Tag Archive: “Misra Records”

Since the year 2000, Ghettoblaster has been putting out a quarterly print magazine. For Ghettoblast from the Past, we look back at the bands and artists that were showcased within these pages.

From Issue 28, Human Cannonball and Misra Records Southeast Engine.  Words by David C. Obenour.

Brothers Remnant

To subscribe to Ghettoblaster Magazine or to pick up this issue, head over to our In Print page.

Storyteller, songwriter–William Matheny, a West Virginia native and longtime keys player for Athens, Ohio, Southeast Engine, has broken out on his own with Strange Constellations, his debut 11-song solo collection of songwriter’s songwriter compositions. Released via Misra in February, Matheny’s songs don’t rest solely on the laurels of his everyman storytelling ability; Jackson Browne pop hooks alternate with alt-country tunes that might call to mind Drive-By Truckers, or even a twangier Craig Finn or Ted Leo.

We caught up with Matheny recently to discuss his development as a musician, Strange Constellations, and lofty goals. This is what he told us.

You are from Morgantown, West Virginia originally, right? What has being from Morgantown contributed to your development as a musician? Why not move on to someplace like Nashville?

I’m from Mannington, WV, originally. It’s a really small town about an hour south of Morgantown. I’ve lived in Morgantown since I was 18, so at this point, saying I’m from Morgantown is probably equally accurate.

As far as my development as a musician is concerned, moving to Morgantown was important simply because it was a college town with a music scene, some proper music venues, some really good bands and at one point , even a couple record stores. It’s a story that thousands of kids in America play out each year: impressionable 18 year old from a small town moves to a college town and has their mind opened, starts drinking coffee and reading Kafka. In my case, I got exposed to a much wider range of music and more importantly, I met people who were releasing albums, booking shows and touring.

Pragmatically, living in Morgantown makes a lot of sense for me. My band lives in Huntington, WV, so I’m close to the guys and I’m geographically close to a lot of the major east coast cities. We’ll be doing about 200 shows this year, so I’m gone most of the time anyway. My rent is also really cheap, so it’s nice to not have to work three jobs when I come from tour just to get by.

Do you know Mikey Iafrate? He’s from that area.

I do know Mikey! He’s working on a new record at the moment and I played some pedal steel on it. The album sounds great. I’m looking forward to that coming out.

What are your best earliest memories of music? Wasn’t your grandfather a country singer?

My father is a bluegrass musician, so he was always playing guitar or banjo around the house. When he wasn’t doing that, the stereo was usually on. My grandfather was a country singer who worked regionally with some different bands after he came home from World War II. They recorded a 78 and even ventured as far as Pittsburgh, PA, to perform on KDKA which, to a guy from rural WV in the early 1950s, must have felt like Marco Polo on the silk road. He passed away when I was less than a year old, so I never truly met him, but I think about him frequently.

When did you realize you had an affinity for it?

That’s hard to say. I remember being a little kid, younger than five, and seeing my dad playing music with some of his friends at a party or something. It looked like they were having a great time and I thought to myself that I’d like to do that too. I started taking piano lessons and then shortly after that, I started playing guitar and then promptly forgot all about playing piano until much, much later. Basically up until the time I joined Southeast Engine.

I know Adam from Rozwell Kid played bass on the EP. Who played on the full-length and are they also members of your live ensemble?

We didn’t truly have a proper band together when we started recording the album, so for the most part the record is me, Adam Meisterhans and Bud Carroll. As we got close to the end of the tracking, the actual group came together with Ian Thornton and Rod Elkins and we were able to get those guys on the record at the 11th hour. The live band is Rod, Ian and Bud and then Adam joins us when he can make it. Our friend Tom Hnatow from Horse Feathers and Vandaveer has also been playing with us as of late.

When did you begin writing Strange Constellations and what were you hoping to accomplish with the record?

