in this issue page 4
codename portland winston scarlett talks reflects on inspiring moments that lead to the creation of his zine
things we write about kyle kuchta tells of his meet cute with The Miscreant
an interview with swearinâ€™ the miscreant asks allison crutchfield some questions
what being a nerd means to me cassandra baim remembers the guiding light of wizard rock
a home for a miscreant tori cote reflects on finding her home in a zine
out and out and outward oliver fields reflects on his relationship with his father
splitting sides ricky balmaseda reviews a recent split tape release
a conversation with yumi zouma claire mckinzie talks to yumi zouma about going the distance for their band, how they all met, and whatâ€™s coming up for them
love hash jesse alexander steals hash from the b-52â€™s
she bangs the drums olivia cellamare lists her favorite drummer ladies
work in progress reina shinohara recollects on her favorite death cab album
sping discoveries mary luncsford discovers her new favorite artist, hozier
where i live and die joel heath on the growlers and growing up on the west coast
children by the millions john phillip tappen loves on big star
CODENAME PORTLAND by winston scarlett
i I love waking up in Crown Heights. The streets are wide and tree lined. There are Korean stores that sell the esoteric materials required for most Caribbean cuisine. Golden Krust is more prevalent than McDonalds. The inhabitants are brown. It reminds me of my childhood. ii I grew up in Jamaica, Queens. My entire community was Jamaican, Haitian, West African, Puerto Rican, or some form of foreigner. We were an immigrant community and migration narratives were a part of everyones story. As a first generation American, I knew very little “true” Americans with family trees that went back generations. No one in my community had families that came over on the Mayflower. We created our histories by collating island dreams with pavement. iii In this way I came from a village of creators. My grandfather, Winston Anthony Scarlett, was known for his capacity to make lasting institutions out of scraps of metal, stone, and smarts. He owned a general store in Corona where people played dominoes and rambled about the political factors that pushed them out of their countries. Nightmares, like another way of saying dreams, spoke to the aspirations of our community –an unrelenting will to survive. His nickname was “Wimpy,” and his generosity matched his portly chasis. Over a can of soda he once told me: Everything in this world is for you and me.
iv We can say, this is where. This is where I got the idea that building community is imperative to survival. I hear many of my friends lament their New York lives. It’s crowded with people; many suffering, others capitalizing on their suffering in a viscous race towards the top. Dog eat god world, crabs in a barrel. Make it or make it. v It doesn’t have to be that. A friend once told me that the Cancer crab is the caretaker of the lake. He possesses knowledges of every stone, every algae a neighbor; all propriety he lists. He is small and intimate, and ruled by feels. There’s an ancient memory of great oceans latent in his being. He was put on this planet to recreate that spirit. vi We dream because there’s a place for us in our visions. The work of the activated is to actualize these visions. Why acquiesce? We weren’t born into perfection, but rather, the steps to get us there. We weren’t born into depression, but rather, the steps to get us there. Take steps. vii I decided to create a space for art to be actualized, after spending five years in New York being haunted by it. It started as a small pocket in my chest, between my ribs and sternum, a murmur. We had a moment in Harlem, in a space called LERFE where a bunch of brown radicals shared a three bedroom walkup. Our programming reflected the various wills of those who passed through the space: fundraisers for a young sister that went to Haiti to provide grassroots earthquake relief, support for a Sudanese refuge center in Boston, showcases for up-and-coming artists, and drum circles, always. My favorite was the night we got so crowded with visitors we moved mattresses to the roof and slept outside. I learned the meaning of space: room for others to grow. viii In 2010 I went to Oregon to participate in the 10th annual Portland Zine Festival. I was a volunteer for the POC zine project and spent some time crashing in the house of a QPOC couple. The majority of my experience of the city was through the lives of brown queers and punks. Daniela organized a zine release party for Shotgun Seamstress inside of a radical bookstore. I must have fell in love a million times. Portland was the place. ix My studio’s codename is Portland because I still romanticize the dream I experienced there. Portland’s purpose is to make space for artists to have their work recognized and archived. I once read a gendered analysis of power from bell hooks, where patriarchal power means access and execution through domination. Competition bores me. I much prefer the feminist work of empowerment. My work is to help others reach their potential, Portland is a platform. x A sense of belonging doesn’t occur by default. It is cultivated through intentionally connecting with peers. Create a space to re-imagine m0dernity. Invite a community of engaged citizens. Invent a culture that’s inclusive. Set the vibe.
This issue is brought to you by love.
Single of the
Week This issue’s single of the week comes from our wonderful cover band’s second record. Enjoy “Dust in the Gold Sack,“ the opening track of Surfing Strange. There is somehting so sprawling about it, I feel like I’m running around in the heat of the summer, making mistakes and making tunes.
THINGS WE WRITE ABOUT by kyle kuchta
In 2009, my freshman year of college, I didn’t know what the Midwest was. I knew there was an area of the United States called “the Midwest,” but being from southeastern Connecticut means never having to care about the rest of the country because there’s a high percentage you’ll never leave your town. But somehow I made it out, even if it was only to Upstate New York. I also didn’t know what a Miscreant was. I wouldn’t know for at least another year. I think I used to get it confused with muskrat, but I don’t really know. But that first year at Syracuse, I met Jeanette Wall who put these unfamiliar words together to form “Midwestern Miscreant,” a persona that totally encapsulated who she was and is and will always be. But I didn’t know that at the time. I thought it was dumb. Five years later, the “Midwestern Miscreant” has grown in to an entity. It’s grown in to a whole fucking thing. I always thought I knew what was going on in Jeanette’s head, but what she’s done never ceases to amaze me. Like, a zine? A zine? Issue 1 had two articles, a list of tour dates and an ad for our beloved radio show. Issue 2 had one more article than the previous issue. The Miscreant didn’t start having featured artists until Issue 7. Who knew that there would even BE an issue 7?! And now we’re at Issue 50. Forming The Miscreant in a place like Syracuse, NY, a place like Syracuse University especially, all odds were against it. There were friends who all said go for it, who all said they’d contribute. But you never really know if anybody will give a shit. Jeanette has this power to make people give a shit. She told me I needed to write for her zine. I thought, “I don’t need to do anything. But yeah, for sure, I’ll write something.” I didn’t think that she would be right about my NEED to write. Here we were in Syracuse, NY, experiencing unforgettable things, being creative, having fun, living in these moments that we didn’t know how to immortalize them except in a Facebook status, and was that really what they deserved? Is that what we deserved? I wrote about an internship I held in New York City, I wrote about playing air banjo, I wrote about Gossip Girl, I wrote about my wife’s favorite songs, I wrote about horror (a lot). Others submitted artwork, poetry, lists, rants, reviews, retrospectives, etc. These were things people wanted to write about, yes, but it was more. The Miscreant is a canvas, it’s a wall, it’s whatever you need it to be in order to make a mark. Issue 11, I knew every contributor personally. Issue 48, I’ve never meet more than half of writers. The Miscreant could’ve died in Syracuse along with many other ambitions and hopes others had, but there was a desire and a need to have this. Not just the zine, but the record label, the shows, the feeling you get when you write, the feeling you get when someone reads your words, a sense of community and creativity. The Miscreant has never changed it’s motive, it’s only grown in order to be accessible to others searching for an empty page or two. Happy 50th to Jeanette, Lizzy and all you Miscreants past, present and future.
