In just a few weeks, the sixth annual Village Voice 4Knots Music Festival will take place at South Street Seaport from 1pm to 8pm! Oh yeah, and did we mention it’s free? The festival features acts Guided By Voices, The Strumbellas, Car Seat Headrest, and Mild High Club to name a few. This year, the festival will also include a third stage featuring DJ sets throughout the day and in between band sets!
Check out the full line-up for 4Knots below and check out our coverage from last year’s festival here!
Guided By Voices
Car Seat Headrest
Promised Land Sound
Mild High Club
We recently caught up with Dafydd Ieuan, drummer of Super Furry Animals, a few hours before their performance at The Village Voice’s 4Knots Music Festival on July 11th! Our writer, Jon Hecht, caught up with Ieuan about coming back to America, playing shows together again after six years, and how things have changed since the band formed in 1993. Check out the interview below!
Lucy Out Loud: What’s
it like to be in America? You guys headlined Glastobury just a few weeks ago.
How’s it feel to be here instead? Daffyd Ieuan: Oh
it’s brilliant. We love coming here, we’ve been coming here twenty years, so I
think it’s just one of our favorite places to come to in the world, y’know.
We’ve been almost everywhere I can think of, but there’s just something about
New York, isn’t there?
LOL: Yeah of
course. I mean, I live here.
LOL: I think not
everyone in this city gets to hang out on the boat the whole time ha
DI: Of course. Of
course. I think we just feel very lucky to be able to come here and play. We
haven’t been here for six years. We’ve been having a bit of a hiatus—as a band.
Everybody’s been recording like mad. I think over the last six years we’ve
released between us, it’s gotta be ten, fifteen albums in the last six years or
so. So nobody’s been idle.
LOL: And there’s
a documentary in there too, right?
DI: There’s a
documentary in there too. And I think there was a book coming out for the
fifteenth anniversary of our Welsh album—though we could have anniversary
almost every year if we wanted to I suppose if we wanted to. I just fancy
playing again without promoting anything in particular like an album. We just
play the songs we like and like a bullshit free gig, if you know what I mean.
It’s been amazing.
LOL: Why did you
feel that now was the time to do that, after six years?
DI: It just felt
right, I don’t know. It just happened!
LOL: So you just
called each other up and said “Hey you want to go on tour?”
DI: Not far off.
But the book was coming out, and Domino Records has been asking us for about three
years if we wanted to re-release our Welsh album, and with the book coming out
we thought, well we could release that, we could do some shows, and before you
know it we’re in New York again. And it’s been great.
LOL: Did it take
a little bit to get back in the hang of things with this group of people after
being sorta separate for a little while?
DI: Well, except
for Bunf [guitarist Huw Bunford] we all live in Cardiff. It’s not a very big
city so it’s not like we never see each other.
LOL: Of course.
But I assume you weren’t rehearsing every day
DI: No. Me and
Cian—my brother—we got a studio in Cardiff where we were recording a host of
other bands. So in that sense, it doesn’t feel like we’ve stopped recording. We have as a band but not as individuals. It’s
hard to describe, but the feedback we’ve had, especially in the UK, has been
LOL: I’m sure
you’re also treated as Wales’ native sons, in some ways.
DI: Yeah. We
weren’t sure if anybody was [interested], after six years away, but it’s proved
that people are.
LOL: The reviews
from Glastonbury seem to suggest that people are very happy to have you back.
DI: Yeah, absolutely!
Them kinds of gigs we thrive on. The bigger the better, I think.
LOL: So what are
you excited about today?
DI: Just playin’
LOL: This is
sorta medium sized compared to the big festivals, I guess.
DI: Yeah. But a
show is a show. I’m just looking forward to it. I’m gonna have a wander around
town in a minute, after these [interviews], and I’ll probably…buy some
stuff…and do the show, and then go out in New York and have a good time.
