MusicArtist to Watch: Empress Hotel

Empress Hotel is like my perfect boyfriend, they love tacos and Jameson, have a love for awesome facial hair, a great sense of humor, and make me want to dance. No wonder they were a perfect fit for our Digital Album. This pop ensemble hails from New Orleans and are inspired by one hit wonders from the 70s (Ace and The Dwight Twilley Band, click, really, I dare you) as well as great such as Prince and Roxy Music.
Before you go on to read their interview below, check out their video for Mach Bach, the song featured on our digital album. It’s super rad, and it features glitter balloons. That’s right, balloons filled with glitter. Now watch!

“Mach Bach” by Empress Hotel from drew stubbs on Vimeo.

 

 
First, we have to say, we loved the “Mach Bach” video. All the balloons and glitter made us happy. What was the thought behind that video?
The video idea was originally us in a ball pit with New Orleans bounce booty clappers. However, director Drew Stubbs came up with a more economical method of conveying that same playfulness without having to rent out a Chuck E. Cheese.
Drew is the man. I blame him for that video being amazing. He was in that space at 7 a.m. blowing up balloons. ‘Twas a great idea and we look forward to working with him again. 

 

How do you hope to inspire your fans?

 

Through heartfelt lyricism, a personally affecting live performance and dope ass beards.
What do you want fans to get out of your music?
A peaceful, easy feeling.
What would you be doing if you weren’t (or when you’re not) making music?
Micah: Watching star trek
Ryan: Shaving
Jack: Playing golf
Hache: Bikram yoga
Eric: Big room yogurt
Fill in the blank, Empress Hotel is forever grateful for:
Responsive crowds filled with beautiful, well-dressed women. Also grateful for a bottle of Jameson in our green room. Cheap tacos are nice too.
You guys are based in an area known for its rich musical culture. How do you draw on this and make it your own?
We take the lessons we’ve learned from growing up in a musically rich city and apply those lessons to writing great pop melodies.
Do you have pre- or post-show rituals?
Bird watching, beer drinking and beard trimming.
Best show?
Nashville – 3rd and Lindsley on Sept 25, 2011 with Van Hunt.
Of course, then I need to ask … any disaster shows?
Once – we were the band on the Titanic.
How does fashion inspire you?
We all love great hats, and often you will notice more than two hats on stage. Goorin Bros hats are particularly snazzy.
What else inspires you? Other artists?
Jack is personally inspired by a great dish of spaghetti and meatballs, particularly those meatballs that are made with parmesan.
Favorite movie?
Micah: “Mulholland Drive”
Hache: “Serpico”
Jack: “Kenny”
Ryan: “Jurassic Park”
Eric: “Fargo”
Favorite artist?
Micah: Pablo Picasso
Hache: Ryland Cook
Jack: My aunt. She’s a painter.
Ryan: [Jackson] Pollock
Eric: [Salvador] Dali
Favorite musician/band?
Micah: The Kinks
Hache: Os Mutantes
Jack: Neil Young
Ryan: Michael McDonald
Eric: Floating Action
What’s next for Empress Hotel?
Europe, Japan, Australia. New full-length album in spring 2012. Tour, tour, tour!!!
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As always, you can get more of Empress Hotel on our Digital Album, free with each order, no matter how big or small. Plus, the more you order the more you have a chance to win our golden ticket. And who doesn’t love having a real life Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment? 

 

MusicArtist to Watch: Said the Whale

On the next installment of Artist to Watch, we have our next band from our digital album, Said the Whale. We found this gem via word of mouth, and let me tell you, we weren’t disappointed. This Vancouver-based band captures the best of west coast indie-pop. We caught up with keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown for a few questions.

I noticed Said the Whale was featured in a CBS documentary about breaking into America. Do you think that is truly important? How do you think it’s going?
Yah! We have been doing well in our home country of Canada, and it’s really awesome to have such great shows and amazing Canadian fans!  But it’s very important to get your name out into the world, especially America. The US is so musically strong and for us to build up a fan base in the states would be very beneficial. We’ve only toured the western and northern states, as well as Texas for a festival called South by Southwest, so we still have quite a few states to play. The shows have been quite small, which is only natural, but everyone’s extremely friendly and receptive to our music. One can only hope that they tell their friends about us and the next time we roll into their city, we make a couple more fans.
 