The Miscreant: How did you all come together as a band? When did you all meet? Allison Crutchfield: I met Kyle when our old bands played a show together in Brooklyn and when I moved to New York about a year later, we started talking about how we’d like to start a band together. We were slowly writing songs for the next year or so and in summer I went on tour with my band and another band called Big Eyes which at the time included Keith. We became fast friends and I loved the way he played bass so we asked him if he wanted to join this hypothetical band and he was in to it. The three of us started working on stuff together and trying to figure out who was going to play drums when my sister reminded me that my old pal Jeff from Michigan had just moved to Philly. So I got in touch with Jeff, sent him the songs, he liked them and said he’d love to be in the band and that was that. The first time Keith and Jeff met was at our first practice. The Miscreant: How has writing as a band evolved since you started? Allison: We’ve just gotten to know each other really well. We weren’t super close when we started and have been touring and playing together pretty intensely so at this point we have a very specific dynamic. The Miscreant: Talk a bit about Stupid Bag Records, who have released your tapes. Allison: Stupid Bag is Jeff’s label! He puts out tape versions of our records and tapes of other bands he likes. It’s pretty fantastic. Jeff is super organized and always makes sure his tapes are accessible at shows, which is so important. His label is so cool. He also has impeccable taste in t-shirt art. The Miscrant: What made you all decide to move to Philly together? Allison: Jeff wouldn’t move to New York so we moved to him. The Miscreant: How would you describe the scene you are a part of in Philly? Where are the venues you play a lot, what are they like? Allison: Philly is so exhilarating right now. It reminds me of the way I felt when I was a teenager and first getting involved in the DIY scene; just constantly inspired by what the people around you are doing, artistically and otherwise. My favorite place to play of all time is probably Golden Tea House in West Philly. Our record release show was there and we played there on the 4th of Julylast year, which was the most fun show I’ve ever played in my life. The Miscreant: You guys have been at the core of lots of different musical scenes, both individually and as a band. What do you think are the most important elements in foster-
ing the growth of a DIY community in your experience? Allison: I’m a really anxious person and I think the most difficult but most crucial part of maintaining my connection to DIY has always been just simply showing up. My involvement in DIY no matter where I am living has almost entirely been as a musician and I tour quite a bit so I feel like the best way for me personally to be supportive is to go to shows and champion my friends’ bands. Also hosting touring bands, loaning out gear, running door at shows, there are so many little things that come with booking shows and I feel like part of being involved in DIY is being aware of that and helping out. The Miscreant: You all have been touring a lot these past few months. What do we have to look forward to this summer for tours? Allison: Swearin’ is touring At the end of May through the middle of June through the East Coast, South and Midwest, which should be fun! We’re doing some shows with Potty Mouth and some shows with Pretty, Pretty and both of those bands are great. Besides that, summer is the best time to go to shows; Most touring bands tour at least a little in the summer and generally everyone is hot and excited. The Miscreant: Going anywhere new? Who are you playing with? Allison: Like I said, Potty Mouth and Pretty, Pretty but also doing a show with Radioactivity in Texas which is going to be really cool! We’re going to Madison which is new for me. Also we’re going back to Minneapolis and I can’t wait. The Miscreant: Where are your favorite places you’ve been on tour with Swearin’? I know you guys went to Europe last year. Allison: I love going to Seattle and to the Bay with Swearin’. We also always have an amazing time in Chicago. We just went to Eastern Canada for the first time and every show was like off the charts. In Europe, I think my favorite show was in London but I also loved Berlin, Dublin, Glascow, Zurich, … just everywhere we went was insanely beautiful. The Miscreant: What is on the horizon for Swearin’? What can we look forward to? Allison: Who knows! In all seriousness we keep talking about maybe doing an EP soon and we play all the time so lots of shows! The Miscreant: What does being a miscreant mean to you? Allison: Drinking a glass of white wine, going to bed at a reasonable hour.
WHAT BEING A NERD MEANS TO ME by cassandra baim
I’ve just reawakened my nearly eight-year obsession with Doctor Who, thanks in part to Netflix and strange work hours. I first discovered Doctor Who when I was 15, still awake one night far later than I wanted to be, flipping through channels to try to find something that would hopefully put me to sleep. I found PBS, and watched two episodes of this British show about a time-travelling human-shaped alien (called a Time Lord) who hops eras and planets with attractive female companions to save whomever needs saving. I’d only heard about the show in passing, usually referenced on Internet messaged boards, but I was instantly obsessed. I’m not surprised at how instantly I fell in love with the show. I grew up with equally nerdy parents who encouraged me to like what I like, regardless of how popular it was. My mom raised me as a Star Wars fan, and my dad instilled within me a love of offbeat standup comedy and weird movies. My aunts and I shared obsessions with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I entered adolescence in my own cultural bubble, and I fell in with a group who felt similarly. My friends and I would try to out-nerd each other on a regular basis. I had ownership of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, one best friend could quote any Monty Python sketch by heart, and the other knew every line of song and dialogue in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My obsessive nature cooled down as I got older, but my fascination with nerd culture remains. Keeping in line with my reawakened obsession with Doctor Who, I’ve done a lot of Googling on the fan culture (I was never much a part of it when I was a teenager, owing to being the only one in my friend group that liked the show). I’ve read more theories and criticisms than I can count, and I have an entire folder on my hard drive labeled “cats dressed as the doctor.” I recently stumbled upon the greatest fan culture find—Time Lord Rock. Time Lord Rock is exactly what it sounds like—bands who write music exclusively about Doctor Who. They take their names from episode titles and themes or character names. Usually the songs are based off of episodes and character arcs. If this sounds familiar, it’s because another fandom already did this a few years ago. Inspired by the book and (to a certain extent) movie series, Wizard Rock took Harry Potter fan culture by storm in the mid2000s (arguably when the fandom was at its most active) with the band Harry and the Potters. Other bands, also taking their name from characters in the series, started making music about the wizarding world as well. They made
albums, and performed at book release parties and conventions and became a huge part of the fan culture, especially on the Internet. I really took to the wizard rock craze. I found wizard rock albums tucked in the abandoned corners of the “Children’s Music” section at my local library and my best friend and I would make our moms drive us to various band performances (usually in bookstores in the far out Chicago suburbs). I still have stickers and t-shirts and many fond memories from those days. I haven’t given wizard rock much thought until my discovery of Time Lord Rock. I feel as warmly toward Time Lord Rock (called Trock in most corners of the Internet) as I did Wizard Rock because it represents every thing I love about fan culture. In 2010, Patton Oswalt wrote a piece for Wired about how the Internet has ruined geek culture. He makes some great points, and while I understand wanting to keep your own obscure interests sacred, I love contemporary nerd culture because it’s all about sharing and connection. Lately my writing has focused on two ideas: being proud of your passions and connecting with humanity. At the end of the day, I like people who like things. I don’t really care if we like different things, but if you can talk to me about your interests with the same unabashed enthusiasm with which I talk about mine, I will want to be your best friend. Sometimes (many times in Brooklyn, but also wherever I’ve lived in the past) I come across people with a “cooler than thou” attitude who seem like they don’t like anything. I don’t like talking to them, because we have nothing to talk about. Alternatively, quite a few self-proclaimed nerds out there take the stereotypical “hipster” attitude toward fan culture, and take far too much pride in liking something before it was cool, and disliking something the second they’re not the only person who likes it anymore. As someone who spent their preteen and teen years obsessed with being the most obscure, I get it. But I have nothing to talk about with them either if they display their nerdiness as some kind of trophy instead of something that represents who they are as a person. Wizard Rock isn’t really relevant anymore, and neither is Time Lord Rock (all the articles I found about it were published between 2008 and 2010) but that doesn’t mean their fans don’t care. I would definitely drag a few friends to see some Wizard or Time Lord Rock, if only to go back to one of the more positive experiences of my adolescence, and to be around people who are so proud of what they like all they can do is make art and music out of it.
