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.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mike Hale's New Record (FREE!)

I realize this is about to turn into the Suburban Home Records blog (not that would be such a bad thing...), but they just seem to have a shitload of great news to announce lately.

So here's some more great news from the label: they'll be giving away Mike Hale's new solo record "Lives Like Mine" for free (read that last sentence again Chico. For free!). Mike now fronts the band In the Red and and used to play in Gunmoll.

Here's the news from SHR founder Virgil Dickerson:

Today, we are excited to announce that we have made the decision to give away Mike Hale's upcoming album, "Lives Like Mine" for free digitally. Mike just announced it in his column, "For Those Still Standing" which has been his journal of his life after making the decision to quit his job, end his lease, sell back his car, and stop life as he knew it for a full time life on the road.Finding inspiration from Chris Anderson's FREE,, and the knowledge that any internet savvy music fan can get pretty much any album they want for free, I called Mike up a few weeks back to share with him my idea. It took him a minute, but after he thought it out, he agreed that this was as good time as any to do this....

In the end, it is our hope that as many people as possible listen to the albums we release. So much work goes into the making of a brand new album and we hope that if you like what you hear, you might consider buying a copy on CD, on vinyl, or through a donation. Any proceeds raised from the sales and donations will go towards recouping the expenses that went into making the record. Any profits will be split equally between Mike Hale and Suburban Home Records.

Mike is also about to start a massive tour with label mates Ninja Gun (an absolutely amazing band from Augusta, Georgia. They put out one of my favorite records last year).

Download Mike's new album, buy a CD, see 'em live and pick up a t-shirt. Come on, what else are you going to spend your money on?

I've already pre-ordered the Mike Hale deluxe pack (with LP, CD, shirt and coffee mug) and I'm extremely cheap!

Monday, April 6, 2009

FREE Suburban Home Records Comp

Suburban Home Records has just put out a stellar 25 song label sampler for FREE!

Click on this link and it will take you to a page where you can download individual tracks or the entire sampler as a zipped folder.
Comp. includes tracks from most of their bands' (Mike Hale, Jon Snodgrass, Austin Lucas, Joey Cape, etc.) most recent releases and a few live tracks from Chad Price, Two Cow Garage, and Drag the River (including covers of the Beatles, Replacements, and Misfits).

Download it. Now! What are you waiting for?!?!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Best label kiss off... EVER

I can't claim to be a huge Dresden Dolls fan. But, I've interviewed Amanda Palmer in the past and was impressed with her honesty.

Thanks to this kiss off to her label, Roadrunner Records, I'm thinking about buying everything she put out from now on.