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Name: Adam Bernard
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Vid Pick: TEST – Entertainment Tonight
Friday, November 17, 2017

A friend of mine recently sent me the video for LA punk rock trio TEST’s latest single, “Entertainment Tonight.” This set off a chain of emails with my replied subject line, “Those awful looking nachos.”

When you click play on the video you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

I caught up with TEST vocalist Blake Stokes to find out more about the band’s questionable cooking skills, and what else listeners can expect when taking a listen to the trio’s full length debut, Brain In / Brain Out , which was released earlier this month.

First, I must know, what inspired you to make the worst looking nachos in the history of mankind?

It all came to me in a vision.

You cook a little better than that in real life, correct? Do you have a specialty?

Aside from not adding quarters to food I'm cooking, I do not cook better in real life. The meal you see in the video is not dissimilar from food Wayne and I cooked up when we lived in our rehearsal space.

It's not how it looks, it's how it tastes.

In what ways do you feel the video represents the song?

The viewer is free to make any connection they want between the song and the visuals. They – the song, and the video – both share the same city, the same dirt, the same desperation, and the same deluded joy.

“Entertainment Tonight” is off of your full length debut, Brain In / Brain Out. What’s your most interesting story from the writing, or recording, sessions of this album?

Most people would be shocked to know we started sessions at 8am.

At the time we’re conducting this interview, the album isn’t out yet, but of the people you’ve played it for, what have been some of your favorite reactions?

Anyone that thinks it’s better than the last thing we did. That's always the goal. The next thing is better than the last one.

I’ve read the album represents the bridging of two formative periods of your lives. In what ways do you feel people will ultimately relate to this.

I hope people dig the record, period.

I hope people use their imagination, and make it their own.

I'm happy we get to share it. I'm happy it's out.

There is a lot of my life on this record, some from a very distinct, dark part of my life, and some of it from where I am now. People who listen to this record will hear some real honesty, and people who take the time to listen will always respond to real shit.

Finally, is there any chance you named your band after the deceased pro wrestler Test?

No. However we were recently made aware of his existence.

Fore more TEST, check them out on bandcamp.com.

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3 Reasons You Should See VISTA Live
Thursday, November 16, 2017

VISTA are a relatively new name in the pop punk scene, but it hasn’t taken them long to become road tested veterans.

The band, which was formed by Hope Vista and Greg Almeida in 2015, has already embarked on a number of tours, and opened for Against The Current. You may also recall seeing my interview with them here just a few weeks ago.

Recently, I caught VISTA at Arlene’s Grocery in the LES. Here’s what I came away with after seeing them on stage …

1. They are pop punk at its finest

At their core, VISTA are a high energy, female fronted, Warped Tour ready band. Emotional lyrics, combined with a passion for rocking out, make them a pop punk lovers dream, as they can fit into a playlist with just about anyone from the genre.

VISTA are the kind of band where when you see them on a small stage you feel a little lucky, as you know they won’t be on small stages for much longer.

2. Lead singer Hope Vista is your BFF

Many bands have charismatic lead singers. It’s basically part of the job. That said, not every band has a lead singer that treats the crowd as a friend. Hope Vista does this, both on and off the stage.

On stage she creates a fan friendly vibe, and off stage it isn’t unusual to find her talking with fans, taking pictures with them, and genuinely caring about who they are, and their lives.

She also gets hyped about a hype crowd, so your energy level becomes her energy level. It’s quite the symbiotic relationship!

3. They have a real stage show

In the indie world, time, and space, constraints can handcuff a band that wants to create a unique stage set up for their shows.

VISTA, with just a few simple lights, create the effect of a size appropriate illuminated \/ /\ on stage. It may not sound like much as you read the description here, but that \/ /\ gives concert goers a big stage feel in a smaller venue, which is a very cool thing.


To find out when, and where, VISTA will be performing next, check out their Facebook page for show dates.


