The sheer number of one-man bands sprouting up all over the map during the past few years is mesmerizing. The diversity of one-man bands range from musical prodigies who craft fuzzy, lo-fi dreamscapes and Beach Boys‘ tinged bliss-pop on synthesizers and MacBooks in bedrooms and basements, to incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists who write their own music, sing, AND play all – or almost all – of the instruments – from guitar and bass to drums and keys, from harmonica to violin and piano to clarinet. Plus, many one-man bands do their own recording, distribution and promotion.
That’s not to say that anyone with some or all of these abilities can create a buzz with their music. As with all music, the end product is what matters, especially in the saturated marketplace of DIY indie music. A good many one-man bands that we’ve encountered over the years are smart enough to keep their day jobs. That’s not said with any intent to be cruel, just got to keep it real. The marketplace will continue to become even more competitive, because nowadays it is so much easier – and entirely more affordable – for any striving musician to produce and distribute their music. Thankfully, the many layers of filtering that the web provides does a good job at leaving us with only the best of the best; the one-man bands who make a name – often by way of a moniker – for themselves.
Often, one-man bands get their first break from a positive review of a song or EP via popular music blogs like The Brooklyn Vegan, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and even right here on IRC. Then, if they’re lucky, they get slated to play CMJ in New York, or SXSW in Austin; if they kill it at one or more shows during these critical music festivals, doors will open.
The one-man band phenom has turned out to be a boon for indie rock, in general; as well as, for solo artists, record labels, venue owners and music lovers. Anyone who spends a few hours a week checking out indie sites and blogs knows just how big the one-man band craze has become.
In recent months, there seems to be an increasing number of one-woman bands surfacing, including Computer Magic (who we’ve featured twice now, and to enthusiastic response), and today’s first two featured artists, the impressive Amanda Jo Williams, and Sparrow of Doctors & Dealers.
Lured to New York City by a modeling agent making a lot of promises, Williams, at the age of 19, dropped out of college in Columbus, Georgia, to head to the Big Apple. In 2008, she moved cross-country to Los Angeles to pursue writing and recording her very own style of music, a type of “freak folk” mixed with elements of rock, rap and country.
Williams has opened for an impressive variety of artists, including Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, Avi Buffalo, Leslie and the Badgers, Henry Wolfe Gummer, and Rio En Medio. Her album, Yes I Will Mr. Man, came out March 17th on White Noise Records.
“Ohio” – Amanda Jo Williams from Yes, I Will Mr. Man
“The Bear Eats Me” – Amanda Jo Williams from Yes, I Will Mr. Man
Earlier this year, the acclaimed producer Gordon Raphael (The Strokes, Regina Spektor) began work on an EP with Swedish artist, Sparrow, the one-woman band with the moniker, Doctors & Dealers. After a month in the studio, the two have emerged with the new Trouble EP, and a full length, Every Sinner Has A Future, to be released Dec. 10th, 2010, and sometime in 2011, respectively.
Since the release of her two previous albums, Raphael was interested in collaborating with her for Doctors & Dealers‘ third album. Apparently, the pair agreed to record an album that “sounded like Chicago, if it were directed by Tim Burton“. Along with collaborator Anders Lager, Sparrow and Raphael played and recorded every instrument themselves, from 12-string guitar to tuba.
“Trouble” – Doctors & Dealers from Trouble EP
“Backstabber” – Doctors & Dealers from Trouble EP
ARP – New York, New York
New York City cosmic wayfarer and analog fetishist, ARP, the moniker of Alexis Georgopoulos, kicked off a six-city tour with Caribou Thursday night in Austin and will end next week in Miami. Focusing primarily on new material from his just-released album, The Soft Wave, Geogopoulos’ performances will be back-dropped by a dreamy, psychedelic film he created with Paul Clipson.
On the track, “White Night,” from The Soft Wave, Georgopoulous layers and pieces together random sound effects,and discordant tweaks and grinds that can only be described as an audio acid trip. We think that this type of music in and of itself does not belong in a musical genre, simply because it’s not really music – it’s experimental, free verse collages of synth sounds and effects. Not to say we don’t like it, but just to make a point. Experimental sonic art is a good way to think of it. Chances are it will never have mass appeal, which in it’s own way is good for the art form. Underground is cool, right?
“White Night” – ARP from The Soft Wave
But, Georgopoulous also has a knack to spin out sweet, dreamy songs in which he gets to show off his songwriting and singing skills, particularly on the synth-heavy, glistening track “From A Balcony Overlooking The Sea.” And for the cherry, the song ends with the always soothing sound of waves lapping the shoreline.
“From A Balcony Overlooking The Sea” – ARP from The Soft Wave
Via SoundCloud, Geogopoulos is sharing a brand new track, “The Past,” from the forthcoming Symphony 12″ , which will dropped on Nov. 15th.
Alex Floor – Brooklyn, New York
The gentrified neighborhoods of Brooklyn have become a mecca of sorts for indie musicians over the past few years, so it never surprises us to receive songs in the mail from a Brooklyn artist. More often than not, lately, we are impressed, almost enough to suggest they move somewhere else to stand out more – half-joking, of course. That said, singer/songwriter Alex Floor sings heady and playful music with a genuine voice. He dropped his newest album DIY-style last May.
“Borrowed Earth” – Alex Floor from American Peasant
Blimp – Ventura, California
From his home in Ventura, California, composer and musician Dave Girtsman records music under the moniker Blimp – which of course makes it difficult to find information about his music project in Google searches. In addition to writing, recording his music, Girtsman sings and plays all the instruments – guitar, bass, drums and so on. His music is clever, quirky and fun, drawing from influences like Tom Waits, Nino Rota and Vic Chesnutt. Girtsman lists among his biggest musical influences Elvis Costello and XTC.
Girtsman has played with many local bands over the years, and even worked with Susanna Hoffs and the Primitive Radio Gods. He also contributes to the XM Radio program, Musician’s Radio, and has been composing for animated short films.
“Tiny Tiny” – Blimp from Vertical Hold
“The Saint” – Blimp from Vertical Hold