searchsearch
Young Jesus Welcome You To Conceptual Beach

Young Jesus

news

Young Jesus Welcome You To Conceptual Beach

GRAMMY.com talks to singer/songwriter John Rossiter about what the phrase "Conceptual Beach" means to him, how it's expanded over the years and how its creative spirit can be replicated in a time without live music

GRAMMYs/Aug 11, 2020 - 08:10 pm

The last two records from Young Jesus were all about letting go of convention. After years of writing and releasing songs within the boundaries of emo and indie-rock, L.A.-via-Chicago musician John Rossiter was basking in the creative liberation of improvisational jazz and amorphous post-rock. Young Jesus had been his songwriting vehicle since 2010, but once he moved to L.A. and overhauled the lineup with players who taught him to abandon traditional structure and embrace spontaneity, the band took on a much different form.

On 2017's S/T, a song like "Feeling" laced a trudging indie-rock hook in the vein of early Modest Mouse with tumbling, arrhythmic drumming and long passages of woodland field recordings. 2018's The Whole Thing Is Just There was even looser and featured frequent ad-libbing that culminated in a sprawling, 20-minute finale called "Gulf." That two-year period of prolific writing and frequent touring was as much a spiritual rejuvenation as it was a musical one, and naturally  the band were a bit tired when it wrapped up. Once they reassembled after some time off and began plotting the next record, the process felt less effortless than it did on the last two go-arounds.

"So we wrote a ton of songs and jammed a lot and it didn’t always feel great," Rossiter says. "It was the first time where I think we were playing and we would really question where we were going."

Whereas those previous albums were forged from capturing a feeling and not second guessing themselves, their new record Welcome To Conceptual Beach (out on Aug. 14 via Saddle Creek) was built by being more thoughtful and contemplative about the music. For Rossiter, that actually meant giving up some of his creative control.

"I think I can be pretty controlling sometimes and this record is reflective of, at least for me, grappling with that," he says. "Trying to trust more and let go a little bit on my own and be honest with myself and my shortcomings. What can I learn and where can I grow and what am I good at and what do I love? Those are questions I was asking myself and I think as a band we were asking ourselves."

The record that emerged is a lot more rhythmically focused and features more input from Rossiter’s bandmates and collaborators than ever before. Opener "Faith" is an organ-led bar ballad that verges on prog at points, "Pattern Doubt" is bolstered by gorgeous saxophone and dreamy piano sweeps, "Meditations" makes room for fluttering jazz flute, and "Lark" contains a passage in the middle where Rossiter speak-sings like a Baptist preacher over playfully campy funk music. There are moments of surging shoegaze and meandering post-rock that could’ve appeared on either of their last albums, but overall, Welcome To Conceptual Beach sounds less heady, less freewheeling, and more free-spirited than previous Young Jesus projects.

Some of that is likely a result of Rossiter making huge strides in his personal life that involved de-emphasizing intellectualization in favor of emotional tenderness. The lyrics of the record’s lead single "Root and Crown" serve as a sort of thesis for his new outlook on life through the lens of his band: "Every record needs a thesis, needs a crisis, or campaign / All my feelings need a reason, need a righteousness or blame."

"This record is about accepting the times when you’re wrong," he says. "Not necessarily having a reason but having a feeling and trusting that feeling and balancing it with reasoning. And learning that righteousness is really dangerous, to believe that there’s a right and that it’s not in flux or in negotiation with context and the people around you and the way people around you are feeling."

"That’s so important," he continues. "I wasn't noticing how people are feeling. At least in my band I was really pushing people very hard and I needed to take a minute and ask, 'Are you guys OK? Is this too hard? Am I pushing everyone too hard? Am I pushing myself too hard?' So that’s the record."

As Rossiter became more open with himself and those around him, he became more forthcoming about Conceptual Beach, which is what he describes as his "internal landscape." For years, Conceptual Beach had been both Rossiter's zine and a setting for personal journal entries, but back in 2018 he used the name for an event series in L.A. where Young Jesus were trying to deconstruct and rebuild what a concert can entail. Now, Conceptual Beach has made it into the title of this new album and Rossiter is even in the works of building an entire website around it called conceptualbeach.net.

