The very first listening party organized by Boston Hassle and I Heart Noise took place on May 22nd at the library of Democracy Center in Cambridge, and was dedicated to Skyjelly (who describes his own style as “psycho-blues-noise trip from deep in the desert”).
Panel of experts for the evening included Ilya Sitnikov, Freddie Rodriguez, Sarah Samways, Mario Epstein, and Sophie MacArthur.
— Transcript —
Ilya – Skyjelly’s got tons of songs that are out there on Youtube and Soundcloud.
Mario – What about this one?
Ilya – This one was the very first one I heard from him, and it’s got something to do with video recording of certain randomness.
Mario – Is he one of those people that wanted to move from Boston to LA?
Ilya – No, he’s not! He actually told me “I’m not even remotely interested in that”.
Sophie – For people that might listen to this, do you want to explain what this is?
Ilya – Skyjelly is a close friend of mine. He’s been playing for the last 5 years or so and playing all over the place, from Boston to Providence. He plays shows all the time, and his M.O. involves doing a lot of things with pedals, loops…
Mario – There’s a lot of people too.
Ilya – Yeah, there’s a lot of people that play with him — there’s Eric who wanted to come in tonight, there’s Dave who plays drums with him and there’s Scott. He ended up introducing me to a lot of people that he’s played with.
Sophie – Can you explain the process and the idea behind the listening party?
Ilya – I always wanted to hear people’s thoughts but when you sit in front of the computer and you throw stuff out there, do people react?
Mario – They’re passive, yeah.
Ilya – I see numbers on Facebook, but as far as comments — people aren’t crazy about that. So my idea is to introduce some of the things that I’ve been listening throughout years and get feedback on whether people like it or not.
Mario – A lot of my listening time comes from walking around — it’s not really on the computer. If it’s coming from the computer, I want to have it on the iPod.
Ilya – With mp3s we lost the whole idea of how to listen to music, because when I was a kid we used to just sit around and listen to the CD.
Mario – There’s a certain mentality…
Ilya – It’s a certain…..I don’t know what to call it….intimacy… that was lost in digital.
Mario – It’s not mp3, I wouldn’t blame the format. I blame the platform that the format is on.
Ilya – I’m not blaming mp3 per se.
Sophie – Headphones?
Mario – This listening party, by the way, is sponsored by Doritos.
Ilya – I’m reading a book about Tom Waits and he sued Frito-Lay for using an impersonator in their commercial.
Mario – Did he win a lot of money?
Ilya – He did, but he also said “Don’t go there, because it’s a lot of pain trying to sue someone like that”
Mario – To sue Frito-Lay, yeah.
Sarah – What year was this?
Ilya – That was the early ’90s, and Tom Waits said that he is totally against his songs being used in commercials.
Ilya – This one is called “Acosta.” It’s the second song Skyjelly gave me for a digital compilation.
The 6 Is Silent
Sarah – Can people buy his records anywhere?
Ilya – He’s got Bandcamp page and an EP called “Skyjelly and Suns” but he’s got tons of songs that are unreleased and scattered all over the place. A lot of his work is on Youtube — practice sessions, jams and whatever is on Bandcamp is a small portion of what he’s actually released.
Mario – Does he have his own channel?
Ilya – He does, but most of the stuff on Youtube I see is posted by people he knows or played with. Soundcloud — he has a huge Soundcloud account.
Freddie – You were talking about how you put things out there and people don’t respond. Were you talking specifically about your blog?
Ilya – Yeah, I feel that people respond to what they already know and that’s what I see. Sometimes you can write a review and it will attract attention — I saw that happening with reviews of local shows. Usually you just post a lot of things and people say “whatever.”
Mario – That’s the blogosphere for ya.
Ilya – It’s the same thing as with music. There’s so much stuff out there that its hard to stop and focus on something.
Mario – This is sad, but true – you need your music to be mentioned on Pitchfork.
Ilya – Unless its Pitchfork or Brooklyn Vegan or one of those big blogs, people are going to say “So what?”
Mario – So what you’re trying to do is foster the community.
Ilya – Yeah, essentially the same thing as Boston Hassle.
Sophie – I like the guitars on this one.
Ilya – That was hard for me to understand at first, but he plays guitars – someone else told that he sounds very much in the vein of 60s psychedelic bands.
Sophie – This is one record?
Ilya – Actually, this is not the same record. I took three tracks that he sent me, I took live performances – there’s Beck cover at the end somewhere. Its 10 tracks that were scattered all over the place.
Freddie – The first song was very rock-n-roll to me and then it grows into techno type of thing. The third phase sounded more organic, tribal.
Mario – The fidelity in this track.
Sophie – I like how lo-fi this is.
