The new album from the Reykjavík, Iceland emotional post-rock collective VAR, The Never-Ending Year, is available everywhere now. Appropriately titled for these strange times, the album stands as one of our most awe-inspiring releases to date, a powerful collection of songs that truly transcends everything that makes us different. Think Sigur Ros with more urgency, We Were Promised Jetpacks with more intricacy, and Frightened Rabbit with more grit. Get it wherever you listen digital music here and on limited edition vinyl in the Spartan store.
We’re so excited to premiere the new Mountain Time song, the gentle and charming “Empty Graves” today at American Songwriter. It’s the second track from the upcoming album Music For Looking Animals which will be released everywhere on June 26th. The album is available to pre-save now and you can get an instant download of two songs now when you pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl here.
Written in 2005-2006, "Empty Graves” paints a picture of a soul trying to find its place in the world and was born out of a fruitful songwriting session Simpson contributed to at the time. Never feeling that the song was complete, "Empty Graves" had many lives and incarnations until Simpson began working with producer/collaborator Doug Walseth on this new album and it reached its final form. Pre-order / pre-save the album to get an instant down
Please welcome Mountain Time, the solo project of singer-songwriter Chris Simpson of Mineral and The Gloria Record, to the Spartan family. We’re proud to announce that the new album Music For Looking Animals will be released everywhere on June 26th on LP / Digital. Listen to the premiere of the first single “Rosemary, Etc.” at Rolling Stone and pre-order the album on super limited edition vinyl to get an instant download of the song now.
In the aftermath of the dissolution of his adored bands, Simpson took a step back from making music for the first time since his mid-teens. And it was during this period where an affinity for the music of the 1960s and ‘70s such as Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground and many more, along with the freedom and expression of jazz and artists who radically followed their own vision, took root. With additional inspiration drawn from the arenas of psychology and eastern philosophy, the beauty of the natural world, Simpson’s children and wife, old Time Life books, and the self-stated immenseness of the universe, Mountain Time has become almost more of a state-of-mind than a moniker.
“To me, it’s a record about surrendering to your true self by letting go of what doesn’t serve you anymore. It’s about sacrifice and stepping into your own life. It’s about all the paradoxes that exist: the most important of which is that vulnerability is the only real source of strength.”
Mountain Time, both a reference to timeliness (or lack thereof) and a childhood amongst the natural beauty of Colorado evolved from Chris Simpson’s previous solo project Zookeeperas the most fitting moniker for the latest project. With the transition, while the process and approach became more autonomous, the drive and ultimate desire to create remained rooted within many of the same wells of inspiration that fueled previous incarnations of Simpson’s songwriting. For Simpson, much of what his new album, Music For Looking Animals, is externalizing are larger questions embedded within the natural passing of time: What things do we hold onto? What must we let go?
While time has brought certain chapters to a close, new ones have opened: Family. School. Sobriety. Seeking. However, part of this recasting of priorities has involved the shedding of some former skins, and much of this process took place within the cathartic confines of writing Music for Looking Animals.
"I think for me, [writing] has always been an expression of seeking, seeking to know more about myself or the world around me. Seeking to belong or understand. Just expressing myself and communicating who or what I am. What makes me more wholly myself or individual. Or what makes me more human. I think this has been the same throughout my songwriting. For me, it’s the way I process being alive."
Simpson entered the studio with producer/collaborator Doug Walseth to capture the emotion of the songs within the “Leonard Cohen palette” i.e. songs bolstered with strings, horns and background singers rather than layers of electric guitars and keyboards. At the start of the recording sessions, Simpson and Walseth committed to capturing everything on an 8-track one-inch analog tape machine and forgoing the use of computers. However, as the arrangements, layering, and ideas became more complex, the initial approach became limiting. What began as a very spare folk album became much more grand, ambitious and dense. While Music For Looking Animals is an attempt at simplification, it is hardly minimal in terms of musical, lyrical and spiritual depth.
“I am completely convinced of the paradoxes that exist,” says Simpson. "That love and compassion are the only answers to hate and fear. There is so much healing needed both within and without, and that starts at home, in our own hearts and lives. I know it’s tempting to think that that has nothing to do with the state of the world, but I think it might be the only thing that has anything to do with the state of the world.” It is this type of reflective seeking that brought Music For Looking Animals into existence, and it is this type of seeking that the album invites the listener to embark on after hitting play.
