All posts by timothy.anderl

Photo by Adam Newsham

St. Louis darkwave trio CaveofswordS produce synth and beat heavy music that is  influenced by forerunners of shoegaze, dream pop, new wave and post punk. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists and family members Sunyatta McDermott, Kvn McDermott and Eric Armbruster, the group started as a writing medium for Kvn who was becoming less and less enthusiastic about his DJ endeavors. After working together for a short time, it became clear to the trio that the project should be their primary focus. 

The driving force of the music though is Sunyatta’s voice. Combining elements of social and political commentary with deft insights into interpersonal relationships and even touching of futurism, the lyrics Sunyatta writes explore heavy subject matter and are delivered via her compelling voice and bewitching stage presence. 

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with the group to discuss the project, politics, and family dynamics. This is what they told us.

Was it always clear that CaveofswordS would become a full time endeavor?

Sunyatta: It wasn’t always clear to me that I would be dedicated to CaveofswordS to the extent that I am. In the beginning, Kvn gave me a bunch of demos, which were dense and short. It’s hard to describe them using single metaphors, so I’ll use two. They were both immersive worlds, and also flower buds, which needed space to bloom. I was surprised, because I’d known Kvn as a DJ, and not a musician, much less a musician who played many instruments well. At the time, my previous band was mixing what would turn out to be our last record, so I was too busy to start a new project, but I loved what Kvn had made, and I wanted to work with him. Shortly after we released our last record, my old band broke up, and I had the time to focus on Kvn’s music. It only took a month or so for us to be convinced that we would be focusing on this full time.

Eric: As someone who had felt a strong kinship with Kvn over music and art, and as someone so impressed by Sunyatta’s talent and musicality, I needed to work with them and strengthen those ties. How could I not? The bonds have indeed grown and, in my opinion, so has the music, in direct proportion.  Looking back at our trajectory, I can say, with certainty, that CaveofswordS deserves to be a full-time endeavor.

Kvn: We started as just a recording project really. I gave a CD of songs to Sunyatta and another to Eric’s dad, my uncle to give to him — which he actually never gave to Eric, thus the year when Sunyatta and I were a duo and Eric was just coming to our shows kind of hurting my feelings by not acknowledging the CD he never got.

Is it different working on a musical endeavor when you are family rather than just friends or collaborators?

Sunyatta: Working in a band as a family feels a lot like being in a band with friends, honestly. Being in a committed band feels like family already. I would say that the three of us have an amazingly easy rapport. There’s a lot of love and trust between us. We’ve added fourth members occasionally, drummers, but ultimately, our songs work better with the beats that Kvn writes, uncomplicated by the layer of live drums, and we work better as a band uncomplicated by a fourth member. It doesn’t hurt that we live in a two family flat, Kvn and I in the upstairs apartment, and Eric in the downstairs apartment. We record at home too, so we can work on anything, at any time.

Eric: CaveofswordS is my first experience playing out, so, they are my frame of reference. Since starting with them back in 2012, I’ve collaborated with only a few other musicians. But it’s always democratic; always a boost to my musical education and my ego. I’ve been super-fortunate.

Are you all multi-instrumentalists?

Sunyatta: All of us are multi-instrumentalists, playing what serves each song the best. So far, I am the only singer and lyricist, though the guys have suggested a few great lyrical edits, which have made the cut.

Eric: I was classical piano training for over five years.  Later on, I got this cheap electric guitar and a fuzz pedal and spooned them in my sleep. I also learned how to play a bunch of songs with them.  I picked up a bass guitar after Kvn asked me to join, and that became my favorite thing instantaneously. I started acquiring keyboard synths a few years ago, learned how they work, and I’d say they’re my main contributions to the band right now. All this stuff is employed in CaveofswordS.

Kvn:  I’d say I’m more of a producer than a natural player like Sunyatta and Eric.

Is the writing process democratic or does one person write and arrange most of the material?

Sunyatta: Kvn basically wrote the music on the first two records, and we arranged them together. I contributed substantially to one song on our first record, and not much on our second, though I added flourishes here and there. Eric contributed a bit on the second record. This one we’re working on now has a lot more Eric on it, and a bit more me.

Eric: Sunyatta writes all those unbelievably gorgeous lyrics and vocal melodies. I started in the midst of Sigils, and Kvn had all the music mapped out. I was lucky enough to write a handful of parts on top of those beautifully fleshed-out tracks. On this pending record, I’ve mostly been patching synths and tracking those a bunch.

Kvn: Now it’s def more democratic. We all sit in a room in front of a huge monitor and arrange/record parts in Ableton Live.

When did {Sunyatta} realize she had an affinity for singing?

Sunyatta: I have always loved to sing, to the dismay of parents and grandparents, who were subjected to my young mind, displayed through my throat, on repeat. I learned guitar to have an excuse to sing, and started writing songs at 12. Around that time I studied opera with a vocal coach, and soon joined the chamber choir at my public school. I started playing my original songs in bars at 13, which were as terrible as you’d imagine, but clubs booked me, and people came out, ha ha.

There is some social and political commentary mixed into the lyrics here. Have the lyrics gotten darker since the political election?

Sunyatta: Most of the lyrics I write that seem political, are cultural commentary.  I have major beef with consumer culture, and what it does to everything and everyone living under it, or worse, living in the way of it. And yes, my lyrics have sharpened since the election. The focus is more specific. But that’s not the only reason our songs have taken a darker turn. My father died last year, and a lot of my grieving process is written out in our new unreleased songs. He was a beautiful and unusual man, living out of time in a world that didn’t suit him. Our relationship was complex, and burdened, so there’s been a lot to unpack. Is there any sort of visual accompaniment to the live performance in the way of video or lights?

Kvn: We pretty much had projections going from the get go. Coming from a more DJ/rave background there were always visuals to go with music so I wanted to incorporate that into our shows as well. At first I just made a massive folder of gifs with movie clips, lo-fi video graphics and other imagery that just played over us randomly. I was specific about what I curated but not what order it played in. I was into the unintentional synchronicities that would occur for the audience when some video and audio would accidentally line up. Now I shoot all the source video w our GoPro or my phone, tweak them in Ableton and/or other video apps and cut them specifically to match up w our live tracks.