Ilya – He does a lot of stuff with rhythm where he starts by banging it out with his hands.
Sophie – Should we go around in circle?
Sarah (pointing) – “We want your opinion! Now you do it!”
Ilya – If you don’t have an opinion, that’s perfectly fine with me!
The only thing is – I love constructive criticism. When people say “it sucks” it doesn’t mean much to me. When someone says that something is bad I expect to hear at least some analysis as to why people think that.
Mario – What happened with this particular track….well, actually few others – I phased out and the sounds kinda bleed into each other. By the time that I phased back in, there’d be a counterpoint, I guess? Melodic counterpoint? Harmonic, I’m sorry!
It was starting out just like *imitates handclaps* and I’d get into the groove and I’d go “oooooh” and then I’d get back into and there’d be a guitar and a bass doing a whole different thing.
Sarah – Yeah
Mario – Zone in, but the music is always there.
Sarah – Its not that you’re bored or anything…
Mario – No, no, no – its not boredom
Sophie – It also has to do with our attention span (laughs).
Mario – I’m still focusing on it, I’m just not…attending.
Ilya – To me a lot of shows are like that – its a strange kind of feeling when you go to a show and the music starts playing. It all gets very surreal – the way you drown in the sound and you drown in the rhythm.
Mario – Its a drone in a way
Ilya – Right!
Mario – Its not drone music, but….
Ilya – Its almost trance-like
Mario – I know – drone and trance (laughs).
Ilya – (laughs) Yeah, its peculiar and that’s why I like a lot of his stuff – he’s got this weird this weird rhythm going on in many of his songs. He bangs on something and says something into the microphone and builds a rhythm out of that – that’s how a lot of his songs were built up.
Ilya (looking at Freddie) – what do you have to say, if anything at all? (laughs)
Freddie – (laughs) That song…let me profess that I don’t usually listen to this genre, so this is new to me – I haven’t heard of the artist and I didn’t read anything you sent out because I wanted to come with a clean slate of mind.
I listen to other stuff, so its hard sometimes to get yourself in a different mindframe if you’re used to certain things.
It sounded a little repetitive to me….(laughs)
Ilya – It is repetitive! That’s the idea. He uses a lot of repetition in his music which is very easy to hear.
Freddie – The first one have layers, though, so I could hear the…
Ilya – Build-up
Freddie – Yeah! You can’t hear this – I’m using my hands right now. (laughs)
Ilya – Its a build-up, yeah.
Freddie – One layer, then another, then another. I didn’t hear layering as much on that one.
Ilya – Yeah, I think it was a practice track and they were jamming.
Sophie – Its funny – his name sounds to me exactly like what his music sounds to me.
You know what I mean? Skyjelly – its sonically fits it perfectly. I think of some outlandish cartoon island for some reason.
Mario – That’s cool!
Ilya – That’s interesting.
Sophie – You know the group Gorillaz and Damon Albarn? They have some music videos of islands and their records are concept records and I think one of them is about an island and some of the guitars sound like that.
Mario – His name alone evokes imagery…and the music.
Sophie – They complement each other.
Ilya – I actually asked him about that and he said:
I read an article about a strange substance found at meteorite crash sites. it was jelly-like stuff that quickly evaporated and was called ‘star jelly’.
Mario – Oh, there you go!
Ilya – Later, when coming up with a band name I remembered it wrong and said ‘skyjelly’ (laughter). As far as i know there are no other bands called skyjelly.
That’s what he was saying to me at a private party – “There are no other Skyjellies out there”. He wanted to say “Starjelly” but ended up with a different name.
Someone asked me – does he have any sons? I said no – he doesn’t have any sons, but he does have a record called “Skyjelly and Sun” as in s-u-n.
Sophie – Should we play another one?
Ilya – Yeah, lets go!
Sophie – Do you want to preface it saying anything or should we just listen to it first?
Ilya – Lets just get into it….listen….
Sophie – Oh, its different!
Sarah – That was short!
Ilya – Its under 2 minutes.
Mario – I like records that do that – little vignettes.
Sophie – Interludes!
Ilya – Yeah, its a short interlude!
Freddie – Or a meditation…
Sophie – It almost leaves you wanting more of that feeling…
Ilya – He’s doing a lot of middle-eastern type of stuff..
Everyone – Yeah, that’s what it sounds like!
Sarah – Did he manufactured that echo?
Mario – It could’ve been post-production. It was probably delay pedal, though – short delay.
Sarah – I feel like that added to it.
Sophie – Added to it, yeah and its definitely middle-eastern sounding.
Mario – Without the delay it would sound like he’s just playing a room like this. With the delay it opens up the room, make sound more like a cathedral.
Ilya – Should we go to the next one?
Everyone – Sure!
