Music Features

Larry King's Best Hip-Hop Interviews

Larry King interviewed countless rappers throughout his career, but these few stood above the pack

Mac Miller and Larry King

While Larry King admitted on several occasions that he "didn't appreciate Hip-Hop," the legendary interviewer opened up his show to a plethora of rap stars beginning in 2014.

His lack of appreciation wasn't malicious in the slightest. Raised on the sounds of Frank Sinatra and jazz, Larry King merely didn't understand the genre. But with each interview he strove to educate not only the public about Hip-Hop's cultural power, but himself. He often was hyper-focused on the lack of gay rappers within the industry, as well as the genre's use of the N-word, and asked about it unflinchingly.

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MUSIC

The Color of Nostalgia: Lola Marsh Break Down Their Cinematic Sound

The super-talented Gil Landau and Yael Cohen discuss their creative process and diverse inspirations.

Lola Marsh's music exists in a world of its own.

With its cinematic influences and grungy production, it seems handmade for outdoor amphitheaters and long drives under endless skies. Through it all, there's a thoughtful depth underlying their danceable rhythms, perhaps stemming from their diverse influences and worldly upbringings.

When we sat down with the duo, in conversation, as in their music, their passion for their art and the worlds it creates shone through. The band has been through a lot in its short existence—Yael Cohen and Gil Landau were in a relationship for its first year and a half, then broke up and continued to perform together, Fleetwood Mac-style.

Both Cohen and Landau hail from Israel, a country that's a hotbed of both political turmoil and multicultural creativity. Their music offers a welcome escape from reality, inviting the listener into a world of vivid colors and high drama. At times, their work feels stormy and oceanic, at others it's electric and delicate, but it's always defined by their signature Lola Marsh sound: a blend of filmic, vintage, and modern pop influences that blend together to form something truly original.

Image via Likevancouver.ca

Congrats on the release of your new single, "Echoes." How did you come up with that song and the idea for the video?

YAEL COHEN: Gil and me are really inspired by old Western movies and soundtracks, so that was part of it. When we wrote this song, it actually had a completely different tempo and different vibe.

GIL LANDAU: It started with a Casio keyboard, just a low-tempo beat and the melody. We messed around with it and tried these beats with these surf guitars, and it just fit.

YC: Sometimes we just let the melody lead us. In this case, the melody just took us to this beat; we started to dance. The video was very natural, with both of us dancing this stupid dance towards each other, never meeting. It's all kind of a metaphor. In a way, our doubles are our thoughts and the noises in our heads.

Lola Marsh - Echoes www.youtube.com


That song, and a lot of your music, have this very noirish, dramatic, action-film undertone. Is writing these songs a dramatic experience?

YC: We are dramatic people, both of us—in our lives, and in the music, of course. We've been through a lot together, and separately, and that comes through. I think it's important for both of us to take the listeners to the different worlds, to make them feel like they're in these movie scenes.

Yael, you've said you were a fan of fantasy books in your childhood, and you've both traveled a lot in the real world. I was wondering if there are any specific places, fictional or real, that inspire your music?

YC: Our music is full of nostalgic moments. As a young girl, I lived in Africa and Singapore, and I traveled with my parents a lot. I think you can hear that in the songs—the landscapes of different places, always changing.

GL: When you said fictional places, I just thought of two moments from movies. First of all, there's the scene where Falkor in NeverEnding Story flies—you know, when the giant dog flies with Sebastian in the sky—that scene is with me sometimes when we write the songs. The second is the scene where Luke Skywalker in Star Wars is looking at the two suns in the desert.

Your music definitely has a filmic feel, and sometimes it evokes 50's or 70's movies and music. Do you feel connected to any particular era?

YC: Both of us love old movies and vintage sounds, like Elvis, Nina Simone, Edith Piaf...

GL: Until the age of 23, I didn't listen to anything made after 1979. Since then, I've developed my music taste, taking influence from the 80s and 90s. We both are just really nostalgic, retro creatures at heart, though. We love the sound of the guitars and the synths from those eras.

YC: It's more rough, less clean.

GL: When we record, let's say, piano or drums, we try to mess with the sound, so it doesn't sound good. We'll take piano and we'll put weird reverb on it or take it through a guitar amp, just to explore a bit.

Now that you mention it, a lot of your instruments sound like they were put through amps or messed with in some way. Do you have any particular musical sounds that you try to emulate?

GL: I think when we just began together, we tried to emulate artists we loved. Now, it's more about our own inspiration. When we wrote this second album, we asked ourselves… is it Lola Marsh, is it our sound?

