My Favorite Became a Favorite
UMEA Festival feature
March 27, 2004
written by Ulf Henriksson, translation by L. Almqvist
So fragile, so much energy and such warmth. My Favorite offered their own living room when they played at Applet on friday night. Despite some technical difficulties, the band's warmth carried through to the audience. This usually happens when a band is obviously having so much fun on stage.
I had the privilege to interview the band a few hours before their performance. It turns out that they've visited Sweden twice before and have a pretty good familiarity with swedish music.
"One of the good things about being in a band is that the fans are sending us so much music. It's always exciting when you open your mailbox and you find something from another country", says Michael Grace Jr.
It was Swedish fans that e-mailed the band and asked them to play at Umea open.
"So then we contacted the festival board and now we are here" , says Andrea Vaughn laughing.
The band was formed around 10 years ago. The members were a gang of friends and still are to this day. But it's not until these last years that My Favorite started to take the music more seriously.
"In the begining, only a guitar based music was popular and people looked at us funny when we were using a synthesizer", says Michael.
You can't read an article about My Favorite when encountering a Smiths or New Order reference.
"We all grew up with that music", says Michael laughing," so it's not strange that it's noticeable."
A few hours later at Applet, My Favorite instantly charmed two to three hundred people in the audience. Constantly smiling and with their music that's both heavy and incredibly poppy cuts through all resistance. just the fact that the drummer with the suspicious name, Todbot, rises during the final song and eagerly photographs the audience makes you like them.
The guitarist, Darren Amadio, sounds just like Johnny Marr and is a pure pleasure to hear. It was sad that due to electrical problems, that you could not hear him during the first song.
"You've missed a great guitar solo there, guys", says the band to the audience." Some things you do not miss till they're gone."
I miss them already..........
Sweet and Tender Hooligans
February 4, 2004
by Chris Muther
When Belle and Sebastian recently performed in New York, the Scottish popsters specifically requested the presence of one band to open the show. Nope, it wasn't Hall & Oates, but good guess. It was the Long Island ensemble called My Favorite. It's really no surprise that B&S would be drawn to the Long Island band's chirpy pop melodies and dark, quixotic lyrics. Titles such as "The Suburbs are Killing Us," "Homeless Club Kids," and "James Dean (Awaiting Ambulance)," could even make Morrissey smile. If you dig the titles, just wait until you hear the music. And tonight you can. My Favorite stops by T.T. The Bear's Place at 9 with an opening set from Jeffrey Simmons and the Symptoms. Tickets are $7. 10 Brookline St., Cambridge, 617-492-2327.
January 30, 2004
It's not hard at all to see why Long Island's My Favorite have become a favorite of such twee-pop fanatics as Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch. With charmingly distant male and female leads, a clutch of clever and bashful indie-synth-pop gems, and self-consciously moony lyrics about dancing by oneself ("Loneliness is pornography to them/but to us it's an art"), they're something like a more-ravishing, better-produced Magnetic Fields. Their latest, The Happiest Days of Our Lives (Double Agent), crams the doomed love affairs of artists and architects between goth-rock in-jokes ("White Roses for Blue Girls") and homages to the Cure ("Badge") and the Smiths ("The Suburbs Are Killing Us"); a bonus disc features remixes by neo-synth-poppers from Future Bible Heroes to Soviet.
NY Daily News
Tackling Angst is My Favorite's Thing
January 16, 2004
by Isaac Guzman
Joan of Arc has been the subject of paintings, plays, novels and films, but it's safe to say that My Favorite is the first New York pop band that has paid tribute to the French saint with a song cycle about the ennui and angst of alienated teenagers.
On the band's second album, "The Happiest Days of Our Lives," songs such as "Homeless Club Kids" and "The Suburbs Are Killing Us" lament the fading idealism of adolescence, drawing a skewed comparison to Joan's fervent belief in her vision.
The band, which plays Sunday at the Pussycat Lounge and Monday at the Mercury Lounge, has developed a strong cult following here and a rabid one in Sweden, where leader Michael Grace says that fans appreciate My Favorite's "reckless American chaos and emotions."
They've even turned Scottish phenoms Belle and Sebastian into followers, landing an opening slot at the acclaimed group's shows at Town Hall in November.
My Favorite's recent success has come as something of a relief to Grace, who felt for a long time that his bohemian vision of being a musician - cultivated while listening to albums by the Cure and the Smiths in his Long Island hometown - had failed him.