How has Vancouver inspired you?
I’ve lived my entire 23 years in Vancouver, and it’s such a beautiful place to grow up. There’s so much to see in and around the city because of the location. Natural beauty is what usually inspires me, so being close to the mountains and ocean really helps. There are also tons of local Vancouver bands that we have become friends with who are musical geniuses and continually motivate us to write.
 
How do you hope to inspire your fans? What do you want fans to get out of your music, especially “Gentleman.”
Whenever I see shows, it makes me want to be on stage, even if I performed just the other night. It also makes me want to improve. Music is a crazy thing because you can express yourself to thousands of people at a time. I’ve had fans come up to me saying they used to play piano as a kid, put it aside for some reason, and because they saw me play they want to have another crack at it. That’s ridiculously exciting to me. So I hope I can inspire people to pick up an instrument, whether it’s for the first time or the hundredth time.
 
We try to write songs that our relatable and move the listener in some form. Some of our songs are upbeat and danceable, others more emotional. There’s quite a diversity to our music since we have two lead singers, Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft, who are the songwriters and each have their unique style. Our song “Gentleman” is a tricky one for me to answer a question about because it’s from the male perspective. Tyler (the writer of the song) describes it as “a little personal song about getting burned by a girl.” There are four guys in the band, and I can say that they’re all gentleman.
 
What would you be doing if you weren’t (or when you’re not) making music?
Before I joined the band I was studying sciences at the University of British Columbia. I was interested in going to veterinary school, but music has always been my passion. I’m thankful that I’m in the band and pursuing what I love because I now realize that being a veterinarian isn’t what I want to be. When I joined the band I didn’t have time for school, so sometime in the future I’d love to go back and possibly get a degree in teaching and teach music. I knew that school would always be there, but being asked to join a band that I loved was a one-time thing for me. When I’m not on tour or doing band things, I teach piano as well as take time to see friends and family. It’s rough being on the road for about seven or more months out of the year, so it’s great just to relax and spend time at home.
 
What’s it like being the only girl in the band (and how is touring)?
Being the only girl in a band is maybe the greatest thing. Some people would call me crazy, but I love being the only girl. You get a lot of attention. When you put two or more girls together for a month on the road, you’re bound to have drama. We hardly ever have any drama between band members, maybe a disagreement from time to time. I’ve grown up with an older brother and a lot of guy friends so I’m used to being with guys all the time. We also tour with tons of bands that are all guys, so sometimes I’m the only girl amongst 15 talented men, lucky me?
 
Any good touring stories?
Usually things that happen to us on tour turn into inside jokes or ones that we can’t quite publicize. But one that recently happened to us in March is quite appropriate. We were touring for the first time in the states and during our first week our trailer that we keep all of our instruments and luggage got broken into. We had played in Sacramento that night. It’s possible that they followed us to where we were staying and waited until we were asleep. Luckily they didn’t take everything, but we had over $8000 worth of gear stolen, including one of my keyboards, two coveted acoustic guitars, two glockenspiels (bell kits), cymbals, guitar pedals, and three suitcases (one of them being mine that had all of my favourite dresses, including one that I was to wear for the Juno Awards in Toronto a couple weeks later). It was an unfortunate event, but it created a lot of buzz, which also helps get our name out there and was included in our CBC documentary “Winning America.” We also ended up winning a Juno Award for Best New Band (I had to find a different dress to wear). That tour was bittersweet for sure.
 
