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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.

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.

Tour updates #5-#8

31 May

Tour update #8: Yesterday involved a scoop of banana sorbet, two new friends, a 14y.o. Chardonnay/Savagnin blend, a new song, a headful of ideas and a very good band in a very sweaty cellar. Today involves busking and an overnight bus to Brussels. Thank you Strasbourg!

Tour update #7: Slow busking day but I did get a lesson in extracting tourist money from the original Gold Mouth Woman, a wonderful withered Roma Dame who came to me and indicated that I had an OK voice but needed to ‘work it’ more – she sang to me this amazing song of longing and suffering. With her eyes, her voice, she suffered and loved the suffering. She touched her heart and then stretched out the cupped hand as if offering her heart. Then she said, “Shit spot. You need to go by the Cathedral.”

Tour update #6: Wonderful Strasbourg hostess (and skilled whistler) in *fairytale* Petite France district and a profitable busking session today including selling CDs, jamming with local street musicians and pissing off the local busking mafia. Tonight, flinty Alsace Pinot Gris and further wanderings.

Tour update #5: Great show last night in Thionville, but it was so hot my thumb kept sticking to the back of the guitar neck. I started outside, singing on the street and got a hug from the bar owner at the end. Today a festival in Metz and then onto Strasbourg.

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:

You and I, we’re as close as a slow dance

3 May

Dearhearts,

I am finally here. At this moment. It feels a little like taking acid because I’ve wanted it so long that it’s become quietly surreal. It’s unimportant why it took so long, just that it’s done. I’m really happy about it.

After a year of dreaming about sounds and visual inspiration, mixing, discussing the artwork on Skype, researching online sales options and various phonecalls to the pressing plant; after failing to find out why GEMA (Germany’s APRA) wants to charge me to make my own record; after all the fun bits – recording in Italy, the photoshoot, the production notes and songwriting, my lovely rootsy songs, products of my work since 2002, are finally in shareable form. I would describe it as Alt.Country Folk and will say that it was inspired by Martha Wainwright, Neko Case, Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson amongst others.

Tomorrow, my first solo album ‘Close as a Slow Dance’ (through A Headful of Bees) goes live into the world on CD Baby and Bandcamp with pretty digipack CDs to follow next week.

 

Please, have a listen to the album on Soundcloud, share with friends, buy it if you haven’t already pre-ordered (IndieGoGo funders, rejoice – they come, and with it, further gifts!). Curiously, ‘gift’ auf Deutsch means ‘poison’, but no poison here.

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THANK YOUS
There are many, many people to thank for inspiring, working on or funding ‘Close as a Slow Dance’. Some to start, Mark Steiner for the connections and confidence, Henry Hugo for his production, thoughtful arrangements, contacts and generosity, Marcelo and Toto in Buenos Aires for the final sound, Mum for her good wishes, support and rent assistance, Damian Stephens (design), Jan Bechberger (photos) and Elizabeth Delfs (styling) for the lovely artwork you’re seeing, Susanne at Interdisc who shows such care for her clients’ CDs, Sascha, Dam, Justin and Darren for inspiring the songs, Michelle, Nicho, Chez, Naz and Lena – my Council of Ladies who always counsel courage, and those who, knowingly or not, gave a well-timed wise word to inspire this album – David Creese, Julitha Ryan, Sean Simmons and Bron Henderson, Andreas Lautwein, Cameron Wilson, Eric Eckhart, Matthew Barker, Ola Karlsson, Ben Revi, Jen Hval, Sean M. Whelan, Emilie Zoey Baker and Guy Dale. And the musicians who were so kind and surprised me with what the songs could be: Fabio Gallarati, Stefano Caldonazzo, Paolo Zangara, Vicki Brown, Henry Hugo, Leigh Ivin and Julitha Ryan.

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SHOWS
I’m doing two album launches, a club show at Heroes in Neukölln on International Star Wars Day – Friday May the Fourth – and a special Sofa Salon house concert/birthday fest at my place on Friday 11 May. Email berlinsofasalon [aet] gmail.com for reservations.

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.com. Those folk who bought Skype or House Concerts, I will be in touch in the next week or so.

Links:
Soundcloud (listen)
Bandcamp (buy)
waspsummer.com (info)

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