Friday, December 18, 2009

Mean Jeans open up

The Ramones may not have put out an album in the past 15 years, but their protégés may have just surfaced in Portland.

The Mean Jeans - with Jeans Wilder on drums/vocals, Billy Jeans on guitar/vocals and Jean Jeans on bass – play snotty, poppy punk rock in the vein of New York’s finest.

With their debut just out on Dirtnap, two of the three were kind enough to answer a few questions via e-mail recently.

BJ = Billy Jeans and JW = Jeans Wilder

How did the band first get together and why the move from D.C. to Portland?

JW: While recording some hot rap jams, we both realized our true calling was more Riverdales related. So while drinking those big Red Stripes from 7-11 on my front porch I told BJ to come over the next day and we would kick out the jams. He showed up, I sat at the drums, he blasted some chords out on the geetar, and we sang what became "Party Animal" on top of that. Then I was getting kicked out of my house and he was bored where we were at so..... Hello Portland.

BJ: Me and Jeans were chilling hard in his mom’s basement in late 2006, eating macaroni and
twerking on a miracle. We wrote a song called "Party Animal" that is actually on our new Dirtnap record. We were doing literally nothing with our crummy lives so we decided to write more party songs and move to Portland.

Portland obviously has a strong indie scene. How's the punk scene there?

BJ: We play pop punk music, which is not necessarily a common or respected practice in 2009. We don't seek out bands who have a similar sound to shred with, but as far as killer bands with killer vibes, Portland is righteous. White Fang, The Flip Tops, The Whines, Meth Teeth, Organized Sports, The Bugs, Therapists, Pure Country Gold - they are all totally different and they all totally wail.

JW: Don't forget Dooom Patrol. Gotta rep all the roommates' bands ya know. That’s how the Communists would do it. Equal rights for everybody, like Peter Tosh said (and he had an AK-47 guitar so you can't fuk wit dat).

What can you tell me about "Are You Serious"?

BJ: Are you serious? Have you ever been serious? Cuz I haven't. Are You Serious is a 90 MPH Astroglide Slip N' Slide through Keanu Reeves' butthole. To jam the record is to go toobin down the Slime Pipeline with Malibu the American Gladiator, a couple of beautiful babes and a case of 30 Stones; someone is bound to spew, but it'll be worth the ride. The songs are short and fast and mostly about partying.

JW: Yeah, what he said.

You guys obviously have an affinity for The Ramones. Do you have any musical inspirations that would surprise people?

BJ: Feargal Sharkey, Angry Youth Comix, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (the Hanna Barbera animated series), Keanu Reeves' band (Dogshit or somethin?).

JW: Billy Ocean, Eddy Grant, Men at Twerk, Men Without Jimmy Hats. Oh and Carl Sagan's the Cosmos (the music, the outfits, the eyebrows).

How did you end up on Dirtnap?

BJ: I was buying a Surf Punks record and Ken Dirtnap asked if we wanted to do a 7 inch. I said shit yea!

JW: Ken's wife made him sign us. Whha-pishhh (whip noise).

Do you plan to do much touring behind this record? Is it tough to find time to get away to tour?

JW: We will tour anywhere, anytime, anyplace, anyways, if somebody organizes it for us. As soon as I wake up early enough to catch the 3 pm deadline for passport renewal at the post office, then we're going to go to Vancouver, BC to play a rad pizza party. Now is the time to do it, before I start my residency at the Geneva Center for Butt Cancer. (The legendary GCBC's).

BJ: We struggle with getting our shoes off before bed and finding food, but tours are in the works. We have some good Portland and Seattle shows booked in December, a bunch with the Cowabunga Babes from Austin.

What's next for the band?

BJ: We are gonna make more party records. We are doing a cassette release with Gnar Tapes N Shit. We hope to do an animated series about the misadventures of three time traveling slackers.

JW: Working on an instructional video on how to party. Hard.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

As Tall As Lions Q&A

After a miserable experience recording their latest record – including three producers and a near breakup – followed by a tour fraught with van breakdowns and health problems, As Tall As Lions are finally on the right path.

The album You Can’t Take it With You turned out better than imagined and the tour with MuteMath still had some great moments.

While the thought of recording their next record still causes guitarist Saen Fitzgerald to shiver, he took the time to answer a few questions about the new record, finding their groove and seeing Kiss up close.

How was the tour with MuteMath?

The tour was a roller coaster of bad luck and great experiences. Our trailer broke down just shy of a million times, and Dan (Nigro), our lead singer, had to miss a good amount of shows due to doctor prescribed vocal rest. On top of that it was the longest stretch of tour we have ever done. There was no break in between MuteMath and the previous tour with Rx Bandits/Dredg. No matter how much you love your band mates, it's hard not to squabble when every moment of the day is spent with them. We definitely learned a lot. It wasn't all-bad though. I'd say our biggest and best shows were on that tour. Even the shows without Dan gave the boys and I the opportunity to be creative with our instrumental and improvisational sets. Not to mention MuteMath were some of the most talented, genuine guys I have had the pleasure to tour with.

You guys also played Voodoo Fest this year. How was that?

It was a trip. Just being in New Orleans on Halloween is enough reason for excitement. The only downside was playing in the morning after an overnight drive. We arrived at the show and immediately loaded onto the stage and played. I thought we were a mess, but looking out into the crowd made me realize the previous Friday night had made everyone that way. I did get to see KISS up close. I'm not a fan but everyone told me to check them out for their kitsch value. It was very funny. I heard they had four fire marshals onstage due to all the pyrotechnics. I spent the rest of the night on Bourbon St. and caught The Flaming Lips the next day. All in all it was a great time and I hope we get invited back next year.

What can you tell me about making You Can't Take it With You?

It was the hardest thing we ever had to do. Even the writing process became grueling. We tried to go about the whole thing in a different way, and like most things in life when you do that you make mistakes and learn along the way. It was just test after test and black cloud after black cloud. We caught the whole thing on camera and released it as a DVD to coincide with the record. We thought that fans would get more out of the album if they knew the story behind it.

You had a number of producers lined up to make this record. Why do you think it was harder to write/record this one?

Well we knew we wanted to make a different kind of record. We had done our previous EP and LP with our good friend and producer Mike Watts. We thought to achieve this new sound we would need to find someone different to push us out of our comfort zone. This led to an endless search for the "perfect" producer that lasted almost a year. We finally found a guy out in California, so we rented studio time and a house for us all to live in. We fell into negotiation issues that soured our relationship with said producer and he pulled out of the project a week before we were scheduled to record. We scattered to find another guy in California, and after a quick but thorough search we found who we thought was the best candidate. He had worked on some of our favorite records and had a unique style that excited us. After two weeks of tracking we were unsatisfied with the sonic quality of what he was achieving and unfortunately had to part ways. We were left in California with half the time and half the original budget to work with.

Who ended up producing the record?

A lovely man named Noah Shain. He saved the record, and in my mind, is the one responsible for its existence. He hustled and busted his ass; working all through the night to make sure everything got done. His attitude and work ethic was inspiring. After losing two producers in a row, we had a bad taste in our mouths. There was a very good chance that if we had gone with someone other than Noah, we wouldn't have gone through with making the album.

I read somewhere that the band almost broke up a few time working on this album. What do you think kept you from ultimately splitting up?

(Laughs) I have no idea. Maybe it was just the concept of the greater good. We had faith that what we were trying to accomplish was good, and that these problems were just temporary setbacks. Though, when the problems kept happening and happening, it really got to us. In order to stay together, there had to be a sense of camaraderie between us. We were soldiers in the mud, and we were just trying to keep our band alive. Looking back on it now I'm very proud of us. We went through a lot of shit and I'm surprised we came out of it, all limbs intact.

Is there a theme to the songs on this record?

There is a loose one, but I wouldn't consider it a concept record. We came up with the album title before writing most of the songs. Everything was underneath the general "you can't take it with you" umbrella. We thought that songs about making money, love and loss, and a lot the "human condition" lyrical content all fit together.

Despite all that you went through, are you pleased with how the album came out?