LOL: How do you
keep the energy that you guys continue to have? Even on your most recent album,
[2009’s] Darker Days, there’s still
sorta this youthful energy that was always Super Furry Animals’ trademark. I
mean, you’re not twenty-year-olds anymore…
DI: [laughs] No.
LOL: How do you
make sure you don’t lose that? Not to say you’re old or anything [laughs]
DI: But we are.
We’re old fucking cynics. But…I think we’ve got sort of healthy musical
differences. I think we thrive on that, rather than struggle with it. I think
making a record shouldn’t be easy. It should be proper sensory attack and I
like to think we’ve got good quality control as well. And we just love going in
the studio. It’s always an adventure. I don’t think we’d release anything if we
weren’t happy with it anyway. But…I think we’ve just got the bug for going in
the studio. Y’know we just kinda can’t help it.
LOL: How do you
think things have changed since back when Guerilla
[in 1999] or Radiator [in 1997] came
DI: White hairs.
Well that’s definitely true, but you look young.
DI: I don’t feel
it frankly [laughs]
LOL: I just mean
in terms of playing festivals back then and playing festivals now, the music
industry now vs. then.
DI: It’s pretty
much the same. Except, I think, the songs we’re doing at the moment—they’re
just a collection of songs that we enjoy playing. That’s the first time that’s
happened. There’s usually an album to promote or something, so they’re usually
new album-heavy sets.
LOL: So now
you’re just doing the songs you like the most.
DI: Yeah. And
these shows we’ll be doing we just play whatever the fuck we want, because we
enjoy playing them, and nothing comes up in the set list that we go, “Ugh. I
don’t really want to play that.” It’s just been bullshit free.
LOL: That’s good.
How does it feel to be headlining along with bands that are half your age?
DI: Oh great!
That’s what it’s all about, ain’t it? I’ve just been in the studio with a
band—I just signed them to my label—and they’re between like sixteen and
nineteen, or something.
LOL: In the UK?
DI: In Wales. In
Cardiff. And we see them getting totally excited about being in the studio and
stuff like that. It’s sorta reminds you—we’re not as wide-eyed as we used to
be. But you still gotta go on stage and play, you know what I mean? You still
gotta go out and perform no matter how old you were.
LOL: And it’s the
same kind of thing you always loved.
LOL: So I’ve
noticed that you guys are coming back, and recently, Blur, your former
labelmates, released an album for the first time in a while-
DI: No, not
LOL: You weren’t
on the same label as them? I thought you were both on the same label at one
DI: Oasis were.
labelmates. I’m sorry about that.
LOL: I hope you
don’t take offence at me comparing you a little bit to Blur when you were
labelmates with Oasis…
DI: No. [laughs]
LOL: Do you think
that your sort of wave of bands—the nineties “britpop” bands I guess—do you
feel that there’s sort of a wave of that coming back? Do you feel that society
is interested in you guys as a sort of second-time-around?
DI: I’m not aware
of it. To be honest with you, when we decided to have a go again, we didn’t
know Blur were recording even, let alone that they were gonna do these gigs,
so… I mean we’re not particularly bothered by what anybody else does. I mean I
don’t think we were back in the day either. The whole “britpop” thing we found
LOL: Yeah. Not to
mention you weren’t British.
when the Union Jack doesn’t have any Welsh representation. LOL: Exactly
[laughs]. I guess it’s really more dumb rock journalists like me saying that
than anyone else.
Yeah…to each their own. I think we’re happier in our own bubble.
definitely been your sort of modus.
DI: I think so.
We’ve got a healthy disrespect for anything that’s going on. We enjoy the other
bands, we get along, but…we never felt part of it.
LOL: Do you guys
have any plans for an album? I know you said it’s been nice not to have to
DI: We haven’t
got any plans to do anything. I think we just wanted to play, you know what I
mean? To play songs, and then we’ll see. I’m not saying never, or no—it’s just,
if the songs are there, if the time’s right, then why not. But there’s nothing
planned or penciled in.
