Windsor/Detroit Musical Takeaways

Yesterday I got back from five days spent in the Windsor/Detroit area, and as we do after a trip it’s fun to cover what’s interesting musically about the area – besides why this is a ready-made great scene.  Admittedly my trip was centred around a San Jose Sharks/Detroit Red Wings game (which my Sharks won, BOOYAKA) and some other Michigan stuff, so there wasn’t as much room for music.  But nonetheless we cover, because music!

One place I got to while in Detroit was the motherfuckin’ Motown Museum:

As we’ve talked about before, Motown, while not normally a TPS-covered genre, is the most badass of classic music, and Fearless Records should really do a “Punk Goes Motown” album.  Sadly the museum was closed for renovations while there, but it was still cool to get to.

Detroit also has a couple of cool mid-large venues, including the Fox Theatre:

The Fox seats over 5000, and has one of the best things about concert venues: a kickass marquee sign.  Most new venues don’t have that, and it’s a shame because they rule.

A popular venue for underground music is The Old Miami:

Starting as a place for war vets and an acronym for “Missing In Action Michigan”, this venue features a backyard and a place for local rock to do its thing, at a good price for the fans.

So Detroit has stuff, but so does Windsor, Ontario across the border.  Phog Lounge is a place I first discovered while putting together a project for a course I was taking through Berklee.  Sitting on University Avenue near…a daycare, obviously university – the U of Windsor, to be exact – Phog was once named the “Best Live Music Venue in Canada” in a CBC Radio contest.  Also in downtown Windsor, the hilariously-named Venue Music Hall is another underground hot spot.

Another thing Windsor has is something that isn’t as important in 2015 as before, but still matters: a solid modern rock radio station, and one that reaches out to local artists.  89X really targets Detroit because you know bigger, and has “The Homeboy Show” to highlight the hometown stuff.  There’s also “Canadian X-ports” for the Windsor/wherever artists too.  It’s a good listen, and not a bad way to get in tune with the area if you’re road tripping.

I do wish I had more of a chance to experience the musical side of Windsor/Detroit personally, but maybe next time.  In the meantime, we have the aforementioned to enjoy/look forward to, and if you live in that area and want to pass any other venue/whatever along, please do!

Advantages Of A Border Scene

Tomorrow I’m heading out of town for a few days, so this will likely be the last post until next week.  Where I’m going is Windsor, Ontario with plenty of time spent in Detroit and Michigan.  It got me thinking about just how awesome border markets are, and how advantageous they can be for artists.

Be it provinces, states or countries, easy access to two different markets is totally key.  How about we just look at Windsor/Detroit first?  They co-exist as motor cities and share many things, but for artists who live in that area there’s still a world of different to tap into.  For Windsor, adjacency to a major market and an American one at that.  The US is often the gateway to everywhere else, and if a Canadian artist from Southwestern Ontario can routinely play for local audiences in Detroit and Southeastern Michigan, that’s a good thing.  The proximity even provides a place to get cheaper gear and such, so your money can go further.  Conversely, the legal drinking age is 19 in Ontario compared to 21 in Michigan: American artists who are 19 or 20 can head over to Canada and play bars.  That opens up so many more venues, and therefore doors to get noticed.

Forgetting countries for a sec, there are some metro areas that span multiple states.  Places like Chicago and New York City have tri-state metros, with the former having Illinois/Wisconsin/Indiana and the latter New York/New Jersey/Connecticut.  They’re more similar than most international borders, but it’s pretty cool to have that kind of proximity.

Back to countries!  Europe is a great continent for artists because geographically the countries are so small: you could do a three-in-three tour weekend in three different countries without much trouble.  And, when you think of bordering countries like France and Spain, they’re very different: it’s two very distinct cultures side-by-side if you live near the border.  That’s both a worse scenario because of the language and culture barriers, and a better one because you can easily infiltrate yourself into two very different markets.

This all might be the geography nerd in me talking, but I know if I were an artist that lived in a border market I’d take full professional advantage of that.  Hell, I’d do it as a blogger.  Before they broke out, did a band like We Came as Romans from Metro Detroit hop over to Windsor to play bars?  No idea, but they could’ve and it probably at least crossed their mind at some point.  It’s a good bloody idea right?

