There are certain artists - not many, but a few - that, when you hear their music for the first time, you don't simply seek out the rest of their discography. It sounds so good that you feel compelled to find the records that influenced the artist as well. You have to understand the building blocks of that sound, those cobblestones that paved the path by which that music made its way to you.
Steve Gunn is one of those artists. Whether playing solo, or with the Gunn-Truscinski Duo, the Black Twig Pickers, or a host of other collaborators, his prodigious guitar work and timeless songs are certain to make an impact. Then you learn a little about his influences, and the rabbit hole opens like a vortex.
Although not from North Carolina, Gunn has released a decent chunk of his recorded output on NC-based labels Three Lobed Recordings and Paradise of Bachelors. He's since moved on to Matador, but his ties to the Old North State are strong.
Steve Gunn will be making the trip to Charlotte for a show at Recover Brands on Monday, March 26th. In advance of the show, Cream Puff Records called Steve at his Brooklyn home to discuss a laundry list of topics. A native of the Philadelphia area, he’s a longtime, long-suffering Eagles fan. Their victory in Super Bowl LII came as a complete shock in the best possible way. So we spent a lot time talking football. When the conversation turned to music, Steve shared his love of Sun Ra, Bardo Pond and Michael Chapman, discussed why Asian and African music is so essential to him, and made the double confession that he’s both a jazz nerd and a Spotify-user.
Cream Puff Records is thrilled to host Steve Gunn at Recover Brands on Monday, March 26th. Nathan Bowles - the clawhammer banjoist and familiar face around these parts - will share the bill. There are only a few tickets left – CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS BEFORE THEY SELL OUT.Read More
Thanks to everyone who came early on Friday to hear the Cream Puff DJ set. Most of the pre-show music is available on Spotify....
....but a couple songs are vinyl only. Thank goodness for YouTube:
THE CONSOLERS: We Are All God's Children
THE GOSPEL KEYNOTES: Do Your Thing for Jesus
CARLEEN & THE GROOVERS: Right On
In 2014, Hiss Golden Messenger played a raucous version of “Southern Grammar” on The Late Show with David Letterman. As usual, founding member and band leader MC Taylor was accompanied by bassist and fellow traveler Scott Hirsch.
The band had been on a hot streak, consistently getting better and releasing several stellar albums for the Chapel Hill label Paradise of Bachelors. But something was different this go-round. Part of it had to do with the fact that “Southern Grammar” was the single from Lateness of Dancers, a new record released by Merge Records and a major step up in terms of recognition and distribution. The Letterman spot was proof of the rising tide.
But something even more special was happening. Flanked by a who’s who of Durham musicians (Phil Cook on guitar, Matt Douglas on sax, Amelia Meath and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig singing backup; Matt McCaughan on drums), Hiss Golden Messenger was changing before our very eyes. No longer a band – they were a collective, with Taylor as the reverend. And they were funky.
At the end of the song, an obviously impressed Letterman joined them on stage and said, “Nice going. I’ll tell ya – I liked everything about this…This is fantastic right here. What are ya worried about?
From that moment on, the Hiss Golden Messenger collective has been the standard-bearer for North Carolina’s music community. Three years and two phenomenal albums later (both on Merge Records), the band continues to climb mountains, building its fan base one believer at a time and filling its songbook with increasingly masterful tunes. And they’ve kept the country funk running strong. As someone in the industry once said, “No one swings like Hiss Golden Messenger.”
The band is currently on a mini-tour and will make its final stop in Charlotte this Friday (3/9) at the Neighborhood Theatre. In advance of the show, MC Taylor was kind enough to answer some questions via email. Ever the thoughtful interview subject, his responses cover the UNC/Duke rivalry, the music his kids are into, and his thoughts on what it means to be hip in today’s world.
Hiss Golden Messenger plays The Neighborhood Theatre on Friday. Doors at 7pm. Show at 8pm. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS.
In the meantime, CLICK HERE to read the Cream Puff Records interview with MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger.Read More
There’s something special going on in Asheville. In a state that is home to some of the best artists making music today, most of the attention has been directed to Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh. But if you head four hours west on Interstate 40 to Asheville, you’ll find a community of North Carolina artists that is equally rousing (albeit slightly less famous). Yes, mega-star Angel Olsen is pretty well known, but a host of other Asheville musicians maintain a lower profile. Whether it’s improv specialists Tashi Dorji, Tyler Damon, and Thom Nguyen; cellist Emmalee Hunnicutt; or roots rockers The Dead Tongues and Floating Action, the sounds coming from the Land of the Sky is just as vibrant as the music from the Triangle.
