Sunday, November 23, 2014

Token Entry - From Beneath the Streets Reissue

Mad at the World records is currently taking preorders for the December reissue of 
Token Entry's From Beneath the Streets. Originally released in 1987 on Kevin Seconds 
(7 Seconds) Positive Force Records. As is with most reissues, several color versions will be made available. The reissue is a long time coming and has seen it's share of delays. However, if all goes well. It should ship within weeks. James Damion

Dust & Grooves - Adventures in Record Collecting

For close to a month now, I've been going back and fourth about ordering a copy of 
Dust & Grooves "Adventures in Record Collecting". The debate, if you want to call it that,
is more of a "When will I?" than a "Should or shouldn't I?" As much as I've become an avid collector again in recent years. I tend to be more interested in what other collectors have in their bins, boxes and monumental structures. Being that I've yet to see a copy in any book or record store. The video below went a long way to further my need to have it. 
After viewing this, I felt the need to share it. If not to provoke more interest. 
To further position myself to order my own copy.  So after a lot of hard work and due diligence. I give you Dust & Grooves. Enjoy. James Damion

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bedhead 1992-1998: Unboxing

Earlier today I ordered the complete studio recordings of the lesser known 90's band Bedhead.  The Dallas, Texas pioneers of what became known as Slow Core released 
five LP's during their lifespan. Inspired by my purchases of Numero's earlier reissues of Unwound's Kid is Gone, Rat Conspiracy and Kid is Gone. I became fixated on what 
The Numero Group would come up with next. However, it wasn't until seeing this video that 
I decided to pull the trigger on the purchase. Check out the unboxing video posted below before ordering your copy. Happy shopping. James Damion

"The complete studio recordings by the Dallas, Texas, slow­core pioneers, every cymbal crash, guitar brush, and whisper, across five LPs or four compact discs. Deluxe box includesWhatFunLifeWas, Beheaded,Transaction De Novo, and an additional CD or double LP overflowing with singles, EPs, and outtakes, alongside a perfect-bound book dissecting the quintet’s nervous slouch through the ’90s. The enclosed 40-page book includes 25,000 word essay, previously unseen photographs, poster reproductions, visual discography, and complete lyrics. Deluxe 5LP box is only available here and limited to 2000 copies."

Numero Group  Get it Here

Unboxing Unwound

I took some time to post several videos highlighting the unboxing of Numero Group's Unwound box sets. Earlier this year I purchased each of the three box sets Numero released. Each one a work of art in it's own right.  Whether you're familiar with the band Unwound or not. I highly recommend picking these up. Especially considering what a special band they really were. Take a look at these videos before ordering. James Damion

Numero Group Get them Here

Friday, November 14, 2014

NYC Mayhem - For Real!

I still remember first hearing the NYC Mayhem demo at my friend Richie's apartment on 92nd Street in Jackson Heights. At the time, I was trying to come up with a name for a new fanzine I was working on.
Just as Richie, who might have been high at the time, suggested the name "Arf it Up". He dropped a tape that featured a badly drawn figure called 'Speedy' on a green demo cover into the deck.

I can't help but recall my immediate disappointment as I listened to the first few tracks. Having been a die hard fan of the NYC band Straight Ahead and often referring to Tommy Carroll as NYHC's undisputed, best frontman. N.Y.C. Mayhem, a band that predated Straight Ahead by about a year, seemed like a let down at the time.

As I listened to N.Y.C. Mayhem's "For Real" all these years later with, perhaps, a lot more knowledge and appreciation for early 80's Thrash Core. I found as if I was righting some wrongs. And though N.Y.C. Mayhem and Straight Ahead were very different bands with similar roots. "For Real", though many years later, allows me to appreciate both bands on more of a leveled playing field. Though I can't say I really appreciated the March '85 and June '85 demos the A side offered. Side B's June '85 and "For Real" 7" sessions had me in a complete stranglehold.

The 26-track LP "For Real" contains all of NYC Mayhem's studio recordings: two demo tapes and their unreleased "For Real!" 7" that was to appear on Urinal Records. Also includes a 12-page full-color book containing extensive liner notes by Laurent Ramadier of Snakepit Magazine. "For Real" also includes many rare/unseen images. Limited to 500 copies.
This is a must have for Hardcore and Thrash fans alike. A perfect document and time capsule for what was being created at the time. Get yourself a copy before they're all gone.
James Damion

Radio Raheem Records  Get it Here

Street Smart Cyclist - Discography

"Discography" comes on a one sided 12' LP.  (Yes, I checked the other side of the record and there were no subliminal messages to be found.)
The first press: /1,080; 166 tan, 356 white, 558 light blue
(20 test presses)
The 12 inch record includes everything the band has recorded to date, which is a
7 inches, a tour CDR and two unreleased tracks.

