Friday, August 29, 2014

James on James: James Damion gets the 411 on CoolDad Music from James Appio.

It's hard to fathom that CoolDad Music has only been around for two years. With the amount of content and consistency of which it's delivered. You would think that CDM was a state institution with a history as long as New Jersey treasures Jersey Beat and the Aquarian. After months of getting familiar with CoolDad Music and engaging James in Facebook discussions. I decided to reach out to its creator to talk about the site, staying busy and just what I've been missing on the south side of things.

JD: How did the inspiration for Cool Dad Music come about? Had you written about music before that? Maybe had a fanzine or contributed to someone else's?

JA: I’d never done anything like this before. I just spent a lot of time sharing favorite songs, album recommendations, grainy phone pictures from shows on social media. My friends used to say to me, “You should start a blog.” So I did.
     I’d kind of gotten to the point in my professional life where I wasn’t deriving much fulfillment from work, and CoolDad Music turned into an extremely rewarding second job. I joke that I’ve put more work into and gotten more out of running the blog than I ever did from 20-odd years at “real jobs.”

JD: Did you know what you wanted to cover from the get go? What's your focus?

JA: My focus has really evolved. I’ve got the tagline at the top of the blog that says
“Thoughts on mainstream indie music from a cooldad on the Jersey Shore.” At the beginning, I was just writing mostly about the music I was listening to on something like SiriusXMU.
The “Big Indie” like Arcade Fire and The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend. I was also reviewing shows by national touring acts either in Asbury or NYC.
     In the search for other stuff to write about, though, I started to open my eyes to things happening locally. I like to say that the half-full can of PBR that King Khan threw from the stage at Asbury Lanes knocked some sense into me when it landed on my head. It was that, plus hooking up with and contributing to a great local webzine here --
Speak Into My Good Eye -- that shifted my focus a bit. Things changed when I realized that there was this whole world of local music right in my backyard. I started to try and make it a point to let people know that, “Hey. You can go out almost every night of the week around here and see something really great.”

Alex Rosen at Asbury Park's Wonder Bar. Photo; James Appio
I’ve also gotten more and more into taking pictures at shows, so there’s a lot of pics at the blog as well.
     I’ve done a couple of book reviews. A few movie reviews.
 So focus? I’m not sure I’m really that focused. But I’m much more locally tuned in than when I started. Maybe I should change that tagline.

JD: Can you pinpoint something that might set you apart from the other catrillion blog and web slingers covering music in our area?

JA: I think my point of view and my approach set me apart a bit. I like to say that CoolDad Music is a blog not a webzine. What I mean by that is that it’s still really my personal observations on what’s going on. I’m not a journalist or a critic. I would love to have as many people as possible read the blog and let me know what they think, but I’m not trying to “monetize pageviews” or produce “clickable content” or whatever. I just try to write about the way a show or a song or a record makes me feel. What it makes me think about.
How it relates to my experience. And my experience is that of a middle-aged, suburban husband and father of two who has the most wonderful amazing wife in the world. She can tell what makes me happy and encourages me to go for it. So I go out a few nights a week to see bands that I know, or to catch something new; and I try to write about it in a way that’s interesting even if you don’t know or care about the actual music. Sometimes I’m probably guilty of using the music I listen to as an excuse to write about something entirely different with the show or the album as just a stepping stone.

JD: How long before you went from a blog to a .com?

JA: I’ve been CoolDadMusic.com from the beginning. I went and got the domain, figured out how to make it point to Blogger, and went live. I still use Blogger which is both beautiful and frustrating in its simplicity. It doesn’t really take any technical knowledge to get a post on the site, but it’s also limiting in some ways. For example, I’ve developed this whole convoluted workflow to get HTML5 slideshows into my posts so that people can see the pics on their phones. I’ve thought about moving to Wordpress, but I’m a creature of habit and fear change.
     Wow. That was kind of a boring answer. Sorry.

JD: No worries, we're old.

JD: Do you feel being a .com makes you come off looking more legit. Get you more review submissions and traffic?

JA: Like I said, I’ve been a .com since the beginning, so I’m not sure how being a .com vs a .blogspot.com affects traffic. But, for me, the biggest positive influencer of traffic and readership is actually getting out and meeting people in real life. It’s funny. We’re so plugged into social media and the Internet. And I have some hermit-like, anti-social tendencies that could really be exacerbated by our disconnected electronic world. But it’s the real connections with real people that make the most difference, at least on the scale that I’m operating at now.

JD: I'm currently wracking my brain trying to remember who put me on to the term
"Dad Rock". When I picture the term, I can't help but picture fat, balding men wearing
Dad jeans. Would that be an accurate description of Dad Rock and does it relate to the term "Cool Dad Music"?

JA: Dad Rock to me is guitar-based rock music played, mostly, by men over the age of about 35. It’s pretty conventional and usually based on “classic rock.” I think of bands like
The National, The Walkmen, The Hold Steady, and Wilco as Dad Rock. I know it’s used as a negative and a joke, but I like a lot of those bands. But I am a dad.
     CoolDad Music is more about my being a cooldad -- a guy who’s reached a point in life where many people think you kind of stop evolving your tastes. Instead, I do stuff like go to FYF Fest in LA to traipse around in the dirt and dust with a bunch of twentysomethings. It’s kind of a dig at myself, like a joke about how all those kids must see me when I’m out there with them. Funny thing is, though, most of them don’t care and have just welcomed me and accepted me like any other music lover. Also, in the old days when I was just posting stuff to Twitter and Facebook, I would hashtag it #cooldad to kind of say, “Yeah. I’m a dad and I like hipster music.”
     I’ve expanded CoolDad Music from a purely one-man operation by adding fellow cooldad Scotch LaRock as another columnist. We met through the blog, and it turns out he’s just like me when it comes to his love of music. It’s nice to know there are more of us out there.

JD: I often kid myself about going to more shows at places like The Saint, Brighton Bar, Asbury Lanes and the Stone Pony. Truth is, I can rarely deal with driving both ways and I hate public transportation. Aside from that. I'm flat out lazy. Tell me a little bit about what's happening on your side of the tracks.

JA: It seems like so much. Like I said, it’s possible to see some quality show just about every single night of the week.
     Asbury Lanes is just a unique and wonderful place with one of the friendliest, most welcoming staffs around. Jenn, Mike, Sam, and everybody there really care about what they’re doing. Same goes for Scott and Meg over at The Saint. Plus, The Saint may be my favorite place to take pictures. The Brighton gets lots of interesting and venerable bands through, almost always paired with some local acts. I saw Jonathan Richman at The Brighton this year, and it may have been my favorite live experience all year. The Stone Pony is the big name venue in the area, but it’s still small enough that it’s great when you can see one of your heroes there. Ensuring that you end up with a good spot can take some planning and preparation, though.
     In addition to those places, there are some new-ish things happening. There are a bunch of free shows every week. Christine Feola who runs Dark City Entertainment down here puts on a free show at The Wonder Bar every, single Monday. “Happy Mondays” has grown into one of the major events of the week. Thursday through Saturday see a bunch of free shows on the boardwalk at the Langosta Lounge / Asbury Park Yacht Club complex. And there’s also a growing DIY scene at places like the Wunderloft, Red Bank Rehearsal Studios, and dens and basements all around the area.

Asbury’s Little Dickman Records is a great rock and roll label run by two of the coolest people around, Chris Yaniak and Amy Earixson.
The Battery Electric, Hot Blood, Corrina Corrina, T.V. Tramps, Inspecter 7, Wolfcock are all on the label; and they all care about fostering music here in the area.
     You may not have to travel too far to see some of the bands from down here. I think Hot Blood and The Vansaders are going to stop at
The Lamp Post in Jersey City and The Gutter in Brooklyn on their current tour. You should definitely go see them.

