Tag Archive: “Featured”

Oozing with more creativity than what most could only dream of having, Jordan Galland continues to navigate his career in various areas. Case in point-his most recent voyage into film. His first feature, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead, premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2009 and was released theatrically by Indican Pictures. His second film, Alter Egos, premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival in 2012 and was released by Kevin Smith’s Smodcast label through Phase 4 Films.  Galland’s most recent film was the 2016 release Ava’s Possessions.

As much spotlight has been put on Galland’s budding film career, we shouldn’t forget his notoriety within the music world. Fronting the late ’90s act Dopo Yume, Galland has had the distinct pleasure of opening for Sean Lennon and Rufus Wainwright. Galland has also collaborated with musician Mark Ronson on various projects, which includes Galland and his friend Domino Kirke’s band Domino’s Adults Only in 2008.

On July 14th, Galland will be releasing his latest EP Manhattan. Having grown up within the area, The woozy synth-pop Manhattan is being dubbed as a “bittersweet lament of homage to Galland’s home town, written from the rare perspective of someone who’s never known a home other than the teeming metropolis”.

Ghettoblaster is proud to premiere the video for the single “Adaption”.

Here’s Galland on the video:

“The Adaptation video is kind of a metaphor for growing pains, how awkward those moments are when we’re in the midst of transformation, whether we’re going through a break up or just growing up. On the immediate level, the drawings are clearly motionless images, flickering into motion, hovering on the brink of being animated and coming to life, but always remaining on the threshold, so the movement is half-realized.

The pictures themselves are like snap shots from different stories, asking what came before or what will come after, whether it’s a monster appearing by a girl playing solitaire in the dark, or an older man whispering into a younger woman’s ear or a cowboy with a burning town behind him, it’s meant to evoke the feeling of being at a turning point. There’s probably no going back, but what lies ahead is unknown. I think that’s a feeling the whole world can relate to, especially America, and especially right now.

I wanted the drawings to feel familiar, like they’re made with some household markers and pens, or drawn on a notebook after class, copied from some familiar movies or photographs or other old comics, and tweaked slightly so it’s not clear where it’s from. Because it’s in those types of sketches and drawings that we often sense the subconscious at work, the force steering us towards that transformation. Some of the humans in the drawings have turned into animal-hybrid creatures, literally playing with the idea of adapting to their environment. The song itself was born of such familiar phrases turning the other way, zigging when they would normally zag.

I would expect the lyric to be something like: “Let go of your fear. Don’t be afraid, I’m here with you.” So instead I wanted to flip it: “Let go of your fearlessness, be afraid with me.” It’s telling you on the one hand that it’s ok to feel fear, but it’s also trying to seduce you into being afraid, and settle into that as a normal condition. In that reversal of what one might expect, there’s a whole range of emotions. It’s funny, sad, seductive, dark… My aim is always to tell a whole story in a song or video, or explore moments that imply a larger story at work, that started before and continues after the song is done playing.”

Manhattan will be available July 14th via Slush Puppy Music.  To pre-order the album, click here.

Photo credit: Heidi Hartwig

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TINY EPIC GALAXIES: BEYOND THE BLACK (Gamelyn Games)

One of the best games of 2015, in this writer’s humble opinion, was a small box full of game. Tiny Epic Galaxies, using only a deck of cards, some wooden bits and bobs, and a fistful of dice, bopped the player on the head with some seriously addictive, fun gameplay.  It basically worked like this: chuck some dice, blast off your rocket ships, acquire culture and energy (the game’s two resources), colonize planets through economy or diplomacy, upgrade your empire, earn victory points. First person to 21 VP triggers end of game. Tiny Epic Galaxies is a near-perfect dice placement gem. Easy to teach and learn. Simple, but with some real choices.

Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black gives players a little more meat to chew on. The expansion, which requires Tiny Epic Galaxies to play, beefs up the original game with some cool additions. Now, when a player rolls doubles, they may hire a pilot.  The player will choose one of their rockets to swap for one of the cool new Advanced Ships that come in the expansion. From now on, that ship has the pilot’s special ability. Pilot abilities include things like, “This ship acquires 2 resources instead of 1.” Pilots are worth one in-game VP, and a player can hire up to four pilots at a time. Certain pilots are only able to fly certain Advanced Ships, based on which faces the player rolled doubles of. However, if a player rolls 3-of-a-kind, they may hire any pilot to hire any Advanced Ship.

The other awesome thing Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black adds is Exploration. Players may activate a “move a ship” die to travel to unexplored space. Once there, they will draw an Exploration Card which will have either a positive effect (“Discovery”) or a negative one (“Danger”). If it’s a Danger Card, the player must resolve it immediately. However, if it’s a Discovery, they can either keep it or draw again, hoping for something better. Exploration adds an enjoyable “press your luck” element that lends genuine tension and excitement to the game.

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Players also collect badges from Pilots and Exploration cards, which are good for VP during end-game scoring. Many of the games my group played were so tight that the victor relied on VP from badges to win. It ain’t over ’til it’s over!

