Posts Tagged ‘Topshelf Records’

Gulfer

Montreal’s Gulfer have been reviving Midwest, ’90s-style emo for the past decade, and they’re now set to release their third LP, which is self-titled, on October 16th via Topshelf/Royal Mountain. Having spent the past couple years wavering between self-doubt and having it figured out, Montreal’s Gulfer have returned to the fore with their third full-length record. Composed of thirteen tracks of intricate, dexterous, and incredibly fun, punk-inspired emo tunes, Gulfer sees the Montreal quartet settled into their own with a career-defining record.

Set to be co-released through us and the band’s first ever Canadian label in Royal Mountain Records, Gulfer is expansive in a way that sets it apart from the debut What Gives and the Pitchfork-approved Dog Bless. Delving into their collective influences by drawing from elements of grunge, shoegaze, and contemporaries Oso Oso and Prince Daddy and the Hyena, the band never turn their back on their earliest inspirations. Explosive, agile emo serves as the backdrop to guitarist and vocalists Vincent Ford and Joe Therriault’s honest and vulnerable lyricism, with the two sharing the writing process on a record that tackles human nature; exploring self-doubt, resentment, complex relationships, climate change, and the waning of youth. The band never lose the sense of playfulness and fun that is omnipresent in their live show, an undeniable, electric energy that stems from being a group of close friends before all else.

They do a lot of justice to the noodly riffage and longing melodies of the classic Kinsella era, and new song “Heat Wave” is no exception.

Our new track “Heat Wave” is streaming everywhere you listen to music now! It’s the second track we’re sharing from our new self-titled record, out October 16th through Topshelf Records and Royal Mountain Records, and it’s about realizing that past friendships left you feeling out of place, and how special it is to find a new home somewhere else. You can listen and pre-order our record below, but variants are moving quick!

Free of former notions that they needed to write in a certain way to sound like themselves, the band instead went with their gut and wrote what came naturally. The result is their most definitive work to date, a record that focuses less on ultra-technical musicianship and more on structure, space, and feel. With renewed energy in their freshened sound palette and their most collaborative songwriting yet, Gulfer have created an album that sounds fresh and exciting, which is no small feat for a band with two albums, a handful of EPs, and eight long years under their belt. The deft and interweaving interplay of Ford and Therriault’s guitars is grounded by bassist David Mitchell and drummer Julien Daoust, whose dexterities and musicianship animate the album with explosive, emotional kineticism.

“Forget (Friendly)” is taken from Gulfer’s upcoming self-titled record, out on Topshelf Records and Royal Mountain Records on October 16th, 2020.

Upheaval and change are themes spread throughout the songs on “Printer’s Devil”, the latest Ratboys LP, released February 28th, 2020 via Topshelf Records. But all the while, singer-songwriter Julia Steiner embraces moments of uncertainty as a necessary part of growing. Steiner recalls a David Byrne lyric, “I’m lost, but I’m not afraid” as inspiration for the transformative outlook, considering the line a personal mantra while writing Ratboys’ third full-length record. “There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty about what’s next, but I like to think that, in the midst of creating a lot of vulnerability for ourselves, we’re confident and becoming more self-assured.” Steiner wrote the record with guitarist Dave Sagan while she was experiencing a dramatic shift in her own foundations, demoing out songs in her Louisville, Kentucky childhood home, which had just been sold and emptied out. “Demoing there was almost too intense,” Steiner says. “I kept writing in my journal that it feels like we shouldn’t be there. I don’t know if that feeling made its way directly into the lyrics, but to me the songs will always be connected to that sense of home and time passing.” With years of touring under their belts, Steiner and Sagan have welcomed a newly consistent four-piece line up, after years of shuffling through drummers.