LOL: Have you
been working on new material together at all or separately?
DI: No. I’m
working on two albums at the moment. And Cian’s working on one, and Gruff’s
working. Guto’s working on another one.
LOL: Some light
stuff while on vacation, right?
DI: We’re all
still doing our own separate things. We’ll see after all that. Every time we’ve
recorded an album, we’ve always been together for it. Forever—in the studio, on
tour—and this is the longest we haven’t been in our little bubble where there’s
music constantly – constantly writing, constantly thinking of ideas,
everybody’s together. So we need to get used to the smell of each other’s feet again
before we start recording [laughs]
LOL: And I’m sure
that smell’s only gotten better over time, right?
DI: Oh I don’t
know about that… [laughs] LOL: I think this
is about all the time we have. Anything else you wanna add? DI: Oh god I’m
sure there is, but…no. I’m just loving being in New York. That’s all. It’s
LOL: Any of the
bands here you’re particularly excited to see?
DI: I’m excited
to see [Stephen] Malkmus. I think we played with [Malkmus’ former band]
Pavement in their last show in San Diego when they broke up the first time.
LOL: Oh wow.
DI: Back in
the…late nineties I think.
LOL: ‘98 or
something like that?
like that. I think we were supporting them in San Diego. I haven’t seen him
since. We’ve got mutual friends, so…
DI: I’m looking
forward to seeing some of the kids as well!
LOL: All right.
This was a great talk. Nice to meet you.
4Knots Festival Pier 84, New York NY July 11, 2015
Written by Jon Hecht
Crowds: The crowd was there for
the lovely sun by the Hudson River under a sky that redefined my understanding
of the color blue. They were also there for some music, but not as a priority.
People wandered. They went to booths (and there were a whole bunch of
booths—more on that in a bit). Those who were very important got to hang out on
The people who actually
watched intently did so pretty intensely. They cheered, they danced, and when a
guy in the Meatbodies jumped down to join them, they even moshed. They
completely lost it for Twin Peaks, as they should have. Smiles all around, and
lines not too long. B+
Grounds: I’m not really sure what
Pier 84 is used for when it’s not a festival. It’s clearly not for boats, right
next to the Intrepid there, and there’s not really enough grass for it to count
as a park, even in the loose definition that we New Yorkers use for the word.
It’s just a big piece of concrete, jutting into the Hudson River a bit and
letting you see New Jersey.
Being a big empty lot
allows it to work for 4knots well. There were a whole bunch of people but it
never got too crowded. It had the gentrified over cleanliness of New York in
advertisements, and jutting into the water made it pretty. There still wasn’t
enough grass, so the people who like to pretend a festival is also a picnic got
a little squeezed together, and being a pier made it narrow, so everyone else
did as well. For those who were really intent on staying near the stage and
focusing on the music, this was perfect, and the excellent sound setup helped.
I suppose that in order
to hold a festival with a whole pile of good bands and keep prices down to $25,
you need sponshorship. There’s a whole “stick-it-to-the-man,” leftover Gen-X
mentality that I have that says that’s disgusting. But in effect, it just meant
there were little booths everywhere giving free samples of stuff. That isn’t so
bad. I might actually really like that. I forgot sunglasses, which was real
stupid, since it was very sunny (have I mentioned that it was very sunny?). But
there were people giving them away all over. I got a pair from the Village
Voice that I wore all day, and even when I lost those I still had some from a
wine company. There are worse ways to sell your soul.
Also, there was a boat.
