Cover // Here: Laura Stevenson and The Cans Photos: Ryan Siverson // ryansiversonphoto.com T. B. Player: Adam Sever Correspond: email@example.com P.O. Box 1616 â€˘ Monticello, MN 55362 mandexzine.com // facebook.com/mandexzine
Tin Horn Prayer Ethan Steenson
Cattle Drums Sam Judd Darin Gregory
How would you describe yourself? I would describe myself as either an upstanding member of the community whose moral integrity, selfless service towards others, and outstanding character improves the lives of everyone around him; or a despicable man whose self-serving actions are meant to satisfy only his immediate primal needs.
How would you describe yourself? Sometimes I care too much. It’s easy when your dad’s a douche bag. If his road rage was a flavor of ice cream it’d be rocky road, because he’s hammered when he drives.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? I suppose I would have to answer your question with another question...Where do babies come from?
How do you handle stress and pressure? I use Tabasco. Not a lot, but just the right amount.
How do you handle stress and pressure? Copious amounts of alcohol usually do the trick. If not, I like to decorate T-shirts with puffy-paint. What was the worst job you’ve ever had? This one is easy. My sophomore year in high school, in the parking lot at the county fair. She just kept yankin’ on it like she was trying to pull-start a lawn mower.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? I’m all balls. It could also be my downfall.
What was the worst job you’ve ever had? I was a hairdresser at this carp farm in Northern Iowa. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 1994. How do you measure success? How many quilts do you have?
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Hopefully, pregnant with a professional athlete’s baby. How do you measure success? Honeywell manufactures a very nice Success-OMeter. Don’t think it works, though. It always says “zero”.
Born Without Bones Scott Ayotte
How would you describe yourself? I’m a social mess. I tend to spend much more time in my head than anywhere else. I’m a friendly guy for sure, I try not to spread any negativity but that doesn’t always work. I like to stay busy. If I do nothing for too long all my negative qualities just get worse. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? I’m pretty good at solving problems. Good at talking and listening when needed. I’m bad at most physical activities besides pickle ball (poor mans version of tennis). I have little patience and constantly try to suppress that. How do you handle stress and pressure? A tasty brew, a nap and maybe some Netflix. What was the worst job you’ve ever had? Guitar Center. I’ve heard the song “Crazy Train” by Ozzy on almost every instrument in that place. Go support a local guy instead. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I hope to still be playing music. If not, I’d like to have an apartment with some homies or a lady and have a regular job that I don’t hate. Maybe if that happened I’d start a label. I get much more excited about what other artists/bands do than what I do. How do you measure success? Success is when you’re happy with what you’ve done, proud of it and even somewhat impressed with yourself.
Bobby Yost, Bo Stewart, Erik Wallace, Joe Olmstead
How would you describe yourself? Really, really modest. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Not sure if ripping off other bands should be counted as a strength or a weakness. How do you handle stress and pressure? Just try to do what Henry Rollins would do. What was the worst job you’ve ever had? Playing an in-store at Desert Sun Tanning Salon. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Opening for Soul Asylum on the fairgrounds and casino tour circuit. Probably just in the Northwest. How do you measure success? Number of T-shirts sold plus total Myspace song plays, all divided by number of Facebook “Likes”.
The Fucking Cops Jon Rybicki
How would you describe yourself? I am 26 years old and I am from Ohio. I used to be a Cub Scout and was almost a notary public. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? My strengths are my brain and my stomach which worked together to take first in an IQ test and (later on) a hot dog contest at the same bar in Cleveland. My weakness is that I leave things everywhere I go. I don’t necessarily lose them. I’m not a loser, I’m a leaver. How do you handle stress and pressure? Very, very poorly. I tend to freak out. I think I am getting better because I work in a tiny kitchen in a very busy restaurant in Cleveland and it’s a pretty high stress situation most of the time in there.
What was the worst job you’ve ever had? There is an obvious answer for me to give to this one: I worked at a funeral home for most of my life because my family owned it and our house was in the same building. However, I’d rather tell you about this one time that I worked for a coffee/tea place in Chicago called Argo Tea. They made me wear this backpack filled with different flavors of iced tea (like huge plastic tubes) and give out samples on the street in the middle of July. It was hot and disgusting and nobody wants luke warm tea from a weirdo beardo from a back pack that looks like a weapon from the Die Hard franchise. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I think that I will probably still be working in a kitchen, traveling and playing music whenever possible. How do you measure success? I try not to. As far as bands go, the benchmarks of success have pretty much been eliminated by the internet. The meaning of record label has completely changed and success and failure can pretty easily get confused. As far as “life success” goes, I am not interested in making a lot of money, owning a car or a house or anything like that, ever, so I really don’t think about it.
By Surprise Pat Gartland I worked at the vocational center. It was like a day program to teach these people job skills. There was one person that I was assigned to every day. He couldn’t really talk, but he was in pretty good physical shape. Every day he’d come in and we would go through some tasks to help build motor skills and whatnot. By 10 or 11am he’d decide he was finished for the day and throw his chair at me.
How would you describe yourself? I work pretty hard or at least hard enough to not be the worst. I try to treat my peers with the same respect that I would like to be treated with. I also just try to be in a positive mood and act friendly to anyone I come across. These attributes probably make me the most likely person to get fucked over by his coworkers. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? I’m not easily motivated but I am great at procrastinating. I always find productive ways of procrastinating like cleaning my apartment or exercising or something. I also consider playing guitar and reading productive… pretty much anything that isn’t watching TV. That’s the worst. I am also very good at coming up with ideas, but I’m awful at following through with them. How do you handle stress and pressure? I work best under pressure. It’s probably the only thing that can really motivate me. Stress doesn’t seem to bother me much. It’s more about accepting whatever the consequences may be resulting from failure. Those consequences usually aren’t worth the stress unless you were to lose your job or something. But in most cases that isn’t even really too bad of a thing. What was the worst job you’ve ever had? That’s tough to say. While I didn’t enjoy every job I’ve had, they were still character building and I think that’s very important. Having to choose, working direct care for a center for developmentally disabled individuals was probably the most difficult.
My first day with him he threw his human feces covered shoes at me. That is not how I had hoped our relationship would start. Somehow I managed to dodge them. Over the 7 months I worked there we developed a bond and got along pretty well. I was one of the few people that knew how to work with him and I think that garnered a lot of respect from my peers. It’s weird because when you see someone for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, they become a part of your life whether you like it or not. So that job was probably the hardest I’ve ever had, but in retrospect I think it helped me build character. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I will probably have kids and be married. Dan’s new band, Danny Piss and the Drips will be the next Arctic Monkeys and Rob will be their Joseph Jackson like manager. Me and Devin will have a falling out after our Twee inspired coffee house, Bean Happening, fails miserably because middle school girls (Starbucks’ biggest customers) would rather us play John Mayer on the radio and not the Halo Benders. How do you measure success? Happiness… If you’re making minimum wage and you’re happy, I’d say you are pretty successful. If money makes you happy and you are making lots of it, then I guess you’re still successful. Maybe you’d need to be happy while maintaining a level ethics to be considered successful in my book. I guess just being happy wouldn’t really cut it. That would let too many politicians off the hook. You still have to be a good person.
Interview with Emily Whitehurst Photos: Jim Williams What’s the current status of The Action Design and why did the two of you decide to start Survival Guide? We’re not exactly sure what the future holds for The Action Design, which is why we started Survival Guide. At this point, it’s our primary focus. With just the two of you, who is handling which instruments? Jaycen is on guitar and has written most of the beats. I’m on vocals and keys. Is there any specific meaning behind the name? When we came up with the name, we thought it was great for many reasons. The way it sounds, the different images it may conjure, and even the letters. It definitely resonates with us and how we feel about music. When you first started this band, did you have any idea in your head on how you wanted the music to be like? No, we actually made it a point to have no specific musical direction. We’ve both always wanted to write with that kind of freedom, and we’ve been achieving it so far in Survival Guide. Survival Guide is rather different sounding than anything you’ve done in the past. How did you arrive at the current sound you’re playing? We just sat down and started playing. Then we turned that into a song. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true!