The band’s comfortable core — which sees Steiner and Sagan backed by drummer Marcus Nuccio and bassist Sean Neumann — is tangible across Printer’s Devil. What started as an acoustic duo has finally transformed into a full-scale indie-rock band with a clear identity. The rhythm section brings the band not only consistency, but a jolt in line with Steiner and Sagan’s growing sonic aspirations: Printer’s Devil was recorded live at Decade Music Studios in Chicago and was produced by the band and engineer Erik Rasmussen. Big-chorus power pop songs like “Alien with a Sleep Mask On” and “Anj” sound massive and larger than life, while the band’s dynamics beautifully thread together intimate folk songs like “A Vision” and devastating alt-country tracks like “Listening,” showcasing a rare range that invites listeners to imagine the band blowing out a 2,000-cap room or playing quietly next to you in the living room.

Building off their previous albums—AOID (2015) and GN (2017), which feature bright, youthful Americana narratives centered around soft vocal cadences and fluid, melodic lead guitars—Ratboys captures the bombastic, electrified fun of their live show in a bottle on Printer’s Devil and showcases their growing chemistry as a tight-knit group. Through all the change that fueled the record, Ratboys’ latest album Printer’s Devil finds a band that’s truly grown into itself and is just getting started.

Recorded on Wednesday, July 1st in Chicago, IL.

When Ratboys’ Julia Steiner wrote “Figure,” she did so from a place of pain.

“I wrote ‘Figure’ in the middle of the night in my bedroom a few years ago,” she tells NPR Music, “and for me the song was a way to air all of my disparate frustrations and fears in one place.”

But “Figure,” from the Chicago-based band’s GL EP, doesn’t really sound like a melancholy tune. True to much of the band’s self-proclaimed “post-country” sound, it’s punchy and playful — which, Steiner says, came from the suggestion of her bandmate Dave Sagan and friend-of-the-band Sean Eldon, and helped transform the feel of the song.

And while Steiner says she meant for the lyrics to be “vague and strange,” they’re evocatively poignant, too. “Is it the point of a story / To draw a picture in flame?” she sings over buoyant percussion and dynamic guitars, “I grew a heart in molting / Pleasure got beat down by shame.”

The reinvention took another turn when Steiner’s friend, artist Bayley White, crafted song’s video. “Bayley had been doing some research on claymation videos and was hoping to try her hand at one,” Steiner explains — so she sent her “Figure” and asked White to use the song to tell whatever type of visual story she wanted.

The resulting video follows the lyrics on a literal level, pairing spirited whimsy with bittersweet absurdity. Steiner says White peppered the video with “little touches” that felt deeply personal: “[Wilco’s] A Ghost is Born album art on the wall (my favourite record), the Coraline-esque portal that appears on the wall (my favorite movie), my Steelers hat, etc. all of these things made me smile so wide.”

Now, Steiner says, the song has landed in a place that feels pretty far from where it started. “It still has that original angst and grit, but it has become something so much more than that,” she says. “It’s heavy, but it’s also fun. And fun is hope.”

GL is out via Topshelf Records

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Whether singing about frozen pets in the basement or frozen people in a cryogenic chamber, it’s been a minute since Chicago-based Ratboys last album, 2017’s GN.  We were graced with the teaser of a lovely follow-up four song EP, GL in the interim.  The core duo of Julia Steiner (vocals, guitar) and Dave Sagan (guitar) have been backed by a revolving door of rhythm sections to this point, but have announced permanent members in Marcus Nuccio (drums) and Sean Neumann (bass).  The cohesiveness certainly shows on their upcoming third album.  Printer’s Devil (another stumbled upon and appealingly odd title) releases via Topshelf Records on February 28th, and the opening track and first single, “Alien With A Sleep Mask On” charges hard out of the gate.

If you have a hankering for guitar-based indie rock, Sagan really lets it fly and Steiner’s agile vocals cruise ably alongside without showing any signs of cracks.  The band doesn’t hesitate to throw in some alt-country vibes or drone-drenched passages, but Steiner’s contributions always keep things buoyant.  With the new album and an extensive tour poised for the spring thaw (including SXSW dates), the upcoming Chinese Year of the Rat looks primed to be renamed the Year of the Ratboys.

