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The best kept secret in music


"Paste Magazine"

"Incorporating elements of electronic music, jazz and British shoegaze, and
using improvisation and samples of "found" noises, the members of Phonograph
create a unique, complex sonic landscape. PASTE-APPROVED: AN ARTIST YOU MUST

"Magnet Magazine"

"Vocalist/guitarist Matthew Welsh sounds like a throwback to Bob Dylan
before modern times impaired his pipes." - Magnet

"Marquee Magazine"

"Debut albums aren't supposed to be this strong" - Denver Marquee

"Austin Music Magazine"

"beginning to end a brilliant journey of exploration and song. Released this
early in the year, it sets a seemingly impossible bar to surpass for the
year in music to come." - Austin Music Magazine

"PHONOGRAPH top 7 bands of new york!"

"The alt-country soundtrack for your sepia-toned dreams."

Many musicians have a difficult time breaking free from the constraints of the alt-country genre, but occasionally a band tests the boundaries without losing sight of the genre’s defining principle — at the heart of every good song is one that can be played on an acoustic guitar.

One such band is Brooklyn’s Phonograph, who combine singer Matthew Welsh’s traditional sensibilities with the rest of the members’ disparate backgrounds to create a sound that strays just enough. “Abe Seirerth [guitar] is a certified MOOG artist and is mostly known for really out-there jazz stuff,” says Welsh. “John Davis was playing with JoJo Mayer and Nerve, who are primarily known for drum and bass.”

Phonograph have completed their second full-length, but after a deal with Wilco bassist John Stirratt’s Broadamoor Records fell through, they found themselves in search of a new label. Happily though, through their ties to Stirratt, Wilco fast became one of the band’s biggest supporters, asking them along on tour. Obviously, it’s an interesting experience for any young band. “Pulling our 15-passenger van next to Wilco’s two matching limousine buses and having to answer questions about what type of cheese we wanted in the dressing room was a little surreal. I remember looking out at the crowd trying to remember a lyric and seeing Jeff Tweedy ten feet away watching what I was doing. How do you react to that?”

Welsh knows things like that won’t be commonplace just yet, and he’s staying realistic about their situation. “I’m not going to lie and say that playing to 4,000 people in a venue the size of Radio City is a drag. But we’re really trying to make a name for ourselves on our own turf. We’ve been lucky to play some great venues, though we’d still play a Brooklyn BBQ at the drop of a hat.” - The "L" Magazine

"Phonograph Live at Mercury Lounge..."

8 May 2006: Mercury Lounge — New York

We've pushed further into intangibility as communication has become more and more immediate. Are we destined to get lost in the formless mist of all that static?

by Brian Bartels

Between 1840 and 1879, America experienced technological innovations such as the electric telegraph, telephone, light bulb, transcontinental railroad, and passenger elevator. These inventions catapulted our world to its first information age. All of this purported to let us hear more clearly, see more accurately, and visit one another more efficiently. But did it?

At the dawn of the 20th century, political economist Thorstein Veblen wrote about the rise of a new American leisure class to whom seeing and being seen meant everything. With the emergence of urban life, Veblen said, "The means of communication and the mobility of the population now expose the individual to observation of many persons who have no other means of judging his reputability than the display of goods which he is able to make while he is under their direct observation."

This class has been pushed further into intangibility in the past ten years as motion, light, space, time and communication have become more immediate than Veblen could have ever imagined. We have cell phones, Blackberrys, Sidekicks, instant messaging, e-mail, and powerhouse search engines available 24/7. Accessibility is at an all-time high. These technologies foretell the way our world will be shaped and viewed many years from now as the body-proper becomes more and more distant from the active self. And what are we hearing? Is it just a lot of noise? Are we destined to get lost in the intangible mist of all that static?

Not if we take steps to save ourselves. Music was here long before we were, and it will be the rock crushing the dead cell battery long after we're gone. Our ears never lie, because we still know that tickling feeling of the immediately, intimately familiar. It becomes rarefied and unique; a self-affirmation. Music brings us back to the body. And, when it strikes the right way, music can help us both rediscover something about ourselves and, perhaps, understand something new.

