Big Sir

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INDIE MAG’S ICON Feature: Lisa Papineau

Lisa Papineau solo artist and the singer in both Big Sir and Me & LP Is the Indie Icon feature in the July / August issue of Indie Mag. You can download the full magazine for FREE or buy in Print HERE

Sessions 65: Video Interview with Big Sir in Manchester UK

Lisa Papineau and Juan Alderete take time out to talk with Sessions 65 about the joy and love of making music and about the Big Sir European Tour.

Check out all 3 of the Videos of Big Sir performing Live In Studio for Sessions 65.
The Ladder
Born With A Tear
Old Blood

NO TREBLE: Big Sir In Studio Video “Old Blood”, “The Ladder” & “Born With A Tear”

Big Sir, the project led by bassist Juan Alderete and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lisa Papineau, just wrapped up a nice European tour. Lucky for the rest of us who couldn’t make it out, the duo stopped off for a performance at SSR Studios in Manchester for the online show Sessions 65, who made a few nice videos of their performance.

Above is “Old Blood” the 8th track from their latest release, Before Gardens After Gardens. The energetic song is propelled by Alderete’s awesome fretless playing while Papineau’s ethereal vocals float over top.

Now, here’s to hoping the duo make a North American tour!

Big Sir Headline European Spring Tour - Starts April 7th

Big Sir will be touring in Europe starting in Namur, Belgium on April 7th, please always make sure to check directly with venues for start times and exact details.

BIG SIR EU/UK Tour 2012
Apr 7, 2012 - Namur, (BE) @ Sergent Pepper’s
Apr 8, 2012 - Berlin, (DE) @ Spirale Kulturzentrum
Apr 9, 2012 - Hamburg, (DE) @ HafenKlang
Apr 10, 2012 - Solingen, (DE) @ Waldmeister e.V. Raum für Kultur
Apr 11, 2012 - Leipzig, (DE) @ Ilses Erika
Apr 12, 2012 - Munich, (DE) @ Ampere
Apr 13, 2012 - Innsbruck, (AT) @ Los Gurkos
Apr 14, 2012 - Bolzano, (IT) @ Vintola 18
Apr 15, 2012 - Molfetta, (IT) @ Le Macerie
Apr 16, 2012 - Copertino, LE (IT) @ I Sotterranei Arci
Apr 17, 2012 - Rome, (IT) @ Locanda Atlantide
Apr 19, 2012 - Trieste, (IT) @ Etnoblog
Apr 20, 2012 - Rimini, (IT) @ Velvet Club
Apr 21, 2012 - Livorno, (IT) @ The Cage Theatre
Apr 22, 2012 - Milano, (IT) @ La Sacrestia
Apr 24, 2012 - Birmingham, (UK) @ The Birmingham Ballroom / The End
Apr 25, 2012 - Manchester, (UK) @ Sound Control
Apr 26, 2012 - Swansea, WA (UK) @ The Garage
Apr 27, 2012 - Bristol, (UK) @ The Croft
Apr 28, 2012 - London, (UK) @ The Old Blue Last - Binnacle Festival
May 01, 2012- Grenoble, (FR) @ Le Ciel
May 02, 2012- Paris, (FR) @ Le Trianon - Night 1 of 2
May 03, 2012- Paris, (FR) @ Le Trianon - Night 2 of 2


NO TREBLE: Bassist Redefined an Interview with Juan Alderete

Juan Alderete
is a man who stays busy. After getting his break with thrash metal outfit Racer X, Alderete now contributes the low-end to progressive rock giants The Mars Volta, whose new album Noctourniquet hit stores this week. The record marks the band’s sixth effort anchored by Aldererte, who joined their ranks in 2003.
The Mars Volta ‘Noctourniquet’

Additionally, Big Sir released its third album, Before Gardens After Gardens, in early February. The album was created after Alderete and collaborator Lisa Papineau were both diagnosed with serious illnesses: Alderete with polychythemia vera, and Papineau with Multiple Sclerosis. Three weeks before the album was released, Papineau was also diagnosed with cancer.

“I wake up and I thank God every day – and God meaning everybody’s God who looks down on me,” Alderete said. “I can’t believe how fortunate I am to wake up every day and feel good enough to go play music and do what I do.”

A veritable gear guru, Alderete is also launching a new website called, in which he will give advice on building pedal boards, how different pedals sound, and how to get the best sounds possible out of your effects.