A HOME FOR A MISCREANT by tori cote
Growing up, my idea of home was always a little bit off. There were always a lot of people in my house. No matter what, there was an arrangement of adults or children hanging out in the kitchen or dining room making noise and eating snacks. I was never lonely as a kid; there were just too many people around to be lonely. The only thing that was hard for me was that home was always changing. Growing up my house burned down and we moved into a hotel and a few different smaller houses before we settled on the one where my family resides now. My parents were divorced and my dad moved into a few different places throughout my young life, and as I spent many weekends with him, I made those my home too. I very quickly learned that for me, home isnâ€™t a place but really a mentality we choose to have. Home to me meant comfort and people. When I was at home, I was myself. After having Syracuse as a home base for four years, it is strange to think I had a place be that consistent in my life. Granted, when youâ€™re in college you never really live in the same house for very long, but the town as a whole was and is comforting to me. The people I have met while being here have helped build my foundation. There are many places I would call my home in Syracuse, but once again for me home is a mentality. Even though there are some extremely defining people that have helped shaped me as a person, I think that The Miscreant was one of my important homes. The Miscreant taught me how to interview
people. The Miscreant was the first place where I published my thoughts. Through The Miscreant, I overcame my fear of judgment and learned how to write something true and raw. I got to read other interviews and listen to other playlist that opened up my eyes in a way that I didnâ€™t think I would get to experience by writing for a zine. At first I started writing for The Miscreant because I wanted to write; especially for a zine that was put together by someone who is as cool as Jeanette. But after 50 issues, I have realized that The Miscreant is a home, a safe space, and an artistic well. In many ways, the mentality of The Miscreant has become one of my own. Which is why even though as much I might move from apartment to apartment the next few years, I will always have The Miscreant. The space that has been created is flourishing with creativity and positive energy. Every piece written in The Miscreant is like a little piece of magic adding to the foundations that make it a home. Which is why The Miscreant has become one of my foundations. Cheers to you, The Miscreant! And hopefully many more to come ;) Welcome Home, Son // Radical Face Home Again // Michael Kiwanuka Back To The Old House // The Smiths You Remind Me of Home // Ben Gibbard A House Is Not A Motel // Love Home // Dan Croll Hold On Weâ€™re Going Home // Drake Come Home // Ryan Adams My Way Home // Kanye West Summer Home // Typhoon Home // LCD Soundsystem Stay At Home // Yellow Ostrich White Houses // Vanessa Carlton
OUT AND OUT AND OUTWARD by oliver fields
I like driving alone because you can cry as much as you need and nobody can see you. Granted, my ‘97 Honda Accord doesn’t have tinted windows, so I’m sure some people passing me have seen the delightful image of a large bearded man listening to Iron and Wine and sobbing hysterically because his father has brain cancer. Not that they’d be able to hear the Iron and Wine. Or know about my dad’s brain cancer, for that matter. But still, it’s a small measure of privacy, one that I’ve come to value. And you get to choose what music sets you off! Which is really important, because I’m kind of a pretentious asshole, and I feel much better crying to ‘Passing Afternoon’ than that new Mumford and Sons song, the sad one with the banjos. Though, to be fair, I’ve done both. A few notes about crying to Mumford and Sons: the tape-deck in your car had conked out, preventing you from playing your iPod through the adapter, so you’re forced to listen to the radio. And a Mumford and Sons song comes on the radio, because that’s what Mumford and Sons songs do, and it was that sad one with the banjos and you just think about your dad because you’ve been doing that a lot lately and you start sobbing. The thing about crying to a Mumford and Sons song is that you know that you’re crying to a Mumford and Sons song, you feel like you’re the ugliest protagonist ever to be cast in a Nicholas Sparks movie, so you beat yourself up for being so cliched and predictable. And then you question that reaction, the beating yourself up, because what type of person questions the songs they cry to when their father is dying? How pretentious and shallow is that? And then pretty soon you’re tied up in knots thinking about what type of person you are and if your reliance on knowledge of music and books and cultural artifacts has become a shell that prevents you from authentically experiencing anything real and true. And then the song is over and you’re still crying. And you realize that your brain’s mental gymnastics were all for your benefit. To let you stop thinking about the undeniable fact that your father will die soon. Like a kid passing a snowball from one hand to the other to keep from getting cold, like a character in a horror novel avoiding looking at the madness-inducing monster, like every single person ever when they try not to think about the one constant in life. *** My mother and I are watching The Returned, a TV show about dead people coming back to life. We can do this because we’re living together, or more accurately, I am living with my parents. Which means I’m incredibly lucky, I tell myself, because I get to spend time with my dad, and it’s not like I have to live with my parents, I have a (underpaid, entry-level) job. And I could pay for my own (crappy, expensive) apartment. But...I’m helping. My parents want me to live with them, and it’s important, undeniably important, to spend time with my dad. Plus, it has the added benefit of preventing my mom from going stir-crazy, so there’s that. And hanging out with my mom is something I enjoy, she’s basically the coolest person, and she likes Game of Thrones more than I do. There is a not-insignificant part of me that resents all this though. I live in the suburbs and the commute to either work or fun-filled activities is hellish. Going to brunch takes far too long,
necessitating a fifteen minute drive to the metro and then a fifty minute drive to whatever almosttoo-expensive brunch spot my friends and I are eating at. I also can’t bring a girl back to my place, which I acknowledge, would probably be a bigger issue if that whole situation was at all a possibility, but still. (“Hey ladies, I’m a hairy radio journalist whose proudest accomplishment is making a really nerdy audio drama, want to go out with me?”) And there’s that unconscious patina of failure that hangs over ‘living with my parents,’ even though I have a perfectly good reason and even though it’s my choice to live with them. The thing is that I can’t really tell anyone that I live with my parents, because doing that without sounding like a loser involves telling acquaintances that my dad is sick, and who wants to be known as that guy who’s watching his dad die of brain cancer? And then of course I beat myself up for caring so much about something so stupid and trivial, it shouldn’t matter at all, not when my dad is dying. But it does. It does matter. The fact that my dad is dying is an ever-present hum in the back of my brainstem, but I still think about other things, I’m still shallow and petty and I still care deeply, far more than I’d like to admit, about what others think of me. And I’m angry at myself for that, for not growing up immediately, for not being more mature and responsible, for not knowing exactly how to become this pillar of strength for my dad, the dictionary definition of ‘caring yet noble yet sensitive son.’ I still have no goddamn clue how to react when I see books like ‘Transitioning to the Light: Dealing with Approaching Death’ casually lying around the house. I try not to think about it too much, which never works, because I overthink everything, it’s what I do. So I watch The Returned with my mom. We watch this show about how dead people are coming back to life for no clear reason. We’re watching this show where there are no easy answers, where everyone is confused and unsure how exactly to react to the gnawing black hole of death. The irony is not lost on us. *** My father doesn’t get out much now, he doesn’t have a lot of energy and he’s confused. Just not the same person he once was. But he makes an effort to go out, and I’ve been taking him to see movies. Anchorman 2, Philomena, The Lego Movie, it doesn’t really matter which one I pick, he doesn’t have too much of an opinion. My dad walks with a cane now, so I have to walk real slow to make sure he doesn’t fall. And I’m in charge of buying the popcorn, driving to Regal Cinema, and making sure we get the seats we like. He used to do the same thing for me, when I was younger, I’m fairly sure he realizes this. It’s hard to tell. He’s confused. My dad was such an adult. And I’m not. I mean, I am, technically, but all the traits I’ve associated with adultness: taxes, fixing a sink, knowing all the unspoken social rules of adulthood, I haven’t gotten to those yet. When there was something wrong with my car, an unknown light blinking, a grinding noise, I used to call up my dad. Because he just knew the exact thing to do. I never understood exactly where all this knowledge came from, but thought I’d get it, eventually, by osmosis, by calling him enough times and him slowly explaining what I needed to do. Now I just look it up online. *** I don’t believe in God, not really. So death, to me, is the cessation of all things. Of awareness, most importantly. What happens after death doesn’t matter because you are a nothingness. Which, I admit, is a prettsy depressing thing to believe. The way I get through it is by thinking that, no, there are parts of you that get to live on. Your ideas, the work you’ve done, the way
