Over the past five years, no festival has wrung out the New York City summers quite like the Village Voice’s 4Knots Festival. Sitting back on the Hornblower Infinity Cruise Ship (the 4Knots VIP area), I had a awe-inspiring panoramic view that stretched from the stage all the way across the park at the largest public pier in the city, Pier 84. The crowd was excitable, yet calmly spread out across the park grass, creating a rare moment of New York City tranquility that even lasted through the evening’s most punk-rock performances. As family and friends settled in and the instruments began to croon, we all seemed quick to forget the bustling skyscrapers that loomed behind us.
This year’s festival bill, similar to line-ups of the past, featured an eclectic collection of musicians from all over the world. Some travelled all the way from across the Atlantic ocean, like 90s Welsh rock legends Super Furry Animals. Others came from other states or were locally bred, like Chicago-based band Twin Peaks and Brooklyn’s very own, Surfbort. I talked to these artists about New York City, music, history, feelings, and, unbeknownst to me, a lot about the Intrepid Navy fleet carrier that was docked next-door to us.
Super Furry Animals is a Welsh electro-psychedelic rock group that has been on the international circuit almost since they started playing together in the early 90s. Even though their last album, Dark Days/Light Years, came out in 2009, the band has been constantly touring and entertaining the masses as usual. The headliners for this year’s festival, I talked to bassist Guto Pryce and guitarist/vocalist Huw Bunford about playing the 4Knots festival, and also to also see what Super Furry Animals is up too nowadays.
Tyler Koslow: How does the experience of playing in New York City differ from other countries and states you’ve played?
Pryce: Definitely that [gestures towards the Intrepid Navy carrier floating beside us]. The view from the stage has skyscrapers, a battleship, helicopters. Usually most festivals aren’t in an urban setting like this, we’re used to playing festivals in fields.
TK: Do you guys have plans for a new album anytime soon?
Pryce: We’re just playing shows with zero pressure to do anything. We’ve spent years doing albums then touring rotation, it’s nice to just play shows without having to worry about making a new record. We make a new record, we may not, who knows?
Bunford: At the moment, we’re taking things one step at a time, not thinking of things in the too distant future. There’s no contrived master plan, it’s all super loose right now.”
TK: Anything you’d like to do while you’re in New York City?
Bunford: Well, we don’t have time really! We’re going back to the UK and then off to Tokyo and Fuji. Everything is just in and out with tour, it’s very bang-bang.
Surfbort is a Brooklyn-based band (originally from scattered parts of California) in the genre they self-prescribe as ‘Slushy Dubstepcore Rock’. Their last album, R.I.P Die Old, is a rapid and wild ride that sends the listener down into a distorted hardcore wonderland. They are releasing their self-titled album in August via Wink and Spit Records. I talked to this locally-sourced band (minus their other singer Helena Eisenhart) about Brooklyn and some of their favorite local spots in the neighborhood.
TK: Why did you decide to move and start a band in Brooklyn?
Dani Miller, vocals: New York makes me feel alive, it wakes me up. In the winter I wake up feeling different creatively, and in the summer it’s just really fun and exciting
Matt Picola, guitar: I came here for work. I deliver food on my bike, you can make a lot of money doing that…
Sharlit Wimberly, guitar: I came here for academic recognition.
TK: How would you personally describe ‘the sound’ of your music?
Miller: We sound like dolphins choking on trash. We’ll make you feel things you’ve never felt before. Angel tears.
Picola: Two guitars, one through a bass amp, one through a guitar amp. With, like, a weird open tuning that doesn’t have a name. And also symmetry, we have two guys and three girls, which is kind of like symmetry.
Miller: Also, we’re like the sound of tripping over babies.
Picola: We have to give a huge shout out to Halena [Surfbot’s other vocalist], who can’t be here today because she’s doing a documentary about a woman in China.
Miller: She makes clothes out of plastic, it’s sick.
TK: Any other Brooklyn bands you’re into right now?
Miller: CCTV is my favorite band right now. And shout out to Meatbodies.
TK: And any Brooklyn bars or venues?
Miller: Shout out to Legion Bar. We miss Death By Audio too.
Wimberly: Death By Audio is dead… Lulu’s too…
Picola: RIP Lulu’s. And we just played Alphaville too, that was cool too.
Chicago’s Twin Peaks, a five-piece rock group, is constantly churning out catchy melodies and fast-paced fun. Their last album, Wild Onion, was featured in Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and more. They’re supporting the band WAVVES on their upcoming tour this September. I talked to them about Chicago, New York City, and which is more ‘chill.’
TK: Is Chicago better than New York City? Why?
Cadien Lake James (guitar, vocals): You got a lot to do out here, you know, it’s big, it’s busy, it’s sweet. But you know we’ve got water too, and it’s the great Lake Michigan. It’s also easy to chill in Chicago if you wanna chill. It seems pretty hard to ‘chill’ around here. It’s too busy. But I’m from there so I’m real biased … and I swim in a lake all the time.
TK: What places do you enjoy in Brooklyn, or New York City?
Connor Brodner (drums): Baby’s All Right is the joint. We just played Music Hall of Williamsburg, that was sick too.
James: My brother’s got a backyard in Jackson Heights. I like chilling there with my niece and nephew, that’s the juke and joint for me.
TK: How was the recording process different for Wild Onion? Where do you see it going from here?
James: There’s more time but into it, more people who know how to record. By design of the whole process it sounded different. And now we just bought a bunch of our own gear but at this time it’s at our friends house and not our house, and he’s go a lake in the backyard. We’re in an estate right now recording shit, tape machines and all.
TK: Any Brooklyn bands you want to shoutout?
James: Juan Wauters. Juan is the man.
Brodner: The Britnays, I think they’re kinda newish but they’re definitely coming up.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.