Tag Archive: “Featured”

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.

Print
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:

Photo Apr 22, 7 18 04 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 14 15 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 15 02 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 15 03 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 17 36 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 18 23 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 18 37 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 20 40 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 31 51 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 36 17 AM

Photo Apr 22, 7 46 14 AM

Touche Amore:

Photo Apr 22, 8 08 36 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 09 21 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 11 15 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 17 07 AM (1)

Photo Apr 22, 8 17 07 AM (2)

Photo Apr 22, 8 14 08 AM (1)

Photo Apr 22, 8 12 32 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 17 07 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 18 23 AM (1)

Photo Apr 22, 8 18 32 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 23 51 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 30 24 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 37 19 AM

Photo Apr 22, 8 38 16 AM

Thursday:

Photo Apr 22, 9 07 13 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 11 55 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 12 16 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 13 23 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 15 20 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 15 44 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 16 55 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 17 24 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 18 13 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 19 39 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 25 21 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 31 26 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 33 36 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 51 16 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 53 40 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 58 31 AM

Photo Apr 22, 9 59 18 AM

(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)

 

I guess that title is the lead in for this. 13 Reasons Why… it’s that Netflix show that’s all the rage right now, which revolves around the suicide of a young girl. The premise of the series is that she doesn’t leave a suicide note, but instead records on 7 cassettes the reasons why she killed herself. Those tapes are passed around to a number of individuals . Each side of a tape rehashed something about one individual and how, whatever they did, contributed to her death. It’s a tangled web and the show is pretty graphic. That’s not the only thing we focus here on this episode of Boombox Culture, oh yes, there’s more. There’s Joy Division, which is tightly bound to those cassettes and other music as well.

Is there more? Yes. Former New Order/Joy Division bassist Peter Hook is back on stage performing those JD songs. Upcoming movies, shows and then some. Joining Eddie Machete is Chris “Mr. Awesome” Ratay. His name, not mine. Next time I don’t leave someone to come up with their own nickname.

 

Record store day 2017 is here!!! Whilst you set your plans to head out to your local indie vinyl provider you can expect to be treated to a bunch of exclusives that have been waiting for this date to be released. The creative folks at Get On Down have once again curated a few titles this year that will flip you lid or knock your socks off.

20170422_103836

One of those groovy release this year is the CZARFACE “First Weapons Drawn” book and record set. Wait, what?!? A book and record set inspired by Inspectah Deck, Esoteric and 7L’s group, CZARFACE! Yes, true believers, just like those old-school days of listening to a record and reading a book along with it you can now experience in full hi-def audio and colorful (Kirby inspired) art the CZARFACE story come to life!

The gatefold LP includes a 20-page full color read along that will engulf you and yours in to the origins of CZARFACE. The soundtrack also takes you on a nostalgic ride, with the funky drums and keys.

20170422_103723

This is a special item to get your hands-on during record store day 2017, so while you’re digging at your favorite spot make sure to ask for this one and remember kids, it’s fun to read as you hear!

I didn’t have any “resolutions” this year because for the most part, they’re a waste of time. I still keep hearing some complain about the diets or plans they’ve had which have been failures. I don’t do all that. My only goal every year is to be better than I was the previous year and so far so good. Staying on top of projects and taking on new ones. Challenging but hey, once you complete one goal you need to set another or else you’re remain stagnant, like my neighbor’s pool water. If you do that then all you’ll get is mosquitoes sucking the life out of you.

So I think I’m up for the challenge that is Eric Slick‘s new album Palisades (Egghunt Records). As a member of Dr. Dog, Slick has known perks with the success of the band.  He’s also played as the drummer for Adrian Belew and was a part of Lithuania.  Here though, Slick starts fresh and literally from the bottom, if you can call it that. Palisades is actually his second solo release which follows up the 2014’s Out Of Habit cassette. But this sophomore album is what’s showcasing as his explosive debut. Drummers aren’t usually at the forefront and success out from behind the drum kit only happens for a select few (Dave Grohl, Phil Collins, etc.) but Slick has already proven himself.   He’s not afraid to cut loose on this quick paced opener “You Became The Light.” He sticks to a standard verse-chorus-verse formula and takes it to the bridge, but the large than life sound he gets from all the instruments is far from cacophonous, delivered impeccably and controlled. While his press release may read, “..a record that washes over you with both the power of a hurricane and the peace of light filtering through the trees,” I wouldn’t go that far but he’s able to pull a variation of styles, piece them all together and make it all sound singularly cohesive! He’s able to slow down the pace on “The Dirge” and “No” holding onto that expanse, and then later create a beautifully orchestrated track with your basic drums-guitar-bass-keyboard instrumentation on “You Are Not Your Mind” that would make Queen proud. In all honesty, this one song is what I find intriguing and is possibly the peak of the album that will have you wondering how Slick was able to incorporate so much beauty in just 3:46 minutes.

