Binky Griptite Slides His Way Back to the Blues

Robert Menzer for the Village Voice
Binky Griptite at home in Bed-Stuy
It's strange to watch Binky Griptite sit still, and stranger still for him to be still.

Griptite is a kinetic, time-keeping force, and easily recognizable to fans of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings as the guitarist in the band's front line whose step is as sure as the click of a metronome. While Griptite isn't on the percussion side of things for the Dap-Kings, he, along with the full ensemble of brass-blowing, bass-thumping, string-snapping soul purveyors onstage with Jones at any given moment, is very much a constant in motion, shifting side to side with the beat rolling in behind him, just as James Brown's guys did back in the day. Griptite can play his guitar behind his back — the swiftness with which he can hoist the sleek, ebony body of the Gibson up and over his shoulders is practically feline — and he can riff while nearly tap-dancing in a buttoned-up suit, in double-time, without breaking a sweat. After a year of exhaustive touring behind Give the People What They Want and with another trek on the horizon, it's a rare moment to catch him without the company of the Dap-Kings and at home in Bed-Stuy on the couch, the Gibson nearby in its case as he fixates on a weathered acoustic he picked up on the street in New Orleans while on tour.

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Twin Shadow's Midnight Ride Brings Him Back Home on Eclipse

Photo by Milan Zrnic
George Lewis, a/k/a Twin Shadow
Ambition is a hell of a drug. Sometimes, you have to get on a bike and chase it.

George Lewis had a dilemma heading into Eclipse, his third album under the Twin Shadow moniker. He was hungry for the big leagues, so he switched up his scenery, rode to Los Angeles, and went in a new direction. Making the major move to Warner Bros. sets up his loftier visions, inching him one step closer to teenage dreams. Twin Shadow is a man of particular principles.

While serious about his music, Lewis keeps a balance with a healthy sense of humor. His "dumpster show," a collaboration with Funny or Die that pokes fun at a typical South by Southwest shindig abuzz with selfie-snapping hipsters, is Exhibit A that he doesn't take himself too seriously. In the video, he performs in a trash receptacle, his band accompanying on toylike Casio keyboards.

"It wasn't even filmed at SXSW! It was filmed almost a month before in a parking lot in Los Angeles, which made it even funnier," he says. "We wanted to do something together, and the Funny or Die guys [and I] all sat down and had a writing session. We had a lot of really weird ideas."

Lewis's send-up of "exclusive" pop-up shows is pitch-perfect. It's also indicative of an artistic maturation: He can laugh at himself, since he's the one writing the jokes. Plus, he could do it from the comfort of his new home turf.

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It's a 'Pleasure to Meet' Dead Sara's Merciless Rock 'n' Roll Attitude

Courtesy of High Rise PR
Dead Sara
Though the events of the last year — which started with getting dropped by Epic Records following the completion of their second album — made for a harsh lesson in the business component of the music biz, the Dead Sara's motto remains "friends first."

"We started out as great friends, so that's the underlying thing. Music is secondary," attests singer and Dead Sara co-founder Emily Armstrong. Guitarist Siouxsie Medley adds, "We're like sisters, and we couldn't be in this band without each other. Our relationship is intense. We've grown up together, grown apart, and grown back. We've been best friends and we've been strangers, but we've always had something, a connection, a bond, I don't know...a passion or love that's kept us together. We've been through so much the twelve years we've been playing music together. We've seen numerous rhythm sections come and go, labels and managers come and go, friends and allies come and basically our entire adultish life we've spent side by side. It's not always easy, but it's nearly impossible to break."

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Seventeen Years in the Making, Swervedriver's Return Strikes a 'Beautiful/Nasty' Balance

Categories: Interviews

Photo by Giles Borg
It's been a long time coming — seventeen years long, to be precise — but on March 6, Swervedriver released a brand-new album, I Wasn't Born to Lose You, marking the shoegaze vets' first full-length record since 1998's 99th Dream.

The question isn't so much why the wait, after all, as the band was broken up and had been silent for almost ten years before reconvening around 2007. Reunion tours do strange things to bands: They either revive old battles or, as in this case, remind them of great musical bonds. Still, a new album was a subject Swervedriver approached cautiously.

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'WTF is Hobo Folk?' Shakey Graves and Nikki Lane Ditch Your Labels at the Door

Graves photo by Josh Verduzco / Lane photo by Glynis Carpenter
Shakey Graves and Nikki Lane
Here's the thing about Shakey Graves and Nikki Lane: The two of them are always down for stage shenanigans, and the fact that they're currently on tour together is a genius and terrible idea all at the same time. When Shakey Graves — a/k/a Alejandro Rose-Garcia — rolled through New York a few months ago in support of his remarkable sophomore effort, And the War Came, a dude crawled out of the crowd to join him onstage at the Bowery Ballroom, picked up a bass, and rocked with the band for a few bars, accidentally stomping on some of the lights in the process. With Lane, she's as rambunctious as her caterwauling, modern take on old country is on All or Nothin', the 2014 full-length she's still touring behind. She was forced to crowdsurf from the stage to the back of the venue in order to work the merch table the other night, and she's always down to bring the crowd before her to a fever pitch by the end of her set. The grins they each sport when they're in their element — playing to packed, loud, sloppy rooms full of people clapping off the beat and belly-laughing while they do it — rival that of the Cheshire Cat. Their mischief is just as engaging as their music, and that's why they're ideal road buddies, even if it means trouble for the rest of us.

