Durham Herald-Sun 1.27.06
On Tap Magazine 1.19.06
Independent Weekly 1.18.06 12.05
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Music Monitor 8.15.05
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Creative Loafing, Charlotte, NC, June 2002
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Creative Loafing, Atlanta, Feb 2003
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Songwriter devoted to pop, anything but ordinary
By Robbie Mackey
Jan 25, 2006

DURHAM -- Django Haskins lights up like a 6-year-old when he talks about his new motto:

"Come home to Paul," says the Yale grad, grinning ear to ear, half-embarrassed by his own enthusiasm.

The Paul in question, of course, is the dorkiest Beatle -- McCartney, an undisputedly hokey but undisputedly gifted pop genius, whose sing-songy work is often overlooked in favor of the arty output of fellow Beatle songwriter John Lennon.

It's a peculiar phrase, but from the other side of a table at Fuse Restaurant and Bar in Chapel Hill, Frank Sinatra's face plastered across the chest of his black T-shirt, Haskins offers some explanation:

"We all know that Paul is a complete cheese ball," Haskins said. "But you've got to separate that from the music, and come home to the fact that when you were 5 or 6, the Beatles songs that you loved were Paul songs -- and the reason is they're so melodic and so warm and loving."

Beatles fans can squabble over Haskins' words until they're blue in the face, but that'd be missing the point altogether; Haskins' adoration of McCartney and his carefree aesthetic is telling of the singer-songwriter's rich pedigree, and of his devotion to pop in its most dictionary form.

A student of song since his youth in Gainesville, Fla., Haskins -- who'll be performing at Blayloc Café in Durham this evening -- extols the simplicity and generality of pop music with a liberal hand. Motown as pop, Ol' Blue Eyes as pop, Beck as pop -- to Haskins there isn't much you can sing along to that doesn't qualify.

"To a lot of people 'pop' means something like radio, Top 40, Billboard or MTV," Haskins says. "For me, the only significance that pop really has is that it is completely general -- it's not classical, not specifically some other subgenre like blues or jazz or something. Everything that's kind of accessible is pop music, and for me, the best writers and musicians are people who are open to everything, people who are obviously just music fans."

Haskins is, quite obviously, "just a music fan."

Raised by folkies and logging time in bands since the age of 13, he teethed on Neil Young, stayed at home with Paul, and then worshiped at the altar of The Replacements.

Before fronting The Old Ceremony -- a Chapel Hill based noir-pop collective -- Haskins was a member of local super group International Orange, a studied rock trio featuring Robert Sledge of Ben Folds Five and Snuzz of Ben Folds' touring band.

Indeed, with a healthy local following, coverage in Billboard Magazine, and songs soundtracking slow dances on WB TV shows like "Felicity," Haskins has become an accomplished songwriter and a dashing bandleader.

That's the reason it's so hard to envision him at the beginning of his journey, a journey that strangely began in China, where the bilingual grad taught English at a university. It was there that Haskins decided to take his music seriously and pursue a career behind his guitar back in the States.

"I had this American friend over there who was 10 years older than me," says Haskins. "He'd played music when he was younger, so he was the guy I'd go to with my new songs. One time he just looked at me and said, 'What the hell are you doing in China? Why aren't you doing this?' "

Haskins needed little more encouragement than that, forgoing a second year at the university, and moving to New York where he would live for nearly a decade, honing his craft around town, figuring out just what the business was all about, and more importantly, finding out what he wanted to say as a songwriter.

"In New York, I think there's almost too much going on, too much coming at you for you to really think clearly, and create," says Haskins, who moved to Chapel Hill four and a half years ago. "The psychological pressures of living in New York produce a more dense and tense music. I've kind of found that out from living here. I'm really able to step back and ask myself, 'What kind of music do I really want to be making? And how do I do it?' "

That music is the Old Ceremony organization.

Of course, Haskins admits that the blueprint was in his head far before the band came to fruition, but that it only truly surfaced after he moved away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

"I think I would have been too busy in New York to even think about it. It took me a while to get to this, but I had an idea of what kind of band I wanted to put together," says Haskins. "And I got to develop it a whole lot before I even started putting it together."

After years of relying on stripped down folk tunes and razor sharp pop, Haskins opts for the tastefully lush with his noir-ish Ceremony.

But that's not to imply that he's forgotten about Paul. Not at all; the band's self-titled debut, out this year on Alyosha Records, isn't populated by grand compositions that wow with sonic trinkets.

"They're subtle bells and whistles," says Haskins. "I think that's a strength of the band -- a real focus on songs. I really see the guitar as a tool, not as an end in itself. I see us as a band, as a means of presenting a song. It's organic, but the jamming isn't the end in itself. To me at least."

"Typical songwriter," he concludes, mockingly, chuckling a bit at his own hokiness.

But Haskins is wrong. If he were a typical songwriter, the world would be filled with a lot better songs and no one would have to come home to Paul, cause they'd already be there.

- Durham Herald-Sun, 1.27.06

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New Sounds From the Old Ceremony
Chapel Hill exports dark, funny pop.

by Joel Sparks
The first thing you notice is the vibes, a desk-sized array of wooden bells that compares to a kid’s xylophone like a Hummer next to a tricycle. Then you might hear a violin warming up with scales, and what’s this? A cello? Two keyboards? An accordion? But fear not. You haven’t stumbled into a pit orchestra’s garage sale. All this serious equipment goes into the dark, rich blend of rock that is The Old Ceremony, like a cornucopia of nuts and candy going into an outrageous new Ben & Jerry’s flavor. As the group’s self-titled debut made its way onto many Best of 2005 lists, we sought out bandleader Django Haskins and some of his numerous associates for a little Q&A.