JD: I think it's safe to say that we are an aging breed. We're past our high school, college and mid to continually late 20's. What is it that still motivates you to leave the house, cover live music and buy records?

JA: It’s just my favorite thing to do in the world, it turns out. I was having just a crappy day at work earlier this year. I managed to wrangle myself an invite to a Sharon Van Etten lunchtime taping for the A.V. Club at the Stone Pony. I got off of my conference call and went inside to hear her do Springsteen’s “Drive All Night,” and I was transported. Everything for the rest of the day was better.
     I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been up front at a show and just stopped to close my eyes and let everything wash over me. Or how many times, confronted with some situation or moment, I’ve thought of a song that plays over it like a movie soundtrack.
     People tell me that it’s kind of funny the way I always manage to bring every conversation back to music or relate everything to an experience at a show or to an album I like, but that’s me. My wife recognized that music is what makes me happy, so she has encouraged me every step of the way.
     Sometimes I wish I had found all this out sooner -- or acted on it, anyway. But I am having a blast now.

Dentist (The Band) performing at Asbury Park's The Saint. Photo; James Appio
JD: I recall you mentioning Dentist as your current favorites. What is it about them that you love so much. Any other favorites that can't go without mention?
(past and present)

JA: Dentist are definitely one of my local favorites around here. They just hit on a lot of things that I really like. Reverb, fuzz, surf, hooks, pop. And no other Asbury-based bands are really doing what they do now, so there’s a freshness to them.

I mentioned the Little Dickman bands. Hot Blood and The Battery Electric, especially, do a lot to try and grow the local music scene. Not only are they really good bands in their own right, but they also try to bring bands from other areas to Asbury. Corrina, Corrina are a band of under-20-somethings that I can see going onto bigger things if they stick with it.
     Smalltalk is a relatively new band made up of Zak Kaplan, Jamie Goldfarb, Tara Jones, John Chladniček, and Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls.
They do late 80s, British-sounding stuff like The Jesus and Mary Chain or
The Wedding Present. Black Wine are one of a couple of bands maybe associated a little more with New Brunswick that I think of as local. They’re a great band (they call themselves no-core) who are based down here now. Brick Mower are another New Brunswick via Monmouth County pop punky band I like.
     Then there’s the eclectic prog of Accidental Seabirds or the drone-y noise of Wreaths. There’s garage rock from The Von Mons and Ba Babes. Bob Paulos and Nick Cucci of GayGuy / StraightGuy are one of the loudest, hardest rocking two-pieces around.
River City Extension have a new album coming next year. Oh, and Dollys. Another indie pop band. They’re from New Brunswick, too; but they’ve kind of made Asbury a second home.
     I’m not trying to name drop. These are all good bands. There are more that I’m forgetting, but that’s why you’ve got to get down here and see for yourself or keep on the lookout for them in case they show up closer to you.
     My all-time favorites are artists like Bob Mould, The Replacements, Yo La Tengo, Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine, Billy Bragg, The Clash, Neutral Milk Hotel, Built to Spill, Pavement. For the last few years, I’ve loved Titus Andronicus, Screaming Females,
The Men, Shellshag, Waxahatchee, Swearin’. I’ve also been kind of into some of these 90s revival bands like California X, Milk Music, Diarrhea Planet. And I just heard this band, Further, who are actually a 90s band that never really made it big. I’ve been loving the compilation they’re putting out in a few weeks.

Thanks for all of the questions. Get yourself down here and tell some of the bands you like to come down here and play. I’m always up for something new, and I don’t like driving much either.

CoolDad Music

Friday, August 22, 2014

Images and Thoughts on the Balloon Squad Reunion at Clifton's Clash Bar

When it comes to getting invited to show. I've gotten into the habit of asking 
"What time does the first band go on?" Since going to matinees at CBGB's in my teens. 
I've always had a habit of arriving way to early. Often feeling awkward, anxious and downright weird. So when I was told that The Harmonica Lewinskies would be going on at 9:00 sharp. I knew, that for once in my life. I was definitely going to be late. 

As I entered The Clash Bar I immediately felt the warmth of friends, familiar faces and smiling strangers. A voice called out my name and a friends recent quote about being overworked, tired and totally getting her ass to this show felt as clear as the bells of 
St. Mary's. 

I was talking to Cindi prior to their set and recall her saying "I can't wait to see Ghostpal." "They f#%king rock." Rock they did. The Brooklyn quartet really impressed with their blend of soulful and downright funky jams. Oliver Ignatius moves around the stage with James Brown precision and grace. Swinging his bass as if to swat away the posers and non believer. I was really impressed by this band. They more than made up for my missing the Harmonica Lewinskies, who were up front and present dancing throughout the set. Check out their Bandcamp Here and throw them a few bucks for their album "This was Ghostpal".


It's pretty safe to say that The Brixton Riot (and Jerry Lardieri to be specific) are personal favorites of mine. Being that they live on the south side of the Jersey tracks and aren't exactly a weekly fixture on Jersey's music landscape. I cherish the rare chance to see them live, let alone in my neck of the woods. With a name that instantly reminds me of my first love, The Clash and a sound that reminds me of everything I love about living in New Jersey. What kind of jerk would I be if I didn't take advantage of each and every chance I had to breathe the same air as them. As the band plugged in, Jerry leaned in to my deaf ear and asked "What song do you want us to play?" It was a moment, a special one that made me feel as if I'd been given the keys to Clifton and made Honorary Citizen for a day. Without the slightest hesitation I replied "Signals to Noise." And why not. It's only been my wake up song, my call to action, my sound the alarm inspiration since it's release in 2012. From that moment on, I found myself on the tip of my toes, cross stepping and singing along with wild abandonment. Simply said, The Brixton Riot serve as the perfect elixir for whatever ails you. They definitely put the spirit in me on this particular night. Go check out their Bandcamp Here  and give them a long listen.

Having first heard of Balloon Squads reunion show back in July. The anticipation and momentum had plenty of time to build and grow. Though I had never experienced or even heard of the band while active in the 80's and 90's. Numerous conversations with former bassist Cindi Merkle led me to seek out their music. Once acquired, I gained an admiration and appreciation for the Squad that help foster my interest in seeing them gather once again. Their reunion turned out just the way I would have imagined. The atmosphere was uplifting and positive. Friends, family and former members gathered as the Balloon Squad took the stage. There was plenty of laughs and stage banter. Members switching instruments and singing duties. A high point of their set, for me personally, was getting to see Cindi so incredibly happy. This was the first time I ever experienced her singing. Seeing this side of her really helped my appreciation for her as a musician grow. Nights like these really help me understand how much music still matters. How it all makes our lives and our ability to communicate, so much better. In closing, it can't go without saying what an incredible guy Bob Clash is. He's been supporting great music for as long as I can remember and as much as I miss seeing him behind the counter of Montclair's Let it Rock. It's just as good seeing him running The Clash Bar. JD




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Conversation with Overlake's Thomas Barrett

Overlake's highly anticipated debut LP "Sighs" has been one of 2014's most treasured and praised releases we've seen in a very long time. The band, featuring  Tom Barrett (guitar/vocals), Lysa Opfer (bass/vocals) and Scotty Imp (drums),  formed rahter in
Jersey City, NJ in early 2012. Since forming, they've built a loyal and growing fan base through local, intimate gatherings at local clubs and watering holes. As the trio returned from touring. I decided to reach out to Tom to talk about the band, their tour and very impressive debut. Here's what transpired. JD (Interview and Images by James Damion)

James: In recalling a recent conversation outside the Bat Cave. I mentioned when we first met. (During an interview with No Pasaran) You seemed the least likely person to be fronting a band. The most unlikely to become this multi instrumental singer song writer.
Can you fill me in on all the reasons I was wrong?

