Arms and Legs
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Arms and Legs

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Big in China
by Jen Kraemer

Arms and Legs did not shoot down the satellite. But he was in China recently recording his self-titled album due out in March.

Though he doesn’t have much experience being interviewed, he’s very good at it. He is very comfortable, has an easy nature, and what he says comes from deep within. He stares off into space during a conversation, not because he isn’t paying attention, but with a contemplative look in his eyes, thinking about his next bold move. Scott Daly, who is Arms and Legs, has more going on in his mind than he has time to express, but he speaks eloquently and his manner is calm and surprising. He is eager to chat and hides nothing. He talks incessantly about all of his experiences of late

Daly, a self-taught guitar player, singer and songwriter began as a Danbury-area performer, and became an international one almost overnight. Daly recently finished recording his debut record, Arms and Legs, after being signed to a Chinese independent record label, Modern Sky Entertainment Co. It’s not just that they love his music; what makes him even more gigantic in China is that Daly is the first American artist to sign with a Chinese record label.

Daly returned from Beijing after spending 17 days there, recording the album, playing three shows, and having his first taste of what seemed to be fanaticism. “I was living someone else’s life,” he said. After flying 13 hours to Beijing, he was whisked off in a taxi and told he was on his way to sound-check. Over a beer in the taxi, Daly’s manager informed him that they had a surprise planned for him. He would be playing his largest show to date an hour after he arrived and by the end of the night, he would have screaming fans throwing Polaroids at him begging him to sign. Arms and Legs headlined before a crowd of 1,500, and Daly said that the silence was astonishing when he covered the Elliott Smith song “Between the Bars.”

Daly was able to meet the editor of Rolling Stone China and received gifts from fans… treated like he was already a star. To say he was submerged would be an understatement. Daly says he barely had time to ingest it all. “Every morning it felt like something out of a storybook,” he says of his time in China. Since visiting Beijing for the first time, Daly has been featured in Rolling Stone China and is now the subject of a Chinese documentary due to release in 2008.
Daly ended up in Beijing after being contacted by Modern Sky. A former employee of SpinART records, who booked some shows for Daly in New York City, had landed a job with Modern Sky. He never forgot how much talent Daly had. According to Daly, Modern Sky is, “The coolest label in China,” and has been called the “Sub Pop of China.” Daly can’t say enough great things about Chinese indie-rock. Not only has he met many of the other artists on the label, but he has also played with a few of them, and says, “It’s some of the best indie-rock I’ve heard in years.” He speaks fondly of bands such as New Pants, Milk@Coffee, and Re-TROS, and compares most of the sounds from these bands to the Pixies, The Cure, and American punk bands. Besides listening to Chinese indie-rock, Daly has also been shuffling a few CD’s including Mountain Movers (a New Haven-based band), Page France, The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds) and Rob Crow.

Daly spoke of his new record with a restrained, childlike enthusiasm. His perfectionism overwhelms him as he seeks to explain what he was determined to do. He wanted the record to have a certain sound, like every song belonged with the other, and he was careful not to include anything that might break the flow. He and a close friend worked meticulously on ordering the songs and Daly believes he created a “Sad, depressing” record, but, one that is very personal. He says, “Everything is me… it’s like one person’s diary entries.” Daly set out to create a record that is bare and delicate, writing about such experiences as drug use and love… relationships and friends. He sees metaphors for such topics as interchangeable, and calls the record “75% autobiographical.”

The song “Loser in Love” is specifically autobiographical, while “Habit Forming” is loosely based on personal experience, and “Alice” was developed almost subconsciously. Because Daly has about three to four albums worth of songs written, he was able to leave many songs behind for future use. He felt a few simply, “Didn’t come out right,” while others are “brother songs” that should remain with their pair. Perhaps the most intriguing song on the new record is “Let Go” which is slated to be the single. Daly collaborated with a local friend, Rachel Brown, who provides the female vocal on this song, and he spoke about how satisfied he was with the harmony their voices created together. The track was recorded in the States and Daly was given the opportunity to re-record it with a different female once he was in China, but he decided to keep the original, and listeners will likely be grateful he did. Daly is hoping Brown will join him on tour and called her recently to share the excitement after learning that “Let Go” will be featured in an upcoming film called A New Wave. Arms and Legs will be released in China in March, and Modern Sky hopes to market the record in America following that.