It had a big vodka bottle on the bow (is that the front? I won’t check). It
didn’t really add to the music much, but if you were the kind person who wants
to hang out on a boat on a summer day (and also a Very Important Person, with a
badge showing such), it worked pretty nicely. I went on it briefly. I think
there were parties on it later. I dunno. It was kind of weird. A- Weather: In case I haven’t made
it clear by now, the weather was amazing. I got very sunburned and I don’t even
mind. A+ Amenities: There were
porta-potties. That’s annoying. The brand was called Royal Flush, which I
thought was funny-ish. They were pretty good as porta-potties go. The
handwashing station ran out of water near the end of the show. Gross. There was,
as far as I could tell, only one proper water fountain, near
the entrance. There wasn’t really a line for it, surprisingly. It was also next
to some sort of water playground thing, where you could crank a pump and make
water flow through some gears or whatever. I watched a little girl with
fantastic cornrows play with it near the beginning of the festival. I thought
it was adorable how she was too small to work the pump very hard, and there was
only a little trickle going through the waterworks. Then I tried it myself and
I realized the whole thing was semi-defective so I couldn’t get more than a
trickle either. I owe more respect to the little girl with cornrows.
There was a good phone
charging station near the entrance, but you had to listen to a spiel about how
it was solar power and you should change your house to solar power. They were
nice about it though and understood that you didn’t really want to sign up
there. Not too bad. B- The Most Hard-Core Quote
of All Time: At one point,
one of the twin guitarist/vocalists of the Meatbodies apologized for his
voicing being a little screwy:
“We had a bunch of
cheese last night. Too much dairy. Bad for the throat! Fuckin’ Rock n’ Roll,
right? Fuckin’ cheese!” A+ Overall: The day time was full of
youthful exuberance. The evening had a bit more adult sobriety, but it didn’t
mar the fun too bad. A-
4Knots Festival Pier 84, New York NY July 11, 2015
It’s summer. Have you noticed? You can tell because it’s hot out. I usually feel that this is the time of the year for classic rock and old-school hip hop. Y’know, barbecue stuff.
What I don’t usually think of is Indie rock. It’s more of a winter-y music to me, introverted stuff for staying inside and thinking about how sad you are with your overwrought feelings. When the sky is blue and even people like me (choosing to live in a city with public transportation so I don’t have to drive) fantasize about bumping up the speakers on an open-topped car, there seems like no good reason for the warm blankets of guitar fuzz. Why mumble your lyrics when you can shout them at the top of your lungs?
That being said, it’s an impressive feat of the Village Voice in putting together a festival worthy of Indie rock bands that exemplify summer in the best way. Youthful energy, fast guitars, and poppy melodies combined to create a sound that I would refer to as “surf-rock” if it seemed like any of the people onstage in their ripped jeans and introverted stances had ever surfed in their lives.
It’s a type of music that I forget about sometimes, even though it’s huge. The chilled out middle, in between pop bangerz and morose stuff for banging your head on the wall. Finding a way to turn waves of static into just plain waves. Using that rhythmic alt-rock bass line and tight jittery drumming to maybe make you want to dance, but not in a way that makes you look like a fool.
Maybe this is the stuff you listen to all the time, and I sound like an idiot for forgetting it’s there. But it’s an obvious thing that’s worth being reminded of anyway. On a day like July 11, in a place like Pier 84 on the Hudson River, with a collection of bands that are this green and just excited to be playing a crowd of this size, everything clicks.
Looking forward to this festival, I was most excited for the headliners Stephen Malkmus (former lead singer of Pavement) and his newer band The Jicks, and reunited Welsh psych-pop weirdos Super Furry Animals. Both legacy acts, with members’ ages reaching into their forties, and therefore people whose best albums came in a century with completely different digits.
Compared to the beauty of youth that pervaded the first half a dozen bands at the festival, these bands, hitting the stage as the cerulean sky faded into navy at dusk, were adults. They were a little tighter and better at their instruments, which was sort of a shame. Compared to the eagerness of the bands during the day, these evening groups made me wonder what’s the point of putting a solid, good show when there’s so much more fun to be had with a sloppy mess.
