Monday, May 11, 2009

Hop On Pop’s "Chicken on a Bicycle" Confounding Expectations

Chicago pop chameleon Pop Todd talks of the loss of a band, the birth of a new album, and what we can expect from his next release, due out this summer.

Western Springs, IL, USA - 12 May 2008 - More than 5 years after the release of their Spade Kitty debut album ,the hyper-eclectic As Drawn By Ethan, Age 2 , Chicago pop chameleon Hop On Pop is finally getting ready to issue a follow-up, the curiously named Chicken on a Bicycle.

Why so long? The short version: bandleader Todd Leiter-Weintraub lost his band — except for drummer/keyboard player David Kling. Together, the two of them have cobbled together a collection of new and old songs that is even more stylistically diverse than their first collection.“Honestly, this is the album that I’ve wanted to make since I first started making music,” says Leiter-Weintraub. “The fact that it’s just me and Dave means that the production, and the sound of the songs is a lot closer to what was originally intended. It’s entirely up to us , not production by committee. I learned a lot about recording the last time around, and I’m putting a lot of that knowledge to good use ”. David Kling aggrees, " We can get exactly the sound that we want. Todd has surrounded himself with an entire caberet of gifted musicians. And this is exactly what this album is. Music as a gift."

Todd’s command of the studio-as-instrument is evident on songs such as the album opener (and first single) “Here”, an electro-punk-pop song which combines fuzz bass, multitracked vocals, and lo bit analogue synth sounds. “Tortured Artist” is a through-composed pop song that has a dobro guitar hook emerging from thickly distorted electric guitars, and leading into a slow building 5 part vocal harmony. Finally, and most-impressively “Hey”, an acoustic-based drone, with Kling’s live drums, structured to create a 3-part round of curious, hypnotic polyrhythms. Sandwiched among it all is an acoustic country murder ballad (“C’mon Angel”), a piano ballad with viola and pedal steel (“Come On, Let’s Go”), a live recording about a girl that buries her head and lives with earthworms (“Sheila of the Worms”) and a punk/klezmer/country instrumental (“Leo Goldberg’s 2-Step”).

Even Todd’s wife and kids get in on the fun, lending vocals to the pure pop confection, “Happy Days”. Leiter-Weintraub and Kling recruited a number of partners in rhyme to lend their talents to the album, including Steve Siculan (Rolling Clones), Nils St. Cyr. (Urge Overkill, Kevin Flynn & the Avondale Ramblers), Jonathon Newby (Brazil), Brad Sarno (The Auset Music Project), John Swamy (Happy Ashtray), Noah Samuels, Todd Gutner, and many more. All in all, "Chicken on a Bicycle" is a strong new set of originals — a mix tape of sorts — that is sure to both meet expectations, and confound them with its gleeful genre-hopping. "Chicken on a Bicycle" is due for release this coming Northern summer.

In the meantime, fans of Hop on Pop will have to be content with the debut album As Drawn By Ethan, Age 2 and a free mp3 download of the bright and breezy single from the album, "Carey's Here".

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Beatles "Nowhere Man Cover Challenge" - the Peppered Version

Well, what happens when a bunch of indie songwriters all get bored and in a rut at the same time ? Yep, it must time to do the impossible and issue a general challenge to cover the “uncoverable song”

Sydney, Australia 5th May 2008 – I can’t really recall how it happened. Hanging out with like minded people on the internet is similar to a vague resemblance of oneself, at some point in time, either today, yesterday, or perhaps even in the future. Topics of conversation, are cut and diced, copied and spliced, and generally end up getting stuffed away in the recesses of the brain, rather than being filed neatly away for future reference.

The topic of conversation stemmed from an opinion that, in general, cover songs are not much good in aiding ones career in the song writing field. They are better left to those who perform live, and can slip their own songs in between the hits, and maybe somehow, the originals will be noticed just as much as the beloved hits played to the same audience. Some agreed, some disagreed, but one thing was certain, a challenge would have to be put out to prove or disprove the theory.

The folks at Just Plain Folks are an eclectic bunch. From all over the globe, with varying ages and opinions, it just might be a bit of fun to cover an uncoverable song. After much wrangling, it was decided that the prime candidate was The Beatles “Nowhere Man”, a very fitting song with perversely ironic lyrics to a bunch of lowly singer song writers, who in most instances are relegated to sitting at the bottom of the musical dung heap. Coincidently, it couldn't have hurt the decision making process, having downed a couple of beers with one of the origional members of The Beatnix , ( one of the hardest working and long lasting tribute bands around ) a few weeks earlier.

With the decision made, each wandered off to have a warble and a re-write, and in some cases make a total hash out of a song which some purists would say would be better left alone. It was decided that some form of impartial judging would be required, so enter Ourstage , a great place for road testing new material, and an audience so large and diverse that vote rigging is practically impossible. Some did well, some not so well, ( ones own version ended up at No 442 out of 553 entries in the general cover songs channel for the month ) . Others like singer song writer Mark Kaufman’s ended up at a very respectable No 2 , and was awarded the grand prize of an IOU for a warm, flat, bottle of beer and a soggy pack of chips.

Some liked the cover versions, some detested them. Others were simply perplexed as to why there were so many cover versions of one song in one contest for the month. ( Anecdotal evidence suggests the Ourstage team found the whole process quite amusing ) So the next time you’re feeling a little bored and restless, try a cover tune. It can’t do any harm, and may even bring a smile to the most jaded of listeners’.

A free download is available here for those who may like their Beatles with a little Pepper.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Scott Campbells' Song "On Opening Day" Played to 50 Thousand Baseball Fans

When you’re a die hard music fan, and a diehard baseball fan, it doesn’t get much better when one of your own songs is played to a full stadium on opening day. An extract of that story by fellow indie Iggy Taylor, is published below.

Barrington NJ, January 4, 2009 - The Philadelphia Phillies shocked the world when they won their second only World Series title in their 126 year history. Songwriter Scott Campbell wonders if he might have helped. Campbell, who resides in Lakeland Florida, wrote a song titled “Opening Day” and sent it to his NY producer friend Mike Caro. Caro suggested the song be properly recorded, and asked John Daubert of the band, Too Little Time to lend his lead vocals for the final demo. All three had known each other though the online music networking site, Just Plain Folks.

Daubert, a dedicated fan and former baseball player himself, attended the Phils pre-season game in 2008. Running into his idol, Greg Luzinski, the two spoke of baseball and music. Daubert mentioned Campbell’s song “Opening Day” and said he had a copy of the CD with him. Would he be interested in listening to it ? Luzinski took the CD and said he would pass it on to the “office”. Two days went by when Daubert received a call from his granddaughter saying “Opening Day “ was being played over the loudspeakers at the Phils home opener.

Now call it luck that the Phils went on to win the World Series after the song “Opening Day” was played, or simply a strange coincidence that the C.D. was given to Luzinski, who happened to play in the only other World Series that the Phils won. Whatever the reasons, the band Too Little Time is suggesting to all fans and the players not to “mess with karma”. Good luck has already come to a team that has played the song. Why take chances? The band stands ready to help.If you agree that “There’s too little time to prevent bad karma”, you may write to your favorite major league baseball team and ask the song be played for the 2009 opener, or to the Philadelphia Phillies at: Philadelphia Phillies, One Citizens Bank Way, Citizens Bank Park , Philadelphia, PA 19148.

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Postscript ; The song Opening Day, was once again played to a full house in 2009, and now also resides permanently at the Baseball Almanac . Interested parties are invited to listen to the song, from Scott Campbell’s album, “Scott Campbell and Friends”, and a free music mp3 download while the link remains valid.