OT: You’re a new band. Why "The Old Ceremony"?
Django: The band's name comes from the Leonard Cohen album New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which is a reference to circumcision, I believe. There's nothing like a good circumcision joke to break the ice—Lenny's a laugh riot.

OT: Tell us about the album.
Django: The new album is our attempt to just capture the sound of this band as it develops. I brought a lot of songs to the band when we first started playing together, and the ones that seemed to reflect the band's personality best, and the ones that took on lives of their own when we played them live, were the ones that were chosen. Even though the album is fairly richly textured, with strings and horns and vibes and organ and piano and guitar, etcetera, we recorded most of it live in a little room, just playing together like we would at a rehearsal or show. I think that live aesthetic gives it some air that studio recordings don't always have.

OT: What is "pop noir," exactly? Who are some of TOC's influences?
Django: Well, "pop noir" is just an attempt to classify, for those who require advance classification of some kind, the essence of what we do. It means cinematic, theatrical, and moody pop music. We look to people like Astor Piazzolla, Sinatra, Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen as fellow-purveyors of dark, theatrical pop.

OT: How did a rock band come to incorporate vibraphone, violin and all that old-school keyboard work?
Django: We're lucky to have some seriously badass jazz musicians in this group, and they bring their ears and their chops to the songs in a unique way. I was really trying to put together a group that would stretch the traditional boundaries of "pop" or "rock" music, and the unusual instrumentation seemed to fit with that ideal.

OT: Which songs get requested the most?
Django: "American Romeo" and "Blood and Oil" are two of the more requested songs off of the album. Other ones we hear are "Afraid of Love" (a deceptively positive love song) and some of the newer material like "Bao Qian" (a song written almost entirely in Mandarin Chinese, so who cares if it's happy or sad words? For the record: it's sad).

OT: Do you even have any happy songs?
Django: You know, we do have some happy songs, like "Radio Religion" (about the redemptive power of pop music) or "American Romeo" (though it’s also tongue-in-cheek), but many of our songs tell somewhat darker stories. I'm not sure why, but I find them more interesting than happy ones. It's pretty boring to watch cars sail by on the freeway, but once one of them slams into a wall, well, just try to look away.

OT: Now some questions for everybody...What were some highlights of your previous musical experience? How does playing with TOC differ?
Django: Playing in International Orange with (Ben Folds Five bassist) Rob Sledge and Snuzz was a great experience. I enjoyed the back-and-forth of having three songwriters in the band. But The Old Ceremony is amazing—I love bringing in songs and watching them take shape when bounced around the brains of all these great musicians.
Violinist Gabriel Pelli: I recently toured Europe with a Kirtan chant band: ancient Sanskrit call-and-response singing...The Old Ceremony stands out because all the musicians are absolute pros on their instruments. And Django’s songwriting is able to convey deep feelings without resorting to clichés or formulas.
Vibe player and organist Mark Simonsen: Once, I accidentally ate [Deep Purple guitarist] [sic] Steve Morse’s pre-show guava.

OT: If you couldn't play music, what would be your calling?
Django: New York City cabbie.
Mark: I have a hard time imaging life not being a musician...I come from a lineage of farmers and would have loved that kind of life, but in this day and age, I’m not sure that’s even an option.

OT: What's the worst place you've had to sleep on tour?
Gabriel: Sleeping in the van on a sub-zero night in Philly on a previous tour, with police cars and choppers whizzing by all night.
Mark: I once slept on the floor of a commune called the Beehive in Brattleboro, Vermont. It was so disgusting that we now refer to the Beehive as the Behind.

OT: What's the best road food you've had?
Django: Kielbasa at a Ukrainian restaurant in NYC.
Mark: Steak sandwich at the Williamsburg Café in Brooklyn.
Gabriel: Cracker Barrel, hands down. The fireplace sure is a nice touch.
-On Tap Magazine

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BEST BET: The Old Ceremony channels Sinatra, Randy Newman and Astor Piazzolla through the sexy, sartorial songs of Django Haskins. - Independent Weekly, 1.18.06

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Centered by vocalist and guitarist Django Haskins, the Old Ceremony’s self-titled debut is brimming with beguiling picaresque tales like the wistful track “Pennsylvania,” whose refrain of “And we can just pretend/This never happened/But we won’t be fooled for long/My love” is as close to the unpredictably high peak as they get.
Shandy Casteel,

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"The Old Ceremony evolved from a pick-up backing band for singer/songwriter Django Haskins' increasingly baroque arrangements into a supple cabaret jazz pop outfit with a life of its own." - Independent Weekly, 11.23.05

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"When discussing the Chapel Hill-based music collective The Old Ceremony, it's not just a good idea, it's apparently the law: You have to mention that the group's name is a nod to the album New Skin for the Old Ceremony by that esteemed drama king Leonard Cohen. And, appropriately enough, there's a palpable sense of in-a-strange-place unease across the dozen songs on this self-titled debut. You might also recall that several Cohen songs were used to excellent effect in Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller back in the '70s. On a similar note, much of this album feels like a soundtrack in search of an eccentric, eclectic film festival highlighting some 50 years of flicks. There's the song ripe for accompanying the opening credits ("Shadows"), another well suited for the closing crawl of gaffers and caterers ("The Motions"), a couple perfect for Eastern European art films ("Ole" and "You Left Something Out"), and a pair ready for a movie where the music director couldn't get Tom Waits ("Carry the One" and "Late Shift"). There's even one, the jittery orchestral-billy number "Blood and Oil," that plays out like a James M. Cain script.

