SF Weekly

Pop Duo Midi Matilda Plans Its Comeback One Single at a Time

SF Weekly

music1-0df370b6a01ed139Midi Matilda was in a pickle.

The electronic-pop duo — consisting of drummer Logan Grimé and multi-instrumentalist and singer Skyler Kilborn — had dozens of three-foot-by-two-foot band posters printed on newsprint, but they had no idea what to do with them.

They originally planned on plastering them around San Francisco as a means of advertising their upcoming show at The Independent on Friday, July 8. But after doing some research, the Oakland band nixed the idea. “We didn’t want The Independent to get in trouble,” Kilborn says. (Though San Francisco allows the public to post signs on public property, municipal regulations limit what is allowed, such as poster size and the number of days that a flier is allowed to be up.)

So the pair came up with another idea. Using Facebook Live, the platform’s recently launched live-streaming feature, they filmed themselves driving around, announcing to viewers in San Francisco that they would hand-deliver a stack of posters to anyone who messaged them an address.

Replies started pouring in, and they had time to drop off posters to fans in the Sunset and “somewhere off of Van Ness Avenue” in the hour or so before our interview.

“It was a fun little adventure,” Grimé says. “When we’d drive there, we’d give them a hug, and they’d be like, ‘Have a good show! Good luck with the interview!’ It felt like we knew them already.” (Click here to read more)

Sonic Soul Food

With his debut album, Jentrify, Elujay speaks for both himself and Oakland.

SF Weekly

music1-6bbe1cb78184e5b5Elujay is no stranger to Interstate 5. A third-year business student at the University of Redlands, he’s made the roughly 400-mile journey between SoCal and his hometown of Oakland multiple times in the last few years.

In fact, it was because he was still driving back from Los Angeles that our original interview had to be postponed. About a week before, he’d received an email from an A&R executive at Atlantic Records who’d discovered the 20-year-old’s music through SoundCloud and wanted to meet him.

With his best friend, Derell, and photographer-videographer, Andre Malik, in tow, Elujay headed south the day before the meeting was planned. Though he has a distribution deal with San Francisco record label EMPIRE and is represented by Oakland rapper Kamaiyah’s manager, Elujay is still very much an independent artist.

“I was excited,” he says of the meeting. “One of the things he told me was that he doesn’t get artists in there often. He pitches artists to his bosses a lot, and they just kind of are not hyped about them. Me getting in there was rare.”

The 45-minute meeting, which took place on a Wednesday at the label’s office on Fairfax Avenue, involved a lot of talking and a tour of the facility’s studios — where they met Drake’s ghostwriter, Quentin Miller. At the executive’s behest, Elujay also played tracks from his upcoming debut album, Jentrify, out Friday, Aug. 25.

“This is going to be a breakout record for me,” Elujay says. “And they loved it.”

From a young age, Elujay was interested in music, picking up guitar in elementary school, and later trumpet and beat-making. (Click here to read more)

It’s a Shitty World But Someone’s Gotta Save It

Thao Nguyen can’t perform miracles, but she can try to instill change one song at a time.

SF Weekly

feature-thaonguyenGet her behind a microphone, and Thao Nguyen turns into a beast.

Her coos evolve into screams, and her murmurs amplify into shouts. She’ll whip her hair so fervently that her entire head will become a blur — and her guitar, you’d think it would break or at the very least pop a string given how aggressively she handles the instrument.

Not that Nguyen, the frontwoman for the Bay Area folk-rock quintet Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, has always been this way. Far from it.

“The stereotypical Asian cultural thing of a girl being raised to be very obedient, docile, and respectful — I was definitely raised that way,” says Nguyen, whose parents are refugees from Vietnam. “So I grew up not speaking that much.”

Learning how to express herself and be more bold took years to master, but discovering music in her late teens helped speed the process. Learning to accept her Asian-American heritage, however, was much harder.

“It took me a long time to purge all that internalized whatever,” she says. “I didn’t want that to be how people viewed me.”

For years, Nguyen shunned invitations to perform at Asian-American concerts or festivals and was rankled by the many articles that referenced the fact that she was Vietnamese. Instead of calling her music “folk-rock,” some publications dubbed it “Vietnamese bluegrass,” and she still recalls one album review that packed in mentions of foxholes, bamboo, and the Tet Offensive all in the first paragraph. (Click here to read more)

The Patron Saint of Sex

Carol Queen is battling cultural misnomers about sex, one lecture at a time.

SF Weekly

feature-carolqueenThe week of Valentine’s Day was busy for Carol Queen. Then again, so are most weeks for the sexologist who, in addition to being the oldest working staff member at Good Vibrations, is also a lecturer, author, educator, and founding director of the nonprofit Center for Sex & Culture.