Interview: ACRONYMS

It’s a common story in rock, especially with younger musicians: bands play gigs together, become friends and gradually find that their true musical partners are those who they’re not currently in a project with.  Such was the case for ACRONYMS.  Consisting of Billy Tataryn (guitar/vocals), Adan Lemus (guitar/keyboard/vocals), Brynn Krysa (bass/vocals) and Tyson Goodyear (drums), the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan indie rockers released their debut EP SimpleComplex in January, led by single “Fake Fear”.  While heading out on a Western Canadian tour in support (which they’re on as we speak), they took some time to chat with TPS.

You guys first came together by filling in with each other’s previous bands.  What was the moment that made you think “this might become something bigger”?

First time we came together to try and see if us playing together worked, we jammed straight for like 8 hours.  At that moment we were certain this could form into something special.

Your sound has been compared to Tame Impala and Radiohead among others.  Are they big influences?  Who are some of your favourite artists?

Anyone who owns a flanger is a fan of Tame Impala and who doesn’t like Radiohead.  We draw influence from everything we listen to.  Nothing is off-limits, at the moment some of our favourite groups would have to be Beck, Foals, Close Talker.  Pretty much anyone who’s doing something that comes across as genuine and makes us feel something.

SimpleComplex was named in honour of recording the album live off the floor.  What made you do that instead of regular studio production?

To be completely honest we didn’t have the funds to record a full-length as tracking individual instruments would take up way more time in the studio.  That being said we play really well together as a group live and in practice.  So it only made sense to try doing it live off the floor.

The Sheepdogs and Wide Mouth Mason are two well-known acts from Saskatoon.  Who else from the city’s scene would you guys mention as standouts?

 Our buddies in Close Talker are doing some really exciting things, as well we love sharing the stage with Mario Lepage.  Two great groups who bring it all to live performance.


You’re doing a Western Canadian spring swing right now.  Any plans to tour outside the region?

 At the moment no talks of international tours yet, of course the opportunity to tour outside of your hometown is always rewarding.  Hopefully we get the opportunity to venture out of the country as well.


After experiencing ACRONYMS for the first time, is there anything you especially want people to take away from it?

 A t-shirt, cd, and a dirty grin.

ACRONYMS online:

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Album Review: Polaris Rose – Telescopes

 After two EPs – 2013’s The Moon & its Secrets and 2014’s OceanSongs – Los Angeles alt-rockers Polaris Rose dropped their debut full-length Telescopes back in November.  The album sees Peter Anthony and Madelynn Elyse exploring indie undertones and largely-harmonic vocals for an interesting sonic ride.

Telescopes
starts right off the bat with two of my favourite songs on it: opener “Perfect View”, which is a delightful jam about moving out to Los Angeles and “Blue”, where the verse vocals are a duet and the instrumental ending brings the tempo down just a touch, and awesomely.  After the title track, things slow down a bit with “Kiss Me, Icarus” and “Radio XYZ”.  “Cityscapes” has one of the album’s most memorable lyrics in “we should live our lives drinking deeply from a glass of ocean waves”, and one of the best musical moments too: you can’t call it a solo really because it’s under vocals, but Anthony does some great guitar work in the bridge.  The guitar in “PonyTail” is almost bluesy, and the track features really cool, urgent vocals in the verses.  “Set Me On Fire” is the album’s slowest song, but not a ballad: the best way to describe it is “crawling”, it has a nice dark tone and some interesting atmosphere. “A Diamond In The Sunset” is another of my favourites, and probably the most overtly indie rock song on the album.  Finally, Telescopes ends with “Oceans Collapse”, which starts with my favourite guitar effect: a pick scrape!  Simple but killer every time.  The chorus features a strumming pattern that mimics the vocals in the line “anywhere you want it”, which I also really like.  Considering how much vocal layering and harmonizing is on the album, that could just be effected singing and I’m an idiot, but let’s stick to that being a cool part of the closing track okay!