How quickly after starting did the material for the first two records come together?

Sunyatta: The material would come together much faster if I wrote the lyrics faster. I tend to make a lot of edits. Lyrics are incredibly important to me and I need them to be just so. Kvn is a prolific producer. Though this record we’re working on now is coming together quickly.

Kvn: It took awhile for us to even figure out how to approach the process for the first record but then it sailed along. The second record moved much faster for sure, but I spent way more time mixing and engineering it.

Are there benefits to being an unsigned band or are you seeking a new label?

Sunyatta: We are absolutely seeking a new label since our old label dissolved and now have a better idea of what kind of label we’d love to work with.

Kvn: I’d say the main benefit and drawback is that we can spend as long as we want on the record! But it was also nice to have the label doing a lot of the promotion, phone calls and emailing that needs to happen.

Where are you in the process for your third record?

Sunyatta: We should have this album finished in fall. We’d love to release it in fall.

Kvn: Some are basically finished but others need a bunch of mixing and a bit of programming still so, um, I don’t know, a couple days?

What are your loftiest future goals for the band?

Sunyatta: I’d love for our music and songs to be a vehicle for us to travel the world with some amount of safety and comfort. I’d love for our work to be deemed important and relevant to a large audience of people I can admire.

Eric: Playing live in coastal cities and in other countries is the most romantic thing to me. And not just playing, but being heard and seen in those places.

Kvn: I’d say to just share our music with more people and keep sharing stages with as many of our favorite bands as possible.

(Visit CaveofswordS here:

http://www.caveofswords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/caveofswords https://twitter.com/caveofswords https://www.instagram.com/caveofswords/

Catch them on tour now:

Thursday, April 27- The Back Door (Bloomington, IN) with Hunter Child

Friday, April 28- Indy Vinyl & CD (Indianapolis, IN) INSTORE 6:30

Saturday, April 29- Northside Yacht Club (Cincinnati, OH) with Skeleton Hands, and Playfully Yours

Sunday, April 30- The Brass Rail (Fort Wayne, IN) with March On, Comrade and Heaven’s Gateway Drugs

Monday, May 1- Jimmie’s Ladder 11 (Dayton, OH) with Goodnight, Goodnight

Thursday, May 4- Ottawa Tavern (Toledo, OH) with Good Personalities, Cry Face, and Spilled Milk

Thursday, June 8- Foam (StL) Farfetched presents- The Linkup- with Mo Johnson (Chicago)

Friday, June 23-Arbor Bar (Fairfeild, IA), with Sex Husk

Saturday, June 24- Cafe Berlin (Columbia, MO), with Enemy Airship and Goodnight, Goodnight

Friday, April 28-  State Street Pub (Indianapolis, IN) with Never Come Downs and There Are Ghosts

Frank Iero and the Patience performed for a sold-out crowd at the A&R Bar in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, April 25. Dave Hause and the Mermaid also performed. Photographer Jeremy Ward was there to capture the action.

Dave Hause & the Mermaid:

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Frank Iero and the Patience:

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Catch Frank Iero and the Patience on tour here: Apr 26 The Agora Ballroom Cleveland, OH
Apr 27 The Shelter Detroit, MI
Apr 28 The Intersection Grand Rapids, MI
Apr 29 Bottom Lounge Chicago, IL
Apr 30 Majestic Theatre Madison, WI
May 02 Granada Theater Lawrence, KS
May 04 Marquis Theatre Denver, CO
May 05 Meow Wolf Santa Fe, NM
May 06 The Bunkhouse Las Vegas, NV
May 07 Casbah San Diego, CA
May 09 Chain Reaction Anaheim, CA
May 10 Troubadour West Hollywood, CA
May 11 The Chapel San Francisco, CA
Jun 24 Daily’s Place Amphitheater Jacksonville, FL
Jun 26 The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion The Woodlands, TX
Jun 27 Gexa Energy Pavilion Dallas, TX
Jun 28 Austin360 Amphitheater Austin, TX
Jun 30 Pepsi Center Denver, CO
Jul 02 USANA Amphitheater Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 03 White River Amphitheatre Seattle, WA
Jul 06 Concord Pavilion Concord, CA
Jul 07 Sleep Train Amphitheatre Chula Vista, CA
Jul 08 Downtown Las Vegas Events Center Las Vegas, NV
Jul 09 Ak-Chin Pavilion Phoenix, AZ

April 18 – May 11: with Dave Hause
June 24 – July 9: with Deftones, Rise Against, Thrice

Photo by Joy Whalen

Paul Collins’ (from The Nerves, The Breakaways) two long lost EPs with his band The Beat from the early ’80s make it to Lolipop Records as the first re-issue on all formats in over 30 years, from the “king of power pop” himself.

To Beat Or Not To Beat was recorded in New York in 1983 at The Ranch with John Mathias (The Romantics) and Paul Collins/Steven Huff producing. It was released in the U.S. by Jem/Passport Records and then it was later released in Europe on Closer Records France and Dro Records Spain. The single “All Over The World” was featured regularly on KROQ in Los Angeles and got a lot of airplay in France and in Spain.

Steve and Paul toured in Europe off that record for several years until they wound up in London where they recorded their follow-up EP Long Time Gone, just before returning to the States. Long Time Gone was released in 1985 on Closer France and Dro Spain, and both records were released as a two-fer on Wounded Bird Records in 2004.

Paul Collins’ Beat’s Long Time Gone / To Beat Or Not To Beat will be released on vinyl, CD, cassette and digital formats April 28 via Lolipop Records (distributed by Cobraside Distribution).

Today, Ghettoblaster celebrates the reissues by sharing “Broken Hearted.” This is what Collins had to say about it:

“Steve [Huff] and I had been living in Madrid for quite awhile now it was around 1984 and we had been away from America for what seemed like years. We were starting to feel a bit like X-Pats. My brother Patrick was living with us too and we would tour up one side of Spain and down the other, there was no shortage of work to be had and it was all very crazy! Spain had just come out from underneath Franco’s rule of some forty years and the country was busting out. Rock n roll was just starting to take hold and the kids loved it!