In between their respective soundchecks in Washington, D.C., just two nights before their return to New York City for two shows, at Irving Plaza and Warsaw, Lane and Rose-Garcia picked each other's brains about everything they love and loathe about music, from the need to pigeonhole an artist into a particular genre to learning how to keep a cool head as your career takes off. Edited for brevity, this is the backstage chat that unfurled between two of independent country's — or folk, or rock, or what have you — most exciting talents.

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Who Is Tobias Jesso Jr. and How Did He Get Here?

Photo by Sandy Kim
Tobias Jesso Jr. plays a sold-out Mercury Lounge, 3/26/15.
If you've traversed the music blog circuit even casually during the past two weeks, you've likely come across the name of Tobias Jesso Jr. Maybe you wondered why you were seeing his name in AV Club and not an Evelyn Waugh novel, or if his album cover was a picture of Jesse Eisenberg.

Here's a brief introduction: He is a Canadian musician whose stock in trade is the upright piano and simple, melancholic pop songs. His debut album, Goon, channels the understated cooing of an early-Seventies Paul Simon, the plebeian piano-chording of a just-post-Beatles John Lennon, Harry Nilsson's ne'er-do-well affability (less humor), and Warren Zevon's plaintive simplicity (fewer sociopathic tendencies).

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The Guy Who Made the Brilliant 'Hypnotize'-Dinosaurs Video Wants to Go Full-Time

Update, March 26
ACTUALLY, NEVERMIND. Roberts canceled this campaign this morning. When asked about it, he writes to the Voice: "Decided that it wasn't the right move, and that I would be better off continuing to create work in my spare time." He's going to stay at his day job, after all. The original story is below.

Benjamin Roberts wants to keep hypnotizing people.

The 33-year-old Toronto man created a moderate internet hit recently with his YouTube video that cleverly combines Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" and Dinosaurs, the Nineties ABC comedy. Now he wants to quit his "pretty awesome day job" and make similar videos full-time.

"I'm putting together a Kickstarter campaign to basically fund a salary for myself so I can do this full-time for a year," Roberts tells the Voice. "I'm trying to raise the average Canadian salary, which I'm going to use to make one mash-up per month for the next year."

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The Timeless, Intimate Triumph of The Lone Bellow and Then Came the Morning

Photo by Steven Sebring
Brian Elmquist, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, and Zach Williams of the Lone Bellow
Though the Lone Bellow often make friends on the road, they hadn't planned on meeting a snaggle-toothed creature behind a crumbling headstone in a buddy's backyard in Nashville.

"We went over to Nikki Lane's house, and I found the old graveyard in the backyard," says Zach Williams. Lane, a spur-kickin' disciple of East Nashville, is one of the artists caught in the crosshairs of the alt-Americana/folk rock/gimme-more-lap-steel-right-NOW adjective game that the Lone Bellow have come to run in circles with in recent years. During this particular stopover in Nashville, before they stepped outside, she'd warned Williams and the gang that she wasn't the only tenant occupying the property. "I went out there by myself in the middle of the night. The graves are above ground and cracked open, and she's like, 'Watch out! There's a possum that lives in there!' All of a sudden a possum pokes his little head out and took off running. I met Nikki Lane's graveyard possum!"

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Slutist's Legacy of the Witch Casts a Powerful, Feminine Spell

Photo by Suzanne Abramson
Karyn Crisis of Gospel of the Witches
Whether it's the Halliwell Sisters, Stevie Nicks, Hecate, or Melissa Joan Hart's take on Sabrina, feminine power and the archetype of the witch have always been synonymous. Kristen Korvette, a Brooklyn-based writer and founder of the feminist blog Slutist, sets out to celebrate the relationship between femininity and the craft with this month's Legacy of the Witch Festival at Saint Vitus.

Founded in 2013, Slutist evolved from Korvette's desire to cultivate a sex-positive space for discourse online. "I started Slutist as a place to publish writing about music, art, pop culture, and politics through a feminist lens," Korvette explains. "It started out with my writing and then it really took on a life of its own. Dozens of women from New York and around the country got involved and it became a more communal effort." Since its inception, Slutist has featured op-eds, interviews, and round-ups by feminists of all stripes that push past the boundaries of respectability politics and stereotypes while applauding what the mainstream might consider forbidden or taboo.

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The Budos Band Take Their Burnt Offering to Brooklyn

Courtesy of Daptone Records
The Budos Band
The album cover for the Budos Band's 2005 self-titled debut features an active volcano gushing out lava as it spills downhill. At the time of its release, the group was fresh to the scene with a modern take on soul and Fela Kuti–inspired rhythm that sizzled to the touch. Fast-forward to their most recent gift to the fusion funk gods, 2014's Burnt Offering, and the sounds you hear recall a smoldering wind of change after nearly a decade's worth of tight, Afro-soul instrumentals. At their core, the nine-piece outfit is still the good-cheer-producing ensemble that can inspire the crabbiest of curmudgeons to tap a foot along to their infectious brass beat. It's just that now, Daptone Records' Staten Island ambassadors have broadened their reach into darker-sounding territory, and they've done so while flexing the hell out of a fuzz pedal.

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