Tom: You're not wrong for thinking that. Up until just a few years ago, I'd sort of accepted that I'd always be anything but a lead singer in a band, despite having a constant desire to do my own thing since I was 19 or 20, when I was obsessing over bands like Sebadoh and Pavement. I had and still have a lot of confidence issues, but I'm also not getting any younger so I have to do this now, while I only look partially ridiculous, haha.

James: Was there anything specific that make you go from the back beat to the front seat?

Tom: Nothing specific, just feeling the pressures of time and age, you know?
I'd also reached a point where some major life changes were starting to occur, my girlfriend
(now fiancée) and I moving to Jersey City together at the end of 2011 being the most major one. Shortly after, I just decided that it was the right time to start focusing on something more reflective of my own personality.

James: So did NO Pasaran run it's course? I think it's safe to say, the band left a lasting impression on a lot of people.

Tom keeping the beat with No Pasaran.
Tom: Yeah, that band ran its course. We talked very fleetingly about getting together and maybe playing a couple of shows, but we all agree that we wouldn't want to do it unless we were at 100 percent, and no one in the band has the time to bring it back up to that number. Eric is also about to get married and devotes so much of his time to his educational career, Romel has a job and a family and plays in Life Eaters, and I have all of my own nonsense. We'd only end up half-assing things and we don't want things to happen that way.

James: How did you and Lysa bond. How long before you realized you wanted to make music together?

Lysa rocking out at The Batcave.
Tom: Lysa and I played together in WJ and the Sweet Sacrifice.
I was on drums, she played keys. Before then, we knew each other only in passing, but in that band we came to realize we had all these different tastes in common, primarily shoegaze bands and some post-rock stuff. One of our first hangs was seeing Broken Social Scene at Webster Hall. She had been working on her solo record (Big Lake) and asked if I'd play drums on it, so I did and it turned out alright. Later on, we just sort of started exchanging song ideas that we'd been working on. This was three years ago or so. The initial idea of forming a band together came shortly after, but I was reluctant only because I'd had all these other musical endeavors I'd been entertaining and/or fantasizing about, plus I was still playing drums in No Pasaran. It was only when our drummer friend Michael DiTullio posted a Facebook status looking for people to play with that Lysa and I came together and the
band was formed. The ideas for first three songs on the record were hatched from those sessions.

James: Can you take me through the song writing process like for Overlake?
What inspires what  your writing? Where does it come from?

Tom: There isn't one set process, there's a multitude. The songs on the record are the results of a variety of different processes. There are the aforementioned first three songs which came from jams and songs still can happen that way, but everything else on the record came from demos I'd done by myself on the old Tascam 4-track. "Our Sky" and "We'll Never Sleep" came literally from nowhere. They were just floating around out there in the ether and managed to find me somehow. "Fell Too Far" and "Is This Something"
I struggled with a bit. There was a period when we thought "Fell Too Far" wouldn't make the final cut. A lot of nitpicking and fine-tuning went into that one. It's not my favorite,
but Lysa's vocals sound great. I wrote the lion's share of the lyrics on this record, but that song was a fifty-fifty split; Lysa wrote her part and I wrote mine. "Back to the Water" was a song from 2008 that just played well with the others. "Your KS" is literally just a demo.

James: I have this terrible habit of telling bands what influences I hear in their music. I hate it, but I always find myself thinking "They remind me of..." or "I hear a heavy ... influence there." The first time I saw you live, I definitely felt a My Bloody Valentine vibe.
However, Elliot Smith seemed to dominate my thoughts. Would my kooky comparisons hold any weight?

TB: They do. I personally don't hear it, but Elliott is one of my all-timers. I could never come close to approaching anything that possesses the majesty of an Elliott Smith song.
He's as singular as singular comes. It's still so upsetting because he should be here, making music or not. It's nice to hear that's what you take from it, though. Everyone's got their own set of ears.

James: What are some of the bands key influences? Inspirations musically?

Tom: My favorite period of music is the American indie rock of the mid-90's: Pavement, Sebadoh, Guided By Voices, etc. My two favorite bands of all time are Dinosaur Jr.
and Sonic Youth. I wasn't really having a lot of British music that was happening back then,
but would later fall in love with bands like Ride, Slowdive, Lush and My Bloody Valentine, obviously. I try not to cop other guitar styles too much, but I can't help myself.
Some sounds are just too much fun to make on an electric guitar with some distortion and delay thrown on top. Watch out for the Bendies, they're very addictive.

James: What do you like to listen to at home when you're by yourself?

Tom: The War on Drugs' latest is my current go-to. It's nearly a perfect record. I think about it when I'm not at home, how I can't wait to get there and throw that delicious-looking purple record on the turntable and just soak in all the sonics. It's epic-sounding. And it is delicious-looking. Like a giant piece of raspberry-flavored hard candy. Same with the last Kurt Vile record, except it's blue. I also recommend the new Big Ups and Dead Stars records.
And Sharon Van Etten, of course.

James: I keep hearing about The War on Drugs. What draws you in as a listener?

Tom: I just love them. Their music is so visual and dreamlike. I wish I could rattle off words as effortlessly as Adam Granduciel does, or at least that's how it seems. He's up there with Stephen Malkmus or Isaac Brock as far as being a truly singular and fluid vocalist.
There's a lyric in the song "Best Night" where he says "I'm a thousand miles behind with a million more to climb." How can you not connect with that? His band also manages to sound futuristic while harkening back to old classic rock reliables like Dylan or Tom Petty.
They bridge a generation gap. People of all ages are into them which is cool.

James: There' been a lot of praise for "Sigh's"..... I'm certain it will make a lot of "Best of 2014" Lists.
How do you feel about the finished product.

Tom: I feel great about it, ultimately. I can't allow myself to listen to it too much because I'll eventually tear it to shreds, but I've honestly never been more proud of a recording that I've done. Just taking in everything that led up to it,
you know? A lot of sweat and sleepless nights went into this record. We're monumentally happy with the end result. There are some things I would change, but that's what second records are for.

James: Have you been writing new material since it's release?

Tom: Yes. I've got a batch of songs I'm trying to finish, and Lysa has some ideas she plans on bringing into the fold. The goal is album number two. Since this record is sort of mysterious and in B&W, I'd like the next one to be a bit more direct lyrically, and bursting forth with all kinds of fantastic bright colors. If the first record sort of quietly eases its way through the crack of an unclosed door, then the next one should just push it wide open without knocking. It'll probably be a while before we start playing new songs live, though.
We haven't even started learning them yet. Maybe a new song here and there down the line, but we don't want to give too much away so far in advance of the record becoming a materialized thing.

James: You just recently went out on tour to support "Sighs". Where did you go?
What were some of the highlights and specific spots worth noting?

Tom: Philly, Columbus, Nashville, Memphis, Lawrence, Denver, Lincoln, Des Moines, Chicago, and Morgantown, WV. The performances themselves were all pretty solid.
By the end we were kind of on autopilot, in the best way. Attendance was pretty light most of the time, but those who did come out all responded positively. Highlights... Well, we had some time to kill in Nashville, so we went and visited Third Man Records where Scotty, our drummer, recorded a birthday song for his son in Jack White's recording booth. It costs fifteen bucks and you get your record pressed then and there. That was sweet. A personal highlight for me was getting to meet Bob Nastanovich from Pavement in Des Moines, where he and his wife Whitney live. They came and greeted us not long after we arrived, he unfortunately couldn't stay because of work, so we just hung out with Whitney all night.
She was super-gracious and took really great care of us. Just one of a whole lot of folks we
met out there who were all just very welcoming and made you feel completely at home.
Lysa and I also got to reconnect with some folks out at the Lion's Lair in Denver, which was probably the tour highlight. Good stage, good sound, lots of people.

