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Betterment Lion Cub The Small Cities Candy Hearts The World Is A Beautiful Place... Lifted Bells
Betterment - Cameron Harrison What made you want to start playing music? My best friend and I were both twelve and I had both recently been getting into a whole slew of new music and we decided that we should start a band together. It took a while to actually find people who played other instruments, but we ended up playing our first show right before I started high school, so that was cool. What role does music currently play in your life? Currently, music acts as an outlet for me and a way to connect with other people. I like being able to play relatable music while being able to express myself in the way that I love most. I really want to keep playing music as long as I am able to. It makes me a lot happier. Music has the ability to be connected to events in the past. What song or album, when heard, reminds you of a significant event in your life? The Promise Ring’s Wood/Water brings back this really vivid memory of my winter break during my freshman year of high school. At my dad’s house, we would always open up all of the windows and doors and let the cool air blow throughout the house. Whenever the song “Bread and Coffee” comes on, I am instantly brought back to sitting in my room, listening to that song. What is one song you will always put on a mixtape and why? “I Want To Go To the Beach” by Algernon Cadwallader. That song just makes me really happy, so I like to throw it on in middle of really long mixes that I make for long car rides. Your hard drive crashes, your vinyl melts in a heatwave, and someone steals all your CDs and cassettes, what album do you buy back first? If it was going to be a CD, it would either have to be I Do Perceive by Owen, Nothing Feels Good by The Promise Ring, or The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths. If it happened to be a record though, it would definitely have to be More Songs by Grown Ups, because that is probably the most incredible sounding record that I own. The bass tone on it is so killer. It literally sounds like they set it up in my room and just let it go. What have you learned through your experiences playing music? Playing in bands with people just because you’re friends with them isn’t always the best idea. Just like how working or living with your friends can take a toll on your friendship, playing in a band can too.
Lion Cub - Chad Jewett What made you want to start playing music? I’ve just always loved music. When you hear a perfect song you just want to try to do that. That’s really the only way to describe it, I think. What role does music currently play in your life? The same role it has always played really; I still get excited waiting for a record I ordered to come in the mail. There are still songs and albums that just blow me away. Music has the ability to be connected to events in the past. What song or album, when heard, reminds you of a significant event in your life? Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Love Bad News. The spring and summer that that album came out my friends and I would just listen to it non-stop. It was warm enough to have the windows down, to listen to it on the front lawn, to have it really be part of the air. Especially those first three songs, “The World At Large,” “Float On,” and “The Ocean Breathes Salty;” we would have something new to say about them every time. It was just love at first listen. What is one song you will always put on a mixtape and why? The Temptations, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”. It is just an elemental pop song and the greatest vocal performance of all time. You can’t help but just feel great whenever that song comes on. It has everything a song needs in under three minutes. Your hard drive crashes, your vinyl melts in a heatwave, and someone steals all your CDs and cassettes, what album do you buy back first? This is a very tough one. I’m tempted to go with Good News by Modest Mouse again, but I think I will have to pick Lifted by Bright Eyes, not because it’s necessarily my favorite album of all time, but because it really contains everything. Those songs just cover so much ground, so many different kinds of sounds and really one of the great albums about American youth, and it’s another album that I found at just the right age to have it make such a huge impact on me. It’s really a brilliant record. What have you learned through your experiences playing music? That we can really be at our best when we’re in a basement watching a band we love and really listening to each other.
The Small Cities - Jimmy Osterholt What made you want to start playing music? I don’t really recall it being a conscious decision or something I put much thought into, really. I grew up surrounded by music. Singing the high harmonies to the folk songs my parents played; being entranced by watching my dad practice his cello. Music was always just ‘there’. If I had to pin down a moment when I became a ‘musician’, it was probably when I first saw the Gibson SG that my dad still had from the 70s. I knew I had to learn how to play it. That guitar was just so badass. What role does music currently play in your life? Well, it depends on context I guess. Music is a constant in my life and I doubt I’m unique in this respect. When the creative process is flowing and a new song is taking shape, music is absolute bliss. When writers block sets in, music really pisses me off. When I hear something new that blows my mind, music is discovery. When I’m depressed, music empathizes. And on and on and on... Music has the ability to be connected to events in the past. What song or album, when heard, reminds you of a significant event in your life? For some reason the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Satisfied Mind’. I can’t remember the name of the guy who wrote the song at the moment, but I do remember hearing he died on stage while performing, which is really quite unbelievable given what that song is about. Anyway, I had just arrived home from the funeral of a friend who had committed suicide. It was extremely tough, because I’d known him since he was young. I put iTunes on shuffle and Jeff Buckley’s cover of ‘Satisfied Mind’ came on. I really love the song and it had always been a comforting one for me, but in that setting it was exactly the opposite. I knew that the song did not apply here, and it was extremely jarring. The whole experience was really strange and hammered home just how powerful music is. A change in context like that can completely flip the meaning of a song on its head. What is one song you will always put on a mixtape and why? I guess I’d say Stevie Wonder “Superstition”. If that song doesn’t make you at least bob your head, you have no soul. It’s a good “music zombie” test. Your hard drive crashes, your vinyl melts in a heatwave, and someone steals all your CDs and cassettes, what album do you buy back first? That sounds awful. I’d probably rush out to buy Elliott Smith’s Either/Or. I’m assuming in this doomsday scenario it’d be raining outside, right? ‘Cause that would be perfect. What have you learned through your experiences playing music? To keep on playing music until I cannot.
Candy Hearts- Mariel Loveland What made you want to start playing music? I’m pretty sure the first time I really fell in love with music was when I bought New Found Glory’s Sticks and Stones in 8th grade. To me, those songs were (and are) perfect, but at that time I dreamed about someone writing songs like that about me rather than making them myself (still waiting). A year or two later I discovered Bright Eyes and his music and lyrics were so beautiful but simply written; it was just him and a guitar. His music made writing seem like a more attainable goal to me. I thought that maybe if all you needed was a voice, a guitar and the knowledge of three chords to write something as beautiful as he wrote, maybe it was something I could do. So I tried it out. What role does music currently play in your life? Music is really...it’s everything! I’ve forgone a steady job and normal life (at least for right now) to focus on this and mostly, my days are spent driving myself insane over writing songs, listening to music, talking about music, planning tours or records or (when I’m at work) thinking about when I’ll be finished so I can work on making music. Music has the ability to be connected to events in the past. What song or album, when heard, reminds you of a significant event in your life? There are so many songs and albums I could talk about, and music reminding you of things is a double edged sword. Sometimes it reminds you of wonderful things and sometimes, not so great things. P.S. Eliot’s “Hail Mary” always reminds me of last summer, without fail -- riding the sweaty subways and fixing my hair in the window’s reflection. I always get that same feeling in my gut that’s hard to explain. The feeling of a new relationship I guess and that sort of nervousness that comes along with it. What is one song you will always put on a mixtape and why? I will always put “This is a Fire Door Never Leave Open” by The Weakerthans on every mix from now until eternity, because I think it’s the one song that completely captures how not lonely being lonely can feel when you share it with someone else. Honestly, I just don’t think anyone will ever write a better song than that song. It crushes me. Your hard drive crashes, your vinyl melts in a heatwave, and someone steals all your CDs and cassettes, what album do you buy back first? Left and Leaving by The Weakerthans. Hands down. Everyone should have this record. What have you learned through your experiences playing music? I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned you can tame anxiety by jumping in head first. I’ve learned that there will always be someone who I think is more talented and someone who I think is worse. I’ve also learned that showering every day is overrated and the smallest success can make people act like complete idiots, but the biggest successes can make people humble, generous and nice. Also, check engine lights are utterly useless.
The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Greg Horbal What made you want to start playing music? I’m not sure how it is for everyone else, but I had always wanted to be in a band since I was a little kid. I would watch the Blues Brothers with my dad over and over again and imagine playing on stage. I really didn’t start getting engaged with music on a really personally level until I was like 13 or so when I started listening to the radio a lot. I think I started to fantasize about the idea highly during this period. I remember my friend Ryan claiming he was going to teach me how to play bass so we could start a band, but he never did. When I got to high school another friend had just given up playing bass because he had started playing the guitar. He let me borrow it and I started teaching myself. I put a LOT of time into it. It was just fun. Who would have known that this would dominate the most important parts of my life now? What role does music currently play in your life? Music is everything. I’m working a desk job, but it’s what I think about all day. Records, shows, writing, touring. I get home, and I am either at practice, or booking tours for TWIABP or a few other bands that I work with. Music has the ability to be connected to events in the past. What song or album, when heard, reminds you of a significant event in your life? The first thing that comes to mind is this song “Mountain Smashers” by a band called By Surprise. I had just gotten their LP a few days after my good friend had passed away. I had to lock myself in the library at the University of Connecticut to prepare for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which I had already failed once (and I would fail again). On top of this I was having some serious girl issues too. My head was a serious mess, and although I wouldn’t say that that album really pushed through all the terrible things going around, when I listen to it now it brings me back to that time in my life. What is one song you will always put on a mixtape and why? The song I would always put on a mix tape would be “Gold Star for Robot Boy” by Guided by Voices. The hooks are huge, the production is shit, and the song is wonderful. Your hard drive crashes, your vinyl melts in a heatwave, and someone steals all your CDs and cassettes, what album do you buy back first? I’ve actually lost two hard drives in the last year! It’s been the worst. I’ve had to start my digital collection from scratch twice. I don’t think I have one essential album, but the first things I usually seek out are Jawbreakers Bivouac, the I Hate Myself/Twelve Hour Turn Split, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea and Hostage Calm’s S/T. What have you learned through your experiences playing music? There have been so many lessons I’ve learned through playing music and in bands. I can’t even write it all down. I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I didn’t do this.
