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RVA MAGAZINE #8
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RVA MAGAZINE #8
RVAMAG.COM MUSIC GLASSCLOUD
RVA MAGAZINE #8
RVAMAG.COM MUSIC GLASSCLOUD
RVA MAGAZINE #8
RVAMAG.COM MUSIC GLASSCLOUD
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ALL SHALL PERISH
LAMB OF GOD
RVA MAGAZINE #8
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RVA MAGAZINE #8
ou’d have to be suffering from severe brain damage to be a punk fan in Richmond and not know that notorious local hardcore band Government Warning have finally called it quits. They played their last show on October 15, 2011, at Strange Matter, signaling what many saw as the end of an era for underground 80s revival punk shows and D.I.Y. culture. However, Kenny Ball, former singer of Government Warning, is far from calling it quits. Southside Stranglers, his new band, is in full force, playing shows, recording, and carrying the Richmond punk torch with pride. Although they share a similar straightforward aesthetic with Government Warning, their sound is rawer, more old-school, but also much more original-sounding than most straightforward punk, incorporating influences from archaic rock n’ roll to gritty, screaming hardcore. Recently, I caught up with Kenny and guitarist Kevin Guild (the band also includes guitarist Sam Richardson, bassist JP Olivos, and drummer Hash). They gave me the lowdown on how they are evolving, what inspires them, and their views on Skrillex. Kenny, Government Warning is officially over. Any final remarks on that era and how it led you to work with Southside Stranglers before we put the past behind us? Kenny: It was a good time, Government Warning days. We had some fun. I'm not sad it's over,
MUSIC SOUTHSIDE STRANGLERS
though. Time happens. We started the Stranglers toward the tail end of it, because we knew the end was near, and I have been singing hardcore for so long. I started to feel like doing some [melodic] singing a few years back, even when GW was young, and I finally found my motivation. This is something that's much more fun in a lot of ways, and less fun in others. It's sick though. This band is really fun to sing in. Talk about what the Stranglers have done to date. What have you recorded, and what is in the works? How have these things gone so far? Kenny: We've done a 7” EP called Too Much TV, [which was] first released as a tape out of necessity and time constraints. Then we did a single called "Strangle You," which we no longer play live, since it was Mikey's song, and he no longer plays with us. We are most of the way through an eleven-song 12” we're recording with Bob Quirk, of Dry Spell fame. It'll be around whenever I get off my ass and finish the vocals. I think I want to call it Finger On The Pulse. It's about two years overdue. Kevin: We've just had a hard time keeping a solid line-up together, so we've been long overdue on some new recordings. Hopefully, everyone will enjoy this new shit as much as we do. Tell us about your experience working with Vinyl Conflict and other local businesses and venues to
help promote your music. Have you run into any frustrations, or have things been pretty positive? Kenny: That's a funny way to put it, when you say “working with...” We don't really work with anyone. If some fool wants to hype our shit we're like, “OK, thanks nerd.” It doesn't happen often. As for Vinyl Conflict, you gotta hype your own shit right? Brandon [Ferrell, former Southside Stranglers drummer and owner of Vinyl Conflict] actually just quit though, so now it's all out of the goodness of his own sweet, sweet heart. You all have been around for a while, but you don't play shows that often. Any plans to start playing out more, or are you trying to avoid the "I don't care about that band because they play here twice a week" thing? Kevin: I don't think it's really much of a conscious decision to play or not play that much. We have a drummer who lives in Hopewell with no car and [we’re] a bunch of busy assholes who can't be in the same place at the same time, so playing shows is kind of hard. Also, it's pretty depressing when after playing for three years, you play to a crowd of eight people at McCormack’s who don't give a shit if you are there or not. Kenny: Yeah, plus we can't seem to teach these nerds how to dance without mosh-fucking each other in a hardcore kinda way. We're trying to be musicians and shit!
Kenny, I know that you listen to a lot of old-school rock n' roll and scuzzy-sounding, gritty punk rock, and I definitely see this in the Stranglers’ sound. Do you think the Richmond scene is ready for something that strays from the whole D-beat/crusty aesthetic that’s big around here? Kenny: Naw, man, they aren't into it. It's either not fast enough or it's not slow enough. Rock n’ roll ain’t vibing with the small world of Richmond punk. Everyone is all, “Hey man, this shit's cool," but then they go smoke while we play. Then they're all, “Hey man, great set," and I'm all, “Hey man, nice shoes." We're mostly a joke without a punchline. Kevin: I play bass in a D-beat band [Syndrome], but I still get annoyed with the way that the scenes don't really mesh. The way I see it, punk is punk and there should be a little more unity to the whole thing. But maybe I've just been listening to too much Uniform Choice. Who are some of your biggest influences? Who would be your ideal bands to tour or play with? Kenny: We just played a show with The Left in
West Virginia. That was sweet, even though it sucked. It was fun. I wanna play with some new old bands, like sweet ass punk from the days of old, only played by people that aren't old and boring. I mean, I'm pretty old and boring but for real, these old guys forgot how to rock, dude. Anyone who's good would be good to play with, but we have standards, bro. Kevin: We have a lot of crazy influences. I have the weirdest taste in music and I try to bring all of it into the songs that I write. I don't really have any bands in mind that I'd want to play with or tour with, but it would be nice to play with bands that don't completely suck on tour. We've had a lot of that. What are your plans for the band over the next few years? What can we expect from the Stranglers in the future? Kenny: An organ. We need an organ/piano player. Any takers? I wanna make actual rock n’ roll at some point. In the immortal words of an old friend, “Fuck this punk shit, I'm a real scumbag.” Kevin: Hopefully, doing more than we've been
doing. “Plans” are sort of foreign to all of us collectively, so we will just have to see what happens. Yeah, and that organ thing. We won't ever be as cool as The Mummies without an organ player. How do you feel about the Richmond punk scene today? How have you seen it change over the years, and what negative and positive trends have you noticed? Kenny: Well, as a child, when I hit the scene, it was a lot of weird art school nonsense and a lot of tough-guy jerkoff shit. I watched a cool crowd develop into what was later coined “80's revival” or some stupid shit. That's where my old band fit in, and it ruled. It was more fun than a barrel of drunk, horny monkeys. Now it's kinda on the way out, and that's OK. We play different shit now, too, and it’s fun, but now it just looks like the revolving door is letting ‘em out faster than it's bringing ‘em in. I think Richmond punk is due for another decade or so of crappy pop-punk and indie garbage, because we need a solid ten years of shit inbetween people having fun. It's an ebb
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and flow sort of thing, ya know? Kevin: There's no control over the scene, really. I've been going to shows a long time and sometimes more people come out, and sometimes more people sit at home and get drunk. Like Kenny was saying, it's all pretty cyclical. Your name comes from an actual murderer who killed in Richmond. Where did the inspiration for that come from, and have you gotten any negative or offended reactions to it? Kenny: My mom says if we don't change the name I'm gonna go to hell. I believe her. Timmy Spencer was a genius. Well, actually he was borderline retarded, but he was black, and killed outside his race. I think that's more fair than most of those nerds. I admire that in a serial killer. I'm a fan of choking too, so I'm with it. Also, all them ladies he murdered were around where we started playing and spent a lot of time growing up... sort of our own backyard. He's our mascot, so to speak. It also just sounds cooler than “the flying squirrels.” Kevin: I don't think people get offended by it, because they don't know enough local history to
MUSIC SOUTHSIDE STRANGLERS
know where the name comes from. I think if more people knew, then they might be more offended. Especially if we refer to him as our mascot. Who are some of your favorite bands to play with, and places to play around Richmond? Kenny: Kev's house. Except the stupid police don't like pot, so that's over. I also like to play the Bonezone and Nara Sushi. Oh, and Twisters, too. Kevin: Yeah, the Bonezone is pretty cool. Name a favorite experience or hilarious, sordid story from your time playing together. Kenny: Naw man, we don't have fun. We're pretty uptight and we never get drunk. Ever. Kevin: I can't even remember half of the things that have happened. Talk about some of your lyrics to date. Where do you get inspiration and ideas, and what can we expect from lyrics in the future? Kenny: Well, mostly I write dumb songs, you know, to match the wit of my preferred audience. I do, however, have a couple of songs that are actually about stuff on the upcoming record. Alongside
brilliant stuff like "You Make Me Wanna Fuck” and "We Got Pills!" I sing about girls too. Everyone with a girlfriend knows about that crap. Once we get an organ and write some decent tunes, I might write some halfway thought-out lyrics. Until then, I'm gonna stick with what I know, that being drugs, sex, pussy, and stabbin’ motherfuckers. Shit is real as hell, too. How do you feel about the punk scene at large? It’s more underground than ever now that trends are leaning more towards electronic-type music, and people have been saying punk rock is dead since the 1970s, but there always seem to be new and exciting bands emerging. Where do you think punk is headed? Kevin: I hope everyone sounds more like Skrillex. Kenny: I dig the internet. I made $18 from iTunes sales. Keep downloadin', nerds. Any final thoughts or comments? Kenny: Buy our records, they're kinda sweet. Also, next time one of you nerds throws a bottle at me, aim it better. What were all those years of baseball camp for, anyways? 19
RVA MAGAZINE #8
aying homage to the area that helped support you on your rise to success is a theme repeated by both musicians and celebrities alike. Whether you are rap legend Nas, whose latest music video takes you on a tour of his hometown in Queensbridge; or M.I.A., the pop star responsible for raising awareness and providing aid to those caught in the political problems in her home country of Sri Lanka; showing support for the places that helped shape you as a performer is essential. Known for its booming culture, art, and music scenes, Brooklyn provided the backdrop for the making of internationally known DJ and producer AC Slater, and his latest single, “Big Brooklyn Bass,” pays tribute to his hometown. As one of the founding members of the Trouble & Bass music label, Aaron
MUSIC AC SLATER
Clevenger fit right in with the growing demand for bass-heavy music that was taking New York by storm just a few years ago. Now AC Slater is touring the world, doing remix work for rising rapper Big Sean, even providing a remix for Moby, which Moby himself called one of his top ten songs of the decade. Following in the footsteps of fellow Trouble & Bass artists like Drop The Lime and Zombies For Money, he recently graced the stage of Audio Ammo’s famous Brain Drain party, which takes place right here in Richmond at the Hat Factory. Before his performance in late November, we sat down and talked about his new single, touring small towns in Australia that he’d never heard of, and the best place in the world to get a Manhattan cocktail.
Your newest single, “Big Brooklyn Bass,” was just released just a few weeks ago. Have you been able to gauge all of the feedback yet? AC Slater: I’m really happy with “Big Brooklyn Bass” and how it’s been received. It was the first single I’ve released in a while, but people like Diplo, Steve Aoki, Jack Beats, and ton of others have been playing it out all over. It seemed like you were laying low for a while, with regards to producing. Was this a result of the constant touring? AC: Last year I was pretty much touring non-stop. I was around the world for probably 4-5 months. When I came back to the states, it was pretty much the same, non-stop touring. I kind of got out of the habit of writing music. I was writing music, but it was not much that I was really happy with. Last year, the Calm Down vinyl release came out, and then it was about 6 months before I really did anything else. I had a moment of inspiration and now I’m back. In addition to “Big Brooklyn Bass,” your official remix for Big Sean was just released. How did this fall into place? AC: It was really interesting timing. I was asked by Big Sean’s DJ to be a part of a Big Sean remix thing. Adidas brought it all together and then got all of these guys to remix the songs. It’s cool because it’s primarily hip-hop DJs, and then me. How important is it, as a producer, to be able to be able to create music that can cross into different genres? Your “Big Brooklyn Bass” and Big Sean tracks could probably be classified into different subgenres of electronic music. AC: Whether I try to or not, I feel I often have an overall hip-hop/rap vibe to a lot of my stuff. Even “Big Brooklyn Bass” has some urban feel to it, even though it has this bass-y techno vibe with rhythms and big drums and stuff. Those are two worlds that are just waiting to intersect. Maybe not music, but I want to see hip-hop heads at these types of shows and vice versa. How has the worldwide touring treated you over the course of 2011? AC: I was out of the country from basically February to June. I did Europe, Asia, and a little bit of Australia. [Since] I came back, I’ve been doing the States and Canada. Now, I’m primarily playing shows on the weekends and in the studio during the week. What is the first standout moment that comes to mind, regarding your international touring this year? AC: I always love Australia. The past tour I did, I was there for a month. I was doing a festival tour, where I was probably one of a handful of DJs and the only international DJ playing. All of the other acts were bands. Every show was 16,000 people and sold out. It wasn’t major cities, but weird rural towns. So it’s like, I’m playing in places I’ve never heard of and to crowds in cities where I’m wondering how they even got there.