It must be frustrating to have planned to roll out your new album and a massive months-long tour at what turned out to be the exact beginning of Lockdown 2020. But even if this disaster of a year stymied Ratboys’ hopes to conquer the open road, the band can take solace in knowing their new album is one of the year’s best, a barnburner that builds their appealing, folksy Americana into arena-ready anthems. Expanding their sound without losing the sweet, exposed heart of Julia Steiner’s humanistic vocals, tracks like “I Go Out At Night” expertly straddle the line between bombast and beauty, suggesting a group on the verge of something enormous. If only this damn virus would go away so they could get in front of everyone and prove it.

RatboysJulia Steiner had a fairly different experience with the record, citing a lyric from the track “Life Is Long” as a direct inspiration on the vaguely emo Chicago band’s third and latest LP, “Printer’s Devil”. “I’m lost but I’m not afraid” has become the unofficial mantra for the record, summing up the uneasy transitions occurring in Steiner’s life during the album’s inception period. Paralleling these changes was a shift in the band’s chemistry—once a two-piece comprised of Steiner and Dave Sagan, “Printer’s Devil” is the first Ratboys album to feature a full band, adding touring members Sean Neumann and Marcus Nuccio to the mix.

The result is something deeply personal, while injected with something of a Wikipedia-wormhole curiosity (several tracks seem to explore bizarre histories detailed on the free online encyclopedia) and a tinge of science fiction.

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Printer’s Devil is streaming now, and will be officially released tomorrow via Topshelf Records. Listen below, and read on to hear what Steiner had to say about the history of each track.

1. “Alien with a Sleep Mask On”

This was the first song that we recorded when we got into the studio. We took a couple hours to get drum sounds and make the guitars sound good, and then we just went for it. I started writing this song while we were on tour—after we had sound checked one day I was feeling pretty exhausted mentally and needed to get some space. I walked to our car and just played guitar for a while. The bones of the song came out right away, and they felt really fresh and urgent. The melody and hook had kind of been stewing in my mind for a while, which helped me just let it out I think.

I kept workshopping the song during sound checks throughout the rest of the tour, just singing and playing the parts I had so far and improvising them in that small amount of time. I always like doing that with new ideas on tour. Eventually Dave and I demoed out the song and nailed down the structure in Kentucky a few weeks later, and then we built it out even more with Sean and Marcus from there. For me, the song is about the disorienting reality of life on the road. And just about being inside your own head all the time, to the point where you start to question how you come off to others. It’s kind of a heavy topic, but I wanted it to be light hearted too, because that’s kind of how tour feels a lot of the time—heavy, but so fun.

2. “Look To”

This song rocks, and we had so much fun recording it. I remember it took us a while to find the right tempo, but once we got it I feel like we just locked in 100 percent as a band. The lyrics of this one deal with family relationships getting more complicated as you grow older. When we were demoing at the house where I grew up, I kind of found myself taking stock of the bonds I share with my family, specifically with my parents, and just thinking about how they’ve changed over time. The idea of helping your mom or dad through a hard time is so powerful to me, so that became the central image of the song in my eyes.

And then confessing a bit of frustration in the chorus, that things aren’t as simple as they seemed before. This song is very, very fun to play, we like to go absolutely wild with it. Then finally we tacked on a bit at the end—we wanted it to sound like you were walking into a sing-along at a party. That bit is an idea I woke up singing in the middle of the night. I recorded it right then in a little voice memo, which you can hear at the very end of the song.

3. “My Hands Grow”

This song is one of two on the record (the other being “Printer’s Devil,” the title track) that was based around a series of drum loops and overdubs, rather than using a live band performance as the base of the track. This one was really fun to put together, it almost felt like doing a puzzle. I love how clean everything sounds—I remember Erik (Rasmussen, who recorded the album) had to run an errand at one point, but he left a minute-long instrumental loop of the song going while he was gone. It must have been going for, like, thirty minutes, but all of us were just reading and chilling, we didn’t even notice the time passing or the song looping.