James: Like most people, the thrill of getting out and exploring different cities, town and cultures is addictive. Yet, there always come a point when you look forward to going home. What were the things you missed most?

Tom: I missed my lady. I missed my cats. I missed my friends. There were also a couple of local shows that happened that I'd read about on Facebook and be like,
"Damn, I wish I could be there," like the Wax Darts show at Lamp Post, or that metal show at Moonlight Mile. That looked like a real hot and sweaty time. Also, Mikey from
The Everymen got engaged onstage at Pianos while we were away. I was seriously bummed to have missed that. And Nick Cave.

James: You mentioned missing that Everymen show at Pianos. Did you have any prior knowledge to the engagement announcement?

Tom: Haha, I did. I was so bummed to not be there for that, but I seriously would've been a hot mess. It would've been embarrassing.

Tom spreading the positive with The Everymen
James: Looking back, I think I really began to notice somewhat of an evolution, both musically and socially during your time with the band. Was it a hard decision to leave the band? I would assume they left the door open for a possible return in the near to distant future.

Tom: Exactly. The door is open. Mikey just asked if I'd be able to play the Hopscotch festival down in Raleigh, NC with them again. I don't know if I can yet, but I'd like to make it work. I do miss touring with those guys, but I want Overlake to achieve the same goals that those guys seem to be. They're putting out records, touring a lot and reaching all kinds of different people all over the country. I need to stick around and focus on making these things happen with my band.

Scotty puts a lid on it at The Batcave.
James: What's next for Overlake and in particular, Thomas Barrett.

Tom: More and more touring for Overlake, hopefully. We have a West Coast jaunt happening in October, we're planning some weekend jaunts in November and maybe December, and then a two- or three-week trip in the spring. Like I said, we've been working on some new songs, but it'll be a while before we start playing them live. I've also got a solo album coming out very soon that I'd like to do some things with, maybe some short tours if I can. I posted it very briefly on Soundcloud and people seemed to enjoy it. It's very stripped-down, just acoustic guitar, my voice and some piano. They're songs I've been playing around for a few years, but it's nice to finally have a document that I'm happy with and put it out there for folks. We'll see what happens.

Overlake:
Bandcamp






Atari - "Ten Years Strong" A Complete Discography

I was always curious about the band Atari. To be perfectly honest, I heard little to nothing about the band during their existence. But if you know me, you'll know that I am a complete sucker for anthology's and a strong believer that documenting some of the smaller, lesser know bands is just as, if not more important than our devotion to the more know and celebrated acts.
"Ten Years Strong" features the entire recorded history of the Pennsylvania straightedge skate band. The bands demo, "We'll be Fighting" 7',
"Too Tired to Drive Home" 7', the Split 7' with Carpenter Ant and their contributions to various compilations including, but not limited to
"Rebirth of Hardcore". Released on Germany's Prügelprinz Records. The discography, now on vinyl, includes lyrics and very heartfelt liner provided by the bands vocalists Brett Barto. Though Atari's music can't be described as anything more than your run of the mill straight edge Hardcore. It warrants a listen. Though I can't say I really liked much of what Atari produced. I'm glad I finally had the chance to give it a thorough listen. I'll let you be the judge. JD

Buy it Here

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back Off / No Mistake Split EP

Mike Bromberg is a good egg. One who seems to think my opinion is worth checking in on every now and again. Being that Mike checked in with me and a select few on everything from the bands name to the songs and even the cover designs.
I was somewhat saddened to find out the bands lifespan would be such a short one.
Both bands exhibit a raw style prevalent in the sound of many of Hardcores early band.
Both No Mistake and particularly Back Off play use the "Loud, Fast, Rules" playbook to deliver their brands of Hardcore. A style I've always appreciated more than the Metal influenced bands that dominated the genre after 1985.
No Mistake and Back Off both manage to squeeze six songs on to their respected sides of this EP. Not a moment to spare when delivering the goods. A complete package, from the music to the graphics and the slate gray vinyl. The inlet also feature lyrics.
This way you'll know exactly what their screaming about. Though No Mistake are no longer. They left us with more than mere leftover. As for Back Off. Well, their still kicking and screaming. Snag a copy while there's still copies to snag. JD

Get it Here

Street Sects - Broken Windows, Sunken Ceilings


Street Sects are an electronic duo who produce harsh/abrasive electronic music that is frighteningly captivating and emotionally disturbing ,but in the best way possible. The thing I dig most about this music is not that it is full of hooks or that it sticks in my head after repeated listens...what I like the most about Street Sects music is the sick feeling that it gives me deep down in the pit of my stomach, and this emotional connection is what keeps me coming back for more. If your're an adventurous listener and want to hear something different and emotionally turbulent then I suggest you give this 7" a listen asap...Dave G.

Additionally:

This is the second 7" in a 5 part series of 7" releases that are scheduled for release between now and 2015. Check out my review  of  the 1st 7" in this series Here.

Street Sects


Monday, August 18, 2014

Paul Mauled And The Defendents - Take A Deep Breath


Paul Mauled and the Defendents drop 18 songs of pure punk rock bliss on their brand new CD  "Take A Deep Breath." I promise this collection of tunes  is guaranteed to leave you wanting to hit the repeat button over and over again with it's catchy as fuck hooks that will rattle around your feeble brain for days..

Paul's been knocking around the Jersey club scene for 10 plus years, playing with such classic Jersey  bands as The Accelerators, The Undead and numerous projects of his own, and all of this experience definitely shines through on this collection of tunes.

If you like your punk with a little bit of a 90's pop punk twist then I highly recommend you give Paul mauled and The Defendents a good long listen. If pop punk is.not your thing then there's some cool garage rock influenced tunes on here as well. Overall, a diverse collection, but rock solid all the way through...Dave G.

Not Aloud Records

Holy City Zoo's Frank DeFranco Gets the Low Down on New Brunswick's The Dollys

Hi again. This is Frank DeFranco of Holy City Zoo and NGHTCRWLRS. I’ve done this once before for this blog and I’ve been given the opportunity once again to blabber away with a kick ass band who fortunately also happen to be buddies of mine. Dollys (New Brunswick, NJ) are a four piece vintage pop band with a breath of fresh air. They’ve currently finished recording their first full length album and have some fundraising going on to press it on vinyl. Below you’ll hear some jibber jabber on this and a fair share of other things. Enjoy or send me hate mail, either works.

Interview with Jeff Lane and Natalie Newbold of Dollys (8/10/14)

Frank: So lets start with…so you guys want to say the name of the new record?

Jeff: It’s called “Oh Please.”

Frank: Okay, so “Oh Please,” where’d you guys get the name for that? Like what was uhhh, howd’ you go about that?

Natalie: Interesting question.

Jeff: Well, it was an interesting thing for me because I realized that it’s one of those weird phrases that people say all the time, kind of like sarcastically, but you know, you could also take it seriously. Just thought it was an interesting concept because it could be taken more than one way.

Natalie: Yeah, it can kind of be like, ya know “ohhh pleeeasse” or like “oh please buy this record.”
(Lots of room laughter)

Natalie: It’s like, it can be taken either way.

Frank: Oh please keep me alive!

Jeff: I mean, it pretty much always comes down to Paul McCartney.  I watched an interview with him and he was talking about how all the early Beatles songs came about, like
“Please Please Me,” “Help,” and stuff like that…he said a lot of that stuff was directly to the fans and I thought that was really interesting.  “Please Please Me” is the first Beatles record or whatever, so it’s a little reference to that, but we just thought it was a nice thought.

