Posts Tagged ‘Anna’

Anna Bulbrook photo by Curtis Buchanan, Distinct Daily

Anna Bulbrook photo by Curtis Buchanan, Distinct Daily

By Glen

One year ago today, The Airborne Toxic Event hit the stage in Santa Ana, CA for the one and only complete album performance of Songs of God and Whiskey. No such excitement this year, unfortunately, but it’s been two months since our last Toxicity, so I figured it was time to catch up on a few things.

Coming Soon: Toxic History – The Book

Yup, it’s been painfully quiet around here lately, and it’s not just because The Airborne Toxic Event is way off the grid at the moment. All of my spare time has been directed towards another TATE project: Toxic History – the book!

That’s right… our massive trip down Airborne Toxic memory lane is coming soon to a bookshelf near you. I am just in the process of polishing up the manuscript and preparing to publish with Lulu. Much more news coming soon. In the meantime, if you want to catch up on the blog series, you’d best do it soon. Most of it will be going offline soon, in preparation for the book launch. The last few chapters will be saved for the book – we’ve gone as far as we’re going to go with publishing it here on the blog.

All of this means that things will probably be even slower here at TIN over the summer, unless of course the band kicks back into action. But stay connected to us on social media (Facebook|Twitter|Instagram), where, over the next year, we’ll be celebrating memorable dates in Toxic History.

Stay tuned for more!

Getting to Know Anna Bulbrook

We all know Mikel Jollett’s back story, but one thing that struck me in the process of writing Toxic History is how little is out there about the other band members, at least in comparison to the lead man. But Anna Bulbrook has been doing her best to remedy that, with a couple of illuminating features.

First came Distinct Daily, with an artsy but very informative video feature on the violinist/keyboardist/tambourinist/guitarist/singer/songwriter/feminist ambassador/festival organizer. Shortly thereafter, Anna wrote her own story for 21cm. Together, these two excellent pieces chart Anna’s journey from classical music student to music dropout to Kanye West support to The Airborne Toxic Event, and finally to the front woman of The Bulls.

Anna sums up her journey so far thusly:

So, at 33, I’m technically the worst violinist that I’ve ever been in the traditional sense but the best musician that I’ve ever been. I’ve been humbled in the process more times than I can count, and I’m sure I’ll be humbled a few thousand more – but I can’t wait to find out where music will take me next.

We can’t wait, either.

Drinking the Lemonade

One other quick Bulbrook note… One of the biggest musical happenings this spring was the release of Beyonce’s Lemonade. Shortly after the album dropped, Anna revealed on Instagram that she contributed viola to one of the tracks on the record. A scan of the album’s extensive credits reveals that she played on the first song, “Pray You Catch Me.”

Toxic Gold

As always, we’ll round out Toxicity with some video goodies. First up, while Anna is talking about herself, here’s an interview she did for Girl Rock Nation around the time of All At Once:

And now a couple of thrilling performances by The Airborne Toxic Event: the potent punk rock of “The Kids Are Ready to Die”/”Welcome to Your Wedding Day” from Roxwell, and an acoustic “This Losing”/”Sometime Around Midnight” combo from Live Daily Sessions, circa 2008.

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Mikel Jollett and Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

Mikel Jollett and Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

By Glen

Stop the press – there was an actual sighting of The Airborne Toxic Event this week!

Live from Ohio

The band emerged from hibernation just long enough to announce that a live performance would be airing after last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, on the Ohio-only television program PromoWest Live. The announcement gave the impression that it would be an extended feature; as it turns out, the show only aired one song, amongst performances from a variety of other bands.

Nevertheless, for parched Airborne fans, the sight of our favorite band belting out “Changing” was welcome indeed. Jump to the 48-second mark of the video below.

A quick perusal of the video playlist also revealed that the show had also aired “Gasoline” and “Happiness is Overrated) a couple months ago (starting at the 4:07 and 17:40 marks of the video below, respectively). All songs were recorded at the band’s gig in Columbus last spring – a performance that Colleen and Andy reviewed for us.

While it would have been nice to see some of the newer material get some exposure, beggars can’t be choosers!

Small Problems, Big Video

After slacking off for like, an entire day, Anna Bulbrook was back in the spotlight this week with the release of the Bulls’ long-awaited video for “Small Problems,” which was shot way back in June in 115F temperatures. The video is described by the band’s publicity company as follows:

Directed by Evan Mathis, the video is one long tracking shot of Anna and bandmate Marc Sallis strutting through Joshua Tree that anyone from one of the colder parts of the country will yearn for this time of year. Special shout out to Sallis’ “November Rain” power stance during the guitar solo.

Said Anna to Flood Magazine, which premiered the video: “Evan (our director) came up with the visual of eternally walking through different desert moonscapes in different washes of transitional sunlight to illustrate the song’s lyrical themes—which are endlessly, cyclically, desiring a change that isn’t going to come and wishing for a chance to go back and do things over again.”

