Bag Raider's long overdue and lovingly anticipated debut self-titled album is finally complete. Now the boys are ready to sit back, kick their feet up and enjoy the sound of jaws collectively dropping across the planet as they deliver one of the most well rounded and unique debut pop albums of the year.
Bag Raiders are the combined talents of Jack Glass and Chris Stracey. Together, they produce the sparks of light, aural gems and sonic booms that make up one of the most sought-after up and coming duos on the planet. After dropping singles on Bang Gang 12s (Fun Punch, Turbo Love) and remixing the likes Cut Copy, Midnight Juggernauts and Kid Sister, the two's reputation internationally grew, and when they released a little ditty titled ‘Shooting Stars' they reached every dangerous, dark and smokey corner of the world, making them a household name among in-the-know indie kids, the sweaty dance faithful and the DJs across the globe.
A collection of thoughts, ideas and memories, Bag Raiders transcends typical dance and pop boundaries, showcasing the creativity of a band at the forefront of modern production. The album ticks the right boxes for fans new and old, coming correct with sing-a-long choruses, deep-breath anthems, blissful chill and pure dancefloor energy. In short Bag Raiders debut album adds a new dimension in the cluttered and diluted dance world.
I asked Joe Casey once why he chose to start his first band with a group of guys roughly ten years his junior. His answer was simple: He needed them, needed this, needed Protomartyr. He didn't want to end up singing classic rock covers in a carport or dive bar one night a week. At 35, with no musical background and crippling stage fright, he needed friends who were young and hearty enough to want to write and record and practice and tour and be heard as badly as he did then. He'd just lost his father to an unexpected heart attack, and his heartbroken mother to the beginnings of Alzheimer's shortly thereafter. He'd come to understand, all too intimately, how brutal and finite a life can be. Consider then the urgency with which he joined his bandmates—guitarist Greg Ahee, drummer Alex Leonard, and bassist Scott Davidson, fellow alums of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy—for thefirst time, in a basement full of unsuspecting onlookers. Consider the urgency with which they've approached everything since—three albums in three years, each more extraordinary and rewarding than the last. This music is inherently, unassumingly high stakes. I can think of no other band that moves me like they do. This October marks the release of The Agent Intellect, their third and finest work to date. Named after an ancient philosophical questioning of how the mind operates in relation to the self, it's an elegant and oftendevastating display of all that makes Protomartyr so vital and singularly visceral an outfit. Over the courseof several months, Ahee waded through more than a hundred song fragments until he reached the bottomless melodies of "I Forgive You" and "Clandestine Time", the inky depths of "Pontiac '87" and titanic churn of "Why Does It Shake?" Lyrically, Casey is at his most confident and haunting. He humanizes evil on "The Devil in His Youth," and, amid the charred pop of "Dope Cloud," he reassures us that nothing—not God, not money—can or will prevent our minds from unraveling until we finally fade away. We are no one and nothing, he claims, without our thoughts. It's a theme that echoes through the entirety of the record, but never as beautifully as it does on "Ellen." Named after his mother and written from the perspective of his late father, it's as romantic a song as you're likely to hear this or any year, Casey promising to wait for her on the other side, with the memories she's lost safely in hand. I remember a story he told me in Detroit. A few months earlier, he'd been driving with his mother as a Protomartyr recording played on the stereo.
"Joe," she asked him. "Who is this?"
"This is us, Mom," he told her. "That's me."
"Oh!" she said, "This is very good."
—David Bevan, July 2015
After an action-packed year of touring the world, Spray Paint return with their second LP of 2015, Dopers. It was recorded last August in the middle of 87 shows in 66 cities and in 12 different countries by Chris Woodhouse (The Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Mayyors). You can almost hear the tape melting on this record. Easily the most hi fi they have ever been recorded, but without losing the scum. Moments of Jesus Lizard, Glenn Branca, Sister-era Sonic Youth come to mind at different points.
DOORS @ 8 / ALL AGES
DOORS @ 8 pm / ALL AGES WELCOME
“It’s the most ‘alive’ music I’ve ever made,” Bryce Avary says of Zoetic, the Rocket Summer’s sixth studio album. “I didn’t want to make a sappy record; I wanted to make a record that sounds like bombs going off, because that’s what my mind felt like. There’s a certain manic nature in these songs that I really like, and a restlessness that feels really honest to me.”
Over the past decade and a half, the Rocket Summer—masterminded by singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Avary—has built a rich and expansive body of work that’s won the loyalty of a diverse and devoted international fan base that continues to embrace Avary’s exuberant songcraft, optimistic, evocative lyrics and adventurously layered soundscapes.
Zoetic marks a creative milestone for Avary, with such sonically and emotionally compelling tunes as “Cold War,” “Same Air,” “Help Me Out” and “White Fireworks” showcasing the artist’s songwriting skills and studio mastery while tapping into a wellspring of edgy inspiration that reflects the unique creative journey that produced the album.
