeaking on guitar strings in "Angela" ("The strangers in this town/They raise you up just to cut you down") and the Faustian bargain described in "My Eyes" ("Oh, the devil's inside/You open the door/You gave him a ride/Too young to know/Too old to admit/But you couldn't see how it ends") consider the perils of getting what you wish for, with everyone knowing your name, and your songs.
Schultz demonstrates his keen literary eye and ear for narrative description in "The Gun Song," in which he recalls rummaging through his mild-mannered, progressive, intellectual, psychologist father's sock drawer after his death and finding a "Smith & Wesson pistol," making him wonder what other mysteries his dad kept from him. "Long Way from Home," its 5/4 signature reminiscent of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice (It's Alright)" or "Shelter from the Storm," tells of hope and desperation, a double-edged sword which can both sustain or ultimately, "fuck you up," Wesley noted ruefully. The title phrase repeats three different times at the end of the individual verses, each carrying a different meaning. Sings Schultz: "Held on to hope/Like a noose/Like a rope/God and medicine take no mercy on him..." The characters in 'Cleopatra' are hanging on for dear life, trying to find reasons to believe, or creating some on their own just to survive with some sort of grace.
With four years between albums, The Lumineers are excited to get back out on the road and, as Wesley puts it, "connect with the new record and have people connect with it."
The band had total artistic freedom in writing and recording the album, so Wesley and Jer pushed the envelope on experimental tracks like the stream-of-consciousness, purposely lo-fi "Sick in the Head," the yearning, piano chord build-up of "In the Light," or the closing orchestral instrumental, the aptly titled coda, "Patience."
There is something timeless about The Lumineers that links their songs to 18th century pastorals, 19th century work songs, 20th century folk narratives and 21st century post-modern cinematic soundscapes. It sounds familiar, but take the time to dig below the surface. Listen carefully and layers of meaning reveal themselves, just like that gun Wesley discovered in his dad's drawer, intimating all sorts of intrigue and sharp observations. Success hasn't spoiled The Lumineers; rather, it's inspired them to follow their muses even further.
"We continue to make the kind of records we want to," says Wesley. "We believe in this music. It's a true labor of love. We just want to keep reaching more people with our songs."
Given the evidence on The Lumineers' eagerly anticipated sophomore album 'Cleopatra,' that shouldn't be a problem.
After a one-album sojourn away from their band-built recording studio Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog returned home to Meth Beach to self-produce their latest collection of gloriously ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll reveries. Out February 7, Be The Void (Dr. Dog’s second release on Anti-Records) showcases the critically adored band’s renewed commitment to cultivating a stripped-down live sound. “This record comes from our pushing toward a rawer, more powerful, somewhat jittery competence,” explains guitarist-vocalist Scott McMicken. “We drew a lot of inspiration from soul music and the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground—music that’s got its roots in live expression rather than that studio-perfected sort of vibe.”
While Be The Void bears the same style of scrappy yet hook-packed rock served up by Dr. Dog for more than a decade, the six-member outfit (McMicken, bassist-vocalist Toby Leaman, rhythm guitarist Frank McElroy, keyboardist Zach Miller, drummer Eric Slick and multi-instrumentalist Dimitri Manos) seems newly emboldened by its deepened devotion to a bare-bones aesthetic. A marked departure from the soaring pop of 2010’s Shame, Shame, the album also finds Dr. Dog revitalized by the recent addition of Slick (who’s previously played with Ween, Adrian Belew, and Project Object) and Manos (also a member of Arizona-based alt-country band Golden Boots).
Recorded in the summer of 2011, Be The Void seizes that vibrant spirit and transforms it into a 12-track song selection that’s at turns deadly catchy and dance-worthy (the shuffling swagger of “Big Girl”), wistful and bittersweet (the lovely, languid sigh of “Get Away”), and earthy-earnest (the twangy troubadour folk of “Turning the Century”). Though each track feels richly textured and intricately layered, the band made a conscious effort to keep the recording process fast and loose. “We worked quicker and trusted our gut more than ever before, and at times it was scary and almost panic-inducing,” says McMicken. “All of a sudden you’d be aware of a feeling like, ‘This is really working, so don’t mess it up.’ And then the song ends and your heart’s pounding and you realize you haven’t taken a breath in three minutes. It was like riding a rollercoaster and wishing you could get right back on again.” As a result of that newfound abandon and surrender to intuition, “there’s so much on the record that I could never have imagined us being able to come up with,” McMicken adds.
