Posts tagged Mellowdrone
[SONG OF THE DAY] Mellowdrone - "Let It Out"

I would apologize for the Bojack season 5 binge that delayed me getting to today’s SOTD, but considering the depth of the subject matter for both the series and Mellowdrone’s latest single from their upcoming EP, 3, I’d say it’s pretty kismet that I decided to pour myself into both of these things today.

Enough Bojack! I’m so glad that Mellowdrone is back! Admittedly I’ve been a more committed Big Black Delta fan, but it’s very exciting to see frontman Jonathan Bates going back to this project along with his bandmates guitarist Tony DeMatteo and drummer Brian Borg.

Other things I’m really excited about: Jonathan Bates is sober!🙏🏻🙌🏻🙏🏻🙌🏻🙏🏻🙌🏻🙏🏻🙌🏻🙏🏻🙌🏻🙏🏻🙌🏻

You can’t see me right now, but I’m waving invisible pom-poms so hard right now after writing that last sentence. Bates has hinted at his relationship with alcohol on Big Black Delta material in the past, but apparently has made the decision to get clean and put a priority on himself. I couldn’t be happier for him.

As he starts this new chapter of his life, “Let It Out” is his opportunity to explore what it means to be a man. As he told Buzzbands.LA, “[…]Being raised as a male in my generation, you’re never allowed to show feelings.” In “Let It Out”, however, Bates is doing the exact opposite, specifically in the chorus where as he described there’s, “[…]a group of people operatically crying and a dude is saying, ‘Just let it out,’” 

I will point out that of the three Mellowdrone songs we’ve been blessed with this year that you can smell some Big Black Delta fumes on this one, which I actually think was a very beautiful conscious choice. Within the first few seconds you’re ears perk up due to some familiar sounds from whoRU812, a record meant to be the final purge of art he created in response to his father passing away. It’s not lost on me that after making an ambient instrumental album and then switching to a different project where he very candidly opens up that somewhere we’d find traces of what will likely be his ongoing mourning.

Bates has actually been at the top of my mind a lot lately because my father passed away in July. Knowing that such beautiful things like Trágame Tierra, whoRU812, and now these new Mellowdrone songs can be the product of such deep loss has been very comforting for me, which is part of why I’m so happy that Bates is doing better.

Thankfully we don’t have long to wait for the 3 EP, it’s dropping on September 26th. In the meantime, if you’re having a much needed self-care Sunday, spend some time with this much needed three minutes and fifty-nine seconds of taking care of yourself this evening.

#skoaradio 10/31/2015 liner notes
When a new song comes out of nowhere and suddenly becomes your favorite.

When a new song comes out of nowhere and suddenly becomes your favorite.

Happy Halloween broadband buds!
Gotta say, the jams in this week's #skoaradio are so good it's SCARY! hahahaha oh boy am I bad at #relevantcontent sometimes but WE'RE HERE TO TALK MUSIC ANYWAYS SO WHATEVER. I dug up some spooktacular new tunes this week from Sinden, The 1975, Jamie Woon, MALAA, and more so it's a pretty damn good mixtape if I do say so myself. Lots of new music out this week so I hope you weren't planning on buying your family any expensive Christmas gifts because you're about to exceed your budget on music for the zillionth time.

Don't forget you can grab the Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post so you can treasure the order I painstakingly put these songs in. Or you can hit shuffle. Whatever.

Until next week!



[Interview] Big Black Delta Frontman Jonathan Bates Loves Space, Electronic Music, Love Songs
credit: @sproutdr | Big Black Delta @ Pianos 8/9/2912

credit: @sproutdr | Big Black Delta @ Pianos 8/9/2912

Last month when I stepped into the back room at Pianos to catch Big Black Delta, I wasn't really sure what to expect. As we stood around waiting for the band to load in, I remember being confused by some of the gear they were bringing in. There were these two racks that looked a lot like they were supposed to hold shirts being lifted on the stage. Instead of shirts, however, they had these long electronic strips hanging off of them. It took a few more minutes before I put two and two together that it was part of their lighting setup. Soon the room was pitch black, the first couple of beats from "Put The Gun On The Floor" started to pound through the room, and I was about to leap out of my skin in anticipation. The next half hour I watched Jonathan Bates, the brains behind Big Black Delta, sing, dance, and program his way through the set in between a pair of drummers with a very focused but effortless look on his face. Weeks later I was able to chat with him on the phone for a few minutes and learn more about the man who put on one of the most memorable shows that I've experienced at Piano's to date.

