New Fugitive Waves – The Green Street Mortuary Band

New Fugitive Waves – The Green Street Mortuary Band

Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a poem about them.  Amy Tan’s mother was serenaded by them as she lay in state.  Jessica Mitford’s memorial procession was led by them. And more than 300 Chinese families a year hire the Green Street Mortuary Band to give their loved ones a proper and musical send-off through the streets of Chinatown.The band traces its roots back to 1911 and the Cathay Chinese Boys Band, the first marching group in Chinatown.

The Green Street Mortuary Band, made up of mostly Italians playing Christian hymns and dirges, accompanies traditional Chinese funeral processions through the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Tubas, gongs, firecrackers and spirit money tossed in the air, ward off evil spirits and carry on a tradition that dates back to 1911.


New Fugitive Waves: Taylor Negron: Portrait of an Artist as an Answering Machine

New Fugitive Waves: Taylor Negron: Portrait of an Artist as an Answering Machine

A look into the life of Taylor Negron— actor, comedian, and telephone message hoarder— told through the voicemails on his machine. We produced this piece with with Taylor’s dear friend producer Valerie Velardi in 1999 as part of the Lost & Found Sound series on NPR. Taylor died on January 10, 2015. We present this story in his honor.

Musical Monday – The End

Musical Monday – The End

Like the most glorious Star Wars marathon, or an extensive bout of food poisoning, our Musical Monday blog series has run its course and has reached its end.

Needless to say, there are still countless incredibly talented female musicians in the Bay Area, and our intern Max remains eager to tell their stories, and others, as he continues to learn and create both audio and written pieces for us. For the time being, his hipster talons remain lodged in our office.

Thanks for reading!

Musical Monday – Bells Atlas

Musical Monday – Bells Atlas

Some band names manage to sound pretty cool and ominous even if you have no idea what the heck they’re referring to, like Talking HeadsBeach House or The Men; there’s also a category of band names that take aim straight for your gut, like Diarrhea Planet or Fucked Up. But then there are bands whose names shine light on something more profound in their music; Bells Atlas is one of those bands.

The Oakland four-piece composes constellations of sound; layers and layers of percussion (including bells) that intertwine with melodic guitar lines and syncopated bass parts. In the middle of it all is Sandra Lawson-Ndu, whose fluid voice furls and unfurls, drawing you in and guiding you through the organized chaos. On standout track “Video Star,” the addition of a xylophone and backing vocals add to the swirling, hypnotic sound.

This past July Bells Atlas wrote and recorded a handful of new songs during a residency at Oakland’s Zoo Labs Studios. Each Monday this month, the band will be testing them out during a series of shows at Oakland’s ERA Bar, with a rotating cast of special guests.

Watch Bells Atlas play “Video Star,” and a short teaser on their residency at Zoo Labs, below.

Musical Monday – The Best of 2014

Musical Monday – The Best of 2014

With 2014 drawing to a close, our intern Max decided to put together a list of some of his favorite music of the year. However, his brain has been fried from a recent jaunt to the sauna, and so lacking the brain power to actually rank anything that he heard this year, he opted to give us a handful of 2014’s musical highlights.

Best Song About the Meaninglessness of Life – Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”

—Only Father John Misty can sing soul-crushing lines like “How many people rise and say, ‘My brain’s so awfully glad to be here for yet another mindless day?” and you kind of swoon.

Most Likely Explanation for Why You Want to Dress Like an Egyptian Goddess – FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”

—The video is as hypnotizing as the slow-burning jam. Plus, it’s good proof that it would be pretty awesome to have a bunch of miniature dancers for friends.

Best Growl – Future Islands’ Sam Herring

—Earlier this year Future Islands took the world by storm with their album Singles and their spectacular Letterman performance – already the stuff of legend. The song they performed, “Seasons (Waiting On You),” is pretty great, but hearing Herring hit those demonic Tom Waits growls live takes it to new heights.