We just went with whatever happened. We want our songs to be what they are naturally instead of trying to shape them to keep them within certain parameters. The less we try to calculate songs, the more real and true they are to us. You both have been in some pretty notable bands in the past, Tsunami Bomb, Pipedown and The Action Design. Have fans of your past bands followed you to other bands? We are fortunate to have some fans who have been with us through the whole journey, but we’ve found that as we change and grow musically, so do our fans. And we’re not always growing in the same direction, which is totally fine. For people that know your past bands, how do you think they will react to Survival Guide? I’d hope they’d see it more as a separate creative endeavor than an extension of previous bands, but we know that’s a lot to ask. I definitely think some people will be surprised! This is the first time that you’ve both worked together with just two people as opposed to a full band. How was it first starting out as Survival Guide knowing that you were in control of everything? It was liberating and terrifying at the same time. The responsibility level has increased tremendously for each of us, but it’s also easier in so many ways. What have been some advantages and disadvantages of just having the two of you in the band? There are lots of advantages; it’s way easier and
faster to make decisions, whether business-wise or musically. We’re both on the same page in pretty much every way, and, in our experience, that’s really rare! Throwing other opinions in the mix complicates things. The practice schedule is also easier to coordinate. The disadvantages; we haven’t experienced many yet, but we’re predicting it will be a lot tougher to tour. Making long drives, loading and unloading gear. Those tasks are a lot easier when you have more participants. Having come from past popular bands, how does it feel to be starting from scratch again? It’s refreshing and humbling. So far, we’ve been enjoying the clean slate. It makes us feel like all avenues are open. What attracted you to working with Side With Us on the Hot Lather Machine 7” and not a larger label? Initially, we liked how their format of choice is vinyl with downloads. We feel like that’s the best way to release music, so we thought it would be a great match. We quickly realized that Leslie at Side With Us is even more awesome and dedicated than we could have hoped. We feel really fortunate that everything has worked out so well. You’re also involved with Loud and Clear Printing, how much of your time is spent with that endeavor and does it ever conflict with your musical projects? I do print regularly, but it doesn’t always take up a majority of my time. It’s easy for me to schedule printing around other things, so it never conflicts. It works perfectly with being in a band!
As witnessed in the video of you printing Survival Guide shirts, you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty on the printing press. Are you that hands on with everything that gets printed in your shop? Yes! I’m the primary screenprinter. I usually see the whole process through from start to finish, although with my own projects it goes one step further because I may even design the artwork as well. Do you have any plans for out of the ordinary merch for Survival Guide? We’re always brainstorming different new merch items, and with the print shop at our disposal, we’ll have some interesting stuff at some point. I like to do hand made stuff when I can, incorporating my sewing machine. The Hot Lather Machine 7” is due out soon, have you already started writing for a full-length? We’re constantly writing. We do want to put out a full-length eventually, though we may do another 7” or an EP before that. How are you feeling about your first shows coming up in July? Excited and nervous! It will definitely be a different experience playing as a 2-piece, and the energy of the music is different from anything either of us have done. We’ll have to adjust. Do you have any shows planned for outside of California this summer? Not yet. We’re going to start close to home and work our way out. But we do plan on touring outside of California as soon as we’re ready!
Basemint Design Words by Andrew Maahs
Basemint Design is a Des Moines, Iowa based design and screenprinting studio run by Andrew Maahs and Kelly Bittner. They specialize in screenprinting posters and custom T-shirts and will even design a birthday card for your grandma. They have designed and printed posters for Free Energy, John Vanderslice, Hot Hot Heat and the Electric Six. You can find out more about them at: basemintdesign.com
The Strange Boys
This was another poster we did during a found imagery phase, styles and approaches seem happen in phases for us. This image of these young boys looking at this ambiguous and strange thing on the wall was a nice image for the name of the group. Adding the armadillo was a simple graphical touch referring to the groupâ€™s native state of Texas. This was another print we did during our early printing when we were fond of heavy textures. Some of the texture didnâ€™t hold up from the artwork to burning of the screen. We started to learn how much texture would reproduce and what kinds textures could enhance the screen print aesthetic without dominating the entire poster.
The Love Language
Conceptually there are a lot of things we play off for gig posters, band’s sound, lyrical content, origin, etc. For this poster we kept the concept pretty literal. Using an old school phone to represent language and showing cupid’s arrows just made sense. There is one broken at the bottom of the phone to represent the heartache and despair that goes along with love. After struggling with registering different colored type on a couple of previous posters, we decided to give it another try. Our attempts paid off and offsetting the “Love” in “Love Language” is another visual cue on the meaning of the poster.
Brother Aliâ€™s sound and lyrical content reminded us of old school hip hop music, when mixtapeâ€™s (actual cassette tapes) were being made and distributed in the streets. So we deconstructed a cassette tape to spell Brother Ali, photographed the tape lettering to include in the poster. We kept a black and white color palette to convey a raw feel. This was one of our first posters we printed and we got a little carried away with some of silver texture in the background. We were new to understanding what screenprinting could reproduce and some of texture did not hold up in areas. We printed with metallic silver and then printed black on top of the silver. The black ink was a nice introduction into screen-printing, as it tends to stain the screens.
This was a poster for one of the stops on his “This American Tour”. With songs such as “Oregon Trail”, “Dustbowl” and “Louisiana”, Joe Purdy’s This American album is a historical journey across the United States. This was the interpretation of man traveling the United States with a suitcase and weathered jeans, he’d been all across the country. After designing a large number of posters around found imagery or using a simple illustration style that could be created on the computer, we wanted to hand-illustrate a poster. We hand illustrated the type, figure and suitcase, then refined some of lines on the computer and added some texture and patterns. We kept the registration pretty lose and used a colored paper to create a 3rd color in parts of the illustration. This was also one of the first posters we decided to bleed off the edge.
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc has kind of an organic and abstract feel to them so we incorporated some natural items with abstract patterns and shapes to create tops of trees. This was also one of the stops on their reunion tour, so we incorporated numerous pieces and elements that could stand alone, yet work together with entire piece. Printing wise, after printing our very first gig poster 3-color and having some troubles with textures we decided to make this a 2-color print and selectively use textures, instead of overwhelming the entire piece with textures.
Interview with Aaron Porter Photos: Cameron Klos
The Prizefighters started out as a side project for you, how and when did it become a full-time band? I probably started playing with other people in late 2005, maybe early 2006. I was living with Tim, the old drummer, and we would jam in our basement a lot and we had a rehearsal space set up. A lot of the songs I had written with Tim, kind of taught him how to play, and then eventually during a Gylbots rehearsal with Matt and Jordan over there, taught them the songs too, because Gylbots had been playing more reggae and ska stuff and it turned out to be something that I felt that we could play live. We played the first show May of 2006, I think. It’s been going for about 5 years as an active live band. How does playing in The Prizefighters compare to playing in Gylbots? Well, I played drums in Gylbots, so it’s nice to be up front and be able to sing. I always liked to talk when I was playing drums and I liked to engage the audience. I write all the music for The Prizefighters, so it’s great to be able to write the music and then be front and center performing it. I feel like I could put a lot more of myself into the music that way. It’s fun, but I do miss playing drums. I think being up front playing guitar, I can direct things a little bit better.