I started writing the album on one of the last Southeast Engine tours in 2012. We existed in the sleeping-on-friends-couches strata, so I’d usually wait until everyone was asleep and then I’d sneak off somewhere quiet to write. At that point, I didn’t really have any concrete ideas about making a record or releasing my own music. I hadn’t written any songs in about five years just because I was so busy being a side person. Writing was initially difficult and the songs were coming slowly, but I kept doing it every night and eventually it all sort of came back to me. I don’t know how to ride a bike, so I can’t say for certain if it was like riding a bike, but I was having a good time writing again.

Who recorded Strange Constellations and what were you hoping that they’d bring to the table? Did they bring it?

Bud produced the record at his studio in Huntington, WV. Even after all the tunes were written, I still didn’t have any concrete plans about what I was going to do. Southeast Engine had pulled into the station – or whatever train metaphor you’d like to use for a band going on hiatus – and I wasn’t really doing much of anything. Adam and Bud mentioned that I should come down to Bud’s place to record some stuff just for fun and it gradually coalesced into the album. Both of those guys are just absolutely brilliant and they brought a ton to the table. They always have amazing ideas and they both really elevate anything they’re involved with.

What are your proudest accomplishments on the record?

Probably “Blood Moon Singer.” It was the last song we recorded for the album and by that point, we’d finally put a band in place and the whole track neatly tied together all the strands I’d been tracing with the writing of the record. It’s sort of like the whole album in one song.

I didn’t have anything to do with it, so I can’t actually count this is a proud accomplishment, but I love the album cover. Bryn Perrott is such a phenomenal artist and she did an amazing job.

You band is definitely a cross-genre pursuit. Have you noticed that you attract as many fans or country, jam band, Americana as you do indie rock?

I would say so, which is nice. I’d like to think that there are multiple points of entry with us. Everyone’s welcome! Except for racists, bigots, misogynyists and homophobes, of course.

Were you beyond yourself when you were asked to play Mountain Stage last year with your own band? How was that experience different than doing it with Southeast Engine and Todd Burge?

Without sounding too much like I’m thanking the academy, the guys and I all grew up attending Mountain Stage and listening to it on the radio. I think if you’re from West Virginia, it means a lot to you. Even though I’m lucky enough to count the producers and staff as good friends, it’s still a real thrill to be on the show, regardless of what act I happen to be playing with.

Is music your career? If not, would you like it to be?

I have a day job, but I’d certainly like to be doing this full time. Obviously the pie is a lot smaller these days and talking about the old school, big time level of success that people had in the ‘90s and earlier seems about as plausible as living on Neptune. If we could be a reasonably well run, sustainable small business, I’d be happy as a clam.

What are your loftiest goals for your music?

My real end game is to build a proper body of work that stands by itself. Anything else after that would be gravy.

(For a full list of Matheny’s tour dates, visit: http://williammatheny.com/tour/)

Racing Heart’s new LP, What Comes After, will hit the streets via Misra Records on September 16. The second album of music by Mathias H. Tjønn as Racing Heart is a political record trying to be personal rather than preachy. It contains songs about society’s impotent solutions in the aftermath of The Great Recession (“Flogging a Dead Horse”), office visits to the power players of the world (“A Prayer from Our Leaders”), reports from the front lines of our endless conflicts with no clear enemies (“Squaring the Circle”) as well as tracks about all the rest of us caught in the crossfire.

Produced by Hanne Hukkelberg, the album is a stark departure from Racing Heart’s debut record in both style and substance. Instead of looking inwards, they look outwards. Instead of being folk-based, they aim to meld acoustic instruments and synthesized sounds. This album has sharp edges. Genre-wise What Comes After is an experimental pop album inspired by musicians such as David Sylvian, Winston Tong and John Foxx. Mixing some of the sounds of the early ’80s with a multitude of contemporary voices both real and artificial, What Comes After tries to make some sense of the way neoliberalism and its faceless language of finance-first has led us here.

Helped greatly by the creativity of musician Jenny Hval who contributes both lyrics and vocals, the songs are propelled by the drums and programming of Martin Langlie (Susanne Sundfør, Pantha du Prince). Recorded and mixed in Oslo, Norway and New York, What Comes After will be released digitally and as a phono postcard worldwide on Misra Records, September 16 2016.