We phoned Alderete at his house the morning after Big Sir played a special in-store concert at Hollywood’s legendary Amoeba Records to get the latest from this exciting bass player.

Congratulations on the new Big Sir album, Before Gardens After Gardens. It’s a really incredible record.

JA: Thanks! It’s something that means so much to me. A lot of people know my band through Mars Volta, but when Lisa [Papineau] and I put this record out, we never thought that Mars Volta fans would get it. We thought we would put it out on Omar [Rodriguez-Lopez]’s label, and it would just sit there, but our other record is jumping in sales because people are finding the new one and liking it, so they check out the old one as well.

I’m not going to say we’re a band that’s in the black yet, but I anticipate we will be if we continue to promote it and do videos for it. Hopefully if we go on tour, we can continue to get that support to spread our word, and basically our word is that no matter what you’re going through, you’ve gotta keep that dream alive. If you’re at a day job and you really want to create something really beautiful in a graphic artist program or something, or you’re a photographer and you want to take the most beautiful picture you’ve ever seen… as long as you have that inspiration, it drives you.

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Big Sir Announce Free Instore Performance at Amoeba Hollywood - March 19th

Amoeba Music’s MONDAYS IN MARCH series continue on March 19th with a FREE all ages in-store performance and signing with Big Sir. Their new album, Before Gardens, After Gardens, is out now on Rodriguez Lopez Productions / Sargent House.

Big Sir at Amoeba Music

March 19th at 7pm
FREE / All Ages

Los Angeles Times Feature: Big Sir talks about creating a new album in the face of illness

Big Sir talks about creating new album in the face of illness

During 12 years of sonic partnership, vocalist Lisa Papineau and bassist Juan Alderete’s mesh of meditative lyrics, electro-inflected boom-bap and prog-jazz has combined fury and philosophy in a way that doesn’t have to shout to be heard.

Formed in 1999, their band, Big Sir, brought together the operatic tone of Alderete’s fretless bass with Papineau’s penchant for soulful restraint. On Feb. 7 the band released “Before Gardens, After Gardens,” their first album in six years, via Rodriguez Lopez / Sargent House.

Despite their positive outlook on an album over half a decade in the making, the inspiration it took to make it has taken a serious, very literal toll on their bodies.

Shortly after completing their previous album, “Und Die Scheiße Ändert Sich Immer” in 2006, Papinaeu and Alderete were both diagnosed with life-threatening diseases. Alderete was found to have polycythemia vera, a rare bone marrow disease that makes the body produce too many red blood cells, while Papineau discovered she had multiple sclerosis. And just three weeks before the release of the album, heavily steeped in reflections on life and death, Papineau was also diagnosed with cancer.

Despite their health obstacles, both have been incessantly busy with projects ranging from Alderete’s work as the bassist for The Mars Volta to Papineau’s solo career and collaborations with artists like Air and M83 and ME & LP with Matt Embree of RX Bandits. But even with so many other projects to occupy their time, both admit that their shared sense of humor, affinity for bass and West Coast gangsta rap creates a bond that keeps them together.

Ahead of Big Sir’s gig at Harvelle’s in Long Beach on Monday, Papineau and Alderete spoke to Pop & Hiss about crafting their new album and facing mortality head-on.

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Sound Colour Vibration Review: Before Gardens After Gardens