For those just tuning in, this isn't Bates' first musical project. Prior to Big Black Delta, he was the lead singer of the rock band Mellowdrone, which released multiple albums on Columbia Records in the early 2000s before they disbanded and went their separate ways. After the breakup, he took a couple of years off, which I figured was a means to recharge, but according to Bates, "It wasn't actually a recharge, it was actually the opposite. The longer I stayed away from making music and doing stuff like that, the more severely bored I got. Then it was just like, if all I have to look forward to is getting a bigger flat screen in life, then like, I'd just rather not. I had to go back, I had to make something creative."

While Mellowdrone was primarily a rock band with indie rock, experimental, and lo-fi bits thrown in here and there, Big Black Delta is purely electronic. The one thing that drew him to making electronic music was the space. "My favorite kind of electronic music has a lot of space to it," he said, "And you know, guitars and distortion and white dudes on stage seemed to take up a lot of frequency and I wanted to something completely the opposite. The same thing with performing, which is like, 'What is the most naked scary thing you could do?' Which is stand up there without an instrument. I've been playing guitar my whole life, so to stand up there just with a microphone and see if I can do it. I wanted to make something simple *laughs* but it never ends up coming out that way."

"I just wanted to project what I see when I hear my music with my eyes closed."

"Simple" is far from how I would describe Big Black Delta. In addition to his multi-dimensional songs, the live performance is all over the place, especially for Bates. As he went on to explain, with the aid of programs like Abelton Live, "I can sync a light show to my music and I can also play the lights in front of everybody. […] I'm like remixing on the fly and producing my vocals at the same time, and then I'm hitting light cues and things like that." You would think that would be pretty overwhelming to be juggling all that during a performance, but he didn't see it that way. "I love it." he said, "If I get too bored up there then I feel like… I don't know. I love falling down the stairs and then landing on your feet kind of thing." With so much already going on in the early stages of the project, I was curious to know what he daydreams about adding to future performances as the band becomes more successful. "More lights," he replied, "If I could add a choir and a brass section and things like that, you know, I'd totally Peter Frampton the shit out of it." What's interesting about the live experience is that none of it is there for the sake of being flashy. As Bates put it, "I just wanted to project what I see when I hear my music with my eyes closed."

Every visual aspect of Big Black Delta is deliberate and was dreamed up with help from visual artist Caspar Newbolt. Bates told me that he had been initially approached by Newbolt at a Mellowdrone show at the Mercury Lounge years ago. He explained, "[Newbolt] was like, 'I want to do your artwork' and then we just kept in touch after that. He actually did the artwork for the last Mellowdrone album. Then I fell off the map for about a year or two. I hit him up with this music one day and was like 'Hey, what do you think about it?' He was very kind and responsive and wanted to be involved" From there he detailed how the two would trade images until one day Newbolt "Came the closest to what I see. [Newbolt] is amazing" Bates recounted. "I really believe in 'You hear what you see'" he said, "It made it easier for me to work on the music knowing that there was someone that can handle 'the conversion' if you will."

