Live At Pappy & Harriet's: In Person From The High Desert
A decade ago, journalists, fans, critics, and audiophiles alike were wont to compare Nick Waterhouse to his predecessors. And it was a convenient way to categorize an artist that has since proved uncategorizable—he had a voice that balanced somewhere between Van Morrison and Ray Charles, an aesthetic that caught the attention of style reporters at GQ, an ambitious production vision that stood out among the lo-fi rock and alternative bands of the zeitgeist. And he was disarmingly earnest in his own influences—citing artists like Mose Allison and Them as early inspiration. But now, coming off of his searching, intimate, self-titled album of 2019 and bringing us “Nick Waterhouse Live at Pappy & Harriet’s; In Person from the High Desert” in 2020, it’s clear that comparisons, of any kind, no longer suffice.
After self-releasing his debut single “Some Place” in 2010, Nick Waterhouse and his backing band, The Tarots, along with three back-up singers, The Naturelles, quickly caught the attention of then-nascent, Los Angeles record label Innovative Leisure. Released by Innovative Leisure in 2012, Waterhouse’s debut album, “Time’s All Gone,” was an incredibly ambitious record. Full band, three back-up vocalists, careful and intricate arrangements, a studied balance of light and dark, thoughtful decisions on everything from studio to album art: Waterhouse had vision.
While Waterhouse continued to release records at a steady clip—“Holly” in 2014, “Never Twice” in 2016, the self-titled “Nick Waterhouse” in 2019, and now “Live at Pappy & Harriet’s”—he extended his vision beyond his own act, collaborating with friends like garage-rock mystic Ty Segall and retro-futurist R&B bandleader Leon Bridges. He meticulously produced the successful debut and sophomore albums of long-time friends the Allah-Lahs, whom he met after moving from southern California to San Francisco, fortifying his musical education by selling vinyl in the Lower Haight. There is a “Waterhouse Sound” and it’s resonant in both his own records and his collaborations, rooted both in the man and the method — recording everything on magnetic tape, through analog equipment, and playing live, eyeball to eyeball, whenever possible.
Though Waterhouse’s artistic practice has remained thoughtful and deliberate, it’s also proved adaptable. As his career grew to encompass a consistent schedule of national and international touring, producing, co-writing, and working with legendary elders like Ira Raibon, Maxine Brown, and Ralph Carney, the story of Waterhouse’s musical arc can be tracked through the sounds and arrangements on each record. From the magical, youthful ambition of “Time’s All Gone” to the more reflective and existentially fraught “Nick Waterhouse”—it all tells a story.
The breadth and pace of his output is also evidence of the fact that however stylishly he may do it, Nick Waterhouse works. Hard. “Nick Waterhouse Live at Pappy & Harriet’s” came immediately after a long and intense string of European tour dates, which came immediately after a certain reckoning that most musicians encounter at some point, or several points, in their careers: a point where Nick Waterhouse, whose artistry and musicality evokes a blistering energy and drive, was questioning the whole thing—the shows, the exhaustion, the money, the will.
It turned out that the excitement and momentum that fueled the 2019 European tour answered those questions in the resounding positive. And “Live at Pappy & Harriet’s” reflects the work of an artist who has seen some things. He’s studied, he’s composed, he’s receptive, he’s loose, and he’s gotten to know his own artistic practice in a way that shows up, fiery and raw, on this live, hometown record.
Because ultimately, Nick Waterhouse is not simply in dialogue with others. He hasn’t responded to a revived appetite for neo R&B or Ronson-type pop production by altering his vision. He has remained, resoundingly, Nick Waterhouse. Whatever growth, transformations, or nuances a listener can hear are entirely his own story. Waterhouse has built his own sonic world, one whose orbit is totally unique. That sonic world is rich and complex; its language is intelligent, clever, and vulnerable; it’s at once ambitious and intimate, groovy and deeply serious.