Five-piece roots-rock band Phonograph clutch rock 'n' roll by its roots, swinging that mother like a battleaxe. Live, old instruments throttle and scream from the speakers, demanding to be heard despite (or perhaps in spite) of the encroaching digital age. One can identify nuggets of old, American sounds -- the kind that formed the foundation of country and folk -- but, though Phonograph anchors itself in tradition, the band does more than evoke nostalgia. By mixing traditional influences with experiential and found sounds, Phonograph moves beyond the bounds of front-porch Americana, transporting the listener through the static.

Of course, their show did not come without its technical glitches. The band started twenty minutes late due to sound checking complications. They had difficulty honing their monitors, leading to occasionally muffled vocals. Yet their tightness was always evident -- drummer Dave Burnett's high-hat whack careened toward potential calamity, only to be saved by multi-instrumentalist John Davis with casual effortlessness in an appealing display of band members very much in tune with one another.

Matthew Welsh's vocals evoke singers like Tom Petty and Elvis Costello -- it's like the sound of Lou Reed leaving New York to discover more errant landscapes. Imagine the new Dylan shaking hands with the next Wilco; these boys feel like a band on the threshold of mass exposure.

Though presently unsigned, Phonograph leave an indelible impression on the unknown: what could happen and what should happen to bands experimenting with past, present, and future. I'm sure Thorstein Verblen had a difficult time convincing people to believe in his scientific studies on a day-to-day basis, but he never stopped following the lines. By the end of Phonograph's set, like so many sets we participate in, our ears were allowed to make history. -

"Phonograph Feature"

Taking an esoteric and eclectic slant on American country soul, the New York based Phonograph take their influences from 1950’s US folk and put them right alongside the current vogue for heartfelt, truthful acoustica, all of which mixes into their laid back, dreamy, well produced soundscapes. A band with a penchant for classic guitars and amps, all of this knowledge comes to bear on their sultry down tempo night crawling grooves which make reference to names like Jim O’Rourke, Spiritualized, The Velvet Underground, REM, and The Flaming Lips in its deep progressive soulful style which wouldn’t sound out of place at an “All Tomorrows Parties festival.”

Formed by vocalist and band mainstay (playing keyboards and guitar), Matthew Welsh, Phonograph has amassed a highly skilled group of musicians who’ve all gained plenty of experience between themselves and certainly multi-task on the equipment available to them. John Davis (on bass, mono synth) was previously head engineer at Brooklyn’s Bunker Studios and a member of Jojo Mayer’s band, Nerve. Jared Samuel (on Hammond, Rhodes, lap steel, guitar) previously worked with James Hunter and his band while Dave Burnett (percussion) is an accomplished trained jazz drummer. Abe Seiferth on lead guitar completes the current lineup and also heads up the experimental Jazz trio Elliptical Ferns. Throw in the odd guest like Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu, Bob Mould, and Frank Black) and Steve Goulding (Elvis Costello, The Mekons) and it becomes little surprise that Phonograph underpin their sound with a fierce professionalism and cachet.

Such a melting pot of backgrounds fused superbly upon Phonograph’s debut album, “Nu Americana”, the name of which is fast becoming adopted as a nickname for their sound. Released in 2005 to good American radio support from such trend-spotters as Jon Langford on WXRT, Phonograph undertook a succession of US gigs across both coasts, aiming at raising their profile country-wide.

The debut album saw Welsh’s raspy, Lou Reed, Richard Ashcroft-esque vocals allied to a succession of elegant, lolloping, light indie backings to make a very composed, almost “rock chillout” album. Take for example, the standout eight minute sprawl of “Autumn Follows” meandering richly to an almost Pink Floyd-like conclusion, taking sumptuous, lush ambient background to rise slowly and majestically into a hymn for the common man, his triumphs and his failings. “Maybe I was wrong? Maybe I was right?” intones Welsh sympathetically as the light guitar riff becomes more pervading and omnipresent before the tune dissolves into a myriad of graceful feedback distortions and ambient prog rock.

Phonograph’s shorter, more typical records show the same technical excellence and attention to detail. The Angelo Badalmenti / Twin Peaks sounding delicate soul of “Headaches” and the fragile frustration and blues emanating from “You’re A Giraffe” complement each other perfectly with their low slung lazy guitar and percussion lines punctuating Welsh’s Thom Yorke sounding vocal.

