Memoryhouse

Memoryhouse

KO, RACES

Fri, May 18, 2012

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Radio Radio

This event is 21 and over

Memoryhouse
Memoryhouse
In the depths of southern Ontario, nestled between Canada's most dangerous super-highway and the banks of the laconic, ironically-named Speed River, there is a mid-size town called Guelph, also known as The Royal City. More recently, because few people can recall the historic reasons for that Victorian-era subtitle, and because it is more appropriately musical than royal in the twenty-first century anyway, Guelph was rechristened as "The City of Music." And it is, in fact, a community that takes its music to heart, having sent forward any number of its native sons and daughters in indie band formation. It is also the base of the Hillside Festival, another local effort with international effects, most notably for introducing music lovers to early versions of such acts as Broken Social Scene and The Arcade Fire.

It was in this strangely creative setting, or more accurately on its somewhat more mundane south-end suburban fringe, that Memoryhouse was conceptualized some five years ago.

Memoryhouse didn't actually set out to be a band. It took form as a collaborative project meant to serve as an artistic outlet for composer Evan Abeele and photographer Denise Nouvion. Evan, a dedicated student of classical music and a pop-music encyclopedist, intended Memoryhouse to be a multimedia art project, pairing his instrumental compositions with Denise's photographs and short films. Combining their musical and visual artwork seemed the most promising, and least unhealthy, strategy for battling archetypal adolescent angst worsened by the paralyzing effects of Canadian winter. What they wanted was to test ways to blur the boundaries between genres, to weave a synthesis of music and photography. As Denise explains their collaborative cross-media process, "we start with photos that we want to write around, to give us some kind of aesthetic grounding."

"When people think of music today, they try to compartmentalize it into different genres," Evan observes. "I think the sound we have right now fits 'out' of time, but, obviously, is still 'in' our time. It's something that could have happened many years ago, but it also sounds contemporary."

Memory, then, both in terms of looking back and as embedded in contemporary culture, is the basis of the Memoryhouse project. The band's name itself commemorates the work of German neo-classical composer/artist Max Richter, specifically his 2001 album Memoryhouse, as well as the watershed impact of that album on the Abeele-Nouvion project. As Evan explained in an interview with Pitchfork, "for me, in my musical development, there was a 'before Memoryhouse' and an 'after Memoryhouse'…Hearing that fundamentally changed the way I approached composition. I just wanted to pay tribute to that. I wanted to have that to ground us, wherever we took our own music."

Where Evan and Denise took their own music was a quick distance from where they began, recording, refining, and conceptualizing their aural-visual collage in the bedroom of a suburban family home. Individually and together, they experimented with themes, lyrics and multiple layers of instrumentation, with Nouvion's soft, ethereal voice anchoring the frozen textures of Abeele's compositions with frank sentimentality—a uniqure approach towards humanizing the electro-pop compositions they were creating.

Their first extended stint as performers made for a huge learning curve, but after a few extended tours in Europe and the United States, they were soon signed by Seattle's legendary Sub Pop Records. And in September 2011 Memoryhouse released an improved version of their original home-recorded EP The Years on Sub Pop.

When it came time to record their debut full-length album, Memoryhouse knew exactly what they wanted. "I think there is an unfortunate tendency for bands to rush their first album…jumping into a studio without getting a chance to fully develop their voice," states Abeele. Memoryhouse, however, took their time, touring the songs that would eventually comprise their debut full-length for a full two years. "The album is a big leap for us, but it's also a completely organic one," posits Nouvion. The 10-track album, produced by Abeele, with assistance from friend, collaborator, and occasional Memoryhouse bassist Barzin Hassani Rad, finds Memoryhouse heading toward a new clarity in composition as well as sound; a more organic direction for artists who are, in their own words, transitioning from a "bedroom recording project" into a fully realized band. Even their range of influences has expanded to include such acts as Emmylou Harris, Dusty Springfield and Fleetwood Mac. "These vocalists, Emmylou, Stevie Nicks…they have undeniable warmth to them, but also a sense of identity, or 'character'," says Abeele. Nouvion's voice has never been more present than on the new album, which finds her stepping away from Memoryhouse's past reverbed sound in favor of a more upfront, and intimate vocal affectation. They half-seriously refer to their new sound as "Taylor Swift with Built to Spill as her backing band."