– the song ends
Sophie – who-hoo!
Freddie – that was it?
Ilya – Yeah, I think that ended
Mario – That was the whole thing? The whole record?
Ilya – No, that’s not the whole thing!
Freddie – It just sounded like you said “Done!”
Mario – That was great! Really good songwriting – I like songs that are unpredictable but at the same time you can’t see it going any other way. That’s what great pop music does and that was one of his poppier tracks.
Ilya – That’s what I was thinking too.
Mario – It was a good one, though – a good pop song, well-crafted.
Sophie – The guitar riff reminded me of…what’s the band called? Back in the old days of “Guitar Hero” and those video games…
Sarah – Back in the old days???
Sophie – There were songs that had riffs…
Mario – Kinda like “Thunderstruck”
Sophie – He takes it in interesting direction and the singing is sonically and stylistically different from songs where that type of guitar playing and those riffs are paired together.
Mario – Right!
And speaking of the way he sings – it went from “I don’t know why I feel this way” to the last time when he did it slower.
Sarah – It sounds like it was in a tunnel.
Sophie – It sounds like a driving song.
Ilya – Yeah, he’s using a lot of effects, but its interesting that you guys mentioned pop. I myself didn’t think that it could be described that way, but its got that weird funky kind of groove to it.
Freddie – I was going to say – its was dancey groove. I like that one – funk is poppy, I guess.
Ilya – He does a lot of cross-genre thing – one of his songs might sound middle-eastern and psychedelic and the other one would be more experimental/ambient.
Sarah – While he was singing I was thinking “This is the next track after the last one I heard???”
Ilya – It breaks the flow, I agree! That’s because I picked tracks randomly – I could’ve made a better sequence, I guess. It should’ve been the other way around – two dancey tracks followed by one tracks that sounds like an interlude.
Mario – Hey man – making a mixtape is hard!
Freddie – I’d say its been a cool eclectic mix and I like how they’ve all been different, actually.
Ilya – I’ve been looking mostly at his Youtube channel – practices and things like that.
Freddie – So where this came from – were the songs similar to the ones we heard?
Ilya – Yeah, there were a couple of songs like that. Cover of Beck comes to mind.
Mario – A cover of what?
Ilya – Beck. Beck Hanson – he covered “Gamma Ray”.
Mario – Wait, this was “Gamma Ray”?
Ilya – Not this one, the next one – yeah, this one doesn’t sound like Beck in any way. Someone else told me that Skyjelly music reminds him of Beck, not this specific track, but there’s a couple where you can hear it.
Sophie – The ending is interesting!
Sarah – I’m confused – that was the Beck cover?
Ilya – The Beck cover is at the very end (laughs). By any means it doesn’t sound like Beck.
Its very repetitive though – when I listened to it I almost imagined people going like this *doing a wave*.
Sophie – Swaying.
Ilya – To me its repetition and building a lot on that repetition.
Mario – So you’re friends with this guy?
Ilya – Yeah!
Mario – What are his influences?
Ilya – I asked him many times and I don’t think that he ever revealed that. Given that he recently covered Beck I would guess that it’d be one.
Sophie – I could see a relation.
Ilya – He covered Frank Ocean – I saw that too.
Does that sound like Frank Ocean? I don’t think it does
Everyone – Not that one, no!
Mario – I like covers that don’t sound too much like original songs. It has to be far-out!
Sophie – It depends on purpose – if its just for yourself, for fun, then its different.
Mario – Screw it up a little bit.
Freddie – When you do the one for yourself, do you put that out to people?
Sophie – I play guitar and drums (*everyone’s cheering*) but that doesn’t mean I’m doing it well.
Ilya – Somebody actually practiced violin playing in this room when I just came in.
A kind of sinister violin music.
Sophie – At least when I play with other people in bands – either you jam or sometimes start with a cover just for the sake of seeing what it sounds like playing with others and I don’t want to transform it necessarily.
Mario – I was talking about putting it on the record.
“This is our band – this our band’s interpretation and this is what we can do with it”.
Freddie – If in concert you make a cover of traditional song that is not on your album it may be true too, ’cause you’re performing for your own audience. You’re a fan and they are fans – I see both points as well.
Ilya – I agree with the idea that the best covers are the ones where a band takes something and makes it their own.
Freddie – That’s more fun.
Ilya – Yeah.
Sophie – Almost like a remix.
Ilya – The funny thing is that I remember rappers used to say “We do remixes”, but they were different from dance remixes.
I remember Puff Daddy used to say “I invented the remix”. (laughs)
Mario – That’s bold.
Sophie – Who said that?
Mario – Diddy!
Everyone – oooh
Ilya – He changed, but he used to say that a lot – “I invented the remix”.