You Trouble & Bass guys like your whiskey! Where’s the best place in the world to get a Manhattan? AC: Definitely in America. I’d say somewhere in the South. All of the good bourbon and whiskey comes from here. Actually, not the South. The further you are from Kentucky, the less options you have. You go to England and they make it with Jack Daniels and you’re just like, “What?” Places like New York and Los Angeles always have good ones because they seem to over-think a lot of it. The presentation is always thought out and the drinks are carefully made. But when you come here to Virginia, you can take advantage of the long list of all of the Manhattan options. It’s hard to pick just one area or place. Of all of the active and touring Trouble & Bass artists, I’d say you are probably the last one to finally make it down to the Brain Drain party here in Richmond. I hope you’re ready for a fun night! AC: It’s been building up for a while. I’ve wanted to play here for a while and they’ve been trying to get me. There are so many factors involved, it just hadn’t worked out until now. I’m ready to fucking have a good time and I have so many new tunes to play. I got a full night of rest after playing a crazy show in Ottawa last night. What are the next few months looking like for you? AC: I’m doing a big Asian tour with Drop the Lime in December. I come back home for Christmas and then fly to Malaysia for New Year’s Eve. January is blocked off for studio time, and then I’m going back to Australia in February for a tour. Outside of touring, I’m currently working on a 5-track EP which is about half done, and then in January, I’m going to try and start the beginnings of a fulllength album. Are there any big moves for Trouble & Bass in the future? AC: We just started doing an artist series for our t-shirts. Friends of the labels and guest artists do their take on Trouble & Bass. The work I’ve seen so far is looking crazy. Music-wise, there are definitely some new guys that we’re keeping our eyes on. The next releases we have are from Willy Joy and Ursa Major. I’m also putting out an EP on my Party Like Us record label from a group called Clicks & Whistles. Them and this duo from Montreal called BOTNEK, they’re wild. After playing a set heavy on new tunes, the packed Hat Factory screamed their approval as AC Slater finished around 1:30AM. Departing from Richmond the following morning, Slater thanked the Audio Ammo crew on Twitter: “shouts to @ audioammo for a great party last night! crazy kids, dogs standing on top [of] people, late night beer pong, chix barfing, & lotsa bass”. Sounds like a typical Richmond evening, right?
RVA MAGAZINE #8
MUSIC AC SLATER
LAMB OF GOD BY ANDREW NECCI
RVA MAGAZINE #8
amb Of God, who formed over 15 years ago under the more inflammatory name Burn The Priest, have been the standard bearers for Richmond metal for quite some time now. Since changing their name in 2000, their profile has steadily grown, and they have become one of the most important bands defining the sound of American heavy metal in the 2000s. After spending two years on the road touring behind their sixth album, Wrath, Lamb Of God returned home to Richmond, devoting 2011 to the writing and recording of Resolution, the brand new album that they released at the beginning of 2012. Less straightforward than the stripped-down, sped-up Wrath, Resolution’s heavy grooves more closely resemble the band’s earlier work, but with a bluesier feel that strikes me as Southern in origin. Drummer Chris Adler doesn’t hear as much of that influence on Resolution as I do, though, as you’ll learn from our conversation below. Adler has kept himself busy over the past year with some non-musical projects as well, writing a series of books, each of which focuses on a different Lamb Of God album. I asked him about those books, download-only singles, and his adventures at the Grammy Awards, but we began by discussing the influence of Richmond, and the South as a whole, on Lamb Of God’s music. Let’s talk about the new record. My first impression of it is that it’s more Southern-sounding than your previous stuff. Do you feel like that was intentional? Chris: I think we kind of left room for everything. I think as we get more comfortable with ourselves and our ability to do what we do, some of those natural instincts or influences that you liked when you were a kid really tend to come out. With previous records, we always set a point on the horizon, like, this is gonna be a fast record, or it’s gonna be aggressive, or we’re gonna maybe do some studio tricks--different things that we rallied around. And on this record, because of all the different things we’ve done in the past, we felt a little more free to go in any direction. I think that maybe what you’re hearing is us being a little more comfortable with ourselves. Do you think being from Richmond, and being from the South in general, is a big influence on the kind of music you play? C: Not in my opinion, no. I know that several of the guys in the band are fans of the New Orleans sound, and a lot of the stuff that has come out of that area, but we don’t claim to be any kind of Southern band. I think the music that we all enjoy individually and collectively has some of those elements to it. Several of the guys in the band are big ZZ Top fans, and even of stuff like Lynyrd Skynyrd. That kind of stuff is the stuff we grew up listening to, and although we don’t celebrate the fact that we are some sort of Southern band, I think that stuff certainly has an influence. Richmond is a smaller city, and you guys have been pretty big for a while. Do you find it’s harder to maintain a connection with the local scene once you reach a certain level of popularity? C: It can be difficult. I’m still going to two or three shows a week, seeing what’s going on. I’m friends with a lot of people that play in local bands. I think the bigger obstacle is just the fact that we’re gone so much. We spent the entirety of 2009 and 2010 on the road, so it’s very easy to miss out on what’s going on. But we all grew up in the Richmond music scene, cut our
MUSIC LAMB OF GOD
teeth on the bands that were from here--Sliang Laos, Breadwinner, GWAR, Kepone--so it’s important for me, and for the rest of the guys, to stay in tune with what’s going on here. Even though, when we were coming up, it seemed slightly elitist, the scene is really healthy, with very capable players. That kind of influence helped us become the kind of musicians we are, and [have] the kind of work ethic that we keep. If we come to a show, a lot of fans know who we are, and people want to take pictures and stuff like that, so it’s hard to be a little anonymous at these things. But it’s still, in my mind, very much worth the time to go out and support what’s going on. Speaking of mainstream success, I did notice that you guys have been nominated for three Grammys in the past five years or so. I know you haven’t won any yet, but what is that like? Have you guys gone to the ceremonies? C: Yeah, I’ve been to two out of three of them, and it’s fun. It’s like looking into a fishbowl at a whole other world. As a metal band, you never expect to get there. It’s not even a goal. To have America’s version of the music industry giving us a nod--it’s not something that I want to ignore, but it’s not something that we were looking for. So it’s hard to say that it’s a really monumental thing for us. I think more so than for us, it’s kind of the award show for our parents’ generation. I flew my father out to the last ceremony, and we hung out for the whole thing. We ended up at the Beverly Hills Hotel bar later on; it was me, my wife, my dad, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow, and John Mayer, sitting at the bar having a drink. At the first one we went to, my brother was dancing around with Weird Al Yankovic and Smokey Robinson. So the craziest stuff... not like debauchery and insanity, but just the most random situations that you could ever imagine, happen when we get to go out there. It’s a lot of fun. So you guys do a lot of touring. I know you’ve toured with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, bands like that. Do you see yourselves as making that kind of lifelong commitment to being a touring band? Could you see yourself still doing it in another 20 years? C: That’s a tough question, man. Even coming into writing, rehearsing, and recording the new record, I think we all had to take a good honest look at ourselves and answer the question [of whether] we’re still up for this challenge. [Including] the live record, this is our eighth record, and there’s no point in tarnishing the work we’ve done before. If we can’t somehow surpass--in our minds, anyway--what we’ve done, we should hang it up. And of course, every time we do it, that gets a little bit harder. I’ve never heard anybody say, “I really like fill-in-the-blank band. Their seventh record is my favorite.” It’s always the first one, or the second one, or back when they were better, or more true to their roots, before they sold out or whatever. So that’s in the back of my head; I’m always challenged to take things to the next level, and keep evolving as a player. [I want to] give a seventh record, maybe an eighth record, maybe a ninth record, that is comparable to anything we’ve done before. I don’t want to water down the legacy of it. And as far as touring goes, I’m in fairly good shape, and I don’t think I’m physically capable of doing this in 20 years’ time. That would put me close to 60, and behind the drum kit, I’m flying around like a hummingbird most of the time. I’m dead weight after 90 minutes now. So add 20 years to that, and a few Miller Lites, it might be a pretty ugly situation.
I noticed that you wrote a book this year about New American Gospel, your first album, from 2001. I haven’t seen the book. What exactly is in it, and what led you to decide to put that together? C: We were doing a tour of South America, and we had a fill-in guitar player, because one of our guitar players couldn’t make the tour. He was from the band Between The Buried And Me, and he and I became quick friends. [We] talked a lot about how he wrote music and studied music, which was very different from [Lamb Of God’s] approach. He’s a very theory-based guy, and he’s very much into tablature. He had written his own tab book. I thought that was great that he had done it, because we’ve seen so many tab books come to our signings and such, and the guitar players have never even seen ‘em. They contain a lot of incorrect information that is not double-checked by anybody in the band. These big companies just go ahead and try to make a dollar off of our tunes, and they don’t bother to check. So knowing that, and hearing this guy’s experience with doing it himself before somebody else did, I thought there was no better reason for me to do it. So I spent several weeks with a clinician from Baltimore named Travis Orbin, me sitting behind the kit and him sitting in front of me with a computer. He basically recorded every movement I was doing, to accurately transcribe every drum part from every album that we’ve done. I’ve written three books now--the second one, for As The Palaces Burn, came out about two months ago. The idea initially was to put out my own books, making sure that the musical information was correct, and beat anybody else to it that was trying to make some money off of our stuff. In doing that, in spending two years on the road during the Wrath touring cycle, I also began collecting my memories. My wife and my parents have been after me for years: “You should write some of this down. Not everybody gets to do this kind of thing.” I just started writing down from the beginning what I can remember about the recording process and what I thought about when I was writing a song, the process of making the album. Then I had all this information together, and I just put the accurate drum information with my memories of the recording process. So that’s what these [books] are all about. They’re self-published. I have purposefully not given it to the bigger publishers. I get the books printed in Pennsylvania, and there’s an editor that I use in Charlottesville, VA, so I just keep my own quality control. I’m very proud of it. It doesn’t have to make me a million dollars, but even if I were to lose money, I have plans to do one for every record. The third one is just about done, and the plan is as we get into the next touring cycle, just to keep writing. In the end, I’ll have a book for each record that we’ve done. At that point, I may separate the two, and have a book of all the tabs for all the songs of everything I’ve ever done, and then [put] the stories behind each album into their own book. It’s not the band’s tell-all, it’s just from my point of view. So, about a year ago, you guys did the “Hit The Wall” single, and it was on a video game soundtrack and released as a digital download. Do you feel good about how the whole digital release went, and do you guys plan on doing more of that kind of thing? How do you feel about the whole idea of releasing music solely as a digital artifact? C: I think that the industry is changing, and it’s almost inevitable that [digital] is going to be the future of how people receive and share music. It’s not something that we’ve ever fought against. In fact, my job before the band was
as an IT director at VCU, and I worked very hard to make sure that the band was everywhere it could possibly be, for free, all over the internet. This was starting in 94, 95, when the internet was basically a bunch of IRC chatrooms. So right from the beginning, we were onboard with the whole thing changing. Of course, that doesn’t translate very well with the record label, and the commerce of the music industry. My job is to make music, get it to people that enjoy what we do, and to get out on the road and play our music--share that live vibe, that can’t be downloaded, with people that want to come see us. I’d love to say that our record is selling like crazy, [but] that shouldn’t even be a way that people judge where music is at today, because the whole system is failing. [Sales are] not an accurate assessment of any product. [“Hit The Wall”] was a B-side from the album Wrath that we had sitting around. When Sega came to us, they said, “Can we get you into the studio to do an extra track for this game?” We let them know that we had some extra material from one of the previous albums, and if they wanted to take a listen to that, we could certainly consider working something out. So that’s how that ended up coming out. The reason it’s not on a physical format was because, although I think the song’s as good as anything on Wrath, for whatever reason it didn’t make the vote to be on the record. Now, going forward, obviously the new record is going to be a [physical] record, on vinyl and CD, but by the time we get around to the eighth and ninth record, I don’t know if that format will exist. It may be fully based on downloads. We’ll have to wait and see. There’s a bonus live album coming with the early editions of Resolution. What led to that release? C: We had the material. We recorded every night of shows on the Wrath tour-mainly for ourselves, so we could go back and listen to what we were doing, see how we could improve upon it, and make sure we were putting on the best show that we could. We realized we had a string of several hundred shows recorded, and the quality was just getting better and better as we went along. In today’s marketplace, you really do need to kind of step it up a little bit. You have to deal with the fact that everyone is spoiled from getting free music. We put together the songs that, if you put a gun to our head, are the songs that we have to play in our concerts. We just picked the best versions of them we have from that touring cycle, and put it out. Hopefully it helps entice a few people [that are] on the fence about checking out the new one. Do you know how many of the live record there’ll be? Is it a separate deluxe edition, or included with the first however many copies? C: I think it’s the first one hundred thousand copies. Speaking of live shows, the show you guys are playing in Richmond in January is your first show here since 2009. Are you excited about playing the hometown again? C: Absolutely, man. Like I said earlier, I see all the guys at different shows, and we’re such fans of live music. And to have such a killer venue here in town... The National saw that we were doing a tour on the East Coast, and they asked if they could get us in before the release [of Resolution]. It’s actually gonna be our first show in almost a year, and it’ll be the first show for the new record. And of course, where better to do that than home? This is where our friends and family are, and we’re gonna have a really good time with it.