In fact, the Waterhouse sonic world might look a lot like a glimmering desert sky at dusk, or the damp, overheated air that awaits through the doors of Pappy & Harriet’s. And now we’re invited in.
Allah Las met while working at the biggest of all the L.A. Record stores, but they became a band in an even more rare and special space—a California basement, dug out somewhere between the mountains and the beach. They began gigging shortly after their inception in and around Los Angeles in the later part of 2008. It wasn’t until three years later that they would find the proper environment to record their first single “Catamaran” / “Long Journey” which now bookends their upcoming self-titled release. These are the kind of songs that bounce between London and Los Angeles, the kind of thing that could have comefrom Mick Jagger or Arthur Lee or both at once, with crystalline guitar and slow-mo drums that recalled the way the waves take big bites of the beach at night. This is mystery music from the strange and ancient-modern California fringe, more Night Tide than Easy Rider. Allah Las are a reflection of a reflection, an echo of an echo, a band that is psychedelic not because of reverb or shredding through pedals but for the simple way their songs seem to extend to infinity.
Double Gatefold LP.Gatefold CD Digipack
BADBADNOTGOOD is a young supremely talented trio of musicians made up of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, and Alex Sowinski on drums. Since their inception at Humber College’s Music Performance program in 2011, the three have challenged the rule book on improvised instrumental music and taken jazz tradition into the future. With early champions including acclaimed BBC broadcaster Gilles Peterson and Tyler The Creator who helped fuel their discovery with a series of live jams that instantly went viral and dubbed them the “Odd Trio”, the band released their first EP BBNG in June 2011 to wide praise. The marriage of jazz virtuosity and hip hop source material offered a fresh take on the traditional “standard” applied to hip hop classics by taking on choice cuts from the golden era rap cannon and writing inspired arrangements for them instead of one-dimensional covers. The band hit a landmark by introducing original material into their composi- tions with BBNG2 in 2012. New songs like “Rotten Decay”, “Vices” or “UWM” carried on the proud heritage of musical juxtaposition by bringing together jazz, hip hop, punk, and dance music into vigorous balance. Since then, they’ve won praise from the four corners of the globe and collaborated with Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom, Pharaoh Monch and RZA among many. Their no- torious live performances have brought fans across the whole musical spectrum together, taking the band around the world from Coachella to Glastonbury. Now, the inseparable friends are prepping to release their biggest project to date III on prodigious young label Innovative Leisure, a highly-anticipated project ushering in the group’s newest explorations which are proving to be limitless.
BADBADBADNOTGOOD is the talented young quartet of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, Alex Sowinski on drums & Leland Whitty on saxophone. They formed and became inseparable friends at Humber College's Music Performance program in 2011 and have been on a critically acclaimed, rule bending musical journey ever since. BBNG took the music world by storm with their 2014 LP, III, a brash yet refined record of angular jazz improvisations, lush ballads, kraut rock, & futuristic hip-hop tinged rhythms which led to a couple years of touring the world & collaborating with some of the best and brightest artists around the globe
The boys are back with the new album IV, their most impressive and highly anticipated project yet. IV continues their forward thinking progression, sounding something like a jam session in space between Can, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, Weather Report, Arthur Russell & MF DOOM.
With tracks like "Time Moves Slow" featuring haunting vocals from Sam Herring of Future Islands, the syncopated groove of "Lavender," a collaboration with Montreal based producer Kaytranada, the rumbling fusion build of "Confessions Pt. II" featuring Colin Stetson on the bass sax, "Love" which is highlighted with smokey left field raps from Mick Jenkins & the epic chords of "Speaking Gently," IV is an exploration in post-genre virtuosity. Out Summer 2016 on Innovative Leisure Records, BBNG prove yet again that the possibilities & discovery in their musical quest are infinite.