“There wasn’t any kind of deliberate attempt to make something that would be this different from my past records,” Avary states. “I just knew that I wanted to tear down any barriers, including the subconscious ones, and make a record that had no rules. So I just followed the songs that were coming out of me and made sure there were no boundaries in the process of arranging and recording them. That approach allowed me the freedom to push myself to make sure everything that was being recorded would be something new and unique.”
When he started to plot out his next record, the Dallas-based Avary sought an inspirational change of scene, renting a small house in Los Angeles’ fabled Laurel Canyon, sleeping in one room and turning the other into a makeshift recording studio. The experience proved cathartic for the artist.
“I basically fell in love with music all over again, like I had when I was first learning to play,” he says. “I pretty much didn’t come out for a year. My only mission was to be as creative as possible, and to push myself further than ever. In the process, I recorded around four or five albums of material. I just couldn’t stop writing and recording. I realized that something different and special was happening, so I knew I had to follow the trails of the song ideas to see where they all led.”
“Being in Los Angeles, my initial thought had been that I was going to collaborate with other songwriters and producers,” he continues. “But as I became aware of the vision I had, the amount of music I wanted to tackle and the kind of out-of-the-box sounds I wanted to capture, I realized it was going to be totally on me to pull it off. At some points it felt like an insurmountable mountain, but it was a fun challenge to try and conquer it. I’m always wanting to learn, and this experience certainly pushed me to learn to use new tools and creative gadgets that helped create a unique sound for the album.”
Avary became musically active in his early teens, teaching himself to play a variety of instruments and joining his first band at the age of 14, before breaking away to play acoustic solo sets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. At 16, he issued his first EP as a limited-edition indie release, adopting the identity of the Rocket Summer; the name was borrowed from Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi classic The Martian Chronicles.
“I always liked the idea of releasing it under a moniker other than my own name,” Avary explains. “Even though it was just me on the record, it created an atmosphere of something bigger than one person, something that people could feel more a part of and I’ve stuck with that ever since.”
The Rocket Summer’s first full-length album, Calendar Days, won considerable national attention in 2003. It was followed by 2005’s Hello, Good Friend, which peaked at No. 26 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. The latter disc generated sufficient fan interest to allow Avary to assemble a live band and tour in the U.S. and Japan.
The Rocket Summer’s indie success helped to win Avary a deal with Island/Def Jam, which released Do You Feel in 2007. That album reached the Top 50 on the Billboard album charts and #16 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums charts, while spawning a pair of popular singles in “So Much Love” and “Do You Feel.” Of Men and Angels followed in 2010, debuting at #1 on iTunes and producing a pair of hits in “Walls” and “You Gotta Believe.” The same year, Avary branched out to write “Stomping The Roses” for American Idol alumnus David Archuleta. In 2011, Avary released the live acoustic album Bryce Avary, His Instruments and Your Voices for free via the Rocket Summer’s website which had over 50,000 downloads on the day of its release.
Avary moved from Island/Def Jam to his own label, Aviate, for the Rocket Summer’s 2012 album Life Will Write the Words. Despite being an independent release, the album debuted at #58 on the Billboard Top 200 and #12 on Billboard’s Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums chart, and was supported by the Rocket Summer’s most successful tour to date.
Although Avary built his reputation as a studio-based visionary, the Rocket Summer has also earned an impressive reputation as a live act, expanding into a full-band lineup to sell out venues in the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France and Japan, while performing at such prestigious festivals as Glastonbury, Soundwave, Austin City Limits, Bamboozle, the Vans Warped Tour and SXSW.
Now, with Zoetic raising the musical stakes, Avary is looking forward to the challenge of translating his new material to live performance after a break from touring to focus on this album.
“Playing live is like oxygen to me, so it was hard being away for this long, because it’s like putting fuel in the tank for me,” Avary asserts. “So this absence is going to make hitting the road taste that much sweeter. This is the most layered and nuanced record I’ve ever made, and there are a lot of new sounds to try and figure out how to translate live. So it will be cool to pull these songs off with a live band, and hear how they come off in a more raw, on-the-fly scenario.”
The ongoing devotion of the Rocket Summer’s fans makes the prospect of touring all the more alluring for Avary.
“The thing that I’m most proud of about The Rocket Summer is the fan base, and the passion they have for the music and for each other,” he says, adding, “I’ve always viewed music as the friend that can convince you not to jump in your darkest hour. So I have often thought about that while writing, and I often consider how fans will relate to the songs that I’m writing.
“But I’d also say that, with this album, I intentionally didn’t allow myself to be influenced by how people would receive it. A big part of breaking down creative walls was to start fresh and only allow myself to follow the songs themselves and what was coming out naturally. And I think that’s why it sounds a bit different, because it’s raw, creative expression with zero expectation or rules of any kind.
