Eleven March 2015

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ISSUE No. 11-MAR ’15




BLANK GENERATION Rocks The Body Politic

STL HERE & NOW St. Louis Musicians Are Ready For Their Closeup spring reverb




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Volume 11, Issue No. 2

March 2015


ELEVEN’S MUSICALENDAR Recommended Shows 22

Editor’s Note Where Is My Mind?

COLUMNS 8 Points East by ALEX TEBELEFF Inflated Records

9 Watcherr by CURTIS TINSLEY

Demetri Martin

BRING ON THE NIGHT Show Previews and Reviews225 American Aquarium, Phantom of the Opera, Annalibera, Wolf Eyes, Sylvan Esso, Endora, Tycho, Tim Hecker, Little Falcon

Blue Beat227 by JEREMY SEGEL-MOSS .

Blight Future

Roosevelt Sykes Headstone

FEATURES 10 S TL Here & Now by REV. DANIEL W. WRIGHT 14 B lank Generation by HUGH SCOTT 16 Signal in the Noise: the Dance Trance Music of CaveofswordS by GRANT BARNUM


HOT ROCKS Album Reviews2 29 Father John Misty, Mount Eerie, Bottoms Up Blues Gang, Dan Deacon, Crazy XXX Girlfriend, The Brainstems, Vision Fortune, Etiquette, Red Mouth, Beech Creeps

The Rebellious Jukebox 30 by MATT HARNISH .

20 Crazy XXX Girlfriend by DENMARK LAINE .

Gibbous, Max Load



Headphones .

ON THE COVER: CaveofswordS. Clockwise from top: KVN, Zagk Gibbons, Sunyatta McDermott, Eric Armbruster. Photo by Bill Streeter, treatment by Evan Sult.


Eleven Magazine Volume 11 | Issue 2 | March 2015 PUBLISHER Hugh Scott EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Evan Sult SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS EDITOR Paige Brubeck WEB EDITOR Hugh Scott PHOTO EDITOR Angela Vincent



mobile • web • branding

located on Cherokee Street in STL 815-535-7908 4 | ELEVEN | elevenmusicmag.com

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Grant Barnum, Caitlin Bladt, Curt Brewer, Paige Brubeck, Ryan Boyle, Sam Clapp, Raymond Code, Melinda Cooper, Jenn DeRose, Ira Gamerman, Suzie Gilb, JJ Hamon, Matt Harnish, Jordan Heimburger, Jake Jones, James Kane, Gabe Karabell, Sean Kelly, Nelda Kerr, Chris Keith, Cassie Kohler, Kevin Korinek, Denmark Laine, Josh Levi, Rob Levy, K.E. Luther, Geoff Naunheim, Jack Probst, Jason Robinson, Jeremy Segel-Moss, Robert Severson, Alex Tebeleff, Michele Ulsohn, Chris Ward, Robin Wheeler, Rev. Daniel W. Wright PHOTOGRAPHERS Nate Burrell, Duane Clawson, Jarred Gastreich, Jon Gitchoff, Kelly Glueck, Jess Luther, Adam Robinson, Adam Schicker, Bill Streeter, Ismael Valenzuela, Angela Vincent, Theo Welling, Carrie Zukoski

ILLUSTRATORS Paige Brubeck, Sean Dove, Tyler Gross, Lyndsey Lesh, Curtis Tinsley PROOFREADER Tracy Brubeck PROMOTIONS & DISTRIBUTION Suzie Gilb Ann Scott CONSULTATION Clifford Holekamp Derek Filcoff Cady Seabaugh Hugh Scott III FOUNDED in 2006 by a group including Jonathan Fritz, Josh Petersel and Matthew Ström ELEVEN MAGAZINE 3407 S. Jefferson St. Louis, MO 63118 FOR ADVERTISING INQUIRIES Hugh Scott advertising@elevenmusicmag.com CALENDAR LISTINGS listings@elevenmusicmag.com LETTERS TO THE EDITOR deareleven@elevenmusicmag.com We welcome your comments. Please let us know if you do not want your letter published.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR US? info@elevenmusicmag.com ONLINE elevenmusicmag.com twitter.com/elevenmag facebook.com/ElevenMagazine COPYRIGHT 2015 SCOTTY SCOTT MEDIA, LLC

Editor’s Note by Evan Sult

The Future of Music LAST MONTH, I was invited to speak at an event at the Luminary Center for the Arts called The Future of Music. The question at hand: “Over the next year, what’s the single thing you’d most like to see happen in the music community? And what do you think would be needed to make it happen?” These are questions those of us intimately involved in music here think about all the time. Sometimes too much — for a while, it felt like there were panel discussions every weekend dissecting the St. Louis scene, until it seemed like maybe the main thing we needed to do was stop talking quite so much, and get back to doing. But this panel seemed like an interesting one. Each panelist plays multiple roles in the scene: Christian Schaeffer writes for the RFT, has a show on KDHX, and sometimes plays keys in bands around town. Jim Harper runs the new label Boxing Clever Records; Joe Hess has a KDHX show, just completed the year-long Undercurrent cassette/show series, writes for the RFT, and plays in a number of bands. Damon Davis co-founded the Farfetched music collective and plays music in a variety of projects (including Blank Generation — see page 14; that article was already in the works before the Luminary

discussion). Tech Supreme is a renowned producer and founder of Delmar Records; I’m the editor-in-chief Eleven, play in a touring band, and produce posters and album art. So there were a lot of hats in the ring. We all had five minutes to talk about our responses to the question, and everybody had something interesting to say. I talked about the need for a committed, resourceful record label in town that will release and physically distribute music from St. Louis and elsewhere nationwide; also, I said, for the city’s music to succeed nationally, we need to be ready to accept the success of our peers with grace and enthusiasm, which can be hard. These points are fine enough, and I hope they were useful to the crowd at the Luminary. But I found myself most engrossed by Damon Davis’ five minutes, as well as his role in the conversations that followed. I promised him there that I wouldn’t attempt to paraphrase what he had to say, because that’s not doing his words or his perspective justice. But because of what he said, I was compelled to think anew about the spotlight that has been cast on our city following the death of Michael Brown. Whether we felt ourselves in the midst of a struggle before that event, we are in the midst of a strug-

gling city now, and anything that we do, we do in that context. Whatever we do now — engage, ignore, discuss, act, change — is our response to that moment. Like everyone else in St. Louis, I have spent many hours talking race relations in the city and in the nation. But Damon’s words reengaged me both as editor and as musician. It is a useful shock to think of the year 2020, and what life and art in the STL of 2015 will look like from that perspective. While we’re looking for ways to bring attention to the music scene here, it’s easy to miss just how much attention our city has been getting lately, for what seems like the “wrong reasons.” But it’s only the wrong reason if we don’t engage the question; it’s only a failure if we are unchanged by the acts that have happened in our city, and if there is no ripple in the music and the writing we all produce, and if the racial and social power dynamics of the city are unaffected. The world is already watching us. This is a powerful insight, and a powerful responsibility. It will take a long time to play out. But it gave me a whole new way to look at “the future of music” — as a way of learning about myself and my city right now, in the present. What we do now is the future of music in St. Louis.

Unconventional workspace for the unconventionally employed


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WHERE IS MY MIND? This Month in the History of Now

Syna So Pro performing at Scarlett Garnet as part of last year’s Lo-Fi Cherokee.



Did you see they’re making a freakin’ movie about NWA?! For anyone who grew up in ‘80s America, NWA was a defining musical experience, whether you were into it or repelled by it — or both. Straight Outta Compton is a biopic that aims to tell the story of Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Eazy E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and the world’s answer to, “Yo, what the fuck are they yellin?” The trailer promises to reignite the whole question of documenting violence vs. perpetuating it. And no: Ice Cube is not playing himself.

IT’S NOT HARD to believe that LO-FI CHEROKEE is in its fourth year. Like the street itself, the series continues to grow and get better. The premise is like a dare to the city’s music scene: local filmmaker Bill Streeter gets a whole bunch of bands set up on Cherokee Street, and each of them makes a live, one-take, one-song video — then the team races down the street to film the next band. It’s always one of the highlights of Eleven’s year to work with Streeter and his merry band of cameramen and sound engineers, so it’s about this time of year we start to get excited about the next installment. Set to take place on April 11, the 2015 edition is promising 18 (18!) bands in a single day. Filming is open to the public and all are invited to watch the magic happen. While we are keeping the locations and bands under wraps for now, we can say that the lineup this year will be incredible. It’s as diverse as it’s been yet, with plenty of big names as well as notable up and comers, many of whom we’ve talked about in the pages of this ‘zine quite recently. There might even be a blast from the past or two in there that you won’t want to miss! HUGH SCOTT

Chris & Jake’s WAILIN! Profiles in gearage

Model: Jerry Jones Longhorn Bass VI Serial #: 3535 Owner: John Horton Story: I have a baritone string set on it (A-a); that Bass Vl tuning can be a little unwieldy. I’ve had it since the mid-’90s, a gift from my girlfriend (now wife) Liza. I’ve used it on various and sundry recordings over the years, never really “featured.” It’s just a cool textural thing, that adds something cool sounding and a little unusual to certain

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parts. Big, piano-like, stringy sounding — it sounds like a giant guitar. Well, it is a giant guitar. Really hadn’t played it much for several years, but the Bottle Rockets backing up Marshall Crenshaw has made me play it more now than maybe ever. Marshall really likes the sound of a baritone guitar, and I play it quite a bit when we do his part of the set. It does sound really cool, and it’s a unique tone I’ve come to appreciate more. I’ve been playing it at shows and recordings every chance I get for the last five years or so. It’s an instrument I really had to have at the time that I got it 1996 or so. I had been delving into country and rock music from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and this type of guitar seemed a real signature sound of that time, something that I had to try and duplicate. It was such an engaging and slightly funky thing, the sound of them. Catch the Bottle Rockets with Marshall Crenshaw at Old Rock House on Sunday, March 15.

Letter to the Editor Dear Eleven, First, love Eleven Magazine. You guys do a great job. I enjoy it. Did not, however, enjoy the punch in the face in issue 11, Jan 15, 2015, in Where is My Mind? where you spoke about the Soldiers Memorial Park/City of St. Louis disaster with promoter ICM and Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend. I am one of the key partners of MJC Events & Marketing, who put on the 2014 Budweiser St. Louis Ribfest after a twoyear drought due to the bankruptcy of Rib America. The Blues Fest, or Bluesweek as you called it, came in for two years to fill that vacancy and then moved in 2014 to Chesterfield. We (my partners and I) saw the void and, in two months, put the Ribfest together and saw over 100,000 people attend over the four-day weekend. We featured all St. Louis local talent for the entertainment. STL is rich with amazing musicians, and showcasing the talent in our community, in our minds, is the only way to truly have a community festival. Which is what the STL Ribfest, as we promote it, is. I take offense at being referred to as “a flavorless

BBQ festival featuring former members of ‘80s hair metal bands,” as written by Hugh Scott. We knew months ago that the ICM concerts were not going to be taking place over Memorial Day Weekend. We called and called the aldermen of the city asking for an appointment so we could present Ribfest to them again, and keep it downtown. We were unsuccessful in gaining audience with the city, and were given no option but to find another venue for the 2015 Ribfest. The decision was made to host this event at New Town, St. Charles. This decision, although not an easy one for us, has been received with huge positivity and, weather permitting of course, we anticipate 150,000 attendees over the four-day weekend, putting Ribfest in the major festival category. I also developed and run (with my partners) AM1380 the X, a true local STL music mouthpiece and open-mic radio station. I would welcome any partnership, advice, or comments on the music scene and would promote Eleven too. You are welcome, at no charge, to come on air live and talk about articles and other things you feature in

Eleven. I just wish FOX 2 and Hugh Scott, when they did their reports/article, might have done their homework and mentioned the existing Ribfest, started by normal, everyday people, who are trying to promote St. Louis and the local music scene. 100,000 attendees isn’t filling the hole, it’s burying it, and we are proud of what we started. Regardless of a response by you, we support Eleven magazine, both at 1380 the X and the STL Ribfest. Mike Calvin Hugh Scott responds: Mike, thank you very much for your note. The deprecating comment in question was aimed at the now-defunct Rib America, a plug-and-play traveling “festival” that had little to do with St. Louis other than one annual stop on a holiday weekend. Both Eleven and I myself are strong advocates of homegrown projects and your event, STL Ribfest, is no exception. Both Ribfest and 1380 the X have given bands in town valuable new outlets. We wish you success with this year’s Ribfest, and with your efforts to return Ribfest to downtown St. Louis.


AT THE TAIL end of last year, the Grove’s pioneering music venue, THE GRAMOPHONE, shut its doors for a complete facelift and overhaul. Now it’s reopened, and it’s no longer the full-blown music venue it once was — but what’s it’s been transformed into is ideal for the neighborhood’s burgeoning music scene. Rebranded and recreated as a deli, tavern and “bottle shop,” it has become the perfect destination for a quick bite before checking out the vinyl at Music Record Shop, or after a show at the Ready Room or the also new, also rebranded Bootleg venue at Atomic Cowboy. The vibe actually hasn’t changed much — funk and soul music still fills the room, though the PA has actually improved. There’s a pool table, a Walking Dead pinball machine and best yet, an actual dartboard – a real cork one, with sharp darts that could take an eye out, not a plastic target for darts to bounce off. There will still be live music on occasion, such as Saturday lunch, where you’ll be able to listen to stripped down acoustic folk and jazz as you enjoy one of the excellent sandwiches. To quote Ready Room impresario Mike Cracchiolo, “I like the room better as a bar than I ever did as a venue, and the sandwiches are dope. I've been there like three times in a week.” We at Eleven disagree with Mike in only one way: we loved the room as venue. But we love the sandwiches just as much. HUGH SCOTT

Rock music artist Dana Richard Smith is showing paintings under the title GRAVEYARD SHIFT, which focus on images “of or related to the band Uncle Tupelo.” The show opens April 10 at University City Public Library, and the paintings are on display from April 2-29. Smith is one of St. Louis’ true musical documenters, so consider this show well worth a visit.


