Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Four Fingers Ryan Betrix Gives Us the Low Down on Their New Album "Custodians of Light" and More.

If you've followed the blog over the last ten or so months you've probably noticed that we're pretty fond of the kids in Four Fingers. Who wouldn't love a band that mixes musical influences like Adrenalin OD and the live energy of Black Flag and the Stooges. Add to that they just happen to be the  band I'd most like to share a late night skillet with. So as the bands upcoming album "Custodians of Light" is about to hit the streets,  I reached out to their bass player Ryan Betrix to get the 411 on the record and recent changes within the band. Here's what he had to say.  James Damion

James: You recently finished recording the new album "Custodians of Light". Can you tell me a little about the process and what we can expect from the new album?

Ryan: The actual recording process was a one-day thing. After the tour and a few shows here and there we put our full attention to the writing of the record. There’s like 5 songs on this record that were  songs that actually pushed us to do a record. We used thee songs almost as guidelines to how we wanted the record to sound and the addition we wanted to bring to the record. On this record we wanted it to have a dark feel. Also, we wanted to keep it catchy like songs in the past. I think you hear everyone’s  specific influences in every song. Going into this record we didn’t want to follow just one style. It’s got a bit of everything. Best thing we’ve done yet.

James: "Custodian of Lights" is a pretty epic title. I don't know why but it somehow makes me think of the Foo Fighters "Wasting Light". What's behind the name?

Ryan: The title reflects on the idea that the Custodians of Light are those who deal with the bullshit and garbage life has to offer and somehow make the best of it. Were there are the people that have everything in life handed to them and take things for granted. The Custodians of Light feel that one man’s trash is another man treasure. That’s how I see it. To get the perfect answer you would have to ask Chris. “Wasting Light”? Never heard it. Is it a good record?  Other than the word Light I don’t think they have anything in common.

James: The band was taking pre-orders on the record before it was even recorded. You also didn't have label support. Was that somewhat of a risk for you? How did you feel about that decision?

Ryan: It was not a risk at all. There was a part of us that didn’t even think the record would happen. Because we were so passionate about the songs and felt they needed to be heard we needed to do anything and everything to get this record out there. Not having a label backing you is one of the hardest parts of doing a record. We never had a label back us before so it is something we are really use to. The pre-orders are just a way to help speed the process. Also, we planed to give the people that did do preorders a little extra. I like to think we are treating them good.  We never ruled out putting it out ourselves. It’s the way we do things. Even if someone were willing to put the record out for us it may not have felt right. All of us like to have the control of the band. I wouldn’t want just anybody putting out our record for us because we may risk losing  control.

James: Did you reach out to any labels during the process or was this planned as a self financed release from the beginning?

Ryan: We did send it out to a few labels but again we always go into it thinking we are going to press it ourselves. Having someone back us would be awesome, but it’s got to be right. We just knew we had to go into it thinking it would be self released. It’s better that way. Never get your hopes up.

Jeff in action at Kearny Irish
James: I've just heard that Jeff is leaving the band. This honestly came as a major surprise to me. What was the reasoning behind his departure?

Ryan: Jeff has other things in his life he needs to focus on. He really wants to work on his film. It’s not easy being in Four Fingers. (Laughs) With everything going on in his life right now, staying in the band would just be too much. We are cool with it and wish him the best. Love you Jeff!

James: Not too long ago you were the new guy in the band. I'm not sure if I ever told you this but I really felt that, in a sense you felt like the missing piece the band needed to take things to the next level. What was the transition like?

Ryan: Joe is a great guitar player. I pushed for this really hard. We played in Shakedown together and we’ve been jamming together for about seven years now; whether it was just jamming or in bands. I know Joe’s style better than anyone else. So this was easy for me. He fits into this band very well and brings a lot of energy. Also, we’ve been playing and writing together for so long it makes him very easy to work with. After the very first jam with him we knew he was the guy. He had everything down. Also, his attitude shows that he wants in for the long haul. Hope everyone digs him as much as we do. Yes, I get the missing piece thing a lot, but don’t see it. To be honest, I didn’t feel like there was much of a transition. The guys always made me feel equal in everything we do we do as a group. I mean sure,  there where times when they would talk about shows they played that were badass; but I never really felt like the new guy, even though I was. Joe won’t have a problem at all. Now I can rub my awesome shows in his face.