Unfortunately for some, the bands output during their two years of existence was to say the very least sparse.
The records cover itself, only adds to the bands legacy, or in this case, lack of. And while the band finds it's roots and influences in greats like
Cap N' Jazz, Braid and
Boys Life. I don't feel as if they stuck around long enough to carve out an identity all their own.

Despite the bands lack of output. I really found myself enjoying the eight songs presented here and was overall pleased with the how these songs were remastered for vinyl.
Whether you were a fan of the band or any of the ones I mentioned here,
you'll be sure to enjoy this collection of SSC's work. I highly recommend giving it a shot.
James Damion

Top Shelf Records Get it Here

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Orchid - Totality

Orchid was an Amherst Massachusetts screamo band that existed from 1999 to somewhere around the year 2002. While some reference Orchid as pioneers of the screamo movement.
Many will argue that the style was created and well established long before the band ever picked up an instrument. All genre trappings aside. The bands sound was highly dissonant, fast-tempo and chaotic.

"Totality" features the bands complete singles collection,
24 remastered songs taken from the original recordings, including comp tracks and one unreleased track. All released by Amherst's Clean Plate records for the first time on LP with a 20 page, full color,
7" x 7" booklet and download code.

While I'll be the first to drop cash on a good discography or complete collection of even the most obscure bands.
This particular one was nearly impossible to sit through. Though there were a handful of bearable tracks here. 'Intelligable Audio', 'She had a cold, cold heart' and 'Stagnant' come to mind.
The high points are so few and far between. It makes the other 20 songs way past unlistenable. Orchid's "Totality" remind me of why I so quickly tired of an entire sub genre so many years ago. As far as 'Totality' goes. I can only recommend this to the most die hard Orchid fans or those who still cling to the sound they produced during their life span.
James Damion

Top Shelf Records  Get it Here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Making a Scene with Brooklyn Photographer Walter Wlodarczyk.

Since our one and only encounter at a Black Flag show in June of 2013. I've been in steady contact with Walter through social media. Over that time I've often found inspiration in the engaging photographs he posts from local Brooklyn shows and events.  Images that make the viewer want to cross that bridge or ride through that tunnel to investigate what's really going on and about on the other side. More than anything, Walter's images serve as an accurate documentation of the thriving and expressive music scene and artistic community happening in our very own backyard. I recently had the chance to talk shop with and have him share some of his favorite images. Here's what he had to share.
James Damion

James: For starters, can you introduce yourself and let our readers know who you are and what it is you do?

Walter: My name is Walter Wlodarczyk and I'm a documentary photographer based in Brooklyn. My work focuses primarily on creative life in New York City – music, performance, other forms of art, the people doing the creating, my experiences.

James: When did you originally start bringing your camera to shows and was there anything specific that made you want to capture what you were experiencing?

Walter: Photographing music is a natural part of what I do more generally, which is document creative life in the city. One of the things that most inspired me to take up photography is the art that came out of downtown New York in the 70's and 80's – and not just the music photography.
The photography that documented the artists and what it meant to live in the city at that time, in a more general sense. Everything I read and saw from that period made me want to create my
own document of life in the city, at this time.
A document of art, music, people, my life, the things I enjoy and think are great and important. All of the things that I'd want to appear in books made in the future about life in the city today.

James: Do you shoot for any of the many music sites, blogs or media outlets out there or are you just doing it for your own selfish passion?

Walter: I do some assignment work, but generally work directly with artists, and on self-directed projects. I focus on subjects that inspire me, knowing that opportunities to publish my work will come (and they do) if I've done a good job in capturing what I see. And it's really not selfish at all.
I love it when someone tells me that they got into a band after seeing my photos and deciding they had to check them out, or when I'm able to get photos published of a band that I love.
Math The Band with Peelander-Z
In terms of specific publications,
I've recently had some work published in Impose Magazine, and Alt Citizen. Those are two publications that I like because they have a vision about what they're sharing with the
world, and a sense of being part of a creative community. That fits with how I work. As a photographer I'm a contributing member of a community of creative people – not someone who takes photos simply to get published.

James: What's your weapon of choice? What's in your bag? Make, Model, Lens, Flash.

Walter: I use a Canon 5D Mark III. Lenses depend on the situation, subject, and lighting.
I like the 24-70 f/2.8 as a good all-around lens. I might go with a wider zoom if the situation is very tight. I also like to use a faster prime lens if it's possible to (again, it just depends on the subject and situation). And I always pack a flash, because you never know.

James: Flash or no Flash? Why?

Walter: The eternal question. If you throw out the obvious situations where you simply can't use flash, or must use flash to get anything usable, I think there's a big middle ground of maybe.
I try to feel those situations out and may use flash to the extent that it'll work with the ambient light and maintain the spirit of what I'm photographing.The other dimension is that I try to be very careful that my use of flash is not disruptive or distracting, because a show is about the performance, not about me taking photos of it. There are the shows where it just doesn't matter – everything is so crazy no one even notices. The trickier spots are those where you need to use flash, but everyone's standing 15 feet from the stage and the energy is maybe tenuous to begin with. I hate to be a distraction with flash in those cases, but sometimes you just need to. I try to be economical if that's the case. But it really just depends.