RVA MAGAZINE #8
RVAMAG.COM MUSIC GLASSCLOUD
n the morning of January 3, the members of Black Girls woke up in their borrowed Winnebago in Wilmington, NC, posted to Tumblr that “coffee and bacon fumes are currently pouring out of the camper like Breaking Bad,” and began looking forward to rocking a venue called the Soapbox Laundro-Lounge that night, unaware that they were about to receive some very exciting information. That Tuesday show in Wilmington was just the second on the band’s two-week “Roasted, Toasted, Deep-Fried Southern Winter Tour 2012,” which also included stops in cities like Birmingham, New Orleans, Nashville, and Newport News, but the news that manager Erica Jacobs relayed after their set made it one they won’t soon forget. They’d been picked to support The Head and the Heart, a Seattle-based indie-folk outfit recently featured on Austin City Limits, on a jam-packed, crosscontinent string of dates in March, including a sure-to-be-epic show at the National in Richmond on March 21.
RVA MAGAZINE #8
If you haven’t been following Black Girls’ ascent to the forefront of Richmond’s music scene, this opportunity may seem sudden. In less than two years, they’ve become one of the city’s most buzzed-about bands, garnering “Best Of” superlatives, landing on a bevy of year-end lists, and earning one-off opening spots for national acts like Fucked Up, Wavves and Alabama Shakes. While a passerby might be tempted to chalk up the group’s success to hype or good luck, the truth is that a powerful combination of hard work and ingenuity runs throughout their past and present. It was visible everywhere I looked when I recently spent some time at the Oregon Hill row house known as “The Jazz Lounge.” The Jazz Lounge is part practice space and part living space (three of the five members of Black Girls live there), and a quick look around reveals homemade speaker cabinets; a velcro-dotted wooden pedal board that lead singer Drew Gillihan stained, cut, and sanded to fit atop his Moog Little Phatty synthesizer; and a stack of t-shirts that are-you guessed it--homemade. But it’s easy to scan past what may be the most significant example of Black Girls’ homegrown sense of initiative: concert tickets for shows at The Jazz Lounge, which the band made, sold and collected themselves, with a little help from their friends. “Over a year ago, we started doing those,” drummer and backup vocalist Stephen Farris says of the house shows the band hosted. “It was kind of out of necessity, because we were writing these songs and putting them together. We wanted to play to a crowd, but the only places that would book us were shitty bars on a Monday night.” Out of that lack of opportunity came a series of successful shows -- he notes that “they always were packed” -- complete with those homemade tickets, some of which hang not far from where guitar and keyboard player Mike Bryant sets up for practice. “My favorite thing about Richmond,” Bryant explains, “ever since even before we were in bands, when we were just freshmen in college here, was the amount of house shows going on. I feel like in a lot of ways we’re deeply rooted in that scene.” And Black Girls weren’t the only ones gracing the stage at the Jazz Lounge. Bands from near and far joined the fray, including Richmond’s own White Laces, as well as groups from as far away as New York.
MUSIC BLACK GIRLS
“That’s when I first met all these dudes,” guitarist and backup vocalist Fletcher Babb recounts. “I would come to these shows in the basement all the time. First time I ever came to this house, there were probably 40 or 50 people out in that front fenced in area, and they [had] our friend Josh at the front gate taking tickets. I’m like, ‘What the hell is this? A house party that charges people and takes tickets and everything? This is craziness.’” While he started as a spectator, Babb soon joined the band, along with guitarist and hype-man Harrison Colby, when Mike Bryant went overseas to study music. Mike returned a few months later, and though both Babb and Colby stayed on, briefly turning the band into a six-piece, Colby left the group shortly thereafter to pursue a career in film. But the band’s knack for creating goes back even further than their house shows, to when Gillihan, Farris and Bryant, all of whom were attending VCU, played in a band called River City Choir. “We were just playing music together, living together, playing in different bands and not taking it very seriously,” Gillihan remembers. Even though he wasn’t an official band member, Black Girls bassist Jeff Knight was already in the mix at this point -he reminds his bandmates jovially that he “played percussion at the Triple for one show.” And while River City Choir’s style was, according to Farris, “more Americana kind of stuff,” the time they spent playing music with one another in college helped them start to develop the loose yet upbeat ethos of “snuff rock” -- the name the band has given to their blend of southern psychedelic soul. “As far back as we’ve been playing music together,” Farris says, “it was always sitting around with a guitar or something, just hanging out and playing around with songs and vocal melodies and lyrics. The whole falsetto thing and the whole call and response thing really stem out of sitting around making each other laugh, and doing this and that, but then being like, ‘Well you know, actually that sounds pretty sweet. Let’s try and do that for real.’ It came out of a totally real place. “We just decided to make it our own thing -snuff rock.” When you see them live, it’s impossible to miss the distinctive swagger that comes with the selfdetermination of the snuff rock brand. After all, “What kind of music do you play?” can be one of the most difficult questions for a band to answer,
especially for bands that have diverse influences. Black Girls have a definitive answer and, much as they did with their house shows at the Jazz Lounge, they seem to revel in the idea of creating something where nothing previously existed. Given this appreciation for all things homegrown, it should come as no surprise that when it was time to start committing the songs they’d been working on to tape, Black Girls rolled up their sleeves and turned the Jazz Lounge into a recording studio. Their self-recorded, self-titled first album was released early in 2011 on Worthless Junk Records, with a liner note that reads, “these ten songs outline more than two years of musical evolution, with each one representing its own unique chapter.” “It was fun,” Farris recalls. “We got to really put a lot of personal touches into everything, and spend a long time doing it.” The amount of time spent on this self-titled first record was partially a product of their environment, as the group didn’t have the means to record live at the Jazz Lounge. “We didn’t even have the inputs or cords or anything to do that. I would record drums, then someone would record something, and they could be days or weeks apart.” Nevertheless, the album does a fantastic job of capturing the band’s charisma, eclectic tastes and creativity. Tracks like “So Sorry,” “Club Bangin” and “Broadway” have grown into trademark anthems at their exuberant live shows. “Broadway” has even taken on a vibrant second life, thanks to their collaboration with another of Richmond’s highest-profile bands, label-mates No BS! Brass Band. “It was huge for us, linking up with them,” Farris says of No BS! “It just seemed right off the bat like the perfect combo.” Released in July and christened by a two-night stint at Black Girls’ favorite Richmond venue, Balliceaux, the No BS! Brass Band vs. Black Girls split 7-inch features a revamped cut of “Broadway,” with five members of No BS! adding powerful swells and expertly executed punctuating harmonies. The track was recorded at Minimum Wage, the home studio of No BS! drummer Lance Koehler, and the experience left a strong impression. Fletcher Babb recalls that “they would listen to the song twice and figure something out right away -- faster than any of us could hope to do.” They also fell for the flexibility that recording at Minimum Wage
afforded, returning to Koehler’s studio to record nearly all the tracks that appear on their second album, Hell Dragon, which was just released in January. “Lance has so many different instruments,” Mike Bryant raves. “It’s his house, so all his musical equipment is in there. For a time, there was a Hammond B3 in there; he still has a Wurlitzer, a grand piano...” Going from the Jazz Lounge to Minimum Wage also meant they could infuse more of the swagger and energy found at their shows into their second effort. The skeletons of each song were recorded live, and Fletcher Babb notes that they never used a click track, saying of Hell Dragon that “it’s never too clinical and mechanical.” “Recording is a different art form from playing live,” Bryant acknowledges. “There’s different things that go into being good at that art form. With this album, as the recording went along, we got better at it, and we got better at being loose in the studio.” The same goes for the album’s title. Drew Gillihan shares that, much like the band’s name (none of the members are black or, as you’ve probably gathered by now, female), it was “just a good idea--someone says it and you know it’s right.” Though the counter-intuitive nature of their name has been the source of some web-based controversy, the group has yet to encounter any anger in person -- “only people on the Internet,” Mike Bryant notes -- and they encourage skeptics to come see them play. According to Bryant, “you wouldn’t leave one of our shows with a lot of misconceptions.” Stephen Farris echoes this sentiment, offering an open invitation to “come hang out with us, or come to a show. Talk to us.” That confident looseness comes through loud and clear on Hell Dragon, and tracks like “So Sorry,” “Get Off” and “South Carolina” give those who haven’t yet made it to a Black Girls show a wonderful glimpse of how enjoyably engaging the experience is. It’s an atmosphere the band has been nurturing ever since they started packing the tiny Jazz Lounge with a not-so-tiny number of people. In many ways, they bring the house show to you. “Even when we’re playing at a club, the whole idea is to be like ‘We’re all partying together. Let’s rock
out,’” Farris says. “We play our best when people are almost literally right on the stage partying with us.” Bassist Jeff Knight regularly sidesteps the monitors at the front of the stage, as if his natural inclination is to get as close as possible to the audience. At the same time, Farris’ calland-response exchanges foster both audience participation and the uncanny feeling that you’re in the middle of a crowded party, unconsciously taking in the excited conversation happening all around you. Mike Bryant’s Fender and Fletcher Babb’s Epiphone engage in their own ongoing conversation, with carefully composed and layered lead and rhythm guitar parts that add to the enveloping mix of voices. And then there’s Drew Gillihan’s dynamic voice, from his operatic low vibrato to his weightless falsetto and every confidently belted note in between, adding an extra gear that can turn any crescendo into a dramatic event. As Knight puts it, “The energy comes from the music, and therefore it charges up the fun.” But as well as this formula has served them, and as confident as they are in the style that they've shaped, the members of Black Girls haven't stopped looking for ways to perfect their sound. “We’re constantly trying different stuff,” Stephen Farris shares. “We’re always looking for new shit and new styles and new ways to use our equipment.” That hunger for progress is one trait they share with the group they commonly cite as a major influence -- Steely Dan. “That’s why we stopped River City Choir,” Farris confesses. “We heard Aja and we were like, ‘Let’s try and do something as ambitious as that.’” Watching the band during a brief practice, this quality became evident almost immediately, as small tweaks were made, and guitar parts rearranged. Fletcher Babb experimented with adding delay to a section of “Club Bangin” that he’s played god knows how many times. And remember Drew Gillihan’s Moog synthesizer? Even though he snagged the synth off Craigslist just days before the band was finished tracking Hell Dragon, he still brought it to the studio to add some finishing touches. “It’s a new school Moog,” he explains. “It’s all digital. It’s got all the old Moog shit in it but you can just push buttons.”
Far beyond just pushing buttons, Gillihan deploys custom patches that are as complicated to dissect as they are hilariously named (“Hell Rabbits,” “Mary ass lice,” and “Denzel-dog,” for instance). The same Moog was onstage on Saturday, January 14, when Black Girls packed the Camel for the official Hell Dragon CD release party, unleashing the type of fun and raucous show that is befitting of such a fun and raucous album. Also at the Camel that night were a few members of The Head and the Heart (two of whom -Jonathan Russell and Tyler Williams -- have roots in Richmond), providing a brief glimpse into Black Girls’ very near future on the road. In March they’ll be stopping in 17 cities--including Toronto and Montreal, their first shows outside the U.S.-opening for The Head and the Heart in venues like the Vic Theater in Chicago and Terminal 5 in New York City. In a happy coincidence, their secondto-last stop on the tour finds them at the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville, making for their second trip to Music City in just three months. As drained as the group was when I caught up with them on January 13 at Republic, before the first of two homecoming shows that concluded the Roasted, Toasted, Deep-Fried Southern Winter Tour, they seemed to relish their time on the road. They raved about their evening in New Orleans and the one-of-a-kind green room at the Bottletree in Birmingham. They even made the most of their commutes. On the long ride from Nashville to Newport News, the band turned the camper into a screening room, plowing through the entire fourth season of Mad Men. It’s as if they have a sixth sense for creating a good time out of thin air, regardless of the hand that they’re dealt-be that a lack of willing venues, a studio full of instruments, or an abundance of free time. With their March booked up, Black Girls is already looking to how they’ll use their free time this summer. Stephen Farris says that they’re hoping to make their way onto as many festival stages as possible. Fletcher agrees, saying, “anywhere else we can go on tour that’s far away.” While it doesn’t appear that they’ll have any trouble, something tells me that if they don’t make as many festival appearances as they’d like, they wouldn’t hesitate to put on their own. And something tells me it would be really, really fun.
RVA MAGAZINE #8
MUSIC BLACK GIRLS
RVA MAGAZINE #8
cross the RVA musical spectrum, there really isn’t another band quite like White Laces. Initially receiving acclaim for their volume and shoegaze tendencies, they have spent the greater part of 2011 displaying quite a prolific work ethic. Between releasing their self-titled twelve-inch EP on Shdwply Records, writing new material for several split vinyl releases slated for 2012, and creating three music videos showcasing their strongest tracks, the band has not let up since their inception, and they continue to pursue new ideas that push them towards reinvention.
