Concert review: Tegan and Sara (with Diana) showcase new sound for a sellout crowd at the Pageant, Sunday, March 10

Female vocals, samples, blips, clicks, beats, love-lorn milieus, melodies and musical formations familiar, yet different — as if filtered through the air waves of a ’70s and early ’80s radio station — played for the ears and eyes of a sold-out crowd at the Pageant for headliners Tegan and Sara.

Helmed by Carmen Elle’s heavenly and wispy vocals, Toronto’s up-and-comping Diana offered the ebbing crowd a taste of chill-wave pop — think Blondie with twisted nobs and a head full of ludes. Consisting of notable players such as Kieran Adams, Joseph Shabason (Destroyer) and Paul Mathew (Hidden Cameras), Diana stood out as a project to keep an eye on.

“Born Again” rumbled and pulsed with a summer feel dappled with melancholy. The “Ba-doo, ba-doo” vocals propelled the song toward its chorus, setting nice contrast to the scoping electronics and synth. The band’s willingness to experiment — mashing genres and aesthetics — was a pleasure to witness.

“Perpetual Surrender” glowed with warm synth, thick ’80s bass and dark backing vocals. The drop and sudden return of the bass and drums transformed the tune from a sleepy confessional into a danced-charged head-bobber. A juicy saxophone erupted halfway through and transported me to a palm laden beach where lovers languished as waves lapped at a distant waxy sun. There was an undeniable “Surrender” to the track: dulcet, sweet and completely liberating.

After Diana and a set break, Tegan and Sara emerged from the darkness as Tommy James & the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” played over the house speakers. The cheers and screams subsided and “Back In Your Head” from 2007′s “The Con” spilled forth with muted guitar and syncopated singing.

The song’s keyboard melody enveloped the venue, adding a majesty to the song’s declarative tone. “Walking With a Ghost” reminded the audience of Tegan and Sara’s old sound, featuring slices of razor wire guitar matched with crystalline soprano “Ooos.”

Soon, Tegan and Sara dove into new material from 2013′s slightly controversial “Heartthrob.” “I Was a Fool,” sparkled with a John Hughes-inspired, shoe-gaze, teenage-locker-door-slam-and-walk-down-the-hallway-slow-motion mentality. Think I’m wrong? Take a gander at the album’s cover art (with its air-brushed, photo-collage design). At the age of 30, Tegan and Sara have reinvented themselves with a new sound, making “fools” out of no one.

“I’m Not Your Hero” married Tegan and Sara’s old sound–the duo’s whiplash vocal delivery and tight melodies pulled taught over emotional sentiment–with the modern zeitgeist of poppy synth and hooks. Listening to the tune produced a bit of cognitive dissonance, but the good kind. It felt akin to having one foot in two different decades, as one might straddle states when standing at the United Sates’ famed Four Corners.

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Concert review and set list: Aimee Mann (with Ted Leo) gently rocks a seated crowd at the Pageant, Tuesday, November 13

Aimee Mann at the Pageant. Photo by Kate McDaniel.

A solo Ted Leo opened the evening at the Pageant with a quiver of power-pop tunes.

“Bleeding Powers” found Leo stretching his vocals to excellent effect, the song reminiscent in mood, like a Springsteen tune. Leo sang, “And the road leads somewhere, but it’s yet to your door.” He played his electric guitar as if the rest of his band, the Pharmacists, were behind him on stage. The artist’s skill and swagger precluded the need for them.

“Coleen,” an ode to the typical girl that everyone knows, jangled and twinkled beneath the Pageant’s lights. After the song, Leo tuned his guitar in silence, noting how awkward tuning alone on stage is. “A Bottle of Buckie” opened with fingerpicked guitar before it slipped into palm-muted work. Leo’s deft lyrics danced over the bed of guitar as the troubadour hit the falsetto accents of the song’s chorus.

“One Polaroid a Day” was altered to fit Leo’s solo modality. The song, though less hushed and sultry than on the record, was nonetheless satisfying with its imagery focused on a controlling woman. Leo proclaimed “The Toro and the Toreador” to be his “Stairway to Heaven,” and I agreed. The tune enthralled the audience and built to a distorted peak wrapped around with careful lyrics.

