Select Press // Thomas Simon interview, Venice Paparazzi, Los Angeles (9/10/21)
“THE DAMNED, it's a Cuckoo's Nest-like production with a rock 'n' roll edge.”
- Time Out New York
CD Review: Thomas Simon - Monção May 27, 2010
Haunting and hypnotic, Thomas Simon's new album is a suite of eerie, mostly instrumental soundscapes evoking both Syd Barrett and David Gilmour-era Pink Floyd as well as Bauhaus and, when the ghostly melody begins to take a recognizable shape, Australian psychedelic legends the Church. Incorporating elements of minimalism, sci-fi and horror film scores as well as goth music and oldschool art-rock, it's an ominous treat for the ears. Over a murky wash of drones, Thomas' guitar rings, clangs and occasionally roars, moving in and through and then out of a swirling sonic whirlpool, frequently churning with both live and looped percussion. The reliably brilliant Dave Eggar adds layers of cello in the same vein: a flourish here and there and tantalizing snatches of melody that inevitably give way to dark atmospherics.
The title track is much like what Pink Floyd was going for on One of These Days - a staggered, swaying drumbeat, a series of low drones swooping and out of the mix and a forest of minimalist reverb guitar accents. Simon will pull off a hammer-on quickly, or add a silvery flash of vibrato a la David Gilmour - and then send the lick whirling over and over again into the abyss. The second movement, In the Middle of Nowhere, sets a distantly nightmarish scene - a tritone echoes in the background, fading up and back down as the guitar moves ominously and modally around the tonic - and then the cello leads the drums in, and the headless horsemen are off with a gallop. They bring it down to that macabre tritone hook, then bring it up, then back down again for over fifteen minutes.
The third movement works a simple descending hook over a trip-hop loop, sparse piano over washes of guitar noise. Up Against the Wall is a maze of backward masking and disembodied textures, sort of a synthesis of tracks one and three. They take it down and then out with stately yet raw guitar. The closest thing to a coherent song here, Altered Planet evokes the Church with its washes of cello and guitar: "Where we going, we need somewhere to hide" becomes "Where are you going, there's nowhere to hide," sirens appearing and then fading out before the guitar finally takes it up in a blaze of distortion. Somewhere there is an epic, dystopic film that needs this for its score. Maybe it hasn't been made yet. Simon's sonic palette is actually far more diverse than this album might indicate - his live shows can be very lively. Thomas Simon plays Small Beast upstairs at the Delancey on June 14 at around 9. - LUCID CULTURE, NYC
MUSIC WITHOUT FRONTIERS. This evening the Roland Garros club is hosting the concert of American band Thomas Simon Musiciens Sans Frontieres (MSF). This is the first performance of a New York cult band in Romania.
In search of traditional music
The Thomas Simon MSF concert takes place tonight in Roland Garros at 9pm. The presence of the New York band in Cluj is due mostly to the guys from KUMM. Leaning on the side of the piano in the Insomnia cafe Thomas and Jillie reveal details about their music, the jobs that help them support themselves and their artists outside the stage, about Romania and the internet. They're anxious to play and especially to capture some of the essence of Romanian music. "The name of our band says a lot about us. Our music has three components: the experience we had with the "Love Alien" formula, the ambient style and something entirely new to which we added traditional music from India, Nepal or Brazil. I'm very anxious to learn more about your music…" said Thomas. They found Romania to be civilized ever since they crossed the border. "The guards at customs were nice and we crossed the border quickly and without the drastic controls that we were expecting", said Jillie. They were impressed by the architecture in Cluj and the nice people, especially the youth.
