Issue No. 1-Feb ’13
the liner notes of st. louis
Wannabe startin’ somethin’
STL Ex-Pat ERIC WILLIGER Got to Be Startin’ Somethin’
INSIDE: Bearfoot fx • Vintage Trouble • Farfetched • Garagefest
Ian Fisher & the Present Pop Over from Europe
PLUS: Don’t miss the all-new musicalendar
for your listening pleasure check it ooowwt!
Eleven Magazine Volume 9, issue 1
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PERIODICAL LITERATURE ST. LOUIS, MO
Volume 9, Issue No. 1
froNt of thE booK 5 Editor’s Note 6 Letters 7 Essentials / Nook of Revelations 8 Where Is My Mind ColumNS
thIS moNth IN muSIC Our all-new Musicalendar 20 garagefest at the heavy anchor
brING oN thE NIGht Show Previews222 Vintage trouble, Water liars, Jonathan richman, tift Merritt, Man Man, Murder By death
10 The Radius
More Hot Schtuff
11 Rockin Our Lives Away by bob rEutEr
Show Review 23 Jeff Mangum
12 Load In by DaVE aNDErSoN
hot roCKS Guest List 24
fEaturES 13 Interview: Ian Fisher & The Present by EVaN Sult 14 The Rise of the Middle Class Middle Class Fashion by EVaN Sult
by JaCK ProbSt
New Album Reviews 24 Bleeding rainbow, radar Brothers, Bat for lashes
The Rebellious Jukebox 25 by matt harNISh .
17 Les Misérables by PaIGE brubECK
thE Way baCK PaGE
18 “What’s Gone Wrong with the St. Louis Music Culture” A statement by ErIC WIllIGEr
CoVEr DESIGN: SlEEPy KItty artS. Photo of Middle Class Fashion by mICah mICKlES.
Paper Time Machine 26 by PaIGE brubECK . the red sea
Illustration: curtis tinsley
Eleven Magazine Volume 9 | Issue 1 | February 2013 Publisher Hugh Scott
copy editor Tracy Brubeck
Editor-In-Chief Evan Sult
Promotions and Distribution Suzie Gilb Ann Scott
Special assignments editor Paige Brubeck Art DirectION Evan Sult CONTRIBUTING Writers Dave Anderson, Paige Brubeck, Ryan Boyle, Juliet Charles, Thomas Crone, Jenn DeRose, Suzie Gilb, Matt Harnish, Kyle Kapper, Nelda Kerr, Cassie Kohler, John Krane, Josh Levi, Rob Levy, Ryan McNeely, Sean Nelson, Zev Powell, Jack Probst, Bob Reuter, Jason Robinson, Robert Severson, Blair Stiles, Bill Streeter, Michele Ulsohn, Chris Ward, Robin Wheeler PHOTOGRAPHERS Nate Burrell Jarred Gastreich Patrice Jackson Lee Klawans Micah Mickles Bob Reuter Jason Stoff Bill Streeter Bryan Sutter Illustrations Sean Dove Tyler Gross Curtis Tinsley
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Consultation Clifford Holekamp Derek Filcoff Cady Seabaugh Hugh Scott III Founded in 2006 by a group including Jonathan Fritz, Josh Petersel and Mathew Strรถm ELEVEN MAGAZINE 3407 S. Jefferson St. Louis, MO 63118 for ADVERTISING INQUIRIES Hugh Scott firstname.lastname@example.org calendar listings email@example.com LETTERS TO THE EDITOR firstname.lastname@example.org We welcome your comments. Please let us know if you do not want your letter published.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR US? email@example.com ONLINE elevenmusicmag.com twitter.com/elevenmag facebook.com/ElevenMagazine Copyright 2013 Scotty Scott Media, LLC
by Evan Sult
2013: Year of the What Now? Well hot damn. 2013 to be considered. Still waiting on that My Bloody Valentine album. Happy with the results of 2012, all things considered. Plenty of big albums made, plenty of great shows played. STL feels ready for bigness. I keep thinking about the year ahead of us. There are so many different ways forward, so many different ways it could go. I’ve been thinking about stuff that I think is coming on right this sec, like: • Have you heard of Bank? It’s a new place coming together in the old MO Money building on Iowa and Cherokee. The people who are putting that together, Casey and Marianne and Mitch, are from KC and have been here for a few months. That space is already amazing. • I’d like to congratulate KDHX for the billboard campaign: I think it’s superfuggin cool, and it makes driving almost anywhere in this city more enjoyable. Thanks for doing that. • Also, I predict I’m going to miss the version of KDHX located in South City. That’s happen-
ing this year. KDHX is absolutely one of the best things that happens in St. Louis, and their new building looks really excellent throughout. And still. • I recently heard this song by The Airliners, “Something New.” It’s cool, it seems like a good song to dance to. • Daniel Krause, aka Dancin Daniel, just put on a radly successful dance show at the Heavy Anchor, first of a new series of shows emphasizing dancing at shows. I personally think that any physical motion while watching a show immediately increases the pleasure of the show—and actually dancing in some form increases the show’s power ten times, just immediately like that. He’s got another one scheduled for April, so limber up, and start practicing at other shows! • Christian Frommelt and Jenny Shirar are some swing dancers in town, by the way, who make that whole swing thing look like the best feeling in the world. • Couple new things with this magazine. The biggest one is, we changed the calendar. The
idea is that it’ll actually be way more functional for you this way—it’s even designed to be hung up, if you bang a nail through it. Each month will have an illustration, which I’m pretty excited about. • In this issue we publish a two-page piece by a guy named Eric Williger. I’m curious to hear your response. I’m still formulating mine. • If you like to write about music, if you’re an obsessive musical listmaker, if you have an era you know everything about, if you got sort of freaked out when you heard they’re not printing a physical edition of the OED anymore, we should talk. About writing and stuff. • Correction: Last issue’s feature on cover songs misstated one notable performer of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” The version referred to is performed by Jeff Buckley, not Tim Buckley. As the guy who incorrectly typed in that name I, by which I mean Eleven, regret the error. In with the news!
Evan Sult, editor-in-chief
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Eleven welcomes letters from readers. Please direct letters to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to 3407 S. Jefferson St, St. Louis MO, 63118.
How does St. Louis stack up?
Last issue’s letter from Eric Williger to Eleven magazine (“Caught up in the hipster fads of yesteryear,” Dec ‘12/Jan ‘13) brought a whole lot of responses from musicians, music fans, and other readers. Online and in person, there were many dissenters from Williger’s critical assessment of the St. Louis music world. Below is one response that engages the question of St. Louis’ relative value as a city to make music in. In his letter, Williger was critical of both the St. Louis music scene and Eleven magazine. I invited him to get involved himself, and start writing about the music he thought deserved discussion. He took me up on my offer—and you can find Eric Williger’s response to my request on page 18 of this issue. Dear Eleven, I am a “local musician,” but I have lived in Detroit, Chicago, Brooklyn, Seattle, and London. In response to Mr. Williger, the St. Louis music scene is actually better, IMHO, than all of the above listed cities. Impossible, you say? No. Let me explain why. No bands who play in Manhattan actually live in Manhattan. Because they can’t afford it. They can’t actually afford most of Brooklyn; they live in either Bushwick or Flatbush and they try to make one apartment serve four or five people. Each person is probably paying 500 or 600 bucks a month. Which means a real job, or millionaire parents in Westchester. Here in STL I pay a $400-and-change mortgage for a HOUSE. Except for Detroit, all of the benchmark cities are more costly. Like in
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London, you might be able to get a very nice dinner and cab ride home for $400 American. You will pay double the US price for your guitar, however. You would pay over a million pounds for my house if it were in the Greater London Area. This explains why most London bands SUCK ASS. The successful ones move here, the others live with their parents. Chicago used to be affordable but the crap-and-wino-filled hoods that used to house musicians are now “uber-trendy,” expensive, and utterly full of bull. Imeen... it’s Chicago, you dopes! Pork butcher to the world, big shoulders, yes. Trendy and stylish would be Paris and Milan. Trust me on this. Seattle, you ask. Well, it’s very expensive. The computer guys pushed out the old fishermen, bought all the real estate, and now they are having problems paying for it. My house, were it to reside in Ballard—not very trendy— would run you a cool quarter million USD. A little out of the price range of your average musician. Don’t believe it? Yes you do. Moving on to Detroit, city of my birth: sure, you can afford to live there. There are reasons for that. I like to drive to East Saint Louis when I get homesick. Suffice it to say that Michigan’s Jackson Prison, until recently the world’s biggest walled prison, has a population almost entirely made up of people from the Detroit Metro Area. Yeah, you can be a musician in Detroit, but it’s much faster and easier to just jump off the Belle Isle Bridge. Maybe you won’t believe how easy it is to get a gig in STL, or how many great places to play there are—but it is true. There are
literally a hundred places to play in this fine city on any given night except Monday. This is not true of any of the benchmark cities. For different reasons, to be sure, but the reasons don’t matter to the struggling musician. According to Johnny St. Cyr [hot banjo player in a couple of Louis Armstrong bands–ed.], even back in the nineteen-teens STL was the best city on the Mississippi for musicians. They got paid more, the union was strong and the people wanted good music. They still do. Chicago and NYC have problems with neighborhood noise from clubs and their patrons (I guess those young hedge-fund managers have to get up pretty early in the morning), and also the related problem of skyrocketing property values. This is bad news for club owners, music stores, and musicians. London was having this problem too, but since the global crash and the riots, Brits are figuring out that the supposed “New Prosperity” was all smoke and mirrors. Still, they have lost a lot of pubs, and many of those were music venues. I have no idea what is going on in LA, so someone can enlighten me, I hope. However, it would explain the exodus of musicians from LA to Nashville if things in sunny California were similarly dire. STL is cultural, affordable, historical, and people here are proud to be Saint Louisans. My opinion is that people in the benchmark cities wish they had it so good. Sincerely, Ted Moniak Dogtown
1 Your iPhone is way too valuable to risk drenching, but it’s also the lifeline to your mobile music collection. The iShower Wireless Speaker shower is just what you’ve been waiting for, if you love singing in the shower. A Bluetooth connection to your mp3 player is all you need. ishowerinc.com 2 The key to the Death Star ice mold is to use it sparingly—after all, there’s only one Death Star, so you definitely don’t need more than one per glass. That said: if you do find a Death Star in your drink, you will know conclusively
NOOK OF REVELATIONS
that you are among friends. thinkgeek.com 3 Probably even more essential than My Cool Campervan is an actual campervan... but you can use this book to peruse your dream vehicles and pick your favorite. They’re all totally beautiful, and many of them are completely unique, handcrafted labors of love. Most of the models are British, so you’ve probably never seen them before. Whether you’re in a touring band or you’d love to just up stakes and follow your favorite band around the country, this book provides the fodder. Left Bank Books.