Speaking of Anna, Vinyl District posted another extensive photo set of her in action at the recent Girlschool Festival.

Toxic Gold

Speaking of under-exposed newer TATE songs, here’s a rare live performance of “Strangers” from last fall’s Shazam contest pre-show in Philadelphia, courtesy of Rick.

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Toxicity 93

Posted: February 12, 2016 in Toxicity
Tags: , , , ,
Anna Bulbrook's Girlschool artist portrait, by Jen Rosenstein.

Anna Bulbrook’s Girlschool artist portrait, by Jen Rosenstein.

By Glen

It’s the dead of winter – literally and figuratively, as the tumbleweeds blow across The Airborne Toxic Event landscape. Even the ever-trusty Anna Bulbrook has gone quiet of late – though we do have a bit more Girlschool coverage to catch up on. But first, my 15-seconds of fame…

TIN Hits the Radio Waves

A couple weeks ago, my fellow British Columbian (represent!) Tim de Monkey gave me the heads up that CBC Radio was looking for stories about bands that are tragically underrated. One thing led to another and before I knew it, my letter was being read on air, as a lead-in to “Sometime Around Midnight.”

If nothing else, I think we converted Stephen Quinn, the program’s host, who tweeted: “The letter was brilliant. Thank you! I know them but will now dig deeper.” And on having to cut the song short: “So pissed we had to fade it under. My note for the early fade outcue was, ‘No! Don’t do it!'” Agreed, Stephen!

Anna Bulbrook’s Girlschool: Smashing Barriers, Smashing Success

Anna Bulbrook’s little festival grew into quite a big news event, generating an impressive amount of coverage – universally positive. There is clearly a thirst for what she is doing for the female music community.

As the festival opened, Dazed published an insightful interview with the founder. I had to laugh at her response to the question of whether it’s harder to collaborate with women than men; I assume she had her Airborne bandmates in mind when she said:

I think I semi-expected that to be true, because it’s a stereotype that exists. But I have found collaborating with women on writing music for the Bulls, or working with my crackerjack team at Girlschool, to actually be a far more free and direct process than some of my recent collaborations with men. Men have their own dynamics, egos, emotions, and politics as well. Everyone does! Making art is emotional, whatever gender you are, and bands are emotionally supercharged environments.

On the subject of the sadly still sexist music industry, Anna had some pointed comments, but also an inspiring vision.

Why aren’t there more women artists graduating from their local scenes to the next level? We supposedly “handled” this back in the 90s!

I think that music should be a safe space for everyone. Period. So I think standing up for what’s right – whether it’s standing up for yourself or someone else – is a good place to start. I also think creating intentionally positive pathways or environments for music, which is what we are trying to do with Girlschool, is another answer. And by the way, these pathways don’t have to be “female-themed” to be positive, either. There are myriad ways we can increase consciousness in our art form and the industry that surrounds it, and to make the world a more safe and free space for everyone.

I say: if the world doesn’t reach its arms out to you, then make your own, better one! And after a while, your new world will maybe grow to become the real one.

Anna also sat down with Take Part, with whom she shared a disheartening but unfortunately unsurprising truth about what she’s faced at times as a member of The Airborne Toxic Event:

“In the alternative rock world, there are very few female voices… There are also very few female side members in bands… People would think I was a girlfriend, or they would think I was the singer,” Bulbrook said, noting that as a classical  violinist who began playing at the age of four, she has the most professional music training of any of the members of the Airborne Toxic Event.

“I’ve been in the position where I was sort of asked to dress a little more provocatively to get a label executive to consider us more seriously,” Bulbrook added.

Like she said to Dazed, you would like to think we’d gotten past this kind of garbage, but clearly there is a long way to go – which makes her efforts all the more important.

“I call this the vitamin gummy approach to feminism,” Bulbrook said of creating an event stacked with a lineup of talented female musicians. “You make something that looks delicious, tastes delicious, but it also just happens to be really good for you.”

Live Nation TV combined their own interview with Anna with coverage from the first night of the festival. Asked about the future of the collective, Anna says there is definitely more to come.

We couldn’t plan this weekend without talking about all the other things we want to do. Unless lightening strikes, there will be a future for Girlschool. What that exactly entails, we’ll probably start planning it 24 hours after this weekend.

Finally, to tie a bow on our Girlschool coverage, here are a couple photo galleries worth checking out. LA Record provides a glimpse inside the event, while Jen Rosenstein took striking portraits of each Girlschool artist.

Toxic Gold

Missing Mikel? Us too. Remember that time he took the encore out to the street behind the venue?

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Anna Bulbrook is ready for #GIRLSCHOOL. From Anna's Facebook page.