The new album is titled The Slideshow Effect. The title speaks to what hasn't changed for Memoryhouse: their continuing interest in the synthesis of the aural and the visual. It refers to the photographic/cinematic technique of zooming and panning to animate still images, often used in documentary film making to give movement to archival photographs. The Slideshow Effect will be released on Sub Pop Records on February 28, 2012.
RACES
RACES
RACES exists as a result of artistic rebirth and personal rediscovery, but it all starts at a point in Wade Ryff's life where motivation was at its most scarce. Disillusioned with music, beset with the bitter ending of a relationship with a real life witch and faced with the overwhelming stagnation of being a 23-year old in the sleepy suburban outpost of Van Nuys, during that time, Ryff wrote the pleading lyrics of "Big Broom" in the bathroom of his parents house. He explains the song's message as "accepting that every ending is a new beginning, and even if we may have no control over when things are given or taken from us, we can always choose how to respond."

Whether he realized it or not at the time, it would serve as a mission statement for a handful of musicians in the area who were also idling through their 20's and desperate for a new beginning. Breanna Wood, Lucas Ventura, Devon Lee and Oliver Hild knew each other prior to RACES' first show, played in bands together, and oh yeah, either had dated or were currently dating each other. Still, nothing could anticipate it all coming together for Year Of The Witch, a life-affirming document forged from the pain of a time when life feels most uncertain and coming out of it renewed.

In regards to their evocative band name, Ryff explains: "I relate to the name in the sense that it seems like there is always something to be up against, and strong desire to overcome whatever it is." Ryff had been quietly working on solo material, and in 2009, a friend asked him to open for a show he was booking. And he was up against the daunting task of stepping out of the sidelines as a bass player and putting his own untrained vocals to the fore. More than any singer, Ryff found his inspiration as a lyricist in the works of early 20th-century authors. But his musical heroes that were well-chosen too: Leonard Cohen's Death of a Ladies Man for its integration of Brill Building sophistication and as a template for RACES' use of backup singers and keyboards; Television for Ryff and Herberg's ingenious, yet subtle guitar interplay which permeates Year Of The Witch.

In a mad dash, Ryff and Herberg got in touch with some of their old friends and bandmates and assembled a "dream team," five additional musicians from around the area he admired, including Hild on bass, Herberg on guitar, Wood on keyboards, and Lee on vocals and percussion. Ventura would play drums for the second RACES show and they'd lose a backup vocalist who went to focus on her solo project (Ryff empathizes), but otherwise, RACES has remained exactly the same since that very first gig.

What sunk in was the effortlessness of it all: RACES never had to hustle to book their own shows despite living in Van Nuys, a twenty minute drive from Los Angeles that often feels hours removed from it all. Above all else was a chemistry that just couldn't be faked or brainstormed during "band business meetings." They attribute their work ethic to their humble surroundings, spending entire days honing their material in a Chatsworth studio because, well, what else are you supposed to do in the Valley? For the most part, RACES didn't even see themselves as a "serious band" until local boutique imprint JAXART felt their demos were simply too good for a limited release, and label interest spread rapidly. The fit with New York's venerated Frenchkiss Records was perfect – indeed, with RACES' ability to derive such resonant and instantly ingratiating pop out of the relatable emotional turmoil of your mid-20's, it's no wonder the same label that houses Passion Pit, Dodos and Antlers were such ardent supporters.

At its core, there are plenty of sad songs and waltzes – "The Knife," "Walk Through The Fire" and "All For You" all have a melodic and lyrical directness befitting their origins as Ryff's solo work. But as Ryff admits, "I didn't want to play music that's just a sappy guy on an acoustic guitar," and RACES flesh them out to swoon with dramatic grandeur and earthen rusticity behind Ryff's plaintive words. It's a startling show of sophistication from a band who has only been together for less than two years. The ornate orchestration and vocal arrangements on the female-led counterpoint "Don't Be Cruel" in particular owe their origins to Herberg's background as a composer – he's the one who brings Ryff's Leonard Cohen fantasies to fruition. Quoth Ryff, "he's our Brian Jones."

But even with the speed at which RACES are going forward, they haven't gotten complacent in the slightest – they're already working out new material for their next album, which they hope will integrate more of the electronic textures they've been experimenting with and won't be so much "about a girl," as Ryff jokes. But their goals are still modest – maybe playing the Bowery Ballroom in New York, getting better as musicians, the sort of things deemed worthy to a band that isn't looking to piggyback on any sort of hype cycle. But what do they hope for most of all? Ryff puts it best: "I'd rather get dropped and start back at the beginning than not have fun with these guys." It's a fitting mission statement for a band for whom every show feels as exciting as that very first one.
Venue Information:
Radio Radio
1119 E. Prospect St.
Indianapolis, IN, 46203
http://www.futureshock.net/