Tag Archives: Feature

Madeline Spooner (Interview)

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Madeline Spooner is a young songstress who just released her new EP, NAUTILUS, which conjures a swirl of ravishing mood pop within every track. Photog Anna Maria Lopez recently caught up with the singer to shoot some portraits and ask some questions.

You’re a native of the Midwest. How did you come to move to Los Angeles?

“I romanticized living on the West Coast all throughout my high school years. So many great bands that I was influenced by, like The Doors, came out of L.A. and I just knew this was where I needed to be. My parents insisted I go to college and with very little thought or research I set my sights on CalArts and got in. I came out in 2009 to study music and was shell-shocked when I realized The Valley was not the beach and 2009 was not 1969. There are so many redeeming qualities to the city but I do miss thunderstorms and that simple Midwestern lifestyle.”

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How did you choose the title of your new EP NAUTILUS?

“The name chose itself. I saw a spiral shape in a bunched up blanket on my couch in a sort of subconscious flash. I knew it was the title of the EP at the moment I saw it. The nautilus and its divine proportions is the mathematical formula that makes up creation. NAUTILUS revolves around themes of life, death, rebirth and transformation. At the time I was writing it I was having dreams in which I was dying of a terminal illness and was also present with my friend and CalArts music mentor who was dying of cancer. And all of that influenced the music. I also finished the record with the song that I started with before meeting my producer, Ethan Allen, which is titled ‘Into The Womb.’ So it really came full circle, just like a spiral.”

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Was there a catalyst which made you decide to incorporate electronic production into your acoustic songwriting?

“Yes. Absolutely, there was a catalyst. For most of my life I only listened to classic rock and then in my early teens I listened to various female folk-pop artists. When I discovered CocoRosie’s electronic freak folk album Grey Oceans, it turned my world upside down in a good way. I started hearing electronic music in my head before going to sleep at night. It was totally clairaudient because the sounds I was hearing were so visceral. It was as if I was an antenna picking up radio waves from some distant place or time. There is no way I could ever record or notate what I was hearing because it is far too complex. But from then on, I knew I wanted to incorporate more in my music.”

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How did you come to work with your producer Ethan Allen?

“I was working at a coffee shop in Silver Lake called Mornings Nights and Ethan was a customer. A coworker told me he was someone very special that I should know. It turned out to be very true. At that time I was still self-producing and about a year later I sought Ethan’s help. After just one meeting I knew he was the guy to work. NAUTILUS was a true collaboration and co-production. When I brought the songs to him it was as if he had been there from the beginning of the original idea. That’s when you know you’ve got a true collaborator because it feels like you don’t need to verbalize much.”

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What is the overall lyrical theme of this EP?

“There are a lot of deep, heady philosophical ideas but there is a fair amount of playfully facetious and provocative naïvete to the lyrics. Words like ‘let’s make a porn out in the corn’ and ‘I am the whore, lucky you are’ are covertly executed in the way they are sung and snuck into the rhythm of the melodies. They are lyrics that aren’t necessarily the focus of those songs but flavors of the human experience that can’t be ignored. I mean, you can’t have life or death without sex in the mix.”

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You use projections in your live shows. How do you curate the images?

“I have been leaning towards a more modern look with clean lines and shapes where the function of the projections should serve to heighten the experience and enhance a trans-like state. The projections are there to support the experience. I want people to get a feeling like they are lifting off the ground.”

Have you gotten your nautilus tattoo yet?

“Who said I was getting a nautilus tattoo?”

Anna Maria Lopez: Website, Facebook, Instagram

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“Swoon” by L.A. Girlfriend

L.A. Girlfriend (aka Sydney Banta) returns by dropping her sophomore LP Neon Grey. The superb album is the blatant result of Banta giving a modern edge to her obsession of ’80s post-punk and synthpop –or as she describes, “a soundtrack for lonely lovers that want to dance out the darkness.” Here’s the Pixies-channeling track “Swoon.”

“I got a fever of dreams that changes all the time.”

We wanted to know more about L.A. Girlfriend so we asked Banta a few questions.

If you ever moved to another city, do you think you would have to change your moniker?