Best show? Of course, that begs the question … any disaster shows?
Best show, oooh that’s a hard one. There isn’t one show that stands out for me. Most shows in Canada are wonderful. But there are so many factors to take into account: fans, sound, our performance (musically and visually), etc. I can name some cities that I love playing in: Vancouver (of course!), Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and St John’s (because bands rarely tour that far east, and so their fans are eager and awesome). I guess I just have to wait to name American cities because there are still so many we have yet to play in. We have had some unfortunate things happen during shows, like bad sound on stage, but we don’t let that affect us. People are there to see us play, sometimes for the first time, so we try our best to put on a great show every time.

 

How does fashion inspire you?
Fashion can totally change how you carry yourself. I love being able to dress up for shows. It’s funny, I used to wear skinny jeans and a t-shirt for shows to fit in with the guys, but now I go for the dresses or skirts and rock them with sneakers. It’s fun to play up being the only girl, but comfort is always key! I usually see what the venue’s like and figure out what I want to wear. Sometimes I even try to remember what I wore the previous show in that city so that I don’t double up on outfits.
 
What else inspires you? Other artists?
I touched on this in a previous answer, but other artists are probably my biggest influence, especially Canadian musicians. I’m a huge fan of Metric, Tokyo Police Club, Dan Mangan, Hey Rosetta, Mother Mother, Aidan Knight, and so many more. I recommend you go out and buy their albums and/or see their shows!

Favorite movie?
Funny you should ask this. I just watched the most amazing independent film last night called “Incendies”, which is probably my new favourite.  It’s an adaptation of a play about two twins who discover they have an unknown brother after opening their mother’s will. They embark on a journey to the Middle East to entangle their roots and find out what happened to their brother. I will say no more because I don’t want to give it away. It really captivated me like no movie has before. 
 
What’s next for Said the Whale?
 
We are getting ready to tour the states again! It’s a one-month tour starting on the east coast, hitting cities all the way down to Miami, across to Austin, and then up the west coast. I’m really excited for this tour because I haven’t been to the east coast (and neither has the rest of the band), so it’s new territory for us. Tour dates can be found on our website: saidthewhale.com. As for albums, we have a 4-song EP called “New Brighton” which will be released November 8th, and a full length album (name not released yet) which will come out March 6th, 2012.
 
One last thing: Thank you LuLu*s for featuring us on your blog! And on behalf of Said the Whale, I hope that everyone enjoys our song “Gentleman!” Maybe see some of you on the road.
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Want more? Don’t worry, anytime you order from us, you get access to our free digital download! For now, you can suffice with their Island Disappear EP below!

http://saidthewhale.bandcamp.com/album/islands-disappear

FashionReal vs. Steal: Rebecca Minkoff Dress

 

We always want things we can’t have; it’s part of nature, right? Well, at least I know I feel that way. I love looking at expensive things that I can one day own. We can’t all spend $500 on a dress. That’s why I love how the fashion world “borrows” styles and makes a more affordable version for us mortals. So here’s another version of Real vs Steal, with an ever-so-sexy Rebecca Minkoff dress. 
 
Real
 
Rebecca Minkoff Pleated Sexy Dress $428
 
 VS

Steal
 
Surprise Surprise dress in black, fuchsia, and teal $36.50

MusicArtist to Watch: Warm Weather

Warm Weather is a band whose name really captures its essence; from the vocals, to imagining yourself lounging on an empty beach, it just makes you feel so warm. The music is a blend of kaleidoscopic indie rock and a beachy, harmonious quartet. Think if Beach Boys met Grizzly Bear. Or Vampire Weekend, just less… uptight. Hailing from the east, these guys are now located in sunny LA, where they are working on their next EP. We caught up with Justin Lerman for an interview.

 
 
How did your band come to exist on the mean (warm?) streets of LA?
Warm Weather actually came into existence all across the country. On our road trip from Philadelphia to LA the band was formed. Ryan and I are originally from Philly and Brendan was a buddy of mine from Dartmouth College, who we picked up at his home in Minnesota. I had collaborated with both Ryan and Brendan separately, but the three of us had never all been in the same room until we met on our trip across the country. To pass the hours on the road, we plugged a portable keyboard into the car speakers and wrote and sang songs on the way. Those songs were the basis for our first EP, “Dances”it wasn’t until we arrived in L.A. that we started playing shows and recording.
 
