Music Hall of Williamsburg
Marnie Stern (Solo)

Marnie Stern (Solo)

Talk Normal, Speedy Ortiz

Thu, April 11, 2013

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Music Hall of Williamsburg

Brooklyn, NY

$12 advance / $14 day of show

This event is 18 and over

Marnie Stern (Solo)
Marnie Stern (Solo)
"A lot of people think everything has to do with luck and timing, and I just don't think that's true," says Marnie Stern, pounding a bar counter to punctuate the word don't. "There are actors that work for 20 years and fade in and out of fame. Keeping in there is the important part."

Don't worry; Stern hasn't dropped her trusted Electra guitar—or "bitchin'" double-neck Epiphone—for a steady regiment of self-help seminars. The New York Times-endorsed, Pitchfork-approved (one reviewer called her "pure Technicolor in a glutted, black-and-white scene") vocalist/guitarist knows what she's talking about, though. After all, she dealt with nothing but blank faces in the early '00s, as the New York native struggled to get noticed among the Strokes/Yeah Yeah Yeahs explosion in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn.

"I went to shows three times a week and no one would talk to me, no matter how much I tried," says Stern. "The only reason I cared is it's hard to be social and say, 'I'm a musician.' Because people are then like, 'Oh really? What label are you on?'"

Stern stopped going out after a while and began balancing nightly jam sessions and a 9-to-5 at an ad agency. With headphones piping in the clanging chords of her muted amp, Stern devoted her alone time to finding a distinct voice—one that tossed her candy-coated wail into a four-alarm fire of fleet-fingered, post-everything techniques. (Imagine a Guitar Hero showdown between Don Caballero, Hella and … Van Halen.)

Stern's quick to admit she "listened to lame music" during high school and didn't take her guitar playing seriously until she was well into her twenties. In fact, her first solid gig was playing rhythm guitar in Motorsoft, the part-time project of a novelist who thought his words deserved a soundtrack. When that fizzled out, Stern switched to her own four-track recordings before discovering the wonders of Pro Tools, a program that can whip up quite a racket when you don't auto-tune the fuck out of everything.

"Developing my own style took years of taking risks," says Stern. "I know my voice is high, but singing like Yoko Ono was unbelievably embarrassing for me at first. I didn't even want my best friend to hear it. She was like, 'Come on, Marnie! Show people your silly side!' And I was like, 'Are you kidding? Do you know how annoying that sounds?'"

Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times (now at The New Yorker) was one of the first critics to celebrate the Stern's quirkiness and the carpe diem cuts of her debut, In Advance of the Broken Arm, writing, "Yes! It's hard to muster a more nuanced response to Marnie Stern, a previously obscure shredder and yawper who has just released the year's most exciting rock 'n' roll album."

Other publications followed suit with their own adjective-happy descriptions of Stern's arty but accessible sound. Before she knew it, the former folk guitarist was widely regarded as one of the underground's leading "shredders," a term typically reserved for such rock 'n' roll royalty as Slash and the frontline of Metallica. While she appreciates such resounding praise, Stern downplays any references to her finger-tapping, axe-grinding leads for several reasons. On one level, she feels like she'll never live up to such mile-a-minute influences as Mick Barr. And on another, she's, well, a little embarrassed.

"It's all tricks, just smoke and mirrors," explains Stern. "First of all, you're using two hands, which makes it a thousand times easier. And secondly, you're giving people the illusion that it's more complex than it actually is."

Maybe so, but few modern-day discs have torn apart the space-time continuum quite like Stern's debut. Except for maybe Hella's string of early releases and, well, that band's drummer (Zach Hill) also happens to be Stern's one-man wrecking crew on record and random tour legs.

"Straight away, I noticed a freshness and honesty to what she's doing," says Hill, "And that… she could really make some classic, important records."

While her first full-length had the focus of a bullet train from New York to Boston, Stern's second LP—the endlessly-titled This Is It… (blame an Alan Watts essay)—is a pop record for an alternate dimension, where hooks and choruses are sent careening through a cracked kaleidoscope. That includes everything from the chirping chorus line of "Ruler" to the luscious riff-raking leads of "Crippled Jazzer."

Stern's new one is also deeply personal compared to the conceptual leanings of her previous work. She wasn't comfortable with that angle at first, but she quickly found a balance between bloodletting and keeping things universal.

"Part of me definitely wants to be a sincere lyricist—a little abstract while still hitting you," explains Stern. "There's a similar dichotomy in the Who, where a lot of their songs are somber and uplifting at the same time."

The Who, AC/DC and other staples of Stern's teenage years actually influenced her recent sessions more than anything made after 1985; at least in spirit, as classic rock is all she's been listening to lately. Or as she puts it quite simply, "There were maybe two things in the past month where I was like, 'Well, I don't hate it.' And I've been trying, too.