One of the most gripping players from the Asheville scene is Sarah Louise. A master of the twelve-string acoustic guitar, she first gained renown with her solo, instrumental albums Field Guide (2015; self-released; Scissor Tail reissue) and VDSQ Acoustic Series Volume 12 (2016; VDSQ). She also teamed up with Sally Anne Morgan of the Black Twig Pickers to form House and Land, a folk-drone duo whose self-titled release on Thrill Jockey was one of last year’s highlights.
This year is shaping up to be another good one for Sarah. She recently announced the release of her next solo record Deeper Woods (Thrill Jockey) in May. Although she invited a small group of friends to participate in the making of it, the record is very much a product of her own vision. She taught herself to play other instruments for it. She wrote all of the songs, produced the record herself, engineered it, and perhaps most alluring, broke free from her signature twelve-string guitar to emphasize vocals, keys, and synthesizers.
Sarah Louise will be making her Charlotte debut on February 24th at a house show. We caught up with her in advance via email to discuss the new record and her musical roots. She also provided a long list of other great female guitarists we should be checking out and told us why a crockpot of soup can lead to a killer DIY event.
Sarah Louise plays a Charlotte house show with Tashi Dorji on February 24th. Send a direct message to Cream Puff Records via Facebook or Instagram for ticket information and location. In the meantime, click here to read our interview with Sarah Louise.Read More
by: ANITA OVERCASH
Superchunk is fed up. The Durham-based band is disgusted by the political climate that we’re living in and has taken to venting on their upcoming album, What a Time to Be Alive. The album is slated for release on February 16th. A follow-up to the band’s 2013 release I Hate Music, What a Time to Be Alive delivers upbeat anthemic indie punk rock.
Comprised of Merge Record founders Laura Ballance (bassist) and Mac McCaughan (singer/guitarist), as well as Jim Wilbur (guitarist) and Jon Wurster (drummer), Superchunk expands on feelings of vulnerability and the need to actively protest. Songs like “Break the Glass” reflect this spirit: “Everyone’s acting normal but no one’s sleeping through the night … Break the glass, don’t use the door. This is what a hammer’s for ...”
Cream Puff Records caught up with Laura Balance to discuss the record. She explains that it is the first Superchunk album that’s been entirely influenced by politics. It’s also the first album that she recorded in a separate room from her band. Ballance, who was diagnosed with tinnitus and hyperacusis several years ago, can no longer play in the same room as the rest of the band due to her hypersensitivity to noise. The diagnosis caused her to stop touring with Superchunk in 2010.
In addition to What a Time to Be Alive and the political climate, Ballance discusses the recording process, her feelings of isolation, and the incorporation of a more diverse roster of artists at Merge Records. CLICK HERE to read the Cream Puff Records interview with Laura Ballance.
Superchunk's new record What a Time to Be Alive is out via Merge Records on February 16th. Click here to order your copy on the Merge Records website.Read More
Here we are. As another year approaches its terminus, another blog memorializes the music it liked. For music fanatics with some tie to reality, the year-end list making ritual is something that means nothing while also meaning everything. It sure does take up a lot of time.
What follows is a list of albums that made an impact on us this year. A lot of the albums on our list were made by folks we hosted in Charlotte. We met these musicians, promoted gigs for them, interviewed them and introduced them to our friends. They are the reason Cream Puff Records exists.
As we wrap up our second full year, we are grateful to all of you who bought a record, read an interview, came to a show, or showed us some love in another way. We’re already working on some good stuff for 2018, and we hope you’ll stick around to see it.
For now, we hope you enjoy our year end review. CLICK HERE TO READ CREAM PUFF RECORDS: BEST OF 2017.Read More
Jake Xerxes Fussell is a time traveler.
Xerxes was the fourth king of the Achaemenid dynasty and the namesake of a Southern potter. Jake was named after the potter. His journey has taken him from his hometown of Columbus, Georgia to Berkeley to Oxford, Mississippi to Durham - with furloughs in countless hamlets, way stations and outposts along the way. His folklorist father was a museum curator who traversed the the Deep South researching, recording and photographing old-time musicians of all shapes and sizes. Rug rat Jake tagged along, meeting the blues and folk pickers along the way. He learned to play guitar.
Later in life, he met William Tyler. The kindred spirits played music together and recorded Jake's first album in 2015, a self-titled affair with Tyler in the producer's booth. It's a folk record for modern times. Earlier this year, Fussell released What in the Natural World, his second full length. It's a collection of vernacular songs from the 1920s and 1930s, reinterpreted for today's Heads. Both records were released by Chapel Hill's fortress label Paradise of Bachelors.
Jake Xerxes Fussell's name takes us back to the earliest of times, and the songs he's chosen to record reflect his passion for digging up musical gems that were forgotten long ago. But the way he plays them is utterly of - and for - today.