Please join us in welcoming Iceland’s VAR to the Spartan family! We’re excited to release the band’s new album The Never-Ending Year worldwide on April 24th on LP/Digital. Listen to the premiere of the song “Moments” at Everything Is Noise here and get an instant download of the song when you pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl. The Never-Ending Year stands as one of our most awe-inspiring releases to date, and a record that will grow and evolve with each listen.
In certain seasons, time can depart from the static drone of minutes and hours and days and months, and settle into a less mechanical rhythm. It is replaced by something more organic -- a fluctuating heartbeat, both resting and racing. This transition happens without notice as slowly the external becomes the internal. In more linear terms, the new decade will mark a new addition to the Spartan Records roster — Iceland’s VAR, a melodic indie rock quartet. Building upon four years of performance and experimentation within their home country, VAR has honed their devastatingly beautiful sound into something more refined and explosive on their debut LP The Never-Ending Year. Think Sigur Ros with more urgency, We Were Promised Jetpacks with more intricacy, and Frightened Rabbit with more grit.
GIANTS CHAIR's first new album in over 23 years Prefabylon is out everywhere on December 6th and we're proud to show off the band's new music video for the song "Kids Running." The video is a literal deep dive into their video archives and includes footage of their first west coast tour with Boys Life in 1995. Pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl / digital here!
Drummer Paul Ackerman says: "I
think Scott's story in “Kids Running" is one of a young Midwestern kid
yearning for escape, experience, and maybe a bit of adventure. It's a
road trip story - a 'head west' story. So when we saw the footage our
old friend Jeremy shot from our tour out west with Boys Life
in '95, it seemed like the perfect way to visualize that story. That
was our first real tour, so far from home, and the first time seeing the
mountains and the Pacific Ocean for some of us. There were a lot of
firsts, we had a shit-ton of fun - shaved head, tattooed hands and all -
and we have lifelong friendships to go along with those memories. So
yeah, it's a pretty nostalgic piece, but just maybe some other
Midwestern kids will see it and be inspired to head west as well.
Catch GIANTS CHAIR on tour this November!
11/22 - St. Louis, MO - The Heavy Anchor 11/23 - Milwaukee, WI - Cactus Club 11/24 - Chicago, IL - Chop Shop 11/29 - Kansas City, MO - The Brick
GIANTS CHAIR's new song "Kids Running" is premiering today at Talkhouse!
Guitarist-lyricist-singer Scott Hobart also waxes philosophical about
post-punk, emo, honky-tonk music, and keeping it real. It’s an amazing
read about authenticity, listening to your heart, and the stories that
can be told through music. Pre-order the band's upcoming album Prefabylon on limited edition LP / digital here to get an instant download of two songs now.
Please join us in welcoming Kansas City’s Giants Chair
to the Spartan Family. The band returns with Prefabylon, their first
new album in over 23 years on December 6th. Listen to the premiere of
the new single “Dirty Winter” exclusively at
BrooklynVegan and pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl to get an instant download of the song now!
the midwest in the early nineties, three musicians serendipitously
found one another and began to power a sound. This sonic synergy charged
not only the band’s own individually-heralded releases, but would also
influence decades of artists-to-come who would cut their rock-n-roll
records. After years of writing and recording, after innumerable sweaty
basement shows, after thousands of miles of highway blur, and a million
fragmented memories, lives progressed, and the fire that fueled Giants
Chair gave way to new responsibilities — but it never went out.
For more than two decades now Giants Chair
records have lived on turntables, blasted through car speakers, rattled
apartment walls, destroyed headphones, and finally become recognized as
the timeless artifacts of emotional experience and endeavor that they
are for so many people. Now, in perfect time, 2019 marks the return of
Giants Chair with the release of the bands highly-anticipated new album,
Prefabylon. With all of the the band’s original core
components and members still intact, listeners needn’t brace for any
departure from the band's signature post-punk DNA. Equal parts early new
wave, skate punk, prog, political folk, and 70’s and 80’s radio rock,
Giants Chair’s influences can be traced across their now
The long wait is finally over! Mae's Singularity is available for pre-order now on vinyl for the first time ever. The limited edition, double vinyl set features three bonus tracks and is available on two stunning variants. Get your copy while supplies last exclusively at spartanrecords.com. All orders ship in December!
Originally released on August 14, 2007, via Capitol Records, the album was produced by Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Simple Plan) and was praised by All Music, which wrote that the LP "sets them apart as pop perfectionists who are able to synthesize bright melodic hooks and rock muscle into a guitar pop perfection that is (yes) singular. This is a lively, octane-fueled, and hook-ridden album that yields up all kinds of power pop delights. Singularity is clear evidence that Mae has evolved into an excellent rock band, one that never sacrifices beauty or songcraft in the face of big guitars."