Lifted Belles - Joel Coan, Matt Jordan, Owen Mallon and Matthew Frank What made you want to start playing music? Owen: When I was 16, my friend asked me to come with him to the Metro in Chicago to see a few bands I had never heard of before (Pelican, Red Sparrows, Russian Circles, & Breather Resist). The quiet bass line for Breather Resist’s “Loose Lipped Error” started when we walked in, and out of fucking nowhere, they kicked on a huge wall of blinding lights built in to their cabs with probably some of the most punishing guitar tones I’ve still ever heard. It was the first time I’d ever really listened to hardcore or anything for that matter that wasn’t “Cheese Burger’s In Paradise” in my dad’s car and it really floored me; I guess Jimmy Buffet is hardcore in a different way? What role does music currently play in your life? Owen: In Lifted Bells, we all play/played in a lot of different bands. Joel, played drums in the Felix Culpa and is currently working on a solo record for a project called Thereafter; Matt Jordan plays drums in Cut Teeth and guitar in Stay Ahead of the Weather with me; Doyle played, sang/riffed in Grown Ups and is working on some what-will-be-awesome solo stuff; Matt Frank played in Loose Lips Sink Ships and is working on a new band called Their / They’re / There; and I play bass in Noumenon and Stay Ahead of the Weather as well. We also have a studio in the basement of StayAhouse where Matt Jordan and I live, so there are always bands coming in and out of our place. Everything is always pretty loud. Music has the ability to be connected to events in the past. What song or album, when heard, reminds you of a significant event in your life? Joel: Any time I hear “How It Feels To Be Something On” by Sunny Day Real Estate it immediately takes me back to 1998 and the Shopko parking lot where I first heard it. That record had a huge impact on the way I heard music. Such an amazing blend of melody/atmosphere almost eerie at times, not the typical rock record I was used to hearing. It doesn’t really relate to a significant event, but more a period of time. Kind of the beginning stages of me realizing what music really meant to me and how much I wanted to be a part of it. What is one song you will always put on a mixtape and why? Matt F: Grandaddy’s “A.M. 180” because it is the greatest song of all time, or anything on Torture Garden by Naked City because I make terrible mixtapes.
Your hard drive crashes, your vinyl melts in a heatwave, and someone steals all your CDs and cassettes, what album do you buy back first? Matt F: I couldn’t narrow it down to one album… Also based on the usual irresponsible record shopping sprees I go on, I’d most likely pick up several things: Steve Reich Music For 18 Musicians Tripping Daisy Jesus Hits Like The Atom Bomb Weezer Pinkerton Ghosts and Vodka Precious Blood Shudder To Think Pony Express Record What have you learned through your experiences playing music? Matt J: The most important thing I’ve learned through music is that anything you accomplish or are awarded is a direct reflection of the amount of work you put into it; in order for that thing, whatever it may be (painting, recording, playing guitar, competitive moped racing, whatever!), to be at all meaningful or truly gratifying, your result has to be a direct reflection of that work, or else your “success” is empty and without passion, and the gratification you receive from anything you did for any other reason will never feel right. In other words, do shit because you want to, not just because everybody else is, and if you truly want something, you won’t mind working your ass off for it.
Matthew Rezac Monarques My Imaginary Move (Schedule Two)
Were there any other ideas you had for the My Imaginary Move artwork? How did you come up with the design, the idea of the sheet of stamps, and change of address form? The design was done almost 10 years ago, so I don’t know that I can trust my memory. To the best of my knowledge there was this one general idea that became the final artwork. The title track of the EP was all about an “imaginary move” and that seemed like an interesting idea to play around with since there was so much existing design in the world to play off of: postcards, traveling, postage stamps, luggage labels, etc. Once that general idea of riffing off vernacular designs was set, I can say with some confidence it was probably Nate (singer/guitarist) who suggested making a sheet of stamps. He was always interested in making very tactile posters and fliers — we even made a CD sleeve out of denim for our demo. The change of address form was my idea. I had a real one sitting in my pile of research for the project and it seemed to make sense for underneath a CD tray. I don’t have one handy, but I remember having fun playing around with the language on the form — maybe more so than the replication of the form design. What did you want people to take away from the design? I was a young designer at the time — I was actually just finishing school when that CD was being made — so I don’t think I thought too deeply about what I wanted others to take away from it, honestly. I was having too much fun designing something real (not just a school project) and riffing off this idea of what an “imaginary move” could be to really think beyond that. The artwork is fairly simple but it has a big impact, why do you think that is? Well, I’m a firm believer in less is more when it comes to design. I think restraint tends to win out over wild, busy designs more often than not. There’s so much clutter in the visual world that something quiet and considered can actually command one’s attention more than some loud/ blinking/moving/flashy thing. At the time of the design, you were in the band. Did any other of the band members have input into the design and what did they think of it? Outside of Nate’s idea for the actual stamp sheet, I was sort of left to my own devices. And I spent an ungodly amount of time on it — especially considering just how little there is. When I first shared it with the rest of the band it had been toiled over and perfected for hours on end. I think they saw that and appreciated it. From what I remember there was little to no discussion about revisions or anything — everyone loved it and we went for it. Does the artwork reflect the band’s music on that album? It’s hard for me to say it retrospect. I think that band names and artwork become associated with the music over time simply by being attached to one another, so 10 years on of course it reflects the music — it’s so engrained at this point how could it not. At the time … I don’t know, maybe? I feel like the vibe of the artwork fits the melancholy and mystery of the title track at least. Were the stamps actual mailable stamps? Were they perforated by hand or were they perforated at the time of printing? They were printed on actual adhesive paper (that you had to moisten, like old school stamps) and the printer perforated them at the time of printing. You could put them on an envelope if you wanted to, but they weren’t worth anything in the eyes of the post office. I think the band had a discussion about whether or not it would be considered counterfeiting if someone tried to mail a letter with them. To my knowledge no one got any visits from the FBI or IRS or whoever would look into mail fraud. Looking back on the design, how do you think it’s held up in the 9 years and is there anything you would change about it now? I think it’s held up pretty well. It wasn’t designed to follow any trends at the time, and with the exception of the ornate font on the cover, the type is all Helvetica (to mimic the piles of post office forms I had collected) so it ended up being a bit timeless — even though I wasn’t consciously trying to achieve that at the time. Surprisingly there’s very little I would change. Which isn’t something I can normally say about projects I have worked on… but I think I owe that to the ridiculous amount of time I spent on it.
Matthew Rezac matthewrezac.org Special Thanks to Schedule Two for providing copies of My Imaginary Move. scheduletwo.com Photo: Chris Pernula
The song “Light & Day/Reach for the Sun” from 2002’s The Beginning Stages Of... has been featured in the Volkswagon/iPod commercial in 2003, the feature film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, an episode of Scrubs, and more recently in the trailer for the new Lorax movie. What do you contribute the song’s longevity and versatility too and did you ever think that any one of your songs would be so widely used? I have no idea. The universe rewarding me for not selling my publishing back at a time when we were so broke and approached time and time again to sell it? Ha. Thank God I didn’t sell. Polys would have ended before now as every major label has folded through the years. I am grateful the song has had its own life. How has licensing the song to various companies and movies helped The Polyphonic Spree? Well, it’s definitely helped finance many, many opportunities for the Spree as we’ve been on our own label quite some time. I’m not sure it’s exactly helped sell records? It’s weird. I have no idea if people even identify the “Spree” with the song sometimes. It’s been nice to be a part of some good stuff because of the song’s use. At the beginning of “What Would You Do?” video, you mention that “The time is right for us to get back together, go back out there and spread the gospel”. What makes now the right time for getting back together and why not sooner? A decade later, much reflection and the want and need to continue what we started is now. More challenging time now than ever, that’s how we do it. I don’t know why. One particular line I found interesting in the song “What Would You Do?” is “What would you do if religion turned into sand? // We wouldn’t be judged and the world would have a lot more friends.” Can you explain the meaning behind the second half of that lyric? What is your stance on religion and do you consider yourself a religious person? I think it’s pretty obvious, one religion challenging another has led to years and years of turmoil. Me religious? I am religious about certain things.
You’ll soon be starting phase 1 of the You + Me tour, do you have plans to tour beyond that? Yes. We have 3 phases of the tour. We will wrap up May 30. We will then head into the studio for a Poly Holiday album to be released in fall 2012 with some shows in December. You mentioned in an interview last summer that you’ll be releasing monthly 7”s of new music instead of just one album. Is this still the plan for the new Polyphonic Spree songs or will there be a full album released? Yes, that’s the plan. We are finishing a couple of more songs now. We have released a 7” of our own Xmas song titled It’s Christmas as well as the 7” single currently out “What Would You Do?” as mentioned. Good Records is a store you run in Dallas, and Good Records Recordings is the label arm of that store. Having been on and dropped from major record labels before, how does it feel to be working for your own label and what are the advantages and disadvantages of releasing music through Good Records Recordings? Advantage is: complete freedom. It’s worth quite a bit. Absolutely any idea and/or decision is all your’s. Whether it’s good or bad, you own it. But at least it’s all your’s to own! Disadvantage: a little more work, but it all pans out as it’s less time spent convincing any non-believers at hand. With all the work you do with Polyphonic Spree, why did you want start Preteen Zenith? It just happened that way. Had more songs that didn’t feel like the Spree. Took a breather and a completely different approach at my own speed. Went and did
something with an old friend, Phil. I’d wanted to collaborate with him for so long as we had some great synergy back when recording Tripping Daisy. Then..... A while back you posted a bunch of stripped down demos that are now being released as Polyphonic Spree (“Bullseye”) songs and Preteen Zenith (“Breathe”) songs. Will the other demos that you posted be released as well? How did you decide which songs would be performed by which band? It’s possible of course. I have since split some of the songs up into Preteen Zenith, Poly and solo stuff. The songs fell where they were supposed to. It wasn’t as planned as it seems. Where did you get the idea to release the song “Bullseye” as a downloadable app/game? What was the response like for it? It started with wanting to animate a character I’d sketched in past. We contacted Moonbot Studios as they were fans. They suggested we do the app. Worked out to be a fantastic idea. The response has been very positive. You and your wife, Julie Doyle, have been together since your teens and have always worked together on your musical projects. How have you two maintained such a long lasting relationship? What is it about her that has made it so easy to work together on your musical projects? It’s just that simple. We grew up together with very similar life ideas. Life = all that comes with it, everything under that umbrella. It’s always been an easy relationship creatively. We feed off of each other and balance each other out. I suppose the ingredients that have made the Spree and most everything we’ve done together a possibility stems from years and years of friendship, trust, and yes, love.
On the theme song you composed for the show The United States of Tara, you enlisted your kids to sing back up on the song. How do they react towards your music and are they interested in pursuing music? Ah.....it was quite fitting. Our family had been experiencing many challenges at the time and lyrically, emotionally it just seemed right. It’s not easy to answer how they feel or react to my music. Like anyone, I hope they enjoy it, but there’s absolutely no pressure on them to react one way or the other. They are their own. And I am learning from them. How do you and your wife balance family life with your musical projects? Exactly. Seriously, we just figure it out the best we can. Bands/groups of 3-5 members sometimes have problems aligning their schedules to record and tour, how do you make it all come together with a group of 18-22 members? All relative. Is it more work? Probably. However, it also depends who you’re dealing with. Frame of mind is key. I believe whether a 2, 4, or 20 piece, most everyone’s heart has to be in it. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it and creates more work than necessary. Good Records Recordings was slated to release re-issues of Tripping Daisy’s albums, is that still happening? Since you work with other ex-members of Tripping Daisy in The Polyphonic Spree and Preteen Zenith, have you ever considered a Tripping Daisy reunion with the surviving members of the band? Yes, eventually the Tripping Daisy stuff will come around. Good Records Recordings released Tops Off Our Head 12” not long ago. More coming. A reunion? Not planning on it, but never say never. When all and said and done, how would you want the Polyphonic Spree to be remembered? The Beginning Stages, 2000. We were there. It’s been real. If we stop tomorrow, we can honestly say we contributed something worthwhile to pop culture, beyond just music!