A chronicle of musical encounters by Thomas Crone
Jackin’ for Beats at the Public Library In my stacks of childhood detritus is a reading club card from the summer of 1976. Sure did crunch though a lot of books in those days! All of them were complement of the Carpenter Branch of the St. Louis Public Library. Having left the neighborhood, only to return, it feels just a little bit strange that the location’s still my local outlet for book loans, nearly four decades on. And while books are still at the center of the activities taking place there, they’re far from the only attractions bringing bodies through the door. Now, as then, the Carpenter serves as a spill zone for my old haunt, the nearby Fanning Middle School. At the end of the school day, up to a few dozen students drift east down McDonald and a few yards north on Grand, setting up shop throughout the expansive branch. They’re hanging out in the youth section, sure, but also dominate the computer lab, where youthful Somali immigrants play online Tetris, Facebook their relatives in Maine, and sometimes do some schoolwork, too. Of course, my own library consumption’s not exactly proving a dedication to the written word. About a half-dozen years back, my constant glances at the large CD racks bore an amazing thought: those CDs weren’t just there for show; you could take them home. And at the clip of twenty at a
time! Having just secured a laptop in return for a long-running freelance gig, I greedily snapped up everything even remotely interesting, padding my collection with downloads of acts that were on periphery of my knowledge or interest bases. If my iPod’s got a good stash of never-listened-to Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse and the Decemberists, I thank the St. Louis Public Library for those
Those CDs weren’t just for show; you could take them home. And at a clip of twenty at a time! unloved cuts. But with a bit of thought, the library’s a great place to make a splash into music forms that you don’t know, or don’t know well. A few years back, as already discussed in the Nook, I tried to dent the world of reggae and the stacks of the SLPL were my best friends that year. I gobbled up Trojan samplers and individual artists, too, with the kind of religious zeal that new collectors bring to any hobby. I then downloaded them and played them spar-
ingly, completing the burnout cycle of many newly converted zealots. In time, I learned that not all CD sections are created equally. The Carpenter Branch was a great starting point; the fact that the location is staffed by a variety of local musicians and super-fans has to be reflected in the rock-solid selection there. But other branches are strong, too, especially the Buder on Hampton and the Schlafly in the Central West End. In time, I’ll find my way to some of the refurbished branches, too, weighing myself down with another twenty selections at a clip. If a free service can have downsides, I can potentially see three options here. One is that your media library can get overwhelmed with things that never, ever get play; I know I once wanted to check out Opeth and Lamb of God for some reason, but what was it? And the fines, if you run late on a return, pile up quickly. Lastly, the disc quality is often poor; once I attempted to listen to a skritched copy of Morrissey’s Years of Refusal, within the year of its release. Flipping the disc, it looked as if it had been toyed with by a raptor in those intervening months. Sigh. Music thievin’ ain’t always easy, even when the sounds are just a few blocks and a couple scans away.
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WHERE IS MY MIND? Photo: Kyle Kapper
This Month in the History of Now
My calendar tells me that it’s a bit early to begin compiling my Bests list for 2013, but I’m calling it right now: the one-two knockout show put on by Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Langhorne Slim on January 10 was one of this year’s premier evenings of live music for St. Louis. Both acts began their sets somewhat out of character but had the soldout Pageant roaring for more by the end. At the outset, Ms. Potter somehow lacked the superstar flare so often described as “it”—until she made one or two visits backstage between numbers. I won’t speculate as to what may have transpired (or been ingested) in those brief hiatuses, but when Ms. Potter returned to center stage, she suddenly opted for bare shoulders and bare feet, and became lost in every song thereafter, swirling and jumping around stage as she powered through her astonishing repertoire as the powerhouse superstar we’ve come to know. Kyle Kapper
Read the full review of Grace Potter and Langhorne Slim’s Pageant show at elevenmusicmag.com
Lit Fit Free Ride: How Digital Parasites
Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back by Robert Levine
“Information wants to be free”—this was the great rallying cry of the Internet as it gathered steam. It’s an exhilarating premise, especially because it promises to bring one-time titans of industry to their knees: free information bankrupts greedy record label execs and brings the power to the people, right? Robert Levine argues a different case. Information is still worth billions in digital form—it’s just that the the companies that pay the money to employ the people to create the stuff we love to watch and listen to aren’t making back the money they’re investing. Instead, it’s going to digital gatekeepers such as Google, YouTube, Boxie, Spotify, iTunes. This isn’t just a problem for movie stars and fat cats: the new Internet economic model has been massively killing
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off opportunities for musicians, actors, and techs everywhere, from New York to St. Louis. Though you can find any song you want for free online, that same convenience makes it much, much harder for musicians to make a living on music. Levine’s prescriptions run counter to the popular narrative of today’s Internet—he wants to see more restrictive laws around content distribution. He pushes back against classic arguments for the “freedom” of the Internet (remember the SOPA/PIPA debate last year?), arguing that Google and others are manipulating our own sense of freedom to their distinct economic advantage, and to the detriment of the actual musicians and, ultimately, listeners. It’s a fascinating position, and a ray of hope for those musicians among us who suspect that Spotify steals far more than it gives. EVAN SULT
The night focuses on the production side of music—“Low End Theory in LA is the blueprint,” says label impresario Damon Davis. He promises some brand-new surprises, including an interactive game, not unlike Simon, featuring music by STL producers and other “big names on the emerging beat scene,” including some West Coast and Chicago artists. As if that’s not enough going on, FarFetched hosts a throwdown between some of their finest musicians March 2. Mikey Wehling & the Reverbs just released their new Nests in Trees album, which features synth/vocal help from Ryan McNeely, who will also be performing that night as Adult Fur; CaveofswordS; and Ryan Wasoba, whose 2012 release, Music for No Reason, gives a body brain envy. Just try to keep up! ES
Oh Hell Yes List
•S peedy Ortiz’s enthralling ‘90s revivalism at CBGB January 7 •F ather John Misty’s sexy-girl moves >> • kd hx’s new billboards featuring STL music royalty •T he bishop in Les Mis handing over the candlesticks to Jean Valjean •T he Airliners’ track, “Something New” • The artwork for Née’s new Finches 10”
This Just In
As of press time, My Bloody Valentine’s long, long, long, long-awaited follow-up to 1991’s game-changing classic Loveless has still not been released. Surprise!
Photos: Corey Woodruff
The year’s just getting started, but STL label FarFetched is all over it. They finished 2012 strong, with releases by Black James and flagship act Scripts N Screwz’s The Hangover II. In January alone they released three albums: Prologue II, an anthology that includes Adult Fur, Wino Willy, 18andCounting, and Remi Sorbet; Thelonius Kryptonite’s The Anchor Punch EP; and Skillwavers, a collection of remixes derived from CaveofswordS’ Silverwalks album. This month stays just as strong: FarFetched has declared February Beat History Month. Besides dropping a new album, Tesla, by LooseScrewz, this month kicks off Louder Than Words, a new event happening the last Thursday of every month at Blank Space on Cherokee.
Old Lights’ familiar guest Kristin Dennis with David Beeman; departing bassist (say it ain’t so!) Karen Ried of Bunnygrunt; John Horton and Brian Henneman of the Bottle Rockets.
Here’s Beer in yer Ear
I’ve been to some 21st birthday parties that really sucked. Most of them ended with someone drunkenly sobbing on someone else’s shoulder, a fistfight, or even a visit to the ER. Thankfully, the folks at Schlafly know how to throw a much better party, and being the proud St. Louisans that they are, they knew just who to call from the St. Louis music world for a proper celebration. All three bands on the bill represent the height of their respective fields, and the Pageant crowd, packed from floor to balcony, was proof. Old Lights
delivered their aching indie anthems as if they were tailor-made for the cavernous venue. Bunnygrunt played a lighthearted set that served as a heartwarming sendoff for bassist Karen Ried, who’s moving to Cincinnati. The Bottle Rockets kicked off their set with a blazing version of ZZ Top’s “Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers,” and got even better from there. all night long, brewery owner Tom Schlafly was visibly jubilant, onstage and off. As a celebration, it was a success—as a St. Louis rock showcase, it was one for the ages. corey woodruff
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Photo: Jared Gastreich
And It Don’t Stop
Each month The Radius features a city within a day’s drive of St. Louis. Whether you’re in a touring band or just want to meet some of our neighbors on the map, use this section to get a head start.
Carbondale, IL by John Krane
104 miles from ST. Louis, or 2 hours by car Carbondale is Illinois’ ultimate college party town, for both better and worse. It’s not exactly an Ivy League type of place, and if you ask a local to direct you to the nearest library, you’ll probably get a blank stare followed by confused instructions for making a beer bong. Then, someone will vomit on your shirt. Smile politely—this is an official Carbondale greeting.
The Key to the city
Even if you’re not into the whole drink-untilyour-degree-becomes-irrelevant thing, Carbondale’s bars, venues, and local music scene make it worth a visit. The trick is to avoid any place with “authentic” or “university” on its sign, and to stick with the little out-of-the-way places that attract the rabble rousers.
BANDS TO KNOW Secondary Modern Sounds like Elvis Costello getting into his mom’s PCP. Secondary Modern is a three-piece that blends unorthodox chord choices with perfect pop hooks, carefully constructed to keep you guessing—incorrectly—what will happen next. It’s accessible stuff with excellent depth.
Wei Zhongle There’s expert-level instrumentation here and jazzlike explorations, but the draw is vocalist Rob Jacobs’ idiosyncratic lyrics and liberal use of classical instruments. If you have to compare their sound to something else, there’s a touch of Dirty Projectors, but that’s not doing it justice. Check out their bandcamp page. The Heat Tape They describe their music as “recorded on a four-track in a shitty trailer,” and, well, that’s pretty much what it sounds like. Fans of lo-fi pop shouldn’t miss these guys. The trio’s songs rarely push past the two-minute mark, but they’re incredibly earnest and fun while they last, packed with strange lyrical nuggets like “Grandpa, can I have your dog when you die?”