Very much so. I look at it as our selfish album. A lot of people were trying to freak us out by saying things like, "Your self-titled album was great and a lot of people loved it. You have to make sure whatever you do next is that much more successful or you're screwed." I don't subscribe to that line of thought. We have always made music for ourselves and are astounded when other people like it. I think we were much more conscious about trying to make a "successful" record during the self-titled sessions. We had conversations about trying to write these three-minute pop songs that were disguised in reverb and crazy drum patterns. I think we were trying to make up for dropping the ball on our first LP. I don't remember talking about anything when we made You Can't Take It With You. We did a lot of individual song writing this time around. Looking back, I feel like we were trying to impress each other and write songs we thought the other guys would be turned on by. That's probably why it's all over the place.

Do you have any dread thinking about the next record?

Yeah, in a lot of ways I do. It took us nine months to write and record the self-titled LP. After that we told each other we couldn't bear taking that long again. When it took us about a year to do this one, we were all very frustrated. I tried to convince the guys to record You Can't Take It With You by ourselves, but they thought a producer was needed. I think we are all on the level now. I guess we'll wait and see. I wouldn't be surprised if we wrote and recorded a self produced double album in a week or if we spent the next two years working on a follow up EP. If history teaches us anything, then it will probably be the latter.

What's next for the band?

We are releasing a 7" in the UK that we are all very excited about. It’s just a single for “Circles” with a few songs from You Can’t Take It With You, a song from As Tall As Lions, and a new B-side called “I Could Die Here.” We go over there in early December to support it, opening up for Frightened Rabbit in Scotland and Athlete in England. After that we are planning to head to Costa Rica in January to film a live DVD of us playing acoustic versions of our songs in various locations throughout the country. We will probably take February off and start a U.S. headline in either March or April.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Scarred Q&A

Anaheim CA’s The Scarred seems a little out of place in the current world of punk rock.
They play gritty street punk more reminiscent of bands like Stiff Little Fingers and The Briefs than of the Autotune dependent teens that seem to have stolen the punk banner. Even their look, Clash-inspired messaged work shirts and massive Mohawks draw stronger comparisons to the old scene than the skinny jeans wearing modern hair bands.

Scanning the band’s merch table for a neon t-shirt? You’re shit out of luck.
The Scarred, fronted and founded by guitarist/vocalist Justin Willits, is among the last of the breed: punk rockers that put music over money.

The band would have been forgiven for throwing the towel in years ago. In true DIY fashion, they put out their debut on their own label and followed it up with the fantastically-received No Solution on Punk Core Records. The band was mid tour when they got word that their label had imploded leaving them stranded in the middle of America.

Deep in debt and more than a little pissed, the band regrouped and decided to soldier on.
The result is At Half Mast, their strongest effort to date. Released on a new label, Basement Records, with a new line up, the band is currently playing a slew of shows in throughout California.

Willits was kind enough to take some questions recently about the band, crappy scenes and being a punk rock dad.

You mentioned you have a son. I have two little girls. Has being a father changed you and your wife at all?

A lot! I see the world from a completely different perspective now. It's funny how silly a lot of what I thought I was angry about in my life seems now. But it's also funny that I'm angry about a lot of new things. I want my kid to have a future. I don't want him to have the same problems I have. Being truly 100 percent responsible for another human life, and not just physically, but emotionally, completely changes you if you have the basic decency to stick around and try to make it work. A lot of people don't anymore. They're too selfish, self absorbed, and hollow. It takes a lot of selflessness to raise a kid.

Has it made you rethink anything you do with the band?

Nope. If anything it's what keeps me going. Not because it's ever made me a dime, but because it's what I do. We're the last gang in town man. I'm not going to bury my head in the sand yet so my son can grow up thinking I'm a quitter. So I have to exhaust every possible option and push forward as far as I can go. Then at that point worry about rethinking things, you know? I have a lot farther to push first before I give up. And not to prove something to him as much as prove something to myself. That's why I'm here. We have an all new lineup and a new sense of purpose now, and I feel more ready than ever. I'm ready to write and record a new album already.

Are you ready to take him on the road yet?

We've taken him to a few shows but get this: The bars will not let us have him there because he's not 21. Like he's going to have a drink or something! And we can't just leave him in the van with someone all night, or cold parking lots, and we can't afford hotels when we go out. So no, taking him is impossible. But when he's older I'll take him for sure.

Things have certainly changed between records, so how was the writing/recording process with the new record different than the last?

More than half of these songs were written to be on a follow up to “No Solution” that should have been recorded almost three years ago. But I'd say to anyone interested in the writing process to listen to the Lyrics closely, which will be up at

Your last label shut down just as you were about to get to work on what would become “Half-Mast”. How did you guys react to the news?

We were in the middle of recording an album which had already been delayed a year with the baby and everything. So it literally killed all momentum for us. I don't remember feeling anything. Just numb. I still love the guys who run the label but it was definitely bad timing for us, yeah for sure. We were in so much debt at that point we could not afford to release a record on our own. And we were in debt because we were trying to promote “No Solution” and lay the groundwork for the next album. If someone goes balls out for us, we go balls out for them. And we toured HARD that year. I put 100,000 miles on my van in one year (2006)... That's like someone else's car's entire lifespan. So yeah, it sucked but what was worse than the news itself was realizing we were dead in the water.

How scary was that, knowing that you and your wife had a baby on the way and then your label shuts down?

Not for that reason no. Punk Core(Records) never paid us any money. People have this mistaken impression that any band that was on punk core made money. Yeah right! I don't know of anyone who got paid on Punk Core, but I know a lot of bands who owe Punk Core money, including us. We were upset and frustrated because we invested so much time with the impression that we'd do three albums, so when we found out there wouldn't be any more releases after only one album, it was like someone took the floor out from under us.

Is the song "Medicate Me" autobiographical at all?

One hundred percent.

Is it tough to find time to get away to tour?

Yeah, sort of. If people want us on tour than they need to help us by talking to their local promoters. Find out whose running shows and tell them who you want to see. Write a zine, promote the bands you like to other people, even if they aren't punk. Help your scene. Then you'll start to see bands touring a lot more again. In our case, I can't just leave my wife and kid at home to go play with myself. If I can see people want us to come play their towns then we'll be on the road in a heartbeat. But when everyone's letting their scene go to hell and they don't care about their own town, what the hell do I want to come to their town for, you know? When people care, even just a few people, it can make a huge difference! If just a few kids stopped being apathetic it can turn an entire town around.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Q&A with The Bomb

When Naked Raygun frontman Jeff Pezzati put together his post NR band The Bomb, he was undoubtedly under a massive amount of scrutiny.

Like a punk rock Paul McCartney moving on to Wings or Johnny Rotten starting PIL - comparisons to his beloved, and highly influential first band were inevitable.

The Bomb are clearly nobody's version of Wings.

For about a decade now the Chicago band, comprised of Pezzati, guitarist Jeff Dean (The Story So Far,Tomorrows Gone), bassist Pete Mittler and drummer Mike Soucy (both from The Methadones), have been churning out amazing punk rock. Their latest "Speed is Everything" may just be their best record yet in an already impressive career.

Guitarist Jeff Dean was kind enough to put up with a handful of questions about the new record, working with J Robbins and punk rock supergroups.

So you guys are in a number of different bands. Does that make The Bomb a supergroup? A side project? Or a full-fleged band?

I don't know if you would call us a "supergroup", but we are a full on band. (Jeff) Pezzati started the band in 1999, and with the exception of us taking a break for about a year,the band has been active since it started.

So do your other bands get jealous when you spend time with another group?

No way! We are all good friends, and I think we all manage our time wisely. I have a lot more time on my hands to work with than the other guys, so I'm able to play in more bands than everyone else, but there is never any jealousy or anything like that.

How did you get J. Robbins to record the album? What was he like to work with?

J has recorded our last two records, so when we were getting ready to record our previous record"Indecision"there was a lot of talk about who we wanted to do it. I've always been a fan of J's bands as well as his producing/recording. Pezzati and J have been friends since when NR (Naked Raygun) and GI (Government Issue) played shows together back in the 80's, so it just made sense to get him on board. I gave him a call and he was really into the idea. J. is hands down my favorite engineer I've ever recorded with! When we were recording "Indecision", all of us got along so well, and he could understand where we were coming from with ideas, etc. We just clicked. So, that is why J will be the only one to record our albums as long as we are a band. At this point, he almost feels like the 5th member! Ha, ha!

Who else is on the album?