In fact, in the span of four days, Queen achieved more than most people would in a week. On Monday, she gave a lecture about porn, media, and 50 Shades of Grey to a student group at the California Institute of Integral Studies. The next day, she did a presentation for the Young Presidents’ Organization, where she discussed cultural sex myths, like the belief that women can only orgasm through intercourse. (Not true.) On Wednesday, she hosted a class about reproductive justice rights for queer and trans-identified people at Good Vibrations. And by Thursday, she was at the Asian Art Museum, talking about antique vibrators and 2000-year-old dildos for the launch of a new exhibit called Tomb Treasures.

“There’s always a lot going on in my life at any single time,” says Queen, who is in her 50s. “There are people who need everyday to be the same, and then there are people who are completely allergic to it. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the latter.”

This summer, Queen will celebrate 27 years working at the sex shop Good Vibrations, where she not only gives classes and lectures, but also curates the store’s collection of vintage sex toys. In 1998, she starred in Bend Over Boyfriend, a series of sex education videos demonstrating the art of pegging (or having sex with a man using a strap-on dildo) that held the title of Good Vibrations’ best-selling video for years. And, as an author, Queen has penned multiple novels and essays, including erotica, that champion sexual freedom, promiscuity, LGBTQ rights, sex-workers’ rights, and better communication and transparency about sex, in general. (Click here to read more)

Street Life For The Masses

Buzzing Sacramento rapper Mozzy gives listeners an inside glimpse into a life they otherwise would not know.

SF Weekly

The average listener probably won’t understand the bulk of what Mozzy raps about or the place from which his life experiences are derived.

Do you know what it means to “beam on the scope” or “switch on that glickery”? Ever put “duct tape on the handle of the yap”? Felt “on duffle” or “blammy”? Or what about “playin’ with no ducket”? Ever done that?

Chances are you haven’t, but that’s OK, because the gist of what the Sacramento gangster rapper is detailing — crime, drugs, hustling, struggling — shines through regardless. Like Chief Keef, a gangster rapper from Chicago, Mozzy is a shrewd documentarian of life on the streets — or, as he calls it, “in the trenches.” But unlike Keef, who is known for making bouncy, anthemic ditties that glorify the hardships of living in the underbelly of society, Mozzy takes a more sobering approach in his music — and that’s because it all comes from firsthand experience.

“I’m not here to entertain some niggas on some hip-hop shit,” the 29-year-old says. “I’m not here to entertain niggas on some dance shit. When my shit comes on, I don’t give a fuck if you dance or not. I need you to listen to the shit that I’m talking about because it’s realistic. This gangsta shit that I be rapping about, it’s not like a nigga just be making it up. It’s really our lives.” (Click here to read more)

Another Go For Faith No More

The punk-rockers are re-releasing their out-of-print debut after founding bassist Bill Gould discovered the masters in his basement.

SF Weekly

music1-32e698ecedc07409It’s San Francisco in the early ’80s, and Faith No More is a little-known punk-rock band consisting of four musicians all under the age of 21. In their short time together, they’ve already had three name changes — previously they were Sharp Young Men and Faith No Man — one demo-tape recording session in the garage of a friend’s parent’s house, and an array of “shitty gigs” at seedy clubs that never card and never fail to schedule them for 1 a.m. performances just before closing.

“We spent three years just gigging and trying to find our way,” Faith No More’s founding bassist, Bill Gould, remembers. “People didn’t really know what to make of us, so we had a hard time getting our name out.”

Undeterred, the fledgling band — which made a point of avoiding covers — chugged away creating new material, holing up in apartments, smoking weed, and “just making noise.” It was on one such day that the group stumbled upon a drum beat that would eventually become the backbone of their biggest hit, “We Care a Lot.” Gould and the other musicians chimed in with similar looping melodies, which were then incorporated into drummer Mike Bordin’s original pattern.

“It was just one of those things that clicked,” Gould says. “Like, we heard [Bordin’s] riff, and in five minutes were like, ‘That’s it!’ ” (Click here to read more)

No Place Like Home

A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers has considered moving back to Canada, but he’ll never quit the band.

SF Weekly

music1-newpornographersA.C. Newman lives in a “funky,” one-story house in Woodstock, N.Y., that has seen numerous renovations and additions in the eight years since he and his wife bought it. Even though the tiny cabin — which Newman describes as “not a mansion” — was a fixer-upper when they bought it, Newman was drawn to it from the moment he saw it.

“It’s a weird thing when you go to a house and it’s filled with portent somehow,” he says. “You’re like, ‘This is the one.’ ”

But on the Wednesday morning in March when I call him, Newman confesses that he and his wife are contemplating moving back to Vancouver, Canada, where Newman emigrated from 10 years earlier. The reason? Trump, of course.

“We’ve started asking ourselves, ‘Should we make a preemptive move?’ ” he says. “This country isn’t crushing us yet, but maybe we should get out before it does.”

Newman is particularly concerned about the Republicans’ recent plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which, at the time of our interview, was still a strong possibility.

“This is the first time in my life where I find myself in a place where I would be legitimately sad to leave,” Newman says. (Click here to read more)

Sons of Mischief

Oakland hip-hop crew Down 2 Earth channels ’90s rap and laidback vibes in its new album.