James: Do you have a certain approach that may differ from others? Is there anything specific you're looking to document or a feel you want to come across in your images?

Walter: I think every photographer's approach is unique by definition, starting with the choice of what to photograph.
In terms of art and music, I want my photos to capture what inspires me about the subject– the energy, beauty, humor, craziness, freedom. I want to convey the spirit of what I'm documenting and express what I find wonderful about it. I also like for my photos to be a very definite counterpoint to everyone who says New York City is dead. The city may be different
(it always is), too expensive, etc. But it's not dead.

James: What else do you like to shoot? Where does your camera usually take you.

Walter: I've had the privilege of touring with KEN South ROCK in Japan and around the US, and that has been awesome. I love touring and documenting the experience. I also like to visit Miami a few times a year to hang out with my friends the Audio Junkies who I met while on tour there with the ZZZ's. The Miami music scene is great and the Audio Junkies are always putting together great shows – especially during Art Basel and over the 4th of July.
I like documenting all of that madness. And of course, I enjoy documenting New York City and art in general, in addition to music.

James: I have a list of photographers who not only inspired me to pick up a camera and document my surroundings, but one or two that actually helped me get to where I am now. Who are yours? The ones who moved you to shoot?

Walter: Peter Hujar for one – especially his photographs of New York at night. I saw a collection of those photographs in 2005 and that was one of the first experiences that I remember making me really want to pick up a camera and document my New York. Also Zoe Strauss. I saw the last installment of Zoe's ten year I-95 project, which was an outdoor show, her photographs mounted on pillars under an I-95 overpass in her neighborhood in Philadelphia. The photos were arranged with incredibly specific care both up and down, and across the rows. Zoe describes her work as “an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life” and that is really a perfect description of her work, and that show. It was epic and then some. It really made something click inside of me about what photography can and should be. Nan Goldin as well – her work also made me want to create my own document of New York City.

James: I think most photographers have their horror stories of getting gear and/or their heads broken at shows. Do you have any battle scars to share?

Walter: Thankfully I've not experienced any truly serious damage to gear or person.
Just normal sorts of thing -- I've had a cigarette put out in my arm, had people fall on me, had my camera punched into my face by a friend who was very “in character” during a performance, been stun gunned. The stun gun thing was not an accident, actually, but it wasn't malicious. I'm pretty good at preventing accidents, actually. In particular, catching falling mic stands. I once received a round of applause for making a one-handed diving catch of a fancy microphone at a jazz party.
Chat Logs
Highlight reel for photographers, maybe.

James: Personally, the thing that draws me to your images is.
I almost never know any of the bands you're sharing images of, but those images inspire me to seek out their music and hear what they're all about. I don't know if that qualifies as a question, but it's an observation that can't go without noting.

Walter: Yes – thank you. That's exactly what I hope for. I've been successful if someone sees one of my images and is inspired to learn more about the subject.

James: The last time I shared the Pit with you was at the Black Flag show at Warsaw.
(A particularly bad show for me personally) I recall Jason House, another local shooter, being there. I always here stories about very unfriendly photographers who don't like sharing the pit, their stories or anything particularly social. Personally, I've been somewhat immune to that stereotype. Do you, yourself have any personal rules of the pit?

Walter: Oh, most of my interactions at shows are totally positive. My personal rule is to try to make the best photographs I can without distracting from the performance or impeding anyone in the audience from enjoying the show as they would if there were not a photographer there. No one wants a camera jammed in their face or flash straight in their eyes – obvious things like that. And I try to share my space with anyone else who is shooting or filming. Common sense and respect. Occasionally there's someone who doesn't get it, but I just try to work around those people. And that can be a photographer/videographer, or an audience member who is intent on clobbering everyone. The best thing is for everyone who goes to shows to collectively let those people know that that kind behavior is really not okay. I think Joe from Big Ups put it pretty well –
“I know we're all animals, but let's be domesticated animals.”

James: Most of what I've seen from you comes out of Brooklyn, particularly Bushwick. Is it safe to say that Brooklyn's more than hipsters, Pabst and clever haberdashery?

Walter: That's really just a function of the fact that I live in the area and that's where we tend to hang out, and see shows. I also shoot plenty downtown and other places, and of course not just music. There's plenty going on all over. New York is so diverse, the generalizations people make are silly. You find out what a place is about by getting out and doing things and meeting people, not by reading the comments on the Internet. I try to ignore all of that. Especially the comments.

James: Very true. Are you originally from New York City?

Walter: I'm from New Jersey. I'm a product of the tristate region.