Surfbort – A beached zombie tried to yell as loud as possible. She wanted everything loud. Her bandmates were up to the challenge to varying degrees. She dragged the guitarist along with a leash around her collar. The guitarist seemed overwhelmed by this. It felt metaphorical. C
Heavens – An indie rock dad in reflective sunglasses led a revival of the early-aughts post-punk revival that I was all about in early high school. That is fine with me. They sounded like the beach, though they didn’t look like they’d enjoy actually being there. The bassist was the platonic ideal of a bassist. He had long hair that covered his face and allowed him to be completely in his own world. He sweat through his shirt and it made the shape of a heart over his heart. B Heaters – Heaters turned their amps up to eleven, and then put feedback loops on each of the squawks that came out of them, and turned on the kind of distorted, reverb that I like. They were three dudes with lots of hair and heads ready to shake. The fuzz from their guitar came out in rolling waves, and their long locks rolled in time as if being pushed by the air coming out of the speakers. Every note rang out for longer than it takes you to read this review. Every outro became the next song’s intro. Every song sounded a little the same, but that’s understandable because the reverberations of the previous song were still audible when they were half-way through the next. B
Meatbodies – Some henchmen from Transylvannia went on summer vacation. They formed a band, and tried to have as much fun as possible. Grizzled-looking dudes with hair meant for headbanging sang catchy melodies, and they sang them with an adorable two-singer harmony that I didn’t expect from dudes this heavy. It was great to see someone looking like Igor having this much fun, and to hear the guitars chugga-chugga-chugga with the kind of thuggish skronk that you can’t escape if you grew up in a lightning-struck stone castle overlooking a treacherous ravine. Every now and then one of the guitarists would launch into a metallic solo—meedly-meedly-meedly on the high frets all the way up on the neck—and sorta shrug. “Oh am I blowing your mind with my guitar pyrotechnics? Oops! What a silly thing!” Then his guitar strap would fall off, he’d look at it for a second as if he was going to stop playing and put it back on, and then decide to just play harder to make up for it. They sounded like the Buzzcocks but with more distortion and some drop-D tuning. That’s among the best things I can ever say about anyone. A
Happyness – One band member: “I dunno man. I feel like this song is only okay. We need to punch it up a bit.” Other band member: “What if we add just enough distortion that it sounds like it’s more interesting, but not in a way that gives it any sort of actually interesting texture?” One band member: “OK cool. Also, I’ll play piano on one of the slower songs. Not like, a more emotional song or anything like that. Just a song that lets everyone take a break.” Other band member: “Sure. Why not? And when you do that, we can switch to opposite sides of the stage and hug in the middle.” One band member: “Yeah that sounds adorable.” Me: It totally was. Definitely the highlight of their set, which other than—OH WAIT IS THAT AN 8-YEAR-OLD IN THE CROWD WITH A SCREAMING FEMALES SHIRT AND A SLIPKNOT HAT? THAT KID IS AMAZING AND HAS GREAT HAIR! Oh right. There’s a band playing. I almost forgot. D
Screaming Females – The name is a misnomer. The Screaming Females are actually only ⅓ female and that ⅓ also does all the screaming. She does enough screaming for the other two dudes and maybe 4 extra band members as well. Marissa Paternoster is the loudest girl on the planet. She’s a fireball with a guitar on overdrive, and she has a bassist and drummer working their absolute hardest to harness the heat without getting everyone burned. They’re trying to keep up with her energy, and there’s no shame in saying that they fail, because it’s impossible to keep rhythm for a hurricane. She isn’t playing her guitar. She beats it until it screams in anger and she makes it look easy. A
Mikal Cronin – This guy looks like my friend Josh; both of them look like Bighead from HBO’s Silicon Valley. He also looks like he’s got his shit together. He had a band full of people who played music like it was their job. I say this to mean both that they played extremely well and also that they didn’t really show enthusiasm beyond what was needed to do so. They definitely enjoyed being up there, but also weren’t there because they enjoyed being up there. The songs were relatively straightforward pop songs, with just enough accoutrements to make them feel a little “alternative”–little bits of screech and feedback between verses, slightly unexpected structure–but not enough to derail the hooks. I’ve been meaning to check out Cronin’s albums for a little while now. After seeing him, I definitely should, but will probably get around to it no sooner than I would have before. B-