James: What advice would you give Joe that would help him in both filling Jeff's rather large shoes all while dealing with the energy that is Tohm and Chris?

Ryan: I would just say be you. We don’t want him to wear Jeff’s shoes or fill them. We just want him to have fun and learn to love what we do. I know this is what he’s dreamed of. Joe’s the type of guy to feed off of others energy. That’s why I really think it’s going to work. I promise you the next couple shows we got coming up will be intense! I think fans of Four Fingers will be very pleased with what we accomplished this year.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Talking with Omer Leibovitz of The Courtesy Tier

James: I keep looking back to the "Brick City Sound  Riot Festival" and the first time I saw the band  perform live. Though there were a over abundance of excellent performances, the Courtesy Tier offered a lot of interesting twists and turns. Can you give me a little background on the band? How you met and how you evolved?

Omer: Layton and I met in Boston around 2001.  We had both been Jersey boys Layton from south jersey growing up on a diet of grunge and Hip Hop. I grew up in North Jersey on more of a Punk Rock and Metal diet, but we both also loved the usual classics such as Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan etc...

We were both freshmen attending Berklee college of music. We met in the dorms, naturally connecting on important issues such as pot consumption, psychedelics and music, we had decided it would be great to do some messing around.  At that time Layton had already been attending Berklee for a semester longer and when we would hang out he and his roommate would start exposing me to a whole lot of Jazz music they were studying: Coltrane, Elvin Jones (which became one of Layton's biggest influences), Grant Green (which became one of my greatest guitar influences).

To make this long story a bit shorter, we spent about 5 years playing in a 7 piece experimental rock band: Drums, bass, Keyboards, two guitars, and two saxophones. Touring around, playing festivals and such, until getting along became difficult, and truth be told once the drugs wore off a bit neither Layton and I wanted to experiment so freely with our music anymore.  So we broke up and started a 3 piece instrumental band called The Courtesy Tier and moved to NYC.  When Layton and I realized that we had wanted to get back to our rock roots and could not see eye to eye with our Bass player, he decided to go his own way and Layton and I decided we were gonna learn how to sing and move forward... Here we are now.

Originally Courtesy Tier was actually Courtesy Tear which was one of those joke sayings used by us and our friends at the time, referring to something crass we should not get in to.  We connected with what the name meant to us.

To Layton and I playing music is not about us it's really about the people we are interacting with.  We have always discussed how important it is to us that our live shows would not be about people coming to see us, but rather us coming to entertain and interact with people.  We were craving that authenticity we got from our Jersey VFW days.  When you felt like these bands you loved were on your team. And we wanted to get back to that, we didn't want to be another band doing anything for a record deal or money. Feeling like we were exploiting people who would come see us by charging as much as we could, or guilting them in to showing up just because some guy that might book us will be there and its all about impressing him.

Courtesy Tier, we connected with it. we wanted it to remind us to move slowly and make art that might actually better someones day, or make them happy or get them dancing.

James: How long did it take before you found your voice and felt that you could make things work/gel as a duo?

Omer: It's been about 3 years as a duo, and we are just starting to feel a bit closer to gelling the way we would like.

James: Did the sound and direction of the band change as the lineup changed?

Omer: Yes the sound has changed drastically, this is the most honest we have dared to be.

James: You mentioned how drugs were a big influence early on in the band. When did it stop working for you?

Omer: I don't know that they were a big influence, but they were around and I dont think they ever worked for any of us, I think they slowed us down.

James: Was it difficult at first to write and create without that influence?

Omer: No it was a very natural transition towards focusing more on achieving a musical vision verses before when we would be more on the instant gratification of the playing experience.

James: Though you come from the Jazz and Classic Rock background I can't help but feel a Alt Country vibe in a lot of your songs?