“Never! I like to think of L.A. Girlfriend as a state of mind instead of a reference to where I’m physically located. I’m a California girl at heart too, so if I ever left, I’d definitely be bringing home with me. Changing the name would be changing my whole identity.”

How did you come up with the title of your new album Neon Grey?

“I came up with the title based on reflection of my own life. I noticed the ups and downs that were affecting me in various ways and realized, despite there being a void of simplistic black-and-white choices and circumstances, I had to embrace the uncertainty of living in ‘the grey.’ No matter what happens in life, I always want to be optimistic and bright sort of speak. The title Neon Grey is my way of combining good and bad and making it into something totally new.”

Did you have help recording it?

“I wrote and produced the entire album myself, but I did have help in tracking guitars, bass, and vocals. Celso Estrada of Kingsize Soundlabs was my wizard of recording and engineering and my bassist Nathan came in to play a few parts. Other than that, I took on guitar duties and vocals. I like keeping the process tight knit.”

What’s the biggest difference between this release and your last EP, Varsity, and LP Viva?

Viva was more analog driven; live guitars, live bass, and live drum sounds. The Varsity EP leaned on the electronic side with synth-heavy sounds and drum machines. I really like elements from both sides and I think of Neon Grey as the marriage between the two. Since the subject matter of Neon Grey is more serious from a lyrical point than previous releases, sonically the album as a whole is heavier and darker –my electro analog thunderstorm of a dream come true.”

You admit that your sound is heavily influenced by ’80s counterculture. Do you wish you could travel back to that era or are you content with the present?

“Honestly, if I were to travel back, I’m not sure I would appreciate it as much as I do now. That’s why I have my cool parents to show me the best of the best. We usually watch ’80s music videos whenever I visit them, and for me, it’s an awesome way to relive the era through their eyes. I’d probably only go back to the ’80s for a day to watch my mom recommend albums to customers at the record shop where she worked and see my dad shred on a skateboard.”

The new album’s cover art features a rad, custom “LAGF” ring. Where did it come from?

“My good friend Bobby Allen started a custom jewelry business called The Circle Craft a while back and has since made some pretty amazing things out of bronze and other metals. He’s responsible for the ring and the eons of happiness I feel whenever I wear it. Definitely my go-to jewelry guy.”

What can we expect from you next?

“Coming up, I have a big Neon Grey party happening at Resident in Downtown L.A. on February 19th. After that, at least two more videos in support of the LP and a slew of shows that might take me to different states. It’d be sick to play FYF this year, but other than that, the plan is to keep going onward and upward.”

L.A. Girlfriend will perform on February 19th at Resident.

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L.A. Girlfriend: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Soundcloud

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Allie X (Interview)

IMG_4501Allie X recently performed her US live debut at the Bootleg Theater.

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And photographer Matt Benton met up with the pop artist to shoot some pics before the show as FBV asked some questions.

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Your last name is “X.” You call your fans “X’s.” And you use the letter in various thematic hashtags such as #feelingX and #Xmeanything. When exactly did you become infatuated with the letter “X”?

“When I became X, I did so because of the freedom it gave me to Xplore the unknown and the anonymity it granted me to wipe my past away.”

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Since you’re a classically trained pianist, do you start writing all of your songs on the piano?

“I used to. Now it’s a combination of writing at a piano or a computer. It’s useful to write in all sorts of different environments and confuse yourself into getting a sound you haven’t before.”

Judging by your debut EP’s title, CollXtion I, we assume there will be more EPs of the same name or do you plan to release an LP?

“It is the beginning of a series of CollXtions which is neither an LP or an EP.”

How did you come up with the idea for your famous spinning GIFs?

“I was inspired by the memory of spinning as a child until I became dizzy and would purposely fall to the floor and close my eyes. The feeling of being suspended as the world turned around me was what I began to think of as #feelingX. The GIFs were a way to represent that visually.”

What can you tell us about your next music video?

“Top secret!”

You also released an autobiographical comic book called The Story of X. Will it have a sequel?