We were out in the middle of it all far, far away from the world we knew. The news from back home was mainly that rock was changing and good ole songwriting was taking a back seat to the new big rock radio sound. That left us pretty much in the dust but we still could not resist a good hook with lots of great vocal harmonies…we were…Broken Hearted!”

(Visit Collins here:

Paul’s website: http://www.thepaulcollinsbeat.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Paul-Collins-Beat-46392812761

PAUL COLLINS 2017 TOUR DATES:

FRANCE

5/6 Clermont-Ferrand @ Bombshell

5/7 Marseille @ Le Jam

5/8 Toulouse @ Dispensary

5/10 Rouen @ 3 Pieces

5/11 Vannes @ Jam Session

5/12 Paris @ La Mecanique-Ondulatoire

 

ENGLAND

5/13 London @ The Finsbury

5/14 Adam Smith’s Black Wax Radio Live Show

 

BELGIUM

5/16 Kortrijk @ Den Trap

 

NETHERLANDS

5/17 Rotterdam @ V11

5/18 Haarlem (Amsterdam) @ Patronaat

 

GERMANY

5/19 Düsseldorf @ The Tube

5/20 Berlin @ Cortina Bob

5/21 Hamburg @ Monkeys Music Club

 

SWEDEN

5/23 Malmo @ Folk & Rock

5/24 Gothenburg @ Liseberg Amusement Park Power Pop Festival

5/25 Eskilstuna @ Ölkultur

5/26 Karlskoga @ Rockbar

5/27 Stockholm @ Pet Sounds record shop show!

 

SPAIN

5/30 Madrid @ Fun House

5/31 Burgos @ Matarile

6/1  Leon @ Chelsea Bar

6/2  Zarragoza @ Teatro Arbolé

6/8  Barcelona @ A Wamba Buluba

6/22 Elche @ Hotel Galicia

6/24 Fuengirola @ Fuengirola Pop Weekend with The Beach Boys

 

PORTUGAL

6/28 Algarve, TBC

6/29 Lisbon @ Popular Alvalade  

 

FRANCE

7/21 Tourville-Sur-Mer “Le Sable, Les Mouettes et Les Guitares Electriques” Festival)

There is a trend in romantic comedies where the protagonist goes through the gauntlet of dating scenarious, soliciting advice from a best friend who is waiting in the wings along the way. Then some catalyst brings about an epiphany that causes the protagonist to realize they were in love with the best friend all along. That’s not exactly what happened to Eyelids, but it is probably close.

For years, John Moen and Chris Slusarenko played and wrote in the company of some of the most legendary songwriters of indie rock including Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices), Stephen Malkmus (Pavement/Jicks), Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) and Elliott Smith. Friends for over two decades, songwriters John Moen and Chris Slusarenko had long desired to get together to write songs, “sweet melodies” paired with “bummer vibes,” which would fuse Big Star’s jangle to XTC’s melodicism, connecting the dots between the dream pop sounds of the ‘80s Paisley Underground to the homespun post-punk of the legendary Flying Nun label. In 2014 they decided that it was time to finally start writing and recording together and issued their debut album, 854.

With a growing desire to continue to play the songs live, Eyelids wasted no time enlisting Paul Pulvirenti (No. 2, Elliott Smith) and Jim Talstra (The Minus 5, Dharma Bums) as their rhythm section. The band’s live action led directly to the band’s new album, or, which will be released May 5 via Jealous Butcher Records. With or, the band’s second full-length LP, Eyelids has created their most emotional record yet. Produced by Peter Buck of R.E.M. and mixed by Thom Monahan (Peter, Bjorn and John, Devandra Banhart, Fruit Bats), or is liberally sprinkled with the hooks, melodies, and charming wordplay that make a certain kind of rock and roll fan fall madly in love with an LP.

The record demonstrates what happens when a group of old friends get into a room and truly collaborate. With friendships stretching back to their teens, Slusarenko and Moen bring out the best in each other as writers, resulting in a creative tension between their respective lyrical outlooks. With or, collaboration was key. Simply, or is the sound of a band realizing its potential, of old friends connecting creatively and sonically, creating exuberant, nuanced, pop music; better than a match made in romcom heaven.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Chris Slusarenko and John Moen, who shared the premiere of the or version of the “Slow It Goes” video (below) and discussed how the match came to be, their chemistry, and working with Peter Buck. This is what they told us.

You guys have played music with some real heavies. What is the best thing about being a side player and what is the worst?

Chris Slusarenko: The best thing is just getting to be in the atmosphere of someone else’s songwriting.  There’s no way you can’t be influenced by the way someone works but it’s also really rewarding to put your own stamp onto someone else’s vision.  Some people we’ve worked hold the strings a little tighter than others while some were more like “just have at it.”  Sometimes it’s just fun to play the part live that someone else had already previously written but sometimes you wished you had been in the band at that point of creation or recording.  And again some of the songwriters want you to stick the script without deviation and others want it to have a new spirit.  I get both but ultimately it’s more fun to deviate and put your own personality into it.

Did you always know that you were wanting to do your own thing?

C: Throughout the years both John and myself both had bands that were our own thing but they were all pretty short lived.  But once Boston Spaceships’ Let It Beard was finished John and myself revisited some demos we made before I joined Guided By Voices and before he joined The Decemberists and the elements of Eyelids were already all there.

Jonathan Drews, who produced the Boston Spaceships records, was with us and kinda chimed in to want to be part of it.   So the three of us made a plan to meet in a couple weeks and spend a weekend together writing and that’s when we wrote all the material for our first LP, 854.  Jim Talstra and Paulie Pulvirenti joined us shortly once we started playing out live.

How did you and John get into each others’ orbits? How did you realize that you had the same passion and affinity for pop music?