Frank: That’s cool. No, no, that’s really cool. Mind if I snag another one of these
(pointing to beers).

Jeff & Natalie: Take as many as you want!

Frank: Thank you.

Natalie: That’s what we got them for!

Frank: Well muchas gracious. Okay, so with this record, you did everything to tape, right?  I’m curious to hear about that experience, I know you have a lot of affiliation with
Lake House (Recording Studio), so kind of just go off with it, what’s the run down on that one?

(Frank cracks open beer)

Photo Credit; Andrew Holtz
Jeff: We really like the Beach Boys and the Beatles and all the records from the 60s and 70s and it always kind of fascinated me how much pop music has changed, and rock music too because back then it was like go in the studio and be a fuckin’ band. And that’s awesome.

Frank: And you had to be good.

Jeff: And you had to be good, because if you sucked everyone knew it and no one bought your record.  Or they bought it and then they burned it in hot fire.

(More room laughter)

Jeff: Because it sucked. And we were like “well, lets see how good we are. Ya know?
Lets see if we can do something that is important to us that sounds good but doesn’t make us want to puke.

Natalie: And I think that Lake House was kind of this perfect fit for us because
John, the owner, loves vintage gear. Like so much. He has incredible stuff that is all super old and they wanted to get a tape machine and we just wanted to record to tape really bad, so it just made sense that we went there to record to tape.

Jeff: And Eric (bass player) working there and always saying “yo, you should buy this thing, the Beatles liked it.”  And so John would buy it.  So we were like, well we like that too, so lets record there.

Natalie: It just was obvious that we were going to do it there.

Jeff: I don’t know where we’ll really end up in the future, but right now it seems like the logical place for us.  We’re super comfortable there.

Natalie: We all work there for the most part.

(Chuckles)

Photo Courtesy of Cool Dad Music
Frank: Well it’s always nice to feel comfortable in the recording process.
I’m sure you both know that there’s sometimes when you’re recording and you feel like this strenuous pressure and other times you’re just there just being yourself and feeling it, ya know?  So do you have that added pressure, even though you’re in a comfortable place, knowing that you’re doing it to tape, because you have to play it good?  Or was it comfortable enough at Lake House that you could kind of let loose and be yourselves?

Natalie: I think that when we first started recording, we did this one song, like seven or eight takes of it.  It was getting up there.

Jeff: It was shameful, but it was also one of the more complicated ones.

Natalie: Yeah, and I think we would listen back to it and would be like “no, no, no, no, no, that’s not it.” And then something happened, we just clicked that no matter how many times we do it, it’s going to sound like us and that’s why we’re doing this to tape, ya know?
That’s why we’re doing this, because all the records that we love from the 60s and 70s have those weird George Harrison guitar mistakes.

Jeff: It’s always George.

Natalie: (continuing) that we love! (More chuckles)

Frank: Yeah, I think it’s those things that add character to the record that have kind of been lost or are flaws in the digital era.  Like sometimes you hear one of those. (makes fart noise)

Jeff: Like that guitar hero noise.

Frank: Exactly.

Jeff: That’s exactly what it is.

Frank: But like all the weird little hums and guitar hisses.

Natalie: And not so perfect vocals, those vocal takes that give you chills but aren’t exactly like computerized, on point. Ya know?

Jeff: I mean, anyone who knows anything about music wants to hear real.

Frank: The human element.

Jeff: Yeah, not like the bullshit computer synthesized crap. Because it’s just weird.
It doesn’t sound real.

Frank: Totally. So with this album, you have pursued this Indiegogo campaign. So I’d like to hear about how your experience has been with that, how you feel about Indiegogo, and any advice for bands who plan to go about it the way that you have.



Jeff: Don’t just start one. Plan.
(Those faithful room chuckles return)

Jeff: And tell people beforehand and then hope for the best.  Keep pushing it, keep telling people, keep working.  But don’t let it control you’re wanting to be a musician or artist or however you see yourself, because worrying about money sucks.  It can really suck away a lot of your creativity. So I’ve tried to do a good balance of like saying on facebook,
“why hasn’t my mom bought anything yet?”  Just kidding, she put money in yesterday.

(I’m not sure if we’re laughing more or talking at this point)

Jeff: She waited long enough to give me the sweats but yeah, I don’t know, it’s hard, you have to do a lot of work.

Natalie: I would say just in terms of advice.  If you think you’re going to do it, tell everyone about it before you do it.  Like all your friends and family and get them on board with it.
That was something we didn’t realize we needed to do. We kind of decided in the band this was something we were going to do.  We made it and made a video and within two weeks of it being up, my mom didn’t even know it was.  She was like “what is that, I don’t know what that is!?! You keep posting about it, what is it?”

(Mom quote in Staten Island accent)

Natalie: So its something you kind of have to explain to people. It’s been a very interesting process and the fact that we’ve raised $2000 astounds me, that people

Frank: That’s pretty amazing.

Natalie: Yeah, it makes you feel good about what you do and gives you hope that you can do it.

Jeff: And to answer your first question, Indiegogo is great because they take the least percentage of what you earned.  I’d say the only problem with it is that it is not as immediately recognizable as Kickstarter.

Frank: Well I think that’s because Kickstarter was the first of that kind of thing, unless I’m totally wrong about that.

Natalie: No I think they were the first ones.

Jeff: They were the first one to go ya know.

Frank: Viral?

Jeff: Yeah, whatever that means.  It’s like Kickstarter is like Starbucks…you could see a store that says coffee and if it’s next to a Starbucks, it’s like Coffee whatever, Starbucks,
I know they coffee.

Frank: And I know what their coffee tastes like.

Jeff: Exactly.  But yeah Indiegogo is cool. Everything makes sense on their site.

Natalie: I think one thing that we did differently than a lot of the bands and people we’ve seen use it is that we set it up so that it’s more of a pre-order. It’s not so much of a
“oh donate to us.”

Frank: So we can do this

Jeff: Or else it won’t happen.  Because it’s going to happen anyway, we just figured, it would help us get a jump start on it if people can help put money down on it.

Natalie: Yeah, because it’s done. We’ve already put in all the money to record it. A lot of bands will have an Indiegogo to fund the entire project. We already did that.

Frank: We just want that wax baby.

Natalie: Yeah, we set a really high precedent getting our first EP done to Vinyl.

Jeff: And know we’re broke.

Natalie: We probably should do that again for the record. It probably deserves that.

Frank: Cool, cool.  I personally know some roots about this band, but for the people who will be hearing about you for the first time, just throw me a little bit about the background of how Dollys came to be and what has guided you to where you are now.

Jeff: Oh man. That’s all you dawg.

Natalie: So we were recording a record as Green Paper and things weren’t really panning out the way that we wanted them to.

Jeff: There were a lot of differences creatively.

Natalie: A lot of creative differences, arguing about where the record should have gone. When you’re in a band and not everyone has the same goals, obviously at some point you’re going to have some differences that aren’t going to be fixed. So, Eric, who was engineering the record, and was our close friend at the time.

Jeff: He’s a sick bass player.

Natalie: He’s a sick bass player and an awesome musician.

Jeff: He gets along with us really well, and it seemed like the logical choice.

Natalie: And it was the right thing to do. We were like “hey do you want to start a band?”  We really wanted to take this band in a different direction than Green Paper. Green Paper was a lot more Garage Rock, kind of psychedelic elements and we kind of wanted to do this very poppy but still a little modern interpretation of the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

Jeff: I think the Garagy kind of feel to it was mostly just inexperience, ya know?  I had never recorded actually, and then when we started doing Water I was like “I kind of get like a good feel for this, I want to work with someone who can translate my terrible ideas.”