Anna Bulbrook is ready for #GIRLSCHOOL. From Anna’s Facebook page.

By Glen

So, I had an interesting discussion with a reader on Facebook yesterday, and I thought it would be worth bringing up in Toxicity, as I suspect there are other fans of The Airborne Toxic Event with similar questions.

If I may paraphrase my conversation partner, he is worried that Anna Bulbrook’s focus on The Bulls may jeopardize the future of The Airborne Toxic Event, and wondered why I am covering Anna’s band on a site that is dedicated to all things Airborne.

They are fair questions, fueled no doubt by a number of ominous-sounding posts from Mikel Jollett and other band members back in the fall when the Whiskey Machine tour came to a close.

I’ve written before that I firmly believe there is more to come from this band; no need to rehash my reasons why. While it’s entirely possible that I’ll be the Last Naive Man Standing (it would hardly be the first time), in the absence of any solid evidence to the contrary, I see no reason to believe that the break is anything other than what they have said it is: a temporary reprieve.

More to the point, I also don’t believe that Anna’s dedication to The Bulls precludes her from continuing to be a vital part of Airborne for a long time to come. It is exceedingly common these days for musicians to have multiple projects on the go aside from their primary gig. Just looking at some other artists that I follow: Arcade Fire fans recently flocked to support Will Butler as he embarked on a between-albums solo career; Killers fans do the same for Brandon Flowers; and Gaslight Anthem fans are currently packing clubs for Brian Fallon’s solo jaunt. Nils Lofgren of the E Street Band actually had his own winter tour booked, and then had to cancel it when The Boss abruptly announced that he was calling the gang back together for the River Tour. All of these artists and countless others manage to juggle a double career, and with Anna’s ridiculous work ethic, I have little doubt she can do the same.

Artists have a drive to create and to perform, and sometimes their art leads them to places that just don’t fit well within the context of their “day job.” It gives them a chance to show off a different side that we wouldn’t otherwise get to see.

Mikel has said that 75% of the music he writes, he doesn’t bring to the band because it’s not in Airborne’s wheelhouse. What if he were to come out later this year and announce that he’s putting out a moody solo album, and embarking on an intimate tour with nothing but his voice, a guitar and a bar stool? I for one would love to see it. Of course I would desperately miss the full Airborne experience in the meantime, and I would hope to hell that they would all be back after he got that bug out of his system. But it would be spectacular in a different way, and you can bet your ass I would cover it closely here.

It’s the same with Anna. Airborne Anna is my favorite Anna, and that’s never going to change. But for now, I’m enjoying seeing her shine in a different way than she does with the guys. And we can hardly hold it against her for following her artistic instincts and her heart’s passion – as much as it would devastate me if doing so ever led her away from Airborne.

Artistry aside, as a working class band, the members of The Airborne Toxic Event are not rich. If Mikel needs a year off the road and out of the spotlight to focus on writing new material (not to mention his own life), the others need to stay busy, and to continue to put food on their respective tables. Having irons in other fires is not only natural – it’s essential.

As to why I’m covering The Bulls, I guess I would ask, “Why not?” I’m a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event, obviously, and to me that means supporting each of the band members individually. I am inspired by their art in all its forms, and I want to cheer them on in whatever they choose to do. As a father of three girls, I find what Anna is doing with #GIRLSCHOOL to be particularly important and well worth trumpeting with whatever meager voice I’ve gained through This Is Nowhere.

And really, what’s the alternative? Things with TATE are so deadly quiet right now, I’ve essentially got two choices at the moment: cover Anna and The Bulls, or shutter TIN until whenever The Airborne Toxic Event emerges from their cave. I totally understand that there are fans who may tune out until Airborne takes center stage again, but I’d prefer to keep things rolling here for those who are interested.

Make no mistake: The Airborne Toxic Event is and will always be the raison d’être of This Is Nowhere. As I told a friend the other day, when Airborne is out, I am out. But until that day comes, I’ll be behind each member of the band, wherever their muse takes them.

Bulbrookicity

If you’re still with me, thanks for sticking around!

Anna really is the only game in town these days as it pertains to Airborne-related news. With her #GIRLSCHOOL residency beginning tonight in L.A., she has garnered lots of media attention of late. In the past week alone, she has been featured in four major articles, from Impose Magazine, Lenny, Spur and Goad, and buzzbands.la. All four interviews cover similar territory, so I’ll pick and choose from them as Anna explains how #GIRLSCHOOL came to be, and why it means so much to her.

When we were planning the [August 2015] residency, I had just visited Rock Camp and experienced the mind-altering force of a 9-year-old confidently asking me who my feminist icons were in rock music. The idea to make the residency female-fronted was originally a dare to myself and the team managing the Bulls at the time. I’m ashamed of this now, but we actually posed the question: Will we be able to find enough quality female artists to make this residency great? And the answer was a resounding yes, and then some! I didn’t have enough hours to program all the artists I wanted to include. So, while the idea pushed me to take risks on new artists and new genres of music, I was also blown away by the quality of every single band. All of these projects were excellent, on or above par with most of the male-fronted bands in the local scene. And the feeling in the room felt completely right — like the beginnings of something worthwhile. So, during the course of that month, the idea started to take on a life of its own.