C: We’ve known each other since the late ‘80s when John and Jim were in Dharma Bums, who had records out on the indie label Frontier Records, and I was in Death Midget, who were on stickers and cassettes status plus one Mystic Records comp track.  Our bands were so different but that was back in the days when there wasn’t enough bands to go around so often the bills were incredibly diverse:  Industrial followed by power pop followed by some comedy glam thingy.

We’ve just been friends forever and although most my bands were pretty aggressive musically I always shared an affinity for R.E.M., the Paisley Underground and Flying Nun—things John’s bands were more in line with.  We always wanted to write together and after our time with Robert Pollard in Boston Spaceships we knew we worked really well together so decided to take a stab at it for real.

What is unique about the chemistry of Eyelids that makes it so rewarding?

John Moen: I have never been in a band that split the writing duties 50/50 before; Chris writes half, and I write half. We help each other sew up loose ends. The songs then get sent to the band, and final arrangements are made. I’m not actually sure how unique this process is, but I find it to be a particularly rewarding one. Neither Chris nor myself are completely responsible for the entire outcome which eases one’s creative mind, and since you aren’t having to provide all the content yourself, I think you work a bit harder to come up with your half.

Also, Chris and I don’t necessarily write the same type of songs, but we have to go through each others sense of aesthetics to come up with an albums worth of material. We are also pretty good at coming to an agreement and editing fairly mercilessly. Not all bands can do that. We are nimble and can go for hours in the desert without even a drop of water.

You recently completed a tour overseas with Drive By Truckers and I know you’ve done dates with Charlatans UK there too. What were your favorite experiences during those treks?

J: My favorite experience was being asked to go! It’s no walk in the park trying to get your band heard these days. There are many deserving bands and only so much bandwidth. It’s really a boost for us to get these kind of invitations from great bands that we respect so much. We were able to play really nice venues, and to amazing audiences that wouldn’t have known anything about us otherwise. I also really like eating English breakfast on the ferry from Ireland to England.

Do you feel like UK/European music buffs are more in tune with what Eyelids is doing, or is the U.S. appreciating the band to its full potential too?

C: I think it’s been pretty supportive all around wherever we’ve played.  I mean, most people coming out to see us know what’s going on sonically and emotionally with us.   They want to hear some damn songs ya know!   They understand the musical language we’re using—buoyant but kinda melancholy too.

I think some people are surprised that live it can be pretty loud at times since on the first LP it was a bit more subdued.  But we kinda like freaking out with guitars and we had some apocalyptic moments on our latest U.K./Euro tour while we were out with the Drive-By Truckers.  Just a chance to feel some sounds push again you from the amp.  Also we tend to joke around quite a bit between songs which we can’t help.  We’re kinda of goofballs.

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Album Art by Jo Hamilton

This is your second LP with Peter Buck. What is it like working with him?

J: Peter is fantastic. He is deeply enthusiastic about many forms of music, has what I consider to be great taste, and has also been extremely generous with us along the way. We are certainly elevated by his willingness to lend a hand. His approach in the studio is very laid back, but he is always quick with a solution when the need arises.

Buck as well as a few others guest on the record too, right? What did they bring to the table?

J: Well, it seems strange that we didn’t plaster him all over everything, but in the end he really only played mandolin on one track. The song “Ghost,Ghost,Ghost” features one of his signature lines. It seems to me that he is always equal parts creativity and restraint.

Also Jay Gonazlez from Drive-By Truckers played organ and piano on Camelot and Jonathan Segel from Camper Van Beethoven played strings on “(I Will) Leave With You.”  They brought the kind of performance that within hearing the song for a few seconds you’re like, “that’s got to the be the guy form Camper on that right?”  They were so distinctive in their performance.  It was an honor.

Did you do any writing in the studio?

C: There were a few songs like “Ghost, Ghost, Ghost” and “You Know I Gotta A Reason” that were a little more fully realized once we were in the studio.  They had a more experimental approach to them and we would lean on Peter about helping us get some of these ideas out of our heads and onto tape.  Most of these songs hadn’t been played out live yet so there was excitement in hearing all the parts come together rather than them slamming the walls of our practice space.    There was more than one moment where we would look at someone and say “that part is so cool…I had no idea you were playing that!”  Let’s just say our practice space is on the smaller side…!

What are your proudest moments on the record?

J: I am most proud of the singing. I have been challenging myself, and Chris, to record vocals that we like enough to turn them up loud in the mix. I came up in an “indie-rock” that may have de-emphasized strong vocals at times, but I really like a pop music confidence about the final mix these days. All that said, the interweaving three guitar attack is also a strong draw for me; keeping the six-string arrangements interesting is one of our best features.

You guys have done some pretty stellar videos in the past. Which of the songs on this record will receive video treatment and how involved are you guys in the concept for those?

C: We have two finished already—“Slow It Goes,” which has synchronized dancers from the troupe The Dead Lead Set Society, and “Falling Eyes,” which was a staged birthday party for Peter Buck that never really gets off the ground.

We’re going to do two more—one for Camelot and one for Furthest Blue.  I used to make films and music videos way, way back before music kinda took over my life.   So it’s been really cool to be back into it and we all enjoy making them.  It’s nice to be in a band where I will be like “…so then you’ll be playing a guard on stage in some leotard” and they’ll be like “…ok.  Where do you want me to stand?”   Most of the Eyelids videos have been pretty ambitious, so it helps having everyone trust in the concept and be all in.

(Band Photo: John Clark)

*PRE-ORDER* or

During the encore to Thursday’s set at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, singer Geoff Rickly admitted that their current tour was the first he’d ever done sober and encouraging those in the audience struggling with addiction that he was hopeful they could find healing and peace.

With his powerful words resonating with the crowd, it also provided the perfect opportunity to reflect on the serious, solemn nature of the New Brunswick, New Jersey, band, whose career ignited 17 years prior with “Understanding In a Car Crash,” and who went on to write poignant, anthemic albums like War All of The Time. After all, finding healing and peace amidst personal and political chaos has always been the band’s active modus operandi.