Biggest, most Joyful and Euphoric “Thank God!” sigh of relief – D’Angelo – Black Messiah

—It’s been 14 years since D’Angelo released his iconic neo-soul record Voodoo. Then, just a couple weeks ago, he surprised the world with Black Messiah, an album he originally planned to release next year but moved up in light of the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Explaining the album’s title, D’Angelo says, ““For me, the title is about all of us. It’s about the world. It’s about an idea we can all aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah.”
In hindsight, it might be easy to say that we knew he had another incredible album in him, but for those of us who were holding our breath, the pay off is pure ecstasy.

Best Spoon Song – “Inside Out”

—This year the rock band Spoon they put out their eighth studio album, They Want My Soul. Standout track “Inside Out” ditches their brittle guitars for a hip-hop beat, dreamy synthesizers and Britt Daniel’s heartbreaking request to “Break out of character for me.”

Hip-Hop Beat That Most Sounds like a Pinball Machine – clipping – “Work Work”

—Are those steel drums or recorded pinball machines?! What’s happening??? The strange, rattling percussion builds slowly, until the thumping kick drum hops in and sets everything straight.

Hook That You’re Least Likely to Get Out of Your Head – Sharon Van Etten – “Even When the Sun Comes Up”

—This song is so simple: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, ooh-ah thing, chorus. But the titular refrain is pure magic, bringing to mind Fleetwood Mac’s sun-soaked Rumours.

Best Collaboration – Brian Eno and Karl Hyde – High Life

—Master-of-all Brian Eno and house / techno mainstay Jack Hyde team up for High Life, a wacky album of funky grooves that brings to mind Eno’s work on Talking Heads’ Remain in Light.

Best Guitar Work – St. Vincent

—It’s not just her technical strength, or her brilliant melodies. It’s the range of sounds that Annie Clark, also known as St. Vincent, can wrangle out of six strings. On “Rattlesnake,” from her self-titled album, the menacing climactic riff crashes through the buzz of the synthesizers and never lets go.

A Note from Ira Glass: Support the Sisters

A Note from Ira Glass: Support the Sisters

Dear Friends,

For all of us doing documentaries on public radio, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva
are iconic figures. The Senior Producer of the radio show I run, This American Life, got into radio because she heard one of their stories over two decades ago. She’d never heard anything like it.

The Kitchen Sisters’ stories are intimate and lively and often joyful in a way few things on the radio ever achieve. These are stories about everyday people, done with such originality and charm. There’s no other word for it. I admire their whole mission and the expert way they pull it off.

There’s also a side of their mission which is about preserving and remembering various histories and subcultures. That’s obvious, but just to say. There’s a anthropological side to their documenting.

Everything they do reaches millions of people over radio and internet, but unlike
This American Life,
which has underwriters and donations and plenty of money as a result, what Nikki and Davia do is hard to fund. They’re making stories that are much more labor-intensive than the average news story, but they’re paid by NPR at the rates that normal reporters on quick-turnaround stories get.

Which means they need money. It’s built into their deal. I hope you help them with your support.

Thanks and happy holidays,
Ira Glass


Musical Tuesday – Roman Ford Coppola

Our intern Max takes the beloved, cranky old elevator down into the basement of our office at the American Zoetrope Building to interview film maker Roman Coppola about “Molto Groovy Christmas,” an album of reimagined Christmas standards he recently produced with the Italian musician Carlo Poddighe.

Musical Monday – Sugar Candy Mountain

Musical Monday – Sugar Candy Mountain

This week, we’ve got a musical double punch
To accompany your coffee and your Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Two songs from Oakland’s Sugar Candy Mountain,
Smooth like water rushing from a fountain

These two tracks play back to back,
The drums have such a terrific thwack!
Recorded in Oakland, and Brazil too,
Held together by cross-cultural glue!

The first, “Saudade Love,” might be a bummer,
If it wasn’t as sweet as sunshine in the summer
Saudade, if you don’t know, is Portuguese,
Translates to melancholy, but no need to say “Jeez,

Kitchen Sisters, it’s the beginning of the week,
I’m just waking up; I can feel my bones creak!”
The melodies will get lodged in your head
And get you flying right out of your bed!

