Low vs. Diamond, Mates of State and Santogold: Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas

I’ve waited endlessly for it to happen; the sifting of the music genres through each respective time period, past the bands influenced by the 70s and 80s, kicking the door wide open for drop D tuning and other signature sounds of the 90s. Honestly, I have never really gotten a clearer glimpse of this in a music venue, as I did this night listening to Low vs. Diamond piece through their set, which anyone outside on the street could have easily mistaken for Our Lady Peace.

Though poor sound qualitydue to an apathetic sound guy, not the band, seemed to hinder the quality of the band’s set, I was rather impressed by the hooks that managed to find their way out of the cloud of useless fuzz and bass distortion. The piano seemed to be the only instrument to really stand out and rising above a crowd who honestly couldn’t give a damn about this band’s opening set. This apathy seemed to carry over to the band as well. Their songs, seemingly angry and pointed, simply didn’t fluently display in the boys’ actions, who only seemed to half-heartedly want to be on stage.

Sadly, on this night, the energy of their album didn’t seem to make the trip to the stage. To be fair however, a number of the difficulties they had to overcome were placed in front of them by circumstances slightly out of their control. I honestly look forward to giving them another chance on another night.

Mates of State, the evening’s middle set, are no stranger to Lawrence, Kansas. Kori Gardner, lead vocalist of the group recalled to the crowd, “In case you didn’t know, this is where this band started. We went to school here, and we started the band here. It’s damn good to be back.”

And it was damn good to have them back. This husband and wife duo, packing great blended vocal patterns, progressive moog progressions and percussion big enough to fill the room, were at their best. Shooting smirks and flirtatious eye contact across the stage at one another, performing more of a love story than anything else.

Santogold, however, was something completely different, leaving the Lawrence hipsters slightly unsure of what the hell they were doing there. Though being compared to M.I.A. every time she turns around, Santogold actually brings a completely different, unique feel to her hip hop show. Joined on stage by a pair of matching dancers and a DJ, the four lit up the Liberty Hall stage, reflecting light from their gold jackets (or tights in Santogold’s case) and sporting 1980’s style fashion.

Unlike M.I.A., who played the same stage earlier that year, this show felt much more lighthearted, but just as dance friendly. Opening with “You’ll Find a Way,” a song that reminds me more of The Clash than NWA, Santogold stands tall in her punk rock roots as well as her hip hop desires.

My only complaint about her set falls with Santogold’s inability to include her audience in her art. Her relatively short set, consisting of about 40 minutes, was primarily used ignoring the half filled room. I’d go so far as to mention the lack of common hip hop show call-outs, like having the crowd lift their hands, or even make noise. It seemed that she was simply content to get through her set and go home.

But, then again, with sound problems muffling her voice, and the bass kicking me in the teeth, I must confess, I, too, wanted the same.

Low Vs. Diamond: website | myspace | Low vs. Diamond review | Interview
Mates of State: website | myspace | Re-Arrange Us review
Santogold: website | myspace

Digg! del.icio.us

Interview With: Tad Moore of Low vs. Diamond

Tad Moore, keyboardist for quickly rising rock group Low vs. Diamond took some time out of their busy schedule to talk a little about their group and new self-titled, debut album.

Bethany, Popwreckoning: Can I get you to state your name and instrument in the band?
Low vs. Diamond, Tad Moore: My name is Tad Moore and I play piano and guitar.
PW: So you met Lucas and Howie while you guys were at the University of Colorado. Is that right?
TM: Yeah, we did and we started jamming out there.
PW: So you started as a jam band. How did you develop from that into your current indie rock style?
TM: I think we were jamming, but we weren’t necessarily bro-ing and beer and all that, so I think that got us a lot more into song structure, which led to where we didn’t need those kinds of songs anymore.