MUSIC WORLD John Brown’s On the Square
Photo courtesy the heat tape
1000 Tower Square Plaza
The Heat Tape.
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Drops make regular appearances. Hangar 9 511 S. Illinois Ave Undeniably the most important off-campus venue in Carbondale, Hangar 9 is one of the few bars actively booking weird-ass music acts. It was rebuilt a few years ago, and it lost some of its dive-bar cred in the process, but Hangar 9’s still the place to go if you want to see what’s happening in the local scene— or play for the audience mostly likely to dig your band. Copper Dragon 700 E. Grand Ave Southern Illinois University of Carbondale doesn’t attract a ton of huge names, but smaller touring acts frequently go through the Copper Dragon, a venue attached to the Pinch Penny Pub. The Dragon also books local acts occasionally with a cheap cover, but the drinks are expensive and the crowd gets a little Animal House.
Poster by Steven Darby
This small bar is a few minutes outside of town in Marion, IL. It’s an oasis of great music thanks to the efforts of owner John Brown, an affable music expert who brings in local and regional talent, often quibbling with them on stage through the bar’s PA system. The bar’s even got its own batch Schalfly beer, John’s Brown Ale. It’s pretty hard to have a bad time here. St. Louis bands like Kentucky Knife Fight, Sam West Trio, and Aaron Kamm and the One
FOOD Longbranch Cafe 100 E. Jackson St Nearly everything here is made by hand on-premises at this little vegetarian cafe. From the coffee to the pastries, they pay attention to their ingredients, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Quatro’s Pizza 218 W. Freeman St Quatro’s pies are big, hearty things, packed with cheese and loaded with toppings. The place has been in business for nearly four decades, and it’s the best deep-pan pizza in town. Not to be missed.
OTHER STUFF The Cellar 101 W. Monroe St There’s no music here, other than the Bryan Adams tunes pouring out of a corner jukebox, but it’s a nice, small bar where you can avoid the ire of any Saluki frat boys. There’s a very decent beer selection, shuffleboard and a couple of pool tables. Giant City State Park You’ll probably wake up here nursing a hangover and missing your wallet, so why not enjoy it? There’s gorgeous geological formations, excellent camping and mountain lions to chase you down the road while you weep and regret your life decisions.
ROCKIN OUR LIVES AWAY
A photo and its story by Bob Reuter
Sunyatta: No last name required and besides, last names change. She’s been the subject of a local movie. She’s missing the tip of a finger she lost back in high school, and been known to use it to scare little kids. She writes songs that burn, darkish mysterious songs. She’s the daughter of a free jazz sax player and a bohemian entrepreneur. By the time she was 15 her record collection was ‘bout twenty years older, made up of jazz of a different time (think Nina Simone and Billie Holiday), folk and reggae. She’s ridden dark roads, been down to Texas and back. I’ve heard her sing in the midnight dark of the quadrangle at Wash U, her head full of wine, making up songs as she sang them, and this before she was old enough to drive. I also was there for her first solo show in the basement of an Ethiopian restaurant, and all the songs she sang were her own. Enter the man who became her first husband, Mark Stephens, with whom she formed her first band. Mark belonged to both the Boo Rays and Highway Matrons—a definite dark horse and seasoned rocker. Together they formed Fred’s Variety Group, which featured no one named Fred. They were joined by Sherman S. Sherman, a master of dark twisted songs, and having joined with these two, Sunyatta’s skill grew. The group’s schedule was constant and she picked up electric guitar. FVG drew crowds and Sunyatta drew the spotlight as she became a performer strong enough to hold her own. That was her training ground. That was her school, and when Mark and Sunyatta split paths, she went off on a road of her own. The Helium Tapes—named for the recordings they made on cheap cassettes that speeded songs up and raised their pitch— sported definite Sixties touches, like lead player Tim Lowmann’s fuzz-tone guitar lines. Word grew of Sunyatta’s Mediterranean exoticism and dark but poppy songs. These days she plays with her current husband, Kevin McDermott. Their band, CaveofswordS, is both a natural progression and a new direction for her, leaning this time in a more techno direction mixed with analog instrumentation. It started out as a recording project and then unfolded into a live performance thing. Kevin writes
Photo: bob reuter
One Thousand Years Ago, Beside a Pool
the music, and Sunyatta takes care of the words and, of course, the singing. You should keep an eye out, you’ll want to digest some of this, it will prepare you for whatever else she finds herself doing next. Whatever it is, it’ll be worth your time. This photo was taken years ago, about midway through the Fred’s Variety Group
era. A summer pool party. A day of beer and sun by the pool at Brad Benson’s place. The sun had been down for a couple of hours, instruments were assembled, and someone threw on a spotlight. Sunyatta had just thrown a pair of shorts on over her bikini, and she approached the mic to vent her soul.
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Expert gear testimony by Dave Anderson
Photo: Nate Burrell
Bearfoot FX: Bjorn in St. Louis
Bearfoot FX is a boutique guitareffects company based here in St. Louis. Headed by Don Rusk, Bearfoot FX’s handbuilt effect pedals are centered around the designs of world-famous electronics engineer Bjorn Juhl ...also known as “The Mad Professor”! Rusk started in the pedal industry in the early ‘00s, hand painting effects pedals with his previous company, PedalworX. He was also a moderator and contributor of the Musictoyz forum, and developed close ties with boutique pedal builders around the world. At the same time, Juhl had been gaining recognition for his BJFE pedals. Rusk began to help Juhl translate posts from Swedish to English on the Musictoyz forum, and they soon became close friends. Not long after, Rusk separated himself from PedalworX and started Donnerbox, offering custom painted enclosures for other pedal companies, including BJFE. Soon, Rusk and Juhl teamed up in order to keep costs down, and began BearfootFX. “Bjorn” is Swedish for “bear,” and these localbuilt pedals are constructed with circuits
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Don Rusk & Bjorn Juhl: Bearfoot FX, St. Louis designed by Juhl and assembled and handpainted by Rusk and his team. The line of Bearfoot FX covers a multitude of overdrives and distortions, including the newly released Emerald Green Distortion Machine, Honey Bee, Model H, Dyna Red, and others. BearfootFX also offers compressors, EQ pedals, and vibrato pedals. The Pale Green Compressor is a truly transparent comp that enhances more than squishes your guitar tone. With the comp setting dialed low, the Pale Green is almost undetectable—until you turn it off and hear the loss in tone without the pedal engaged. With the comp setting dialed up, the Pale Green can give everything from a sweet Nashville-esque feel to a highly compressed Dyna/Ross tone with endless sustain. The EQ on the comp offers a stacked knob circuit that works both pre- and post- the
compressed signal. And like I say, it’s extremely transparent! Bearfoot FX recently released the Emerald Green Distortion Machine. Paying homage to the A class sound of Vox amplifiers, the Emerald Green is packed with tons of tone! From a light break-up ala Mike Campbell to full-out distortion, it can be used as a crunch rhythm tone, solo boost, or full-frontal face-melting lead tone while still keeping the clarity of individual notes intact. The Sea Blue EQ is a unique pedal that can be used to increase the bass or treble response of your guitar tone, as well as act as a solo boost—a great choice for the player switching from single coil to humbucking pickups, but not wanting to mess with the amp controls in order to keep tone consistent. Stacked with the Emerald Green Distortion, the Sea Blue EQ gives a fuller tone with endless sustain, reminiscent of an Ebow, while picking single notes. The Honey Bee is a warm natural overdrive that oozes vintage vibe! Giving the feel of a vintage tube amp cranked to a natural, warm breakup, the Honey Bee is the equivalent of a comfy pair of worn-in shoes. This is a go-to pedal for rhythm drive as well as solo boost, or to push a vintage tube amp to full-tilt overdrive! Truly, there are just too many excellent models offered from Bearfoot FX to profile individually—and Rusk promises more goodies to be released for 2013! The bottom line is: Don Rusk and Bjorn Juhl have proven to be a great team, and the BearfootFX are second to none! The proof is in the players, including STL musicians like Brian Henneman, Gary Hunt, and Johnny Horton, as well as world renowned players like Jim James, Chris Robinson, and Reeves Gabrels. Demos of these pedals in action can be found at bearfootfx.com. My own shop, Tritone Guitars, also keeps a wide range of the Bearfoot FX pedals on hand for local players to demo, so—what are you waiting for?
Everywhere All the Time
Ian Fisher & The Present Brings MO to the EU already exceeded in that it hasn’t broken me yet. I really drive myself fucking crazy doing this shit.
by Evan Sult
Eleven: So: how do Missouri-based musicians start playing in Europe? Ian Fisher: From the moment I got [to Austria] I just started working there full time and socializing and getting into the Austrian music scene. And two or three months in, I was like a figure in the scene, because I was just at everything all the time. The only way to do it professionally is to fucking go. You can’t stay in the same place. Even if I wanted to stay in Vienna, I couldn’t just stay there playing music. At least when
RC: That’s very true.
Photo: Jarred Gastreich
Four years ago, Ian Fisher was a somewhat lackadaisical student of politics at Webster University in St. Louis when he opted to spend a term at Webster’s campus in Vienna, Austria. His academics didn’t pick up much overseas, but his music making exploded. Always a songwriter, he quickly fell in with the locals and made himself a fixture in the Viennese music scene. Since then, the Ste. Genevieve-raised Fisher has spent the great majority of his time and effort in constant forward motion across the European continent, touring Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and beyond, recording and hand-selling seven self-released albums along the way. His introspective, acousticbased songwriting stands alone, though he also tours as Ian Fisher & the Past (a six-piece) and Ian Fisher & the Present, a duo with long-time friend Ryan Thomas Carpenter adding additional guitar and well-placed vocal harmonies. These days he spends “about fourfifths” of his time in Europe, he estimates, and since fall of 2011 Carpenter has spent over half the year there as well, returning to St. Louis summers to play piano at the Muny and lend a hand to a variety of musical projects here, including the excellent new Great Grandfathers project. The two are complementary in some ways, opposite in others: where Fisher tends toward a quiet scowl, Carpenter is open and engaging. Together, they seem like a fair representation of Midwest-style Americana abroad. The holiday season brought Fisher and Carpenter back to Missouri for some holiday love and a couple of St. Louis shows in anticipation of their new album, Ian Fisher & the Present, due out March 1 on Seayou Records and distributed by Rough Trade. They return to the EU soon enough, but we met up at Mokabe’s on South Grand to talk about a way of life far from the Mississippi.