Racing Heart was formed in Brooklyn in 2010. Two years later, To Walk Beside that Ghost was released on Movemountains Records, with members from The War on Drugs, St. Vincent and Sufjan Stevens’ bands joining the studio sessions

Since the band’s inception in 2012, Pittsburgh’s Daily Grind have dedicated themselves to honing their craft, handing out demos to friends at house shows, relentlessly touring across the nation. As a result, Daily Grind has grown from just a group of college kids known for packing parties into a true grassroots phenomenon. Their rallying cry has become the key to their success: “Stay grinding!”

Their debut album, I Did Those Things, which dropped via Misra records on May 13, was recorded in a three-month span at The Wilderness Recording Studio by producer/engineer J. Vega (White Wives, Roger Harvey) and mastered by Grammy winner Kramer (Galaxie 500, Low). The record is a culmination of the time and effort the band has spent establishing their sound: the magnitude of the drums and the crunch of the guitars are tailored for fans of Incubus and The Black Keys. But the electricity and intensity that come through are something all their own. Lovers of ’90s and ’00s independent rock will find lots to love about I Did Those Things.

Ghettoblaster caught up with Daily Grind’s Brad Hammer to discuss their latest LP, the recording process and grinding.

You released your latest LP in May.  How was it been received so far?

It’s the most accessible record we’ve made, and it’s been accepted as such

You guys recorded the LP over a two-month span.  What was that experience like?

Beautifully hectic we wrote, recorded, and released the whole project in less than three months.

How did you select J. Vega to work with?

Our label introduced us to him, and his vibe fit what we were looking for in the record.

How important is being dedicated to a grind when you are an independent band?

Most important. If you stop riding that, everything falls through and falls apart. You have to believe in what you want.

I’m from Ohio so a Black Keys-like influence here seemed apparent to me.  Are they an influence for you?  If so, what is it about the band that you admire?

Dan Auerback is a genius. The overall vibe of their record resonates with us. And on the “grind” top, they released their first handful of records before gaining their major success, and by that point, most bands would lose their vibe, but they hit their stride and grew.

What is it about the scene in Pittsburgh that nurtures you as an artist?

It doesn’t nurture you as much as it pushes you to be better because of the competition. There’s a tight knit group that work together, but it’s not a scene you can just walk into – it’s gotta be worked for.

What is the band doing in terms of a support cycle for the LP?

Summer tour from May thru the end of July, actively building our online presence, and hoping for an organic growth of the record through genuine interest and love for the music.

(Visit Daily Grind here: http://www.dailygrindmusic.com/#music-1.)

The Big Bend is led by Chet Vincent, whohas been kicking around Pittsburgh playing in bands since he was a teenager. A regular fixture of the city’s quietly thriving music scene, he’s established a reputation as one of the city’s most dedicated figures. Celebrate is The Big Bend’s fourth release, and has the hallmarks of a career milestone, calling to mind early-‘70s Neil Young in its songwriting, with sonic elements straight out of Abbey Road-era Beatles, and vocals reminiscent of The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle.

The album shows the band’s dynamic range; rowdier tunes to lilting crooning reminiscent of The Weakerthans’ John K. Samson on the softer songs. He’s always been a storyteller, weaving characters and situations into songs, but here he takes on social issues, both obliquely and directly.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Vincent to discuss the album and this is what he told us about his inspiration, Pittsburgh and his loftiest goals.

Was there a moment when you realized your affinity for songwriting was something you should pursue as a public performer?

There was no single moment when I realized I wanted to be a songwriter or performer — songwriting has always been the aspect of music that interested me the most. So I started writing songs pretty much the moment I started playing music, and I think looking for opportunities to collaborate with other people to improve and perform those songs is a natural process.

Where do you find your primary inspiration as a singer-songwrighter?

It’s still kind of a mystery to me, the things that will inspire a song. Pretty much anything can end up being a song, I think it’s just the way I tend to process life’s events. I find I’ll be thinking about a particular topic a lot, or I’ll get a phrase or riff stuck in my head. Then one day while playing guitar it becomes a song. It’s a fairly unpredictable process which can be frustrating — but when it does happen it’s a pretty awesome feeling.

Do you believe it was risky to record and engineer the record yourself?  Was the label supportive of this decision?