EricSlickPalisades
Eric Slick: Palisades

It doesn’t stop there though. Musically, “Evergreen” could have Slick acting as ringmaster to the rest of the world, that’s only because the world in 2017 is a circus. And “Slow Burn,” it’s captivating with the opening keyboard making way for the wall of guitars and rhythms that momentarily smother listeners with washes of sound. Eric Slick isn’t afraid. He isn’t afraid to take chances and reach into the deep corners of his mine to make Palisades such an amazing listen.

There isn’t much I can say about Tara Jane O’Neil… OK that’s not necessarily true because there’s a LOT I can say about her. In the early 90’s she became part of musical underground lore as a part of the Louisville, KY band Rodan. As part of the seminal group, they redefined a genre with alternating time signatures and creative dynamics. After the dissolution of the band she drifted with other artists, later collaborating with some then began recording her own material.  Her self-titled release (Gnomonsong) is her 8th solo album and it seems she’s honed and refined her skills into what is possibly her most beautiful work to date. Her harmonies and beautiful voice on “Flutter” are accentuated only by the guitars she’s accompanied with. O’Neil can make it seem effortless. To simply categorize her as a folk artist wouldn’t seem fair considering her musical history but the way she creates beauty with “Blow” is just astounding. The ease and flow of the soft and tantalizing rhythm section assist in bringing her gorgeous voice to the surface. The song structure itself is one that would make Carole King blush, having her wish she thought of it first.

Tara Jane O'Neil
Tara Jane O’Neil: S/T

I’m not certain if I can pick anything from this release as a favorite, with one song better than the previous. There’s the sultry “Sand,” the easy flowing “Laugh,” but it’s “Great” that’s the one that puts a smile on my face. It’s as if O’Neil is left breathless after singing the opening “Holding onto life at these ends of time / what matters now anyway?” over a slowly-paced rhythm and sparse guitars that never move faster than a light summer breeze. Oh how O’Neil makes it all so easy and simple, but that’s only because she’s mastered her art. That much is obvious from the allure of her self-titled release here.

In all seriousness, I’m at a loss with Sixo. Why? Because it doesn’t seem like he fucks around.  Scotty Trimble  is a former professional motocross racer turned indie rap producer (in actuality, both careers ran concurrently) and here on his third release  The Odds Of Free Will (Fake Four Inc.) we see yet another producer whose track manipulation is capable at handling more than one genre. While Sixo is known as a Hip Hop / electronic producer, some of his music defies singular genres. He’s able to create tracks that are fit for any singer or rapper. Although, one thing is predominant; there’s a sadness lingering around many of the tracks written here. Musically, it usually sits around a brooding timbre that’s accented by the artist he’s working with. “Eye Of The Needle” feels this way. Singer Grace Park does her best to stay on point with it as well. The sweetness of her voice makes that sadness bearable, it’s strength fighting through it…if that makes any sense. But then there’s “Christmas Past” where that sadness is overshadowed by a haunting dream on which Ceschi raps/sings over. Ceschi can make you cry with his words, accenting the music he’s highlighting, storming through in a controlled state.

Sixo

But it’s Gregory Pepper that changes things up. The mellow work Sixo pieces together on “John Connor” – an ode to Terminator – is where Pepper can sing his heart out beautifully, although the cynicism of his words shouldn’t be lost on you. He’s one artist I’d like to hear record an entire album using strictly Hip Hop production. But it’s not all fun and games though, as that Grayskul / Dark Time Sunshine man Onry Ozzborn, takes the angst Sixo puts in his music and adds his words to it perfectly on “War Games.” Misconstrued love? Misunderstandings? Possibly, but Sixo and Ozzborn leave you wallowing in anxiety. His instrumentals like “Nothing’s Perfect” and “Nothing And Hell” are beautiful but again, dark, emotive, sad, etc. and require repeated listen. Other heavy hitters are found here as well like Josh Martinez holding things down on “Fire In The Sky,” or Awol One on the bottom heavy “Starlight City, which suits his baritone perfectly. You can’t forget those wordsmiths like Open Mike Eagle, Milo and Mike 9 as well. This is a lot to take in and I feel like I’m downing. The only thing is, I keep coming back to The Odds Of Free Will in an attempt to get more water in my lungs.