I would place Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black in the “essential” category of expansions. There is no situation in which I can foresee myself ever again playing the base game without it. It takes an already strong game and makes it even better. Adding in the “Satellites and Super Weapons” and “Drones” mini-expansions that came with the Kickstarter versions of the base game and expansion only furthered the experience. The result was a delightfully crunchy point salad with enough choices to really get my synapses firing.

Gamelyn Games' Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black expansion

Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black seems to scale well with different player counts, though with five it can get a little long. It is enjoyable for two. Like the original, the expansion is solo playable. The AI once again ranges from “for babies” to “hard af” depending on which Rogue Empire you choose to compete against.

With its smooth design and interesting decisions, Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black really brings the strategy. It takes Gamelyn’s best title and knocks it even further out of the park. This game will be hitting my table on the regular for many, many years. Now I wonder if there’ll ever be an expansion to Tiny Epic Western… (Gamelyn Games) by Josher Lumpkin

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When Mother Theresa said, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls,” perhaps she’d not considered the ability of music, made while commingling the worlds of flesh and spirit, can illuminate God, religious images and traditions in respectful, playful and contemplative and sometimes negating ways. In other words, using music to touch and nurture souls.

For over two decades, West Virginia songwriter Michael John Iafrate has done just that while honing his craft as a songwriter and performer alongside his work as a member of some of West Virginia’s most creative independent music acts such as The Minus Tide, COBRA, and Killed At Camp. More recently, Iafrate has carefully developed his unique voice among regional songwriters, both solo and with a full band as M Iafrate & The Priesthood.

Iafrate’s soft-spoken, contemplative song-explorations are enriched by his training as a theologian—asking more questions than providing answers. Whether performed solo or fleshed out by kindred musician-spirits, Iafrate’s songs reveal shifting shades of meaning and flexibility and offer the incense of devotion to such influences as Jason Molina, Will Oldham, Neil Young, and classic R.E.M.

Following M Iafrate & The Priesthood’s acclaimed 2005 full-length O Happy Marriage, Iafrate released the 2011 solo EP No Matter How Deep the Darkness, He Descends Deeper Still and a number of singles and other tracks as he prepared two new albums. M Iafrate & The Priesthood released Christian Burial on May 26, 2017, which willfollowed soon after by the full-length Nonsubstantiation under Iafrate’s own name.

Each record presents Iafrate’s introspective “theo-folk” through thoughtful and dignified arrangements and will solidify Iafrate’s place, in the words of one of the state’s most seasoned music veterans, as “West Virginia’s most esteemed hyper theologian.”

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Iafrate to discuss his faith, his music, his family and his mission. This is what he told us.

Photos by Erin Yaeger

Once upon a time there was a stigma attached to being a Christian musician who talked about Christianity within the context of their music. Knowing you and your approach to both your faith and music it isn’t terribly surprising to me that these things are intertwined and that those worlds are lined up to some degree. But I imagine it is a hard sell for those that aren’t Christian. Do you have challenges when explaining how your faith and music intersect?

That comes up sometimes. It will probably come up in more unexpected ways now that the record is out. For example, my bios often talk about my studies in theology. I have a video coming out where I’m wearing a priest’s collar. I’ve had people ask whether I’m ordained. I’m not. I’ve had people ask if what I’m doing is Christian rock. It’s not.

I played a show at a coffeehouse over a decade ago and I played an old Christian hymn as part of my set, which isn’t something I do very much, but I did this time. I did it in the same mindset that someone like Will Oldham might do this kind of thing. And I tweaked some words in it that made it even a little blasphemous in a way. After I played it, the guy who owned the place asked me not to play anymore “Jesus songs.” So sometimes it doesn’t come across the way I want it to and maybe it puzzles people.

I say what I’m doing isn’t Christian rock, but I’m a practicing Catholic to a large degree; that’s a faith tradition that I care a lot about. I’m also a seriously critical Catholic. A lot of people in bands sing about faith and theological themes, but they don’t necessarily share why they’re doing it. It just happens to maybe run through the songs a bit. I’m a little different in that regard; I’m pretty forthcoming about why that is in my music. It has to do with my life as someone who has spent a lot of time studying theology. It is what I think about, so it comes out in the songs. Usually it comes out in ways that are not quite direct, or not pushing a particular message per se, and certainly not one of proselytizing or asking people to convert or something. I’m often being playful about religious ideas or pointing to certain images, traditions, or beliefs in order to affirm, or question or negate them. It does any number of things, depending on the song.

More and more of my songs do have a spiritual or religious element to them, whether it is the explicit “meaning” of the song, or just a passing reference. When I’m writing that stuff just comes out.

It doesn’t seem like people get too much criticism for literary illusions, but there is something about Christianity that tends to get people catalyzed.

Yeah, I think whether you use religious language or not or what your spiritual inclinations are, music often deals with meaning in life – life and death, relationships, sex, God and the devil. Particularly in the stuff I like. Country music talks a lot about the devil. It is all around us in music. Not to get too academic, but it raises the question of what is religion anyway? It is the way we talk about what is most important and the way we make sense of our lives. Maybe you are using a more well known tradition to establish your religiosity, or maybe you are using the language of relationships to express it. It doesn’t matter. I tend to see a kind of religious language or a spiritual orientation in artists even when they’re not speaking in explicit religious terms, if that makes sense.