SF Weekly

music2-2When the Oakland hip-hop quartet Souls of Mischief dropped its debut album in September 1993, it sent ripples throughout the rap world.

Filled with obscure jazz and funk samples, internal rhyme schemes, and live bass, ’93 ‘til Infinity stood in stark contrast to the G-funk, gangsta-dominated, “gin and juice” era of hip-hop that was then sweeping through the West Coast. Mellow, chillout rap caught on like wildfire, and Souls of Mischief’s democratic style of trading bars so that each member got his share of the limelight became a common method for other acts.

It’s now been 20 years since the Oakland crew released its debut album, but Souls of Mischief’s impact is still reverberating — and you can hear their influence in the Oakland group Down 2 Earth.

“I think our formula is very similar to Souls of Mischief’s, even though that was 20 years ago,” says Down 2 Earth rapper Azure. “We’re very much a lyricist lounge type of act, and you can hear the similarities through little nuances, like making the drums extra-heavy.” (Click here to read more)

Waiting For the Green Light

In his debut album, Eldorado, fast-rising R&B singer Ro James showcases his many personas.

SF Weekly

music2Listen to R&B singer Ro James’ debut album, Eldorado, and you’ll have a hard time figuring out what kind of guy he is.

In some tracks, like the stripped-down, acoustic guitar number “Everything,” the 31-year-old comes across as the perfect man, cooing lines like, “everything’s about you, baby” and “you got me so weak like I need you.”

James reveals another side to himself in “Burn Slow,” a simmered down, cavernous track about convincing a paramour to “call in sick” and “call in favors” so that she can spend the day in bed with him.

By the time “A.D.I.D.A.S.” rolls around, James has dropped any semblance of subtlety, opting for a more straightforward, if not lewd, approach, intoning statements like, “Craving your body” and “All day I dream of sexing you.” (And yes, “A.D.I.D.A.S.” stands for what you think it stands for.)

Other songs, like “GA$” and “Permission,” promulgate this same devious, bad boy behavior, with James purring lyrics about his sexual prowess (“You ain’t never had it like this before”), favorite extra-curricular activities (“I wanna spend the whole night sipping on you”), and the things that are most vital to him (“Pussy, money, weed”). (Click here to read more)

Summer State of Mind

Austen Afridi of Viceroy can heat up a dancefloor with his tropical house tunes.

SF Weekly

music2-1It’s a good thing winter officially ended on Monday, because Austen Afridi, the self-proclaimed “Sultan of Summer,” has had a tough time coping.

“We had a very real winter,” says Afridi, who helms the San Francisco tropical house act Viceroy. “In fact, I got Seasonal Affective Disorder these last few months.”

Unluckily for him, The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts more rain for the Bay Area and temperatures no higher than 60 degrees for the next two months. But now that summer is around the corner, Afridi is confident he can hang, even if the impending season turns out to be as cold and dreary as the last.

“You’re absolutely right, it’s not always sunny here,” Afridi says of San Francisco. “But I love it. I love it for a million reasons other than that.” (Click here to read more)

Clap Your Hands Say Who?

A lot has happened in the 12 years between Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s debut and their fifth album.

SF Weekly

music1Depending on the artist, concocting a debut album can either be a blessing or a bane.

On the one hand, there’s a lot of pressure to contend with — be it self-imposed or from others — and making an album that is both flawless and attention-grabbing is no easy task.

On the other hand, a debut can be viewed as a blank canvas. As a newcomer, you have no expectations to meet and plenty of leeway to do and try whatever you like. For Alec Ounsworth, frontman of the indie rock group Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, it was the latter.

In 2005, when the Brooklyn band, then a quintet, was recording its self-titled debut, the sky was the limit because there was “nobody looking over our shoulders,” Ounsworth says. The group had ample creative freedom to be as weird and experimental as they wanted — so they were. In album opener “Clap Your Hands!” eerie carnival music comingles with distorted and harmonized vocals, and throughout the entire record, Ounsworth morphs his creaky, nasally voice into whinnies, wails, and yelps.

“We didn’t really have any expectations for the album,” he says. “It wasn’t any grand statement, but simply a first album.” (Click here to read more)

Beyond The Stage

The history of San Francisco’s most iconic music venues

SF Weekly (Cover Story)

2017-03-16From techno warehouses to indie-rock taverns, San Francisco has no shortage of music venues. We’re especially lucky to have a few that are over a century old, having weathered fires, multiple owners, and at least one earthquake.

But if you’ve visited any of these spaces, a few questions have probably popped up (aside from “How much are the drinks?” and “When does the headliner come on?”). You might have wondered why The Fillmore gives away free apples or why there’s a window behind the stage at Bottom of the Hill. Perhaps you wanted to know why there’s a balcony above the stage at Great American Music Hall that never gets used. Or maybe you were curious about Social Hall, the music venue below the Regency Ballroom that looks like a mid-century school auditorium. (Click here to read more)

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