James: Well then, we're practically related. (In a backwards finish to start kind of way.)
What are some of the bands and music spots worth looking into.

Walter: In terms of venues, everyone should visit Death By Audio lots before
it closes in November. I can't even remember how many great shows I've seen there. I also suggest checking out and supporting our great DIY venues like Shea Stadium and Silent Barn. And Goodbye Blue Monday, which has provided a stage for literally anyone who wanted to play, for so long.

Links to Walter's Work;






Thursday, October 30, 2014

All Eyes West / Easy Creatures - Split 7'

As Chicago's All Eyes West get ready to head out on tour they offer us another sample of what an amazing band they are and have the potential to be. I first came upon the band when they opened for Seaweed at Brooklyn's Bell House in April 2001.
Since then I've been surviving on mere table scraps. Imagine how grateful I was when the latest table scrap, a two song split with Philadelphia's
Easy Creatures.

Once again, Chicago's
All Eyes West show they have but one mission as a band.
That is to forever tease us with these samplings of brilliance and perfection. "Stumble" is a confident three minutes of mid paced bombast that features some awe inspiring leads and progressions from guitarist
Jeff Dean.

Philadelphia's Easy Creatures bring the rock sound to some intense levels. This was my first taste of the band and I can honestly say, they left a lasting impression. The vocals on "Initio" are praise worthy.
Shane Evans provides a nice blend of Rock and Post Core. The high point of the song comes at 2:19 when it feels as if Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith) has stepped into the booth. Really impressive stuff here that reminded me of the many great split EP's that fill my collection. I highly recommend picking up a copy. James Damion

Jump Start Records Get it Here
Easy Creatures   Bandcamp
All Eyes West  Bandcamp

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Set Your Goals - The Reset Demo 10 Year Anniversary Edition

On the first release of Matthew Wilson (singer Set Your Goals) Calaveras Records.
He successfully turned to the Kickstarter platform to release a limited 10th Anniversary limited 10' vinyl edition of  Set Your Goals 2004 demo.
Though I never really followed the band, listening to a band in their early stages always helps when forming an opinion about a band and where they might be going.
Hearing this made me realize they were so much more than a CIV remake or redo.
Positive and uplifting from the start with a sound that found influenced by everything from Hardcore to Emo to Pop Punk. Each of the six songs from the original demo left a lasting impression on me with
"How 'Bout No, Scott" being a personal favorite.

I was excited to see the cover of Jawbreaker's
"Do you still hate me?", until I realized that despite the largess of anyone's love or appreciation of the band. Any attempt at covering or paying tribute to Jawbreaker is only going to make you sound weak and unworthy. This is the only track I can honestly say I did not like. By now, I'd imagine anyone reading this would, ten years later, be more than familiar with the bands sound and direction.
For those who haven't, Set Your Goals fit nicely somewhere between Gorilla Biscuits and Saves the Day. The vinyl edition comes on green splatter vinyl in a 10' fold out cover that opens up to lyrics, liner notes and a collage of images and flyers. "The Reset Demo" also features a digital down for all you MP3 enthusiasts. I highly recommend this.
James Damion

Calaveras Records Get it Here

Vanishing Life - People Running / Vanishing Life

Vanishing Life, featuring Walter Schreifels, (Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, Rival Schools)
Zach Blair, (Rise Against) Jamie Miller and Autry Fulbright (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead) release their first single via Collect Records, a label fronted by Geoff Rickly, (Thursday, United Nations) and Norman Brannon. (Texas is the Reason)

Considering how the term "Supergroup" gets thrown around more frequently than a frisbee at a Phish concert. I'll do my best to avoid such references and stick with the music itself.
The two songs on the bands debut 7' EP feature a sound that, though not generic by any means, doesn't really stray far from the 90's Post Hardcore roots of what Walter was doing with Quicksand.
"People Running" has a nice fast paced grove to it. Highlighted by aggressive guitar leads and jangly bass.
The records B side
"Vanishing Life" sticks to the fast paced rhythm.
Vanishing Life's debut took a few listens to sink in. Initially sounding a little too polished and corporate for my tastes. However, after several or so flips of the record. I found myself slowly warming up to it. I think I'll have to wait until their full length before I make any serious judgements. Until then, the juries still out. I managed to snag on of the first 500 copies which come on transparent w/blue haze vinyl. Mint (700 copies available.) and Black (800) are also available. Digital downloads of the record have not yet been made available, so stay posted. Please note that the cost for this 2 song EP, seven dollars, plus shipping, seems criminally overpriced. While I can't come up with any reasoning behind it. I think that's a bit steep. Choose wisely. James Damion

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gillian - The Eyes In My Head EP

"The Eyes in my Head" the followup to Gillian's 2013's two song effort "Freak Flag", opens with the warm, atmospheric "Spirit Night". A song as uplifting as the title implies. Celebratory, nerdy and somewhat spastic, it has an immediate impact that had me leaning in, wondering where this was taking me.

