Thursday, November 5, 2009

Phonograph hits repeat button at Spike Hill

By Meredith Deliso

When Matthew Welsh tells certain crowds he’s playing off of Bedford Avenue, he might expect a chuckle or too. But that’s exactly the kind of gig he’s looking for right now.

“If it’s so hard to get people to come to shows in New York, why not pick a venue that’s really close to people, where [they] can literally roll out of bed, walk over and check us out and have a beer and not do the whole to do,” says Welsh, lead singer and guitarist of the Williamsburg-based band Phonograph.

On November 12, that’s where you can find them, with a show at Spike Hill (on Bedford, near North 7th Street), for a second engagement in as many months.

“Setting up these monthly shows at Spike Hill makes it really easy for people to stumble on us,” says Welsh. “We’ve played some of the best venues in the city, and I always have the best time at the venues where we can charge nothing. I always felt the easy free show kinds of wins in the end.”

The band has been playing as of late in support of their sophomore album, “OKNO,” out this past September on BNS Sessions and recorded at The Bunker Studio in Williamsburg. Trying to tip toe away from the alt-country label that their 2007 self-titled debut helped brand them, Phonograph releases a time-mashing album that references 60s’ pop melodies, ‘70s folk guitar and ‘80s electronic sounds, with an eye to the past and a sensibility in the present.

“I think we all want to move slowly out of the alt country tag that we get and try to get much weirder,” says Welsh. What’s weird by Phonograph standards? “That’s a hard thing to decipher, in Brooklyn especially,” says Welsh, though for the musician, it’s finding something to catch the listener off guard, but not “scare you out of the room.”

With bands like the experimental Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear some of the biggest names in the Brooklyn scene, Welsh, who writes most of the material for the band, admits it’s a difficult position to be pegged as a singer-songwriter.

“Everything coming out of Brooklyn which seems to be very popular right now isn’t singer-songwriter-based as much as it’s more of a free form way of singer-songwriting,” he says. “It’s just not my style to compete with that, so I try to find different ways to make my [music] stand out.”

Helping him do so on “OKNO” are Grace Potter, David Amram, Jeremy Turner of the New York MET, and Charlie Hunter Trio member Erik Deutsch for some friendly collaboration and guest appearances.

Regularly, Welsh plays with John Davis (co-owner of Bunker) on bass, Dave Burnett on drums, Abe Seiferth on guitar, Jason Domnarski on keyboards and Phil Sterk on percussion. With most of the band on the road half the time, they’re lucky enough to get a local show in these days.

“I always say I have the best band in New York City,” says Welsh, “but it’s tough to make that your best band.”

For now, in addition to making some noise on Bedford, the band is gearing up for their next album, fixing up a studio in DUMBO to record their third, and keeping their focus on the only thing they can — the music.

“We’re true believers in that no matter what happens, as long as you make good music, something will turn out in the end,” says Welsh. “There’s a lot of music out there. We may not be on the cover of Vice Magazine, but we’re from Brooklyn and we play Brooklyn.”

Phonograph do just that November 12 at Spike Hill (184/186 Bedford Ave.) at 10 p.m. Free. For more information, call 718-218-9737.


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