Friday, May 30, 2014

Part II of my Interview with Speed the Plough's Cindi Merklee

When I first approached Cindi about doing an interview for the blog. It wasn't to promote an album or a tour. It wasn't to talk about an anniversary of a landmark release or a tell all book detailing ones sorted past. My agenda, if you want to call it that, was to get to know one of the more intriguing people I've met since the blogs inception. Through co creating this blog I've been given the opportunity to reach out to many of the people who inspire me with their music, stories and overall spirit. Something an introvert like myself would never be able to do otherwise.

Part II of our interview revolves around a conversation we had while Cindi paid a visit to my makeshift photo studio to participate in a ongoing project I had started with local musicians. 
Though that short session produced a few memorable images. It was the laid back bull session that served as the foundation for this interview. Thanks to Cindi for opening the door for me. James Damion

James: I attended my first Record Store Day event this year and say I overdid it would be a monumental understatement. One thing I came across made me think of you. It was the Folk Music Box set. Being that Folk is perhaps the one genre that continues to evade my taste in music. I'm curious to know what it is that draws you to it. Was there a particular artist or person that influenced your appreciation for the genre?

Cindi: There’s a great quote credited to Woodie Guthrie: “Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to keep it simple.” That’s a broad statement but there is a good amount of truth in it, and it isn’t exclusive to folk music - look at The Ramones.
In that sense I feel that folk & punk are not-so-distant cousins. With that said, I still laugh my ass off at "A Mighty Wind". Every genre has their stereotypes as well as their gems. What draws me to music of any genre is the honesty in songwriting. If a song or artist comes across as trite or contrived, trying to fit in a marketable genre - that’s when I lose interest. That whole Monsters of Folk nonsense? No thanks. Connor Oberst could turn his back on music and become an insurance salesman tomorrow and it wouldn’t phase me.
Then you look at someone like Vashti Bunyan who released a hauntingly beautiful yet poorly received album back in 1970 (Just Another Diamond Day) only to slip in to obscurity for thirty years before more or less being “re-discovered”. This is a recent discovery & current fixation of mine. She somehow effortlessly blends worldly sophistication and childlike innocence in her writing and vocal style. That’s where I’m at right now. Tomorrow’s fixation may be the latest Throwing Muses release. It’s whatever hits me at the moment.

Photo Credit: Don Sternecker
As for my introduction to folk - that would be Woody & Arlo Guthrie. I don’t know about these days but back when I was in grade school we began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by an edited round of “This Land Is Your Land” which politely omitted the verse that speaks out against private property.  As musical as my family was, folk music was not heard much primarily due to the communist witch hunt perpetrated by Senator Joseph McCarthy beginning back in the1940s. My father was a WWII Navy Veteran and despite his musical leanings and other admirable qualities, he didn’t appreciate criticism of the American government which is prevalent in folk music. Democracy is predicated on dissenting views yet the wave of McCarthyism managed to equate dissent with sedition - something this country is still struggling to understand and correct.

Despite this, my oldest brother was very much a product of his generation and gave me a copy of One Night by Arlo Guthrie when I was still in the single digits.
“The Story of Reuben Clamso” used to crack me up, and it still does. It’s story telling at its best. There’s a great cover of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” on there as well and the album closes with a beautiful take on Ed McCurdy’s “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” which I’ve covered when performing solo acoustic.

James: We had a great conversation about our mutual appreciation for the Replacements. What was your introduction to the band. Anything particular that helped earn your love for the band?

Cindi: It was 1989 and Tom Petty was touring in support of Full Moon Fever. I was in my sophomore year in high school and listening to a lot of what was popular at the time
(Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Dokken, etc). I wanted to see Petty though and
The Replacements happened to be the opening act on that tour. My brothers were overjoyed by this coincidence and promptly gave me a stack of their Replacements records, a blank tape and a list of song suggestions. I went back to my room and put on Hootenanny first because I liked the cover art. At first listen though I just didn’t get it. Clearly these guys didn’t take themselves too seriously, if at all. It hit me like a joke I wasn’t “in” on. Next I went to Tim and skipped to “Bastards of Young” because I was intrigued by the title. I was blown away buy the gut-wrenching honesty of it.
There was no posturing, no gimmick, no schtick. Westerberg’s vocals drip simultaneously with defiance and despair. You can’t fake that. I was hooked, and I’ve been ever since.

James: Have you heard about the reunion shows and are you planning on hopping a plane, train or rickshaw?

Cindi: I have! And I’m glad they’re having fun with it as well as helping out Slim. I’m funny when it comes to reunions though. While I was late to the party with them - only discovering them with Don’t Tell A Soul - I did have the chance to see them at The Ritz and at Rutgers back to back nights on that last tour in the early 90s. I love those memories and I’m happy to hold those as my remembrance of that band. I encourage anyone who doesn’t share this sentiment with me to check them out though.

James: You mentioned you had the chance to see Tommy Stinson when he played Maxwells? Was there any hero worship going on? Any embarrassing encounters you'd like to share?