Before White Laces, singer/guitarist Landis Wine was in Cinemasophia. After the release of their final album Fits and Cycles, Wine decided that he didn’t really want to be in the band any longer. “I don’t think anyone was happy with how that situation ended or where it was headed,” he recalls. “It was difficult for sustainability reasons and I felt done with it for a while.” Wine holed up at home and began working on new material, which soon took him in some new directions. “The new songs were much more keyboard-based,” he explains. “I knew I was much more invested in this. It felt fresh and natural in comparison to what I had been working on prior.” Soon, Wine met former Field Day drummer Jimmy Held at a party, where the two talked endlessly about music and made plans to practice as soon as they could. After jamming together a few times, the collaboration stuck, and this two-piece lineup completed and released White Laces’ self-titled debut. The EP’s energetic fervor and larger than life sound represented the personality of the band members. Wine’s reverb-laden vocals were beautifully layered against the harsh musical landscapes of distinctive songs like “Motorik Twilight.” His lyrical tales were dark and personal, but the focus was clear. This engaging sound revealed the direction that White Laces, and the Richmond music scene as a whole, would be headed in the coming year. In order to pull off what was on record in live performances, they were going to need to find more people to fill in the gaps in their lineup. “After we put together the demo, we went through a quick succession of members until we reached the right fit,” says Held. Although the frequently shifting early lineups were frustrating for Wine and Held, this test of patience was necessary to find the two other key components for the band. Bassist Jay Ward’s relationship with Wine predated White Laces, as both had been active songwriters in Cinemasophia. However, there was an inherent difference in the ways the two projects operated. “At one point, there were six members in Cinemasophia, with Landis, John Merchant, and myself as the core members and songwriters,” Ward explains. “We ended up just yanking people into the fold and telling them to play this and play that. With White Laces, Landis will bring in a main part or a few riffs that he thinks belong together, and we will flesh it out [as a group]. The songwriting is more of a group effort.” Wine and Ward have put aside any lingering tension from the Cinemasophia days to come up with something spectacular musically. “We might still bicker between the two of us, but it’s a different kind of fighting,” Wine explains. “At the end of the day, Jay knows exactly when and where to come in with bass stuff.” The final piece to the puzzle was guitarist Alex French. French came out to a few of the band’s shows when they were a three-piece and he was playing in another band. After that band broke up, Wine reached out to French to join White Laces. French is younger than the other members, but his youthful exuberance helps keep his contributions inventive. His exploration of sonic thresholds with his solo project, Flossed in Paradise, has helped dictate his approach to White Laces. When a song may lose its focus in its louder moments, French is capable of adding relatively subtle effects to help complete the soundscape. He plays a strong foil to Wine’s clanging, rhythmic guitar parts, and it’s fascinating to observe their interplay and the way it serves the band as a whole. “When it comes to White Laces, I’m a rhythm guitarist trying to figure out how to be a lead guitarist,” French explains.
MUSIC WHITE LACES
French is not the only member of White Laces who is going against his usual instrumental role. Wine started off as a drummer, and his guitar playing is more rhythmically infused as a result. Ward initially joined White Laces on guitar, but his identity in the band took shape once he took over bass duties. The most curious case is that of Held, who is the singer, guitarist, and chief songwriter in acclaimed Richmond post-hardcore outfit Flechette. Yet his drum work in White Laces displays a significant level of finesse. “The funniest thing about our band is that the best guitarist in the band is behind a drum kit,” Wine says. The full lineup debuted live on WRIR, recording a session that ended up on the cassette version of their debut, and reflected a new era for the group. “The shows after that radio performance were a lot of covering old ground,” Wine recalls. “It felt more like catch-up at times, but it helped us get better in sync with one another.” He jokes about how several of those early shows will simply not disappear off of Youtube, despite his best efforts. These early sets gained White Laces some recognition for high volume levels. Held has a reasonable explanation: “When we were working out this material, we ended up practicing in a space where we were surrounded by other bands. We had to turn our equipment up louder just to hear one another. As a result, we didn’t know any better than to play at that volume.” The group’s popularity rose through frequent touring and they received offers of shows at festivals like South By Southwest and CMJ. They also received offers to make music videos, which Wine in particular was enthusiastic about. “It was almost like we were sharing these with our friends who had a natural inclination to create art and be inspired from what we had worked on,” Wine remarks. The videos for “Motorik Twilight,” directed by Sophia Minnerly, and “Spirtuals,” directed by John Merchant, spawned further support for the band, and helped set a few steps in place for their further development. There were still a few issues here and there, the most dramatic being an incident that took place at a pizzeria in Lynchburg, in which White Laces were criticized for their performing volume. “I think that turned into a game of telephone, and the miscommunication overwhelmed the reality of the situation,” Wine reflects. The only thing that French thinks could come from the minor controversy is a newfound level of expectation. “I think if we get booked for a house show, a lot of kids might come out because of our name and its association with loudness,” he explains. This frame of mind helped to spark a new attitude within White Laces, who found the challenge of trying to throw all expectations away and recreate the sound of the band more exciting than sticking to their established sound. Wine explains, “We could rev up our amps and maintain our reputation as being possibly the loudest, more obnoxious band on a bill, or we could really pay attention to what could make us stronger and more satisfied as a whole.” When the time came to work on new material, a steady timeline of playing out frequently and learning how to read each other helped to create a comfortable setting for White Laces to effectively work. The first two songs to come out of these sessions were “Bastard’s Dead” and “Hands in Mexico.” “Bastard’s Dead” was a result of Wine and Held working on new material after the departure of a former bassist. “It was a means of feeling one another out as far as where we may have been headed next,” Wine comments. “Hands In Mexico” was the first true collaboration involving the whole band. Wine brought the song into practice as a straightforward rock song, which Held immediately countered by introducing a shuffle beat. French added a few guitar parts to help take the song where Wine envisioned it. Their approach to this song differed in comparison to earlier material. “When we were putting [it] together, we thought that maybe instead of making the song get louder and louder, we could go for a quieter approach to build up the tension,” Wine considers. “Hands” is an excellent example of the way the right single can dramatically escalate a band’s status in a very short time. White Laces’ peers, as well as
a growing fan base, responded to their first EP with enthusiasm. However, the internet debut of “Hands,” and its subsequent music video, directed by Danny Lerch, changed everything. The single set White Laces apart from its local peers and set in motion a newfound excitement within the band and among its fans.
idea of how we can utilize these new instruments, and also avoid the excess we would [previously] partake in.”
Recorded at Sound Of Music Studios, “Bastard” and “Hands” were earmarked for a split 10 inch EP with local Richmond band The Snowy Owls. There was enough space on the record for one more song, and White Laces headed to Roanoke’s Mystic Fortress Studios in order to complete the project. They ended up recording not only the last song for the Snowy Owls split, but a song that would end up on another split vinyl release as well.
The response to the newer material that White Laces have unveiled has been incredibly positive. After shows in Norfolk and Richmond, previous expectations of a loud approach have mostly dissipated. “We played an entirely new set in Norfolk and everyone was incredibly encouraging about the new direction,” Wine says. “We were worried at first, because with the first record, everyone loved how loud it was, and you never know if the new stuff will alienate the people who pay attention to what you do. Fortunately for us, I think scaling back has helped us be more inviting, and encouraged more people to not be turned off by the volume.”
“Don’t Wake Up” rounded out the Snowy Owls split. There is a looseness to the song that is new for White Laces, which allows the rhythm section to take center stage while the guitars take it easy. “On that song, Alex and I wait around for a while before we have to play, while the rhythm section has at it,” Wine says. “This made us all consider how we could interact with space and not feel the need to fill every empty space with guitar riffs.” This new method of interaction is influenced by other groups on the current Richmond musical landscape. After catching local groups The Diamond Center and Canary Oh Canary, Wine and Held realized that they needed to work on their dynamic. “[From seeing] The Diamond Center, we realized that we could pull back and have it create more tension,” remarks Held.
Two of the new songs that White Laces have unveiled are “Heavy Nights” and “Carousel.” They both help to display fresh nuances of the band. “Heavy Nights” shows a quieter, more patient White Laces, which they realize through Wine’s diminished presence on guitar and French’s focusing on keyboard parts. This is a frequent duty for him in his solo project, and helps to make this new role less unfamiliar. “Carousel” is the most like the older material, with fluid bass and strong guitars; yet it is apparent that although this hearkens back to the old days, White Laces have interjected their new sound into the song nonetheless. It goes to show that although the band may be further exploring a less aggressive intensity, they have not lost the spark that drew people to them in the first place.
The second song that White Laces recorded in Roanoke was “Dissolve Into Color,” their side of a split seven-inch with Philadelphia’s Arches. They’d workshopped the song while on the road with the Philadelphia-based group. After the tour, Arches left a lingering impact on White Laces. “We even played an Arches tune at practices for a while,” French remarks. The robust jangling guitars at the start fit into the spectrum of their recent material. As Wine’s voice enters the scene, it could almost be said that all bets are off. The song’s loose structure results in a relatively undefined chorus, but regardless, its flaring build is phenomenal, and delivers a sensation of panic that offers no relief in sight.
With several releases under their belt, it’s only fitting that their focus would turn towards a proper full-length. White Laces have been hard at work at piecing together new songs, contemplating an overarching idea for the record, and taking their time to make this something that will allow the band to further prosper. “With the full-length, we have a lot of skeletons that we have been working on and we are pushing ourselves to really focus on a concise idea,” Wine says. “As opposed to throwing together everything we are working on and fitting it on one LP, I’d rather have the flow of the record and thought behind it, not be compromised by barreling through the process.” “We want it to be a strong forty-five minutes, and not [just] a collection of songs that we were working on at the time,” remarks Held. Fortunately for them, any leftover songs will find easy homes on future releases through Harding Street Assembly Lab and Funny/Not Funny Records. Although nothing can be revealed at the moment, the releases should coincide with upcoming festival appearances and appropriate split collaborators.
Wine chose to take a different approach with the lyrics to “Dissolve Into Color” than he had previously. During musical composition, he’d found that vocal melodies were easy to piece together, but that lyrics took much longer and were often constructed at the last minute. “I tend to write phonetically, and pull from what fits the melody I’ve worked out during practice,” he explains, noting that his previous habit had been to write endless pages of phrases and sounds from which he would pull words haphazardly. On “Dissolve,” he attempted to escape this habit. “Part of it’s about a specific time at a bar in Roanoke, and the other part is pulled from certain imagery taken from Gnostic sects,” he explains. “I feel like I have a more uniform direction now. I am really happy with the lines from that song, and it makes me think that I should concentrate more on what I’m doing lyrically.” Shortly after this session, French spent some time overseas, allowing White Laces to take a well-deserved breather and examine the next step for the band. “We realized that we didn’t have to continue in this line that we had been doing up to that point,” Wine says. Upon his return, French’s role in the band greatly expanded. “The new songs we are working on feature keys and samplers,” he explains. “A new trend developed while I was gone to just incorporate new instruments and throw them my way.” Although his setup has greatly expanded, White Laces as a whole have moved towards removing excessive parts and displaying restraint. This new direction was partly inspired by Wine’s listening habits over the past year. “I can’t really pinpoint when it started, but I just started to listen to more electronic music,” he says. “It started to absorb a bit into my senses of [the way] I wanted percussion to sound, and how I wanted the songs to sound. It’s helped give [us] a better
The future isn’t just bright for White Laces---it’s glimmering with excitement. “The response to White Laces has been more positive than anything that I’ve done before, and that’s the most rewarding thing to me,” says Ward. The band is growing more and more keen to what lies ahead. “I think it just comes down to reaching that point where you aren’t just a young kid who starts a band and plays out to just do [it],” remarks Held. “It’s clocking in time every week, and making a strong commitment to what you want to achieve. White Laces makes a case for me wanting to continue pursuing music.” In Wine’s eyes, what they are accomplishing right now fits perfectly into the progression that they’ve been aiming for since their inception. “I think we have a pretty solid idea of where we are headed now,” he explains. “It’s more of what I really want it to sound like as a whole, and more like what we listen to. As soon as we hit that sweet spot, we all realized that we could work within this terrain. I’m happier with this new set of songs and everything we’ve been working on than anything I’ve ever been musically involved with.” From the strong initial impact they’ve created within the Richmond music scene to their ability to organically evolve as a group, White Laces are not only paving a way for themselves as musicians, they are creating a legacy. They are a solid outfit with a promising 2012 ahead of them.