Eric SlickFacebook // Twitter // Instagram
Tara Jane O’NeilFacebook // Twitter // Instagram
SixoFacebook // Twitter // Instagram

NoSurrender

It’s been a strange ride for the group whose last full-length release, Medicine Babies, dropped back in 2010. At that time the line-up – which has had a few different variations but the members that have come and gone have always remained closely knit and interchangeable – was made up of Gnomad, Darius Jamal VanSluytman F/K/A Seraphim, and Eddie Steeples. Early releases made it my way although Seraphim’s name always popped up around all the time, as a guest vocalist on tracks by underground legends like Vast Aire of Cannibal Ox, Crunc Tesla and Mike Ladd’s The Majesticons. But it was in  2003 that I first met the crew as they offered up their first self-released CD, White Power Black Magic, a collage of dissonance, off-beat drum patterns and fierce lyricism. But it’s Medicine Babies I’m here to discuss. While Steeples Hip-Hop career was sidetracked into acting (Torque, My Name Is Earl) the group put itself on hold. Finding himself once again back in the fold, the members reinvented itself into an invigorated beast! The release was like nothing the group had previously released. With additional production and assistance from the likes of Radioclit, Fred Q Nasty and TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe the group proved to redefine what Hip Hop and music should sound like. We’ll see what comes next…

NoSurrender2

 

No Surrender: Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Website

 

The One With 90’s Nostalgia

On this episode: our dear cousins dive into Kung-Fu Kenny aka Cornrow Kenny aka Duckworth aka Kendrick Lamar’s fantastic new album DAMN, there is a lot of talk about 90’s nostalgia including Brian giving Luke a lesson on who Jordan Catalano is, Brian gets angry because Luke “stole” a song from him, they discuss the illustrious music career of once video game superstar Frogger, Brian and Luke talk about their literal Best Songs Ever and Luke lands in the Hipster Hall of Fame and you get to hear the eight best songs you’ll listen to all week!

Every week Ghettoblaster feature writers (and dear cousins!) Brian LaBenne and Luke LaBenne bring you fresh new songs with the hopes of introducing you to some that you may consider to be the best song ever.  Both Brian and Luke have no idea what songs the other has picked, so what you are hearing is their genuine reaction to listening to the songs together.  Also, if you enjoy this episode, head to ITunes to subscribe and rate our podcast with the highest rating available to you.

TWITTER: @BestSongEverPod

ITUNES LINK


Songs Played on The One With 90’s Nostalgia

Little Dragon – Celebrate from Season High out now on Loma Vista Recordings

Charly Bliss from Guppy out this Friday, April 21st on Barsuk Records

Waxahatchee – Silver from Out in the Storm out July 14th on Merge Records

Toro Y Moi – Omaha from Our First 100 Days available now at ourfirst100days.bandcamp.com

Spoek Mathambo – Want Ur Love from Mzansi Beat out now on Teka Recordings

Ratboys – Control from GN out June 30th on Topshelf Records

Girlpool – It Gets More Blue from Powerplant out May 12th on Anti-

Kool A.D. – Lapsang Souchong from Sky Ladder available now at koolad.bandcamp.com/

The indie rock being pumped out in the 90s should unquestionably be considered as one of the best times in music. The constant hearty flow of bands surging onto the scene allowed fans to take stock and witness greatness unfolding before them. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, WVWhite’s own Tyler Trent was able to fully get the opportunity to immerse himself into the decade-long run of stellar bands/artists/songs. Tyler also has had his father to fall back on and learn a thing or two (musician formerly a member of Gunshy Ministers and Bush League All-Stars).

After dropping an EP in January 2012 and their impressive debut LP in February 2014, WVWhite is set to release their sophomore LP House of Spiritual Athletes on April 21 via Anyway Records. Today, Ghettoblaster is proud to premiere the video for the single from the new album “Truth Is New”.

Moving onward with their mucky sound, it’s hard to not pick up on the guidance set forth from well-liked bands such as Pavement and Sleater-Kinney. All the way through “Truth Is New”, the reckless  nature of memories blasting those early scrubby 90s tunes are ever  present. WVWhite goes about it on their own terms, which is absolutely refreshing.

(Visit WVWhite here:
BANDCAMP: https://wvwhite.bandcamp.com/
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/wvwhitemusic/)

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/.)