We talked to Rossiter about what Conceptual Beach means to him, how it’s expanded over the years and how its creative spirit can be replicated in a time without live music.

The last time we talked, Conceptual Beach was an event series you were doing in L.A. where you would perform and people would do watercolor paint and it was this really multidisciplinary experience. How did the idea of Conceptual Beach expand from there?

When we had that concert and those experiences, it was really freeing. It's really freeing to see that you can have a show and not even play any songs and people will be excited about it. So it takes a lot of pressure off, I think I put a lot of pressure at least on myself, to write these epic, intense—I want the albums to be perfect. And that experience was like, "Wow this was a pretty often messy feeling thing."

I think Conceptual Beach was, for a while in many ways, me just trying to figure out how to live better on my own. And if I just write enough, if I’m just creative enough, my life will be good and happy. And it wasn't working. So I'm slowly learning to bring Conceptual Beach into the world and share it and ask other people what their inner landscape might be like and maybe I could learn something from that. And maybe the difficult, dark painful things and the joyful, lovely amazing things that I’ve seen on Conceptual Beach, I can start to share with my friends and my partner and my family.

I've never really cried in front of people before, and the past two years I quit smoking and someone asked me, how'd I do it? And I said, "Well, I cry four to five times a week and I feel really angry sometimes and I never felt that before." I put it all into a cigarette or maybe a drink, who knows. So Conceptual Beach growing has entered my life in a way that's changed me significantly, so I think it’s changed the music significantly and I think it's changed how we as a band deal with each other. How we deal with ourselves.

It's interesting how Conceptual Beach started as this very personal concept and has become more shared, whether it be in a concert setting or on a record that you collaborated so closely with your bandmates on. So as you've grown less guarded, Conceptual Beach has as well.

Yeah, so I'm in this book group that I help facilitate and it's full of these amazing people. One of the really powerful things about it and one of the things I've learned a lot through the friends I’ve made there is that they’re very embodied people. They're very connected with all sorts of transformative justice and social justice groups—it’s a current events book group so it draws those types of people towards it.

And some people suggested a few books that were really embodied and really optimistic. They offered a way out rather than pointing out what I think a lot of theory does, which is point out how shitty the world is and [present] a lens to examine its shittiness and really make an entire argument about how terrible it is. And a friend of mine who, like me, grew up really focused on our mind and our intellect, we started reading these books and we were like, "This isn’t for me. This is a bunch of wacky, new-age bullshit and it’s so accounting. It's asking the reader how they’re feeling. That's too much for me, I don't need that, I'm tough, I want people to get straight to the point."

And then we kept reading that and all of a sudden I was like, "Wait a second, this book cares about me. And it cares about the writer and how they’re feeling. And why am I upset about that?" Those are kind of beautiful things to do and to care about each other and to ask really actively how I'm feeling and how my friends are feeling. It really opened something in me. I would say I've probably read less this year than I have in a while and it doesn’t feel like a bad thing. It feels like I’m a little more connected with myself and, I think, to my friends.

I think it's kind of fascinating that you were really trying to reshape what a live show was a couple years back, and now the music community is facing an existential challenge and we need to reshape what a live musical experience is. Have you noticed anything anyone's doing that can maybe help carry on that spirit virtually for the time being?

I'm really working on it because honestly I get kind of anxious using social media so it's been hard for me to engage with it creatively. I do hope there's conversations happening and it's a conversation I'm continuing to have, is how to do these things without Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.

And I think there's a lot of potential for these extremely creative people that are in D.I.Y. or influenced by a band like ourselves or some kind of mix of the two. So many people have so much energy and creativity and ability to think of new workarounds. These are the type of people who can figure out how to get a 7" pressed just out of thin air or print a zine that you bring on tour and figure out how to give all that money to a mutual aid fund. These are people, to me, that are at the forefront of creatively engaging with the world we're in right now and I think we need to be thinking about how to protect ourselves a little bit and protect our scene, protect our data.

So I'd love to see that coming into play. I'd love to see musicians creating more and more of their own platforms, which I do see happening. That's some of the ethos of the website which is conceptualbeach.net situation. There's a lot of possibility, so much possibility. I've seen Patreons and I think that's a wonderful model and it's kind of a hard sell for people but I would like to see that pick up more. There's also so many fun things you can do with recording yourself, so to continue growing in that direction, there are ways to do it.