The current political climate is a challenging one to be in and I think people are internalizing that by asking what it all means or questioning their morals in terms of what is right and what wrong. It is especially timely now to be asking those questions given what is going on…

I totally agree. Another interesting thing about this batch of songs is that a good number of them were written when George W. Bush was president. A lot of the same questions that were consuming me – whether in my academic writing, my personal spirituality, or in my music – had to do with religious traditions and our everyday lives, politically or otherwise, and how Christianity is used for death-dealing actions in the world. That is a big theme in my songs. There are a couple songs on this record, and a few on my next record, that deal with that sense of hypocrisy in religion.

One song was written during the last presidential campaign while listening to people like Rick Santorum claim to be the high-profile representatives of what it means to be a Christian politician. That song seems even more deeply relevant now, and it will probably never not be relevant because that’s just a perennial temptation, I think, of religious traditions when they get linked to power.

This political climate has been polarizing people to push themselves even further to one side or the other and I think we’ll see even more extremism on both ends of the spectrum as result of “the new normal.”

For sure. One thing that I hope can come about as a result of this is more direct political engagement by musicians and other artists. I think we’re already seeing that. Anytime you have a politician like a Trump rise up there is more intense artistic critique. That should really be going on no matter who is in the big seat. But yeah, whether it is the content of the songs that people produce or more direct political engagement from people in music scenes on the ground with the benefits they put on or protests, that stuff is all vitally important and continues to be increasingly so. We need to be making contributions in order to become healthy and welcoming communities. Music can play a big role in that.

Do you think it will only become harder and harder for disadvantaged communities to participate in art because of defunding of programs that support the arts?

Possibly in some ways. But I grew up listening to and participating in punk rock communities so I see the value and necessity of people making and sharing music in ways that are outside of those types of things. I think any politically relevant music of a more radical sort is going to sidestep most of that stuff anyway.

That’s what we are trying to do in Wheeling through a music collective that Joshua Lee, Sean Decker, Matt Klempa, myself and others put together, called the Bridge + Tunnel Collective. It is kind of a way for us to organize independent musicians in the Wheeling area, which is similar to what you described: a kind of vacuum in terms of not having venues or a support system for people making original music, especially of a weirder variety. We are hoping to do some good things through that community that we’ve started.

You have an album premiere scheduled [Editorial Note: This took place on June 10] for Christian Burial. How did you get teamed up with Joshua Lee for the album premieres?

Josh has been playing lead guitar and other things with me for over a year now. I met Josh when he moved to Wheeling with his wife and kids. His wife is from the area and he’s originally from Indiana. We were both born in the same place and our parents are from roughly the same places too. His family decided to relocate and I’d been hearing about him for a year or so, “There’s this guy in town and you guys have a lot in common musically.” He came to one of my shows and introduced himself and we hit it off. So we started hanging out and playing music together. He ended up supporting me at a lot of shows over the last year in a lot of different configurations.

Then when I was finishing up this record I asked him if he’d play keyboard on it because that is one of his primary instruments. The more we got to talking, as I was moving toward finishing this album, he was wanting to record his debut as a solo artist, and we came up with the idea to set a future date for a release and hold each other accountable to finishing our respective records. Things like this can drag on and on. This record took me six years to finish for various reasons, but I think having a date set and checking in with each other and then having them finished alongside each other and then celebrate by having a double release was a unique thing.

Will you be playing with a full band at the show and will it be the same configuration of players as they appear on the record?

Interestingly it will be most of the same musicians who play on the record, but they will be playing mostly different instruments. It is strange how that turned out. A lot of the musicians in the original lineup of the Priesthood were playing instruments that they don’t typically play. For instance, Clint Sutton contributed so much as the lead guitarist for most of the record, but he is a drummer first and foremost. So as the years went on, he got less and less comfortable, even in the time since he recorded his parts, playing guitar. So we are switching things around. Josh played organ on the record and he’ll be playing the lead guitar now. Dallas Campbell won’t be performing, but he’s on the record. Sean Decker will be switching to bass. Dave Klug will be at the show playing percussion. It has to do with where people are right now and what is going on in their lives, but it also has to do with the lineup that I have on the second record I’m working on, which is almost finished tracking. It will be out early next year. The lineup for that record is pretty much what I’m doing live with Clint on drums and Josh on guitar and things like that. So that’s where we are as a lineup live into the foreseeable future. So it isn’t really new people, just people switching what they are doing.

You recorded these records with Dave Klug?

I did, yeah.

Is being in a studio with Dave different than being in a more democratic band type atmosphere with Dave, as you were when you played together in The Minus Tide?

That’s a good question. We’ve been friends for about 20 years, but it just seems like the same old Dave and the same old me, I guess. We are sitting in different spots and doing different things in a technical way, but it has always been a good experience making music with Dave. He’s really good at what he does and he has so many talents. It was a really good experience.