Ian Fisher and Ryan Thomas Carpenter. you’re young and trying to establish yourself, you have to travel all the time. I mean, I played 115 concerts last year in 11 fucking countries, and I traveled nearly every other day. It’s insane how much I traveled. And one of the reasons I moved to Europe is because it’s much more feasible to travel, like, period. I couldn’t do that here. Ryan Carpenter: I was playing at the Muny, [Ian] was staying at my apartment, and we were like, yeah, maybe I should come over there sometime, who knows? Then he mailed me: Hey, how about actually coming over here and we’ll play some concerts? And I was like, “You know what? Why the fuck not.” And he was like, “That’s good, because as soon as you get here we’re going to record an album in Berlin and then we’re going to tour for two weeks in Denmark, and then you can do whatever you want for a few days and then you gotta meet me in Austria and we’ll tour for two weeks and then—” and I was like, ”Whoa! OK!” Like, not realizing what I was getting into…and very glad I got into it, of course.
IF: But at the same time, it’s throwing yourself out into the world that gives you these opportunities to experience something that’s really unique and beautiful. I’ve experienced so many crazy and amazing things in the last four years, and I feel like with all this traveling it stretches out my life so much. I feel like this type of life almost makes one omnipresent. I feel like I’m in Denmark right now, I feel like I’m in Vienna right now, I feel like I’m in St. Louis, I feel like I’m in Ste. Genevieve, I feel like I’m in Paris. I’ve planted so many of these seeds of plants that are myself that are growing every place that I am. RC: I invest so much in every moment until I go again. I know that I’ll go again, but as far as St. Louis is concerned I know I’ll be back. I feel like I’ve gained so much from the St. Louis music scene, and so much support.
So you want to play Europe? Some suggestions from Ian Fisher: •B ook as early as possible: 8-9 months in advance is about right • Compile a list of venues from other, similar bands to contact about playing together • Minimize your gear setup • Figure on about $1,000 each member for roundtrip tickets •P lan on spending 5-6 months on the computer preparing your way • Germany, Switzerland, and Austria are good countries to play • Scandinavia and the Netherlands “are more like the US—they’re louder, and they don’t pay” • France is very difficult • Ireland’s bars have a lot of competition, and you should expect not to get paid much • Don’t go to England • Don’t go south of Rome
11: How’s it working out?
• Be prepared to drink a lot
IF: The way I view it is, it’s all just a really, really long process. I think that, in this day and age, you really have to work up a personal connection with the audience and work your fucking ass off, everywhere all the time, again and again until it breaks you or until you succeed. To a certain extent I feel like I’ve
•B e prepared to smoke cigarettes, even if you don’t smoke • Don’t get a Eurail pass. “It was good in the ’80s, but any more it’s a waste of money.” •M ake sure you have a good website, with music and video samples, that will make sense to non-English speakers
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The Rise of the
Middle Class With 2012â€™s surprising Girl Talk,
Middle Class Fashion
proved their pop prowess. What are they capable of now? by Evan Sult
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Photos by Theo R. Welling
It seemed like it came out of nowhere, and all of a sudden Middle Class Fashion’s Girl Talk was everywhere. Built from tightly wound vocal harmonies over minor-key piano chords, songs like “Fun Whoa” and “My Attack” explode from tense verses into hopalong pop songs. The lead vocal contains paradoxical traces of both choirclass harmonies and sullen flashes more likely found across the street in the stoners’ parking lot. Meanwhile, the parts are so catchy that they stick in your head before the last note has faded, and resound far longer. The second time you heard “Lightning Bugs” or “Sugar Hrt Candy” on KDHX you were probably already humming along whether you realized it or not. The whole package felt so completely realized and refined that it was a real surprise to discover Girl Talk was the work of STL band Middle Class Fashion. But then, it needn’t have been: all three of the original members have been onstage in a variety of pop-savvy bands for a long time now. Songwriter and lead singer Jenn Malzone played with drummer Brad Vaughn in Paper Dolls (though he was on bass at the time), and with bassist Brian McClellan in Tight Pants Syndrome. But
even with these outlets available, she found herself with an abundance of songs and an enthusiasm for music-making that outstripped the pace of her other bands. The three of them started working together in a sort of unofficial way, though the pleasures of writing quickly led them to record the new songs in the practice space. Though friendly and even shy in person, Malzone is no one to trifle with. The lyrics of her songs are as accomplished as the harmonies and the keys, with surprisingly brutal assessments of relationships in various degrees of disintegration. Like an actress, Malzone can move from longing to hurt to vindictive to gracious within a couplet just by the tilt of an inflection. Nor is she spared the sharpness of her own tongue, bringing her clear-eyed lyrics to bear on shortcomings wherever she finds them—”I’m as obvious as a stripclub / and you’re a casino and nobody’s won,” she sings in “Birthday, “it is late and I’m tired of quitters and liars, give it up.” But the power of the songs radiates as much from their glossy pop structure as anything. Malzone throws harmony shapes all over the tracks, building beautiful little chorus girls in the background of her own lead vocals. Meanwhile, McClelland layers in careful, classic harmonies like one of the brothers Davies. Middle Class Fashion doesn’t feature a guitarist, but they don’t need it: McClelland’s bass is perfectly capable of providing counterpoint melodies to the keys, and stepping forward for distorted lead pieces when needed. Vaughn’s drums are uncomplicated,
guiding the songs through their paces like a good handler with a ready horse. Girl Talk quickly became a success in St. Louis and brought Middle Class Fashion to the fore of the scene. The band jumped enthusiastically into playing live, scooped up a fourth member, the gregarious Katie Lindhorst, and started showing up on bills all over town as well as heading out on a quick, well-received regional tour with Bruiser Queen. But there was another side effect of Girl Talk: money. Actual money. Because they recorded that album for almost nothing, the money they made from CD and iTunes sales actually added up in the red—not least because of iTunes sales in Australia, of all places. “Yeah, we basically got enough money to pay for the session,” McClelland confirms, when we all sit down together for a group interview. “We have no idea how that happened.” And, he says, “it’s almost $9 an album download [in Australia] where over here it’s like $6.20 or something. So yeah, it kind of accumulated pretty quickly. For once we had, like, several thousand dollars where we could say, ‘What do you want to spend this money on?’ Let’s make an album and see what happens.” “To us it was such a big deal, and exactly what we needed,” says Malzone. The money Girl Talk netted was enough for them to book time in STL’s own Sawhorse Studio, a well-appointed, well-regarded spot in South City run by Jason McEntire.
Jenn Mazone, Brian McClelland, Brad Vaughn, and Katie Lindhorst of Middle Class Fashion.
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Middle Class Fashion (“I freaked out when I heard Sawhorse, cos I grew up listening to Ludo and he recorded their first album,” admits Lindhorst.) Thus began work on the follow up to their debut. “It seemed like it came a lot faster this time,” says McClelland. It also came in a flood: Malzone started writing songs and just kept going even after they’d jumped into the studio. Even as they worked on their album in December, the band wrote and released Sentimental Single, a six-song holiday EP, without breaking stride. Soon the band was figuring out what to do with the 20 songs they’d recorded. “At a certain point you want to say, ‘Let’s stop making more songs so we an focus on these here,’” says McClelland, “but then every new song would be better than the last song, so...” “I would bring it to them and it would just evolve so quickly,” Malzone says. The band all agrees that the new album is a step forward for them. “I think the songs are a little more—I hate to keep saying ‘evolved,’ but I felt like Girl Talk was kind of simple song topics: heartbreak and a little bit of anger, even though it was these cheery pop songs,” says Malzone. “And I feel like these songs are a little darker, but a little more past the anger.” “More like not being angry anymore, and more like coming to terms with things you were angry about,” offers Vaughn. He shrugs. “I’m just quoting you, those are just things I’ve heard you say.” That’s fair:
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Vaughn and Malzone are a couple, so privy to a good bit of one another’s thoughts. “I’ve noticed that in a lot of the lyrics,” says Lindhorst, the new utility player responsible for additional keys, tambourine and harmonies live—and who thus had a fair amount of listening to do to catch up with the rest of the band. “I listen to Girl Talk and then to the stuff that you’re recording now and it’s...it’s just personal experience that’s evolved more than anything. The tone of the songs, I feel, is way different.” One would hope that a recording at an expensive studio would have a tone distinct from the home recording. And it does: the new recordings allowed Lindhorst access to McEntire’s gorgeous old Hammond B3, as well as all the keyboards a self-identified “Miss Synth Nerd” could hope to caress. But it’s also true that the content has changed. While live mainstay “Stuck” carries right over from Girl Talk, new songs “Go Phantom!” and “Holy Mother” read as character pieces quite apart from the earlier studies in heartbreak. And the chorus of “Everything”—”Don’t look away now, everything will be explained”—feels meditative and learned the hard way. The bass guitar gets more expressive on these songs, too, carrying some of the emotional weight in the instrumental passages. Meanwhile, the roots of the high-flying harmonies behind the line “I’m the tired host of your holy ghost”
in “Go Phantom!” are equal parts religious and cinematic. There’s still a flavor of bitter truth in the lyrics and their delivery, but they seem directed less at a disappointing lover and more at the weird old world itself. And, of course, they’re still as catchy as ever. The new album is coming together quickly—all twenty songs are tracked, and now it’s down to the mixing and song selection. The goal is “thirteen or fourteen songs,” says Malzone. Since most Middle Class Fashion songs clock in ahead of the three-minute mark, that would make for a brimming but not overstuffed collection. Wisely, the band declines to say when they think the new album will be out—”It’s so hard to set any kind of a date cos you know you always end up going past it,” says Malzone—but the goal seems to be a springtime release, followed by more touring. The last album benefitted from McClelland’s fascination with laptop recording; this time he is delving deep into video production. “I’m going to make sure we get a lot of videos up for this record,” he promises. If the last album was any indication, 2013 should be a busy year for Middle Class Fashion, and there’s no lack of new goals to set—including, one hopes, an Australian tour leg. Middle Class Fashion plays Off Broadway Feb 1 with So Many Dynamos and Née. Get there early, it’s almost certain to sell out.