you’ve interacted with all the other human beings still alive, those are the things that will remain. And if you leave a positive impression, if you go through the world in a graceful way, in a way that is filled with grace, a small part of your personality will move forward through humanity. Because people influence people, and if you become a positive influence on another person, then they can be a positive influence on another person, and so on and so on and out and out and outward. It’s hokey, and isn’t all that rational, but it’s a way I can almost come to terms with death. Sort of. Of course, if there’s a nuclear war and everyone dies, then nothing really mattered and your life was completely meaningless. *** I think a lot about the last time I saw my dad before I knew he was going to die. We went to dinner at a place that I couldn’t have afforded if he wasn’t paying. He was in town for a conference, and he took me to an upscale restaurant that I picked out. (Because what are parents for if not to take you to fancy dinners when they come to visit you? I’ll certainly pretend like I’m going to take my credit card out, but come on…) He brought along a friend from work, who was just awful. She used the word ‘environs’ at least five times during the conversation, and she was aggravating in a new-agey way that I’ve never been able to stand. Talking about signs and the essential oneness of all things. So I spent most of the dinner needling at her, trying to get her to say more and more outrageous things, because I wanted a funny story to tell my friends and my mom. I spent much more time talking to her than I did talking to my father. And I was beating myself up about this, for not cherishing the time I could have spent with him. I was beating myself up until I realized that it wasn’t really the last time I saw my dad before I knew he was going to die. Because I always knew he was going to die. Always. Now I’ve just been forced to deal with it. To deal with death. And as much as my brain might try to dance around it, it’s there and it was always there and I know that I’m going to die too and I hope it’s not soon but it might be and if my life doesn’t amount to much then how the hell am I supposed to deal with that and how am I supposed to be an adult without my father around and it’s awful and I’m angry and I want him to stick around for as long as possible but I don’t want to extend his half-life just because I’m selfish and I just want everything to work out and for us all to be happy and for our goodness and our beings and our souls to extend out and out and outward into infinity. *** The only time I’ve seen my dad cry was in my aunt’s house, after we both knew that the tumor was inoperable. He said that it was good that he was dying before me, that this was a natural part of life, and that I would just have to go on without him. I didn’t know what to say, so I held his hand.
SPLITTING SIDES by ricky balmaseda
So, confession: the best thing about the borderline obsessive Facebook-stalking of mid-level Canadian DIY post-punk heroes is the high probability at which you encounter promotional links to other obscure and sometimes equally compelling bands you probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise... just sayin’. As MAJOR MEDIA PUBLICATIONS here in the states seek to CAPITALIZE on the current TRENDINESS OF “DIY” and the lines between “mainstream” and “underground” continue to blur I can’t help but be enamored by what I hear coming out of the homespun scene of our neighbors to the North. Case in point, stumbling upon the Fountain // She’s split tape. Fountain’s side of the tape is a racket of tinny guitar riffage that rides the line between gloomy and rockin’ with a youthful energy and confidence. The songs here are super driving and propulsive and theres always a sense of forward motion going on which I definitely appreciate. The mood is loose and whether they’re going open-road car-chase on “Jesus ‘99” or slow-burn sprawling on “New Age Prices” theres a hint of lingering tension in there that keeps the songs cohesive and engaging. A truly solid batch from what sounds like a younger group thats wise beyond their years. She’s side of the tape has a really charming smarter-than-your-average-slacker vibe going on
and gets a lot done in the way of witty lyrical odes to bumming around your 20s. Most of the time these guys are rocking just as hard as Fountain, but they aren’t afraid to break it down either on side standouts “Girls Who Don’t do Drugs” and the oddly-titled-for-an-acoustic-popjam-closer “The Hologram is Dissipating.” It also sounds like they’re trading off vocals from song-to-song which presents a really nice dynamic moving through their side. Look no further than the closing lyrics to see what you’re getting yourself into: “Remember/ that lifes a bitch, but you dont have to quit because you dug yourself into a hole/ even if its filled with very believable, but/ entirely unrealistic/ projections of your own neurotic mind/ Cause they’re not real/ so slow down/ Fuck tomorrow” Ultimately these bands aren’t reinventing the wheel when it comes to rock & roll, but they each have a serious draw instrumentally and vocally and compliment each other super well on a split that sounds far more enjoyable as a whole than the two EP’s would separately. The production on each side is very nice as well, like each band recorded to tape and came out with an ideal mid-fi sound for a first release. For what its worth I found the split back in January and still can’t tell which side I like more, which should be a good sign. Go check each side out at fountainonline.bandcamp.com and shes.bandcamp.com, and order a tape if you’re enjoying- they’ve got a great reversible cover art packaging thing happening. I got my copy from the dudes in She’s and they were very cool to talk to. Hey, who said you couldn’t find advice on ordering unpopular formats of physical media from a primarily online zine in 2014 thanks to potentially inappropriate facebook stalking? Thank you Miscreant, happy 50th!
A CONVERSATION WITH YUMI ZOUMA claire mckinzie
Wading in the sun drenched turquoise water; my fingers grasp and weave through seaweed as light pierces the surface. The world is bright and, while squinting, I can see where the water and sky meet like old friends-this is the world in which the New Zealand/ Paris/ New York based band, Yumi Zouma, takes me. The first time I heard their debut track, “A Long Walk For Parted Lovers,” an immediate chill was sent down my spine and childlike laughter burst from my throat. Their joy is infectious. As big as the world is, Yumi Zouma is a testament that it can still bring people together (funnily enough, through our love of cats, emojis, and Shakira, Charlie and I discovered we have a mutual friend in Wales). Recently I had the chance to speak with the threesome. As worlds separate us (I’m in California, Charlie is in Paris, Kim in New Zealand, and Josh in New York) we emailed like any young people would in the 21st century. Claire McKinzie: What are the positives and negatives to living so far away from each other? Josh: It’s really good to try ideas when no one is listening. Sometimes I just need to go over and over trying anything that comes to mind without the fear of it being rejected. The negative is not knowing if your’re on the right track, but sometimes things that I think aren’t working are embraced by the others and it gives me a new wind in my sails. Kim: Pos - I feel we are more productive and task orientated. Neg - We all get on pretty well so I miss just hanging out, going to the same shows and playing tennis and stuff. Charlie: Positives - we get to experience life in very different cities. Negatives - time zones! When Josh finishes work in New York, it’s midnight for me in Paris, so if we’re having a Skype meeting with someone in the UK, they have to stay up until11.30pm, and I have to stay up until 12.30am. Kim gets to talk over lunch. CM: Does this have any affect on your writing process? K: The dynamic is obviously going to be different to if we all worked on stuff together in the same room. You may not get so many of those quick relay ideas - like, “oh what did you just play? What if you played it like this instead?” But there is something nice about being able to work on things in your own time rather than relying on specific times when we get together. It seems more natural somehow. C: Yes, everything is sent over email between the three of us. And I need to wait till it’s really late in Paris to send Josh stuff in NY, because the later in the day I send him things, the more he likes them. J: I feel like the review process is always going on. I’ll listen to a demo that Charlie and I are working on 15 times in a row at work to try to see what I want to take out of it to the next draft. CM: Boring question, but one I find absolutely fascinating: who does more of the songwriting? C: We all share it around. It changes from song to song - not just in the division of the songwriting, but the instruments we play as well. We all do everything, and it’s all mixed up.