What are your favorite moments on Christian Burial and why are they your favorite moments on the record?

Well, one of them would be the lead single “Get Behind Me.” That one turned out really well. It is probably a good example of what we were talking about earlier with themes of hypocrisy in religion, in particular Christianity. The video that we just shot gets at this too, although it’s not quite done. I love the pedal steel guitar that William Matheny contributed to that song and a couple of other ones.

I like the way “My Body Will Speak To You” stands out as the most country song. I love Haley Slagle’s backing vocal on it. The bridge to “No Home” really gets me. It has a really gangly REM sound with the 12-string guitar. Some of the little production details make it sound pretty interesting throughout and I’m pretty proud of those. The very last song, “A Fall Headlong,” has my daughter singing and doing some spoken word. That wasn’t quite a last minute decision, but a late in the game choice to have her on the record. That is something I wouldn’t have conceived at all when I started the record because she was two-years-old. Now she’s eight, and she is playing music with her friends in Morgantown through a program there. So to have her be able to contribute that way to the last few minutes of the record felt really good.

I’ve talked with some other musicians about parenting and whether you encourage children to pursue the things that you are really interested in. With my son I wonder if the things that I love won’t be the same things that he has a strong passion for. Did your daughter come to you with an interest in music on her own? Was it repeated exposure? Or is she just naturally gifted in that way and in her desire to follow that?

It has felt really natural from where I stand. She’s surrounded by music at my house and at her mother’s house. She and I play music a lot and she’s been to my shows ever since she was little. There have been instruments around. Her mother’s husband works for a group in Morgantown called Pop Shop that starts with kids who are really young. She was actually the youngest last year at seven-years-old to start the program. They put kids into groups and teach them the instruments and how to play together as a band. A few times a year they’ll perform at the club in Morgantown, 123 Pleasant Street, on stage. The classrooms at the facility are set up with a stage, a PA, drums, and other instruments.

So, when she turned seven, it became, “Hey, would you want to try this out?” because she was showing a real interest in music. She’s played every session since, and she’s played five or six shows with her band at 123 or other places like that. We ask her every time this thing comes around if she wants to do another one and she always says, “Yeah, I want to try this instrument now.” Her pitch is great and she’s naturally comfortable performing for people. She’s starting to write songs.

So, I think it has to be natural. Often the environment, maybe mixed with genetics a little bit, can lead them a certain way. I grew up listening to music. My dad was a musician, there were always instruments around, and he has great taste in music. But, I didn’t really get interested in playing it until I was 14 or 15. So it took a little while for me. If it is going to happen it will happen, I guess. And it is happening for her and it is beautiful to watch that be part of her development as a person.

Will you be touring at all in support of the record?

We are still solidifying what the lineup will be beyond the release show. I’m at a place in life where I am a little more free to do some touring. Probably not long term touring or long trips. Everyone that I’m working with, including myself, has kids, so that is a factor. I would like to do at least a fair number of weekend outings, either with members of the band or solo. I think what I’m doing has a flexibility to it and I think we can do it in a number of different ways. But I’d like to do more touring with the band lineup.

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You weren’t always making this country-tinged Americana sound. You have had an evolution as an artist and I think you are at a natural sweet spot as a musician now. What is it about this genre that is the best home for the things you are trying to communicate now?

I’ve been in a lot of bands over the years in the punk, emo, and heavy metal genres. I’ve also been doing this folky, acoustic type music since I was a teenager; solo, singer-songwriter stuff inspired by people like Billy Bragg, REM, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and others. It’s gotten a little more countrified over time and there are more Americana influences in there. But I’ve always had a desire to write songs that were my own, where I was saying something from my own viewpoint, rather than always being in a band situation where everyone is contributing to something that doesn’t belong to any single one of us.

When I was playing with The Minus Tide, I’d do acoustic shows and play my softer, more contemplative stuff, sometimes in the same show. It’s always been important to me. 15 years ago I guess I started getting in to more traditional forms of music through the back door of artists like Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Jason Molina, and the like – artists who were inspired by older forms of music like folk music or country music. The more you get into that stuff and try and figure out what the influences are, the more it leads you to things like a neo-traditionalist person like Gillian Welch, or even further to a place like Appalachian old time music. When I lived in Canada 10 years ago I really started to get into Appalachian old time music and started to learn clawhammer banjo. I think you can see more of that influence on my more current music. In fact, “Get Behind Me” comes across on the record as a twangy double guitar lead rock song, but it started with me playing some riffs on my banjo, which I later translated to guitar. That family of music is increasingly an influence on the music that I’m writing.

The more I’ve gotten in to other forms of music I’ve tried to be gentle in how I apply it to my music or how those sounds become present in the music. I mean, I don’t want to be in a bluegrass or country band. I want this to be my music, but with some of these sounds present in it. I’m not going to write songs about drinking whiskey – although I do like whiskey – but I don’t want to play the part of a country music singer. That said, I’ve played the part of being in a sci-fi metal band. But that’s not what this project is for. This is me being me and having whatever influences are there come out in the music in ways that feel genuine.