This record was a real collaboration between all of us. I still write the majority of the music, with Pezzati writing most of thew lyrics. But, this time everyone in the band contributed,as did J. He wrote the music for one of the songs on the record. J also did back ups on a lot of the songs too. Dan Yemin (Paint it Black, Lifetime) did vocals on one of the songs,as did Bob Nanna (Braid).

How long did it take to record "Speed is Everything"?

We recorded all of the music and most of the vocals in about six days here in Chicago at a studio owned by my friend Andy Gerber called "Million Yen". Then about a month later, Pezzati and I flew out to Baltimore to mix it and add some additional vocals at J's studio "Magpie Cage" I think we were there for five days.

What's next for the band?

We are actually doing a East coast tour at the end of Oct. with it ending at "The Fest" in Gainesville. Then Pezzati and I are flying out to California to play two acoustic shows on Nov.21 and 22. Its a benefit that my friend Joe Nelson is putting together. We are playing with HR from the Bad Brains, Walter from Quicksand/Rival Schools, and a couple other people. Everyone is playing acoustic, plus its an art show as well. Should be a lot fun. After that, we are going to try and do a European tour in the spring, then maybe work on some new songs.

Anything else you want to add?

I guess that I hope people check out the new record "Speed is Everything". All of us are really proud of it, and if you are a fan of our band or Naked Raygun or whatever, I think you will enjoy it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Dear Hunter Video

The criminally-underrated band Dear Hunter are about to go on tour.

Here's a video update from the band.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chicago Punk Rock Doc

The documentary You Weren't There: A History of Chicago Punk 1977-84 is getting great reviews and coming out on DVD shortly.

It's a look at Chi-town's underground music scene (note to NY and LA... you weren't the only ones).

Here's a the trailer:

You Weren't There: A History of Chicago Punk 1977-1984 from factory twenty five on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Westbound Train

Boston’s Westbound Train certainly didn’t invent ska and reggae, but they sure as hell have managed to put their stamp on the genres.

Four records and eight years in, the seven piece has figured out how to blend classic American Soul to the Caribbean genres, bringing the echoes of bands like The Specials and The Skatalites to a generation of kids who thought Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish were the Alpha and Omega of ska.

The band is about to release Come and Get It, an album that front man Obi Fernandez describes as his favorite so far.
Fernandez spoke with InSite recently about what makes this new record different from the others, new line up changes and a summer plans that include plenty of BBQ.
What can you tell me about the new album?

We are all very excited about the new album. Everything that went into making the record seemed to happen completely natural and organic. We recorded at Sea Side Lounge Studios in Brooklyn, NY and just fell in love with the place as well as the people there. Dave Hillyard of The Slackers came on to produce the album and that was just amazing. He knew exactly where we were headed and didn't let us lose any focus on the sound and the vibe of the record that. The record has tons of soul influence. Old Stax and Motown have always been a part of what we do but on this record we actually recorded some straight up soul tunes. Come and Get It has definitely been my favorite album to make. We did it live over the span of about two weeks. No matter what you are into this album has something for everyone. Fifteen songs that will hopefully get ya party feeling great.

This is your fourth record. Has writing the albums gotten any easier?

Well, you always try to keep writing but I think it does seem to get a bit easier as you go. I think with this record I've really found my voice and have a much easier time communicating what I want to say. The more you write and with each record you put out it seems like each record gets more and more honest. Probably because you've just seen more of the world, lived a little more life. Touring enables you to have this enormous canvas of experiences to paint about.

You guys were on the road a lot after Transitions. Did you take any time off before working on the new one?

We did take time off before making this record. We were just going non stop and needed to take a break. We needed to charge up and make a couple changes to our roster. We'd been spending so much time together and going through a bunch of rough times together that everyone needed to just step out of the situation in order to think about things a little more clearly. We needed to sit in a room and hash a lot of things out and at the end of look at one another and be like "Wait a minute these dudes are my friends first not my colleagues". After we were able to work out the kinks the next thing to do was start writing a new album. It was really great to go through that and start writing for a new record because it really just brought us closer together. We were stronger now, so we really went into this project together and focused on making great music. We didn't have to worry about submitting for tours, van calls, what were our next 10 steps... For the first time in a long time it was just purely about the music.

You mentioned some changes to your roster.

Yeah we picked up Eric Novod and Luke Penella since Transitions. Both people are incredible people and add to the dynamic greatly on and off stage. Eric is a huge soul and jazz fan and when he came into the band our sound just changed automatically. He played a really huge part in allowing us to go into that soul direction that we've been wanting to go in for so long. Luke is an incredible sax player and one of the funniest dudes you will ever meet. Having the both of them has allowed us to really step up our game. They both bring such an arsenal of talent that totally forces everyone to always bring their A game.

You guys have toured with some amazing ska and reggae bands like the Skatalites and The Toasters. Ever get intimidated at all playing with these bands?

I've been intimidated before but in the way that it just inspires you to want to give you absolute best. Bands like that that have really carved out a path and in all that we do we want to be completely respectful of those who came before us. The Skatalites are probably one of the bands we listen to the most. If it weren't for them we would be even further away from nailing the style of music that we play.

Anything else you want to add?

We just want to make music for everyone regardless of what you are into. We want to show people a great time and set off dance parties all over the world. Please pick up our new record Come and Get It. Be sure to keep visiting and

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground - New Record

Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, the new band from a couple of former Gatsbys American Dream members, has just finished their new record. Trust me, it's great!

The band has decided to stream the entire album on their Myspace page on Friday, August 14th.

Kirk wrote the following on their Myspace blog:
"Through triumph and tragedy we are pleased to announce that our new record is done!we are still developing the release schedule, but since we all collectively feel like big stinky ass-holes for leaving all of you waiting for such an extended period of time to hear everything, we've decided to stream the whole damn record come Friday right here on the old myspace page."

Still no word on who will be releasing it, (they'd be perfect for Suburban Home, if anyone cares).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Girl in a Coma Video

Great band from San Antonio, Girl in a Coma is signed to Joan Jett's label Blackheart records.

Here's Girl in a Coma's "Static Mind":

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Girls' Guide to Rocking

When Joan Jett gives your book a blurb for the front cover you know you're doing something right.

Writer and music critic Jessica Hopper has just put out a great book for all aspiring rockergrrrls: The Girls' Guide to Rocking.

The book is practically a life manual for becoming the next rock goddess, covering everything from picking the right instrument to booking shows. Easy to read with practical advice.

I'm thinking about reading this to my 2-year-old daughter before I put her to bed tonight. Much more useful than Good Night Moon.

Hopper is currently in the middle of what looks to be a pretty exhaustive book tour. Here are the dates:
  • 7/13 Portland, OR @ Powells on Hawthorne 7:30 pm
  • 7/14 Seattle, WA @ Vera Project 7:30
  • 7/15 Santa Monica, CA @ Public Library 2 pm (w/Mika Miko)--outdoor show!
  • 7/15 Los Angeles, CA @ Skylight Books 7:30 pm
  • 7/16 Minneapolis, MN @ Magers & Quinn 7:30 (w/ Laurie Lindeen)
  • 7/19 Exton, PA @ Barnes & Noble 2 pm
  • 7/19 Philly PA @ T and P Gallery 6:30 pm (1143 s. 9th)
  • 7/22 New York City @ Barnes & Noble (396 Ave of the Americas at 8th St.)
  • 7/23 Providence RI @ AS220 7 pm
  • 7/30 Chicago, IL @ YouMedia Center @ Harold Washington Library book talk and interactive session 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m
  • 8/19 Oak Park, IL @ Oak Park Public Library 7 p.m., reading & concert w/ Katie Stelmanis (all-ages, free)
  • 8/20 Cleveland OH @ Visible Voice (early bookstore event)
  • 8/20 Cleveland, OH @ Happy Dog Bar (5801 Detroit Ave) Katie Stelmanis & Ghost Bees & me DJ-ing (9 p.m., $4, all-ages)
  • 8/21 Pittsburgh @ Garfield Art Works w/ Katie Stelmanis & Ghost Bees (6:30 doors, reading, bands & dance party, all-ages)
  • 8/22 Brooklyn, NY @ Littlefield w/ These Are Powers & Katie Stelmanis & more bands TBA me & DJ's MNDR & L-Train. ($7, 6 pm, 16+)
  • 8/23 Baltimore TBA w/ w/ Katie Stelmanis
  • 8/24 Washington DC @ Comet Pizza w/ Katie Stelmanis & Ghost Bees & more (9pm, all-ages)8/25 Chapel Hill, NC @ Nightlight w/ Katie Stelmanis & Ghost Bees & Curtains of Night (all-ages)
  • 8/26 Nashville, TN @ Grimey's w/Katie Stelmanis (6 pm, all ages, free.)
  • 8/27 Champaign-Urbana, IL @ The Red Herring w/ Katie Stelmanis & Ghost Bees (7 pm, all-ages, $3-5)
  • 8/28 Bloomington, IN @ Boxcar Books & Community Center w/ Katie Stelmanis & Ghost Bees (free, all-ages)
  • 8/29 Chicago @ Hideout w/ Katie Stelmanis & Ghost Bees & Girls Rock Chicago camper bands 1-4 pm ($4 kids, $7 adults)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Left Alone Q&A

There are really only three guys named Elvis worth knowing. There’s the one who died about three decades ago, the one married to that hot blues singer and Elvis Cortez, the founder and front man of Left Alone, the phenomenally catchy punk ska band from Wilmington, CA.

