CHARLENE KAYE and THE GREAT FICTION at PHONOTROPIC in the Vernors Room

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 13, 2009
doors at 9PM, show at 9PM
tickets: $5

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Below are two tremendous write-ups on these bands, by two of Metro-Detroit's greatest music writers, the incomparably hip Jeff Milo, and Ryan Patrick Hooper, but don't be fooled into interpreting these reviews as hagiography- CHARLENE KAYE and THE GREAT FICTION are really that good...

JEFF MILO on CHARLENE KAYE The more I listen to Charlene Kaye’s debut album, the more I think she won’t be staying in Ann Arbor much longer. I don’t mean that in the sense that the 22-year-old classically trained musician will be graduating from the University of Michigan soon, I mean it in the dreamier, grandiose, launch-into-the-big-time sense. I can’t see anyone not enjoying Things I Will Need in the Past — the LP is a sweeping narrative of sunny grooves and meditative sways that details a youthful but wary reflection on the wrenching intricacies of relationships, refracted through preconceptions of time. It's mystic, absurd and elastic. Things is filled with soothing, singer/songwriter, Sunday-blues balladry, meticulously laid down by the multi-instrumentalist in between classes. She's joined by numerous talented collaborators, all splendidly produced with the integral Jim Roll. Take the heady, theatric dressing-ups of Rufus Wainwright’s baroque-pop, the sly, swing-able, indie-jazz of Feist with Kaye’s own earnest folk-punch and you find her blend of classical poignancy with pop’s whimsy.



RYAN PATRICK HOOPER on THE GREAT FICTION Throughout history, church basements have served as an unlikely source of musical muse. Perhaps it is the search for spirituality that slides down the rows of pews and seeps through the floorboards, spilling into the choirboy’s kick drum and leaving droplets of belief on the cymbals and snare. Perhaps it is the communal search for faith and meaning left over from a particularly powerful sermon that patiently creeps down the steps, finding consolation in the worn strings of a vintage guitar. When these instruments were woken up by the imaginative hooks and melodies of metro-Detroit-based band The Great Fiction ten years ago, the church could have never predicted what form the gospel was going to take. “We all grew up and learned how to play music in church,” says Philip Zott, the fluidly outspoken drummer of the band, who is accompanied by his brother, Daniel Zott (guitar/vocals) and fellow bandmate Jonathon Neme (guitar/keyboards) at a small café in downtown Royal Oak on a bustling Thursday afternoon. “It was a Pentecostal church, so the songs would go on for hours at a time — we had a six-hour service once.” The musically injected, lively atmosphere bred a spontaneous chemistry between the longtime friends, combining gospel roots with an adolescent attraction to rock music. As The Great Fiction began concocting original compositions in ’97, the need to record their creations was sufficed by Ben West, a friend of a friend who shared a cathedral upbringing and brought the knowledge of engineering and recording into the picture. “He really liked what we were doing, and we liked what he was doing for us,” says Daniel Zott, whose shaggy appearance and friendly demeanor act as almost magnetic qualities. “We eventually invited [West] to play bass for us” after West’s work on the band’s freshman and sophomore efforts, Applying the Mathematics and Screaming Through the Newspeak. The transition into a fully functional band proved watertight, and the group would eventually trade in their church studio dwelling for another humble studio at West’s house in Eastpointe. The gently riveting and swelling six-string assault of The Great Fiction’s melodically layered musicianship would passionately erupt on Slow Progress for Simplicity, their third and most notable LP. The album grabbed the attention of major labels across the country and even resulted in the band performing at a showcase for a subsidiary of EMI. Regardless of the amount of love the labels displayed, the suits fell short on ideas of how to promote a group that was reluctant to tour and supposedly lacked radio hits. “They just wanted to pat us on the back,” explains D. Zott. “They loved what we were doing, but they didn’t know how to market us to the masses. We understand that and it doesn’t blow us away, but unfortunately, these guys are wildly out of touch.” Believe it or not, The Great Fiction was strangely relieved. With Neme recently returning from a ten-week stint in the Middle East and West traveling back and forth from New York to L.A. to produce other bands, the group is anything but built for a long stretch on the road. Although the band certainly doesn’t lack the chops to perform live, the band believes its main strengths are cradled within the sanctity of the mixing board. “We’re total studio junkies,” says P. Zott. “Recording has always been our thing, and it makes more sense for us to do the publishing side of things.” Indeed, The Great Fiction has successfully tackled an emerging sector of the new rock ‘n’ roll economy that is becoming rampantly commonplace, and at the same time, demolishing the passé notion of selling out. With the support of Chrysalis Music Publishing, an international powerhouse publisher who places the music of such acts as My Morning Jacket and Gnarls Barkley in a variety of media outlets, The Great Fiction have been able to make money by having their music placed in movies and commercials without departing from their metro-Detroit domain. “If you don’t want to tour and you want to be a recording artist primarily,” explains P. Zott, “then doing TV spots is just something that you have to accept as part of the new paradigm.” Adds D. Zott, “In a perfect world, we would make money in a different way and there would be no record labels. But we were born in a time where record labels rule, and now we’re seeing them lose a lot of their power and bands are adjusting.” Regardless of what page The Great Fiction decides to turn, there is a sense of camaraderie that runs through the elaborate wiring of their Eastpointe studio and into their veins — an undeniable mixture of technicality, chemistry and personal connection that stretches back to their faithful beginnings in the basement of their Pentecostal church. “Everything we do is a collective more so now than ever,” explains D. Zott. “It’s not just trust and respect — I want to see what we are all going to add to change what we’ve done and take it somewhere else.”

 

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