How do you hope to inspire your fans? What do you want fans to get out of your music, especially “Older.”
Our music is meant to convey emotions and feelings. We want the listener to be taken somewhere when they listen to a track. Our first EP, “Dances,” has a very summery feel – it’s happy, it’s lethargic, it’s bittersweet. At least that’s how I feel about it, but the nice thing about music is that the experience can mean something different for every listener. We just hope to evoke a meaningful experience in our audience. “Older” is a song about growing up – or maybe not wanting to. Sometimes we just want to let life take us where it will and forget our worries — but you can’t do that forever; we all grow up and we have our responsibilities. Realizing that is bittersweet. The ending of our EP, which is “Older” is almost nostalgic for childhood. 
What would you be doing if you weren’t (or when you’re not) making music?
Personally, when I’m not writing music, I’m writing words. I’m interested in screenwriting and one of the reasons I originally moved out to L.A. was to explore that career. I’m still doing that, but things are just little more complicated with Warm Weather. I can’t really speak for the other guys in the group, but I get the feeling from Ryan that it’s always been music or bust and Brendan is such a talented guy and brilliant musician, he could do anything he wanted in or out of music. 
 
Fill in the blank: Warm Weather is forever grateful for …
Warm Weather is forever grateful for the support of our friends and family. Without them, we’d never be able to explore our creativity so fully. We’ve had individuals like Nick Breton of Truth Studios just giving us their time and resources to help us make our music – it’s that kind of kindness and generosity that makes it possible for artists to create. 
Your harmonies are quite something … Did you always sing so pretty or was it something practiced?
Haha, thanks. Ryan and I sang together all throughout high school. We were in another band then called Cereal Heroes and we were also in our high school a cappella group. From the beginning of our career writing music, vocal harmony has been at the center of our creative interests. We just love singing together and the sounds of the human voice. Brendan and I sang together in our college a cappella group The Dartmouth Aires, and actually Brendan and I just finished filming the NBC show “The Sing Off” with the Dartmouth Aires, so turn on the TV Monday nights at 8 and you can actually see Brendan and I harmonizing quite regularly.

Warm Weather’s Coney Island off of The Dance II

Any good touring stories?
Well the band just formed earlier this year and since Brendan and I have been busy with “The Sing Off” we actually haven’t had the opportunity to do a full tour yet. We’re currently looking into dates for a 2011-2012 tour.  
Do you have pre- or post-show rituals?

Well, before a show we like to sing through our songs. It’s just fun and locking in the harmonies in a small circle can really bring you back to the roots of the music. Post-show rituals usually involve beer and friends.

Best show?
Honestly, I think our best show was our first – at the Whisky A Go-Go in West Hollywood. It was awesome to play a stage frequented by the Doors, the Who, and other legendary performers. We got the chance to perform “Dances” in its entirety and it was just a blast.
Of course, that begs the question … any disaster shows?
No “disasters” quite yet – but we did book a show at the Hollywood House of Blues, which sounded like it was going to be awesome…and ended up just being a tiny side stage near the bar and removed from the main ballroom. We essentially rocked out for three people sipping on cocktails. It was still fun, but decidedly less cool than playing the House of Blues sounds like it should be.
How does fashion inspire you?
You know, I’m not sure if I’m the most fashionable guy in the world, but I will say that when I put on a “fashionable” outfit that I feel fits my personality, it makes me feel more comfortable in myself and my creativity – it’s amazing how little things like that can change your entire mindset. If I ever get in a funk, I just take a shower a put on my favorite clothes and all of a sudden – I’m back.
What else inspires you? Other artists?
Plenty of other musical artists inspire me. I’m personally really into groups like Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective and classic groups like The Who, The Kinks, Queen, Beatles, Beach Boys – all those classic big vocal groups.  I’m also a huge fan of movies and books, but who isn’t? 
Favorite movie?
“Back to the Future” – it’s fun, it’s funny, it’s sci-fi/action adventure, it’s well written, well acted. It sounds like a hilarious choice for someone who loves movies, but I can’t help it. That movie is classic and always entertaining.  

