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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

Under The Influence

28 Apr

Apart from buying us drinks, music is the best way to know musicians, so here are some albums that are important to us as musicians and people.

To make it easy to share, we’ve posted these lists on YouTube and Spotify. If you’d prefer these lists in another format, or on another service, just leave us a message below, and we’ll try to arrange it.

Simon and I each have a story about an album that was crucial to us starting our first bands.

Simon’s Influences
YouTube Playlist
Spotify Playlist
I met a friend of mine and started a band because I was the only person in the area with a Black Flag LP. I can remember our first gig when we were just 15; the local gang grabbed the lead singer and told him ‘If you guys suck, we’re gunna punch the shit out of ya!’ We knew three songs. We played them three times. Nobody seemed to mind. We didn’t get beaten up. The kids at that party were throwing flagstones at the cops as we loaded out into my Mum’s car. At the next gig, someone turned up the RHCP’s ‘BloodSugarSexMagic’ record to try and drown us out. Then they started throwing stones at us.

The guitar player, Paul Dempsey, went on to found (successful Australian rock band) Something For Kate. People don’t throw stones at him anymore. Except me. I chuck a good sized rock at that lanky motherfucker every chance I get. Just to remind him of his roots and that good rock and roll never comes easy.

Samantha’s Influences
Youtube Playlist
Spotify Playlist
The albums that made me want to be in a band were Transvision Vamp’s Pop Art and Faith No More’s The Real Thing. At my school, there were two types of popular girl: surfer’s girlfriends and rough netballers. Two of the latter knocked on my door one afternoon. I was worried. “We heard you got that Faith No More album.” “Er… The Real Thing. Yes.” I was confused.

“Make us a copy?” one said, handing me a blank cassette. Before this, being a music nerd had only won me insults and my circle of metalhead friends. I could do this and might not get beaten up either. I’d been into the band for a year, but then in mid-1990, ‘Epic’ was number 1 in Australia. As I only had a simple cassette deck, we listened to the whole album as I dubbed it, with me pointing out the cool bits. “What’s this classical shit?” Weirdly, they’d never noticed the piano outro at the end of ‘Epic’. They nearly left. “Nah,” I corrected, “It’s where the goldfish is dying at the end of the video.” “Oh, alright,” they said, and stayed patiently until their cassette was finished.

If you sign up for our newsletter, Simon and I will tell you about our first attempts at songwriting. Sign up for the newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/rO3db

Bis gleich,
Samantha and Simon
Wasp Summer

Busking Stories

14 Apr

I’ve been paid in insults, drugs and sometimes even money.

Busking Stories
Concerts

Busking Stories
He passed Lena to stand directly in front of me. He leaned down into my face, hissed “Schhhhlamppppe!’, then firmly poked his tongue out at me and stomped away.

Lena, my jazz singer friend, and I were busking at Hallesches Tor. I slowly turned to Lena, “He just called me a smurf and stuck his tongue out!”
“Oh no, honey,” she said, “He didn’t call you a smurf. That’s ‘Schlumpf’. He called you a slut.” Our howling laughter ricocheted around the tunnel.

Lena Tjäder and Sam WareingHallesches Tor, a Berlin U-Bahn station, has a long tunnel connecting the U1 and U6. Buskers with station permits prefer stations where lines cross because the long tunnels have great acoustics. People hear you long before they see you which makes you money.

It’s fascinating people-watching: old Berliners, hipsters, immigrant families, punks, street people, kids, yuppies and tourists. A cheerful psychedelic man squatted next to us. “Mädels! Sounds great! I got no money, but I want you to have these…,” and dropped two tabs of acid next to the coins in our guitar case. I’ve also been “paid” with hash, booze, joints, promises of work and business cards with private numbers.

At Stadtmitte, an old man wanted our spot. His busking tactic was to jig next to us, blowing on a harmonica and holding out his dirty hat to reveal a seeping head wound under old bandages. He won.

We busked for a year in the U-Bahn, 4-6 hours at a time. That’s how I learned guitar in public. We found friends, gigs and fans, and sold CDs. We featured in the children’s magazine Geolino Extra, and played live on Radio Eins promoting a photography exhibition on street musicians. It always paid for coffee and hot meals and showed us a lot of Berlin life.

Concerts
You can find any upcoming concerts on our Facebook page here. If you don’t have facebook, you can check the Concerts page here on our website here or go to our feed on Twitter.

Cheers,
Samantha Wasp Summer

Lists: 2013 in Musical Review (Revue?)

30 Dec

Musically, 2013 has been about writing towards a new Wasp Summer album (which we’re thinking of calling Mitropa – listen to some demo tracks)  and booking shows for amazing acts through Sofa Salon and A Headful of Bees. 2014 will definitely be about recording and touring and much, much less about booking for other people.

In regards to concerts, it was a good year. I’ve seen great, moving small-scale shows this year. Look these artists up: Lindsay Phillips, Gillian Grassie, Roland Satterwhite, Elyas Khan, Ben Salter, Liz Stringer, Pinto, Kini Mod, PHIA, Bernhard Eder and Vincent Long, amongst others.