"Out & Out", my personal favorite takes the listener even forward with it's dreamy keys and Kym Hawkins addictive vocal qualities.
The airy, atmospheric qualities continue to draw the ears in. There's an unwritten invitation to not only dance, but lose any inhibitions you may have brought along with you.
A gateway drug to happiness, to say the very least.

While "Breathing in Style" brings me back a bit to the more Pop rock stylings of say, Invisible Lines. The songs overall vibe reminds me of that of the EP's opening track.
"The Good Life" closes out the set on a high note. I couldn't help but find myself arguing with.... myself on whether or not this would win the "personal favorite" award. Luckily, I won't have to decide any time soon.

Overall, "The Eyes in my Head" deliver four intoxicating songs that make you want to dance and just plain celebrate all the good things in life. Proving that dance music is more than DJ's, programmed music and auto tune. Brooklyn's Gillian have something quite appealing to offer. Personally, I am more than happy to accept. James Damion

Gillian Bandcamp

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bad Daddies - You Ain't Right / Teenage Hell / I Don't / Head on a Rail

I really love what the people at Raleigh's Negative Fun Records are doing with their
"Singles Club,
find out more Here.
The labels subscription based singles club is off to a noteworthy start that quickly brings to mind the original
Killed By Death concept.

On my first single I'm treated to the Bad Daddies. The female fronted Livermore, CA band completely caught me off guard, keeping me trapped throughout the duration of their three song banger.
A powerful burst of mindful energy. The bands frenetic energy can easily be credited to vocalist Camylle Reynolds and her powerful vocal presence. The bands style immediately bring to mind Kathleen Hannah, Bikini Kill and some of the more authentic groups that ruled the sound and urgency that became known as the Riot Girl movement. This small sample of both Bad Daddies and Negative Fun Records left a lasting impression on me. One that had me craving for more.
I'm looking forward to hear more from both. James Damion

Negative Fun

Midnight Plus One - Like Camera / White Flowers

Comprised of current and former members of Black Skies, Challenger,
Americans in France and
Eagle Bravo. North Carolina's Midnight Plus One, are locally seen as somewhat of a supergroup.
On their contribution to Negative Fun's Singles Club, the band more than earns the right to that title. The A side "Like Camera" has a sinister vibe that's dark and addictive.
I didn't quite get the lyrics, but I'm pretty sure he's singing about the devil, or at the very least, the practice of devilish deeds. A perfect introduction to what Midnight Plus One has going on. "White Flowers" the records B side serves up Low Fi excellence and a dark, tribal element that will make you want to bathe in the mud with your demons. Excellent stuff here. Excellent stuff. James Damion

Negative Fun

Positive No - Automatic Cars / Slumber

This exclusive 7' with it's customized cover  and extremely limited press of 50 copies was waiting for me when
I got home last night.

Automatic Cars has all the parts required for building a great song. From the opening bass line to the spiraling guitar sound to Tracy's hypnotic voice.
The A side instantly reminded me of some of  the great Indie Rock of the 90's. Even drawing comparisons to early
Sonic Youth.

Side B's 'Slumber' inspires just what the title suggests.
Slowing things down with its soothing Indie Dream Pop
leanings that are both sweet and addictive. If you get the chance to get this exclusive cover version. I highly recommend it. If not, make sure to get the alternate cover from Negative Fun or download it from Positive No's bandcamp.
I really love what Richmond's Positive No is creating.
Each song leaves me craving for more. Luckily, Positive No seem prepared to deliver.

One can't help but get excited about what Negative Fun is doing with it's Singles Club.
It brings to mind what S.O.L. (Singles Only Label) was doing in the 90's with many diverse acts such as Bob Mould, Earth Pig and Moby. One can only wish them luck as they continue to release this level of quality and diversity. James Damion

Negative Fun Label

Positive No Band Site

Have Heart - What Counts

Boston's Have Heart were part of a Hardcore revival which brought back a style that was an inspiration for me and many others from the start.
With a sound comparable to  Massachusetts favorites Bane and In Your Eyes. The band carved out a nice niche for themselves playing heartfelt, uplifting Hardcore that left a positive foot print on the genre.

The one sided 12' version of  "What Counts", features each of the songs from their 2004 debut.  The record features an  impressive gatefold cover, comes on three colors, orange being my choice, and features a download card for all the MP3 nerds out there. Lovingly remastered at New Alliance in Cambridge MA. All together this is a nice package worth having in your record collection. I highly recommend it. James Damion

Triple B Records  Get it Here

Brotherhood - Till Death

Not long before bands like Nirvana put Seattle on everyone's musical map.
A band by the name of Brotherhood were putting the West Coast and many of their contemporaries around the country on notice. Though the band existed for just over two short years (87' to 89').
Their recorded history (a demo and two 7' EP's) was heralded as some of the best and most sought after material the genre produced at the time. Years later those 7' 's would cost most collectors a weeks food money at record shows while inciting epic bidding wars on sites like Ebay. Comparable to acts such as Chain of Strength, Insted, Uniform choice and Bl’ast. Brotherhood drew influences from earlier Hardcore acts such as SSD, DYS and New York's own Straight Ahead.  Harsh, yet expressive and emotive Hardcore delivered with a certain sense of authenticity.