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S E R V I C E 804.926.0393 BI O R I D E RVA.COM
THERE HERE .ORG BY ANDREW NECCI
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first learned about therehere.org when a friend of mine linked to it on facebook. I’d never heard of the site, but anything relating to the history of Richmond immediately catches my eye, so I needed no further reason to check it out. What I found was a fascinating look at the neglected buildings of downtown Richmond, in particular a section of East Broad and Grace Streets, stretching from 1st to 6th St. In the mission statement on its front page, There/Here bills itself as a “thorough inventory [of Richmond] specific to dormant properties,” and “a web-based place to publicize pressure through change.” I also learned that There/Here, both a website and an advocacy group, had been launched through a grant from VCU’s School Of The Arts. This made sense particularly in light of the more artistic slant some of their work, as documented on the website, had taken towards the issue of urban vacancy in downtown RVA. Fascinated by what I’d discovered thus far, and hoping to find out more, I sent an email to the website’s contact address, requesting an interview. No names appeared on the site, so I had no idea who I’d hear back from. The response I received was from Tyler King, an architectural history student at VCU and the unofficial leader of the There/Here project. He and I agreed to meet for coffee and conversation at Lamplighter Roasting Company a few weeks later. Tyler turned out to be a friendly but soft-spoken fellow, and the general background noise of the coffee shop made my tape of the conversation somewhat difficult to decipher, but I caught most of it--certainly enough to gather a lot of interesting information about There/Here. Tyler, who is originally from Abingdon, VA, came to Richmond after studying architecture at a university in Boston. “That was great,” he told me, “but we weren’t really designing based on any specific place, or any specific problem. As soon as I came to Richmond, I got attached to the problem here.” And what was that problem? “All the scales of the streets and buildings guide you to what should be the downtown,” he explained. “What’s really surprising is that there isn’t any activity there.” He found the proliferation of vacant
buildings in the area fascinating, and wanted to learn more about them. “There’s always a story that's embedded in a building. That's kind of my mission when I go into buildings--to find the story. It's not as journalistic as that--it's more like aboveground archaeology.” Walking around those largely vacant blocks, taking pictures and attempting to talk to landlords and developers, inspired Tyler to create the advocacy group and website that became There/ Here. It started with a grant from VCU’s School Of The Arts, which covered the year 2011. The grant funded the launch of the website, and a great deal of painstaking and no doubt tedious research goes into finding the information that eventually appears online. There’s a lot of information, too. When you log onto therehere.org, the first thing you see is a map of downtown Richmond that is covered in grey circles, representing the vacant buildings within that five-block stretch of Broad and Grace Streets. All of these grey circles-and there are quite a few--link to individual web pages on which the members of There/Here have recorded all the information they’ve been able to learn about each building, including current ownership, past occupants, and both vintage and modern photos. Tyler thinks that there needs to be a different attitude about vacancy within urban areas. “When it comes down to it, there's always going to be a movement of vacant buildings. It doesn't necessarily have to be a negative thing for the city.” How could these vacant buildings be turned into a positive element within the larger cityscape? Tyler definitely has ideas. “A lot of [artists] now are working with this idea of memory and place,” he explains. “They see these buildings, and think, ‘This would be a great place for my installation,’ or for a performance piece, or something. Since the website’s launched, so many people are getting in touch with me about using the buildings. And sometimes that can happen, but there's this attitude with a lot of building owners, of ‘What's the immediate economic outcome for me?’” Convincing recalcitrant developers that the spaces can be used beneficially, even in situations that don’t involve a profitable business entering
into a multi-year lease, can be a challenge. Tyler hopes that resistance will lessen in time. “I think after a year, once we can say, ‘Look at the attention these buildings have gotten as a result of these artists going in and doing things,’ most private companies will be more receptive. You can play both sides of it a bit, and say, ‘There is a [positive] economic outcome. It's the attention that's brought to it.’” Now we’re talking about the stuff that caught my interest in the first place--the artistic events and installations within vacant buildings that There/ Here have been involved with. The installations were inspired by things that the There/Here crew found while exploring vacant buildings. Their first find was entitled “Nothing Missing But The Voice,” named for the slogan of the Foster Photo Studio, which occupied 404 E. Grace St. over half a century ago. Finding a collection of badly deteriorated negatives within the space, There/ Here developed them at Safelight Community Darkroom. This resulted in what they call “a redeveloped ruin,” skeletal photographs only barely visible through years of damage caused by neglect. Feeling that this art project hadn’t reached as many as it could have, considering that it was only publicly visible online, they chose a much more highly visible project for their next installation. After finding a sign that said “Will Return” inside of 224 E. Broad St., which has been vacant for nearly a decade, they decided to highlight this irony by pasting large letters reading “Will Return” onto the outside of the building. The letters were removed after less than a week. According to a statement on therehere.org, “One of the people Douglas Development employs to maintain some of their buildings thought that they were put up by a religious fanatic.” Tyler found this amusing. “I was talking to Bill Martin from the Valentine Richmond History Center about [the removal of the sign], and he said, ‘I think [the sign] is great. But it's graffiti, whether you like it or not.’ I told him we'd asked permission, but he was like, ‘Yeah, well...’” What was left behind was almost like an art installation in itself, though. “What's great is that you can still see the adhesive from the ‘Will
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Return’ letters. Which I need to take off, but I kinda like it. It looks like another inlay of metal or something.”
They’ve also held events in the vacant buildings. Their first event, though, “Chocolate-Covered Data,” was actually held at Lift Coffee. “It was a way to educate all of the people who were asking, ‘What is this about?’” Tyler explains. “I went through and told people how to fill out [There/ Here’s building information] forms, and why, and they actually went through on the city's website and filled in some information about the buildings. After that, though, I realized that people don't want to fill out forms as much as they want to hang out.” To that end, their second event, “Repair,” was hosted in the building that occupies 120-124 E. Broad St. This is the former location of the Rabow Department Store, which closed in the late 80s. The space was donated for the night by Polis/Living Cities, an LLC created by Douglas Development. The biggest developer currently operating in the area There/Here focuses on, Douglas Development have also been the most receptive to allowing use of their buildings, which Tyler found to be a pleasant surprise. He thinks this receptiveness might be due to their office being located in the middle of the area. “They have an office right across the street,” he says. “They're working on these renderings all day, thinking, ‘What if there was a Forever 21, or a Target here?’ They might get sick of that, and think, ‘Well, what would happen if we actually activated [the space]?’ And that's where I came in.” For this event, which was held in what was basically a shell of a building, maps of the area were suspended from beams, depicting vacancies and occupied buildings, as well as different property uses and zonings, in different colors. There/ Here invited attendees to post ideas for usage of the vacant space, and received suggestions
for a bagel shop, studios for artists, and vertical gardens in place of empty parking garages. Tyler felt that the event was a great success. “[7th District] Councilwoman [Cynthia] Newbille was there, that was great. But it was great to get all of those people in the same room--[such as] a representative from Douglas Development, which doesn't get a great rep in the press--and to bring them together with people from, for example, the Storefront For Community Design. Because yeah, some of those people are capitalists, and some are trying to do some good in the community. I was hoping that some kind of osmosis would happen there.” Before the event, the There/Here crew located the six-foot-tall letters that had once made up the Rabow Department Store’s sign, gathering dust in the buidling’s basement. They brought three of them up into the storefront at 120 E. Broad St, and used them to spell out the word “RAW.” Now propped up against the wall inside that building, they’re somewhat obscured, but still visible through the building’s front windows. “It's funny though,” Tyler says of the rearrangement. “I was reading about the history of that sign, and those letters were rearranged to spell out ‘Rabow’ from the store's former name, which was Arrow.” In their re-ordering of the sign’s letters, There/Here were unwittingly replicating a similar re-ordering that took place over half a century before. Of course, the ultimate question that has to be asked with any works of art or advocacy that take place around vacant buildings is one of urban renewal. What’s There/Here’s official position on the subject? Tyler doesn’t want to commit to any thought process that’s too definitively structured. “I hate master plans,” he says. “These dormant clusters are always going to be in flux. Inbetween, you have people like Decayed Richmond, who are going into these spaces and finding beauty in decay. If somehow that can give way to whatever happens next, that would be great. And it does
happen. I don't think I would get behind any comprehensive renewal plan. Anything that's too prescriptive, I tend to be skeptical of. I think the word ‘revitalization’ is sometimes code for gentrification. [Which] is kind of inevitable, but if you can attack that cycle at the right angle, something good can come out of it. And then once one place is gentrified, there's automatically another that isn't.” There/Here intend to broaden their own focus to include other neighborhoods in Richmond that suffer from a similar surfeit of vacancies to that which plagues E. Broad and Grace Streets. And despite the fact that their grant ended at the end of 2011, Tyler has no intention of ceasing to work on the project. “I'd really like to do some more [events],” he says. “I'm looking at spaces. I'm wondering, though, if the next one should be in the next cluster of buildings that we set to document.” Right now, the plan is for that cluster to be the Manchester neighborhood, south of their current area of concentration, across the James River. The most recent post on therehere.org seeks volunteers to help with various researching tasks that the group is currently engaged in. It states in part: “The goal is to have an informal network of people who engage with and expound upon this data on a regular basis. The projects listed are self-directed and can be completed at a pace that suits you.” From searching through VCU’s Special Collections and the Valentine’s collection of Richmond City Directories to walking Hull St in Manchester during regular business hours and taking note of which buildings appear to be vacant, there are a variety of tasks that There/ Here are engaged in. Tyler expects to remain in Richmond for the foreseeable future. “Anytime I go to another place, I think, ‘Yeah, well, that was great, but Richmond's home,’” he says. As he works to make his home a better place, we can all look forward to hearing more from There/Here in the future.
ILLUSTRATION BRYAN WOODLAND
BY HENRY SOZA
t wasn’t hard to tell when I met Casey Jones, better known as Casey Veggies, that I was with a perfect example of a self-made hip-hop artist. When you first listen to a Casey Veggies record, it’s surprising that that an 18-year-old can paint these vivid pictures with his lyrics. However, Casey makes it sound easy. Unlike many artists, he is not looking for a record deal. Instead, he has confidence that he and his two like-minded counterparts, Anwar Carrots and Joshton Peas, can continue building their Peas and Carrots International movement and leave their mark on the industry. This attitude that Casey has put into his short career has already led him to collaborations with Juicy J and OG Ron C as well as, more recently, an opening spot on fellow up-and-coming hip-hop artist Mac Miller’s Blue Slide Tour. Just before Casey and his Peas and Carrots crew made their way to the stage of The National, I caught up with him to let RVA know a little bit about his past, and where Casey Veggies is headed. So who is Casey Veggies? Casey: Casey Veggies is a young and ambitious kid from Los Angeles, California who decided to do something when he was 12 or 13 and stuck with it. He’s a young guy who stands alone, does his own thing. He tries to bring something great in everything he does. You mentioned that you moved around a lot. How did that influence you? C: I went to middle school in the Fairfax area of Los Angeles, but I lived in Inglewood, which is like 20 minutes down. So I used to be in all different parts of the city. That’s really what motivated me as a full human being, just seeing all sides, seeing Asian people and black people. At that age it really helps you out, being diverse. You started rapping around that time too? C: Yeah, I started rapping when I was 12.
So, you are 18 years old now. In those six years, how did you grow? C: I grew a ton, rapping-wise and person-wise. I think every project I put out, you can feel the growth. I learned a bunch on how to approach the music before I even did it. When I first started, I wasn’t even doing hooks. I was just straight rapping, like 38 bars throughout the song. And then on Sleeping in Class, I learned how to make a full record. So you graduated high school with a 3.5 GPA. Instead of going to college, how has the decision to stick it out doing what you’ve been doing since you were 13 been working out for you? C: It was a great decision. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to take advantage of all opportunities in your face. I think going to college would be downplaying my music, and that’s something I feel confident in. I felt like I’ve got a great shot at it. 40
So you met Jay-Z earlier this year? C: Yeah, it was a few months ago. I played him like three songs. Which is crazy--we played each other songs. One of the songs I played is called “Hear Me Screaming.” The third verse is about my grandma, and when he heard that, he was like, “Yeah man, that really hit me.” I felt that, for sure, it was a great verse. Is there anybody who helped shape the way you have this tunnel vision drive? C: Definitely my parents. They raised me all the way right. My surroundings and what I saw early on--I saw a lot. It just motivated me to be this universal kid. My musical beginnings, I’ll give a big shout out to Tyler, the Creator and Odd Future. We used to make music together, and creativity would flow. When you’re doing something with your homies, it’s way better. Where do you see yourself in the whole New West movement? C: The whole New West thing is cool, but I never want to block myself in. It’s a beautiful thing going on, but I just feel like I want to do something new and fresh and that hasn’t been done before, as a young artist. You’ve also got the Peas And Carrots crew, with Joshton Peas and Anwar Carrots, and I know you met Anwar in middle school. Can you talk to me about how you got together with them? C: In LA, we had cliques. A few years back, everybody was from a clique. Anwar, and a friend of mine named Dane, and Josh Peas, they were all from a clique called Priceless. It was a high school thing to be in a clique, and I was in middle school. But I knew about all of them, so I started my own little clique, because I wanted to be down with their shit too. And from the clique shit, we became friends. They were big homies to me when I was in middle school. I used to be spitting at parties and shit, and they started noticing and showing love, and we just built it up like that. So where is Peas and Carrots now? You all have been going strong since ‘07? C: Yeah, I met them like ‘06. We started Peas And Carrots in like ‘07. It started off as a blog. We’ve got a clothing line now [Peas And Carrots International, aka Arrogant Veggies]. You re-released Sleeping in Class, the Deluxe Edition, a few months ago, but we’re at the top of the year, and you’ve been promising a new project. So, what’s up? C: My new project Customized Greatly Vol. 3 is dropping April 9th. I’m just carrying on tradition, showing people who were around when I dropped Vol. 1 when I was 13 pure growth and progress.
