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Mitropa, Mitropa

26 May

The new Wasp Summer album cometh

In February, Simon and I started recording the second Wasp Summer album. In previous letters, you read about Wasp Summer’s history, so you know that this is our first album as a band. The name Mitropa comes from a railway company that ran sleeping and dining cars across Central Europe from 1916-1994.

The new songs are muscular and outward-looking. Living and touring in Mitteleuropa has definitely influenced the themes and the tempo of the songs. Imagine long journeys through the night between one mysterious metropolis and another. That’s what this album will sound like.

We recorded over three days at Pebble Music’s studio in the old DDR Rundfunk Buildings in Köpenick, working with drummer Romain who plays with Elyas Khan and the 17 Hippies.

Go here to Soundcloud if you want an idea of what the new songs sound like.

See you at a show. If you want to chat, Wasp Summer is on Twitter or Facebook.
Cheers,
Samantha

Aside

Album review by Slapped For The Very First Time

7 Oct

Slapped For The Very First Time posted an unexpected and really lovely and review of the first Wasp Summer record, Close As A Slow Dance. Thank you, Espen. “…there is a voice – both literally and musically – shining through that seems capable of winning you over with an even more distinct identity of its own come the next release.”

http://slappedfortheveryfirsttime.blogspot.no/2014/10/06102014-wasp-summer-close-as-slow-dance.html

Inspiration from The Wasp Woman

18 May

On this, Eurovison Final Day, my vegetables and flowers are healthy on the balcony, someone is playing Debussy figures downstairs in the music school and my head is a-whirl with plans.

My friend (and soon to be collaborator in an Alt.Country musical) Jason, found this fantastic movie poster for my birthday. The Wasp Woman is a Roger Corman B-Movie from 1959 about a cosmetics mogul and badass who takes wasp royal jelly serum to become fabulously youthful.
Let’s overlook the gaping scientific flaws in the film’s premise and the thematic rip from The Fly, but when I saw this, I felt fabulously badass too.

It’s good timing because I’m working on the production notes for some new full-band recordings. Next month, we get to test out some cool DDR microphones in a new studio set-up. If the collaboration works, we’ll be making the new WS album as my annual Winter Project.

I often use visual inspiration to help me set the stylistic tone for a new project. The Wasp Woman‘s noir-ish colour scheme, melodrama, feminine force and, of course, the overt wasp theme, is a helpful focus point while I work on the sounds I want on guitar and from Simon’s bass and Stu’s drums.

Storyboard for 'Close as a Slow Dance'My first record, Close as a Slow Dance, was deep pomegranate, black and dusky earthen colours. Perfectly appropriate for the alt.country folk on the disk.

I’ll take down the old album’s collage storyboards on my wall and start making new ones while I work on the sounds I want on guitar and from Simon’s bass and Stu’s drums – more fuzz, more muscle, more groove. You can hear my home demo for new song Burning here to give you an idea.

While the Summer looks incredibly busy, Autumn and Winter are going to be digging-in time writing the rest of the songs that will make up the album, playing more with the band and finally learning more German.
Enjoy the melodrama of Eurovision and hopefully we’ll meet in a smoky basement somewhere and share some new songs.

Cheers,
Sam Wasp Summer

Our Old Oblivion shoebox theatre film clip

4 Jul

Our Old Oblivion (test video 1) from WaspSummer on Vimeo.

After yesterday’s post, I took some test footage of my shoebox theatre using candles for backlighting and Thai ball lights and a bicycle light for front lighting. This is the 2nd edit. I’d appreciate feedback on my experiments and how to do this better.

I have written video treatments for 2.5 songs from my debut album (see sidebar to hear the tracks!) but I have no budget to have a film clip made. When I was a kid, my Dad obtained books where you cut out and glued together your own scale model cardboard theatre and Victorian house. I couldn’t bear to cut the books up, but it stayed in my mind.

When I thought about making this filmclip, Our Old Oblivion, in particular, I thought shoebox theatre format would be easy enough to do and tell the story without being ultra-literal, so I’ve made the set (a dirty, cheap motel) and my cast (the ‘I’ in the song, the ‘he’ in the song and ‘his’ ‘friends’ out of cardboard, gaffa tape, tracing paper, pencil, black card and photocopies.

What do you think? I’d love some feedback on my test clip.