K: Yeah it’s a whole mixture. And it’s kind of nice being like ‘I can’t even remember if I wrote this line or not’ - in a way the music no longer belongs to us, it has become its own thing. J: Yeah it’s totally collaborative to the point where I can look at a session and not tell you who was what, or who wrote a line. CM: What came first. The street “Brae” or the song? C: The street, because that’s where I grew up. And that’s where we wrote music together before the earthquake. Unless, the song was forever in the universe waiting to be released by the cosmos, waiting just in time for Valentines Day 2014. K: You could say one thing led to another. J: I loved that house; it has always been very special in my heart. CM: How did you meet? How did the band begin? J: We met in late high school. We’ve always made music so although Yumi is a new thing it’s just sort of a continuation of what we’ve always done. K: We all meet in a musical environment, which is pretty fitting really. Since meeting there has been several crossovers between our musical endeavours over the years, and when all of our old projects had expired they naturally gave birth to Yumi Zouma. Due to YZ’s organic nature, teamed with the incredible response we have received, it really feels like it’s meant to be. C: I met Kim on an airplane when I was 16. We were flying to a music festival in Auckland. She wasn’t supposed to be on that flight, but her other flight got cancelled (it was with the Australian airline Qantas) and she was transferred to the next flight on Air New Zealand. I wasn’t supposed to sit next to her on this flight, but I was travelling with three other people, and the rows of seats were grouped by three. I met Josh in Auckland when we were 17. We were all playing in a high school music competition, but he was from the North Island, and I was from the South Island. Then we went to university together. After graduation, Josh moved to New York, and I moved to Paris. We started sending each other ideas, and then one night we got Kim to sing on an idea, and finished our first song together - “A Long Walk Home For Parted Lovers”. I knew Josh wasn’t planning to do anything about it, so that night I sent the track to Jeff at Cascine. Jeff emailed back straight away, telling us he loved the track and that he wanted to work together. I didn’t tell Josh, which was funny, because Josh actually knew Jeff by then after working in New York for a bit. CM: Your sound is feathered, ethereal, and enticingly light- how did come about it? J: I write music to escape. I don’t mean that in some morbid or hating reality sense but I like to get lost in what I do and I think the textures are a reflection of that.
C: I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the New Zealand-ness? K: Yeah, it’s all that fresh air I think. CM: Do you listen to music while recording or less so? J: I have ADD so I jump around all kinds of stuff. I actually watch test match cricket a lot as I write. I need the company. C: I think I would get distracted. I’m very single minded, I like to focus on just the track when I’m recording. I guess the others are different though. K: I have known you to try and capture the essence of certain sounds whilst recording. I think I probably do the same. CM: Have your distances posed as unlikely inspirations? J: I think so. I know the music I write has something to do with where I live now. New York is far different to Paris or New Zealand. C: I think the time zone differences gives a sleep-deprived feeling to the songs. Sometimes Josh has needed to record things really quietly when his flatmates are sleeping in NY. I live in a fairly dense apartment building in the centre of Paris, so I worry about the noise I make in the middle of the night too. No one has complained yet, though, so we’re okay. K: Not so much inspirations for me, rather frustrations. I’m still new to using our chosen recording software so dramas often ensue and messages of desperation go unanswered for hours due to the time zone differences - but the logistical challenges are all part of the fun.
by jesse alexander My family has known the B-52’s since before I was born. My parents met them at a bowling party (because bowling and the B-52’s obviously go hand in fucking hand), and became fast friends. I would have been in the music video for “Is That You, Mo-Dean?” as an infant, but I spent the entire shoot weeping and my part was cut. Regardless of my stage fright, I grew up with backstage passes to all their local concerts–somehow they only ever played with The Pretenders–and spent many New Years Eve’s at the house of one of their vocalists, who shall go unnamed to “protect their credibility.” It was on one of those cheerful NYE visits that this tale took place. I was all grown up (sort of), a 16 year old pimple who had just discovered the reason people smoked weed (spoiler alert, it’s pretty fun.) I was no longer satisfied with the activities they provided the kids at these parties, which consisted of Dynasty Warriors 3 for the Playstation 2 and literally nothing else. I had brought a friend to this party, my long-time buddy Louis, and so, on this night, we decided to prowl around. As we wandered the house “Rock Lobster” built, peering into darkened guest rooms and studies, it began to feel like we were no longer guests at a party, but intruders of some strangers personal space. And, of course, we WERE intruding. We weren’t opening underwear drawers or flipping through journals, but we definitely bypassed an invisible boundary that guests all should know about. I began to feel legitimately guilty about what we were doing, and suggested turning back. And that’s when we found the hash. Wrapped up in plastic and stuffed into a small box in the aforementioned singers’ personal bathroom, it seemed like it was begging to be stolen. At the time, being stoned was still very new to us, and was incredibly exciting. But at the same time, we had to consider the consequences; our hosts, with their international renown, were very intimidating, and it would have been such a bummer to watch their genial moods turn sour towards us. As a musician, I had a ton of respect for them–”Private Idaho” is an amazing track! And, of course, my mother had this ability to turn from gigglingly tipsy (her
default) into unnaturally scary at will. It was a very tough choice Louis and I had: do the right thing or do the high thing? We smoked the hash (duh) outside of the house, in a giant ditch that would soon be an inground pool. This was the first time either one of us had smoked JUST hash, and we smoked a full bowl of it, because why wouldn’t we? The answer is, of course, because it was very, very stupid. We stumbled into the party, with the assumption that the cold winter air had erased the smell in our hair and on our clothes. I don’t know who first suggested that idea, but it was very wrong. Yet, somehow, no one noticed, and we made our way back to the corner where we had started the night, with no idea what to do other than sit in silence while we both experienced the sort of stoned terror one only feels when surrounded by a ton of strangers who have no idea that you are CRAZY HIGH. I think we only broke our silence to occasionally look at each other and quietly sing “Love Shack” for a second, laughing until we realized people were definitely looking at us. Of course, at the moment when Louis and I both began to understand that maybe it hadn’t been the best idea to steal from our celebrity hosts, and maybe it wasn’t very prudent of us to smoke all of it, all at once–THIS is the moment that the B-52 who owned the drugs chose to come talk to us. It went about as well as anyone could expect. We talked like we were handicapped, forming no more than 5 full sentences between the two of us, using the last shreds of sense we had to just stare at the floor and say “thank you for having us.” It was disastrous, but after looking at us awkwardly, they walked away and we escaped unscathed. Thus the remainder of the night passed without incident, and at the stroke of midnight, everyone was drunk enough that it didn’t seem to matter that we hadn’t moved in hours. As we drove down the mountain that the house was on, with Louis and I silent in the backseat and my parents talking about party gossip in the front, my high receded enough for me to take stock of what had happened, and I felt far less guilty than I had before. The B-52’s were internationally known, and someone that had The Pretenders open for them could afford to lose a little bit of hash. Maybe it wasn’t a very moral lesson to learn, but who really cares when you steal drugs from the rich and famous? Louis must have had the same sort of idea, because as we pulled onto the highway, he broke our silence with a stirring rendition of “Love Shack.”