“Obviously I’m very different now,” Avary concludes. “But one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still view music as being the most beautiful and mysterious gift on this planet. I’m always thinking about how much more music I can make, how much further I can push it, how more I can learn and how much further the music will take me. I know that I haven’t gotten to the place where I’m headed musically, and maybe I never will, and that pushes me to keep going. I always feel like it’s still just the beginning.”
The American West. America's America. It was here in three very different worlds that Shannon and the Clams were spawned. From the dark redwood forests of Oregon emerged Cody Blanchard: singer and guitarist. The dusty walnut orchards and vineyards of northern California gave us Shannon Shaw: singer and bassist. Out of the lonely dunes of California's central coast shambled Nate Mayhem: drummer and keys. These three talented visual artists were drawn separately to Oakland, California and it was there that the Clams began playing house parties and grimy clubs.
The band was forged in the anachronistic remote communities of the west, in some strange mixture of computer show and country fair; their music is some odd alloy of The Last Picture Show and The Decline of Western Civilization. The pioneer spirit of western life is all over this band: pushing into the unknown, blazing their own trail, creating their own destiny, with the accompanying canyon-esque loneliness and untamed joy only truly known by those with the courage to pull up stakes and head off into the big empty sunset.
Gone by the Dawn, the newest Shannon and the Clams album, is their best work to date. The music is complex, the lyrical content is emotionally raw and honest, and the production is the strangest it's ever been. The album was written as one member was recovering from a serious breakup and another was deep in one. The lyrics reflect it, and the entire album is dripping with sadness, pain, and introspection. Shannon and Cody have not written generic songs about love or the lack of it. Instead they have written about their very own specific heartbreak, mistreatment, and mental trials. The emotion is palpable. On Gone by the Dawn the Clams have DARED TO BE REAL. They've exposed their true emotions, which is what's most moving about the album. People are scared to be so real. Society does not encourage it. Folks remain guarded to protect themselves from being mocked, punished, and becoming outcast . The Clams have opted to forgo the potential tongue-clucking finger-waggers, and have instead had the artistic courage and audacity to splay their pain and struggles out for all to hear. We are lucky to hear them get so damn real.
For Gone by the Dawn, the Oakland trio hooked up with studio wizard and renaissance-man Sonny Smith to record the album at Tiny Telephone Recording in San Francisco. Best known as the driving force behind San Francisco's beloved Sonny and the Sunsets, Smith uses his refreshing production techniques to create an engaging sonic landscape without compromising the Clams' signature Lou Christie-meets-The Circle Jerks sound. The Clams have evolved: their skills are sharper, their chops are tighter and weirder and they've added new instruments to to the mix. A whole new dimension of the Clams has emerged.
Nowadays, it's exceedingly rare for a two-and-half minute rock song to have raw emotional power, but with Gone by the Dawn Shannon and the Clams have gifted us an entire album of them.
First formed as "Dolmen" in 1989 by Shaftiel (vocals/guitar/bass) and Equitant Ifernain (lead guitar, bass), the black/death metal band Absu hails from the least likely of extreme metal watering grounds: Dallas, Texas. By 1991, the name change to Absu (borrowed from ancient Mesopotamian beliefs) had taken effect, two demos, "Immortal Sorcery" and "Return of the Ancients" were in the can, and independent Gothic Records was showing interest in the self-proclaimed "mythological occult metal" group. Drummer/vocalist Proscriptor (a.k.a. Russ R. Givens) joined shortly after the release of the following year's The Temples of Offal E.P., and his academic lyrics and songwriting began to dominate the band, starting with 1993's full-length debut Barathrum. Absu then signed with France's famed Osmose Productions, which issued their subsequent efforts, Sun of Tiphareth (1995), ...And Shineth Unto the Cold Cometh (E.P., 1995), The Third Storm of Cythraul (1997), and In the Eyes of Ioldánach (E.P., 1998). Each of these displayed increasingly elaborate studies of obscure mysticism (Sumerian, Gaelic, you name it!), and, and led to tours with the likes of Impaled Nazarene and Enslaved, helping Absu carve a position of huge respect within black metal circles. 2001's long-awaited Tara focused on Celtic legend and obtained even greater acclaim, but was the last to feature longtime member Equitant. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
Few of us make much out of the endless weekend hours we spend together when we're young. Draping ourselves throughout our friends' houses and airing out the angst and dreams and heartbreaks that will shape us before they fade away with time, we may make mixtapes, or weave friendship bracelets, or simply craft inside jokes and rosy memories to cherish in years down the line. But for Dublin folk rock quintet Little Green Cars, those Sunday afternoons may have built the most important adventure they'll ever take.