While Greg Anderson would go on to play in the highly regarded Amenity and Engine Kid. Nate Mendel's membership in Sunny Day Real Estate and eventually, The Foo Fighters could be considered on of the monumental stage dives ever.

"Til Death" includes the bands original demo, two 7' EP's,  a 32 page 7”x7” booklet with liner notes & tons of photos from the era. Packaged in a thick Stoughton tip-on single pocket jacket. Painstakingly remastered by Brad Boatright. The record is available in various colors, including, but not limited to "True Blue".  As for the cover. Who could ever forget that iconic cover photo taken by Boiling Point fanzine Dennis Cheng? Overall, a must have for anyone who loves 80's Hardcore and it's very deep history. I highly recommend it.
James Damion

Get it Here  Southern Lord

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pusrad - Erarre Humanum Est

On Pusrads bRand new Lp the formula of playing quick short hardcore songs has not changed, but I feel the songs are becoming somewhat more memorable and structured. Somehow Pusrad has made an artform out of playing these quick, tight  songs that blow by in under a minute, but for the first time they have created an Lp's worth of songs that have me coming back for repeated listens.  There is something special going on in the grooves of this Lp and I highly recommend you jump on this Lp before the bandwagon takes off...Dave G.

Dead Beat Records 

Sheer Terror - Standing Up For Falling Down

If it were not for my close friend and fellow fanzine creator
Gina "Last Daze" Lawson,
(God rest her soul while providing it with plenty of drink, cigarettes and Hardcore.)
I probably would not have ever given much attention to
Sheer Terror. The truth of the matter is, that after first hearing them on my copy of
Big City Records
"One Big Crowd" compilation.
I never gave the band much more than a casual listen.
It wasn't until 2000's
"Bulldog Edition" that I really began to appreciate the bands legacy and well deserved reputation as the bastard sons of negative Hardcore.
"Standing Up for Falling Down", the bands first full length in eighteen years might be
Sheer Terror's best work to date. It would be hard to argue against it being their most cohesive. Raw, brutal, honest and surprisingly musical. Bulldozer guitar leads, dark bass lines and tribal beats led by Hardcores greatest MC and motivational sledgehammer,
Rev. Paul Bearer.  Perhaps Sheer Terror were an acquired taste for me personally.
As I get older though. I seem to find comfort in Sheer Terror's tongue in bleeding cheek style. Unlike many of their contemporaries. Sheer Terror just get bitter with age. If you love brutal, confrontational and honest Hardcore music. You have no excuse not to invest in this record. James Damion

Reaper Records  Buy it Here

GO! - 89' Demo 7' Reissue

Originally released in 1989 on cassette. GO's 1989 demo finally get the vinyl treatment. Delivered in 7' format.
"The Word Is" features
fast, loud and impassioned Hardcore delivered in short, angry spurts. A blueprint that served the band and it's fan base well during their very busy existence.
The demo features each of the original twelve songs, delivered in at about twelve short minutes. Perfect for those of us with a limited attention span or any ADHD issues you might suffer.
Includes classic GO! songs "Take Root" "Me VS. You", "The Word",  "Section 28",  a noteworthy cover of Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark's "Electricity" and "Breakdown", a ballsier East Coast rebuttal to the Uniform Choice shit storm "Silenced". GO! marked Mike Bullshit's departure from SFA and came during a time when NYHC was suffering from somewhat of an identity crisis. It also coincided a healthy shift from the often violent mood that had taken over the scene at CBGB's to the more healthy, proactive environment at Rivington St.'s ABC No Rio. Overall, a nice document of that time that brought many good memories and sing a longs. James Damion

Order it Here

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting to Know Amherst Massachusetts' Shakusky

My first time experiencing the band Shakusky was during an appearance at William Paterson University Radio show. At the time,  a collection of bands, most of which I had no prior knowledge of,  gathered for what seemed to be a last minute show at the radio station. Though impressed with most of the bands that played that night. It was Amherst Massachusetts Shakusky that stood out for me musically. At the time, I wanted to talk to the band about their unique style and the myriad of influences I, myself was hearing.  
Being surrounded by a room of college age people and not wanting to make a fool out of myself. I bought a CD and headed home. When I heard the band was not only returning, but playing in nearby Montclair. I made sure I wouldn't miss out on the opportunity to see them again. That night I got a special treat when the bands newest addition, Kira, took my appreciation for the band to a new level. After returning home from tour, I reached out to Shakusky's artful guitarist Mark Hilliar to learn more about the band. Here's what he had to share. 