The name Thursday was synonymous with emo and post-hardcore music in the ‘90s though the band flamed out in the 2011 after several strong, politically tinged albums including A City by The Light Divided, Common Existence and No Devolucion. After a five year hiatus, during which no one expected to hear from the band again, they reunited for Atlanta’s Wrecking Ball Festival in 2016.

On this tour, their widely recognized dove logo was flanked by a pair of banners that read “Refugees Welcome Here” and “Protect Immigrant Communities.” Mid-set Rickly illuminated the inclusion of the banners adding that if they offended anyone in the crowd that they hadn’t been paying attention to the band’s lyrics. Naturally, this statement was a springboard into the band’s “Autobiography of a Nation” from their lauded Full Collapse album.

There were a few lighter moments of camaraderie that peppered the set. The band were joined by Touche Amore vocalist Jeremy Bolm during one song (although the mic wasn’t immediately working), and during another, slower number, when large balloons made their way to the crowd via the side stage area and were batted between the crowd and band. All in all, the set showcased an iconic act who were both fiery and in top form.

Los Angeles-based post-hardcore heavies Touche Amore garnered the bill’s third spot, following openers Cities Aviv and England’s Basement, with vocalist Bolm expressing gratitude to Thursday who had taken the band on one of their earliest and best tours. The band is clearly cut from the same cloth as their socially conscious tourmates. Much of Touche Amore’s power comes via the clear chemistry between Bolm and his bandmates, guitarists Nick Steinhardt and Clayton Stevens, bassist Tyler Kirby and drummer Elliot Babin, who is an absolute beast.

Though the band covered ground from several of their albums, including Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me and 2013’s critically acclaimed Is Survived By, the highlights of their set came during their delivery of their most recent material, songs from 2016 masterpiece Stage Four, which Bolm wrote about his mom’s battle with cancer and dealing with her loss. In particular, “New Halloween” and “Benediction” dropped like a ton of bricks.

Although Touche Amore is clearly a band best suited for a more intimate venue, the band’s aggressive stage presence and fury seemed to shrink the room and invite crowd interaction, some of which caught the band by surprise. In particularly, at one point Bolm was pulled into the crowd when he extended the microphone for some group participation.

It is easy to see why the band topped so many “Best of 2016” lists because they are clearly an outfit who is at the top of their game, who are growing tighter and more muscular with each record and tour, and whose influence and legacy threatens to overshadow that of even their strongest and most beloved predecessors.

Words by Tim Anderl, Photos by Jeremy Ward

Basement:

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Touche Amore:

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(Catch the last two dates of the tour here:

Tuesday, April 25 – St. Andrew’s Hall, Detroit, MI
Sunday, April 30 – Irving Plaza, New York, NY)

 

Chicago’s Riot Fest (September 15-17 at Douglas Park) has teamed up with local independent record store Championship Vinyl to bring you their Top 10 Riot Fest Albums series. Riot Fest has a long tradition of iconic bands performing full albums and this year is no exception. Highlights of today’s announcement of the first eight of ten artists playing full albums include Dinosaur Jr. playing 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me, Built To Spill taking the stage to rip through Keep It Like A Secret and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones giving their breakthrough album Let’s Face It the 20th anniversary treatment. Bayside, Mayday Parade, Fishbone, The Lawrence Arms, and that dog. will also be performing their most significant albums. Look for more full album plays to be announced when the festival unveils the next wave of artists next month.

The full list is as follows:

  1. Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me (1987-30th Anniversary)
  2.  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Let’s Face It (1997-20th Anniversary)
  3. Built To Spill – Keep It Like A Secret (1999)
  4. Fishbone – Truth and Soul (1988-30th Anniversary)
  5. Bayside – The Walking Wounded (2007-10th Anniversary)
  6. Mayday Parade – A Lesson In Romantics (2007-10th Anniversary)
  7. The Lawrence Arms – Oh, Calcutta! (2006)
  8. that dog. — Retreat From The Sun (1997-20th Anniversary)
  9. Announcing Soon!
  10. Announcing Soon!

This news comes on the heels of yesterday’s reveal of over 70 artists in Riot Fest’s First Wave lineup announcement, touting headlining performances by genre-breaking artist Nine Inch Nails, desert rock ruffians Queens of the Stone Age, and the exclusive reunion of seminal punk rock band Jawbreaker.

Other special inclusions on the lineup include 80s post-punk pioneers New Order, Paramore, Prophets of Rage, the inimitable M.I.A., Wu-Tang Clan, a DJ set from Beastie Boys’ Mike D, an exclusive 40th Anniversary set by punk hardcore legends Bad Brains, and special appearances by Chicago brethren Ministry and Vic Mensa.

Riot Fest Three-Day Passes are on sale now, with General Admission and VIP options via Ticketfly.

RIOT FEST 2017 FIRST WAVE OF ARTISTS: Nine Inch Nails (Friday), Queens of the Stone Age (Saturday), Jawbreaker (Sunday), New Order, Paramore, Prophets of Rage, M.I.A., Wu-Tang Clan, Mike D (DJ Set), A Day To Remember, Gogol Bordello, Taking Back Sunday, Vic Mensa, Dirty Heads, TV on the Radio, Ministry, Dinosaur Jr. (Performing You’re Living All Over Me), New Found Glory, Death From Above 1979, Bad Brains, FIDLAR, Action Bronson, Pennywise, Built to Spill (Performing Keep It Like A Secret), X, Peaches, The Lawrence Arms (Performing Oh, Calcutta!), The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (Performing Let’s Face It), The Orwells, Bayside (Performing The Walking Wounded), Say Anything, Mayday Parade (Performing A Lesson In Romantics), Streetlight Manifesto, Dead Cross, Minus the Bear, The Menzingers, LIARS, GWAR, Buzzcocks, GBH, Real Friends, Hot Water Music, Shabazz Palaces, Andrew W.K., Fishbone (Performing Truth and Soul), The Story So Far, State Champs, Four Year Strong, Beach Slang, The Cribs, that dog. (Performing Retreat From The Sun), Knuckle Puck, Chon, Slaves, The Hotelier, The Flatliners, Dessa, Saul Williams, Nothing More, Alice Bag, Tobacco, Sleep On It, Downtown Boys, Engine 88, The Smith Street Band, The Regrettes, HDBeenDope, Gazebos, Kitten Forever and featuring Hellzapoppin’ Circus Sideshow Revue, plus 25+ more artists to be announced!