That's when he heard a lecture by Armon DeVille about something the radio psychologist called the "Joan of Arc Complex," which outlined teenagers' need to find an identity in rebellion.
"We were growing up in the suburbs, where you're quite likely to feel like you may not belong," he says. "You surround yourself with music, books and film because you relate to them. But you also began to resemble them.
"It was a passionate, beautiful thing to be on the outside, but it was lots of fun wasted on just playing keyboards in the dark."
Writing the song cycle, Grace says, gave him a new sense of hope in music, and, despite the mopey themes of "Happiest Years," the album possesses an oddly optimistic quality.
"I came out pretty inspired by the joy of playing music and telling stories," Grace says, adding that the trappings of mild success helped.
"And hanging out with B-level supermodels isn't so bad."
New York Newsday
Grown-Up Teens Sing of Auld Angst Syne
January 19, 2004
by Mar Yvette
Are you now, or have you ever been, a depressed teenager?
If so, the band My Favorite has made a record just for you.
Let's be more specific: If you grew up mainly within the walls of your suburban bedroom reading poetry, sobbing along with The Smiths and wishing you could run away to Europe - because that's where you "really belong" - then My Favorite's "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" (Double Agent) is definitely for you. Especially if you've just turned 30 - and still feel exactly the same.
The record's message: You're not alone. Lead singer Andrea Vaughn sings in a sweet, sad voice over wistful synthesizers and danceable rhythms. The songs hark back to New Order and Depeche Mode, while at the same time acknowledging that the 1980s are no more. "With our figureheads in cut-out bins/Even punks need safety pins," Vaughn sighs on "Rescue Us." Chief songwriter Michael Grace adds his rougher, darker vocals to "The Suburbs Are Killing Us," insisting, "A pathetic mythology is better than no mythology at all."
For years, My Favorite was dismissed as a retro-nostalgia act: When the band started out in the grunge-obsessed mid-1990s, synthesizers were decidedly uncool. But "Happiest Days" is coinciding with a surge of bands who use keyboards and drum machines to create introverted, melodic pop. Suddenly, My Favorite sounds surprisingly current alongside hip indie acts like The Postal Service, Stars and The Magnetic Fields.
"Happiest Days" received glowing reviews from Billboard magazine and RollingStone.com, and has been warmly received by college radio stations. (It reached a respectable No. 42 on the College Music Journal's album chart.) Recently, Belle & Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch asked My Favorite to open its show at Manhattan's Town Hall.
"We haven't really changed that much," says Grace on a recent afternoon before a show at Southpaw, a nightclub in Brooklyn's Park Slope. "But people are more receptive to the subtext of what we're doing."
Grace is sitting in a small, noisy cafe (which just happens to be playing New Order's "Blue Monday"). It's the perfect setting for a pop singer who also teaches art at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. In fact, Grace is dressed more for the classroom than the stage: argyle sweater, jeans, tweed blazer.
Next to him is the blond, almost perfectly round-faced Vaughn, the band's resident chanteuse. She says little but tends to be direct: Asked their ages, it's Grace who hesitates before revealing he's over 30, while Vaughn answers immediately that she just exited her 20s.
The band's five members all hail from Long Island: Grace, Vaughn, guitarist Darren Amadio and bassist Gil Abad attended Ronkonkoma's Sachem High School. While attending Stony Brook University, they met their drummer, known simply as Todbot. One by one, they have moved to different parts of New York City. Their love-hate relationship with the suburbs, however, continues, and therein lies the emotional resonance of their music.
"Whether it's some small town in Sweden or in New Jersey or Florida, the majority of people live some distance from feeling a part of real life," says Grace. "Most people live in some kind of suburban experience. That's one level people can relate to us on."
But there's a deeper level, too: The sense that the dreamy, depressing music of the '80s was not just formative but also damaging. "We're all orphans of a break in musical history where you kind of gave up on happiness," says Grace. "It's that legacy of having been changed enough to know your own difference, but not necessarily having anywhere to go."
That theory seems to click with fans: My Favorite drew a packed crowd to the upstairs room at The Knitting Factory in Manhattan for its recent CD release party, and its show at Southpaw brought in a respectable crowd on a freezing evening. The band is hoping to capitalize on this newfound momentum with a tour of select U.S. and European cities this year.
"Our fans are people who relate to us," says Grace. "And there are enough people like that around the world. Certainly, at least enough to put me in a decent loft, I hope."
