Hailey Wojcik: Interview

I first heard Hailey Wojcik when she did a session for Midnight Ukulele Disco. I got so excited Craig Robertson told me to calm down. But I still haven’t. So when I found out Hailey was releasing a new album, Diorama, I took the opportunity to fire a few questions at her.

What can we expect from the new album? How’s it different from Jealous Sees?

The new record, Diorama, is very different from my previous one. First of all, it has full band arrangements, and is almost exclusively electric guitars (aside from the songs on which I don’t play guitar, of course) – so it is louder! But I also feel like it is more eclectic and much more mature. It was produced by Dan Romer, (who produces Jenny Owen Youngs, Ingrid Michaelson, April Smith) and he is just fantastic and brilliant. It’s a much stronger, more thought-out record I think. I made a diorama to represent each song (hence the title), and pictures of these are the album art. Also though, I like to think of the album itself as a diorama of my life at a particular moment. So conceptually it feels like a more complete record to me as well.

How did you come to pick up the ukulele?

I randomly got a ukulele while in Hawaii (I thought it fitting), but I completely fell in love with it, and it is now one of my favorite instruments.

Your songs are very individual and original. Who are your inspirations?

Thank you! I am inspired by a lot of artists – both musical and otherwise – so it is hard to pick. I try to be as omnivorous as possible. Literature and film often inspire my songwriting; some of the songs on the record reflect this (“Holden Caulfield“; “Samsa Morning” – referring to Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis). While working on the record I was reading Infinite Jest and a lot of other David Foster Wallace stuff – I’m not so sure that’s reflected at all in the music, but maybe on the next record! I’ve been listening to a lot of Mountain Goats and Neko Case lately. I’m also a huge fan of Jack White (and Meg White!), and I find I can always go back to artists like Tom Waits and Patti Smith. I’m always trying to compose a Top Five Songwriters of All Time list in my head, but I can never quite get myself to agree on anything.

What’s in your ukulele collection? You had a fantastic banjolele on Midnight Ukulele Disco.

I play an Oscar Schmidt at shows and on the record… I also have a Lanikai and a beautiful old banjolele from the ’20s.

What plans have you got for the future? Any plans to resurrect the dinosaur outfit?

I am playing with a band now – collectively we are Hailey Wojcik and Her Imaginary Friends – and we are planning a tour at the moment, as well as a music video, so keep an eye out for that… The dinosaur outfit is on an indefinite hiatus, but I am a girl who loves costumes, so you can be sure there is more where that came from. My band now incorporates some animal masks into our live show for the song “Raised in a Zoo”.

You can buy Diorama on CDBaby, visit her website and friend her up on MySpace.

The Lancashire Hotpots – He’s Turned Emo (Chords)

The Lancashire Hotpots – Oh No, He’s Turned Emo (Chords)

After some Manglish from Zee Avi, here’s some Lanclish from the Lancashire Hotpots. If you’re planning on going to see the Hotpots on their Northern tour you’re in for an extra treat. They’re being supported by the Re-entrants (find the dates here)

Suggested Strumming

Dead easy song, this one. There are only two chords. And this strum will see you through.

d – d u – u d –

Really, that strum works for just about every song.

If you want to add an extra bit of fanciness to the chords, add a few G diminished chords at the start of the G7 bars.

Twiddly Bits

Even if you’re not interested in playing this song, it’s well worth learning this little lick. It’s a standard.

lancashire hotpots ukulele tab

Mini UkeTube

You take one week off and a whole bunch of much anticipated videos show up.

So this isn’t a proper UkeTube, just a few videos from old favourites tackling various social issues including the long-awaited Rocky and Balls reunion, the long-awaited reunion of Agathe and Fine and the long-awaited union of Jen Kwok and every single Asian man in a new video directed by fellow uker Ballard C Boyd (she’s set up a new site just for the video: Date An Asian). Jen and Garfunkel and Oates both use language unbecoming of a lady in their songs. But what did you expect?

Right, now to tackle my inbox. Yikes! Read the rest of this entry »

UkeTube: Best of 2009 So Far

Since I’ve been busy battling Mafia goons, shooting rabid dogs and swimming round Venice in hotpants I haven’t been keeping up with new videos, so I thought I’d knock together a post of my favourite uke videos of the year so far. Feel free to chime in with you faves and call me an asshat for not including them.

For the record, my favourite non-uke videos of the year so far are The Tallest Man on Earth in the Secret Garden, Emily Elbert’s Silent Time and Dead Weather’s Treat Me Like Your Mother Read the rest of this entry »

To Buy: Ukulele Shopping List

1. KoAloha Sceptre – I’ve been lusting after one of these since they first came out two years ago. And listening to Jason Arimoto, Terry Kinakin and Alvin Okami’s mythologising just exacerbated it.

2. Le Domino – Surely the coolest ukulele ever made.

3. National Resonator – So I can play as loud as a banjolele without having to play a banjolele.

4. G-String James Hill Custom – Because if I get one then I’ll definitely be able to play like James Hill.

5. Martin Style 3 – They appeal to me more than the 5K. Don’t have quite the same air of conspicuous consumption.

6. Pono Mango Pineapple – In the past I’ve been less than enthusiastic about spalted mango and pineapple ukuleles. But I still want one of these.