After nearly three years on the road nonstop, Cortez put the band on hold briefly to work on some new songs. The hiatus was thankfully short lived and, with a new bassist and drummer, he reassembled Left Alone and managed to record quite possibly the best record in their already impressive cannon.

With the new album out, Cortez was kind enough to answer a few questions.
What can you tell me about the new record? How does it compare to the first two?

Our new record has a new tighter sound as a band. We moved into the studio (something we had never done) and worked on it there, that changed everything from the process of writing to even mixing the album. We had a lot of time to work on the album with no distractions. The songs are stronger in every way and that pushed the record into a new direction. Every song to me seems to complement each other and the whole album seems to be the most cohesive record we have done. This record, as compared to the last two, seems to be better written both musically and lyrically. I really feel I went out into new directions with both and it worked.

Were you listening to anything in particular when writing this album that may have influenced the sound?

I was just listening to the classics Op Ivy, The Clash, stuff like that. Nothing too crazy that would make us bring out a string orchestra or something like that. I usually don't get influenced by stuff I listen to when working on a record.

Any songs in particular that you're especially proud of?

I think "Bombs Away" because it’s a political song lyrically and that’s something I have never done. It felt good to take a look around and put it down on paper the way I see it.

Any guests on this record?

No. Last record we had Tim Armstrong and Patricia Day of the Horrorpops and that was insane, but this time we kept it in the band. Well, we did have our buddy Pablo Fiasco from Baltimore fly in to do a few organ tracks. He always works on our records.

You guys took some time off before recording this album - do you think that helped with writing the record?

It really helped in a lot of ways. From the time we got signed in ‘05 till Feb. 08 we were on the road and that was rad, but after two records in with Hellcat in what it seems to me in my mind of like a year span, I just had to pull back and take a breather and enjoy it. Plus I got a 1963 Chevy Nova and I wanted to drive it, not just park it and be on tour. The time off also helped me solidify the new lineup.

You also went on tour with The Unseen during the break. How was that?

Yup, about two months after my "break" from touring Mark Unseen called and was like "Yo, you wanna play bass for a few tours?" and before I even asked “where? When? Anything.” I was like Hell yeah! The Unseen dudes are great so I jumped on that one quick. So Left Alone took a break (but) I didn't. I left on tour from March till June. That was so much fun, to only play bass; no business no nothing just play bass and, well, get ripped every night with Pat and Scot.

You mentioned the new line up. You've got a new drummer and bass player. How did you recruit Kiel and Nick? Do they change the band's sound at all?

I Met Nick Danger when we toured Hawaii, his home, and he heard we were looking for a new bass player he hit me up. His other band while he was on tour was breaking up so he started learning our songs while on tour and when he came to Wilmington the first day I knew he was the guy. He plays so great and is down to tour and is a Vegan. His bass playing really fills out our songs like never before. I only play about three chords and it’s really nice to have a bass player who can back ya like that. Cobra Kiel, on the other hand, we just hit up for a Europe tour as a fill in but the tour got cancelled and since he was done with his other band he joined at the perfect time. I have known Kiel for a few years now and have always thought he was a great drummer. With these two new guys to me it seems the pieces I have always been looking for to finish the puzzle have finally come together. I can say the band has never sounded so tight and been so ready!

You released a bunch of EPs and singles before signing to Hellcat. Have most of those songs surfaced on other records or do you plan to re-release them in the future?

They are on Smelvis, my label but eventually I’d like them to be out on Hellcat. A lot is the early years’ stuff which is cool because when I get into the band, the early stuff seems to get my attention. So maybe in the future we will re-release everything on a double CD or something.

You're on the road a lot and play with a bunch of regional bands - any band you've discovered on tour that's worth watching out for?

I’d say China Wife Motors from Japan, Random Hand from the UK. In the states Forty Lashes, the howlers and the Shoplifters.

Anything else you want to add?

Yeah. Thank you for your time and people please support true D.I.Y bands and labels. Right now time are tough for dreamers so we need all the help we can get

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Q&A with Tiny Animals

Great pop songs, sibling rivalry and plenty of bad puns. All and all a pretty decent interview with Brooklyn's Tiny Animals (the trendy address aside, don't call them indie kids).

How and when did the band first get together?

Well, we could just give you a date on which the great conjunction occurred, but the story goes much deeper than that. It's basically a family affair. Rita and Chris have been playing music together since childhood. Much like Tiger Woods or Michael Jackson, our father urged/taught/forced us to play guitar and drums so that he could join in on bass guitar. Approximately 16 years later we met Anton (a sufficient replacement for our father), who then became a part of Chris' first band, Fighterpilot. He was called upon to complete the power trio that is now known throughout the universe as Tiny Animals.

As someone with two sisters, how difficult is it to be in a band with your sibling? Any Kinks or Oasis style fights yet?

Yes, Rita and Chris fight constantly. Physical violence is very common. OK, that's a lie. The truth is that we are deathly afraid of Rita. Her biceps are comparable to Arnold Schwarzenegger's circa 1980. So, in order to avoid unwanted brutality we resort to therapeutic discussions, rather than an onstage bloodbath.

What can you tell me about the new record?

Well, we would like to take this opportunity to clear something up. This is not an "indie rock" album. It seems that publications are incapable of reviewing it without trying to pinpoint exactly which specific brand of indie rock we are offering. They either praise us for being indie rockers with a refreshing pop-edge or they bash us for sounding too mainstream for an indie rock trio. Why can't people just call our music what it is...POP ROCK! What exactly makes people think we are playing indie rock? We certainly don't sound "indie". We are signed to a record label (plug: North Street Records). We drive around in Bentleys. We live in Brooklyn....oh wait, maybe that's why. DAMNIT!

Is there a general theme to the songs?

The general theme is total awesomeness. Eh? Seriously though, there is no underlying theme to Sweet Sweetness. But fear not, album number two is already in the works and it is a full on concept album. We can't yet reveal the concept of course, so just let the anticipation simmer.

How were the songs written? Did someone bring in the lyrics and the music was built around them or was it all done more collaboratively?

Ten of the 11 original tracks on the album were written by Chris on his own and then arranged/perfected/tailored in rehearsal by all three of us. “Goodbye July” is the one song on Sweet Sweetness which was a truly collaborative effort. We enjoy playing it so much that we have decided to do a lot more composing as a group. If it doesn't work, we will hire a ghost writer for the next album.

Do you share similar musical influences?

Not really. While there is some common ground, Chris' favorite band is Hanson, Rita mostly listens to whale sounds, and Anton gets most of his influences from 1980's TV theme songs. (Note: Some of this sentence is actually true. You decide what part!)

Anything in particular you were all listening to when writing the record that had an influence on the sound?

No, but during the drum sessions we did watch Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. We'll have to go back and take a listen to find out if there are any direct influences or plagiarisms. We may have lifted a few melodies from the scene where he falls into the shark tank and screams "That's not Snowflake".

Gotta admit, I loved the YouTube video you created. How did that come about?

Thanks! What's interesting is that we were convinced the humor of our webisodes would be too personalized for others to find funny. As for how they came know how sometimes you have a stupid idea and you're like "Man, I should make a video of this", but then your buddy says "No don't do that. You're a moron". Well, our buddy was at work that day. But honestly, we have been doing absurd videos like these since we were kids....there are many more on the way. Stay tuned!