As a whole, Telescopes features several clips of astronaut talk which really enhance the album’s theme.  I always love extra production like that.  Another standout from the band period is the vocals of both Peter Anthony and Madelynn Elyse: it’s not like they’re okay singers or one’s good and one’s more a backup, they’re both solid.  Either of them could front a band by them self, and when you couple that with the male/female dynamic it’s a great listen.  The crazy thing is, the album’s been out five months and the band is already working on a follow-up.  No word on whether it’s an EP or full-length, but it’ll apparently be called Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies and is due out in the summer.  That’ll be four releases in two years, so you definitely can’t call Polaris Rose lazy.  They clearly have a strong focus (telescope reference!) and are zoomed in (telescope reference!) on their craft.

Polaris Rose online:

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Alternative Music & Fashion Part 3: Beards??

 For the past week and change, I’ve been growing a beard.  Why?  Just because, really.  Something to spice things up.  I wasn’t actually going to turn this into a blog post – was thinkin’ maybe a Facebook/Twitter only mention – but you know, what the hell right?  Beards puzzle me enough and are prominent enough in our scene that we can take a moment for this.

For whatever reason, beards are in these days, especially seemingly with musicians.  Still, I personally can’t deal with one.  They’re itchy, I think I look better clean-shaven and I actually can’t really grow a decent one anyway.  Case in point, here’s a picture I took tonight of my beard:

This is after I think nine days.  Like, you can see it, but it’s nothing to write home about.  It’ll grow a bit more, but that’s it: I’ve done it once before so I know.  But how do guys with beards, especially long-ass ones, deal with them?  Case in point, Kevin Jordan of This Wild Life:

How in the world???  With a beard like that, do you brush it, shampoo it, gel it?  Seriously, I couldn’t grow that if I didn’t shave for five years so I’ll never know first-hand.  That’s just crazy.

It’s also – in general, not specifically Jordan’s – unnecessary isn’t it?  I get a nice, trim, clean beard but I see dudes with really long ones and it just seems like it’s there because it can be.  I’ve never understood the whole “long hipster beard” thing, despite how prominent it is among alternative musicians and fans.  Far be it from me to tell anyone how to wear their beard, but I just don’t get the appeal: seems like a lot of work to look worse than you could no?

Trust me, I’m not butthurt because I can’t grow a decent beard.  I don’t mind having one and I’ve been told it looks okay, but I’ve definitely always been more comfortable clean-shaven.  I have friends that typically have facial hair, and in my opinion should never shave because they look worse without it.  It’s different for everyone.

 So…there’s that.  If you have a prominent beard and can shed any light on how you care for it, totally let me know by the way.  And have it because you like it – not because your band mates are doing it, or you just can, or whatever.

TPS Responds: “Are Music Subcultures Losing Their Definition?”

The other day I came across a post on Vice.com’s I-D called “Are Music Subcultures Losing Their Definition?”, which is a pretty interesting read.  Wanting to get into it more – especially considering we actually just covered the subculture subject recently (twice) – I figured we should bust out another edition of “TPS Responds”, where we break down an article with our own agreeing and/or disagreeing.  As always, click the above link for the entire post, as we’ll just take specific excerpts to respond to.  Here we go!

“Today, thanks to the wonders of modern technology we can plug into any genre of music, anywhere, and at any time. We’ve opened up our iPhones to sounds from all over the world, but what does an unlimited access to music actually do for us? Not only are we becoming less committed to one genre of music, our musical choices are increasingly losing their ability to challenge the status quo too.

A far cry from the distracted youth of today, who spend their days fiddling around with selfie sticks and hashtagging themselves to oblivion, kids of generation’s past lived and breathed music. Music dictated what they wore, how they danced, who they hung out with and what drugs they took. No longer children, but not quite adults, these kids spent what little they had on the perfect threads and rarest vinyl, as they tried to carve out an identity outside of an oppressively conservative mainstream culture.”