Then there’s “Lovely Time,” the yin to the yang,
Replacing slow motion with an upbeat twang
Is that a sitar, a guitar, or a mix of the two
A perfect addition to the SCM stew!

We hope these songs help start your Monday well
And teleport you out of an email backlog hell,
Until the next time, Misses and Misters,
From your friends here at the Kitchen Sisters!

Sugar Candy Mountain releases their LP “Mystic Hits” tomorrow on Royal Oakie Records, and Sugar Candy Mountain’s Ash Reiter plays the Chapel on 12/19 with Foxtails Brigade and the Tambo Rays. Listen to “Saudade Love” and “Lovely Time” below.

Musical Monday – tUnE-yArDs

Musical Monday – tUnE-yArDs

Off-kilter, skittering drums booming like a wounded elephant. Wordless ‘oohs’ and bird-like singing layered until your head might explode. A menacing, brilliantly awkward bass line lurking in the background. And Merrill Garbus’ acidic words: “I’m not your fantasy flesh that fits you like a tight glove.” A harsh indictment of sexual objectification, “Real Live Flesh” catches you off guard. It’s in your face, spare and glaring. It leaves you nowhere to hide.

In the five years since recording the live version of “Real Live Flesh,” below, tUnE-yArDs has gone on to bring her weird brand of pop music to adoring crowds the world over. While the project started as a solo endeavor, featuring Garbus playing ukulele and drums with her face painted and howling like Nina Simone on Halloween, she has added, in various incarnations, bass, saxophones, backup singers, a second drummer and synthesizers. Political messages and themes of social injustice are still a huge part of her music (her 2011 album whokill was originally titled Women Who Kill), and on this year’s Nikki Nack she belts “I come from the land of slaves / Let’s go Redskins, let’s go Braves!” Beneath the countless instruments that tUnE-yArDs brings to her maximalist recordings, the poignancy of her words can be lost in the melee of noise.

When tUnE-yArDs returns to the Fox Theater for a much-anticipated hometown show this Thursday with Cibo Matto, expect a party; the euphoric over-the-top surges of sound and syncopated, belted voices. You may not hear the sparse brutality of old songs like “Real Live Flesh,” but that doesn’t mean the message isn’t still there. You may just have to listen a little harder.

Watch tUnE-yArDs play “Real Live Flesh” below.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

A few years back we were given a tour of the Queen’s beehives at Royal Park in London by Mike Gill, one of the Queen’s beekeepers. Justine Thieriot, who has been interning with The Kitchen Sisters these past months took over the tape and has created her first-ever radio story, The Queen’s Beekeeper. On Giving Tuesday we are proud to give it to you.

Also, on Giving Tuesday we ask you to give to The Kitchen Sisters to help support our intern and mentoring program and expand this vital part of our mission– to share our skills with the next generation of journalists, podcasters and public radio storytellers.

Justine is just the tip of the sonic iceberg here at The Kitchen Sisters. This year seven interns have worked with us – Kenny Gong, Mikayla McVey, Laura Klivans, Max Levenson Savage, Anne Hoffman, Eliza Smith… all new voices to watch out for. Some have gone on to journalism school, some are starting their first professional reporting jobs, one started an experimental folk band that toured the west coast in a school bus. All created startling new works while here.

The support you give The Kitchen Sisters makes our stories, workshops and documentary work possible and makes it possible for us to keep our intern and mentorship program alive and thriving. Your contribution will go a long way in helping cover the costs of running the program — office rental, computers, ProTools, recording field kits… Our production equipment is getting a little long in the tooth and needs some serious refreshing. It’s amazing what our interns are doing with the jalopies we have for them to work on now. It’s time for an upgrade.

Thank you for your generous support and for being a part of the ever-expanding Kitchen Sisterhood. We hope you enjoy Justine’s story as much as we do.

Mike Gill is no longer tending the Queen’s bees, but here’s what he had to say when he was.


All best,

Davia & Nikki