2012 Artist Survey: The Eastern Sea
Matt Hines Reflects on the Last Year
Jan 31, 2013
Photography by Tommy Kearns Web Exclusive
For Under the Radar's 10th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2012.
Pick up the print version of the Best of 2012 issue to read responses from the following artists: Alt-J, Fred Armisen, Bear in Heaven, Camera Obscura, Chad Valley, Charli XCX, Choir of Young Believers, Clinic, CSS, Dan Deacon, Desaparecidos, Django Django, Efterklang, Egyptian Hip Hop, El Perro Del Mar, Grimes, Halls, Richard Hawley, Hercules and Love Affair, Ladytron, Liars, Lord Huron, Lower Dens, Mount Eerie, My Morning Jacket, The Mynabirds, The New Pornographers, of Montreal, Peaking Lights, Porcelain Raft, Laetitia Sadier, Tame Impala, and Tegan and Sara.
Then download the digital version of the Best of 2012 issue to read all those surveys, as well as bonus responses from the following artists: !!!, Clare and the Reasons, Codeine, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Esben and the Witch, The Fresh & Onlys, Get People, Islands, Kwes, Lost in the Trees, NZCA/LINES, OFF!, Plants and Animals, Still Corners, Violens, Xiu Xiu, Young Dreams, and Zambri.
Top 10 Albums of 2012
1. Chairlift: Something-I love to sing along with this album. It's extremely fun and also strangely nostalgic. Maybe that's the theme for this year.
2. Grizzly Bear: Shields-Heartfelt, but direct and never insecure. The newest Grizzly Bear tunes really take me to a deep place that their last records never took me. Maybe it's the change in production...
3. The Walkmen: Heaven-One of my favorite bands ever delivers what I would call their In Rainbows, equal parts challenging and accessible. Great pop tunes and an overall melancholy tone.
4. Frank Ocean: Channel Orange-This may be my highest-ranked record that also needs a very specific listening environment. Frank Ocean can, at times, be unenjoyable if you aren't in the right state of mind. Is it wrong to say that Channel Orange is this generation's take on The Wall?
5. Here We Go Magic: A Different Ship-Some of my friends didn't like the new Here We Go Magic, but I don't get it. The songs are tight, the Nigel Godrich production is appropriately saturated. And the mood is complex and frustrating.
6. Frankie Rose: Interstellar-I love this record simply for the sleekness of sound. It seems like everyone playing this music is wearing black, black, black mascara. The color of their souls.
7. Hot Chip: In Our Heads-I love anything that Hot Chip does, because they poke at the foundation of indie-electronica. They did it their way first, and once everyone has begun ripping them off, they've now turned the whole genre upside down. Funky, fabulous, and mean, but somehow still tongue-in-cheek.
8. Metric: Synthetica-Pure pop on every song. A few classic gems that stand out and a bunch of utterly lovable Emily Haines ridiculousness.
9. RoadKill Ghost Choir: Quiet Light EP-We were on the road with this band for a week in August and fell in love with their tunes. It's like The War on Drugs playing Jim James songs with banjo and trumpet. Pretty dark and spooky.
10. Grimes: Visions-Oh, Grimes. It's been a funny year for you, baby. Good record, hilariously silly live show. Good luck in 2013.
What was the highlight of 2012 for either you personally or for the band?
The absolute highlight of 2012, both personally and for the band, was performing at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. It's always been a dream to play at our hometown festival, and that entire weekend was very rewarding for us.
What was the low point of 2012 for you?
The low point of 2012 is when we almost saw a guy get shot in Charlottesville, VA. Some random guy pulled a gun on another dude, and then pulled the trigger twice. But no rounds in the chamber... That was dark. Nice town, though.
What are your hopes and plans for 2013?
My biggest hopes and plans revolve around the extensive touring we have scheduled for the first half of 2013. We've never been to the West Coast or to Europe and both are on the list!
To what extent did the poor world economy affect your ability to make a reasonable living as an artist in 2012?
Well, the economy was one of those things that effects ticket sales less than the other aspects of your "Band Economy." For example, music fans are always music fans, and folks go to bars no matter what. But if they like your band, there is less of chance they will buy your record or your T-shirt. So it's subtle. We are a band that has been touring only since 2008 when the economy tanked. So really, our touring world has centered around a recession market from the very beginning. It would be weird for us to walk into a town that was super well-off, but it does happen from time to time.