Illustration: Tyler Gross
Music on Film
You Should Hear the People Sing by Paige Brubeck As often as I hear someone reflexively declare that they hate musicals, it’s kind of amazing that the musical as a form still exists in popular culture. In the movie theater, even. Back in the day, musicals were very much the rage (and I could talk for days about the classics, believe me), and all actors were expected to be able to dance and sing at least as well as they could act…but these days it’s hard to find a friend of the form. Unless you grew up on musicals, of course. Which a whole lot of now-famous actors did. There’s nothing apologetic about Tom Hooper’s newest version of Les Misérables. It’s got great big stars, richly colorful costumes, and enormously detailed sets. It’s certainly got narrative: poor, penitent Jean Valjean’s flight from the inexorable policeman Javert so that he can safely raise the orphan Cosette following the brutal death of her mother Fantine sprawls across thirty horrible years in revolution-wracked 19th century France. And it’s got songs—legendary songs, time-tested melodies and lyrics with rich histories of great performances across the stages of the world. But Hooper’s version also has a new component to contribute to the story of Les Misérables: radical intimacy. The boldest innovation of this Les Mis is not narrative, but technical: each actor is filmed singing live to an accompanist, who s/he hears via in-ear monitors. Much of the film’s success revolves around that bold decision and the powerful performances that result. With this technique, the first few songs feel shockingly intimate. Being
Directed by Tom Hooper Chase Park plaza cinema, 212 N. Kingshighway
able to hear the actors acting as they sing– every breath, tremble, and tear–brings the characters to life in a way that a cleaned-up vocal comp could not, even if it means losing some of the familiar melody on classic songs like “Bring Him Home.” Each member of the cast gets an opportunity to blaze brightly. Eddie Redmayne’s Marius is both boyish and bold, and when he sings with Amanda Seyfried’s Cosette, her soprano voice is ridiculously terrific, almost unreal in its beauty (remember, this is live). Aaron Tveit’s Enjolras lights up each scene he’s in with a skilled voice that bridges the distance between film and stage versions. Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are deliciously disgusting with a jollity that brings needed lightness amid the desperation. And despite pronouncements heard elsewhere, Russell Crowe does a fine job as the pitiless Javert, singing clear melodies through a clenched jaw. The real gem, though, is Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream,” where she perfectly expresses Fantine’s dilemma of faith and defeat, Les Misérables’s core question, with a subtlety that only a great singer and actress can summon. The best part is, she does it in a single shot. The single shot is one of the medium’s strongest moves, and one that has strangely gone underused in contemporary films (Silver Linings Play-
book, I’m talking to you.) Still, the real star of Les Misérables is the music by Claude-Michel Schönberg. The arrangements and melodies are unforgettable and have aged well—not something you can say of all music from the 1980s, when Les Mis debuted. This is why it keeps showing up decade after decade, in both French- and English-language versions, through multiple tours and Broadway stagings and pop-culture cameos (anyone else remember when Joey sang “On My Own” on Dawson’s Creek?). Hooper uses the medium of film to place a more detailed emphasis on the filth and harshness of cholera-wracked 19th-century Paris. Film allows for more grit, wetter mud, and close-up angles on the hollow, fear-blind eyes of lost souls. Fantine’s fall into desperate circumstances is more graphic on film— Hathaway’s face acting, when Fantine loses her job, is amazing craft to devastating effect. Hooper’s version is custom built for the screen: the film opens with chained and halfdrowned convicts struggling to heave a listing three-mast ship out of the waves and back into harbor—and the story only gets bigger from there. But even at that scale, the physical transformation of Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean from craven husk to iconic French hero may be the best effect in the movie. Whether you’ve already committed every song to memory or you’ve never cared for a musical before, you should know that this version of Les Misérables is a powerful piece of acting, music, and emotionally complex narrative meant for the movie screen. Don’t wait to put it in your queue— get out to the theater now, while it’s still showing at a scale larger than life.
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“What’s Gone Wrong with the St. Louis Music Culture” A statement by Eric Williger
Editor’s preface: Last issue’s Letters section ran a letter from reader Eric Williger (“Caught Up In the Hipster Fads of Yesteryear,” Dec ‘12/Jan ‘13) decrying both the St. Louis music scene and the way that scene is covered in the St. Louis press. Williger was critical of what he saw as Eleven’s lack of attention to excellent, under-exposed bands playing in the St. Louis area. I invited him to “document your hunt for bands that are pushing their boundaries... and provide the voice that you yourself say is missing.” Williger’s letter generated a huge reaction from readers. Many people talked with me personally about their own response to his letter, and expressed interest in seeing what more he had to say. With that in mind, we here present Eric Williger’s response to our invitation. Though I was initially assuming that anything he wrote for Eleven would run within the general body of the magazine, the piece he wrote instead remains apart, more an artifact than an article. This piece doesn’t represent my opinions or those of anyone at the magazine—a dubious jab is even taken at one of our regular contributors— but there is something fascinating about the arguments made here, and so we decided to publish it in full. As curator of this display, I here bite my tongue—though I invite your response, at email@example.com. This is part of the fun of caring about where we live and the music world in which we take part, no? –Evan Sult
It is necessary to note here, before I get too deep into anything, that I am no longer a resident of St. Louis, MO. (At least, I do not live there right now.) This is not to say I am in any way unacquainted with the city, its inhabitants and geography, or its music. I’ve spent more than twenty years of my life trapped inside of what has often felt like the insurmountable confines of the St. Louis metropolitan area, and I feel adequately qualified in saying that I know it well and care about it deeply. In my original, private response to Evan’s invitation to write for Eleven, I brought up one St. Louis-born artist that I thought was a very good case study in what’s gone wrong with the St. Louis music culture: a songwriter named Angel Olsen. I don’t doubt that there are a few people reading who recognize her name; she’s done quite well for herself, and in a reasonably short time. Within the past few months she released her first full length, Half Way Home, via Bathetic, the same label that released her slow-burning debut EP, Strange Cacti, first on cassette in several now-sold-out editions, and then on 45 rpm LP (which has also sold out). She’s recently started getting booked by Billions, and 2012 brought her a lot of press, radio play, and general success. In addition to her work as a solo artist, she’s been singing backup with Bonnie “Prince” Billy for several years. Most people in St. Louis don’t know Olsen as a local songwriter, due to the fact that she left the city for Chicago before her career began gaining traction, but as of late her press materials are mentioning St.
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Louis as her hometown before they bring up Chicago as her current residence (which, I assume, is due to the fact that few artists come out of St. Louis, making it a unique and suitably desolate place for her music). It is a shame, though, that she hasn’t imparted her songs upon the city, or grown up among its music scene, because she certainly has a lot to give, and a unique, inspiring, wonderfully infuriating voice. Half Way Home is an amazing record, certainly one of the best of the year. It is great. Great enough to make listening to it a mildly upsetting exercise. It is of the “why-didn’t-I-think-of-doing-that?” variety because it is simple (as all good things are). It is honest and threadbare (as all good things must be). It carries itself confidently, but cautiously. (Olsen has never been a prolific or innovative songwriter, but she’s always had a dual personality: she swings her voice around wildly like a madman attacking with a mace, but then cowers behind convention or, as on Strange Cacti, a veil of reverb.) To continue to use vague terms such
as “good” or “interesting” to describe the music that I want to hear is pointless. Olsen’s songwriting is of a higher echelon than can be said for most of St. Louis’ music not simply because she has a good ear for melody (which she does), or because she is stylistically unique (which she isn’t), but because her songs don’t lazily subscribe to obvious structures or patterns. In “Acrobat,” she flies fiercely out of key in a defiantly ugly turn post-chorus. In “The Waiting,” the second (and much more accessible) single from Half Way Home, her verses meander before they come back around to the hook. She doesn’t follow the rules; I doubt she even knows them. This is what’s most troubling: in order to have a culture that creates interesting art, we need to foster interesting artists like Angel Olsen. I’m not audacious enough to assume that Olsen’s motives for leaving St. Louis weren’t, at least in part, personal, rather than creative. But what I do know is that Chicago gave her what she has now; Jon Hency, the owner of Bathetic, was living in Chicago when he discovered her. Even more, it was the music scene that surrounded her in that city that afforded her the opportunities that she so rightly seized. It seems obvious to me that, had Olsen stayed in St. Louis, she might’ve gotten some positive write-ups, been nominated for an RFT Award or two—but ultimately she would’ve been pigeonholed into the “female singer/songwriter” category that is sickening and convenient for the frequently male music enthusiasts of St. Louis. She deserved better, as does the city. And a large part of this problem is that a lot of the music that is lauded by the local music press—and that is rewarded by larger audiences—is boring. A lot of it is what you might call “adult contemporary rock.” Many of the biggest bands are hellbent on copying stuff like Wilco, Pavement, The National—bands whose influence should be long dead. There are plenty of funk, soul, blues, ska, reggae, jazz, and other dead genres. But the thing that unites all of it is how incredibly, obnoxiously, depressingly derivative it is. A large part of the problem is that boring music breeds more boring music. When I was just beginning to go to shows in St. Louis, there were a handful of bands that really made an impact on me. I wouldn’t say I worshipped them, but they played music in a way that I wanted very much to imitate.