What are your loftiest goals for this undertaking?

I’m interested in leading what I might call a theological life and to have that life contain all these different elements to it, whether that is theological writing and teaching, whether it takes the form of music making and performing, whether it takes the form of activism. To me, these are all part of living a life that is creative and intentional and that is trying to contribute something positive to the world we live in. I would like my music making to be a significant part of that, and not necessarily having all these things be separate parts of the whole. I want them to intersect.

A lot of my academic writing has been on music and what it means to be a musician, but I talk about it in a theological way. I see all of these things as connected. Making music, writing, recording and performing music, can be part of a spiritual practice in one’s life, in expressing one’s self as a human being. Whether it’s on a smaller level and you hear something from me recorded on a four-track once every ten years, or whether it is something more intentional, like spending a significant amount of time putting out a record and talking to people about it and doing it in a semi-professional kind of way – no matter what, music is going to be a presence in my life. I can’t see my life without it at this point.

At the same time I’m not intending to be overly academic in this music. If I wanted to be really academic I’d probably be making math rock or something like that. And there was a time I may have wanted to do something like that, make something really weird with sounds no one had ever heard before. Now I want to do more traditional songwriting that has some shades of meaning or discussion that are not typically present in this genre or set of genres of music. Hopefully there is something for both the head and the heart in what I’m doing.

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Having recently released their third full-length album under the moniker The Chain Gang of 1974 FELT, Kamtin Mohager never ceases to amaze music lovers and fans all around the world. The project’s synth-heavy surrealism has evolved over the years, which allows Mohager to continue finding new ways to keep us entertained.

Today, Ghettoblaster is excited to premiere The Chain Gang of 1974’s sleek remix of the single “Wallflowers”.

We caught up with Monhager recently to discuss his inspiration to get into music, how the process of FELT came along, among other topics. Here’s what he had to say.

Tears for Fears single “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” ultimately pushed you to go into music. What was so influential about the song?

To simply put it…It’s the greatest song ever written.

While touring with The Naked and Famous back in 2015, you and Powers connected over a sense of “artistic uncertainty”. What did you mean by that?

Thom and I are both passionate people. At the time of him and I really becoming friends, I was in the middle of a major falling out with a girl who I really wasn’t supposed to have relations with. For the one time in my life, I was “The Other Guy.” And I was t happy about that and myself. Those feelings ultimately led me to having the desire to find myself. I know that sounds a bit cliche, but it helped me to ask myself certain questions about my songwriting. Thom was also going through some personal things in his life at that time. I think the creation of FELT was a good push in the right direction for us both. Our lives needed that.

Working with Powers, what did you learn about yourself?

Thom is in a league of his own. Talk about a true professional. I have had my own way of writing songs for so long, and my stubbornness prevented me from wanting to learn new ways. Between the time of supporting my album Daydream Forever to the start of the writing process for FELT, I began working in the writing world. I ended writing and releasing songs for more Pop oriented artists. I feel like I really learned a lot during that time, and it allowed me to be prepared for writing with Thom. My experience with him only helped my craft.

The overall process when putting FELT was rather exhausting for the band. Why was it more difficult than previous releases?

The actual process wasn’t too exhausting. It did take longer, but that was only due to schedules. The process itself was quite refreshing and entertaining. The reason why it took so long to see the light of day was because we had to find a new record label. My past effort was released via Warner Bros., and we had a big falling out. They weren’t the best label to be signed to, so I fought to get out of the deal. My team and I knew we didn’t want to have another experience with this new record, so we took our time finding the right partner.

With the lyrical content of FELT centering the constant evolution of yourself, did you find it easier to allow yourself to be more open?

My lyrics have always been extremely open. Sometimes I feel a bit insecure about that. Like, maybe I had given away too much? For FELT I had new experiences to talk about. I have always been drawn to bands who have brutally honest lyrics. So perhaps I take a lot of influence from them.

The video for “Wallflowers” is a beautifully-made documentary of two young lovers that face adversity. How did this concept come about?

I made the decision to be more unattached from the treatment. I felt that it could be healthy for me to allow someone to take over the artistic vision of the video. I have been friends with the director Isaac Ravishankara for many years and we have always wanted to do something together. Thought I may not have been 100% comfortable with the idea at first, I was drawn to the originality of the concept. At the end of the day, I’m happy that we got away with doing something different.

Are you wanting to do more videos like “Wallflower” in the future?

I’m not too sure. I am a fan of the performance videos, so that may have been a one time thing for me.

Wallflowers (MONSOONS Remix)” offers listeners a much breezier sound than the original. Why do an alternate version of the deeply moving song?

Different perspective. That’s the beautiful thing about music. I may hear it one way in my head, but someone else can hear and create it in a completely different way.

I saw that the band doesn’t have any tour dates coming up. What’s the future looking like for you?

The future is unpredictable and I find that beautiful. As of right now, touring is not a priority for this band. I’m sure some shows will pop up here and there, but being home and working on music seems to be making my heart very happy.