Fresh off a whirlwind month of touring that included several CMJ showcases - ones that caught the attention of outlets like NPR and the New York Times - the band will be spending the next few months leading up to Absolute Zero's release preparing themselves for whatever comes next. Because once it drops, all they'll be able to do is to keep their hands outstretched and wait patiently for listeners to reach back.
"During the writing of Drinking From A Salt Pond, the band admits to flaring tempers and tense operations as they worked to redefine their sound, goals, and relationships…"
Run River North will be the first to tell you: it has largely been an uphill climb for the indie rock sextet from Los Angeles, a hero's journey full of odds-defying opportunities seized amidst rocky naysayers and the snagging brambles of band life. And now, with their second full-length album Drinking From A Salt Pond, Run River North are poised to push forward and create their own wake as a major voice in today's music landscape.
Since the band's beginnings just over four years ago, their rise has been steadily spectacular, marked by appearances on national television, sold-out shows at historic venues, tours with rock and roll royalty and heaps of praise from fans and critics alike. As they blossomed, they embraced their initially folk-driven sound, which found its harmonic home alongside rootsy, foot stomping, sing-along-leading peers like Mumford & Sons, The Head and the Heart, and Of Monsters and Men. Powered by the acoustic-guitar-and-vocals songwriting of frontman Alex Hwang, their 2014 self-titled debut record, produced by Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Modest Mouse, Band of Horses), was released with their lineup rounded out by the strings duo of Daniel Chae and Jennifer Rim, Joe Chun on bass, Sally Kang on keys, and John Chong on drums.
As time and tours passed, the six lives spent in close-quarters began to grind the gears a little differently; their whole dynamic began to change. "When we became a band, we mostly played Alex's songs in band form," says Chae. "Since then we've all put our musical input into it, so the music has changed a lot."
"We were tired of me on acoustic guitar and everybody singing harmonies," says Hwang. "We were hitting a ceiling, and it wasn't fun. We had always agreed this band was six-ways, for better or worse. So at the end of last year, after being in the van constantly, we said, 'no more touring, let's write new songs.'"
"We had to grow up pretty fast as a band," says Chong. "So this past year, there were times when different perspectives and priorities have butted heads."
During the writing of Drinking From A Salt Pond, the band admits to flaring tempers and tense operations as they worked to redefine their sound, goals and relationships. "We've had a lot of hating each other, almost kicking people out of the band," says Hwang. "We're being honest and that openness is one of the main thrusts for the album. Embracing the bitter with the sweet, not trying to hide the crappy parts…the crappy parts helped make the good." Being open about its faults, the band recognizes how the turmoil has helped Run River North create something beautiful.
"The record we just made, it's all the difficult stuff we went through so there's a darker tone to the music. It works," says Chae.
One of the first steps in leaving behind their folk roots was to work with new collaborators. Instead of the reverb-heavy, northwest sound of Ek, they recorded in Los Angeles with Lars Stalfors (Cold War Kids, HEALTH, Deap Vally, Matt and Kim) at the production helm. Stalfors opened their eyes to the upbeat energy and electric tone of indie bands like The Walkmen. Throughout Salt Pond the indie rock influence can be heard, with the band nodding inspiration to everyone from Cage the Elephant and Kings of Leon to The National, Death Cab for Cutie, and Cold War Kids, whose studio in San Pedro, CA the band borrowed to make the album. Also, in a move encouraged by their record label, Nettwerk, Hwang and Chae were sent to Nashville for a week in April 2015 to work on a few new tracks with two different co-writers, Lincoln Parish (formerly of Cage the Elephant) and the Kings of Leon collaborator Nick Brown.
"It was weird but at the same time it was really encouraging," says Hwang of the co-writing. "It was like bringing our demos to a blind date."
The first song from the Nashville sessions was "Run Or Hide," co-written with Parish, and from first listen it's clear that Run River North are exploring bombastic new territory. Hwang, Chae, and Parish came up with an organic way of working that was based on jamming and vibing together, and once the song's melody was nailed down, the rest came easily. It was immediately hard-hitting than any previous song from the band, with a discernible strut serving as a sonic contrast. When the demo was sent home to LA, the rest of the band was shocked.
"Almost everyone else was really scared," says Hwang, "'this is not your voice, this is not who we are.' I was confident it was a really good song and that we were gonna keep it. There's nothing more aggressive on the record, and that groove on the verses is bigger than the band. The band can't contain the song."
"I loved it!" says Chong emphatically. "Alex has a very wide range of emotion when he sings—soft, whispery things; really bombastic; rough—this song showcases all of that. I got really excited. When we recorded it, it really showcases more groove. Joe, our bass player, is solid, and the way the melody is created in the verses really adds to that. There's a really cool contrast happening, but the choruses hit hard."