(More good time hang laughs)

Frank: I don’t know if I’d call them terrible.

Jeff: Well, like weird like “I want it to sound like trees shaving” ya know what I mean?  I want that to actually make sense to someone and Eric for some reason seemed like the logical person, probably because he’d be like “whatever dude, I’m just going to make it sound good, okay?” But yeah, it was a long weird trip in Green Paper. We didn’t try to do anything too poppy, we just wanted to write a really good record that felt right and made people happy instead of sad, that’s kind of what we shot for.
Frank: I mean I loved “Fire” (Green Paper full length) and I enjoyed the singles and stuff, and then I heard the Dollys EP and when I heard it, it had this chilling feeling because it was something that felt familiar, but there was also this kind of fire (whoops) behind it, like this is born out of the ashes of something else and we need to do this.  It had that sense of urgency to it, and it was really cool.  You can feel the emotion that was put into that record.

Jeff: It was a bummer.

Natalie: Having Green Paper break up was probably one of the worst things that ever happened to me.

Jeff: It was one of those things where the band falling apart was pretty sour…it was one of those things that you have to be devastated and not let anybody know.

Natalie: But because of that happening, now I am a much happier person.  I love the music that we are making and I’m so excited for the future.

Frank: That’s where it’s at.

Natalie: Yeah.  For us to get to this point, that had to happen.

Jeff: I don’t even like music.

(Insert you know what goes in the parenthesis here)

Natalie: Just end the interview with that.

Jeff: My boss says that all the time and he owns a music store.

Frank: Soooo you kind of covered this partially in what we were just talking about, but is there a general message you are trying to send as Dollys, or with this record…

Jeff: 4:20 weed everyday. Just kidding. I don’t know. What message did the Beatles send?

Natalie: Peace, love, understanding?

Jeff: Not even, because like John Lennon beat wives.

Frank: I love John Lennon as a songwriter.

Jeff: Oh hell yeah.

Frank: But everyone is always like John Lennon, Hair Peace, this hippie man…back in his Liverpool days, you cross him the wrong way, that guy would fuck you up.

Jeff: Yeah.  But, umm, I don’t think we particularly have a message yet?

Natalie: I think that one thing we’re trying to bring back is

Jeff: Is write good music?

Natalie: Is getting back to this idea of great songwriting or just always trying to write the best songs that you can and this idea of real musicianship again. Having pop music not be the thing that people think about and be like “pop music sucks” because it’s bad or because it’s easy or because it’s not technically difficult because those things don’t equate. Like we’ve all heard “I Want You Back” and that is CRAZY! From start to finish I’m like “what’s happening?!?” ya know?

Jeff: One time I was working at a place and this guy came up to me and was like “I really like Lady Gaga” because this one song she used a diminished chord.  And I was like you could use a diminished chord any fucking time you want, you just got to do it right. And fuck you because you’re stupid.

(Beer belly laughter)

Jeff: I mean, I think that being in the right band and having the right attitude and being cool is important and is something you should work on.  And ya know, playing your instrument well and being able to shred the gnar is important and you should practice that, but I think the most important thing, and this is time tested and proven, is just writing songs that are good.  And are approachable but not fucking lame, like Monkees or something. Even though the Monkees are cool now, back in the day they were not because they were so bubble gum.

Frank: Okay, I’m almost done here. Have you figured out where/when you will be doing the listening party and release show or anything like that yet?

Jeff:  I think Eric did, but we have no idea. We were actually doing interview questions the other day and Eric was saying that we should probably do some of this stuff early 2015.

Natalie: Uh, yeah, we’re timing how it’s going to take it to get mastered and pressed so we’re either thinking early 2015 or towards the end of 2014.

Jeff: And really the most important thing is making sure that everyone who is invited to the listening party can make it.  Because that would be really stupid if they couldn’t.

Natalie: Listening party is at Lake House. Release show is probably going to be at the
Court Tavern.

Jeff: It makes the most sense for us because that’s where I feel like people know us from since the Beach Boys cover set.

Frank: Which by the way that was fantastic. Actually, lets talk about that a sec. What was it like paying tribute to a band that you love so much?

Jeff: It was great.  It was really hard.

Frank: Now I love my fair share of the Beach Boys. I’m definitely not on your level but...

Jeff: We’re stupid about it. I’ve read stupid books on Amazon, like this book is stupid, but I should read it anyway.  I’m sure there’s some information in it that’s important.

Natalie: We had a really great time.

Jeff: It had it’s ups and downs practicing it.

Natalie: For me personally, at that point in time, I was still a little unsure of myself vocally. The transition between Green Paper and Dollys was partly me becoming more of a lead singer and there was still a lot of confidence issues I was tackling in doing so, but that Beach Boys set made me practice, practice, practice on vocals, so much that it made me so much more confident in our own material, singing backups, singing leads, whatever it may be, and playing the drums.  So it really helped me personally.

Jeff: I had more fun fucking up those songs, than fucking up any other thing.  It was like really fun just being like I practiced this for three months which is waaayyy more than I’d spend writing everything.  And then you know I just go on playing “Good Vibrations” and I’m like a whole step off and everyone’s like “Hello” and I’m like “Yeaaaahhhhh” and then all of a sudden I snap into it and I’m like, oh I can actually hear my guitar now, the cymbals have died out, oh I’m totally wrong, cool, this is the last part of the set and I blew it.  And I just found it hilarious instead of like panicking and being like “god you’re awful.”  It was a fun show.

Frank: Jeff, Natalie, thank you for your time.  It’s been excellent to catch up with ya.

Dollys  Band Site
IndieGoGo  Donate Here




Friday, July 18, 2014

Collapse - Apocalyptic Key EP

I first came across the band Collapse back in July of 2013 when I saw their name on a local Hardcore bill. At the time,
I couldn't help but wonder if it was a reunion of the short lived NYHC band featured on
Freddy Alva's New Breed Compilation. After seeing Detroit's Collapse on that sweat drenched July night, I learned different. As luck would have it, they had no relation to the aforementioned band of the same name. After witnessing their emotional and sonically ear shattering set that night and taking home their artfully packaged "Disarm" demo. I was more than happy to find out it wasn't a decades past band trying to relive their salad days.

During the year that has passed. I've heard very little about a band I gained an instant liking to. That was until I noticed a posting from the bands drummer Matthew Cross.

The bands sound reminds me of what would happen if Henry Rollins era Black Flag met up with New York Anarcho Punks Nausea to give Amy (Nausea) singing lessons. Though often sung in a screamo style. Ashleigh's vocals are never over the top or grinding. A trait that often makes so many screamo acts unlistenable. Though the seven songs featured on "Apocalyptic Key" are dark, somewhat dooming and ultimately, apocalyptic. A lot can be said for what's happening musically. Great leads, dark bass lines and punishing percussion more than compliment vocals that are delivered with passion and urgency. With song titles like
"Inside the Monster", "Infimary" and "Skulls". You pretty much know what you're getting in to. My advice is "dig deep and get dirty". This is definitely worth getting dirty over.
James Damion

Collapse Punk  Band Page
Bandcamp  Get it Here

Skull Practitioners - S/T 1 Cassette Demo

It's not often that a cassette tape shows up in the mail. Instantly returning me to my days in Queens when I'd be hard at work on the latest issue of Unite.
These days, I often find myself standing in wonderment, admiring how perfectly this ancient technology fits my mailbox. Then wondering how in the hell will I find a way to listen to it. This weeks arrival delivered more than a digital download and some nostalgia for me though. It was the sounds within that produced the real reward.
New York's Skull Practioners, a relatively new trio featuring 3/5 of the band DBCR (Review Here.)
are poised for noise. Recently featured as
The Deli's NYC Record of the Month!
(And rightfully so.) The four track cassette serves as a perfect introduction to the bands sound. One that seems to develop and unravel simultaneously.
The trio's sound blends components of Psych, Surf and Post Punk to form a somewhat loose and experimental garage banger that is sonically dissonant. While the third track "Foreign Wives" got the biggest rise out of this listener. It's the addition of "Nelson D" (recorded live at Brooklyn's Grand Victory) that really puts the bands musical ability and promise on display. Add to it the trip inducing artwork of Renato Cascioli and you've really got a strong foundation to build on. I'll definitely keep my eyes and ears open for these cats. Until then, go check out their bandcamp and bust out that cassette player. James Damion

Skull Pactitioners  Bandcamp




Live Music Lives in the Basements and Back Rooms of Our Souls.

