the family crest - Photo by Christopher Howard

Download: Mixtape: The Orchestral Side of San Francisco Indie Rock (Podcast #317)

Guitars and drums may make up the core of indie rock, but a considerable number of Bay Area artists also use instruments more traditionally associated with an orchestra than a rock band. Adding strings, horns or woodwinds might seem pretentious to some — and, admittedly, genre names like “chamber rock” and “orchestral pop” probably don’t help that assessment — but, when used deftly, these instruments can heighten a song’s emotion, add weight to dynamic shifts, and provide layers of texture that generate wonderfully unexpected moments.

String and brass instruments are core components of a number of the bands included here, like The Family Crest, who recently released an EP on Tender Loving Empire, as well as Foxtails Brigade, and Grayceon. Additionaly, Bay Area singer-songwriters like John Vanderslice and Doe Eye have local access to an ascendant group of classically-trained talents: the Magik*Magik Orchestra.

A number of the songs included in this mix feature Magik*Magik contributions; that shouldn’t be a surprise given the group’s prodigious talents, and a resume that includes recording and performing with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, The Dodos and Geographer. After being included on so many other people’s recordings, it’s only appropriate that Magik*Magik have an album of their own, and the group’s debut solo effort is forthcoming in 2014. Until then, they’re continuing to add wonderful components to many Bay Area artists’ compositions.

Enjoy the mix!

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Track Listing:

John Vanderslice – “Harlequin Press”
Foxtails Brigade – “Little Person”
The Family Crest – “Love Don’t Go”
Tidelands – “Toaster”
Doe Eye – “Oh My God”
Judgement Day – “Forest Battle”
TaughtMe – “The Truth (Really?) Every Time”
DRMS – “Don’t Want This to Die”
Grayceon – “Shellmounds”
Whiskerman – “Blind Saint”
Kacey Johansing – “Grand Ghosts”
Debbie Neigher – “Frames”
Ghost & the City – “Sweet Footed Betty”