FELT is available now via Caroline Records.

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Los Angeles, California’s Mossbreaker’s deliver their debut LP, Between the Noise and You, which is a heavy and beautiful endeavor, born of pain and loss, that delves into both the raw uniqueness and universality of the human experience. Self-produced and mixed over the course of a year by the alt-rock trio at their home studio in Los Angeles, the album comes in the wake of singer/guitarist, Gabe VanBenschoten’s father’s death. The result is a powerful, haunting record, that offers layers of keen musicianship.

Between the Noise and You opens with “Song for My Father,” a modern-day dirge that sets the tone for the gravity to come. It’s followed by “Dissolve,” a Deftones-esque driving march that conveys VanBenschoten’s feelings of loss, with lines like, “I want to hold your hand / As you disappear.” That moves into the title track — a droning detuned, would-be radio hit layered with eerie guitar leads and driving rhythms. And “Shamer” is yet another heavy-hitter with a formula of minimalist verses flowing into catchy, larger-than-life choruses that’ll dig into listeners’ brains and take up residence there.

With each subsequent track, the band, which is also composed of bassist Kevin Lessley and drummer Jarred Tibbetts, creates a sonic masterpiece that blends energetic ‘90s-influenced rock, melancholy dream pop and shoegaze-soaked post-rock. Overall, it’s raw, yet composed; it’s mournful, but aggressive; it’s meticulous, yet sounds absolutely massive.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Tibbetts to discuss the loss of their first and most ardent supporter, collaborating with Failure’s Ken Andrews and five-time Grammy winner Roget Chahayed, and motivations for creating. This is what he told us.

This album comes in the wake of Gabe’s father passing and the music here is obviously influenced by that loss. Was the process of doing the album one of healing?

Yes, definitely. Gabe’s dad, Dr. Matt, passed about seven or eight months before we began recording the album, and all that time was spent writing and demoing. Gabe really poured everything into this record; emotionally, physically and even monetarily. It’s clearly reflected in the lyrics but Gabe also worked tirelessly on writing and recording. Any free time he had away from teching, Gabe was working on it.

We made it a point to be as meticulous as possible on the record, from the song choice to the performance down to the track ordering, to make Dr. Matt proud. He was probably the biggest fan of the band, way more than a regular parent. He was unbelievably supportive and it was a huge blow to all of us when he passed.

What is it about loss that makes it such a strong artistic catalyst?

I think art is the ultimate vehicle to express emotion, whether its happiness, anger, sadness, whatever. And loss, especially the loss of a parent, is one of the hardest things to bear. One day a person is there in your life, and the next they’re gone and a void gets left behind. I think an artist’s only way to process everything is to immerse his/herself in those feelings and create something to fill that void. You have to work through the pain to get over it, and if you don’t it just festers and manifests in much more sinister, devastating ways later on.

That said, what are some fond memories of Gabe’s dad?

Dr. Matt came to almost every show we played, and after every show he would have some amazing, over-the-top compliment and tell us that this show was better than the last. It always meant a lot to me because I have no formal training, never took drum lessons, but I had this amazing musician with decades of experience constantly complimenting and pumping me up.

I have two memories that stick out. The first is the very first day Gabe and I jammed as a two-piece. We were playing in the living room, jamming this syncopated, odd time signature thing and Dr. Matt burst into the living room with this look on his face like we just invented music. He was so blown away and tripping out on it. He just kept saying, “You guys are on fire!”

The second was when Dr. Matt joined us on stage early on in the band’s career. He was an amazing jazz bass player, so we asked him to play a song with us on his electric stand up. He played the song with us and then did this mind-altering solo with a bow. It was crazy. It was a nothing show other than that, but his playing with us cemented it as a milestone for me.

Why self-produce and mix the record? Did that afford you guys some freedom in terms of time? Or was there a more deliberate vision at work here?

Gabe is a recording engineer. He began working as an assistant engineer almost immediately following his education. It’s his passion and he obviously knows what he’s doing. So doing it ourselves was kind of a no-brainer. It definitely allowed us to work at our own pace and explore a lot more creatively.

But, I think the biggest reason was Gabe’s vision. He hears things in his head a certain way and he wants to make sure it comes out as close to that as possible. Big, slick and clean.

The album has a distinct ’90s post-rock and shoegaze vibe. What is it about those sounds and influences that stick with Mossbreaker?

To me, it’s just the next logical progression, musically speaking, after punk and hardcore. I was a kid in the ‘90s and the bands getting played on the radio were Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, etc. That sound always stayed with me: big heavy guitars, catchy-yet-grating vocals and beautiful melodies. Even when I got into punk in junior high and started playing drums, everything I heard just seeped in and weaved itself into my musical DNA.

Ken Andrews [Failure] does guest vocals on “Between the Noise and You” how did that come about? Has he provided any feedback on the album as a whole?

Yeah. Ken doing vocals was kind of unbelievable. I don’t think he’s ever done guest vocals for any other bands, aside from his own projects. Gabe actually became Ken’s assistant when he got out of recording school. He worked with him for a few years and started teching for Failure when they reunited, so they spent a lot of time together.