Shakusky is; Eli Albanese - Guitar, Vocals / Liam Cregan - Drums, Vocals /
Mark Hillier - Guitar, Vocals / Leonard Schwartz - Bass, Vocals / Kira Mattheson - Vocals

James: When I first heard the name Shakusky, I got an image of some historical Massachusetts land giver or poet. Perhaps an infamous serial killer. What's behind the name and what drew you to it?

Mark: Haha! No serial killers!!
The name “shakusky.” actually comes from Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Sam Shakusky is a young kid who runs away from the
Wes Anderson mid 60’s equivalent of boy scout camp with a girl who he has fallen in love with. The band was named by a former member so I can’t attest to his feelings towards the movie when it was chosen but I’ve always really liked what the character represents in the movie and felt it a good fit over the course of all of our lineup changes in our time as a band.

James: Let's talk about influences. Your Facebook page mention Sugar Ray.
Honestly, I don't believe it for a minute. Tell me about the roots of the bands sound and style. What are your influences?

Mark: To be honest I didn’t even realize that was there. I mean it was probably me but I don’t remember doing it. As a band, our overlapping influences are mostly math rock bands and emo/punk bands (See: Tera Melos, Title Fight, La Dispute, blah blah blah) but we all have a wide range of varying influences. I’m huge into jazz and Lenny’s really into metal. And both of those influences definitely come through in our writing.

James: Okay, I kind of figured the Sugar Ray mention was a joke. Being that some younger friends were recently wetting themselves about a Sugar Ray, Smashmouth reunion.
I dare not assume. That said, I'm not going to let you off Scott Stapp free without challenging your love for Coldplay. Justigy yourself in 1,000 words or less.

Mark: Hey, I mean I’m pretty into Sugar Ray. And Coldplay!! Coldplay has some really great stuff. Parachutes is a great album. Yellow, Trouble, and Parachutes are such a good trio of songs. Clocks is what got me into math rock.

James: You guys are from Amhurst. We're always hearing about the bigger bands from
Massachusettes. What does the area offer for the smaller and mid tier bands as far as venues and independent record labels? What are some of the newer bands worth seeking out?

Mark: I remember the first time I came to Amherst was to see my friends in The Sharpest play with La Dispute in a basement. The year after that I ended up moving out here for school and saw Algernon. Since then it seemed to me a lot less bands were coming through town and most basements were getting shut down. So we all got involved with starting an organization called SALT that runs shows on and off campus which is really cool. It took a while to get it off the ground but things have been going really well with it. Aviator and
Vetter Kids are playing in town on Friday. We also have Odd Dates, People Like You, Diarrhea Planet and some other really cool touring bands coming through in the next few months.

There are a lot of really cool local music like Californiax, Mal Devisa, Carnivora, and Dérive that are very active right now. Pachangacha, Black Churches, and Chalk Talk were all out of Amherst too but I think they’ve since moved elsewhere in the past year or so?

James: Mark, you mention your appreciation for Jazz. One of the first things that stuck out for me was how closely you hold your guitar to your chest and even chin.. It seemed strange at first, being I've never seen it in all my years of going to Punk shows. Now that you mention Jazz, it all seems to make sense. How would you describe your style of play?

Mark: Haha, I don’t really know how to respond to that to be honest! I think I kind of just naturally hold my guitar like that. I think just because having it higher up makes it easier to reach up the neck with my strumming hand to do tappy/finger picky things.

James: You just got back from a short tour.
Where did it take you? Did you meet any bands along the way that particularly stood out?

Mark: We went west through New York, Ohio, to Michigan, south to Kentucky,  back to the east coast, and north to home totaling in 14 days and it was such a great time.
I had never been to most of the places we went and it was great. Almost every night we met stand out bands. The first night I remember thinking “Man the bands tonight are so good- stoked to play with them! How is the rest of tour going to live up to this!” And then I thought the same thing the next night. And then I thought it almost every night after. And we’re really grateful for that! If I had to do specifics our Philly show was one of my favorites.
One Hundred Acre Woods fucking kills it.

James: The last time I saw you there was a new edition on vocals. How did Kira come into play and how has she changed the dynamics of the band?

Mark: Yes! Kira is our new addition and we are loving it. Kira and Liam have been dating for a few years so we were all close friends well before she joined the band. When Liam and I began first doing vocals Kira taught us some techniques as she has formal training.
This turned into her recording some harmonies on Transient which led to her doing a few local shows with us and when she showed interest in coming on tour with us we jumped on it and made it an official “This is Kira and we are a 5 piece now” thing.

James: Had she been in any other bands prior to joining Shakusky?