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NYC Scene Report – Strawberry Runners, Operator Music Band, & more
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This week’s NYC Scene Report features some “Dog Days” from singer-songwriter project Strawberry Runners, an art pop tune from Operator Music Band, indie pop artist Sondre Lerche stripping down to reimagine his latest album, and Indo Dhans giving listeners a perfect late night indie electro pop soundtrack.

* The dog days of summer may be long gone, but you won’t miss the extreme heat, and the feeling of melting in your seat, when you listen to the relaxed, singer-songwriter, indie pop vibe of Strawberry Runners’ “Dog Days.”

Frequent readers of this column have seen the name Strawberry Runners – which is the project of songwriter Emi Night – quite a few times here over the past few months, and along with the release of “Dog Days,” Strawberry Runners’ EP, In the Garden, In the Night, is finally available!

The current Brooklynite recorded the EP in Colorado, had it mixed in LA, and recently completed a U.S. tour.

Check out Strawberry Runners’ self directed and edited video for “Dog Days,” and make sure to stay to the end for the ducks!


* Sometimes a band sees the proverbial box, doesn’t want to completely destroy it, but wants to punch enough holes in it to create something musically radical, yet still recognizable. This seems to be the case with Brooklyn’s Operator Music Band.

Take, for example, their latest single, “Realistic Saturation.” The song features elements from multiple eras of NYC’s indie music scene, as the band plays on the edges of both modern, and classic, art pop.

“Realistic Saturation” is off of Operator Music Band’s upcoming Coördination EP, due out December 1st. In a statement, they dove deep into the creation of the EP, saying, “This EP is an interesting chimera of some older ideas with some newer approaches. The songs themselves are left over from the period right after we finished our first LP, so they aesthetically reside there, but we tried a lot of new things once it came time to record. First was bringing in a producer in the form of Henry Terepka, who added a whole new perspective to the project. We additionally decided not to approach the demos so literally, instead spending a lot of the time exploring referenced material and breaking each instrumental line apart to find out alternate arrangements that would really juice the songs.”

Check out what the result of all that hard work, and creativity, sounds like by clicking play on “Realistic Saturation.”


* There are two ways an artist can strip an album down and make it acoustic. The first is to simply play all the songs acoustically. That, however, isn’t all that creative, which is why the really good artists look at going acoustic as an opportunity to dramatically rework their songs. This is what NYC, by way of Norway, singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche has done with his most recent album, Pleasure, turning it into Solo Pleasure.

In addition to reworking the ten songs on Pleasure, Lerche recorded Solo Pleasure to analog tape in just one take to keep it as honest, and pure, as possible.

A special limited edition release of Solo Pleasure on pink marble colored vinyl will be available on Black Friday Record Store Day, November 23rd. Until then, you can give the reworked version of “Siamese Twin” a listen right here.


* Looking for some danceable indie electro-pop? Then look no further than Indo Dhans’ latest, “Who You Kiddin?”

The bouncy track has the feel of bodies moving, late night, in a tiny, sweaty, venue, and that late night turning into early morning, as no one has plans on getting home until the sun is up.

Sure, the drinks are probably wildly overpriced, and you may have just paid $6 for a PBR, but that’s just part of the vibe.

Click play on “Who You Kiddin?” and get that vibe where you’re sitting right now. Did I say sitting? Yeah, you won’t be sitting for long.


For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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Stacking The Deck with The New Tarot
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stacking The Deck is a feature exclusive to Adam’s World where I bring packs of 1991 Pro Set Superstars MusiCards to artists, and we discuss who they find in each pack.

Every once in a blue moon you find a band that has the ability to do basically anything. The New Tarot are one of those bands.

The NYC-based group, which is led by sisters Monika and Karen Walker, has a seemingly impossible ability to not just play every genre, but to seamlessly weave them all together, connecting them with a New Tarot backbone to make everything beautifully cohesive, rather than musically chaotic.

Monika notes, “When you’re writing music, and you’re doing stuff, you’re always gonna be a swirl, a mixed bag of all the influences in your life.”


I caught up with both Walker sister before one of their recent shows at The Bowery Electric to open up some packs of MusiCards, and the artists we found sparked conversations about cone bras, drunken comparisons, and playing with food.