The world is definitely a smaller place with today’s technology, and music is a shining example of that.  I still think music largely defines a person, but certainly not like it used to.  Really, things evolve and that’s fine.  People are still drawn to certain cultures, and that “outsider” feeling still exists.  Maybe not like it used to though…

“‘Back then music was behind everything,’ agrees cult photographer and author of iconic photo book, Skins and Punks, Gavin Watson. ‘You’d go to school and talk about the bands you liked. When you met up after school you’d talk about the bands you’d like. That’s how you’d relate to your peer group. I remember hearing Madness on Top of the Pops, when I was 14. It just blew me away. The day after, the school was literally a buzz: who was that band?! It was only later that I found out they were Skinheads. At the time I just thought: ‘this band are fucking brilliant. I want to look like them.’ But back then it wasn’t like you could just casually shop the whole look from Asos, if you wanted to look like your favourite band you actually had to leave the house to do so. And even then, the music and its surrounding imagery were still pretty hard to come by. Yes, there were the music papers which came out once a week and, yes, you had Top of the Pops, but there was no Soundcloud or Spotify to stream your tunes from. No Tumblrs dedicated to Suggs’ thigh gap or an endless feed of Jerry Dammers’ selfies to swoon over. Only snippets of information being whispered in dark corners at gigs, which if you were underage you had a hard time sneaking into anyway. ‘It kept everything very exciting,’ recalls Watson. ‘Music released the pressure of having to live.'”

Music and artists are more accessible than ever in 2015, which if anything strengthens the connection with the fans.  Back in the ’60s, aside from the lucky few all people knew about their favourite artists was the music, and maybe what they looked like.  These days, social media has real time pictures of a guitarist drinking a smoothie or a singer writing lyrics, and as trivial as that stuff can be, it’s great.  The level of intimacy today’s technology provides is overall awesome.

“From grime to gabba, PC music to J-POP, because of the sheer wealth of choice we have today, the ease with which we have access to it (gone are the days of journeying to the Black Ghettoes of America to find a never heard before vinyl), and how programmed we are to consume rapidly, we no longer have to commit to one genre of music like we once did. And, even then, because we experience most of our music through personal devices like our iPhones or iPods, taste in music is no longer a thing of the collective, it’s much more down to the individual, which is why music subcultures are becoming increasingly less defined. This, in turn, affects the clothes we wear; because without any one genre of music dictating our sartorial choices, and the internet opening the floodgates to everything from Harajuko to Health Goth, Normcore to Navajo, and Seapunk to Chola, we can click in and out of Post-Internet trends, when and as we please.

Furthermore, in our consumer-driven, social-media obsessed society, subcultures are not only losing their definition they are also losing their ability to challenge the status quo. While the internet has given us so much in the way of democratising music and its surrounding culture, by making it universal and accessible to everyone, and allowing us to connect to like-minded people from all over the world, it also has the ability to numb us into mindless consumption.”

The increased fusion of genres isn’t even just a fan thing: different types of artists are collaborating, ones we’d never have thought would.  I was born in 1984 so I and maybe you missed that “golden age” of subcultures, so perhaps it’s hard to relate.  However, they still exist, and you can still usually tell what type of music someone likes by the way they dress.  When it comes to the focus and passion, there are definitely people who are more “flavour of the month” and not as hardcore as others.  But, there have always been differing levels of music fandom: even The Beatles had their fans that just listened to them on the radio, and those that followed them around on tour.

“Although all wildly different, the one thing that united subcultures of generations past was their being forged in opposition to mainstream culture. They were rebellious and subversive. They stood up against mindless submission, against their parents’ conservatism and government oppression. But fast-forward to today, and what are Chola and Navajo except gross misappropriations of minority cultures? And what about Health Goth and Seapunk? Sure, they’re nice to look at, but ultimately they’re just the product of a self-obsessed generation that values its self worth on how many ‘likes’ it gets. By posting a picture of a mermaid or Joey Essex in an airport, dressed head to toe in Nasir Mazhar what are you actually getting other than square eyes and a virtual erection? And then there’s Normcore (the most Googled trend of 2014) a trend that advocates rebellion through conforming to bland, boring, beige society. What could be more dangerous than indoctrinating Britain’s youth into submitting to the norm? And anyway, none of these subcultures are associated with a specific type of music, they’re just image based.”