Mark: She’d never been in a band before so when she decided to come on tour with us I think we were a little surprised like “really? You want to spend two weeks in a little car with your boyfriend and his three smelly friends?” Granted, we were all good friends beforehand but I 100% saw her getting very fed up with us (me) very quickly. But it all felt very natural and great and I think we’re all super happy about the dynamic as a 5 piece.

James: How would you compare your recent release "Transient" to your last
"Lancaster Market"?

Mark: Transient is such a change from Lancaster Market. A portion of Lancaster Market was written with a  different vocalist before Kira or I were even in the band- I was only involved with writing a few songs as a guitarist. I think Transient was a big push out of all our comfort zones as musicians and for Liam, Kira, and I as vocalists/lyricists which was great.

James: What went into the decision to release "Transient" on cassette? Do you think the format might limit it's reach?

Mark: The Cassettes were done by Too Far Gone Records and they came out really cool! We live in such a digital age that it’s almost not worth doing physical releases that aren’t vinyl but we really wanted to do something besides the digital release along with vinyl. We were originally planning on putting Transient out on vinyl as well as tapes but we had an opportunity to hop on a split so we’ve been focusing on that along with our future release instead.

Outro; In closing, I'd like to note that Shakusky reminded me of how important it is to go out, seek new music  and support touring bands. I've been taught time and time again that that random band on the bill, the one you've never heard of, just might be the next band you love and want to support. I highly recommend giving Shakusky a good listen and a further look. Sign them, book them, support them. JD


Big Cartel

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cinema Cinema - A Night at the Fights

On their third album and fourth release Brooklyn's artful noise duo take the sheer madness that highlighted and even defined their sound and turn it into pure genius.
While Cinema Cinema's maniacal delivery has always been the cornerstone of their sound. It was created and fostered in a very mindful and artful manner.

There's always been a manic, somewhat sociopathic quality to Cinema Cinema. One that anyone whose experienced trauma, depression or any of the various psychiatric meltdown life's realities might bring might experience.

The album opens with "Broad Daylight". A dark as coal call to war with apocalyptic screams, tribal drums and bloodletting riffs. First time listeners be warned. You will not be eased in gently and this isn't for the teary eyed souls that grew up in a world where everybody gets a trophy or a toy to take home with their Happy Meal.

On "A Night at the Fight's", the band relies heavily on that trademark vibe while experimenting with melody, harmony and other unexplored territory not heard on prior
Don Zientara produced work. Perhaps the production work of recent Cinema Cinema cohort Martin Bis deserves due credit. And while these elements show the bands growth and abilities beyond pure noise. They don't take any of the primal elements that make this duo so unique. As you listen to "A Night At the Fights" you'll find yourself quickly immersed in the album itself. As much as each song stands on it's own. It's the album as a whole you'll find yourself drawn to.

CC's bombast and knack for noise instantly bring to mind what Amphetamine Reptile was producing early on and  what it was like to hear bands like Jesus Lizard, Helmet and even The Melvins for the very first time. Not all music was meant for the masses.
For me personally, that's a good thing. For Cinema Cinema are not the band you bring home to meet the parents. Unlike the voices in our head we often pay good money to chase away.
"A night at the fights" not only welcomes the demons. It offers them permanent residence.
As where most artists producing and performing at such intense levels often burn themselves out early. Cinema Cinema seem to grow stronger. The release is now available at a name your price. I suggest getting your ass to a show and picking up a hard copy. Either route gets it done. James Damion

Get it Here  A Night at the Fights

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Moral Mazes - Magic Tommy Jackson 7' EP

While terms such as  "Supergroup" and "Studio Project" often leave much to be desired.
The right chemistry, game plan and execution can often take a collection of talented pieces and turn a masturbatory cast of  A -Listers into a cohesive amalgamation of the talent gathered. Formed earlier in 2014 when Jonah Matranga (Far, Onelinedrawing),
Jeff Dean (All Eyes West,
Dead Ending), Darren Zentek
(Office of Future Plans) and
J. Robbins (Jawbox,
Burning Airlines) veered their friendship towards a studio project
Though the studio collaboration only produced two songs.
"The Long Way" introduces
Moral Mazes with it's sinister vocals and tribal drumming while "Stay Unprepared" makes itself comfortable with it's winding guitar riffs. Moral Mazes put their varied influences and experience on display through a post core efficiency and familiarity  that grabs the listeners attention and keeps it while leaving a lasting impression. One that, though familiar, feels unique to them. While I've just put an order in on this record this morning. I've listened to the download continuously for the last hour or so.
Considering these two songs come in at just over 7 minutes. I'd say this more than won me over. I'm really looking forward to hearing this on the turntable. Until then. James Damion

Bridge 9  Get it Here

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 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 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. The band, featuring  Tom Barrett (guitar/vocals), Lysa Opfer (bass/vocals) and Scotty Imp (drums),  formed in Jersey City, NJ in early 2012, and since forming they've built a loyal and growing fan base through 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 their very impressive debut Lp "Sighs". 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.