A lot of the imagery in Big Black Delta is very space-oriented. This primarily stems from Bates' fondness of Ufology, which is essentially anything UFO-related. As I attempted to gauge how far was down the rabbit into Ufology he clarified, "I view Ufology like Greek mythology. You can't believe anything. You can only collect stories and I've collected as many of them as I can. Some of them are fucking insane." He told me about his favorite story, a man named Phillip Schneider who was supposedly murdered in his apartment back in 1996 for being outspoken about allegedly being one of three who survived battling grey aliens in an unclassified government area. According to Bates, what he likes about Ufology is that, "It's not human. It doesn't involve politics. That's why I really like it. Usually somebody can't fucking argue with you about it. They just leave you alone *laughter*. It's like, 'Oh you like UFOs? Thats…. nice….'" UFOs aside, Bates is genuinely interested in space. "I actually went down to the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena and got to see [NASA] putting [the Mars Curiosity Rover] together about 8 months ago."

"I'm the biggest fan of a simple love song."

With his love for space, I couldn't help but ask which of his songs he would choose if he could transmit any of his songs into space. He told me that "PB3" would be his song of choice, "It's just tones and colors and there's no (hopefully) any room for error of miscommunication. And it's just math, it's pure music at its core, there's no singer on top of it. There's nobody telling you how they feel. It just is." The way he put it struck me kind of strange, but he went on to explain that, "Different songs have their different purposes, you know? I'm the biggest fan of a simple love song. Besides UFOs and playing music I love love, you know what I mean? I have songs that talk about that and deal with that and sometimes, you know, like all of us, you want to put something on that's not telling you what to fucking do or forcing you to be, it's just something at the end of the night when you're reading or if you've had a bad day kind of thing. Each song is it's own little thing, so while you're there you commit to it but then you can leave whenever you want."

As Big Black Delta gains momentum from supporting the likes of M83 and Jane's Addiction, Bates has decided to release his music on his own label, Masters of Bates, instead of looking to see if any other labels are interested. "Nowadays you don't need all of that," he said "I engage with people that like my shit directly and I enjoy doing it, so that just cuts out a lot of things. I just don't have enough fucking time to involve 20 people, you know what I mean? There's just not enough time. Having to explain to something to 15 people to get everybody in line is a pain in the ass.[…] I'd rather be able to just put anything out when I want to and let the chips fall where they may cause I'm already broke. I'm used to that. It's no problem now." Although he just recently released a tour EP, Bates told me he is already working on a follow up to LP1 and has about five or six songs done already. If you haven't picked up the US Tour/ Betamax EP or the Ifuckingloveyou remix EP yet, make sure you do so right away.

[Interview] Big Black Delta aka Jonathan Bates Talks Influences, Mellowdrone, and Solo Work

Jonathan Bates has been heavily involved in music for over ten years, having been a founding member of Los Angeles rock band Mellowdrone, and, more recently, working under the solo moniker of Big Black Delta. He recently released BBDEP1, which included the track "Huggin' & A Kissin'," and is currently hard at work on his debut LP, tentatively titled BBDLP1. You might also remember a certain track on the Tron: Legacy Reconfigured soundtrack, in which Big Black Delta remixed the Daft Punk track "Fall," from the original Tron: Legacy Soundtrack, alongside SKoA favourite M83.

I recently had a chance to shoot Jonathan some questions regarding his musical influences, his history with Mellowdrone, what it was like working with Anthony Gonzalez (aka M83), as well as what's in store for Big Black Delta in the future. You can check out the full interview after the jump.

Some Kind of Awesome: Growing up in Venezuela and then Miami, how has that influenced the way you view music? And how has it influenced the music you’ve created over the years?

Jonathan Bates: In a lot of latin music, triplet feels are very prominent. It feels like a skipping rock, like falling down the stairs and landing on your feet. I love it when music does this, and I sneak it in whenever I can. Also, the use of brass in mexican and cuban music is pretty much the blueprint to a fucking good time.

SKoA: You formed Mellowdrone back in 1999, how did that come about?

JB: It started out as just me in Boston. My Dad had gotten me a Darla soundcard for my birthday, since it was the cheapest analog to digital sound converter you could get. I was at Berklee College of Music in Boston and had a lot of hacker friend, so one dude gave me Cool Edit Pro and I went to town on that shit. Boston is a cold, windy place, and I'm a scrawny guy, so I mostly stayed inside and tried to make music. Sparklehorses "Good Morning Spider" had just come out and completely demolished me.

