Feature #21 – Danny Lane (Sofa Club)

Danny Lane is a compelling, NYC-based musician, actor and visual artist, and his band Sofa Club recently released their first EP, “Actual Video.” When he’s not working on a film project (Danny appears in the forthcoming indie film “Secret Everything“) or taking pictures for his excellent tumblr blog, Danny can usually be found hunched over an 80s synth, looking for the perfect sound for one of his upcoming tracks.  Danny was kind enough to take the time to chat with us about Sofa Club’s history and the terrific new video for their song, “Gotta, Gotta, Gotta” (check it out below). After you’ve had a chance to read the interview, be sure to spend some time with his impeccable collection of lists.

Listgeeks: How did Sofa Club, as a project come about?

Danny Lane: It started about a year ago – a little over a year ago – when my last band, Paragraph, broke up. I wanted to make music by myself – to see what that was like – but it was hard to do alone, and I needed people to play shows/develop songs with. I asked my friend Dave, one of the best musicians I know, and then he and I got our friend Max to play piano. We tried out a couple of drummers, but we end up going back to electronic drums. So it’s me, Dave and Max.

LG: But you write the majority of the music?

DL: Yeah – I write the majority of the music . . . though we also write and record together at this point.

LG: So on some tracks you’ll do everything, and there are other tracks where it’s more of a collaboration?

DL: Yeah. The collaborating experiences are getting more and more comfortable every time.

“Rachel,” by Danny Lane (to see more of his photography, visit doasplit.tumblr.com)

LG: So the four songs on the EP – are those all recent?

DL: The songs from the EP that just came out were written and recorded about a year and a half ago. I wrote them on my own, and then recorded a couple of them with Dave and Max, and recorded a couple of them with my friend Billy. Autre Ne Veut did some additional engineering on the EP and recorded Alice Cohen’s keyboard solos on “Gotta, Gotta, Gotta” and “Danny Boy.”

LG: Most of your music has a synth-oriented, 80s aesthetic – do you feel like you share influences with many of the other 80s-inspired artists who are busy at the moment?

DL: Probably. You know, I like dance music from any time. The 80s thing is partially a product of the equipment that we use. If we recorded the songs on newer synths, the music wouldn’t sound like it sounds.

LG: Do you use mostly analog synths?

DL: Yep. I also use a recorder from the early 90s – an 8 track recorder – and we used mostly 80s synths and drums machines, otherwise.

LG: Are there specific sounds you like from those eras of music?

DL: Well, the idea for Sofa Club came from the Halloween time of year. I really wanted to make dance music, but spooky dance music, and I wasn’t really finding the sounds for that from modern synths.

LG: For people that don’t know Sofa Club, who would you cite as some of the bands or musicians that have influenced you?

DL: I always say it’s sort of like early Madonna meets Talking Heads. Madonna’s first album – her self-titled record – is probably in my top five records of all time.

LG: What do you see happening with Sofa Club down the line?

DL: Well, Chris Moore – who we mixed the album with – I really want to work with him on something from the ground up. He got involved towards the end of this EP, but I’d love to have the second EP produced, recorded and mixed by him. He had a lot to say about Sofa Club, and I want him to be able to get his voice in there more. Otherwise, I’m hoping to find a label to support a full-length.

LG: How did the “Gotta, Gotta, Gotta” video come about?

DL: Well, I was writing about the conflict between boys and girls, and I always pass this dance studio on the way home from everywhere I go, “Brandy’s Dance Unique.” So I went in there one day, on impulse, and I told them I needed six dancers, and wanted them to choreograph a dance, and I didn’t want to see it until the moment we starting filming. So I choreographed my own dance at home, and the idea was that we’d do both dances at the same time, and let whatever was going to happen happen. We were knocking each other over and stuff. I see a lot of dance studio-oriented videos where the girls are hip and very sweet, and I wanted this to represent Staten Island more. My close friend Marc Maffei directed the video, and as usual did an awesome job.