The other song written in Tennessee was the Nick Brown co-penned "Can't Come Down," a track with pop qualities that the band does not shy away from recognizing. For that they leaned on Brown heavily, who served almost as a mentor to Hwang and Chae during the sessions, teaching them about pop hooks, authenticity, and Southern tradition. Deciding to go all in on a pop song, the trio rallied behind Brown's catchy melodies and licks, and what they ended up with is a happy medium that "still sounds as Run River North as possible," according to Chong, while simultaneously reaching for the rafters.
"We really gelled with Nick Brown," says Hwang. "We had the same idea: 'We have enough songs that exemplify us, so let's try our hand at writing a pop hook.' With that mentality we came up with 'Can't Come Down.' Nick wrote the hook, Daniel and Nick wrote the music, and a heavy collaboration on lyrics from everyone. It's the first song I ever sang the word 'baby' in."
With those songs firmly planting the band's flag in new ground, it is Hwang's "29" that may be the best indicator of the band Run River North are becoming. A piano and drum fueled anthem examining the ups and downs of transition, it finds the singer posing multiple existential questions at once. "Everyone's always talking about how if you will something, it's gonna happen. But, sometimes it doesn't!" says Hwang. "That was a realization I wanted to play with: 'Your words are cold like the wind…' It's kind of like saying, 'I don't care what you think,' but it's also a reflection about my words. What I do can be just as insignificant as anyone else. So what are you gonna do about it? You're 29. 'I know it's home, I know it hurts/I know I'll end up at the bottom/What if I leave?' What if we go on this tour and we don't end up anywhere? The brutal question is, who cares, and why does it matter? Not answering that in the song really helps. The music is still upbeat, it still has the 'oh's' going on, it's an anthemic thing. I'm still energetic, I'm not some old dude at 29."
"29" was written on electric guitar, a tool Hwang has been using more frequently since the end of the debut album's touring cycle. Originally intended for a more somber feel, at the suggestion of their producer Stalfors, the tempo rose to meet Hwang's intonations. "It became this song with so much energy," says Chong, "it's probably the fastest song we've ever done as a band. It's new territory for us; it's very fun. It's a good transition, with lulled verses and really upbeat instrumentals and choruses. This is a good appetizer for our old fans, as this is who we've become."
Embracing their natural growth and learning to ride the waves of their personal and musical evolutions with open hearts and nimble hands, Run River North have created a sophomore album that will propel them to the forefront of today's landscape. Although at times the rushing water of their rise will pool into depths tough to swallow, they have learned to lean on each other and to trust themselves along the way in order to make something lasting and truly beautiful.
"From the start, we always said we wanted to play on the biggest stages possible," says Hwang. "That's still the same. But it isn't some self-indulgent dream of becoming rock stars; we still want to support our families with this, we still have the parents that sacrificed for us and we want to honor them. For us as a band, at times it's felt like we've been drinking from a salt pond—and yet, we still created something pretty fresh that we like and are proud of."
DOORS: 8 / $8 ADV / $12 DOOR / ALL AGES
The word "bully" has a negative connotation in 2015, one heavy with menace and violence. A bully is an instigator, an aggressorsomeone who can spot your weaknesses and exploit them mercilessly. It's a curious name for a Nashville quartet that is transforming familiar '90s alt-rock (Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, Weezer) into smart, sharp-edged millennial indie rock, but "bully" is certainly an apt description for the band's churning guitars, rambunctious rhythms, and tightly coiled intensity. Their debut Feels Like sounds alternately like a balled fist and a fresh bruise.
More crucially, the word "bully" is a perfect distillation of frontwoman Alicia Bognanno's visceral approach to songwriting. She trades in steely observations, raw-nerve confessions, and intense anger directed almost exclusively at herselfalthough a few bystanders and bad exes might get caught in the crossfire. Her voice rises from sugar-sweet to scratchy howl as she bares her most harrowing fears to the world. In other words, Bognanno is her own bully.
Not merely the band's vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, and all-around visionary, she is also Bully's producer and engineer. Her musical life in music is inseparable from her experiences studying audio techniques and technology. Growing up in Minnesota, Bognanno often made up her own lyrics and melodiesnothing so complete as a songbut it wasn't until her senior year of high school that she found an outlet for those creative urges. "I took an audio engineering class at this alternative school," she recalls, adding that sessions were held at the local zoo. "Suddenly, it was like, Wow! I have a way to record stuff. Now I need to figure out how to play an instrument." She learned piano quickly, but guitar was more difficult; she had more fun using Logic Pro X to loop beats for some of her friends who were aspiring rappers.
Audio engineering engaged her in ways that other subjects had not, and Bognanno credits her teacher with recommending an inexpensive four-year Bachelor of Science program at Middle Tennessee State University, about thirty miles south of Nashville. There she immersed herself in courses in recording techniques, music theory and history, even copyright law. She even took another stab at guitar, this time with better results. "I think learning just some basic theory helped a lot, but I think it was because I picked up an electric guitar instead of an acoustic," she explains. "It was a lot more fun."