YC: After a few years, we've developed this color, and we can say, this is Lola Marsh.

GL: When we were working on our next album, we'd take inspiration from house or techno tracks, too. We try to mix genres to create the Lola Marsh world.

I heard you mention the color of the sound, and I was wondering if there are any colors or images that you feel define the Lola Marsh style.

YC: Something very shady, maybe purple… Something unclear, you know, and not just one color. It's like a mix of different shades. It's very dynamic. The first album was like that, and now the new album will be also.

So what can we expect from this new album, and next from Lola Marsh?

GL: I hope that we will release another single in September or October. We'll tour a bit more in Europe, and maybe the U.S. Then, hopefully, we'll release the album early next year—no guarantees, but I have high hopes.

YC: We heard the new album with the master a few weeks ago on tour. We were in the van, watching the landscapes outside, and we got really emotional.

Do you feel like this upcoming album is a departure from your previous work, or a continuation?

GL: It's really different. We came to this album more mature, knowing our sh-t.

YC: The album still has a romantic, nostalgic feeling and those cinematic vibes, but we came in with a clear mind and more experience.

Image via Porgy.at

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started playing music? Was it part of your childhood?

GL: I came from a family of music lovers. My dad used to sing and play, and I remember myself playing the piano since the age of six. It's what I've done all my life. There was a breakthrough in my 20's when I understood that I wanted to write and produce songs, and not just be an instrumentalist.

YC: Since I was really young, I loved to perform and entertain, and to sing and play in front of my parents and friends. I looked for the stage on any occasion. I was a waitress for a long time, and I used to sing and play guitar in the restaurant. Music was my life, since I can remember.

GL: You have the best story about your music teacher.

YC: I'm from a small town in Israel. We had one guitar teacher, and all the boys in my class went to study guitar in his house. I went, too, and one time, someone told him I could sing. I was a teenager, and I was really feeling awkward about singing at that time and that period of life. From then on, though, I started singing, but only at the guitar lesson. That teacher really helped me after high school, and took care of my musical education.

Actually, the person who told the teacher I could sing was this guy that I was kind of in love with. He studied guitar too, and actually he died, and it's a really sad story. But I owe everything to him. I was really shy, and he told my teacher, 'Man, you have to tell her to sing…' I've never told this story in English.

Thanks for sharing. Do you feel like your work is informed by your upbringing in Israel?

YC: Of course, I think everything affects the music—the sound, the place that we're coming from, our language, everything. We sing in English, but we totally have roots in Israel. It's a melting pot. We have so many people here, the music scene here is so diverse, and everything affects you.

GL: As a young kid, you're like a food processor, you just take everything in. I think we're combinations of everything we've been through.

Listening to your music, I can tell that so many different parts of your life and your passions have gone into each song. Anything else you want to share?

GL: We're really looking forward to releasing the next single. We just filmed a new video, and we're really excited about it, and we're just working on spreading our music.

YC: We're excited to come to the States again, too.

GL: The last time we were there, we were supporting Milky Chance, and we loved the crowds; they were so loving.

YC: They were angelic.

Follow Lola Marsh on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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MUSIC

Jack Gray Came From Australia to Win Your Heart

Meet Jack Gray: The Australian heart throb you didn't know you needed in your life.

With earnest blue eyes, a winning smile, and a Shawn Mendes-esque voice, the only thing keeping Jack Gray from super stardom is a matter of time.

Having recently moved to LA from Australia, the 20-year-old has hit US soil running, already touring with Dean Lewis and opening for Ella Vos at Brooklyn Steel, where he took the stage alone to deliver a moving set. His thoughtful pop music, soaring voice, and obvious multi-instrumental talent—he played the guitar and keyboard simultaneously for the entirety of a song—quickly won the crowd over.

When Popdust caught up with the rising star before the show, he admitted quickly that performing makes him nervous, but "in a good way." He's charismatic, but one quickly gets the vibe that the 20-year-old is more comfortable making beats in his bedroom than being onstage; but somehow, that shyness only adds to his charm.

So you moved from Australia to LA?

Well, kind of. So the plan is to be, you know, back and forth a little bit.

Bicontinental.

Right. It's not the shortest distance to do that but I've got a manager in Australia and a manager here in LA who I'm living with at the moment. He just told me at the start you have to be in America if you want to crack the American market. There's just no other way. The distance is so detrimental for a lot of Australian artists. It's so hard to break internationally because it's so far away from America. So it's been super, super cool being here and getting to spend time with all these cool, influential people and start making things happen.