In addition to the remaining 25+ bands that will be announced in May, Riot Fest will also once again feature a full-scale carnival with rides, games of chance, and of course, the Hellzapoppin’ Sideshow Revue freak show, which will see a much extended footprint from prior years. And to satisfy the refined palates of Riot patrons, there will be over 40 unique and diverse food vendors from which to choose.

DIRECT TICKET LINK: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1384105 FOR MORE INFORMATION: Heather West at 773.301.5767 or press@riotfest.org.

Website: www.riotfest.org Facebook: www.facebook.com/riotfest1 Twitter: www.twitter.com/riotfest Instagram: www.instagram.com/riot_fest

Photo by Mabel Suen, Art by Arnulf Rodler

St. Louis Missouri trio Yowie is a complete and utter musical enigma. Less a band than a carefully orchestrated brain trust that examines every note, beat and nuance at the micro and macroscopic levels, they are the kind of unit that will spend hours upon hours pouring over a seven second piece of music to ensure that it is perfectly crafted and presented. Naturally, this sort of endeavor isn’t for the faint of heart; only those with unparalleled dedication to their craft would undertake this sort of task for even a few hours, let alone 17 years.

Currently comprised of guitarist Jeremiah Wonsewitz, drummer Shawn “The Defenestrator” O’Connor, and guitarist Christopher Trull (formerly of Grand Ulena), the band release their third album, Synchromysticism on April 21 via Skin Graft Records, their label home of many years. Five years since their Damning with Faint Praise, Synchromysticism is a challenging and “ecstatic” record that is powerful, dense and a lot to digest, even at its 30 minute run time, in one sitting.

Ghettoblaster recently spoke with The Defenestrator and Trull about the undertaking, their genre defying sound, and cryptozoology. This is what they said.

There has been a lineup change. What did Christopher Trull bring to the table?

The Defenestrator: I was quite familiar with his playing in Grand Ulena and knew him to be not only an excellent player,  but one who was not scared of hard work, who understood the nuance necessary to make this type of music. I think there are other players who could pull off some of these feats from a purely technical perspective, but the hardest part of Yowie is about structure, both at the micro and macro levels. When the part you are playing is specifically about the intricate overlay of non-overlapping rhythms, a slight error in timing isn’t just a slight annoyance; it is a complete structural collapse, and an utter failure. There are lots of great players out there who just aren’t willing to work on a four second part for hours on end until they phrase it correctly. You have to have an extremely high frustration tolerance, and that’s not that common of a trait.  Lots of bloody fingers, cramps, and repetitive motion injuries in this band.

He has brought a tremendous amount of creativity and an attention to melody that we didn’t have before. He’s really given some of these rhythmic structures a memorable and moving quality. In our previous albums, the melodic aspects were sort of an afterthought; it was all about rhythm. For this album, we have given tremendous attention to both, and it makes the music much more engaging.

Druck

Yowie has been a band for over 15 years now. What is it about your chemistry or relationships with each other that continues to make this a rewarding endeavor for you?

Christopher Trull: I think the key is extreme stubbornness!

TD: He’s not joking. We are doing something distinctive, and I think the tenacity required to pull that off is the main contributor to our longevity. Not very many people can say they are fluent in the very counterintuitive approach we use, and most musicians aren’t willing to put in the amount of work it takes to execute it.

Your band has always been one that is difficult to characterize. Do you find this phenomenon a blessing or a curse?

TD:  Unambiguous curse when it comes to getting the word out. People tend to want to use labels when discussing music, like “math rock” or “prog rock” or “avant garde” or “experimental.” Each of these conjures up a sort of schema that is misleading when applied to us. We are not happy tappy music that jams in 6/8. We don’t sound like Rush or Yes. We aren’t noisy improvisational music. People want a simple, concise label for what we do and there just isn’t one.

I would say, though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want my music to be authentic and personal enough that you can’t easily say “sounds like X.” You need at least a sentence, maybe a paragraph. To the extent that people know about us, it is often because someone said something like “Listen to this- what in the fuck is happening, here?” The sort of person who is intrigued by that may find us interesting.

Have any of you studied music composition at a scholastic level?

CT: I took some general music theory classes in high school and studied guitar in private lessons for years, but never formally studied composition.

TD: Neither me, nor Jeremiah have. We fumbled our way through discovering a lot of compositional tools by simple trial and error in the basement. Turns out, there are names for these things we thought we invented down there.

Druck

What have been the most rewarding parts of working with Skin Graft? What have been your proudest moments as a result of working with them?

TD-  Simply being on the label means we are in some ways associated with some of the incredibly talented and unique artists who came before us. That has been an honor all by itself.

CT: Agreed! I have been a fan since I bought the very first SG record/comic book (Dazzling Killmen’s “Killing Fever” split 7″ with Mother’s Day) when it came out.

Is there a grand scheme or theme behind Synchromysticism?

TD:  Oh, yeah. At two levels; conceptual and compositional. At the conceptual level, these pieces are about a moment of sudden realization that evokes a set of powerful, contradictory emotions. Hopefully the music will evoke this in the listener- a sense of dread, or ominous foreboding, that also involves at least of hint of the ecstatic. Compositionally, we absolutely insisted, all the way through, on making these odd, oblong, angular rhythms and processes “groove” and “flow,” for lack of a better term. These pieces were meticulously woven together so that they evoke a sense of progression and movement, concealing the rough edges of the transitions and making all of these things feel intuitive.

What was the process of writing, fine tuning that album like?

