Adjusting to the microscope
Ramesh Srivastava, lead singer-songwriter of the pert '60s-esque indie-pop outfit Voxtrot, is feeling the pressure. After two seriously hyped EPs, "Raised by Wolves" and "Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives," not to mention the new EP "Your Biggest Fan," Srivastava and his Austin, Texas-based crew are ready to record a full-length. The songs are written, but it's not that simple: Stephen Street, who produced Blur and the Smiths, was supposed to be on board, but the scheduling didn't pan out. With plans to cut the record before year's end, Voxtrot, who will play the Troubadour on Wednesday, is still shopping for a producer.
But that's just one reason for Srivastava's anxiety, documented on his blog, www.thevoxtrotkid.blogspot.com. The Berklee College of Music dropout is a 23-year-old musician with no day job and taste-making ears noticeably pricked in his direction. "When we finally signed and really started to do this thing, working toward this first album, suddenly I realized what expectation really meant.... Beforehand, everything you do [with music] is a pleasant surprise; now it's evaluated."
So success brings pressure, but Srivastava can shrug it off: "There are a lot worse jobs than being a musician."
From fan to band member
Whenever a fan actually joins the band, it usually means the group is gasping for publicity. But when then Brooklyn-based vocalist Rona "Tarsier" Rapadas e-mailed Oakland indie hip-hop savant Brendon "Alias" Whitney to compliment his 2003 album, "Muted," and send links to her band, they quickly began collaborating long-distance on a record of dreamy electronica.
"It was overwhelming and completely unexpected," said Rapadas, who now lives in California. "Even writing that e-mail I was nervous."
Whitney, co-owner of rap label Anticon, had grown bored with hip-hop and wanted to explore new instrumental textures and melodic ideas. Rapadas' breathy alto proved a perfect fit.
Though they didn't meet in person for nearly two years, the results — the full-length "Brookland/Oaklyn" and remix-heavy EP "Plane That Draws a White Line" — pair panoramic synth ambience with skittish programmed beats. But the band, playing the Echo on Friday as a four-piece, is still getting to know one another. "I had no idea [Rapadas] could play guitar so well," Whitney said. "I was kicking myself that she didn't play on the album."
Giving voice to their concerns
Two different but disaffected songwriters offer takes on the U.S. this week. With his tar-heavy Texas accent and down-home colloquialisms, Micah P. Hinson sounds about as American as you can get. His second album, "Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit," is a weathered study in Americana sorrow.
Yet Hinson, who grew up in Abilene, Texas, claims he barely has an audience in this country.
But southern Europe goes "mental" for his ruminations on soured relationships, says Hinson, who plays Spaceland tonight and Pitzer College on Friday. And in England, where he lived for a spell, Mojo and Uncut magazines have been singing his praises. "America is so big and quite threatening — I despise it."
Although Hinson is frustrated by his American past, Hutch Harris of the dystopic mod-punk trio the Thermals is terrified of this country's future. His band's third album, "The Body, the Blood, the Machine," is a vision of a country run by a murderous Christian theocracy.
Over bursts of fuzzy guitars and feverish percussion, Harris howls through 10 tracks that connect biblical brimstone with America's drums of war. It was a startling about-face for the band, earning critical raves but also alarming a few fans.
"I got a lot of very compassionate e-mails from kids who liked the Thermals but were Christian and wondering if there was room for them," Harris said. "The answer is yes, of course, the record is not anti-Christian. I was a Christian in the past, and Christians are usually very forgiving as far as allowing (religion) to be parodied."
The Thermals open for Cursive at the Avalon tonight.
Touts: Nothing's scarier than hipsters grinding to death-disco remixes, so MSTRKRFT and Justice's Halloween show at Safari Sam's is apropos.... Excellent Brazilian electro-pop outfit CSS plays the Echo tonight, and Heavens, the new project from the Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba, plays the Troubadour on Friday.... Energetic post-punkers Forward, Russia! play Spaceland on Saturday, and local dream-poppers Mezzanine Owls come to Silverlake Lounge with the Meeting Places on Monday.
-- Margaret Wappler and August Brown
Download Voxtrot's "Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives" at www.voxtrot.net/page1.htm.
Stream Micah P. Hinson's "Seems Almost Impossible" at www.sketchbookrecords.com/micahphinson/.
Download the Thermals' "A Pillar of Salt" at www.subpop.com/scripts/main/bands_page.php?id=410.