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MUSIC CASEY VEGGIES
PHOTO CHRIS GOTTSHALK
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guitar, keys, drum kit, a bass, and four assholes. Those ten words pretty much sum up The People’s Blues of Richmond. However, trying painstakingly to fit them into a nutshell is a more demanding task than simply catching their drift. This is partially because their compositions are easily relatable, but mostly, I find myself attracted to their swagger, on and off the stage. After all, it’s the blues they’re singing. This is not rocket science. The People’s Blues Of Richmond released their first album, entitled Hard-On Blues, nearly two years ago. Since then, they’ve asserted themselves as one of the most relevant acts to take the stage in RVA. Timmy Beavers (vocals/guitar), Raphael Katchinoff (Drums), Matt Volkes (Bass), and their most recent addition, Tommy Booker (keys), make up this four-piece psychedelic blues-rock combo. Melodic madness at its finest, they are the antithesis of sanity, sobriety, celibacy, and silence. The sound is eerily familiar, in a comfortably insane sort of way. That being said, Hard-On Blues does address life’s complications as perceived through the eyes of Tim Beavers II--but there’s nothing really complicated about it. Despite his relative
lyrical simplicity, Tim is never hackneyed in the manner of, say, George Thorogood. “Whiskey and Gin” lyrically is beyond anything I’ve ever heard from Georgey. The album content maintains itself wonderfully from the first song to the last--the album's closing track, “Only Insane,” is like a finely woven, tattered tapestry one could wrap around almost any occasion. Hard-On Blues is easily one of the most played records in my music library. No doubt, Beavers’ poignant words are The People’s Blues Of Richmond’s primordial secret sauce, but the knack each member shows for their instruments is what gives this outfit its undeniable staying power. Charisma and talent are not mutually exclusive traits, and both are present here. In contrast to their studio album, PBR’s live show is like a kick in the head, but one that’s thoroughly enjoyable. Just as Matt Volkes’ bass drives their tunes, his ambitious hunger for validation has been their road map to date. Acting as PBR’s manager, Matt’s efforts have taken them places they’d never have reached through ideals alone. He’s been instrumental in booking shows, networking, and effectively locating an enthusiastic audience
for The People’s Blues Of Richmond up and down the East Coast. Unfortunately, musicians make for terrible managers in the long run, and Matt’s potential is likely approaching its limit. His cockiness may appear abrasive to the average person, but it’s more like a raw but well-focused confidence. PBR’s biggest advantage by far is their drummer. Well known and respected by the Richmond music community, Raphael also drums for The Milkstains and The Southern Belles. His technique is the often-overlooked inspiration for every dance floor that erupts when PBR is onstage. I had the opportunity to spend some time with PBR during an all day photo shoot that took us from Matt’s bedroom (and his roommate’s panty drawer), to the bathroom at Baja Bean Co., the Hebrew cemetery off of Admiral Gravely Dr., and finally to my apartment for this interview. Even though they pissed in the garbage can in my lobby, stole my neighbor's reefer, knocked on random doors until they acquired coffee, and climbed the loft ledges in my living room like crazed primates, I loved every minute of it.
Matt: We’ve been everywhere from Vermont to New Orleans. Honestly, when we played in Burlington the first time, that was the original magic that kept us going. We drove up there for free to play a house party for my friend. Tim was down for it. Raph was very skeptical about driving fourteen hours for a free show. I was making good money at the time and I was like, “I’ll pay for it. Don’t worry about it.” We left at three in the morning. Raphael: I had a gig the night before, so I didn’t get there till 3:30am. Matt: We had been doing nitrous all night. Someone showed up at my house with a nitrous tank and was like, “Yo, Lets party!” Raphael: We literally drove all day and all night. Got there around six. Tim: We just stopped at some random radio station [The Radiator, 105.9, Burlington VT] and they let us play live. We promoted so much just walking down the street. Matt: We went to every single venue in Vermont trying to get a gig. Tim: The people who threw the party did a good job [promoting], too. It got so crowded we ended up playing all of our material twice. It was insane. We didn’t have that much material at the time. We had like an hour and a half. That was the original dragon we’ve been chasing ever since. Tommy, you’ve recently joined the band. What has that experience been like? Tommy: It seemed like a long time coming. I’ve known Raph for a while and the first time I played with them was at Emilio’s. I had a great time. It went off from there. Officially, I was the honorary fourth member for a while. It was a breath of fresh air. I had been doing music without lyrics for the longest time. I had been in this band Think! that never sang, and never used lyrics. Very simple jam-funk grooves, so it was a breath of fresh air to play with this guy Tim, who wrote awesome lyrics and just had a raw, natural, dirty feel about him when he was playing guitar. It helped me a lot to know that I didn’t have to play as much. I can sit back and just be a piece of the whole thing. My job is to embellish and round out the band as a whole. How much does the audience have to do with the intensity of your performance? Matt: A ton!
Tim: I used to spend no time thinking about the audience. I used to sit alone in my house and write lyrics. Once this band started really kicking off like nothing I had ever been involved with, it kind of scared me. I had to start thinking about everything that I was writing, worry about saying it in front of people and how they would take it. It’s really fucked with me. I’ve become a lot less productive lyrically.
didn’t play with him [then], but for that year I had been listening to his solo stuff. I told him one day, “Your music is the soundtrack to this year for me.” I believed every word he said. It spoke true to me. Now when we go up on stage and we’re playing certain songs, I might not have a mic in front of me but I’m screaming those lyrics. Because they mean something to me. I wouldn’t play it if I didn’t feel it.
How do you get back to writing lyrics again? Tim: I’ll tell you what’s helped me lately--I’ve been checking out the Sex Pistols. They had such a short run, but Johnny Rotten, his philosophies are pretty amazing. He believes in himself. I’ve been shutting my eyes again. Not trying to say shit between songs. Just getting up there and playing music. Playing loud. Playing my fucking ass off. That’s what makes me happy. It overcomes my whole body and just turns into a blur of passion, happiness, sadness and anger. It’s this cathartic purging.
Tim, do people’s compliments or appreciation of your music ever make you feel uncomfortable? Tim: Maybe so. I don’t really let them affect me. I take everything with a grain of salt in the whole fucking world.
Raph, you met both Matt and Tim at an open mic; you play with The Milkstains and The Southern Belles. Have you always had this attitude where you want to play as much as possible, as often as you can? Raphael: I was in the house band [at Emilio’s] for two years. In my time there, I met a lot of people, and realized how much music effects not only the people that listen to it, but [also] the people who play it. There is a strong bond of emotions that carry on. It’s a universal language. I had just gotten laid off from my job, I was in six or seven bands, and these guys just started coming up [to Emilio’s] wanting to play blues and rock n’ roll-Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, older stuff--and I was all for it. They just kept coming and started booking gigs. Musically, I want to play as much as I can. The more I play, the more I learn, the more I get out of it. How has that changed since you joined PBR? Raphael: I think it’s greater. Especially with Tommy in the band. It’s a whole new sound. How much do you believe that lyrics have to do with writing good songs? Raphael: A Lot! Matt: That’s why I play. I’ve known Tim since I was in second grade. We lived together for a year. I
Do you think you’d be a better writer if people came up to you and told you that your music sucked? Tim: Yes! Tommy: I think so too! Tim: When I started playing guitar, I learned “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something for my old man, because he liked it. I played it for him and was like, “Do you recognize this?” and he was like “No. What is it?” I said, “It’s ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’,” and he said, “It doesn’t sound anything like it.” That changed guitar for me forever. I was like, “Fuck you dad!” One day he’s going to look at me and say, “Damn Tim, you really are a good guitar player.” There is nothing like revenge in this whole world for me. I love it when a band pisses me off and they play before us. I’m getting up there and playing the best show of my life. Matt, you come from a deep musical background? Matt: My great grandpa was a fiddle player. My dad played in the 70’s in Queens, NY. He played with John Lee Hooker and Freddie King a couple times. I’ve always wanted to be a musician. When I was eight, I was his drum tech. I was going to bars falling asleep in the car at two in the morning and getting home around five. My dad would carry me inside. I always knew, and it was probably something that hurt me a little bit. I was like, “I don’t need any of this, I just want to play music.” My grandpa was a drummer. The last time I saw him, he was sitting in his wheel chair. He had some wooden blocks set up around him, some percussion. I had never seen him smile before. That’s what I want. When you’re eighty years old, no one can take music away from you.
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How self-destructive is PBR? Matt: I think we all have our moments. We used to have this thing we all used to [think]: one of the members in PBR has to be upset for [a show] to be good. It’s kind of a weird idea, I know, but we started because of pain. We were hurting. We wanted to play music. I think we are past that now. We are not getting wasted before we play. House parties are fair game, but we are trying to be more professional now.
What’s the most recent book you’ve read that was not an assignment? Tommy: Mine was The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. Tim: I believe it was Tales Of Ordinary Madness by Charles Bukowski. Tell me about the two new tracks you recently recorded. Matt: We recorded four. We put two up [online]. There’s this recording studio in Maryland--Omega. It’s a recording school as well. We basically got a day for free. We recorded two songs, and then we went to another studio and got a day for free. We went in knowing how we wanted everything to sound. Just to get an idea of what we want the songs to sound like. Last time we went in three days, eight-hour days, knowing exactly how we wanted it to sound. This time I want to go in and figure it out when we get there. Raphael: Experimentation in the studio is a useful tool. You know, as a musician, you can really use the studio to your advantage. All the different layers you can create out of it. I know we all want to sonically achieve an album that’s not only interesting to other people, it’s interesting to us. Do you guys have a name for the next album? Raphael: No. Matt: We’re going to take our time til we get into the studio. The more forced it is… Raphael: ...the less genuine. We want this to come from our hearts. Matt: That’s why Tommy was such a great new addition. We’ve played with other keyboard players, but they just don’t have any passion. When you see us up there, we’re up there killing ourselves. When we get offstage, we’re pouring sweat. If we’re not, it wasn’t that great of a show.
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ormed in 2002, All Shall Perish is a breakdown-heavy, sociopolitical deathcore band that hails from Oakland, CA. Ben Orum (rhythm guitar) and Mike Tiner (bass) were the original founding members, and have remained in the lineup throughout the past decade. In 2005 they released their debut album, Hate, Malice, Revenge, on Amputated Vein Records, catching the attention of their current label, Nuclear Blast. Hernan “Eddie” Hermida (vocals) joined the team after that album, and in 2006 they released The Price Of Existence. When MTV2’s reincarnated Headbanger’s Ball, hosted by Jamey Jasta, presented their video for “Eradication,” ASP achieved global relevance. When the audio from “There Is No Business to Be Done On a Dead Planet” was synced to the visuals of “Bye, Bye, Bye” by *NSYNC, All Shall Perish went viral.