We realized after he got back that the music must be pretty nice if we could just listen to it for that long without stirring. The lyrics are based around some memories I have of spending time with two of my best friends from high school, driving down the back roads in Kentucky and hanging out by the river during the summer. I wanted to write lyrics that sort of reassure them that I’ll always be there to love them and protect them, even if I don’t say that out loud nearly enough. It’s a song about friendship and spending time outside in the sun.

4. “A Vision”

This song came together very quickly—I think I wrote it in less than an hour, all at once. I remember I was in my bedroom in my old apartment, and we had some friends over, but I got sucked into this moment where I had to write the song. That happens very rarely, so when it does and you know you’re 100 percent onto something, you have to follow it, no matter what else is going on. I had known for a few months that I wanted to write a song about a specific rainy morning that I had experienced on the road. It felt almost like a fantasy or a dream, so the song had to be that too. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was able to connect some rhymes across the length of the song, which doesn’t often happen naturally for me. I think that makes it really pleasing to sing.

I’m also really proud of how the studio recording turned out, because we were somehow able to capture the essence of the song while all playing together in the same room. I remember Ian (Paine-Jesam, our friend who played drums on this song) had to play extremely quietly, so that the drums didn’t drown out my acoustic guitar. We had a lot of fun adding some strange little overdubs. Lots of noises and textures, things that I can’t even remember now what we used.

5. “Anj”

This was the first song that Dave and I wrote for the new record. As soon as we unloaded and set up all of our gear for the first demo session, the riff for this song is the first thing I played, the first thing that came out. It felt natural right away, and we had so much fun just jamming on the progression because it’s so simple. For me, the lyrics are drawn from my life, specifically from my relationship with the woman who watched my siblings and me throughout my childhood. The time and effort she put into raising us while my parents worked is something I’m just now starting to really appreciate, so I wanted to write a song for her, to try to tell her how much I care for her and how I want to be there for her, to give some of that nurturing love back in some way. I think the song has that same mixture of heaviness and lightness that I find so appealing. Marcus’ drumming makes the whole song sound so huge and poppy—it was the final element we needed to really go full force and drive home the hook.

6. “I Go Out at Night”

This song is actually the oldest one of the bunch in the sense that it’s the only one that uses an older idea that we re-discovered and re-purposed for the album. I wrote the first verse and main guitar riff when I was nineteen or twenty, sometime around 2011. I always hoped that we would build the right little world for this song, and luckily the time was right and it happened. To me this song is about feeling a little restless, about figuring out the world in the midst of big change or creeping anxiety. Just kind of floating above everything.

We knew we wanted this song to feel different from the rest, something like a daydream. I ended up writing the bridge during our time demoing in Kentucky, and the lyrics deal directly with moving out of your home and saying goodbye to the places that shaped you. That physical sensation of the sun waking you up, of the day breaking and pushing you onto the next phase. I experienced that during the end of our stay in KY, and it was powerful. I had to acknowledge and honour that sunlight. As silly as that sounds, it moved me.

7. “Victorian Slumhouse”

OK so this song is pretty ridiculous, and it’s one of my favourites on the album. I think it’s the first time we’ve ever just said “fuck it, let’s have some fun” and gotten really loose with our ideas. I remember that the inspiration for this song came about when Dave and I were visiting his parents and watching PBS after dinner. This British reality TV show called Victorian Slum House came on. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s based around a historical re-enactment, where all of the participants volunteered to be on the show because they have ancestral ties to the slums of Victorian England. It’s hard to explain, but the show is so entertaining—all of the participants constantly dwell on how much they miss the conveniences of modern life, and there’s a ton of drama.

We were kind of just sitting there mystified watching this and having so much fun, so I remember I started strumming the guitar and came up with the little opening vocal tag and guitar riff to make Dave laugh. Eventually we kept jamming on it because it was too much fun. I decided that I wanted the song to be about reality TV, and how it’s so voyeuristic and strange. I spent a lot of time imagining what it must have been like to be on that set, in the carefully recreated Victorian-era slum, but also surrounded by tons of high-end film production equipment and the whole crew, trying to tease content out of you at all hours of the day and night. I find I’m often drawn to crazy contrasts, and that’s this show for me. The song is a rocker, and we absolutely love playing it, especially the outro riff that just circles on and on.