“Yes. Each CollXtion will feature another chapter in The Story of X. It is a comic book, but to a real comic book fan it probably comes across as more of a children’s book. I chose the comic as the medium for my story because that is how I see it when I think back now. Renata Morales did the illustrations and I’d be honored to work with her again –though that isn’t confirmed.”

You’ve recently been collaborating with Troye Sivan and LELAND. How did you come to work with these artists?

LELAND and I got set up by our publishers in a session and we hit it off and became writing partners. Troye tweeted about me and then we DM-ed and found out we were mutual friends with LELAND. We have written a bunch of songs for Troye. One is on his EP, WILD, which is released worldwide this Friday. And we have written songs for me as well.”

You’re rarely seen without sunglasses, do you have a large collection or do you stick to a few favorites?

“I have a moderate collXtion. I tend to stick to the same ones for a few months and then switch. My favorite pair right now are by Colab –an Australian brand.”

We know Katy Perry is a big fan of yours and has promoted you via Twitter. Have you had the chance to thank her in person?

“Yes. We met shortly after ‘the tweet’ at a party she threw.”

Matt Benton: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

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Raw Fabrics (Interview)

Raw Fabrics (4 of 19)Raw Fabrics recently performed a relaibly stellar set at The Roxy for their EP release show.

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So Louven Reyes met up with the band to shoot some pics and ask frontman Jack B. Franco some questions.

What is the biggest difference between your last EP, Gold Handcuffs, and your new EP,
Plastic Joy?

“On Gold Handcuffs, we approached writing as any rock band would. On this [new] one we wrote songs around loops and ideas –like the idea to write a song around a chant of the word ‘beast.’ That was the main difference from our first EP to the second one. I think with the music being more intense the lyrics also lean that way too.”

Where does your self-described use of “jungle drums” come from?

“When the band was first starting we knew we wanted to have a couple of sounds that we kept going back to. Having the floor toms sound really massive and plastic-y was really cool to us –like you have this organic drum set with over the top tom drums. Just a cool shade to the sound.”

Is it true some of the lyrics were recorded ad lib?

“Some of them were. I’ll be in the studio and start messing around and stumble on something really great. For the most part on this EP I went into it with lyrics written already. On the Gold Handcuffs song ‘Every Single Time,’ lyrics were written on the spot. They just felt right. There is a certain energy about making something up on the spot that is really great.”

How did you recruit your new EP’s renown producer, Joe Chiccarelli, who has worked with artists such as Morrissey, U2, and The Strokes?

“I wish there was a really great story but we were throwing names out there to see who we wanted to work with and our manager got in touch with Joe Chiccarelli. Originally I talked to him about working on Gold Handcuffs but schedules didn’t work out. We actually hired him to engineer the EP which means he recorded all of the live instruments. Then after that we put the songs on my computer and I played the role of producer to finish them and make them sound exactly how we wanted. It was great tracking with Joe. It was a really fast paced session because we only had about twelve hours to record all five songs. He’s got great stories about recording legendary artists that made the coffee breaks that much better.”

What inspired the new EP’s cover art?

“We came up with the Plastic Joy EP art. We photographed the plastic water bottles ourselves. It took a while to capture it perfectly. We thought that by actually using plastic on the cover we could emphasize and draw attention to the meaning of Plastic Joy. We knew we wanted it to be visually simple, which is something we enjoy a lot about [Andy] Warhol’s aesthetic.”

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What do you plan on releasing next?

“Up next I think you may see our third EP.”

Louven Reyes: Website, Instagram

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WATERS at Outside Lands (Interview)

IMG_6758WATERS recently performed at Outside Lands.

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And photographer Matt Benton caught up with the band to shoot some pics and ask frontman Van Pierszalowski some questions.

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As a band from San Francisco, what does performing at Outside Lands mean to you?

“It’s an amazing feeling. Having lived in the Bay for so many years, I’ve always dreamed of playing OSL. Not just because it’s in our own backyard, but also just because it’s such a well curated festival every year in such a beautiful setting.”

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What do you always want your audience to take away from your set?

“I want the audience to feel like they were a part of the show. As a performer, I know how important the crowd is to the performance. We always like to get them involved in the show a little more, either by having them scream along to certain parts or –in the case of our set at OSL– have them rip open pinatas and throw candy all around the crowd.”

