9:30 Club presents at U Street Music Hall.
Great Good Fine Ok
Friday Sep 18
7:00 pmU Street Music Hall
This event is all ageshttps://www.ustreetmusichall.com/event/895513/
Vacationer - (Set time: 8:25 PM)
The third full-length from Vacationer, Mindset is built on delicate melodies and crystalline rhythms that seem to alter the very texture of the world around you. Ornately composed but breezy in energy, Vacationer’s warm-hearted dream-pop perfectly mirrors frontman Ken Vasoli’s intentions in making the album. “The objective was to write songs that remind me how my brain needs to operate for my own wellbeing and happiness,” Vasoli says. “That’s where the title comes from—the record’s filled with all these reminders that put me in a good mindset for the day.”
Despite its often-euphoric effect, Mindset began in frustration for Vasoli. After countless false starts on the follow-up to 2014’s Relief, the Philadelphia-based musician decided to completely upend his creative approach. While Vacationer’s previous albums came to life in close collaboration with fellow members Matthew Young and Grant Wheeler, Vasoli shifted his focus from songwriting to production and worked entirely on his own for months on end. During that time, he immersed himself in exploring the nuances of Ableton and analyzing the construction of beloved albums by artists like the Beach Boys, Barry White, and Curtis Mayfield.
“Those albums feel like the magic moments that I’m always chasing after in my own music,” says Vasoli, who co-founded Vacationer in 2010. “It’s such an unbelievable display of production and composition happening at the same time, and it inspired me to keep that integrity of ’60s and ’70s record-making while using the technology that I’d been studying.”
With his love for making music reignited, Vasoli locked in his vision for Mindset upon penning a song called “Entrance”: a lush and luminous track that opens the album with swirling harp arpeggios and shimmering synth. On “Magnetism,” Vacationer maintains that dreamy mood and reveals the band’s newly embraced experimental sensibilities with its gently dizzying arrangement. Described by Vasoli as “a love record in every sense of the word,” Mindset also delivers a valentine to his dog Waldo with “Strawberry Blonde,” an uptempo serenade infused with sweetly guileless storytelling. And on the sublimely hazy “Being Here,” Vacationer matches flashes of psychedelia with softly instructive lyrics capturing the message at the heart of the album (“Seeing the trees for the leaves/And all the grass for the weeds/Going to sleep for the dreams”).
When it came time to sculpt Mindset’s elaborate yet unfussy soundscape, Vacationer paired up with producer Daniel Schlett (selected for his ambitious and masterful work on Ghostface Killah’s 36 Seasons). “I was talking to Daniel about that Ghostface record and how I couldn’t believe there were no samples on it, and he just looked me and said, ‘Oh—you wanna use the studio as an MPC,’” recalls Vasoli, referring to MPCs as “the classic stand-alone sampler and gold standard in beat-making.” Working at Schlett’s Brooklyn studio Strange Weather, Vacationer enlisted a cadre of world-class musicians to offer their interpretations of Vasoli’s demos. “I can only imagine how it felt for Brian Wilson to make Pet Sounds, and I’m not comparing the experiences at all, but I got a taste for what it’s like to see your ideas played out by people with some amazing abilities,” Vasoli says. Once they’d completed those recordings, Vasoli and Schlett assembled the album by merging elements of the live performances with the electronically crafted material from Vasoli’s home studio. “We dismantled everything, then chose what we wanted to use from different sessions,” says Vasoli. “We had a total blast sampling the players, sampling ourselves, and deciding what to leave raw.”
At the end of the years-long process of creating Mindset, Vasoli found himself more self-assured in his artistry. “I used to always feel like I was in over my head, but now I feel so much more empowered to take my ideas and get them down on tape in a way that’s true to what I hear in my mind,” he says. Not only key in shaping the album’s distinct and elegant sound, that sense of self-possession ultimately reflects the essence of Mindset. “A lot of this record is about experiencing things as they happen, and not giving into the pressure of anxiety and depression—especially since those things are so easy to creep up on you,” says Vasoli. “That was a big struggle for me to get out of in the early stages of this album, but then the music I was working on ended up being my solution. My hope is that it works the same way for anyone who hears it.”