SHE BANGS THE DRUMS by olivia cellamare
I’ve always wished I had some musical talent. From making up songs with my Grandma and using a plastic pitchfork as a guitar to setting up a drum kit in my bedroom using my mum’s pots and pans; the desire to make a racket was always there. Every time I hear a song I love or go to a show, I’m more often than not left wishing I progressed from pots and pans to an actual drum kit. I’m always in awe of drummers that can sing; as someone who can sometimes mess up doing two things at once, I really admire those who can sing and drum at the same time. Do you remember Atreyu? Imagine screaming like that and drumming at the same time. I thought I’d pay homage to some female drummers past and present. Some that have influenced those I will mention and those who hopefully one day, will influence others. Lucy Brown (Bad Grammar) I first saw Bad Grammar a few months ago I think supporting PINS for free. Free gigs are always a good time. I hate missing support bands, and I have to be there early. It’s just how I am. So seeing Bad Grammar truly paid off because they’re my favourite new band; they’re a duo from Manchester who make a lot of noise and are a pleasure to see live. Lucy drums with a grin on her face- I think that takes more work than singing at the same time as drumming. She is a furious drummer who has this infectious energy that causes you to move in a questionable fashion. You thrash your body about- into other people or into a wall because of how much her drumming gets to you. She looks as happy as a kid at Christmas when she’s behind her drum kit. I sincerely hope that Bad Grammar become massive, and Lucy influences people to pick up some drum sticks and beat the shit out of a drum kit.
Palmolive (The Slits) Cut by The Slits is a phenomenal debut record. It’s got a strong Punk and Reggae feel to it and Palmolive’s drumming on Cut adds perfectly to The Slits sound. The Slits did something to the UK music scene so powerful, and I’m not really sure if it has ever been done since. The bloody Spice Girls weren’t empowering- The Slits were. Palmolive’s drumming in The Slits was gutsy and enough to make you wish you could start something like they did. You can sense the power this band were destined to have after Palmolive met Ari Up after a Patti Smith show. The Slits were one of the most important bands of their time, and Palmolive’s style of drumming just made you want to start a riot. It’s never too late. Patty Schemel (Hole/Upset) Patty is a drummer whose style is nothing short of inspiring- she played in Hole! I mean come on now! Patty was the best drummer Hole had, but it’s a shame that she wasn’t one my favourite song by Hole; Malibu. Malibu is a very dear song to me, but I won’t dwell on the fact Patty isn’t on it. Just listen to all of Live Through This, and you’ll see exactly why she’s so great. Last year she joined the band, Upset (along with another brilliant drummer Ali Koehler and Jennifer Price.) Upset are made up of super talented musicians who make up the dream group. Imagine being in a band with Patty Schemel! It’s what teenage music dreams are made of. Hannah Blilie (Gossip) I’ve been a fan of Gossip since 2002/3, just before Kathy left the band (who was also a brilliant drummer I must add.) Hannah’s drumming is perfect for the Gossip sound that everyone loves; she was what they needed after Kathy’s last record with themMovement. When Hannah joined, the band released the single Listen Up which is the perfect blend of what was happening then and the Riot Grrrl movement. Gossip have always stayed true to their Riot Grrrl influences, and Hannah’s fearless drumming is a huge part of that. I remember pretty much following Gossip around in 2006 and 2007 instead of going to lectures, and I got the band to sign everything I owned by them- she didn’t want to sign previous releases to her joining the band as she wasn’t in the band. That always stands out for me, I just thought it was really sweet of her. Watching her live is just flawless- she’s relaxed but drums with infectious passion. Anna Schulte (ex-Crocodiles) I don’t have much to go on about Anna apart from what she did with Crocodiles, but that is more than enough for me. I never saw Anna play with Crocodiles, I’m only going by live performances I’ve seen on YouTube. Again, like Hannah Blilie she’s got a relaxed style of drumming but is so powerful to watch. The drummer keeps the rhythm up, and if you watch her live clips with Crocodiles you’ll see just how careful she is as a drummer and keeps that pace up with no problem. Anna also used to play drums for The Slits and studied at the prestigious Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. She’s a majestic drummer who has a beautifully unique style of drumming. Besides, John Peel called her up once to play her old band’s song on his show. That is a different level of cool. Akiko Matsuura (Comanechi/Pre/The Big Pink) I first saw Akiko drum when I saw her band Comanechi support Gossip back in 2006. I then saw her as part of Pre, but she doesn’t drum for them. She also played drums for The Big Pink. Akiko drums and sings in Comanechi, and her style of drumming is insane. Like a feral beast trapped in a cage. She’s a ferocious and bold drummer, and how she drums like that and sings at the same time?! I do not know! All I know is that she’s one of the best drummers that I’ve seen live. Her drumming is dominating and is enough to make you want to grab some pots and pans, and make an obnoxious sound.
Sophie Galpin (PINS) PINS are one of the most exciting bands around. Their dark sound is part sacred Garage rock band, part 60s girl group. They are mysterious and captivating to watch. I’ve seen them live a few times, and each time is better than the last. They only have one record out, and it was easily one of the best records of 2013. Sophie has this enthralling presence on stage (they all do, but this is about drummers!) She counts them all in, and hell breaks loose. Bodies move and sway. You immediately are thrown into this eerie and wonderful world that they have created with their music. Sophie is the best at what she does, all of PINS are. The best thing about seeing PINS live is being able to witness a band that really love what they do. Much like Lucy from Bad Grammar, I really hope younger kids see PINS live and are inspired to start their own band. Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint) Stella’s drumming on Warpaint’s debut, The Fool is truly something else. I know everyone loves their song, Undertow but trust me- seeing it live gives you a different kind of appreciation for it. When you see Warpaint live, you truly get a sense of what the band are all about. Stella drums in a way that just leaves you stunned. You watch her play with your jaw dropped and you feel really inspired. If not to start a band, but to write about what you’ve witnessed or to even find someone to ramble off words of admiration to. It’s almost as if she falls into a trance when she plays, and you pretty much fall into a similar trance as you watch her. Stella (and Warpaint) is someone that you really cannot explain how good they are as a musician, all you can do is experience it first-hand. So the next time Warpaint are to play a show near you, then please go see them. You know what they say, “seeing is believing.” Sandra Vu (Dum Dum Girls/SISU) Sandra completes the trinity (and my theory) that if you’re female and your name begins with an S, then you’re a brilliant drummer. Of course my theory can be flawed in some respects, but let’s ignore that. Sandra is amazing live. She’s got this way of making Dum Dum Girls live shows feel like a Ramones show. What I mean by that is that, Sandra plays quickly and with purpose. All of Dum Dum Girls do live, but when you can sense speed in a band your eyes are lured towards to drummer. She fronts her other band, SISU and please do check them out. Her drumming in Dum Dum Girls is divine, you cannot help but be in awe of her speed and of course, she sings at the same time too which makes her even more fascinating to watch. I could write an essay on how gripping her drumming style is, but anyone who has seen Dum Dum Girls live knows what I mean. You can’t deny that Dum Dum Girls are the band you wish you could join. Maureen Tucker (The Velvet Underground) The best drummer in the best band ever. Simple really. You can dispute with the other drummers I have mentioned, but let’s not disagree on Moe’s place in the best drummers of all time. Regardless of gender, Moe Tucker is the best. Her style of drumming isn’t typical- she didn’t drum sitting down. She drummed using a percussion mallet and never used a cymbal. Never stick to the rules or go by what is expected of you, kids. As someone who loves The Velvet Underground a hell of a lot, I really cannot define one specific thing that I love about them. It ranges from their unconventional ways to the fact they approached topics that many wouldn’t want anything to do with. If I was growing up when The Velvet Underground were in their prime, I’m 100% sure I’d have started a band. I’d want someone to be the Lou to my Moe. Or the other way round, I’m not fussed. I know everyone likes to mention Lou and John Cale’s relationship, but for me it is all about Lou and Moe. Moe’s relaxed drumming approach was the perfect match to Lou’s soothing vocals, they were just the most perfect combination. I thought I would end this peace as a nod to New York’s finest band. There’ll never be another band quite like The Velvet Underground, and I’m pretty sure
WORK IN PROGRESS by reina shinohara
I think everyone has a favorite Death Cab For Cutie album. Some people swear by Plans, for others it’s Narrow Stairs, and Something About Airplanes does the trick for some. Mine is Transatlanticism. I, along with a whole legion of Death Cab fans, could give you a detailed account of every song and what it means to me, but what I really want to talk about is the Transatlanticism Demos. If you didn’t already know, in October of last year, Death Cab For Cutie released the demos to Transatlanticism, and they’re fantastic. Actually, fantastic is an overstatement, but I still listened to them over and over. I can’t tell you exactly what made me want to listen again and again, because to be honest, demos (by default) aren’t really that great. But then again, I think that’s exactly why. It’s because the demos weren’t that great compared to the actual album that I couldn’t stop listening. As if somehow the incomplete nature of demos were a metaphor for the state of my life. I don’t know why exactly, but come winter and finals, I always feel a little inadequate and anxious that I’m not doing nearly as well as I could be. My life is kind of like a demo in that sense. And to think that before Transatlanticism was a great album, the songs were just demos that were just… ok? That makes me feel a little bit better. I guess what I’m trying to say is, you don’t really get to be great without being a work in progress at some point. Even an album like Transatlanticism was a work in progress once. So if you ever have a day when you’re feeling utterly inadequate, listen to the Transatlanticism Demos and remember that Ben Gibbard definitely had a lot to figure out before these demos became the Transatlanticism we know and love, and so do we.