What is the biggest difference between your last album, Out In The Light, and your new album What’s Real?

“They are very different records. What’s Real is definitely a bigger sounding record with more pop hooks while Out In The Light has more of a garage-y feel. I would say the production and songwriting are the most different aspects of the two records.”

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Do you agree with the frequent comparisons to ’90s alt-rock acts?

To some extent, yes. The bands that made me want to play guitar in the first place were Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, The Cranberries, etcetera and I definitely drew on those influences more for this record. That being said, I think there’s enough modern production elements to make this record stand out from that pack.

How did you meet and recruit What’s Real‘s record producers Ryan Rabin and Carlos De La Garza?

Ryan is in Grouplove and I knew they were fans of my old band Port O’Brien. And we had a few mutual friends so that came together pretty naturally. I kept hearing Carlos’ name come up and I really loved the sound of the records he was behind.

When can we expect new music from you and your former keyboardist Marte Solbakken’s project Elskling?

“Soon! She is finishing up some recordings now with Sune [Rose Wagner] from The Raveonettes. I’ve heard a couple of the mixes and they are some of my favorite songs ever. Keep your eyes and ears on high alert.”

Matt Benton: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

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Ofelia K. (Interview)

IMG_9164Popstress Ofelia K. has only leaked two tracks off her forthcoming debut EP (dropping August 25th via South By Sea), but she’s already wooed the blogosphere’s colletive heart by having an uncanny ability to play with blatant pop without getting stuck in bubblegum kitsch.

We wanted to learn more about the indie pop darling so we teamed up with David Evanko of MINIVAN Photography to shoot some pics and ask some questions in and around her Box Canyon hood and the Malibu Lagoon.

Out of all the places to live in L.A., how did you end up in beautiful Box Canyon?

“One day I was just looking at all of the green, nature areas on the map around L.A. and there it was. I’ve lived in other areas of the city but really like Box Canyon because it’s peaceful and has a southwestern vibe. They used to shoot old westerns like The Lone Ranger and Zorro here. It’s kind of a secret hideaway canyon –which is nice.”

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What’s your favorite thing to do around here?

“Probably running and hiking with my dog in the hills. My house is a little oasis with a big garden. It’s a great place for creativity and writing music.”

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How did your previous music project, wanderhouse, come to an end?

Doctor Rosen Rosen and I started wanderhouse together and we released three songs. They were atmospheric and had a melancholy feel. I started my solo project because I was itching to make more music and liked the idea of doing something in the pop realm. He worked on my EP with me: co-writing two of the songs and producing three of them.”

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Your debut single, “White T-Shirt,” went viral. What do you think is its magic formula?

“Maybe it’s the combination of players involved? Ben Cassorla, Patrick Lynch, and I co-wrote it together –all bringing our different styles to the table. Ben started the production and added a lot of the organic elements. Then I took it to Mighty Mike [of KOLAJ] who worked his magic and gave it a nice pop glaze.”

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Is there a story behind its title and lyrics?

“To me, this is a song about memories and time passing and the strange, sad, beautiful feeling of nostalgia. The white t-shirt part is a memory in my head from when I was younger.”

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What can we expect from your debut EP dropping August 25th via South By Sea?

“We’re going to release each song as a single which will form the EP. So there will be four songs in all plus a rad remix of ‘White T-Shirt!'”

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How did you originally meet your EP’s other producers: Ben Cassorla and Mighty Mike?

“They were both friends of Doctor Rosen Rosen so he introduced me. Mighty Mike was in the studio next to DRR and I used to see him there a lot. I did a lot of writing with Ben for this EP. We also consumed a lot of smoothies and peanuts.”

Have you started working on your debut LP yet?

“I’m always writing and making demos but haven’t actually started the process of working with a producer or anything yet.”

MINIVAN Photography: FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblr

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Cheat Codes (Interview)

IMG_2215Around half a year ago, DJ/producers Matthew Russell, Trevor Dahl and Kevin Ford set their destination by adopting the moniker Cheat Codes and releasing their pool party-ready, pop powerhouse single “Visions.” They’ve since collaborated with an indie pop prodigy (Lostboycrow) and saw their debut track go viral with a remix by Boehm.