The was the one local ska band, Flipsyde, from a while back, their drummer sang and played drums. Oh yeah, Claudio. He was a singer and drummer. I couldn’t do that. I tried to sing Prizefighters songs and play drums, like if we have a rehearsal where the drummer couldn’t make it and I can kind of do it, but I get so into playing drums I kind of...singing takes a back seat, so I can’t do it all that well. It took me a while to learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time and I’m sure if you put enough work into it you could pull it off. How long did the writing and recording process of Follow My Sound take? Since this was a debut album, the writing process was pretty much, just taking whatever songs we had written over the past 5 years and deciding which ones we wanted to put down. We had everything written by the time we decided to record the album. I wrote some of those songs in 2004, so like “Storms” and “Karma” for example were some of the ones I had recorded as a solo project, just by doing multi-track recording. They stood the test of time so they stayed on the album. We did a lot of work the year beforehand tightening things up and rearranging things so they’d be a little bit more album friendly. Like taking out long sections
and shortening up the songs so they had more of the pop sensibilities to them. Once we actually recorded, we tracked in February of 2010 and then didn’t get everything all mastered until November, so it was a 9 month process for recording, mixing and mastering. I listened to the mixes so many different times and I produced the album too. Working with Andrew Zoellner and Shock and Audio Studio, he engineered the whole thing and was really good to work with. I would take mixes home and listen to them constantly and make all these notes and really try to engineer the sound that I wanted to get for the finished product. A lot of time in the studio just listening. How did King Django get involved in the mastering of Follow My Sound? It’s kind of funny how we got in touch with him. I had known him for a while. I met him when he was on tour here back in 2005 or so. I sent an email to Matt, our bass player at the time, asking him if he had any ideas for how should we approach mastering, because we were thinking of some other people in town. I accidentally copied Mark, who is in Green Room Rockers, on that email. A day later I got a reply from Mark and he was like, “I don’t really know what you’re talking about, but if you’re looking for mastering, King Django is looking for projects, he’s available to do that right now.” It was definitely a mistake that turned out to work in our favor pretty well. I knew that King Django did a lot of production and mixing, but since mastering is kind of another animal all together, I didn’t know that was in his arsenal of skills, but it definitely is his forté and we’re really glad that we went with him. It really did put a big difference on the finished album. Like before that, I knew mastering was something that you just do when you release an album, but I didn’t know exactly what it did. I had different people explain it to me and I didn’t really quite understand it and I probably couldn’t explain it very well to you. After I got the finished product back, I knew it was totally worth it and knew that it was something that I have to do on every other release that I put out. So there was a huge change in sound between the unmastered and mastered versions? Probably subtle to most people’s ears, but I think to mine, since I listened to the mixes so many times, I could really tell that a lot of the stuff I was trying to achieve in the studio just with softening certain
things and bringing certain things out, he was really able to achieve that. The most important thing people would recognize is that mastered vinyls are a lot louder, so when you put the CD on it actually plays it at the level that CDs are supposed to play at instead of half the volume. Then you have to crank your stereo just to hear it OK. He did a lot of EQing and a lot of other stuff that I don’t really know what goes into it, but he made things a lot warmer and brighter. You guys lost some members and gained some members recently, has the change been easy with training in the new members? As far as training people in goes, it’s been great. The whole point of the band has been, when were getting people to play with us, it’s not really about who should we...should we audition people, it’s more of who do we like and who wants to play in the band. That’s the biggest criteria I guess, is you have to really believe in the band and want to play with us. It was too bad to see so many people go, and they left for various reasons at various times, but it’s been really awesome working with new people. Courtney and Ryan played together in Sajak for a number of years, so their chops are really strong and are used to playing together, which is really great for a horn section. So as far as training the horns, that was super easy. New bass player has been playing session stuff for years and played with some local bands, John Wayne and the Pain and New Revolutions, we played with those guys in the past. He is very seasoned with reggae. When Tim our old drummer had stopped playing drums because of some Tendonitis issues, we got Eric who also plays in the band with Jordan called Brilliant Beast and knew our music pretty well and liked it. He hadn’t played that style much before, the traditional ska and reggae, but he picked it up like he was a pro, just like he was waiting to play it. It’s been really fun working with a new set of people. I miss playing with the old guys, but the new guys are just as fun and I can tell they’re just as passionate about the music, so it’s really great. The only challenging thing has just been the timing because we’re working on putting out new releases and we were trying to get more shows put together and that’s a lot of work as it is especially if you’re trying to train in new members and trying to write new music and make sure everyone’s up to speed. It’s a whole lot of stuff to try to do at the same time. That’s where the big challenges have come in with that.
You’ve said before that The Prizefighters play a ska/rocksteady/reggae and you said it was more difficult to play than a standard ska. How is it different and where are the difficulties in learning the traditional ska sound? Well for me it’s sort of been an exploration and discovery, so I think it’s a lot more fun to play traditional ska than the Two Tone or 3rd Wave or punk/ska styles. It takes a lot more finesse I think because it’s really jazz. It’s ska, but you have to think of yourself as a jazz musician when you play it instead of a rock musician. I think there is a lot more discipline to it and some people would hate that, they’d want to just rock out and I think that’s fine. I got to a point that I really wanted to play a style that I love. I listen to so much Jamaican music and appreciate it so much that I wanted try and be a part of it and create more of it just because I love it so much. I found that by playing this music and trying to learn this style, it’s helped me appreciate Jamaican music even more, because I’m listening for all the little nuances that the musicians, like The Skatalites, put into their compositions and into their playing. It’s really fun just always trying to strive for recreating the music. You guys have a tight sound on stage and you can definitely tell how you guys play live that it’s a lot tighter sound and there is a lot more finesse there than a band that just goes crazy on stage. Even though bands that have really wild stage shows that play punk/ska, a lot of those bands have a lot of finesse too, it’s just more they’re doing their own sound as more of a rock thing where you just really play hard and play fast. You can play super tight with that, but if you apply the jazz principles to it, like if you were gonna be in a jazz combo, you could go either the really traditional, like 40’s BeBop route and try to sound like a Dizzy Gillespie record, or you could go the more modern jazz fusion funk and kind of play whatever you wanted to and do some acid jazz kind of stuff and you could still be tight, but there’s the different principles of what you want to achieve. I think mastering music that has been mastered by others in the past and trying to recreate that, thats almost a bigger challenge because anyone can be creative, but I think it takes somewhat of a humble stance to say “I don’t want to inject too much of my own creativity or think I can create something brand new”. I think a lot of people get caught up in that trying to do something that’s completely original. Sometimes it fits you,
sometimes it doesn’t. Just to go back and say “I’m wanna play a song that sounds just like this song”. Some people think thats really boring, but in some cases I think that’s actually an homage in doing, in having some sort of preservation quality. That was a bit of a tangent right there, but I love playing the music. The thing though that is challenging is sometimes, being the musical director for the band and composer of the songs, trying to teach the music to others in the band and explain why I’m doing things a certain way. I am very methodical with how I do things and everything that I play or tell someone to play or want to hear in a Prizefighters song is very deliberate. I don’t want to say, “Oh yeah, maybe that would sound cool, let’s do that”. I need to have a reason for doing that. Kind of like an attorney stating precedent when he’s arguing a case, saying “Well it was done like this, like this position played this like this because it had this rhythmic effect”. Saying things like that, not just saying “Oh I think this would sound cool”. I want to have something to back it up so it’s not just an ego driven song, I want it to be deliberate so when someone else hears it they’re not like “Oh that’s something new”. They’re like “Oh, yeah that sounds great, I’ve never heard it recreated before”. And sometimes communicating that people can be kind of difficult. I don’t have any sort of formal music theory training at all, like I can’t read music, I can’t write music, but I understand the music in a very abstract sort of way. If I’m telling the drummer to play a certain part, I’m not saying “Oh play this triplet over this measure and a half’. I’m saying “doot doo doot doot do doot”, I’m playing mouth drums and trying to communicate like that. It’s fun. I think everyone enjoys that learning process. Is everyone in the band pretty receptable to what you say when you’re trying to explain things to them? Not always, but I would say most of the time. Then again, the great thing about playing with this band and the people in the band is they all love the music too and they all appreciate the point of trying to discover how to play this music that a lot of people have passed over. A lot of the times, someone else will do the same thing, They’ll say “Oh, I think I should play it like this, because it has this effect.” And that’s something I may not have thought about or may have just overlooked. I’m not the only person in the band that has that sort of creative
freedom to just say what I want to happen. I really do like it when other people take note of something and contribute too. That’s what has really brought the band from a solo project to a band that plays together. It’s not just a backing band for me, it’s an entire band that people contribute to and they explain things a certain way. I think a lot of times we do come to a really good consensus on what to play, but there has to be a reason for playing that and I think that in any band that’s important. If there are creative differences in any band, it can’t just be someone saying “Play it this way, because that’s the way that I want it, that’s the way that I wrote it.” If someone has a better idea and it’s in the best interest of the band, if everyone believes in the music. You’ve played in the scene for quite some time. How has the the MN ska scene changed and grown since you’ve been a part of it and what do you see for the future of ska from MN? I got into the local ska scene in 1997. I was in 7th grade at the time. It had a really big impact on me as far as my personal development of just my love of music and seeing that there was good alternative music, not just indie rock or whatever was getting big then. The ska scene always meant a lot to me. In the late 90’s, it kind of disappeared and I was pretty distraught over that as a lot of other people were.
I sorta stopped paying attention. Like you mentioned Flipsyde earlier, about how they were a pretty big staple band and they did a lot locally and they carried the ska scene for a while and they stopped playing. In 2003, I was playing in Gylbots at that time and made more friends that were ska fans from a while back and we’d always talk about how there weren’t any ska shows or weren’t any ska bands coming through, so I had the idea start MNSka.com because a friend of mine knew how to make websites and I knew how to book shows. I had been booking shows, so I started booking ska shows and with the website got interest from touring bands. We had some awesome touring bands come through pretty much right away, which was awesome. It’s really great for building a scene up and getting more people out to shows, getting more people aware. More bands started popping up at that point and so it seemed like a pretty big turning point and that was about eight years ago that happened. So it’s been a pretty cool rise. To look back over the eight years and realize that everything has actually happened. I kind of take it for granted, like how significant it is since then.