SPRING DISCOVERIES by mary luncsford
Say what you will about Indiana, but there can be no denying that my state has every season. After every bitter winter (thank you, Polar Vortex), comes a spring. I’ve never really witnessed the exact day people notice spring has arrived until this year. It was kind of magical. The temperature inched toward the 60s and people began to smile and smell the air; they looked up as they walked to class. My friend and I observed this change as we sat on some steps and ate berries one afternoon. Spring arrives unexpected every year. It would be fitting then that I happened upon Hozier at the same time. Browsing through an All Songs Considered post, I stopped on “Take Me to Church.” Within three seconds, I was hooked. His vocals were so effortless and clean. It was one of those moments where I found myself completely taken by the music. That song is so packed full of emotion and power, and the accompanying video brings depth and conviction. Next came “Someone New” which screams springtime. It is a song brimming with possibilities. And no exaggeration, I could die in the arms of “Work Song.” Hozier’s music possesses that rare quality that demands to be listened to not by gimmicks and tricks, but by impeccable songwriting and earnest delivery. It is all at once soul, folk and blues. It’s clean. It’s the first day of spring. One of my favorite things about music is that there is always more to discover –something new to get excited about. You could be sitting at your desk on a Friday morning and all of the sudden there is a song that you’ve never heard before. Things are a little different, a little warmer with the knowledge that you exist in a world where there is an endless supply of perfect tunes. Music discovery is not unlike the arrival of spring, which never fails to take us by surprise. It is easy to forget how good it feels to have sun on your skin until you’re lying in the grass, unable to imagine a world without this feeling.
WHERE I LIVE AND DIE by joel jensen heath
I grew up on the West Coast, to be more precise my hometown was a suburb of Oakland, California located just fifteen minutes east of San Francisco. A cultural mecca in itâ€™s own right and for many who have never been to Europe or the East Coast itâ€™s the closest a West Coaster can come to a Metropolis in the traditional sense. To the uninformed, many see LA as just one sprawling convenient store after another and Seattle essentially one freeway of consistent traffic and rain. Perhaps this pretentious outlook on other Western Metropolises besides my own was what drew me to the East Coast. All of what I just said is essentially irrelevant.
While San Francisco and the greater Bay Area is where I lived and occasionally died, defined by communist run Hot Dog stands and the Amoeba excursions, I spent a good deal of my childhood and teenage years in other parts out West. My godfather lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico with whomever he was married to at the time. My childhood was often shaped by deserts. When I was little we saw the Georgia O’Keefe museum when it first opened in the 90s and then hiked up to see the Pueblos outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I ordered steamed clams form a cocktail waitress in a grimy casino in Reno, Nevada called “The Nugget” whenever we drove up to see my grandparents who lived out there. I would walk through the casinos to the bathroom always digging my heel into some crusted material that had caked itself into the red velvet carpet. It took me years later to realize what that caked substance was. When I was older I spent a few weeks of one summer working for a professor and living in a Hostile in Eastern Los Angeles. The hostile was essentially a mansion that was frequently rented out to the film industry (think Tower of Terror meets Sunset Boulevard). A remnant of old Hollywood, constantly under construction, and surrounded by desert. I recall one time in particular from that trip involved drunkly and almost being violated in a bathroom by a middle aged women in Venice Beach. I expel all of these nostalgia coated ramblings in an attempt to convey how important Dana Point California’s The Growlers are to me. The only way however I can hopefully instill this into you is to entangle my own experiences with it because The Growlers symbolize home and a renewal of what the West means to me. When I was 19 and leaving to go back East for college I was done with “the California thing and for that matter...the west coast thing.” I hated being sunburned and most of all hated being stuck in traffic for two hours at a time. I wanted to “suffer man, grow a beard and endure the long winters back east.” Well I’m almost 24 now and I still haven’t grown out a beard and by “endure the winter” I mean complain about it every few minutes to my bandmates and close friends. I was a real asshole when I was 19... I was listening to seBADoh and Mission of Burma and all of those bands that were from the East Coast so I thought I’d move there. I always associated the East Coast with more abrasive music and New York’s mystique as reflected in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. To the naive Californian the whole East Coast to me was New York City’s Lower East Side circa 1978 and my second Aunt who lived in Long Island somewhere. From a year in Chicago to three living in Upstate New York to now Brooklyn I have travelled a long distance from the West Coast. I wanted to find darker music and understand the surroundings that produced the mind of Lou Reed.
I spent my 21st Birthday sober and hanging out with a couple of friends around a bonfire in Syracuse. At one point “Something Someone Jr” by The Growlers came on and before I knew who this band was I felt deeply a part of the music. The reverb and syncopated drumming recalled many of the old surf albums my dad used to play for me when I was a kid. However, there was something more ominous. Something uneasy--a longing to understand one’s self in a strange surrounding. Like Church Camp in the Santa Cruz Redwood forests. This music was full of contradictions. The Growlers are a special type of band because they are from the West and they craft technical and dark music which isn’t always associated with Californian music. California has a long history of darker music, especially on the weirder fringes of psychedelic music that emerged out of the upper Haight and Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco in the late 60s. Despite the 80s wave of punk, most people think of the Beach Boys or well... Sublime when they think of California. It’s sunny all the time so that must mean we’re all happy, right? Let’s throw on some teevas and head down to Half Moon Bay or bum off of my rich friend’s green card. The Growlers capture a darkness about the West that I feel deeply and recognize. It’s that kind of ominous feeling one gets when they are driving and look out across the mountains lining the San Andreas fault and that at any moment this paradise could collapse any moment. It’s that unease one gets when a major earthquake hasn’t arrived for some time or that fire dangers are unusually high for that summer. The West is always plagued by impending ecological disasters but there’s also a void in it’s culture. Like drinks that are spiked at bonfire parties or cults forming deep in the mountains. It’s in my 6th grade New Age teacher that has us all hold our hands in the air repeat simultaneously “the exaltation of the dawn” chant. It’s in suburban parents standing in lines waiting for prescription drugs outside the seafoam green and shell pink pharmacy. And it’s my Sunday school teacher who wore a Grateful Dead shirt and played a fender stratocaster. It’s in the irony of hyper-wealthy and largely homogenized suburbs voting liberal to prove some level of empathy to themselves. It’s not limited to one demograph because it’s what California and the West is. A bankrupt dream that stopped on a shoreline because at some point one can only go so West or so East before they hit a coastline. California specifically is the home to gold mining ghost towns and enough unemployed actors to populate a new continent. It’s the American Dream but half baked or left in the oven too long. It’s the state that can get away with electing an action movie star as it’s a governor. It’s a place where everyone’s shattered ideals sit and congeal in a perfectly attuned hot tub and everyone’s either too stoned or is too chilled out on all of the Vitamin D to realize everything’s gone to shit. Discovering The Growlers revolutionized the world that I call my true home and have grown to love even for it’s deeply rooted flaws. They are a bunch of dudes from Orange County who kind of formed a band and kind of recorded an album before they realized they were a band. Kind of. They’re not like many of the Bay bands or even the Pacific Northwest bands that wear some altruistic tag on their sleeves. They’re just five SoCaler’s hanging out and making some music.
