I remember seeing The White Stripes at The Troubadour a few times a year, in the very early 2000’s. We also used to go see these singer-songwriters named Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles, and Brett Dennen, play at The Hotel Cafe all the time. I was one of 8 people who stumbled into The Mint and saw Jack Johnson play in 1999 or early 2000, well before the masses knew who he was. The Strokes, Metric, Snow Patrol, Keane, Scissor Sisters, Ben Harper, The Airborne Toxic Event, Amos Lee, Ray LaMontagne, The Black Eyed Peas (way, way, way back), Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes, Muse, Arcade Fire, Queens of The Stone Age, Portugal The Man (you’ll see what I mean about that one soon). . . the list of “new bands” that I’ve seen perform in tiny venues, before most people knew who they were, is endless.
What does this have to do with Jamie Drake? Well, if you want to get in early on this one, now’s the time. I was introduced to Jamie via a contest she won. Jamie was hand-selected by A&R veteran Michael Rosenblatt (Madonna, Depeche Mode, New Radicals, etc.) to receive his guidance and to record an EP with a respected producer. “Listen to this! Listen to THIS!” Rosenblatt would command, while bouncing out of his seat, with a huge smile on his face, referencing Drake’s early demos. Then, 2 minutes later, “did you listen to it??” By the third minute he was playing Jamie Drake’s music for me from his computer. At that time, I had worked with Rosenblatt for nearly one year and had never seen him that excited about anybody.
On first listen, Drake’s songs are unmistakably good. Upon subsequent listens, they’re brilliant. The art of the album is dying – people are buying (or not) singles and EPs. The coming generation isn’t familiar with the concept of the album as a holistic piece of work, as a story and art of its own. People are consuming songs, legally or illegally, at a rapid pace and churning through them as quickly as they find them. Yet to endure, the songs need to be better. As a listener, you need to feel something every time you hear a song, not just a catchy little tune that will soon annoy you, as it becomes overplayed. You deserve something that moves you, something you can revisit several years from now and still connect with, songs that are themselves a holistic piece of art. Jamie Drake gives you that.
The better an album is, the longer it takes me to get though the first listen. I geek out on songs, listen to them on repeat, hear all the parts, identify where the emotional hooks are, understand the impact of the intersection of the sound of various instruments at a specific moment, inflections in the singer’s voice. . . It took me two weeks to get to the final track of Drake’s album – which also happens to be the title track, and my favorite – “When I Was Yours.”
I listened to tracks one through eight, over and over, on repeat until I understood, down to the second, where and how each song made me feel a specific range of emotions. Eventually, I made my way to track nine, “When I Was Yours.” That song is still on repeat. Minutes 2:12 – 3:02 will break your heart even if your heart has never been broken before. But it’s minutes 0:01 to 2:11 that get you there. Drake’s songs are not simply “good,” they get inside you and fuck you up. The songs stand alone, but they also, conceptually, take you through the journey of the album as a whole. And just like we want to relive the best parts of our lives, I’ve repeated my way, song by song, through the album numerous times now.
I’ve seen Drake perform live a handful of times. The more she plays, the better she gets. Even if she never gets any better than this, she’ll still blow you away. Drake is currently playing Crane’s Tavern in Hollywood on Wednesdays and has an album release show at The Hotel Cafe on May 13th.
February 17, 2010
Hotel Cafe, Piano Bar, and everywhere in between
What is Adventures In Rock? On one hand, it’s what happens pretty much every night of my life. But more than that, it’s an idea my friend and talented musician, Jamie Drake (JD), and I (CW) came up with while hanging out last week.
You know those moments when you’re with your friends, laughing, having the time of your lives, and the question arises: “how can we keep doing this forever?” As we sat around a table at The Hotel Cafe, with some of our favorite friends late one night last week, Jamie and I decided that, at minimum, we’ll relive it the next day by writing about it. In addition to my live music reviews, we’ll post an Adventure In Rock once a week. . . for now. But if you like the series, we certainly have enough material to do it more often. At times we’ll include video, audio and interviews; we’ll always include pictures. And while we may set out to share one story, as the night evolves, so may our original concept. Chances are, that will happen more often than not.
The musicians we’re spending time with are not only talented Artists, at various phases of their careers, but are also really stand-up (depending how much they’ve had to drink), great people. They’re some of the most loyal, funny, dedicated friends we have. Some of us have been hanging out for close to 10 years. Some of us – Jamie and I, for example – have only known each other for a few months, but it feels like years. Over time, and through various Adventures In Rock, you will get to know some musicians and venues the way we do – after a show, instead of a show, during a show, at the 24-hour diner after the bars close, on the couch the morning after. Sometimes you’ll get insight into what was really going through a musician’s head when he or she wrote that song, designed that cover, ordered that “last drink.” Other times, you’ll learn that the sad, serious, always lonely singer-songwriter is actually one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet (while also sad, serious, and always lonely) or that the outlandish, wild, crazy drummer is actually quite shy.
So as Jamie and I started dreaming up adventures. . .