I didn’t feel it was a risky choice at all. This is our second album we’ve recorded ourselves, so we already knew it was something we could pull off. In many ways recording ourselves was a less risky approach because it saved us tons of money that would have been otherwise spent on a studio, and allowed us total creative control over our project. I am lucky to be in a band that has members with recording experience (and recording gear) to allow for us to approach albums this way. Our label, Misra Records, is very supportive and allows us to approach our project however we want, which is really awesome.

Do you feel a bit unsung as you are heading into a support cycle for your fourth record or are you exactly where you should be?

I don’t feel particularly unsung. Of course it would be nice to be more famous and all, but it seems like there are lots of excellent/deserving bands in every city making really great music these days. I’m pleased that we are in a position to be able to make the music we want, and have an audience that will listen to our projects. Of course we will keep trying to get our music out to as many people as possible!

How does the record differ from your previous efforts?

Our last record was more of a moody, dark rocker. I wanted this one to have a different vibe to it, to be kind of a counterpoint to the last one. Since this is our second self recorded project, we decided to take some more production risks than we did on the last one. I like every project to have a different feel to it.

Do you feel like Pittsburgh has a community that nurtures the kind of art you make?

I find Pittsburgh to be a very supportive city for music! There is so much here for musicians to take advantage of — lots of venues to play, a number of well-attended and welcoming open mics to try out songs and meet people, and radio stations that support local artists. You can pretty much be into any kind of music here and find a crowd that will dig it.

What has Misra done to nurture you as an artist?

We came to Misra via Wild Kindess Records, which was a regional label owned by Misra’s new general manager Jeff Betten. Wild Kindness was the first label we ever signed to, and Jeff has been exceptionally supportive of our music. He has nurtured our band by helping us figure out all the behind the scenes stuff that’s important to getting your music into the world.

What does the band have planned in terms of a touring cycle for the record?

We are currently planning some touring for the fall and winter. We will be doing some trips with the bands, and I will be doing some solo/acoustic touring as well! We will be announcing tour dates soon!

What are your loftiest goals as an artist?

To continue to make even better albums! Although it’s not really an “artistic” goal, I would love to play on one of the late night shows someday.

(Purchase the LP here: http://www.misrarecords.com/products/chet-vincent-the-big-bend-celebrate.)

Former Southeast Engine guitarist Adam Torres’ breathtakingly beautiful Nostra Nova will be reissued April 7 by Misra Records. Originally released in very DIY fashion in 2006, the album gained a cult following around Ohio.

Jillian Mapes of Flavorwire, Pitchfork, Billboard, etc. wrote a very moving Wondering Sound piece on what Adam Torres’s music meant to her as she was coming of age in Ohio. In this piece you can listen to the music.

Pre-order the album via this [LINK].

In addition, Daytrotter recently did a fantastic session.He’ll be heading out on a Spring tour of the midwest soon. Look for dates TBA imminently.

Motel Beds have announced the official release of These Are The Days Gone By, which hits streets on August 26. This album will be available online and in your favorite local record stores in CD and vinyl formats. The album is an electrifying collection of “hits,” remastered by Carl Saff (GBV, Dinosaur Jr., etc.). Read more about the albumon Misra Records’ page here and pre-order it on iTunes here.

See them live here:

07/25/14 Columbus, OH Double Happiness w/ WVWhite + Dreadful Yawns
07/26/14 Dayton, OH • Blind Bob’sw/ Dreadful Yawns + Manray 08/14/14 Toledo, OH • Ottawa Tavern w/ Nathan Roberts & the New Birds
08/15/14 Detroit, MI • New Way Barw/ The High Strung
08/16/14 Cleveland, OH • Beachland Tavern w/ Dreadful Yawns 08/22/14 Dayton, OH • Gilly’s • Rock n’ Roll Revue
08/29/14 Champaign, IL • Mike ‘N’ Molly’s
08/30/14 Rock Island, IL • Daytrotter 08/30/14 Chicago, IL • Empty Bottle w/ Dead Rider
08/31/14 Manchester, IN • Fire House
09/12/14 Huntington, WV • V Club
09/13/14 Pittsburgh, PA • Smiling Moose
09/14/14 Youngstown, OH • Historian Session
09/26/14 New Bremen, OH • New Bremen Festival
09/27/14 Cincinnati, OH • Midpoint Music Festival
10/03/14 Indianapolis, IN • The Hi-Fi
10/04/14 Dayton, OH • 10th Annual Dayton Music Festival 10/11/14 St. Louis, MO • Plush
10/24/14 Cleveland, OH • Happy Dog
10/31/14 Dayton, OH • Blind Bob’s Halloween Bash w/ Hex Net 11/01/14 Athens, OH • Halloween Show w/ Hex Net