And so how long have you been in the US?

I made the move about two months ago. It's super new but even newer because I've spent like three or four weeks tops in LA so far. We've been doing so much traveling on tour with Dean Lewis, another Australian artist, so I'm still getting used to the whole vibe in LA. But it's really cool.

So do you think you're an LA person?

I don't know about an LA person. The vibe suits me, It's like blue skies and sunny. I guess I'm an LA person in that sense, but that's also just the ways it's similar to Australia in some sense. And I feel like I'm definitely more Australian than I am LA.

So was touring with Dean Lewis your first major touring experience?

I've done a bunch. I've just been following Dean around. We met before all his overwhelming success happened. We signed to the same publishing. I was recording some music in Sydney and he was in the rehearsal room next to me, so we just kind of, you know, would always bump into each other and just hang out. When he started getting all that success and going on the road he basically said, "Bro, just come with me." So I did like three tours in Australia with him. Then we did like a European tour together, and then we did one to America and Canada and stuff. So it was like, he's been like a big brother to me, like taking me under his wing and looking after me.

popdust jack grey

How old are you?

I'm 20.

You're 20. Okay. So when did this all start happening?

It's been small steps. I grew up in a musical family. My Dad was a drummer, my grandmother was a pianist, and my uncle was a bass player. So I was just surrounded by it. I grew up playing music. When I moved to Brisbane from my small town to study a bachelor of music, I learned how to produce on my laptop. Then I moved to Sydney and signed a development deal with Warner Brothers. I did that for a year, and then I met my publishers and my manager. It's just little things like that just keep happening. It's just been stepping stones since I left university.

Did you finish University?

No (laughs), I went for six months, but other opportunities kept coming up. I had to keep going to Sydney to record, then I'd come back to University and be studying really boring shit. Eventually I was like why am I doing this? I might as well put all my time and energy into the actual thing.

So you said you started learning how to produce on your laptop. The music that you have out now, is that stuff that you've done?

Yeah. It's all the bedroom warrior thing. I learned how to produce on my laptop, and it became like a whole new instrument for me. I spent every single day, all day, in my room mixing music. I'm just so passionate about the production side of things. And over like two years of just doing that and nothing else, like, no gigging or anything, just writing and recording, I made this EP.

So when people look up your music, everything they're hearing is you?

Yes. It feels good that what I'm putting out there is not really diluted by other people's thoughts or opinions. It's just what I've been feeling and thinking and all the shit that I liked, all the sounds that I think sound cool.

And then you had a new song come out April 5th?

Yes. So growing up, all of my favorite artists were like storytellers. And so, when I started writing my own music I just always started with the story I wanted to tell. But this one wasn't really like that; I started this song with one riff. I used to play this riff everywhere that I went. Eventually Dean was like, "Yo, you're an idiot, if you don't fucking write that song already cause I'm sick of hearing it." So I finished the song and I've been sitting on it for like a year. I can't wait for people to hear it.

So you said you usually start with a story you want to tell. So what does that mean to you? What is that story?

It depends. It could be something that I'm feeling or something that I've seen. Like if like one of my friends go through something and open up to me about it, I'm like, sorry dude, I'm going to write a song about that.

Is there a specific song for which that happened?

Yeah, "My Hands." So one of my friends was talking to me about his situation and I was like, two weeks later, "Do you mind if I write a song about that?" And he was like, "Oh, go ahead." I was like, "Well I already did. Have a listen. Sorry. Thank you." So yeah, there's that. Or sometimes I make up stories for songs. I like making up stories. I mean, why not?

So are all of your songs from your perspective or do you take on other characters and voices?

I mean, I totally take on other people's voices and characters, and I love switching up perspectives. It's something I do a lot in all of my songs. I've got this one song called "Bullet," and it's a dark one. It's about suicide, and it's written from the family of the victim's perspective but also the victim's perspective. So it's about how it affects the family, but also about how broken down that person must've felt. And then the family sometimes says it was selfish and you're like, dude, this person was suffering every day.

And where does that come from for you? That's a very deep, intense subject.

It's a real thing from my hometown. When I was growing up, my town went through a rough patch, and a lot of people started taking their own lives. I've also got a lot of friends who have severe depression and anxiety, so it was definitely something I wanted to talk about, and yeah, hits close to home.

So is that part of it for you? Having the opportunity to tell these stories?