Interview with Tim DeLaughter The Polyphonic Spree thepolyphonicspree.com Good Records Recordings goodrecordsrecordings.com Photo: Chris Penn
This was your first tour to the West Coast in 5.5 years, what took you so long to get out there? There were a lot of things that factored into that, though I do find it funny that we ended up touring Europe and Japan years before we set foot past Texas. I would say the biggest factor would be time- mostly tied into only being able to take so much of it off without losing our jobs. Being from the Midwest, the amount of time it takes to get to the West makes anything less than three weeks seem like a nightmare. Some of my friends have done it in two weeks, and it burnt them out pretty badly. Logistically, even the amount of time we spent was cutting it close. The other biggest concern was the longer length of drive times and the cost of gas, coupled with the uncertainty of never having been to the West Coast on tour. Very few of our friend’s bands had been out there, so it was much less charted territory. Geographically speaking, which coast is better for touring, East or West? Geographically speaking, definitely the East. The drives in between shows are something like a few hours versus driving the better half of a day just to get from one show to the next. The days we had off were strategically placed in order to split up the longest drives where there were few logical tour stops to even have the possibility of a show. On our East Coast tour with One Hundred Year Ocean, Derrick [Shanholtzer, lead singer] called the route “The Victory Lap” because the longest drive between any shows was something like six hours, and most drives were one or two. In the middle of your tour, you ended up at SXSW where you played at the Topshelf Records Showcase and had a showcase for CYLS. How was this year’s SXSW experience? I loved it, it was amazing. Last year we split a showcase with Topshelf, which was nice because they are great friends of ours and we had both never hosted a showcase before, so we honestly didn’t know what to expect and sort of braved it out together. This year I knew a little bit more of what to expect. It was also special because it was our own showcase and I got to plan and run the show all by myself. It was at the Mellow Mushroom, which made for the perfect intimate atmosphere. Even though we reached capacity pretty quickly, more people were able to watch because Mellow opened up the large window behind the stage (which spanned the length of the stage itself), so people could stand outside and watch from there too. We actually posted videos of the show on our YouTube Channel, and you can see people spreading out both in front of and behind the stage. On top of that, I was honored to share the stage with two of my musical heroes: Chris Simpson, of Mineral fame, and Bob Nanna, from Braid/Hey Mercedes. They both performed in their amazing current outfits, Zookeeper and Jack & Ace, respectively. The cherry on the top had to be Blair Shehan, lead singer of Knapsack/The Jealous Sound, showing up to watch and hang out. I grabbed Brandon and Brian from Parker and we took a picture of the six of us. The picture is labeled “Emo Gods” on my Desktop, haha. The Topshelf one was amazing as well. Seth and Kevin did a great job! You toured for nearly a month straight with only a couple days off in-between shows, was it difficult or stressful playing so many shows back to back in a different city every night? It actually felt stranger to have time off, haha. I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but there are a few things that do stress me out from playing such a long string of shows: I worry that my voice will give out or I will get sick,
which is so much easier to do on the road. I worry that the band mates I am borrowing won’t remember all the parts they crammed for, or we will have an off night because we have only played X amount of shows together. I worry we won’t get enough gas money to make it to our next show or find a place to stay. Re-reading this makes me look like I worry overly much, but that is really not the case. Minus the borrowing of band mates, these are pretty much the same concerns any touring band deals with, and we are fortunate enough to be at a point in our career where most of these things aren’t as much of a concern as they were in our earlier years. What sort of planning goes into a nearly month long tour when you have jobs and a record label to leave behind? I actually quit my job at the start of March of last year to work full-time on Count Your Lucky Stars and Empire!, which is what gives me the freedom to tour as often as I do. Cathy still works a conventional full-time job though, so she rarely is able to go on tour these days- which is a good thing and a bad thing. The good part means she can run the label while I am gone, but since she is so busy with her full-time job, there are a lot of things I have to do before I go or while I’m on the road. Knowing I was going to be gone for a month straight meant I had to get my ducks in a row as much as possible before I left, which meant sending in and collecting various parts for releases to their respective plants so nothing would slow down while I was away. I was way more stressed about that than the actual touring, but I somehow managed to get it all done, haha. We also recently hired a press company called Earshot Media instead of doing it in-house, so even if I am out on the road, there is always someone making sure our releases are still getting the attention they deserve. What would you say was the highlight of the tour? I would be lying if I didn’t tell you playing with Chris Simpson and Bob Nanna wasn’t somewhere at the top of the list. I think just finally getting out to the West and meeting new people and playing in places we had never been before was really refreshing too. It was getting to be a monkey on my back that we had never made it out before. Did you experience any van problems while on tour? I can proudly say no. We’ve never had any major van problems, but one reason is we try and take good care of the van. We get oil changes before every long tour, and I took the van in for repairs and a tune-up before we left this time. I had heard a lot of horror stories about going out West, and admittedly was a bit paranoid, so we made sure we were as prepared as possible. From what you learned and experienced on this West Coast tour, what will you do differently the next time you come around? I think the only real problem we had was that we had a finite time in which we could be out and do the whole West Coast. That made it necessary to have some longer drives and skip some places we would have liked to have gone. I don’t know that we will have more time for the next trek, but I would certainly like to. empireempireband.com Photo: Liana McFaden
You played in the ska band, The Skatastrophes, for a number of years while in high school, what did you learn from being in that band and have you applied that knowledge to things you do in Signals Midwest? I see somebody’s done their research! From age 13-18 that band was pretty much everything to me. It was how I got my start writing songs, playing/booking shows, making friends, dealing with venues and promoters, doing design...pretty much everything I do now. It was great for Signals because I had gotten a lot of the mistakes that you’re bound to make with your first band out of my system already. Not that there weren’t more to make, but I did a lot of things that young kids in bands get suckered into doing...you know, stuff like agreeing to hustle tickets for venues, signing contracts, pay-to-play stuff, playing shitty Battle of the Bands shows... stupid rites of passage, basically. I dealt with all that stuff so much, and when I discovered the DIY punk scene it was life-changing to me because even at a young age, like 14-15 years old, I had been through hell with shady promoters and venues trying to rip off young kids who are just trying to play music and have fun. Realizing that people were throwing shows in basements and living rooms and that the line between band and audience didn’t always have to be so rigid was a huge revelation to me. There was also the personal and interpersonal aspect of things...learning how to manage different demeanors and settle disputes in order to work together and be productive. Overall it was a hugely positive experience. I’m sure it sounds ridiculous to some of the people reading this, but I would be nowhere close to where I am today if it weren’t for that high school ska band. Did your earlier ska history influence the horns on the song “The Weight & The Waiting”? Oh yeah, absolutely. I wrote all the horn parts in my old band, so it was really fun to bring that aspect back. I loved writing a main horn line and then adding harmonies to it and
transposing it for all the different instruments. I would write something in standard tuning and then have to transpose it like three times for all the different horns. Just nerding out like that, layering different melodies on top of other ones. I miss that stuff. It taught me so much about harmony and how different instruments can work together. It’s really fun. You mentioned before that you got made fun of in high school because of being in a ska band and nowadays, if you’re not a fan of ska, it seems almost universal to hate on or make fun of ska bands. Why do you think ska bands always get a bum rap and why do so many ska bands use the word “ska” in their names? You know, even now I’m thinking about the people reading this who may or may not know my current band, and I imagine their reactions to be negative just based on the fact that the first three questions have pertained to ska music. And I think that sucks for several reasons. First off because that music totally changed my life and got me into playing shows and writing songs. Secondly, I still like ska music a lot. I don’t listen to it as much anymore because my tastes have changed as I’ve gotten older, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still throw on Less Than Jake or The Bosstones from time to time. Those records were awesome when they came out, perfect when I discovered them, and will continue to be great. Ska bands (particularly ska/punk bands) get a bum rap because people think that music takes itself less seriously. Ska tends to resonate with younger crowds, and older crowds like to make fun of younger crowds. It’s just the way it goes in the world of punkrock posturing. But I’ll tell you this - I go to shows now and see the older kids (myself included, sometimes) standing in the back and drinking beer and nodding their heads with their hands in their pockets. It’s the younger kids who are up there dancing and singing along and getting lost and finding themselves in that music and that moment who are having the better time. There’s no
reason to be embarrassed of where you come from musically, and just because your tastes change over time doesn’t mean you have to renounce where you came from. I don’t play ska anymore, but it will always have a special place in my heart as the music of my youth and discovering something that I hold dearly to this day. Maybe it’s not as cool as the kid who grew up strictly on The Ramones and The Clash - I grew up (am still growing up?) on that stuff too, but it will always be important to me. As for the name thing...it just makes your band easy to identify, I guess. That’s what I wanted to do back then. Nowadays I like being able to release an folk song, or a punk song, or a post-hardcore song, or do whatever I want to do without being restricted by my band’s name. Were you looking to do something different musically when you started Signals Midwest? Definitely. Being in a band that had the genre of music you played in the name was very limiting, and it just became too hard to keep it together with all the different members spread out in colleges around the midwest. Early in the summer of 2008 an amazing band from Cleveland (now Columbus) called The Sidekicks asked me to go on tour and play guitar for them, and during those two weeks spent in a van and various basements across the east coast my life totally changed. I knew when I got home from that first tour that I wanted to start something new. At that point I was starting to get really into local music and what was around were great bands like Delay, No Target Audience, Ghost Town Trio, and American War. I was really inspired by all of those folks. I played acoustic sets for a few months, just kind of stretching my legs and seeing what it was like. In September of 2008 the first edition of Signals Midwest formed and we went from there.
