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about

Hailed as "eclectic, steadfast and powerful" (PopMatters) and "taut, urgent and altogether haunting" (Ground Control) NYC's Bipolar Explorer bring their emotive, moody indie-rock dreampop vibe to this new collection of Christmas songs. Featuring one original holiday composition and new arrangements of four traditional carols, recorded, according to the band, "live, noisily and in a hurry" at their studio in Hell's Kitchen. (Slugg Records)

Ground Control Magazine Dec 7, 2014 feature "Bipolar Explorer Work a Double-Shift Through the Holidays":

"New York’s minimalist indie rockers Bipolar Explorer are poised to release two new EPs this month: Angels, the follow-up to their celebrated double-record Of Love and Loss (Slugg Records) as well as a Christmas EP entitled BPXmas (out now digitally and as a CD on December 17). Indeed, I have it on as I write this. I’m not entirely certain what I expected but it’s kind of brilliant. And voluntarily having selected “repeat all," I have to say it’s getting under my skin.

Christmas music. It’s a dodgy prospect. I’m not sure I can take another holiday season hearing Sir Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” as I stamp about Trader Joe’s looking for some decent French Roast. But I wouldn’t mind at all coming across BPX’s moody “Emmanuel”, haunting “In The Bleak Midwinter” or their downright raucous “The First Noel” (yeah, they went there…) in any grocery aisle. There’s even a kind of joy in their ghostly half-German, half-English cover of “Silent Night." It may be more Joy Division than Joy to the World, but that might actually be a good thing.

BPXmas (a mash-up play on words of the band’s acronym, BPX, and that of Christmas itself) is comprised of those four traditional carols - in new arrangements ranging from moody shoegaze to jangly dreampop with a sturdy bit of the ruins of CBGB’s undergirding the lot – plus one new original composition, “It’s Christmas, Sweetheart," penned by frontman, lead guitarist and singer, Michael Serafin-Wells.

Inevitably, The Ghosts of Christmases Past attend and inform the proceedings – like every Bipolar Explorer record, this one is dedicated to the memory of their fallen bandmate, Michael’s late-girlfriend and partner, Summer Serafin, who died in a tragic accident in 2011 at the age of 31. But somehow that very gravitas only adds to the shimmer of this collection of tracks – it anchors them, still finding the very holiday-appropriate voicing of gratitude for ever having found “a life of love, so better led”, as Serafin-Wells sings to her on “It’s Christmas, Sweetheart," the EP’s opening track.
Interest piqued, I caught up with Michael via Skype from the band’s studio in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen…