LG: Did they have a reference for the music you were making?

DL: They just kept saying, “Oh, so you want it weirder? You want it real strange? I think he wants it weirder!”

Sofa Club on Bandcamp
Sofa Club on Listgeeks

Listgeeks Interviewee Updates

We thought it would be fun to provide a mini update on what some of the people we’ve featured on Listgeeks over the last 7-8 months have been up to since we published their interviews:

Designer Khoi Vinh (interviewed here and on Listgeeks here) recently released the fantastic Mixel iPad app to great acclaim.  Mixel is, “a social art-making tool for people who don’t think of themselves as artists.” It’s addictive and inspirational and you can download it for free here. Khoi will be speaking on April 5th at TYPO San Francisco.

Illustrator Christoph Niemann (interviewed here and on Listgeeks here) has continued to create fantastic illustrations for The New Yorker, among other clients, and will have his first stamp designed for the German postal service released in May. Christoph will participate in an AIGA-sponsored talk, “Post Illustration” in NYC on April 18th.

Musician Kathleen Hannah (interviewed here and on Listgeeks here) has been putting the finishing touches on a new album with her new band The Julie Ruin, and also took part in mixing/releasing a live EP from Le Tigre’s world tour in 2004/2005, which is now available via iTunes here. Check out Kathleen’s blog for her latest inspirations and activities.

Australian musician Catherine Kelleher aka Catcall (interviewed here and on Listgeeks here) released her new single/video for “The World is Ours,” taken from her upcoming album, “The Warmest Place,” and she also launched a brand new Website to support the album release/current Australian tour. Talking about the inspiration for the album, Catherine said that, “The Warmest Place is what I feel when I listen to music that makes me happy, when I listen to music that is really giving and unpretentious. But it’s subject to interpretation for everybody; it can be heaven, your bed, an island, sex, love, a summer’s day, a womb, a cup of tea, freshly baked bread… anything that brings comfort. I want this album to be comfort food and to keep people warm.”

NYC band Cookies (interviewed here and on Listgeeks here) just released an addictive new single called “Crybaby,” featuring the saxophone work of Colin Stetson (touring member of Arcade Fire and Bon Iver), which you can listen to/download here. Cookies will perform at Glasslands in NYC on May 16th. You can keep up with Cookies on Facebook here. Also note that the cover shot for this single comes from another collaboration with photographer Emily Keegin, who we interviewed here and (who posts to Listgeeks here.)

And finally, designer Erik Spiekermann (interviewed here and on Listgeeks here) drew his ideal future office (for Arte TV), was awarded the 2011 TDC Medal, stayed involved with a number of high-profile projects at Edenspiekermann, and will be facilitating at TYPO San Francisco on April 5th and 6th.

Feature #20: Max Zerrahn (Listgeeks Co-Founder)

Listgeeks co-founder Max Zerrahn, in addition to excelling as a creative director (Max edits the Berlin-based fStop image library when he’s not directing things at Listgeeks), is an accomplished photographer, prolific blogger, and enthusiastic appreciator of the arts. Though he was primarily involved in music and graphic design earlier in his career (he co-owned and managed the German indie label Rewika Records for several years), Max has always had a passion for technology, the arts, and popular culture, and a strong interest in finding innovative ways to bring them together.  Check out the below interview for more on how and why Listgeeks came to be – and to learn about some of Maxs’ influences and current favorites:

LG: How did the initial idea for Listgeeks come about?

Max Zerrahn: As big fans of pop culture, end-of-the-year lists, Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity,” and a general enjoyment of all things structured nicely, Derick Rhodes (a long-time friend and collaborator of mine) and I began toying around with the idea of building a website that would allow people to share and compare lists of things within a wider network of friends. Surprisingly enough, it seemed like nobody had ever done this in a meaningful way and we felt like it could be a lot of fun and a great way to discover new things. I personally always really liked the idea of finding someone with – say – great taste in music and then seeing what books that person is reading or what bar he or she would recommend in Istanbul or wherever else.