Twin Peaks – Right when this band was starting, I spilled my beer all over myself in a somewhat cartoonish fashion that made the festival staff who saw me point and laugh. It left me pissed off and smelling of beer, which was luckily exactly the state to be in for Twin Peaks. The band is young (far younger than the TV show they’re named after, I have to guess), loud, and exuberant. They are so enthusiastic that it wouldn’t have mattered if they didn’t know how to play their instruments. They did, and they ably put on a show of solid, stripped down punk tunes, but with the level of fun they were having onstage, they could have just smashed their guitars with hammers and it would have been great. Every song was their best one and every note was a climax. Yelling, writhing on the floor, and pouring with sweat, they rocked. A-
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Back in high school, Pavement’s debut album, Slanted & Enchanted was my favorite album of all time. Seeing the singer whose slacker whine and meandering guitar defined my adolescence was a big deal. Of course, Pavement has been gone for almost two decades, long enough for Malkmus to have played with the Jicks more than he ever played with them. But hey, I like the Jicks. I was really into Face The Truth back when that came out, and I thought their newest album was pretty good, with Malkmus singing a nice Lou Reed impression. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks played and I could never forget the ampersand. There’s a pretty solid drummer, bassist, and rhythm guitarist/keyboardist, but they play with their eyes glued on Stephen. He’s the power source, and he’s unfortunately not always up to that level of life-giving energy. He’s given a chance to solo on every song, and although I still love the way his guitar work zigzags around like it did on Pavement albums and the Silver Jews records he used to moonlight on, it really sounds like work now. The meandering spirit has been isolated to the point where it no longer feels playful. It’s amazing how little his amazingly youthful voice has changed in the course of my entire life time, but with songs that get this plodding, the bored affectation that always made his singing interesting just takes over, and stops anyone in the band from getting enough energy to have much fun. C+
Super Furry Animals – SFA came out once it was fully dark, along with a full use of the multi-colored lighting apparatus that had been there for all of the bands but had seemed completely frivolous. They wore baggy white full bodysuits that looked like they belonged to NASA that shone with all the rainbows projected onto them.There were props–Power Ranger helmets, signs calling for “Applause”, and, for the encore, super furry costumes to fit their namesake.
The visual gimmicks were fun, but also clearly incidental to the performance they were putting on. There was very little going on visually in the music – they played the songs without much dancing, posing, or intense showmanship. They were a reunion touring band (straight from their first show in six years at Glastonbury) and their attitude was clearly that they didn’t need any of that silliness. They played the great songs they wrote twenty years ago, and they played them well. They already made it to being rock stars, so who needs to show off? What more could you want?
For someone like me who is really into the Animals psychedelic weirdness version of what is often labeled “Britpop” (even if they were Welsh), it was easy to be happy with what they gave us. The band played with the confidence of not just headliners but of returning champions, and the skill of people who had played these songs hundreds of times before. It would be ridiculous for me to gripe about seeing “Do Or Die,” my favorite of their songs, with the intensity of their musicianship and the added bonus of a great freakout from the rainbow lights.
But the best thing about the Super Furry Animals has always been their exuberance, the real sense of weirdness and fun that made them twice as interesting as their supposed peers Oasis and Blur while the other two were sucking up all the attention. And in a day where the feeling of youthful summer pervaded, where less good bands put on way better shows on the strength of their excitement at playing for a crowd like this, it was hard to feel the same level of enthusiasm about a legacy act like this, even one whose legacy I admire so much. B+ – Review and photos by Jon Hecht