After a set change, Aimee Mann appeared with her five-piece band, including a keyboard/guitarist, a keyboardist, a drummer and Mann’s producer/bassist Paul Bryan. After a quick hello, the leather-clad Mann jumped into “Disappeared” from 2012′s “Charmer.” The song, one of my favorites from the new effort, seemed to hover above the crowd like an evening sky, gaining bright definition as Mann deftly layered a pre-chorus atop a gorgeous chorus.

“Gumby” was full of country-moon power and nostalgia, telling the story of a mother stretched too thin, needing to call her daughter. Again, Mann’s stacking of pre-chorus hooks enraptured the crowd. “Labrador,” the single from “Charmer,” offered up a “Free Fallin’”-type power-chug, complete with Mann’s signature lilt and a serene bed of starry keys.

Ted Leo appeared on stage along side Mann to perform the duet “Living a Lie,” which on “Charmer” features the Shins’ James Mercer. Leo hit every high note with Mercer’s ease, and I’ll admit, I enjoyed Leo’s live singing more than Mercer’s record-side.

“Charmer” returned the set to Mann’s mid-tempo rock, and before the song, Mann declared, “Ready for us to gently rock you again?” The song featured a devilish hook of infectious vocal “o-o-o-ooo’s” mixing with spacey ’70s keys and guitar. “That’s Just What You Are” conjured the Indigo Girls, while “Ray” brought the tempo and tone down before building it back up with a full-band chorus.

Mann went solo for her suite of songs from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia.” “Save Me” was performed acoustically, Mann’s vocals doing all the heavy lifting. The audience was captured as Mann sang, “If you could save me from the ranks of the freaks who suspect they could never love anyone.” On “Wise Up” delicate keys led the way as Mann spun the song’s heart-wrenching chorus, “It’s not going to stop until you wise up.” Harry Nilsson’s Beatles-influenced “One” unwound with stabs of organ and Bryan’s backing vocals, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know.”

“Slip and Roll” again found Mann building brilliant pre-choruses and folding them into hooky choruses. Mann closed her set with “Goodbye Caroline” and “It’s Not Safe,” dealing each song’s emotional tone with experience and craft, making us feel what she must have felt when she originally crafted each one.

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Cabaret preview: Women Under the Influence

"Women Under the Influence": L-R: Carol Schmidt, Michlle Isam, Debbie Schuster, and Katie McGrath

Ask most folks what kind of music they associate with cabaret and you’ll likely get some mix of “great American songbook” and “show tunes”. No surprise there; the Golden Age of American songwriting is, in fact, well represented on the small stage. Tim Schall’s entertaining and informative “Rodgers and Hart Songbook” from a couple weeks ago was a classic example.

But the cabaret tent is a big one, and in just the past year here in St. Louis alone we’ve had shows based on such diverse sources as contemporary country (Jeff Wright’s Southern Roots), 1950s and ‘60s TV themes (Ken Haller’s The TV Show), and turn-of-the-last-century vaudeville (my own Just a Song at Twilight).

I bring all this up because last night (Monday, November 12) I had the pleasure of sitting in on a rehearsal by a new quartet, Women Under the Influence (three of the members of which I’ve worked with on stage in the past), that also takes its inspiration from performers whose work is not particularly well represented on the cabaret scene: the girl groups and soul sisters of the 1960s. Pop and R&B classics like “Met Him on a Sunday,” “He’s So Fine,” “Come See About Me,” and “He’s a Rebel” make up most of the set list, but there are also a few nods to contemporary stars like Adele (“Rumor Has It”), Rhiana (“Take a Bow”), and even Dolly Parton (“Jolene”).

This isn’t just a nostalgia trip, though. The essence of cabaret is the way in which the artist puts his or her own stamp on the music and makes it into something new. The members of WUI—Carol Schmidt and Michele Isam of “Jasmine” fame, along with local cabaret stars Debbie Schuster and Katie McGrath—are well-established performers with their own unique styles. Carol is pianist and music director for the show, with Michele filling in on other instruments (percussion and harmonica at the rehearsal I attended). They’re making all of those tunes their own—with tight vocal harmonies and even a bit of swingin’ ’60s choreography—and, in classic cabaret style, telling a story in the process.

By artfully arranging the songs, WUI’s show moves from the first crush, through true love, down into betrayal and back up into independence. It’s could be the story of one woman or of late 20th century women in general. It might even be a little of both. WUI are creating a space for ambiguity there, and ambiguity is where art lives.