With the closing of Maxwell's and the continuing restoration of the nearby Meatlocker. Finding a local spot to see your favorite bands has become harder and harder these days. With mounting tolls, speeding tickets and empty gas tanks adding up. I decided to shorten my trip and head west to Montclair to see what everyone was not talking about when it came to The Batcave.

Désir Decir opened the night on a very high note. The trio hailing from Union and Jersey City have been playing out regularly in support of their debut EP "Mechanics" recently released on Keanry's Killing Horse Records. I think I've missed several shows due to monsoon rain, hurricanes and doomsday prophecies.  Lucky for me, there was no impending doom being reported on this Wednesday night. The bands live presence and performance are definitely praise worthy. It's bands like Désir Decir that reenforce my love for live music and make leaving the apartment on a weekday night a rewarding experience.
Desir Decir Facebook
Killing Horse Records  Purchase "Mechanics" Here


Next up was local heroes the Life Eaters. I've seen the band several times in the past. 
Each time I left feeling the venue lacked the space and/or ambiance deserving of such amazing energy. Well, maybe it wasn't the amount of space after all. Perhaps a dirty, no frills, no advertisement, broken toilet basement was just what the band need to perfectly display their gift from bombast and savagery. The five piece band featuring current and former members of Désir Decir, No Pasarán, Merel, Rye Coalition and the co mastermind of Killing Horse Records. Plain and simple this bands brand of testosterone driven Rock & Roll is so satisfying. There's an incredible energy about Life Eaters that cannot be contained. The band should have their debut EP out soon on Killing Horse. In my opinion, it couldn't possibly come soon enough.
Life Eaters Facebook


It takes a lot of heart to stand up on a stage with nothing but a song in your heart and an acoustic in your hands. His stripped down whispered style reminded me at times of acts such as Ween and the Front Bottoms but overall was a bit of a stretch for me being I was not provided with a comfy chair and a stiff drink. I never bothered to remove my camera from it's cozy during the set. Their was a certain intimacy about his performance I wouldn't dare disrupt.Though I can respect the art of the song. This really wasn't my thing. 

Closing an already stellar night on a high note were Jersey City's Overlake. It had been quite some time since I last saw the band perform at Asbury Lanes for the annual Dromedary Records Camelfest. That night the bands performance left my jaw and a big, soggy pile of drool on in the gutters of the Bowling Alley/Performance space. Add to it their album "Sighs" one of 2014 most rewarding releases and I felt somewhat lucky to be there to support the start of their tour in such an intimate setting. Tom, Lysa and Scotty make for a powerful trio. They create a soundscape that is introspective and melancholy. Though the bands sound has it share of key influences. I can't help but feel they listened to their share of 
My Bloody Valentine. Prior to the show I sat outside with Tom and talked about the first time we met. At the time, he was the drummer for No Pasarán. Since then, I've witnessed him become one of the best multi instrumentalists in the scene. Playing guitar and keys with The Everyman and singing, playing guitar and writing for Overlake. Though his personality seems to avoid the spotlight. His talent shines bright enough to warrant a long stay. 
Best of luck to them on the tour. 
Overlake  Facebook
Killing Horse Records  Purchase "Sighs" Here

Thanks to all the bands and the people who run the Batcave. I can see this place becoming my permanent residency. Until then. James Damion

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stuyvesant Invades Ludlow Street's Cake Shop

Sunday night I awoke from  my anti social coma and headed down to Ludlow St. to enjoy a set from one of my favorite live acts, Stuyvesant. Though I'd been making excuses all week when it came to going out. I felt that I somehow owed it to myself to brake out of whatever slump I was in. Wedged between two other acts, (Guy with a keyboard and a computer) and Miss Lonely Heart, ( reunited act that, just two nights prior, played it's first show in more than ten years.) Stuyvesant were just what I needed musically. There uplifting, energetic power pop is always there when I need a lift or a reason to brighten my already cheery demeanor. The band just recently wrapped up recording a new album. One I hope sees a release date sometime this summer. Look for it on Dromedary Records and look below for some pictures of the band. James Damion

 Ralph Malanga

 Sean Adams 

Brian Musikoff
 Pete Martinez




An Interview with Richmond Virginia's Positive No

Formed in the winter of 2011. Richmond Virginia's Positive No blend elements of 
90's indie rock, dream pop and shoegaze to create a warm and summery sound that's granted the bands debut EP "Via Florum" a permanent place on my turntable. As the momentum builds and the talk of a follow up to their promising debut begin to surface, 
I reached out to Tracy and Kenny to writing, recording and all the things that make 
being in a band so rewarding. Here's what they had to say. James Damion

Kenny Close - Guitar / Andre Phillips - Bass / Willis Thompson - Drums 
Tracy Keets Wilson - Vocals

James: How did Positive No come to be? Were you all friends before deciding to work on music together?

Kenny: There were a few events in 2011 that stand out:  finally figuring out digital recording, a craigslist bass, and watching a peer band our age play one of their early shows. All of these moments happened within a month or two of each other and led to feeling like writing songs again might be a fun project.

In the very beginning, it was me and an old band member working on coast to coast demos and politely asking Tracy to agree to sing on the songs once they were done. After the first two songs were finished, Tracy and I gave writing music together a whirl which has turned into a pretty great creative team. When we posted the demos online the response was encouraging enough to try to form a live band and give playing out a go. We knew Willis from our circle of friends and while we have had a few different bass players, Andre (our most recent bass player) had been a fan of the band and we met him from coming out to shows throughout 2013.

James: Tracy, can you tell me about the process of writing songs with the band.
If I'm correct, this is the first time you've worked in a group setting since Dahlia Seed.

Tracy: You are correct, this is the first time I have been in a serious band since Dahlia Deed in the mid '90s. The songwriting process has really metamorphosed since 2011.
Kenny was the primary songwriter to begin with but over the last two years, the two of us write the outline of the song (on bass/ guitar) and then we bring it to practice where we teach it to our drummer and bass player. From that point the whole band adds their creative magic touches. We alter the parts as we play it live together, and the final version takes shape after a few weeks of practicing it together.  After 25 years of songwriting I genuinely still cannot comfortably play an instrument and sing the way I do at the same time. I wish I owned that skill but I still don't. I am in an unusual position where I can write a song but ultimately it has to go through several filters of other band members making it their own before it becomes a Positive No song. Once the music is relatively settled, I begin deciding on what words, themes, emotions, the song gives me and from there, I build lyrics and vocal melodies. I am jealous of singers who can hum melodies before they have words but for me, I typically need words before I decide on timing and vocal melodies.

James: The music you've created over the last (almost) twenty years has had a profound effect on me as both (for lack of better words) a music nerd and to get super personal, a human being. The thing is, a lot of that came from pain and loss. With Positive No I feel as if you've come to a crossroads of sorts. There's a sense of joy and celebration in these songs. Does that reflect on your personal life or is it more akin to the creative process within a group dynamic.