Madeline Kenney Probes Foolish Love On 'Sucker's Lunch'

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

news

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More

Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo

Joan as Police Woman

news

Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2020 - 07:21 pm

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, singer/songwriter Joan Wasser of Joan as Police Woman, whose forthcoming covers album, COVER TWO, includes tracks by The Strokes, Prince, Talk Talk, and more, shares her Quarantine Diary.

Thursday, April 2

[10 a.m.-12 p.m.] Went to bed at 4 a.m. last night after getting drawn into working on a song. Put on the kettle to make hot coffee while enjoying an iced coffee I made the day before. Double coffee is my jam. Read the news, which does not do much for my mood. Catch up with a few friends, which does a lot of good for my mood. Glad it goes in this order.

[12 p.m.-2 p.m.] Make steel cut oats with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, a sprinkling of cinnamon and cardamom, and of course, coconut butter to melt on top. If you’re not into coconut butter (sometimes marketed as coconut "manna"), I’d suggest just going for it and getting it (or ordering it) and putting it on your sweet potatoes, your oats, anywhere you’d put butter. I’m not vegan but I do enjoy hearing the tiny scream uttered by a strawberry as I cut into it. 

Contemplate some yoga. Contamplate meditating. Do neither. Resume work on the song I want to finish and send today. I have a home studio and I spend a lot of my time working on music here. The song is a collboration sent to me from Rodrigo D’Erasmo in Milano that will benefit the folks who work behind the scenes in the music touring system in Italy. 

[2 p.m.-4 p.m.] I traded in a guitar for a baritone guitar right before all this craziness hit but hadn’t had the time to get it out until now. I put on some D’Angelo, plugged into my amp and played along as if I were in his band. Micahel Archer, If you’re reading this, I hope you are safe and sound and thank you immensely for all the music you've given us always. 

[4 p.m.-6 p.m.] Bike repair shops have been deemed "necessary," thank goodness, because biking is the primary way I get around and I need a small repair. I hit up my neighborhood shop and they get my bike in and out in 10 minutes, enough time to feel the sun for a moment. 

I ride fast and hard down to the water's edge and take in a view of the East River from Brooklyn. There are a few people out getting their de-stress walks but it is mostly deserted on the usually packed streets.

[6 p.m.-8 p.m.] Practice Bach piano invention no. 4 in Dm very, very, very slowly. I never studied piano but I’m trying to hone some skills. Realize I’m ravenous. Eat chicken stew with wild mushrooms I made in the slow cooker yesterday. It’s always better the second day.

[8 p.m.-10 p.m.] Get on a zoom chat with a bunch of women friends on both coasts. We basically shoot the sh*t and make each other laugh. 

Afterwards I still feel like I ate a school bus so I give into yoga. I feel great afterwards. This photo proves I have a foot. 

[10 p.m.-12 a.m.] Record a podcast for Stereo Embers in anticipation of my new release on May 1, a second record of covers, inventively named COVER TWO. Continue to work on music (it’s a theme).

[12 a.m.-2 p.m.] Tell myself I should think about bed. Ignore myself and confinue to work on music. 

[2 a.m.-4 a.m.] Force myself into bed where I have many books to choose from. This is what I’m reading presently, depending on my mood. Finally I listen to Nick Hakim’s new song, "Qadir," and am taken by its beauty and grace. Good night. 

If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website

Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"

Hero The Band perform at the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Annual Membership Celebration
Photo: Marcus Ingram/WireImage

news

Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"

How sound planning for a creative future in our urban areas makes all the difference for artists and musicians

GRAMMYs/Oct 24, 2019 - 01:27 am

The future, as they say, is now. And for music makers around the world, building a future for themselves often starts at home, in their local creative community and in the city where they live. While technology has expanded communication and made the world smaller, cities continue to grow, making planning for the future a critical cultural mission of the present.

To that end, a new report by global organization Sound Diplomacy titled "This Must Be The Place" examines, "The role of music and cultural infrastructure in creating better future cities for all of us." The 37-page deep dive into community planning and development highlights the importance of creative culture in what it calls "Future Cities."