Dave Anderson, the man behind Tritone Guitars, has organized an event (along with K-Line Guitars) with one straightforward thought as its inception: why isn’t there a place where locals who are building everything from guitars to amps to boutique pedals, can gather together and sell their wares, demo their products, and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and consumers alike? Well, dearest gearheads, now you can do just that. And as a bonus, 4Hands is donating some tasty brews for the event. There are far more vendors than I can list here, but highlights include K-Line Guitars, Magnatone amps, Don Lennon slides, Locomotive Audio, Killer Vintage, Sarno Music Solutions, plus visual artists Karl Haglund, Mark Dethrow and Eric Wilson. The Tritone Guitars Gear Expo will take place on Saturday, March 21 from 11am to 4pm at the Metropolitan Artist Lofts (across from the Fox Theatre), 500 N Grand Blvd. Entry is completely free. SUZIE GILB

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Points East What’s happening on the coast by Alex Tebeleff

Inflated Records blowin’ up


in his late twenties trying to live in New York. Every release is different, but for the most part, I try and maintain a long-term focus. Just recently, I co-released Leapling’s killer new album with Dan Goldin/Exploding In Sound, and that partnership is another great example of how to get by. We decided to pool our resources together and it made perfect sense for that release. I have so much respect for Dan (EIS released like 30 records last year!) and other small labels out there like Community in New Orleans. Turns out it’s not that easy to run a record label with limited resources. You have to be a little crazy to think you can make it work. Tell us about some artists you’ve worked with at Inflated, and why you choose to work with them in particular.

INFLATED RECORDS PINGED my radar through one of my favorite bands in Brooklyn, a groove machine of a band called Zula. They kept coming to play our house venue in DC, and every time they just got better and better. Once I heard the New Orleans-based rock trio Native America’s album in the fall of 2014, I knew that this label was on to something. Now on the cusp of another great release from Brooklyn’s Leapling, a co-release with fellow Brooklyn label Exploding In Sound (also on quite the quality hot streak), it’s pretty obvious it’s time for people to start to take notice of Inflated Records, and owner DAN DONNELLY’s great ear for imaginative rock music. I asked Dan some questions to get some insight into Inflated Records, and what it’s like to run a truly independent record label. How did Inflated Records start? Why did you decide to start a record label? The idea probably started from an unhealthy obsession with local music happening on and around Long Island. I can remember skanking the night away to Dan Deacon’s band as a 14 year old. The decision to act on it came later. I interned at a record label, graduated from college, and realized the market for vinyl was growing. Waiting a couple of years seemed like a waste of time, so I decided, despite contrary advice from nearly everyone in my life, that it was best to throw myself into it and learn as I went along. The task of selling five hundred vinyl singles wasn’t all that terrifying and, miraculously, everything fell into place for the label’s first release. Japanese distributors gobbled up the first pressing of Memoryhouse’s “Lately” 7” in less than a week, they went on to sign with Sub Pop, and perhaps more importantly, Jon Brion never sued us for that unauthorized sample. I am eternally

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grateful to Evan and Denise from Memoryhouse, as well as everyone who supported that record, for helping to get this thing off the ground. A lot has changed since then, but most things have stayed the same. I now have an awesome distribution team at Redeye and have shifted towards releasing full albums, however, I’m still running the label by myself...in addition to a full-time job. Also, I still love doing it. How do you survive as a label in the current music business economy? By the skin of my teeth. Last year it was by being selective. Native America’s Grown Up Wrong was the label’s only release in 2014. I made the choice to invest everything I had, in terms of both time and money, into one record for the calendar year. Pressing vinyl isn’t exactly cheap, so when I decide to put out a record, I’m playing with a few thousand dollars. That might not be a lot of money for a larger label, but it is for a dude

I first heard Native America on college radio and knew that I wanted to work with them about 30 seconds into the old version of “Digital Lobotomy.” Those dudes are the best dudes. Ross is such a talented songwriter and an equally gifted engineer. There’s a lot of great music coming out of New Orleans right now and they’re at the forefront for sure. My love affair with Zula has been going on a bit longer. Julian brought me to their show at Death By Audio one night and the rest is history. Henry and Nate are brilliant. That’s all I have to say about that. Actually, I have one more thing to say: their sophomore album is going to blow people away. Mark my words! I choose to work with artists who I see potential in. It’s been such a thrill to watch bands move on to labels like Glassnote and Sub Pop. It’s not a coincidence that most of the releases on Inflated have been debuts of some sort. The focus has been, and always will be, on helping young artists execute their vision and hopefully getting them to a point where they need a booking agent or manager or larger label. I have to get the sense that they take things seriously and are skilled at promoting themselves. I’m not about social media or promoting the label as a whole. For me, it’s about trying to help the artist build a larger audience...from the very distant background. Any bands or labels you’ve been particularly into recently? There’s plenty of new music coming soon. You’ll have to wait to hear what I’ve been into, ha. But other tiny labels like Exploding In Sound, Hometapes, Father/Daughter, Gold Robot, Small Plates, Double Double Whammy, Forged Artifacts, Community, Old Flame, Orchid Tapes, Texas Is Funny and countless others are doing great things. Pay attention!



by Curtis Tinsley

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Cherokee Nights Rev. Daniel W. Wright slips inside the Livery Company to get a look at the making of STL HERE & NOW, a document of the city’s musicmaking process as it exists right this very second IT’S A BALMY FALL evening in Forest Park, September 7, 2014. I’m at LouFest, enjoying the spoils of some write-up work, walking blissfully out of the Euclid Records with my freshly purchased copy of the Kinks’ Muswell Hillbillies, when a feeling hits me. As great as it is to be reaping the rewards of writing, something in my gut says that this is not where I belong. My mind says I should stay, but my heart won’t budge on the matter. I guess these are the things that separate good men from rich men. I turn from the two huge stages and the evening’s promise of internationally famous bands playing their internationally famous songs, walk my way out of the park and over to Kingshighway to catch the next 95 bus, take it down to Kingshighway and Arsenal, grab a quick bite to eat at Courtesy Diner,

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and grab the next 30 bus down Arsenal to Compton, head down to Cherokee and then walk one block over to Virginia. I walk into the old Radio Cherokee building, which is currently in the process of becoming the Livery Company’s new location, and walk into one of the greatest gatherings

of human beings I’ve ever seen. There are guitars out, and old-tyme standards being sung. The first friendly faces I see are Fred Friction and Zac Sloan. It feels like an old Southern family get together, minus the ham and mashed potatoes. Someone hands me a beer and my heart is content. My mind concedes that this is where I belong. Along with the goodwill and camaraderie, though, there’s work to be done. Narrow, bespectacled, and intensely focused, filmmaker/songwriter Neil C. Luke is running around setting up shots and getting a series of musicians ready for the camera. This evening’s music will be caught on camera as part of the creation process for STL Here & Now, an ambitious (if not quite fully defined) collaborative project that Luke is spearheading. STL Here & Now is intended partly as a document of one corner of the

THIS YEAR’S MODEL: Photo credit goes here, with a list of who’s who in clockwise fashion.

city’s overflowing music scene, and partly as a challenge for that same group of musicians. After graduating from SIUE in June 2013 with a double major in Philosophy and TV and Radio Production, Luke moved to St. Louis from Edwardsville, IL and cofounded the band Old Souls Revival. His band quickly fell in with like-minded rockin’, songwriterly electric bands like Cara Louise Band and Old Capital Square Dance Club, and he became aware of a layer of musicians who were hanging out a lot together, and writing a lot of great music, but not necessarily getting their due. STL Here & Now is meant to change that, while highlighting this particular crowd’s unique strengths as adaptive, inventive, collaborative musicians. The project is in the midst of some shaping and revision, but is currently shaping up

to be a two-CD collection of music created specifically for STL Here & Now. The first disc, Here, will focus on songs that have already been written and not yet recorded. The second disc, Now, will pair musicians in the group randomly to work on music together and record the results. Meanwhile, each step is being filmed, with the idea that a documentary of the whole process will result. Taken as a whole, it should prove to be a fascinating, dynamic look at a key moment in the life of the South City music world. Everyone quiets down as the crew begins filming the night’s first song, “Vandalia Rain” by Jesse McClary of Old Capital Square Dance Club. Joining him on the song are bandmate Drew Sheafor on harmonica and backing vocals, Dustin Rademacher of Old Souls Revival on stand-up bass, Adam Donald of Cara Louise Band on slide guitar, Irene Allen on backing vocals, and Fred Friction on spoons. The song’s simple country sway walks an honest way with the sincerity in McClary’s voice. When watching the footage afterward, I can’t help but view it the way one takes in a painting in a museum. After the song, the raucous, warm feeling of the evening has returned. Cara Wegener, of Cara Louise Band, notices my copy of Muswell Hillbillies, and soon she, Sheafor and I are in a deep discussion about the Kinks’ ’66 to ’72 period, and how “20th Century Man” is one of the best opening tracks of an album ever. It’s little moments like this that have kept me an active music fan, and serve as a reminder why I love living in South City and coming down to Cherokee street so much. The next songs to be filmed that night are from Cree Rider and his wife Cheryl Wilson. The first one, with the help of Early Worm’s Aaron O’Neil on stand-up bass, is “Poppies & the Marigolds,” a song with a slightly sinister chord progression; just when you think you know what it’s about, it throws you a sharp curve and adds another dimension. These subtleties and nuances make Cree Rider a terrific and underrated songwriter in the St. Louis music scene. The second song is “Two Foxes,” sung by Wilson. Whether as a duo or in their full lineup as the Cree Rider Family Band, Rider and Wilson are always pure ear candy. In the background, Zac Sloan and Fred Friction

start doing tricks with each other’s lighters. The rest of us try to keep our snickers off tape. Soon they start messing with each other and eventually start feeling each other up, causing myself and everyone else to laugh hysterically but silently, all of us fighting with every ounce of restraint we have to not utter a sound while filming is going on. The final song of the night that is the River Kittens’ “Praise Be.” They ask, before filming, for everyone to join in on the chorus, and it’s a perfect end to the night. There’s an afterparty, but after a long day of work and a long haul by city bus, I’m more than a little tuckered out. A week later, Neil C. Luke meets me at Hartford Coffee Company to talk about the beginnings of the whole project, starting with his move to the city. “One of the first things that struck me was the sort of unspoken nepotism that is kind of an undercurrent in the music scene,” he says. “At the same time, [my band] Old Souls Revival started playing a lot of shows with bands like Cara Louise Band and Old Capital Square Dance Club, and we started to see a lot of these unappreciated gems of songwriters and bands. And it just so happened that a lot of us found ourselves hanging out at the Livery Company on Cherokee Street. One night the idea came to document this, because it felt like something was happening. So it was either document it, or let this magic be lost to time.” Luke began pulling the project together in late April of last year, with a small, semi-private event at the old Radio Cherokee, a building that had a long history as a bar, but hadn’t been open as a proper business for many years. He put out the word to his musical peers and waited to see who wanted to get involved. For the actual filming, he chose a band of collaborators whom he could trust to get the best out of the performances, including Elliot Gallion of Fat Chimp Studios, and Brandon Sloan of Dancing Shoes Productions, who have done some recent notable work with Prince Ea. He also tapped former SIUE alumni James Jackson and Trent Hover. Hover and Sloan had valuable experience working with Bill Streeter on Lo-Fi St. Louis, the city’s bestknown and successful musical documentation series. “I wanted to show just how good all of

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“Cellar Door” before introducing the song’s to have aligned just right. It’s December 26, these people were,that there is something authors, Cara Louise Band. They start their and winter is definitely making its presence really happening here,” says Luke of the set with new song “Don’t Look Back” before felt: the wind is so cold it burns straight to performers. “So with the first disc, which running through “Evening News” and “Here the marrow. will be the Here disc, I wanted everyone We Go Honey” with natural ease. When the I get to the club early, but they’re not to take an old song that, for one reason or band gets to “Give Me a Sign,” Wegener stops letting anyone in except musicians. Which is another, they just never got to record, and playing her guitar and instead holds it close all fine and good, but I’m trying to avoid my grab whoever they wanted and record that to her heart, swaying with it as she belts the body giving in to the elements like a doomed song. For the second disc, the Now disc, I words straight to the tear ducts. The band character in a Jack London story. Fortune wanted to pair people up to write new matehave definitely come in to their own with smiles on me this time: as I turn away, trying rial and record it, again with the band of the arrival of new drummer Skylar Leeds. to figure my way to the warm far side of the their choice, and see what the results were.” When the band starts the title track of their door, Molly Simms pulls up. I ask her if she Filming began properly on June 22 at debut EP, To Be Dead Is to Be Known, the needs help bringing anything in, and she the Radio Cherokee building, which at the spotlight is firmly on Wegener as she sings offers me her amp. I scoot through the door time was just beginning to be renovated for back to it looking like a definite star. and find a darkened corner. The house is the Livery Company’s relocation. Luke was Between sets, I able to get down basic make my way outside interviews with musiand run across a few cians Jesse McClary, members of Cara Drew Sheafor, Allie Louise Band. and we Vogler, Molly Simms, start talking about and Matt Casatta. Many the set and the usual of these interviews nonsense of life in were excerpted in the a way that becomes STL Here & Now trailer, so engrossing, I which was produced to begin to lose track raise awareness for the of time until I hear project. Crowdsourcing the opening notes of was considered early Old Souls Revival’s on as a way to pay for “How Much” and dive the project, but the back inside. They’re group decided to just already on fire — put on shows to raise “Holy fuck they’re the money instead. good!,” someone in “Since this is a the crowd declares St. Louis project, we THIS YEAR’S MODEL: Photo credit goes here, with a list of who’s who in clockwise fashion. Probably at — and by the end of thought, ‘Well hell, least two lines long, if not more. their set, they’ll be let’s raise the money an inferno. Luke is here, doing what we do all natural charisma and lead guitarist Pete mostly empty as Cara Louise Band soundbest,’” says Luke. “Let’s put on the best shows Moss comes off like an alt-country Jimmy checks onstage with the instantly recognizwe can and raise the money that way.” Page. The split second Luke takes to clear able “Cellar Door,” and a newer song called his throat in to the microphone before “Can’t Get Out of Here.” THREE MONTHS AND however many the band begins the coda is the signal that After soundcheck, the crowd stamps thousands of beers after that wonderful they’ve entered the moment. They never let its way indoors, and it’s clear another ball is September evening, the first STL Here & up, continually building upon their momenabout to be a-happening. River Kittens start Now fundraising gathering, The Christmas tum, showing only strengths. When it’s over, the show off with a cover of “Big Rock Candy Hangover Show, is held at Off Broadway. the crowd is elated. Some people think this Mountain,” sounding like the sirens from O On the bill are some of St. Louis’ best live kind of audience high can only be had at Brother, Where Art Thou. With the recent bands, including Old Souls Revival, Cree big-venue shows with nationally renowned addition of a third member, Mattie Schell, Rider Family Band, Bottoms Up Blues Gang, bands. I haven’t believed in that bullshit for their vocal dynamics are beyond compare. River Kittens, Old Capital Square Dance years. To my ears they out-harmonize the Everlys Club, and Cara Louise Band, with Miss Molly More people stream in as Old Souls and set the bar high for the rest of the acts. Simms acting as emcee for the night. There finish up and Molly Simms takes the stage Miss Molly Simms takes the stage, has been major anticipation for this show to sing arguably the definitive Fred Fricwelcoming everyone to the show with since it was announced, and the stars seem