Madonna

The bra. We should probably talk about that first.

Monika: It’s perfect.

You know what it is, our mom really loved Madonna when we were growing up, (so) I always associated Madonna with my mom.

Karen: Actually, I did not like Madonna for my early high school years because I was oversaturated with Madonna.

We were kids in the ‘90s, and early 2000s.

I now realize I asked about a cone bra to somebody who’s wearing antennae.

Karen: Yes. Tonight I’m an alien.

Is there fashion inspiration going on here, as well?

Monika: I’d say for sure. Who’s not inspired by Madonna? Especially in pop culture now. Honestly, Madonna is what Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga, all of them …

Karen: Would they really be what they are today if there wasn’t a Madonna?

Monika: No, they would not. No way.

Karen: She was the original, “Look at me, I’m wearing this, and I’m singing this. No one else is doing this.”



Cher

Karen, what’s the story about someone saying you reminded them of a young Cher?

Karen: I missed my train at Grand Central, and I was at a piano bar, and this guy named Gus was sitting next to me and wouldn’t stop telling me that I was young Cher.

Monika: Maybe he knew young Cher. You don’t know.

Karen: Maybe.

I like that you remembered his name.

Karen: Yes. Gus.

Is Gus going to be here later?

K: Definitely not. {laughs}

He didn’t sign up for the email list?

Karen: No, he was a bit compromised at this bar. I doubt he remembers this encounter as much as I do, but we did talk about Cher.

Poor Gus.

Monika: Poor Gus.



Paula Abdul

Monika: She’s a cool lady. She’s like … like the pop sensibility of Madonna, but Madonna tended to be a little almost abrasive in how out of the box she presented herself. Paula Abdul didn’t really have that edge, she kind of was just like, I’m a lady, and that’s how it is. I thought that was kind of refreshing. She didn’t really put on airs, she just kind of did her thing.

In terms of your own music, there are some out of the box elements there, so would you consider yourselves closer to Madonna, on the Paula Abdul to Madonna scale?

Monika: I’d say we’re more Madonna in terms of fashion, in terms of a lot of the songwriting, but I think Paula Abdul has a certain kind of, like I said, straight-laced way of presenting her music.

Karen: Just from this picture, it looks sorta organic, like it just happened that way.

Monika: Yeah, and we don’t really like gimmicks. I like being inventive, and creative, but I don’t like gimmicky stuff, which I feel like takes away from the music. I think Paula Abdul was never really guilty of that.

You respect the straight up-ness of “Straight Up.”

Monika: Yes. Totally. No one could be a Paula Abdul (today). That’s not gonna happen ever again. You gotta respect that, because you have to have an angle these days, you have to have like a shtick, or a gimmick, otherwise you’re not famous.

I’d never thought about her like that. She’s the last of her kind.

Monika: Yeah. In a way. Just a singer. That’s not gonna happen anymore. A pop music singer, and that’s it. I don’t think we’re gonna see celebrities like that anymore.

Karen: So much brand is involved.



Primus

This one’s interesting, because I did not expect you to choose Primus.

Monika: Really, you didn’t? They’re great.

Karen: They are so fun. You listen to them, and you just hear them having fun.

Monika: I think the first time I heard a Primus song was on Guitar Hero. It was “John The Fisherman.”

You heard that before the theme from South Park?

Karen: I didn’t realize that was them for a while, actually.

Monika: A lot of people don’t know that, but that’s a genius song when you actually sit down and listen to it.

Karen: Their rhythms are so amazing.

Monika: They have incredible rhythm. They can do whatever they want, and that aspect of their music I totally dig, and appreciate. They’re not afraid to be a carnival, and that’s really cool.

A lot of acts take themselves really seriously. Like, your parents are always telling you not to play with your food, but you totally need to play with your creative substance.

Karen: And your food.

Did you ever get in trouble for playing with your food?

Monika: Oh yeah, Karen got in trouble, totally.

Was there sculpting of mashed potatoes?