Photo by Autumn De Wilde

Photo by Autumn De Wilde

PW: What were you guys doing before you started playing as a band?
TM: We were students. I mean, we all played instruments before, our respective instruments. But yeah, we were all students at the university. I think Luke was in Journalism, Howie was in Business and I was in Humanities.
PW: Then you guys moved to LA and you met up with Anthony and Jonny?
TM: Yep. We met them through our producer of some time. Howie, Lucas and I played in two other bands in LA before we knew Anthony and Jon through our producer and then that was Low vs. Diamond.
PW: How did you guys come up with the name Low vs. Diamond?
TM: Well, our second band, another friend of ours from Colorado came down with us, he had a girlfriend named Leila — I shouldn’t use her name — that sounded like Low and she would always fight with Howie Diamond and she was sort of like a Yoko persona. So she sort of took him out of the band and he was doing his own thing with her. So yeah, we just sort of said Low vs. Diamond. We wanted a name that sounded like there was a war on and show what our band came out of.
PW: What were some of the other names you guys were toying with? You went through a few others, didn’t you?
TM: In our previous bands? One was called Shadows, that’s the hardest band, but we were playing as 1984. We used to be the band written out as 1984 and I was never fond of that one.
PW: Not really a fan of George Orwell?
TM: No, I’m not really an avid reader. I’ve only read Animal Farm and 1984 in the third grade, but not much more. Our former guitar player came up with the name. It wasn’t really Orwellian. He just thought that it sounded cool.
PW: I’ve read that you guys are really into the “big moment” of a song. How do you guys keep those diverse enough so that the moments stay big and they don’t get repetitive?
TM: I think it’s mainly strong structure. Laying back and not just blowing up. Not just climaxing all the time and giving some in between time so it is a “big moment” and not just heavy rock the whole time, I guess.
PW: So kind of like what you did on “Actions Are Actions?” You kind of started off with piano, then it built up and then you cooled down so it was just piano and vocals.
TM: Yeah, exactly like that with the piano and vocals.
PW: Dominic Hardesty of the UK imprint Marrakesh originally signed you all?
TM: Yep, he was the first to talk to us. We met through a lawyer who also did stuff for the Killers and mentioned us to him. Dom showed up in England and we did a showcase for him and he was like, “You guys got a deal.”
PW: Now, you guys have actually been compared to the Killers. How do you feel about that comparison? Do you feel like there’s any pressure to prove you’re different because the guy who signed the Killers also signed you?
TM: I understand why people would compare the Killers with us. I think they’re a great band. I wouldn’t necessarily say we were influenced by them, but if people say we are, it doesn’t really bother me that much. We don’t need to shy away and show that our style is different from them really. I mean it’s music, people can decide that for themselves.
PW: Who would win between like a battle of the synthesizers? You or Brandon Flowers?
TM: Who would win? I’m just going to be nice and say Brandon would. He’s more experienced than me.
PW: Maybe in a few years you can take him on?
TM: He’s older than me. He’s got a year on me, I think. Or he’s a few years older. I don’t know.
PW: Are there any other bands that you would have preferred to be compared to than the Killers?
TM: I don’t really know. It’s hard for me to do that. I used to better at it. Lucas writes the songs and he looks at a lot of Serge Gainsbourg and stuff like that. There’s not a lot of bands that we necessarily sound like, but there’s definitely a lot of bands that use keyboard and guitar. Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any. There’s a lot of new bands I like.
I don’t think there’s necessarily any that we’d want to say we’re one in the same. I’d like to say Radiohead, but I don’t think we’re anything like them.
PW: Yeah, Radiohead’s kind of in their own category.
TM: Exactly. There’s only one Radiohead.
PW: Even though you guys are from the US, you signed in the UK first. Why did you decide to go after the UK first? How was the UK’s reception?
TM: The UK went after us first. At the time we loved the Strokes and we knew that the UK was a good place to start off as a band, at least it was in the early 2000s. So, yeah, it happened. Dom presented a great deal for us, so it was exciting. We signed and Dom’s a great guy. We trusted him. We just went for it and a few months later we were signed just like that.
PW: Has the UK’s reception of you all been different than the US’s?
TM: We went over there about a year and a half ago. They kind of have more of a teen-oriented thing. Bands like the Horrors and stuff like that. So, our reception was kind of lukewarm.
I mean, fans that actually did hear about us, it was great. We had trouble with the “NME” and getting in the “NME” and stuff like. It was more of a tastemaker. We didn’t have our album done yet and we just had an EP, a limited release EP. So, we still have some work to do over there, but we’ll be back there at the end of the year.
PW: How has being labeled by iTunes and a couple other things as the “Next Big Thing” affected your outlook on the band and your whole process of touring and writing?
TM: I’m really excited for it. The “Next Big Thing” on iTunes is a program that I think is really great and exciting.
PW: This was your debut album and it just came out like a week and a half ago.
TM: Yeah, on the 22nd (of July) it came out.
PW: What songs are you most proud of and really excited to have people hear finally?
TM: I wrote some of the lyrics to “Cinema Tonight” and a few others here and there, but my favorite song on the album is “Don’t Forget Sister.” Brandon Murphy was a friend of ours and he wrote the lyrics. I think it has some of the best imagery and is just really good.
We’re excited to get “Sister” out on the radio. I think it’s just a great rock song. I mean, it’s also one of the ones I’m most excited to play.
PW: Yeah, “Sister.” I really liked that song on the album. I really enjoyed what happened lyrically. So that was written by somebody not in the band?
TM: It’s Lucas’ best friend and they wrote it together. They’ll help each other out on the lyrics.
PW: A lot of the songs tell a little story. Were they inspired by any real-life things? Is “Annie” a real person?
TM: Annie is Lucas’ fiancé. There’s about a month before the wedding. Annie had this really tough year and that was written two years ago. It was just him sort of wanting to be there for Annie with the support of 26 year old band.
PW: On “I’ll Be,” I’ve listened to that a couple of times and I get a different feel each time I listen to it for the emotion being expressed. What were you guys going for on that song?
TM: That’s a good point, I think. Lucas wrote that one. It’s just about being really inspired by some one. I think that and there’s big bursts in it and we just wanted to go cosmic. “I’ll Be,” Luke wrote it so I think he can probably explain it better. I think he was really excited to get it in and it was one of the first songs he wrote as Low vs. Diamond. So yeah, he was very emotionally inspired by a lot of things going on at the time and I think “I’ll Be” just sort of came out of that.
PW: Can you name one song that your band didn’t write, but you wish you could say you had?
TM: There’s a million. Off the top of my head, “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James.
PW: I don’t know if I’ve heard that one. I’ll have to look it up.
TM: Or “Tops” by the Rolling Stones. That’s one I wish we had written.
PW: Just for fun, what’s the song that you’re most embarrassed to admit is on your mp3 player?
TM: The song I’m most embarrassed to own? Oh, there’s a lot of those, too. There’s a lot stuff by U2 that I shouldn’t really love. The old U2, the hipper U2, I’m into a lot of that stuff, but the newer U2 songs I actually love as well. I just don’t admit it so much. Let’s say “Walk On.”
PW: That’s alright. There’s a lot of U2 fans out there. That’s not that embarrassing.
TM: Yeah, it gets worse.
PW: Well that’s all I have. Thanks for talking with me.