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tion song, “I Gave It to My Neighbor.” The song has always reminded me of a Charles Bukowski poem. Luke makes his way around the room, checking on sound and cameras: everything is being captured for potential inclusion in STL Here & Now. Bottoms Up Blues Gang are old pros at this point. Kari Liston and Jeremy Segel-Moss are in synchronistic bliss, mixing Tin Pan Alley and Delta blues. Out of nowhere, Allie Vogler of River Kittens grabs my arm and takes me outside to meet a writer named Denmark Laine (a coincidence, I swear: see page 20. —Ed.) We get a beer and shoot the shit, talking about the Velvet Underground, Hunter Thompson and the Dylan fantasy film I’m Not There. My drunken sense of time makes thirty minutes seem like ten. When I come back in, Simms and Luke are onstage singing Drew Sheafor’s “Song to Fred.” With a beer in one hand and a bottle of Jack in the other, Molly Simms belts it to the back row with equal parts grit and heart. When she puts down the bottle and grabs the mic, a beer-soaked celebration begins, and everyone starts toasting and drinking and dancing and toasting each other and Cree Rider Family Band as they step onstage. Most of the Cree Rider Family Band’s set is from their debut album, One Night Stand, including the title track and opening song “If You’re Gonna Cheat Me.” When they close their set with the song “Family Band” they seem to encapsulate everything that the Here & Now project represents, as a sense of familial love and unity suffuses the crowd. “I want this to be a collaborative effort,” Luke has said of the project. “I want this to be something we can all be proud of down the line, and know we all contributed our part.” When Old Capital Square Dance Club hit the stage, it’s clear that if everyone wasn’t already in a good mood before, they sure as hell are now. Equal parts Mick Jagger, Marc Bolan and plain badass Midwest motherfucker, Jesse McClary, Zach Anderson and the rest of the Old Capitals own the stage, not caring about anything

except rock n’ roll, straight up, no chaser. (Though I do have to say that Old Capital Square Dance Club without Drew Sheafor — who was pedal to the metal somewhere between Seattle and St. Louis — feels like the Stones without Brian Jones: it’s amazing but there’s still something missing.) Everyone is on the dance floor, staggering, cheering, headbanging and enjoying one of the greatest nights of their lives. As I stand near the stage, transfixed, Adam Donald arrives from nowhere on my left, swings his arm around me, and firmly licks my forehead. I’ve known many forms of drunken affection from friends. That’s a new one. Then on my right comes Nick Adamson, whose arm goes around me too, and the three of us start pogoing up and down as the band rocks out. By the time the band is done with their second encore, a rare track entitled “Back Roads,” everyone is euphoric with a mixture

And that, in fact, is part of the charm of STL Here & Now: it’s a project that refuses to get done in any sort of logical or predictable way. It was dreamed up by a bunch of musicians in a shuttered South City bar, after all. Luke says that it’s meant to be “as nondefinitive as possible, so that everyone can put in their two cents, and what they feel.” Even so, the project is moving forward at a good clip. All of the recording of the Here disc was done by songwriter/CaveofswordS drummer Zagk Gibbons, and is now complete, minus a detail here or there. Next up is Now, the more challenging of the two discs. Luke will be setting up an event for all of the participating songwriters to meet up and get randomly paired off into teams; then they’ll return with a song, get it fleshed out by the other various horns/keys/bass/ organ/harmonica/etc players in the collective, and bring each song in to get recorded. “The creative process is something people hold near and dear to their hearts,” he says. “It’s personal. It’s not easy to write songs with just anybody — you gotta find that perfect match. I hope [writing and recording Now] will get people out of their comfort zones and kind of force these interacLuke tions. I’m trying to push all of us to the next level creatively and competitively.” The place and time for all of this remains to be determined, but Luke is determined to see the project through to the end. His prediction is that the albums will be completed by the end of the summer this year, with a show to release the records and celebrate the end of the process. He’s looking at potential venues like the Tivoli or somewhere possibly closer to South City for a viewing of the final documentary video at that time as well. STL Here & Now has a lot of collaborators and a lot of ambitious goals. In many projects, so many moving parts might bode poorly for completion, but with this particular bunch of copacetic musicians, the potential is vast. And it’s all going more or less according to plan. “We don’t want to stifle the creative process,” explains Luke, “so we don’t know exactly what’s going on.”

“ We started to see a lot of these unappreciated gems of songwriters and bands. It was either document it, or let this magic be lost to time.” – Neil C. of booze, good times, and good music. The show was a complete success, both musically and financially: they’ve raised more than half of the overall money needed to complete Here & Now, and in the process, put on one of the greatest shows in St. Louis history. ABOUT SIX WEEKS after the Christmas Hangover, I meet up with Luke to catch up on the project. It’s been a busy time for all involved. Most of the participants have been busy preparing albums of their own as well as playing shows, working, and getting on with the general business of life that envelops all of us. “Planning is everything,” says Luke. “It’s been fun and insane. I have to admit, I didn’t realize how ambitious the project was when it started. I guess I still kind of don’t.”

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Talkin’ ’bout our If any city in the country is ready for a new state of racial relations, it’s ours. Could BLANK GENERATION’s mix of hip hop and rock music show the way forward? by Hugh Scott WHEN THE SPOTLIGHT fell on St. Louis last year, it harshly highlighted existing racial disparities in the city and the region. As much as these problems have been getting earnestly discussed within the St. Louis music world, the usual big gap between conversation and reality remains. Which is one of the many reasons that the debut album by STL’s own Blank Generation is so welcome: it puts actual music diversity to work. The self-titled album was released last month by the Farfetched collective and features an infectious collection of upbeat, ultra-danceable songs that use rock instruments as the palette for a hip hop album that crosses genres with every song. The intent of the project is clear from the first line: “I say they won’t let us in then we breakin’ the doors down!,” followed by a rockin’ bassline and a snaky, flanged keyboard. The verses are densely packed with twisting wordplay, and the whole song has the attitude of a mission statement in the form of a party anthem. The chorus promises “Hip hop, funk, electric soul, doo wop crisscrossed with rock and roll,” and sure enough, that’s what comes rolling out of the speakers. The second track, aptly named “Keep It Goin,” moves even faster in the verses — “Go! Go! Go! Go!” — then lays back for a killer, head-bobbing chorus. “This is just an opus for the kids” declares one of the voices, and it feels like it. Blank Generation is a party, but it is also a calling: this kind of music could be a movement. This could be a generation. Blank Generation could be called two projects in one. The first is the studio aspect, handled by the two men behind Blank Generation, Hearskra-Z (Karl Livingston) and Loose Screwz (Damon Davis). The writing and recording process started more than five years ago, Livingston explained when Eleven talked with him last month. “It actually happened the first time me and Damon got together,” he said. “The first song that me and him ever did was ‘She Goes.’”

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Produced by Davis with lyrics by Livingston (Davis also contributes a verse), that song is a guitar-driven, energetic description of a girl on the loose, and they could tell that they were onto something special. At the time, Davis was reading a book about the early days of punk and specifically the man who coined the term “Blank Generation,“ Richard Hell. “[Damon] had been reading the Blank Generation book talking about Richard Hell, and then watching the movie, and then getting the whole idea of everything.” The two continued to produce tracks together until Livingston moved away. “I moved to Chicago, and then all this other stuff happened, so we kind of put the project on hold,” he explains. Davis stayed busy with a variety of other projects, including a supervising role in Farfetched, a collective that also explicitly collides as many genres as possible. Last year, when the two reconvened, they realized that they had great tracks, but didn’t want to go the standard hip hop route of putting together backing tracks for Hearskra-Z to rap over. “At its core,” he says, “Blank Generation is me [on the mic] and Damon, beats and music.” But they knew that wasn’t going to take full advantage of the live setting; Livingston definitely didn’t want to walk onstage and perform to pre-recorded music. “I’ve been doing it off the track for so long, I really didn’t like it,” says Livingston. “I got tired of it, and I wanted to look for something different. So the band seemed like the best way to go.” The band is the other aspect of the Blank Generation project. “There are almost two separate identities: me and Damon, and me and Damon and the band,” explains Livingston. Davis and Livingston knew that they wanted the energy onstage to be high, and they were already working with samples of live guitars, bass, and drums, so the breakthrough was to make the live version of the music a full-on band of musicians. Though the songs are the same, the differences are big. Davis stays mostly

offstage, letting the band play the music and stepping up to the mic when he has his own verses to deliver. The five-piece band, which has evolved somewhat over the last year, is currently made up of Andrew Gibson on drums, Nate Gilberg on bass, Charlie Cerpa on saxophone and keys, and Matt Lyons on guitar, and brings a ton of raw energy live, far more energy then could ever come through with a backing track. That energy is critical to the vibe of the project: it brings a real sense of urgency to the message, and makes the listener stand up and pay attention. But it also makes the shows a lot of fun. It’s impossible not to dance at a Blank Generation show, which means that the album’s hard-hitting lyrics and driving beats transform to a funky good time in a live setting. It’s a juxtaposition that is hard for any band to pull off, but when it’s done right, it can create an amazing confluence of sounds, words and beats. Richard Hell’s conception of a “blank generation” has been the inspiration underlying the whole project. For Davis and Livingston, Blank Generation is about the future being unwritten, and more importantly, about going against the grain of the society you find yourself living in. “A lot of the rebellion, the rebellious nature [of Hell’s message], that’s mainly what it is,” says Livingston. “The lack of conformity in whatever shape, form or fashion that you choose.” They chose to think of their project in generational terms. “All these values that were questioned at the time when ‘Blank Generation’ initially came out — like the whole nuclear family, all the expectation of college and blah blah blah — all seemed kind of weird. But now we see how they played out, and how it’s all just made to create a certain type of society. I feel like a lot of people are picking up on that. As a generation now we are a blank generation because there is no real I guess you could say, a diagram for living . All those previous models don’t hold and there isn’t really one that we have now that makes sense.”

Damon Davis, aka Loose Screwz, and Karl Livingston, aka Hearskra-Z, of Blank Generation.


generation The break from conformity is not just in the lyrics, it’s in the music itself. The group’s influences range from Bad Brains, to Parliament-Funkadelic, to Outkast and Nirvana — a who’s who of musical misfits and outliers. “[Damon] always produces in different genres, so it’s kind of like taking everything that you’ve ever heard and then putting it into something and coming out with what’s there,” says Livingston. “So if you are feeling like that sounds a little punk rockish this day, then that’s what you do. If you want to do something happy [you do that]. Me personally, I listen to a lot of Twista, Outkast obviously, Eminem, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and even a lot of classical music. Just a lot random, different kinds of things.” That stew of influences comes through the producer and the MC organically. The listener hears the influence in the music – a little Outkast here, a little Jay-Z there, a pinch of Bad Brains, a dash of Red Hot Chili Peppers – but can’t quite put a finger right on the sound and point to a specific influence for each song. Blank Generation eats up all its heroes, ingests them whole and spits them back out as their own. “That just happens with time,” says Livingston. “Instead of learning a song, you learn your methods, and make it pertain to

the art itself or a project. After you’ve done so much and seen what you might do like this person, or sound like that person, you kinda just let all that go and stop thinking and go with what you feel.” Meanwhile, the members of the band have their own influences, so while the band’s name is the same, and the songs are the same, it feels very different. “One thing I like is the separation between the album and the performance,” Livingston says. “There is just a different potency, when it’s done right, when you have live instrumentation. You just kinda hit certain frequencies – it’s just a whole different feel than doing it right off of the track.” Performing with a live band also changes the expectations of the audience. “I feel like hip hop is a very stigmatized genre,” he says. “There are a lot of expectations that come along with it that maybe don’t have any place in the music, but they are still there just because of the name. So just having things be a little different than they normally are is always a good way for people to lose that expectations of recognition and be ready to enjoy whatever is going to happen.” Something else has happened since Lewis and Livingston got back to the project last year: the events in Ferguson last summer and fall cast a long shadow over our

city. Blank Generation is perfectly placed to seize upon that angst and frustration, and maybe even provide some answers to where we should be focused. In songs like “Break the Doors Down,” the party hype reveals itself as a force for change: “It’s tickin and it’s tickin, there’s so much goin on the world’s spinnin are you missin it?” They express the feeling that none of us should be standing idly by; not just in Ferguson or in St. Louis, but everywhere. The message is clear: stand up and make sure your views are heard loudly. “Trust we must motivate ourselves,” says Davis in “Keep It Goin,” “we don’t need no roadmap — relax, I know the way.” With a clear message and a catalog of funky, punky beats,the future is a blank space ready to be filled in. Blank Generation plans to drop a live album later this year, and is already working on some new tracks, with two already completed. While the first album was wholly created in the studio, the second will be different. “We’ve been getting more involved with the band itself,” says Livingston, “so a lot of the newer tracks will be more inspired by live instrumentation.” From their vantage in St. Louis, the epicenter of American racial tension and attention, Blank Generation is well positioned to grow their music from a project into a movement.