Music Picks of the Week
December 04, 2003
J. Edward Keyes
Though the obvious jumping-off point for New York pop band My Favorite is mid-'80s New Wave, the mournful four-piece has more on its agenda than empty revivalism. The band's last three EPs (ostensibly a miniseries about Joan of Arc) offer moribund accounts of suburban malaise and adolescent insanity, turning the melodrama of the New Romantics into a tart-tongued black comedy. Favorite is just as eager to rifle through Goth's back closet as they are to pluck a lick from Johnny Marr, but while some bands resort to shameless aping, My Favorite manages to retain a startling, singular sound. Michael Grace's dour baritone and Andrea Vaughn's exhausted alto seem forever embattled, and the all the twinkling guitars and fretting pianos only underscore their grim, acidic quips. In an age of self- important shams, My Favorite's style, synths and smarts form a bizarre love triangle indeed.
Gear Magazine, January 2001
TOP 100 Hottest People, Places, and Things on the Planet
#97 My Favorite A pack of New Order fanatics from Long Island, New York, My Favorite's sterling debut LP, Love At Absolute Zero, filtered love, youth and longing through a pulsing synthesizer heart, achieving a warmth and immediacy their inspirations lacked.
Long Island Voice
Musicians on the Verge II:
Soul Robots are people, too
May 21, 1998
by Andrew Friedman
Michael Grace Jr., lead singer and chief songwriter for the electronic pop band My Favorite, walks down the wooden dock on the water in Port Jefferson. In his usual black and white attire--today, a pair of casual white tennis shoes, shorts and a black T-shirt--he passes the floating ships, rounds a corner and sits down on the dock. He has come this way so many times before, and people always ask him why he walks and walks around the sleepy streets of Port Jefferson.
During those long, slow walks in the sun, Grace is likely thinking about the band. He may be thinking about how to sing a song in his romantic, soaring tenor and where to splash in with a bold falsetto. Or maybe he's thinking about isolation, action and the secret poetry of suburban life, or Love at Absolute Zero, the band's tentatively titled, first full-length record which they began recording last May. Grace thinks about all of these things.
But today, he happens to be thinking about the canvas of the Long Island Sound. "I need to get a video camera out here," says Grace, 26, who also works as a visual artist and has garnered a name for himself by approaching My Favorite's live shows as artistic events. "I have this footage of television static that looks like light on water. Now I want light on water that looks like television static."
Drawing the connection between hissing technological static and the sequin-dress flash of light on water, Grace has just revealed the key to the My Favorite ideology: searching for the flicker of love and the human heart in the mechanistic coolness of modern times. It's obvious in every one of the tragic teen-age anthems and desperate calls for new beginnings the band delivers with silver-streaked synthesizers, elegant guitar effects and polyrhythmic beats. Just listen to the names: "You Belong With Us," "Go Kid Go," "Absolute Beginners Again," "The Informers." By embracing the tools of cold futurism, My Favorite becomes more human than any unshaven guy with an acoustic guitar.
And for a band without a full-length record, they have already met with remarkable success. Their first singles on Swingset and Harriet Records won them airplay on The John Peel Show in England and the CMJ single of the month, respectively. They're beloved in Europe, where their impeccable sense of modish fashion, dexterous embrace of marginalized music like new wave, reggae, disco, glam and camp and their sense of high drama are much appreciated.
With this in mind, My Favorite's position on Long Island is all the more bizarre. These old friends who went to Sachem High together have always felt a profound otherness. To put it in Breakfast Club terms, which they often do, you see them as you want to see them: the artist/visionary, the librarian, the tennis player, the fashion maven, the photographer. But in reality Grace, singer-keyboardist Andrea Vaughn, guitarist Darren Amadio, impossibly good drummer Tod (whom they met while students at SUNY Stony Brook) and bassist Gilbert Abad have built a small, secluded space for themselves in their music, where performance, dynamic melodies, meaningful lyrical stories, actual singing--even crooning--and musically enveloping guitar parts are norms, not anathema.
They dare to say that things have meaning. "You have to perceive everything as a movie that you're starring in and, to try to develop the themes of this film, to activate yourself as the lead character and fight toward resolution," Grace says, in step with his self-guided, epic outlook on the world. "The film always goes on, but I think some people stop perceiving themselves as at odds and just try to make the best out of what they consider the hand they've been given."