No one put a gun to my head and said hey you have to make GIRLSCHOOL happen. It came out of a desire to do it and after we did the test run in August with the residency, it really took a life of its own. It’s been nothing but fun and inspiring.

When the residency wrapped up in August, I felt so much positivity from the artists and so much love from everyone and I felt I wanted to do it again and people were interested in doing it again. The residency was an idea I had and I put it together with the people who were managing the Bulls at the time. From there I was fantasizing about this festival and I started working on it with Kyle and then these two girls Jasmine and Adrien just started showing up. Talk about force multipliers, they’re insane, they’re amazing. So we were able to do a lot more. As we started talking about it we went from seeing what we could do for a day to two days to, screw it, let’s add Friday, let’s add a second stage too. We could have kept going with adding bands but we wanted to bite off something we could chew, make sure the bands could all get soundchecks and have a good experience because everyone is volunteering. I’m hoping that it’s great.

Rock in particular is pretty gendered still. One of the reasons I love GIRLSCHOOL is because at the local level there are so many incredible female artists and bandleaders and songwriters and performers. Every project at the residency was really high quality, and I was blown away by that. But then once you get beyond the local level, the bands that graduate tend to be male-fronted bands. As someone who is a woman on stage as a “sideman” for my job, I can’t answer the question as to why it’s so, but I have noticed that it is so, and I would like to be able to be part of creating critical mass to push more women out beyond the local level.

I personally feel incredibly lucky to be part of this connective nest that is arising. So. I want to know: how can women support each other? What are the shared experiences (or disparate experiences) in our professional lives? And most important: how can we make positive changes together to influence culture and legitimately shift the needle for the next generations of women? How can we show young women a variety of ways to be successful in the music industry, or in their professional lives? What things did we have, or wish we had, supporting us in our paths?

When you have a nine-year-old look you in the eye and talk to you about feminism and ask you questions about what it’s like to be a woman further down the road, it really makes you think. In fact, it inspired me to participate and create and not just sit back and be just a random person in a band. I mean, I love playing music, and music is really meaningful to me, but I want other people to feel empowered to do what they want to do in life, whatever it is!

Notice that Anna referred to herself as a “sideman” for her job. We all know she’s much more than that, but still – we can take comfort in the fact that she was speaking in the present tense about being part of Airborne!

Toxic Gold

Finally, because we could all use an Airborne fix, here’s an acoustic “Changing” – back when it was known as “Something You Own.”

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

The Bulls: Prudence

By Glen

In the wake of his passing, David Bowie has been heralded by many as perhaps the single most influential musician of our time. Perhaps it’s only fitting, then, that the release of the latest single by The Bulls (Anna Bulbrook, Marc Sallis) just happens to coincide with the legend’s exit, taking its place as the freshest entry on the seemingly endless list of Bowie-inspired works.

“I was just starting to figure out my voice by aping different male vocalists whom I loved,” says Bulbrook of her band’s latest effort, “Prudence.” “Believe it or not, this was written when I was singing along to David Bowie every day, listening to his voice and trying to channel the smallest scrap of his spirit. Turns out he is, was, and always will be a thousand percent inimitable. At least by me.”

While the Thin White Duke provided vocal guidance, Bulbrook looked closer to home for a lyrical spark. She found it in the form of a close friend.

“This song is about a real person named Prudence whom I love dearly and who always seems to be running both towards and away from the finer things in life at the same time,” she says.

“Prudence” would feel right at home on last fall’s dreamy Small Problems EP. Churning along on a hypnotic bassline underscoring Bulbrook’s clipped, to-the-point vocals, the song opens up into an airy chorus that melodically mirrors the care-free life sought by its protagonist.


The flip side is a cover of the Supergrass hit, “Alright.” The Bulls’ rendition finds the tempo turned down a notch, lending an unexpected gravitas to the experience. Those who are suckers for Bulbrook’s viola won’t be disappointed, as a whiny-in-a-good-way guitar line dissolves into the classically-trained musician’s more refined strings. The entire track has a weightier, more substantive feel than the sunny original, which should appeal to fans of The Bulls’ somber pop.

As we continue to await The Bulls’ in-progress debut album, “Prudence” and “Alright” give good cause for confidence that our patience will be repaid in full.

Purchase “Prudence” and “Alright” on iTunes

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

The Bulls: PrudenceHat tip to TIN reader Sarah for today’s big news:

Anna Bulbrook’s band The Bulls is set to release two new songs a week from today, Jan. 15! The new song titles are “Prudence” and “Alright,” and they are now available for pre-order on iTunes. 90-second previews of the upbeat tunes are also available for your listening pleasure.