"The government defines ‘Future Cities’ as 'a term used to imagine what cities themselves will be like," the report states, "how they will operate, what systems will orchestrate them and how they will relate to their stakeholders (citizens, governments, businesses, investors, and others),'"

According to the report, only three global cities or states currently have cultural infrastructure plans: London, Amsterdam and New South Wales. This fact may be surprising considering how city planning and sustainability have become part of the discussion on development of urban areas, where the UN estimates 68 percent of people will live by 2050.

"Our future places must look at music and culture ecologically. Much like the way a building is an ecosystem, so is a community of creators, makers, consumers and disseminators," the report says. "The manner in which we understand how to maintain a building is not translated to protecting, preserving and promoting music and culture in communities."

The comparison and interaction between the intangibility of culture and the presence of physical space is an ongoing theme throughout the report. For instance, one section of the report outlines how buildings can and should be designed to fit the cultural needs of the neighborhoods they populate, as too often, use of a commercial space is considered during the leasing process, not the construction process, leading to costly renovations.

"All future cities are creative cities. All future cities are music cities."

On the residential side, as cities grow denser, the need increases for thoughtful acoustic design and sufficient sound isolation. Future cities can and should be places where people congregate

"If we don’t design and build our future cities to facilitate and welcome music and experience, we lose what makes them worth living in."

For musicians and artists of all mediums, the answer to making—and keeping—their cities worth living in boils down to considering their needs, impact and value more carefully and sooner in the planning process.

"The report argues that property is no longer an asset business, but one built on facilitating platforms for congregation, community and cohesion," it says. "By using music and culture at the beginning of the development process and incorporating it across the value chain from bid to design, meanwhile to construction, activation to commercialisation, this thinking and practice will result in better places."

The report offers examples of how planners and leaders are handling this from around the world. For instance, the Mayor Of London Night Czar, who helps ensure safety and nighttime infrastructure for venues toward the Mayor's Vision for London as a 24-hour city. Stateside, Pittsburgh, Penn., also has a Night Mayor in place to support and inform the growth of its creative class.

Diversity, inclusion, health and well-being also factor into the reports comprehensive look at how music and culture are every bit as important as conventional business, ergonomic and environmental considerations in Future Cites. Using the Queensland Chamber of Arts and Culture as a reference, it declared, "A Chamber of Culture is as important as a Chamber of Commerce."

In the end, the report serves as a beacon of light for governments, organizations, businesses and individuals involved in planning and developing future cities. Its core principals lay out guideposts for building friendly places to music and culture and are backed with case studies and recommendations. But perhaps the key to this progress is in changing how we approach the use of space itself, as the answer to supporting music may be found in how we look at the spaces we inhabit.

"To develop better cities, towns and places, we must alter the way we think about development, and place music and culture alongside design, viability, construction and customer experience," it says. "Buildings must be treated as platforms, not assets. We must explore mixed‑use within mixed‑use, so a floor of a building, or a lesser‑value ground floor unit can have multiple solutions for multiple communities."

Be Like Björk: Iceland Unveils New 'Record In Iceland' Initiative

Nearly 30 Years After Their Debut, Body Count's 'Carnivore' Is The Thrash-Metal Band's Most Fully Realized Album

Ice-T In 1993

Photo by David Corio/Redferns

news

Nearly 30 Years After Their Debut, Body Count's 'Carnivore' Is The Thrash-Metal Band's Most Fully Realized Album

Led by iconic rapper Ice-T, the L.A.-based seven-piece keep their socially conscious themes consistent and the music louder than ever on their seventh studio album

GRAMMYs/Mar 10, 2020 - 10:06 pm

In early 1992 Ernie Cunnigan visited the Burbank office of Howie Klein. The guitarist (who goes by Ernie C.) and the then-president of Reprise/Warner Bros. Records were listening to the upcoming self-titled debut from Cunnigan’s band, Body Count, fronted by his Crenshaw High School buddy Tracy Marrow, already famous as rapper Ice-T. Ice, with the savvy creative connectivity that guides his multi-hyphenate media career to this day, introduced his forthcoming metal band in 1991 via tracks on O.G. Original Gangster, his fourth album.

