Miike Snow

Miike Snow

Special Guest Appearance by Penguin Prison

Tue, April 24, 2012

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Terminal 5

New York, NY

$35 advance / $40 day of show

Sold Out

This event is all ages

Miike Snow
Miike Snow
At first, the question was: Who is Miike Snow? It was a fair question, especially as the group arrived in a mysterious fashion in 2007. Formed by Swedish musicians Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, childhood friends who collaborate under the production moniker Bloodshy & Avant, and American songwriter Andrew Wyatt, Miike Snow began as an idea rather than a band. It was an experiment: Could you create left-leaning pop music that combined clear, sparse songwriting and hook-laden, muscular mainstream production? The gamble paid out tenfold as Miike Snow unveiled their self-titled debut album in 2009 to sizable acclaim, emerging into the musical landscape to fill a previously empty space. The group's eclectic, inspired take on music transformed the music scene, with other artists following suit to their innovative approach. In 2012, the band's sophomore effort, Happy To You, arrived, further expanding the experimental possibilities of their songwriting and sending them touring across the globe.

Now, the question is: Where has Miike Snow been? The answer is complicated. A third record wasn't necessarily inevitable for the band. Each musician, now living in a separate part of the world, was pursuing his own projects. Wyatt, based between New York and LA, wrote and produced songs with Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson and Flume, released a solo album called Descender and created music for a ballet at the Royal Opera House in London. Karlsson, based between Bangkok and LA, launched a new band called Galantis whose debut album Pharmacy reached #1 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums Chart while Winnberg, who remains based in Sweden, focused on artist collection/record label INGRID and pursued his other band Amason. The desire to return to Miike Snow became undeniable after reuniting in LA for a few days in late 2014 where they fluidly penned five of the eleven songs which appear on their forthcoming album - iii. They had no specific outcome in mind when they stepped into the studio, just the curiosity of what the three musicians might create after their time apart. The third studio album was finished in the few months between spring and summer of 2015.

On this record we went back to that initial feeling of freedom," Wyatt says. When we got together there was a lot of tension and it felt very loaded. We'd all had individual successes in our own lives. We didn't know if we were going to stay a band. But because of that it was easy to make the music. We had a lot on the line and that intensity allowed us to have bursts of creative energy that yielded some really cool things."

"One of our strengths is that when we find something good, we keep working on that without thinking too much about it," Winnberg adds. "You can't try too hard to mold it."

The new album, iii, wasn't crafted in one fell swoop. Instead, the musicians collaborated across space and time, meeting in Stockholm, Los Angeles and New York for short periods over almost two years. They brought in a variety of other musicians and producers into the studios with them, feeling more open to outside collaboration this time around. Each musician began with different songs, sometimes sending them back and forth digitally when they couldn't be together in one room.

"Heart Is Full," a buoyant, sparkling indie number tinged with hip-hop production, felt like a central starting point. The track comes specifically from Karlsson's musical sensibility. "The sound this song has is straight out of where I came from and what I still think is my own bible," he notes. "I'm just so excited to now have that piece be a part of the Miike Snow story." The disc's flagship single, "Genghis Khan," is a propulsive pop number with a bluesy edge, an aesthetic Wyatt wanted to explore further with Miike Snow. "Working with Mark Ronson opened me up to embracing that side of where I originally started out in music more," Wyatt says. "We've always had a bit of a soulful thing, but we as a band embraced it a little bit more now."

As a whole, the album feels resolutely like a Miike Snow project, defined both by the two efforts that have come before and by the collective work of the three musicians. The combination of the musicians is an electric one, as exemplified on the album and in their live shows. "I think we really weren't meant to be in the studio together and do music together and then we do and it just works," Karlsson reflects. "I think that's the whole magic with this band. We have so much trust and respect for each other. I do a lot of music and nothing comes together easier than Miike Snow. The pieces just fall into place." Winnberg adds, "It's just a fun process. Being in a band a lot of other things can be hard. But for us the music part tends to be the easy part."

What began as an idea, as an experiment, is now a full-fledged band, three albums deep into a career. Over the past eight years, their innovative sensibility has left a lingering impact on the state of music and shifted the way other artists approach pop music. It's also an example of what can happen when three very different artists come together on one platform with no expectations and a lot of trust. In some ways, "iii" is both a return to form and an expansion of what has come before. "It feels like we did a little excursion on album two and now we're back where we were on album one," Winnberg says. "It's the original Miike Snow sound, but taken to the next level."
Special Guest Appearance by Penguin Prison
Special Guest Appearance by Penguin Prison
Even if you never find out what a Penguin Prison is, there's no denying Chris Glover aka Penguin Prison has made a brilliant record. If you're a fan of New York disco, as accessible as it is angular, all burbling bass lines, resonant rhythms, shimmering synths and heavenly melodies, then you'll love the new Penguin Prison album.

Imagine, if you will, Chic produced by James Murphy, or a collaboration between Prince and The Human League. It is some measure of Penguin Prison's skills in the studio, on vocals and in terms of songwriting, that such illusory marvels have been achieved on this superb self-titled collection, that some critics have gone as far as to hail it a modern day Off The Wall masterpiece.

"It's not a concept album about Michael," says Prison, or maybe we should call him Penguin, of his all-time hero "But it's definitely been influenced by him.".