Freddie – That one sounded a little bit more structured to me. It wasn’t as experimental.
Ilya – He does a lot of poppy stuff, but I like it because its not very obvious in a way. Its more detailed than usual pop music – it does have pop elements to it, but doesn’t sound like your typical pop song.
Freddie – There’s obviously a rock feel to it…
Ilya – Yeah, he plays guitars – that was a discovery to me to, because I felt that most of it is electronic at first. He does a combination – guitars and pedals (obviously).
Sophie – When he plays live, what’s his setup? Is it him doing everything or sampling? Is there a drummer?
Ilya – Usually there’s a drummer…
Mario – And a bassist, correct?
Ilya – Yeah
Mario – Its three people including him…that’s all I remember.
Ilya – One set he did at Whitehaus sounded like traditional rock-n-roll type of stuff.
Mario – Yeah, I’ve seen them live and it was the same thing.
Ilya – Show that he did at Out of the Blue Gallery was more of his solo stuff.
Freddie – Soul?
Ilya – Solo – playing on his own!
Here’s the next one…
(white noise comes on)
Oops….no, not this! Harsh noise wall.
(collective laughter again)
Acosta (Living Room Session)
*collective round of applause at the end of the song*
Sarah – I think that Ben & Jerry’s could definitely name ice cream after them.
Mario – Skyjelly strawberry. At Eat at Jumbos we have a freezer full of Ben & Jerry’s, by the way – is it eerie…I just started working there.
Sarah – Good for you! Congratulations!
Mario – Thank you! This is good…
Ilya – To me it sounded like industrial type of stuff…
Mario – His solo, I noticed, it went modal. He uses different modes – kinda what you’d hear in metal.
Freddie – Its weird that you guys got those, cause I didn’t get those at all. It was funky and fine and pop – ’cause I like pop/dance/R&B/old school hip-hop. It resonates with me on those levels.
Ilya – Its a strange combination of genres.
Mario – By the way, we sell funk and old school.
Freddie – Funk ice cream and old school ice cream? (laughs)
Mario – Its a really weird place. Strange, strange venue.
Freddie – That one I liked a lot – that was very nice.
Ilya – I’m having a hard time putting a finger on his genre, specifically. Initially when I heard him I wanted to say – this is ambient/experimental, but he does a lot of other stuff. A lot of his live sets are improvised from what it sounds like to me.
Freddie – Have you asked him about his genre?
Ilya – I should, I definitely should. During an interview I threw out a bunch of names…
Sarah – I don’t think you need to provide names…
Ilya – Yeah, its not about names.
Sophie – What I do is I look at what people tag themselves as on the bottom of their Bandcamp page.
Mario – Usually people just write funny words.
Ilya – Yeah, I recently saw a tag “experimental hardcore” and I said “hmm, ok” (laughs)
Sophie – How many more?
Ilya – I believe there’s two more.
Sixes Are Silent
Ilya – Didn’t expect it to go for so long!
Sophie – Is it a live thing?
Ilya – Yeah, they’re doing jams and it sounded like one of those. One thing I was thinking of was Jim Morrison going rambling out something random in the middle of the song. To me it sounded like one of those 60s psych jams – that’s what they were going for.
Last one I have is a cover…
Sarah – is it that cover? Oh, here we go!
Gamma Ray (Beck cover)
Ilya – That’s it. That’s the end of the show!
Sophie – Final thoughts?
Sarah – He did a good job with that cover
Sophie – I liked it – I don’t know the original song. What record is it of?
Ilya – Its one of the more recent ones (Modern Guilt).
Freddie – I like that there’s a lot of funk to it…I would love to hear a proper funk album, I think!
The previous one made think of Nikka Costa (Light as a Feather) – she’s probably still making music but she’s not as well known, I guess.
It just a funk vibe that I like – it makes me want to hear funk from him.
Ilya – I’ll shoot it back to him and will say “Make a funk album! Make the next one the funkiest one out there. That’s what we want!”
Freddie – When he performs live, does he do all the echo and layers and stuff?
Ilya – Yeah – he uses lots of pedals which is his trademark, so to speak and that’s what I remember about his shows, him being surrounded by all those pedals.
Sophie – Does he still play?
Ilya – Yeah, he plays all the time around here! The only thing is that there’s no calendar or anything – maybe I should make one for him.
The only way to find out where he plays is to go to his Facebook page, like it and see what he’s up to.
A lot of his music is about groove, which is unusual for that type of music and sounds a bit poppy at times.
Sophie – He takes it in all different directions.
Freddie – Even though its experimental and has different influences, it all sounds like the same artist to me.
Sophie – Its been fun!
Freddie – Thank you for hosting this!
Ilya – Sure, thank you!