Signals Midwest was originally a 3 piece, but then added a member later on. How did adding the fourth member help musically? Adding Jeff was huge. It freed me up to do so much more on the guitar. Before I had to think of ways to play lead and rhythm at the same time which meant a lot of open chords with melodies played up on the higher strings. Now, I can drop down on the verses while Jeff fills the sound out, take a guitar solo and not have to worry about it sounding hollow, or write harmonies and parts that intertwine with each other. It completely changed the way our band sounded. My style is built on finding melodies within chords, whereas Jeff takes a sharper single- or double-note approach to things. I usually sit low or high in the musical register and the parts he writes fit really nicely in spots that I usually overlook. It really changed the way that the songs developed because now I’m not afraid to have more instrumental breaks. The songs got darker, heavier, more complex and defined. Any time you add a member you’re also adding whatever influences they have. Jeff introduced me to bands like Braid and The Promise Ring who I now consider to be huge influences on Signals Midwest. The first song we wrote together was “Monarchs” and that turned out to kind of set the tone for all of Latitudes and Longitudes and really for all the songs we’ve written together from there on out. You originally self-released Latitudes and Longitudes on CD, and were talking with Will at Beartrap PR/Tiny Engines about doing press work for the album when he offered to put out the album on vinyl on Tiny Engines. What was your reaction upon getting that email about putting out the album on vinyl and how has it been working with Tiny Engines so far? I had been following Tiny Engines for about a year before I started talking to Will. I was into CSTVT, Tigers Jaw and I already knew our Northeast Ohio buds in Annabel. I was just really impressed with the entire lineup and how it was so diverse but maintained such
a high level of quality. Most labels will have great bands, decent bands and bands that you’re really not sure why they signed, but the Tiny Engines roster was amazing and from that I could tell that they really put a lot of thought and effort into each release. When I sent our record to Will, I was secretly hoping that he would want to put it out but I didn’t say anything. When he offered to do press for us, we had just gotten back from our first full U.S. tour and for the first time in the history of our band had a little bit of money to play around with, so I figured that we would go for it with Beartrap and maybe someone would pick it up. I actually had a check written out and sealed in an envelope, and the night before I was planning on mailing it out I got an email from Will that was like “Wait! Keep your money! We want to put out your record!” I was over the moon. We’d never been on a label before and had done everything ourselves for three years straight. Loren (bass) and I were huge fans of Tiny Engines already and it just seemed like a perfect fit. From the diversity of the lineup to the way they deal with bands to the attention to packaging and design they put into each release...it’s great to be a part of it. So yeah, the night I got that email I pretty much lost my shit for about 15 minutes and was just kind of dancing around my room like an idiot. I barely slept that night and was a total wreck at work the next day, but I didn’t care. We all went out for drinks the next night and had a serious band bonding moment. It was great. You did some really cool things with the vinyl packaging for the album, where did the ideas for that come from? The die-cut window thing was actually Chuck (Tiny Engines/Beartrap)’s idea. Loren and I both do graphic design and had come up with a general motif with the toy airplane and the logo based off of it, and we had done the CD layout already. Chuck said that the cover kind of reminded him of looking through a window
and that it might be cool to do a die-cut thing that worked like a window/picture frame, so we took that and ran with it. It turned out awesome. We redesigned the back cover and got to see the artwork full-sized and beautiful. Usually something goes wrong with the packaging process for everything I’m involved with...just my luck I guess. But the L&L vinyl packaging turned out perfect, especially considering that we’d never even had a 12” pressed before. As a bonus, all the records were accidentally pressed on 180 gram vinyl, which was the icing on the cake. Now we’ve got these beautiful slabs of colored vinyl inside some awesome packaging. I’m really proud of it, both from a design standpoint but also just like “We actually have an LP! This is so rad!”. It’s all new and exciting for me and I still look at them most days. Being a graphic designer, has there been any album packaging that you were blown away by from a graphic standpoint? Something that really stood out to me this past year was the Touche Amore record,Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me. I loved that seven-pointed star and how they basically made a mark for the record that kept popping up everywhere else, like t-shirts, bass drum heads, posters, etc. We ended up doing something similar with the bi-plane logo we came up with for L&L. I just like really clean graphic design and tend to fall in the “less is more” category most of the time. Simple imagery just connects with me more. I really loved the CSTVT “Echo and the Light” artwork. The layout is killer because it’s so elegant but just made up of simple geometric shapes and images, and I loved how the photos were printed glossy and the rest of the record was printed matte. Andy Hendricks from Annabel does fantastic design and the layout for their Here We Are Tomorrow 7” is really rad. The band name, title and tracklisting is actually printed on the poly bag that holds the insert and the record, and you
can flip it around to change the front and back cover. Just little things like that that you wouldn’t normally expect - more than just a cool drawing or a photo. If you can isolate one little but important aspect of something and carry it over into a design on a larger scale...I think that makes for the coolest work.
Georgia. The fact that the quote came from a friend who had made the tough decision to put distance between himself and the place he had grown up in and loved really resonated with us. We were having a hell of a time trying to figure out a name for the record and it just seemed to fit right.
On the total opposite end of the spectrum, I think that Lubrano (Iron Chic/Righteous Indignation) does awesome work. He did a 7” layout for our best buds in Worship This! and it’s this amazing drawing of a zombie dog...so cool. Also, Bruno Guerrerio (Restorations/The Holy Mess/Decibel Magazine) kills it. He just did a shirt for us and also did an illustration for the test pressing of Latitudes and Longitudes, which should be available through Tiny Engines very soon.
There is one lyric that gets repeated throughout the album, which is “I was counting the miles, you were counting the days. Ain’t it strange that the numbers we wanted were moving in opposite ways?”. What is the meaning/significance behind that line? I think it’s one of those lines that can change meanings depending on the context in which it appears. For example, it first shows up on “In Tensions” which is actually written from the perspective of my grandmother and what I imagined her thoughts were about dealing with my grandfather’s mental issues as he gets older. In that case, the “miles” represent an abstract distance between them and how they struggle to communicate as he struggles with mental health, and the “days” represent how much time he has left. She wants less distance between them and he wants more time, so the numbers they want are moving in opposite ways.
The title of the album, Latitudes and Longitudes, comes from a Henry David Thoreau quote that goes, “Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.” How do the lyrics on the album relate to that quote? The entire record deals with distance in various forms, whether it’s between loved ones spread out geographically, between day-today life and larger aspirations, and between the living and the dead. When we started writing the record we were just starting to play outside of Ohio on a regular basis, and I was also beginning to travel around more with friends and just trying to get a feel for what it’s like outside of my comfort zone here in Cleveland. So there are songs written about being away from those you love (“Monarchs”), about where you’re at vs. where you want to be (“Family Crest”, “The Quiet Persuader”), about traveling (“I Was Lost”) and also about life and death (“In Tensions”, “The Weight and the Waiting”). We chose that quote because it was told to Jeff by our good friend Tim Gill of the band Echoes of Harpers Ferry, who we were pretty close to but had recently moved away to
On the next track (“Monarchs”), it takes on a much more literal meaning. I took a long trip out west while my girlfriend packed up and moved to Washington D.C. for the summer, and we were apart for a pretty long time. So I was counting the miles that it took to get out there and back home, and the more I traveled the more I racked up. The days being counted were just days until we got to see each other again. The line shows up two other times on the record (in “The Quiet Persuader” and “The Weight and the Waiting”) and each time it takes on a different meaning, but I don’t think I need to get into it. You can listen to the songs and decide for yourself. If people derive their own meaning from that line I think it’s more important than any explanation I might come up with.
You mentioned the change of sound between your first full length and Latitudes and Longitudes was partly influenced by not wanting to write the same record twice. Are you currently writing new songs and how are they shaping up compared to your previous songs and can you hear the growth in your songs musically and lyrically? We’re maybe two or three songs into the next record, and I have another few written. We’re taking our time and still trying to decide if we want to do another full-length or an EP because our whole discography so far is just full-lengths and split 7”s. I can definitely hear the growth in the newer songs - I think they’re a little bit more reserved so that the intense moments hit harder. There are parts on L&L that are kind of all over the place and don’t really make sense in the context of the song but fit within the context of the record (like the end of “Construction Paper”, for instance). I think the songs we’re writing now are a little bit more focused, less meandering. I’m really stoked on the last two songs we released on our split with The French Exit from Los Angeles, CA. They’re strange enough to the point where they’re still interesting to play and we still throw a lot of parts in, but I think we’re getting better at writing songs that flow together naturally rather than just mashing different parts together, which I feel is done to a certain extent on L&L. I imagine whatever we do will have some kind of overarching lyrical/musical theme again because we all like records that work as a cohesive unit rather than just a collection of songs. You all lead pretty busy lives outside of the band with jobs and college, where does music fit into it and if you were given the choice between a secure, steady paying job with benefits or living in a van making music and touring, what would you choose? I think about this every day and still don’t have a definite answer. Writing music, playing shows and traveling are my three favorite things to do. My instinct tells me “Yes! Absolutely! Tour forever!” but we’re on tour maybe one or two months out of the year as opposed
to six or nine like most touring bands are, and I know barely a small fraction of the hardships and struggle that come with being on the road that much. I graduate college in May and Steve isn’t too far behind. Jeff and Loren both work service jobs and have expressed to me that they want to tour as much as possible. We’re at a point now where things are starting to pick up a lot, but we aren’t getting offered spots on national tours or anything like that. I don’t even know how to go about trying to do that stuff - we’ve always pretty much done our own thing, which is as much as we can, when we can. We tour in my 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan and are typically most comfortable in basements and living rooms. I’m not opposed to playing bigger shows at all, it’s just what we know and where we’re happiest. If it was to the point where we could scrape by on rent by playing bigger shows and touring I would quit my job in a second, but I’m not crossing my fingers because nobody gets handed that. It’s like anything else - you have to put everything into it in order to see what you’re actually capable of. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’m really excited to see where things go.