Rodriguez Lopez Productions and Sargent House have been expanding on dozens of releases over the last few years with the plethora of artists that exists between the two. Connected at the heart by Cathy Pellow, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and many others, this is a movement of sound and vision that is gaining considerable reputation as progressive minds are evolving even further from their origins. Boris, Fang Island, Native, Zechs Marquise, Le Butcherettes, Hella, there are so many genre defining artists to name that it’s hard to really sum up the label and Big Sir is one group out of the entire whole that we have been anticipating a new LP from the most. 2012 has been a phenomenal year for music culture already and the arrival of the latest Big Sir album, Before Gardens After Gardens, only adds more depth to the shape of this year. Based around the multi-instrumental and vocal work of Lisa Papineau and the Jaco Pastorius inspired tones of bassist of The Mars Volta, Juan Alderete, Big Sir is rooted in as many fields of electronica as they are in heavy doses of jazz, pop, hip-hop and so much more. It’s a sound all its own and genre definition becomes some what meaningless in the emotional power and provocative nature of the music. 2000 saw the release of their self titled debut release on the short lived Mootron Records and the follow up, Und Die Scheiße Ändert Sich Immer, would be released 6 years later to further critical acclaim. Und Die Scheiße Ändert Sich Immer was given the special vinyl treatment on the Sonny Kay and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez owned imprint Gold Standard Laboratories (GSL). Exactly 6 years later we find a new gestation period and a new cycle of life from Big Sir and it feels right on time with the latest Big Sir offering Before Gardens After Gardens. 11 songs and a little under 40 minutes in length, Before Gardens After Gardens is the summation of the last 12 years of the band and what feels like a launching pad for where Big Sir is going to take their sound in the future. The smooth, sonically blissful fretless bass work from Juan Aldrete creates a florescence that saturates itself into the mix. The bass tones pick up in such a frequency and full mode of sound that it knocks the middle and higher register of the wave patterns into the center of the mix. Stanley Clarke, Jaco, Ron Carter, there are only a dozen out of 1000′s bass players who can add this level of emotional quality into the bass foundations and Juan is walking in these steps actively with every record he touches. Adding a nice pair of headphones only intensifies the listen and adds to the perceptual depth of what long time The Mars Volta engineer Robert Carranza added to this LP.

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Dirty Impounds Albums of the Week: Big Sir Before Gardens After Gardens Review

Big Sir: Before Gardens After Gardens
(Rodriguez Lopez Productions/Sargent House)

Just lovely, haunting, too, and thought provoking like an itch that wakes one in the night, suddenly aware of some sore spot stirred up that now must be attended. The latest work from this 12-year-and-counting collaboration between bassist-composer Juan Alderete (The Mars Volta) and sublime singer-composer Lisa Papineau (Air, M83, ME & LP) cements their place as one of the coolest, adamantly modern duos of past few decades – think a much less depressive Suicide, a grittier Yaz, or early Eurythmics with less constrictions and you’re part way there – with Before Gardens After Gardens (released February 7). This is the kind of soundtrack one would want in their ear buds walking through the grimy streets of Blade Runner looking for love beneath the blimp billboards offering exciting lives in the off-world colonies. Okay, it’s maybe not that futuristic, but Big Sir does reach into our collective metal chest and squeeze a few fresh beats from our buried ticker, a gently shocking touch for infidels awash in wanton pride, raising heads from the ground, encouragement to be brave even as we’re falling down. There’s some beautiful beat science here, and Papineau’s willingness to use her voice like an instrument and not just a lyric delivery system keeps the colors splashing. Tying it all together is Alderete’s extraordinary bass work, a conversational, very alive presence snaking into every crevice, a thing of feel and instinct that could steal the show if he were less careful or deft. Taken together with well-chosen, musically appropriate guest turns from bassist Joanthan Hischke (Broken Bells), violist Heather Lockie (Mike Watt, Listing Ship), drummer Deantoni Parks & Cedric Bixler Zavala (The Mars Volta), Money Mark, David Sims (Jesus Lizard) Matthew Embree (RX Bandits) and others, Gardens is a testament to longing and dreaming out loud, yearning given melody and rhythm for modern times and beyond. (DC)

Juan Alderete creates the “Vato Vibrato” Tone Print

In this video Big Sir’s own Juan Alderete creates a TC Electronic TonePrint for the Shaker Vibrato pedal. He names the TonePrint “Vato Vibrato”.

I Paint My Mind: Big Sir – Before Gardens After Gardens

Big Sir is a collaboration between kindred spirits – two people who’s interests, skill, and acumen converge in an incredible melding of aesthetics.  They include trip hop & down tempo with rhythms that sometimes break out, bass lines that bring you with them, and dust it all with some of the most heart-tingling vocals you’ll ever hear.  Big Sir is of course Juan Alderete (Racer X, The Mars Volta) & Lisa Papineau (ME&LP), and for those of us who consider their previous full length “Und Die Schiebe Andert Sich Immer” a favorite, news of this record was anticipated highly. We at IPMM have been blown away by “Before Gardens After Gardens.”