8. “Clever Hans”

This song is based on a true story that I came across while reading Wikipedia one day. It’s told from the perspective of a horse named Clever Hans, who became famous in the 1800s because his owner claimed he could do math and tell the days of the week and stuff like that. Huge crowds would come and watch the horse, and eventually, teams of psychologists came to study Clever Hans. They realized rather quickly that the horse couldn’t, in fact, do math—but they noticed that Hans always picked the right answer out of a multiple choice set, because he perceived tiny, subconscious cues in his owner’s face when the correct answer was read.

Long story short, it turns out that Clever Hans was, in fact, extremely intelligent, just not in the ways everybody expected. He was emotionally intelligent. After reading that story, it made me wonder about all of the ways that animals feel and perceive the world around them, ways that we may never fully understand. So I wanted to write the song from Clever Hans’ perspective, to write poetry as a horse. Something tells me that horses are capable of writing poetry, in their own ways. So that’s really what this one is about.

9. “Listening”

I wrote this song one morning during the KY demo session immediately after I learned of the passing of Anthony Bourdain. This is the only song we didn’t demo—we finished arranging it in the studio.

10. “Printer’s Devil”

This is the title track, and my personal favourite song on the album. It feels like an artist statement to me. Dave and I sort of stumbled into this jam while we were demoing, and it had this meditative, almost addictive quality to it, like we couldn’t stop playing it. Eventually I started improvising vocal phrases on top of the guitar, which loops over and over again for the whole song. I wrote a ton of lyrics and ended up whitling them down to what’s on the recording.

The lyrics were inspired by some stories I had read about the poet Walt Whitman, about how he worked as a “printer’s devil” (or printer’s apprentice) as a young boy. I read about how Whitman’s boss in the print shop was obsessed with this radical Quaker theologian named Elias Hicks—so obsessed that he dragged Whitman and another employee to the cemetery in the middle of the night, to dig up Hicks’ grave. They were caught, and Whitman moved on to a different print shop, where he kept learning the trade.

I also read about how Whitman would test the ink in the shop by putting down lines of “little sentimental bits,” which made me think that maybe this job was the place where he started experimenting with poetry or just pondering language in general. That idea of just putting down lines, combined with reading about the teachings of Elias Hicks, fueled me to write and write and write, as if I were testing out the ink in the shop. The song felt right immediately, and we were able to record it and find the right sounds very quickly in the studio. It was a joy to make.

Guitar, vocals, lyrics – Julia Steiner
Guitar, bass (Tracks 3, 8, 9) – Dave Sagan
Bass – Sean Neumann
Drums, synths – Marcus Nuccio
Drums (Tracks 3, 4, 8, 10), Vibes – Ian Paine-Jesam

Released February 28th, 2020

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Back in November, Chicago-based Ratboys announced plans for a new album this year. The upcoming Printer’s Devil serves as a follow-up to their 2017 sophomore full-length GN, and its companion EP, GL. Along with that announcement, the band released their raucous, grungy lead single, “Alien With A Sleep Mask On,” and its video.

Now, Ratboys are sharing a second single and video from that forthcoming LP, “I Go Out At Night.” It’s a bit more starry-eyed than the previous single, as soaring electric riffs blend seamlessly with full chord synths throughout. The lyric “I’m lost, but I’m not afraid” — pulled from David Byrne and Brian Eno’s collaboration “Life Is Long” — reportedly became a mantra for Ratboys during the making of the new album.

vocalist Julia Steiner said about the song:

The first verse and main riff of this song is actually the only “older” idea that we recycled for the record — I think I wrote both when I was 19 or 20, maybe 6 or 7 years ago. We wanted this song to feel different from the rest, something like a daydream or a fantasy. We experimented with synths in this song, during the bridge and the outro. I’m extremely happy with how all of the sounds interact — it comforts me for reasons I find hard to describe.