Interview with: Maxwell Stern signalsmidwest.tumblr.com Tiny Engines tinyengines.net Photo: Rebecca Weil flickr.com/photos/_sharkbait
It’s been less than a year since the release of Hoffman Manor, did you ever expect it would do as well as it did? Not at all! For us I think we were just stoked because that was the first time we ever spent a good amount of time working and reworking songs and then recording it, I mean I was in my first year of college and Tom and Johnny were in high school, so it was kind of just like “Whoa we made a fucking record.” We put it up for free and got a good response the first month, then everything kind of became stagnant and we thought “OK that’s it. time to put out another release asap”. Then out of nowhere during this fall things really started picking up almost randomly and a lot of people became more receptive toward the album. In the time since the release of Hoffman Manor, you’ve signed with Tiny Engines and recently debuted a new song from your upcoming 7” on Altpress. com. How does it feel to go from being a not so well known band to having your music premiered on the popular music site Altpress.com? I still don’t really understand that all this stuff is happening to my band, it’s weird haha. Friends will be like “I saw State Lines on Altpress!” and I’m kinda just like “Yeah go State Lines!” then I remember that I’m in that band and I kind of mark out. Speaking of Tiny Engines, how did you end up working with them? Well, I have know idea how Will got a hold of Hoffman Manor but somehow he heard it and just emailed us one day telling us how much he enjoyed it and wanted to know what we were up to. Coincidentally we were recording a four song EP at the time and when we finished it up in a like 2 months time (we all go to school and work and stuff) they decided they liked it and we were lucky enough to be welcomed onto their awesome roster. The name of the band was taking from the song “My Friends” with the meaning of it being to travel, go new places and meet new people. Have those goals been achieved since starting State Lines? Most definitely! My favorite part about being in this band is seeing us achieve goals and then having no other choice but to set new ones, it’s seriously the coolest thing. We just keep adding goals and aspirations as we go along, it’s exciting.
You’ve been in a number of bands in the Long Island area, Mooseport, We Laugh At Danger, Smarty Jones, and State Lines, what is the scene like in Long Island and have people been following you from band to band? Yeah, I mean since I was young whenever someone has shown a remote interest or fondness for a band that I’ve played in. I’ve always tried to make it a point to let them know how much it’s appreciated, and throughout the years it’s spawned a lot of cool relationships with people who have been so awesome to me and have listened to what ever band it is that I’ve played in. As for State Lines, the Long Island music scene has been so kind and extremely receptive to us. We played an East Coast Collective show at Ethical Humanist Society (January 2011) and Jake who runs ECC and books a lot of shows dug our set and he has played such a role in spreading the word about this band and giving us incredible opportunities on the Island, awesome dude. How would you compare State Lines to some of your earlier bands like Mooseport, We Laugh At Danger, and Smarty Jones? Hmmm hahah, well Smarty Jones was this thing where me, Tom and our friend kind of just jammed out and that was a lot of fun. We’d say “Let’s jam a song where the guitar is gonna do this, or the drums do that” and then just literally do it. We Laugh At Danger was just something I did for a bit in high school because I was tired of doing Mooseport. Now, Mooseport, that started my sophomore year of high school with me just recording songs in my basement and eventually turned into a full band after about a year. I don’t know how to really explain it, but that band is one of the most important things I ever did with my life because it really shaped me. I remember the night before Halloween my senior year of high school playing our “last show” and kids being turned away at the door because it was capped out and it was just eye opening that this thing that manifested out of my basement due to my teen angst actually meant something to anyone. If I had to compare, I’d say Mooseport is the most like State Lines because it’s just honest music, I think I’m just more mature now (hopefully) and there’s a lot more effort put into State Lines songs.
There are some videos on Youtube of you playing with Mooseport with you on drums, at what age did you start playing music and is there any instrument you prefer playing most? I started playing guitar in 5th grade because I was a chubby kid that knew that if I was gonna get any girl to like me, it’d have to be because of some corny talent like that. I got my first drum set in 7th grade and still no girls. I don’t have a preference towards any instrument, I just like making songs and being able to get an idea of what I want each instrument to do. How has your songwriting gotten better since you started writing and playing? Just simply by writing songs about everything and anything literally all the time. I think the main idea is just to never stop writing, when you’re being honest and you have something to say about everything it kind of just pours out. The song “Cancer” was influenced by your mother while watching your grandfather die, was it hard writing a song that is so personal and tragic? It wasn’t hard for me writing the song because to me, what I get out of that song isn’t so much the tragedy of him passing as it is the beauty of the relationship they shared. My grandfather was someone who voluntarily let my mom become such a significant part of his life seeing that she wasn’t his biological father. That song was written from my mother’s perspective, so it wasn’t really about the tragedy for me, though had it been from my perspective it would’ve been harder (yet a completely different song). I’ve noticed in a couple live videos that some of the songs off of Hoffman Manor are played faster than they are on the album. Why’d you slow them down? I think it has to do with our mindsets in different settings. When we’re playing in a room full of kids that appreciate what’s going on and they’re there to just hear some music and sing along we want to be a punk band, we want to get everyone as into the set as we are. We want the songs to mean as much to these kids as they mean to us. Then, when we’re in the studio we want to make the best songs we can. Maybe we think certain lyrics may hit a little harder if the tempo is slower so they can be better understood and kinda sink in, that’s something we’ll do.
The album title for Hoffman Manor is taking from an assisted living home near where you live and you said something in another interview about living in an assisted living home would be the worst way to end a life for you. When all is said and done, how do you want to go out and how would you like to be remembered? For me, I’d like to be remembered as a better basketball player than I actually was. My perimeter shot has always been decent, but when I penetrate in the paint I get stuffed constantly. I’m tired of being so one dimensional because I’m tired of not being picked early when the teams are made up. As for State Lines, I feel like there are certain bands out there big, small, whatever size, but they have such a proud fanbase. Not like some elitist type of thing, but just this confidence amongst fans who listen to the band and are proud of the fact they listen to that band because they know that band makes special music. That’s the type of band we want to be. When people come to our shows nowadays, I want them to enjoy it and come see us 5 years from now and get the same type of enjoyment out of it. I don’t know if I’m rambling, I just want us to keep doing our thing and go out just like that. You mentioned on your blog that you’ve already started writing the next State Lines full-length. How’s it shaping up so far and what can be expected of it? It’s going good, right now the plan is to have everything written by this upcoming summer so we can rework stuff and be ready to record by late August. I’d give you guys some insight, but I don’t even know what to expect. Just know we’re gonna work our butts off until we have something were really proud of.
Interview with: Jonathan DiMitri statelinesny.tumblr.com Tiny Engines tinyengines.net Photo: Hingwa Moy hingwamoyphotography.tumblr.com
Nate Kinsella Birthmark
Are you calling from Minneapolis? I’m actually calling from outside Minneapolis? I grew up in Minneapolis... Yeah, that was one of the things I was going to ask you about. I know you lived in Illinois and then moved to MN when you were 10 and lived in MN for a while, where did you live in MN? I first lived in Plymouth, which is like a suburb of Minneapolis, like 2nd ring/3rd ring suburb. And then after that we moved to Maple Grove, which is crazy now. It’s like a giant strip mall. I don’t know if you’ve ever been up there, but it’s kind of crazy. When it was still being developed, it was cool because there was a ton of empty lots and gravel pits, like my backyard was a giant gravel pit, so I could just hang out back there. I went to high school at the Arts High School in Golden Valley, right off of Olson Memorial Highway. Then I moved into Minneapolis and lived there for...It wasn’t very long. I only lived in Minneapolis a year before moving. Moved to California after that for a little bit. It’s funny you mention living in Plymouth and Maple Grove because I actually grew up in Plymouth and Maple Grove. When I was looking at the liner notes for the early December’s Architects albums, like to see who played on which albums, there were people that played on those albums, that I went to high school with. Really, who?! Do you remember Sean Hancock? Oh my God yeah! You know Sean? You know how you’re like in school and you know people from being in class with them, but don’t really hang out outside of school. It was kind of like that. Nate Holtz went to the same high school I did, but he was like a year ahead of me, but I was friends with one of his friends Chris. Nate Holtz is a very close friend of mine, actually we still email and talk all the time. What was Chris’s last name, I wonder if I recognize it? Chris Wells? Holy shit! (laughs) Oh my God, Chris Wells. I met him in 6th grade. We would go to CCD together, like bible study and we would be really mischievous. Holy shit man, that’s like one of the oldest friends I have. I don’t know where Chris is now, do you know what he’s been up to?
Last I heard he moved to California, but I don’t know what he’s doing out there. Which junior high did you go to? I went to Osseo Junior and then Maple Grove Senior. Right when they opened Maple Grove Senior, like that first year, I went to Arts High School. We would’ve like just missed each other. I went to Osseo High School for my sophomore year and then junior and senior at the Arts High School. Wow, that’s insane! That’s so cool! I didn’t realize that you lived in Maple Grove and Plymouth, but I know that you were friends with and played with Nate and Sean. I was thinking back to when I was in high school hearing about what they were in and how close in proximity I was to it, but I wasn’t involved in it yet. It’s just weird how close it was. Yeah, absolutely. Sean was like a musical genius savant when he was like 12 years old. He got me started playing guitar. I would go over to his house after school, and we’d turn on MTV and he could sit there and listen to any song that was on and he would play it. It was just amazing! He totally blew my mind. I started hanging out with him and playing guitar together and stuff, but I didn’t play guitar before I met Sean. He was the one that really got me into playing. I remember these bands that Sean played in; Tugboat and another one called Berkshire. Yeah, I played drums in Tugboat! Berkshire, I don’t think I was ever in that band, that was after I switched high schools, but they kept playing and they were really good. I remember thinking that they were really awesome and it was kind of a shame that they didn’t...I don’t know, well who’s knows why things don’t happen for some bands. But they were really good! You said Sean got you interested in playing guitar, did you have any interest in playing music before that or is that kind of how it all started? That’s pretty much when it started. 6th grade, meeting Sean and he played guitar and he was really good at piano too. I had a cousin, not Tim or Mike, but on my Mom’s side of the family that also played guitar. At all the family gatherings, he knew a bunch of Metallica songs and I would just sit there and listen to him play and that’s kind of how that started. People around me were into it. That’s when Nirvana was super huge, my sister was into super cool music like Jane’s Addiction and a bunch of different bands. I just started getting into music and that’s when it started, around 11-12 years old.