Subways on the Sun
are celebrating the one year anniversary of their sophomore album Capsize by premiering the new music video for the LP's title track at Northwest Music Scene. Watch it below and pick up a copy of the album everywhere here.
Erick Newbill says, "We chose “Capsize” as the title track because it
brings together quite a few themes we find running through the album. In
the face of adversity will we sink, or are life’s setbacks just
temporary things we’ll find a way to overcome?"
adds, "The experience of filming the video alongside my son was one of
the most meaningful experiences I’ve had both as a musician and a
parent. It’s so great when different elements of life we care deeply
about intersect and become something beautiful."
The Spartan Profile series is back with an exclusive interview with designer Matthias Lackus, the force behind the artwork for Fallow Land's debut record Slow Down, Rockstar. In addition to designing beautiful layouts, Matthias also plays guitar in the German post-hardcore band The Tidal Sleep. Enjoy!
How did you, Fallow Land, and Spartan Records connect?
As simple as it is, Whit from Fallow Land contacted me directly over email and asked if I’d be interested in working on the artwork for their upcoming album. I couldn’t say no — and due to the fact that there is tons of water between our homes, we took a Skype call to connect and say “hi." He was on a car ride back from work in bad traffic, and I was almost sleeping, as it was super late at night. Now comes the interesting part of the story. During our talk Whit explained how he came across the artwork I did for our last LP Be Water. He saw the record from our Japanese label Tokyo Jupiter Records, so the record made its way to the US from the other side of the world. It’s actually quite unusual and crazy for a German post-hardcore band to land in the US, but funny at the same time. The rest of the story is told quickly — after sharing some thoughts, ideas, timelines, the mixes of the record, and a couple (actually tons) of emails, Whit connected me with John from Spartan Records. We wrote a few emails back and forth, and everyone liked each other and here we are.
Talk about the creative direction for the Slow Down, Rockstar artwork — what were you hoping to accomplish or communicate?
First of all, I hope the cover somehow attracts the eye of potential listeners or sticks in their minds when they stumble across the record. It is important to me that the artwork invites the listeners to incorporate their own thoughts into the design. The listener should be able to pick up different connotations while listening to the record, but the main idea is that sometimes you have to make a hard cut to get back on the right track of life.
How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process is first of all about absorbing the music; the impression from the different chats we’ve had and all information I’ve been given. Sometimes this takes a while. But during a certain span of time, the stuff spins in my head, gets forgotten during the day, and gets back into my head and mixed with new impressions. After having sorted out some thoughts and spent time in my sketchbook, I start crafting the basics of the artwork on paper. For this record, the starting point of the final artwork was Washi Tape on paper — in the end, I tried combine old school graphical craftsmanship with the power the digital graphic design.
As a musician and a designer, what creative intersection do you see between the two?
The intersection for me is the creativity. As a musician and a designer, you create things from scratch. Either songs or designs. Together with tons of different correlations you are creating something new. In the end, you are trying to find the right solution for your purpose. For me, audio is still the most honest and direct way to communicate. You can close your eyes, but you can’t shut off your hearing.
What is the latest with The Tidal Sleep — anything exciting people should be looking out for?
After touring with the last album Be Water and our following EP Be Kind, we’ve been keeping a bit quiet. Everyone got back to their normal life and we've been trying to make the best out of it. Nevertheless — and this might be the exciting part for people to know -- we are back in the process of sticking our heads together in the rehearsal room, collecting ideas, and writing new songs. Let’s see how it comes along…
Who are some artists (musicians, visuals artists, writers, etc.) who you really admire? What about their work do you connect with?
Oh, that is a tough one. Musicians who I’ve been following and who are inspiring to me – just to name a few are The Appleseed Cast (their new album is super nice), Broken Social Scene (super nice mix of a whole bunch of interesting people), Bon Iver (as he is as he is), Radiohead (the albums starting with Kid A and later, as their mix of different influences is outstanding), and lately, Neil Young again, which makes me a think that I am getting older now. Writers -- nobody really. I am mostly reading biographies and design books. Artists -- I love to go to good exhibitions for all different kind of arts and crafts; I really can’t name one who is outstanding for me.
What else inspires you as an artist / designer outside of the arts?
Life. As boring as it sounds. But inspiration for me is everywhere and pops up whenever and wherever. And, of course, my almost 3 years old little daughter. How purely she does things. That’s the fun part.
What else should people know about you or your work?