Pre-order Prudence – Single – The Bulls

Anna Bulbrook: hardest working woman in show business? Photo from Anna's Instagram.

Anna Bulbrook: hardest working woman in show business? Photo from Anna’s Instagram.

By Glen

With The Airborne Toxic Event taking a breather before finishing up their brief Whiskey Machine Tour with three shows starting next weekend, this week’s Toxicity is brought to you by Anna Bulbrook, who is singlehandedly responsible for all of this week’s TATE”ish” news. A couple days ago on Twitter, Anna suggested that it’s good to “do things as opposed to not-doing things,” and she’s certainly been practicing what she preaches.

Is the Rumor True?

This past summer, Anna and her Bulls bandmate Marc Sallis filmed a pair of videos for their songs “Small Problems” and “Rumors.” While we have yet to see the former, the latter was released on Wednesday on Culture Collide. The piece, which Anna has described as a “motion portrait” and “degraded portraiture,” is essentially a 4-minute study of Anna’s near motionless face, as the camera pans around her, passing in and out of shadows, drifting in and out of focus, at times presenting a woman who seems to be at peace, and at others revealing what appears to be deep bruising. It is at once haunting and mesmerizing.

Live Starring Anna

When The Airborne Toxic Event swung through Buffalo last month, Anna took some time out for a brief chat with Live Starring You.

Anna, who confirms that she’ll be spending the bulk of what remains of 2015 working on The Bulls’ upcoming full length release, lays the blame for her fixation on the violin squarely on her brother. “My older brother played violin first, and when I was four I wanted to do everything he did!” To which we say, thank you, Andrew Bulbrook.

She also addresses the issue of fame – which, much like happiness, turns out to be overrated. “I don’t know if I would call [Airborne] famous,” she says. “For us, I’m just one of five people and if someone’s heard a song, it doesn’t mean they know what we all look like. So for me, it doesn’t really feel like fame. Being in a band is much more modest and normal, simple day to day.”

And finally, she shares a fun story from the road: “One time my violin was sitting on top of an amplifier, and the vibrations of the stage shook the violin off and it smashed. I had to get it fixed by the next day, because we had a big festival in England to play. I had to take a cab through a crazy street festival… I dropped it off with a kind of wisened ‘Harry Potter’ esque old man. It worked out, but the glue was still drying while I was playing it!”

Throwing Shade

Next up, because she’s clearly not busy enough, Anna announced that she will be performing as a vocalist in the upcoming live premiere of M83’s ambient record Digital Shades (vol. 1). Described on the Facebook event page as a “Brian Eno-inspired work [which] will have its debut performance, arranged for string ensemble, electronics, and voice. The program will trace ambient music’s roots in the music of John Cage and its influence on current composers Ingram Marshall, Michael Gordon, and Missy Mazzoli.” If you’re in Los Angeles November 14, it sounds well worth checking out.

Scoping Out the Latest in Social Media

If you’re not familiar with Periscope, it’s a mobile app that allows users to stream live video, while followers watch and comment in real time. Anna joined Periscope a couple weeks ago, and has already broadcast a few clips, including a few moments with TATE bandmate Steven Chen as the pair prepared to take in The Martian at a local movie theater. Steven recently opened his own Periscope account, joining Adrian Rodriguez and the official band account. No sign yet of Mikel Jollett or Daren Taylor.

Toxic Gold

We’ll close this Bulbrook-centric edition of Toxicity with another Bulls video that hit the Interwebz this week, a live performance of “Come Unwound” filmed for Blind Blind Tiger.

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Have you Shazammed The Airborne Toxic Event today?

Have you Shazammed The Airborne Toxic Event today?

By Glen

The waning days of summer can mean only one thing: The Airborne Toxic Event’s fall tour is almost upon us! While you wait for that, we present some ruminations on Airborne’s place in today’s music scene, and all the latest news from The Bulls.

TATE, Shazam, and the State of the Music Industry

Last week, The Airborne Toxic Event announced a contest in which they asked fans in Buffalo and Philadelphia to regularly Shazam new single “One Time Thing,” dangling a chance to hang with them backstage as enticement. That announcement came hot on the heels of the launch of our own Shazam contest, in which we’re giving away a copy of Dope Machines on vinyl. (And yes, there’s still time to enter both contests, so we’ll forgive you if you pause your reading now to quickly Shazam the song.)

Why all the sudden fuss about Shazam, you ask? Well, as we explained briefly in our contest post, Shazam has very quickly become a key – perhaps the key – to success in the popular music scene. My TIN cohort Julie has been doing extensive research on the subject and educating me along the way, and what we’ve learned has been eye opening.