Artists with several jobs
"We still can't live off music alone. Just living in New York involves huge expenses" Thomas confesses. Therefore they have to juggle their work as musicians with bartending in clubs or driving trucks for art shows. Jillie is also an actress and recently she lent her voice to an animation series, while the other members of the band are "borrowed" by other bands or involved in side projects. "We are not trying to create hit songs, we only play what we feel and we are happy to see people of all ages coming to our shows", Thomas adds. "Back home kids download one or two tracks from the internet and then they buy the album. You can't expect them to spend money on something they know nothing about..." he adds about the positive influence of the internet. Playing for the Cluj audience tonight are Jillie Simon (vocals), Thomas Simon (guitar, vocals, sound experiments), Johnny Pisano (bass) and Rodney Ledbetter (drums). The band will also play in Bucharest on Friday and in Buzau, performing at the TopT festival, on Saturday.
[Photo: The CBGB spirit will animate the Roland Garros club in Cluj Napoca this evening]
The Thomas Simon MSF concert marks the first event by a New York cult band in Romania, bringing with it something of the old CBGB spirit, a New York club famous around the world. The club closed its doors in 2006 after more than three decades of activity; the closing was sealed with a Patti Smith concert. However, the "feel" of the place is being kept alive by the music of those who performed there, from the Ramones to Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth or Thomas Simon.
Spat out from the bowels of the dark big city... and they sound exactly how the gritty grinding city should sound: dark and loud, like a delicate midnight train wreck. - their songs are pushed together by trademark nasty, detuned guitar lines and Austrian singer Thomas Simon's gravelly baritone voice. Bassist Francios Gehin slaps down the song's framework with thick force, as drummer Lior Shulman sparks the music up with his bright notes and amazing chops. The band's secret weapon is exotic vocalist Jill, who spins together a chanteuse style of glimmer and fury and commands a stage presence of erotic force... a holdback from a rock star mold which required a woman to look her best, yet have the talent to back up her flawless image. The songs throw together the best elements of each player, pulling toward Simon's deep vocals in one chorus while anchored down in Francois Gehin's throbbing bass the next. Jill's songs are equally excitable, as she drives her sticky sweet vocals into the heart of the dingy Love Alien rock machine. . "Blue Planet preview... a collection of soulful dry rhythms and a shifty midtempo despair soundtrack. "Blue Moon" kicks off the record and with good reason: the song burns in with feedback and a tight snare riff and slides along with Simon's spooky drudging vocals and Jill's sweet whispers and ultra-sexy moans. Caught between the songs are bits of keyboard noise annd glazed feedback, the glue which holds the band together. "I just wanna play as much as possible, anywhere, that's why it's always so exciting to me to tour and meet people" Simon says. But the songs must back up the sound, and Jill stitches together lyrics from all elements of her world: "I write about whatever I feel passionate about, whether from a conversation, something I read, relationship stuff, or whatever. If it stimulates or strikes a chord with people, that's fantastic, that's what I want to do. I want to excite people."
The invitation is open. Come see the excitement first-hand. But be prepared to melt under the white light of Jill's voice and the blistering noise of Simon and the rest of Love Alien". - Joey Zielazinski
“be prepared to melt under the white light of Jill's voice and the blistering noise of Simon and the rest of Love Alien” - Infinity Press
“Small Beast on Life Support: One of the Year’s Best Rock Shows:
Headliner Thomas Simon gets a lot of film work, so it’s no surprise that his shows have an enveloping, cinematic quality. Simon pulls you in with a swirling vortex of a million guitar, keyboard and percussion textures. More than just a one-man band, he was a one-man orchestra, shifting from slowly swaying, blacklit soundscapes aloft on endlessly oscillating sonic ebbtides, to several vocal tunes. One stomped along on a memorably savage series of distorted chords straight out of the Dead Boys or Sham 69 catalog. Other times, he’d introduce a hypnotic beat and then build it methodically, with layers of guitar that roared, clanged, howled and blended into each other, sometimes gracefully winding down to where the whole thing started. If there’s ever another Alien movie, this is the guy who should get to do the score.”