Have you started touring behind this record yet?

Yes, but we are slacking. Can you get us a booking agent?

Anything else you want to add?

Yes. 5 + 16 = 21

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Birds of Avalon Q&A

Indie upstarts The Birds of Avalon have a fantastic vintage sound to their songs.

The fact that their latest Uncanny Valley was recorded in a makeshift basement studio on a classic 16 track tape machine and some other borrowed equipment, help add to the classic DIY feel of the songs. In a matter of days, the band had a new album to its growing catalogue.

The group formed in 2007, when guitarists (and husband and wife) Cheetie Kumar and Paul Siler left the group Cherrie Valance and hooked up with singer Craig Tilley, bassist David Mueller and drummer Scott Nurkin. Christened the Birds of Avalon, the Raleigh band went to work on their debut Bazaar, Bazaar. They’ve spent the past couple of years opening for bands like Ted Leo, The Raconteurs and The Flaming Lips, continuing to put out more songs along the way.

Kumar was kind enough to answer a few questions before heading back out on the road again. So what's the music scene in Raleigh like now?

Well there seems to be no shortage of good bands around here, it’s kind of hard to keep track! Everything from Bowebirds and Megafaun to Double Negative and the reformed Polvo- it’s pretty diverse. Right now, though there are a few good venues, there isn’t one place that coheres to independent music in Raleigh. We had a wonderful venue here for several years, called Kings (which was co-owned by Paul from Birds of Avalon) but during the downtown “building/ development” boom of a few years ago, the building was torn down to build, what else, a parking deck! So things are spread out to some extent- more house shows and oddball nights at otherwise fairly mainstream venues.

How would you compare Uncanny Valley to the first record?

Aside from the actual recording of it, I think we’re getting better at self-editing and conveying one idea in each song as opposed to some of the more complex arrangements on the songs on Bazaar Bazaar. On the new record, the songwriting is less traditional - non-vocal “choruses”, etc… and we were more focused on getting interesting sounds rather than working too hard on guitar parts. The way we made this album had a lot to do with it too. It was all written and recorded in three weeks in our basement on a 3M 16 track tape machine we borrowed from Mitch Easter. Actually, some of Bazaar Bazaar was recorded on that same machine, but done in the studio. The first album was kind of a compilation of some of our very first songs and it was recorded in a few sessions over several months. Following the release of that in ’07, we toured pretty heavily and then made the very quick EP, Outer Upper Inner, early last year. It was recorded and mixed in five days and done entirely on 4-track tape with not many overdubs. It was kind of an experiment to see if a record could still be made like it was 1968. When we recorded Uncanny Valley it was really helpful to have that experience to draw from in keeping things spontaneous and not getting too bogged down on one thing.

It seems like you went from release the first record, straight on the road, to releasing this one. Did you have any significant time off to write and record or was most of it done on the road?

Actually, you might be thinking about the other record we recorded in December/January, which wasn’t released. After the first album, we released an EP in March of last year and toured for four solid months supporting it. We took a few weeks off and proceeded to write a bunch of songs, recorded an album and then wrote and recorded another album right after that. The second batch is Uncanny Valley, the first batch will be dealt with in the future.

How different were the experiences recording the two records?

The first recording was done at Mitch’s wonderful Fidelitorium studio. It was much more of a traditional process - we wrote all the songs, went into the studio and tracked (on a 24 track machine) for about 10 days and mixed in about a week. That record is a pretty dense record that somehow didn’t make sense to release in the summer. Uncanny Valley was almost the opposite- most of the songs were written as they were being recorded and it was all recorded at home on a 16-track tape machine. We mixed at Fidelitorium very quickly and kept the recording fairly simple, only using 15 of the 16 tracks.

Is there a general theme to the songs on Uncanny Valley?

A lot of the songs turned out to be about disorientation and have a foreboding quality to them. We really didn’t set out to do this deliberately, but I guess we must have been in a dark mindset when we wrote it! The title came after the record was already done- inspired by a phenomenon in which human beings become more unsettled by robots or other human facsimiles in direct proportion to how lifelike they appear. This seemed to sum up the impression we were trying to conjure- where things aren’t exactly how they might appear; being unsettled in a seemingly normal situation.

You've toured with some amazing bands. Have you learned anything helpful from any of the musicians you've toured with recently?

We HAVE been really fortunate to play with awesome bands- all of whom are inspiring in different ways. So even though we aren’t gonna have confetti cannons anytime soon, it was amazing to see how much work goes into making every Flaming Lips show a multi-sensory experience. I also loved seeing all the cool guitar effects Jack White (on the Raconteurs tour) and Steven McBean (on the Black Mountain tour) had.

What's next for the band?

We’re actually leaving for a 10 day tour of the Northeast in about two hours! We’ll be doing dates through early fall while we write and record some more songs hopefully we’ll be putting a new album out sometime soon!

Anything else you want to add?

I think you covered it! Thanks!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Song from The Honey Brothers

Great new song from The Honey Brothers (sounds like absolutely nothing else you've heard today!).

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

AthFest June 25-28

Label A&R folks may have stopped visiting Athens, GA after R.E.M. and the B-52's were signed, but the city has continued to churn out some amazing bands (The Whigs, The Black Lips, Dead Confederate, etc.).

Next week (June 25-28), the city gets a chance to trot out some of those groups at the 12th annual AthFest held in dowtown Athens. Over 175 bands and artists will perform over four days on two outdoor stages. The all ages shows are free, but wristbands will be sold for the 20 or so music venues.

Among those playing next week are The Black Lips, Patterson Hood & The Screwtopians, Randall Bramlett Band, Dead Confederate and many others.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New Song from Sub Rosa

Southern California's Sub Rosa, have a strong apprecaition with early 90's grunge (everyone from Screaming Trees to a mellower Nirvana).

The band was kind enough to make an MP3 of their new song "Here In Filth" available for free.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Give Me Back My Black T-shirt"

I am a big fan of t-shirts.

In fact, covering music for the past 15 years, most of the pay I get is in band t-shirts (and I have no idea why they are always black).

Over the past couple of week, I've come across two great t-shirt companies that are worth blogging about.

Launched in 2005, Worn Free is a rock T-shirt company that wants "to resurrect the coolest shirts of all time."
The label reproduces t-shirts worn by rock legends like Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone, Debbie Harry, Gram Parsons, Johnny Ramone and Joan Jett (among many others). The shirts, though not exactly cheap, are among the softest I've ever worn (yup, that's a good thing).
Here's a little more from their press materials:"We’ve spent more than a decade combing worldwide photo archives of music and style icons, learning what they’ve been wearing and bringing it straight to you."
Check out the catalog - the Joey Ramone shirt is really cool.

Another great shirt company and this one won't make you feel like a materialistic jerk for buying yet another t-shirt.

This Brooklyn company offers t-shirts and sweatshirts created by recycling cotton scraps and plastic bottles. "PLAYBACK is on a mission to dissolve the uncomfortable, expensive, cardboard look of past sustainable clothing, and replace it with a hip new model that combines quality, style and color." Not just for jam-band lovin' hippies, the shirts are actually very cool looking.

Here's some more info from the company: "Unlike other sustainable brands that take rolls of organic fabric and dye them into color, PLAYBACK achieves its profound success by utilizing the preexisting color of the original recycled material to color the yarn. This eliminates one of the most harmful processes used in clothing production- the chemical dyes. Since the products are made with only existing materials, PLAYBACK has also eliminated the need for extra cotton growth and in turn does not require massive amounts of land and water. By reducing the amount of textile and plastic bottle waste, PLAYBACK takes recyclables out of the landfill and puts them to good use."

The color names themsleves are cool as well: "Beer Bottle Brown," "Soda Bottle Green" and "Water Cooler Blue". Here's a link to their catalog.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Putting Dirt On the Coffin

When I was 15, I thought KISS was the coolest band in the world.

Last night, the 15-year-old version of me, died of embarrassment for the band.
R.I.P. Gene, Paul, Ace, Peter and a teenage me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Punk Rock at 7 Inches Tall

GG Allin has always scared the crap out of me. And even at 7 inches tall, he's not any less intimidating.