The record opens with “Regions” as Ms. Papineau softly reminds us that “you’re with us all the time.”  The track incorporates supremely tasteful programming with one of Juan’s overtly round and bubbly bass lines, that sounds like a happy bee hive.  The duo’s rhythmic sensibilities inspire moving feet on “Ready On The Line”, while “Infidels” evidences Lisa’s unique ability to float over instrumentals as if her vocals were there first.  “Right Action” is a tribute to Juan’s love for the Squarepusher realm of bass work, and he kills it.  If this track doesn’t implore your inner video game player to take a daytrip, we have little hope for you.  The albums’ true victory is in the balance achieved in the ebb and flow of its trajectory. “The Ladder” and “The Kindest Hour” are testaments to this trend, and create a lovely gray space for you to chill out in. We’re also so in love with “Be Brave Go On” and “1 Thousand Petals” which lowers you to the albums conclusion as gently as we could have ever hoped. The album features collaborators such as Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Matthew Embree, Teri Gender Bender, and more…

BUY or LISTEN To Album here

The Daily Texan Reviews: Before Gardens After Gardens

Big Sir experiments with new sounds

The longtime collaboration between The Mars Volta’s Juan Alderete and singer-songwriter Lisa Papineau (well known for contributing vocals to M83), Big Sir’s minimal setup harbors a complex atmosphere that is eerie, yet absolutely intriguing. The duo retains that quality in their latest release Before Gardens After Gardens, the group’s third studio album.

Album opener “Regions” begins with Alderete’s distinguishable bass playing, as Papineau quietly coos overhead. The orchestral sounds that accompany Alderete and Papineau only add to the song’s haunting demeanor, segueing into the more upbeat “Ready On the Line.”

“Get so high,” sings Papineau over hip-hop whistles and bells in “Ready On the Line,” the song’s melody so memorable and infectious that you can’t help but hum it. The shrill scream that comes from Papineau towards the end of the song is brilliant and emphatic, as if the vocalist has overcome some unspoken challenge that calls for celebration.

“Old Blood” starts off with a buzzing, menacing guitar that battles against Alderete’s distorted fuzz-bass, with Papineau caught in between. “One, two, three, four, five,” says Papineau monotonously, the countdown unleashing a barrage of Bjork-like eeriness and forceful drums. Both songs showcase Papineau and Alderete’s admiration and respect for one another. They both feed off of each other: if one is silent and reserved, the other follows behind, ascending and descending with intensity simultaneously.

Before Gardens After Gardens finds success in its simplified approach. The album retains a Miles Davis, “less is more” mentality, allowing songs and the ideas that accompany them to flourish and breathe. The guest features on the album add to its mystique, from The Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Deantoni Parks to Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark Ramos-Nishita. Each contributor’s part serves as a small piece to Big Sir’s enthralling puzzle.

Although the album is often dark and somber, there are undertones of celebration underneath it all. As Papineau states on the band’s website, Before Gardens After Gardens is an album of “dance and celebration in death’s insistent embrace,” serving as a testament to the unknown, and an optimistic acceptance of it. 

Nanobot Rock Two Reviews / Two Takes on Before Gardens After Gardens

-Greg’s Take- Big Sir: Before Gardens After Gardens

For the last twelve years there has been a collaborative effort which has flown under the mainstream radar that can only leave us wondering Why hasn’t the world taken notice?

The musical talents of Lisa Papineau, who brings experience from M83 and the Watchmen soundtrack, and Juan Alderete, who has donated ripping bass lines to Racer X and The Mars Volta, have been experimenting under the moniker Big Sir for over a decade. This year they are set to grace us with Before Gardens After Gardens, the third release under their combined efforts.

Before Gardens After Gardens combs the landscape of dynamic experimental diversity with tenacity and expertise. Papineau’s vocals deliver grace and elegance that fits between Imogen Heap and Natasha Khan with a personality and attitude all of her own, putting her in a class of such greats, but most importantly aids in driving this release home.

The album begins unapologetically with “Regions,” an immediate intertwining dance of Papineau’s voice and Alderete’s bass. The mesh of progressive vocals and instrumentals established early on in the album garners the attention of anyone and everyone and should not be missed.  Sure, Before Gardens After Gardens brings in a plethora of immensely talented musicians ranging from Money Mark Ramos-Nishita to Matt Embree and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, just to name a few. The true beauty within can be found in the compilation and vision established by the heart and soul of the album; one which could not be formed without the obvious passion from Papineau and Alderete.

As you transcend the plains of modern musical thought with Big Sir, there is one glaring disappointment with the album. It is less than forty minutes long. When looking at an album of such great songs and composition we have to find something to keep it in check.