-by Delarue, NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY, August 2011
Concert Review: Thomas Simon at the Delancey, NYC 7/13/09 July 14, 2009
Viennese expat Thomas Simon closed the night on a frequently mesmerizing note with a long, practically seamless, improvisational set, something akin to Bauhaus doing a sidelong Abbey Road-style suite, fragments of songs segueing into each other while he and his extraordinarily good djembe player (Alex Alexander) dug a murky sonic pit that swirled deeper and darker as the night went on with layers and layers of loops reverberating and pulsing throughout the mix. Simon's guitar playing is very Daniel Ash - like the Bauhaus guitarist, he really has a handle how to build eerie tonalities using open strings. Frequently he'd start a segue with a single low, resonant bass note just as David J did on Bela Lugosi's Dead. Simon moved to piano for a couple of interludes, using the same chordal voicings he'd been playing on the guitar for an intriguing textural contrast. At the end, they picked up the pace with an insistent, percussively hypnotic rhythm, then they took the drums completely out of the mix and Simon took all the effects off his guitar, letting the melody's ominous, Syd Barrett-esque inflections speak for itself. - Source
Thomas Simon, musician without frontiers How globalization can be anti-globalist Thomas Simon - producer, film maker, musician and composer - toured the U.S., Canada, (and beyond)... and here he is now with his "Thomas Simon Musiciens sans Frontieres" formula playing in the Bucharest club Utopia. Would I offend any Americans if I said you can tell miles away he's not American? He's Austrian but he moved to New York, probably so that he and his French named band would have some place to take off into the world from. Either way, the band is a great indie rock traveler since they came to perform in front of the "Utopian" audience from Bucharest. On stage, Jillie Simon is the feminine voice that counterbalances Thomas Simon's rough vocals. I think she usually wears white and she is always almost painfully sensual since most of the reviews describe her as being "the light in the dark atmosphere" of the band's music. She has a delicate voice that seems to penetrate dramatically more than musically - like Melanie's voice did, if anyone still remembers her. The band is more than just a geographical wanderer, they also stroll through different musical territories - critics mention the Dead Can Dance tribalism, the Nine Inch Nails twilight, Moby's funk, etc. This means that, as their French name discloses, they are diligently tearing down frontiers; only that which they globalize is not commercial waste. So how could I then associate them with the unappealing concept of globalism? Is it possible that we are dealing, aside from the antiglobalist movement, with underglobalism?
MUSIC WITHOUT FRONTIERS. Thomas Simon plays music without borders
GOTH & GRUNGE AT THE GRABOVSKI
Thursday May 18th, experimental-rock musician, Thomas Simon will perform with his band at the Grabovski for the first time. The Vienna born New York Multi Media Artist has reached a lot of acclaim with his experimental progressive fusing of Goth and Grunge. By creating a sensitive web of space and rhythm, Simon leads his listeners, with a noir-ish style, through the myriad of his musical works. Trent Reznor was a definite inspiration. I.W.
MUSIC WITHOUT FRONTIERS. Frontiers Are Falling Down!
Cluj started "tearing down" the frontiers between musicians. Proof of this is tonight's concert in Roland Garros where New York based rock band Thomas Simon Musiciens sans Frontieres takes the stage. The artists are now on tour promoting their latest album, "Satellite".
"Their music is very energetic and diverse, and also very interesting because of the singer's cool stage presence."
- Andras Kovacs from KUMM about Thomas Simon Musiciens sans Frontieres
Sound Monitor, Australia
WalkAbout: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Multi-instrumentalist Thomas Simon has been there, done that, and recorded the experience for proof. Austrian born, Simon relocated to New York City to further his musical career – a move which saw him gain experience in the ofttraveled indie-rock live circuit, score composition and the ever-expanding multimedia sector. So with film scores, live drama production and numerous independently released rock albums under his belt, there was only one thing left to do: travel the world armed with a camera, sound recording equipment and vague idea about a film and soundtrack release. Documenting his trips to Nepal, India, Brazil and back home to Austria, Simon invited musicians from the area to record with him. The sounds were then taken back to NYC, manipulated and fused together. As such the list of musicians and the instruments played read is a veritable tome of street-performers and spontaneous artists.