Like the video for “Alien With A Sleep Mask On,” this one was directed by Coool, the working moniker of duo John TerEick and Jake Nokovic. It’s a noirish ode to Halloween that sees the band members trick-or-treating, complete with an evil witch.

Band Members
Julia Steiner – vox/lyrics, guitar
David Sagan – guitar

Printer’s Devil is out 2/28 via Topshelf Records.

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Ratboys, the Chicago based band, that is built on the duo of Julia Steiner and Dave Fagan have become one of my favorites over the last couple of years. Their unique tales sung to their own brand of indie make them an easy band to reach for. New album “Printer’s Devil” is out on 2/28/20 via the fine folks of Topshelf Records.

Upheaval and change are themes spread throughout the songs on Printer’s Devil, the latest Ratboys LP, out February 28th, 2020 via Topshelf Records. But all the while, singer-songwriter Julia Steiner embraces moments of uncertainty as a necessary part of growing. Steiner recalls a David Byrne lyric, “I’m lost, but I’m not afraid” as inspiration for the transformative outlook, considering the line a personal mantra while writing Ratboys’ third full-length record. “There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty about what’s next, but I like to think that, in the midst of creating a lot of vulnerability for ourselves, we’re confident and becoming more self-assured.”

This is the official music video for “Alien with a Sleep Mask On” from the album ‘Printer’s Devil’ by Ratboys

Out today, “Days” is the latest dreamy roller from No Vacation’s upcoming EP, Phasing. The new release’s penultimate track cruises and sways upon a rolling groove of curious, winding bass and No Vacation’s signature guitar twang. Its reverb-soaked vocals call on nostalgia for days long passed, building up to the song’s instrumentally dynamic climax where a dozen layers of strings envelop the arrangement in a shimmering display of the group’s penchant for compositional tension and release. “Days” proves to be a quintessential No Vacation number, dabbling as it does in evocative, shoegazey dream-pop that leaves listeners warm and hopeful.

released on Topshelf Records

Philadelphia four-piece Queen of Jeans are the band you didn’t know you were missing, shimmying around your ears with vibrant three-part harmonies and ‘60s girl group and doo-wop hooks you don’t hear on your typical punk rock bill.  Queen of Jeans offers a rebuttal to that take in a few ways. First, their sneaky use of tried-and-true 50s arrangements, melodies, and song structures to critically comment the latent (or overt) misoginy of music that American society teaches us is canonical. Songs deemed “classic” by older generations that actually advocated a kind of unhealthy idea of what love is and what it should be

Their debut LP Dig Yourself(released on Topshelf Records) is an all ‘round winner, and now, they’ve given the cleverly-referential music video treatment to one of its true jukebox jams.

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releases August 23rd, 2019

Band Members
Miri Devora, Mattie Glass & Patrick Wall

While listeners have previously described Field Mouse’s sound as something akin to a shoegazey dream pop, “Meaning” marks a decided turn to less obscured realms, boasting 11 songs about finding meaning at the end of the world.

“A lot has happened in the three years since our last record came out. While there is far too much to say about it all in one place, we wrote this album anyway. What are the broad strokes, you ask? It’s more or less about the end of the world and all of the ways that it seems to be happening, but also about making peace with former selves and growing as a person despite the feeling of global entropy. Also: strange internet versions of our friends and selves, bouts of insomnia and picking through the dreams that followed, the importance of forgiveness, and creating meaning in a world that increasingly feels like total chaos. What is the function of art in a place like this? Is anything we make going to last? I am not sure, but here are 11 songs looking for the answer. What I do know is that art connects us to each other and to our feelings and our selves. It is a liferaft, and I hope that we can all continue to put it into the world, appreciate it, and share it indefinitely.”
Rachel Browne

“Meaning”, the third full length album by the Brooklyn– and Philly-based indie rock group Field Mouse, out August 16th, 2019 on Topshelf Records.

Rachel Browne – vocals, guitars
Andrew Futral – guitars
Saysha Heinzman – bass, harmonies
Zoë Browne – keyboards, harmonies
Anne Dole – drums