7. Kala Archtop – Because I want to be just like Christofer Drew Ingle. hes like so totally dreamy lolz

8. Brunswick Telecaster – I’m too cheap to get a K-Wave, so this will do nicely.

9. Obama with uke dashboard doll – The phrase ‘Only in America’ was invented for items like this. I don’t think there are many people buying Gordon-Brown-plays-the-bassoon hood ornaments.

What’s on your shopping list?

Essential Ukulele Links

Hello from Venice!* Since I haven’t been spending 17 hours a day scouring the internets for ukulele links, I don’t have anything new to share. So here are some links to places that are awesome and don’t get the attention they deserve.

There are a bunch of great sites in French:

Ukulele Dav – tabs from Roy Smeck and other ukulele classics.
Des Cordes et Du Bois – more excellent tabs including many classical pieces.
Ukulpic – Chords, tabs, indie ukulele music. Sounds like a good idea for a blog.
Le Soir Ukulele Sessions – Top notch take-away type sessions.

Jeff’s Humble Uker Ramblings is always packed with great photos and interesting info. Some recent posts well worth checking out:

Buying a 2nd ukulele.
Confessions of a Martin collector
Interview with Winin’ Boy

Jake Wildwood’s Antebellum Instruments is packed with pictures of wonderfully restored vintage ukuleles along with mandolins, banjos and guitars. But my favourites are the unusual stringed instruments that cross his path.

Octofone – so named because it’s supposed to be 8 instruments in one.
Fretless banjo – give it a listen here.
Unmarked Archtop Guitar
Bohm Waldzither

*Actually, I’m writing this beforehand and I’m in still in Derby – the Venice of the Midlands.

Zee Avi – Kantoi (Chords)

Zee Avi – Kantoi (Chords)

I love this sort of thing. I wish people would sing in their own languages more often. So full credit to Zee Avi for writing a song in a language I didn’t even know existed: Manglish (a cross between Malay and English). I would have thought this was a sure thing for Ukulele & Languages, but apparently not. Anyhoo, given that there are Zee Avi makeup tutorials online, her uke playing deserves some more attention.

Suggested Strumming

The main pattern you’ll need is:

d – d u – u d –

The intro: once for each chord.
First line: two for C, two for G7.
Second line: two more for G7, Two for C.
Third line: once for each chord.
Fourth line: one down strum for each chord.
Middle section: once for every chord except C (which is twice)

Practice Tips: Record Yourself

I tried a bit of archery recently. The best part of learning to shoot projectiles is that you get instant feedback on how well your doing. If you’re getting it wrong, you know about it straight away and you know how far off you are.

It’s much trickier to do that when you’re learning an instrument. It’s difficult to play and listen objectively at the same time. If you regularly record yourself and listen back you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you can work on to improve how you sound.

Ideally, you’d tape your entire practice session and listen to it back. But that’s not really practical. I usually record myself playing a couple of times through the tune I’m working on at the end of a session and make a few notes on what I need to be practising.

Since you’re only listening to it yourself, it doesn’t have to be great quality. A cheap desk mic and Audacity will do the job fine.

Things to listen out for:

Tempo – Does it sound rushed? This is one thing I’m always getting wrong. I tend to rush ahead of the tune and speed up as I go along.

Bum notes – Are you getting the same part/chord change wrong over and over? Focus on that bit by itself. Slow it down completely and practice it in isolation.

Dynamics – I.e. loud and quiet bits. Does it sound the same all the way through? Varying the intensity of your playing can make things more interesting. For example, if you’re playing the same line twice you could play it loud the first time and softly the second (creating a type of echo effect). You can also slow the tempo at certain parts to add more interest.

Emphasising notes – Can you hear the melody? If you’re playing a piece that includes melody and accompaniment it’s important that the melody notes stand out against the backing.

Noah and the Whale – Jealous Kind of Love (Chords)

Noah and the Whale – Jealous Kind of Love (PDF)

This little uke tune cropped up on the B-side to Shape of My Heart. It doesn’t seem to be available any more, but it’s rather lovely and a simple three chord song so I thought I’d write it up. The video cuts off but you can hear the whole thing on their MySpace.

Suggested Strumming Pattern

d – d u – u d –

Twiddly Bits

The uke doubles up the whistling part in the intro and after the choruses.


MIDI

Buy Noah and the Whale

Southside Cemetery Choir: Monday Exposure

Southside Cemetery Choir – Raise the Dead/Raise a Family (MP3)
Southside Cemetrry Choir – Weightlessly in Love (MP3) via Sleeping in the Aviary

How could I resist featuring a band who call their debut album If We Bury You Ass Up, We’ll Have a Place to Park My Bike?

Southside Cemetery Choir is a side project of Sleeping in the Aviary (who have the the best worst website I’ve ever seen). Once a week they’d head off to a graveyard, spend an hour writing songs and record the results.

Judging by the tracks on the album (many of which feature the uke) it’s a policy many bands should adopt. There are a few I’d like to see take up permanent residence in a cemetery.

You can download the full album for free here.

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