Well, maybe that doing artwork for me is not my full time job. Artwork happens for me beside my daily design job and family life. Basically during the night time. But I really continue doing it because it is super important to me, even if it takes some additional effort to stay up later at night. And…by the way, now it is 1 AM over here. I need go to bed now. Good night. And thanks for listening.
Thanks for visiting the Spartan blog, and be sure to check out Fallow Land’s debut record Slow Down Rockstar, available everywhere now here!
Reader's debut album Engrams doesn’t come out until tomorrow, but you can listen to the entire album a day early exclusively at Kerrang!.
Kerrang! calls the record "a collision of heavy, intense and urgent feeling, masterful
musicianship, and lyrics and vocals that have an otherworldly (yet
vulnerable) edge to them, Engramsis a triumphant success of a debut record."
Spartan Profile is back with a member of our own family — Fallow Land’s guitarist/vocalist Whit Fineberg. In this exclusive interview, Whit discusses the origins of Fallow Land, the process of recording the band’s debut record Slow Down, Rockstar, and working with acclaimed producer Matt Bayles (Isis, Minus the Bear, Pearl Jam). Dig in and get a peek behind the curtain!
What should listeners know about Fallow Land — how did this project come to be?
Fallow Land began when I was living in Chicago and my mental health was at an all-time low. My first guitar teacher and close friend had just passed away, my ex-girlfriend (who I had moved to Chicago to be with) and I had just broken up, my band back home in Ann Arbor had broken up, and I was pursuing a degree in jazz guitar that kept me locked away in a practice room playing music I wasn’t particularly excited about. I began spending all of my free time recording a demos in my apartment on 410 S. Morgan St. (thus the name of the song from our first EP) and these became our first single and EP. Evan Veasey and I had gone to high school together, but were many years apart so our paths had never really crossed. Nonetheless, I knew he was a fantastic guitar player studying at the University of Michigan and we began discussing rebuilding my previous band, Bad Television, with him as the guitar player. As we began to play together more, it became clear that Evan was capable of playing significantly more complex music than what Bad Television was currently playing and more suited to the demos I had been working on lately. We joined together with two other local musicians got a few tunes performance ready and embarked on a two-week tour a month after we had formed.
What were you hoping to accomplish sonically with the record?
Sonically this record is driven by texture and rhythmic nuance. While Pinscher was very much guitar riff driven, The guitar work on Slow Down, Rockstar is often based around washy arpeggios drenched in reverb and chorus. The addition of Scott Kendall on bass and Evan Laybourn has also had a huge impact on the band sonically. Scott’s bass playing is a lot more sparse and subtle than what you’ve heard from Fallow Land in the past. While comfortable, gluing everything together harmonically and rhythmically Scott also searches empty musical pockets and fills them tastefully. Evan Laybourn drastically shaped this record in his ability to subtly imply complexity while never losing sight of the general groove and feel of each song. There are so many moments on this record that could start to feel monotonous if not for little flourishes Evan throws in to add new musical interest. I also became significantly more interested in vocal harmonies on this record. Something that was almost completely absent on Pinscher.
Were there central themes or ideas you are exploring on the record lyrically or musically?
A huge theme of this record is self-exploration. Pinscher was mostly about the end of a relationship. I really wanted to try to avoid writing as much about specific people on this record. Instead, I wanted to check in with myself after the events that occurred during the last record and the years that followed.
Tell us about the production process and working with Matt Bayles.
Working with Matt was incredible. He is someone who’s work we all admire. Oddly, we all dig different stuff that he’s done. Evan Laybourn and Scott are super into the Fall of Troy record he did. Evan Veasey and I really like the Foxing record. He’s just been a part of so many important records. He mixed Pinscher for us and we’d talked quite a bit during that process. When it came time to think about making a full-length I contacted him and was interested in working with us on pre-production, production, engineering, and mixing. He made plans to come up to Michigan to spend four days working through the songs with us prior to recording. I sent him all the demos and he came prepared to pick the songs apart. Most of the tunes he didn’t think were too far off, he mainly pointed our sections where we were being too heady and what we were trying to convey wasn’t coming across. There was one song in particular that he had us basically re-write. After making these changes we rigorously practiced for a month before driving to Seattle to record. We booked 12 days in of Stone Gossard’s (from Pearl Jam) recording studio and watched the songs start to evolve into what they are today. Matt was wonderful to work with. He pushed us hard and believed in our ability to produce. We all learned an incredible amount from working with him.
Were there specific musical influences you were trying to channel with this record?