I saw great club, arena or festival shows from Oneida, The Re-Mains, The Knife, Brandt Brauer Frick, Hans Unstern, Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, Mudhoney and Everything Everything.

So to my list of my favourite songs of 2013, in no particular order, plus five songs that found their home in my head in 2013:
Dancing Suns – Tarnished
Ben Salter – The Prophetess
Dead Sentries – Nowhere is Home
Elyas Khan – Bells
Everything Everything – Cough Cough
FKA Twigs – Papi Pacify
Jimmy Tait – All My Friends
Lindsay Phillips – The Crossing
Neko Case – Where Did I Leave That Fire?
PHIA – Do You Ever?

Ainslie Wills – Fighting Kind
Brandt Brauer Frick – Skiffle It Up
HAIM  – Forever
Kat Frankie – Please Don’t Give Me What I Want
Jens Friebe – Neues Gesicht

Happy listening and a Guten Rutsch.

Cheers,
Samantha

Mitropa Mini-Tour EP Giveaway

21 Oct

To celebrate the two shows Wasp Summer is playing in Bratislava and Budapest, we are giving away our four new demos for free download as the Mitropa EP. You can download them from Soundcloud.

We are looking forward to the food, the hat shopping, the overnight trains, the new friends, the new cities, the new clubs and bars, the old towns, the spas and saunas and the beer. For both shows, Wasp Summer is playing as a duo. Here are the details.

October 23 – British Rock Stars, Nám. 1. mája 14, Bratislava Slovakia w/ Silverspoon and Hell’s Gang 20:00. 3€.
Facebook Event. Couchsurfing Event.

October 24 – Gólya, Bókay János utca 34., Budapest, Hungary. 20:00. Entry by donation.
Facebook Event. Couchsurfing Event.

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

Chrissy Amphlett

22 Apr

Vale Chrissy Amphlett. I was 7, maybe 8, when I first saw you on the tele. I was pretty newly arrived in Australia and without any new heroes to help me through the bullying and difference of newly suburban Nerang, a highway town they’d started carving out of agistment acreage and farms in the 70’s.

Classic Chrissy Amphlett by Tony Mott

Classic Chrissy Amphlett by Tony Mott

I was sitting cross-legged on the floor like you would in the Pleasure and Pain video, engrossed in my essential weekly show Countdown. I’m pretty sure it was Boys In Town. I remember then putting Boys In Town on the jukebox at a pub near my school where my Dad was playing pool. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the context but, as I grew into my body and my teens, that song became my Suburban Girl’s Escape Manual, “I was just a red brassiere/to all the boys in town/put this bus in top gear/get me out of here…” Aussie girls were tough, sassy. I would be tough and sassy too.

I was in immediate thrall to your toughness, your wildness. You thrilled me. I was glued to the TV or the radio every time you were on. It took me a little more maturity to see your equal and brave vulnerability. You were so tough because you laid your whole self on the line – defiantly, provocatively – Are you man enough to handle me? Please be man enough to handle me.

You had the onstage stance of a school brawler: squared off, sharp elbows, crouching and ready – a female John Wayne cowboy in a sailor suit, flat shoes and suspenders. Rather than your spectacular writhing on the industrial grid flooring in Pleasure and Pain, I was struck by your quick, ugly, angular arm gestures and wide, confronting eyes. You, Chrissy, pointing and sarcastic, “Ha! Oh please don’t ask me how I been getting on.” It took me years to understand you were singing, “how I been getting off” – a world of difference. Your sarcastic ‘Ha!” was also in Hey Little Boy, the last Divinyls song I really liked. “Ha! Well! I’m talking to YOU!

Chrissy Amphlett at Australian Made by Bob King

Chrissy Amphlett at Australian Made by Bob King

In 1986, a bunch of cowboy promoters staged Australian Made, an all-Australian music festival I was too young to go to. But I wore out the video watching, well, Michael Hutchence – who wouldn’t… and you, Chrissy. Breaking the fourth wall. Getting off the stage and wobbling precariously on the camera track behind the crowd barrier. Sitting open-legged on the lip of the stage. Yelling, “Where are all the boys?”. Sitting next to Hutchence saying, “I just do my thing, Troy. Whatever happens, you know, the moment takes over.” I wanted to be you so badly. I practiced being you with a broomstick mic stand and hairbrush microphone. I wasn’t a tough girl, but I was a mouthy girl, a quietly provocative girl, a girl with a strutting walk – liquid on the inside and solid brass on the outside. I wanted to be you so badly, I got into singing.

Your gasping, sucking breathing in songs, your hiccuping yodels and growled, fried notes were so against the normal rules of recorded singing and so important to the intensity of your sound, and mine. I got into my first band at 15 and, with you as my patron saint, finally began to enjoy myself and confuse my fellow students at lunchtime gigs. Strangely, I don’t remember us doing Divinyls songs. They were such a tight band with such classy, rippling lead lines, a killer pop singles band, that we couldn’t touch those sounds, but I was never really looking at Mark McEntee.