Aggronautix is releasing limited edition GG Allin and Tesco Vee (Meatmen) collectibles. There will be 2000 of the GG Allin "1991" figurines and only 1000 of the mini Tesco Vee's. Each "Throbblehead" (their term, not mine) figures is made of polyresin, and will be displayed in a tri-windowed box.

Both figures will be distributed by MVD Entertainment Group - a company specializing in music-related distribution - and DKE Toys.

According to the press release, the idea first surfaced two years ago when Aggronautix pitched the GG figure idea to Merle Allin, GG's brother. "I had been thinking about doing a GG figure for a while, so when the guys came to me with the idea, I was into it," said Allin. "The proofing process took a long time, but we got it right. The doll looks really good and I'm happy with it."

The company then turned their attention to Vee. "As a toy collector of two decades, and classic bobble head collector, imagine just how geeked I became, when informed that yours truly would enter the pantheon of 'Throbblehead' punk rock losers, along with poopy soulmate GG Allin!," said Vee.

The figures are now available for purchase on and They will also soon be available at many independent retailers, comic shops, tattoo parlors, etc. Aggronautix is currently working on a Dwarves "Two-Headed Throbble" to be released this summer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Pansy Division

I'm about two-thirds through Deflowered, the memoirs of Jon Ginoli, founder and front man of San Francisco punk group Pansy Division (the Godfather of queercore).

The book is hilarious and I am kicking myself for not going to a book signing he had in Atlanta recently. As my penance, here's a list of his upcoming book signings.

At the event's, which are free, he'll read from his book, do signings and play an acoustic set.
  • 5/13/09 Borders 3600 McKinney Ave Dallas TX

  • 5/14/09 Borders 570 Meyerland Plaza Houston TX 77096

  • 5/15/09 Bookpeople 603 N. Lamar Blvd. Austin TX 78703

  • 5/16/09 Full Circle Books 1900 Northwest Expy Oklahomo City OK 73118

  • 5/17/09 Kirby’s Beer Store 3227 E 17th St N Wichita KS 67208

  • 5/18/09 Barnes & Noble 420 W 47th Street Kansas City MO 64112

  • 5/19/09 Left Bank Books 399 N. Euclid St. Louis MO 63105

  • 5/20/09 Carmichaels Bookstore 2720 Frankfort Ave. Louisville KY 40206

  • 5/21/09 Barnes & Noble 500 Main Street Royal Oak MI 48067

  • 5/22/09 Aroma Cafe 118 N. Neil Champaign IL 61820

  • 5/26/09 Tool Shed 2427 N Murray Ave. Milwaukee WI 53211

  • 5/27/09 Public Space One 115 East Washington St Iowa City 52240

  • 5/28/09 Barnes & Noble 3333 Oakview Dr Omaha NE 68144

  • 6/5/09 Rebel Reading Series/The Knockout San Franicsco CA

  • 6/6/09 Yerba Buena Performance San Francisco CA

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dears Tour Bus Stolen

How the hell do you fence an f-ing tour bus?

The night before they were supposed to leave on tour, The Dears' tour bus was snatched from their hotel parking lot.

Here's the press release:
LOS ANGELES, April 30, 2009 - The Dears' tour bus was stolen last night in Montreal as the band was home packing for their six-week North American tour. The coach was taken from the parking lot of the Comfort Inn at 700 Blvd. in St. Jean, Pointe-Claire while the driver was asleep in the hotel, prior to their 6 a.m. scheduled departure. Fortunately, no luggage or gear was on board at the time of the theft and the band's trailer was left behind. True to The Dears' resilient nature, the veteran band isn't letting this minor mishap slow them down and will kick off the tour tonight in Toronto. All shows are planned as scheduled. If anybody has any information about the stolen tour bus or knows of its whereabouts please contact your local authorities. Bus model: Prevost, Series 60. Accuride Alcoa; license plate: V957YW

Friday, April 24, 2009

When Bad Names Happen to Great Bands (Q&A with Ninja Gun)

You can’t get more unpretentious than Valdosta, GA. Nestled in Southern Georgia, just a few miles from Florida, you’re more likely to see a tractor than a tour bus passing through downtown.

Like their hometown, the guys in Ninja Gun are just as laid back. You’ll never catch any of them squeezing into girl’s jeans or delicately applying eyeliner before taking the stage. Their music is equally modest, just beautifully-executed, roots-based rock with hooks that would make Brian Wilson jealous and punk rock sensibilities.

Having hooked up with Suburban Home for their second release (“Restless Rube”), the band is about to storm the East Coast.

Front man Jonathan Coody spoke recently about the band, being the son of a farmer and life in Valdosta.

Did you all know each other growing up?

Yeah, Jeffrey and I are actually cousins. We grew up down the dirt road from each other. We kind of cut our musical teeth together too. I'm a few years older than him and when I was in high school I played drums in a band called The Primates. He was always around and he started playing drums around that time I guess. We met Thad and Jacob a lot later. They were childhood friends that also started playing together at a very young age.

What made you decide to start the band?

About 10 years ago Jeffrey and I were in a band called The Bleeding Gumdrops in which he played drums and I was the guitarist and singer and our buddy Jason Fernandez played bass. The Gumdrops eventually called it quits and I started writing a lot of songs by myself on an old Silvertone acoustic folk guitar that I found under a bunch of other stuff in the top of my dad's closet. He ordered it from the Sears catalog when he was a kid and never really did much with it. I eventually wound up with a bunch of songs that I didn't know what to do with. They weren't anything like the stuff I had written for the Gumdrops and I was curious how they would sound with a full band. Jeffrey and I went to the One Up club here in Valdosta one night to see some friends of ours play and Thad and Jake's band Caspian was the opener. We had never met them before. Caspian was an instrumental band in the vein of Tortoise or something. They were all so young and they were really good players. They couldn't have been more than 15 or so and I was intrigued that they were playing music like this that had so much depth at such a young age. I guess we asked them to come out to The Trailer of Tears (the single-wide that we practiced in) to jam around some time and they eventually did. When I heard what those songs could sound like in the hands of those guys I knew we should be a band. Here we are 6 years and two albums later. Same four guys doing what we love.We were called Watermelon Fast for our first show because I read somewhere that Mike Love from The Beach Boys freaked out on a bunch of drugs in the sixties and ate only watermelon for a year. We gave away watermelons that we grew at that show. We eventually changed the name to Ninja Gun and I'll never tell where that came from. Probably should've kept Watermelon Fast.

How do you describe your sound to those who haven't heard you yet?

Ooh, that's always a tough one. I think as a writer it's very important to listen to a wide range of stuff so you have a lot of colors to paint with. Having a homogenized sound may make it easy for you to get laid and sell records or whatever, but it makes for bad art in my opinion. I see so many haircut bands these days that work really hard at sounding just like whatever haircut is selling at the time. That just tells me that they have nothing to say. I think the best songwriters filter life through themselves and spit it back out with some degree of perspective attached. We actually thought about calling the new album "Eclectic Warrior" in tribute to T-Rex - Didn't do it though. It's called "Restless Rubes" because that's what we are. As a cop out, I'll tell people what I hear other people compare us to. We get a lot of Tom Petty, The Lemonheads, Replacements, John COUGAR Mellencamp, Weezer, Smoking Popes, and stuff like that.

Are you still a farmer when you're not on the road?

Well, my dad's the farmer. I've never had any ambition to pursue that as a career. It's just something I've done my whole life to help him out. It's a damn near impossible way to make a living these days. Government deregulation and corporate farms have really decimated small family operations in the past twenty years or so. I feel like my generation is kind of the last of the farm kids. I know a lot of farmers around here have encouraged their kids to go to college and try to find some other viable way to make money. It means the death of that way of life and it's really sad. That's why it was initially really hard for me to explain to my folks that although I have a college degree I would rather travel around in a van playing songs that I wrote in my underwear for little to no money. They place a lot of value in financial security because they know what it's like to struggle to keep the bills paid. I can appreciate that, but I just can't seem to rationalize trading in my happiness for a 401k or whatever. I know what I was built to do and I have to do it or I'm going to be miserable. Everyone in this band feels that way and that's what keeps us together.

Is it easy for all of you to get time off to record and tour?