Penguin was born, appropriately, at the dawn of electrofunk, in 1983 - the postdisco era of Peech Boys' Don't Make Me Wait and D Train's You're The One For Me - and grew up, an only child, on New York's Upper East Side with his mother, a business coach, and father, who writes handbooks on running. "It was cool," he says of his upbringing. "The best thing about growing up in New York was being around all the other people who later turned out to be successful in the same field as me."

These childhood friends included everyone from fellow contemporaries electro-disco exponent Holy Ghost!, who appears on and co-wrote tracks for the PP album, to R&B goddess Alicia Keys – the latter who attended the same performing arts school on Broadway, where he majored in vocals, even appearing in the same plays as PP.

Whilst his father wasn't into music at all, his mum preferred country - as a result, Chris loves Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams as much as he does electronica or rap. "If I had to choose one kind of music to listen to," he says, "it would be country."

To say he was an early starter would be an understatement. From the age of 10 he was singing in the local gospel choir. When he was 11, he got an agent and began recording jingles. By 12, he had learned to play guitar and was into punk rock, the American variety - bands such as Green Day, NOFX and Bad Religion. He even performed as a teen at the legendary CBGBs with his band The Museum.

When he was at NY's prestigious Bard College he had an early brush with fame when he formed a "crazy, fake boy band" called The Smartest People At Bard, which Chris describes as "a cross between Backstreet Boys and Beastie Boys". It was, he says, "a boy band format, only with rapping and singing. The lyrics made fun of that music, but hundreds of people would come and see us play live on campus. It was wild."

Encouraged by this success, he sent a CD of hip hop-inflected tracks to Q-Tip of acclaimed rappers A Tribe Called Quest, who invited Chris to meet with a label in Los Angeles. He recorded a solo album under his own name that indulged his eclectic tastes, comprising as it did every type of music under the sun, from country to African to rap. "It was pretty crazy," he laughs, "a mixture of everything. The label [Interscope] liked it but they didn't know what to do with it. It should have been filed under ‘pop' - it was all catchy choruses."

Chris became Penguin Prison at the start of 2009. It wasn't long before he earned a reputation as remixer du jour for the likes of Marina and the Diamonds, Goldfrapp and Passion Pit. He agrees that he conferred NY kudos especially on the British artists, and admits his favorite remix was for Jamiroquai, adding that the secret to a good remix is "to throw everything away from the original track and start from scratch".

It was inevitable that Chris would then make music of his own, which he began in late 2009. You can hear the spectacular results on the debut Penguin Prison album, which sounds to all intents and purposes like a Greatest Hits collection, so chock-full it is of catchy hooks and classic pop choruses. There is Multi-Millionaire, which is about "being rich even if you've got no money" and one titled Don't Fuck With My Money that features Jackson-style percussive gasps and a lyric that pushes the envelope. "I was worried it was too crazy - ‘Can I really say that?' People said leave it in, so I did. "All my lyrics are sarcastic but serious as well," he adds. "So I'm really saying ‘don't fuck with my money'! Because if you try to, it's not going to be good..."

A Funny Thing manages to be propulsive and poppy, somehow club-conscious and cerebral, evoking NY avant-disco acts past and present, from Talking Heads to LCD Soundsystem. On Golden Train what sounds like a sample from Kraftwerk's immortal Trans Europe Express is actually a late-70s toy, a little seven-inch keyboard that Chris stumbled across, called a Bee Gees rhythm machine. This was the genesis of Penguin Prison, the first track Chris wrote for the project, and it features not just the Bee Gees gadget but also drum parts sampled from Boney M. Yes, this miraculous slice of shiny, infectious, fabulous future-dance comes from those two giants of disco cheese, Bee Gees and Boney M.

Chris clearly knows what he's doing, and is in his element in the studio. The music is both programmed on computers and played by real live human beings, including Alex from Holy Ghost! "Most of it is me," explains Chris. "I tried to keep an element of the human, only using modern technology. I use ProTools as a canvas, a place to put things, but the synths I use are analogue."

The album was mostly recorded in Chris' home studio and completed in London, at State of the Ark, with producer/engineer Dan Grech-Marguerat, who has worked with Radiohead and Paul McCartney. "He tied up all the loose ends," he explains.

Throughout, Chris put his vocal training to good use, his flexible tones able to reach as high on the scale as Barry Gibb and as low as Barry White. "I treat my voice like an instrument," he says. "It's about entertaining people, really."

Penguin Prison is the album you get if you have lived your life believing that the Holy Grail in terms of pop songs is one or all of the following: Billie Jean, Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, When Doves Cry and Fast Love. It posits Penguin Prison as an American cousin to Hot Chip. It is an album about relationships, love and loathing that you can dance to. Its hi-tech rhythms and lyrics definitely place it as a pop album but the heartache might conceivably be found on a country record.

"I definitely wanted to make a pop album where every song was good and catchy and people could dance to it," decides Chris, who aims to perform his songs all over the world like a strange little impish hybrid of Jackson and Prince. "It was hard work to make, but I tried to have fun. I made sure of that. If I didn't jump around the room while I was recording a song, it didn't make the cut. Fun is the key."

Penguin Prison just released his debut self-titled record on Downtown Records on October 18, 2011.
Venue Information:
Terminal 5
610 W 56th St
New York, NY, 10019
http://www.terminal5nyc.com/