Kyle Meredith, music director at WFPK public radio in Louisville, Kentucky, says that Louisville’s music scene, like the city, has always had an identity crisis — because Louisville is “not really the South, the East, the West or the North.”
Kyle’s Louisville Picks
- Wax Fang, ” The Blonde Leading the Blonde”
- Wax Fang, “Majestic”
- Cheyenne Mize, “Among the Grey”
- Cabin, “The Oceanographer”
- Dave Moisan, “Don’t Need To Worry ‘Bout Me”
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW. And it's time now for the HEAR AND NOW DJ Sessions.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE BIG HOLIDAY")
MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Waking up feeling...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I SEE DARKNESS")
BONNIE PRINCE BILLY: (Singing) I know I see a darkness. I know I see a darkness.
HOBSON: That was music from Slint, My Morning Jacket and Bonnie Prince Billy, all musicians from Louisville, Kentucky, who have become popular nationally. So let's check in with some artists there who may follow suit. Kyle Meredith is music director at WFPK in Louisville, Kentucky. He also hosts the radio show "The Weekly Feed" about new music, and he's with us now from WFPK. Welcome.
KYLE MEREDITH: Yeah. Thanks for having me on.
HOBSON: Well, first of all, just describe the Louisville music scene in 2013 for us based on what we heard, and what else is out there?
MEREDITH: You know, the Louisville music scene has always had kind of an identity crisis, much like the city, as far as our - you know, where we are. Louisville is not really the south, the east, the west or the north. And musically, it's always kind of been like that. I mean, you went from Slint to Bonnie Prince Billy to My Morning Jacket, you know, a band that created math-rock to one of the great folk musicians of the day.
That stays true today here in Louisville. We have a great rock scene. But as far as exactly what that rock scene sounds like, you know, it's never been able to be defined in the same way that you've been able to, say, the Seattle scene or the San Francisco scene. There's a lot going on here. And right at once, there's a lot of artists that are really starting to get picked up on some good labels, too, so we're, you know, finding our way out into the national scene a little bit more than usual.
HOBSON: Well, would you say you're closer to what's going on in Seattle or what's going on maybe in Austin, Texas?
MEREDITH: I think Austin is our closest companion, musically. I get to head down to South By Southwest in my first ACL this year. And I, you know, hearing those musicians down there, I do hear a lot of Louisville in the back and forth. We've accepted a lot of Austin musicians up here and vice versa. So if there's some kind of pipeline happening, yeah, it would be definitely be like Austin.
HOBSON: Well, let's listen to the 2013 Song of the Year from the Louisville Music Awards. This is called "The Blonde Leading The Blonde." It's by a group called Wax Fang.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BLONDE LEADING THE BLONDE")
WAX FANG: (Singing) The blonde leading the blonde leading the blonde leading the blonde leading the blonde leading the blonde leading the blonde leading the blonde.
HOBSON: Tell us about what we're hearing here.
MEREDITH: You know, I wouldn't call Wax Fang a glam band at all, but they kind of rock like that. They're taking their music, you know, in very much a rock style adding prog elements to it, going into space rock and psychedelic rock. Once again, I think it really does embody what the city has got going on with this song. Even the creators of "American Dad!" have fallen in love with them. I think they used an entire episode of Wax Fang songs. So it's a good time to be that band.
HOBSON: And we should say it's called "The Blonde Leading The Blonde," but neither of the band members is blonde.
MEREDITH: No. That's right. I think Scott Carney has a bit of a dirty blonde on his hair.
HOBSON: So maybe that sort of counts, yeah.
MEREDITH: Maybe it's wishful thinking. Right.
HOBSON: Let's listen to another one of their songs. This is "Majestic."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAJESTIC")
FANG: (Singing) A sight for sore eyes to the blind would be awful majestic. It would be the most beautiful thing that they ever had seen.
HOBSON: Kyle, there's almost a Billy Joel quality to that.
MEREDITH: Yeah. The theatrics they put in it - I mean, that piano hit notes, you know, that straight beat there carries it along. And it's perfect to kind of put behind some kind of cinematic landscape. It was a fun episode of "American Dad!"
HOBSON: Well, of course, Wax Fang is not the only group coming out of Louisville right now. Let's listen to a folksinger, Cheyenne Mize. This is a song called "Among the Grey."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMONG THE GREY")
CHEYENNE MIZE: (Singing) ...black light. Black light. We cannot speak for what we say.