Yeah, getting time off to tour and record is always a challenge. Being in a touring band in Valdosta, GA is kind of like leading a double life. There aren’t any cool record stores, record labels, or anything like that to work at around here so you have to work some square job where people aren’t going to get what you do. There’s no support network like there is in other more music-centric towns. With that said though, I like living here because I think the best art comes from isolated places because it has to gasp for breath in a sea of fucking practicality. It weeds out a lot of bullshit because you have to work really hard to be heard. On top of that, it provides you with a unique viewpoint that others might not have.

What can you tell me about the new record?

It’s called “Restless Rubes” and it just came out on Suburban Home Records. We worked on it on and off for about a year and a half. It was recorded here in Valdosta with Lee Dyess at Earthsound Recordings and we’re really proud of it. The songs are ripped straight out of our lives and they’re honest. I hope that comes across to the listener. I hope somebody can relate to or find some kind of value in them. I guess growing up in an environment that has a built in belief system that we don’t agree with was the catalyst for a lot of these songs. Things like poor rural people having blind faith in an administration that doesn’t care about them really troubles me. Most people around here don’t ask questions. Life here is a lot easier if you don’t. The “Good Old Boy Network” is the law of the land here and if you don’t rock the boat, you’re afforded a better quality of life. You have to work the right job, hate the right people, vote the right way, and the best thing about it is you don’t even have to think for yourself.

How did it come out compared to your first record?

Coody: Our first record is called “Smooth Transitions” and it came out on a label called Barracuda Sound out of Gainesville, Florida. Our buddy Jon Reinertsen who also plays drums for Whiskey and Company put it out. We had a lot less time to work on it because of financial constraints, but I think it’s a pretty good portrayal of who we were as a band at that time. Barracuda Sound is also co-releasing the vinyl for Restless Rubes with Suburban Home. There’s a four year gap between the releases of both of our albums so there’s a lot of undocumented growth.

How did you hook up with Suburban Home?

I think I just sent Virgil an email of the roughs of the new songs and told him to give them a listen. He wrote me back and said he liked them a lot and we went from there. He’s a super nice guy who was willing to take a chance on a relatively unknown band just because he liked what we were doing. That type of integrity is hard to find these days and we’re extremely lucky to be associated with Suburban Home. We were in Denver on tour about a month ago and we got to meet everyone that works at the label and a lot of the bands on the label. They’re a great bunch of folks and they made us feel welcome and I would like to publicly thank them now!

I live in Atlanta and the rock scene is pretty bad here. I can’t imagine what it’s like in Valdosta, GA?

Well, the cool thing about living in an off-the-radar town is the lack of pretension. Our local punk scene has always been about playing for your friends and just doing what gets you off. Valdosta always has a core of about five really good bands that write their own stuff and they all sound completely different. There’s a lot of cross pollination because the kid that is 16 and is in a Black Flag style band is playing shows with a band that sounds a little like Pavement or something. I’ve never been a fan of going to shows and seeing three bands that sound alike. The byproduct is that the fans of each band get turned on to something that they might not have normally been exposed to. The rest are haircuts and Dave Matthews cover bands who stoke out sorority girls by playing Brown Eyed Girl for the thousandth time. They’re also good at giving AC/DC the pop country treatment. Gross. Check out these locals if you get a chance: Second to Edison, No More Analog, False Arrest, Knock Galley West, and Fancy Blood

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dead Town Revival Q&A

In early 2007, Chicago’s Dead Town Revival released ‘Hasta La Muerte', one of the best classic street punk records of the year.

After nearly two straight years of touring, the band is releasing a stellar new split EP ('Duct Tape and Broken Dreams') along with Milwaukee’s The Spent .50's and their sound is tighter than ever. And gas prices permitting, the band may be coming to a town near you.

Front man Nate Pujdak took some time recently to talk about what the band has been doing since the release of their debut.

The last time I spoke with you guys for Loud Fast Rules ‘Hasta La Muerte' was just coming out. What has happened since then?

Well, we've been doing our best to get on as many quality shows and short tours as possible. We really believe in this band, and this music, and we want as many people to be able to hear it. If that means driving through the night to get to Omaha from Chicago and back, then we're willing to do it. Not everyone out there has been given the opportunity to be in a band, and I want to make sure we take full advantage of that for as long as we are breathing. Also in our time home, we have had the opportunity to get back in the studio with producer Andy Gerber, and cut a few new tracks that I'm personally very proud of. These will be on our second record that we are releasing as an EP.

Have you pretty much been touring non-stop since the record came out?

We've been out on the road quite a bit actually since the record was released. Mainly regional tours that have taken us from Chicago to Florida to Texas to Oklahoma and just about every stop in between. I think our tour to Texas last spring was probably the most fun we've had as a band since the record came out. We were able to hit several dates with our friends Flatfoot 56 and The Frantic at that time, culminating into a week filled with shows at SXSW 2008 in Austin.

Along with that, we've been lucky enough to do some pretty great shows with The Smoking Popes, Supersuckers, and most recently, a sold out show in Chicago with punk legends Agent Orange. When you get a chance to share the stage with bands like that, it makes this whole thing worth while.

What can you tell me about the new EP?

I've had a few songs rolling around in my head for a few months now that I felt just needed to be recorded. The New EP 'Duct Tape and Broken Dreams' is five tracks long, but I believe that they are a solid five tracks. A few are reminiscent of songs that you might hear on 'Hasta La Muerte,' but we threw a few slower ones in the mix also. Every once in awhile at a live show, we would play one of these songs as an addition to our set, never intending for them to be recorded at all, but we got so many compliments on them that we thought, what the hell, if the fans like them we should record them.

So in a roundabout way, the songs on this EP were selected by our fans more than they were by us, which I think is a good thing. If you ever ask a band which song on their record is their favorite, they usually pick one that not too many fans would say is their favorite. That being said, I think more bands should listen to their fans more than they do themselves. After all, they're the ones that are going to buy your records and support you. I think people will really like this record. It's a bit different from the first, but it stays rooted in what I think is the Chicago sound.

Were you listening to anything in particular when writing/recording that influenced the sound?

I don't think it was much different than what I would normally listen to. I know things have a tendency to rub off on you whether you want them to or not. I've stuck with pretty much the old standards of Pegboy, Danzig, lots of Johnny Cash, old Waylon Jennings. I'm a huge fan of the new Smoking Popes record, or any Smoking Popes record for that matter. Buzzcocks, Rise Against, Street Dogs...go buy all the Street Dogs records if you haven't already…Face to Face. I could go on.

I'm a bit regimented in my listening habits. I'll play a CD over and over until it's so scratched from my shitty CD player that I'll have to go buy another copy. I've seriously done that several times in the last year. I ruined my copy of ‘Empire’ by Bad Religion, so much so that I had to get a new one. Not very economically sound, but it's true. Maybe I should get a new player. People tell me to buy an MP3 player, but I'm a holdout on that. The quality just isn't there like you get on vinyl or CD.

Why put out an EP now instead of waiting to put out another full length?

I have to be perfectly honest with you; I'm not sure how long full length albums will be around. With the way kids buy music now, there isn't much of a demand for a full length record. I'm sure we'll do more of them in the near future, but for now, I'm content with trying this EP out and seeing how the fans react. You can pick your best few songs, and put them out, and pass the savings on to the fans. Too many times bands try to fill a record up with what's known as filler material. We have never believed in doing that, and we will never do that on any record we put out. Every song we record has had a lot of thought put into it, prior to going into the studio. It's about quality not quantity. This just seemed like a good time to do it. It also gives us an opportunity to keep publishing music while we write our next record. Who knows, if it's a success, maybe we'll put out another one in between our next full length.

Do you plan to tour much behind this new record?

I think we'll keep doing what we've been doing unless opportunity knocks, and we get picked up for a full tour. We've been pretty content the last few months doing a lot of weekend gigs within eight to 18 hours of home. With gas prices the way they've been, it's been hard on touring bands. You really have to watch how you travel, and make every show count. We appreciate all the fans out there who buy our merch at shows. They have no idea how far we stretch those dollars in order to make any of this happen. If it wasn't for them helping us and supporting us, none of this would be possible, so to the fans I say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

Is it to early to talk about the next record?

It's never too early to talk about the next record. We are constantly writing new material. I'm hoping that this next spring we can get back in the studio and start laying down some new tracks. It's just a matter of weeding through all the songs we have and picking the best ones to record. Live shows are a good way to test out new material, so we do that as much as possible. If the fans like it, we'll consider it for the next record.

You guys must here some pretty decent bands on tour. Any great "unknown" bands worth checking out?

