Light of the Stereo

Light of the Stereo

Monday, November 25, 2013

10 Questions: Lennon Bone of Ha Ha Tonka

With the release of their fourth and latest album Lessons and an extensive US tour in support, the Midwest sweethearts Ha Ha Tonka have been busy.
Thankfully drummer Lennon Bone was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to tell us about the new album and answer our questions.
When your done with reading the interview check out the our review of the new record.

BLS: You have recently released your fourth studio album Lessons. How has the band changed artistically over the last few albums and how did it affect the songs on this record?

LB: I think more than anything, we've just done this for enough years that we seemed to finally find our footing when it came to putting all of the pieces together. Huge nods have to be given to the producers, Dan Molad and The Ryantist, as well. When we went to the two of them, we knew we wanted to make a record that felt fully produced, and just wanted to try new things in the studio, so that's what we did. I think all of the effort we've put into the last 3 albums allowed us the chance to just do what we know how to do, and let the producers help shape the songs in new ways. It was an absolute blast seeing it all come together.

BLS: With and album titled Lessons; what lessons did you learn with this album and were there any pitfalls you were able to avoid this time around?

LB: I'm not sure what we've learned, lesson wise, with this album. Most of the lessons were from all of our previous experiences. There's so much that goes into releasing an album, much more than just recording. So, we're still bound to learn a few things as this one gains more momentum. As far as pitfalls, I guess we were able to avoid any major disagreements with each other on this record. It all just came together really easily.

BLS: What do you enjoy the most about the new album?

LB: The sonic structure of it. There's so much detail put into tones and phrasing. I love that from song to song, each has its own aural personality, beyond just chords and rhythms. Bass tones are different, different drums, guitars and vocal effects. It really feels like we've graduated to a new place.

BLS: Lessons, is the latest album released on your long time label Bloodshot Records. What is it about this Chicago indi-label that has encouraged your long-term relationship with them?

LB: Well, for one, we signed a contract. Ha. And two, they keep us boozed up when we see them. Very important factors. In all seriousness, they're really making some hard moves for this record to get out there, and we're super grateful for that. Good people, them bloodshot folks.

BLS: There is always talk of the regional aspect of music (like Southern Rock). Do you feel that there is a recognizable Midwest sound? If so, how does your band fit in to that musical pallet?

LB: I don't think there is anymore. If there was, people started ripping it off and making it their own thing, which is what we all do as musicians. I hear a lot of Kansas City bands taking the indie rock sound that's coming out of Brooklyn and making their own thing out of it, etc. There's really no regional separation between sounds anymore, since everything is at everyone's fingertips all the time. And to me, that's great. Music is just music, and it feels like we're seeing genres start to bleed together more than ever.

BLS: In your opinion, what are some pivotal Midwest bands that have influenced, or helped define your band’s sound?

LB: I'm not sure who helped define our sound in the Midwest. There are many bands that have helped us along the way, like Big Smith, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Murder by Death, just to name a select few. It's tough to narrow down or distinguish who exactly is responsible for helping define our sound, as I'm sure we've pulled from a ton of influences individually as well as collectively.

BLS: As an independent band the key is always getting your name out there and your music heard. You’ve worked with companies like Marlboro and recently were interviewed for Elle. Have you found that these unique outlets have provided you with avenues for new audiences?

LB: Oh, I'm sure they have! The weird thing about the industry now is that it's really tough to tell exactly where people are hearing you. We feel very fortunate to have worked with some of these people and companies, but we also just do as much as we can and hope that all the content helps expand the options for people to find us. It's very rare that we turn down any type of press opportunity.

BLS: Having taken your band’s moniker from the State Park of the same name, what is it about this Missouri location that’s garnered such honors? Does the band have a favorite part of the park they like visiting?

LB: We initially decided on the name for a couple of reasons. 1. It wasn't taken. Very important these days. 2. It was unique, and a part of the Ozarks. We've always been very proud of where we're from, and we love having the opportunity to pair ourselves with it in a way that we can talk about it when we talk about ourselves.
We all love visiting the castle there, although there are many beautiful areas of the park. If you're in the area, you should definitely check it out.

