Q&A: Northern Spy Records' Tom Abbs and Adam Downey On Guitarist Tom Carter, Working At ESP-Disk' And Running Their Own Label

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Peter Gannushkin/downtownmusic.net
Chicago Underground Duo play Roulette on July 15 as part of Spy Music Fest.
This week, the Voice sat down with Northern Spy head-honchos Tom Abbs and Adam Downey to talk about the second installment of the label's Spy Music Festival, which will engulf this city's landscape from Friday through mid-July.

But in typical unselfish fashion, Abbs and Downey weren't in a self-congratulatory mood over their ascendant label, the impending celebration, and the lineup of killer shows. Instead, Abbs and Downey were not only intent on fixing the wrongs they encountered at their former label, ESP-Disk', by paying back decades-old royalties to that label's artists, they were itching for the same rep AUM Fidelity label head Steven Joerg has: to be as completely fair to their artists as possible.

That righteous ethos extends into being there 100% in support of musicians in need like Brooklyn guitarist and N-Spyer Tom Carter, who is facing an uphill battle after falling ill while on tour in Germany. Read on for outtakes that didn't make it into this week's piece.

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Download: Skeletons' Road Rage Rumination "More Than The One Thing"


Though originally birthed in Oberlin, Skeletons are a quintessential New York amalgam, guided by a fluttery art-jazz shimmer, a minimalist aesthetic, a grab bag of post-punk grooves and those disjunctive melodies currently turning the underground into a 12-tone headfuck (cf. Dirty Projectors, Tyondai Braxton, Extra Life). Previously known as Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys, Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities, and Skeleton$, they've stripped down their name and their sound--their eighth-or-so album PEOPLE (out now via Shinyoko) is a mix of circular rhythms and Graceland-gone-avant cheer. "More Than The One Thing" is a bouncing ball of Philip Glass piano, Battles grooves and one dueling, polyrhythmic pennywhistle solo—it may be the most tender rumination ever spawned from road rage.


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