From what I remember, bands like Flipsyde and The Contenders and after Flipsyde broke up, I remember there not being a lot of ska shows any more. After a while, I found out about MNSka.com and realized there were still bands in the scene doing stuff, even though it wasn’t on as big a scale as Flipsyde was. The cool thing about Flipsyde and The Contenders was they did a really good job about having a ska community, and that’s really what it’s all about,
I do remember back when Flipsyde and The Contenders were playing a lot. The Foxfire Coffee Lounge in Minneapolis was open, I don’t know if you went there, it closed in like...I want to say 2000. But it was my favorite venue. It was an all ages venue downtown. They didn’t serve booze so they went out of business, they just couldn’t support themselves. That place was a very ska friendly venue. Like I saw The Toasters play there, I saw the Gadjits play there a couple times.
that’s what makes MNSka work is the community aspect and kind of a centralized visibility of the ska scene. Instead of just having some ska bands that just play around town, it’s like actually having a scene. I guess I like the word “community” better than scene just because it’s all about people doing stuff and just making things happen because they want it to, and not because they’re making money off of it. MNSka’s never been something that has profited any one personally. I’ve never taken a dime from anything I’ve done. I think that’s been helpful because it lets other people, anyone that wants to help, everyone is on the same level. No one is paying their bills off of it, but everyone is benefiting from it in the long run.
I remember seeing Rx Bandits play there. Oh yeah, I remember seeing them too. Back when they were a ska band. That venue went under and that was kind of the second fallout for the local ska scene, because the first one was obviously in 1998 when The Siren Six moved to LA and Kingpin Records folded. Then a couple years later, the Foxfire closed and bands didn’t have much of a place to play anymore. There were people at the Foxfire every weekend, like regardless of what show there was and that’s really how a big scene got built up. But then in like 2003, the TC Underground opened right next to Extreme Noise in Minneapolis and I started doing a lot shows there and a lot of kids that wouldn’t got to shows otherwise, because they were in middleschool or highschool, would see shows there There were a lot of ska bands there and that
got a lot of bands introduced to the crowd. Like one of the bands introduced a different band and a lot of bands started popping up because of it. We’re working with more venues and it’s pretty much been uphill from there. Some ups and downs of course, but that’s the biggest thing, is having people that know people, having a whole scene of people that work for something. That’s really helpful for The Prizefighters playing because we have this network of people that listen to ska and go to ska shows. MNSka has a brand in a sense where if it’s an MNSka show people will know who’s booking it and who’s involved with it and what bands are playing and who’s going to be there. It’s kind of a market quality I guess. MN has had some pretty great ska bands in the past, if you could bring back one band which one would it be? I just mentioned The Siren Six and I definitely would want to see them again. I doubt that they would be reuniting. They were the first local ska band that I saw. I saw them at the Whole Music Club on the U of M Campus in 1997, when I was in 7th grade. It was the first small ska show, like intimate ska show that I was at other than like at a First Avenue show or Warped Tour and they blew me away. I thought it was so cool and saw so many people there that were in the ska scene. I still love their music and thought they were a great band. I would love to see them and the other Kingpin bands like Animal Chin and The Jinkees. Outside of MN, what ska bands are you paying attention to? We just played a show with The Forthrights, out of Brooklyn, and Maddie Ruthless, out of New Orleans. Those guys are working hard and touring a lot so I’m definitely digging what they’re doing. We played a show with The Bishops from Omaha. We been kind of doing a thing playing with them the last couple years. Their band was active in the mid 90’s and they reunited a few years ago and are out playing again. Big fan of those guys, they are all super cool and super nice guys. The Moon Invaders and The Caroloregians from Belgium, we played with them in Chicago last summer and they’re just amazing. Definitely following them and big fans of what they’re doing. Green Room Rockers are doing a lot of stuff out of Indiana, They are touring a lot and doing a lot of great things for the ska scene. Boys Union, four members of Westbound Train,
are doing sort of a similar thing that we’re doing, the really traditional...not like ska, but really on the Jazz tip. Like a lot of improve, solo kind of stuff, like guest players, and a super solid band. Those are just a few of them. The vinyl version of Follow My Sound will be coming out sometime this summer or do you guys have a date set? We don’t have a release date for that yet. We are still in the mixing process. We have like one more song to track currently, but we’re hoping to get all of that done this weekend. Then King Django is going to be mastering those tracks for the LP, so we will be working with him again. We were just talking with him about doing a dub track for the record, which would be pretty cool. How will the LP and the CD be different? About half of the songs will be from the CD. Some of the songs from the CD won’t be featured on the LP. The other half of the LP is going to be like alternate versions of songs, alternate mixes, some instrumental versions, and some dubs too. Anthony from the Drastics did a dub for the LP and is working with King Django to do a dub for it too. It’ll definitely be a special edition version and very different from the CD. You’re also working on a 7” as well, do you know when that’ll be out? The 7” might be something we do late in 2011, because we are working with Jason Lawless and the Reggae69 project. They did their first series, which should be coming out pretty soon here. Then we’d be on the second or third series. We haven’t really been working on that as much, because we are trying to get the LP out first. Hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll have the 7” out with Reggae69 and Moondust is the record label that it’s likely going to be released on. We’re pretty excited about that, but first things first, we got a whole lot of stuff on our plate, with recording and getting the LP out, getting new members ready and shows together. Sound like you guys are pretty busy. Yeah, we’ve got a full plate, but it means the future holds a lot, so that’s definitely exciting.
Interview with Laura Stevenson Live Photos: Ryan Siverson
Last night you played in Minneapolis at the Triple Rock Social Club and you have said before that the Triple Rock is one of your favorite places to play. What is it about the Triple rock that you like about it so much? Well, it’s owned by the people that are in Dillinger Four, so it’s owned by a band that knows what it’s like to be on tour. It’s run perfectly for touring bands; they feed you, they give you drinks, they are very very cool, so that’s why I like it. And I like Minneapolis. You’ve been on tour for a few weeks now, have the high gas prices had any affect on touring for you? Yeah absolutely. We’re getting the lowest amount on the package so the gas prices really affect us. It’s like going to be five dollars per gallon in Chicago. It’s a lot of money and I don’t know if we’re going to break even. Is there anything you do before or during a tour to cut costs or keep costs low? We try to keep costs low. We stay with friends and stuff like that. We have stayed in some hotels on the tour just because we’ve had to do long drives to states that we’ve never been to, like Utah, where we didn’t know anybody. That adds to the cost of it, but I think gas is the main culprit. Sit Resist was released a week or so ago, and for the first month of it’s release, you are letting people download it for free from your website. Has releasing the album for free online hurt potential sales of the vinyl version? I don’t think so, because I think people that are going to buy vinyl are going to do it regardless of whether or not they have the mp3s. It’s such a specific thing and a specific way of listening to a record. And people that download it for free online, sometimes you can buy the CD. I don’t really think it’s going to hurt any potential sales, because the people that are going to download it for free are going to do it anyway. This is just giving them the opportunity to do it in a safe and legal way. If they want to support our band, if they understand how that thing works, then those are the people that are going to be buying our records anyway and they will. How did the deal with Don Giovanni Records come about? Alex and Peter, that are in the band, went to college with Joe and Zack, those are the two guys that run it, and we stayed with Joe when we played up in Syracuse I think it was, because now he lives in Ithaca, but we were in Syracuse and we played, and we stayed with him and he got really into the band. When he came and saw us play, we just like started hanging out at his apartment, joking around and we realized we were going to become great friends. He got really really into the band as time progressed and became more and more interested in working with us and putting out our new record, because he knew that everything had been written and we were just laying our options, so it worked out really well. How does Sit Resist compare to your previous album, A Record and did you accomplish everything you wanted to with the new album? Um yeah, but there is still more places I that I would like to go. It’s different from the first record because it’s more focused I think, even though it’s kind of scatterbrained in terms of genres. I think in terms of the overall sound it’s way more focused and way more developed than the production on A Record, which was very bare bones. We were just experimenting and didn’t know what we were doing. The end product was way closer to how I had imagined it to be in my brain so I’m happy with it. How are you feeling about how Sit Resist has been received so far? I’m feeling pretty good. Right now I think we only have one review that kind of was very dismissive of it. They were like, “Ahhh, this isn’t my thing”. Everything else has been really positive so far which is really good. I was preparing myself for the worst, because I don’t know what people will say and what people think of things, I know I loved it, but I don’t know what people were going to think. I was trying to get a thick skin going into it, but I think that it’s been overwhelmingly positive, which is really good.