BLS: You’re touring in support of the new album. Do you have any good stories from the road?

LB: Nothing too crazy from this tour so far.... but we're pretty early on in the album cycle. If you could check back in a few weeks, I'm sure there would be a few. Or at least some that we'd have to keep off the record. Ha.

BLS: Name 5 bands you love but who few people have heard of?


Luke Temple

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin


The Spring Standards

Antennas Up

From the Shelf: Ha Ha Tonka - Lessons (2013)

Ha Ha Tonka
Bloodshot Records

The flowing rustic sound of Ha Ha Tonka’s latest album is distinct in its audio presence. Traversing between spaciously simple songs and thickly complex tunes, this album is a perfect example of the rich nature of mid-west soul-rock.

Speaking volumes of drummer Lennon Bone and bassist Luke Long’s symbiotic playing relationship is the chugging, danceable rhythm of this album. Making for a wonderfully stable foundation the beat and groove of this album is filled with playfully energetic tracks like “Staring at the End of our Lives,” that allow for the freedom of  creativity of the rest of the band to run wild . Even in the melodically sedate “Arabella” the power of the rhythm section is undeniable.

With an ebb and flow of a perfect album the boys of Ha Ha Tonka have succeeded in creating a sonic masterpiece. The lyrical landscapes the band present on this album are currently relevant and yet still have an understanding of the worn edged blue collared sensibility that rests at the heart of this nation of ours. From urban hipsters to the dusty highway nomads, Lessons has a broad range of appeal that makes it a wonderful addition to any music collection.

Cure for the Mondays: Fake Club - "Beauty Queen"

Fake Club - "Beauty Queen"

Just something fun to get you through your Monday.

These ladies from the UK are all about the rock 'n' roll and having fun doing it. They might describe themselves as the Spice Girls with instruments but Fake Club have more power to them than pop.

Friday, November 22, 2013

10 Questions: Brandon Day of Marmoset Music

A boutique music agency based out of Portland, Oregon Marmoset Music has been providing music for creative mediums of all shape and size since 2010. Mainly working within the public eye including films and broadcast television commercials Marmoset is known for crafting original music and maintaining a hand picked roster of independent artists for licensing opportunities.  On an ironic, it's a small world note, the first seeds of inspiration for what would become Marmoset Music and my own interested in music journalism were both planted from experiences working as DJs at Radio KSOC at Southern Oregon University.

Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to meet Brandon Day who's Marmoset's head of artist relations and also scouts new artist/band to add to their licensing roster. He was kind enough to answer some questions about Marmoset Music and the work that he dose there.
BLS: To start us off, why don’t you tell us a little about Marmoset Music; what exactly does the company do and what’s your job there?

BD: Marmoset is a boutique music licensing house based here in sunny Portland, Oregon. We started off as an effort to help solve what we though was a problem in the music industry: creating revenue for independent artists. With independent record labels struggling to stay afloat, we've grown to utilize the untapped potential in music licensing. What was once thought of as "selling out" is now a widely accepted form of income for artists.
We started with local artists here in Portland and have since grown to include artists from around the globe that have a similar mindset as we do. We're proud to help pair music made with heart with projects that compliment their aesthetic and creation. It's been really rewarding to see artists such as The Dimes, Derby, NTNT and Kye Kye get substantial enough income to help push their projects to the next level.
My job at Marmoset is to scout and sign artists that we believe have a good chance at meshing well with our audience. We have filmmakers and ad agencies around the world with unique projects who have identified with the music we represent. I get the fun (and rewarding) position of helping pair these two worlds.

BLS: Could you describe the different levels of licensing that Marmoset works with?

BD: There are two ways we license music: though our website ( and through working hand in hand with our music supervision team. For independent filmmaking projects, we've found that finding the perfect song on our site, and licensing it on the spot, is an efficient and valuable tool for making projects come to life. When we're approached by a larger creator, such as some of the largest ad agencies in the states, we custom pick songs from our roster that we feel will compliment their spot. If the vignette needs a bit more customization, we also have a talented Original Music team that digs deep and creates wonderful songs.