"I never like anything I do, either," she adds. "Maybe for a week, but then I'm like, 'Ooh! Are you crazy?' I'm into this one, though, because it's so palatable and poppy it's hard not to. It's like Rihanna or something, right?"

Righttttt …
Talk Normal
Talk Normal
On Talk Normal’s sophomore LP Sunshine, out October 23 via Joyful Noise Recordings, the Brooklyn duo unveil songs that sparkle with melody and dissonance. Jarring rhythms and feedback-drenched guitar tones lace
Sunshine’s nine surprisingly songful tunes – creating a sound informed by their predecessors (Cocteau Twins, Velvet Underground, Laurie Anderson & Creatures), but strikingly new.
After years of friendship, Sarah Register and Andrya Ambro’s Talk Normal first emerged on the NYC music scene in 2007, initially releasing demos, cassettes and their Secret Cog vinyl EP. Following the 2009 release of their debut album Sugarland on Rare Book Room Records (recorded and mixed by Nicolas Vernhes), Talk Normal released a handful of 7″s (including a split 7″ with Thurston Moore on Nathan Howdeshell from The Gossip’s Fast Weapons Records) and shared the stage with the likes of Sonic Youth, Wire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Zola Jesus.
In the three years since Sugarland, Talk Normal have refined their noisy vigor into the diverse batch of songs found on Sunshine. Tracks like “Bad Date”, “Cover”, and “Hurricane” carry almost a meditative emotional energy, where others like “Sunshine” and “Shot This Time” err on the side of explosive driving rock. Plus dance-y “XO”, narrative noisers “Lone General” and “Baby, Your Heart’s Too Big”, and standout vocal harmonies on “Hot Water Burns”. Produced by the band, Sunshine was recorded in 2011 by Christina Files at Vacation Island Studios in Brooklyn NY and Echo Canyon West in Hoboken NJ (Files also contributed to production). Allen Farmello mixed at The Snow Farm in Brooklyn NY. Written over the course of years, culminating in frequent jumps from studio to studio, and with the band going on two month-long tours mid-process (!) this album is laced with a sense of urgency and jubilation unique to the path it traveled into reality.
Unlike traditional noisy-rock, Talk Normal’s Sunshine is steeped in melody, albeit unconventional melody. Sweet-sounding female vocals are present throughout, sometimes as sung lyrics and sometimes as instruments themselves. Ambro & Register’s combined voices often volley back and forth, each providing equal contributions to vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation – meticulously orchestrating not only the arrangements, but also the tonality of each collected sound. As Pitchfork describes: “(their) vocals can handle both desperate screech and matter-of-fact detachment somewhere between Karen O and Kim Gordon”. Combined with Register’s flowing, nearly-drony riffs and Ambro’s finely choreographed beats, the end result is a natural sonic cohesion. Maybe not the sunshine you’re used to, but rays within which you’ll want to bask.
Speedy Ortiz
Speedy Ortiz
Attention came swiftly following Speedy Ortiz’s 2012 Sports EP on the Boston-centric label Exploding In Sound, and with good reason. Massachusetts-based songwriter/guitarist Sadie Dupuis’ knotty, lyrically dense songs were fully realized by her bandmates, with intricate guitar lines crisscrossing over Darl Ferm’s fluid bass and Mike Falcone’s precisely executed drumming in a way that was simultaneously catchy and jarring. After the success of its 2013 Best New Music-honored debut full-length Major Arcana, the band formalized its assault through a year and a half of relentless touring with bands in whose brainy-slash-brawny legacies it followed—among them Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Ex Hex, and The Breeders. In 2014, the band added guitarist Devin McKnight of the Boston-based post-punk group Grass Is Green, whose guitar parts both match and challenge Dupuis’.

Speedy Ortiz’s second proper album—Foil Deer, recorded at Rare Book Room in Brooklyn when the band wasn’t pushing forward on its hectic 2014 tour schedule—comes out on April 21, 2015. The songs represent a leap forward, possessing a lightness that mirrors Dupuis’s post-grad school outlook; they also have a deliberate nature to them, one that emanates from extra studio time and more experimentation with the band’s essential form. (Ferm contributes a few unexpected guitar parts; Falcone’s vocal harmonies zing in with more force.) Speedy Ortiz possesses big-tent rock swagger and punk’s restless yet intimate spirit in a way that makes the impulses seem identical; while the quartet can still command crowds at festivals like Primavera Sound and Pitchfork Music Festival, they also relish playing Boston’s teeming basements alongside the city’s next generation of bands. That willingness to push not just forward, but in all directions, makes Speedy Ortiz one of rock’s most exciting outfits.
Venue Information:
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th St
Brooklyn, NY, 11211