Band Info: website | myspace | Low vs. Diamond review

Digg! del.icio.us

Low vs. Diamond – Low vs. Diamond

They are called Low vs. Diamond and on their self-titled debut album, I think “diamond” wins out because this is a gem of a record. Not to get all cliché on you, but it’s the truth.

You know it’s good right from the start when drummer Howie Diamond steadily carries you into the sad story told in the first track, “Don’t Forget Sister.” This deeply emotional song gives a good taste of what is to come for the rest of the album: big moments reminiscent of U2, gorgeous instrumentals and a lyrical depth that most albums strive for but few achieve. Singer Lucas Field cleverly twists the lyrics in this opener, leaving the listener to ponder who really needed help and who was offering it.

The biggest shame of this album is that “Don’t Forget Sister” is such a strong track that the following tracks, although fine, aren’t quite able to live up to the quality of the first track, thus making “Killer B” and “Cinema Tonight” come off as a little cheesy instead of clever. There just is no way that a line like, “In my demise you sting my eyes, Killer B” can stand up to a line like, “Getting asked a lot of questions, but my answers are all wrong” from “Don’t Forget Sister.”

Without a doubt, Low vs. Diamond are at their strongest when they are singing about relationships with family or having to say goodbye. Any shortcomings of the previous tracks are quickly forgotten by the time keyboardist Tad Moore‘s soft piano hails the start of another tale about family problems in “Actions Are Actions.” This song weaves an interesting pattern and starts with just piano and vocals before instrumentally building up into the dizzying pain caused by all the wrong actions described in the lyrics. The song then fades back to just the piano and vocals with Field crooning, “You’re hurting us all; you just don’t know the cost.”

