Marmoset presents miniature music concerts — a new series where we invite talented, touring and local artists into our space to capture a stripped down performance of their music.
Bells Atlas’ sound is a combo of mystic charm and soulful, experimental pop. They get you moving through creating a space that feels wandering, inquisitively open and exploratory.
As big fans of their music, when the touring stars aligned, we leaped at the opportunity to host Bells Atlas at Marmoset headquarters; hanging out in the space, they have a natural ease about them. In their stripped down performance they completely make the space their own, singer Sandra Lawson-Ndu’ vocals rule over everything else.
Check out Part One of their mini concert above, then dig into our conversation with the band below:
Marmoset: If you had to pitch Bells Atlas' sound in a sentence, what would it be?
Derek: The rhythm of orange creamsicle earthquakes and melody of melted lava astrological comet-chords.
M: If you could attend any musical event in history, what would it be?
Doug: Miles Davis at the Cellar Door in 1970.
M: Who are some filmmakers, artists and other musicians you look to for inspiration? Do you guys ever pay homage to anyone with your work?
Sandra: Speaking on this album (The Mystic), I was very much inspired by authors and other creatives that use sci-fi fantasy or even surrealism to observe our own realities.
For me, the best ones somehow have the potential to spark inspiration for how to interact with each other and create a sense of openness to what is possible, drifting further from an idea of acceptable norms. Ursula Le Guin, Phillip Pullman, and Sharon Shinn are authors that inspired me early on. More recently I’ve been inspired by amazing shows like Atlanta and Random Acts of Flyness, or authors like Octavia Butler and Akwaeke Emezi who present surreal and fantastical work in which black and brown folks are often central characters.
M: What would you say is "the heart" of your new album, The Mystic?
Sandra: The main heart of the album is really the fact that we get this opportunity to write together as a band and this music is a reflection of how we've grown in that process and also how much we love it.
Thematically this is very much inspired by a connection to someone in my life who sparked my love for storytelling and my interest in both the mystical and the fantastical. In my eyes they have alway embraced and embodied intangible realities. When they began to struggle with their mental health they still held that magic as a truth-seer and a storyteller. This narrative exists in some of the songs in the album but it’s really the questions that resulted that are the basis of many of the stories here : what expressions needed a diagnosis? what caused pain versus what was the result of a different way of interpreting life and offering new paths of seeing? what was clinical vs mystical? How do we make space for each other's beliefs and varied lenses of experience.
M: There's something refreshingly experimental and kind of psychedelic with your music + visual work — how does the band try out new ideas? What does a creative session look like when writing new music or making a music video?
Geneva: Trying out new ideas is perhaps one of the binding qualities between all of us. I think this creative collaboration is, in some part for all of us, an arena to do that.
Something with The Mystic in particular, for example, was approaching a new writing technique which involved creating more from a studio production approach. It was less about being behind our instruments and satisfying the performative aspect, and more about crafting songs and thinking about the listening perspective; compounding elements and sections of each song one at a time. It kept things fresh and offered a new perspective on creating together, which is something we've never really been adverse to.
When it comes to visual elements for the band, there are usually a series of ideas thrown around, or perhaps just one, and then we dig deep into that world. So the fuzzy masks in “Be Brave” started with a photo shoot we did years ago. We honestly wanted to try getting away from having to photograph our faces together 'cause we all felt like we photograph and facially express so differently that maybe nullifying our faces would help execute something simply and quickly.
Kinda funny thinking about it in retrospect. But the cool thing was, we were able to insert something psychedelic and fantastical instead and sort of recreate our identities. Or perhaps give some deeper meaning to our identities. Anywho, the director took that that fantastical idea and ran with it, which we supported fully along the way.
M: We loved having you here at Marmoset, your music is so immersive — whether listening to it with your headphones on or witnessing it performed in person. How do you guys get in the right mindset before a show or wind down afterward?
Geneva: This varies depending on who you talk to. I think there's inevitably some kind of socializing happening, but as the set time approaches, some of us zone out in the green room and do vocal warm-ups or stretch.
Some people get some fresh air or take a walk before or after the set before greeting people. There's almost always food involved somewhere in there between soundcheck and showtime. It definitely helps to get grounded and clear the mind in some way! Our music is fairly involved and requires some kind of "zen" state for each of us in some way, whether that means channeling focus or just letting yourself open up your intuition and feel your way through all the nooks and crannies the music takes you to .
Check back on Monday when we dig more into Bells Atlas’ song meanings and another release of their exclusive performance.