We started writing material for this record and Gabe just asked Ken if he would get involved in some way. He originally wanted to play guitar on a song, but he has such a distinct recognizable voice so it made sense for him to lend it to that song.

Ken is into the record. He’s the type of guy that only does something if he actually backs it.

Grammy nominated Roget Chahayed is also a contributor here. How did that collaboration surface?

Roget and Gabe have been good friends since high school. I met Roget through my girlfriend about six years ago. He was this virtuoso pianist that could just shred anything. He used to give lessons and play little jazz quartet gigs, and just make beats on the side. Now he’s a five-time platinum hip-hop producer. It’s a trip.

Will you be touring in support of the record?

Yeah we’re putting together a West Coast tour for early September and an East Coast and midwest after that.

Do you have lofty goals for Mossbreaker or is it “art for art’s sake”? Would you be making music if there was no one to hear it?

It would be nice to do big tours and make money doing Mossbreaker full time, but we all have jobs and responsibilities that take precedence. I think the goal is to find a happy medium between doing it as a job and doing it for fun. It’s obviously an important creative and emotional outlet for all of us to write and record, but we also love performing and playing live. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t play shows. We’d just hole up in Gabe’s studio and record songs that no one would ever hear. And I’d probably be fine with that too.

(Visit Mossbreaker here:

https://mossbreaker.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mossbreaker/)

 

 

GUNS & STEEL (Tasty Minstrel Games)

Take the technology trees of classic 4X video games like Civilization and turn it into a card game. That’s the easiest way to sum up Jesse Li’s Guns & Steel, but such a description doesn’t quite feel like it does the game justice. Important decisions must be made in each and every player turn. Often the true repercussions of such decisions do not manifest until much later in the game. For a $15 game packed into a box no bigger than two decks of cards, Guns & Steel offers an impressive amount of depth and replayability.

Each player begins the game with a hand of five cards. There is a technology tree of civilization cards available for purchase that begin with the Horse Age and progress through the Gunpowder Age, Oil Age, Earth Age, and finally the Space Age. Additionally, there are Wonder cards that players can automatically obtain by meeting certain criteria at the end of one of their turns. Wonders and the more advanced civilization cards are worth victory points that will determine the winner at the end of the game. All cards are double-sided. One side is a resource that can be depleted to purchase new cards, while the other side is a development that accomplishes a specific task. Starting hands include three food recourses and two steel resources. The development side of these cards execute basic tasks like replenishing a resource or attacking an opponent. Players take turns building their hands by purchasing new civilization cards until either all Space Age cards are purchased or every Wonder is built. It’s all fairly straightforward while boasting more tough decision-making potential than other much larger games.

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While the title might suggest differently, Guns & Steel can be played (and even won) without focusing on military might. Strong attack cards are great at depleting opponents’ resources and even stealing their Wonders! However, a well-timed tactic played as a counter can leave an opponent desperate and playing catch-up. For such a little game, it truly features a wealth of options.

We tested Guns & Steel in both two-player and four-player sessions and found the most pleasure to be had in one-on-one duels. Again, every choice matters. In four-player games it can be a little too easy for one player to fall behind and get left in the lurch while everyone else advances. Cards are scarce (the entire game is played with 50 or fewer cards), so missing out on just a few purchases can make for a frustrating experience. Two-player games allow gamers to acquire most of the cards they want but still leave room for tactical purchasing and stymying of one’s opponent. The two-player experience also removes three attack and two tactic cards from the supply area (or tech tree), thus making it less likely for one player to achieve military dominance too easily or quickly.

Tiny games like this are a nice alternative to expensive tabletop games that take hours to setup and even longer to play. Guns & Steel isn’t going to replace a session of Civilization that lasts for months, but it doesn’t intend to. Instead, it offers players a laser-focused, small slice of that classic 4X experience in an affordable package. I’m impressed! (Tasty Minstrel Games) by Kris Poland

Photo by A.W. Klass

Masterful indie folk-pop trio Moonrise Nation are set to release their debut album, Glamour Child, July 28 on Zinc Records, a label formed by Bobby Z of Prince’s band, The Revolution. Hailing from Oak Park, Illinois, songwriting and vocal duties are equally shared between guitarist Emma McCall, and sisters keyboardist Arden Baldinger, and cellist Eva Baldinger. Their storytelling is crafted from a very personal place, deftly sculpted into a layered, universal experience. Produced by Stephen Shirk (Alabama Shakes, Delta Spirit), the album captures the vertiginous, Millennial high-lows of self-confidence and doubt, happiness and practicality, innocence and reality, feminist strength and vulnerability.

The band will hit the road this summer, serving up their unique, dynamic mix of swoony delicacy and anthemic pop peaks to audiences across the country (dates below).

Today the trio shares “Eye To Eye” from the album exclusively with Ghettoblaster.