HOBSON: What caught your ear here?
MEREDITH: You know, when she started out - when Cheyenne Mize started out, she was with Bonnie Prince Billy, and they were doing this quiet acoustic thing. And what we noticed about her was she had this amazing voice and really a knack for lyrics within only two albums and an EP in the middle. She's gone from that really quiet stuff to now what's this PJ Harvey-sounding grit that's coming out of her guitar.
It goes everywhere from a rocker like "Among the Grey" to some of the more traditional quiet stuff and really ambient, odd, playful stuff that not a lot of artists would take chances with. She's really trying something new with music. And I can't wait to see where her career goes.
HOBSON: Yeah. Well, and I described her as a folksinger. That really kind of stretches the boundaries of what you would think of as folk.
MEREDITH: Yeah. And like I said, she started out, I think, we were all calling her folk. And she was quick to kind of shake that as quick as possible.
HOBSON: We're talking with WFPK's Kyle Meredith about music in Louisville. And you're listening to HERE AND NOW.
And, Kyle, let's go to another group. This is Cabin, and the song is "The Oceanographer."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE OCEANOGRAPHER")
NOAH HEWETT-BALL: (Singing) We dive and dive and all is fine for now. And these final words can't choke(ph) you now. And you're eardrums burst. An epitaph, my final verse. Still choking(ph) back the lines that hurt.
HOBSON: And the founder of this group, Noah Hewett-Ball, actually has a degree in visual art. He got into music after he wrote a soundtrack to accompany of some paintings. Tell us about the group Cabin.
MEREDITH: Yeah. Being a visual artist, I think you can really hear that in his music, too, if that makes sense.
HOBSON: A lot of drama in it.
MEREDITH: There is. And for a band to be able to take such atmosphere and kind of interject it into their music. I've always had a hard time telling people exactly what they sound like. I think the closest I ever came was elements of Coldplay and The Alan Parsons Project, if you're kind of be able to put those together.
HOBSON: You hear Coldplay in that?
MEREDITH: Just a little bit. And I think it's in his voice. There's something about his voice that always reminded me of Chris Martin. But in - I don't want to call that prog rock or anything like that, but it starts to steer that way just a little bit.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE OCEANOGRAPHER")
HEWETT-BALL: (Singing) The lines you've crossed won't scare you straight from breaking laws. When it might inflate but it doesn't float. We can't erase the periscope.
HOBSON: Well, before we let you go, I want to hear from one more. This is Dave Moisan. Here is a song called "Don't Need to Worry 'Bout Me."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T NEED TO WORRY 'BOUT ME")
DAVE MOISAN: (Singing) Don't need to worry 'bout me. I've got everything I need to be free from all you other ballers. And when I bust out this groove, you'll see the room start to move. So let me hear you holler.
HOBSON: Now, Kyle, I don't want to put you in a box here, but I definitely hear Louisville there. I mean, I can hear Kentucky in that.
MEREDITH: Is there a good Kentucky stop going on on that song?
MEREDITH: Yeah. You know, Dave just knocked me out. He was this smiley kid from around Louisville, and suddenly he comes out as this amazing pop artist, you know? I put his music more in the pop vein of rock. And the guy can just write songs anytime, anywhere, and every single one of them have these amazing hooks that I end up singing along to, you know, sleepless nights with his songs in my head.
HOBSON: And he's working on some new music, so stay tuned. But, Kyle Meredith, one last thing. I guess we should mention that the most famous song in the world is also claimed by Louisville.
MEREDITH: Yeah. We do claim that one right here. "Happy Birthday," known the world over, was written right here in Louisville by two sisters who ran an orphanage. I think they're the Hill sisters. So, yeah, we have all this great music and the most famous song of all time.
HOBSON: Is that a disputed fact, or is that - can we write that down in the books?
MEREDITH: No. That's real. Yeah. That's real. That's actually here. That's on the books.
HOBSON: All right. Kyle Meredith, music director at WFPK in Louisville, Kentucky. He also host the music show "The Weekly Feed." And he joined us from Louisville. Kyle, thanks so much.
MEREDITH: Well, thanks for having me on.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU")
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you.
HOBSON: Robin, we have all the songs you heard at hereandnow.org, except for this one, which I don't think we're going to want to hear this version of ever again.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
Well, and many people are hearing it over and over and over again if you've got kids. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.
HOBSON: I'm Jeremy Hobson. This is HERE AND NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU")
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.