How self-conscious you think this whole enterprise is could probably be measured by your reaction to the rhymes in "American Romeo," the likes of "Paris way/fairest way" and "Crete/three winds to the sheet." But, really, the album is much more about mood than words. To create this ode to moodiness, The Old Ceremony goes 11 musicians strong, with violins, cello, accordion, piano, trumpet, saxophone and vibraphone joining guitar, bass and drums and with everything getting at least a healthy cameo. You might expect dense layers, but instead the players tend to create a lot of space, graciously stepping aside to allow for individual moments like the suspense-signaling piano figure on "Shadows" and the vibes solo on "Blood and Oil." It's a wall of sound built with patience, not bricks. And atop it is singer/songwriter Django Haskins (former Regulars leader and International Orange guitarist), his vocals more often than not sounding like Joe Jackson's American nephew.

Speaking of Jackson, this record's yin and yang core, the slow-building "Out of the Blue" and the lively-from-word-go "Morning Glories," could have wandered straight off his Night and Day--which, for what it's worth, is also the title of a Cary Grant movie about Cole Porter directed by Michael Curtiz. For some reason, that seems like a trio that would get along famously in the quirky but tuneful cinematic world created by The Old Ceremony." - Independent Weekly, 11.16.05

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"Moody and very fine old-world pop." - Raleigh News Observer, 6.24.05

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"Walking into the club in fashion, about twenty-five minutes after the show starts, I see this gorgeous set up with tube lighting surrounding microphone stands and a stage crowded with artists exploding. Classy dressing and hometown humble voices spoke through the system of what was about to be played. I had done the unthinkable that any self-respecting photojournalist would not; I went to a show without my camera. The point being… day in and day out I see some of the most talented and mind blowing shows but I don’t get to truly enjoy them because I’m worried about atmospheric lighting, and blurry headshots, how to see the stage unlike others do. It is all about angles and trying to catch some form of music between my shots, this night I just wanted to be one with the music and the scene. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining at all it’s what I live for. Seeing some familiar faces and being persuaded to get my camera, another thirty minutes back to retrieve my camera and thirty rushed minutes back to shoot my heart out.. later. I came up with a few trinkets on film and still had the chance to enjoy the show.

On stage were The Old Ceremony, they have a sort of character that takes you back to the 50s and 60s, with a rhythmic jazzy swing feel to the chords, story placing lyrics, and sinful engages with the soul. Their evocative sound puts you in to a Halloween-ish mode regardless that it was a blazing August day when they came to our doorstep with the tunes. The groups as a whole are a bunch of clever musicians from all walks of time and life coming together to make something strangely familiar though you will not find this anywhere else. It is not everyday you see an upright bass, double keyboard, vibraphone and lights wired around a microphone with vocals so crisp and orgasmic that you just want to take yourself in the crowd. Wishing for that one note to send you over the edge to have you reaching for bed sheets and walls that are not there.

Lead singer Django Haskins, of International Orange (with Robert Sledge and Snuzz) and Django & the Regulars, is a seasoned stage crooner-songwriter who brings an element of stardom to The Old Ceremony. He knows how to work a crowd, invoke pack-wide smiles, and who will not fall for a crafty sing-a-long? Portions of the songs propel you so far out into oblivion it’s hard to bring you in again; there is something to be said for real talent these days and formal song writing, clean time changes, duality in beautiful songs with somber lyrics, and pieces that leaves a lasting impression enough you want to sit down at this electronic contraption and grab at words to share it with everyone. Sure it’s my job, just like taking photos on nights when my camera was to rest, sometimes things seize you and keep your attention and you don't mind a bit.

The collaboration of so many distinctive friends and oh so many styles makes for an interesting set played. They are a pulse finding non-eulogized part of the North Carolina underground just waiting to be explored and embraced.
-- Dianna Augustine, Amps Eleven

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"Django Haskins - a gifted Chapel Hill-based penman/ now in the middle of the 11-piece The Old Ceremony, with trumpet, violin, cello, and organ among the pieces. The collective's name is a nod to the Leonard Cohen album New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which fits the mood often enough on the band's self-titled debut, but you could just as easily stamp "symphonic cabaret" or "noir pop" on TOC's business card. As for the latter, a couple of tunes would fit the bill if "sunset Boulevard" or "The Sweet Smell of Success" were looking for after-the-fact soundtrack contributions for some of their more sardonic scenes. Alongside other subtle treats, the mid-album pair of "Out of the Blue" and "Morning Glories" sound like keepers that were accidentally left off Joe Jackson's Night and Day. And you will leave these proceedings thinking that vibes are cool as shit."
- Music Monitor, 8.24.05

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"Polyglot perhaps best describes Django Haskins, songwriter and bandleader for The Old Ceremony, Chapel Hill's eight-piece, carefully debauched chamber pop band. At 28, he's recorded under several guises, fronting the lustrous Django & The Regulars in New York until 2002, then moving to Chapel Hill to pursue his solo songcraft before joining International Orange, the harmony-high, tightly wound rock quartet that split earlier this year. Django recently took time to rave about some of the influences that shine through in The Old Ceremony's eclectic eponymous debut." - Independent Weekly, 6.22.05

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"Whether he be the acoustic singer/songwriter, the focal point of cabaret pop noir group The Old Ceremony, or the punchy power popper with International Orange, [Django Haskins] is a pop stylist, with a quick lyrical wit and a card shark's finesse in delivering a hook." - Independent Weekly, 4.27.05

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"[Django writes] darkly evocative, often unsettling American music" - Creative Loafing

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"From cocktail jazz to Brill Building pop, Django Haskins has found another outlet for his inestimable talents...The Old Ceremony strikes a balance between the cabaret-noir stylings of Tom Waits or Serge Gainsbourg and sophisticated chamber pop." - Independent Weekly, 3.23.05

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March 19, 2003

There's a ton of music out there these days, but here's why you should take a minute to listen to Django Haskins.
by Rick Cornell

...It's impossible to predict which artists will be embraced by the record-buying/song-downloading public and soar to platinum heights, and which are destined to cruise below the radar. Take, for instance, Haskins. On that '98 album, Folding Stars, and its follow-up three years later, Laying Low and Inbetween (credited to Django and the Regulars), he repeatedly demonstrated the ability to write and deliver smart, catchy pop/rock songs. That may not look like much on paper--blame a lot of it on the laziness and genericness of the "smart, catchy pop/rock songs" description--but it's a skill that more than one platinum-seller has never bothered to develop.