Up to that point, I was a prog guitar player who could play you any Dream Theater song on command. A friend of mine, Shawn Bradley, invited me out to LA to help record some demos.  I crashed on his couch, recorded a demo, couch surfed some more, and played open mic's or whatever I could get until, eventually, I got a record deal. I met Tony Dematteo along the way and we locked pretty tight. He eventually recommended his high school buddy Brian Borg to play drums, and he's a fucking badass drummer, so he was in.

SKoA: Over the course of ten years, Mellowdrone released four EPs and two LPs. How has Mellowdrone’s extensive work influenced the ways in which you make music, whether it was negative or positive?

JB: 100% positive. Musically, I would hope I've become better at getting to the point of things. Mellowdrone has taught me WAY more than songwriting. Because of constantly unpredictable shows, I saw shit, and people, I never would have dreamt of. Most importantly, I found re-occuring themes that all of us are subject to, regardless of position, shit all of us go through but don't usually acknowledge. When you try to attempt to make cool stuff and involve commerce, its always a curious scene.

SKoA: After the release of Mellowdrone’s Angry Bear, you felt as if you had to move on from the “band” aesthetic. Why did you feel this way, and what made you decide to move on to your solo project, Big Black Delta?

JB: We had all grown exhausted. Tony, Brian and I are hard fucking workers man. Meet these dudes and you'll see for yourself. But, nearly ten years of "packing up the van and seeing where it led us" got kind of old. We'd been through everything, including fights, getting jumped, beat up by cops, etc. There was one night where we reached our limit. One night, ten minutes before going on, we were truly debating whether or not to tell the promoter one of our girlfriends had been kidnapped. Pretending to be too upset to play, we would pack up our shit and leave. In retrospect its funny, but at the time... I think that was our last show.

SKoA: Upon starting your solo project, you set out to make music that wasn’t restricted by rules and boundaries. Describe the processes you went through after starting a project where you ultimately had complete freedom.

JB: I was surprised at how it easy it was. I feel the way I output never changes, but rather the final definition attached to the result changes.

SKoA: BBDEP1 was released last year as a free download for fans, and now you have plans to release BBDLP1 in September. Have you been pleased with the reception of your solo project, whether it’s your EP, your remixes, or your singles?

JB: People have been very kind, and I'm still very new to this and hope to get better. It's always cool when someone gives a shit.

SKoA: You teamed up with M83 to do a remix of Daft Punk’s “Fall” for the Tron: Legacy Reconfigured album. What was it like working with M83 on the remix, and how did it feel remixing the music of Daft Punk?

JB: It was a very fun weekend for me.  Anthony's a dope musician, so its always enlightening to have a dialogue like that. Plus, my french is shit, so we had to communicate sonically. It's like three chefs making you a stew to stick your dick in.

SKoA: The first LP under the Big Black Delta moniker, BBDLP1, is set for release in September. How are you preparing for the upcoming release, and how are you feeling personally? Are there any plans for a tour in support of the album?

JB: I'm preparing by giving the music out and letting people digest it on their own accord. With this project, if you want more, you'll let me know kind of thing. My friend Caspar at Version Industries has designed a lot of wonderful artwork so the listener can see it the same time. As far as a tour goes, if you want me and Mahsa and Amy to come play, let that shit be known as well.

SKoA: You have an upcoming show on June 29th at The Satellite in Los Angeles, and will be joined by Violet Tremors and The Present Moment. Can you describe what it’s like to perform live on-stage And what do you like, or dislike, about live performances as opposed to working in the studio?

JB: Playing live is like a compliment.  When you hear it, it usually makes you nervous and suspicious, but, if you take it for face value, its wonderful. That make sense? Thought so. In the studio you can undo, when it's live you can't. Is one better than the other? I ask myself that all the time.

SKoA: One last question. What is the future plan for Mellowdrone? Any new EPs or LPs in the works?

JB: Nothing now, but never say never.