BLS: What exactly does a new music scout and the head of artist relations do?

BD: I get a chance to listen to a huge amount of independent musicians and determine which ones I believe we can help support. There is no genre or type of music off the table, and I always welcome artists to submit their work for us to listen to. If we feel the music is a good fit, I'll have our AR team sign the artists and help get them up and running on our website and roster. From there, we have a weekly meeting in which all new music is shared with the team. This makes our process work smoothly and allows new artists to have top-of-mind when it comes to pitching their songs.

BLS: With numerous licensing houses in the industry as well as a few within Portland itself, what advantages do you bring to the table in regards to your clients and the artists/bands your represent?

BD: We take pride in having personal relationships whenever possible, whether it be between the artists we represent or the clients we work with. Oftentimes, I meet with our artists over coffee (or whiskey) and learn a bit about their lives and their creative endeavors. We also make it a priority to travel to the cities were our clients live and set aside time to shake hands and get to know the people we place music with. When projects are largely pieced together through digital means, there can be a loss in personal contact with the people you're interacting with. By helping bridge that connectivity, we aim to make our relationships more meaningful and ultimately make licensing better.

BLS: Do you find that when scouting for a piece of music to use for a project it’s more productive to look for a the song itself or a band or artist that creates music with the same emotional presence that your looking for?

BD: This largely depends on the type of project we're working on. For instance, if the project is going custom, we'll utilize an artist or composer that we feel will help capture the emotions in the direction we're going for. For most projects, we're looking for the perfect song that will take a video production to the next level. Oftentimes, we're searching for that song that just nails it. It can really be an "aha!" moment.

BLS: What specifically are you looking for when you pursue a relationship with a band?

BD: I take everything into account, because I believe it all matters. It's important to take time to get to know the artist a bit (through past interviews, reading through bios, etc) as well as listening to the music. At the end of the day, I look for music that we can help support through licensing. It's always a leap of faith (so to speak) as to what we believe will license, seeing that our clients ultimately make the decision of what they will use. For every artist on our roster, we feel there is an opportunity to create income for them to help support their work and I'm conscious that I'm only signing artists that I feel we can help.

BLS: Are there things that a band can do to be more attractive to licensing outfits like Marmoset?

BD: The best thing a band can do is create music they believe in. Music that follows a story works really well for us, as it often times contains a cinematic element to it. If an artists finds expression through electro or folk or whatever they're into, being true to themselves really shows.
Also, due to voice overs, having instrumentals available is crucial.

BLS: Say that someone is interested in the music industry specifically in the area of working with licensing music. What avenues would you suggest to break into the industry?

BD: Taking the time to know the music landscape and their local music scene is a key factor. I believe it really takes immersing yourself in music culture to get a good sense at it. Many different types of backgrounds can come into music licensing. At Marmoset we have people that have traveled the world in touring bands (such as Fruit Bats and The Shins), people that are growing their local bands (such as Norman and Alameda), business students, and filmmakers. There is no specific background that makes someone fit perfectly into this world. Having a good ear and the drive to create will win over.

BLS: Marmoset is very active in supporting the local music scene here in Portland ; from MusicfestNW events to fundraisers for the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls. Why does Marmoset Music take such an interest in Portland’s music scene?

BD: We've grown from the music scene that we've started in. A majority of the people at Marmoset have been raised in the Pacific Northwest or have spend considerable time growing from the music scene. We are proud of the people who create music here and hope to give back whenever possible. Above all else, there is just a lot of great music here.

BLS: I’ve read that you’re an avid music aficionado. So what’s the name 5 bands you love but who few people have heard of?

BD: Oh wow! Let's see. Some of my favorite bands at the moment are:
Angel Olsen,
Outrageous Cherry
Sonny and the Sunsets

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Double Feature: The Wolfgangs "Cannibal Family" & The Silver Shine "Angels To Some"

This weeks Tuesday Double feature I dedicate to my friend Aaron and his love of Psychobilly bands.