Yeah, but it's also probably a more selfish reason for me. I just love making music, and I'm just lucky enough that I get to actually tell stories. Sitting in my room and making music every day is my favorite thing to do, and I get to make a living doing it. So that's kind of the main reason why I do this, but I'm super lucky that I do get to tell stories and speak about things.


Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.


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MUSIC

Music From Mars: An Interview With Jared & the Mill

The band sits down with Popdust to talk about synergy, Dutch styles of ship painting, and their new album.

The dead-eyed smiles and carefully memorized PR-company-manufactured answers many musicians bring to interviews are nowhere to be seen when Jared & the Mill come to the Popdust offices.

Instead, the band, inspired by the boardroom setting, role play a business meeting, laughing as they pull out words like "synergy" and help themselves to cold brew and doughnuts. It's clear the closest these men have ever gotten to a boardroom is binge-watching Mad Men on a tour bus, and they're better for it: the room is suddenly spiritually transformed into a relaxed hangout with close friends — margaritas and barbeque wouldn't feel out of place. They're a perfectly cast folk-rock group, every member sporting a different version of the same intentionally scruffy aesthetic, but the titular Jared, in particular, sells the image of the touring honky-tonk star: with a swaggering confidence, ability to wear the shit out of a pair of Levi's, and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

He's animated, explaining the abundance of jokes from the band with, "we're actually a failing improv troupe, not a semi-successful band." The five best friends and band members, Jared Kolesar (vocals, acoustic guitar), Michael Carter (banjo, electric guitar), Larry Gast III (electric guitar), Chuck Morriss III (bass), and Josh Morin (drums), exude the same warmth and familiarity that fills their infectious, lyric-driven, campfire-sing-along music.

The band, originally from Phoenix, have been touring for the better part of seven years. "It can get hard. It can be hard for sure, but it's sort of a necessity at this point," Jared explains. "Touring is how you make money in the music industry now. If you're familiar, there's not a whole lot of money in recorded music anymore, but there's a lot of money in shirt sales, people need clothes." Chuck adds, "I have a running gag with my dad that I don't actually play in a band, I work for a mobile tee shirt company."

When I ask if they're tired of each other after all that touring, Mike says quickly, "Yes." They all laugh in a "classic Mike" kind of way. "I'm kidding." He continues, matter-of-factly, "We're family. It's like, yeah, we're in it together. I think even if we weren't doing this we'd still manage to be in each other's lives somehow."

Larry jumps in, adjusting his unironic trucker hat over his curly mop, explaining, "we grew up with each other. Josh and I, we played in bands from like seventh grade on. Then we tried to be in rock bands in high school, you know, go to shitty DIY clubs and shit."

Mike breaks in seamlessly, as only someone who knows the other speaker very well can, "Jared and I went to middle school together too, and then Chuck and I have known each other for a long, long time. Our dads were in a band together."

Larry continues, "and then eventually in college, we decided to take it up a notch and make a more...real band. And at first, it was just like a hangout type of thing, like in our rooms, just playing music and jamming. And then once we got towards the end of college, we all decided we really wanted to do this and we liked each other a lot. We started touring and just trying to make it happen on our own. And it's been that way ever since."

In the age of label manufactured music and artists, there's something refreshingly organic about Jared & the Mill — even beyond their conception story and obvious intimacy. They found their voice through experimentation and combining the musical tastes of band members, resulting in a distinctive, genre-bending sound that's difficult to categorize. Mike explains, "When Jared and I were in Middle School, Jared would be playing Blink 182, but also Simon and Garfunkel. So really it's no wonder we're a band that's a combination of like Blink 182 and like...Bob Dylan." Jared speaks to this authenticity, saying, "I think on this record specifically we really set forth with this notion of being a modern western band. A lot of times western bands feel more like a part of a costume party than something that's natural. It's like, okay, so you're all just wearing big hats and pearl snaps, but it's not real. We had this notion all along of like, how do we sound like us, but with music."

Mike adds in, grinning, "like what country music would sound like on Mars."

Josh speaks up, playfully adding to the metaphor, "we joked about like if you're a honky-tonk band on a mining colony in like 2066, what would it sound like?"

Clarifying, Chuck says, more seriously, "like you know, there's a banjo but there are also computers."

But this computer element hasn't always been present in the band's music, and, considering that Jared & the Mill fans, for the most part, are won over by the bands rowdy and powerful live shows, I ask how they manage to incorporate more synthetic sounds without damaging the quality of their performances. Larry responds, saying, "I think there are a lot of cool textures there and it's really interesting what sounds can be generated with computers. But the thing I think we want to retain is the human element, right? The fact that things are spontaneous on stage when they're not tracked out. And so we always strive to, if we do include a synthetic sound that's big and huge and modern, to still have it be played by humans."