Their third album, Awaken The Dreamers, was released in September of 2008. It debuted at #126 on the Billboard Top 200 and #1 on The Top Heat seekers. That same month, ASP became the first American metal band to tour Siberia. In 2010, All Shall Perish added Francesco Artusato (lead guitar) and Adam Pierce (drums). Their lineup has been settled since, leading to the 2011 release of their latest record, This Is Where It Ends, and their single “There Is Nothing Left.” To promote their fourth album, ASP hit the road, joining Megadeth, Disturbed, and Dethklok on the 2011 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Fest. I caught up with Eddie, Ben, Mike, Francesco, and Adam last October at The Canal Club. They shared the stage with Black Dahlia Murder and Cannabis Corpse, and the show was great. This was not my first metal show, but it was the first time I’ve ever hung out with one of the bands I came to see. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Though our time together was brief and consisted mainly of the logistics pertaining to our photo shoot, I found them all to be genuine guys who shared a profound passion for what they do. Easily directed, they cracked jokes inbetween the photographers instructions. I could tell they were exhausted from what seemed to be a solid year of your dates, so I deferred the interview until I could catch them well rested, and spoke to Eddie at a later date. You guys are from Oakland, California. How is All Shall Perish received in your hometown? Eddie: Lately it’s been really great, a lot of people have been coming out. We played about two years ago with Danzig, which really opened up the spectrum [of people] that knew about us in the area. About four years ago, we couldn’t draw a picture, but nowadays we have people coming out. We just did a show that had about 700 people. It was just us playing. It was insane, we had people jumping off balconies. You can’t ask for much more from the area. So Oakland has been known for its Hell’s Angels population; do you guys
MUSIC ALL SHALL PERISH
have much of a following from Hell’s Angels? E: Not too much of the Hell’s Angels, per se. I know that a couple of the affiliate clubs do come out to our shows, and they are pretty rad dudes. I’m a motorcycle rider myself, so I can get down with those guys. You guys killed it this summer on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, hitting the road with Megadeth, Godsmack, Disturbed, etc. Anything interesting happen that you can share with our readers? E: Well I’ll tell you--there’s a lot of drinking going on, being at a Yuenglingsponsored event. There was one night where I started drinking a little early. I blacked out shortly after our set, and when I came to, I was in one of the back seats of the bus, hanging out with a couple members from Disturbed, Godsmack, Machine Head, and it was just kind of like… I was in a dream. I just came out from being blacked out and we were all just hanging out drinking some booze, smoking some weed. I don’t exactly know who was partaking in all of that, but I know I was. But that was a cool story. Just blacking out and coming to and hanging out with a bunch of people I’ve seen growing up as a musician right in front of me. It was kind of unreal. After Mayhem Fest wrapped up in August, you guys hit the road with Black Dahlia Murder, and Richmond’s own Cannabis Corpse. How was that? E: The one thing that I didn’t know, with Cannabis Corpse, I didn’t know that Phil Hall, the bass player, is the bass player in Municipal Waste. That was a cool thing to come to light, being that I’m from the Bay Area and thrash is such a monumental staple for us. That and the guys roll around with a bud costume. It’s a wide furry costume that literally looks like a big bud, and at every show they ask one fan to put it on and start a pit in the bud costume. Richmond is very lucky to have them from here. So, I had the privilege of seeing All Shall Perish at the Canal Club recently. You guys destroyed it, and I really had a blast. What was your impression of the Richmond metal scene? E: Anytime we come through there, it’s been really stellar. The kids come out and they get heavy and really crazy for us. I mean honestly, we haven’t really played anywhere [else] in Virginia. Richmond seems to be a lot more rich in the subcultures, and that’s something I can truly appreciate. All the tattoos, all the piercings, all the kids wearing metal shirts. I really appreciate people just willing to live in a state that has been perceived as conservative, and being able to say fuck it and be themselves. It takes a lot of balls to do that. In 2008, All Shall Perish became the very first metal band from the US to tour Siberia. That must have been a pretty dark region. What was that experience like for you guys? E: It’s almost like... destroyed Cuba. You know how Cuba really hasn’t advanced it’s infrastructure since the 50’s? Buildings aren’t maintained, roads are just kind of open, and people drive like maniacs. The funny part is I lost my passport in Ukraine. In that passport was my Russian visa, so when I got to Russia they put me in a holding cell and sent me back to Germany. So I was basically deported from Russia for trying to get in illegally. They were just like
you don’t have visa? See ya later. I went back to Germany and spent about two days trying to get my Russian visa back. I did that, made it to the last Siberian show, and played two Russian shows. I had a good time out there. The kids out there are very hungry for live music. They definitely show up. How did the band maintain without your vocals? E: Mike actually stepped up and did the best he could. He’s a really good vocalist. I wouldn’t say he has the best vocals for our death metal, but the guy can scream and put it out there, so he took over. The kids ate it up and he got to be a frontman, instead of a bass player that no one remembers. The Price of Existence is largely considered to be your best album. How do you feel it compares to your newest record, This Is Where It Ends? E: I appreciate the fans that say Price of Existence was one of our best records. I mean, I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard kids come up to me and say, “All Shall Perish died when you joined the band and Hate, Malice, Revenge was the only record that means anything to me.” I’m like okay, cool. To me every record has been a step in the right direction, every record has encased who we are as musicians at that time. To me, Awaken the Dreamers has the elements of Price of Existence that people love. The Price of Existence was the first step in the direction where the band was headed. Anytime you do something different, kids are going to latch on to that and say that’s the end all be all. People are fickle, and people make up their minds on nothing. Eddie, you’re of Latin descent. You guys released a special on itunes, Spanish-language version of “Royalty in Exile.” (“Nobleza En Exilio”) How difficult was it to translate into Spanish? E: It was a hellacious experience. I almost didn’t do the song, but luckily the people at Nuclear Blast were very very persistent. They said, “hey, if you need help, we can get someone to help out.” I speak Spanish very well, I’m fluent. But when it comes to reading and writing, I wasn’t taught in Spanish, I was taught in English. So a lot of the grammatical translation issues started to come up when I was looking at the song. When you are translating music and lyrics you still need the cadence somewhat similar, and to find a word that fit the English word while keeping the meaning was a difficult task. Nuclear Blast helped me out, they sent me every single translation in every version of translation that they possibly could, and from there I picked out the phrases I felt that fit the best. We received some very positive feedback from the Spanish world and South America and Mexico. Even Spain. A lot of people were saying there’s not a lot of musicians that speak about government that speak so freely about the toils that’s going on in South America. They felt that the song spoke directly to them. That to me is more than I could ever ask for as a musician, as a lyricist. Growing up, [I was] really inspired to make my own decisions and make forward progress in my life through the lyrics that I love. To hear [from] fans that I’m inspiring to them in the same way, to me, is unreal. Are you planning to do more Spanish versions on future albums, or possibly even a whole album of Spanish lyrics? E: What I’d like to do is translate an EP of a few of my favorite songs, a few of the fans’ favorite songs, and make an EP of a Spanish version of them. Or maybe release a straight vinyl [LP]. If you are asking if you should be ex-
pecting more of that? Absolutely. I hope to actually start writing in Spanish instead of translating, and start making some original songs. You guys are considered to be a deathcore band, which is a sub genre of metal and hardcore, which also have their own subgenres and are part of other subgenres. Is society’s need to classify and then re-classify metal, punk, and hardcore becoming a burden? E: Music is music, it’s all a mutt, it’s all a bastard version of itself. There’s no reason for us to classify deathcore and be like, “Oh, I’m a deathcore kid.” No dude, you’re a metal kid. You’re a punk rocker, metal kid. That’s what you are. You’re not some specific subgenre thats like some other subgenre. It’s like, “Get over it.” You need to realize that all these musical classifications make up a huge world that is still not even close to [being] respected as much as rock or hip hop. Or even pop music, which is all some corporate bigwig sitting in a studio with a musician, saying, “Look, you need to sell my product with your ass, or six pack, then people are going to make this music and people are going to eat it up.” Ultimately, making subgenres of all this music is killing hard style music, and it always has been. When Pantera came out, they were touring with bands like Aerosmith, Skid Row. It wasn’t like, “Hey, Pantera is this heavy brutalized core thing and it can’t tour with other bands.” The selectivity of the metal world is what’s going to kill our music. I’m calling it right now. I’ve heard metalheads complain that hardcore dancing is ruining mosh pits. What are your thoughts on this? E: [laughs] You know, I think it’s a form of expression. People can be how they want to be. I think when people go in and have a completely negative attitude towards metal, they are completely missing the point that we are a society of bastards. We are the people that are shunned, are made fun of, and are kicked around. And when you go and kick someone else around all it does is fuel the fire. You’re making those kids wanna dance harder, you’re making those kids wanna express themselves the way they really need to. Ultimately, I say, and I always say, “Hey, the hardcore kids want to dance, let them dance over there. You start your mosh pit over there, and its one big happy family.” You don’t want to sit next to your smelly grandma at the dinner table? Then sit across from her so you don’t smell her. It doesn’t take away the fact that we’re a big family. What’s the acceptable amount of blood that will be spilled in the pit at an All Shall Perish show? E: I would say, if essentially we could turn the place into a bathory, then we’ll be fine. Your tour van must smell like rotten lunch meat right now. E: My girlfriend just came out for her birthday to visit and she went in there and said it smelled like a fat lady’s asshole mixed with a 40 year old man’s foot fungus, or toe jam, if you will. Dude that’s terrible. Visit AllShallPerish.com for more info.
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RVAMAG.COM MUSIC GLASSCLOUD
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n an era when everyone from your 10 year old cousin to your 92 year old granddad has their own personal cellphone, the amount of time spent on those devices consumes a significant amount of time every day. The cellphone has now become a source of personal entertainment; with numerous games and apps for the devices, you can keep up with your internet social life while blasting pigs with birds and chopping fruit. Meanwhile, veteran Richmond artist Todd Hale has discovered that the iPhone and iPad can be used as a digital medium for creating art. A small canvas with an endless color palette allows Todd to create at all times of the day with the swipe of his finger. From concepts that start on an actual canvas migrating to his iPad, to other concepts progressing from the iPhone screen to a physical painting, Hale is pushing the fine line between computer-facilitated doodling and what some would consider fine art. His large and growing body of vivid imagery will change the way people look at their cellphones, as well as adding to the list of its uses that of a tool for digital creation. Who were your early influences--people that got you started in art in the first place? Were there family members? My grandmother was a big sewing/needlepoint/ knitter, so she was always doing something with her hands. I think seeing that was pretty inspirational. Artist-wise, Francis Bacon [was] a big one. Surrealist, dada stuff. Really, movies more than art. The Wizard of Oz is a big, huge one, Willy Wonka [And The Chocolate Factory]--all that creepy, trippy stuff. My dad took me to see Star Wars, Clash of the Titans, and somewhere along the line I saw Eraserhead when I was pretty young. That made a pretty strong impression on me, just the weirdness of that. David Lynch might be my favorite artist--[he’s a] crazy painter, also. I think experience-wise, just hanging outside--which still
ART TODD HALE
comes out in my work, [a fascination with] of natural phenomenon. I see a lot of animal characteristics. I noticed a lot of sea creatures. Are you from North Carolina? I live there in the summer. I go down to the beach every summer and stay May through September, that's where I'd make most of my money, as a photographer. So I've been going there for fifteen years. Underwater experiences I've had [there and elsewhere] made a strong impression on me. I noticed you collect a lot of horseshoe crabs, a lot of different stuff out of the sea. Not only do you build collage or sculpture pieces with those, I can also see those translate to the digital work as well. Something about a crab or insect--the aesthetic of the structure clicks for me. None of my work is really about what it is; it’s a pretty highly visual aesthetic. Sea life relates to themes I also explore with the masks and faces and how we relate to bilateral symmetry. How does it affect your work, transitioning from the beach influence to the city life? When I'm down at the beach I keep a lot of sketchbooks. [I do] a lot of planning for the work. I don't do a lot of production down there. I'm not as inspired. They complement each other. Something about Richmond, the city and the crazy people in the city, does it for me. The beach sort of erases my brain. Something about coming up here and [seeing] people talking to themselves [fascinates me]. I need that kind of juxtaposition, I need a lot of stuff going on outside of me that I can escape from. I like to know it's happening outside my door, but I like to know that I can shut my door and be in a bubble. Would you say that different personalities or characteristics that you run into help mold the
characters you create? If you see someone crazy on the street, do you find yourself trying to create that person? Yeah, definitely. I've always been drawn to the grotesque or bizarre--people, things, ideas. Its not so much that I'm hung up on ugliness; grotesque doesn't have to be ugly. I think it’s more what it does to your brain, the trigger [of] seeing an unusual thing or person, chemically changes your brain in a way that feels good. I think a lot of the stuff I'm drawn to encourages a sense of novelty. Being young, on Halloween, seeing my dad and other people with masks on--I would know who they were, [but] five seconds later they'd have a mask on, and be something completely different. That really freaked the shit out of me, but I also loved that adrenaline, that transformation with just a mask. I looked forward to it. I still do. I was really into horror movies, I read Fangoria Magazine all the time. That weirdness is definitely something I'm attracted to, because some way that it catalyzes [a shift] in your [consciousness and] sends you [somewhere else]. I guess you get the fight or flight [instinct]. Let's go back to the repetition and the symmetry. It's really apparent in a lot of your work. Do you find that an important part of your process? Does it symbolize anything other than repetition? Part of what I'm trying to do--or maybe inherently doing, is trying to get myself and the viewer into some kind of trance, or altered state. What I'm trying to [summon] is that drone, to kind of get you in a [revelatory] state. It's pleasing to look at because it's a pattern. We're always looking for patterns, and trying to make patterns out of everything, and the symmetrical stuff is a part of that. It's all body related. I like introducing the idea that you are looking at a body. You try to make a face out of something that's symmetrical, because that's what you know.
I noticed that anatomy has popped up in your work. The “6001 Paces” piece, to me, looked like the nervous system. There was a top hat, some eyeballs, and this nervous system going crazy. What it said to me was that it was a portrait of a nervous wreck. I guess the anatomy goes back to the human form, the symmetry? For a while, before I got into art school, and was a painting major, I really wanted to be in medical illustration. I thought that was a good compromise [because] I was always interested in the body. It goes back to the grotesque stuff, but to me it’s beautiful. There’s something kind of [tragically gorgeous and] un-english-able about looking at a body, even a dead body. I took some drawing classes at VCU and we went down to the morgue at MCV and did some cadaver work. It was just amazing--for weeks, drawing the same guy. But medical illustration is too limiting, I'm always trying to find a way to be free-er. Art to me is the ultimate excuse to study everything and not have to pick one specific area. This week it might be checking out pictures of flowers and bodies, and next week it’s something totally different. But its allowed. That's my job as an artist. Getting back to “6001 Paces,” I'm trying to allude to a cartoon [scenario], and marrying that with some kind of serious anatomical drawing has always been a challenge. I'm trying to figure out how to juxtapose all this heavy cartoon stuff with more naturalistic stuff. When I look at other people’s work, I'm really drawn to that, when they can pull that off. “6001 Paces,” to me, was the closest I've come. I was thinking about some kind of Hunter S. Thompson scene in the desert, maybe a breakdown-A kind of drug induced freakout? Yeah. Euphoric disaster. How did the iPhone and iPad drawings start? Was that something you intended to start using as a tool to create art, or was that something you started for fun? There was no grand scheme, and with the way I work, that’s when the good stuff happens. Hopefully, what I'm doing is like trying to fly to Paris on a plane, and getting out and it’s Hawaii. The iPhone was a way to waste time sitting in line at the post office. The more I got into it, the more I realized that it was a whole tool unto itself. I thought it would be a good way to plan for paintings, but these were just going to be unseen sketches, and they took on a life of their own. I stopped trying to make excuses for them. People still aren't really sure that it’s a legitimate thing. Because it's done on a phone. Especially a lot of older people will say, “How did you make these?” And I'll say, “I did it on my phone.” And that doesn't even make sense to them.