For the user (Joe Music Fan), Shazam is a music discovery tool. The app allows you to instantly identify any song you hear, anywhere… on radio or television, in a store or on a crowded street or in your friend’s living room, in your car or bleeding through the wall of your apartment. No more waiting for the song to end in hopes that the DJ mentions the title or artist; now you need simply hold up your phone and hit ‘Shazam,’ and you get not just the name and artist, but lyrics and links to purchase the track. Beautiful, right?

Music industry insiders use Shazam in an entirely different way. The data collected from millions of Shazammers around the world allows them to predict with pinpoint precision which songs are going to hit, and which are not. This then allows them to focus their efforts around music that has ready made hit potential. Radio stations use this information to form their playlists, and concert promoters use it to choose which acts to bring to town.

So, it’s easy to understand why The Airborne Toxic Event wants fans to Shazam up a storm. They’ve never bought into the classic indie rock line of thinking that sees success as dirty. They’re not going to sacrifice their integrity as artists to achieve it, but neither are they going to shy away from using the tools available to them to get their music heard. And no one should begrudge them this.

What pisses me off is that the system seems rigged against Airborne and other bands of their ilk. A comment from TIN reader Susan on our contest illustrates the problem: “I’m used to using the app to ID songs I don’t know… not ones I play continually!”

I’m with her. Frankly, it never occurred to me to Shazam TATE. There’s no need to identify songs I could sing in my sleep. I would guess that most established fans of this (and any other) band are in the same boat.

And therein lies the problem: if Airborne fans aren’t Shazamming the band, who is? It’s a vicious cycle: the fans don’t Shazam, so radio stations don’t pick up the song, so new listeners who might be given to Shazamming it never hear it, so promoters don’t think anyone cares about the band, so fewer shows get booked.

The problem is compounded by the fact that Airborne audience demographics likely skew a little older than the typical Shazam user, and by the fact that Mikel Jollett does not go out of his way to write radio/Shazam friendly material (a factor which is a major positive in my book). Consider his comments when Darren Rose asked him last year if he cares about radio singles:

No. I mean, yes and no. Here’s my thoughts on that: No, because you can’t write a radio single… I can’t do that. We’ve never been that kind of band. Our songs that made it on the radio were never really intended that way… You just have to write a lot of music, and sometimes you write something that’s really great. And if something’s really great, people will play it because it’s great… I don’t want to be known for something that’s kind of superfluous. There’s bands now, and I won’t mention them, who are on the radio, and I wouldn’t want to play their songs… It’s not my thing, and I wouldn’t want to be a musician if it meant I’d have to sing their songs… I really believe that great music rises to the top.

It’s an admirable stance to be sure, and I don’t think many Airborne fans would have it any other way. But it does put the band behind the eight ball given the current industry landscape. In a time when a song is made or broken in its first ten seconds (after which very few people will Shazam it), it becomes very difficult for artists of depth to get noticed. And that just sucks.

Nevertheless, it’s the way the game is played now. Many have commented on the sparseness of The Airborne Toxic Event’s tour schedule this fall, compared to previous album cycles. The truth is, we’ve been terribly spoiled by the band’s relentless touring in the past, and we can’t expect it to continue forever. So, if you want TATE to come to a venue near you… SHAZAM! Otherwise, they’ll forever find themselves on lists like this one: Gigwise’s 24 Brilliant Artists Who Deserve to Be So Much Bigger.

For Openers

Enough of that nonsense; on to happier subjects, like the fall tour. The opening acts have been set for most of the non-festival dates. In Buffalo, Boston, New York City and Philadelphia, it will be Dreamers. In Los Angeles, it will be Australian folk duo The Falls. They seem pretty excited.

Stampeding Bulls

While the rest of her Airborne bandmates have seemingly enjoyed a quiet summer, Anna Bulbrook has been devoting every spare moment to her band The Bulls. Their debut EP Small Problems drops a week from today, but we’ve already reviewed it. Spoiler: it’s brilliant.

Meanwhile, the band has been generating an impressive amount of press of late. Here’s a roundup:

New song “Rumors” premieres on LA Times.

DOA reviews “Rumors,” saying, “‘Rumors’ is as equally strong as the previous two singles and rides on the wave of a driving bass line that propels the song forward. Sharp, New Wave guitar riffs slice through the dreaminess of Anna’s cool-tone, but sweet vocals. A restless rhythm builds up from the flexible bass line and addition of bright synth note plinks and shaken percussion as Anna questioningly posits ‘Is the rumor true?'”

Glacially Musical gives thumbs up to the EP. “The songs sound absolutely phenomenal. The guitar tones are brittle and gritty. The bass guitar has a strong, dirty grit to it, and the drums fit in the to the tracks like they should. This album is upbeat, peppy, and poppy. Here and there, twinges of sadness rear their heads, but only as if they’re being shouted down by laughter.”