(Visit Moonrise Nation here: http://www.moonrisenation.com/

Catch Moonrise Nation live:

7/12: Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Cafe

7/15: Portland, OR @ The Fremont Theater

7/17: San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill

7/29: Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern *Album Release Show*

8/5: Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck

8/12: Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville (PopGun Presents w/ Adam Torres)

8/17: Washington, D.C. @ Gypsy Sally’s)

Anything worth discussing today? Well, Cars 3 was just as good as I thought it was going to be, with new characters making their way into the trilogy of films but other lovable ones like Mater didn’t have enough screen time I thought. Eh, it was what it is, it is what it was. But moving on…! It’s a long weekend for some, a bit of a hurdle for most so this week’s Rollout(!) we’re keeping short and sweet.

Fruit & Flowers is from, of all places, Brooklyn N.Y. Now while I’m usually hesitant to believe anymore that anyone from N.Y. is actually originally from N.Y. aside from my friends and family, it doesn’t matter. I’m always open to look past that as the years go by. But I digress. The Brooklyn-based band classifies itself as a “surf noir” garage psych band but what I can tell from its latest E.P. Drug Tax (Little Dickman), there’s more going on here than they might give themselves credit for. Don’t get me wrong, they do have elements within their music but they’re wrapped around these pop/punk jams.  “Out Of Time” is catchy as fuck where you have vocalist Caroline Yoder’s voice holding things down but the musical backbone doesn’t play second fiddle. They’re equally intriguing but that rhythm will have listens swaying back & forth while the quick pace of “Subway Surfer” will drag you through tracks and feed your sense at the same time. But it’s the band’s thoughtful cooing on “Down Down Down” on this unrelenting track full of layered vocals that’ll have you swimming in the lush wall of sound they create. They end things here with the haunting title track which offers up a little bit more of everything that they do well, showcasing the guitar chops and so much more. At just a mere 6 tracks Drug Tax has a lot to offer. Brooklyn in the house.

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Now here I am wondering WTF is this Holy Wars. Is this the year of discontent? Of a coming reckoning? I’m not sure but the new self-released E.P. Mother is explosive! Sure there’s been the synth-goth comparisons to other groups that came before Holy Wars but this 3-song release is rife with power and more than what the sub-genre holds tightly to. From the start, opening number “I Can’t Feel A Thing” sounds like a rallying emotive cry where front woman Kat Leon imagery of solitude yearns for more while the driving musical force behind her captures the sadness with anger and power. “Warrior” is a mid-tempo’d number with Leon’s sexy caterwauling that’s just easy to fall in love with.  But it’s “Orphan” that challenges, changing the vibe slightly with sultry vocals and odd sounds emanating from those synths. That rhythm though is like the syringe in your veins that makes your head nod.  At only 3 songs Mother is a powerful release. I can’t wait to hear what’s next with the follow-up release, the Father E.P.

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Holy Wars – Facebook // Twitter // Instagram
Fruit & Flowers –  Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

The One With Airplanes and Animals

On this episode: Brian and  Luke call out Sam Sanders and Scott Aukerman for poaching from the Best Song Ever Podcast, then they get into a discussion on the newest episodes of The Bachelorette and season two of Preacher, they touch on artificial intelligence and technology constantly replacing itself, Luke talks about the basic bitches of trees, Brian goes on record saying he has feelings about the Senate health care bill and then pitches his dog themed idea for a Pixar movie, they discuss Luke’s love of folk music and play eight of the best songs you’ll hear 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.

ITUNES LINK


Songs Played on The One With Airplanes and Animals

Chad VanGaalen – Old Heads from Light Information out September 8th on Sub Pop Records

Deerhoof feat. Jenn Wasner – I Will Spite Survive from Mountain Moves out September 8th on Joyful Noise Recordings

Widowspeak – Dog from Expect the Best out August 25th on Captured Tracks

Deer Tick – Sea of Clouds from Deer Tick Vol. 1 out September 15th (along with Deer Tick Vol. 2) on Partisan Records

Lunice – Distrust feat. Denzel Curry, JK the Reaper and Nell from CCCLX LP out September 8th on Lucky Me

Tomo Nakayama – Bright and Blue from Pieces of Sky out September 8th on Ricebelly Music

Wand – Plum from Plum out September 22nd on Drag City Records

Young Guv – It Could Be Me from Traumatic 7″ out now on Slumberland Records

Dayton, Ohio singer-songwriter David Payne, who also happens to be the frontman for Americana-influenced rock band The New-Old Fashioned. is set to release his second solo effort. Cheaper Than Therapy, released eight years after his solo debut Twenty-One, is a six-song EP of acoustic ballads that celebrate the life of a working musician as much as it condemns its frustrations and limitations.

Recorded at home by Payne and mastered by Micah Carli at Popside Recording, the EP evokes the tender sides of songwriters like Ryan Adams and Jason Isbell, both of whom Payne considers among his top influences.

Ghettoblaster has the pleasure of sharing the EP’s lead track today, an up-tempo barn-burner that perfectly illuminates Payne’s high-tier efforts as a vocalist, songwriter and guitarist.

The EP will officially hit the streets August 19.