The Women Under the Influence show is being produced by singer Robert Breig’s Mariposa Artists (the increase in local cabaret producers is a positive trend I may address in a future post) and will be presented this Saturday, November 17th, at 8 PM in the Showroom at Joe Buck’s Restaurant at 10th and Clark downtown. The space, I’m told, seats around 120 in a very “night clubby” ambience. And, of course, the bar and restaurant are there for your dining and drinking needs.

Tickets are available at There’s even a good cause involved; a portion of the evening’s proceeds will be donated to Places For People, whose mission is “[t]o provide innovative and effective mental health services to people in need while creating a system of care that promotes personal recovery.”

It’s just another reminder that there’s a lot more to the cabaret scene than one might suppose. It’s why I love going to cabaret shows; you never know when you’re going to encounter something new and surprising. And who doesn’t like a good surprise?

Concert review: Like a virgin no more, Madonna plays first show in St. Louis, Scottrade Center, Thursday, November 1

Madonna, the undisputed Queen of Pop, brought her live spectacle of sight and sound to St. Louis for the first time on Thursday before a packed house at the Scottrade Center, eliciting widely mixed reactions amongst her faithful followers.

The MDNA Tour rolled in with a fleet of luxury tour busses, dancers and costumes galore, lots of lights, props and moving parts, and of course, Lady M herself — a pop music ninja in a petite, five-foot-four-inch frame.

Before I delve into the details of a two-hour Madonna assault of the senses, I want to address some of the complaints about this show I have seen flying around the Internet and offer a defense of the top-selling female artist of all time:

Complaint 1: “She started two-hours late. She didn’t come on until 10:30 p.m.”

The show was listed as starting at 8 p.m. There was an opener for the show (DJ Paul Oakenfold). If you are aware there is an opener at 8 p.m., then of course the headliner is not going to start until well after — we call this Concert 101. Also, as widely publicized on local media outlets and from past tour reviews, 10:30, p.m. is Madonna’s standard start time. Any basic Google search on the MDNA tour to prepare for the concert-going experience would have relayed this information. So anyone who was shocked and offended by it simply didn’t do the homework; that’s a rookie mistake.

Complaint 2: “She didn’t play a lot of her ’80s hits.”

I love the ’80s and I love ’80s Madonna, too. Would I have liked to have heard more of those hit songs of my high school and college days? Sure. Was I expecting to hear more of them? No. The tour is not called the “Greatest Hits of the ’80s tour.” It’s called the “MDNA Tour.” The name of the album is “MNDA.” Based on the entire history of concerts, it follows that she is going to focus her live material on the album she is supporting. I actually think it’s a pretty good album. It doesn’t sound like Madonna in the ’80s. You know why? Because it’s 2012 and, like most of the rest of us, Madonna has evolved.

Okay, now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s my opinion of the night: I really enjoyed most of the show and it did live up to my expectations. I will say up front that I am somewhat biased. I’m a lifelong fan and I was lucky enough to score one of the tickets/wristbands to Madonna’s coveted “Golden Triangle,” a small area of the floor directly in front of and surrounded by the stage. They give the Golden Triangle tickets away via a lottery through her fan club and a select lucky few get to enjoy the show from the middle of the action. It would be hard for anyone NOT to enjoy a performance of this magnitude standing just mere feet away. Everyone else in the Golden Triangle seemed to enjoy it as well.

I can safely say I have never seen a show quite of this magnitude. A Madonna concert isn’t simply a concert; it’s a performance of epic proportions, bigger than Broadway and Vegas combined. No, she didn’t sing every single note, but the ones she did sounded good and the rest was still amazing to watch, from the second the curtain fell to reveal dancers dressed as monks, with a giant thurible swinging from a rope over the stage and then Madonna herself, entering via a curtained, gothic confessional booth and speaking the intro to “Girl Gone Wild.”

Though the thumping of the bass was almost painfully intense at times, I enjoyed most of the “MDNA” material, particularly the upbeat, dancey “Turn Up the Radio,” “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” and “I’m a Sinner” (which she had to stop and start over due to a sound/technical issue, but handled with total professionalism). “Gang Bang” was a bit over the top with a fake motel-room set and “gun battles” complete with screens splattered with blood that seemed uncharacteristically violent.