And so it seems that Daly will have a very busy year ahead of him. He plans to begin his North American tour in May with the possibility of touring in Australia, if all goes well. But before that, Arms and Legs has something tremendous to look forward to; Toad’s Place on February 28. Daly has trouble hiding his excitement about playing the famous New Haven club, where musicians as prolific as Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones have taken the stage. Arms and Legs will also play at the Annex in New York City on March 8 where he’ll be joined by another Modern Sky band, Re-TROS.

On tour, Arms and Legs will travel backed by a band. Close friends John Hripak (drums), Brett Lefferts (bass), and Bobby Crash (piano) will be joining Daly. “I picked the people I did because everyone cares,” he says, as he speaks about the natural sound that the four have together and adds, “Simplicity is best.” Daly decided that on tour, he may organize the shows a bit like Iron and Wine; he will come out and play certain songs solo and then the band will join, and then he might close the show solo as well. According to Daly, the songs were just written that way, some with other instruments included, some not. It seems that the band is a perfect fusion of musicians and Daly speaks of them with passion. He says the music is “Perfected in its own simplicity, and by the natural progression,” and adds, “It’s always about the song… not about what you’re playing.”

The tour is just one of many things that send Daly’s mind spinning in frequent circles. The amount of pressure that has suddenly become him sounds crushing. He speaks with the slightest nervousness in his voice, yet he remains quite calm, with a lucid picture in his mind’s eye. Daly is intent when he speaks and knows exactly what he wants. He has a whole new world of responsibility on his shoulders, most of which comes from feeling responsible for Modern Sky’s success in America. And although he makes it look easy, he is anxious, like the rest of us, for the future. - Hat City Entertainment


My favorite new songs of the moment come from Arms and Legs, who sent me their new release for review. Occasionally, an unsigned nobody from nowhere turns out to be really good, and that’s the case with Arms & Legs. Low key folk ballads that evolve out of late 1960s folk pop with a clear nod to Arlo in Dreamers Do, a less definite glance back to some of the sweeter George Harrison ditties, and a something in the vocals that evokes a bit of Elliott Smith as well. All four of the tunes I downloaded are good but my special favorite is Alice, which has been released as it’s own 7″ single and is also included on the new self-titled full-lengther. Soon to be a hit in China — Arms and Legs have signed their first and only record deal with China’s largest indie label, Modern Sky records! - www.indiedisco.com


“…the songs are mature and gorgeous, the sign of a burgeoning talent just beginning to feel out his territory… There’s a particularly odd warbling quality about Daly’s voice, but it is unique, and makes these songs all his own.” - Doug Mosurak - Dusted Magazine


A&L is in fact one guy, greater-Danbury CT's Scott Daly. Anyone who loves The Zombies and Left Banke as much as me deserves to get his 7" reviewed - especially, and remarkably, when it turns out he has a real talent! Daly looks a fair amount like Elliott Smith (another he admires) in his photo, in a wool cap and Devo shirt; and if you hear a little Either/Or here, don't adjust your speakers. But isn't there some acoustic White Album Beatles filtered through early Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and Nash solo as well, especially on the more forceful b-side "Loser in Love?" Once again we marvel at how just a Joe and an acoustic, a sincere voice, and a way with strings can produce music that speaks so much louder. - The Big Takeover


Discography

• Alice - 7" 2 Song Vinyl
• Self Titled - 7 Song E.P.
• Self Titled - 9 Song Demo Release
• Everything is Gonna Be Okay - Full Length Debut Album
• Nothing Ever Was - Upcoming 12" E.P.

Photos

Bio

CT/NYC-based Arms and Legs (Scott Daly and co.) are signed to China's largest independent record label, Modern Sky (www.modernsky.com). They are currently mixing their new album in New York with Bryce Goggin (Pavement, Antony and The Johnsons, etc.).