After Pinscher, Evan Veasey and I had both begun listening to Dealer by Foxing a lot. That record definitely influenced us. Additionally, my interest in chorus was sparked by the wonderful records that Will Yip has been producing for Run For Cover Records like Hyperview by Title Fight. I’ve also recently really been getting into Peripheral Vision by Turnover (another Will Yip Produced Run For Cover) but I discovered that record after we finished making ours.
Talk about the process of synthesizing all of your own varied musical backgrounds and experiences.
We all come from a similar place musically. We all studied music in college and grew up listening to emo music and math rock. That being said we all kind of have our individual tastes within the band. Scott plays in a funk group, Evan Veasey plays in a jazz guitar trio, Evan Laybourn is really into Owen, and I’m really into shoegaze. Also, there is a big self-imposed age divide in the band. Scott is convinced he’s old enough to be Veasey and my dad and constantly makes comments like, “oh do you guys remember… oh never mind you’re too young.” We don’t really think it’s that big of a deal…
Tell me about the title of the record.
When we were recording with Matt, our drummer, Evan went out and bought a huge 12 pack of Dr. Pepper and was trying to shove it into the fridge at the recording studio. Matt walked out right as this was happening and said, “Woah, slow down rockstar!” This was kind of a funny comment about our choices as a band. We aren’t wild party animals, we are just four people who want to make music we are excited about. I think this record represents a dramatic shift for the band since Pinscher. Pinscher was all about being wild and living in the moment and partying. I’ve kind of taken a step back from that and am trying to live a healthier, more subdued life. This record kind of picks up where Pinscher left off and narrates that change in thought process. Also, with the addition of Evan and Scott, the dynamic of the band has really shifted to become something more mature and sustainable. It’s wonderful to be making music with three musicians who are serious and dedicated to their craft and not distracted by a bunch of nonsense.
Are there any specific songs or moments on the record that are especially meaningful or important to you?
For me the two most important songs are "The Things You Say" and "The Hope." "The Things You Say" is without a doubt the most emotionally challenging song I’ve ever attempted to write. A while ago I experienced an extreme breach of trust from someone who I considered to be a close friend. It really altered the course of my life. I tend to experience and cope with my emotions via songwriting. I knew I would inevitably eventually write about this experience, but every time I tried to write about it I hit a block. When I was finally ready to confront the experience, the song came together in a matter of hours. It was the fastest I’ve ever written and demoed a piece of music.
"The Hope" is the only optimistic song on this record. It’s about a wonderful person, who came into my life at a time when I was incredibly broken. Her love and support is constant and unrelenting.
Any upcoming tour plans?
We plan to regularly tour the midwest and parts of the east coast prior to the release of the record after which we hope to tour the US more broadly.
Talk a bit about Ann Arbor — has the city influenced the trajectory of the band in any way?
The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area (I group these two areas because many artists who develop in Ann Arbor end up in Ypsi because Ann Arbor is so expensive), is full of unbelievably talented artists and musicians. I am actually surrounded by musicians of a much higher caliber in Ann Arbor than I ever was in Chicago. This was a big factor in my decision to move back to Ann Arbor. Ultimately the biggest thing that needs to develop in order for Ann Arbor to become a destination for bands is the infrastructure and the involvement of the community. There are not a ton of venues in town. There is really only one viable option for medium-sized touring bands. I also think that as a community Ann Arbor needs to become more invested in the arts. There are a lot of college students in Ann Arbor who would rather go to frat parties than shows. I believe the way to combat this is to start having shows earlier so students can go to shows and then attend parties afterwards.
Any particularly relevant or irrelevant thoughts on the state of the nation / world right now?
Don’t claim experiences that are not your own. Our country is incredibly polarized right now partially because of the slew of misinformation that our current president is so good at disseminating. When you speak for a group that you are not part of, you not only take away that group’s opportunity to represent themselves, you are putting ignorance out into the world. There is no way you can possibly understand what you are talking about when arguing about experiences that you haven’t had. Let marginalized groups lead the conversation of oppression and rather than jumping in right away… just listen.
Anything else we should know about?
Evan Laybourn wears almost exclusively Star Wars shirts. Evan Veasey is really into chiropractic videos (which we all think is weird). If Scott wasn’t a musician he would be a stand-up comedian. I’m a huge soccer fan and incredibly excited about the signing of Christian Pulisic to Chelsea and the USWNT fourth World Cup victory!
Thanks for stopping by! Check out Fallow Land’s debut record Slow Down, Rockstarhere and if you're a vinyl fan, don’t miss out on the “Pool Party” variant; there are only a few copies left (get it here).