The Wolfgangs - "Cannibal Family"

The six cylinder speed of France's The Wolfgangs is the sultry psychobilly of graveyard rendezvous and late night drag races. Lead by the smoky sirens call of Cha' von Wolfgangs, this band has the hypnotic power of dancing cobras. Check out 2012's Shout With the Devil album on the Longneck Records label.  

The Silver Shine - "Angels To Some"

The Bubapest based The Silver Shines have been very prolific since forming in 2004, having  put out an album almost every year.  Their 7th and latest album In the Middle of Nowhere, just saw release on the Wolverine Records label  this last spring. No strangers to the Northwest,the band came through this past June as part of their short US tour, so here's hoping they'll comeback soon.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Strumophile: Darren Brown Custom Cigar Box Guitars

Believed to have had their hayday in depression era America the cigar box guitar's (CBGs) origins can be traced back as far as slave culture of the 1700's. Developed out of lack of resources cigar box guitars have a prominent place in blues and folk music. With the recent resurgence of hand made instruments CBGs have made a comeback.
Darren Brown, the owner and creator of D.B. Custom Cigar Box Guitars has taken these basic instruments and turned them into pieces of art. Making sure that each instrument he builds has amazing handcrafted details; from hand wound pickups that provide the perfect tone, to beautifully built hard wood necks that he fashions from driftwood collected from the Bay of Fundy near his home in Canning, Nova Scotia Canada. Truly unique these guitars are amazing tools to make wonderful music. Darren Brown was kind enough to talk to us about his company and instruments. 

BLS: In your spare time, you have been fixing guitars over 30 years and have been building cigar box guitars (CBGs) since 2009. How did you get into building CBGs?

DB: I think I was 12 or 13 working on a farm in the summers. I saved up $ 74.00 for an electric Silvertone. I learned to tune by ear and had to fix that old guitar all the time. Then kids from school would bring me their beat up ones to get fixed. I’d seen Cigar Box Guitars(CBGs) years ago but never thought more about them until 2008, when I saw a rough one go by on the net. I thought I could build a little nicer one. It was rough too, but now 300 CBGs laterI’m still learning and hope I always will.

BLS: You make your career as a finishing carpenter. What advantages do you feel your experience provides when building your instruments?

DB: I do framing as well, but as I got older I found that the younger guys on the construction jobs liked to frame and do all the rough construction. So I got into doing any of the exterior and interior finish work. So over the years I learned how to slow down and think way ahead on what can happen and figure out the best way of getting to that point and of course checking twice and cutting once.

BLS: On your website you have emphasize three different styles of CBGs that you build: The Main Line, Resonators, and the Vintage Series. Can you briefly explain the differences between these styles of instruments?

DB: The web site is run by a friend and I don’t go there as much as I should.

The Main Line series CBGs are built from cigar boxes that I can get a good supply of: Cohiba, Arturo Fuente, and La Gloria Cubana boxes.

For the Resonators I make the boxes myself because cigar boxes are too narrow for the 6 inch resonator cones that go into the wood well.

As for my Vintage series, they’re mostly built with a Cohiba wood box. I have a process where I age and crack the finish and add ware makes on the body and the fret board.

BLS: From hand wound pickups to hardwood that you collected as driftwood and kiln dried; you take a very personal and hands on approach to your instruments? What inspired you to take each of these unique steps as a craftsman?

DB: There’s not a lot around where I live (Canning, Nova Scotia Canada), so I find things that I can use. The driftwood is off the Bay of Fundy and is from all over. I find cherry, ash, oak, walnut, black locust and maples of all kinds. Some of which I’ve never seen before.

As for the pickups, that I got into because of tone; for three strings I build 3 poles and and 4 strings 4 poles wound to certain ohms. They also look nicer than a big, over wound 6 string pickup slapped into one.

BLS: In building your instruments, have you found a favorite brand of cigar box you like to use when building your guitars?

DB: Yes, the boxes I like most are: Cohiba; after I thickness-plane the top thinner. Padron,Las Cobbelas, Dark Sumatras, Arturo Fuente, and the boxes I make myself.