Time's All Gone
Nick Waterhouse is the New Breed - a 25 year old R&B fanatic who combines an uncanny old-school sensibility with a charged, contemporary style. He joins the ranks of similar acts and producers of recent times - Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones, Mayer Hawthorne, Aloe Blacc et al – that are all moving forward into the past, yet all quite different. For Waterhouse, his muse is the over-modulated sound of vintage ‘50s R&B. His take on such a time-honored tradition evokes the back-alley thrill of New Orleans, Detroit and Memphis in their heyday and has resonated with fans the world over (his debut 45 sells for upwards of $300 dollars). Waterhouse combines an astute attention to detail with an honest desire to match.
Hanni El Khatib
Will The Guns Come Out
Los Angeles based Hanni El Khatib grew up in San Francisco raised on skateboarding (former creative director at HUF), punk rock, and 1950s and 60s classic Americana. Influenced by pioneers of early rock and R&B, the multi-instrumentalist and producer derives his unique sound from a menagerie of inspirations: blues, soul, garage rock, doo-wop … and the most American thing of all, car wrecks. It's malt shop music for those who drink them spiked with bourbon or in Hanni's own words "these songs were written for anyone who's ever been shot or hit by a train. Knife fight music." No word yet on whether Hanni's tested that knife fight thing at any of his shows.
Will The Guns Come Out is his debut album on the Innovative Leisure label, following two 45s: Dead Wrong & Build Destroy Rebuild.
LP is Standard Jacket, Custom Inner Sleeve & Download Card.
CD is 4 Panel Digipack.
Claude Fontaine is an American girl with a French name who never felt like she fit in anywhere she happened to call home, and one particular year she was awash in a grey London fog that matched the fog and grey in her own too-recently broken heart. While living right off Portobello Road, she stumbled into the record store down the street. And in a flash of luck (or fate) that particular record store turned out to be Honest Jon’s, a long-lived spot for records collected from the furthest edges of the world. She’d never heard those old Studio One and Trojan and Treasure Isle reggae and rocksteady and dub records before—the same records that got the Clash covering “Police And Thieves,” and the Slits sharing a bill with Steel Pulse. And she’d never heard bossa nova and tropicalia and Brazil’s incandescent música popular brasileira, either. But instantly, she understood that it was exactly and perfectly everything she didn’t know she needed: “I wandered in one day and from the first moment I was under a spell,” she says. “I was transfixed. I’d go in there daily and have them play me every record in that store probably to the point of driving them completely mad! But I had fallen in love …”
And because she loved those records so much, she decided to make a record of her own—an album singing her own love songs (with Jane Birkin-style ye-ye elan) that was itself a love song to classic reggae and Brazilian music, and an album honoring that feeling of finding a home away from home. Ferociously inspired, she demo-ed a set of songs about heartbreak and loneliness, and drafted a wish list of musicians she’d hope would help out. At the top were guitarist Tony Chin, whose playing with Althea and Donna, King Tubby, Dennis
Brown and so many more very arguably defined a gigantic part of the classic reggae sound, and Airto Moreira, the Brazilian drummer whose work both solo and in collaboration with Miles Davis, Astrud Gilberto, Chick Corea, Annette Peacock and more make him an actual living legend. “A pipe dream” to chase them, she says, but still she tried.
But after diligent detective work and long chains of emails and voicemails, tracing between L.A. industry veterans and globetrotting photographers and the label that would put out her finished record—though she didn’t know that yet—she found them. Then she sent them her demos. Then they said yes. And when she finally met them that day in Chet Baker’s old studio (“A time warp,” she adds dreamily) or at King Size in northeast L.A. and she heard her songs the way she’d been hearing them in her head for so long, she was was overcome with emotion. “It was surreal and magical,” she says. “I cried. To watch those songs come to life… it’s why we do what we do.”