Great Good Fine Ok - (Set time: 7:15 PM)
Often the best pop songs happen spontaneously and on impulse. Like A Prayer was written in a day. Sia Furler wrote Rihanna's Diamonds in just 14 minutes. Brooklyn's rising synthpop stars Great Good Fine Ok, meanwhile, bumped into each other on the street late last year, decided to harness their intuitive creative spirits, and finished their first song together in one night. The resulting track, the epic 'You're The One For Me' – and its memorable 'sexy sandwich' video of a girl getting inventive with her baguette fillings – triggered internet pandemonium and placed the duo firmly at the top of 2014's New Artists To Watch lists. So remarkable was it that the song also swiped the #1 spot on Hype Machine twice in one month.
Singer/songwriter Jon Sandler and multi-instrumentalist/producer Luke Moellman haven't looked back since. Their anthemic blend of dreamy electro flutters, R&B beats and lush, expansive pop, which has seen them compared to M83, Phoenix and Passion Pit, has caught the attention of Neon Gold, the tastemaking pop label that discovered has helped break Ellie Goulding, Icona Pop and Gotye. Live, meanwhile, Great Good Fine Ok have whipped up just as much frenzied excitement: their first gig in New York was in a sold-out venue of 300 people and weeks later, at South By Southwest, there were queues down the block for all of their six shows.
"It's almost unprecedented," says Jon of how the pair went from writing 'You're The One For Me' to landing a major record deal within the space of eight months. "Before we had even imagined the strength of that song ourselves, we had people offering to make its video. People had so much faith in it." Both in other bands and making different music at the time, they'd hit upon such an irresistible pop formula that they "quickly realised, 'Ok, this is forever' and decided to concentrate on GGFO full-time. They chose their idiosyncratic name just as instinctively. "It's just such a perfect range of emotions that people deal with every day, and I can see them in each of our songs," says Jon. "The universe gave us this music, that name, and vice versa, and it just kind of works."
It's only been a short while, perhaps, but Great Good Fine Ok stake their reputation on complex, fully realised, grown-up pop. Bound by a shared appreciation of iconic performers and producers like Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Prince, as well as influences as varied as Boyz II Men, Steely Dan and US jam-band Phish, Great Good Fine Ok want to put the soul back into synthpop. Luke, who studied jazz at university, is keen to stress that he isn't a producer chasing current chart trends. "Pop music from the 70s to modern day is a pretty common thread for us," he says. "But what sets us apart is that we're real musicians first."
You can hear this in their sharp songwriting, which is steeped in genuine emotion. On 'You're The One For Me' in particular, with its warm, crisp snares and dreamy atmospherics, Jon's gentle falsetto adds a heart-tugging sense of vulnerability. "That was the love song that had always been inside me," says the singer. "And I think people are responding to how honest and epic it is. Everyone can relate to that feeling that somebody's the one for them."
Their follow-up single 'Not Going Home' is just as swoonsome. A sweeping festival-at-sundown track perfectly echoed by its title, it's also suffused with lyrics on learning to let go. "It's about not giving up on your dreams," explains Jon, "and also about the feeling of home. I wrote it at the same time as my parents sold the house I grew up in and it was a very conflicted time." In other words, it's a sad song that you can throw shapes to – both technically complex and effortlessly danceable. "Yeah, there's something about our music – and I think it's the same thing that Michael Jackson tapped into – that makes people lose their inhibition a little bit," Jon continues, who often performs in flamboyant kimonos that he finds in thrift stores. "Maybe part of it is that I'm dancing my ass off onstage but each show has been wild."
Predictably, other acts are lining up to sample of Great Good Fine Ok's sonic alchemy. While Jon is a born performer, Luke is more at home behind the mixing desk and has been remixing promising indie-dance acts, such as Le Youth, Young Liars, X Ambassadors, Foxes and Monarchy, and his remix of St Lucia's 'Elevate' was premiered on Rolling Stone. Together, Jon and Luke have also been working with The Chainsmokers, the DJ duo behind the worldwide smash 'Selfie'. Then there's their own debut record, which they're already busy putting together at home in Brooklyn. Things are going better than Great Good Fine Ok – more like Great Good Awesome Huge.
U Street Music Hall
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009
U Street Music Hall
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009