Scene Specific: New England


*I’ve joked about being lazy and just combining the last Super Bowl post with the whoopie pie one for this, but let’s get serious and do a proper “Scene Specific” for this fabulous region.

New England is almost a world unto itself.  Old, distinguished, cultured and largely isolated, it maintains an identity partly apart from the rest of America.  It’s intelligent, very liberal and doesn’t have several nationwide restaurant chains.  Driven by Boston, it also has enough Plymouth rock to melt your face a few times over.  It’s a region close to my heart as someone who lives above it in the Maritimes.  Historical and cultural ties abound, including my American TV affiliates all being Boston stations.  So it’s good, and now let’s look at some rock music from there shall we?

Friday Night Lites

We’ll start with some Pine State pop-punk.  This Portland, Maine five-piece are putting out their debut EP Wherever You May Be November 20th.  The video for “Bases Loaded” dropped recently, with that baseball term seemingly being a metaphor for being at a breaking point.  Baseball and pop-punk?  I can get behind that combo.

Traditions

We’ll keep the pop-punk (pizza party) going with Traditions, a sick band from Westfield, Massachusetts.  Signed to the Bay State’s own Take This To Heart Records, their debut EP Cycles came out last year.  It’s all good, but start with “Polarity”.

Bellwire

Boston-based Bellwire do power pop that has plenty of spastic moments and several tender ones too.  Making use of open, largely faintly distorted chords, they’re undeniably indie and raw-sounding.  They’re really a group that you listen to and feel like you’re at a show, and that’s fucking awesome – they almost have a Your Majesty-era Anniversary vibe.  Bellwire have two EPs (2012’s Waterbed and 2013’s SummEP) behind them and a new album coming next year.

Vanna

More Boston?  More Boston.  Five full-lengths into their career, the hardcore five-piece are now part of the Pure Noise roster.  Their new covers EP ALT came out this month and features their spin on The Offspring, Smashing Pumpkins and others.  They just started and are just about to end their CAN/AM tour, which has them in Buffalo tonight before Amityville and Poughkeepsie, NY the next two nights.  If you live around there, you should go man.

Dismissed

Oh snap, New Hampshire time!  LIVE FREE OR DIE, BABY!  Hardcore of the more melodic variety comes from this Derry band, who have two songs up on their Bandcamp and have another coming out tomorrow according to their Facebook.  Of course, their previous update said that was supposed to be tonight so who knows!  It’ll be interesting to hear an album from these guys, for sure.

The Static Age

Now it’s off to Vermont, because you’re darn tootin’ we’re hittin’ all six New England states!  Post-punk act The Static Age are Chicago-based but originally from Burlington, Vermont – about an hour and a half from Montreal.  They’ve been a little quiet the last few years album-wise, but are working on one as we speak.  They released a deluxe edition of their 2004 debut Neon Nights Electric Lives last year, so…there’s that.  They do have a substantial back catalogue that you can enjoy in the meantime.

Deer Tick

Oh Providence, Rhode Island…you are cool.  Deer Tick are from there, and they’re cool too.  The alt-rockers have strong hints of folk and other genres, with frontman John McCauley’s voice having a Dylan/Cobain quality to it.  They have five full-lengths and other releases, and McCauley is married to Vanessa Carlton so that’s a good deal too.

The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

Finally we end in the only New England state we haven’t covered: Connecticut.  Part of the emo revival, TWIABP have WAY TOO LONG OF A NAME HOLY SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL, but also a huge, ever-evolving lineup that’s helped put out two well-regarded albums.  Harmlessness just came out last month and Whenever, If Ever came out in 2013 while on Massachusetts-originated, San Diego-based Topshelf Records.  The sophomore effort is more streamlined and evocative than the debut, and – in name alone, ha – you can’t call this group anything but ambitious.

“Hey, what about the Dropkick Murphys?  What about Four Year Strong?” you may be saying to yourself.  Listen, you know.  They’re huge and solid, and Run For Cover Records is a major player too.  And that’s just Boston!  Every “Scene Specific” aims to cover not only the obvious choices, but some less so.  New England is full of great music, and oh how about the bloody Berklee College of Music?  Notable people learn there dawg.  Okay go listen to these acts, and why not do it while watching the Patriots game that’s on at the time of this writing?  That just works (and uh, go Dolphins…sorry!).

Interview: Not Of

Noise rock is really an ode to instruments, and it’s what Toronto duo Not Of put on full display on their debut Pique.  John Ex (vocals/guitar) and Jason Seance (drums/vocals) just released the video for single “The Mark”, a fast-chugging number that works over the high frets in a way I haven’t seen in a while.  For getting to know them better, we chatted with the frontman – one of the only times it’s cool to deal with the ex am I right hey-o!  (Relationship comedy!)