JD: we just began throwing out ideas about how we could share this community of music with other people out there who might be interested in reading about how “exciting” our lives were – or rather – how we are all just about the same. We love Frisbee. We love music. We love good beer (Colette prefers good tequila) and real people. We also just wanted to somehow make all of our artist friends feel super rad. You know, we musicians make about 2 bucks when it comes down to it. We have this undying desire and message we have to share with the world, and sometimes the world just doesn’t give a damn.
CW: Also, musicians carry a wealth of information. Touring allows them to explore various cities around the world, often at odd hours. If you ever find yourself in an unfamiliar town, Tweet a musician – chances are they can tell you the best bar, favorite bartender, taco stand, 24-hour diner, and perhaps some stuff you’d rather not know.
JD: So while we were sitting amongst some of the coolest people on the block at this round table of sorts, I had some good news to share: “Soooo… You wanna see the album cover for my first record?”
CW: “Yeah! Break it out!”
JD: (Turning to Cary Brothers, who was sitting next to me at the table) “Speaking of album covers, I saw yours via Twitter the other day. I totally dig it.”
CW: “Let’s see it, Cary!”
Cary Brothers Under Control
JD: Cary took out his iPhone and pulled up a very cool black and white photo of him facing west with a fresh hair cut and of course, wearing that darn leather jacket he’s always got on.
CW: Meanwhile, around the other side of the table, some of our other friends (who will remain nameless for now) were conjuring up ideas for “useful” Apps. The definition of “useful” takes on a new life after a few drinks. Of course, we were entirely focused on Cary’s new album cover so we hardly noticed those other people. Although, since we’re adept mult-taskers, we may share this with you in the future.
JD: The font on Cary’s album cover was in the most possible badass font: comic sans. Totally kidding. In hearing him chat to someone about it a few weeks before viewing the photo, he had said that this was finally the album cover he had always wanted. Apparently, when he was visiting friends or something, one of his buddies just started taking some photos and they ended up being really great. These are the kinds of cool things I really dig about being an artist. Not having plans all the time and just seeing where the wind blows.
CW: I’ve known Cary for. . . I’ve lost track of how long, but many, many years. For me, it’s been extremely fun, inspirational, and gratifying, watching from the sidelines as my friend created all aspects of his latest album, “Under Control,” exactly how he wanted to. The album cover was the remaining piece I had yet to see. As Cary showed us the final artwork, I smiled, “that’s you!” That may not seem like a profound observation, but every time somebody is able to express themselves authentically, without interference from people with different agendas, it’s to be celebrated. Just as the songs do, Cary’s album cover is an uncompromised expression of who he is, at this stage of his life. There’s a sense of confidence and stability, now that Cary has it all “Under Control.” Or, as he often puts it, is “all’s growned up now.” Don’t worry – he still smiles, drinks whiskey, and has a lot of fun.
After we had ample time to absorb Cary’s album cover, Jamie whipped out her phone and scrolled through photos until she found her album cover.
Jamie Drake When I Was Yours
JD: Taking my Blackberry Storm out of my old raggy purse that I got at an Urban Outfitters 4 years ago (and should probably replace), I pulled up my album cover. I was a little nervous to be honest. Having this be my first “legit” album (well, that’s yet to be determined), there was the fear of laughter at how green I am as an artist. I mean, I was sitting next to Cary Brothers, come on now.
CW: I wish I had a picture of Jamie with her Blackberry Storm and Cary with his iPhone. It looked like a simultaneous showdown of technology and art. I love it when those intersections happen. Anyway, Jamie passed her phone around so we could check out her album cover.
JD: “So here’s my album cover…”
CW: After considering it for a bit, I turned to Jamie and said, “I know that a lot of thought and work goes into this, so I say this with the utmost respect and sensitivity, but essentially, you and Cary have the same album cover.”
Now, as you can see from the pictures, the covers themselves look nothing alike and each one illicits a completely different mood. I went on to explain that just as Cary’s album cover boldly expresses where he is in life now, Jamie’s does as well. Theoretically, that’s what the album cover would do – express the artist and the music – so I also know this isn’t a revolutionary observation. But when you actually know the Artist, you have additional insight into how accurately this reflection is portrayed. Speaking of reflections, I later learned that the photo on Jamie’s album cover is literally a reflection. . .
JD: “Oh yeah, that’s interesting.. I see what you’re saying about them being ‘the same.’ My friend who took the photo, Daley Hake, just had this idea of shooting my reflection in a puddle and then adding texture by layering a photo of skyline in the water… kinda looks like I’m in space…”
CW: “Wait, that changes everything. I thought you were looking up toward the sky, but in reality, you’re looking down in the water?” It was one those mind f*ck moments where my eyes had seen one thing, my mind processed it a certain way, and then Jamie flipped it upside down. “I love how that shifted my perspective. That’s the kind of stuff I think we should let others in on.”
We asked Cary to share his thoughts, but he was unavailable to comment. Actually, we didn’t really ask him what he thought. Instead, we stood up and along with Austin Hartley-Leonard, The Brother Sal, Marko and Matt Ramsey, we headed to Piano Bar where more Adventures In Rock ensued.