And while I love the Bay and the many wonderful bands being produced there like Cold Beat, Mansion, Golden Drugs, Silver Shadows, and the innumerable amount of wonderful sounds that span between Los Angeles and the northern tip of Washington...this article is only dedicated to The Growlers. The biggest thing I looked forward to coming back to California to visit family for several years was aligning my plane ticket with an upcoming Growlers show. I’ve spent many nights letting the midnight fog encasing San Francisco to cool the sweat off of my body after dancing through a Growlers set. I’ve shared a joint with some dudes from Santa Rosa who were following them up and down the coast. I drunkly went swing dancing with a girl into the middle of their mosh pit and almost kissed her but biblical guilt took over when I half realized I still had a girlfriend at the time. I even got their guitarist Matt Taylor to play ‘Graveyards Full’ for me. Afterward he gave me the setlist. The Growlers symbolize that polar extreme of what the West Coast and primarily California mean to me. Their music has a danceable beat that keeps you moving and feeling good but it is layered in a fog of reverb and echo. Above all of this Brooks Nielsen’s voice floats above as he tells cryptic dark tales of secret urges or wrong turns made on a desert highway. Growlers songs paint the cowboy image, a fragmented icon in American culture. The go it a lone macho type and how superbly idiotic we are for trying to be this deflated symbol. So as I sit here in my Brooklyn apartment on a Friday night typing and regretting most of what I’m saying, I have to remind myself myself the reason why I’m writing this. The Growlers are a band that have helped me fall in love with my roots. Embrace the weirdness and boogie. That everything is still fucked but you don’t have to sing about fun in the sun to dance and have a good time.
CHILDREN BY THE MILLIONS by john phillip tappen
Music writers and critics love to say they love Big Star. I love Big Star. For rock n roll snobs, there’s never been a more cherished band. Thirty-nine years after their break up came the movie Nothing Can Hurt Me. It documented their birth and their trials and tragedies that culminated in the ill-timed climax of their career: after their dissolution. The mystery of how success eluded a band of their caliber — overlooked by the general public throughout their career — has become a trite narrative, one that’s defined the band nearly as much as the songs themselves. The only thing rock critics love more than Big Star, is telling everyone how underappreciated they were in their time. Fast forward a few decades and I’m 14. It’s after midnight and I’m digging through my step mom’s cluttered and halfway-alphabetized CD collection — taking stabs in the dark for something that’ll light up my interest. I run my index finger along the columns of music and stop each time I read a name I’ve heard before. Pull it out. Dust it off. And take it home with me. Each weekend for a year I’d pull out another couple CDs: R.E.M., The Breeders, The Replacements. Considering my music trajectory and the aforementioned abundance of praise given to Big Star by the bands I was discovering, it wouldn’t be long before I would pull out an Alex Chilton CD. When I did it was Alex Chilton Top 30. The cover features Chilton up front, dawning a leather jacket and a dingy bandana cuffed to his neck. He’s standing in pitch-dark. A black backdrop, his face is the only bright spot — illuminated by the firelight of his Zippo, which acts as a candle. The smoke from his cigarette, or maybe that’s a joint, hovers above him, heavy fog with a blue hue like it’s been burned from charcoal. Shit, he looked so cool. It was romance on an album cover. But then I listened. I was confused. This was the guy that all my new alternative rock world idols had been flaunting as king? The guy singing corny joke songs about Bangkok and cheesy love songs? No, the dangerous guy in the picture wouldn’t. There’s an interview with Craig Finn of The Hold Steady that sums up this experience. He talked about bad band recommendations from musicians you looked up to. Finn, who I understand has a shrine to The Replacements in his living room, obviously brought up Big Star, and how utterly flat they sounded compared to his expectations, based on Paul Westerberg’s endorsement. They were certainly not “punky,” and not for 15 year-olds. I think his quote was something to the effect of: “Children by the million? More like middle aged record store clerks by the dozen.” But I did enjoy two tracks at the end, “Time After Time” and a live version of “September Gurls” that made me shake a little too uncomfortably, the way fiction does when it feels a little too real. Appreciating Big Star and Alex Chilton took time. I had to sit with it. I had to grow up a bit and
feel older than I wanted to. I had to experience a little heartache first. And that makes sense, considering it took years for Chilton and that band to gain the recognition they deserved. Now, each year it seems their reputation grows. Each year there’s another hundred people who claimed to have been at that rock writer’s convention in 1973 where they tore it up. There’s a mystique and a burgeoning glow around that band and Chilton in particular. It only makes sense that his most recent material to gain great recognition is a posthumous album. Bar None records released Electricity By Candlelight earlier this year. It’s a live recording of Chilton’s set at the old Knitting Factory in New York City from the winter of 1997. The album cover captures Chilton in a euphoric moment, eyes shut, and head titled back, letting the sun soak him up. The gray Manhattan skyline to his back, his signature bandana tied to his neck. The power went out before his band was supposed to play the second set of the night. The venue cancelled. But those that decided to linger, like devoted fans often do at the end of shows, got that encore that almost never happens. Luckily one of them had a tape recorder. Someone handed Chilton an acoustic guitar, and so he played an hour-long set of covers, from sing-a-longs to somber tunes. He stood on the audience floor and people huddled around candles and Chilton for warmth. The first track opens with 14 seconds of audience chatter — barely audible, but just enough to convey the comfort and fervor that circled the room that night. Cover songs tend to be pedestrian. But nobody else has the nerve to pull off an entire set of covers and make them sound as true as Alex Chilton. It’s his casual confidence and faith in the songs and what they mean that infuses a passion that translates in this live recording. You can hear the mumbled chatter of the audience and the back and forth between them and Alex. I kept smiling and wanted to laugh when I heard everyone else laughing. I felt like I was in the room, like I could see him sneer every time someone from the back shouts a request for “The Ballad of El Goodo.” Chilton shows his affinity for both country and pop songs throughout the 17 song — with the Clyde Owens song “Last Bouquet,” a tight rendition of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line,” several Beach Boys songs, “Motel Blues,” and “My Baby Just Cares For Me.” He closes with what begins as a sincere version of “If I Had A Hammer.” Somewhere in the middle it gets messy. He forgets the words to the third verse and goes for laughs, “If I Had A Potato.” But I can hear the moment he remembers the words, “ah, if I had a song, that’s it,” he sighs with joy, he’s recaptured it. A month ago, walking back to my apartment, I kept hitting repeat on that last track. I walked into my apartment and found out about Pete Seeger’s passing. My friend Mike and I listened to WAMC play Seeger songs and archived interviews. In one of them, he mentioned his hope that the best part of music would remain people playing it live, in front of and in the company of others.