You guys were friends well before becoming a musical duo.  Was finally coming together just opportunistic, or even before did you consider what it would be like to team up?

We had played together in small, casual amounts before, enough to know that there was chemistry.  In the end though, Not Of was an opportunistic happening.  I had this idea to start a guitar/drums duo without knowing whether or not Jason would be available.  I was just extremely fortunate that he was because he’s the perfect type of player for this stuff.  Heavy and forceful, but attentive to meter as well.  He really fusses over his execution in the studio — a detail oriented drummer.  Seeing as the rhythm section is basically all him, that’s crucial.

Besides sounding cool, is there any meaning behind your stage names?

Jason has a bunch floating around, all of which are basically word salad.  Mine is actually a riff on my real name and a five-minute decision made when Jason announced he wanted to use a pseudonym — I was in the middle of writing a bio, so it was like, “OK, I’ll use this!”  Fortunately, I still dig it.

You guys have a HivesNew PoliticsStrokesInterpol-busting-out-of-a-straight-jacket vibe.  Do you like any of them?  Who are some of your favourite artists?

Haha, it’s always interesting what people see in what you make.  Of those four, I have only real affection for the last two, but neither of them really influenced what we’re doing.  I would say that the primary template (as well as being many of the bands that we bounded over as friends) would be Drive Like Jehu, Kittens, Unwound, Helmet, Hot Snakes, Shallow North Dakota, Pixies, Husker Du.  We both like tons of bands outside of this strata, but these are the most relevant I’d say to what we’re focused on as a band.

With noise rock kinda being a look-what-this-can-do genre, what’s your favourite way to exploit the badassery of your instruments?

There’s a quote from Nels Cline in an interview about his guitar rig where he talks about how “degradation” is his guitar sound.  I’m nowhere near the player he is, but I think that’s part of my objective — to purposefully sabotage my guitar tones and make them messier and less articulate.  But at the same time, my rig has three separate channels and I spend an equal amount of time trying to tweak their personalities so that each stands apart from the others in terms of tone and frequency range.  It’s like, yes, I want it to sound like a wall of sound, but I also really want to be sure that the listener can differentiate when one amp is on or off.  I have tried tons of pedals whose characteristics I really like in isolation, but that when played with the entire rig simply become too indistinct.  So I just ditch them.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, despite how loud and full-on things can get, I try to ensure that I’m not always running at full tilt all the time.  That’s a big part of finalizing how I play a song — once the parts are written, then I have to decide which amps are on to make the song the most dynamic and thrilling that it can be.  And in the end, hopefully it works!

Can Not Of, Death From Above 1979 and The Standstills play an all-GTA-duo show and see if the roof is literally blown off the place?

Well, I don’t wanna speak for anyone else, but I’d say that we’re definitely in!

Not Of online: 

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Bandcamp
SoundCloud

Musician Halloween Costume Ideas


Halloween is a week from tonight, and hopefully you have a costume lined up.  If not, well let’s look at a few rockers who stand out for their wardrobe that perhaps you can whip up!

twenty one pilots

Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun have had quite the 2015.  Their eclectic, catchy sound has put them on the map well beyond the alternative scene and their interesting look could be yours this Halloween!  Dye your hair red, use red eye makeup, wear a toque/beanie/whatever you call it, wear goggles…etc., there are lots of options!

Motionless In White

Chris Motionless and the gang just scream Halloween.  If you want to go the darker route, you can goth out and go as these dudes.  And if you did it again next year you could…REINCARNATE.  (Woooo!)

New Year’s Day

Similar in vein to Motionless In White, I’m especially thinking Ash Costello’s half-red/half-black hair.  You could really mess with people checking you out too:

“Hey baby I love redheads.”
“Oh that’s too bad.” *turns to the other side*
“Whhaaatttttttt.”

Lol?

MASKED INTRUDER

Ski masks.  It’s really just ski masks.  As long as you can find ones that are green, blue, red and yellow you can be MASKED INTRUDER.  YOU ALSO SHOULD PROBABLY BE LOUD THE WHOLE NIGHT TOO BECAUSE CAPS LOCK IS THEIR FRIEND!

You could obviously do Halloween as any musician you want, but you’re less likely to have to explain yourself to people if you choose any of the preceding (with extra style points if you bring instruments).  Those are some pretty cool and topical examples anyway, so…you’re welcome!