I'm quite honestly amazed that I hadn't heard Haskins' music or at least read about him long before I caught a performance at Go! Studio's Room 4 this past December. With the World Wide Web and the 100 or so music mags out there, word spreads incredibly fast these days, yet I completely missed the boat. Could it be that there's just too much music out there now, to the point where some great stuff gets lost in the shuffle? And how do artists deal with that saturation and get themselves heard among the throng? "Well, if you've been looking for my stuff and haven't found it, then yes, there is too much," offers Haskins with a laugh. But as he continues, it's apparent that he's pondered these questions before. "Sometimes it does seem like there is too much music out there, in the sense that the Internet made it very easy for anyone to post their music online, and it's hard at first to differentiate the good from the bad. But I think that things tend to happen via word of mouth and through persistence over a long period of time, and that narrows it down quite a bit."

Haskins [took] advantage of a chance to live in China for a year and teach English...It was a circumstance that Haskins decided to embrace as a learning experience. "I performed regularly in a couple of pubs over there, and the fact that most of the audience didn't speak English meant that the songs succeeded or failed pretty much on their rhythmic and melodic merit. That was a great lesson for me." A lesson well-applied, as even a cursory listen to Folding Stars or Laying Low reveals. The latter's "Dumbed Down" careens and accosts like angry young Joe Jackson, and throughout both there are moments that bring to mind the craftsman's craftsman, Elvis Costello. Yeah, whenever a music writer hears any artist who creates intelligent, hooky, finely detailed songs, said writer is required to name-drop Elvis Costello.

"That's true, isn't it?" says Haskins when informed of this rule. "It's like a chart: smart lyrics equals Elvis Costello. Melodic equals Beatlesque. Falsetto equals Jeff Buckley. Vintage synth equals Weezer." But Haskins has indeed listened to his fair share of Costello and Jackson, although he's quick to add, "More than that, I really love the '60s soul, jazz standards, and Dylan, Kinks and Beatles records that were the building blocks of those late '70s overeducated 'post-punk' guys." He also makes a point of adding to the inspiration list Johnny Cash, '70s Stevie Wonder, Tonight's the Night-era Neil Young, Paul Westerberg, Springsteen's Nebraska, Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and the Louvin Brothers. (You have to ask yourself, How did this guy last a year in China without his records?)

That breadth is reflected in Haskins' brand new overeasysmokemachine, an adventurous album that carves out its own space between Folding Stars' relative calm and Laying Low's jangle 'n' roll. (On March 26, Haskins returns to Room 4 for a solo show to celebrate the release of overeasysmokemachine.)

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May 12, 2001

RANTING: There are days when tracing the activities of folks who make rock'n'roll can be downright exasperating. Our complaint is age-old, but it reamains as relevant as ever. How do some of the flat-out worst bands in the business get major-label deals, while true talent often has to struggle to stay alive?

  Yeah, yeah...we know that there's no solid answer to such a subjective question. But it's hard not to ponder such things on an afternoon during which we've trudged through a dozen big-money releases that don't deserve a dime of marketing money -- only to discover Laying Low and Inbetween by Django & the Regulars, a project that demands the attention of anyone who wonders why rock music is so darn tedious these days.

  Laying Low and Inbetween is the second full-length collection by the New York-rooted jangle-pop trio led by Django Haskins, a singer/tunesmith whose affinity for the classic recordings of Elvis Costello and Tom Petty are undeniable. However, there's nothing derivative on this set, which was produced by the singer with Don Fleming (Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub), Andrew Hollander (David Johansen, Mr. Henry) and Mike Daly (Whiskeytown).

  Rather, Haskins uses his influences as inspiration for songs that are as fresh and infectious as they are comfortably familiar. The subject matter of his songs rarely strays from the subject of love in its various forms, and that's just fine. Such tunes as "Disappointment Book" (which is starting to get airplay from college radio stations on the East Coast) and "Sooner" reveal Haskins' flair for weaving intimate yet relatable lyrics.

  Haskins, who's also a formidable guitarist, has been leading bands and cutting solo material for 10 years now; In addition to this new set, his work can currently be heard on the Varese Sarabande soundtrack to the film Steal This Movie. Speaking of movies, a cut from a still-to-be-confirmed tune from Laying Low will be featured in the indie film The Manhattan Dating Project.