Music is an escape, a friend that we always have.  And yes, it’s something we can rally around to make us feel like we belong in a big, crazy world.  But, a subculture not rooted in rebellion isn’t a bad one.  The world is still crazy in 2015, but tensions that existed decades ago – racial, international – are largely gone.  You can say that people have become more self-absorbed in a social media-driven world, where everyone has a voice and can celebrate themselves and others in multiple ways.  But that doesn’t mean today’s music fans don’t feel the same passion older ones did.  Maybe it’s just different: we can like punk music without running around yelling “FUCK THE SYSTEM, STICK IT TO THE MAN!”

Finally, the post ends with a call-to-action that hopes for a throwback:

“As the sun sets on the year that brought us a wealth of meaningless trends, let 2015 be the year that subcultures find their definition. Let kids put down their iPhones and go out into the real world and engage with the subversive, as opposed to listlessly posting a picture of it. Ultimately, let 2015 be the year we shake off our social media induced Narcolepsy and reignite our passion for music.”

You know, evolution is good.  Just because music fandom comes from different places than it did ages ago doesn’t mean it’s lesser.  There are still very passionate music fans who do everything from turn on the radio, to go to a local show to sitting on Spotify and Bandcamp discovering new music to reading (and writing, LOL self-props) blogs.  The very post we’re responding to mentioned how fandom is more “individual” these days, and yeah…we’re all unique and enjoy music in our own way.  It’s all good man, music is one of those things that we could fight about for days, but shouldn’t for a second.  Chill out and be who you are, whoever that is and whichever subculture (s), if any, you most identify with.

Track Listing: Songs From New Releases (Mostly?)

So new music is good right?  Whether relating to an upcoming or recent release, or even something that doesn’t appear to have a set connection yet, let’s run down some songs that are hot off the presses.

Falling Awake – “Planes”

Little Rock, Arkansas isn’t considered a pop-punk hotbed but Falling Awake do their best to represent the genre at home and abroad.  The trio have a self-titled EP behind them (which you can download free at their Bandcamp) and are taking pre-orders now for their debut full-length Constants & Variables, which comes out March 24th.  “Planes” is the first single, a vocally-impassioned song about lost love.  I’d say the drumming is my favourite part, with some interesting fills and good single use of the ride cymbal.  You can also get that for free at their Bandcamp.

Slow Turismo – “Corners”

Canberra’s Slow Turismo awesomely describe themselves as “elegant post-funk” on their Facebook page.  The five-piece, who include Conway brothers Sam, Max and Riley, offer up some atmospheric indie pop with this one, that I think – because everyone interprets lyrics differently so who the hell really knows right? – talks about wanting to stand out and finding yourself.  It’s vocally beautiful, with Sam Conway’s voice the highlight of the track and band.  They’re actually doing a short Australian tour around this song this month with Tully On Tully.

Short Skirts – “All Sliced Up”

Let’s go to Scandinavia!  First, with Trondheim, Norway’s Short Skirts.  This garagey punk offering is a true story about motorcycles and a resulting night in the hospital.  Clocking in at an appropriate 2:15, this song immediately caught my attention for its first line: “in the back of a car, smoking fags”.  “Fag” as a term for cigarette doesn’t get used in North America so at first I thought “what?” but then was like “oh right, Europe!”  The video for “All Sliced Up” has a vintage feel and of course, short skirts.  See what happened there?

Blackshots – “Cage” (Alex Zelenka Walking Dead Remix)

From Norway to Stockholm, we get a little electronic with this remix.  Described as “if DAF fucked My Bloody Valentine“, “Cage” has a really cool industrial feel to it, and the original (of course) reminds of Nine Inch Nails.  It’s a good, dark listen.

The Rebel Light – “Strangers”

If you like your modern with a big dose of classic, the indie pop of Los Angeles’ The Rebel Light is for you. “Strangers” is a psychedelic tune with bass/drums-dominant verses, which I love because it sounds like a longer bridge.  Plus, bassists are really the overlooked band member and deserve to be highlighted right?  These guys bleed their California home and are a good sit-and-chill-out listen.