Well, to an older generation. I’ll bet to a new generation and to the new generations that are coming up, it’s perfectly acceptable. Every kid has a cell phone now. It’s a big theme in the art world--trying to [compare] computer imagery to real media, like painting and drawing. I think it’s cool, because it opens a dialogue about what is a legitimate medium. I think because it's deceptively easy to do electronic stuff, it’s second-guessed a lot. I think it’s just as legitimate. It's just a tool. I try constantly not to de-legitimize it in my own mind. The iPhone and iPad stuff--I'm trying to figure out how to take these into a [traditional] painting. But why does it have to live anywhere but digitally? A lot more people are seeing it [that way]. If I send something out to Facebook that I made on an iPad, and someone sees it on an iPad, what better venue to see it? More and more people are getting the iPhones and the iPads, it is just a great technology. It is a phone, but it’s all about what you can do with it now. What I like about painting and two-dimensional art is that the format is consistent. I've been doing the same size [paintings] for ten years now. The content changes, but you have this consistent format. You can do all kinds of stuff [on an iPhone] but it is that same format that you can relate back to. And really, to draw with your finger is amazing. It's [taken away] that disconnectedness when you are sitting at a monitor with some kind of interface tool--which I [use] also, but to be able to just touch something with your finger and have pixels squirt out of it is far out, like science fiction. Very Tron. And its back to that centralized format. The tool is the same. I don't have to worry about brushes; picking up this, picking up that. There is no excuse to not make something. It's all right there. The unending palette is there. Do you feel pressure? To me those are complete pieces on the iPhone and iPad, but I think a very interesting aspect of your work is that it's not stopping there, even though you could. Some people would, but you just push it further for the sake of your personal creative quest. If I'm really doing it right in my own mind, I'm stepping up a ladder, and I'm thinking, “I can't go any higher, this is crazy.” And I [try to] jump on one more cloud to get even higher. When I step completely out of myself, that's when the good stuff comes. I'm just as much a spectator as the viewer is, when it works right. I know it's kind of cliche, but I feel like it’s a channeling thing. The images are there. I'm just excavating them, or bringing them out. That's really when it works--it should be just a step in the process. I've stopped worrying about [it]. Initially, I was like, “I've got the
iPhone and iPad drawings, but how do I replicate them?” Which kills all of the joy of it--making it and seeing something new come out [is the goal]. When I’m done with it, I don't want to then spend 50 hours trying to copy it to a canvas. That, I think, would be a dead product anyways. But [the iPhone work] has definitely changed how I paint, at least the direction I'm going in now. I'm thinking of it as the same [in terms] of composition, the starting point where I've got that unlimited palette. But I'm running into the limitations of the [physical] materials. I can't just pull up the coolest purple I've ever seen, I've got to mix it. But it’s working to my benefit now. The iPad/iPhone images themselves are powerful, but I think the paintings are more powerful. It changes the viewing--the length, the physical distance, that you need to be with it. The iPhone size is really intimate. It's how I make it, and that might be the way it should be viewed. When I was younger I did a lot of graphic pen and ink drawing. That's what this has brought back, that kind of intimacy. You are supposed to read it like a book, in that kind of setting. To make stuff sitting down [is refreshing]--I haven't drawn or painted sitting down for a long time. I thought I had to be up, like Jackson Pollock, slinging paint. But to be in bed at two in the morning with just the light [of the screen] is a total different experience than being in the studio. And it allows you to create at all times, which is something that's important. If you have an idea, you can go with it. You don't have to go home or get to your studio. It really is the widest filter I've ever worked through. There aren't a lot of mediums or intermediate people in between. Also, I've taken the studio everywhere, like you said. It's not dependent on this place. Some of the best ones I’ve done were on planes. In future works, do you continue pushing this? Or are there other things that you want to accomplish? I am trying to keep a lot of things going in hopes that something good bubbles up. Part of my work ethic [is that] you can't really wait for that big inspiration. You just have to be working, in the hopes that when it happens, you are ready for it. Robert Henri wrote a book called The Art Spirit. He talked a lot about that--not waiting for the big moment, always working, so when it happens, you've got your tools and brushes, you are ready to roll. Visit ToddHale.com for more info.
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ART TODD HALE
RECORD REVIEWS By Damaged Andy (DA) & Andrew Necci (AN)
BROTHER BILL Brother Bill (self-released) This melodic rock album has a familiar gravitas I find comforting. With bluegrass-like vocal harmonies and traveling guitar rhythms, this Warrenton, VA four-piece creates cozy background music great for car trips long and short. Their sound is uptempo, so if that’s your thing, you will like Brother Bill’s first album. (DA)
Dead Fame Frontiers EP (deadfame.bandcamp.com) Dark, gloomy, yet driven by melody, Dead Fame's music harks back to the best guitar-driven postpunk bands of the early 80s--think first-LP New Order, early Cure, The Chameleons, and Echo And The Bunnymen. Their propulsive, uptempo tunes are impossible to shake, and this brief EP will have fans clamoring for more. (AN)
Drano The Night Driver (drano1.bandcamp.com) It’s easy to draw comparisons between Drano’s style and some of the greatest New York rappers to ever take a shot at the throne-but we’re not in NYC. The Night Driver is laced up with grimy street metaphors and punchlines that land like uppercuts. The beats are dope and the hooks are mostly well executed. (DA)
Jad Fair + Hifiklub + kptmichigan Bird House (Joyful Noise) Jad Fair started out 30 years ago as the frontman for Half Japanese, a kind of outsider-art punk band. He's still making music today, but now it's even weirder. On this album, his warped vocals seem to have little to do with the quiet, ambient backing tracks. Its an odd pairing, one that, ultimately, doesn't quite work. (AN)
CLOUD NOTHINGS Attack On Memory (Carpark) This Cleveland quartet stands at the boundaries between indie rock, power pop, and punk rock, adding toughness to their catchy, upbeat tunes. Their typical M.O. is strong and concise, but at times, they show versatility by stretching out, as on the 9-minute "Wasted Days." Complex, multilayered, and irresistible. (AN)
DigiPossum Sampler (digipossum.bandcamp.com) It’s been nearly a year since DigiPossum, a producer who uses beat machines and turntables to do live mixes, released this five song sampler. It’s electro/hip-hop/ dubstep fusion appropriate for any setting where mind-altering drugs are being consumed. As an emcee, I could definitely pen some prose to a few of these. (DA)
Ghost Owls Ghost Owls (self-released) This record features the vocal stylings of full-time Carl Sagan impersonator Doug Fuller. Doug’s lyrics and delivery are interesting, to say the least. Their sound is fresh and original. The downside of this record is the level of reverb on the vocals, but still, the album is very good. I highly recommend the song “Tachyacardia.” (DA)
Les La Britanica Soft Swerve (leslabritanica.com) This hedonistic RVA trio mix hiphop and witch house in pursuit of the soundtrack to your next 5-day bender. Swagged-out lyrics about sex, drugs, and general debauchery laid over queasy synths that evoke both the tripped-out thuggery of ASAP Rocky and the dark, dragging nightmares of Salem. This is party music. (AN)
THE COMPASS ROSE ORCHESTRA The Compass Rose Orchestra (self-released) This eight-piece ensemble of highly skilled Richmond musicians has a jazz-based sound, but incorporates a variety of other genres into these complex, precisely arranged tunes. Their sound shifts significantly from song to song, but there's a rich, unique musical atmosphere here that is sustained throughout. (AN)
Dirty Three Towards The Low Sun (Thrill Jockey) This long-running Australian instrumental trio (violin/guitar/ drums) play a much more complex version of post-rock than groups like Mogwai or Mono. The busy drumming can be overwhelming, but the violin and guitar lines have a pleasant, pastoral feel. Given time, these songs eventually reveal themselves to be beautiful. (AN)
Isaiah & Hovey Dr. Hovey & Isaiah The Gentleman (isaiahandhovey.bandcamp.com) If you’re looking for something different, you might find it in the beat selection here. Combined with Hovey’s production, Isaiah’s confidence and execution sell this project nicely. The album’s a few tracks too long, and Isaiah uses four-letter words more often than necessary, but on the whole, it’s well executed. I’m looking forward to their next installment. (DA)
Lightfoot Scarlet Sails (lightfoot.bandcamp.com) This EP mixes rock n' roll, old-time country, and jazzy pop to create a somewhat retro feel, accented by Lightfoot's warm tube-amp guitar sound. The real star of this show, though, is Jessica Louise Dye's strong, clear voice, which demands your attention, and will win you over long before these six brief tunes have come to an end. (AN)
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Neal Morgan In The Yard (Drag City) You might expect a drummer's solo project to incorporate other instruments, but Morgan sticks to what he knows, constructing strange but pleasant lo-fi indie tunes out of beats, voices, and tape loops. If you like the artists he's previously worked with (Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan), you'll probably enjoy this as well. (AN)
Octavion Xcellence & Just Plain Ant No Cool Points For Dying (Suburban District) Mixed by DJ Shermski, Just Plain Ant’s production melds well with Octavion’s lyrical delivery. This nostalgic-sounding eight-song EP brings me back to the mid-nineties East Coast hip-hop era I’m so fond of. “Multiple Choice,” feat. Cane and ItsJustBobby, is one of my favorite selections from this record. (DA)
Rebel Inc Rebel Inc. (self-released) This sociopolitically oriented EP lacks the punch I can imagine fans finding in their live performances. The lyrics are too far forward in the mix, and the 4/4 time signatures get redundant. I do see potential here if the lyricist is willing to take more risks. A live recording would favor their next record over the sterility of a studio setting. (DA)
The Men Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones) These muscular riffmasters have been earning a lot of buzz lately with their heavy mixture of midtempo hardcore and noisy grunge. On this, their potential-fulfilling third album, they've discovered melody and dynamics, but the greater sonic variety does nothing to derail their momentum. An instant classic. (AN)
Nekromantheon Rise Vulcan Spectre (Indie Recordings) These Norwegian thrashers display an admirable singlemindedness of purpose on their latest album. The influence of classic European thrash metal groups (Sodom, Kreator) obviously looms large, but there are unmistakable touches of modernity integrated into their sound as well. It all combines into an unstoppable slab of brutality. (AN)
Pontiak Echo Ono (Thrill Jockey) A significant improvement over their previous EP, Comecrudos, this album trades the droning experimentation of the EP for a solid set of heavy rockers. VA's own Pontiak cover the spectrum from plodding proto-metal to jammed-out biker rock and sundrenched psychedelia, which should satisfy many earthbound space travelers. (AN)
Tear Jerker Rare (tearjerker.bandcamp.com) This Toronto based three-piece put a lot of work into the details of the appearance of this album, to the point that some might call it pretentious. However, their ambient sound, which is reminiscent of Boards Of Canada, makes excellent background music. Great album, great band. (DA)
Mouse On Mars Parastrophics (Monkeytown) This is the first album in over half a decade from these IDM/glitch pioneers, but they've still got plenty left in the tank, as Parastrophics proves from the beginning. Peppered with jarring samples and bursts of noise, these tracks are a bit too weird for the dance floor, but fascinating nonetheless. (AN)
Night Idea Ocho The Cat (nightidea.bandcamp.com) This local four-piece has produced a very tight ten-song release. Littered with interesting breakdowns, buildups, and bass, it’s hard to lose interest at any point from start to finish. “Colored Dream” in particular is a cool song that might have something for everyone. Solid record. (DA)
The Randy Hawks Meridian (self-released) Don't let the fact that they label their music "psychedelic gospel" fool you--this is some good oldfashioned devil music right here. This RVA quartet adds touches of jazz, bluegrass, and old-time country to a fundamental rock n'roll sensibility, creating an album of fun tunes to dance to on Saturday nights. Hell yeah! (AN)
Wrist Rocket Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt (wristxrocket.com) This RVA duo plays upbeat, energetic pop-punk with a clear foundation in hardcore, which shows through in their quick tempos and chunky guitar sound. Vocals aren't technically perfect, but make up for any limitations with a passionate, heartfelt delivery. My only complaint is that it's so short. Give us more! (AN)
Marionette Facing You (marionettemusic.bandcamp.com) Marionette released Facing You in 2009. Why am I reviewing it now? Because this project has yet to receive the attention it I think it deserves. Kevin Cornell is arguably one of the best songwriters Richmond has produced. Marionette is now working on their third album. Watch for it. (DA)
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