Union Transfer


Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) & Jesca Hoop

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Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) & Jesca Hoop

Marlon Williams

Tue, May 24, 2016

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA

$30.00 - $32.00

This event is all ages

Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop
Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop
Love Letter for Fire is the name of the collaborative record from songwriters Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop. It’s collection of songs steeped in the tradition of the male/female duet where love – requited and unrequited - takes center stage.
Contemplating a duets album for some time, Beam was never able to find the right voice - until Jesca’s music found its way to his stereo. Diving into her catalog on iTunes one afternoon, specifically the album Kismet, was the spark Sam needed to reach out to Jesca and propose the idea of writing together.

The timing could not have been better for Beam: “I was looking to work with another songwriter because I had never shared the songwriting responsibility with anyone. I really enjoyed her music and it’s different than mine which is what excited me about the project.”

Hoop at the time was finishing her second record and had never co-written either. However she notes, “I had the advantage of knowing Sam’s music because it had cleaned my house many times, so I was familiar with his sensibilities and knew the combination could work.” Her memory though of “Sam’s pitch” for making the record occurred once they connected in person and Beam “threw [the idea] under his breath, like ‘If we ever write songs together.’ I think he said ‘Let’s make an EP’ and I said ‘Let’s make an album.’”

The inspiration behind Love Letter For Fire was Sam’s love of classic duets, most of which are ones he grew up hearing on the radio. “Some of my favorite songs are duets, because the narrative is expanded. It’s not just a monologue. It’s a conversation, and so it gets complicated. I had melodies over the years that I’d been compiling that I thought, this sounds like a classic Kenny and Dolly, ‘Islands in the Stream’ kind of thing, or George and Tammy”. While the record itself is not Countrypolitan in nature, the two have carved out something that feels wholly original and should have no trouble appealing to fans of their previous work.

Over the course of thirteen songs Love Letter for Fire brims with a nervous energy, contrasting Beam and Hoop’s songwriting styles, yet never feeling forced, nor pandering. Veering from disparate pop (“Every Songbird Says” / “Chalk It Up To Chi”) to introspective folk (“One Way to Pray” / “Soft Place to Land”) to a few things in between (“Welcome to Feeling” / “Midas Tongue”), the record never rests solely on just two voices but rather showcases the new chapter of songwriting each found in the collaboration. Beam notes: “(Jesca) brought a lot of energy and a lot of heart in places where I would be cerebral, she would bring heart. In places where I would be steady, she would add an exclamation point.”

Recorded in Portland, Oregon with the steady hand of Tucker Martine, the album features a collection of handpicked musicians. The band includes Rob Burger, a frequent Iron & Wine contributor, Sebastian Steinberg (Soul Coughing, Fiona Apple), Teddy Rankin-Parker (Primus), Eyvind Kang (Decemberists/Tzadik and Ipecac labels) and Glenn Kotche (Wilco). This particular set of musicians had never worked together, but quickly found themselves on equal footing. For Beam it was a bit of a dream team: “It was a really fun band, and a lot less guitar than I usually have on my [Iron & Wine] records. Tucker and the band were able to help bring out what’s inside of you that you might not know is there.”

The album’s title comes from the song, “We Two Are A Moon“ and the irony of the title and record of love songs by two folks not in love is not lost on its creators. The idea of love in song and life is a constant and universal denominator that everyone relates to. Hoop describes love and the songs succinctly : “Each song has its heat, its own trajectory.” The songs represent a kind of “ephemeral love that passes through” and then it’s gone. Beam on the other hand insists the title plays on itself in that “is it a love letter for fire? Or is it a love letter ready to be wasted?” and leaves it up to the listener to come to their own conclusions.
Marlon Williams
"Each song is a character," says Marlon Williams of his self-titled solo debut: a remarkably assured and diverse nine-track tapestry, united by one of the most versatile and evocative voices you'll hear this or any other year. "I don't really ever sing out of character. Even if it's a very personal song, once it's written it doesn't belong to me."