This, I think, happens to all musically creative kids, whether the music around them is world-shaking or just plain bad. This is why it’s imperative that the weirdos step out of their bedrooms and show off everything they’ve made. The achievement is not to make something amazing and blow everyone away, but just to keep creating all the time, and put your creations out there to sink or float. It is by digging creative ditches (so deep that you can no longer see the world that you came from) that one stumbles upon unfound gold. However, in order for those weirdos to come out into the open, there has to be a place for them to go. To talk about the venue issue seriously, you have to piss people off. I don’t count for-profit venues as really being inside the arena of possible “good venues.” This is because, for a laundry list of reasons that not only deserve their own column but their own book, for-profit venues are designed in such a way that they have to exploit a lot of bands (especially young bands, frequently in a pay-to-play format) in order to continue running their business. Not only that, but they exist at the whims of the owner’s wallet, rather than for the benefit of the larger community (which means turning down bands looking for a gig if the show won’t sell enough drinks and/or tickets). Forprofit venues don’t want to benefit anyone except their owners, and that’s a matter of course to the business design. (This is even true of a relatively good venue like Off Broadway, where they do give a lot of locals the chance to open for national acts, and Steve Pohlman, the booker, does a great job of giving people a shot and judging potential openers with his gut.) The only venue in town that serves as a safe space for people experimenting with their creativity to play shows is the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, which is, very unfortunately, a horrible place marred by exclusivity, judgment, and misogyny. (These attributes have led to its downfall in the past few years; it’s still open, but I don’t know many people who still have even a passing interest in the place.) Pig Slop and Floating Laboratories were good venues, but they weren’t alcohol/drug free, making them dubious places for a 14-year-old to hang out (which is around the age I started getting seriously interested in music). The same is true of MushMaus (if it can even be considered a music venue) and The (Blank) Space, the latter of which being what I now perceive to be the best venue in town. A large part of the reason that I think Angel Olsen wouldn’t have been very successful in St. Louis—couldn’t have been very successful in St. Louis—is the infrastructure of the venues and the journalists. But another part of it is the popular attitudes in
Photo courtesy of Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen, performing February 7 with Water Liars at Off Broadway. town. I don’t think the misogyny of the LNAC is uncommon; in fact, I think that a lot of the men (and sometimes the women) that believe they’re doing something good for female musicians in St. Louis are actually being incredibly hurtful, and oftentimes sexist. I was browsing Facebook when a noted former member of the St. Louis music circle posted a status linking to a list of the Top Ten Female Experimental Musicians. The whole concept of the list infuriated me; I don’t see why it’s necessary to separate out female musicians from male musicians. Why not just make a list of the top ten experimental musicians and include the
get attention in the first place, presumably leading to five, rather than eleven (as was the theme of the lists), songwriters. (Even more, not all of the songsters on the list were local.) But even when women do sometimes get the spotlight, it is, just like the RFT’s list of Ten Best Female Experimental Musicians, in an insultingly separate way; it becomes the women’s league of music, just like it is in sports—theoretically equal, except people just care a lot less. Angel Olsen could never have thrived in that climate. She needed to be surrounded by people that were open-minded and creative in ways that she is not. (She’s one of the few pop songwriters releasing music on Bathetic, a label dominated by noise and drone musicians.) Unfortunately, she is one of several female songwriters who enlisted the help of a male “producer” that fleshed out her songs on Half Way Home, similar to what Aaron Dessner did for Sharon Van Etten on Tramp, which suggests a sort of male domination/dependence that makes me more than a little bit uneasy. It is not my intention to give a lecture to a city that oftentimes seems perfectly content in what I perceive to be its failures, but I do believe that these things can change. Quite obviously, it is not that Olsen lacked the potential for success, but I do believe that, had she stayed in St. Louis, that potential would’ve been squashed. And the fact that she came out of St. Louis at all gives me the hope that there are many more like her, tucked into hiding. Perhaps neither of us—Olsen nor myself—are the ones to do it, but the city needs artists that will, perhaps at their own detriment, stick around, build communities, share themselves, and raise their voices against the status quo in a way that is yet unseen.
It is not my intention to give a lecture to a city that oftentimes seems perfectly content in what I perceive to be its failures. women that you think are doing great stuff? Why necessarily segregate things? In the December ‘12/January ‘13 issue of Eleven, there are a lot of lists. One of them is called “Phenomenal Finds from the First Five Female Folksingers from the Decade’s First Fifth.” [compiled by Eleven contributing writer Kyle Kapper -ed.] It seems to me that the man behind the list should’ve spent less time thinking up the alliterative title and more time thinking about the following things: 1. Why make this list in the first place? 2. Why are there only five songwriters, when we all know there are plenty of female musicians in the city/world? 3. Why focus on folksingers? The women that get attention in St. Louis are almost always wielding their acoustic guitars and being quiet. I don’t think it’s necessary to elaborate on the implied sexism in that fact. Few women
Eric Williger is a musician who lives and works in Olympia, WA.
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Kristeen Young, Bruiser Queen, CaveofswordS at Cicero’s
Saturday, FEB 16
Judah Friedlander World Champion at Firebird
John Henry & the Engine, The Incurables at Blueberry Hill
We Should Leave This Tree at Firebird
Umphrey’s McGee, Mike Dillon Band at The Pageant
Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball w/ Big Sam’s Funky Nation & Funky Butt Brass Band at Old Rock House
So Many Dynamos’ 10 Yr Anniversary & Née Vinyl Release at Off Broadway
Time flies when we’re all having fun, and SMD’s catchy, punky, angular thought bubbles are STL singalong classics. Née’s electrosmooches keep the dancing hyped and add a little sugar. Arrive early, this is a hometown sell-out brewing. ES
Friday, FEB 8
Friday, FEB 1
Ellen the Felon’s Annual South City Drunkard’s Ball at Mangia
Saturday, FEB 23
Zeppelin at The Pageant
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21 - SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 You can debate the finer points of what is or isn’t garage rock—or you could just show up at the Heavy Anchor, pay your six bucks a night (or $15 for the full weekend), grab a tall boy, and get your face melted. It’s dirty, it’s loud, and it’s foxy, with bands converging from Kentucky (long time no see, Black Shades!), Indiana, and Texas, as well as a mighty phalanx of St. Louis noisemakers. Don’t miss the swaggery Brothers Gross, holleriffic Bruiser Queen or old-school ghouls The Nevermores. And: pick up an Eat Tapes comp and a copy of the new issue of Acid Kat Zine—those kids are craaazy! ES
GarageFest at the Heavy Anchor
MUSICALENDAR FEBRUARY 2013
illustration: Sean Dove, andthankyouforflying.com
Marquise Knox at BB’s Jazz Blues & Soups
Water Liars, Angel Olsen at Off Broadway
Thursday, FEB 7
Jonathan Richman w/ Tommy Larkin on drums at Off Broadway
Allstar Weekend, Cute Is What We Aim For, Tiffany Alvord at Old Rock House
Wednesday, FEB 6
Broncho, Skating Polly, The Please, Please Me at Plush
Tuesday, FEB 5
Marleyfest w/ Murder City Players at Blueberry Hill
Loza, The Ottomen, Acorns to Oaks at Off Broadway
BAM! Bluegrass Avalanche in Missouri! at Old Rock House
Wednesday, FEB 20 D.R.I., Cross Examination, ThorHammer, The Basement at Firebird
Thursday, FEB 21 Garage Fest Day 1: The Black Shades, Pillow Talk, Burrowss, Dad Jr. at Heavy Anchor Mike Apirion, Aaron Kamm & the One Drops at Broadway Oyster Bar
Tuesday, FEB 12 Fat Tuesday w/ Gumbohead & Funky Butt Brass Band at Broadway Oyster Bar
Wednesday, FEB 13 Carrie Rodriguez at Old Rock House
Friday, FEB 15
Jukebox the Ghost, Matt Pond, The Lighthouse and the Whaler,
Star & Micey, Carolina Story, The Trophy Mules at Plush
Denise Thimes, Bucky Pizzarelli at Sheldon
Stickley & Canan, Chicago Farmer Dual CD Release w/ Cindy Woolf and Mark Bilyeu at Off Broadway
Vintage Trouble, The Soul Selector at The Demo
Celebration Day: A Tribute to Led
GarageFest Day 2: Oil Boom, Bruiser Queen, The Girls 2021, Holy Doldrums, Sleepy & the Bedtimes, Animal Teeth at Heavy Anchor
Humdrum, Me Like Bees at Foam
Brothers Lazaroff, Jump Starts at Cicero’s
Friday, FEB 22
Book of Mormon (2/19-28) at The Fox
Night Beds at Off Broadway
Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill
Samantha Crain at the Gramophone
Tuesday, FEB 19
Man Man, Murder By Death at Firebird
Frank Smith, Royal Smokestacks at Off Broadway
Sessions Big Band, Brown Bottle Fever at BB’s Jazz Blues & Soups
Church Whip, Shaved Women, Rat Heart at Plush
Monday, FEB 11
Bug Chaser, Bloody Knives, Tone Rodent, Demonlover at Plush
Holy smokes this is a killer lineup! Austin’s Bloody Knives’ old-school ‘80s industrial roar is somehow charming live. I’d be worried for the STL bands if I didn’t know they can all keep up with the noise—and raise ‘em some freakitude. Don’t miss! ES
Tift Merritt, David Wax Museum at Off Broadway
monday, FEB 18
Arson For Candy, Carrie Nation & The Speakeasy, Arthur & The Librarian at Off Broadway
Cree Rider Family Band, Butcher Holler, Earl at Heavy Anchor
Sunday, FEB 17
Paula Poundstone at the Sheldon
Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost, Luella and the Sun, Melody Den at Off Broadway
Kishi Bashi, Plume Giant, Ross Christopher at Firebird
The Root Diggers, Brian Curran at Mangia
J Dilla Tribute w/ DJ Mahf, Downstereo at Gramophone
Umphrey’s McGee, Mike Dillon Band at The Pageant
Saturday, FEB 9
saturday, FEB 2
First Friday Arts Affair at 2720
Sidewalk Chalk, Thelonius Kryptonite, Tiffany Elle at The Demo
Firebird 4 Year anniversary w/ Volcanoes, The Breaks, The Brainstems, Roundheels at Firebird
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Feb 1-10) at The Fox
Marleyfest w/ Murder City Players at Blueberry Hill
Scan this QR Code, or go to elevenstl.com and click on “Venue List” for a complete listing of club addresses.