Madge gave her long-time fans — many clad in lace gloves, skirts, hair bows and stack bracelets in tribute — a taste of the “old Madonna” they desired with hits like “Papa Don’t Preach,” “Open Your Heart” (sing-along style), “Vogue” and “Human Nature” among others. She performed “Like a Virgin” as a ballad, lounge-style atop a piano. She donned a majorette outfit, backed by dancers clad as cheerleaders and marching band drummers, for a mash-up of “Express Yourself” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” after which she chanted “She’s not me!” in a not-so-subtle diss to Gaga’s extremely similar tune.

Madonna pretty much invented reinventing yourself, and showed her many faces throughout the show with costume, hair and attitude changes. She brought out her ever-controversial sex symbol side for “Justify My Love” and “Candy Shop”/”Erotica.”

Enough can’t be said about the incredible talents of her backup dancers, who leaped, flipped, bumped, grinded and even bounced on flexible elastic tightropes. Plus, there was one very special dancer — her 11-year-old son, Rocco (with director Guy Ritchie). The proud mama gazed on as her boy did head spins on the stage and he gazed right back as she commanded the praise of nearly 20,000 fans. It was pretty adorable.

For me, the absolute highlight of the show was the performance of “Like a Prayer” with a full choir (including Rocco) and the whole stadium singing along and clapping. It truly was a religious moment, and one I won’t soon forget.

For some, Madonna’s show didn’t live up to expectations (or exorbitant ticket prices). She certainly wasn’t without flaws (such as her reference to being in Minnesota, rather than Missouri, or lip-syncing during the trickier dance numbers); but overall she was a blast to watch, perfectly pleasant, warm and personable — grateful for and deserving of the audience’s praise. Tickets were crazy expensive, but the cost seems more reasonable when you consider that a production of that level with that many players costs a great deal more to put on than a standard rock show.

As for me, I just couldn’t believe I stood that close to her, soaking in her raw energy. For the first time in my life, I was truly and absolutely star-struck. And I had a hell of a good time.

88.1 KDHX DJ Spotlight: Cat Pick of Emotional Rescue

Sara Finke

Every Monday 7-10 a.m. Central on 88.1 KDHX, Cat Pick hosts “Emotional Rescue,” a wide-ranging mix of pop, rock, R&B and so much more.

I chatted with the award-winning DJ (the Riverfront Times named “Emotional Rescue” Best Rock Radio Show in 2009) about her history with KDHX, her early discovery of music and what keeps her going as a volunteer on the radio.

Dani Kinnison: How did you get started at KDHX?

Cat Pick: Well, I started with my first husband and we started volunteering in like 1988 maybe, so it’s been a long time. We did music library stuff, so of course we wanted a show and put our application in. Then we got a show near the end of 1988 and that was a Saturday night into Sunday morning, 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. We had that for quite some time.

How do you pick stuff for Emotional Rescue?

In the past, I think it was different when we started because it was just so important to play certain things that nobody knew about. That was before [the Internet] and everybody knows everything now, you can find it in a second. Our first show was called “Left of the Dial,” because we loved the Replacements so much, and normal people didn’t know about the Replacements.

And I think now, the older I get and the longer I’ve done it, it’s kind of just what sounds good that day. And I do the birthdays, so that’s kind of a starting point every week, things that I’ve never heard before necessarily, so it’s fun. But I think it’s less, the way music is now, it doesn’t feel so like “Oh my god, everybody must love every single thing I play because it’s so important” you know what I mean? It’s way more, “I wanna play this song so I’m going to play it.”

Does your own personal music taste overlap with your show?

Absolutely. I think it’s pretty clear. People tease me about things that I’m obsessed with that I’ll play a lot. I started my show with Elbow a lot, for probably more than a year, and now I don’t do it very often anymore, but that’s what people say to me. So yeah, definitely my own tastes absolutely come through, but I do play a lot of stuff off the new shelf. We don’t rule out something necessarily just because it’s popular on regular radio. But a lot of people who listen to KDHX don’t listen to regular radio so they don’t hear it.

Do you have a certain format for “Emotional Rescue”?

I probably have about half of my show done beforehand. I do playlists on my computer, probably about an hour and a half’s worth, and the rest is just whatever. So that works out. I like having that so I know if something happens I don’t freak out and I’ll have something there to play.

Some people are very planned with their shows, down to the minute. I can’t even imagine that. It just seems to work out. After you do it for such a long time, I mean I haven’t done it solidly since I’ve started, but for the most part, I think you just get the rhythm down and you just know. I don’t even think about it.