While the school emphasized digital recording, Boganno became obsessed with analog equipment. Part of the attraction was the richer and roomier sound, which opens up new and livelier textures in the instruments. "It's hard to bust out of what your instructors are showing you and what all your classmates are doing," she says, "but there were two teachers who maintained the tape machines, and they gave me lessons on the mechanics and techniques."
Bognanno used that experience to pursue an internship at Electrical Audio, the Chicago studio complex owned by Steve Albini and host to legendary sessions by some of Bully's heroes and biggest influences: the Breeders, Liz Phair, Superchunk, even the Stooges. When she returned to Tennessee, she started working at a local studio (Battle Tapes), ran sound at one of the best venues in town (the Stone Fox), and formed Bully as essentially a solo project backed by a trio of friends: Stewart Copeland on drums, Clayton Parker on guitar, and Reece Lazarus on bass.
Despite Bognanno's expertise as an audio engineer, the band is less a studio entity than a stage act, one that has quickly developed a reputation for its ferocious live shows (the Nashville Scene named Bully the top local band in its 2014 Best of Nashville issue.) On record, Bognanno strives to retain the band's formidable guitar attack while highlighting her boldly candid lyrics. "At this point in my life I always want everything I make to sound like we're playing live," she explains. "That's why I didn't put any keyboards or any extra stuff on there. Some people don't like that, but I had to go with my gut."
The band recorded live at Electrical Audio, doing as few takes as possible. Once they'd gotten a good performance, the songs were mixed immediately, not merely to save time but to preserve the excitable urgency of the music. Overseeing every part of the process put extra pressure on Bognanno to deliver some truly unbridled vocal performances. She practically screams the lyrics to opener "I Remember," documenting her memories of a curdled romance as the guitars roar and tumble behind her:
I remember showing up at your house
I remember hurting you so much
And I remember the way your sheets smelled!
It made for an intense session. "Stuart was trying to get some footage while we were in the studio, and he said he couldn't be in the same room with me while I was recording those vocals. It was just too intense. I don't even know how it comes out of me."
A deeply personal album by an artist bravely mining her own life, Feels Like is all about trying to figure yourself outabout holding yourself accountable and acting like an adult in a society that doesn't offer very many good examples. It's a coming-of-age album, which only makes Bognanno more relatable. "Sometimes I wonder if people think I'm a complete mess," she says. "It's not easy to put yourself out there like, but it's true. Everyone goes through shit like that."
8 PM / $7 Advance / $10 Door
Where Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys left off is exactly the spot where Kool and Together was born. For the Sanders brothers, the screams of Psychedelic Rock met with Motown’s funky Soul at a crossroads called Black Rock—a mixture of two genres that few were bold enough to attempt and even fewer possessed the technical ability to master. At the same time groups like Black Merda were crafting their take on Black Rock in Detroit, Kool and Together were blazing their own path with distortion pedals and lyrics about social turmoil in the most unlikely of places, a small, dusty town in South Texas.
This set collects the best of Kool and Together’s 1970’s recordings including material from their little-heard private press 45’s, demos and an explosive previously unreleased set of Black Rock. While searching for the reel for their Deep Funk classic, “Red Hot Stove,” a trove of unreleased material was discovered and Kool and Together’s true modus operandi became clear. Their impulse wasn’t to follow convention but to build an original, distinct soundscape. Songs like “Get Your Feet Off the Ground” and “I Know” represent a seamless, soulful fusion of Funk and Psychedelic Rock.
Digging deeper into the Sanders family’s demos and home recordings revealed even further evidence of their talent and seemingly limitless inspiration. Recorded when the Sanders brothers were still teenagers, the rehearsal workouts heard on “Escapism Beat” and “Nassau Beat” are some of the most searing, uncut Funk ever caught on tape.
By the late-70’s, Kool and Together had shifted their sound, recording and self-releasing prime cuts of Disco and Modern Soul. Included with the essentially unheard singles, “Black Snow” and “Hooked on Life” are stellar previously unreleased demo recordings of the Soul anthem, “Better Days” and the proto-Rap jam, “Blow it Out Your Mind.”
A sonic revelation to even the most seasoned listener, Heavy Light Records is proud to bring the recordings of this massively talented Texas family to light.
DOORS: 8 / $7 ADVANCE / $10 DOOR
"unholy blasts of spiky, disordered, nihilistic art-punk"
- Dangerous Minds
"But back in the early 1970s, with only the Stooges and the Velvet Underground as role models, [John D Morton] and his colleagues turned their youthful alienation into a brazenly experimental, loudly confrontational and proudly antisocial roar that forged a new and distinct style."
- New York Times
"X__X terrorized the city’s punk scene with a smart and muscular take on no wave, which Morton had already prefigured with the eels."
- CMJ Magazine
"Before the Sex Pistols formed in London, before CBGB opened in New York, Cleveland had the Electric Eels."