Grimy Goods spared few superlatives in their coverage of The Bulls’ #GIRLSCHOOL residency. “Bulbrook’s vocals are pitch-perfect to the point they almost sound auto-tuned. Bulbrook was a triple threat, alternating from guitar to violin, all while slicing up the crowd with her voice.”

Finally, and most significantly, the LA Times ran a full-length feature and interview with Anna yesterday. The biggest revelation is that she and partner Marc Sallis will be headed back to the studio in September and October to continue work on their first full-length album. This would seem to suggest that the large gap in Airborne’s touring schedule during the early fall will not be filled with shows, or at least not entirely.

The article also reveals a great deal about how Anna got her start in songwriting, the genesis of The Bulls, and the sense of purpose she feels as a female artist: “Once we committed to doing the #GIRLSCHOOL angle, it really started to feel important to me in a deep way,” Bulbrook said. “It wasn’t just a chance for the Bulls to grow. I thought of the mission quickly, and then I realized afterward how much it meant to me.”

Toxic Gold

With The Airborne Toxic Event hitting the stage at Riot Fest Denver in a week’s time, here’s a look book at their last appearance at that festival, back in 2013. This is “Safe.”

Glen-TINGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Small Problems, the debut EP from Anna Bulbrook and Marc Sallis' group The Bulls, drops Aug. 28, with the title track available now.

Small Problems, the debut EP from Anna Bulbrook and Marc Sallis’ group The Bulls, drops Aug. 28, with the title track available now.

By Glen

“You’ve gotta change your heart,” intones Anna Bulbrook amidst a dreamy soundscape, before “Small Problems,” the titular track of the debut EP from The Bulls, lifts off amongst the stiff stacatto of drum and bass.

It’s an apt place to start.

I’ll admit, when I first heard whispers that Bulbrook, violinist/keyboardist/tambourinist/showstopper extraordinaire of The Airborne Toxic Event, was stepping out with a new band, my initial reaction skewed more towards trepidation than celebration.

Not that I wasn’t excited to hear what she had up her sleeve by any means, because I certainly was. It’s just that the news arrived at a skittish time for Airborne fans. Coming as it did on the heels of other foundation-shifting developments for TATE that had only just begun to settle, I feared it portended another major shakeup within the group.

In the ensuing year or so, however, Bulbrook has capably and tirelessly juggled the competing demands of multiple TATE releases and tours with her maiden performances and recorded work with The Bulls, proving that the only thing more impressive than her talent may be her stamina. Perhaps someday down the road the time will come when she has to make a choice (dear god, I hope not). But thus far, the bands appear to be co-existing just fine, freeing fans to enjoy this double portion of Bulbrook goodness guilt free.

And good it is.

From the opening to the closing notes of the quartet of original songs that comprise the EP (we’ll treat the fifth track, a remix of the first single “Come Unwound,” separately), Bulbrook and bandmate Marc Sallis take the listener on an atmospheric journey that is one part Airborne, one part Duke Spirit (Sallis’ other band) and at least two parts something altogether separate.

Dwelling in the realms of shoegaze and new wave, the four tracks borrow elements familiar to those who have followed the musicians’ previous projects, but present them in an entirely new context, revealing different shades and tones in the process. There is a strong sense of identity here, remarkable for a band so early in its evolution. Each song fits seamlessly together to create a cohesive whole, while also bringing something unique and indispensable to the project.

“Every song comes from something real,” says Bulbrook (LA Times). “Either I see it happen to someone else or I feel it happen to me. I’ll shamelessly borrow from other elements of my own reality or elements of other people’s realities and stitch together a story that feels like the world.” In that respect, her process is similar to Airborne Toxic Event bandmate Mikel Jollett’s approach, even if the end result is much different.

The lead track, the aforementioned “Small Problems,” is carried along on the back of a fuzzy bassline and relentless drumbeats as Bulbrook delivers hypnotic verses in a near monotone. The music swells at the chorus as Bulbrook repeatedly implores her closed-off lover to “change your heart” and take their relationship more seriously. The urgency of her pleas is only underscored by Sallis’ fervent guitar solo following the second refrain.

“Rumors,” already a fan favorite after the limited number of shows the band has played to date, jolts the listener with a ringing note right out of the gate, emitted by the guitar that will drive the song throughout. “Crafting a story from experiences of a friend, Bulbrook’s lyrics analyze the quotidian behaviors of a suspicious partner, pining for an honest answer,” writes Brendan Hornbostel of the LA Times. The writer leaves a lot of space to read between the lines, sketching the story in broad enough strokes to allow the listener to imagine the details. As she repeatedly asks, “Are you telling me?” and “Is the rumor true?” we are left to wonder: what exactly is he telling her? What is the rumor? The questions are asked and left unanswered.