Sonically, it all comes together in an unusual mix of Dead Can Dance tribalism, Nine Inch Nails darkness, Moby funk, ... indie and Ennio Morricone squalls. Extensive tribal ‘jams’ are fused with big rock beats and sournote vocals, with dashes of industrialized rhythms.
‘Music is the Cure’ reminds this listener of the few Shihad b-sides that droned in lo-fi post-rock, while ‘Rock Jog’ comes off as a mid-eastern Led Zeppelin with it’s 70’s prog guitar tones and it’s tabla, flute and myriad of other instruments, while album closer ‘Wo Kann Mann Noch Leben’ further explores lo-fi post-rock with Brazilian percussion and dark vocals.
In summary, WalkAbout is an interesting if not necessarily cohesive recording, at times rockin’, at others soothing, and others still noisily disturbing, It is an album that’ll have the listener dreaming of places never visited, inspiring a longing for long-distance travel. - Warren Wheeler
Thomas Simon Brings His Kaleidoscopic, Psychedelic Sounds to the Gershwin Hotel (January 13th, 2011)
Thursday night Thomas Simon brought his swirling, psychedelic, cinematic sounds to the lowlit stage at the Gershwin Hotel. What he really needs for his live show is a big stadium and a bank of smoke machines. Although most of his compositions segued from one into the other, this was as close to a set of separate, clearly defined songs as Simon has done lately. Typically, he'll lay down a series of simple, catchy guitar loops, or a hypnotic drone and then add layers on top of it, sometimes going on for half an hour or more. It's virtually impossible to tell how much of this is actually composed, and how much he's making up on the spot, but either way, it's hypnotic and often mesmerizing. Backed only by a terrific percussionist who ran his djembe through a series of trance-inducing echo effects, Simon opened with Up Against the Wall, the centerpiece from most recent album Moncao (ranked in the top twenty on our Best Albums of 2010 list). Building with stately, ominous guitar fragments that evoked peak-era Syd Barrett, it grew to a percussive gallop. "Stop this bloody war," Simon whispered at one point: his lyrics have an improvisatory feel that seems to follow the mood of the music, or vice versa. Toward the end, they took the song down to an echoey thicket of fingertapping on the djembe before picking it up again: "There's no more time," Simon intoned against the distant, desolate grandeur of the atmospherics behind him. Although there were only two musicians onstage, they sounded like an entire guitar orchestra.
Much of the rest of the set evoked Bauhaus at their peak in the mid-80s, simple ascending progressions on the guitar, or brief series of chords that finally took on the shape of a distinct verse/chorus pattern on the evening's last song. At one point, the djembe player - who was using a wireless mic - took an extended walk through the audience, one of the concertgoers responding with some wildly ecstatic dance moves, adding some unexpected but welcome drama. Occasionally, Thomas would augment the ringing, reverb-drenched overtones with some rapidfire lead guitar flourishes that moved rapidly through the mix. A trip-hop beat slowly made its way into a couple of later songs before oscillating out with a rapidfire "whoosh;" on one occasion, the djembe was processed to the point of sounding almost like a wood flute. Ringing tritones dominated torward the end. "It's dark down here," Thomas announced at one point with a half-snarled, half-spoken murmur, which pretty much summed up the night. - LUCID CULTURE, NYC
“one of the most promising up & comers in the N.Y. scene”
Network of the World (NOW) UK
MUSIC WITHOUT FRONTIERS. Thomas Simon
An alternative to Bregovic
Tuesday, while part of the people in Cluj Napoca were attending the Goran Bregovic concert, alternative rock lovers gathered in Roland Garros where the New York band Thomas Simon Musiciens Sans Frontieres (photo) concert took place. The band's powerful recital started around 10pm and it lasted until midnight when the audience called them back on stage for an encore. For the audience this was an opportunity to sense the difference between Romanian and American bands and Thomas Simon's sound was exceptional. Stage presence was also at the highest level as singer Jillie Simon has worked in television and is also an actress. Her acting experience was clearly visible and she is for the most part responsible for the great show that Thomas Simon Musiciens Sans Frontieres had to offer.