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With a new member, a new label, and a new album, 2015 is shaping up to be a big year for CAVEOFSWORDS by Grant Barnum


I HAVE TRAVELED down unfamiliar streets in the night, and have been beckoned underground by a voice: female, warmly inviting, yet icy in tone. Together we descend into darkness, and the temperature drops. Behind me, the yellow lights of the street dim as we approach a room. I can sense its depth, though the ceiling presses down on us. New lights – deep, dreamy blues and dancing reds — glow and shimmer, casting shadows over objects that do not belong together in this space or time: a harpsichord, a pile of a dozen or so flatscreen computer monitors, a jumble of synthesizers, a painting of a boy calmly reading a book to a lion. Inscrutable symbols cover the walls, until I get close enough to one metal stalactite to make out the message written there: “KILLIT – VALLEY – ORISON – FLOWRS – GLWING – DETURA,” each accompanied by an alphanumeric code. Two more figures have emerged fom the dark to guide me, pointing out homages to the ones who have guided them. This place is their creation; a vantage point from which they can channel their observations of society into sight and sound. I have entered the CaveofswordS. IT’S BEEN A turning point year for this group of dedicated St. Louis musicians. Sunyatta McDermott, her husband KVN (née Kevin McDermott), and his cousin Eric Armbruster have been bringing their dancetrance compositions to stages all over the city since 2011, remixing their breakbeat backing tracks for each show as their sound has evolved. Their sound is heavy on atmospherics — guitars and keyboards and drum patches routed through endless effects and drenched in reverb and delay. The ethereal projections that they sometimes cast over themselves as they play offer an additional

level of immersion. A lot has been changing in their world recently. The result is a new level of attention on the band, especially as they’ve been gearing up for the release this month of their new album, Sigils, on Boxing Clever Records. The big first change was a new member. Zagk Gibbons is a local sound engineer/ recording artist who has been playing in the city on his own and as part of Old Capital Square Dance Club for the last couple of years. After seeing CaveofswordS live with drum backing tracks, he offered to play drums with CaveofswordS. His technical knowledge meant he knew what was happening on the sequenced drum tracks, and could combine that aspect with the undeniable fire and energy that live drumming provides.


Class Fashion, Adult Fur Friday, March 6 THE DEMO

“I wanted specific drums,” says KVN. “But then Zagk started playing with us. He doesn’t play the beats I record, but he listens and augments it really, really well. He has all that [rock influence] at his disposal, but that’s not what he plays.” “What he brings to the table is a great live show,” says Sunyatta. “If you get down to it, drums are exciting, and they bring so much more. We’re still playing with sequenced beats, but he brings all this nuance. It’s more fun for us — he is so into music, and so into so many different sorts of bands like metal, like singer/songwriters, and electronic stuff.” Sunyatta remembers how Gibbons was able to prove himself. “I always thought

CaveofswordS, left to right: Zagk Gibbons, Sunyatta McDermott, KVN, and Eric Armbruster.

there was going to be a drummer who hears us play and says, ‘I’m your drummer,’” she says. “That didn’t happen for us for so long. He moved to our neighborhood, had a house party, and while we were at the party he showed us a drum cover he’d done of one of our songs.” She laughs. A “drum cover” — recording a version of a band’s song only on the drums — isn’t really a thing in the normal world. “He fulfilled the prophecy!” For all of their existence, CaveofswordS has been aligned with Farfetched, a St. Louis artist collective that encompasses an intentionally wide array of genres, including hip hop, futuristic baroque electropop, and an array of experimental music. Farfetched releases music digitally and employs a timehonored do-it-yourself work ethic, pooling resources to help promote the music with social media, special events, and collaborations with journalists across the nation. Meanwhile, the band was also an enthusiastic part of Joe Hess’s Undercurrent series (see last issue for more on Undercurrent — Ed.), which pushed them to play to their most experimental side. But CaveofswordS’ latest leap is their recent signing with upstart new St. Louis label Boxing Clever Records. Formed a couple of years ago within the framework of Boxing Clever creative agency, the label has been carefully ambitious in its growth, starting with gorgeously designed 45s for local bands like Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship, and then eventually releasing their first full-length, Bruiser Queen’s Sweet Static, last year. For CaveofswordS, signing up with a structured label allows the band to strike a balance between giving up a measure of control, and being allowed the luxury of just focusing on making the music. “There’s a system in place to help us do what we wouldn’t do otherwise,” says KVN of Boxing Clever. “We had the money. We could have put the record out on our own. But they have a great PR firm. We decided to let them

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do it. Let them design the new album too, which was really hard for me to allow.” “They are marketing minds, in my opinion,” adds Eric. The album release show is set to go down at The Demo in the Grove on Friday, March 6, and it promises to be a big one, with opening sets by Farfetched mates Adult Fur and pop barnstormers Middle Class Fashion. But that, it’s clear from their expressions, is not all. So what else do they have planned for the release exactly? “If we tell you, then it won’t be special anymore!” says KVN. “We can say, though, that there will be all new visuals specially made for this show that probably won’t get used again. Zagk works at the Demo, so we get to be there plenty early to run backing tracks, and completely tailor the sound system. Which, like: when do you ever get to really do that at a venue?” For those hungering for the forthcoming album, a taste: KDHX has been spinning the single “Blameless,” naming it a KDHX Song of the Day, and the song has been getting out nationally as well. “Blameless” is an engrossing introduction to the sound of CaveofswordS. Though it carries KVN’s signature atmospheric production, Armbruster’s supreme command of the low end, and Sunyatta’s unforgettable vocal grace, the track shines with a more focused, relatable theme than previous releases. What Sigils will not be is shallow. Fans of CaveofswordS’ first album, Silverwalks, can expect the same gloriously layered depth from the new music, in the expanse of instrumentation as well as in lyrical content. The album title itself is a signal that they’re reaching under the surface for more elusive subject matter: the title, like the band, combines a heightened sense of detail awareness with a healthy dose of informed paranoia. Not unlike the work of one of their favorite authors, William Gibson, the album concerns “this idea that there are sigils, symbols, that are everywhere you look,” says Sunyatta, who writes the band’s lyrics. “Real small. You just totally miss them. They’re on your keys, on your bookbag, on your toothpaste, your dish soap, they’re everywhere. This can of soda,” she gestures. “They’re so ubiquitous that you become blind to them. Once you become aware of them again, once your eyes open to it, you can start tracing the lines of power and ownership. You can see what’s happening in the world.” Armbruster nods in agreement. “When you spot one, you’re filled with everything the sigil represents, because you’ve been bombarded with them your whole life,” he says. “Sigils is just a way to recognize.” “History is written by the winners,” says KVN darkly. “They teach you what they want you to remember.” I could point out that “Blameless”

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sounds more like a letter to a lost love than sociopolitical commentary, but KVN sees it coming. “Sunyatta couches a lot of what would otherwise be specific quandaries,” he says. “It sounds like it’s about a relationship. But she does a good job, I think, of pulling herself back enough that people can lay any part of their lives over it.” Thematically, the album is a complex web of associations both macro and micro. “There are connecting themes,” Sunyatta confirms. “Some of them are very personal, but I don’t need my heart dissected. There are global systems at work. We’re on a spectrum of powerful and powerless. [We have] fears that all governments and capitalism use to control us. I take inspiration from the natural world, I like to talk about human experiences.” “It’s like she’s able to personify things that aren’t human,” says Armbruster. “I think of it in terms of psychedelic experiences, which are like religious experiences for other people,” says Sunyatta. “I tend to look for similarities between the smallest and largest systems that I can comprehend.” Sigils, then, may serve as a metaphorical perspective on the intersection of social reality and spiritual experience. “Yeah,” she says, “but I’m not spiritual either. I don’t believe in a soul. We’re in touch with beauty that’s right outside, right in front of you. That’s all you have to be in touch with.” Armbruster feels honored to be making music with Sunyatta. “She is one of the most compelling poets I’ve ever known,” he says. “She seems to write these gorgeous lyrics with the greatest of ease, and I am incredibly envious and enthralled. Not only has she crafted a melody, but she’s made me want to pay attention to lyrics more than I have in my whole life.” ALL THIS CAN’T be focused overnight. It’s taken years for this effort to come to fruition, from Sunyatta’s time in the St. Louis scene with groups like The Helium Tapes, to KVN’s countless hours in front of a computer monitor crafting his tones and beats. But where other projects may force their way forward, CaveofswordS has followed an organic flow to where they are now. “In the beginning,” says Sunyatta, “it was just KVN and me onstage with an iPod, a keyboard, and a couple guitars. We didn’t have other people to work with yet, but we’d been working and we wanted to get the music out. We figured other people would come to us when they saw us, and we would gather a band that way.” “Initially they’re just sonic structures,” KVN says of his compositional process. “Sometimes they’re weird, and nothing else comes from them. Sometimes they have enough solidity that there can be someone actually living in them, and they become proper songs after Sunyatta gets ahold of

them. That’s kinda how I write songs. I find a tone or specific sample, and that might take me a couple days, but then once I find that, everything else just falls perfectly into place. It’s just a matter of figuring out what that thing is. When I hit Save and I don’t have the compulsion to reopen that song, then it’s a success to me.” When I dare to ask how many keyboards are a part of the CaveofswordS armory, KVN scratches his head and swivels around the room. “Three, four…seven digital ones. There’s some over there that are just air ones, melodicas. Two or three. There’s a few old Hammond clones. A few actual synths, a few digital. There’s a sampler. I dunno, there’s all kinds. This is like a repository of broken and kinda fucked up old gear. People say ‘Do you want this?’ and we’re like, ‘Yes! I have no idea what I’m going to do with this but yes, I will take all of your old gear.’” KVN selects the images projected over the band carefully. Though he has used flowers, guns, nudity, and other samples of the human experience, over time it has evolved into the abstract. “There’s a lot of old image sites that are just millions of pictures,” he says. “I just look for what the music looks like. Geometric architecture. How do you represent the music visually so that it corresponds sonically? How do you draw sound?” His visual and musical aesthetics seem to spring from the same basic urge. “My approach is to create something that doesn’t leave any space for you to be thinking about what you have to do at work tomorrow,” he says. “It should be all encompassing. I want it to be visually, audibly, an overwhelming experience every time. I want people to shut their brain off for 45 minutes. The best shows are the ones where everybody’s there together and you can feel it. You’re gonna play better because they’re into it. That really is a huge thing: that reciprocation, even if you hardly know them. A lot of times we can’t even see them. But you can feel it.” “I feel his creativity is unmatched,” says Armbruster of KVN. “If he finds something interesting, it’s interesting to me by proxy. His taste in music and in graphic design. I see what he sees in things, but he sees it first.” To hear them talk about each other, it’s no wonder these three are related. KVN responds to Armbruster’s compliment by recalling how long he sought out his younger cousin for this project, and refers to him as a peerless player. Sunyatta smiles as she explains Armbruster’s talent for directing the energy of the music, knowing just when to let it breathe. “I love getting together once, twice, three times a week,” she says. “People who know you and understand you. Know how you interact with the world and can have your back because they get you. It’s the love of my life and my best friends: that’s what this band is.”



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elevenmusicmag.com | ELEVEN | 19

Hello world, I’m your wild girl

Now that CRAZY XXX GIRLFRIEND is here. STL just got a lot more interesting

by Denmark Laine THERE ARE THOSE who claim the Lemp Brewery is haunted, and I’m inclined to agree. The ancient ruin of a German beer factory looks like the ideal hangout for a serial killer to set up shop, stacking bodies like cordwood. “No, no,” a friend assured me, “They’ve renovated. Turned it into recording studios and rehearsal space.” But when I first caught sight of the abandoned warehouses, bleached gravel courtyards and black smokestacks looming out of the darkness, I seriously began to reconsider our friendship. Is this a kidney heist? Did he expect me to bring a wooden stake and silver bullets? Hidden in those industrial shadows is the main nerve center for creatures of the night: metalheads, streetwalkers and teen vandals, off-duty bouncers and gangbangers

20 | ELEVEN | elevenmusicmag.com

who might feel at home at a Juggalos convention. Deep underground through a network of tunnels and sewer pipes, these extras from a Rob Zombie film meet in secret to throw kickass keg parties and play hardcore death metal. Hold on to your brains, fellow babies! This is the kill zone. This is a place where I heard the alarming phrase, “You aren’t wearing enough latex gloves,” uttered with total sincerity, a place where you’re just as likely to get shanked by an ex-Hell’s Angel as wake up in a Slovakian hostel surrounded by monks wearing goat heads. Who knew that the dark, rusting bowels of the Lemp are also home to Brewhouse Music Studios, where local bands can rent out practice spaces or even record? A safe haven for art on the skids, the old factory has become the definition of an underground artists’ colony, its once barren lofts

converted to makeshift living quarters. The Lemp is a crossroads for villains and eccentrics, maybe even a St. Louis take on the Hotel Chelsea. I’ve always accepted as an article of faith that St. Louis is in dire need of a lowdown, dirty hard rock revolution. And like an answer to prayer, like finding that first enticing stash of erotica under your parents’ bed, salvation has appeared in the form of a burlesque punk rock group known as Crazy XXX Girlfriend. The trio composed of Tracy Swigert, Allie Vogler and Kelsey Liesen is a revvedup, supercharged FM powerhouse in garters and stilettos, a fully loaded engine of electric feedback, diesel-fueled emotion and sweet n’ sour aphrodisiacs running red hot. The dark side of glitter rock is their calling card: citing influences from ‘70s-‘80s punk bands to the ‘90s riot grrrl movement,

Facing page: Crazy XXX Girlfriend onstage, L-R: Kelsey Liesen on drums, Allie Vogler on bass, and Tracy Swigert on guitar. This page: the band getting ready for a show, and Liesen on drums. PHOTOS BY CHRIS RENTERIA

they’re a lethal dose of everything young, loud and fierce. They hail from the same hot-and-heavy jungle as the Demolition Doll Rods, and the band’s personal heroes range from Wendy O. Williams and Joan Jett to Sleater-Kinney and Vinnie Paul. Vamped out in corsets, ripped fishnets or sometimes just strategically-placed duct tape, the girls know how to work a room, how to keep an audience guessing and wanting more. All three bandmates are rad, bad babes — and they know it. Half the show is them reveling in their own stone-cold foxiness and radioactive self-confidence, sweating mascara with their sumptuously bedraggled hair clinging to their faces. But the real heat comes from Swigert’s lead guitar carving up energized chords of stereo-panned distortion, Vogler’s deep, hard-edged bass grooves, and Liesen’s unrelenting rhythmic drive. Whether they’re blasting through their own songs or covers of The Buzzcocks’ “Orgasm Addict,” Hall or (how could they not?) The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb,” together they’re an iron fist in a velvet glove. By and large the brainchild of Swigert’s teenage dream to start a feminist, all-girl rock group, Crazy XXX Girlfriend aims to turn the tables on a male-dominated industry and have fun and look good while doing it. They are a role-reversal of the sexist stereotype of the rock star – from scantily clad groupies flinging their panties on stage

to grown-ass men taking off their shirts and throwing their boxers. Prime example: while performing their now-infamous song “Dick Magnet” at Off Broadway – a swaggering, anthemic tour de force – they invited anyone from the male audience to join them on stage and strip. A drunken volunteer quickly floundered up onstage, where he proceeded to jump and thrash about stark naked, laughing to the cheers of a playfully moshing crowd.

