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
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 Bandcamp Downloads Facebook More Fun Little Black Cloud Records
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
On the band's first full length in nine years. 7 Seconds, a band that is now thirty four years deep into their existence show no signs of ever slowing down or becoming a nostalgia act. Though time and age rarely serve bands well.
The years have been very good to Kevin and crew.
Now in their fifty's, the Reno pioneers of Positive Hardcore prove that Hardcore music is more than a passing trend or phase we go through in our teens and early twenties.
Core values that gave birth to positive hardcore still ring true while serving as inspiration for much of the material on
"Leave the Light on."
Featuring fourteen songs of uplifting, anthemic songs that you'll be singing along to from the get go. Anthems such as "Slogan on a Shirt", "I Have Faith in You",
"30 Years (And Still Going Wrong)" and "Leave the Light On" serve a stand outs for me personally. Overall, this is about as good as it gets. In my opinion, the best thing 7 Seconds has done in their post "Ourselves" lifespan. Get it. Listen. Love it. Live it. James Damion Rise Records Get it Here
For the band's sophomore full length, "Givin' Up On Free Jazz". New Jersey's
The Everymen team up with Ernest Jenning's Records. The nine piece, multi instrumental band, originally formed in 2009 and has since established itself as one of the hardest working band in show business.
The album opens like a rocket launch with a forty-seven second instrumental "Bl'ast Off". Mere seconds that prove, once and for all, that in reality, the "V" in guitarist Michael V.'s name stands for Venom.
The band quickly changes gears on
"A Girl Named Lou".
A song that puts a well deserved spotlight on Catherine Herrik's boundless vocal range.
The albums fifth entry and personal favorite, "AnotherThing to Lose", features a meaty bass line and overall vibe that immediately brings to mind Golden Earring's classic "Radar Love".
The Everymen invite Springsteen to the party with their cover of "Ain't Good Enough for You." (No, Bruce does not physically contribute here.) The spirited homage is part E Street Band, part Asbury Jukes, all Jersey shore.
Overall, this is about as much fun as you can get without risking lengthy incarceration.
From the Metallic opener "Bl'ast Off" to the dark, deep and soulful closer "Izzy".
The Everymen put their uncanny ability to change up and switch gears effortlessly on display. The romp and the bomp we've come to love about the band is evident throughout and though the bands is as varied as it is retrospective. They seem to have created their very own genre here.
Each of the eleven songs featured on "Givin' Up On Free Jazz" cement The Everymen's reputation as one of the most loved bands out there. A pure celebration of drunken debauchery. One thankfully void the nagging hangover that often follows.
How can you possibly refuse? James Damion
They say that people often mellow with age. After listening to these five songs,
I'm guessing Ache never got the memo. The band, just over six months old features some veterans of the Hardcore/Punk scene including Ryan Bland (SInger) and Matty Gelsomino (Guitarist) of the short lived yet stellar defunct NYHC acts Dead Serious and Abject. Though it's always sad when good bands decide to call it quits. It often opens the doors for X members to form new creative and exciting acts. Ache's five song demo not only proves this theory, it cements it with this, their first demo.
Fast paced, guitar driven Hardcore Punk with a screamo vocal approach that is harsh, yet soulful. Five songs that sound more like a debut 7' EP than a demo. Fierce vocals and lyrics driven by three key motivators (emotion, pain and alienation). From as far back as his days with the Bushmen and most notably Home 33. Ryan Bland has established himself as one of the fiercest frontmen to ever hit the stage or the mic. While the forceful riffs and pitt bull vocals on "Snakebite" are undeniable. A perfect demonstration of the bands ferocity. It's the Leeway inspired "Dirty Roads" with it's Leeway inspired chorus that got more than a dozen go rounds on my headphones. Ache leave a a large footprint with their debut. One that will lead most to look forward to more. You can pick up the demo at one of the shows or contact the band through their Bandcamp, Regardless, keep your eyes out for Ache.
They are definitely a band on the rise. James Damion
I was introduced to Long Island's Brain Slug fairly recently at a somewhat rare Hardcore show at nearby Stevens Institute of Technology.
That night the band played a set that made me realize my local Hardcore scene had a lot more to offer than the annual festivals and reunion shows.
Raw, angry Hardcore that really helped set the tone for a night to remember.
Originally released on cassette by Bleeding Edges and
Self Acceptance. This two song chainsaw finally makes it's way to vinyl format. Featuring two songs of early 80's influenced Hardcore that will have you thinking of bands like SSD and the more geographically friendly Krakdown. Quick and to the point. "Creep" and "Annihilate Me" take their walk on the dark side. Brain Slug are definitely a band to keep your eyes on. The band recently performed at the annual Black 'N Blue Bowl and play out regularly. Be sure to check this out. James Damion
Man of mystery D. Smith has just posted an incredibly moving video for the song "Fait Accompli. Available on ShitHouse Records. The track features Bobby Diamond on drums. "Fait Accompli" was at Kenny Lacatena's Homebrew Studios. You can download the albumHere.
Jersey City's The Black Hollies have officially called it quits. The band originally formed in 2005 and featured Herb Willey and John Gonneli of The Rye Coalition. The quartet quickly signed with Brooklyn's Ernest Jennings Records and officially debuted in 2006 with the
self-produced "Crimson Reflections". The bands sound was a perfect mix of 60's, Alternative, Psychedelic, Space Rock, Garage, Noise and Rock. Their most recent release was 2014's "Somewhere Between Here and Nowhere." Needless to say, they left us with a lot of great music and memories. They will surely be missed. No reason has been given for the breakup as of yet. One can only hope it's an internet hoax or a belated April Fools joke.
Our friends over at
Killing Horse records are currently streaming their 2014 Sampler. Featuring sixteen tracks from the bands you love to the bands we know your going to love. As I listen,
I become very excited for what the summer is going to bring. Featuring songs from
The Life Eaters, Cicada Radio, Overlake, Wreaths, TV Sound, Cold Fur, Secret Country,
The Everymen, Desir Decir and more. Streaming Here Killing Horse Records
Songs For Snakes are back with the follow up to 2012's "Charcoal Heather" and while there are a few subtle sonic difference on "Year of The Snake". the album delivers much the same kick, passion and catchiness that first caught my attention on their debut Lp "Charcoal Heather".
Musically, the backbone of the bands sound is firmly planted in the straight forward Jawbreaker / Husker Du Style of days gone by, which is fine with me.
As a whole, "Year of The Snake" contains an excellent selection of songs that are for the most part memorable, hook laden and highly likely to be buzzing around your brain long after you pick the needle up off the turntable.
Visually, yes visually the letter pressed album cover and color vinyl combination are stunning and worth owning on their own merit.
I highly recommend Songs For Snakes to anyone who enjoys straight forward pop punk that leans more towards the punk side of things. I would also recommend that you do yourself a favor and run on over to Songs For Snakes band camp page to give "Year of The Snake" a listen, and to also add this beautiful record to your vinyl collection ...Dave G.
New Brunswick's Modern Chemistry have debuted a video for the single "Never Scared". After a couple of years of reviewing outstanding EP's. I finally had the opportunity to see them live at The Court Tavern back in February. Check it out here or go directly to
You Tube to view. The choice is yours. James Damion