Perhaps the album’s most epic moment, “Warrior Man” makes for one of Be The Void’s most thrilling surprises. Both sprawling and beautifully bombastic, the track attacks with lead-heavy beats, pseudo-futuristic sound effects, and psychedelic back-up harmonies. “‘Warrior Man’ was born out of a joke—it started as some silly phrase that Toby was singing, then turned into a jam, and ultimately became this monster of a tune that was recorded live,” says McMicken. “Everything about its origin reflects that freedom and confidence to own a weird idea and just let it live.”
Another deviation from Dr. Dog’s more summery and sleepy material, “Vampire” slaps a snarling guitar riff against ragged, howling vocals that perfectly capture the song’s pained refrain about love gone evil (“You’re a vampire, baby/No reflection at all”). “Heavy Light,” meanwhile, mutates from a percussion-driven dream-pop pastiche to shimmering piano ballad to freewheeling experiment in blissed-out psychedelia—all in just three minutes and 41 seconds.
All throughout Be The Void, Dr. Dog delights in a playfulness that lends a refreshingly oddball feel even to the record’s more true-to-form tracks. “These Days,” for instance, backs its bouncy bassline with a dizzying swirl of sunny guitars, while the handclapping and hollering on the album-opening “Lonesome” help twist a downer of a refrain (“What does it take to be lonesome? Nothing at all”) into a sweetly anthemic stomper of a song.
At the same time, Dr. Dog’s rugged, rough-and-tumble disposition and razor-sharp wit preclude Be The Void from ever nearing mindless whimsy. Possibly the album’s most deceptively breezy offering, “That Old Black Hole” sets its sly lyrics (“Take this thorn from my side/Fix this chip on my shoulder/Time is racing with the clock/And I ain’t getting any older”) to a smoldering groove that turns frenetic and urgent in the song’s final seconds. By the same token, the disarmingly desperate “Do The Trick” pairs its woozy disco beat with a barrage of flirty wordplay that’s relentlessly clever (“I’ve burnt the candle on every side/I’ve long since run out of wick/Will you be my flame tonight?/Will you do the trick?”).
The first album recorded away from Meth Beach, Dr. Dog’s 2010 Anti- debut teamed up the band with Rob Schnapf (a producer who had previously worked with Elliott Smith, Beck, and Guided By Voices). Although that partnership yielded the much-acclaimed Shame, Shame, the band opted against bringing in an outside co-producer again for Be The Void. “We did try out a few songs with another producer, but we then we stepped back and asked ourselves, ‘Do we really need that?’” recalls McMicken. “Part of our growing aesthetic is to find the simplest approach that works best, and the decision to produce this one ourselves was sort of the first gesture toward recognizing our confidence in our experience and ability and sense of playfulness.” Indeed, that dedication to keeping it playful was key to shaping the sound on Be The Void, says Leaman. “Back when Scott and I first started making music together, there was a period of time when we just recorded and recorded constantly—just for our own pleasure, not even to try to get shows or anything,” he says. “Making this album felt like that again. It was like we were just putting a bunch of tunes together, just to have a good time.”
Singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff has made his way from modest means in Bay, Missouri (population 60) to the international stage. After signing with Rounder Records Rateliff toured relentlessly in 2010 and 2011 supporting his critically acclaimed debut in Memory of Loss; headlining shows and performing major festivals throughout the USA, Canada, UK and Europe. His work has been praised by Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant who called Rateliff's music "fragmented and poignant." Plant also placed Rateliff's haunting track "Early Spring Till" atop his iTunes celebrity play list. In May of 2011 Rateliff performed two songs on the UK's biggest music program Later…with Jools Holland. Rateliff has played multiple dates with some of the most popular names in music including Mumford & Sons, the Fray, Bon Iver, Laura Marling, Tallest Man on Earth, Low Anthem, Delta Spirit and Jessica Lea Mayfield to name a few. Rateliff is currently working on his sophomore record which is expected to be released in Spring