Crazy XXX Girlfriend’s Dick Magnet EP release w/ Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship and Crystal City Saturday, March 21 FOAM

A testament to the band’s versatility is that each member of this three-piece runs in different musical circles that are as opposite as day and night. Swigert is one half of the Jefferson Avenue Duo, an acoustic act in which she plays (amongst other things) the djembe. Similarly, Vogler is part of the River Kittens, a trio whose honed harmonies and sharply turned lyrics strike deep. Liesen began as a flautist with

the SIUE school band. So how did these performers find their way from point A to point B, musically speaking? It seems like a long way from the coffeehouse to the burlesque punk rock club. Your guess is as good as mine — perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Swigert also hosts the open mic night at Shameless Grounds, which is not your ordinary café for bored kids to idle away their afternoon over cheap java and free wi-fi. Shameless is (as its name implies) both a sanctuary and laboratory for erotic art and kinky subcultures. Perhaps that’s the missing link: the mutual background that lead the members of Crazy XXX Girlfriend from playing Americana and roots music to more glammed up, sexual agitprop like so many great rock renegades before them. Why reinvent the wheel when it’s already rolling? Now they are set to release their first CD, the Dick Magnet EP. Bearing in mind that this band is still fresh and their music and onstage personae are still loose and evolving, they’re still the wildest, most provocative bombshell to hit the local scene in years. They bristle with old-school attitude, so latter-day punk aficionados pissed off about missing the heyday of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, rejoice! The bad old days are back. These girls are a secret weapon. This is one crazy ex you won’t want to break up with.

elevenmusicmag.com | ELEVEN | 21


MARCH 4-15

THE BRAINSTEMS, CS Luxem, Karma Vision, Sun Bros at Foam


MILO GREENE, Caroline Smith at the Duck Room


SXSTL: Bruiser Queen, Blackwater ’64, Pretty Little Liars, The Maness Brothers


RUM DRUM RAMBLERS, Al Scorch, Jack Grelle at Off Broadway


TOWN CARS, Anna Vogelzang, DinoFight! at Off Broadway


WOLF EYES, Yowie at the Luminary


TWO COW GARAGE, Breakmouth Annie, Bald Eagle Mountain at the Demo

Leather Jackals’ quintessential STL sound.

AT THE PAGEANT | THURSDAY, MARCH 26 If you haven’t seen the movie In a World, put down this magazine and check it out right this second. It’s one of 2013’s overlooked comedic gems, not least because of the presence of Demetri Martin. In the film he’s a model of mild-mannered sweetness. In his stand-up, he’s a Beck-ish, mellow absurdist, playing with words like they’re toys, and pushing jokes forward into long-form grammatical analytics. But one of his great strengths is the oneliner, a notoriously tricky form honed by many but perfected by Mitch Hedberg. Like so many current comedians, Martin can’t evade the shadow of Hedberg, but he gets his own angle on it by performing them to his own guitar accompaniment. It’s a funny way to defy expectation — instruments generally imply long-form songs, but Martin uses the guitar instead to weave a whole series of small funny observations together. This is a good time to catch him, because his star certainly appears to be on the rise. ES




ANNALIBERA, Googolplexia, Bobby Stevens, The Carondelettes at Foam


ELVIS COSTELLO solo acoustic, Larkin Poe at the Pageant



A BENEFIT FOR THE ORGANIZATION FOR BLACK STRUGGLE with 18&Counting, The Wilderness, Marcellus Buckley “The Ferguson Poet,” Mikey Wehling at the Demo

SXSCITY: Union Rags, Arthur And The Librarian, Cracked Ceilings, Suzie Cue at Off Broadway



SXSCITY: Dad Jr, The Churchland, World Famous at Off Broadway

CAVEOFSWORDS (record release), Middle Class Fashion, Adult Fur, Zagk Gibbons at the Demo


THELMA AND THE SLEAZE, Bible Best Sinners, Old Souls Revivial at Schlafly Tap Room

MIKAL SHAPIRO (album release), FIREDOG, Cree Rider Family Band at Foam


JONATHAN RICHMAN with Tommy Larkin at Off Broadway

SIDEWALK CHALK, LoopRat at the Demo


POKEY LAFARGE Something in the Water listening party at the Royale

AMERICAN AQUARIUM, Chicago Farmer at Off Broadway


COLISEUM, Maximum Effort, Nos Bos at Melt

MARSHALL CRENSHAW feat. The Bottle Rockets at Old Rock House


BROTHERS LAZAROFF unplugged at the Kranzberg

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE, Gill Landry at Off Broadway


Mope Grooves’ Stevie Pohlman used to head Youthbitch, a Portland-based slack-rock garage group that coulda been your favorite band. Now he’s touring the country with Mope Grooves, a charming jumble that still tugs the Pavement strings but doubles down on the nerdy charm of a bunch of weirdoes egging each other on to sing about the girls they’re too scared to actually talk with. ES

MOPE GROOVES, Vanilla Beans, Boreal Hills, Tubby Tom at Foam


GYMSHORTS, Eula, Demonlover, Skin Tags, Baby Sun God at Melt

Working Class Dogs is the dream project of Whoa Thunder/Middle Class Fashion popster Brian McClelland, in which he completes the circle that began with him air-guitaring to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” at nine years old and ends with him actually performing that song and a ton of other Springfield gems live onstage. McClelland considers Springfield way more than a pop-culture curiosity: both ‘81’s Working Class Dog and ‘84’s Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet are “super tight pop gems,” he says. The band also includes members of Kentucky Knife Fight, Syna So Pro, and Thor Axe, so it’ll be a detailed rendition. It’s a great chance to shake the ironic remove from these songs and hear what sticks! ES

WORKING CLASS DOGS, Yankee Racers at Off Broadway

at the Duck Room

TIM HECKER at the Kranzberg BEN CAPLAN, The Ghost of Paul Revere at The Demo

THE ACHING HEARTS at the Sheldon


If the word “Nashville” conjures loathsome images of ten-gallon hats and dog-truckbeer songs, it’s time to get your head right: Nashville is ground zero for basement party rock freakout music. Chrome Pony is one of the city’s lesser known but just as righteous rockers from the same scene that produced JEFF The Brotherhood, Pujol, Diarrhea Planet, Heavy Cream, and so many others. Bros Tyler and Kyle Davis seem to be the ones in charge of writing the band’s catchy, scratchy songs, and they should make a good match with the

Scan this QR Code, or go to ElevenMusicMag.com for a listing of club addresses. Check out our expanded calendar of events at calendar.elevenmusicmag.com, powered by

Discussed this issue Comedy show



SUPERSUCKERS at Off Broadway


CREE RIDER FAMILY BAND, Hilary Scott, Emily Wallace at Off Broadway

THE FOG, then BRUXISM Vol. 8 at Foam EARL SWEATSHIRT, Vince Staples, Remy Banks at Ready Room CHROME PONY, Blackwater ‘64, Brother Lee And The Leather Jackals at Fubar



If you like a dose of well-applied mascara with your rock, Dayton natives Good English are a must-see. They’re a trio of sisters, each of whom reveals a charming onstage character as they rock their way through snug hooks and solid lyrics. This is their first visit to St. Louis, so make sure to welcome them to the city properly. Plus, Humdrum doesn’t play enough these days, so catch them while you can!


CHRISTIAN LEE HUTSON, Acorns To Oaks at Off Broadway


SUPERFUN YEAH YEAH ROCKETSHIP, Crazy XXX Girlfriend (album release), Crystal City at Foam

ENDORA, Bagheera, Little Big Bangs at Schlafly Tap Room

THIS CITY OF TAKERS, New Tongues, Old City, The Maness Brothers at Heavy Anchor

HUMDRUM, Good English, Army Of Infants, Shitstorm at Foam


JON HARDY AND THE PUBLIC, Avon Dale, Bo And The Locomotive at Firebird

JOHN MULANEY (2 shows) at the Pageant

DIARRHEA PLANET, Bruiser Queen, Left And Right at Off Broadway

DEMETRI MARTIN at the Pageant


LASER BACKGROUND, Golden Curls at 2720

TYCHO at the Ready Room



GOOGOLPLEXIA, Curt Oren, Skarekrau Radio at Schlafly Tap Room

DESERT NOISES, Santah at Off Broadway


SYLVAN ESSO, Flock Of Dimes at the Ready Room


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BRING ON THE NIGHT = STL band (current and/or honorary)

Live Music >>PREVIEW

American Aquarium, Chicago Farmer Wednesday, March 4

OFF BROADWAY On their freshly released new album Wolves, American Aquarium leaves little doubt where they nabbed their name. Opening track “Family Problems” harkens back to Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” with dark lyrics and dense orchestration that breaks down into chaos by song’s end, but this is by no means a Wilco tribute band. There’s no cold and gray Midwest in American Aquarium’s music. Instead they bring the landscape of their North Carolina home base: lush, rich, with a warm and gentle twang that hints at their Southern rock history. “There’s a Southern sadness that won’t let go of this heart of mine,” sings BJ Barham on the album’s second track, over slide guitar and upbeat tambourine jangles. It’s a cohesive work that captures Barham’s roots as a young outcast stuck in Raleigh, complete with hand claps and a stomping groove. After releasing six albums in seven years and touring constantly, the band planned to retire in 2012 with the Jason Isbell-produced album morosely titled Burn. Flicker. Die. Instead, they’re back, refreshed, and garnering praises from press as diverse as CMT, Relix, and the Wall Street Journal. Filled with narratives of regret, longing, and missteps, Wolves chronicles the kind of darkness that can envelop a band working at the frantic pace they’d been keeping up prior to this album. What should have been the end of their career is instead an emotive high point that’ll touch anyone who has felt alone in the pack, whether among family, acquaintances, or bandmates. With their long touring history and the fresh life American Aquarium has been given through this album, their current tour promises loud and fiery shows. They returned to the road at the beginning of the year with a schedule that reflects their 250-shows-a-year past. They’ll hit Off Broadway two months into the tour, which should have them back into their old groove but still energized from the momentum of Wolves. ROBIN WHEELER >>PREVIEW

The Phantom of the Opera March 4 - 15

THE FOX If you’re holding a copy of Eleven in your hands, I’m going to just assume you can dig on great art, and therefore can appreciate big theater. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical The Phantom Of The Opera is a 30-year-old play about a 100-year-old French novel set 130 years ago that feels just as fresh now as it did when it was

written. If you don’t know the story, you’re in for an eerily seductive romance, darker than Romeo and Juliet and sexier than Fifty Shades of Grey (OK, that was too easy). Whether you’re intrigued by a buxom heroine who follows a deformed madman down to his secret underground river lair like some kind of ghost Batman, or by a vibrant masquerade and the mysterious tuxedo-clad tenor holding court there, you’re in for one of the most haunting, fantastic musical scores composed in the last century, as well as one of the most iconic props in theater’s history: a startlingly massive, mesmerizing chandelier. This particular production just finished up a sold-out tour in the UK, and features over 50 of the most talented actors and orchestral musicians in the world. The costume designer and choreographer are both Tony Award winners, which means the performance will both intrigue and dazzle like no other. And hey, it’s the Fox! Undoubtedly someone you know has yet to experience the spectacle of St. Louis’ most magnificent venue, so the gift of tickets would be something no one could forget. It’s freaking Phantom. Call it intense, call it epic, just don’t pretend you don’t want to go. GRANT BARNUM >>PREVIEW

Annalibera, Nicholas Naioti, Bobby Stevens, 4th Rag MC’d by Googolplexia Tuesday, March 10 FOAM Googolplexia’s fearless explorer Robert Severson has been making forays into the wilds of Iowa for years now, and bringing his discoveries back to St. Louis for the enrichment of us all. Des Moines in particular has been producing richly appointed, self-determined pop music, from the flailing antics of Gloom Balloon and Christopher The Conquered to the traveling discotheque that is MR. NASTI. Add to your must-see list Annalibera, the dreamy, evocative project helmed by singer Anna Gebhardt. She is classically trained in the operatic tradition — and she has no trouble deciding which aspects of that training to keep (clarity of tone, projection) and which to forego (rigid vibrato, uptight delivery). The result is a liquid, entrancing vocal that winds like a living thing around the guitars, drums and keyboards that accompany it. Up til now, they’ve only had a threesong, self-titled EP available, which becomes a painful tease after being played a few dozen times. At last, though, Annalibera is releasing their first full-length, Nevermind I Love You, this month on vinyl via Sump Pump Records. Every song is

elevenmusicmag.com | ELEVEN | 25

Live Music

Alice Spencer performing with Three Merry Widows at the Ready Room on February 7.

more luscious than the last, and the band deftly reveals new facets to their sound as the album progresses, from reverb-laden dreamscapes to harder rocking, guitarcentric passages. Live, Gebhardt manages to personify music that is emotionally heavy and musically engrossing without becoming pretentious, a neat trick that has eluded many other singers of rare capacity. There’s no accounting for the ways of the world, but with a new album in hand there’s also nothing stopping Annalibera from blowing up in a big way this year. Foam is an ideal venue for you to catch the band up close and personal. Just make sure while you’re there to thank Severson for making St. Louis a new outpost for Iowa’s burgeoning music scene. EVAN SULT >>PREVIEW

Wolf Eyes, Yowie Monday, March 16

LUMINARY CENTER FOR THE ARTS Michigan trio Wolf Eyes currently sits atop the throne of the American noise underground, and with good reason. Since 1996, the fist-pumping, body slamming noise unit has played hundreds of shows, broken into the mainstream with two unlikely records on Sub Pop (2004’s Burned Mind and 2006’s Human Animal), and released over 200 recordings on various imprints across the freak network. Comprised of Nate Young and John Olson, the band saw a cast rotation in 2013, as longtime member Mike Connelly (Hair Police, Clay Rendering) passed his axe over to friend and first Wolf Eyes roadie, Crazy Jim Baljo. Led by Young’s raw vocal approach, the band marries creeping synthesizers, minimal pulses of electronic