Mentioned this issue Comedy show
Horsey Drawers at Mangia
Jack & the Bear, Ocean Rivals at Heavy Anchor
Thursday, FEB 28
Pianopalooza at the Sheldon
Wednesday, FEB 27
Menomena, Guards at Firebird
Passion Pit at Peabody Opera House
Tuesday, FEB 26
Outlaw & Icon: An Evening of Johnny Cash at The Pageant
Sunday, FEB 24
Garage Fest Day 3: THE BROTHERS GROSS, The Brainstems, The Nevermores, Thee Fine Lines, The Mitch II at Heavy Anchor
Celebration Day: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin at The Pageant
Nashville Pussy, The Brody Buster Band at Old Rock House
Dots Not Feathers, Palace, Union Tree Review at Firebird
Gordon Epsy at Foam
Big George Brock & the New House Rockers at Plush
No Man’s Law, Sick/Sea, Letter to Memphis at Lemmons
Meshuggah at Pop’s
BRING ON THE NIGHT Vintage Trouble
Friday, February 15
more Hot Schtuff: Broncho, Skating Polly, The Please, Please Me Plush
February 5 *THE BOOK OF MORMON THE FABULOUS FOX
February 19-28 John Henry & the Engine, The Incurables Blueberry Hill
February 16 Kishi Bashi, Plume Giant, Ross Christopher Firebird
February 16 *Menomena, Guards Firebird
February 26 Jack & the Bear, Ocean Rivals Heavy Anchor
February 28 *=all ages 22 | ELEVEN | elevenmusicmag.com
The Demo OK, first off: have you heard about the newest joint in town: The Demo? Well, The Fox Hole at Atomic Cowboy is being transformed into the new venue, which will be run by some familiar folks: bookers from both Lola and Firebird will be pitching in to bring more live music life to the Grove’s nightlife. This should be good news for the nieghborhood, and should be welcomed by the Gramophone, an excellent but sometimes undertrafficked venue that could use some live-music neighbors to help spur audiences over thataway. But have you heard about their opening night show? Vintage Trouble is a searing hot slab of showmanship, bringing James Brown’s twitch and jive (and tightly tailored suits) to the modern era. Singer Ty Tyler is a spinning, wailing, mesmerizing dervish, and the whole band burns down every song in their repertoire. It’s that same old revelation: truly great moves make a truly great show. And speaking of old-school legit: their gig at The Demo is squeezed between arena dates on their US tour opening for The Who. Even if you don’t take my word on Vintage Trouble’s moves and grooves, I happily defer to the wisdom of Pete Townsend and crew. Considering they’re playing such an intimate room, this is one case where you’ll want to be there when it goes down. Evan Sult >>Preview
Water Liars, Angel Olsen* Thursday, February 7 Off Broadway The first time I saw Water Liars, I wished desperately for a whiskey—their roadweary songs and highway-hypnosis reverb of the alt-country via rock ’n roll duo just seemed to be calling for the heat of liquor in the throat. This was in the basement of a local college where The Mountain Goats were scheduled to play. Preparing the way for John Darnielle’s literate poetry set to
music is a tall order, but Justin KinkelSchuster and Andrew Bryant were more than equal to the task. Thundering opener “$100” from their debut album, Phantom Limb, introduced their head-nodding barnburner of a set, a grunge-tinged slab of drone-rock between passages of ear-bleeding country. 2012 went by quick, and included the death of Kinkel-Schuster’s previous hometown hero band Theodore, the formation of Water Liars, the debut album on Misra, touring the US most of the year, and signing with Fat Possum Records for their second effort. It’s that highly anticipated record, titled Wyoming and coming out March 5, that will be showcased at this homecoming Off Broadway stop. If you haven’t seen these busybodies yet, catch them now—before they’re selling out The Pageant. Jason Robinson
Jonathan Richman* Wednesday, February 6
Off Broadway If you recognize Jonathan Richman as the busker in the Farrelly Brothers’ There’s Something About Mary instead of as frontman of The Modern Lovers, (think The Velvet Underground without the heroin), or his prolific solo career, then it is high time you dug in. Richman has released nearly a record annually since 1976; choosing one to start with may seem daunting. These three records will help provide the best representation of his massive catalog: The Modern Lovers; I, Jonathan; and his most recent release, O Moon, Queen of Night. The latter features rug-cutting rhythms driving the honest, surprising, and oftentimes hilarious songwriting that is his trademark. “My Affected Accent” triggers pangs of familiarity with anyone who has looked back in horror at failed attempts at individuality during their formative years: “I droned like William F. Buckley does/ I should have
PHOTo: Peter McCabe
Live Music been bullied more than I was.” Richman last played St. Louis two years ago, delighting the crowd with his unrestrained joy and skillful, engaging performance. This time through, he brings drummer Tommy Larkins to help get the job done. Dance like you’re at a lesbian bar. Jenn derose >>PREVIEW
Tift Merritt, David Wax Museum* Saturday, February 9 Off Broadway By trading a youth spent in archetypal Smalltown, USA, for a studio space shared with Yim Yames and Andrew Bird, Tift Merritt went from a place where everybody knew everybody to a place where everybody wants to know her. On her fifth and latest album, Traveling Alone, she tells us how she knows herself, exploring loneliness, loss, and ultimately, perseverance—darker themes than one might expect, given her laidback persona. Merritt didn’t have a label or a manager when she recorded Traveling Alone, but when you can borrow guitarists from Dylan and drummers from Calexico, and when Emmylou Harris dubs you a “diamond in a coal patch,” magic can be expected. The album does not disappoint. Recorded in just eight days in Brooklyn, its tales fuse the steely confidence of Judy Collins with the dreamy desperation of Ryan Adams at his best. It’s unsurprising to learn that Merritt is also a writer and photographer, as her artistic fruits brim over with a southernfried edge that leaves no doubt she can stand alone when the time comes. Setting the stage for Ms. Merritt will be David Wax Museum, at its core the unlikely pair of David Wax and Suz Slezak who came together—he from Harvard and she from Columbia, MO—by bonding over a shared passion for Mexican Americana. A performance from David Wax Museum has that vivacious anything-can-happen (and anything-can-be-an-instrument) quality that makes the stage even better than the studio. Just when you’ve accepted that the jawbone of an ass can provide raucous
percussion beneath horns and strings, DWM transcends into lush back-porch gospel harmonies. Kyle Kapper >>PREVIEW
Man Man, Murder By Death* Monday, February 18
Firebird Tom Waits fans have it hard when it comes to seeing The Man play. Tours are erratic and they never reach every single town where his fans reside. We’re in luck, then, that a couple of excellent bands specializing in Waits’ signature full-throat howl and rowdy barroom stomp are coming to The Firebird, each with their own brand of doom to sell. Man Man’s 2011 record, “Life Fantastic” is built on gypsy-punk bones and rawthroated prosyletizing, wrapped in ’70s AM gold. The clever, cynical lyrics are almost (almost!) overshadowed by the kitchensink aesthetic at play, a modern hoedown where Tom Waits jostles freely with Gogol Bordello, and there’s always the risk that someone’s gonna get hurt. That same unraveled spirit of brutal wilderness lives in every song by Indiana altcountry vets Murder by Death. Their myriad releases, including the latest, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, are soaked in bourbon and reek of brimstone. Cellos and other variously strung instruments approach deadly weapon status thanks to the multi-talented Sarah Balliet. Head songwriter and vocalist/guitarist Adam Turla digs deep into Americana, folklore and our dark collective past to write hauntingly beautiful, lyrical pieces. Whether or not Tom Waits himself actually makes it back to St. Louis, don’t make the mistake of missing the very best of the bands who owe him a deep lyrical and musical debt. Jason Robinson <<REVIEW
Jeff Mangum, Tall Firs* Wednesday, January 16 Sheldon Concert Hall At the end of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” our heroes succeed: they bring major historical icons into a tiny auditorium
in the future to entertain a rapt audience in wide-eyed wonder and disbelief. That’s exactly what happened at Jeff Mangum’s sold-out Sheldon Concert Hall performance. On one side of the Sheldon’s stage door was the year 1998—of that I’m convinced. On the other side, a packed and strangely nervous house watched that door as if the folk icon also known as Neutral Milk Hotel might step out, see his shadow, and disappear for many more winters. Eventually, Mangum quietly emerged in that familiar “Aeroplane Over The Sea” sweater and green hat. He sported a comically unkempt beard, as musicians encased in ice since 1998 are wont to do. He fidgeted, calmly asked for the lights to be turned down, and launched wildly into “Two-Headed Boy.” And then it instantly became the kind of show that could only be willed into existence—an acoustically perfect, soaring and personal affair with an artist you never thought you’d see perform in your lifetime but, suddenly, there you are. Before Mangum could even get out the words, “If you want to come closer, you can,” people—mostly those who, weirdly, wouldn’t have been older than eight in 1998—choked the aisles, camped onstage and sat at his feet as if he had loaves and fishes for them. In the context of the high-flown and manner-minded Sheldon, the intimacy felt chaotic. It felt vulnerable. It even felt a little dangerous, as when some kid lunged for Mangum’s Chloraseptic throat spray seconds after he left the stage. Whatever your opinion of the music and the Myth of Mangum—whether you’re a true believer or believe his ten-year absence from the public eye a piece of clever orchestration—every single detail of this show felt incredibly special. Tears were shed. Hands were clutched. Voices soared. Lyrics and words were held onto like security blankets from a simpler time. If I could have exited the stage with him, back through that door to 1998, I would have. CHris Ward Go to elevenmusicmag.com for more of this month’s show previews, including Kishi Bashi, dada, and more!
elevenmusicmag.com | ELEVEN | 23
HOT ROCKS Guest List
Each month we ask a specialist to pick some new release musts. This month’s Guest List is assembled by Jack Probst of Euclid Records Unknown Mortal Orchestra II Jagjaguwar | Feb 5
Follow up to the critically acclaimed debut from lo-fi psychedelic weirdo rockers.
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down We the Common Ribbon Music | Feb 5
The best singer-songwriter to hit the indie scene in the past 10 years returns after her ’11 collaboration with Mirah.
Guards In Guards We Trust Black Bell / Feb 5
The first new must listen of 2013. They’ll be rocking the Firebird before Menomena Feb 26.
Matt Pond The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand BMG | Feb 5 First proper solo record from indie singer-songwriter since dropping the PA from his name. Catch him with Jukebox the Ghost at the Firebird Feb 15.
Fear of Men Fear of Men Kanine Records | Feb 12
First North American collection of singles and b-sides from this much-blogged-about dreampop band.
Starfucker Miracle Mile Polyvinyl | Feb 19
The quartet’s first collaborative songwriting effort.
Beach Fossils Clash the Truth Captured Tracks | Feb 19
A real studio record from this bedroom recording/DIY group; features a track with Blonde Redhead vocalist Kazu Makino.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push the Sky Away 100 Beats | Feb 19
On their 15th (!) record, all the rantings of insane beauty we’ve come to expect from a Nick Cave album.
Atoms For Peace Amok XL | Feb 26
Debut album from glitchpop supergroup made up of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, producer Nigel Godrich, Chili Peppers bassist Flea, drummer Joey Waronker, and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco.