Karen: Only when I went to school, when we had the trays. A bit of carrots, a bit of mashed potatoes, you could do so much with that. It was all separated there, right for you. The squishy bread you could take and mold into little blocks.

Monika: Ewww. You’re making me nauseous. You gotta stop.



The Who

Both: OH MY GOSH.

Moinika: Our brother’s name is Thomas Walker. Tommy Walker, and he’s named after Tommy.

I assume he’s not a deaf, dumb, and blind kid.

Monika: No, but he does play a lot of video games, so that’s some kinda metaphor, right? Something going on.

So your parents kinda liked The Who a little bit.

Monika: Well, yeah. Our father was an off Broadway actor at that time, right before my brother was born, and they were putting Tommy up on Broadway, and he was in the last round of auditions. He got tickets for the whole season, or something, because he almost got the part. He didn’t end up getting the part, but named his son after Tommy anyway.

I hope your parents didn’t name him midway through the audition process, and now they just resent him forever.

Both: {laughs}

Monika: No no no. They didn’t jump the gun. That’d be good, though.

Karen: Seriously, though, that album, Tommy, I think that’s the album I’ve listened to the most in my life.


For more of The New Tarot, check out TheNewTarot.com.

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Pop Shots – A Look At The Charts … From 23 Years Ago
Monday, November 13, 2017

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week I’m hopping into my time machine again, this time setting the coordinates for 23 years ago this week. Stepping out I see Boyz II Men causing a whole lotta babies to be made with “I’ll Make Love To You” firmly in place at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Elsewhere on the chart, some names who would become musical icons are making their voices heard, and a legendary Jock Jam is hitting our ears for the first time.

So let’s get into this exploration in chart history! Of course, since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

2. Sheryl Crow – All I Wanna Do


Listen, I think Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You” is a fantastic, beautiful, song. The lone knock against it is that it spent so much time at #1 that Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” ended up stuck at #2, staying there for six weeks, and never reaching the top spot.

“All I Wanna Do” was a quintessential mid-90s pop hit, and it’s become one of the songs that most defines this part of the decade – the pre Max Martin era. It was also a heck of an introduction to an artist who is still making great music nearly a quarter century later.

3. Real McCoy – Another Night


While Sheryl Crow was quintessential mid-90s pop, Real McCoy was quintessential mid-90s dance music.

A thumping beat, male and female vocals, and the general feeling that you’re hanging out with the Night at the Roxbury guys, highlight this ‘90s classic.

Real McCoy may not have been real memorable as a group, but they made a few really good songs, “Another Night” being one of them.

11. Babyface – When Can I See You


Babyface’s “When Can I See You” is a truly gorgeous song, and much of its beauty is in its simplicity. You have Babyface, his guitar, and the raw emotion of love lost.

A master at crafting R&B songs, Babyface also wrote the #1 song on this week’s chart, “I’ll Make Love To You.” That’s right, he’ll make love to you, then be sad when you break up. Wait, was he R&B, or emo?

52. Mazzy Star – Fade Into You


The ‘90s gave us a lot of groups that made great music, but flew under the radar of the mainstream. One such group was the alt-rock dream pop band Mazzy Star.

Singer Hope Sandoval’s vocals are gorgeous, and haunting, which is, in large part, why “Fade Into You” has stood the test of time, while songs that charted much higher are now amongst the musical detritus of the era.

The moral of the story – beautiful music lasts forever.

68. Weezer – Undone (The Sweater Song)


Hey, there’s this cool new band named Weezer that has this song about having their sweater destroyed. I wonder if they’ll go anywhere, or if they’ll just be a one hit wonder. What do you think?

Yes, “Undone (The Sweater Song)” was many people’s introduction to Weezer. Quirky, cool, and definitely different from all the grunge we’d been hearing, they quickly solidified themselves as one of the great bands of the era … and the next era … and the next era.

Side Note – Did anyone ever get Rivers Cuomo a new sweater?

80. 2 Unlimited – Get Ready For This


The Jock Jam of all Jock Jams. If you’ve been in a sports arena anytime over the past 23 years you’ve more than likely heard 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready For This” during the introduction of lineups.