It's clear that the whole band is particularly excited about the integration of this new sound on their latest album, This Story is No Longer Available, and they talk over each other for a moment, before Jared tries to sum it up. "We're definitely not purists. We're kinda down with anything. We'll give it a shot. Why not?"

Chuck, responsible for executing these synth sounds when the band plays live, shares, "there's a number of tunes on the new record where I was using patches that would normally be used on a trap song or something, like real subwoofery. Then he's (Mike) playing Banjo over the top."

When I ask if this is the direction they think the band will continue to move in, since it seems to have already begun to happen naturally, Chuck quickly stops me, "naturally, would be the key word there." He says firmly, "I don't think we've ever really set out with an intention to make anything sound like anything. It's usually more like this is the song, then we kind of just throw parts at it until we find something we like and it kind of just...becomes."

Larry, thoughtful and the most soft-spoken, says, "we try to make music we want to listen to. So we try to live in that sphere of like folk singer-songwriter construction with really cool other elements." Everyone nods in agreement.

While it's true that the group's songs oscillate between different styles, what remains consistent throughout the band's discography is the strength and poignancy of their lyrics. Jared, the primary songwriter, says his journey to this ability to express was out of necessity, "I started writing poems and stuff a long time ago. I had some issues as a kid, uh, just dealing with, you know, my self-worth and stuff like that. I felt weird bringing that problem to adults. I didn't want to be added stress for my mom and dad or anything. So I internalized it and writing kind of became cathartic for me." He pauses, suddenly serious, "It was just little scribbles on paper and stuff. It was never like, 'this is my book of poems,' but it kind of developed and I started playing violin." He continues, " I didn't intend for it to develop into something. It was just kind of what I did."

Riding this sudden openness, he goes on to elegantly explain why he and his four best friends chose a life of late nights, fast food, and music: "We're starting to find this, this story within all of us, it's this idea that everyone wants to be a good person. Everyone wants to feel like they have purpose, people hate feeling misunderstood and all anyone really needs these days is a little bit of community. We want them to come away from our shows seeing everyone that they may disagree with as a little bit more human."

Later that day, standing in the crowded performance space at Rough Trade records, watching Jared temporarily alone on stage with his guitar as he sings the emotional "Chisel," I recognize the vulnerability on his face. I look around the enamored crowd, beaming up at him as he sings:

"And all that I'll find is a man at the center of my world

He looks just like me but isn't all gone to hell in his eyes

The statue I carve in this marble is just one more chisel away

I'm just one more chisel away"

His emotional performance makes it clear the catharsis he found as a child by looking at the world through the lens of language is still there, perhaps even more so, and it seeps from him into the audience, quieting weary New York hearts. But just as easily, the band sends the room into a frenzy on their faster songs, and during "Broken Bird" no one's too cool to stomp and whoop along. It's this kind of audience connection the band prides itself on — whether in Brooklyn or Kentucky.

The climax of the night is when the band leaves the stage to make their way into the crowd, inevitably breaking the barrier between performer and audience. The crowd surrounds them excitedly, as the first notes of "Messengers," their 2015 hit, play. Jared encourages the audience to put their arms around each other before he sings a lyric that perfectly sums up this band of joyful, wandering minstrels from Arizona: "Oh! Tell her I'm lost, but that's alright."


Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.


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Popdust Presents

Mosaic MSC Talk LA Diversity and "Heaven"

The worship band thrives in LA, recording their new album in the city of the lost.

Mosaic MSC is the worship band of one of the most prominent churches in the world.

Based in Los Angeles, Mosaic church has a total of six locations. Led by pastor Erwin McManus, the LA branch is the home base of Mosaic MSC. In the spiritual molasses of LA, which the band describes as an "incredibly lonely city," Mosaic MSC writes and records its worship music not far from bustling Hollywood Boulevard. With a spirit of inclusivity, the band can include up to nine members in a show, as they spread their simple message, "Jesus is awesome."

The band sat down with our Brent Butler to discuss their new album Heaven, ironically recorded behind Hollywood's Museum of Death, and how their diverse backgrounds and styles come together to create a unique sound.

Popdust Presents | Mosaic MSC youtu.be

Mosaic MSC - Eyes on You (Acoustic Video) www.youtube.com

Find Mosaic MSC on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


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