Skipping ahead a little bit, you’re also known as a multi-instrumentalist, how did you go from just doing the drums and guitar to learning a bunch of other instruments? I think that I can play the drums and I think that I can play the guitar and I can play the bass, but as far as like anything else that I’ve played, I’m not really competent, I’m not really confident in my abilities with any other instrument. It’s just that it’s always been fun to pick things up and see what could happen. It’s amazing that if you just spend a few weeks with an instrument, you can really kind of fake it a lot of the time and make something happen. I have a cello and I played that on Joan of Arc recordings and if you layer enough of them, it actually sounds pretty passable. I bought a clarinet and the songs that I was recording it over happened to be in the same key that the clarinet is in, like B Flat, so I just got really lucky on that one. It’s just more of kind of being interested in and having the time to play around with it. You guys played in Decembers Architects for a while, why did that band end? I moved to LA after we had spent a year recording this full-length, and then right when we finished it, I moved to LA. That’s kind of why we stopped. I think that full-length was really fun to do. I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I think it’s kind of insane. It might be really hard to listen to. Was that the full-length album that was later released in 2006? Yeah, it had like a really long title, I can’t remember it. Nate Holtz actually came up with the title. (ed. note: album title is ,Apiary Ennui And Curiosas. The Brew Shakes) For Antibodies you went to Kickstarter to get funding, why did you choose to go that route? Before that I had always funded it myself which ended up taking a really long time. I like to be able to sort of act on hunches and ideas right when they come up. Where the previous album that I did, the Shaking Hands album, I spent like 3 years on that and when I’d have an idea like “Oh I wanna record a choir singing this thing, that’d be so amazing” and then I’d have to work at my crappy job and save up money for months and go into the studio in Chicago and get a group of friends, do the song, then bring it back down. It was like to actually act on every idea that I had took a really really long time and I couldn’t do things right away because I had to save up the money and then go do it. That led to a lot of second guessing. When you’re acting on impulse, you can be like “Oh yeah, that’s great! This what I’m doing right now is perfect!” But when you’re like “Oh I had this idea 2 months ago, why did I think this would be a good idea? I wish I could remember what was happening when I thought this was a good idea”. Then you end up stuck somewhere spending a bunch of money in a studio trying
to figure out this idea you that you had and why it was cool a few months ago. It took a really long time, so having the funds there immediately at my disposal really made it a lot easier just to follow through with things immediately and just get it done. Do you think you will go the same route with future albums? I’m not so sure. Only because I don’t know if it’s the sort of thing you can do more than once. I’d have to look into it. Like I don’t know how many bands have done a Kickstarter campaign, made an album, then done another Kickstarter campaign to do another album. At some point it seems like it kind of becomes silly. I just don’t think that it’s sustainable to do things that way, but it seems like it’s sort of acceptable right now to do that and since I hadn’t done one before, I could get away with it. I had people that were excited about it. Polyvinyl was excited, which gave me a lot of confidence, like, oh maybe I can do this thing if Polyvinyl is behind me. My family was very excited, my wife was into it, so it seemed like a good idea. I don’t know if I would do it again, I’m still not sure. When I see Kickstarter campaigns, I always look to see what you get for pledging the highest amount, were you surprised that someone actually paid the $2,000? I was surprised that somebody did it, but then it was actually my dad who did it. (laughs) It wasn’t a total stranger. He was worried that if you don’t hit the goal you don’t get any of the money, so he was worried about it. My parents were talking about it and my dad and I will often...we’ve been know to sing some karaoke songs together. We’re both into music, so he pitched in to do the recording. We haven’t had a minute to do yet, but I am looking forward to recording some sort of duet with him. I think that would be super fun. That sounds really cool! Would that be something you’d release to the public or just keep it between friends and family? I think I would leave that up to him with what he wanted to do with it. He’ll have it for family probably. I don’t know who would be interested in it, that’d be kind of funny if anyone was. You’re currently living in New York, what brought you out there from Champaign/Urbana? We had been living in Champaign/Urbana for about 5 years and my wife, who finished up all the school that she was going to do, we kind of just had an opportunity to leave. There was really no reason for us to stay in Champaign. We just sort of brainstormed places we’d like to go live and I never thought that I would actually move to New York. It was just one of those things that you have in the back of your head, like oh yeah maybe I’ll do that someday, but I probably won’t. One of those ideas. We just decided that it was a good time to have another adventure before we have any kids.
We’re pretty mobile right now and she’s got a job where she can work from home and I’ve just been sort of freelancing, which is low commitment, so we can move around and still squeeze the last years of our youth dry. Try to get the last of it out before we start a family or something. Do you get more chances to play live in New York than you did in Chicago and it’s surrounding areas? Not really, I don’t really know many people here. If I were in Chicago, I’m sure I would playing a ton. I’d be playing way more than I am now. It’s hard to move to a city and not really know a lot of people. I have a lot of acquaintances and a lot of friends here, but you kind of have to be busy all the time to pay your rent here. No one has really got a ton of free time on their hands to like “Oh we should get a drink”. It’s actually really hard to find a minute to get together, because everyone is just so busy with their lives. I’ve just been working a ton and I haven’t really looked into playing in the city much, but I do have one show coming up in May. Then I’ll be doing an East Coast tour in August. Other than that, I haven’t really pursued playing here. I tried to get together with some friends, but everyone is just so busy. It’s hard to do. That’s the Antibodies record release show your having in May? Yep, May 9th. It’s going to be at the Stone which is cool. It’s John Zorn’s venue. It’s just a room with a very small P.A. It’s kind of like a no frills performance space. I’m excited about it. I read that you’ve been on couple overseas tours and tours to Japan, but you haven’t really had any tours in the U.S.? Yeah that’s true. For Birthmark, we’ve been to Europe twice and did a couple 2-3 week tours in Europe, but I haven’t played in the U.S. at all. I’ve done a couple shows in Chicago that were kind of disastrous, but I kind of don’t like playing alone. For this tour coming up I have some how managed to pull together an ideal band, it’s really awesome that I got these players to come with me. I’m going to have all really close friends of mine too. I’m Kristina Dutton playing violin, Tomeka Reid playing cello, Andra Kulans playing the viola and my friend Luke from Champaign/Urbana playing drums, my friend Tim from Minneapolis is going to be playing guitars. I sort of have like a super group in every aspect, like personality wise and playing wise, everyone is like a gem. It’s going to be great. How does your music translate over to a live setting, is it pretty much the same as it is on the record? I’m trying to do that for this show at the Stone. I’ll have a string quartet and we’ll have a vibraphone and a marimba, drum set and guitar and bass and odds and ends to recreate it. This album seems like it’s easier to do then some of the other ones. This album
is easier to recreate a lot of it. That’s what I’m going for, we’ll see. In the past when I’ve played alone, I’ve tried to rearrange everything and make the songs totally different and sometimes it doesn’t work at all. I’m just excited. I know the songs that do work how they are, so I’m glad that I can just play them how they are and that’s going to be it. There’s not going to be any weird versions that don’t quite work. You mentioned earlier that it took 3 years to do Shaking Hands and Antibodies only took 4 months to do? Yeah, it was quick. Why was it so quick to do it this time around? It was mostly that I had some songs that I didn’t know what to do with and I couldn’t get the recordings to sound right. Some of the songs on Antibodies, I just couldn’t get them to sound right, they would’ve been on the last album, but it just wasn’t happening for some reason. I had a few, a little pool of songs to pull from and then I basically just set it up. I just organized it so I would spend 10 days at home recording with my friend Jason Cupp who came down to Urbana and set up a little mini studio. He did all the recording, like I didn’t even touch anything. He worried about all that, which took a huge load off my shoulders. Every album that I’ve done previous to this, I’ve been the one pushing the buttons and making sure everything sounds good. I could just think about the music, which was really nice. We recorded for 10 days and then I had 6 weeks to work with all the stuff we recorded and build songs out of everything. Then he came back for another 10 days to mix everything. And then a week after that we moved to New York. So I had a definite window of time that it had to be done, which really helps. There was nothing I could do, I listen to the album now and I’m like “Oh man, I should’ve changed this, I should’ve changed that”. But it’s done and I did that on purpose, I did that to myself on purpose, so I would just complete something. I didn’t want to do another album that would drag on forever. With your past albums where you worked alone, was it harder to do everything yourself with second guessing and stuff? Yes, absolutely. It can be really rewarding when something is working, when you put something together that just feels so good to listen to, it can be really rewarding. Like a magic trick. I feel so lucky that I can do this thing and entertain myself, that I really get some serious joy out of it. I feel so lucky that I even have that in my life at all. It can be nice to have other people around. You can share that joy with someone, with some people, with some friends. There are things to enjoy about doing it either way. There’s frustrating road blocks for both ways too. There’s no ideal way to go about it, it’s just like how you are feeling at the time and how to choose what you want out of it. Do you want something you can absolutely
call your own? Then that’s what you should do. If you’re looking for an experience with your friends, which can be really amazing too, it all depends on what you want. Did you enjoy playing in groups with Make Believe and groups like that opposed to recording by yourself? I don’t know if I enjoy one more than the other. I guess I just enjoy them in such different ways. In Make Believe, that band was just super fun to play in. We definitely put a lot effort into making sure that the live show was fantastic. We were playing as best as we could and we would practice constantly and we would tour all the time. It was also physically exhausting to play drums. It was really great, I really enjoyed it, like having like a runner’s high afterwards. Physically, I’ve never been more in shape than being on tour in Make Believe. Lots of people drink really heavily or don’t eat well while on tour, but we would go to Whole Foods in the morning and just try to eat as healthy as possible. It was a really great time. But recording alone...I just felt like I wanted to pursue just a personal endeavor and just see what I could do by myself. There are lots of things that I wanted to experiment with that couldn’t really done in a band. Make Believe had sort of lost steam and it just wasn’t as much as a priority. That happens with bands, the romance dwindles a little bit and that’s a good time to walk away from it. Do you think you guys would ever record any more as Make Believe or do you think it’s dead for now? I don’t know. If we did, we’d probably all switch instruments or do something. It wouldn’t be anything like Make Believe. I’m sure Sam (Zurick) would still play guitar, but it’s something that we’d all have to be drunk at the bar together to figure out. I’m not ruling it out at all, it’s totally possible that we would all end up in a room together playing. That actually sounds like it would be a lot of fun. It’ll probably happen at some point, whether it turns into something that we put a lot of effort into or a little bit effort into, it’s hard to say, but that would absolutely be fun. So let’s say that Tim gives you a call tomorrow morning and says “Hey, we’re getting the band back together” would you jump at that chance to do it again? I wouldn’t move anywhere, but I’d definitely fly to Chicago for a week over the summer and then maybe again a month later or something. I’d make it work, I could fit it into my life, I could figure out a way to make it work. Everybody knows that Tim and Mike Kinsella are your cousins and they’ve been in a number of popular bands, do you think having Kinsella as a last name has helped you get a little foot in the door to
the indie music world? Yeah, I think that it has. Even as simple as that, having the name on it, people will be like “Oh I know that name, which guy is that? Why don’t I know this guy? Was he in Cap’n Jazz? No? Ohh?” (Laughs) I think that it’s the name that people know, so I’m sure it’s helped. You played in Joan of Arc and played on some of the Owen albums and singles that were both on Polyvinyl, now that you’re on Polyvinyl, was it something you knew would happen at some point? I had always hoped that it would. It was just a matter of timing. Those guys are releasing a lot of really great stuff. Every time I would finish something, I would kind of toss it there way be like “Interested, maybe this time?” I didn’t want to bother them, but I guess it just sort of worked out this time. I’m not quite sure why they decided to do it now, but it’s awesome, I’m really excited about it. It seems like you’d be a good fit on their roster. I think so. They have a lot of different kinds of bands, it’s a good mix. They don’t have like one thing happening. The have Deerhoof and XIU XIU and Joan of Arc and Owen and Asobi Seksu. It’s eclectic, it’s all over the place. They do have a pretty eclectic roster I think, they kind of have a band for everyone. Yeah, that’s true. It’s not like....I’m trying to think of a label where every band sounds the same, like Victory Records or something. Do they do that? I think with Victory has more of the assumption of what it’s going to sound like. Like if you hear a band is on Victory you’re going to assume its either hardcore or ska. Yeah, or like Fat Wreck Chords, it’s going to be all pop punk bands, there’s no doubt about it. You went back to college to take some music theory classes is that right? Yeah, I went to recording school right after high school, but I never did a Bachelors Degree, so I always wanted to do that. When we were living in Champaign/Urbana, I started taking classes down there and started taking theory classes and learning how to read music finally. It was great. Did those classes help with learning to play other instruments? It just kind of gives everything a framework. It helps to think about it in a different way. It’s really fun to think about the relationships between different frequencies or notes. It fun to think about things in that way as far as intervals. From playing music for so long, I feel
very comfortable with it, but then to all of a sudden learn all this grammar and learn all this theory behind it, it really blew everything wide open for me. It was really fun to have something so close to me like in music and to all of a sudden see it in a totally different way, it was like...I was going to say something really rude like having your wife do a complete make over or something (laughs) That’s really great, but it’s like something you’re so familiar with and all of a sudden there is a totally different light shined on it. What do you have planned now that the album is coming out in a few weeks, what do you have planned after the album release show? We have the show and then the east coast tour in August. After that, I did get into Brooklyn College here, so I’ll probably take some more classes. At some point it’d be fun to try to write another album, but I just don’t have any time anymore. It’s too bad. I’ll try to figure that out. Maybe over the summer I can get away for a little bit and try to get some writing done. I’d like to try and do some music for films, short films, nothing too big to swallow. That’s always something I’ve wanted to get into. It’d be fun to meet some people here to play with, nothing serious, it could just be improv shows or anything. I kind of miss playing with people now, it’s been a while. That’s pretty much what I’ve got planned for the foreseeable future.