Jake Xerxes Fussell will be in Charlotte on Thursday (12/14) for an intimate living room set at Recover Brands. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS.
Prior to the show, we had a nice, long phone chat with Jake to discuss his recent European tour with the gospel group The Como Mamas. We also talked about the democratic power of YouTube and the need to break away from our traditional arbiters of hip and cool in order to broaden our musical palates. It's a fascinating interview - CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT.
JAKE XERXES FUSSELL PLAYS RECOVER BRANDS ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14TH. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS. FREE BEER WILL BE PROVIDED (OR BYOB). SEE YOU THERE!
The song "Moon Whip Quaz" got us thinking about Big Black's "The Model," a cover of the standout track from Kraftwerk's 1978 record The Man-Machine. All three songs made for the outline of a new playlist.
According to Hans Chew, his boogie-woogie music channels the vitality of rock maniacs Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and David Yow. Although calmer now - he’s a father, settled in New York – his music maintains the energy and the edge of his forebears.
Cream Puff Records is thrilled to host Hans Chew and his Band at The Visulite on Sunday, November 12th. In advance of the show, we asked Hans some questions over email. His responses are fantastic. Whether you know his story already or you are new to him and his music – you’ll love this conversation. We sure did.
Hans Chew Band plays The Visulite on Sunday, November 12th. Tashi Dorji and RHTS also join the bill. Click here for tickets.Read More
Cream Puff Records
Hans Chew Band
The Visulite Theatre
11.12.2017 | 7pm | $10
CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS
Cream Puff Records is proud to host this night of mind-expanding music. Talent like this usually skips Charlotte on its way to The Triangle or Asheville, so we're feeling lucky to have them visit the Queen City. Let's give them a warm welcome. Hope to see you there!
The first thing you notice at an Helado Negro show is the two human-size blobs dancing on stage. Known as the Tinsel Mammals and clad head to toe in tinsel, they are professional dancers wearing costumes designed to make them look like pom poms. Roberto Carlos Lange - the songwriter and brains behind Helado Negro - says the purpose of the Tinsel Mammals is to disarm the audience and create a sense of mystery and anticipation. They are crucial to his performance, but he acknowledges that they can be a little goofy too.
Born in the Fort Lauderdale area to Ecuadorian parents, Lange is a one-man-show (not counting the Tinsel Mammals) who sings and makes electronic music using a Music Production Controller. He manipulates programmed beats, samples, and synth riffs to create spacey lounge music. It's a thoroughly modern sound that somehow stays rooted in the Latino music of Lange's youth. Imagine Panda Bear singing in Spanish or a cumbia Ariel Pink song and you might get a sense of what this offbeat music sounds like.
Helado Negro will be stopping through Charlotte on October 21st for a set at McColl Center for Art + Innovation. It's the next event in the indomitable New Frequencies series, and like the sets earlier this year, it promises to be a singular night of mind-expanding music. Bo White and Brett Green's High Cube project will open the show...and yes, the Tinsel Mammals will be there too.
Cream Puff Records caught up with Roberto by phone while he was on tour with Sylvan Esso last month. We talked about his Ecuadorian roots and why the visual element of his show is just as important as the music.
Helado Negro performs at McColl Center for Art + Innovation on Saturday, October 21st. High Cube is the opener. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS.
Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster is a humble songwriter; he sings about dawn and dirt and dust. First with Theodore (St. Louis), then with Water Liars (Mississippi), and most recently on his own, JPKS writes sparse reflections on the mysteries of ordinary life. He traffics in catharsis.
Justin will be passing through Charlotte again this week for his second living room set at Recover Brands. The show will take place on Wednesday (10/18) at 8pm. Ahead of the set, we caught up with Justin over email to ask him about what he's been up to lately.
Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster plays an intimate living room set this Wednesday (10/18) at Recover Brands. Doors at 7pm. Show starts at 8pm. FREE BEER PROVIDED or your bring your own. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS.
It's an "All Things Considered" performance, which means can help Justin build his set-list for the Charlotte show. Once you buy a ticket, send an email to email@example.com with your name, city, and song request. It can be any song Justin has ever written.
In the meantime, CLICK HERE to read the Cream Puff Records interview with Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster.Read More
The Futurebirds' story involves a lot more than Athens, Georgia, but it is hard to talk about the band without mentioning the college town where they formed. Yes, their songs tug at the notions of love and heartache and change - universal themes that could have originated anywhere in the country. But the rich musical heritage of home, the Southern sense of place, and the true love of SEC country bleed from every tune they've written. Futurebirds wear their Athens roots like a fitted shirt.