LG: What have been some of your favorite lists since you launched the Website?

MZ: What’s interesting to me is that when we first started talking about the site, to some extent we made the assumption that people would mainly make lists of their favorite albums, movies, books, video games etc. It was never our intention to build a site focused on product-oriented consumerism, even though as music (and pop culture) lovers, we drew a lot of inspiration from people having heated discussions over their best album end-of-the-year lists. It came as a bit of a surprise, though, to see that the kind of lists people were making ended up being a lot more personal, quirky and entertaining than we had originally anticipated – a great development and what essentially drives the platform nowadays. Here are some favorites:

WTF Band Names” by wwwacht
Favorite Foot to Put Socks on First” by thegoodrobotme
Things that are Usually Better in Theory than in Practice” by blackpanda
Favorite Unicode Characters” by nitrada
Most Overrated Things in Graphic Design” by espiekermann
How to Make an Awesome List” by derick

LG: How can you imagine Listgeeks changing/expanding in the future?

MZ: There are many things on our wish list but it seems like building a mobile app and being able to generate meaningful recommendations are highest up on our list of priorities right now. A Listgeeks app could obviously be a lot of fun and it seems like it would really change the way people interact with the platform in a big way. We’ve been wanting to do this since day one, so it is long overdue!

As for the recommendations, I just really love the idea of taking my taste in movies as a starting point for finding a nice hotel in London! Or saying I love Joy Division and David Shrigley, so where can I find a good bookstore in Marseille? The list format is ideal for creating these kinds of recommendations, so it’s time to start working on it.

Oh, and another thing we’re already working on is our widget. Listgeeks needs to stretch out beyond our site, so using the widget is an easy way to embed lists and part of their functionality into your blog or website. The widget is essentially done but we’re still tweaking it, so it’s at an early stage still.

Untitled photography by Max Zerrahn (see http://www.maxzerrahn.com for more)

LG: Are you a big user of social media apart from Listgeeks?

MZ: Hmmm, no. I use tumblr, Twitter and Facebook and obviously I have looked at many other services but I just don’t have enough time to be using them all. Even though there’s obviously some great stuff out there.

LG: What other types of projects are you involved in and/or inspired by at the moment?

MZ: I have been involved with a lot of photography related projects over these past few years. I do the editing for fStop, a Berlin-based photo agency, in addition to Opak Magazine. I also do quite a bit of my own photography for various projects and clients and I try to post on my blog, Limbo Youth, as often as possible – mainly about art, music and whatever else keeps me inspired.

LG: What are some of your  favorite Websites, apart from Listgeeks?

My favorite websites of the day are:


Otherwise, I keep returning to these:


Max-related Links:

Max on Listgeeks
Max on Twitter
Maxs’ Photography Portfolio Website

Year-End Lists, 2011: The Needle Drop

Anthony Fantano claims to be “The Internet’s busiest music nerd,” and he might be right! Back in 1997, after his text-based music blog and podcast weren’t gaining the kind of attention he was hoping for, Anthony got aggravated and started something new: The Needle Drop, a b/vlog (and NPR-affiliated radio show) that consists solely of Anthony doing music reviews on camera. His youtube channel has since gained a lot of attention, and if you enjoy independently-oriented rock, pop, electronic, and experimental music, then you should do yourself a favor and check him out. Anthony has recently reviewed albums from artists as disparate as The Roots (“Undone”), The Black Keys (“El Camino”), Oneohtrix Point Never (“Replica”) and Kate Bush (“50 Words for Snow”).