LOVE THAT FUSION: Their band is like a fusion of Screaming Trees and Sophie B Hawkins. They have a slightly grungy psychedelic sound, and Jill has a sensuous stage presence and breathy vocals that seem to owe a bit to performance art. It's an intriguing and original sound that is often riveting."
"THE DAMNED, a rock musical featuring Thomas Simon has made this town take notice. Clever, moving performances have made this show a huge success and a hot ticket not to miss. "
CMJ New Music Report - JACKPOT!
- FUTURES -
Take Pat Benatar, cross her with Souxie Souix, dress her in a thrift shop burial gown, and the result might look and sound something like Jill, Love Alien's resident goth/goddess. Jill has been garnering rave reviews ( and probably more than her share of stalkers) as front-person for this busy NYC combo. The band itself musically quotes everyone from Echo & the Bunnymen to Love & Rockets, filtering it all through a Bauhausian psychedelic vibe. The electric buzz of the band's sound, combined with Jill's cooing, forms a spiraling blend of solid... musical ideas. Jill's voice would sound right at home at the bottom of some trip-hop groove or even (if produced properly) in the Top 40 dance-pop arena. Together, these two disparate elements - band and vocalist - combine to create a sound all their own; call it trip -grunge or maybe, grunge-hop. Whatever the label... if this wiry ensemble can capitalize on their own strengths, they might just escape the gravitational pull of New York's dark underbelly and explode into the limelight." - Greg Correo
“- an interesting amalgam of psychedelic space / alterna-rock with ethereal female vocals: mysticism collides with metal and sparks fly. I can understand the band's popularity with it's fans” - RA, Musician's Exchange
"The group cut it's teeth in Europe, performing around the continent to appreciative crowds and garnering the support of the European press (written up in Finnish music mag RYTMI and various Austrian papers). Love Alien has been equally well received here in the states, having just completed a successful US tour which took them through 12 cities and appearances at a number of high profile clubs like CBGB's and Webster Hall. Love Alien plays to the gap between goth and grunge - then effortlessly slips in and begins building a slender bridge for the daring to walk across. Love Alien's sound is both beautiful and heavy, dark and soaring - tension and release. Musically, the band nods to everyone from Love and Rockets to Iggy Pop to Screaming Trees, blanketing a rock-solid rhythm section with a psychedelic wash of buzzing guitar. Jill's sensuous stage presence and ethereal cooing vocals - somewhere between Souxie Sioux and the Cocteau Twins - complete the package..." - Joe Collier
Grunged-up, highly ominous and uniquely psychedelicized Gothic-style sonic rumbling. Jill's haunting, purring moan and Thomas Simon's husky growl trade off on the vocals, complementing each other beautifully. Simon's searing, fiercely lingering guitar rifts, Liorr Shulman's gutty drums, and Francois Gehin's dense, bottom-heavy bass lines vividly create a calmly flowing, throbbing, very brooding and sinister aural witch's brew that's every bit as creepy and compelling as it ought to be. - Joe Wawyrzniak
Get Out (Phoenix, AZ)
- "If I had a box, Love Alien would be in there with the Melvins and Trunk Federation" - Heather Nova
"In The Waves" "...a tasty mix of fuzzy, funky, jammy and grungy guitars and Jill's pure angelic voice...The music on the album is so good and Jill's voice is so pretty I had no choice but like it and listen again and again and again. If you need a positive and soulful change of pace, from your hard rock or hip-hop...give Love Alien a listen... mixes well with mellow grunge, Neil Young, Kate Bush, Phish and Tori Amos"