If you could choose any song or any song title that best represents your band which song or song title would it be, and it can be from any artist? Um, any artist...I would say “Homies” by the Insane Clown Posse because we are all really good homies. That’s a good answer! Yeah, that’s the first thing that came to mind. (Laughs) Of the music that was released last year, I thought your cameo on The Saddest Landscapes’s song, “Imperfect, But Ours” was one of the coolest moments in music. How did you get involved with that collaboration with The Saddest Landscape? Mike from our band was in this band, The Brass, that did a tour with, it was either The Saddest Landscape or Her Breath on Glass, that’s like some of the same guys. We got to be really good friends with Andy and he just asked me like “I really think your voice would be great on this song and do you wanna work out a part.” He didn’t really have anything specific in mind, so that made me feel a little nervous, because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to give him what he wanted, but I think he was really happy with it. I was glad to be a part of it. I was really into it. They’re pretty awesome. It was nice to also sing on something so completely different than what we do as a band and try to write a melody for something that is a little more dissident. You all come from a punk background right? Yeah, Alex was in ska bands and hardcore bands, and he was into punk music in high school and college. Mike was also in bands and I was kind of in a punk collective called Bomb the Music Industry! That’s where we all come from musically and ethically but clearly we do not sound like a punk band, but we play with a lot of punk bands. Do you think you could ever record a punk album with the current band members you have with the same style you have now? I think that on A Record, we had like one “punk” song, that sounds like a punk song. That would be fun for sure.
You are getting a Masters in Art History, is that right? Yeah. And you’re also working on a thesis, did you complete that or are you still working on that? I’m still working on it and hopefully one day I’ll finish it. It’s just really hard to tour and make a record, and we were making a music video, and then we went back out on tour and there is like no time at all for me to be able to do research and start writing. I’m kind of like still in the research stages. That’s really really bad, I’m supposed to be done, but I’m not. What is the thesis about? It’s about 16th Century Florence, Italy. The Grand Ducal couple, Cosimo de Medici and Eleonora di Toledo and their commissions and how their commissions were their attempts to reshape the Medici Dynasty. It’s pretty well-worn territory, but it’s kind of romantic.
Do you think education is quite important for people to get? I know a lot of bands that started early and didn’t get the chance to go to college. I’m sure that later on, that if the band stuff doesn’t work out, then it will really set them back in terms of trying to start their plan B and trying to get a job. It was my landing pad or something. It was like if this doesn’t work out at least I have this education behind me to kind of support me if I needed to do something else. Hopefully I won’t have to, but you never know. What kind of fields can you go into with that kind of degree? Pretty much just being a scholar, pretty much just being a professor. There are some high schools that have art history courses, but usually it’s just college academic environment, so I’d probably have to be a professor or a research librarian or something. There is really nothing else I could do. I pretty much narrowed every other possibility out because... It’s a limiting thing to get a degree in.
You’re grandparents were involved in music and your family has a rich musical background. Was there anything they taught you or instilled in you that you still use today? It was more nature than nurture in terms of my musical heritage. I was pushed into playing piano and I was always in the chorus in school, but music wasn’t ever something that my family told me to go for in terms of a career and some sort of life goal. I think that it’s more of what I inherited genetically than anything else in terms of my history. You joined Bomb The Music Industry! in your late teens, how did your parents react to that with you out touring and stuff. Were they supportive of it or not? My dad was psyched about it, because my dad is, he was kind of like a traveling hippie salesman, so he was very into me discovering the country and traveling around and seeing everything. I think my mom was to a point, but she wanted me to stay in school. She was very very insistent about me staying in school, which was a good thing. You kind of have the best of both world’s because you’re getting a Masters in Art and you’re on tour. I think that they’re coming around. My dad has always been really psyched about me playing music, but my parents have not been a couple since I was a baby, so it was like two very different camps I guess. My dad is very into me pursuing the music thing and my mom was very into me getting my education, but it wasn’t like they had to make decisions as a married couple, it was more like coming from two very different places. It was kind of interesting, but I think they’re both...My mom is definitely coming around, so they’re both happy that I’m doing this now.
You’ve been shooting band photos for a long time, at what point and why did you start doing the Nervous Energies video sessions? The last half of 2009 and first half of 2010 I had been battling a small depression and I was still shooting some but had lost all of my personal motivation to be out there documenting shows and such. At the time, I had decided I was going to get a real job after 10 years of working for myself and shoot stuff that came through Alabama or Atlanta only on occasions. The summer of 2010 I started feeling better and have been 100% if not 200% since then. I slowly started shooting more shows and we did the Lemuria album art in August which helped me get back in my groove. Around November 2010, my friend Katie Crutchfield who plays mainly in P.S. Eliot had recorded a new solo EP under the name Waxahatchee and I loved it. The recording was a cool lo-fi recording and I was like “Hey we should just have you sit in front of a camera and play the songs acoustic and I’ll film you”. She played the entire EP and it came out great, so I put it up just as a video under my personal Youtube page. It got a ton of hits the first day or so and I was surprised and so I thought, well maybe I could film a bunch of these with all the bands I am friends with and it’ll be something new to do. Fake Problems was playing the next week and I filmed one with Chris Farren and the next day it was on a ton of news sites. So I was like alright, I think people actually like these, I’ll keep doing them. Ever since the first session with Waxahatchee, I’ve posted a new one every week. Was there a learning process with getting the audio and video right with the early sessions? Definitely. I had never done anything with audio. That world is completely foreign to me. I have a close
friend of 10-plus years, who is an amazing producer, named Jason Elgin over at Synchromesh Studios in Birmingham. He gave me the crash course on what I would need to do. I hit up Rode Microphones about a month or two into the sessions and showed them what I was doing and based on that and my photography clients, they got behind the project and sent me a couple of their camera mounted mics so I could get better recordings. Every week it’s a learning experience, but I think I have gotten it down a bit. The video was new too, but I picked up on it a lot quicker just from the years of shooting. I only shot film photographs from 2001 - Jan 2010 and in Jan had bought a digital camera with a HD video setting, so I had played a little bit with that in the studios with a few bands that were tracking. I had decided that I only wanted to do direct single shot stuff for the sessions to make it an intimate performance and not a bunch of flashy video edits and such. Just a straight up start to finish performance of someone playing their songs. Do you seek out bands or do they seek out you to do the session? It’s been about both really. All my usual suspects of my photography clients are down when they come through so that has helped. A lot of new bands have hit me up out of the blue and it’s been great finding some new bands and finding out some bands you liked like your stuff. How many takes does it typically take for each video, are the sessions done first take or are there a few rehearsals beforehand? Sometimes it’s all one take for everyone. Usually what happens is everyone nails all the songs except one and that one song will take a couple takes.
Interview with Ryan Russell // nervousenergies.com I know some of the bands have said they’ve created their versions beforehand so they’d be ready. The So Many Dynamos session, which is one of my favorites, we came up with on the spot five minutes before we did it. Do you have a wish list of bands that you’d like to record for Nervous Energies? Yeah, I definitely have a wish list for the sessions. Some of the initial wish list ones have actually already happened like Fences, Owen, Slingshot Dakota, Daytrader and Mixtapes. I would love to do one with The Joy Formidable, Best Coast, or An Horse. Maritime or Obits would rule too. The sessions have been getting quite a bit of attention, are you happy with how they have been received so far? I think so, do you think they’ve been received well? I’ve had a lot of fun doing it and hanging with a lot of new friends, so it’s been a great experience. There’s a ton of other “sessions” around as well so I just wonder if it’s going to get, or already is, oversaturated and people will stop watching them. In addition to the video sessions, you recently turned Nervous Energies into a label and released a couple of cassettes by Nations and Into it. Over it. Why did you decide to turn it into a label? I think it just had the momentum to do so. Some of the session recordings are really good and why not put them out if the bands are down. I’m not limiting it to just audio we do at the sessions though, the NATIONS one is a studio recording. Evan/Into It. Over It. has had a huge impact musically with getting me back in going to shows and just loving music again in general. His other band, Stay Ahead of the
Weather, came out with an EP last fall and Jono from The Swellers had been talking it up. He gave me the mp3s and was like “You’ll love this”, it ruled. It was one of my favorite recordings of last year, if not the past 5 years. It’s been a pleasure getting to know Evan and the rest of Stay Ahead and being able to let them know I was having a tough time and their record helped. I think fans feel weird telling a band they love how they’ve helped their lives but those stories should be shared. It should be the highest compliment for a band that, not only do you like their music, but also that they were beneficial in a difficult part of someone’s life. This is where I realized how far off topic I have gotten. Will Nervous Energies be cassette only or will you be doing vinyl and CD releases as well? No CDs ever I hope. Vinyl is already in the works for the next release, cassettes are super fun though, so I will always do those. What can be expected of Nervous Energies in the future? Do you have any sessions planned or any upcoming releases for the label? New sessions, most of the bands I shoot (I hope) are going to do sessions. I know there’s a Taking Back Sunday, a Tigers Jaw, and a ton others in the works. As far as releases, there’s 5 bands I have done sessions with that I’m putting things out for this year if all goes to plan. I don’t want to say and jinx them but they should be a good time. Each “known” band I’m doing a release for I’m trying to bundle a smaller band with it so the smaller bands can get more attention. There’s a few local bands from Birmingham where I live that we’re doing stuff for so hopefully they’ll get a couple new fans outside Alabama from it.