Favorite musician/band?
I find it difficult to pick a favorite here. It fluctuates between The Who, the Beatles and The Beach Boys for me. I go through phases of obsessions with these three groups. It could be nothing but “Tommy” for a month or maybe “Sgt. Peppers,” who knows. That’s how I tend to consume music: one artist, one album, over and over until I’ve got my fix for awhile.
What’s next for Warm Weather?  
We’re about to put out a second EP before we start working on our first full length album. In the meantime, we’ll be playing LA local shows and writing and recording the new tracks
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Warm Weather is the second band to be featured off our digital album (free with every order, hell yeah!). Heard the digital album? Then we want to hear from you! Let us know what you think about Warm Weather and the Lulu*s Digital Album. Check out more of Warm Weather with their facebook, tumblr, and bandcamp.

MusicArtist to Watch: Saskatchewan


It’s a rare thing when you listen to a song from an obscure band that you’ve never heard of and get blown away, but that’s exactly what Saskatchewan did for me. I discovered them on my tumblr feed and instantly fell in love.
 
Saskatchewan (pronounced sa-skach-uh-won) hails from Orlando, FL, the city of boy bands. Their melodic and effervescence pop will keep you in a dream world you might never want to get out of.



We caught up with singer Chandler Strang for a little chat.

I’ve seen Saskatchewan classified as “dream pop.” Explain to us what that means to you.

Songs that are ethereal, airy and catchy all at once.
 
How do you hope to inspire your fans? What do you want fans to get out of your music, especially “Dreamboat”?
 
I’ve never thought of myself as inspiring to others before. “Dreamboat,” as well as some of our other songs, is about spending time with a person who you care about; connecting with them. If our listeners can make that happen for themselves, then I’m just happy to provide the soundtrack
 
What would you be doing if you weren’t (or when you’re not) making music?
 
I’m an accountant, so I’d be doing that. Ha.
 
Fill in the blank, Saskatchewan is forever grateful for …
 
… The internet.
 
You were creating a fund where people could donate for a sweet ride to CMJ … how is that going?
 
Yes, to get a “SaskatcheVan.” Some people generously donated the first day we set it up, but since then it’s been pretty inactive. We have different incentives that a contributor will get for each price point, the biggest of which is for a $1000 donation we’ll paint a mural of the contributor’s face on the side of the van. I really just want to have a huge face on the side of the van.
 
Do you have pre- or post-show rituals?
 
I have a two-beer minimum before playing.
 
 
Best show?
 
Our best show so far was probably our last hometown show opening for our friends Great Deceivers. It was their album release show and the place was packed with good friends. Really good vibes that night.
 
Of course, then I have to ask … worst show?
 
We played with a band called Young Empires once. I got there late coming from a funeral which is never a good way to get things started. Everyone was forgetting parts, we couldn’t hear anything on stage – the whole thing was a disaster. I’m just glad there were only a handful of people there to witness it. Ha 
 
How does fashion inspire you?
 
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I don’t really consider myself to be very fashionable. I pretty much just wear jeans, boots and animal t-shirts that I got from thrift stores all the time. Gery our drummer is the fashionable one of the group.
 
What else inspires you? Other artists?
 
It’s kind of morbid, but my fear of death and the inevitability of dying have been fueling the inspiration for our new material. Michael McDonald is my hero. Everything he does is inspiring to me.
 
Favorite movie?
 
“Lord of War,” maybe? I think my favorite movie changes a lot.
 
Favorite artist?
 
Not going to lie, I have no certain preference.
 
Favorite musician/band?
 
Michael McDonald and The Beach Boys
 
What’s next for Saskatchewan?
 
After CMJ [College Music Journal’s Music Marathon] next month we’ll mostly be spending time working on our first full length, set to be released at the beginning of next year.
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Want more? Saskatchewan is one of the featured artists on our digital album, which comes free with every order you make at Lulu*s! Already downloaded their song? Let us know if you love them just as much as we do!