Frontman Carter King has been leading the band since its inception in 2008. He's overseen the band's growth from a college band playing frat parties and dive bars to a Southern rock staple headlining some of the most prestigious rooms across the country. Futurebirds recently wrapped up a successful New England tour in support of Portico II, the EP they released earlier this year.
In their down time, Carter and songwriter/guitarist Daniel Womack sometimes play intimate living room sets as a duo. This Saturday, they'll bring it to Tabor for the Bungalow Social. A living room set on the front porch. Go figure.
In advance of the performance, Cream Puff Records caught up with Carter King over email just as the band was wrapping up its tour. We covered a lot in the fun little exchange, including fast food, cover songs and Widespread Panic.Read More
This playlist was supposed to be about Endless Boogie.
Starting with "Pots On, Gas On High" (an eleven minute rump-shaker from John Lee Hooker's 1971 album Endless Boogie) and ending with "Back in '74" (a new song from the old band Endless Boogie), the playlist was to be bookended by two of our favorite "new to us" tunes of 2017.
But in the time it took to finalize the playlist, we lost four of the greats. First, it was Walter Becker. Then Holger Czukay. Then Charles Bradley. And most recently, Tom Petty. To make a playlist without a nod to those four would not have felt right.
So here is an Endless Boogie-themed playlist that begins by paying tribute to Holger, Walter, Tom, and Charles. What follows is a bunch of other songs we're psyched about these days. The playlist is embedded below. Click here for the direct link to Spotify,
Professional musicians these days must own “the hustle.” The economics of record sales are dismal. Streaming services could not be any less artist-friendly. Year round touring is a grind. To make it in the music industry and keep his sanity, an artist must keep busy with other things. Produce, mix, and master. Form numerous bands. Arrange other people’s songs. Sell merch. Teach music lessons. The list goes on.
Durham-based artists Chris Boerner and Matt Douglas are two musicians who have mastered the hustle. As an engineer and producer, Boerner has made his mark in the studio on countless records, including the recent Blank Range debut full-length and Hallalujah Anyhow, the upcoming Merge Records release from Hiss Golden Messenger. He’s also an accomplished guitarist who has toured with Aaron Freeman and the Grammy-nominated hip hop group The Foreign Exchange. Douglas is a horn player who has bounced around in jazz and hip hop bands, teaching music lessons in the interim. More recently, he became a full-time member of The Mountain Goats, another band on the Merge roster with a 2017 record (called Goths and released in May). This year, like every year, has been busy.
Boerner and Douglas also make up two thirds of The Hot at Nights, an instrumental trio specializing in jazz with hints of funk and hip hop with electronic flourishes. The trio released Three Kids earlier this year, the fifth record they’ve done together since forming in 2010. Joined by drummer Nick Baglio, Boerner plays eight-string guitar and mult-instrumentalist Douglas does the rest.
The Hot at Nights will be in Charlotte on Tuesday, September 5th as the opening act for The Mountain Goats. In advance of this exciting double bill, we caught up with Chris Boerner and Matt Douglas to discuss their approach to the hustle, the history of The Hot at Nights, and that time Matt played with Talib Kweli back in the day.
The Hot at Nights will be at The Neighborhood Theatre on Tuesday, September 5th as the opening act for The Mountain Goats. Click here for tickets.
In the meantime, click on “Read More” below to read our interview with Chris Boerner and Matt Douglas.Read More
Toth’s Law is akin to Murphy’s Law. Murphy admonishes, “If something can go wrong, it will.” Toth offers the musician’s corollary: when given a choice of two songs, the listener will always prefer the one the singer doesn’t. Both laws are glass-half-empty reproaches with Zen applications in real life. You can’t micromanage the outcome, so just roll with it.
The architect of Toth’s Law’s is James Jackson Toth, a songwriter better known by his stage name Wooden Wand. A road-tested bard with a recorded output that challenges even the most intrepid Discogs completist, Toth writes songs on a daily basis. With a songbook as thick as his, it is only natural that some tunes do not fly as far as others. Hence, Toth’s Law.
Wooden Wand has put this approach to songwriting on display twice this year. First, he released the majestic Clipper Ship, a full-length album that is both pastoral and motorik. Later, he uploaded Toth’s Law – a collection of ten songs written throughout the years - to Bandcamp before promptly removing them. Clipper Ship is in the world for posterity. Toth’s Law is no longer available. The duality endures.
James Toth brings his one-man Wooden Wand show to town for an intimate living room set at Recover Brands on Thursday, August 24th. In advance of the show, we asked him some questions over email. In his responses, James digs a little deeper into the meaning of Toth’s Law, sizes up the Grateful Dead’s studio albums, and gives us a preview of his upcoming Charlotte set.