Bright Eyes Cassadaga Where did the idea for the Cassadaga packaging come from and how much input did Conor Oberst have into it? The original idea came from Conor, but it was just an abstract notion to have the cover be some kind of optical illusion. Something that would kind of pop out at you if you stared at it for a while. I’m not sure he was specifically thinking of a Magic Eye type of illusion, but that’s what came to mind initially. He left exactly what kind of illusion up to me, but said he wanted it to be three pyramids. I thought about the Magic Eye more, and realized that it wouldn’t work very well for an album cover. For one, when shrunk to the size of a CD package, it would be pretty underwhelming. Second, I think aesthetically those are pretty garish and ugly (at least the usual ones I’d seen). Last, I’m not able to see the hidden pictures in those no matter how hard I’ve tried. I figured there were other people like me out there that can’t see them, and then the whole concept would be missed. I then thought about a hidden image that could be decoded with clear red plastic film, sometimes used in kids’ activity books. I looked around on the web for information, and found a company that sold that stuff, called 3Dimages.co.uk. I saw that they offered a patented process called “Focal Decoder” which is what ended up in the album artwork. Up to that point it was primarily used for corporate sweepstakes and the like, at least from what they advertised on their website (decode the hidden image on the product package, and if it says “winner” you get a prize, that sort of thing). Conor was sold on using that for the artwork. At that point, it opened up much more possibilities as far as what content we could hide--not just a couple large bulky images, but much more complex artwork and text. Conor came up with all of the hidden text, and we had people we knew translate some of the messages into other languages. He had the ideas for the major images (pyramids, comet, etc), and I came up with most of the rest based on what I heard in the music and themes of the album. How does the hidden text and images relate to the album? The record centers on themes of spiritualism, mysticism, and the occult, and the imagery is mostly my interpretations of those themes (vintage ouija board design, automatic spirit writing, a glowing coffin, floating candle reflected in a mirror, etc). There are also elements of Esoteric and mystic religious/occult traditions that emphasized a concept of “hidden knowledge” and took of the form of secret societies. These include Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism. The string of letters that encircle the pyramids on the front cover is the expanded 72 letter name of God, also called the Shemhamphorasch, which is used by Kabbalists and Hermeticists for a range of magical spells and incantations. Each of the groups of three letters has been tied to a particular angel, a demon, and various other things by different groups. Some believe that this biblical code could be used to summon either angels or devils.
Top left: The album comes shrinkwrapped with a sticker as the album art. Top right: Taking off the shrinkwrap and you notice the distorted hidden artwork. Bottom: The spectral decoder reveals the hidden artwork all over the album.
The hidden text from Conor also related to the themes of the album, but sometimes in ways that aren’t easily understood. “Rocks beneath the water” is the translation of the name Cassadaga, which was a Seneca Indian word used for the place where the town is today. “Mighty Saturn enters your eighth house” is an astrological reference. “These myths are sacred and profane” is a reference, I think, to the split between what is holy and what is worldly or mundane. I think it sums up the songs on the record perfectly and that’s why I placed that text directly below where the decoder sits in the CD package, so it’s the first thing you see upon opening the digipak. The lyrics on the album range from dancing, drugs, and sex, to questions of the meaning and nature of life, death, and our place in the universe. Can you explain the process of how the artwork you created for Cassadaga was made into the decodable lines on the packaging? The owner of 3Dimages.co.uk, David Burder, had invented this process in which the original image/text is encrypted with a computer program, and then decoded with a lenticular ridged film. The way I understand the process to work is that he runs scans of the artwork through a program that scrambles the imagery, and adds visual noise that makes it hidden to the eye. The lenticular film has ridges that refract the scrambled image and remove the lines of noise, recombining the image and making it visible. We sent the unencoded artwork to David in the UK, and he sent back the scrambled version that we sent to press.
For the booklet, you used a spot varnish over a black background and knocked out text. Why didn’t you use the same process for the booklet as you did on the cover? Very small text can be hard to read through the decoder film. It has a kind of pixilation effect that could make reading the lyrics difficult. Also, I didn’t want the entire thing to be too laborious to go through. I felt like there was enough to discover with the decoder, that it was okay to make the lyrics out in the open and easy to read. Plus, I felt like using the spot varnish, black background, and knocked out text gave it a kind of depth. The hidden images are all very flat, and I wanted reading the booklet to look kind of like you were looking into darkness, with the lyrics floating there in space. Out of all the albums that were nominated (Black Sabbath The Dio Years, Menomena Friend and Foe, The Fold Secrets Keep You Sick , GTS White Horse) for a Grammy in 2008, why do you think Cassadaga won? I think it was a concept that just caught people’s attention. I think the artwork stands on it’s own, but I think it helped that there was a unique aspect to how it was presented. I wanted to be sure that it wouldn’t be seen as a gimmick. I tried to ensure that it was fully integrated into the themes of the record, not something that would seem like an afterthought. We definitely didn’t see it as gimmicky at all, in fact I don’t think there was any other way that this artwork could have turned out and been as inherently tied into the music as it is. How did you feel about winning the Grammy for the packaging and did you ever imagine you’d win one while working on it? It was great, one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. It never entered my mind once at any point. I didn’t think it was possible. I was eating a sandwich in the Saddle Creek office when someone came in and told me that I’d made the list of nominees. I thought they were lying until I actually saw it myself. Even when I went to LA, I thought I’d never win. I just went because I felt like I’d never have the chance to do that again, and hadn’t been to California before. When I won, it really blew my mind. Of the many other album packagings you’ve designed for Saddle Creek, where does Cassadaga’s packaging rank? It’s definitely in my top few, just because it was such a great time working on it and after the album came out. I’ll always have a place in my heart for the old Bright Eyes record covers that I did in my spare time, just cutting out paper or making something and photographing it. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was a ton of fun. It’s always been great to work with people who made such awesome music and were great friends. I can’t play an instrument, but I feel like I get to participate and have a connection to the music I love in a different way.
April 2011 Europe Tour // Words by Richard Minino
The tour was awesome and we also got to meet a bunch of new friends. It was nice to start off the tour in the UK and see some familiar faces from the Arteries and Ok Pilot from the get go. Our driver is the guy that takes around Municipal Waste and he was super rad. I’d probably say my favorite place to actually walk around in was Bordeaux, France. It was beautiful and was super old. Everyone in the punk scene was overly nice to us as usual and we ate some really good food. BUT! I have to say we were super bummed that we couldn’t get tacos anywhere! That’s always our main concern overseas is that there isn’t much of a selection for spicy foods almost anywhere. Other than that, everything was great. We ended the tour playing to a bunch of crazy people at Groezrock. People were stage diving left and right and it was a perfect way to close up the tour. Especially after seeing Descendants and CIV the day after! Sam started his tour with Dead To Me that day and we parted ways. Another great European tour with awesome friends.
This icon denotes an album that has been made available by the band free of charge or for a donation. Links are on page 48.