Existing at odds with the world is the centerpiece of what the band's about--the subversive point of view. In high school, they were too weird, too not-classic rock. In New York's indie pop scene, they were always too art. They celebrate the 1980s, a decade most everybody seems to want to forget or make fun of. They respond to modern disillusionment and politics by singing rather than screaming. They incorporate ska and soul, but don't play party third-wave. Yet ironically--although they are not ironic in the least--the otherness that places them perpetually on the outside is exactly what makes them so good. My Favorite is not so much a band gunning for fame or acceptance, but more a conceptual project wrapped up in dreams. "Even early on, Michael had these absurd ideas about conceptual albums in, like, seventh grade," says guitarist Darren Amadio, 26. "We were trying to write conceptual albums before we knew what a chord was. That tells you where the focus of the band has always been."
The record, now in post-production at Glen Cove's Tiki Studios, should be finished before fall. Compiled from songs written over the past five years, it represents the first chapter of My Favorite, a patchwork of punk energy and electronic melody run through years of disco, soul and poetry. Yet since they've been working on it for so long--get the record out, finish the record, just wait until the record comes out--no one quite knows what will happen in the coming year. It's all up to the record. "Some of the songs are years old," says Vaughn, 25. "We feel like we owe it to our history to make them sound good. All of our late teens and twenties are invested and culminating in the record. It's the close of a whole period. Once it's done, we'll move on...to whatever happens next."
Back on the docks, Grace climbs to his feet and walks back to the shore. He passes a little white marble sailor boy holding a spyglass. "I always wanted to get my picture taken with my arm around that statue," he says. "Just two sailors staring out to sea."
My Favorite: Long Island's U.K. Sound-Alikes
by Mar Yvette
Describing My Favorite's sound is best done in oxymoron. Somber sprightliness. Eighties millennial. American U.K. With the can't-go-wrong vocal pairing of Michael Grace Jr.'s moody tenor and Andrea Vaughn's delicate melodies, the group - which also includes Darren Amadio and Gilbert Abad - weaves thoughtful, Smiths-like lyrical melancholy with "now" wave sensibilities. A sublime blend of progressively retro sounds, the group is an answer for all those bemoaning the lack of original pop and overabundance of poop in today's music market.
Praised for their 1999 full-length album, Love At Absolute Zero, in magazines like Alternative Press and Paper, My Favorite's latest endeavor, Joan of Arc Awaiting Trial, is the first installment in a three-part series of EP's that will focus on the title's historically intriguing character. By fitting personal experience into a loose structure of this well-known story, Grace wanted to harness the allure of the Joan character while probing the psychology of what he feels are similar circumstances in the lives of many people today. "With these EP's I gave myself a premise. There came a point when I began seeing my friends and I going through this martyrdom complex where we thought that we had a calling that was distinct and divine and yet our voices were not being heard. It's like this great conceit that I related to Joan of Arc." Take the wonderfully penned "L=P" for example. " I had a friend who became a sort of dorm room head case, and in her own way she reminded me of Joan's imprisonment," reveals Grace. "By waiting for various men to validate her she became an unacceptable figure on a college campus. And it wasn't the sex that was pornographic, but her loneliness. Just like the lyric says, 'Loneliness is pornography to them but to us it is an art.' I guess by making a direct parallel to Joan of Arc I was encouraging her not to break down under inquisition.
"With these EP's I'm definitely playing with the idea that the true artist is always going to be some imprisoned figure who will somehow suffer for the sake of his or her art. That's what really interested me about the Joan of Arc mythology. You've got the traditional French Christian view of her as a saint, a visionary, and someone who was pure and true. But then there is the British interpretation that labeled her as a witch, a whore, a charlatan, and a fraud. It was these dividing views on the Joan of Arc character that led me to question that whole tormented artist cliché. Does an artist truly have to suffer and if so, why? Are you suffering for some divine inspiration or are you suffering for some petty conceit?"
Not attempting to proffer a definitive solution for his listeners, Grace still hopes that by the end of the third EP, he will have come closer to an answer. "I think that the answer is somewhere in the middle. I don't think that we're all frauds in need of some deep psychoanalysis," he colorfully explains. " Nor do I think that every coffeehouse manic-depressive poet is in touch with something pure. There's something in between those two extremes." As the modest Grace shares, "I know we'll never become this wildly popular pop band. I have no great claim to history. But this is my moment, this is my gesture, and if what we do means something good to you then that's about all I can ask for."