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Concert review: Sea Wolf and Hey Marseilles weave intricate folk pop at Plush, Thursday, October 11

At Plush on Thursday night, Hey Marseilles and Sea Wolf both played their respective sets as if they were headliners.

Hey Marseilles, from Seattle, opened with a pristine sound that ran the gamut between Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers. On “Cannonballs,” from 2010′s “To Travels and Trunks,” Matt Bishop’s lead vocals rose above the delicate instrumentation of Samuel Anderson’s cello and Jacob Anderson’s viola. The song, like much of Hey Marseilles’ material, featured a far-away opening that slowly became more present — like a polaroid developing — as the track built with layers of added sound, harmony and emotion.

Bishop complained that he was missing the evening’s debate before he offered the audience “Dead of Night,” a track off Hey Marseilles’ upcoming record, due out sometime early next year. “Rio” stood out as the crowd’s favorite moment of the set. The entire band kicked off the tune with complex Latin hand clapping that showcased Hey Marseilles’ interest in cultural artistic play. The song shined with delightful solos from each member of the band. “Cafe Lights” was a strong closer that rose and fell, like birds riding warm updrafts, with fascinating and diligent dynamics.

After a long set break and soundcheck, Sea Wolf’s Alex Brown Church appeared and opened with “Miracle Cure” from 2012′s “Old World Romance.” Like many of the tracks on Sea Wolf’s new record, the song featured Joey Ficken’s tight drums, Church’s static, acoustic strumming and wobbling electric leads laid over Lisa Fendelander’s keys. Church’s vocals were breezy, spot on and full of all the dulcet emotion of his songs.

“Winter Windows,” from 2007′s “Leaves In The River,” pulled the crowd in with Fendelander’s synthesizer — dialed in to sound like a waterlogged accordion before exploding into clean keys during the chorus. Church sang, “This is the world…we live in. It’s not the one I choose, but it’s the one we’re given.”

“The Traitor” maintained a satisfying verisimilitude to its album counterpart, and “Old Friend,” the lead single from “Old World Romance,” featured every delicate shuffle and digital accent found record side. The audience rocked out for “The Cold, the Dark & the Silence” as Sea Wolf pushed the track into the stratosphere with hints of distortion and fuzzed-out strings.

In my opinion, “Priscilla” is the sleeper hit from “Old World Romance.” The audience seemed to agree as Church enunciated its tangled heap of beautiful images over a flurry of well-timed drum work. “Middle Distance Runner” was greeted with hoots and hollers as Ficken stomped into the song’s opening with his bass drum.

“I Made A Resolution,” “Turn the Dirt Over” and “Kasper,” each representing a different record from Sea Wolf’s catalogue, all hung together with the warm vibration of Church’s vocals. The songwriter’s usual images of dirt, water, leaves and cold trees bubbled up in between glowing guitar and warm violin.

Sea Wolf appropriately closed with “You’re a Wolf.” The thrum of the tune featured a lilting melancholy bound up in its heartaching cello and slick electric guitar picking.

The band returned for a three-song encore, which included “Black Leaf Falls,” with its wonderful acoustic importance; “Saint Catherine St.,” complete with an emotionally supportive, subdued feel; and “Black Dirt,” ending the night on a hook of introspective, yet uptempo rock. After the encore Church gave a final bow and waved the crowd out into the misty St. Louis night.

Concert review: At the Pageant, Grouplove (with Alt-J) proves bigger isn’t always better, Monday, October 8

When you see a band for the fourth time, you start to notice weaknesses. On Monday I saw Grouplove for the fourth time in half that many years. Some of the band’s flaws became more than apparent.

The night started off spectacularly, with Mercury Prize nominees Alt-J playing a 40-minute set that featured all the songs you would know if you knew Alt-J. Standing side by side in a row at the front of the stage, the quartet turned in a mesmerizing set.

To start, the band played its “Intro” before guitarist and vocalist Joe Newman paired with keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton for a stunning a cappella melody that led into a ferocious rendition of recent single “Tessellate.” The band carried on with “Fitzpleasure” and “Breezeblocks,” as well as a cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Slow” that they said they were playing live for just the second time. They played “Taro” to close, dedicating it to the group of girls in the front row that had been requesting it since the start of the show.