Close as a Close-Up – making Shoebox Theatre music videos

4 Jul

Image

If you’re reading this you’re no doubt aware I’ve just released my debut solo album, Close as a Slow Dance. I’ve decided to make videos for three songs from the album: Dancehall at Louse Point, Our Old Oblivion and On the River Road. It’s also possible I may do one for No Time For Compliments Now but the visual ideas toward that song aren’t as advanced as the others.

To keep myself occupied on long car and train journeys to gigs in Hamburg and Kiel, and a trip on a very interrupted U6 train service in Berlin, I wrote scene-by-scene treatments for Oblivion and Dancehall that should now be typed up. These include a long list of things I need, but as I have pretty much no budget, I wrote these treatments planning to use a very old technology – Shoebox Theatre.

When I was a kid, Dad obtained these two amazing books where you cut out and glued together an old-school theatre and a Victorian-era London townhouse for rich people. I couldn’t bear to cut into them but spent many hours with each building’s history and pictures. The idea has stayed with me.

The set for Oblivion is a cheap motel room. I built that first by lining a shoebox with black paper. I realise now I should just have spraypainted the inside because when I actually use an HD camera, you’ll probably see the gaffa tape holding everything together. I cut in a door and window and lined them with baking paper. It’s by no means a realistic scene with the view through the doorway being as hazy as the window but the character in the story is a virtual prisoner in there so a dream-like haze is fine.

Today, I made some characters. I did a little visual research and photocopying at the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek in Berlin and wondered if I should use a doll of some sort for the female character. I ended up tracing images I got from fashion magazines, modifying the lines and attitudes a little and gluing them onto black card. Considering I’m such a shit drawer, I’m pretty pleased with my characters.

For the male ‘lead’ and his two friends, I used a photocopy of a wonderful posed picture (below) from a book on the history of the Irish Republican conflict. It’s a photo of the incredibly well-dressed “Cairo Gang”, an infamous bunch of British detectives seconded to Dublin in 1920, where the IRA, presumably, had numbered each man for identification. Number 1 is the leading man of my video and Number 3 (who’s somehow incredibly charismatic) and Number 8 are his ‘friends’, from a lyric in the song, “There is no place, in this state, that I could go/He’s got a lot of friends who’d tell me so”.

Image

I did spend a lot of time today attempting to figure out scale and ratios for my model, trying to work back up to an actual room and down again so I could try and make the bed and the people to something approaching scale. In the end, I just used my eyes. It may make for some slightly weird looking scenes. We’ll see.

After making all the characters I set up the laptop in front of the shoebox theatre and took some experimental footage using the little low-res cam which I will edit together just to have a look at my handiwork. It will definitely be easier to frame with an HD cam.

I definitely need to do something about the lighting but I did experiment with a chain of Thai ball lights, a bicycle light and candles. Eventually, I got a nice back lighting effect with five candles behind the shoebox reflecting off a piece of tin foil taped to my wall, while I used the ball lights and bike light for front lighting.

When I’m finished with the test video, I’ll post it here.

Album Launch #1 Wrap-Up

5 May

The album launch last night was lovely! A full room of enthusiastic listeners at Heroes bar in Neukölln. I played well, I think. I felt ‘there’ from the first song. Bliss. And proof I’ve become a competent, if idiosyncratic, guitarist. God I love my capo and ’65 Fender Deluxe pedal. I’ll post some photos in the next few days.

Crammed into the bar’s toilet, Krista Krull from radio show Green Tea Berlin came down and did an “On the Road” interview with me before the show and recorded part of the soundcheck. Efficiently, she edited it down overnight and posted it this morning. Here it is:

And for the many people who commented on the slow-jam version of my album track ‘I’m Going Mining’, here’s a stream of the song:

Album Launch

13 Apr

Album News

cover art for Close as a Slow Dance

first look at full cover art for Close as a Slow Dance

I just got the artwork for the album back from my wonderful graphic designer, so I’m all set for getting the album pressed into shiny digipacks. There’s a preview. What do you think?

I’ve decided on two Berlin album launches – an intimate club show at Heroes Neukölln (Friedelstraße 49  12047) on International Star Wars Day, May the Fourth (be with you) and a Sofa Salon house concert for my birthday on May the Eleventh. Then I’m out on tour. Check the current dates below.

Please have this free Bandcamp download of debut rockabilly-flavoured single ‘Dancehall at Louse Point’ to help me celebrate the record’s release or just listen to the song.