“Truly” is, to me, the gem in a sea of jewels. Opening with a soaring riff that could’ve come straight out of the eighties, the track offers up the most fully realized lyrics on the EP, sung flawlessly over dynamic instrumentation that takes us through a number of sharp turns in tempo, ultimately culminating in a cathartic, fist-pumping chorus. Best of all, for those who listened in vain through the first two songs for Bulbrook’s trademark viola to appear, Sallis’ guitar dissolves into a sea of glorious strings that lifts the soul and sets the stage for an impassioned finale.

“Come Unwound” will be familiar to most listeners, having been released way back in October. It feels right at home amongst the other selections, drawing on the full range of the versatile musicians and knit together by a wordless chorus that proves sometimes just as much can be said without words as with them.

The EP closes with the White Sea Remix of “Come Unwound” which was first released through Soundcloud in early 2015. Produced by Bulbrook’s friend Morgan Kibby (aka White Sea), the remix bookends the original with additional strings that frame it very nicely, while adding some lovely layered vocal harmonies. Unfortunately, the middle portion of the track feels a bit flat in comparison, sacrificing some of the lushness that makes the original so riveting. But then, I tend to feel that way about remixes in general; those who are more inclined to enjoy them will very likely feel differently.

Overall, Small Problems is an impressive and confident debut from The Bulls, one that should help the duo build off the established fan bases that have migrated from their native bands and carve out a name for themselves. Recent Bulls gigs have featured a number of other songs that did not make the cut this time around, including “Nothing on Her Mind,” “Prudence,” “New Friends,” and “Running Away,” giving us hope that a full length album may not be too far off.

Small Problems will hit virtual shelves on August 28, but hard copies are already available at The Bulls’ Monday night performances at The Satellite in Los Angeles throughout the month of August.

Click here to pre-order Small Problems on iTunes, and immediately download the title track and “Come Unwound.”

Glen, Fan of The Airborne Toxic EventGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Anna Bulbrook swapper her trademark viola for a guitar for the first half of The Bulls' show Monday night at the Satellite. Photo by Kristina.

Anna Bulbrook swapper her trademark viola for a guitar for the first half of The Bulls’ show Monday night at the Satellite. Photo by Kristina.

By Daniel

In a venue fondly known for its Airborne Toxic Event history, The Bulls began their Monday night residency at The Satellite as part of GIRLSCHOOL, a female fronted residency for the month of August. Having seen The Bulls in Fullerton (and the technical snafus of that evening), they have certainly come a long way.

My fellow TATE fan and I were perched near Anna Bulbrook’s left, right in front of the bassist and drummer. So without a doubt, I can say they have a tight and powerful rhythm section. They opened with “Truly,” a song not yet available on digital outlets but which was available by purchasing a limited edition hard copy EP sold at the show. The drums were loud, the bass was beating in my chest, and the vocals floated above it all. It feels like a proclamation, a melancholy march.

The Bulls are comprised of Marc Sallis and Anna Bulbrook. Photo by Kristina.

The Bulls are comprised of Marc Sallis and Anna Bulbrook. Photo by Kristina.

Watching Anna confidently own the role of center stage is a treat; she carries a dreamy aura with her vocals and rhythm guitar, and it’s anchored by her bandmates and their strong sonic foundation. While the first half of the set found Anna playing rhythm guitar, she donned her viola for the second half.

Anna Bulbrook took up her familiar viola for the second half of The Bulls' set. Photo by Daniel.

Anna Bulbrook took up her familiar viola for the second half of The Bulls’ set. Photo by Daniel.

Marc' Sallis' distinctive guitar cried out from stage right. Photo by Daniel.

Marc Sallis’ distinctive guitar cried out from stage right. Photo by Daniel.

“Come Unwound” was the centerpiece of the evening, and it unfolded gracefully; the sleigh bells punctuated the dreamy guitars and the vocals and viola dived into the wordless chorus. Seeing the audience gently swaying in time speaks to the connection with that particular song.

There were a few moments of Mikel-esque flitting to the band members for a potential set-list change, so the posted set list might not be entirely accurate as there’s yet to be a full catalog of Bulls music. That being said, a song to keep an ear out for is “Running Away.” It’s upbeat, minor key, and laced with viola in a way that kicks the mellow into high gear.

The other released single, “Small Problems,” is moody and Anna’s vocals shone brightly over the prowling bass line. They closed with “Rumors,” a steady track where our protagonist asks, “Is the rumor true?” It almost feels like the closing number to an 80’s John Hughes film, in a fantastic way.

The Bulls put on a good concert, and of course with more time and shows under their belt they will tighten up as an ensemble even more and I think be able to bring the audience in more on the journey.

The Bulls setlist, Aug. 3, 2015. Photo by Daniel.

The Bulls setlist, Aug. 3, 2015. Photo by Daniel.