The Perfect Addiction – “Toxic”

Chandler, Arizona pop-rockers The Perfect Addiction released their latest EP Ecstasy last year, and did “Living Room Sessions” as stripped-down re-imaginings of those songs.  “Toxic” is the second of four that they did, and they’re working on a follow-up to Ecstasy now.  A new single is coming out next month, and we’ll also await their new bassist as Trevor Dodson left the band earlier this year.  In the meantime, enjoy “Toxic” and further bone up on TPA by reading their chat with TPS.

How do you like them apples?  If we get any further details on albums that the unclaimed new singles appear on we’ll pass that along, but for now enjoy some hot and ready* tunes.

(*Please don’t sue Little Caesar’s, I’m just sayin’.)

The Taking Back Sunday/Brand New Feud: Still?

 In the early 2000s, the feud between then-new bands Taking Back Sunday and Brand New was quite the introduction to them, and one of the scene’s biggest stories.  Last week, OC Weekly published an interview with TBS frontman Adam Lazzara, where he called Brand New frontman Jesse Lacey “just a dick.  He just sucks.  He’s not a good person.  Who am I to say?  There’s somebody out there that’s gonna say I’m not a good person.  I don’t know.”  After, the internet partied like it’s 2002 and people got all defendy* (*TM?) of both bands, both guys, blah blah.  You know.  Many went “this is still a thing?”, including me.  So, if you need a refresher or you don’t know about this, let’s go back to how this feud started.

As legend has it, Jesse Lacey and Taking Back Sunday guitarist John Nolan were friends growing up.  At some point, Lacey’s girlfriend cheated with Nolan and a friendship was ruined.  As both bands formed, so did the diss tracks: Brand New’s “Seventy Times 7”, Taking Back Sunday’s “There’s No ‘I’ In Team”, Brand New’s “Mixtape”, Taking Back Sunday’s “Timberwolves at New Jersey”…yada yada yada. That’s the story, and as each band became a big player their feud became more known and was often a part of their press, fans, you name it.

When I first read Lazzara’s latest comments, I thought “mics are for singing not for swinging LOL” but then, “this is tired, what year is this?”  Can this feud still possibly have legs in 2015?  Is one side more dickish than the other?

The real answer, regardless of whether it’s still a thing, is who cares?  First of all, I partially blame OC Weekly for asking what it’s like for TBS to play songs like “There’s No ‘I’ In Team”.  That is not a relevant question for Taking Back Sunday anymore.  It was a couple of years ago when they did the anniversary tour for that album, their seminal debut Tell All Your Friends.  But now?  C’mon.  It’s also Adam Lazzara’s fault for not taking the high road and answering politely, regardless of what he thinks of Jesse Lacey.  This feud peaked ten years ago (publicly, anyway) and if brought up at all, should not still be a petty and angry subject.

Another thing is – if you have a vested interest as a fan – as the saying goes, don’t meet your heroes.  Once upon a time, John Nolan left Taking Back Sunday after rumours Lazzara, who was dating his sister Michelle, cheated on her.  His replacement, Fred Mascherino, eventually left and said something like TBS was more interested in cooking than making music.  HIS replacement Matt Fazzi and bassist Matt Rubano (who replaced Shaun Cooper, who left with Nolan) were eventually kicked out to bring Nolan and Cooper back, over the phone.  You should do that kinda thing in person shouldn’t you?  So, maybe Taking Back Sunday are dicks!

Or, Brand New?  Jesse Lacey isn’t known for being approachable, and the band have spent the past few years saying cryptic things about a follow-up to 2009’s Daisy.  Dicks right?

Look, it just doesn’t matter.  Taking Back Sunday’s lineup changes don’t necessarily mean Adam Lazzara or anyone in that band is a dick, and Jesse Lacey’s known shyness doesn’t make him a dick.  It does matter that Brand New are an ambitious group that challenge themselves and Taking Back Sunday are on the nostalgia circuit, but not in the context of this feud.  Fact is, they’re both really good bands who have a history, and that’s all.  It’s actually a testament to how well-liked Taking Back Sunday and Brand New are that one answer in an interview can set things off like it did.  It’s also unfortunate timing for Adam Lazzara, since he also just got nailed with a DWI charge.  I think most people hope this feud is dead, and not NEW AGAIN (boom, TBS album reference!).  I sure do, anyway.