The Needle Drop
The Needle Drop on Listgeeks

Feature #19 – Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (Dean & Britta)

Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips started creating and performing music together in the NYC band Luna (1992-2005), which Britta joined in 2000. Prior to Luna, Dean fronted Galaxie 500, the highly influential three piece “dream pop” band (influenced by The Velvet Underground, among others) and Britta played in a few different bands (notably The Belltower and as bassist for Ben Lee’s live shows) in addition to doing film and television work.  As a duo, they’ve crafted three distinctly different albums over the course of the last eight years: “L’Avventura,” (2003) a stunning album of covers and duets produced by Tony Visconti, “Back Numbers,” (2007) a collection of original pop songs (also produced by Visconti) written in the tradition of American singer-songwriters like Lee Hazlewood and Tim Hardin, and, most recently, “13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests,” a project commissioned by the Andy Warhol Museum and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. The Screen Tests are silent film portraits that Andy Warhol shot at the Factory between 1964 and 1966, featuring a wide range of artists, collaborators and hangers-on (including Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Bob Dylan and Alan Ginsberg, among others), and Dean and Britta wrote and recorded 13 songs to accompany a selection of the footage in order to create a unique performance: Dean and Britta perform the songs onstage with their band (including Anthony Lamarca and Matt Sumrow), while the Warhol films are projected overhead.  We’re grateful they took the time to answer our questions and provide us with some excellent lists.

Derick Rhodes/Listgeeks: Looking back, when Luna broke up, among the items listed in the announcement were, “Rock and Roll is killing my life,” “There are too many bands out there,” and, “Too much time spent in fifteen-passenger vans.” As a big Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean and Britta fan, I was a little worried that the action would come to a stop.  Clearly the action has done anything but come to a stop, fortunately.  Have you both surrendered to dealing with the downsides of touring/performing/rock and roll, or just found a better way to do things?

Britta: Well, we try not to carry really heavy things anymore, and we don’t spend as much time in fifteen-passenger vans. We’ve been spending more time in airports, though… It’s great to be able to travel the world… go to Paris, Brazil, Japan, Sweden, Spain etc., but everything great has a downside… there will always be itineraries to plan, hotels and flights to book, and musicians to heard through the gates.

Dean & Britta – “Night Nurse” from the album L’Avventura

Listgeeks: The “13 Most Beautiful” project seems to have been very well received internationally, and your work feels like it’s ideally suited to this type of performance/project.  Can you imagine future collaborations along these lines, perhaps involving another artist or performing in a film-oriented environment?

Britta: Yes, if it’s something inspiring and beautiful like these screen tests, we would love to do another project like this. A music project that is more of the art world than the “music biz” world. Working within set parameters can be very refreshing.

Dean and Britta performing “13 Most . . .” photographed by Julienne Schaer

Dean: It has been eye-opening to play in venues that don’t need to sell beer in order to pay you at the end of the night, arts festivals and museums, to realize there are other ways to do it. We just came back from performing the Warhol show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and I am quite sure I never anticipated playing there.

Listgeeks: I came across a few articles online that were critical of your performing Galaxie 500 songs on “your own” during the recent “Dean Wareham performs Galaxie 500” shows, typically suggesting that the original line up should have been involved.  While it’s clearly documented why you decided to move on from Galaxie 500 (in “Black Postcards,” the memoir you wrote which came out in 2008), I wonder what the decision making process was like behind deciding to perform those songs again.  Was it simply a matter of people loving that material, and wanting to hear you play it, or did you feel a personal/artistic urge to bring those songs to a live setting again?

Dean: People will sit at their desks and opine on what artists should be doing but I figure I am the one actually riding round in a van and I can sing my old songs however I want. I’d like to see the 1978 New York Yankees get back together but that’s not happening either.

As to why now: We were asked to play a set of Galaxie 500 songs at the Tanned Tin festival in Spain, and I enjoyed singing and playing the songs again, it was like slipping into another (younger) voice, and seeing how excited people were to hear the songs live, people who never had a chance to see Galaxie 500 back in the day.  We came home from that show and then Belle & Sebastian asked me to do it for the ATP festival they curated and we decided to add a few U.S. dates and that turned into more dates.