Album Review: Plastic Rhino – Recondition


Back in August TPS premiered “Big Man Baby”, the first single from Plastic Rhino’s new EP Recondition.  The album itself came out last week, and follows up last year’s Let’s Begin and 2013’s Confessions of a Nobody.  Like the EP it follows up, Recondition was produced by Tom Chandler and expands on the Los Angeles duo’s nineties vibe in even heavier fashion.

Recondition starts off with the aforementioned “Big Man Baby”, and to describe it we might as well refer to what was said in the premiere: “…is about being with a man who thinks he’s all that, and not being who he thinks you should be.  I love how the first part of the verses is just drums and very subtle palm-muting – that’s my favourite part of the song.  There’s also a great bass-laden interlude before the solo, and the chorus features wailing vocals and the refrain of “you always had to be the big man baby”.  Also as pointed out in the review, how about that potential double meaning in the title!?  Up next is “H2S”, which features some seriously low bass and guitar riffs that focus on two notes and descending.  “Like It” features verses that sound like uptempo blues with the sass of country’s (!) bad girl moments, a la Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert.  A soaring chorus sings about wanting to be loved as is, with the passion evident in frontwoman Atara Gottschalk’s vocals.

Recondition’s fourth song is probably my favourite.  “M.A.D.” is…spelled out for you d’uh!  It’s a brooding track that sings about the state of the world and who’s doing what, with lyrics like “try to make a difference/try not to explode” and “get going/we still haven’t blown up the world”.  Guitar work where every part has its own space to breathe works really well in combination.  “Make It Heavy” starts well with building drums before becoming – at least in the second verse – a seeming battle cry for the music Plastic Rhino perform: heavy-ass rock.  Overall I’d say it’s a song about making shit happen, regardless of what that may be.  It also features a technically simple but well-effected solo that’s pretty cool.  “Queen Crimson” is the penultimate track, a raucous number that sends both middle fingers towards the subject being sung to.  The chorus has great layered, call-and-response vocals and Gottschalk’s pre-solo spoken word piece of “and it’s just best to stay the fuck away from me”.  Finally, Recondition ends with “The Ballad Of The Last Rhino”, which slows things down but still features a big sound.  The six-minute track features the refrain of “’cause one-for-one is all we have/and all we have is one”, and just under four minutes in gets ca-razy and suddenly becomes a punk song.  It’s really an appropriate album ender for this band, actually.

Plastic Rhino play rock that’s loud and sweaty.  Atara Gottschalk’s vocals have range for days and a howl that would make any vocalist blush.  Jack Glazer’s guitar really keeps it no-frills, making use of effects at times but largely just letting the instrument be its natural heavy self.  If you like artists like Veruca Salt, Fireflight, Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin, Plastic Rhino are definitely for you.  Recondition is out now, so go get it.

Plastic Rhino online:

Canadian Election WWPD: What Would Propagandhi Do?


Tonight is the 42nd Canadian federal election.  Current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been in power since 2006 and is challenged by Liberal Justin Trudeau (the son of legendary former PM Pierre), New Democrat Tom Mulcair and Green Elizabeth May.  With that in mind, I figured we could check in with Canada’s foremost political punks, Propagandhi, because they always have something to say about this kinda thing.  For that, it’s simply a matter of hitting up their Twitter (which formerly had my favourite site bio, “The North Korea of punk”, but now has the alright-I-guess “Treaty 1”.)

First a couple of more general band leanings, starting with this hilariously-worded and certainly fair point:

BUILD YOUR WALLS ON THAT, MOFOS.  Here’s some more general thinking, coming from the current American Presidential nomination campaigns:

Getting weaponry from Canada, perhaps:

Cosmic.  Knowing their extreme-left views, Propagandhi won’t be voting for the incumbent Harper.  Doesn’t seem like the NDP is worth it either:

I probably could’ve just embedded these first few tweets, but I did the ol’ print screen because I wanted the whole quoted tweets right here for you.  So…let’s start those so the slight blurriness is justified!  Politics is indeed often about the lesser evils:

Because everyone sucks right!?  Even when they’re endorsed by beloved famous people:

It really would be crazy to be privy to so many Government things.  It would also be very unnerving:

Those links are about the MOVE bombing and secret US prisons.  Finally, it was basically already summed up in the lesser-evils tweet but there’s this response from Propagandhi on whether they voted:

Really though.

The thing is, when you have the ability to vote in any election, do it.  Even if your choice probably won’t win, vote anyway.  Bone up and make an educated vote, and no matter what happens you’ve done your part.  Propagandhi would do it…well, probably…they didn’t really answer that person did they?