When Jess Jacklin and Charles Beale kicked off StudioFest last year, their mission was to redefine traditional film festival processes—to award the winning filmmakers not just with a temporary status or accolade, but with means of creating their first feature work.
“Independent short filmmakers and screenwriters desire one thing: to make their first feature,” says Beale. “We have aimed to align the skew, bringing talented filmmakers straight to their first feature. The project has grown to include so much talent and enthusiasm and we can’t wait to share the film.”
Winning director, Anna Mikami and winning screenwriter Matthew Sorvillo walked away from the festival experience with a newfound professional partnership. With Mikami in the director chair and Sorvillo spearheading the script, Souvenirs was the product of creative collaboration, perseverance and a tried-and-true indie kind of resourcefulness.
Produced under a 1M micro-budget, the StudioFest collaborative proved it’s possible to churn out a high quality production even when a big studio isn’t at the helm. Partnering up with Marmoset to equip the production with the music rights for their feature film, a dream soundtrack was no longer out of arm’s reach.
Proving it’s possible to find songs for commercial use on a budget is what Marmoset’s music licensing team does daily. But when partnering up with other community organizations like StudioFest—to help outside projects license music for video—it’s a commitment to our community; to give what we can from our side, while always ensuring our artists receive their share and exposure for their work.
Thanks to the pioneering film festival that’s examining the leaps and hurdles every filmmaker faces, Souvenirs is no longer an aspirational idea—it’s a film slated to premiere in Fall 2019.
“The winners we chose compliment each other in a way we are very excited about. As we get into our second week of filming, there’s an air of enthusiasm shared with everyone involved,” says Jacklin. “Although we’re working with a micro-budget, the caliber of talent from cast, crew and sponsors adds a tremendous amount of value and we couldn’t do it without their dedication and vision.”
Stay tuned as we cover the release of Souvenirs and the making of its soundtrack.
A combination of imaginative and minimalist approach, Lullatone’s music masters the playful melody — their style of producing and recording music is just as interesting and forward thinking as the results.
With their latest release “Acorns” out today and now available for music licensing on the Marmoset catalog, we proudly present a special spotlight short film on Lullatone. Directed by filmmaker Josh Brine, Lullatone members, Shawn James Seymour and Yoshimi Tomida welcome viewers (and listeners) into their charming creative space located in Nagoya, Japan.
Watch to learn more about their story — from what inspires them, their unique and inspiring approach to music production and the a behind the scenes look at the making of “Acorns.”
In case you missed our special interview with Lullatone, click here to learn more about Lullatone.
When you think of songs from the public domain, you probably think of big bands, crooning vocals, and wax cylinders. Instead, Distance’s re-imagination of the 1919 classic, “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise,” originally written by Eugene Lockhart and sung by Ernest Seitz, uses big contemporary builds and edgy synth tones combined with the smooth, anthemic vocals of Frankie Simone to turn a more than 100 year old composition into a danceable, electro-pop song.
“The original is pretty light on lyrics. So, to put my own twist on it, I decided to use a heavy drop because it’s so different from the original structure of the song,” said Graham Barton, Distance (and Marmoset) composer. “Almost like adding an exclamation point to the original -- helping the song fit in today’s modern EDM form, while also keeping it’s own uniqueness as it ventures off melodically.”
“The World is Waiting for the Sunrise” premiered on Your EDM today and will be available, along with nine additional re-imagined songs, on December 1st. Read more about the other singles by The Helio Sequence, Ural Thomas and The Pain, and Dear Nora in Transference and stay tuned for more announcements before its release.
The holidays haven’t arrived quite yet, but we have an early present for you anyway: Dear Nora’s newest song, “Where the Morning Glories Grow” off of our upcoming album, Transference. The song premiered on FADER yesterday and will be available on vinyl, along with the rest of the carefully reimagined songs from the album, on December 1st.
“To create my version of this song, I listened to one or two old renditions and memorized the basic chord structure,” says Dear Nora songwriter and front woman (and Marmoset Original Music Producer), Katy Davidson. “Then I didn’t listen to it again at all, just kept singing it and playing it over and over on guitar until my version was solidified. I collaborated with engineer/producer Tim Shrout and drummer Gregory Campanile on this song. I usually self-record, but it was fun to get into the studio with my friends to make this.”
The song is a reimagined version of the 1917 original by Gus Kahn, Raymond Egan and Richard Whiting (which you might have heard covered by Bing Crosby). Built on simple guitar notes and minimal drum flourishes, Dear Nora takes listeners on a reflective, youthful journey, as Katy sings of revisiting favorite places and nostalgic childhood memories.