Daryl 'Darko' Barnett vs. Michael Serafin-Wells
DDB: Hey.
MSW: Hey, man!
DDB: So, tell me about this.
MSW: BPXmas?
DDB: Like, yeah. A Christmas record. What…?
MSW: Could possibly have possessed us?
DDB: That and, yeah, how did you pick the tracks. And, yeah, tell me…
MSW: Okay.
DDB: Tell me about all that.
MSW: So the idea for BPXmas came from a friend of mine – the filmmaker, Heather Winters - she produced “Supersize Me” and directed last year’s “Two: The Story of Roman & Nyro” - who really loved that Christmas single we put out last year and suggested we do an album in that vein. So, while at work on our next “proper” album – the Angels EP – we simultaneously began putting together this collection of holiday songs. I tried to think of Christmas records I liked and immediately thought of two – Low’s full-length (simply called “Christmas”) a few years back and the BBC’s annual broadcast of “A Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols” by the King’s College Cambridge Choir, which I taped off the radio one year and always listen to on Radio 4 at Christmas Eve. That’s where we got “In The Bleak Midwinter." I don’t think it’s real widely known in the US.
DDB: I like that Low record.
MSW: Right? They’re a huge inspiration and influence for us. I just love them. We all do. And that’s one of the things about it, ya know…
DDB: About the original?
MSW: Yeah. One of the things I love about Low’s record is that they actually had the nerve/balls to write a couple of originals in addition to re-working holiday standards, so I sat down and had a go myself. That’s the opening track. I had the little riff and the jangly kinda chorus playing my Tele through a short delay and I was trying to find the words. I kept singing “It’s Christmas” and then the next line sorta wordlessly, just looking for the sound of it, over and over, until it just came out: “Sweetheart." I really feel that Summer gave that to me. Like she was sitting here looking over my shoulder while I played and just whispered the word into my ear because I could barely sing it for crying the first several times it came out of my mouth.
DDB: Tell me about “Emmanuel”.
MSW: We…
DDB: You guys had this one, right?
MSW: Exactly. Emmanuel" is our moody reworking of the already rather moody traditional carol, “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel”. This was the single we put out last year just on its own that prompted Heather to say we should do a whole album. This is a new re-mix and newly mastered from that session. It seemed right it should be on the EP, as it was sorta the genesis of the whole thing. I guess you could call it “Emmanuel (2014)” like The Police did with “Don’t Stand So Close to Me (’86)” or something. Like if you wanna get technical…
DDB: God forbid.
MSW: That was their first reunion. You remember that?
DDB: Vaguely. I think.
MSW: They got back together to do some new tracks. They’d broken up…
DDB: After “Synchronicity”.
MSW: Right. And like the first day, Copeland gets into a punch -up with Sting, falls down and breaks his fucking arm.
DDB: Oh, yeah…
MSW: And couldn’t play the drums. He was in a sling for the rest of the..
DDB: So, they just did the one track.
MSW: Right. And then like stalked off for another twenty years.
DDB: I hope you guys don’t do that.
MSW: No. No, we’re good.
DDB: Thank god.
MSW: Sadder but wiser.
DDB: I can see that.
MSW: Hey, do you know this English one?
DDB:In "The Bleak Midwinter?"
MSW: You spent some time over there, right?
DDB: Ireland, mostly.
MSW: I don’t know too many people over here who know it. And we weren’t entirely sure how to approach it, really. We just loved it – it’s so haunting – and we knew it had to be on the record. So we just kept trying it in practice and at a certain point let it devolve into heavy delay and chaos a bit before bringing it back really quiet and still at the end. There’s like seven verses so we thought we’d do that thing going back and forth between singing and spoken. It’s kind of very us. Like very us right now. Trying to explore those kind of dynamic shifts so that the song takes you somewhere. Like you travel with it. Ya know? There’s a lot of this on the new record. On Angels, I mean…
DDB: So…Track 4.
MSW: Uh-huh.
DSB: "The First Noel."
MSW: Yeah.
DDB: That’s a real change up.
MSW: Thanks. I think.
DDB: No, it’s good just…
MSW: "Noel" is something of a return to our Westerberg-ian, Replacements-esque roots or something, I think. A kinda punk rock hoedown with a little Luke 2: 8-14 - the “Linus” Bible verse- thrown in for good measure. For love & faith. It’s ridiculously fun to play.
DDB: It sounds like it. I mean…
MSW: It really is.
DDB: … I can imagine you guys.
MSW: Like in practice.
DDB: … just killing it.
MSW: It’s really fun. And we’ll do that, ya know, between moody shoegaze moments. Like break into (The Velvet Underground’s) “What Goes On”. Or like “Rumble”.
DDB: The Link Wray…
MSW: … instrumental, yeah. Just loud and nasty and “rrrang rrrang rrrrraaang!” We sound check with that.
DDB: You guys need to play out here.
MSW: [laughing] I know! Can you hook us up?
DDB: Let me see what I can do.
MSW: Church basement.
DDB: Children’s birthday parties?
MSW: All that, yeah. I mean, bring it on!
DDB: I’m making the mental note.
MSW: Ha. Thanks!
DDB: But before I let you go…
MSW: Yeah.
DDB: Oh, there’s one more.
MSW: Right. Right.
DDB: "Silent Night."
MSW: It’s originally a German carol. Did you know that?
DDB: I’m not sure I did.
MSW: Yeah. We thought about learning it phonetically but instead we just lapse into the German between the second and third verses and chorus. Like if you listen closely. The vocal is a bit back in the mix. The guitars are farther up front. And sleighbell, which we’re using less rhythmically than atmospherically. The whole track is meant to have that kind of woozy, dream state feeling. Like post-hypnotic or something. And Summer is on the track in a big way. I made this soundscape of some her spoken word stuff and then mixed that mix into the mix.
DDB: Summer’s on Angels, as well?
MSW: Oh, yeah. She’ll always be. I’ve got a lot – thank god, I do – I’ve got lots of her stuff yet that we were working on. She’ll always be on the records. Always.
DDB: So…
MSW: Yeah.
DDB: Anything else?
MSW: Well, first – just thanks.
DDB: Of course.
MSW: And just… I think…
DDB: Yeah?
MSW: I just wanna say, I think, all in all, BPXmas – weird little Christmas record notwithstanding - is a really good representation of the different things we do and where we are now – particularly when you hear it with the other EP, with the forthcoming one, with Angels. Time-wise, because we got hung up with artwork, we weren’t able to quite do the simultaneous double drop of twin EPs. Both CDs are going to look really gorgeous – Sean (Lahey)’s work is amazing, and Scott (Bezsylko)’s photos and Elizabeth Gadd’s amazing cover for Angels – but, ya know… What’s that thing Strummer says? He’s talking about Mick always being late. “Talent’s worth waiting”. I think we’ll have Angels out now New Year’s Day. But the two have a relationship to each other, are part of a conversation, somehow. It has a cohesion, I think, taking the two together. They inform each other in rotation. Anyway, I can’t wait for you to hear them, actually…
DDB: Same here.
MSW: Okay, then.
DDB: Til then.
MSW: Thanks, man.
DDB: Thank you.