A Lull Confetti A Lull’s Confetti reminds me of last year’s Magic Man’s Real Life Color and maybe a light version of Battles. Confetti shines at times and other times gets too repetitive. I could see putting this on as background music from time to time, but as not as something I’d listen to every day. (Lujo/Mush Records) Aboltionist At The Level of The Ear At The Level of The Ear is a two-song 7” that conveys punk’s roots with its vibe and sound. The distorted guitars and Ramone’s like delivery are a teaser to what potential this band would have on a full-length. A nice touch is that proceeds from the sale of this record will benefit PARTNERS-INHEALTH & their recovery efforts in Rwanda in the wake of the 1994 genocide. (Self-Released) Algernon Cadwallader Parrot Flies And just like that, a new Algernon Cadwallader fulllength. I knew they were working on one, but I was still surprised when I saw everyone talking about it. Parrot Flies is heads and shoulders above pretty much everything else they’ve done. They still have the sound that you’ve grown to love, but they really let the guitar loose on this album. It just walks all over the place, starting with the first track. Algernon Cadwallader definitely stepped up their game with Parrot Flies. (Self-Released)
An Horse Walls Walls is the sophomore full-length from Aussie duo An Horse. This being the first time I’ve heard An Horse, I’m quite pleased with their music. They have a sound like Tegan and Sara and Football, etc. Singer Kate Cooper has a warm and familiar voice and the music is powerful behind her. (Mom + Pop Music) Boris Smile My Love Powered by 10,000 Practice Amps My feelings towards Boris Smile’s previous releases have been up and down, but their latest album is bringing those feelings back up. My Love Powered... starts out with the 60’s pop sounding “Lucy” and hits just about every generation for music from then to current day. My Love Powered... my be a bit excessive in length, 23 songs/64 minutes, but there is a lot here that is enjoyable and keeps you interested until the very end. (Count Your Lucky Stars)
Born Without Bones Say Hello To me, Born Without Bones is like an anthem rock sounding band that you don’t have to feel guilty about listening too. The title track will have you hooked immediately and while some songs are much stronger than others, the weaker songs are still really good. (Animal Style Records) By Surprise Mountain Smashers Each time I listen to Mountain Smashers, the debut full-length from By Surprise, I like it more and more. It’s no surprise really, they have a uniqueness about them that makes them stand out against the crowd. I can bet that there were a handful of other labels that would’ve loved to release this album, because it’s poised to be a top seller. (Topshelf Records) Cain Marko At Sea There has been an influx of gravelly voiced punk bands with songs about drinking and Cain Marko is no different. They even explain this in the album opener by repeating “Another song about drinking”. It’s nice to hear a band come out honest by explaining the obvious when everybody knows it. At Sea may only be four songs, but it easily leaves an impression with the listener that is hard to shake and won’t be forgotten. (Self-Released)
Chilled Monkey Brains Chilled Monkey Brains Hailing from Tallahassee, Florida, Chilled Monkey Brains is a 7-piece ska band with punk and hardcore tendencies. It took me a few listens to really nail down what this band is doing. They go from being a skank-able ska band to a pushing and shoving hardcore band in an instant and they throw in a keyboard to really mix things up. As I listened to it more though, the chaos started making sense and I really began to enjoy this album. Chilled Monkey Brains remind me of equal parts Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, The Hippos, Five Iron Frenzy and even fellow Floridians, Less Than Jake. They have the ability to take bits and pieces of ska’s past and combine all of these different influences and styles into original and exciting music. To put this review into a visual sense, I like to think their live shows would be like a modern day West Side Story. You’ve got the Jets, aka the Rude Boys on one-side and you’ve got the Sharks, aka the Punks on the other. The Rude Boys would be skanking to songs like “Butterflies” and “Sayonara” and The Punks would be forming mosh pits and doing floor punches, high kicks and windmills to songs like “Frisco” and “Debbie Gibson”. All the while Chilled Monkey Brains is on stage providing the exciting soundtrack to this dance brawl. As the album closer “Apocalypse Wow” starts winding down, hugs and hi-fives are exchanged and nobody gets stabbed. The two songs that really stand out to me on this album are “Stop Whining” with its laid back ska sway that ends heavy and “Apocalypse Wow”, which combines all the elements of Chilled Monkey Brains sound and acts as a perfect closing to the album. (Self-Released)
Cloud Mouth That Ghost Is Always With Me Cloud Mouth reminds me of two late and great Midwestern bands, Ten Grand and The Book of Dead Names. The vocals and music are a perfect mash-up of the two bands with its intensity and ferocity. That Ghost Is Always With Me is unrelenting in its determination to continually out due itself with each song. (Count Your Lucky Stars) Dads Brush Your Teeth ;) Dads are a two-piece from New Brunswick, NJ and they tackle the twinkly emo genre with as much force as a five-peice band would. Brush Your Teeth ;) is their second release and they are definitely showing improvements with their writing and this release would please any fan of Cap’n Jazz or Owls. (Self-Released) Decibully Decibully Sadly this self-titled album is Decibully’s last, which is a damn shame cause it’s their best work since City of Festivals. They really let it all hang loose on this release by starting out with a blusy number followed up by a fuzzy guitar rocker. Hopefully this isn’t the last we’ll here from this band. There was so much potential here, that it’s hard to believe they’d hang it up. (Listening Party Records) Dowsing All I Could Find Was You All I Could Find Was You has been making the music-sharing blog rounds for a couple weeks now and it’s easy to see why. They have a sound reminiscent of 90’s indie like Hum and The Get Up Kids, mixed with present day emo. This EP starts out strong with “Driving” and stays strong throughout. (Self-Released)
Explosions In The Sky Take Care, Take Care, Take Care Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is Explosions In The Sky’s latest releases since 2007’s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. On previous releases it felt the band had an intriguing story behind each song, i.e. “Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean”, and on their latest, it feels like they just decided to jam out some tunes and call it a day. That doesn’t mean Take Care,... is bad, it just feels like the passion is gone and they’ve become a band that is emulating itself. (Temporary Residence) The Fucking Cops Fuck You Up With Some Truth If smart were a brand of punk rock, The Fucking Cops would be Stephen Fucking Hawking. Their music never over does itself, it stays in the safe zone of punk and uses honest and clever lyrics to get its point across. Fuck You Up With Some Truth is definitely one of the best EPs released so far this year. (Kind Of Like Records/Big Purple/Bermuda Mowhawk)
Gray Young Staysail While their previous album Firmament struck a chord with me, Staysail is having problems doing the same. The songs on Staysail are mostly instrumental and when sung don’t entice me anymore into liking it. I’m sure other people would totally be into this, but I’m not feeling it right now. (307 Knox) Hightide Hotel Secret Somethings Vol. 2 Secret Somethings Vol. 2 shows an even emo-er side of Hightide Hotel and I like this new page they are turning. I can only hope they take this new stuff and combine it with some of the way their old material sounds to make something really special. (Self-Released)
Graham Wright Shirts vs. Skins You may know Graham Wright as one-fourth of Tokyo Police Club, but may not have known about his side project. His previous release, The Lakes Of Alberta, was a slow acoustic affair, while Shirts vs. Skins in an up tempo bombastic indie pop album. It’s like comparing a backwoods cabin to a metro high-rise. I really like that Wright distanced himself from his main band in sound, but still kept the energy of TPC’s music. Shirts vs. Skins is a wonderful album full of hooks and memorable songs. (File Under: Music)
I Was Totally Destroying It Preludes The songs on Preludes have a pretty neat back story. Having 35 rough drafts of songs laying around, I Was Totally Destroying It set out to whittle down the list into a batch of manageable songs to release as an EP before a future release this fall. They ended up having too many good songs, so they made a fulllength out of it. The result is a diverse album that is as interesting as it is engaging. (Greyday Records) Into It. Over It. Chicago Cassette It’s no surprise that I really like Into It. Over It. and have enjoyed just about everything he’s done lately. These six songs on this release are stripped down and intimate, giving you the feeling that Evan Weiss is playing the songs for you in your living room. (Nervous Energies)
Joan of Arc Life Like Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Life Like is the most rock version of Joan of Arc to date. Recorded by Steve Albini, Life Like conjures Owls and Make Believe like comparisons in sound. The album starts out with the nearly 11 minute opus, “I Saw the Messed Binds of My Generation” that sets the pace for the rest of the album. Joan of Arc has shed its musical fur numerous times, but I think this new coat they’re wearing suits them perfectly. (Polyvinyl Records)
Mount Moriah Mount Moriah Featuring Heather McEntire, previously of Bellafea and Jenks Miller, previously of Horseback, Mount Moriah is a duo creating folksy indie pop gems. The song “Lament” is one of the many standouts on the album. Mount Moriah is an exceptional release that will have people talking. (Holidays for Quince Records)