Writer’s Block AKA The Boy Who Blocked His Own Material


I went into this weekend really not knowing what to write about.  Don’t get me wrong: there are lots of reviews, interviews, Track Listings, Scene Specifics and beyond that will be covered, but I wanted this post to be more general in the interest of being well-rounded.  There are themed posts coming too, but they’re being saved due to time sensitivity.  I do know that I (probably) nailed the Brand New reference in the title, right!?

Writer’s block is a common thing for musicians too.  It’s why years go by between albums, and why they sometimes get scrapped at the last minute because they actually kinda suck.  When you’re trying to write in-between touring and everything else in life – even non-musical things – it can be hard to tap into that mindset.  Maybe you want the next album to sound different, or feel pressure after the success of the last one, or have material but think “you know, this probably fits better elsewhere”.  There are lots of reasons, really.  But writer’s block can be combated the same way for every type.  Here are some ideas. (LOL “ideas”, this post results from the lack of them doesn’t it!?)

Take a break and enjoy other things.

When you’re struggling with something, sometimes it’s best to just say “to hell with this” and just put it aside for a while.  Go out and do something you enjoy that has nothing to do with writing.  Having one constant focus can lead to burnout and overthinking, and that’ll ultimately kill your enjoyment (even if it’s only temporary).  Taking a break recharges your mind, and inspiration often comes out of nowhere and from the strangest places.  Letting it go for a bit doesn’t mean you’re slacking.

Just write, damn it.

“But Kevin, you just said to take a break from writing!!!1!1”  I sure did!  But in lieu of that, if you keep at it eventually you’ll have a breakthrough.  As a blogger that doesn’t work as well for me, but as a musician you can just sit with your guitar and jam.  Some of the coolest riffs, etc. come when you’re not trying – which sounds ridiculous, admittedly, considering I basically just said keep trying.  What I mean is by jamming, you’re inadvertently writing – not saying to yourself “okay, I’m gonna write a riff using the low E and A strings”.  Basically, don’t have preconceived notions about what you need to write, just let it happen.

Listen/read/watch.

Inspiration has to come from somewhere.  The odd time something will just fly out of your ass, but there’s usually a more quantifiable source.  Put on some music, read something, watch something.  We all have our favourites and influences, and you’re not ripping anyone off by using them to help you come up with something.  Remember, it’s all been done.  I mean, I’m not saying pilfer the main riff of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” but it’s okay to be involved with something else that gets you going.

Being creative is both a blessing and a curse.  You can pump out some compelling and brilliant things, but you can also have so much going on in your head that it’s counter-productive.  But you know what?  Overthinking and worrying and all that means you care.  We all hit a wall sometimes, it’s simply part of the process.  Like, you just read a TPS post about being stuck for material for a TPS post.  That just happened.

Scenematography: Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” Grand Theft Auto Spoof

Look at that, an actual “Scenematography” logo!  Told you this would happen, and boooyyyy did that deliver huh?  Award-winning.

Inexplicably and awesomely, blink-182’s video for “What’s My Age Again?” has been reimagined with Grand Theft Auto V characters.  I wondered if this was going to be a shot-for-shot remake of the original or just naked guys stealing cars, and it’s indeed mostly the latter.  The video takes you through GTA scenes – knocking over people (including clocking a poor bastard who was just rockin’ out to his boombox), running through studio grounds and breaking into the Fort Zancudo military base before a surprise ending.  All the while, the glorious everyman nakedness of characters Michael, Franklin and Trevor is on display…well, aside from the blurred-out junk of course.

If you’re a Grand Theft Auto fan you’ll especially get a kick out of this, but even if not it’s pretty funny.  Behold, “What’s My Age Again?” GTA-style:

Liner Notes: Monday, October 12th

First of all, it’s Thanksgiving in Canada so happy that to my fellow Canadians!  The country’s own Chart Attack‘s “Ask A Band” feature talked to FIDLAR about girls and fake IDs and stuff.

Interesting stuff at Alternative Press – besides their website revamp, *Joey Lawrence* whoa! – as Brand New’s Jesse Lacey hinted at the band’s end at last night’s show in Nashville.  He broke down when talking about bandmates Vincent Accardi, Brian Lane and Garrett Tierney, saying it’ll be the last show they play for a while and how “this won’t last much longer”.  Honestly, they’ve been so inactive the past few years it’s not really surprising.  Great, seminal band though so that would be a loss.  We’ll see.

Also at AP, several labels teamed up for a sampler called From The Get Go.  Showcasing new artists on Epitaph, Hopeless, Rise, Fearless and six other notables, it’s basically a who’s-who of who-will-possibly-be.

Noisey passes along former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic guesting on Fox Business’ show Kennedy.  They also point out how you could feel old, since Krist is so bald a former Nirvana member and MTV VJ are now talking politics on Fox Business.