26 | ELEVEN | elevenmusicmag.com

rhythm, and blackened guitar feedback to create soundtracks for the demented. Equal parts Halloween sound effects record and Throbbing Gristle b-side, the band has taken its “trip metal” sound from Midwest basements to halfway across the world at unassuming clubs in Israel and Tel Aviv. 2013’s No Answer: Lower Floors saw Baljo’s distinct guitar style and use of key/scale add a new structured element to the Wolf Eyes ethos. However, never ones to stray from their trademark sound, the band’s current output is a cross section of all its iterations, referencing earlier recordings like 2000’s aptly titled Dread and the anxiety-inducing droll of 2002’s Slicer. The Wolf Boys return to St. Louis this month via the Luminary Center for the Arts, which has become a welcome venue for extreme music, with Pharmakon shattering eardrums just a few months back. The band will be supported by one of the area’s more underappreciated gems, free-math-rock trio Yowie. For years now, Yowie’s technical prowess and lightning-fast agility has placed the band alongside left-brain genius acts like Hella, Ruins, and Lightning Bolt. After meticulous practices, the recruitment of guitar wizard Christopher Trull (Grand Ulena), and a successful European tour, the band has returned with its phasers set to destroy. JOSH LEVI >>PREVIEW

Sylvan Esso, Flock Of Dimes Tuesday, March 17

READY ROOM It’s hard to believe Sylvan Esso performed in St. Louis less than a year ago. When they rocked the Luminary on a temperate evening last June, their self-titled debut


album had only been available for a month. The duo seemed shocked by the large crowd that filled the gallery space, and even more blown away that most of that crowd could sing along to their freshly released songs. Now, in the bleak, pre-spring throes of March, the band is returning to St. Louis riding high on a wave of critical and commercial success. They made their way onto just about every year-end list that NPR curated—”Top 50 Albums of the Year,” “Top 10 Breakout Artists of the Year” and “Top 25 Listener Picks of 2014,” to name just a few. Rolling Stone called the debut single “Coffee” off their self-titled debut one of the 50 best songs of the year, the album has been streamed over 20 million times on Spotify, and ?uestlove accompanied them on drums when they played The Tonight Show. They opened for tUnE-yArDs during their national tour. It’s safe to say that these two have had a pretty amazing eight months since St. Louis last saw them. Listening to Sylvan Esso, it’s not hard to understand how they have had such success. The album is an enthralling combination of dreamy techno, deep hip hop beats and light, catchy pop. Amelia Meath of Mountain Man and Nick Sanborn of Megafaun met when thrown on the same bill one night. Meath was intrigued by Sanborn’s set — he performs solo under the moniker Made Of Oak — and asked him to mix a song she had written and recorded called “Play It Right.” They soon realized they were meant to keep collaborating together and Sylvan Esso was born. The album itself is a stunner. But live, the duo is hypnotizing. Meath’s vocals take on a soulful quality that is occasionally lost on the album. Sanborn plays with the crowd, looping and cutting on the fly to better

Live Music serve the show. They morph and contort the songs so they’re warmer and eerier than the recorded versions. Meath jerks and writhes across the stage in time with the beat while Sanborn bops like a skinny white hypeman. They banter adorably between songs. They are endearing and bewitching in equal measure. Sylvan Esso, the album, was more than worthy of all the accolades it has received. Sylvan Esso, the live duo, is an experience you cannot afford to miss. CAITLIN BLADT >>PREVIEW

Endora, Little Big Bangs, Bagheera Saturday, March 21

SCHLAFLY TAP ROOM As Ellen The Felon’s music has grown over the last few years, so has her audience. We’ve heard her piano-based songs influenced by musical theater, classical, and punk, but always with proficiency and a spunky sense of humor. These days, her name is a point of reference for anyone trying to describe independent music in the STL scene. That’s why we’re excited for her new chapter with Endora, a collaboration with her long-time drummer Matthew Reyland, plus guitarist Pete Moss and cellist Jake Brookman. Ellen has been going through some personal transformations herself — following a significant health scare, she has been living alcohol free for a while now, which was a pretty radical transition from her harder-living, more Felonious days. So it is fitting, and encouraging, that her new life brings with it a new persona and a new lineup. Fans can expect the music to be an

intriguing take on a sort of cabaret rock opera, but since this is the first time we’ve heard Ellen’s music performed as part of a full band, who can tell? What is clear for those keeping up with Ellen is that she has been full of purpose and music the last many months, and seems to be bursting at the seams with new music and a new way of looking at life. Bagheera is one of those St. Louis bands intent on proving that kick-ass guitar tones don’t die. Even with the radio waves fighting to tell us that punk rock is in a coma, there are still of a ton of us who beg to differ, and this band can prove it. Heather Dallape and Theodore Moll can deliver serene harmonies or belted-out bluesy rock anthems as the situation calls for, and they continue to remind us of their prowess with every appearance. Little Big Bangs are a no guts, no glory punk band with no apologies. What I love about these rockers is that every now and then, they can tease you with a little clean guitar and a little melody, before throwing it back in your face. Come for the relentless rhythms, stay for the bloody pickguards. GRANT BARNUM


mellow beat moves in and out around you. It caresses you as you find yourself being gently pulled in a large circle towards a hole emitting bright lights. You pass through it into a world of color and shapes. Onward you travel on a wave of bass that carries you through portal after portal, each world revealing a palette of colors from a spectrum you’ve never perceived in this life. Small creatures wave to you from platforms, some of them hopping aboard your back for a ride as you twist and turn around these new lands. Repetition dances through your limbs and spirals upwards in ways you didn’t think physically possible. Guitars echo around and complement the organically flowing drums that propel you through the pulsing lights. You’re changing how everything appears, as the shapes spin to reveal hidden treasures. This makes you feel angelic, creative, complete. As the song reverberates back out into the nothingness, you slowly fall back to the ground. Your feet touch down and you’re back at The Ready Room. Tycho’s instrumental synth-driven space rock has captured you and taken you to a higher plane of existence. You’re so glad you didn’t miss this show. JACK PROBST



Wednesday, March 25

Tim Hecker

READY ROOM You find yourself in a blank void of nothingness. You are floating endlessly on a backdrop of blackness, contemplating how you ended up in this purgatory. You hear a pattern of light notes travel through your ears. Your entire body starts to vibrate as a

Friday, March 27 KRANZBERG ARTS CENTER Canadian-based musician and sound designer Tim Hecker makes music to disappear to. Beginning his career under his own name in 1996, Hecker’s dissatisfaction with the techno world led him towards his trade-


Roosevelt Sykes Headstone Benefit ROOSEVELT SYKES IS a name everyone in St. Louis should know. “The Honeydripper” is one of the most important, influential, versatile, and virtuoso blues pianist of all time. He was by far the most widely recorded pianist of the pre-war era, accompanying himself and countless other singers on hundreds of sides. In addition to recording, he acted as a sort of talent scout, and is responsible for bringing bluesmen such as Walter Davis and Henry Townsend into the studio. Sykes was born in Arkansas in 1906. At the age of three his family moved to St. Louis, and growing up he split his time between Helena, AR, and St. Louis. Helena is on the Mississippi River, about 70 miles south of Memphis. In Helena, and in traveling up and down the Mississippi, he was exposed to the many barrelhouse styles of Southern itinerant bluesmen. Sykes also picked up on the cruder, sparse styles of the St. Louis bluesmen. Though he is considered an active, almost frantic player, he would at times play the simple low-down blues. He

could also play uptempo, 8-to-the-bar boogie-woogie basslines with ease. His ability to combine all these styles is one element that separates him from other pianists of the time, and made him such a sought-after accompanist. A wonderfully boisterous singer, Sykes first recorded in 1929. His earliest tunes, “The 44 Blues” and “All My Money’s Gone Blues” are quintessential to the piano blues repertoire and are still covered to this day. Sykes had a long and impressive career, playing until the end of his life in 1983. Like many of the now-forgotten bluesmen of his time, Sykes is buried in New Orleans with no headstone. This is where the Killer Blues organization comes in. Killer Blues is a not-for-profit organization that raises money to provide headstones for blues musicians. In the last few years the organization has provided headstones for local musicians such as Bennie Smith, Tommy Bankhead, and James Crutchfield. To this end, Killer Blues, in conjunction with The St. Louis Blues Society, will be hosting a benefit show at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups on March 22 to raise money for Sykes’ headstone. This event is only more special and appropriate because Sykes played opening night at BB’s in 1981. There will be a raffle, auction and performances by Brian Curran, Ethan Leinwand, Animal Children and Curt Landes.

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Live Music mark solo works in the burgeoning genre of power ambient. Marked by charcoalcolored swashes of sound intertwined with lush samples of pipe organ and woodwinds, Hecker creates haunting soundscapes with just enough restraint to let the light in. Evidence of this can be found on the epochal Ravedeath, 1972; recorded in a church in Reykjavik, the recording is a crushing examination of depth, darkness, and the search for what lies on the other side of the universe’s mirror. Through contemplative passages and rising waves of distortion, Hecker’s beautiful sound collages bring to mind the somber ache of Max Richter, the minimalist repetition of Steve Reich, and the disintegrating rot of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops. His use of post-production assemblage and the ability to obscure digital process into an organic, digestible experience is a talent shared by few. Fellow travelers in this soundscape include frequent collaborators Ben Frost (engineer on Ravedeath) and Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin, as heard on his 2012 release, Instrumental Tourist. In recent works, such as 2013’s Virgins, we find Hecker’s masterful sleight of hand transform pieces by a small ensemble of orchestra musicians into an aural abstract masterpiece. Employing conventional instrumentation, Hecker was able to record,

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disassemble, process, and flawlessly weave together whole new constructions while maintaining the original mood and direction of the orchestral pieces. In recent years, Hecker can often be found performing in historical churches and cathedrals worldwide, further enforcing the sonic communion ascribed to his music. Friday’s concert at the Kranzberg Arts Center marks Hecker’s very first St. Louis performance. Presented by KSLU, KWUR, and the Billiken Club, we have the forwardthinking students of St. Louis University to thank for this one. The Billiken Club, in its form as a venue, has long served as a launching point for acts that have gone on to exceed expectations — St. Vincent, Beach House, and Deerhunter all performed at the Billiken before they broke into mainstream awareness. If one has ever feared missing out on an intimate setting for a one-of-akind performance, then this concert is no exception. JOSH LEVI >>PREVIEW

Little Falcon, Various Hands, Canon Field Saturday, March 28 THE FIREBIRD Little Falcon is not going to stay the best kept secret in St. Louis for long. In fact, his Internet presence has threatened to steal him

away from our thus-far oblivious city before we really have a chance to truly appreciate his talent. He’s already been spread around the YouTube circuit thousands of times, to frequent exclamations of awe in the comments. To understand why there’s not a single negative thing to be said among them, you simply have to hear his voice. With a robust, crooning tone, Little Falcon’s music could follow effortlessly in the footsteps of Harry Conick Jr. or Frank Sinatra, but Little Falcon’s taste leads him in a more indie-pop direction. His soaring ukulele cover of Julia Nunes is spot-on, and the Young The Giant cover that his band performs live would be the highlight of the night if not for the fact that, well, every single song they play has a way of being entirely captivating. Some songs deliver meandering, soothing jazz melodies against a bouncing ukulele. Others feature a playful xylophone before tapping into quick-tongued rhymes over clever dance beats. Bassist Shannon Durington (The Glass Cavalry), drummer Tom Pike (LOGOS), pianist Adam Henrichs, and percussionist John Daniel Gresham form a delicious indie backline that would make proud any fan of Fleet Foxes or The Decemberists. Listen to their recent EP release In a Car, and you’re sure to find the perfect hook to warm you up for spring.

Album Reviews

HOT ROCKS = STL band (current and/or honorary)

Father John Misty

I Love You, Honeybear Sub Pop

by Nelda Kerr

Mean Scene The very latest releases from all around St. Louis, assembled by SUZIE GILB. To get your upcoming release on the list, email suzie@elevenmusicmag.com. LP = vinyl album | CS = cassette DL = download | CD = CD (duh)

CATCHING UP: JANUARY Well Hungarians Bona Fide CD & DL Better Days Nope EP 7” & DL Clockwork Not Meant for the Dark CD & DL

CATCHING UP: FEBRUARY Syna So Pro Loop Talk Vol. 2: Two Riffs and Some Heartache CD & DL

Minus Me Jupiter CD & DL The People’s Key Heal the World CD & DL (Triangulum Productions)

SpaceShip TeleWarp CD & DL (Triangulum Productions)

BRAND NEW: MARCH CaveofswordS Sigils CD, LP & DL (Boxing Clever)

Crazy XXX Girlfriend Dick Magnet EP CD & DL Mikal Shapiro The Musical LP, CD & DL Alan Smithee Wizards N’ Shit CD & DL