Layton: Absolutely Omer grew up listening to a lot of punk rock, but also loves country and Folk: Towns Van Zandt, Bob Dylan,

James: The song "Fall Asleep" from Holy Hot Fire had an immediate impact on me. I often found myself waking up with the songs rhythm in my head. I was curious about its inspiration and recording.

Omer: The basic song Layton and I wrote on the spot while jamming around, the words are a story of growing up, learning to accept that life is just a series of phases. People come and go ushering you from one world to the next, those who stick around are usually still teaching you.

James: The song "Cold" originally appeared on "Map and Marker" . What led to your decision to re-record it for "Holy Hot Fire"?

Omer: We re-recorded "Cold" because we really love playing that song. In the two years we've been playing it the composition has just kept developing, shifting and getting more involved. So we wanted to capture the new version the way we play it live.

James: Have you had the chance to tour in support of  "Holy Hot Fire"?

Omer: Not as much as we would like. We are going down south during March and hit up SXSW for a few shows.

James: I've seen you perform live a couple of times and have been very impressed by both performances. I've also noticed a big difference in your personalities on stage. While Layton is constantly smiling and looking as if he's having the time of his life. You seem a lot more subdued and focused. I might even go as far as saying possessed. How would you describe your personalities both on stage and off?

Omer: Yeah I don't think its a conscious thing, just kind of happens.  Layton has always been pretty laid back, and I have always been really afraid of singing and nervous in general so that might shine through a bit.

James: I understand you’re in the midst of writing new material. Can we expect another release soon?

Omer: Yeah, we are hoping by spring.

James: What are your goals with The Courtesy Tier? Where do you see yourselves going as both songwriters, musicians and as a band?

Omer: Creatively we are always pushing ourselves to stay inspired. For the next record we are working to try and satisfy our love for electronic elements in music, and loop based writing.

James: How do Omer and Layton measure success as a band?

Omer: Most importantly we want to like what we hear back. We also never let it get boring, we love to constantly push each other away from getting too comfortable and we do measure success through those small victories.

The Courtesy Tier  Band Site

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

United Riot Records to re-issue NY Hoods '86 Demo

For the first time ever on vinyl will be the official release of the NY Hoods' demo, remixed and remastered. Due out in late February the 7" will have 5 songs. Limited edition of just 500 pressed with 100 white, 100 splatter and 300 on black vinyl. The first 300 will come with a digital download card. Members of NY Hoods went on to play in Side By Side, Absolution, and Burn.

On February 20th a new label called Under Watchful Eyes with the help of United Riot Records will be releasing the Strong Island Boot Boys "Pitbull Breed" 7". The 5 song 7" features members of Offensive Weapon and Fed Up! and this release will be out on red, white, and blue vinyl.

United Riot Records  Get it here

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The 65's - "Walk on Selfishly" Video

Here's the video for the first single off The 65's Debut album "Strike Hard". The album ranks pretty high on my list of 2011's best albums. Check out the video and go over to Dromedary records to purchase a copy.  James Damion

Dromedary Records
The 65's

Sara - Spud Brain

As I was about to give Sara and their EP Spud Brain a listen I couldn't help but think I was about to tune in to a female fronted pop band that sang songs about high school crushes, teen alienation and how     "Mom  will never understand". Though, that type of music has surely carved out it's little niche in musics broad landscape, it could not have been further from the truth when it came to this band.

Sara, in fact, are a three piece (each of them strapping young men) from New Brunswick, NJ. The band plays a style that mixes 70's rock with the aesthetics 90's indie and a bit of a low-fi value that ties everything together rather nicely.
     The EP's seven tracks are driven by some genius guitar work that produces a lot of unique and interesting twists and turns. Spud Brain delivers its share of up tempo and low key moments throughout. Each song  offering  its own unique identity and style. There are soaring moments on songs like the title track "Spud Brain" and its followup "Cancer Songs". While, offerings such as "Almond Hours" and "Criminals" offer a more intimate vibe. 

Overall I found this to be an excellent release that has a lot of different elements that come together rather seamlessly. I always wondered what it was about New Brunswick that turned out so much excellent music. Listening to Sara moves me to continue seeking the answers. This band is definitely worth further investigation. James Damion