It's not unusual for high school pals to form a band. What was unusual, though, was that Body Count was a hardcore thrash metal band comprised of all-black musicians, with point-blank lyrics that were both insightful and incite-ful concerning racial and social inequities and the climate of America. Listening to the 18-track debut, Klein praised it, while voicing concern about the lyrics of "Momma's Gotta Die Tonight," a song about the matricide and dismemberment of a racist parent. Turns out it was the last track, a ditty called "Cop Killer," that should have given the executive pause. 

While Klein was and remains stridently opposed to censorship and is a dedicated free speech advocate, Body Count, per the era, was released with a parental advisory sticker (as was Original Gangster). Less than two months after Body Count dropped, Los Angeles exploded in fiery violence in reaction to the acquittal of four policemen in the beating of Rodney King, as well as the shooting death of black teenager Latasha Harlins by a Korean grocer. (The grocer was given only probation.) It was the worst possible climate for "Cop Killer," with lyrics including "Fk the police, yeah!" and shout-outs to then L.A.P.D. chief Daryl Gates, Ice's "dead homies" and King. The blowback went all the way up to then-President George Bush, and though Time Warner supported Ice-T in his fight against the song's opponents, he eventually pulled the cut from new pressings of the album.

Currently, streaming services including Spotify and Apple Music offer the version sans the group's most (in)famous song, replacing "Cop Killer" with "Freedom Of Speech" from Ice's 1989 solo album, The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say, edited to add samples of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and the voice of political punker Jello Biafra. On YouTube, "Cop Killer" has more than 1.5 million views, with most of the comments thoughtful and positive, understanding the intentionally incendiary messages Body Count was delivering. Ultimately, if Body Count isn’t a classic record in the way that critics consider Nirvana’s Nevermind or Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back to be, it’s an important and groundbreaking one. As Ice-T has said, Body Count is: "a protest record,” not the norm in the metal world, but still the way BC's songs operate today.

Indeed, 28 years later, things haven’t changed. Biafra is also on Body Count's powerful new album, Carnivore. Police actions like "stop and frisk" (the NYC law enforcement program that was proven to disproportionally target black and Latino men) wasn’t legally discredited until 2014. Body Count’s one-time bassist, Lloyd "Mooseman" Roberts III, was murdered in South Central Los Angeles in 2001 in an accidental drive-by; in the last 12 months, 126 black men were killed by guns in L.A. County, as opposed to 23 white men. And Ice-T and Body Count are still raging against the machine.

Ice-T enjoys pushing buttons lyrically, and if they’ve sometimes been heavy-handed or misguided ("KKK Bitch" or "Bitch In The Pit"), Ice-T is a politically eloquent, passionate and personal songwriter, which can be too easily overlooked given Body Count's volume-heavy metal chops and Ice's delivery, a speedy vocal style that’s been traditionally more aggro-rapping than melodic singing.  

That said, Carnivore is Body Count’s best album to date; it’s the most fully realized musically, and there’s a cohesion to the vocals and music that led Body Count bassist Vincent Price to lay out the band’s growth in a Metallica timeline: "Manslaughter [2014] was basically Kill ‘Em All; Bloodlust [2017] was our Ride The Lightningand Carnivore’s our Master Of Puppets."

He's not wrong, and though Ice-T’s more than 20-year stint as detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has precluded lengthy Body Count tours, the buzz is loud for this seventh album.

Ice-T may be the original gangster, yet he’s patient, articulate and fervent in explaining songs and motivations to audiences and the press alike. "When I'm Gone," featuring Amy Lee of Evanescence, was inspired by the killing of Nipsey Hussle. It’s a reminder, as he says in the tune, to "tell the people that you love, that you love them now. … Don't wait; tomorrow may be too fking late."

His prolific musical social criticism and seemingly left-leaning views are thoughtful and targeted, despite the vitriol of so many Body Count songs. In the nearly 30 years since founding his revolutionary band, Ice-T observes, "I think you’ve got less racism; less people, but more avid racism. It’s unnerving to think that we’ve come so far but there’s still so far to go." As he advised in a 2017 interview, "Don’t just be angry. Know what you’re talking about so you don’t alienate someone who should be an ally."