Shout Out Louds Optica Merge Records | Feb 26
The playful fourth album from these retro-sounding indie poppers harkens to a time when boys and girls in black eyeliner took long drags off clove cigarettes in shady looking arcades in the back of bowling alleys. Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that extreme, but it’s a lot of fun, and it’s poppy to boot.
Mount Moriat Miracle Temple Merge Records | Feb 26
Charming Southern twang, soulful vocals and crisp guitars for the young indie crowd and their parents.
24 | ELEVEN | elevenmusicmag.com
Bleeding Rainbow Yeah Right Kanine Records
Hailing from the mean streets of Philadelphia, vocalist Sarah Everson and guitarist Matt Garcia originally called their band Reading Rainbow. But at the urging of Carrie Brownstein, they updated in 2011 to Bleeding Rainbow, a far more appropriate nom de guerre for a band reaching for a bolder sound, like a sock hop on broken glass. Bleeding Rainbow also swelled to a quartet, adding Al Creedon (who played with them previously) and drummer Greg Frantz to bring some textured bop and pop sharpness to their catchy melodies and sweet choruses. Under niftily collaged cover art— visual metaphor for their ability to cobble
Radar Brothers Eight
Radar Brothers is the sort of band that Merge keeps on the roster not because they’re million sellers, but because they churn out consistently exceptional records every few years. Eight—their first album in almost three years, available only on vinyl— is no exception. Showcasing a fuller sound for these LA boys, led by the serene voice of songwriting wizard Jim Putnum, Radar Brothers step up the rock on the new album with the help of three additional members. The album opens with the fuzzy “If We Were Banished,” which starts with a simple electronic beat and pours into layers of cutting and edgy guitars. Putnum’s tranquil vocal style compliments his scenic lyrics on tracks like “Reflections” and “Disappearer,” layering harmony upon harmony that make this one of the loudest and most beautiful records in the band’s long career. The twangy “Couch,” highlighting new member Dan Iead’s pedal steel, is quite possibly the catchiest
melodic layers into beautiful ugliness—Yeah Right blends shoegaze murkiness with indie and garage wallop. Six-plus minutes of fuzz send “Go Ahead” into the breach, ramping from a slow start to an intense feedback rush that gets faster and faster before completely collapsing into itself. The Lush vibe of “Pink Ruff” segues to the sonic assault of “You’re Not Alone,” a clattering din that threatens to bury Sarah Everton’s soft voice beneath white noise strata. “Drift Away” and “Shades of Eternal Night” transition away from the album’s contorted first half, injecting Everton’s ethereal vocals and Frantz’s frenetic backbeat into sound-drowned melodies. The second side opens with some serious Velocity-Girl-gone-wild antics that make “Inside My Head” one of the record’s best tracks. “Fall into Your Eyes” is a sonic knife fight, proving just how deftly the band makes outside influences their own. But the anthemic “Waking Dream” is the catchiest of the bunch, with soaring vocals, and sweeping guitars from Creedon and Garcia. “Get Lost” offers the biggest spoonful of C86 rattle, ending the album in a froth of driving drums and fuzzy rhythmic jubilation. Bleeding Rainbow blends fragility with ample reverb, looking to forerunners like Suicide, the Wipers, and Black Tambourine for the path between the blissed-out surface and grubby underworld of jagged, pulsing power pop. On Yeah Right, the blast of amplified euphoria makes for dizzy fun. Rob Levy song ever written about taking refuge on the living room furniture after relationship troubles. “Ebony Bow” is the album’s darkest moment—a song about hitting rock bottom and living with crippling depression. Premeditated piano chords echo as Putnam sings “I am sleeping all day / didn’t get your message ‘til now / bad news coming in waves / and how.” Fortunately, “Time Rolling By” grooves back into upbeat territory, with keyboard flourishes that add to the richness of the larger tapestry. Radar Brothers have been building to this sound on their last few records, and with Eight they may have finally topped themselves. Jack Probst
Bat For Lashes
The Haunted Man Parlophone
On this deep new third album, Bat For Lashes mastermind Natasha Khan highlights her songwriting by removing the bold sonic elements of her first two records and fearlessly showcasing her voice. The Haunted Man was born in the writer’s block, stress and fatigue of a rigor-
Album Reviews ous 2010 tour. Lost, Khan consulted several friends, including Thom Yorke and Beck. She began using drawings and illustrations as a writing source, and eventually relocated to Malibu to finish the album. The album’s stripped-down, minimalist electronic beats augment her vocal vitality, not unlike Kate Bush guesting on a Portishead record. In fact, Portishead’s Adrian Utley is a collaborator on the album. Despite the sunny view outside her window, the resulting record is dark, sparse and resonant with emotion. While The Haunted Man‘s album art is a clever tribute to Patti Smith, and its vocal similarities to Bush and Cocteau Twins’ Elisabeth Fraser are also high flattery, Bat For Lashes is not copying style or copping a sound. “Lilies” opens the album with bleakness and bleeps, and singles “Laura” and “All Your Gold” are deeper and more emotionally provocative than her earlier work. For “Oh Yeah,” Khan tips her hat to ‘80s-era electro with pulse beats and sweeping synths. It’s clear that the recent collaborations with Beck have been fruitful—in addition to working in his studio, he features prominently on the album, even lending a hand on “Marilyn.” As Khan seaches for her inner soul,she expands her boundaries into newly mature, complex textures. The Haunted Man is a remarkable record, filled with great promise and excitement. rob LEVy
The Rebellious Jukebox
Life at 45 RPM by Matt Harnish
The blues is a tricky beast. It’s almost impossible to be an “innovative” blues artist, because there are certain inherent musical motifs that are required for the genre. If you innovate too much, then you’re not playing the blues anymore, you’re playing some blues-based hybrid slash blah blah blah. The basic structures of the best blues songs & the worst are pretty close, so it comes down to the magic mysteries of heart & feel & honesty & experience that serve to separate a blues master from some jag-off playing pentatonic scales as fast as he can. The late tommy baNKhEaD had all the ingredients of the classic bluesman. He was a tireless entertainer who learned from the best, backed up the greats, & passed his wisdom on to following generations here in St Louis. This town would have been much poorer without him & Bennie Smith & Henry Townshend, which makes it kind of a bummer that this 1983 single is...kinda boring. It has all the wrong decisions that showed up in post-”Blues Brothers” blues, when older musicians tried to “fit in” with the new young blues fans instead of just doing what they did best. Bankhead’s voice is amazing & the guitar work is perfect, but why the finger-poppin’ bass? Why the cheesy, cheesy saxophone? I like some of the current “party blues” stuff, but these kinds of touches are distracting on these kinds of songs. Look to the stellar Please Mr Foreman LP, recorded two years later but with much more sympathetic ears, to see what the man sounded like when he was really cookin’. The rum Drum ramblErS will be the first to tell you that they have no interest in innovating anything. They’re reaching back to before the guys who taught Mr Bankhead to play had even gone electric. They’re not trying to re-invent the Blues, they’re trying to get inside of it & get it inside of them & see what happens. It’s a throwback, yeah, because that’s what the best traditional Blues is. These young dudes are making themselves part of that tradition, one joyous live show & great record at a time.
elevenmusicmag.com | ELEVEN | 25
THE WAY BACK PAGE
Paper Time Machine
Curated by Paige Brubeck
February 14, 2007 Matt Hopper / Leeroy Stagger / Geoff Koch / Seth Jarman at The Red Sea / poster by Karl Eggers
The Red Sea was probably the only venue I’ve been to in St. Louis where a hip hop show, a reggae show, and a punk show could all be happening simultaneously. It may be long gone, but the absurdly complex rules for playing at the club survive online, thanks to the efforts of The Blind Eyes’ Matt Picker. Plus: remember the days of the old Bluebird? This would’ve been a great show to catch for sure. Grace Basement, one of my favorite STL pop confectioners, with Gentleman Auction House, a band I still miss. Wherever did magnificent keyboardist Kiley Kozel go?
February 12, 2011 Fitz & the Tantrums at Vintage Vinyl / poster by Chris Kilcullen
26 | ELEVEN | elevenmusicmag.com
February 5, 2011 Hitt / The Mad Titans at The Warehouse / poster by Jason Potter
February 8, 2008 Victoria / Gentleman Auction House / Grace Basement / Early Day Miners at The Bluebird / poster by John Vogl
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH THE MUD HOUSE
Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Why not spend all day here! Warm coffee and sweet brownies are always appreeciated when winter begins!
St. Louis-inspired wearables, custom screen printing and graphic design. You can’t spell STYLE without STL!
Cherokee Street 2101 Cherokee St (63118) 776-6599 | themudhousestl.com
Cherokee Street 3159 Cherokke St (63118) 494-7763 | stl-style.com
ST. LOUIS CURIO SHOPPE
FLOWERS TO THE PEOPLE
Everything is 100% St. Louis! We offer goods from local entrepreneurs, authors, musicians, & artists within a 50-mile radius. Shop for locally made books, music, films, fine art, jewelry, and curiosities.
Full-service floral & gift boutique, specializing in locally & sustainably grown flowers. All retail gifts made by local STL artists. Delivery available in the metro area.
Cherokee Street 2301 Cherokee St (63118) 771-6353 | stlcurioshoppe.com
Cherokee Street 2317 Cherokee St. (63118) 762-0422 | flowerstothepeople.biz
FOAM COFFEE & BEER
Off-beat decor, snack plates, free WiFi and weekly events and live shows. The definitive place to work by day or hang out by night.
A relaxing boutique salon in the historic DeMun area, Strands draws inspiration from the world of fashion and art to stay on top of current trends. They create designs to showcase your individual beauty!
Cherokee Street 3359 S. Jefferson (63118) 772-2100 | foamstl.com
Demun 730 Demun Ave. (63105) 725-1717 | strands-hair.com
SASHA’S ON SHAW
CITY DINER AT THE FOX LATE NIGHT CLUB
Great wines, the best cheeses, always served late! The Shaw neighborhood’s best bar, in the shadow of the garden.
Shaw 4069 Shaw Blvd (63110) 771-7274 | sashaswinebar.com
Complete with food and drink, the Club hosts a variety of unique DJs spinning reggae, ska, soul, ’60s garage, surf, and rockabilly every Saturday night from 10:30pm until 3am! Midtown 541 North Grand Blvd (63103) 533-7500
Paid Advertising elevenmusicmag.com | ELEVEN | 27
28 | ELEVEN | elevenmusicmag.com