Listgeeks: One of my absolute favorite Dean and Britta tracks is “Ginger Snaps,” from L’Avventura – perhaps your most dance-oriented track to date.  Can the two of you imagine making an album or EP of songs with more of a dance/electronic atmosphere at some point?

Britta: Dean wrote that song, but yes, yes, yes, I would like to do more songs like that, if not an entire album.

Dean: Our other rather dance-oriented track was “Singer Sing” (the remix by Scott Hardkiss who brought the dance elements to the song). Maybe we will pursue the dance EP idea. . .

Listgeeks: Finally, are future Dean and Britta releases in the works?  Do the two of you spend much time working on music, when you’re not touring?

Britta: We released a limited edition single CD version of “13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests” on October 11th – all in the original order of the DVD.

Dean: We have some half-cooked songs sitting around; December will be the first month in about 3 years where we haven’t had live shows going on, so it will be time to get cooking again.

Dean and Britta Homepage
Dean and Britta Twitter
Dean and Britta on Listgeeks
Dean and Britta Facebook

Feature #18 – Cookies

The Facts: Cookies is a band from New York City specializing in popular music.  Ben Sterling formed the band shortly after the dissolution of his former group (the critically lauded Mobius Band) last year, enlisting Melissa Metrick (vocals/bass/keyboards) and Ian Ainley (drums) to help craft a unique and compelling sound. Unlike most good bands specializing in popular music, Cookies is a truly innovative outfit, incorporating into its productions a genuine love of 90s hip hop and R&B, electronic music, and – perhaps most importantly – savvy, distinctive songwriting.  We’re grateful to Ben for taking the time to answer our questions, and for creating some excellent lists. Those of you who are in the NYC area should be sure to check them out tonight (Thursday, November 10th) when they play at Glasslands, in Brooklyn.

Listgeeks: So far you’ve released six tracks, and based on the live set, it seems there’s more than enough material for a full-length on hand.  Do you anticipate releasing an album in the coming months? More generally, do you think we’ve moved past albums, for the most part?

Ben Sterling: We’re doing at least one more single and then probably an album. I like singles. I like albums. Grouping songs together will be around in some fashion forever… though our attention span is shorter, expectations are changing, and the internet means we often hear a song or two and leave it at that. But maybe that’s fair. It’s hard to make a record that deserves its length. They are very rare. Even “Rumours” has a couple wack songs.

LG: Your previous band, Mobius Band, was a little more on the traditional side, both in terms of the live show and from a production perspective . . . what are the main differences in how you approach realizing the songs in Cookies Vs. the way process worked in Mobius Band?

Ben: Mobius Band was a gang. We met in college and lived together and finished each others sentences. We were a thorough democracy with every decision. It was great for a long time. But then it wasn’t anymore. The dynamic broke down and got weird, like it usually does.

Cookies: “Love Will Never Do Without You” (Janet Jackson cover)

Cookies doesn’t work that way, it’s truly the opposite and that’s something I need after that experience. For me, the process of writing songs is very simple to start with and then excruciating to finish. The original rush of an idea is quick and beautiful and easy. But it’s just an idea, not a song or a production. The rest is basically window dressing and finishing lyrics, but without that it’s not a song, unless you’re making folk music or free improvisation. The original spark usually takes about ten minutes but I can’t finish a song in under two months.

LG: I’m a big fan of the boy/girl tradeoff vocal approach, which seems to be becoming a more central element in your productions. Has working with Melissa over time changed your perspective or approach in writing the songs, or did you envision that Cookies would have this type of dynamic from the start?

Ben: Melissa’s voice was at the heart of it from the beginning. I love her voice and have always wanted to do something focused on singing together. At least in my little hetero-framed world, the dynamic between men and women is relevant to just about everything, so it can point in every direction at once. It’s a really good challenge to write for a female voice. I’m not sure I’ll ever be totally comfortable with it. That’s part of why it’s so interesting in the first place.

LG: Who are some of your major influences at the moment from a production perspective?  Which artists have done things you’ve found compelling in the last year or so?