Laura Stevenson and The Cans Sit Resist While it took me a bit to get into their previous album, A Record, I was instantly hooked on Sit Resist. The lead single “Master of Art” was the perfect choice for a single. It highlights all of the band’s strengths and it is damn catchy as well. If Stevenson’s voice is the real treasure of this album, then the Can’s would have to be the chest that treasure resides in. Together they work in harmony to create a sensational album. (Don Giovanni Records) Man The Change Weather The Storm Man the Change are like a modern-day Explosion with a little bit of West Coast Punk thrown in. Weather The Storm is good because it adds in these small guitar parts that are clever and make you take notice. (Self-Released) The Most Serene Republic Pre Serene: Thee Oneironauts Thee Oneironauts is a musical project that was written in 2003 and dates back to before The Most Serene Republic was The Most Serene Republic. Having not heard a lot of what MSR has done, I can’t give comparisons between the two. I will say that Pre Serene: does have some moments, especially on “Zoltar Speaks” and “St. Germain” where everything comes together perfectly. (Home of The Rebels)
My Heart To Joy Reasons To Be It’s insane to believe that My Heart To Joy would break up knowing how good these three songs are. “Farewell To A Raincloud” is so jaw-droppingly good that if I were in a band that recorded something this good while on the brink of a break up, I’d call a band meeting and tell everyone to grab their instruments and get back to writing. (Self-Released)
Nations End To say that Nations are heavy would be an understatement. They come out on this release like a mountain rolling down a mountain. But Nations ain’t no one trick pony. Each one of the four songs has a diverse feel to it, making this release enjoyable to listen to. (Nervous Energies) Not To Reason Why The Book Of Ours The Book of Ours is such a compelling release. “Good Morning” starts off this release and just sucks you into the music. I really like the piano mixed in during the heavy parts of the songs. It adds a nice touch that would be lost without it. (Side With Us)
P.S. Eliot Sadie Sadie is the long awaited album from Birmingham, Alabama’s P.S. Eliot and it’s easy to see why. Sadie is an indie pop album that takes cues from emo and pop punk. Sadie is a fun and shimmery album that is perfect for summer listening. (Salinas Records) The Plurals Futurospective Michigan’s The Plurals are a fun-time punk band. Their music is upbeat with plenty of “la-la-las” and group background vocals. While I enjoy this album quite a bit, I’d still like to hear what they’d sound like with a bit of over-production just to soften up the edges. (Bermuda Mohawk) Ratasucia White Noise Pollution Ratasucia is the newest musical project from Dan Hanaway and Chris Carr, both you may know from their work with The Honor System and WhaleHorse,
and Tim Scare from Prosperity Wallet. It took me a bit to get the hang of White Noise Pollution, but after a couple of listens, I’m really enjoying it. Hanaway has a very distinct voice that drives the album. If the music was a can of gasoline, Hanaway’s vocals would be the match, because this shit is on fire! (Asian Man Records) Sharks Come Crusin’ A Past We Forgot That We Need To Know Sharks Come Crusin’ are a northeastern band that play Irish tinged punk music straight from a fishing boat recently docked in the harbor. They have a really fun celebratory quality that harkens to days spent on the high seas drinking and singing with your shipmates. There are easy comparisons to bands like Dropkick Murphy’s, Flogging Molly and the like. A Past We Forgot That We Need To Know is a quite enjoyable album that will have you singing and swash-buckling. (Self-Released) Shuteye Unison Our Future Selves Starting off the album with a bouncing bass line on “Be Kimble”, Shuteye Unison get the listeners attention immediately. While the opener slows down towards the end, the next song draws you back in with some slight electronic bleeps. Our Future Selves may not be the best release of the year, but it certainly makes quite an effort to be. (Park and Records) Spraynard Funtitled It’s these new young bands like Spraynard that give me hope for the future of punk music. Funtitled is just a classic from front to back and left to right and is right up there with recent albums by The Wonder Years and Man Overboard. Other records don’t have a left to right, but Funtitled is so good that it can do whatever it wants. (Asian Man Records) Survival Guide Hot Lather Machine EP Survival Guide is the latest musical project from ex-Tsunami Bomb vocalist Emily Whitehurst and Jaycen McKissick of The Action Design, which Whitehurst was also a member of. The dreamy indie pop of this music is accentuated by Whitehurst’s vocals. The three songs on this EP are damn good and really show that something great will be coming from this band in the future. (Side With Us)
SWTHRT Compact Disc SWTHRT features members of Museum Mouth but is taken in a completely different direction than that band. SWTHRT sounds like Joy Division or even more recently a less poppy Heavens. Compact Disc is quite delightful to say the least. (Self-Released) Vessels Helioscope I’m not even sure how I came across this album or where it came from, but I’m glad it found it’s way to me. Vessels are from Leeds, England and are a mostly instrumental post rock five-piece. Helioscope, their second album, is an epic tour de force that knows how to rock your pants off but will take it easy on you before it gets back to the rough stuff. (Cuckundoo Records) Witches Forever Witches’ singer Cara Beth Satalino vocals remind me of Caithlin De Marrais from Rainer Maria and the music has a Midwestern garage rock feel to it. Forever is an outstanding album that gets better the deeper you delve into it. (Bakery Outlet Records)
The Wooden Birds Two Matchsticks I don’t even have to say anything about this album because you know it’ll be good. Following up where Magnolia left off, Two Matchsticks is a happier and more upbeat album that its predecessor. Two Matchsticks still retains some of that unshakable AmAnSet sound and that is not a bad thing. On this album, Andrew Kenny meshes both bands’ styles by adding vibraphones to the Wooden Birds percusionless sound. (Barsuk) Young Widows In And Out Of Youth And Lightness It seems with every new release Young Widows changes themselves slightly so each release stands out from one another. Nothing drastic, just a little extra to this here and a little less of that there. They have become masters of their craft and In And Out Of Youth And Lightness shows Young Widows at their greatest yet. (Temporary Residence)
Abolitionist // At The Level Of The Ear // abolitionist.bandcamp.com/album/at-the-level-of-the-ear-7 Born Without Bones // Say Hello // bornwithoutbones.bandcamp.com/album/say-hello-2 Dads // Brush Your Teeth ;) // dadsnj.bandcamp.com/album/brush-your-teeth Decibully // Decibully // decibully.listeningpartyrecords.com/album/decibully-2 Dowsing // All I Could Find Was You // dowsing.bandcamp.com/album/all-i-could-find-was-you Hightide Hotel // Secret Somethings Vol. 2 // hightidehotel.bandcamp.com/album/secret-somethings-vol-2 Man The Change // Weather the Storm // www.deathtofalsehoperecords.com/downloads/dtfh099.html My Heart To Joy // Reasons To Be // myhearttojoy.bandcamp.com/album/reasons-to-be P.S. Eliot // Sadie // ifyoumakeit.com/album/ps-eliot/sadie Spraynard // Funtitled // ifyoumakeit.com/album/spraynard/funtitled SWTHRT // Compact Disc // swthrt.bandcamp.com/album/compact-disc
Posters: Basemint Design // basemintdesign.com
COVER, Pg 4-5, 28-32: Ryan Siverson // ryansiversonphoto.com Pg 7: Tin Horn Prayer // Ralph Eberhard Cattle Drums // Unknown Pg 8: Born Without Bones // Unknown So Adult // Jackson Long Pg 9: The Fucking Cops // Gaelen Harlacher Pg 10: Kris Shacochis Pg 11-13: Jim Williams Pg 20-25: Cameron Klos Pg 41: Shervin Lainez Pg 42: Unknown Pg 43: Nick Simonite Pg 44: Vanessa Heins Pg 45: Derek Anderson Pg 46: Sara Sanger Pg 47: Witches // Ken Freeman The Wooden Birds // AliciaVega
Bands: Laura Stevenson and The Cans // laurastevenson.tumblr.com Survival Guide // http://www.srvvlgd.com The Prizefighters // theprizefighters.net Tin Horn Prayer // myspace.com/tinhornprayer Cattle Drums // cattledrums.tumblr.com Born Without Bones // facebook.com/bornwithoutbonesma So Adult // soadult.blogspot.com The Fucking Cops // thefuckingcops.com By Surprise // bysurprise.net People: Nervous Energies (Ryan Russell // nervousenergies.com Zack Nipper // saddle-creek.com
Ads: Modern-Radio // modern-radio.com Lujo Records // lujorecords.com Lovitt Records // lovitt.com Saddle Creek // saddlecreek.com Rocket Fuel Podcast // rocketfuelpodcast.com Black Numbers // theblacknumbers.com Asian Man Records // asianmanrecords.com Side With Us // sidewithus.com Tiny Engines // tinyengines.net 10x Your City // 10xyourcity.com Labels: 307 Knox // 307knox.com Animal Style Records // animalstylerecords.com Asian Man Records // asianmanrecords.com Bakery Outlet Records // bakeryoutletrecords.com Barsuk // barsuk.com Bermuda Mowhawk // bermudamohawkproductions.com Count Your Lucky Stars // cylsrecords.com Cuckundoo Records // cuckundoorecords.com Don Giovanni Records // dongiovannirecords.com File Under: Music // fileundermusic.com Greyday Records // greydayrecords.com Holidays for Quince // holidaysforquince.com Home of the Rebels // Kind of Like Records // kindoflikerecords.com Listening Party // listeningpartyrecords.com Lujo Records // lujorecords.com Mom + Pop Music // momandpopmusic.com Nervous Energies // nervousenergies.com Parks and Records // parksandrecords.com Polyvinyl Records // polyvinylrecords.com Salinas Records // salinasrecords.com Side With Us // sidewithus.com Top Shelf Records // topshelfrecords.org Temporary Residence // temporaryresidence.com