  Django & the Regulars, which features Byron Isaacs on bass and Neil Nunziato on drums, will be spending much of the spring and summer on the road. If you want to hear a great band making even better music, hunt this one down. For more information, check out

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Sept. 2003

Django Haskins is yet another example of a genius talent hidden in obscurity because he refuses to sell his soul to the lowest-common-denominator-Satan of commercial rock schlock crapola. The Artist Statement on his Starpolish page describes Django as, "a touring rock songwriter in the tradition of genre-defying artists like Beck and Elvis Costello," and I can’t really do better than that. "Talk Talk" sounds to me very much like I’m The Man-era Joe Jackson filtered through Beatles sensibilities, which means it’s just excellent - great songwriting, great understated vocals, lots of feeling, good hooks, gorgeous stuff. Of course, this is not stuff you’ll be hearing on the radio any time soon, but he could definitely thrive in the semi-underground (i.e. less than platinum sales) and enjoy lots of critical acclaim, press exposure and a slow burning career trajectory. All it takes is getting enough people to turn on to his music and a few well-placed career breaks. I mean, look what happened to Jesse Malin.

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Ink Nineteen
Feb 19, 2001

DJANGO & THE REGULARS | Laying Low and Inbetween (Alyosha)
Billed to sound like a cross between Tom Petty and Elvis Costello, to these unrefined ears this band sounds like neither of those artists. Instead, the sound of Django and the Regulars evokes the music of Whiskeytown circa Strangers Almanac, albeit with more of a pop inflection. The songs on Laying Low and Inbetween are concise stabs at pop heaven that cover the range of bad dreams ("12 Gauge Microphone"), sychophants and status climbers ("Dumbed Down"), and lost loves ("Sooner"). Musically, the band has been labeled with the unfortunate tag of "jangle-pop." While the music incorporates melodies and guitar playing that recall elements of early R.E.M. or The Byrds, this should not detract from the fact that Django and crew are willing to cut loose with searing rockers as well as heartfelt ballads with low key strumming. Upon repeated listenings, Laying Low and Inbetween reveals itself to be a memorable and catchy album full of punchy melodies and plenty of hooks. It also reveals Django & the Regulars to be a talented pop band.

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New York Press
June 28, 2003

Volume 16, Issue 26

Hearthrobby Django Haskins takes his memorable melodies and nostalgic lyrics north from his native Chapel Hill tonight at Fez. We hope to spot the tour bus in the parking lot so we can apologize to Django for flashing him at the last show...or to do it again.

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USC Daily Gamecock (SC)
July 2003

Django Haskins opened the night, letting loose his persona like a man possessed, lighting the coffee shop's tiny stage with a performance two parts comedy and eight parts solid folk rock. It would have been easy to lose yourself in Haskins' quips and wildly shaking hips if his music weren't so good. Melodies catchy enough to serve as background music for a teen drama disguised lyrics that ranged from clever to the sublime. Haskins' songs were deep and soulful yet totally accessible, making it almost obscene how he delivered them from a television-friendly face begging to be interviewed by Carson Daly.

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Pittsburg Tribune-Review
March 11, 2003

If all he had was a cool rock 'n' roll name, Django Haskins would be worth checking out. But the Gainesville, Fla., native, who now calls Chapel Hill, NC, home, is one of those musical gems who is just waiting to be discovered. Haskins has been compared with artists ranging from Elvis Costello and Tom Petty to XTC and the Replacements. That he doesn't really sound like any of those musicians speaks to his unique talents — call it basic rock 'n' roll with liberal doses of intelligence, wit and energy.

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Creative Loafing, Charlotte, NC
June 14, 2002

Django Haskins, recently relocated to Chapel Hill from New York City, might be one of the more underrated straight-up-pop Costello-like performers on the East Coast. Poignant, funny, and a showman all at the same time. Nice rapier wit, too. I said rapier.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
March 20, 2002

Laying Low and Inbetween, the first release from NYC's Django & the Regulars, recalls such thinking person's pop enthusiasts as Elvis Costello and Squeeze without really sounding like either one...Django Haskins has his own irregular approach to pop tradition. Whether writing another one down inside his "Disappointment Book" or painting a scene where "all the bishops speak in German to the waitresses' lament," the singer clearly has a way with words. But it's the way he hangs those words on instantly engaging hooks that really makes this album stand out from the crowd.

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CMJ New Music Report
Feb 19, 2001

DJANGO & THE REGULARS | Laying Low and Inbetween (Alyosha)
Laying Low is a nostalgic experience, a collection of songs that recall golden autumns and endless senior-year Friday nights. Appropriating equal parts country and jangle-pop, Django treads lightly between both, forging a new sort of shimmering Americana of songs that glimmer and glide. Each reads like a diary entry, of a memory of past heartache ("Sooner") and disappointment ("Laying Low"). Like an Andy Partridge from Tennessee, Django lets his voice soar high into Wilson territory ("12 Gauge Microphone") as slide guitars weep on the ground beneath. Even the sad, smoky "Time and Again," which billows up over gently strummed guitar, speaks more of opportunity than oppression, with Django swearing "I will put down roots and I will mend time and again."   - J. Edward Keyes

Recommended if You Like: Marshall Crenshaw, Matthew Sweet, the Wallflowers.

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Winston-Salem Journal
August 8, 2001

Happy Gypsy: Guitarist says he follows the music wherever it leads

By Parke Puterbaugh

According to psychologists, the name bestowed on a baby plays a major role in determining its adult career and is claimed to 'put the finishing touches on his or her personality.' Django Haskins, a guitarist and singer who lives near Chapel Hill, may be living proof of this theory.

Named after Django Reinhardt, Haskins would seem to be following in the footsteps of the legendary French gypsy guitarist. He has led an itinerant lifestyle, living in places as far-flung as Brooklyn and China, and has become an estimable guitarist who can also play violin and keyboards. As regards his parents' prophetic choice of first name, 'If someone had warned them,' Haskins said, chuckling, 'I'm sure they would've named me Albert.'