What are your thoughts on the 2012 U.S. presidential election?
This year's election was important for progress in a lot of areas that I feel strongly about: marriage equality, drug policy, female reproductive rights, racial injustice. There are some people who disagree that these things are important, but those people lost the election.
Steve Albini criticized Amanda Palmer for recruiting musicians to play in her backing band for free. Was he right to do this and was Palmer right to change her mind and pay her musicians?
Just because Steve Albini will do anything for money doesn't mean that other people shouldn't do something for nothing. Nobody is right or wrong in this situation.
What pop culture phenomenon from 2012 would you most like to erase from your memory?
I would like to keep "Gangnam Style" but I want to erase hearing a high school marching band playing it.
Were you affected by Hurricane Sandy? Do you think that climate change was partly responsible for the hurricane?
I was not affected directly by Hurricane Sandy, but I have many friends that were affected in extreme ways. We love so many people in the Northeast and it's tough to watch their communities get pummeled by storms that now seem to be the new norm. Yes, climate change is playing a part in the volatility of these extreme weather events. Storms are always going to be around and they will always go to the wrong place at the wrong time, but rising sea levels and heating ocean temperatures guarantee that the old functioning meteorological models will change, most likely to something inconvenient for us.
Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.
In June, we stopped over in Annapolis, MD at this place called The Metropolitan. Amazing place. Great food, wonderful people. One of those people we met there was Jimmy Haha from the late '90s pop-rock band Jimmy's Chicken Shack. He was a fan almost immediately and our relationship together has grown after a couple stops in the area. He is probably our favorite fan right now. When he's at our shows, he just shouts at people about how great we are. Can't get better than that, right?
What were some of the rejected names for your band?
The Eastern Seamen? ...ha. Just kidding.
Tell us about your first kiss.
My first kiss was behind a dumpster, behind a gym, behind a junior high. There was this weird sensation of rubber from our braces rubbing together. But I was in love, what can I say?
Would you survive a zombie apocalypse?
I would love to think that surviving the zombie apocalypse is in the cards for me, but statistically, I'm pretty vulnerable.
Did you watch this year's Olympics? What was your favorite event and which event would you be best at?
Yes, I watched the Olympics this year. I watch them every two years (yes, even the winter ones). My favorite Olympic event is definitely women's team handball. Not even trying to be cute. It's fun.
In your opinion, what artist represents the cutting edge in music today? Who is doing something that no one else is doing?
Today, popular music is very fractured. This is due to the overwhelming ability to make seemingly anything at any time. There is a lot of opportunity and a lot of technology to help execute an artist's vision. The only difficulty is making the right choices. What I would consider a cutting-edge artist is someone who can wade through all the endless choices and put together a palate of tasteful musical ideas (simple without being simplistic, complex without being complicated). For me, people like Justin Vernon and his band Bon Iver, White Denim, Cass McCombs, Ty Segall, Justice, Hot Chip, and Frank Ocean are doing just that. Then there are people who are doing something truly unique, which is much different. Someone like Rustie fits into that category.
What should musicians do, if anything, to support Pussy Riot?
To support Pussy Riot, musicians must continue to make challenging music. It's that simple.
Finish this sentence: I'm too old to _______?
I'm too old to use a distortion pedal.
What's the best advice you've ever been given about the music industry and who gave it to you?
The best advice I ever got about the music industry was given to me by my father, and it wasn't specifically about the music industry but I like to apply it. "Showing up is 90 percent of the work."
What is your least favorite sound? What is your favorite?
My least favorite sound is an out of tune bass. My favorite sound is the sound carbonated water makes when you unseal the top.
Do you believe in monogamy?
I believe that monogamy is the only way to get anything done.
Arrested Development is returning. Which other canceled TV show would you like to see return?
I want to see another Battlestar [Galactica] series, something other than webisodes.
What do you think about the use of drone attacks in the war on terror?
Using drones is a super rational way to fight your enemies. But so is building robots to go back in time and kill important leaders as children. Somewhere in between, we have to draw a line...
The music industry has gone through massive changes in the last decade, mainly due to the Internet. What changes do you predict will happen to the music industry in the next decade?
I believe the collection of songs we have come to know as an "album" will become important again as commercial singles will fall, along with the digital music marketplace.
In 2012, what was the best movie you saw, book you read, comic book you read, video game you played, and/or TV show you watched?
The best video game I played in 2012 was Journey. Play that game. It's good.
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