Tracy:  It is difficult to write this reply on the heels of being told less than twelve hours ago that an old friend passed away (Jeff from the Jeff Humphrey Trio). My heart aches today for the loss of a talented, sweet man that so many of my friends will deeply miss.

I have spent the bulk of my adult life coping with panic / anxiety stemming from my childhood as well as an unusually heavy amount of loss in my family over the span of twenty years. It was only recently that I truly felt most of the trauma and grief from loss was behind me. I still have my good days and bad days but within the bigger picture, I am a much more grounded, happy, person now. Life is unpredictable but at least now I am not trying to cope with those curveballs on top of feeling emotionally broken. It took decades of hard work to reach this place (and then three more years for my body to recover from being hit by a car) but with the help of an amazing partner like Kenny, tremendous friends who have become my family, and a very supportive creative community here in Richmond,
I am surrounded by encouragement and love.

Without giving too much away, the songs for our upcoming record have their uplifting moments but the darkness is still very much there. The difference is that now, I have a healthier balance of the light and dark in my life. It doesn't get more Positive No than that.

James: Though I'm sure it was not intentional, the name Positive No makes me think of some random HXC band from the 80's that might be on the bill with Negative Approach and SSD. What does the name represent for you?

Tracy: Funny James, I had never thought about the classic hardcore stereotypical name but maybe subconsciously that is why these words appealed to me. While Kenny and I were in the early stages of writing songs and not even a band yet, we were watching a documentary on the American designers Charles & Ray Eames. There is a moment in the film that shows Ray's office filled with things of inspiration to her. One item particular really resonated with me. She had written a note to herself and pinned it up on the wall. It said
"The positive no". I can't say definitively what it meant to her but I love this idea of staying firm in your decisions but doing so in a manner that you are communicating it in a polite way. The words positive no flashed up on the TV screen and we all agreed at that moment how it read like a great name for a band. (On a side note, we watched this documentary with ex Dahlia Seed / Dunebuggy member Jon who happened to be visiting us during the holidays in 2011. )

James: You recorded
"Via Florum" with the legendary J. Robbins at Magpie Cage studios. I can think of a couple of dozen reasons to want to record with him.
What specifically influenced you to seek him out?

Kenny: Tracy had recorded some Ringfinger vocals with J. and spoke very highly of the experience. Everyone seemed receptive to working with him and it was a pretty natural decision which tends to be a good sign when it comes to music. We all were fans of J.’s music and when we started talking about records he worked on it just felt silly not to go with him.

James: How involved was he in the recording? Is there an element to his approach that stands out?

Kenny: J. lent a lot of support in providing expertise of his studio and what he felt were the best ways to get certain sounds out of it that I imagine he felt were a good fit for our band. He certainly expressed his opinions when asked or when he felt the need to do so.
Overall, he was pretty hands off and let us come in, work as quickly and efficiently as we could so we could get a quality recording in an affordable fashion.

The things that stick out most with the experience is that J. came across as authentic and clearly a lover of music. We've all worked with engineers who don't seem to care about the music they are recording and his attitude was the exact opposite.  The environment was very relaxed which was really important for us during the time we were in the studio as we were still such a new band.

James: Have you been writing new material since the EP's release? Is there potential for another record in the near future?

Tracy: We are in the process of writing new songs right now. We have 5 completed songs with three more in various stages of completion. We would like to finish writing a new full length by the end of this Summer and record them in either the Fall or Winter.
It is expensive to record and self release an album so who knows when we will actually be able to afford all of this. The silver lining is we don’t feel pressured to rush out a new record so we are taking our time to write songs we are really excited about.

James: I was really hoping to make it down to Richmond for the bands first show. Unfortunately, I didn't have it in me to drive down on my own. Can you tell me how those first shows went and what it felt like performing as a band?

Kenny: The first hand full of shows were probably like most...a few moments of grace, a few disasters, and trying to keep the nerves in tact. They were all near sold out crowds ( this had nothing to do with us and everything to do with playing with bands like
The Babies and Beach Fossils) which didn't necessarily ease us into it, but forced the band to get used to playing in front of people again and the magic that is connected with the experience. We are a live band, I think you get a better sense of us and our music when you see it in person and can watch the intensity of the group, especially Tracy and Willis.

James: You also played a show with Static is a City? What was it it like sharing the stage with an old band mate? How long had it been since you'd seen Chris?

Tracy: It was a great to play Static is a City's first show. Chris was the first to respect me musically enough to ask me to play in a band with him back in the early '90s. Honestly, I am not sure I would be playing music today without my introduction to him. Needless to say, sharing a stage with a mentor and old friend is a huge deal for me. Chris lives one state South of Virginia but we only see each other about every other year. I have fewer friends than ever still making music in their adult lives so it is extra special when our lives intersect and we have the opportunity to share a stage together. I can't think Chris Defusco of Negative Fun records for putting that show in Raleigh together for us.

Positive No  Official
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Little Black Cloud Records



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Those Mockingbirds - Penny The Dreadful

Penny The Dreadful marks a turning point for Those Mockingbirds, who have spent the last few years carving a steady path to the forefront of New Jersey's sea of rock bands on the strength of exceptional live performances and promising EP Fa So La. It was difficult to predict the sound of long-form Mockingbirds, as this is a band whose devotion to the hook always belied a deep, varied pool of influences among its five participants and a knack for arranging them super-creatively. Penny captures this band successfully satisfying either impulse, meeting their potential, and injecting life into a style that some seem to think is approaching anachronism status.

Above all, because it plays so well from front to back, I'm really pleased with Penny as an obstinate defender of the album format. The first three tracks carry the feel of singles, with "A Ballad From Hell" standing out for its chilly vocal-violin combo and the steady build to the tempo boost halfway through, totally cinematic and terrifying. Loud mode then kicks in on
"How To Rob A Bank" and "Teenage Fantasies," which hit quite directly and leave me feeling divided. These songs overflow with grimy riffing and thick textures, flaunt finely-tuned choruses, and benefit greatly from the big production. All the same, once
"Loose Leather" unfolds next,
 it gives the sense that this band is looking toward bigger things than just a carefully-trimmed single or two for summer rock playlists.
Its Cave In-sized chunk, slick leads, and beyond-catchy vocal interplay between singers
Adam Bird and Tory Anne Daines bring me much closer to my alt-rock happy place.

The absurdly-catchy chorus of the pumping "Bodies on the Road" is probably my favorite on Penny, with the runner-up going to bittersweet pop-rocker "The Reckoning" and its declaration,"I don't wanna know what it's like to be happier." Elsewhere, where it'd have been easy to succumb to filler, the band toss us track after track with fresh flavors and elegant arrangements. "Destroy My Love" recalls the eerie indie-rock saunter of some of their
pre-Fa So La jaunts for a song packed with interesting contrast: The bass's stomp in the verse against Bird's feathery falsetto in the chorus; the timbres of the guitar and plucked violin as they both play the hook; the meditative bridge giving way to an embittered, explosive climax. "S.A.L.T." switches to downtempo shuffle with a gorgeous, mourning violin melody and layers of soaked guitar. Penultimate ballad "Model Myself" and closer
"I Feel Like I Died" turn toward a pensive mood with great effect, especially on the latter as Bird gives a crushingly frank morning-after reflection that creates an odd peace together with gently-fingerpicked acoustic.

Clearly a labor of love, Penny The Dreadful covers a lot of ground, and deftly so. Simultaneously blunt and subtle, simple and nuanced, Those Mockingbirds have struck a careful balance without sacrificing an ounce of passion. Like every strong debut, the feeling of satisfaction comes with imagining what they might try next. Penny doesn't provide any obvious answers, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Darrel Norrell