The last twelve years have brought two musicians to this point. It is a culmination of superb entertainment thrown into eleven tracks. This is the kind of album we’ve waited for to kick off 2012. The bar has been raised for albums this year and at this rate, it’s going to be a great one.

-Clay’s Take- Big Sir: Before Gardens After Gardens

One thing that makes the arts so fascinating is the social stratification between the audience, the artists and the people who bring the two together.  Every person views a piece differently and various things speak to them or draw them in.  Ask someone “what’s your favorite album?”  If the person works in a cubicle inAnytown,USA, the album is generally something that universally speaks to people.  If they are a singer, chances are it is an album with astounding vocals.  If they are a drummer, they will probably say a hip-hop album but secretly it is a Neil Peart venture.  Ask a sound engineer and the answer is an album no one has heard of because they “really enjoy the sound editing and the mix.”

The thing is the sound engineer is the one who has the most qualified opinion and their favorite album is one you probably should have heard of and should be in heavy rotation in your library.  There should be an annual award for “Best Album You’ve Never Heard Of” at the Grammys and it should be handed out by a balding guy with a pony tail, plastic frames and a black Zildjian t-shirt.  In fact, we’re going to start one right now.

2012 has received its first entry for the BAYNHO Award in the form of Before Gardens After Gardens by Big Sir, a duo featuring Lisa Papineau (best known for adding her vocals to M83) and Juan Alderete (bassist for The Mars Volta).  The album, in all of its lo-fi minimalist splendor is meant to be enjoyed in its entirety, not to be cherry-picked for individual tracks.

The album lurches out of the gate with an awkward drunken stumble as “Regions” starts immediately with a funky bass line and Papineau’s smoky voice.  After the initial awkward step, the album settles in its stride with expertly timed peaks and valleys of emotion.  Each track is a svelte bed of drum machine and synthesizer sounds overlaid by haunting vocals and quirky, catchy rhythms.  Through the 38 minutes, the music paces itself like a long con and nestles into your subconscious.  It rears its head at times like in “Old Blood” just to let you know it is still there, coloring in your day.  By the time the penultimate track, “Our Pleasant Home,” rolls around you realize Big Sir has snared you with their lo-fi groove and you are hooked.

The sounds of Before Gardens After Gardens are rich and funky, but are niche enough that it’ll be a tough sell for mainstream consumption.  On one hand, that is unfortunate because everyone should have a chance for Big Sir’s music to permeate their consciousness.  On the other, it gives me another fake award to hand out.

I love my job.

Behind the Hype Review: Before Gardens After Gardens

With over two dozen play throughs over the past couple weeks, my first album submission of the year puts me on a good note. Big Sir’s latest album, Before Gardens After Gardens, is their first LP in many a year. Comprised of the beautiful  songstress Lisa Papineau (known for her work with Air and M83) and legendary The Mars Volta bassist Juan Alderete, Big Sir is a staple of the Sargent House / Rodriguez Lopez Productions family.

Returning to this album is Juan’s signature high treble Fender bass sound that made me fall in love with Non-Stop Drummer from their self-titled album. Also returning is the lovely layering of Lisa’s voice throughout the album. It always made me wonder what would happen if she had backup singers in tow at the live show. But I digress, on to the favorites of the album.

The second track, Ready on the Line is catchy as all hell, with a high tempo drum machine and heavy voice layering. As one of the singles from the album, I’m sure Lisa will break out her next level dance moves at their upcoming Los Angles shows.

This album and tour is pulling great features in for the ride. The sixth track, The Kindest Hour, features RX Bandits front man Matthew Embree with echoing vocals. The bass and strings are almost much to be admired, and had me wonder if it was in fact stand-up bass in this track.

My favorite track is Be Brave Go On. With accordions, Juan’s hypnotizing bass line, and odd timing, it was a no brainer. The lyrics are very relevant to this particular moment in my life, so those are automatic points in the book. The breakdown toward the end of the song carries the powerful mantra “Be brave and thankful all the way on, all the way, all the brave go on”, coupled with sharp synth to close out the song.

Big Sir has the ability to demand attention, while also being ambient and warming the mind from behind the eyes. The album releases on February 7th, and the small Los Angles tour before their European tour starts soon, so check out the dates, and join us.

Last time, Matt Embree and Cedric Bixler-Zavala came through, and Chris Tsagakis is a for sure guest this time around, so who knows what may happen.  ~Flak