Interview with: Nate Kinsella facebook.com/birthmarkmusic Polyvinyl Records polyvinylrecords.com Photo: Chris Strong
Allo Darlin’ Europe The first thing that I noticed about this band when their album appeared in my inbox was their name. My first guess was that I was in for some bad Cockney English band, but I was pleasantly surprised when singer Elizabeth Morris’s voice came so sweetly over my speakers. While Morris is a native Australian, the band is currently rooted in London, and has a jangly indie pop/twee sound that is extremely addicting. Europe, their second album, definitely has the staying power that will get repeated listens until their next release and beyond. (Slumberland) Ape Up! Kemosabe Holy crap! I don’t remember Ape Up! being this good! Kemosabe is the love child of Snowing and Boyfriends and has a sound familiar with bands from that area. This album is definitely something to check out, it’s quite fantastic. (Count Your Lucky Stars) AU Both Lights AU is an experimental pop duo from Portland, Oregon. It’s not experimental where it’s just noise and it’s hard to follow, it’s experimental as in each song is different, unexpected and easy to follow along. Both Lights is difficult to describe, because I’d almost have to break down every song to accurately summarize it. It’s the kind of album where you could hear one song from it somewhere and be totally engulfed by it, but when you listen to it as a whole, it could be the best thing ever or you may just still love that one song.(HomeTapes/The Leaf Label)
Balance and Composure Separation/Acoustic It’s taking me some time to review Separation because it took me forever to get sold on this album, and I’m still not completely there. I am huge fan of their last two EPs, but there was just something about this album that never stuck with me. Maybe it was because I was expecting to like it right off the bat and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I’m sure at some point it’ll click with me and I’ll end up loving it like everyone else has.
Birthmark Antibodies Antibodies, the third full-length from former Make Believe drummer and frequent Joan of Arc and Owen collaborator Nate Kinsella, is his best yet. Most of the songs have a simple foundation of a drum beat or something and then layers and layers of instruments are added with Kinsella’s hushed vocals being the keystone of each song holding it together. Antibodies is another achievement in Birthmark’s discography. (Polyvinyl Records)
Acoustic is 3 songs from Separation, “Separation,” “Stone Hands” and “More To Me,” and they are what you expect from the album title. These songs are done really well and feel even more intimate than the full-length versions. (No Sleep Records)
Build Us Airplanes At the End of the Day Build Us Airplanes is punk inspired indie with melody. To me it sounds like a heavier Weezer with it’s distorted guitars, but without Rivers Coumo’s personality. Unfortunately, At the End of the Day struggles to keep my attention throughout the album. There are some moments that I feel like I really like what I’m hearing, but then that part or song ends and I’ve lost interest until it happens again. (Sell the Heart Records)
Best Practices The EP LP It’s really easy to listen to this album 10 times in a row. With 9 songs and a running length of around 12 minutes, just put this fucker on repeat for a few hours, you’ll thank me. The EP LP is just fast garage-y punk that never gets old. Pretty sure I just listened to the whole album in the time it took me to right this review, so I’m gonna end this go listen to it again. (Tiny Engines) Betterment Volume Two Volume Two, the latest output from this Florida band, is a little bit more raw/less polished than their previous EPs, but still sounds really good. The songs on this EP show some definite growth and some experimentation with different sounds not yet heard by this band. It’s always exciting to hear new stuff from Betterment, because they’re still new and don’t have a defined sound yet. They just have fun and write good songs. (Self-Released)
Coliseum Parasites EP I’m really digging this EP from Louisville, KY’s Coliseum. I hadn’t heard much of their previous albums, but I really like what I hear on this release. It’s heavy like a lot of bands from Louisville, but has some damn catchy riffs that make me want to listen to it over and over again. (Temporary Residence, Ltd.) Cursive I Am Gemini I feel bad for Cursive sometimes. Led by Tim Kasher, who has always put out really amazing fairly straight-forward music through The Good Life and his solo stuff, leaves his most thought-out and difficult stuff for Cursive. While some albums are
just flat out amazing, The Ugly Organ, other albums are less than memorable, Mama, I’m Swollen. I Am Gemini has a really long story behind it, I’m not going to get into it, but it helps to read about it to follow the album. The music on this album is closer to what The Ugly Organ sounded like and I’ve found myself listening to this more that the previous two Cursive albums. I Am Gemini is a must for any fan of Tim Kasher’s music. (Saddle Creek) Daytrader Twelve Years Having only heard bits and pieces of Daytrader up to this point, I expected Twelve Years to be a little better. The vocals on the opening track sort of remind me of Travis Morrison and other times the music draws similarities to Hostage Calm. There is a lot of potential on Twelve Years and it seems this album is one of those albums that will take a few listens to grow on you. (Rise Records) Dowsing/Parker Split Totally stoked on this release! I really love what Dowsing has done so far and it’s nice to hear some new music from them. Parker is a new band with Warren Franklin and a member of Joie De Vivre and it basically sounds like Warren Franklin with a full band. They also sound like a classic emo band. Great Stuff! (Count Your Lucky Stars) Easter Island Frightened After being fairly happy with last year’s, Better Things, I was pretty excited to check out their first full-length, Frightened. The first single off the album, “Hash”, is quite strong and shows some definite growth for the band. Frightened still maintains the dreamy pop sound of their previous EP, but they sound much bigger this time around. (Self-Released)
Elephant and Castle Transitions Transitions is the latest album from Elephant and Castle aka David Vincent Reep. This album is ambient and dreamy, like if you slept-walked into a club at night, this would be the soundtrack to it. This album sounds quite perfect through a pair of nice headphones while relaxing. (Plug Research)
Homelife Translation There is something familiar about Homelife. Translation sounds like it’s been done before, but still sounds new and fresh. It’s got the rugged sound of the Midwest in its heart and the blue collar punk ethics of the East at its hands. (Black Numbers / Bermuda Mohawk)
Field Music Plumb Plumb is a throwback to Field Music earlier albums where the songs were shorter and less connected to each other. I’ve been a fan of this UK band for a while and they consistently put out good music. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it is always interesting and fun to listen to. Take the song “A New Town” for example. It starts out kind of quite and slow, then bursts out with this funky bassline. If this song wont get you hooked, then nothing will. Field Music have practically created their own sound and are true masters of it. (Memphis Industries)
Hidden Hospitals EP 001 Featuring ex-members of Damiera and Kiss Kiss, Hidden Hospitals really comes out strong on their debut release. This EP definitely shows a lot of hope for the future of this band and I think that they’ll be able to break into the rock market given the talent they have. (Self-Released)
Frankie Rose Intersteller Intersteller has a slight 80’s/90’s pop feel, but in a good way. Rose’s vocals are the main feature and everything else is secondary. I didn’t really expect to like this album, but some of the songs really won me over. (Slumberland) Grey Area/The Reveling/The Copyrights/Luther 4 Way Split 4 way splits are the sexiest of all the splits. Seriously, if you put together four great established bands, you’re gonna get platinum results. I don’t even have to tell you that each of the two songs by these four bands are incredible including The Copyrights cover of Sacred of Chaka’s “Straight to the Office”. (Black Numbers)
The Jealous Sound A Gentle Reminder A Gentle Reminder, the long-awaited album from Blair Shehan and The Jealous Sound was totally worth the wait. This album is quite near perfection for any Knapsack/The Jealous Sound fan. Having never gotten into Knapsack, I’m not going to make comparisons between the two bands. Coming into this band with fresh ears, I really enjoy this album. It sounds more polished than I would have expected, kind of like a Jimmy Eat World album. After listening to A Gentle Reminder quite a few times, I really want to explore their past material and Knapsack’s material as well. (Music is Subjective/Fontana Di) Joyce Manor Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, the long awaited follow up to their previous self-titled release does not disappoint. On this album they do a rad cover of “Video Killed The Radio Star” which is done so well, it could really break this band into the mainstream like Limp Bizkit’s cover of “Faith” did for them. (Asian Man Records)
Le Sera Sees The Light Oh Le Sera, you had me hooked the second I heard that first drum beat. Sees The Light reminds me a lot of the Hot Toddies, but more indie and aggressive. This band and album really impressed me pretty easily. It’s pretty addictive and well done. (Hardly Art) Lee Corey Oswald Moon Songs I had been hearing bits and pieces about this band and everything I’ve heard is true. Typically a folk punk duo, they stepped up to full band for the release of Moon Songs and it helped tremendously. The songs are fuller, more powerful, altogether outstanding, and perfect for a campfire in the woods. (Useless State) Lion Cub American Buffalo Whenever I hear a band like Lion Cub I always ask myself why I haven’t heard them yet, because they are so damn good! American Buffalo is indie pop with some computerized additives blended in perfectly. Top it off with Chad Jewett’s vocals and it’s a perfect little piece of indie pop pie. (Topshelf Records) Literature Arab Spring Literature is a band from Austin, TX that perfectly blend garage rock with a new wavey Brit pop feel. It’s really fucking fantastic. Ifyoumakeit.com is hosting this album for free and you’d be a dunderhead if you didn’t download it. (Square of Opposition/Austin Town Hall Records) Majeure/Steve Moore Split Brainstorm Brainstorm is a split release from Majeure and Steve Moore, both members of the prog rock duo Zombi.