She finished her album in two potent sessions with Chin, Moreira and a murderer’s row of their connections—bassist Ronnie McQueen of Steel Pulse and Ziggy Marley drummer Rock Deadrick, Now Again Records guitarist Fabiano Do Nascimento, Sergio Mendes percussionist Gibi Dos Santos and Flora Purim bassist Andre De Santanna. (Trust that each of these people have credits on albums like you wouldn’t believe.) Side A is the reggae, five songs about love gone wrong that sound like they came out of Jamaica in the early 70s. Yes, “Love Street” sounds happy, but “it’s really just a fantasy,” says Claude. And side B wasn’t specifically designed to be the bossa or Brazilian side, but that’s how it worked out, closing with the spare and even haunting “Last Goodbye,” a song about the heartbreak of what could have been. All together, it’s a valentine to this special music that called out to her from the other side of the planet: “I hope this record will transport people,” she says. “I wanted it to feel like those lost records, like it got lost in the bottom bin of some world music store in London because that’s how I felt when I walked in to that record store. I wanted it to be its own world.”
Nick Waterhouse grew up in a coastal town near Long Beach, CA. It was a serene setting: the ocean stretching out for miles to the North and South, manicured lawns, two-story homes, long swathes of concrete highway, fast food chains and mega malls. He was there for two decades. Then, he left.
He found a home in his early 20s in San Francisco, working at record stores alongside a collective of likeminded young crate-diggers and 45 collectors. And then he started making his own records: “Time’s All Gone” in 2012, “Holly” in 2014, and “Never Twice” in 2016. These were evocative albums, steeped in a perfectionism and clarity of vision that informed every choice, from the studios to the players, the arrangements to the album art. Everything, deliberately designed and purposeful, bubbling over with power and feeling.
And as those records rolled out into the world, Waterhouse found a dedicated audience of his own as well as a bevy of influential champions and collaborators, including garage-rock mystic Ty Segall, retro-futurist R&B bandleader Leon Bridges and the LA-based quartet Allah-Las, whose first two albums he meticulously produced and played on. There is a “Waterhouse Sound” and it comes from both the man and the method — recording everything on magnetic tape, through analog equipment, and playing live (!), eyeball to eyeball, whenever possible.
Now, he’s finished his fourth album. He’s calling it “Nick Waterhouse.” And whether intentional or not, it is perhaps his most reflective — and reflexive — album, employing all of the mature production techniques learned throughout his professional career while retaining a viscous edge that allows it to land with colossal impact — more raw, heavy and overtly confrontational than anything he’s made before.
“Nick Waterhouse” was recorded at the finest working studio in Los Angeles, Electro Vox Recorders, and co-produced by Paul Butler (The Bees, Michael Kiwanuka, Devendra Banhart), the master of all things warm, rich and wooly. Nick’s songs here are personal, but personal in the way that “Please Mr. Postman,” “What’s Going On” and “Cathy’s Clown” are — intimate, direct, yet still malleable enough for listeners to suffuse their own life stories into the mix. The album is thick with talented players, including Andres Rentaria, Paula Henderson and the staggering, howling saxophone of Mando Dorame.
All of the new Waterhouse songs sound big. Brawny and muscular. The lyrics are suspicious, outraged and, at times, very vulnerable (muscle is just flesh, after all). Waterhouse uses an economy of words to deliver complex, coded messages. He offers up equal parts criticism of the time we live in and innate human flaws. He paints relationships under the cover of darkness, slashing through neo-noir fantasies that are romantic, blood-spattered and bracingly aware of the powerlessness felt among people, amid the rapid onslaught of commercialism and technological progress. And, as has become his signature, he throws in a tune written by a close friend. On this record, he covers “I Feel an Urge Coming On” in tribute to the song’s author, Nick’s own mentor and collaborator Joshie Jo Armstead, who wrote music with Ray Charles and sang as both an Ikette and Raelette in the ’60s and ’70s.
He’s four albums in, but it makes sense that this specific record is the one that takes his name. You can really here Nick on this one. Not just the band. Not just the songs. Not just the sound. HIM. You can hear his mind at work. His passion. His focus. More importantly, you can feel it.