(Manatoba Hal playing one of Darren Brown's License Plate Guitars)

BLS: Besides cigar boxes, you have built instruments out of license plates, Cheese boxes and oil cans. What is the most interesting thing you’ve built an instrument from? Is there anything you would like to build an instrument out of but haven’t yet?

DB: The oil can was tough going. I’ve been eyeing old apple crates that show up here now and then. I’d like to take the label side and build some tele of strat tops out of them. I’d also like to try old wood beer crates.

BLS: In some of your instruments you incorporate both piezo transducers and your db coil pickups that have separate outputs. How does this diversify the playability of the instrument? How does this affect the voice of the instrument?

DB: It allows you a way to run it through one or two amps or I can build blend pots into them and mix the sound that way. It’s endless what you can do with electronics in CBG’s.

BLS: If someone is interested in obtaining one of your instruments how would they go about doing so? What is your typical price point?

DB: They can reach me by e-mail:(darwood at or phone.

Prices start at $240.00 cap for basic 3 string CBG with piezo pickups.

$350.00 with coil pickups, volume and tone controls.

$525.00 for resonators.

All guitars are tax free, but shipping is extra.

BLS: What artists are currently playing your instruments?


Olds Sleeper

Manitoba Hal

Myles Goodwin of April Wine

Colin Linden of Blakie and the Radio Kings

Morgan Davies

Doc McLean

Terry Whalen

Jim Roberts

Shane Speal

BLS: It might sound like a weird question, but do you play guitar yourself? Of your instruments do you have a favorite?

DB: Yes I do play a bit. I have a 3 string and a 4 string resonator that I play with more though, through an bunch of tube amps that include a ’64 Fender Bandmaster, 38 Gibson 5 watt and ‘69 Traynor YGM 3 to name a few.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Double Feature: Bleached "Love Spells" & Best Coast "I Don't Know How"

As the gray cold of late fall descends upon us, we all cling tightly to the fading dreams of summers. So this week's installment of the Tuesday Double Feature has videos by two bands whose sound embodies California's endless summer. So put on your earphones and let their warm musical zephyrs wash over you.

Bleached - "Love Spells"

With punkins rotting away on porches and the kids just beginning to crash from their candy sugar-highs this video from LA based sister act Bleached, is perfect. Finishing up a short European tour in support of their latest album Ride Your Heart, these girls have a little R and R ahead of them before setting sail with the Weezer cruise in February 2014.

Best Coast - "I Don't Know How"

The sun-kissed California band Best Coast have been bustling with activity. Having recently released their mini-album Fade Away on their own Jewel City Label this band isn't slowing down one bit. Currently writing material for their next album with a goal of a spring release and gearing up for a short winter tour with The Pixies, this band is taking every advantage of the wave of momentum they're currently riding. Make sure you catch them at the Schnitzer Auditorium when they play with The Pixies Wednesday, February 19th.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cure for the Mondays: Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - "Big Blue Chevy '72"

Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - "Big Blue Chevy '72"

What car do you love the most? Me: '74 Chevy Blazer named Sherman.

The energetically fun hill blues of Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band will get you dancing and craving the sweet moonshine. Made with the most basic of instrumentation, but yielding a boldly dynamic presence this trio takes jug band elements to new modern heights. Touring in support of their latest album Between the Ditches and known for their unforgettable stage presence, you'll want to make sure to catch their show this Saturday at Dante's.

Here are the details:
Saturday, November 16th
350 West Burnside
Doors: 8PM / Show: 9PM
Cover: $10
21 & Over

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Living Room Perfomance:Alejandro Escovedo - "Man of the World"

Alejandro Escovedo - "Man of the World"

Austin, Texas


One of the most amazing American song writes alive today, Alejandro Escovedo is truly an American treasure.With a musical history that spans both time and geography and has produced amazing records in multiple genres, he is considered by many musicians to be a defining influence.Even Bruce Springsteen has praised his greatness. Lucky for us he is playing a show this Thursday evening at the intimate Doug Fir Lounge. Amazing live, this concert should not be missed.

Here are the details:
Thursday, November 14th
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside
Doors: 7PM /Show: 8PM
Tickets: $20
21 & Over