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Antarctica Takes It!

Up until a few months ago, Antarctica Takes It!’s MySpace page carried a simple message: “We’re currently taking a break while we write our new record. This time we’re using a microphone.”

The four piece, from Santa Cruz, CA, whose joyous folk pop has been compared to Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists and Beirut, weren’t kidding. A bedroom band put together by 22-year-old Dylan McKeever, Antarctica Takes It! recorded the songs on their debut, “The Penguin League”, straight onto a friend’s laptop, using the computer’s internal microphone. No problem if you’re a straightforward rock’n’roll band, but Dylan’s songs boasted an array of accordions, glockenspiels, cellos, ukuleles, trumpets, harmonicas and pianos.

The result should have been extremely lo-fi – and in places it is (you can actually hear the instruments battling for airpace at some points). But, overall, thanks to Dylan’s patience and prodigious talent, “The Penguin League” conjures a tiny orchestra out of thin air. From the opening “I’m No Lover” (featuring the cheery promise: “I will turn your lover’s bones into tiny violins to play when you die”), which sees mariachi horns collide with a rattling folk melody, to the magical “Flightless Birds”, which transports “Pet Sounds” to the Antarctic wastes, this is a record that sounds like it’s anywhere but a suburban bedroom on the American West Coast.

In fact, lyrically and spiritually, Antarctica Takes It! reside, as their name suggests, slightly further south. The album’s highlight, “Antarctica”, sees the band knee deep in a polar expedition ("We traced shapes across the starry skies/And made our way through each tender night/We heard the weary whales’ tune/And sang along ‘neath the silver moon"), while the photos for the cover and CD booklet were provided by Dr Samuel Silverstein, who headed the 1967 American Antarctic Mountaineering Expedition. Dr Silverstein also writes about his photos in the booklet, which makes this the first album to be released with sleevenotes by an Antarctic explorer.

Dylan McKeever introduces Antarctica Takes It!

Anarctica Takes It! began in the winter of 2004 where I started writing and recording songs in my room at the 218 on the westside of Santa Cruz, CA. One day I walked down the stairs to find a picture of a penguin wearing a radio-backpack taped to my bass drum and was inspired to name the band Penguin League after the mysterious picture. Vanessa was the second member of the band, contributing the lilting sounds of cello and later, violin.

In 2005 the band began holding rehearsals at the famed Beehive and recruited the lovely Maria on vocals and glockenspiel. In July of that year, the band started recording songs onto a friend's laptop computer using the computer's internal microphone. Later that year, Tyler joined the band providing his talents on keys and horns. It was during this period that the band played a number of house shows around Santa Cruz and decided to rename the band Antarctica Takes It!

Currently we're all between the ages of 22 and 24. All of us went to UCSC (University of California Santa Cruz). Maria and Vanessa were Art majors, Tyler and I were Literature majors. Maria is a big fan of the alcoholic and bitter-tasting "Sparks." She is very outgoing and expressive in a kind-of showtimey broadway-musical charisma. Vanessa is often fretful and sleepy at the same time. She is an excellent artist and was once a giant paper-mache ham for Halloween. Tyler is a genius of music and wit. He is impossibly energetic and owns about 57 keyboards and chord organs. Tyler and Maria are prone to argue vehemently about anything they can think of.

Before any of these songs developed I hadn't written anything in musical form. These are in fact the first songs I've ever written or recorded. Before they came about, I was usually too shy or self-conscious to try to sing or try to put words to the few guitar chords I knew. I had some rudimentary knowledge of how to play guitar and piano but oddly enough, my real forte was in playing the drums (and I feel it still is). I think it was largely my favorite band at the time, Belle & Sebastian, that really encouraged me to start trying to piece these songs together. I had been a big fan for years and had always dreamed of being able to make something sound as lovely and I think after listening to enough "If You're Feeling Sinister" I finally sat down and began writing and singing.

Another big influence was one of my close friend's bands named DAD. DAD played a show in my garage in 2004 that really spoke to me about how songs don't have to be complicated or heady in anyway, but that humor and beauty could be found through simplicity and heart.

The whole recording process was a rather lazy yet difficult ordeal. I had never made a recording before and thought that the quality of a laptop microphone sounded fine enough to my ears. Thus, every instrument, from trumpet to handclap to violin to vocals were recorded on the same laptop microphone. As time went on, I became a little more picky about the sound with its clips and hiss and distortion but was too stubborn to start over again or buy a microphone. I picked consistency over audio quality, although, today I've started using a real microphone.
After becoming a cohesive group, we toured around Northern California playing in San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno, and of course Santa Cruz.

To buy a copy of "The Penguin League" by Antarctica Takes It! go here



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how does it feel to be loved? record label - home of butcher boy, the uk label for "fill up the room" by saturday looks good to me





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