The song has become part of the fabric of sports, and the fact that this same group also gave the epic Jock Jam “Twilight Zone” two years prior should give 2 Unlimited free admission to every sporting event until the end of time.

And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.

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Vid Pick: Ryan-O’Neil – Oo-De-Lally
Friday, November 10, 2017

I’ve featured Ryan-O’Neil quite a bit here over the past decade, and there’s a good reason for that – he’s a creative genius.

Think I’m overstating things? Well, take, for example, his Major to Minor project, where he reconfigures songs that were originally composed in a major key, flipping them into something completely different by switching them to a minor key.

The latest song in his Major to Minor series is the Disney classic “Oo-De-Lally,” which takes on a significantly darker tone when done in a minor key.

I caught up with Ryan-O’Neil to find out more about the creation of the song, his incredible video for it, and how working with kids has helped him evolve as an artist.

It seems like the inspiration behind “Oo-De-Lally” is that you wanted to address police violence. Why was “Oo De Lally,” which comes from the animated film Robin Hood, the perfect song to do this with, and in what ways do you feel giving this song the Major to Minor treatment morphs the original version the song?

I wasn't trying to address police brutality originally. I was just working on my next Major to Minor Disney song, and it hit me. I can't remember if I was recording it, or just rehearsing it, but I heard/noticed the line, “Never ever thinking there was danger in the water, they just drink it, they just guzzle it down,” and automatically Flint, Michigan, and their water crisis, came into my head.

When I paid close enough attention to the rest of the song it was clear to me that the fight for black/poor lives in America eerily mirrored the plight of the frickin cartoon characters.

The lines about the sheriff and his posse, and just how Robin Hood and Little John are just tryna get by with their lives … the entire concept was screaming at me.

Now, I've heard/sang the song a million times before and never had those connotations, so I definitely think the slowed down, minor key, low vocal take on it brought out a darkness that was in the lyrics, but hidden by the cheery Disney style. 

The video is wild, as it features classic animation alongside new footage. How’d it all come together?

Benjamin Bartel is a friend of mine who worked on my music video for “Sunday Morning.” He took a listen to “Ooh-De-Lally,” saw what I was trying to do with my original cut of the video, and offered his help. He's gonna answer the question more fully.

“I’ve been a fan of Ryan's Major to Minor work for years, and he showed me an early video edit of his ‘Ooo-De-Lally’ arrangement cut to a bunch of political found footage, mainly with images of David Clarke, and the Flint water crisis. I thought it was a killer metaphor and, taking any excuse I could to work with Ryan again, wanted to explore it further with a full video.

We were both really into the idea of taking the cartoon imagery from the Disney canon, which most people our age have baked into our subconscious, and twisting it into this haunting specter that looms over real characters.

I drew some pretty clear allusions between the kids in the video and the stories of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, because I felt that Ryan's rendition of the song struck on this idea that the most dangerous time for some people is when they're feeling free, and just enjoying themselves.

By incorporating the animation as it is, I wanted to visualize this tension in a way a kid might see it, where those emotions take on a more literal form.”

Thank you for the added insight! Ryan-O’Neil, I know you also teach music. How has working with children helped your evolution as an artist?

I love teaching.

I enjoy teaching music, and guitar, but I really enjoy being a head teacher, and having my own Kindergarten class. I gotta say that I play my guitar way more when I'm in a classroom than when I'm not. It's a fun, easy way to get kids to listen, and I love singing with them, and teaching them new songs. So at the very least, working with kids has made me a better guitar player. Nonstop playing seems to have an effect on chops. Who'da thunk it? 

Finally, tell everyone a little bit about your Patreon campaign.

All right, so basically I plan on creating new music, and music videos, each and every month. Lofty goals, huh? While they won’t all be as highly produced as “Oo-De-Lally,” folks can expect to hear more from my Major to Minor series, hear original songs, see live performances, and, of course, see super awesome music videos. 

For more Ryan-O’Neil, check out ryanoneilmusic.com.

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