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WHEN I INTERVIEWED Josh Tillman in May of 2013, he told me he didn’t try to publish the novel he’d written, Mostly Hypothetical Mountains, because he was afraid of literary scrutiny. Instead, he put it up on Blogspot and printed it as the liner notes to his 2012 album, Fear Fun. It appears that, before he could create a novel, he needed first to create its author: his new identity, Father John Misty. I Love You, Honeybear is the title of Misty’s second album (not counting the preceding seven albums he created under the name J. Tillman), and this time he has written a novel in album form: a twisted tale of falling in love and marrying a woman named Emma Garr in Los Angeles. He walks us through 13 tracks that take a look at his lover and himself through very different yet astutely heterosexual male gazes. It’s no coincidence that album’s first video features Emma (and him, and some pancakes) as seen through a kaleidoscope on their wedding anniversary. This album takes a literal love story, refracts it through all kinds of glass and light, and spits it back out suffused in a glowing haze that romances as it reveals. The album begins with a plot twist: the first song is more or less the end of the story. Apocalyptic times and a global market crash mean “everything is doomed and nothing will be spared, but I love you, Honeybear.” It’s supposed to be a joke, he has said, because he would never call anyone “Honeybear” — but he sets her apart from the beginning, separate from the “boys,” who can “have the last of the smokes and chicken, just one Cadillac will do to get us out to where we’re going.” This love has made them say “fuck the world”; they dwell in each other, where “mascara, blood, ash, and cum” stain the “Rorschach sheets” where they made love. They bring their depression, scorn, and schizophrenia with

them, “But everything is fine,” he promises, “don’t give in to despair…” In the next track, he’s out in LA with Emma, where mariachi bands fill the air and they wind up playing piano in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont. Here, he sets her up as being something beyond human: “people are boring, but you’re something else completely,” he observes, among male backup vocals and swirling horns and strings. She changes him, and makes him want to be a married man. Most every track starts with the tinkling of piano or guitar before the full band comes in with bass, drums, and accouterments. “True Affection” is the only purely electronic track. He pleads to her, “When can we talk, face to face, instead of using all these strange devices?” By the third track he has already covered three key moments in a relationship: at the edge of the world together, hanging out in LA, and separated by a tour. These don’t even have to be with the same woman, though most of these references are. But in “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Town,” he cuts a dagger into his love. If you are in a relationship, you will have a long conversation after listening to this song. Here are two lyrics to chew on: “Of the few main things I hate about her, one’s her petty vogue ideas. Someone’s been told too many times they’re beyond their years, and now every insufferable convo features her patiently explaining the cosmos of which she is in the middle.” And later: “I hate that soulful affectation white girls put on. Why don’t you move to the Delta. I’ll oblige later on when you beg me to choke you.” It’s telling that he slings his arrows under his birth name, especially when calling out his lover as a fake. The deep disdain reveals a patronizing darkness within his love. Enter “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me,” complete with ladies singing backup! The backing track sounds like it could fit on Girls’ aptly named 2011 release, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, or onstage with Roy Orbison. The lyrics provide an antidote to Tillman’s poison: “There’s no need to fear me,” he soothes. “Darling, I love you as you are when you’re alone.” And he turns the arrows on himself too, as an “aimless, fake drifter, and the horny manchild momma’s boy to boot.” If you’ve ever hit on or been hit on at a bar, “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” is something to chew on. This LA bar may have a great whiskey selection, but Misty is busy warding off a “blondie,” explaining to her that his girl “blackens pages like a Russian Romantic” and “gets down more often than a blow-up doll.” In a recent interview with Grantland, he said of this song’s narrator, “I hear a very insecure, petulant imp who is objectifying the woman he claims to love,

Album Reviews thinking of her like an object that is his.” It is telling that he adopts the gaze in the song and berates it later. Enter fuzz on the guitars: a tornado is stirring. “Strange Encounter” relives a time when Tillman’s lover almost died in his house. “The moment you came to I swore I would change,” he says, and evidence suggests he did in fact change for her. He chose to wrestle with his sentimentality, his hate and love — and he got married. And yet the next song, “The Ideal Husband,” is a torturous shitstorm. The album is fuzzing over, and everything is sinking in like quicksand. “I’m tired of running, let’s put a baby in the oven,” he says in a fever pitch that sounds like Johnny from The Shining at the door. Then comes “Bored in the USA,” where Misty does a piss-take of himself and the whole public endeavor. He speaks like a stand up comic, laugh track and all, crying out, “Save me, President Jesus!” The next track, “Holy Shit,” swings around in contemplation of It All: “that’s now myth, that’s not real,” he says at one point, and scorns the presence of “infotainment,” “dust bowl chic” and the like. He has been pulling “age-old gender roles” around like silly putty, and they are snapping back to their original form: a boy and a girl who fail to see what the world has “got to do with you and me.” And thus we end where they begin: “I Went to the Store One Day” describes the moment when Emma Garr, the future Emma Elizabeth Tillman, first met Josh who was buying coffee and cigarettes. With I Love You, Honeybear, Tillman has grown as Father John Misty to finally complete that great novel he himself couldn’t write before. It’s Pynchon-like in its satirical contemplation of maleness (and relatively flat sense of femininity). It’s Leonard Cohen-like in its confessions and self-defeat. And it’s perfect.

Bottoms Up Blues Gang

Drinking Live at the Shanti Self release

One of my favorite things about Bottoms Up Blues Gang live shows is that anyone could show up to play with them, and you’ll never see the same show twice. Drinking Live at the Shanti was recorded over two shows on August 15 and 16, 2014, and this particular weekend was a veritable all-star cast, including singers Leslie Sanazaro, Teresa Parker and Irene Allen, harmonica players Adam Andrews, Eric McSpadden and

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Jon Erblich, Funky Butt trumpeter Adam Hucke, and pianist and melodica player Matt Murdick. With several hours’ worth of music over the two nights, guitarist Jeremy Segel-Moss and singer/percussionist Kari Liston, the core of the Gang, have done a fine job of boiling down the essence to CD. The track list includes a couple BUBG originals, like opener “Meet Me Out Back,” which playfully yet indirectly invites the listener to come smoke some weed, and singer Kari Liston is just as playful, albeit less subtle, when she clarifies that the invitation is strictly platonic. The other original, at the opposite end of the album, is “New World Blues,” which could easily pass as an old classic, until you realize that the lyrics describe the freedom-versussafety woes of a post-9/11 world. The song’s breakdown is perfectly tailored to Liston’s vocal strengths, and she and Segel-Moss manage the tempo changes with accuracy and ease, even with a crew of musicians who are “sitting in” (usually code for “we didn’t practice this”). This isn’t to say they sound unpolished; far from it. Rather, it’s abundantly clear that they and their guests are just that good at playin’ the blues in its most fundamental, improvisational form. Meanwhile, Liston and the Gang don’t shy away from commenting and joking on their impromptu

The Rebellious Jukebox

style — it’s part of what makes their shows constantly unique. Bottoms Up Blues Gang does a great job repping other STL musicians too, as in the slow and sweet “Sucker in the Key of G,” written by the late Dave Hagerty (though he was known as the singer of Fattback, this posthumously released tune was a solo recording). Likewise closer “I Want to Fuck You in the Park,” written by the same Irene Allen who is sharing the stage with them, and which is every bit as vulgar, hilarious and probably drunken as the title implies. In the midst of all this fun, BUBG manages to sneak in a Tommy Johnson tune, a “Wang Dang Doodle/All Along the Watchtower” mash-up, and a cover of their Phoenixbased “sister band,” The Sugar Thieves’ “Testimonial.” But nothing is more representative of STL than a live performance of our city’s own Uncle Bill Green, aka The World’s Most Dangerous Poet. With the full Gang backing him up, Uncle Bill extemporizes for 10 minutes on Vietnam, drinking, fucking, and Pussy Riot, then lays out a poem entitled “Advice to God on Dealing with Robin Williams” — and there’s more, those are just some highlights. It should be noted, for those unfamiliar with Uncle Bill’s style, that his poems are more like glorious, often hilarious stream-of-consciousness rants

Life at 45 RPM by Matt Harnish

THE HITS KEEP COMING from Lumpy Records, & they pretty much always zig when you expect ‘em to zag. Although Belleville wave-punks Trauma Harness have had a handful of limited-run cassette releases & one split 45 (with my band Bunnygrunt, conflict-of-interest trainspotters!), they remain criminally unrepresented on vinyl for as hard-working a band as they are. So what does Lumpy do to rectify that? Release a solo 45 by bassist Andy Peterson (the “Quiet Harness”), of course. And like everything else I’ve heard on Lumpy Records, it’s great (of course). Operating as GIBBOUS, the two songs Peterson presents here aren’t a wild departure from the Trauma Harness sound, but they do fill in the background a little. Side A(I guess)’s “No Elevators” is a driving low-fi punk track that would have sounded just right a few years back on Dirtnap Records. Some squalling saxophone sets it apart from the pack, harking back to those X-Ray Spex-y kinda times, when saxophones didn’t sound weird in punk rock. The flip dips into synths & drum machines with “Mortal Crust,” sounding like what early ‘00s synthpunks thought early ‘80s synth-punk sounded like. Do androids dream of stage diving? Belleville punks MAX LOAD were looking to the ‘80s for inspiration, too, only they were doing it way back in 1979. Released on their own 198X (pronounced “1980-X”) Records, their “X-Rod/Magazine Sex” 45 is one of this region’s few early punk rock records to be known nationwide, having been distributed by Bomp! Records, & later bootlegged on some “great lost punk 45’s” type compilations. The two songs revel in dirt-rock, B-movie pop culture themes, but musically show an open-mindedness that was was already using punk rock as an excuse to expand the future, not as a set of rules to limit it. Ripples of this restless creativity still resonate in bands like Trauma Harness today. Or maybe Belleville’s just weird.

Album Reviews by an old guy who can only be described as “traveling back in time” when he’s handed a microphone. For a guy likely to be found fully asleep in a public place, the man just comes alive onstage with a magnetic energy. He’s one of the last great storytelling troubadours of his time and ilk — perhaps that’s what makes him so dangerous. Drinking Live at the Shanti demonstrates not only what makes the BUBG’s shows so worth catching time and time again, but what a phenomenal gem the nowdefunct Shanti in Soulard was for music and art. With music almost every night of the week, it was one of the last places in the neighborhood where true blues history ran so deep and was still being so fully celebrated. It’s a shame to see it go, but you couldn’t ask for a better tribute than this album. SUZIE GILB

Mount Eerie Sauna

P.W. Elverum & Sun

Though he’s only 36, Phil Elverum has been plugging away at the great cosmic mysteries for nearly 20 years now, first as the more breezy and experimental Microphones and then as the darker Mount Eerie, amassing one of the most unique discographies in music. Sauna will be no great surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but Elverum is an expert sound manipulator, a genius of mood somehow simultaneously naive and existentially dark, hushed but heavy, humble but epic, handmade but intricate, lo-fi but painstakingly multitracked, able to conjure with a single grimy stretch of feedback the feeling of a night walk in the woods contemplating the textures of the Milky Way or your own eventual death. Composed mostly of short two- and three-minute pop/folk songs and experiments propped up on either end by two epics of doom and drone, Sauna is his most literal album. The 10-minute title track is about an actual sauna, with the sound of a crackling fire, dripping water, and an immense organ drone that envelopes the album in steam. It’s four and a half minutes of gorgeous ambience before Elverum finally starts singing — about steam, a place from which to ponder creation, “I don’t think the world still exists / Only this room in the snow.” In a similarly literal reading, the 12-string finger-picking of “Pumpkin” is about seeing a smashed gourd and observing the nature of death and the universe in its violent orange end. Although there are still traces of pitchblack existentialism, the influence of doom and black metal seems to be waning on his songwriting. It was always a somewhat odd fit, given Elverum’s folk and pop leanings,

though he achieved an unlikely and remarkable synthesis on 2009’s crushingly eerie Wind’s Poem. Here, it’s most prominent in the Sunn O)))-influenced crawl of “Sauna” and the 13 monstrous minutes of feedbacklaced “Spring,” perhaps the darkest song ever recorded about the season of rebirth. Still, much of it is familiar: Sauna is neither as breathlessly pretty as 2012’s excellent Clear Moon or as anxiety-riddled as Wind’s Poem, attempting to find a midpoint. “Sauna” has the same DNA as Wind’s Poem’s 11-minute drone-pop epic “Through the Trees,” while the percussive vibraphone dance of “(Something)” is cousins with that album’s better “Between Two Mysteries,” and “Turmoil” goes back further to nick the melody from the Microphone’s fine “I Felt My Size” for two minutes of breezy fuzzed-out indie-pop. Though Eleverum can be accused of repeating himself, he’s always been something of a recycler, coming back to the same themes again and again, writing sequels to songs and albums, as if pondering things from different angles of time and place, songs and albums mimicking the motion of the uncertain circular thoughts we all have. More importantly: there is no one else in the world even trying to make music like this. His most familiar routines still manage to sparkle and ache with more dread, mystery, anxiety, and genuine wonder than most artists manage in entire careers — even if, sometimes, he loses you in the fog. RYAN BOYLE

Dan Deacon Gliss Riffer Domino Records

Dan Deacon is a classically trained musician who completed his graduate studies in computer and electro-acoustic music composition. Spin one of his early records and you’ll hear a jumble of electronic noise, beeps and boops, seemingly unintelligible voice manipulations, and all kinds of buzzing. Comparing these to the songs on his new album Gliss Riffer, it’s clear that Deacon has come a long way in his evolution while remaining a singular musical savant. Deacon is a mad scientist in the studio, and a powerhouse conductor during his live shows. His last two records, Bromst and America, featured an orchestra-sized ensemble to provide the presence of actual acoustic instruments within his songs’ otherwise digital sourcery. These albums each had a few choice tracks, but for the most part they felt oversaturated and hard to digest. Gliss Riffer — which really deserves to be heard in physical form, if only to fully appreciate the colorful, acidtrippy hand-monster on the cover — sees

Deacon delve back into his roots by taking on this album almost entirely solo. Regardless of how Deacon constructs his music, this shit is always totally bonkers, man. Fans of 2009’s Spiderman of the Rings will be extremely pleased with this new collection of songs. Starting with the poppy “Feel the Lightning,” Deacon manipulates his voice and its pitch to sound like he’s singing a duet with a female version of himself. The chorus is an existential mind melt that even drops a reference to the music video collaboration of Tom Petty and Johnny Depp for the MTV classic “Into the Great Wide Open.” Gliss Riffer appears to be, among other things, an extended existential inquiry. “When I Was Done Dying,” a song about what the end of all things might really be like, contains verve after verse of xylophones, bongos, pounding drums, and glorious synthesizers that sound like sunbeams shining down from the sky. In “Mind on Fire,” the robotic voice in the bridge intones, “Happiness takes time / and time is my life / and I have no time / and I’m still alive” in such a way that makes you want to pound your fist and dance for yourself. Consider this album a return to form for Dan Deacon. As you slide on your headphones, prepare to fall into the electronic rabbit hole that dives deep into the most insane parts of Wonderland. JACK PROBST

Crazy XXX Girlfriend

Dick Magnet EP Self Release

Straight from the first garage-rock countdown, Crazy XXX Girlfriend’s volcanic sexual appetite and teen-freakout power chords strike hard with this effective and inspiring debut. Part riot grrrls, part 21st century sirens, the band holds nothing back. If some of the in-your-face lyrics try a little too hard to live up to the XXX in the name, the band more than makes up for it with pure fun and a form of straight-ahead rock that comes across equal parts postmodern female KISS and a lost Runaways record. The EP kicks off with “Anthem,” a headbanger that shows off how much the band is enjoying themselves while throwing every old-school macho rock’n’roll stereotype back in the music scene’s face without any agenda, just honesty. The sinister feel of final track “Right Hand Man” suggests there’s more on their mind than the sex talk that permeates most of the album. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: the cool grooves of “Main Squeeze” set the scene for a weekend late-night hookup with the right combination of coyness and dirty thoughts.