But we had a feeling they’ve been holding back so we teamed up with photographer James Conley to shoot some pics in NoHo and ask Matt Russell some questions.

We love your moniker. Did you choose it because you’re video game junkies?

“No. Actually the name derives from Kevi’s brother. His brother Tom was in a rock band called Clear Static when he was younger and they found success and toured with Duran Duran. Before the band really blew up he took Kevi aside and told him he had found the “cheat code” and how getting anything you want in your life is really easy if you just have fun with it and visualize everything in detail. When the group came together we were looking for a name and Cheat Codes seemed like the perfect fit because we really embody the idea that anything is possible. To us the real “cheat code” to life is loving what you do and we hope to convey that energy through our music. When you love what you do, everything becomes easier.”

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Do you consider yourself more as DJs who play instruments or musicians who DJ?

“DJs who play instruments for sure! Although we all come from different musical backgrounds and have experienced the musician side.”

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How did you come to collaborate with Lostboycrow?

“The idea was brought to us through our management. Lostboycrow had just been on [the radio show] We Found New Music at the same time we were and we kind of connected through that.”

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What can you tell us about your highly anticipated debut album?

“Right now we’re focusing on singles. We’re possibly working on a collaborative EP with the artist Boehm who we’ve worked with in the past.”

Cheat Codes: WebsiteFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud

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VÉRITÉ (Feature)

IMG_4989VÉRITÉ recently performed at The Echoplex for Popshop West.

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So MINIVAN Photography and Free Bike Valet met up with her to shoot some pics and ask some questions.

Do people often mispronounce your moniker?

“Less often than you’d think. More commonly people are hesitant to say it at all until they know the actual pronunciation.”

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What have you enjoyed the most while on tour?

“Everything. Literally. I love being on the go twenty four seven. I don’t do well with free time so prolonged periods of focus are the dream.”

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What’s the biggest difference between your debut EP Sentiment and your recent follow-up Echo?

Sentiment, to me, is an extension of Echo. It was produced more in the box but with a similar writing process.”

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How did you come to collaborate with writer/producer Zach Nicita on one song?

“Serendipity. The track for ‘Colors’ was sent over to me and I wrote the chorus within five minutes of hearing it. From there we worked on finalizing structure, sounds, etcetera.”

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What can we expect from you next?

“If I had my way, I’d leak a few singles. For now, I’m stocking an arsenal of songs and playing live. Looking forward to the rest of this year and next.”

MINIVAN Photography: FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblr

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Fakers booked for August residency at The Echo (Feature)

band2Don’t call them a supergroup, but Fakers consists of former members of Piebald, The Henry Clay People, Vanaprasta, and Summer Darling. And naturally they were booked for August’s Monday residency at The Echo.

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So Free Bike Valet and photographer Amanda Paganini (of Kissing Cousins) recently hung out with the band during practice to shoot some pics and ask vocalist/guitarist Joey Siara some questions.

What made you decide to do a residency?

“Aside from the simple joy of playing rock and roll with your buddies, we are doing the residency to celebrate our very first official release –a seven inch called Personality Voices. Also, I dig the whole residency thing. It really forces the band to get better. We don’t want to phone in the same set each night so we’re trying to write like two new songs per practice. Milestones and deadlines are important, right?”

Why did you choose The Echo?

“I’ve spent many-a-Monday night at The Echo over the years. A lot of fond memories. Some blurry. Some weighed down with Taco Zone burritos. My old band [The Henry Clay People] did a residency back in January of 2008 –I think? And I just freaked myself out realizing that was more than seven years ago. It was a cool little moment. We met a bunch of great bands and more importantly made a bunch of fantastic friends. Another happy Echo memory: we, the old band, opened for Mission of Burma there a few years later which was a nice little notch on the things-I-never-thought-I’d-ever-get-to-do list.”

Who are your opening bands?

“We’re still working out the lineup. There are five dudes in the band and five nights of the residency so we’re each booking a night. I know that The Pretty Flowers and The Western Lows are playing –two of my favorite local bands and filled with some of my favorite people. Also, there are a couple of nights where various members of Fakers will play more than one set: side projects, main projects, former bands. Again, still working out the details.”