What made Alt-J’s set at the Pageant so stunning was the complexity of the sound, all done live. Bongos, tambourines, a xylophone and a castanet recreated the complicated, tropical sounds of the band’s debut release, “An Awesome Wave.” The songs sounded straight off the album, but only because they were so perfectly executed.

During the set change, the crowd nearly doubled in size. Still, the mix of twenty-something-year-olds drinking beer and 16-year-old-girls on their iPhones far from filled the venue, leaving the entire upper balcony completely empty.

Grouplove started at around 9:15 p.m., running and jumping onto the stage as Kanye West’s “Monster” blasted from the speakers. Floral lamps and furniture decorated the stage, almost as if to suggest the show could be taking place in your grandmother’s living room. On the back curtain were rows of balloons and a pattern of big glass circles splattered in white paint that for some reason reminded me of the giant hair dryers you see at salons. Guitarist Christian Zucconi sported a mop of newly platinum blonde hair and a red bathrobe over an inside out T-shirt. Frontwoman Hannah Hopper wore a black and white lace dress and ripped tights.

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‘Just writing and writing and doing what comes naturally’ A pre-LouFest interview with Josh Carter of Phantogram / Cameron Yee

In a crowded indie landscape full of electronic pop, it’s unlikely that most bands will ever cut through the noise, and even less likely that they’ll be exceptionally good. Young Phantogram has already defied both odds.

Only one full-length album and three EPs into their career, the duo of Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel — with the touring addition of Tim Oakley — has stirred up a bucketful of attention for blending darkly addictive tunes that heavily reference dream pop, hip-hop production and shoegaze.

The band released two EPs in 2009, but heads began to turn en masse with the releases of its debut full-length, “Eyelid Movies,” in early 2010 and its third EP, “Nightlife,” in late 2011. Both garnered enthusiastic responses from fans — for hooky electronic melodies — and critics — for melding a diversity of sounds into something wholly original.

I recently spoke to Josh Carter — the band’s songwriter, guitarist and secondary vocalist — on the phone about the origins of Phantogram’s sound, how to deal with expectations and the band’s first, err, second St. Louis appearance, this Saturday at LouFest.

Chris Bay: What’s your favorite boy-girl duo, past or present?

Josh Carter: Sonny and Cher. Captain and Tennille. Just kidding. Let’s see, I like Beach House a lot. They’re a good band. We just did a show with Sleigh Bells a couple of weeks ago. Those guys are really nice, too.

When “Eyelid Movies” dropped, the thing that I was most impressed by was that it had a very well-formed, original character to it, which is unusual for a band’s first full-length these days. A lot of music sounds derivative when it first comes out of the box. How did that feel from your perspective?

It happened very naturally. Phantogram was basically the product of my solo work. When I was about 18 I started writing songs a lot and played the drums and guitar and synths, and I would write these little ditties. And then a friend of mine who was really into hip hop got me into some more obscure underground hip hop, like Quasimoto and Madlib and stuff like that.

I grew up with an older brother who is really into good indie rock like Sonic Youth and shoegaze music, like Ride and Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. And I also grew up on the Beatles. So basically, it wasn’t really sought out too much, it was just me blending my favorite elements of music together to create something that’s natural.

I met up with Sarah — we’ve been longtime friends — and I was singing a lot of these songs in my falsetto and I thought it’d be really cool to have a girl sing them. Sarah has a really great voice and she’s really good on piano, so I asked her if she wanted to collaborate and we started Phantogram.

You just leapt ahead of me quite a bit from where I wanted to go with that comment, but this is as good of a time as any to go there. You write a lot of the lyrics, if not all…

Yeah, I write all of the lyrics.

…So what’s it like to have somebody else sing your songs, especially when a lot of them seem to be very personal?

I think it’s because we’re such close friends. I’ll often write lyrics with Sarah present and kind of run them by her. So I think she can really connect emotionally to what I’m writing about even though she’s not writing the lyrics. She definitely has a big emotional connection to them.

You do this because you feel like it makes the music work better with a female vocalist?

Yeah. I sing on some of our songs, but we sort of pick and choose who sings on what songs. But we both have very different sounding voices; there’s very high contrast.

When we first started the band we wanted to do more of a Thurston Moore / Kim Gordon type deal where we both sing, where there’s not a lead singer. But Sarah has more or less taken the lead, obviously because she has a stronger voice than I and she’s a great entertainer as well, and I don’t mind that because I just like to make music. I’m lucky that I have such a great partner to do it with.

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