The band also turn their attention to more upbeat driving US gear with songs like “Radio Waves” and “TV Screens” with their elemental guitar lines and piano arrangements sharpening their sound. Indeed, it’s easy to see how Phonograph’s varied and diverse music background, brought together by the aforementioned collaborators, has been such an advantage, lending them a mature, accessible and refined sound.

Phonograph have already played support dates in 2006 with the prime movers on the American, Nu-Folk scene, WILCO, which points to their advancing profile and acclaim. If Phonograph carries on putting out deep, intelligent fresh sound music like “Nu Americana,” there’s no reason to doubt that their run of form won’t continue for a long while yet.

-James Masters (J-Walk Magazine)
- J-Walk Mag (J-Shoes UK)


Nu Americana LP (2005) "Title track on WXRT Chicago
PHONOGRAPH LP (2006) Available on I-Tunes Worldwide July 2006, Available hard copy Feb, '07 on Arclight Records


Feeling a bit camera shy


It's not every day that a band receives accolades in magazines before their debut album is released, but that's precisely what is happening to Phonograph. The Brooklyn-based quintet has already garnered attention in NYC’s L Magazine ("7 NYC Bands You Need to Hear"), Relix Magazine (a new artist profile in their November ’06 issue) and is featured on Jane Magazine’s fall CD sampler. The band has also found themselves making believers out of renowned musicians including Mekons/Waco Brothers’ Jon Langford and Wilco’s John Stirratt. Phonograph vocalist and songwriter, Matthew Welsh explains. “Jon found us by accident. He walked into the recording studio where we were recording, and he kept saying it was brilliant [laughs]. We've been friends ever since, and he's been a really big supporter, helping us anyway he can, including getting us airplay on Chicago’s WXRT. [Wilco bassist] John Stirratt and sister Laurie (Broadmoor Records) stumbled upon the band and has been incredibly helpful, having us open for Wilco as often as possible.”

Phonograph is a relative newcomer to the oft-fickle New York City music scene, forming in 2005. “We've been fortunate enough to get amazing opportunities. Playing Irving Plaza, headlining Mercury Lounge and in a few weeks we’ll tape a session for WNYC. In a short amount of time, we've already exceeded our expectations.” confides Welsh.

Beginning as Welsh’s solo effort with the help of Pere Ubu’s Tony Maimone, the group’s current line-up began taking shape when a then-studio engineer, John Davis, befriended Welsh. Davis in turn introduced a pair of friends, guitarist Abe Seiferth and drummer Dave Burnett, to the fold, before multi-instrumentalist Phil Sterk recently rounded out the line-up. The additional players added new elements to Welsh's vision and expanded the range of sounds and experiences the group had to draw on. “Even though we’re known more for an alt-country aesthetic, we experiment with a variety of instruments and instrumentation. We're always going to have that element of stripped down Americana, but we want a healthy balance between interesting psychedelic sounds and good-old-wholesome-American-songwriting.” points out Welsh. “John, aside from playing bass, also plays a Moog to get all the background sounds going. Abe goes through as many different combinations of pedals as he can do simultaneously – a lot of the stuff that sounds like synth lines on the record is actually Abe. When we opened for Wilco, Nels Cline was standing about a foot away from him watching everything he was doing!”

“A lot of the songs have an outlook of the way society is run and its effects on how we perceive ourselves,” explains Welsh. [In] "In Your Mind,” there's a line emphasizing the band’s perception, "wishing lives of foolish stars keeping up with all your magazines.” A consistent listen from beginning to end, Welsh and Davis cite the album’s leadoff single, “T.V. Screens” as a favorite. Davis also points out that the song came about as a happy accident. “Matt sat down at this Optagon –a weird home organ from the ‘70s that uses transparent records – and started playing what you hear as the intro.”

Feb. 6, 2007 sees Phonograph's self-titled debut album arrive in-stores via Arclight Records. Following on the heels of release is a performance at SXSW as well as a national tour in March. Members of the band are also featured as part of an all-star line-up on The Book of Knots upcoming release on Tom Wait's ANTI label.

For further information, please contact Monica Seide at Speakeasy PR (818-506-4561 or via e-mail: Monica @