Your conversational tone with the audience during Temperamental, your cowboy walk from the hips, your pointing and simply owning the stage as if this argument was in your comfortable kitchen at home. Your red hair. Your open mouth. I absorbed all of this from you.

I saw you once in the toilets at the Athanaeum Theatre in Melbourne during a Tex, Don and Charlie concert. I sat in the cubicle bracing myself to say hello, thank you for your inspiration. As I emerged, another woman beat me to it, catching her eyes in the mirror (she couldn’t look directly) and offering you, “You inspired me and my girlfriends to be tough and strong. Thank you.” She’d said what I would have said and you just kind of looked at her and drawled, “Yeeeaaaaahhhhhhhh.” No big-sisterly smile and wink, nothing. I slunk out without a word, appalled but exhilarated to have been in your presence. Praise or bile, like Dean Martin, you seemed truly not to give a fuck.

I turn 38 next month, Chrissy. You were only 14 years older than me. I’m so happy you went peacefully in your sleep after your body was ravaged by both cancer and MS. In interviews, you seemed to take a lot of wisdom and strength even from two solid body blows like that – a brawler ’til the end. I’ve now strapped on an electric guitar and, vocally and musically, I’m aiming for the mix of cool, vulnerability, wry humour and balls that you taught me, Chrissy. You were my first musical hero. What you offered us shaped me on stage and helped give me a place and an identity as an immigrant to Australia. Thank you.

Love,
Sam

April Wasp: strange little girls

9 Apr

I’ve got a bunch of gigs coming up with Wasp Summer! They’re all listed on the Concerts page. Have a look!

But this Thursday, I’m playing at Kugelbahn in Wedding with Salon Band, great Berlin musical guns-for-hire. Salon Band host a monthly event where they invite and accompany guest singers. They picked three songs from my album – Dancehall at Louse Point, I Hope You’ll Mend and No Time For Compliments Now and asked me to pick three more cover songs. I chose Randy Crawford’s jazz-pop classic One Day I’ll Fly Away (you’ll be hypnotised by Ms. Crawford’s teeth), The Motels’ simmering Total Control (a hit only in France and Australia) and 60’s stomper Tobacco Road (which I’m approaching in a Tina Turner/Small Faces kind of way).

I’ve worked on “owning” these three songs – interpreting them, rather than just singing the melody and phrasings I know so well. In singing them carefully alone and with the band, I realised they’re actually weirdly structured. I had an epiphany about my songwriting – since I was a kid, I’ve always been drawn to songs where the form is dictated by the lyrics and melody, rather than creating a perfect chord progression and constructing/cramming the story into it. Perhaps, other people’s favourites amongst the songs I have written are the classically formed ones – even rhyming patterns, even line lengths, symmetrical structure. But my favourites are the bent and winding songs, the one-eyed songs, the crooked and eccentric songs with two verses at the top, one refrain and a long outro for a tail – my strange little girls.

The three songs I chose sound straight on the surface, but have a kooky, emotional view of their subject (getting over lost love, desire, and what the Germans might call Heimathassleibe), and structures – the length of verses, where and what the bridge sections do, etc. – designed (consciously or unconsciously) to emphasise the emotion/story the writer wants to tell.

I’ve often had bandmembers and arrangers ask, “Did you know there’s half a bar of 3/4 there?” or “What a weird keychange. Did you mean to do that?” or “Did you want 10 beats in that section?” or “Can we straighten this bit out?”. To which the answers are really?, yes, yes and no.  It just sounds normal to me because I “count” the song by lyrics and phrasing, not chord structure or bar numbers. Writing my charts isn’t straightforward. And the songs go how they go because that’s how they go. I don’t try to be dumb about it and I do edit my work, but if a song has an intrinsically strong melody or lyric, or keychange or structure, the only criteria are “Does it feel authentic to me?” and “Does it sound good to me?” If I play it in public, the answer is yes.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me back at waspsummer@gmail.com.

Cheers,

Sam

New Song: Burning

23 Mar Wasp Summer at Schokoladen, Berlin

I think this is probably the best demo I’ve ever made. I am really digging the harmonies – they’re so tense, tight and quietly dramatic. This song points to the new direction I’m taking Wasp Summer in, especially now I have the three-piece band with bassplayer Simon Morrison (Remarkable Shipwrecks, Dead Sentries, ex-Assassination Collective) and journalist/drummer Stuart Braun (ex-Dust) – sexier, looser, less folk and more rock, noisier. I’m fronting a band on guitar for the first time. It’s exhilarating.

Here’s Burning:

Our Old Oblivion music video (test edit 2)

10 Jul

Our Old Oblivion (test video 2) from WaspSummer on Vimeo.

This is the second edit. After the first edit, I recorded some new scenes, played with some extra effects (screen in screen! overlay! blur transitions! – I know I have gone overboard with the blur transitions…). I have also recorded further new material with some new characters so I will do a third edit with this new material.

I asked advice of some professional filmmakers and they have offered to take me through the process of storyboarding which will hopefully clarify both my storyline and edits.