Haskins' musical interests range all over the map. His just-released third album, Over Easy Smoke Machine, mixes hook-filled New Wavish pop, a la early Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, with modal folk-jazz drones and solo acoustic tunes. The deadly catchy 'Ex-Best Friend' is cleverly written in the voice of a teen-age girl, and Haskins sounds like he is channeling the meditative spirit of the late Nick Drake on 'Plane Song.' The album is eclectic in a way that never fails to hold a listener's interest, unfolding like a trip on which some scenic and contrasting new vista awaits around each bend in the road.

'My focus is really on songwriting as writing, as opposed to my being any particular kind of artist,' Haskins explained from a New York apartment where he was crashing for the weekend. 'So I write all different styles of music and feel it's tied together by the fact that I'm writing and singing it.

'A lot of people I admire the most, whether interpreters like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson or writers like Elvis Costello, are people who think a good song is a good song, regardless of the genre. What I like best about Costello is that he's not afraid to follow wherever the music leads. That's my ideal, in terms of a career.'

In contrast to his deliberately eclectic new album, Haskins' previous release, Laying Low and Inbetween, was a big pop production made with a full band. His next one, which he has already recorded, is a collection of jazz ballads on which Haskins' voice, accompanied only by piano and upright bass, is showcased.

Haskins keeps busy and, exhibiting a restless, gypsy-like spirit, is always on the move. Though he has called North Carolina home for the last year or so, he has spent much of this summer teaching guitar at a workshop in New Milford, Conn.

In the last few months, Haskins has also hooked up with several noted N.C. musicians - guitarist Brent 'Snuzz' Uzzell, bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Chris Stephenson - to form a band. They're called International Orange, which is the color of the paint used on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. There is no shortage of talent or songwriters in this ensemble, whose lineup looks extremely promising on paper.

'There are three writers in the band, so there are a lot of generals,' Haskins said, laughing. 'It's very democratic, and I'm much more used to the U.N. model, with me being America. Democracy is messy, but it's exciting, you know?'

The idea for the band originated when Haskins and Snuzz shared a bill at a club in Charlotte and instantly hit it off. Already, International Orange has recorded three tracks in Raleigh - one apiece by Haskins, Snuzz and Sledge.

'Django has a quick wit, and I like his slant on songwriting,' Snuzz said. 'As a writer, he reminds me of myself in a lot of ways. Lyrics are all-important, as is content and purpose. Personally, I think I'm better with another songwriter and singer to share the stage with. It helps to have another ear to bounce ideas off of, and it's good to see what their contribution to your songs might be. At the same time, I have never played in a band with so many brains. There are a lot of cooks in this kitchen, so we'll have to see if we can come up with some unique recipes.'

Haskins was exposed to music early in life. In fact, a musical upbringing was all but unavoidable. His parents, Lola and Gerald Haskins, toured the world as a folk duo, similar to Ian and Sylvia, throughout the 1960s. Django's upbringing in Gainesville, Fla., was uniquely and idyllically countercultural.

'They were into an alternative lifestyle,' he recalled. 'I grew up on a farm, and basically it was an unusual childhood - a lot of music, a lot of books. They kind of created their own culture. It was great.'

As a youngster, he heard a lot of jazz standards and folk music, not to mention Bob Dylan and The Beatles. He found his own way to such power-pop staples as the Zombies, Big Star and the Replacements. The discoveries keep coming. Lately, Haskins, who is 29, has gotten heavily into the work of XTC, particularly the writing of its gifted, idiosyncratic leader, Andy Partridge. Nevertheless, 'The Beatles definitely remain the touchstone for everything for me,' Haskins said.

After high school, he taught English in Hangzhou (capital of the Chinese province of Zhejiang), playing music on the side to a non-English-speaking audience at a local pub. Haskins moved to New York in 1996, where he lived for the next six years. He released his first album, Folding Stars, in 1998. What drew him to Chapel Hill, aside from the desire to escape New York's stranglehold, was the music scene.

'There was a lot of stuff coming out of Chapel Hill that I like - Ben Folds Five, Squirrel Nut Zippers, that kind of thing,' said Haskins. 'I had done some touring through the area and liked what I saw there, too, so it happened fairly naturally.'

Even so, Haskins knew no one in Chapel Hill and had nothing waiting for him when he got there. As is his wont, he savored the challenge of the unfamiliar and simply took the leap.

'I don't like to feel too comfortable at any time,' Haskins said. 'It's taken a while to settle down here, adjusting from New York and finding my people.

'I'm getting slightly comfortable,' he admitted with a laugh. 'Which is fine.'

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Friday Morning Quarterback
Feb 2, 2001

Django & The Regulars, Laying Low and Inbetween (Alyosha)
Django Haskins' third - with tracks produced by Haskins and Don Fleming (Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub, Posies, Smithereens) and Whiskeytown's Mike Daly - offers up something for everyone. Tracks range from introspective to danceable Rock and Roll. "Disappointment Book," "Sooner," "Time And Again," "Radiowave," "This One, That One," "Finally Falling," and the title-track are all candidates for airplay. Don't take your eyes off this guy!