Arms and Legs have performed with the Yeah Yeahs, Deerhoof, Panther, Joanna Wang, Maximo Park,
The Lemonheads, and others. Arms and Legs recently supported Retribution Gospel Choir (feat. members of Low) in CT and in New York at Mercury Lounge. Arms and Legs are a featured headliner at the 3-day Strawberry Festival in Beijing in May, also featuring Xiu Xiu, Radio 4, and others.

"Dreamers Do" from their debut album Everything Is Gonna Be Ok is currently featured in a national TV commercial for Dayquil.

Please see:

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/armsandlegs

Video from China:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vo8_WQ4gio

From the Stamford Advocate:
Even though Scott Daly was raised in Bethel, he experiences a severe case of culture shock every time he returns to the quaint, northern Fairfield County town.

"It's been a rough two weeks," he said during an interview from Jacqueline's Restaurant & Bakery in Bethel last week. "Here, there is like 15 feet of downtown. It's so weird not being able to walk to the subway.

"Not only that," he added, "I can talk to anybody I want."

Indeed, Bethel is a much different place than Daly's home for the past six months -- the bustling, congested metropolis of Beijing.

But the size, the subway and ease of communication aren't the only differences. In his hometown, the Danbury-born rock musician performs for small audiences at intimate bars and clubs; in Beijing, he plays for huge crowds at the biggest festivals in China.

"It's so ridiculously weird," said Daly, who three years ago signed to Beijing-based Modern Sky Records, one of China's most prestigious independent labels. "For the audience, they get to see all these Chinese bands. Then, all of the sudden, there is this white kid up on stage playing guitar."

Back in his old stomping grounds, Daly, who goes by Arms and Legs on stage, will play a pair of concerts this weekend. The first gig takes him to Danbury's Heirloom Arts Theatre Friday, where he will perform with long-time friends and bandmates, drummer John Hripak and keyboardist John Laranjeira. Then on Sunday, Daly and Hripak will appear at a benefit concert at Cousin Larry's Cafe in Danbury. They return to Beijing in the spring.

Arms and Legs' trans-Pacific journey began in 2004 when Daly, then just 21 years old, opened for indie rock band Kiss Kiss at 169 Bar on Manhattan's Lower East Side. It was there that he met his future manager, Michael LoJudice, who was impressed with Daly's acoustic guitar set.

Two years later, LoJudice, who had earlier accepted a position as general manager at Modern Sky Entertainment, USA, asked Daly if Arms and Legs would fly out to Beijing to join the company's thriving record label. Daly accepted the offer and shortly after his arrival, he was handed a guitar and shoved on stage in front of 15,000 people at the famed Modern Sky Festival.

For Daly, who had toiled in the Danbury music scene since his late teens, it was totally unexpected.

"I thought I would go (to China) and have to pay my dues all over again," he recalled. "But then, they put me on the lineups for all these festivals. I became friends with other bands and played backup during their encores."

This proved a boon to Arms and Legs. Along with Hripak and Laranjeira, Daly appeared at many of Beijing's premier rock venues, including the trendy Mao Live House, where Arms and Legs played a headline performance for an audience of 1,200. The band's debut record, "Everything is Gonna Be Okay," has also sold well in the burgeoning Asian country.

"You can get a wider audience a lot faster than playing in dingy bars," Daly said, laughing. "It was actually kind of nerve-racking."

Living and working in Beijing has also informed Daly's artistic approach. When he first landed in Beijing, he performed the pastoral indie folk he had come to develop after years of listening to singer/songwriters Marc Bolan and Elliot Smith. But the style "didn't quite fit in," Daly observed, adding that Beijing's acoustic guitarists covered '60s-era rock songs "and nothing else."

Arms and Legs' new sound, however, is rooted in the electronic music that has filtered into China's fledgling DJ scene. Daly described the style on the six-track "Nothing Ever Was" and soon-to-be-released follow-up record, "The Baggage Wheel," as "Radiohead meets Joy Division" for its somber blend of atmospheric techno and experimental punk.

"The Chinese love electronic music but they adore and worship British and American rock bands," Daly said. "We're trying to produce a mix of both."

Now that Daly, Hripak and Laranjeira are back in Fairfield County, they are refocusing their efforts on the scene that nurtured them. Begi