A veteran at the age of 24, Williams found his calling as child growing up in Lyttleton, New Zealand. A picturesque coastal town populated by fewer than 3000 people, he recalls its "wonderful contrast between port workers and a big artistic community". The latter includes his mother and father, respectively a painter and industrial punk musician. "The first three things I remember Mum listening to were PJ Harvey, early choral music and Smokey Robinson. A lot of Maori music too. We used to go down the marae for meetings and sing these big harmony songs."

Dad would bring home CDs every week, moving from Elvis and The Beatles through Echo & The Bunnymen, The Band's Music From Big Pink, and, crucially, Gram Parsons: "A rock 'n' roll dude playing country music, but respecting the purity of it."

A similar duality informed the young Williams' unique journey as a singer, combining his family's Maori upbringing with the vocal epiphanies he discovered in the school choir and then in nearby Christchurch's cathedral ensemble. "It's a very different approach," he explains. "With the Maori songs it's layered thirds, one over the other. You just feel when you want to bring another third. But then I spent most of my teenage Sundays at church. We'd sing a 30-minute Mozart Mass where every note is prescribed. I'm not a spiritual person but the music was enough to keep me there, through whatever hangover I had."

He even enrolled in the prestigious University of Canterbury, but classical music's institutionalized stuffiness proved too much. The Unfaithful Ways, his band of fellow fallen choirboys, was becoming a hot local live draw. "I did a year at university, but they didn't like that I was out playing in bars at weekends and coming in on Monday smoking. I was wearing country shirts to our performance days, instead of the bow tie and penguin suit."

After the youthful combo folded its frontman cut a trio of domestically acclaimed duo discs with prolific Lyttleton tunesmith Delaney Davidson, then made the decision to relocate to Australia – partly pushed by the ruinous earthquakes that had left Christchurch in disarray, partly pulled by the promise of Melbourne's bountiful music scene. Williams pitched up at legendary pub venue the Yarra Hotel, winning over seasoned booze hounds with a first gig on the eve of the Aussie rules football grand final.

Returning home to record, utilizing the The Sitting Room in Lyttleton Harbour – and working once more with producer/engineer Ben Edwards, whose prior loyalty extended to rescuing The Unfaithful Ways' album master from a cordoned-off quake aftershock area. Such deep-rooted bonds birthed an eclectic yet cohesive set that ranges from rollicking, acrobatic opener "Hello Miss Lonesome" to the wry coffee house wisdom of "Everyone's Got Something To Say", via Rubber Soul-ful zinger "After All" and "Lonely Side Of Her"'s beauteous barroom empathy (penned for paramour and co-vocalist Aldous Harding).

Its author's easygoing gender fluidity is expressed through his revelatory, androgynous reading of the traditional lament "When I Was A Young Girl", previously hymned by Nina Simone and Feist, among others. "That's a real fun challenge. An exposition of how songs are personal and impersonal at the same time. I don't even think about [male or female]. Either that or I don't think of myself as a boy anymore! The version I knew was by Barbara Dane, a white San Francisco soul/folk singer from the '60s."

This ability to truly inhabit his material illuminates Williams' majestic rendering of such diverse touchstones as classic orch-pop ballad "Lost Without You" and conceptual, 1974-vintage nugget "Silent Passage" (originally by Bob Carpenter, a Canadian of First Nations heritage). These covers blend seamlessly with novelistic noir standouts "Strange Things" and "Dark Child" (co-credited to childhood choral pal Tim Moore, now a palliative care nurse), which deliver gallows humor with a widescreen groove. That quality is further illustrated by their playfully cinematic videos.

Having been nominated for 5 New Zealand Music Awards, an Australian ARIA Award and completed sold out album release tours, this Southern Hemisphere star's eagerly awaited international release should see Marlon Williams soar.
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123