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Music Morsels
Sept, 2001

Django & The Regulars,Laying Low and Inbetween (Alyosha)
This is album number two from this New York City trio headed by singer/songwriter Django Haskins, and it not only shows maturity, but a knack for weaving several popish influences into a raucous musical ride. Of course, it seems like no pop-oriented rock band can escape the influence of the Fab Four, and track one "Disappointment Book" solidifies that right off the bat. But you can hear a bit of the later stuff by The Replacements, and perhaps a touch of XTC with Django's voice sounding a bit like Andy Partridge. His jangly guitar strumming gives the music a nice touch of personality, sometimes showing several sides in one song. "12 Gauge Microphone" is a good example of this where the chops range from avante garde fuzzy twang to brash punk-tinged fire. The moody ballad "Time and Again" gives another glimpse to the versatility of Django's writing. The music is fleshed out nicely by occasional harmonious vocal turns, and the solid rhythms of bassist Byron Isaacs and drummer Neil Nunziato. But the real enjoyment hear comes from the songs themselves, as Django proves that he can take styles that have been really overdone in the recent past and make it very listenable and pretty fun to boot. - Mark E. Waterbury

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Columbia Free Times

Leave it to local favorite Danielle Howle to pick interesting musicians to play shows with. For this Saturday's performance at Jammin' Java, Howle has recruited current Chapel Hill resident Django Haskins to open. Haskins is supporting a new album, overeasysmokemachine, that showcases a sound that's part Elvis Costello and Neil Finn smart-pop, part Tom Petty and John Mellencamp all-American rock. br>
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Atlanta Creative Loafing

While his songs have a polished pop streak, Django Haskins approaches each of them with a slightly rough, frayed-edge style...His songwriting is meticulous in both its catchy composition and calculated imperfection.

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Raleigh-Durham Spectator
Don't Fence Him In
Label buster Django Haskins sings it like it is

"There's a real tendency in rock and roll to want to pretend like you made it all up," Haskins explains, "that there has never been anything like you and your band before. I'm not a traditionalist by any means, but I think it's important to acknowledge your roots -- the worst music I hear out there today is the stuff that sounds like they don't own any records. If you don't really love listening to music, then why are you making it?"

Haskins' latest, Laying Low and in Between, features four tracks produced by Sonic Youth and Hole producer Don Fleming and Whiskeytown's Mike Daly, along with Pete Yorn and Andrew Hollander. The Daly connection invites comparisons of his music to Whiskeytown's, a fact that amuses Django. "It's pretty off the mark in the sense that I had honestly never heard a Whiskeytown record until about two months ago. On the other hand, I've listened to my fair share of Gram Parsons, Dylan, Replacements, Big Star, the Band and Bruce Springsteen, so Ryan [Adams] and I probably share some influences."

Just because Haskins occasionally sits down with a guitar and goes one on one with the audience is no reason to call him a "folkie" -- he doesn't relish that label either. "Anytime most people hear an acoustic guitar and vocal, they automatically think 'folk.' The thing that bugs me about the folk label is that I personally dislike James Taylor's music, and if every copy of his albums were burned in a gigantic fire tomorrow, I'd be there with the hot dogs."

One label that doesn't put Haskins off is "punk." "I definitely have some punk leanings. My dream would be to be in the kind of position that Tom Waits is in," he admits, referring to the fact that Waits' newest record was put out by the punk label Epitaph. "To do what I do without regard to people's labels, and have it be accepted by both pop and punk audiences." Haskins can be as acerbic as any punker, as he demonstrates on "Dumbed Down," a song about "how people actually congratulate themselves on their lack of creativity."

Recently, Haskins tested his work in an arena where even his native language had no bearing. After graduation, he left Manhattan to spend a year in mainland China teaching English and came away with what he considers "a great learning experience" for a songwriter: playing to an audience that doesn't understand what you're talking about.

"Mostly, I figured out how to write memorable melodies and the importance of the sound of the words as much as the words themselves. I love to listen to music in different languages because it strips the words of their literal meaning but still gets the emotional impact across."

When he's not on the road, Haskins is back in New York City working on a new album. He says this record will be more varied than the last one. "People always say that they love the White Album or Revolver. But then they go into the studio and chicken out of making a truly diverse record (assuming that they have a bunch of different styles of tunes in the first place). So we're really trying to go ahead and make a record like that." And for this one, all the labels go right out the window. "The thing that holds it together is the songs, not some kind of genre labeling. And that's what it's all about."

To read the full interview, click here.

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Amplifier, June 2001

Django & The Regulars,Laying Low and Inbetween (Alyosha)
Django Haskins has obviously listened to a lot of Elvis Costello, and it infused his writing. Not that Laying Low and Inbetween apes that sound, but this janglepop trio (Haskins, Byron Isaacs, and Neil Nunziato) has lyrical smarts and melody lines which hark back to Costello. Django and the Regulars make some infectious rock music here, especially "Dumbed Down," a smiling but scathing swipe at submitting to starmaker machinery (boy bands, are you listening?). Some of the best moments include the catchy "Disappointment Book," "12 Gauge Microphone," and especially "Time and Again" which has the emotional impact of, well, Costello's "Allison" or "Party Girl." The album, produced by Don Fleming (Sonic Youth, Hole, The Smithereens) is engaging, not overly sunny for pop, and tends to grow on you.

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The Aquarian, August 2001
Sept, 2001

Django & The Regulars,Laying Low and Inbetween (Alyosha)
With three tracks produced by the legendary Don Fleming, you knew Django would be slinging some stellar hooks your way, but damn, the chiming compositions here are anything but regular. The groove is in the heartbreak here with shades of Pernice Bros. casting a dark side to the moonlit melodies. Grade: A-

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TimeOut NY

Django and his Regulars are one of the city's finer pop-rock's getting to the point where writing a tight pop song really does seem special, you know?