TD:  Excruciating. I really mean that. A lot of people don’t realize it, but often times, songwriting is about taking sections that sort of intuitively fit together, and then simply alternating between a couple of them and repeating a lot. For us, we took dozens and dozens of angular, difficult pieces, and then had to craft smooth transitions between all of them. There were months where we kept having certain transitions where you could really hear that they had been forced together, and so we ended up just going over and over them, having to doing all sort of really subtle things to make them feel natural. Each practice, usually three times a week, involved going at these compositional issues, recording the sections, emailing them out, listening and critiquing, generating new ideas, and doing it again. And again. A shit ton of work, but it paid off.

What are your favorite moments on the record and why?

TD:  I love the very beginning of the album, the first moments in “Ineffable Dolphin Communion.” There are a bunch of natural dynamics being played, and the way those popped in the studio sounded way cooler to me than it does in the basement. Hearing the difference between what is captured by the room mics and the individual drum mics, and being able to really hear the subtle differences in the drums at different volumes there was very cool. Never really had that happen on a record before. Part of that is because most of our previous work was on “10” pretty much all the way through. So hearing the dips and valleys and subtle resonance changes stands out to me.

Also, it made me feel better about buying a drum set that was selected specifically for recording this album. I had always been unhappy with my drum sound on the previous albums, and I am not much of a gear prima donna, and so this was hard for me to do, but the end product is vastly superior because of it.

CT: I don’t know if I can isolate it down to specific moments…I’m very happy with how it turned out overall – both sonically and musically.

Druck

Is there a particular way you are hoping that people receive or react to the record?

CT: Ecstatically!?!?  I don’t know, really…I’m very proud of it and I feel like we achieved what we set out to do when we started writing this record. The reception to this material as we’ve been playing it live over the past few years has been very positive…hopefully that will continue with the record

TD: I would hope they would move their bodies. That’s a big request, because most people, whether they realize it or not, have been conditioned to only move to music in 4/4 time. We have never written a part in 4/4 time. And there are lots of parts on here that have multiple rhythms layered on top of one another that give the listener the chance to interact with in multiple ways simultaneously.

I think the pieces are best absorbed one at a time. I’d recommend listening to a track once, and then coming back to listen again. It seems that listening to the whole album all the way through is a bit much for most people. Sort of information overload. The album is not that long, but it is very thick.

Yowie_Gr122_ult_ed_hi-res

Will you perform this music live? If so, is it played as it is presented on the record or do you improvise at all?

CT: All of these songs have already been played live, and we will continue to do so as often as we can.  This band does not improvise, though.

TD: We have never improvised. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say this band represents the opposite of improvisation. Every note of every part has been meticulously selected, probably argued about for some time, and revised, until it is just so. Any deviation you will hear from that live is an error, and one that will be punished severely after the show. Humiliation and caning, usually.

Have you been to the U.S. cryptozoology museum?

TD: No, but it seems like, if I ever get up to the Northwest, it is almost an obligatory stop. A sort of hajj. I am going to Europe in a few weeks and I am going to try to go to a sea monster museum while I am there. Will send pics.

As an aside, there is a Christian fiction novel about a squatch by Frank Peretti. Have you read it?

TD: Sadly, no, but you are turning me on to some things that I should probably do. My library is, for some reason, really sparse in the Christian fiction section. Maybe I should beef it up. It really seems like the sort of thing I would be into, but I don’t read for pleasure much anymore these days. I do miss it.

Would you ever consider writing a song in 20/17 timing?

TD: Sure, but the thing about that is those 17th notes are so tricky to phrase correctly. They are like, 1/16th harder than playing 16th notes. So that’s gonna take some practice.

(Order the LP at: https://skingraftrecords.bandcamp.com/.)

Photo by Jim Arbogast

Thomas Wynn and the Believers are a six-piece ensemble from Orlando, Florida who have been named the #1 local rock andcountry/folk band for the past seven years by Orlando Weekly. Led by Thomas and his sister Olivia — who honed their skills performing in church as kids — the band’s deep southern heat, complex, pulsing rhythms, and self-styled “blood harmonies” evoke the best of CSNY,  John Prine, and Levon Helm.

Classic rock flows through Thomas’ veins – his father was the drummer for the country rock band Cowboys, and while his classmates were listening to Green Day and Nirvana, he was wearing out his copy of The Band’s Music from Big Pink.

The Believers have shared the stage with artists like Cheap Trick, Gov’t Mule, Medeski, Martin & Wood, and Drive-By Truckers, where Wynn’s spirit-moving vocals, passionate lyrics, and emotional delivery are uniquely supported by sister Olivia’s engaging and captivating voice and presence.

The band’s third studio album Wade Waist Deep is out May 22 via Mascot Label Group, and today Ghettoblaster has the pleasure of premiering “My Eyes Won’t Be Open” from the effort. This is what Thomas Wynn had to say about it:

“The idea for the song ‘My Eyes Won’t Be Open’ came from Eastern European lore.  I heard once that if you ‘died with your eyes open, you died with regrets.’  The imagery, and the question of ‘how do I die with my eyes closed?’ impacted me greatly.  I called my friend Tyler Bryant and we drew out an answer from the ether, from ourselves, and from each other with this song.” – Thomas Wynn

(Visit the band here: https://www.thomaswynnandthebelievers.com/.)

Brooklyn, NY duo Charming Disaster is a songwriting and performance duo formed by musicians Ellia Bisker (of Sweet Soubrette and Funkrust Brass Band) and Jeff Morris (of Kotorino) in 2012. Inspired by the gothic humor of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, the noir storytelling of Raymond Chandler, the stylish aesthetic of French new wave film, the murder ballads of the Americana tradition, and the dramatic flair of the cabaret, they write songs that tell stories – exploring themes like love, death, crime, ancient mythology, and the paranormal. They released their debut album, Love, Crime & Other Trouble, in 2015, and their second album, Cautionary Tales, will be this Friday.