We were in Milwaukee this past summer at a show and my guitarist Mike (Galvin) was like, "Hey, you have to check out this band. They're called The Spent .50's." These guys blew our minds. Great guitar riffs, unbelievable vocals. They reminded me of the kind of punk rock I fell in love with years ago. Of all the new bands we've had the chance to play with in the last year, these guys were the best. We've since become great friends and have been able to put a string of dates together, so look for show dates in your area this winter and coming spring. You don't want to miss these guys if they're playing your town. Part of what we did with this new EP, was to release it as a split EP with these guys, so if you're at a live show, and you pick up our new disc, you'll also get The Spent .50's music along with ours. I really think people should hear this band. If you like Dead Town Revival, you'll like them.

What's next for you guys?

We're going to keep writing good quality songs as best we know how, and play live as much as possible. One of the things I love more than anything is getting out on the road and playing in front of new faces. I don't think I'll ever lose my desire to travel. Making music and performing is what we do, and I don't see any signs of slowing down any time soon.

My hope is that our fan base will continue to grow, and we'll be able to one day tour nonstop. There are plenty of cities and small towns we have yet to play in, so I hope we can visit them all someday.

We're putting together a small tour for the west coast, and hopefully we'll be able to get out there in a few months. I've always wanted to play shows in California, but have never been able to get out that way with the band. Hopefully next year will be different for us.

Anything else you want to add?

If you get a chance, and we're coming to your area, we would love to see you all out at a show.

We've been able to play with some of the coolest unknown punk bands in America. Every time we go to a new city, I'm always impressed with the locals we get to play with. Some of the best bands around are right in your own backyard, so get out to a show and check them all out. You never know when you’re going to come across a punk rock gem.

Also pick up a copy of our new CD and let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from all of you. Thanks for all the support everyone has given us these past few years. It means the world to me.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Banner Pilot Q&A

With news of Banner Pilot signing to Fat Wreck Chords last week, thought it was worth posting this interview I did recently with bassist Nate Gangelhoff.

For a band with just four members, melodic punk rockers Banner Pilot could pretty much sell out a club just by inviting band mates from all the current and former groups they’ve put in time with.

Between them, the guys in the Minneapolis band have played in or are currently playing with Off With Their Heads, Rivethead, Gateway District, These Riffs, Cave Death, The Manix and Pyongyang Metro.

With a new member and a slew of songs, Banner Pilot is currently focusing on finishing their new record and perhaps a quick tour of Japan.

Bassist Nate Gangelhoff spoke with me recently about the new songs, finding time to get on the road and the lack of harps and tubas on their new record.

Have you started working on the new record yet?

Yep! We've actually written a full 12 songs and now we're in the process of fixing them up, working out the little details, trying to get tight on them so we don't blow four days in the studio failing to play them correctly. So yeah, we're actually almost done with the new one. After that we'll probably try to do a series of splits and 7"s or something.

Any idea of what it will sound like?

In the grand scheme of things it's pretty close to Resignation Day, but I think there's more variety this time. I'm sure most people reading that are going to think "Uh oh", and with good reason, but it's actually not a dramatic departure or anything goofy and pretentious. There's a couple slower songs and a couple faster songs... basic changes like that. We're not adding textured harp parts or tuba solos or anything. It's still punk rock stuff simple enough that a well-trained monkey could approximate it. Actually, that's not true-- I'm exaggerating. There's no monkey out there that could touch the stuff we're working on. It's that good.

Same line up as before?

Nope, last time around we were a three piece and I played guitar and bass in the studio; this time we'll have a full four piece band.

Who are you going to be recording with?

Our friend Jacques Wait. I played on the Off With Their Heads album that he recorded and everyone was super happy with how that sounded, so we'll be going for a similar thing on the next Banner Pilot record.

Do you think labels are still important for punk bands?

They can be, but it's definitely less so than five or 10 years ago. Nowadays it's pretty easy to record an album, distribute it, and book a tour all from basic tools on the Internet. But labels can still help and do things you can't do on your own. We self released our EP and it seems like the album on Go Kart has gotten around more and, obviously, required less work and upfront money from us.

Do you plan to tour much behind the new record?

We're not really a "tour six months out of the year" band, but we'll definitely do a couple weeks out somewhere plus a ton of Midwest shows on the weekends and stuff. Our goal this year is to make it over to either Europe or Japan.

Is it hard for you guys to find time to get put on the road?

Yeah, we all have jobs and stuff so it's not feasible to tour for super long stretches at a time. But we do what we can and it seems to work out ok.

Do you still enjoy touring or do you see it as a necessary evil?

I enjoy it, but in smaller doses. I've done a couple of month long tours before and that's about the most I'd want to do in one block. If I was in a position to tour a bunch, I'd probably still want to ideally do it like three weeks on, two weeks off, or something like that. I don't think it's really a necessary evil-- your band will do better the more you tour, but you can still get people to hear your songs without touring. I imagine that was harder to pull off 10-plus years ago than it is now.

Is the Minneapolis music scene still pretty tight?

Yeah, it comes and goes but right now it's pretty great. I'm sure it'll be overtaken by some ridiculous subgenre in a year or two but for now there's a fair amount of good bands

Anything else you want to add?

Get the new-ish Shorebirds album; it's really good! That's the only thing I have to add.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Project 27 Q&A

Project 27

In the nearly eight years or so that Project 27 have been writing, perfecting and finally recording their first proper full length, hundreds of bands have started, churned out a few forgettable records, broken up and reformed other bands.

Not that it’s a bad thing. In fact, judging from the songs that make up Smarten Up, Ben Weasel may finally be able to retire now that his pop punk heirs may have been found.

Drummer Joey Mac, one of the Long Island band’s founding members, spoke with me recently about the record, their founding and their new home at Rally Records.

How did you guys all get together?

I started a band named Drowning in the Kiddy Pool with two high school freshman named Sergey and Guy in 2000. We got hooked up with RP, our lead singer, in high school and became Project 27 in June 2001. We turned from a know-nothing punk band to more musical sounding pop-punk band. We recorded two full-length demo CDs that were never really released. Guy kind of faded out of the band in summer of 2003 and joined the army and went to Afghanistan. Sergey quit in December 2007. After a few talented members came and went (including Kate Eldridge of Cheeky, Johnny Stamos of the John Stamos Project, and Mark Bonner of the Monikers), we solidified our lineup with Kris and Dutch on guitar, and Richie Roast on bass. That’s where we are now. We’re a good team and a happy family.

It seems like so many new bands throw together a CD just months after getting together. You guys demoed for awhile and put out some 7 inches first Was that a conscious decision or more of a financial one?

It was conscious decision, not a financial one. We didn’t want a full-length until all the songs were quality. Lately I’ve been very critical of my songwriting so I look back and only love half of the album. But people that are into whatever they’ve heard here and there online or elsewhere will like the album very much, I think. We’ve gotten great feedback on it so far.

How did you connect with Rally Records?

Jonny of Rally Records approached us about a release after we got a little buzz going in the pop-punk scene. We agreed. Since, we’ve released the Next September 7” and the Smarten Up CD on his label. Thanks Jonny!

What can you tell me about the Smarten Up CD?

It’s good, ha! I wrote 11 of the 12 songs so it encompasses my thoughts and actions from ages 16-21. People can relate to it, being bitter about breakups and letting your “friends” know how you really feel, but Smarten Up yields positivity too. All of the songs on the album except one are personal stories about my life; the “love” songs are about three ex-girlfriends in particular. There was no rush on the CD so I tried to compile the best songs I had, even if that meant rehashing some ones that had already been released. The artwork is pretty snazzy too!

Do you have any big tour plans for 2009?

No, but we will likely be out and about, on short tours and weekend trips. We haven’t promoted our tours so effectively in the past, plus we have jobs or are in school, so that’s quite a hold-up.

You guys have been doing this for almost eight years or so. Anything really surprised you about being a touring indie band?

It’s cool that people like us, who don’t matter, can be fooled into thinking they sort of matter when on the road.

Any advice for kids just now forming a band in their parent's basement?

Follow your dream because I believe it leads to something good. Communicate within and outside the band well, and perform well.

Anything else you want to add?

A new full-length CD, either from Project 27 or perhaps a solo CD from me will very likely arrive in the second half of 2009. Thanks for reading.