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CMJ New Music Report
August 24, 1998


This Brooklyn artist's debut album is marked by consistently high quality songwriting and a promising kind of stylistic inconsistency--two qualities that, when found together, are the hallmarks of an artist with a bright future ahead of him. Backed by various musicians on different tracks, Haskins is nonetheless the album's chameleon-like driving force, delivering tunes that vary from tear-in-beer ballads to Beatle-esque love songs to rollicking country tunes in rapid succession, each of them true to their genre and solid examples of Haskins's clever songcraft. His voice is as crucial as his songs, too; he's got a malleable set of pipes that can joyfully warm the room as much as they can yank your heartstrings. Recommended to anyone looking for fresh songwriting talent. - Cheryl Botchick

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Cincinnati City Beat
March 27, 2002

An underground Indie Pop/Rock fave, Django Haskins and his band The Regulars have racked up an impressive amount of raving press with the albums Folding Stars and the most recent, hook-laden Laying Low and Inbetween. Haskins' latest was co-produced by the legendary Don Flemming and brings to mind classic Pop rockers like Marshall Crenshaw and Elvis Costello as well as the elite of those artists' contemporary disciples.

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Friday Morning Quarterback

Growing up in a family of musicians has certainly given New York-based singer/songwriter Django Haskins time to hone his craft. It's been clearly time well spent, as his new CD Folding Stars (Alyosha) resonates with the spark of a gifted singer and lyricist delivering songs from the heart. Imagine a hybrid between Elvis Costello and Tom Petty and you've got a pretty good idea of what Haskins is all about. Check out the tracks "Hand to Mouth," "Geronimo" and "Longest Day" for further proof of Haskins' songwriting expertise.

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With tales to tell in a melodic and energetic frenzy, Django certainly wowed the crowd at the 12 Bar in London promoting the success of his new album "Laying Low and Inbetween."

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TimeOut (London)

NYC-based pop tunesmith Haskins (of Django and the Regulars) headlines (at the 12 Bar Club) with his sharp lyrics and crafted, folk rock melodies. Recommended event.

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Good Times, June 2001

Django & the Regulars is a Manhattan-based 3-piece band. Primarily, it is the vehicle of frontman/songwriter Django Haskins. Laying Low and Inbetween is a followup to Haskins' well-received 1998 solo cd, Folding Stars. The overall musical sound mixes pop and rock, with a little folk thrown in for good measure. At times, the sound is Beatlesque, especially in the vocals, although Haskins' look is more early Springsteen. In any event, the music is radio-friendly, even in its hardest-rocking moments. Highlights include the opening number, "Disappointment Book" an ode to being unlucky in love; the poppy title track (which reminds me a little of the La's classic "There She Goes"); the sinister-sounding "12 Gauge Microphone", a catchy little tune called "China"; the danceable, upbeat "Temporary"; and the slow ballad "Finally Falling" which contains Haskins' best vocal work on the entire album.

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Songwriter's Monthly
April, 1998

This month's Future Charters winner is Django Haskins. Django grew up in a family of musicians, singing and studying classical violin from an early age before taking up the guitar in his early teens. He has led rock bands for over ten years, and has released two self-produced CDs of his songs. Now based in New York City, this writer/artist has established himself in the downtown songwriter circuit, frequenting such clubs as CBGB's Gallery and The Bitter End, as well as other new music staples such as the Sidewalk Cafe and Arlene Grocery. Haskins has a strong vision for melodic, intelligent music in the tradition of such songsmiths as Elvis Costello. Django is a name you will be seeing more of.

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Vassar Miscellany News
April 24, 1998

Django Haskins is one of those "singer/songwriters" who proves that the combination still connotes a good thing . . . A New York City-based musician who treads both pop and folk waters with equal skill, Django Haskins' Folding Stars is a solid record.

Beginning with "Hand to Mouth," the album's first track, we know we're hearing something special. Haskins' smoky vocals enter over a repetitious guitar chord, then Haskins' and Karen Hogg's guitars team up with Russ Meisner's drumming for a seamless pop progression.

Haskins' vocals soar at its crescendo as he sings Olaeeoolayee/ there's always something new/ to do without. The arrangements are perfect as the song breaks down into a free-flowing jam of guitar and tambourine.

"Geronimo" is a straight-ahead rock song. Haskins shows his Replacements influences (one can hear a little American Music Club as well) with strong yet sweet guitar-powered melodies perfect for a concert-hall romp. Haskins' first ballad, "Lullaby," leaves a bit to be desired, but he recovers quickly on "Beautiful," another melodic, classy rock song.

"You May Be the One for Me" is a much improved ballad. Haskins' vocals languish unfulfilled with just the right amount of folky melancholy. Haskins sneaks "Out of Town" between two more ballads, "Seven" and "Eclipse." "Out of Town" is a screaming, up-tempo crowd pleaser, replete with vibrant Chuck Berry-esque solos.

Haskins adds another powerful pop melody ("Spare"), a ballad ("Longest Day") and a bluesy, saxophone filled bit of angst ("Folding Stars") before leaving us with his best ballad. Folding Stars' closer, "Over My Head," is an aching folk number--he sings mercilessly, Is it my drinking/or is this whole car sinking? as the acoustic guitars lilt and electrics sulk in the background. Folding Stars aptly captures a breadth of emotion; only a few songs miss their mark, and with the right breaks, Haskins could go a long way. . . - Eamon Joyce

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Gainesville Sun
by Douglas Jordan
February 7, 2003

Listening to (Django's) new CD, I'm reminded of Martin Newell, Matthew Sweet, and maybe Tal Bachman. The songs are smart and tight, each with a strong hook. The opening number, "Disappointment Book," is unashamedly Brit-pop influenced, with rhythms that would make Andy Partridge proud.

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Independent Florida Alligator
(Rating: 4 out of 5)

This effort from Haskins, a former Gainesvillian who calls New York City home, combines lyrical intelligence with an astute understanding of the sparse sound a hollow western-sounding guitar can have. Haskins plays guitar, banjo, and percussion on Stars with the confident delivery of a man lost in steel-and-glass canyons.

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