Crooks On Tape
Crooks On Tape

John Schmersal is perhaps best known to Dayton music aficionados and fans as one quarter of one of the Gem City’s most celebrated bands, Brainiac. When Brainiac ended, Schmersal’s next band, Enon, did much to light up the indie rock landscape with some of the same pop weirdness that Schmersal brought to Brainiac.

In the two decades since Brainiac’s Bonsai Superstar, Schmersal’s first record with the band, he has kept busy both behind the scenes and on stage. Between recording and producing select projects, he’s played with Caribou and Girls Against Boys, and in 2013 his improvised, avant garde pop project Crooks on Tape – with Rick Lee (Enon, Skeleton Key) and Joey Galvin – saw the light of day via Dayton’s Misra Records.

The unpredictable, enlightened record Fingerprint offered snapshots of the brilliance that happens when likeminded conspirators combine synthesizers, samplers, loopers and good ideas. Ghettoblaster caught up with Schmersal as Crooks on Tape prepared to bring Fingerprint to the masses during a winter 2014 tour. This is what he told us about the group and his former years in Dayton, Ohio.

As of late, you’ve been dividing your time between Caribou and Girls and Against Boys.  But Crooks is under your ownership.  Was it different being back in the driver’s seat?

Yes it’s very different.  In each of these bands I have a different role besides simply playing an instrument.  But, with Crooks, that extends beyond into manager, organizer, webmaster, interview taker, etc.  If you mean different from the way it was before, aka. Enon days, it’s still pretty much the same.

Is this the first big collaboration you’ve done with Rick Lee since Enon?

We’ve played music since he left Enon and pre COT periodically, but I guess if you mean officially, as far as the world is concerned, or releases… Yes.

How did Joey Galvan come into the picture?

Joey met Rick working a freelance job, sounded pretty accidental.  He invited him over to play one day and they really hit off. Rick and I had been intending on getting something together from the onset of when I move to LA.   So it wasn’t long before the three of us played together.

Crooks recorded hundreds of hours of material during the creation of Fingerprint.  What criteria did you use to decide what would make the final cut?

Being our first album, we wanted to put some kind of pop face on what we were doing.  There’s plenty of crazy jams and interesting soundscapes and so, the goal was to find the most interesting pieces to bring together and make a cohesive listening experience.  All three of us are fans of the long play album format.  So the main thing was to make the album flow like a story unfolding.  That being said by today’s standards, most listeners/bands/writers seem more comfortable with an album of songs that mines a limited pallet of sounds or, a series of songs that sound  exactly the same all the way through. Crooks will never be guilty of this.  And yes I do mean guilty!

When did the sessions for Fingerprint begin and where was the material recorded?

We set up shop in the place Rick used to live in Hollywood. A garage space that had been previously converted into a studio.  It was already sufficiently soundproofed and ready to be filled with our gear.  Recordings began in early 2010 and continued off and on through 2012. After which time Rick moved and we dissolved the recording space.

I’m assuming Fingerprint was engineered by the band, correct?

95 percent was yes.  I set up the gear in such a way that we could just arrive and begin to play/record with all the levels already set.  Since we had no studio in 2013, we did record drums at a friend of Joey’s for a few tracks that ended up on the record. And otherwise I recorded the vocals and did most of the choosing and editing at home or when I was on the road with Caribou.

Is there an element of improvisation to the CoT live show?  If so, how much of it is improvised?