Bipolar Explorer are an NYC-based minimalist indie rock group founded by Summer Serafin (vocals) and former Uncle frontman Michael Serafin-Wells (lead guitar & vocals, bass and percussion). The drummer-less group - once quoted as being “basically not-quite-former punk rockers who decided to try playing not so damn loud and without a drummer, partly out of necessity and partly to see if we liked it” - are currently poised to release both this Christmas EP, BPXmas, and the follow-up to their celebrated double-album, Of Love and Loss, an EP called Angels, on Slugg Records .

credits

released December 2, 2014

Label: Slugg Records
c. p. 2014 Bipolar Explorer.

"It's Christmas, Sweetheart" by Michael Serafin-Wells, Thirteen November Music (ASCAP), all others traditional (arr: Serafin-Wells).
All rights reserved. www.bipolarexplorer.info

Summer Serafin – vocals
Michael Serafin-Wells – guitars, vocals, bass, percussion

... guitarist emeritus hiatus – Sean Lahey

Recorded live, noisily and in a hurry at The Shrine - Hell’s Kitchen, New York City.

Produced by Bipolar Explorer.
Art direction: Sean Lahey
Photos: Scott Bezsylko
Mastering: Scott Craggs – Old Colony

As ever, this record is of, for and about our fallen bandmate, my love and partner, Summer Lindsay Serafin (11/13/79 – 3/18/11). “She was like that device they use in open heart surgery that cracks your chest open and holds it gaping, wide, so you can be healed. That fragile little muscle, scarred and scared and on the verge of giving out, giving up, held now, tenderly, in her expert hands, beneath her loving, healing gaze. Love you forever. Goodnight, little sweetheart... -Michael Serafin-Wells, New York City - December 2014

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Bipolar Explorer New York, New York

"Magical & majestic. Unforgettable & essential" -Indiemusic (France).

"Great, beautiful, drifty-pop filled with sadness & wonder" -WFMU.

"Epic & affecting"-Surface Noise.

"The most significantly stirring & addictive musical accomplishment we've come across in some time. Taut, urgent and altogether haunting" -Ground Control.

NYC-based dreampop. Founded by Summer & Michael Serafin-Wells.
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Track Name: It's Christmas, Sweetheart
In dreams I weep to wake from
Because I'm bound to you
Oh, thank god for the day
I was ever found by you
The snow was falling
And so did I
So sweet and kind and true
It made me cry
To ever have to say goodbye

It's Christmas, Sweetheart

I can feel your footstep on the stair
Smell your ginger sweetness in the air
And I know you're everywhere

It's Christmas, Sweetheart

I can feel your footstep on the stair
All I want is just for you
To take me with you there

In dreams I weep to wake from
Because I'm bound to you
Oh, thank god for the day
I was ever found by you
So I'll remember, darling
What you said
About a life of love, so better led

It's Christmas, Sweetheart

(Spoken)
Michael: Happy Christmas, Summer.
Summer: I can't wait until you're here!

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