What other Los Angeles-based bands do you admire?

“Besides the bands I already mentioned: Geronimo Getty, Heathers, Wyld RiversThe World RecordKaroshi Mode, and Manhattan Murder Mystery. The list could go on but I’ll spare you for now. I know the other dudes in Fakers probably have different tastes but those are some of my favorites.”

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Do you have a pre-show ritual?

“We huddle in a circle and everyone airs one grievance. It could be a bad haircut, a hangover, or the fact that someone else in the band sucked during soundcheck. Then we take a swig of something and get out there on stage.”

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What can we expect from your set every week? 

“Passive-aggressive glares. Amp climbing prowess. Microphones that just won’t stay in a mic stand.”

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Will you be playing any covers?

“Great question. And I don’t have an answer. We initially wanted to do one different cover per night but since we’re a relatively new band I think we all agreed that we should probably write some more songs instead. But nothing decisive yet.”

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What do you hope to gain by doing a residency at The Echo?

“I like to set the bar low. Expect nothing. And if anything positive happens: cool. Honestly, I really hope to see some old friends out there. As we get older folks get married and have babies and have to wake up early for real jobs and all of the above forces them to sort of bow out from the music scene, but it’d be great to wrangle some of the old guard back out on a school night. Make them call a babysitter.”

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What are you looking forward to the most?

“The possibility of a lasting memory.”

Amanda Paganini: Website, Twitter

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Phoebe Ryan at Bonnaroo (Interview)

phoebe6Phoebe Ryan recently performed at Bonnaroo.

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So photographers Mallory Turner and Matt Benton shot some pics while Free Bike Valet asked some questions.

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What did you think when you first found out you were performing at Bonnaroo this year?

“I was like, ‘No. There’s no way. That’s insane.’ You always hear about Bonnaroo being ‘The Festival.’ It’s so legit and here I am. I wouldn’t say I’m legit, but here I am.”

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Is this your first time performing a music festival of this size?

“It is. Last year I sang at Electric Zoo [with Tritonal] for an EDM song I wrote, but this just felt way different having your own music to perform –totally different vibe. But yes, this was a very big crowd and really awesome.”

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What did you want your audience to experience during your set today?

“I actually got to talk to some girls who were just walking by when they heard my first song. They were like ‘Oh, let’s stay and watch this.’ By the end of my set they fought through the crowd to come talk to me. They were like, ‘Who are you? Where did you come from?’ That’s the type of response I love the most.”

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You’ve written songs for Bea Miller, Oh Honey, and Tritonal. At what point did you decide to start writing for yourself?

“My producer Kyle Shearer was the catalyst. When I first heard the music we worked on together I was like, ‘This is what I want. This is the sound I want for myself.’”

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Kyle produced your debut EP Mine. How did you find him?

“I met Kyle through my manager Zack Gurka. He sent me to Nashville on a very casual writing trip just to meet some people he thought I would write with well. I ended up falling in love with Kyle. I was like, ‘I need this kid in my project. I need his sounds. I need his soul.’ I just knew.”

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Has this past year been a breakthrough?

“A year ago I was in Nashville writing my EP and now I’m playing Bonnaroo. Everything has been an absolute whirlwind. I’m just trying to do the best I can everyday and take the next step. Keep climbing the stairs. I don’t know where they’re going but I’m climbing them.”

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How does it feel to have your debut EP released?

“It’s amazing. I’ve been waiting so long to put out my own music. It’s just crazy. I don’t think it has hit me yet.

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Just curious, is your hair always going to be green?

“Yes! Always.”

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You often mention your pet parakeet Bert. Who takes care of him when you’re on tour?

“My ex-boyfriend got a parakeet while we were dating. I already had one and he decided to get one too. When we broke up, he moved out of the house but left his parakeet. So I called him and said, ‘You know this is still your bird. I have to be gone for a few months. Will you help?’ He’s been very sweet by taking good care of the birds. It’s just a messy divorce situation.”

Mallory Turner: Website, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr

Matt Benton: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

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