That is a very good question and conundrum for us.  We never set out to be a band that replicated material from an album.   The whole impetus from the outset was to improvise and record.  Now we do none of these things.. since releasing Fingerprint.  There will be some improvised pieces coupled with the record material and there will be unscripted improvised moments that take place in some of the album material as well.  We want to keep it interesting for us and the audience.  So there’ll be album material for those familiar, and also some improvisation to keep things exciting hopefully for everybody.  This is the most exciting band I’ve been in because I literally don’t know what will happen next and that keeps it challenging for us all as well.

When and under what circumstances did you decide to relocate to Los Angeles?

I got to Los Angeles on January 1, 2010.  There were no circumstances other than the desire to move again.  I was living in Philadelphia before that and was not getting much freelance work from there.  I knew I would be touring for the next several years with Caribou and my wife and I discussed our general dissatisfaction with living in Philadelphia.  Los Angeles is simply the city where most of our friends live or have moved to and there are the most opportunities for me as a freelancer in music.  We ruled out moving back to New York City and decided On Los Angeles.

What was it about Dayton that made it a good proving grounds during your formative years?

Proving grounds?  When I moved back to Dayton and joined Brainiac the waters were very fertile musically speaking…. Guided by Voices,  Breeders, etc. But also Dayton is/was a sleepy town where the riches could be found in the pawnshops and thrift stores locally.  This is pre-eBay.  I think it was important to be in a city that had a tiny music buzz but, one that did not really affect the attitudes or egos of the band and allowed us to concentrate on just making original music and going on tour.  Dayton is and was cheaper than most places to live.  I paid a total of $67 per month for rent in 1995 for instance.  The rest of the bands parents lived in the Dayton area and that provided a safe haven for them in between tours and pick up jobs.

How did you meet Leo Deluca and what made Misra a fit for this record?

He reached out to me randomly and I began to share some of Crooks music with him at that point.  It was one of those great “right place right time” kind of things.

Your Dayton show is with Swim Diver, which is Tyler Trent’s new band.  Have you kept in consistent contact with him since Brainiac?  Will this be the first time you’ve shared a stage in over a decade?

Tyler and I have been in contact over the years and it is not the first time I will of shared a stage with him since Brainiac.  When he was playing with The Dirty Walk, they supported Enon for some shows in the Midwest.

(Visit Crooks On Tape here: https://www.facebook.com/crooksontapemusic.)

Motel Beds are a rock and roll band from Dayton, Ohioa delightfully detached underdog city nestled in the heart of The Heartland. Seasoned veterans, Beds have worked alongside local advocates Kelley Deal (Deal duets on the lusciously hushed “Tropics of the Sand”) and Robert Pollard (guitarist Derl Robbins has recorded Guided By Voices). Allies aside, when it comes to rock and roll, Motel Beds speak for themselves.

These Are the Days Gone By, the band’s forthcoming LP, reveals the fruits of Beds’ labor these latter years. The album is an electrifying collection of “hits,” remastered by Carl Saff (GBV, Dinosaur Jr., etc.) and featuring added bass parts by new(est) member and local ace Tod Weidner.

True to Dayton (see GBV’s Propeller), the first 500 LPs are all one-of-a-kind. Each cover was individually hand-painted by the artists at We Care Arts: a non-profit dedicated to “changing disabilities into possibilities.” A portion of the proceeds from these first 500 will go to benefit WCA.

Here are the details of the LP release show on January 18 in Dayton:

MOTEL BEDS + WE CARE ARTS + MISRA RECORDS PRESENT:

WHO:

Motel Beds*

Smug Brothers

Good English

*In conjunction with We Care Arts & Misra Records

>>> BUY TICKETS HERE: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/546766
NOTE: price slightly higher at door, so do purchase early.

WHAT:

Soft, limited release of “These are the Days Gone By”**
500 LP covers hand-painted by the artists at We Care Arts
Portion of proceeds to benefit We Care Arts
ALL-AGES

WHERE:

Yellow Cab
700 E. Fourth St.
Dayton, OH 45402

WHEN:

Saturday January 18, 2014
Doors @ 7 PM
Show starts @ 8 PM sharp