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Album Reviews The musicianship is solid on each track. Tracy Swigert’s guitar playing comes straight out of ’70s FM radio and her voice commands attention, be it onstage, on record, or behind closed doors. Kelsey Liesen’s drums provide a steady backbeat to each track, like a tank, taking no prisoners along the way. Bassist Allie Vogler’s simple bass playing and back-up vocals (more fully explored in her other trio, River Kittens) provide a certain sweetness that arrives with a nod and a wink before running you down like a runaway lawnmower. In the band’s short lifespan, Crazy XXX Girlfriend has already got people talking in the St. Louis music scene. Though at points uneven, Dick Magnet EP is a solid debut effort. Future releases will reveal how hard the band will go to to prove themselves more than just three chords and dirty thoughts. There’s certainly plenty of potential to work with. REV. DANIEL W. WRIGHT

The Brainstems Ego Death Demos Self release

Right from the hi-hat’s opening lurch into “Stallioning,” it’s obvious that this isn’t some click-tracked studio production. Instead, guitars, bass and drums all find the groove together, and then explode into overdriven hooky rock punk that sounds like a basement overheating. The vocals are distorted, the drums crush the speakers, and guitars and bass fight for space with each other — this is the kind of rowdy good time music that keeps the kids picking up instruments and making a mess together, computers be damned. Which isn’t to say it sounds bad; far from it. The Brainstems have tapped into the time-honored tradition of garage rock insanity that has found renewed love and attention in underground scenes in Nashville, Chicago, and around the country. “Ego death” is in fact a great way to describe the nuclear power of this form, as the music heats and fuses the crowd with the band, the band with the basement, the music with the life that goes into making it. Any of the three tracks on this EP could be scooped up and presented as a classic of the form. After “Stallioning” comes “The Id,” which opens with a gnarly feedback note before blasting into a riff so distorted it doesn’t even matter what the notes are; it’s all about the sound of scraping strings and crashing hi-hats. Singer Andrew Warshauer jumps in with a spoken verse that focuses the energy, and then underneath him comes the surprise: Zak M on saxophone, elping to push the groove along in the middle and then properly destroy the ending with some Coleman-inflected blasts. Closer “Elevators & Escalators” is the most freak-outable on

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the concrete dancefloor — you can hear the sweat on the strings and feel it burning in the guitarists’ eyes as they play. “I’ve been walking around this mall for so long honey I can see through the back of my head!,” says guitarist Sam Clapp, and the guitars squall like a bored teenager’s internal freakout. The rest of the song is strictly physical: the feeling of getting the fuck out of the mall and into the basement where you can shake it out, with the other freaks where you belong. EVAN SULT

Vision Fortune Country Music ATP Recordings

A few years ago I recommended my parents listen to Jacques Loussier Trio’s Kinderszenen. It seemed the perfect combination of melodic jazz my father loves, and its pared down three-piece interpretation of Schumann would calm my mother, who can’t stand more than one melody at a time. Country Music is in no way musically similar other than in simplicity of arrangement, allowing each sound to be appreciated on its own. It does, however, manage to bridge some musical taste. Sparse but intricate live and electronic drums; synth arpeggios, found sounds, slowclocked digital keyboards and feedback squelches poke atmospheric holes that feel worthy of a noise album but are structured in such a way as to be actual compositions, and avoid falling into that ever-so-easy pit of just jamming to see what comes out. Occasional layered vocals keep reminding me of half of those on an Angels of Light & Akron/Family split album I loved half of almost ten years ago. They remain mostly detached and feed an overall sinister feel. While I revel in these sounds, my kid is disregarding all pretensions and ominous overtones and spinning to the beat with a huge smile as though we were watching the recap song at the end of Yo Gabba Gabba. On a different note, both the band’s name and the pained description of the making of this album in a remote Italian villa have made me consider just what poverty for an artist or creator is… JJ HAMON

Etiquette Reminisce

Hand Drawn Dracula

There’s a certain kind of music that conjures a cinematic image of rain falling on a city at night, and that music is retro strains from synthesizers over a slow, almost trip-hop groove. Bass notes rumble and guitar solos reverberate

into the shadows and fog. A lone woman sings out from under a lamppost to the one she’s lost. Who is this mystery woman, and from where are these sounds coming? The answer, it turns out, is Etiquette, a Toronto-based duo who perfectly captures this vision in song. You probably haven’t heard of them yet, but you might be familiar with where they’ve come from. Comprised of indie power couple Julie Fader, a visual artist as well as singer, and Graham Walsh of the Casio-loving, post-punk jammers Holy Fuck. There aren’t too many comparisons to be made between Walsh’s previous outings, save for the pounding beat on the rough rocker “On And On” that comes late in the record. Instead, Etiquette come from the same retro-synth school as Chromatics, Wild Nothings, and Twin Shadow. Without the obvious influence of ‘80s new wave popsters like The Human League, The Cure or A Flock Of Seagulls, this current subgenre wouldn’t exist. Throughout, Reminisce is a solid debut even for a band comprised of seasoned musicians. The details, like hand-muted guitars and the rare sly drum fill, are masterfully minimal, but there’s a lot to praise throughout, especially in Julie Fader’s voice. Even in those rare moments when the music lacks a compelling hook, Fader herself is always worth listening to. Special attention is due to her work on the poppy and heartfelt “Brown and Blue,” where her quiet voice harmonizes with itself to mesmerizing effect. Reminisce sounds like an old mixtape; you can picture the tape just rolling from one side to the other as you stare a daydream into your cassette deck. JACK PROBST

Red Mouth Toska

Red Mouth Records

I swore I was finished with Southern Gothic songwriters who see just how closely they can emulate Faulkner, Raymond Carver, or Larry Brown without getting caught. I thought I would never like anyone toying with god and the grotesque like Flannery O’Connor, or anyone doing so with a melody and electric violin besides Nick Cave. I thought there was no room to vocally elbow between Clarence “Frogman” Henry and Roger Miller. Toying with lyrics and rock’n’roll themes like crushes, angst, and trains, and throwing in dinosaur references? Ha! Nashville Skyline covered by the Kinks and the Ramones? Nah. I never thought I’d give credence to any modern approximations of clean full recordings like those old Muscle Shoals albums, or doing so and then sprinkling just the right

Album Reviews amount of Gris-Gris on top to make it good to swallow (yes, the Dr. John album). I’ve been wrestling with the saxophone for decades. I mean, some of my favorite musicians in St Louis play it, and I’ve been trying to “tastefully” sneak it into recordings for the challenge of it for years. But could an album really feature saxophone on the majority of its songs without turning me off and away completely? I thought I was done with the term “Americana” which, in my mind, has come to mean country-guitar noodles but with distortion (sorry, I meant real tube overdrive), and occasionally a minimalist version of polyrhythmic Tom Waits, or Beefheart if you will, percussion and piano references. Too much and not enough simultaneously. But, lo, I listen to Red Mouth’s newest album Toska over and over and over and smile as I realize there is a time and place for all of these things to work together. JJ HAMON

Beech Creeps Beech Creeps Monofonus Press

edge but not the shrillness. The rousing melody for “Times Be Short” almost sounds like a coulda-been alternatedimension classic rock anthem played through some seriously blown speakers. But like many of the songs here, it tops the five-minute mark, overstaying its welcome. Because of the long songs, the album can turn into a bit of a grind, in all senses of the word. Sometimes this repetition is scorching and bracing (“how much art can you take?”) but other times it’s just plain long (“not that much, apparently”). Ex Models at least had the courtesy to dole out their beautifully heinous noise in bite-sized chunks. “Arm of the T-Rex” plods along on a two-note bassline that sounds like industrial machinery — or Steve Albini. Later, the hypnotic bassline, swooning ribbons of delayed guitar, and spaced-out chanted vocals of “On the Beech” turn the band’s assault into a head-nodding, psychedelic dub journey, like a more aggressive version of Ataxia or a noisier version of Ty Segall’s band Fuzz. Beech Creeps rip and roar and slay it live, a real righteous riot of punk energy and filth, but it’s hard not to mourn the sense of possibility that “Everybody Loves the Beech” promises in the first wailing minutes of the album. For guys with such a radical history of rule-breaking, boundary-pushing music, Beech Creeps can’t help feeling like a regression. RYAN BOYLE


For those listening to the sounds coming out of Brooklyn in the early aughts, the members of Beech Creeps will be like revisiting old friends. Having served time in Ex Models, Knyfe

Hyts, Pterodactyl, and Yeasayer, the trio of Mark Shue, Zach Lehrhoff, and Luke Fasano have quite a pedigree in the turn-of-themillennium New York indie/punk scene, and it’s good to see them still waving for the flag for punk noise and weirdo scuzz with Beech Creeps. “Everybody Loves the Beech” kicks off the album with its most radical, bracing feat. Screeching noise and tumbling drums— think “L.A. Blues,” “Don’t,” or “Reoccurring Dreams,” the kind of harsh blast that great punk bands have usually ended albums with, not started them — gradually segue into their aesthetic opposite, fading after five minutes into the quiet sounds of a lonely strummed surf guitar. It’s the kind of noise-to-pop trick that the dearly departed Women used to pull off regularly, and as an album opener it holds great promise for Beech Creeps’ debut. Unfortunately, it’s the only moment of such shocking opposites-attract invention on an album of mostly grinding noise-punk ragers. Sounding like a stepson to ancestors like the Melvins, Big Black, or the Stooges, Beech Creeps’ bass is a leviathan of fuzz-blasted and stomach-churning skronk. The vocals are a grating screech — in other words, perfectly suited to the righteous racket the band can conjure, except that they’re also, unfortunately, multitracked into an indecipherable blur, losing the raw

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THE WAY BACK PAGE While enjoying all the latest offerings the indie world has to offer, I often find amazing records buzzing around my brain months and years later. A tragic truth gained while working at a record store: it doesn’t matter how incredible you think a band is, they won’t sell as much as they should. Eventually all these gems will get marked down and sent to

The Bargain Bin Memories of long-forgotten records by Jack Probst

34 | ELEVEN | elevenmusicmag.com

Headphones Headphones

Suicide Squeeze, 2005

I POPPED IN a new promo of a band called Headphones on the store speakers. A thick buzz from a droning synthesizer filled the building. “Doesn’t this have, like, one of the guys from Tool or The Deftones in it?,” asked the frizzy-haired, sunken-eyed teenager who frequented Euclid circa 2005. She always spoke with such authority that I usually figured she must be right, even when she was wrong. “I have no idea,” I shot back. “What I can say is it’s really fantastic, so you should probably buy it.” My sales tactics were still lacking a certain finesse during my first year in retail, as was my knowledge of new music. I was expanding it every day, but there was so much ground to cover in the early years of music blogs. I was lucky enough to be working at a record store, where new music was constantly arriving. It just often involved more research time than I was willing to take to speak knowledgeably about it. Did this group feature a member of Tool or the Deftones? Far from it. Did it feature a member of a fairly popular indie rock group with a large cult following? Ding ding ding! Headphones was a band led by Pedro The Lion’s David Bazan. Bazan started the synthbased project to branch out his own sound. By pairing a simplistic electronic setup with live drums, he created a different kind of rock band, rather than an indie group heavily influenced by retro dance hits. It’s a distinct departure from Pedro The Lion’s indie-rock palette, yet it still manages to hold onto the organic warmth and heartbreaking lyrics that Bazan is known for. The name Headphones is immensely, fitting, as it’s best enjoyed in a solitary state. Opener “Gas and Matches” sets the tragic tone with a song about being burned alive by someone the narrator had been pretending to be friends with, like a non-supernatural version of Carrie. He describes being driven to a secluded place, tied up, having trouble breathing, stuck in disbelief that there’s really a person out there who could snap

like this, all while being doused with gasoline. Yeah... (I’ve listened to this album probably 1000 times over the last 10 years. I know it inside and out, words and music, but I’m just now realizing it’s probably one of the darkest records I own.) Following up that bright and sunny track is “Shit Talkers”, which is about, well, all the terrible things people say about each other. Long notes buzz over gated drums on the sparse and unsparing “I Never Wanted You,” in which the narrator admits frankly to faking an entire relationship from conception to marriage: “Baby I was faking the whole time,” he says flatly. “You know we never connected, you only thought we did.” He’s probably saying this to somehow climb out on top of a failed relationship. It’s soul crushing either way. One of the most upbeat songs on the record, “Natural Disaster,” is a look at the sudden faith and hope in God that can come during a crisis, among ordinary citizens and presidents alike. This is more familiar territory for a man who made his way in Pedro The Lion by posing hard (and then harder) questions to God, though the bleakness of this version is more in line with his later distance from religion. “Pink and Brown” also picks up the beat while describing picking up the pieces of your life after things end with the one you love. (I’m starting to sense a theme here). Cymbals get smashed and the skins get pounded into the dynamic beat over the sonic pulsing of synths on “Wise Blood,” where Bazan is at his weariest. And if all that wasn’t enough to crush your spirits the record concludes with an emotionally detailed description of the event in the title: “Slow Car Crash.” Holy shit. Ultimately, both Headphones and Headphones were critical successes but a financial failure. After poor show attendance on tour in support of the self-titled debut, the members of the band moved on. Probably not coincidentally, Pedro The Lion also parted ways around this time, and Bazan started off on a solo career. Over the years there has been word of him making another record in a similar vein as Headphones, though he has said he wouldn’t keep the name. Tantalizingly, Bazan will still occasionally play a Headphones song live at his solo shows. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a band that only released one record, or one-off projects from musicians looking to branch out. What you end up with is an experiment in sound. If Headphones had continued maybe they would have hit a sophomore slump and tarnished this gem of a debut. Or maybe there would have been five other records over the last ten years, each more fantastic than the rest. No matter: it’s miracle enough that this one magnificent record made it into the world.



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