Tickets: $15 / Doors: 8:00pm / Show: 9:00pm
Tanlines - singer/guitarist Eric Emm and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Cohen - will release their sophomore album, Highlights, on May 19th, 2015. Produced by the band and Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, Highlights began in a basement in Pittsburgh and ended in a church in Brooklyn. It trades world music sounds (as heard through YouTube) for a more alive, realized approach, the result of Emm and Cohen wanting to break from their ‘two guys, one screen’ writing style. The transition came suddenly: when they sat down to write Highlights in Emm’s childhood home in Pittsburgh, their computer blew up, quite literally, “with a burst of sparks and clouds of smoke. Whatever had just happened felt like some kind of omen,” says Emm.
Stranded without the samples and sounds that had previously defined their musical palette, they spent the rest of the week in Pittsburgh writing songs the old-fashioned way—with a guitar and drums. They found themselves falling back on facility they’d gained with their instruments over the previous two years of touring, and an alternative, simpler process evolved, one that set the tone for Highlights immediately.
Influenced by their time spent on the road touring Mixed Emotions, primarily in the States, they reached for the sounds of 90’s New York hip-hop drums, Detroit techno synths, and lots and lots of guitars. The results of which would lead them to call this their ‘American album’, “though it may only sound that way to us,” says Emm. Instead, let’s just call Highlights “the album where things started making more sense.” Whereas before the band had wandered their way through foreign musical landscapes and the existential ‘what am I doing with my life’ wasteland of post-youth, Highlights finds the band settled and at home, comfortable in their own skin.
Indeed, one listen to Highlights shows this change in subject matter has brought Tanlines to a more evolved, sophisticated place. Themes of love and desire replace questions of the unknown. Partnerships are celebrated while relationships grow and change and give way to safe-distance reflections on the past without the trappings of nostalgia.
Between working in Los Angeles with producer Patrick Ford, and their hometown of New York City with Chris Taylor, they eventually settled on the ten songs that make up the album. Taylor brought them to record in a 100 year-old church; the unfamiliar settings and Taylor’s energy and enthusiasm pushed the band to new heights. Most noticeable are Emm’s powerful vocals, broadcast from the balcony of the empty church, and thankfully, captured warmly and beautifully by Taylor across the whole album.
In many ways, the resulting music feels like a renaissance for a band that began in 2008 as a one-off remix project. The upbeat dancefloor-ready Tanlines lives on in songs like driving set opener “Pieces”, the dream-inspired “Slipping Away”, and the seductive “Bad Situations”, but the colors and emotional range of the album go much deeper than ever before, with Emm’s vocals and lyrics, at once personal and observational, taking center stage on songs like “Running Still” and “Invisible Ways.”
DOORS OPEN AT 6:30 / $10 AT THE DOOR / ALL AGES WELCOME
OH SLEEPER, ABOVE CAELUM, THE PRICE WE PAY, FOUR BEDROOM REPUBLICR, ROTHSCHILD, AN AUTHOR A POET, IMPERIAL AFFLICTION
DOORS OPEN AT 6:30 PM / ALL AGES
DOORS OPEN AT 6:30 PM / ALL AGES
Chicago drone outfit BITCHIN' BAJAS first splintered off of Krautrock revivalists Cave, serving as a more relaxed side project for Cave guitarist Cooper Crain but soon growing into a more realized band over the course of various tape and small-run vinyl releases. With this self-titled fifth album, the Bajas reach the most beautiful and all-encompassing articulation of their sound, effortlessly sifting soothing ambience out of an intricate web of electronics and organic instruments. One of the most effective aspects of the record is its lengthy running time and the expansive, sprawling nature of many of the eight pieces here. The record almost reaches the eighty-minute mark and begins with nearly 19 minutes of slowly evolving sounds, drones, and tones that make up the opening opus "Tilang." "Tilang" starts with a loping string section playing a raga-like drone before walls of fluid synthesizers fade in, eventually reaching a crest and subsiding again as gentle harp sounds take over. A theme quickly emerges of largely different sounds working to express the same feelings, following with the gamelan bells and flute-like electronics of "Asian Carp" and the meeting of bubbling deep space synth tones, delay-soaked new agey woodwinds, and field recordings of river and bird sounds on "Field Study." All the songs fit together but each represents a very different take on ambience, moving from the more natural feel of the album's first half to the cold arpeggiated vintage synthesizers and vamping, spacy saxophone of "Bueu," a tune that taps into Bitchin Bajas' more Krautrock-inspired side. The ideas here linger, hover, and slowly erode, but none of these lengthy explorations ever drags or falls flat. Though "exciting" isn't exactly the word, there is a sense of both purpose and drive in all of Bitchin Bajas' blurry, diversely composed drone-scapes, and this album as a whole is easily their best and most carefully crafted work up until this point.