Ben: I’ve been digging back into early 90s New York hiphop. It’s such an optimistic era. Tons of 60’s and 70’s samples, everything soft focus.  A lot of Pete Rock and some lesser known stuff. Caribou’s “Swim” is probably the best pure production work I’ve heard in a few years, it’s untouchable. Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Junglinge.” Watch The Throne sounds amazing blaring from a car loud and distorted. New stuff: I have a feeling the new Chairlift album is going to be era-defining, based on one live show in June.

LG: You’ve collaborated with the photographer Emily Keegin and director/designer Wyeth Hansen, both of whom seem to have a visual sensibility/vision that really works with Cookies. Are the visual aspects of what you’re doing an important part of the process of releasing the music?  How did those collaborations come about?

Ben: Part of why Emily and Wyeth are in tune with the Cookies aesthetic is because they invented the Cookies aesthetic.  I knew what the cover was for “Summer Jam” before I’d written the song.  I’m so lucky to have Emily in my life, she is an amazing artist and thinker.  We’ve got some great stuff coming soon. Wyeth is the same, just a great friend that makes work I admire. He made the “Wilderness Tips” video in one night. I made him dinner and spoon fed him wine, and he sat there mumbling at the computer and made a video in two hours.

Related Links:

Cookies Website
Cookies tumblr

Cookies Twitter
Cookies on Listgeeks

Catcall – “Satellites”

It’s probably still too early for a “Song of the Year” list (though “Best Album of 2011 – So Far” is already happening!), but if it weren’t, a sizable percentage of the Listgeeks staff would have Catcall’s breathtaking new track, “Satellites,” at the top. Sydney-based musician Catherine Kelleher has been recording as Catcall since 2007 (when she started singing over her own beats in her bedroom), though she established herself as a teen in Australia with her DIY/Punk band Kiosk. If the first few tracks (see below) from her upcoming album “The Warmest Place (out in 2012 on Ivy League Records) are any evidence, next year is going to be seriously busy for Catherine. We’re happy she took the time to answer a few of our questions and create an awesome list (be sure to check out the links to this amazing collection of artists): “Catcall’s Top 10 Australian Artists Right Now

Listgeeks: Most of your earlier tracks (and the 2008 EP) as Catcall come closer to fitting under a “lo-fi” label, but “Swimming Pool” and “Satellites,” are clearly from a different place, production-wise. How did that shift come about? Are many of the tracks on the upcoming album produced by Diamond Cut?

: I think the shift came about because of the music I started listening to after that EP came out, a lot of classic pop and disco, and also I expanded my collaborations to start working with talented guys like Youth, Diamond Cut and Gloves. That first EP was written entirely on an MPC then recorded and mixed in a bedroom. With the album I was really lucky to have a recording budget thanks to Ivy League and with all my new musical inspirations and new collaborations everything just evolved from there. Diamond Cut has worked on four of the tracks for the record with another producer called Bry Jones, and he’s awesome.

LG: What was the process like for creating the video for “Satellites”?

CC: It was a really fun shoot, we did it all in one day with a small crew in a park in Sydney called Sydney Park. The director Spod had a really simple and beautiful pitch for the track that I thought was so perfect for the song. We shot most of it in one full take over and over again, during the day then at night. It was a really fun clip – lots of incidental exercise too, walking up and down the hill haha.

Catcall – “Swimming Pool”

LG: Based on the strength of these two tracks alone, it seems likely that you’ll be spending much of 2012 on stages in clubs overseas once “The Warmest Place” hits. Who would you like to perform in a line-up with, if you were to curate an evening of your own?

CC: I’d really like to play a bill that included ESG and Chic, haha.

LG: Finally, which other artists/producers would you be most curious to collaborate with at the moment?

CC: I’d love to collaborate with The Dream some day, that would be amazing. I’d also really love to write with Joseph Mount from Metronomy, Paul Epworth and Peaches.

Catcall on Listgeeks
Catcall tumblr
Catcall Facebook