Los Angeles-based Swerve are putting out their self-titled EP on Friday.  With hints of Brit-rock and artists like The Replacements, they have a raw, catchy sound.  You can check out “Baby Blue” and other songs in the meantime.

SCANDINAVIAN METAL TIME.  Finland’s Hautajaisyö are putting out their self-titled debut on Halloween.  They used to be called REDEYE and released four demos and an EP under that name, but went more melancholy and death and thus became their current incarnation.  The name means “Funeral Night” in English, and you can catch an album teaser via their linked-to Facebook page.Hope Vista loves the New York Giants and wants you to take her to a game.

Absolute Punk passes along the stream of Coheed and Cambria’s new album The Color Before the Sun.  It’s out on Friday, and the band’s first album outside the Armoury Wars storyline.

Finally at NME, Bloc Party’s new album Hymns is coming out January 29th.  Their new lineup features bassist Justin Harris and drummer Louise Bartle, who replaced Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong respectively.  You can also see NME take Kele Okereke to a Lego exhibition, so…there’s that.

Interview: Kendall Lake


One word came to mind the first time I listened to Kendall Lake: interesting.  A genre-bending sound that conjures up tones of Silverchair and the mania of Sia, the Los Angeles singer’s combination of grunge, alt-pop and beyond is intriguing and refreshing.  She was featured in the recent all-female “Track Listing”, now let’s get to know her better shall we?

There’s a lot going on in your sound.  How would you sum yourself up?

I would sum myself up as a confused, neurotic artist and I believe that shows in my music.  I change moods and feelings so often, I do the same with my music.  I do what I feel at the time.  I might rap, I may sing or I might belt my brains out.  I try not to limit how I express myself.

You’ve played legendary LA venues like Viper Room and The Troubadour.  Has there been a standout show you’ve done up to this point – the venue itself, other artists on the bill, crowd reaction, etc?

They are all stand outs to me.  I’ve played super small and obscure places and loved it.  I’m actually still in a little bit of shock that I’ve been on these stages, any stage actually, let alone legendary ones.  Whenever the crowd laughs with me I feel super cool though.  As dorky as that sounds.  I’m an artist not everyone knows yet and sometimes I can tell they may or may not care or feel the songs but if they laugh at my jokes and engage in my banter that’s when I feel connected.  Those are the best moments on stage for me.

The lack of female representation at music festivals has been a hot topic this year.  Do you ever find getting on bills an uphill battle?

I hadn’t realized this was a hot topic.  I know that personally I haven’t yet performed at any festivals, but I would LOVE to and have been trying to.  I haven’t made a correlation between me not booking festivals and my gender though.  I will say from my point of view, life is an uphill battle, business is an uphill battle, being a musical artist is an uphill battle.  All of it is.

A line from “Voices” that really stands out to me is “they’ve been my only friends since I was a baby”.  Is that song autobiographical?

All my songs are autobiographical.  In one way or another…..that’s a pretty sad line in the song isn’t it lol.

Any new album plans in the works?  What else does your world have in store for the fall?

All I do is make music!  I’m not really educated in the format of albums and stuff so that’s not really where my head’s at right now.  I just wanna sing.  I plan on releasing more music while I continue to perform at my favorite venues and hopefully I’ll be on the bill for some festivals soon!

Kendall Lake online:

Facebook
Twitter
SoundCloud

Scenematography: Sons of Rico – “What Am I Doing Here?”

Melbourne-based indie rockers Sons of Rico just released the video for “What Am I Doing Here?”.  It’s the first single off their upcoming third album, which follows-up 2013’s In Rico Glaciers.  The song itself is the dandiest type of indie rock ditty (…LOL what a Dad-of-Rocker type description), featuring drums both electronic and regular, in-unison vocals and dirty/rifftastic guitar.

As for the video itself, it has an almost psychedelic, old-school feel.  Frontman Alex MacRae’s face is on a puppet that alternately dances, plays Scrabble and violently cuts a carrot among other things.  While that’s happening, keyboardist/percussionist/vocalist Siobhan McGinnity is completely mesmerized by her phone, which shows the rest of the band playing in a video-within-a-video.  By the end, MacRae’s puppet is flying around the world along with the previous shenanigans.  The final scene has both parties in bed, McGinnity still on the phone and MacRae all like *eye roll*.  It’s an absurd video, in a good way.

But what does it all mean?  Is there something couple-y in this video for a song about addressing a less-than-ideal situation?  Who knows, decide for yourself!  Presenting said video for Sons of Rico’s “What Am I Doing Here?”:

Sons of Rico online:

Official
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Bandcamp
YouTube