Tour Dates

Apr 24, 2012 – Berlin, Ber (DE) @ Club der polnischen Versager – ANZAC Eve: Berlinerin Aussies & Kiwis w/ Sandra Serala & Lavender Drake & Kate Camp

Apr 26, 2012 – Berlin, Ber (DE) @ Ufer Cafe – Wasp Summer & Lena Tjäder w/ Lena Tjäder

May 4, 2012 – Berlin, Ber (DE) @ Heroes – Wasp Summer at Heroes

May 11, 2012 – Berlin, Ber (DE) @ Sofa Salon – Wasp Summer Sofa Salon Album Launch and Sam’s Birthday

May 26, 2012 – Thionville, LOR (FR) @ le Nimby – Wasp Summer’s ‘Close as a Slow Dance’ Tour

Jun 6, 2012 – Paris, IDF (FR) @ Pop In – Wasp Summer ‘Close as a Slow Dance’ Tour

Jun 9, 2012 – Blaison-Gohier, PDL (FR) @ Eric’s House – House Concert for Eric’s Birthday

Jun 22, 2012 – Berlin, Ber (DE) @ PANDA Theatre – Berlin COMPASS: Summer Edition

Jun 29, 2012 – Hamburg, Ham (DE) @ Makrele – Wasp Summer ‘Close as a Slow Dance’ Tour

Jun 30, 2012 – Kiel, S-H (DE) @ Gaby’s House – Wasp Summer in Kiel

Dancehall at Louse Point

5 Apr

New, free single download

I am so delighted to be able to bring you Dancehall at Louse Point, the first single from my debut solo record Close as a Slow Dance. In Gold Coast parlance – I’m stoked as! No, it wasn’t named for the PJ Harvey/John Parrish album per se, but the song was always called Dancehall and the ‘at Louse Point‘ just seemed so appropriate to the theme of a Fifties dancehall singer trying to get over a louse who broke her heart. Please have this free Bandcamp download to help me celebrate the record.

Single launch

Tonight, I play the Berlin launch show at Laika (Emser Str 131, Neukölln) with another ex-pat Australian, Jason Kenny, who launches his album Fugitive. Doors at 19:30. Music at 20:00. I’m on at 21:00. The after-party is at Bethanien in X-Berg.

Album launches – May the fourth be with you!

I’m doing two Berlin album launches, a club show at Heroes in Neukölln on International Star Wars Day, Friday 4 May AND a special Sofa Salon house concert at my place on my birthday Friday 11 May.

Plus I’m doing house concerts and club gigs across Germany and France through late May and June and a whole heap of Summer gigs. If you would like to host me for a house concert, email waspsummer [aet] gmail dot com

Pre-Order Thank Yous

20 Jan

Thank You from Wasp SummerThe Campaign

Wow! That was a heartening 55 days. In retrospect, it was probably madness to hold a fundraising campaign across Christmas and New Year, but I’m delighted to say you have helped me reach 62% funding for my project which covers the mixing and mastering costs. I thank you. I admit to being nervous about asking friends, fans, acquaintances and some complete strangers for money, but I was a train station busker for a year. I have no shame. I also figured I was offering a valuable and heartfelt exchange, Wasp Summer’s debut album ‘Close as a Slow Dance’ and the story of its strange and wonderful journey to you.

*Sam has a moment*

My god, I’m 36. I’ve been in bands for a million years. I am just about to send my first solo record into the world! Some of these songs are 10 years old and I’ve discovered I’m an Alt.Country writer, ably abetted by producer Henry Hugo and his vast array of stringed instruments. The album has a loose story-arc and is fairly writhing with dobro, banjo, mandolin, warm 60’s electric pianos and organs, 50’s Gretsch sounds and some lovely reverbs. Also, the comments people made on the funding website were so lovely and supportive, and probably my favourite part of the process. Yes, Willem, I do know where you live, and Aaron, it is new flesh but not in a Videodrome sense. As a kid, I did really want to be Debbie Harry, though.

The Stats

67% of funders came from Australia’s strong economy. 15% came from Germany. The rest of you come from Britain, America, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and New Zealand. The average donation was $37. As a group, you still love the artifact-in-hand experience of music and you’re not so into digital downloads. Maybe this is because I appeal to a more mature audience? #firstworldproblems

The Story of Los Savonarolas!