ALL AGES / $10
Doors @ 8:00 pm / $7 Advance / $10 Door
Embarking upon a sophomore effort can be a daunting task for any young upstart, and there's no denying Avi Buffalo's own bar was set quite high with 2010's celebrated eponymous debut. Fear not, dear fans/family/friends/friends of friends/newcomers, there's nothing in this tale about The Second Album—a.k.a. At Best Cuckold, due September 8th in Europe and September 9th in North America on Sub Pop—that even remotely resembles a slump; in fact, it would be entirely appropriate to say that this Long Beach, California, enterprise is getting better with age.
Ah, yes, age—much was made of it when Avi Buffalo's first album hit the ground running, and for good reason: While their Millikan High School classmates were preoccupied with quaint and youthful pursuits, the musicians behind Avi Buffalo were busy making an off-kilter pop gem that eventually bowled over NME, The AV Club, Pitchfork, the BBC, and numerous other outlets on both sides of the Atlantic whose tastes are respected by the general public. Like a lot of kids their age, the Buffaloes celebrated the end of high school in Europe, but instead of visiting the Louvre and Buckingham Palace, their overseas journeys took them to the festival stages of Reading, Leeds, Glastonbury, the Pavement-curated All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead, and beyond.
So is Avi Buffalo a he or a them? The answer is a definitive yes, as leader Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg has lent his musical nickname—bestowed in childhood by a pal who'd picked up on his friend's inclination toward spicy chicken wings—to this full-fledged outfit that works something like a solo project in the studio and then builds into a band onstage. Not that he goes it alone when recording—to the contrary, many able-bodied compatriots, including longtime collaborator Sheridan Riley, have assisted with committing his songs to tape—but everything begins and ends with Avi, and after ending a year on the road in support of the first record, he decided to take his time beginning work on the second.
The creation of At Best Cuckold turned out to be a three-year journey; a stretch of time that resembles its predecessor. While transitioning from teenager to twentysomething and traversing the interpersonal wilds which accompany that age, Avi kept playing music (even picking up a new instrument every now and again), collaborated with and produced several friends (including Kevin Litrow's N.O.W. project and Douglas James Sweeney's Arjuna Genome), and even started DJing. He also wrote new songs, and by the time 2013 rolled around, it was time to begin capturing his latest sparks—with that, the band headed into the studio on New Year's Day.
Two weeks later, the basic tracks for At Best Cuckold were recorded, having been captured at Tiny Telephone, the analog-friendly San Francisco studio run by John Vanderslice of John Vanderslice fame. The engineering was actually handled by Jay Pellicci (The Dodos, Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney), though during his stay, Avi had a chance to play with the head honcho when he was asked to contribute to JV's tribute to Bowie's Diamond Dogs. Needless to say, Avi has nice things to say about the place.
The "clean and tight" recordings from Tiny Telephone served as perfect skeletons for Avi to flesh out with his analog and digital overdubs, which were completed over the next year or so at various locations around Southern California. ("I've always had a lot of fun with overdubs," says Avi. "Maybe my favorite instrument is overdubs.") The result—which was completed and mixed with Nicolas Vernhes at his Rare Book Room studio in Brooklyn—is a quirky yet comforting set of songs driven by refined pop songcraft and sneaky moments of grandeur that stick in the brain. Classic-sounding melodies are delivered with a modern sensibility, creating an album that's equal parts timely and timeless. Well-placed piano, sax, clarinet, French horn, and cornet further enhance the proceedings with a glorious orch-pop sheen.
"So What" gets things started with its understated charm and sing-songy goodness, however, it isn't until the rollicking "Memories of You" that Avi lets his trademark falsetto fly. There are great pop moments all over At Best Cuckold, but Avi also excels at moodiness, exemplified in subdued beauties like "Two Cherished Understandings" and "Oxygen Tank."
"I really like some of the ballad aspects of this record—it's kind of my tribute to the ballad," says Avi. "I predicted in an interview during the time of my first record what I was going to use in my next record, and I said a lot of major seventh chords, which, to me, sounded like laying down. And that ended up in the record, too."
Lyrically, there are a lot of unsettled emotions on the album; a product of Avi observing the world around him and writing "about life, dealing with relationships and yourself, and trying to keep your head up and keep learning amidst whatever it is you're going through." Disappointment ("Thought we understood each other well / I was wrong as usual") and anxiety ("Someone told me if I messed around / then my head would fill up with guilty clouds") abound, though there's also a feeling that everything is eventually going to turn out okay, even when everything seems to be falling apart during closer "Won't Be Around No More." If anything, Avi's passionate delivery is the ultimate source of optimism.
At the ripe old age of 23, Avi Buffalo is ready to take on the world (again), armed with all of the experience he's compiled over the past few years. And he's made sure the second time around will be just as memorable as the first.