Majeure’s side is a nearly 20 minute electronic opus that finally gets interesting around the 16 minute mark. Steve Moore’s side is split into 4 songs that remind me of an 80’s horror film score. These 4 songs are somewhat interesting and at times slightly creepy. (Temporary Residence, Ltd.) Margot & the Nuclear So and Sos Rut Gut, Domestic Released on the band’s own record label, Rut Gut, Domestic is a great album to call all your own. With a newer rock approach this time around, Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos really out did themselves. I think it will surprise current fans of the band, but won’t turn any of them away. (Mariel Recording Company) mewithoutYou Ten Stories Ten Stories is a return to form for mewithoutYou. Their previous album It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright would fit perfectly into one of those “one of these is not like the others” homework questions. Ten Stories picks up where Brother, Sister left off and is pretty much what every mewithoutYou fan was waiting for. Ten Stories could easily be considered for album of the year. (Self-Released) Moving Mountains New Light Moving Mountains is one of those bands where I hear things about them here and there, but never bother to check them out. And when I finally do, they really blow my mind and I kick myself for not listening to them sooner. The music on New Light is delicate, intriguing, engaging and has cemented me as a fan of the band. Any fan of The Appleseed Cast would love this and I’m sure this album would turn heads for others as well. (Triple Crown Records)
Museum Mouth Sexy But Not Happy I was a big fan of Museum Mouth’s last album, but in the time since then, singer Savannah Levin left and guitarist Karl Kuehn took over vocals. While Kuehn sang on some of the songs on their previous album, Tears In My Beer, and also does a good job on this album, there was something about Levin’s vocals that really stood out. It’s almost pointless to compare the two albums, because it was almost like two different bands. It took a few listens to get into, but Sexy But Not Happy has certainly grown on me. (Self-Released) MxPx Plans Within Plans You’ve got to give MxPx credit for sticking with their craft for as long as they have. While I’ve given up hope of another Life In General, Plans Within Plans is their best album in years. They’ve definitely gotten back to their earlier faster roots with this album while still showing the experience from years of playing. After listening to Plans Within Plans a few times, it has restored a lot of faith I lost in this band during their mediocre years. (Rock City Records) Nada Surf The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy I wonder if kids that were born around 1996 even know of Nada Surf’s brief stint as one-hit wonders with their 90’s alt anthem “Popular”. After being dropped from their major label and a break between 99-02, they came back reinvented as an indie rock band and have really took off. They have released 4 amazing albums, including their most recent, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, and have pretty much made people forget of their early “Popular”-ity. Had they given up after 1998’s The Proximity Effect, they would just be a footnote in music’s history, but coming back they way they did, whole chapters will be dedicated to this band. (Barsuk)
The New & Very Welcome What Will You Do When It Happens To You? This album is a great example of what you can accomplish in music with a low budget. Jessica McDermott has real honest songwriting skills and this album shows the power of just a voice and a guitar. This album will definitely make you a fan and if it doesn’t, check out some of her covers of The Saddest Landscape songs. You’ll be hooked for sure. (Self-Released) No Motiv Winterlong Seminal Oxnard, California punk rockers No Motiv are back with their first album since 2004’s Daylight Breaking. For a band that’s been together since 1995, it’s quite noble that they came back after the long break. For the small amount that I have heard of their previous material, this new stuff is quite different in a more rock, less punk kind of way. Winterlong is kind of a let down considering this bands back catalog. We can only hope they can shake off the dust and get back to their roots. (Siren Records) Nouela Chants You may know Nouela Johnston from her quick stint in Say Hi and her vocals on The Wishes And The Glitch, but she has stepped out now with a new solo project simply named, Nouela. Nouela is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, she plays nearly every instrument on Chants, and has quite a voice that easily carries the album. Chants is incredibly diverse sounding and is quite an musical achievement. (The Control Group) Odd Bird Smith Odd Bird is a Northern California band that plays folksy music with hushed female vocals. Smith is being released on CD and double LP, so you know it’s long. I think that’s the only real problem with
this album. It’s pretty great throughout, but at 15 tracks and just over an hour long, my ears long for something else. (Saint Rose Records) Old Neighbors Dishwasher Featuring former members of The Fucking Cops, Old Neighbors picks up where Fuck You Up With Some Truth leaves off. Dishwasher may be a little short at six songs, it’s only short cause you’d love to listen to more if you could, but it really holds up all the way through with no bullshit filler to speak of. (Self-Released) Palette Town Palette Town EP This self-titled EP from Miami, FL’s Palette Town is a jangly and bouncy ride along Florida’s sunny beaches. This EP is a blast to put on and just bob your head and tap your toes to. It’ll leave you with a smile on your face and a hop in your step. (Self-Released) Perfect Future Old Wounds: Warmth in the Winter of 1914-1915 Old Wounds: Warmth in the Winter of 1914-1915 is Perfect Future’s sophomore album and is a concept album based on World War I. This album is quite epic! Mixing in old recordings with the storylike lyrics really pulls the whole idea of the album together. (Count Your Lucky Stars) Placeholder Nothing Is Pure You may remember this band as Coastal, but to avoid some potential legal problems, they changed to Placeholder. Luckily nothing else changed, heck, I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten better! Nothing is Pure would appease fans of Balance and Composure and kind of reminds me of State Lines with a harder edge. (Better Days Records)
Rejectioneers 25 Rejectioneers, from South Carolina, have a 90s alt rock sound that is reminiscent of Foo Fighters, just more poppy, kind of like The Get Up Kids. The five songs on 25 are bound to catch someone’s ear in the industry and make this band huge. (Self-Released) Roommates Winnifred EP The Winnifred EP was recorded under the influence of illicit substances in a flash and was never meant to be widely released. Fortunately, the folks at Slumberland got the 4 tracks together for a proper release. The songs have a hopeful garage rock sound and are pretty good considering this band only played 5 shows in a small coffee/sandwich shop. (Slumberland) The Small Cites With Fire I’ve been hearing good things about this band from my friends for quite a while and I finally checked them out when they released their first full-length With Fire. The Small Cities play earnest indie rock and With Fire deals with topics as past teen romance and religion. Having two different members on vocal duties keeps the album interesting because they both have different styles of singing. There aren’t enough good things to say about this album to do it justice. Listen to the song “Wonder Years” or “Sunday After Sunday” and you’ll understand why this album is so good. (Princess Records) Soft Swells Soft Swells This self-titled album starts out strong with the most memorable song on the album, “Every Little Thing”. It’s a breezy number with hand claps and a strong hook. The rest of the songs are quite good as well, but fail to reach the potential of that opener. With this album, this duo have shown a knack for
writing catchy pop songs and a promise of possibly incredible future albums. (Modern Outsider) Sonny & The Sunsets Longtime Companion This album and band seems kind of out of place on Polyvinyl Records. Longtime Companion is a pretty solid traditional country album in the vein of Johnny Cash and Gene Clark and it doesn’t seem like it would fit in with Braid, Owen, Of Montreal, and the rest of Polyvinyl’s diverse roster. Longtime Companion is a pretty good album made by skill musical craftsmen that’s done proper. (Polyvinyl Records) State Faults Desolate Peaks Holy Fuck. (Tiny Engines) The Tower and The Fool How Long The Tower and The Fool sort of sounds like a countrified version of Hot Rod Circuit. Maybe it’s because they have an ex-member of HRC in the band, but probably not. The Tower and The Fool is easy listening for the grown up punks, perfect for late night listening and winding down a long day. How Long is one of those “give it a chance” albums. You may see the RIYL for it and pass on it, but if you do, you’ll be missing out on something special. (Run For Cover) Troubled Coast I’ve Been Thinking About Leaving You Troubled Coast immediately caught my attention because of their likeness to Balance and Composure and La Dispute. Elements of both bands permeate I’ve Been Thinking About Leaving You’s four songs and the band plays them well. This EP gives a quick glimpse of the band and it’ll be interesting to see if they can convey this to a full-length. (Pure Noise Records)
Turing Machine What Is The Meaning of What What Is The Meaning Of What is Turing Machine’s first album since 2004’s Zwei and features the last work of drummer Gerhardt “Jerry” Fuchs, who died in an elevator accident in 2009. What Is... will delight fans of Turing Machine who have been waiting for a new album for years. Like all Turing Machine albums, What Is The Meaning Of What is also a classic. (Temporary Residence, Ltd) The Wunder Years Function Over Fashion Re-Issue This is a re-release of The Wunder Years 2001 release by the same name. Members of The Wunder Years went on to play in The Ghost, Hanalei, The Velvet Teen, and The New Trust. Musically, this album is quite similar to what Brian Moss did with Olehole, continues to do with Great Apes and even somewhat like what he did in Hanalei. Function over Fashion is quite stellar and has held up well for a release that’s 10 years old. (Side With Us / Robbed the Bank Records) Zammuto Zammuto Featuring ex-Books co-founder Nick Zammuto, Zammuto is quite interesting. I never got into The Books, so I can’t make the comparison between the two bands, but I think if you were a fan of The Books, then this would greatly interest you. I feel like that if this album wasn’t by Nick Zammuto, people wouldn’t give it much of a chance, but since it is by someone they know has made some interesting music in the past, they will check it out. (Temporary Residence Ltd.) Zola Gang The last time we heard from these young English musicians, they were named Archives. Not sure why they switched names, but the music is still catchy
and inventive. While my ears are growing somewhat tired of the noodley emo/skramz movement, each of the 3 songs on Gang are really good and have a exhilarating quality to them. (Self-Released)