Many of the songs on Cautionary Tales were created in February 2015, when the duo spent two weeks holed up in an isolated cabin in the snowy woods of northern Michigan. Cautionary Tales expands on Charming Disaster’s spooky, offbeat universe of paranormal romance, circus and carnival characters, con artists, and Egyptian mythology with new songs of espionage, occult practices, supernatural creatures, and the end of the world as we know it. The album’s musical influences include traditional murder ballads, the duo collaborations of PJ Harvey and John Parish, and the folkier side of Led Zeppelin. Charming Disaster’s literary bent is also in evidence, with references to cult fantasy novels Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and The Golden Compass as well as ancient lore from Greek and Norse mythology.

Today, Ghettoblaster has the pleasure of premiering “Little Black Bird” from the forthcoming record. Enjoy it below:

(Order Cautionary Tales here:

http://charmingdisaster.com/cautionarytales

Catch them live here:

04/19 Greensboro, NC @ Common Grounds

04/20 Wilmington, NC @ (secret house concert)

04/21 Hillsborough, NC @ Mystery Brewing Company

04/22 York, PA @ (secret house concert)

04/29 New York, NY @ Hell Phone Speakeasy

07/20 New York, NY @ Joe’s Pub

Visit them on the web here:

charmingdisaster.com

charmingdisaster.bandcamp.com 

facebook.com/charmingdisaster)

Expert Timing is a passion project that brings together the warmth and chemistry of husband/wife duo Jeff and Katrina Snyder. With Jeff on guitar and Katrina on bass they both share songwriting and vocal duties. With drummer Gibran Colbert behind the kit, the band proudly wears it’s emo and indie rock influences on their sleeves.

The band recently released their Selective Hearing EP, via Dikembe’s Death Protector Collective label in March and Ghettoblaster caught up with them to discuss the EP, anxiety, the Pulse tragedy, and spreading positivity, tolerance and love.

Are you guys originally from Orlando?

Katrina: Jeff grew up in Allentown, PA and I grew up in Dallas, TX. I had moved to Orlando right after high school and we met when Jeff was on tour with his band at the time. I moved up to PA while he finished college and then after we got married we decided to skip winters and come back to Florida permanently.

When did you realize that Expert Timing was something that you wanted to pursue together?

Jeff: Katrina and I were in a band together called Living Decent.  Our singer moved out of Florida and we knew we wanted to keep working on music together. We didn’t really know what Expert Timing would sound like since this was completely new territory for us as far as collaborating and singing together.

Has it been a nurturing/growth experience for your relationship or is it “strictly business?”

Katrina: It’s definitely helped us grow and evolve in a lot of incredible ways. At the same time, sometimes it’s frustrating because of course the person that is closest to you can push your buttons the most! However, it’s really comforting knowing that no matter what, we’re in this together. That includes celebrating the good points in this band as well as getting each other through the hard parts. Jeff: We have always been a solid team and that definitely translates to working on music together.

When did you begin writing Selective Hearing and what catalysts were inspiring that output?

Jeff: We started writing as soon as we started this project in March ’16. Working together constantly inspires me to write more. If I’m stuck I can show Trina stuff and she’s always taking me somewhere new. We draw inspiration from all sorts of places, from daily mundane stuff to deeper issues like dealing with anxiety and tragedy. Having someone to share ideas with really helps fuel our creative output.

Was there anything in particular you were hoping to accomplish with it?

Katrina: We’ve already exceeded anything we could’ve hoped for. We poured our hearts into these songs and the fact that so many people have showed love and support towards us has been humbling. We’ve been able to play shows with a lot of incredible bands and even got to tour with Dikembe. Really gives us warm fuzzies haha.

What are your proudest moments on the record and why?

Katrina: For me, it was recording “Slow.” That song took the longest to come together and wasn’t completed until right before we went to record it. I was really nervous about being able to get the vocal performance I wanted, and thought my inexperience was going to shine through. Luckily Jon Markson, who recorded/produced the EP, is so wonderful that I was comfortable and able to just commit and enjoy the recording experience. Jeff: The way the bridge of “Act Your Age” came together in the studio stands out to me. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted and Tom’s drum choices along with Jon’s idea to use a phaser on the guitar really informed that part. Every time I hear it I think about how much fun it was to create.

You did a video for “Nervous Wreck,” right? How involved were you in coming up with the concept for that?

Jeff: I wanted to make a found footage video for “Nervous Wreck” so I started scanning the Prelinger Archives for content.  I was inspired by all the old nuclear test footage as well as the sense of fear and doom that surrounded the post WW2 and cold war eras. “Nervous Wreck” is about feeling anxious and not really understanding why, so I wanted the video to reflect that sense of global dread that informs a person’s personal anxiety even if they may not know where it’s coming from.

 

You recently embarked on a tour with Dikembe, whose label released the EP. Where did your relationship with them originate?

Katrina: We were lucky enough to play a couple shows with Dikembe in our last band. Then our very first Expert Timing show was with them and Slingshot Dakota. That first show really propelled us forward, we’ve forged lasting friendships with both of those bands, enough so that Tom Patterson from Slingshot actually played on the EP. When Dikembe offered to release the EP through Death Protector Collective we were thrilled. We really respect them as people and musicians and also share the same DIY mentality/ideals which are an integral part of how we function as a band.

I imagine that you had some strong feelings as a result of the recent Orlando club shooting. How did you process that?

Jeff: I actually work at a hospital about two blocks away from Pulse. I wasn’t working that night but going to work the Monday after was surreal. How did we process it? I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it. I’d like to think we rallied together as a community and we have, but I don’t personally feel any safer or confident that blind hate is any less serious anywhere in America. Katrina: Pulse really shook us out of our bubble where we naively thought things like that couldn’t happen in our beloved little city. It immediately forced us into a perspective that anything can happen, and the least we can do is enjoy our lives and try to spread as much positivity, tolerance, and love as possible.

What are your loftiest goals for Expert Timing?

Katrina: We just want to keep going, work hard at becoming a tighter band, and hopefully get to do more tours with bands we love and admire. If we get to tour Europe one day, well that’d just be icing.

(Purchase the EP here: https://experttiming.bandcamp.com/album/selective-hearing

Order a CD copy here: http://deathprotector.limitedrun.com/products/587255-expert-timing-selective-hearing-cd-ep)