As the album continues, the individual story lines get more cynical and bleak and as that happens, the songs continue to get more interesting. “Heart Attack” criticizes, “We pretend and we try and act surprised as we watch the world end.”

The band does a good job of leaving a lot of interpretation up to the listener. I had to listen to the final track, “I’ll Be,” multiple times and I still can’t decide if I find it optimistic or cynical. So take a listen to this album yourself and decide what you think. Instrumentally it is very accessible to listen to and there is enough going on lyrically that this has the potential to blow your mind if you let it.

Low vs. Diamond’s debut self-titled album was physically released by Epic Records on July 22, 2008.

Tracklisting:
01. Don’t Forget Sister
02. Killer B
03. This Is Your Life
04. Cinema Tonight
05. Actions Are Actions
06. Heart Attack
07. Song We Sang Away
08. Woah
09. Save Yourself
10. Annie
11. I’ll Be

Low vs. Diamond: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany

Digg!

New Music Tuesday!

Black Kids Partie Traumatic :: review | stream album | download “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance”

¡Forward, Russia! Life Processes :: review

CSS Donkey :: review | download “Rat Is Dead (Rage)”

Dr. Dog Fate

The Curse of Company Leo Magnets Joins A Gang

Brothers and Sisters Fortunately

Sunfold Toy Tugboats

Low vs Diamond Low vs Diamond

Pas/Cal Raised on Mathew, Mark, Luke & Laura

Sky Eats Airplane Sky Eats Airplane

Avett Brothers Second Gleam

Bodies of Water A Certain Feeling

Brendan Canning and Broken Social Scene Presents… Something For All of U

Brian Jonestown Massacre: Just Like Kicking Jesus EP

Candlebox Into the Sun

Captain Beefheart It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper

The Classic Crime The Silver Cord

Clientele That Night a Forest Grew

Doap Nixon Doap Nixon Sour Diesel

Eliza McCarthy Dreams of Breathing Underwater

Faun Fables A Table Forgotten EP

Gentleman Auction House Alphabet Graveyard

Individuals Fields/Aquamarine

Jay Reatard/ Deerhunter split 7″

Lackthereof Your Anchor

Miley Cyrus Breakout

Nine Inch Nails The Slip

One Day As A Lion One Day As A Lion

Pacific! Reveries

iTunes Early Release of Low Vs. Diamond Debut Album

Low vs. Diamond is more than just a Los Angeles band, but an American band. All of the members hail from cities ranging from west coast to east coast. From Washington (vocalist/guitarist-Lucas Field) to New Jersey (lead guitarist-Anthony Polcino and bassist-Jon Pancoast).

With musical influences like U2 and the Strokes that are as diverse as their hometown backgrounds, Low vs. Diamond are clearly channeling those that passed before them. However, despite these influences Low vs. Diamond remain unique with their intimacy achieved by their extra attention to detailed songwriting giving them a complexity matching the song styling of Serge Gainsbourg, Burt Bacharach and even Broadway. Lyrically, Lucas weaves in themes dealing with family (such as “Actions Are Actions” and “Don’t Forget Sister”,) and stories about saying farewell to love (“Heart Attack” and “Wasted).”

Kevin Bronson from The Los Angeles Times explains it best, writing that the band “stands precipitously between overwrought melancholy and chimey hopefulness, avoiding both excesses … the band’s music plays to an optimism that stops short of outright glee.”

As a favorite iTunes act of 2008, iTunes has chosen them as part of their “Next Big Thing” program and is offering the band’s upcoming self-titled album for purchase before its release this summer. An uncompromising powerful record full of cinematic tracks, LOW VS. DIAMOND is now available for purchase on iTunes. A band The Sun, NME, The Los Angeles Times, Paste Magazine and Time Out London all praised as a band to watch in 2008. With a stop at the Pemberton Festival in Vancouver, Canada this July, you can catch the band on tour throughout the rest of the year.

Low Vs. Diamond: website | myspace
Audio:Heart Attack