This is a story of saying yes. I told Mark Steiner my goal for 2011 was to make a record. He came to Berlin and asked me to play a show. There, I met his friend Henry who liked my music and offered to produce my record. I sent production notes and demos. He organised the band and the location. We set a date. Lots of yes. Gleefully, this entailed two long drives over the Gotthard Pass in the Swiss Alps – brown goats, brown cows with actual cowbells, improbable mountain hut placement. Amazing!

The band tracked via mobile studio over midsummer in a hilarious 5-day session at a house in Castiglione Olona, Italy, which we could use in exchange for feeding the owners’ 15 cats. Fifteen. Cats. I had the pleasure of playing, cooking, drinking and laughing with Fabio (guitars) and Stefano (drums) from Milanese band Guignol, plus Henry, and Paolo (bass) whose house we borrowed. Trying to play bluegrass at 5am is treasured memory. Also, learning to make pasta by hand and Henry’s Van Damme impressions. We dubbed the band Los Savonarolas after a scene in the 1985 Roberto Benigni/Massimo Troisi film Non ci resta che piangere!

 

The vocals and much of the arrangement were completed over two sessions in Zürich, Switzerland in August and September, because I messed up my voice in the first session after all the fun in Italy. Friends such as Vicki Brown in Tuscon, Leigh Ivin in Tamworth, Julitha Ryan in Melbourne and Mark Steiner in Oslo added violin, vocals, pedal steel, cello, organ and guitar parts via email.

The Fulfilment Stage

It’s now at the final mix stage in Buenos Aires and will soon go to the masterer, also in Buenos Aires. Sadly, I don’t get to go to Buenos Aires. In the next week, people who pre-ordered CD packs will get their digital EP download code via email. When I have the final master, people who pre-ordered pre-release digital downloads will get their download codes via email. Hopefully late February.

The CDs will then be made and popped into pretty digipacks in a secret factory somewhere in Europe. Then I’ll send out the signed CDs, scarves, chapbooks and start on the postcards, Skype concerts and one special London house concert. That should be the start of March. I’ll let you know if the production schedule slips behind.

Again, thank you for helping me realise this album. I am blessed to be at this point with an album of good music to share and a Summer of touring to look forward to. I just have to set some bigger goals. I hope to see you in your city in 2012.

Love,

Sam Wareing/Wasp Summer

Music that moved me in 2011- Part Two

8 Jan

Part 2 of my music of 2011.

Brian CampeauReinventing Myself from Mostly Winter Sometimes Spring
I heard Brian’s music for the first time this year. And fell hard for this track in particular. The Sydney-based Canadian is in possession of the most heavenly male voice since Jeff Buckley and the music on this track is somewhat akin to the pastoral folk of Fleet Foxes but with more emotionally pointed lyrical content. He plays with Elana Stone in The Rescue Ships – a fantastic pairing.

David Creese – When You Were A Man from When You Were A Man
David is, in my opinion, one of the finest lyricists in Australia, making delicate, minutely observed, dark and often darkly witty vignettes. From behind the drums, David fronted one of my all-time favourite Australian bands, The Dumb Earth. Late in 2010, he released a solo album under his own name and on it, David’s warm, vernacular voice and the exquisite musicians with whom he shares his songs created beautiful and, in places, devastating music.

 

Mute SwimmerSong Against Itself from Mute Swimmer album
Guy’s my favourite songwriter in Berlin at the moment, and he’s got hard competition. During the year, I saw his live performances get more compelling and heard his minimalist folk become a revealing exploration/satire of the process of making music and performing. The songs are intelligent earworms, and he’s a lovely man.


Big Strong Brute
You Were Always Right from We Can Sleep Under Trees in the Morning
Paul played a Sofa Salon club show for me in Berlin and I played an awesome backyard show with him in Brisbane. Both times, I was absolutely taken at how, while you’re lulled by his conversational tone and the songs’ sparse melodic structures, his clever, yearning lyrics sneak up and belt you over the back of the head. This song, from BSB’s 2010 EP reminds me of 90’s RooART compilations. In a good way.

Hans UnsternTief Unter Der Elbe from Kratz Dich Raus
I don’t know much about Hans Unstern. I haven’t seen him live yet, but this song was one of the great Ohrwürmer of my 2011. I’ve been in the Hamburg river tunnel that goes deep under the Elbe and, while it was interesting in the same geeky way as the Rathaus Schöneberg Paternoster (see video below), it wasn’t quite as moving an experience as this lovely song always is.