Cindi: Yeah.....that was a great show and my first encounter with one of my idols.
Tommy had just released Friday Night is Killing me with Bash & Pop. My oldest brother was getting married the next day and he gave his blessing to me & my boyfriend at the time to leave the rehearsal dinner early to catch the show at Maxwell’s. I was a total spaz over Tommy. HUGE rock star crush. The band played a killer set - hard not to with an album that good. I think it’s the best post-Mats material any of them have released. At the end of it Tommy was walking through the crowd when he tripped and stumbled right at my feet.
I can’t imagine the look I had on my face but when he got up he looked at me & asked if I was OK - I think that says it all. The whole way out to the car I was giddy as a school girl over it - so much so that my boyfriend suggested I dump him so I could marry Tommy. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

James: Have you checked out the book "One Man Mutiny" ?

Cindi: I wasn’t aware of the book - love the album though. I saw Tommy at Maxwell’s when he was touring in support of it. Another great show and this time I wasn’t too much of a spaz to approach him. I was still afraid of putting my foot in my mouth so I didn’t say much but he did personally autograph a poster for me, thanking me for coming out. And yeah, I still got giddy.

James: While we're on the subject of Maxwell's. How did you take the news of the closing? Did you take place in the farewells and send offs? Were you at all shocked when bands began to play again under a different system?

Cindi: I was heartbroken - as so many were. I was too young to have gone there in its heyday and some argue that it was in decline by the time I was going there regularly but it’s all relative. Maxwell’s was my first exposure to the “indie” music scene. It was one of the few shared experiences I have with my much older siblings. It felt like home. When I first started playing in bands as a kid all I wanted to do was play there. I’m lucky to have had the chance on a number of occasions with musicians I have a tremendous amount of admiration & respect for.

I didn’t attend the big final farewell but I did go to a bunch of shows in those final months.
I was lucky enough to be a part of the Bar None night when Speed the Plough was invited to play along with Alice Genese, Freedy Johnston, Chris Stamey, The Health & Happiness show and a whole bunch of others. Other stand out shows from those final nights were Stuyvesant with True Love, Wild Carnation & Bambi Kino who was the last band I saw there.

I was a bit surprised to see bands playing there again after it had “closed” but business is business and for me the place as I knew it was already gone.

James: I don't think I would have ever had the chance to hear Balloon Squad if it were not for meeting you. I finally got my hands on one of the bands EP's and really enjoyed what I was hearing.
What was it like joining the band and getting to make music with your Brother Joe?

Cindi: Thanks so much! It was intimidating at first. I was 18 and had never been in an original band, let alone one that had been together for 10+ years already. Plus I was taking over bass duties from my brother who had switched to guitar. He wasn’t the strongest bass player rhythmically speaking but to make up for that, either consciously or subconsciously, he would come up with some crazy bass parts - almost lead bass bass parts. It was a challenge learning some of them and then keeping that momentum going on the new songs we were writing.

Looking back on those years and considering we were living in the same house at the time I’m a bit amazed that things went as smoothly as they did for so long.
It was great having our rehearsal space/studio right in our basement.
I just wish we were more ambitious at the time.

James: Have the two of you ever discussed the idea of collaborating again musically?

Cindi: We have but we’re both involved with other bands/projects right now. We are working on a Balloon Squad reunion show later this year though. I’m really looking forward to that because there are songs of ours which I love that never saw the light of day.

James: D. Smith (The 65's) is often credited for your working in music again. Was there anything in particular that kept you away from your passion. How was he instrumental in bringing you back in?

Cindi: This will sound cliché but I ditched music after going through one of those soul crushing break ups in my 20s. It just so happened that this coincided with Balloon Squad splitting up so everything was in limbo. At the time any musicians I knew were all playing in cover bands - something I refused to do. I lacked the confidence to pursue anything outside of my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances so I hung it up.
Photo Credit; JC Call
Unfortunately once I cleared my head over the break up
(or at least thought I did) I fell into a really toxic relationship that lasted far longer than it should have. I met Dan at the tail end of that. At first I didn’t realize that he had been in
Shirk Circus - I owned & LOVED both
Words to Say & March but came across them after the band had split up. Dan was recruiting me for a project he was putting together but once I made the connection panic set in and I turned him down. He’s a phenomenal bass player - so intuitive. At that time I had more than 6 years of rust to scrape off. There was no way I could be his bass player. He wouldn’t take no for an answer though & eventually talked me down from the proverbial cliff. The project was short lived but I’ve been playing ever since and was grateful to have the opportunity to work with him again in The 65’s.

James: Though music is a key part of our lives. It's just one aspect of that life.
What else inspires and drives you? What are your passions?

Cindi: Southern gothic literature (except Faulkner), when I have the time to read. My main favorites are Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor. I had this idea that I was going to write an albums worth of songs written from the perspective of characters from my favorite short stories or novels, thinking that this would help me get outside of my own head for a while. I quickly realized that the characters I was drawn to write about were ones which I identified with on some level, so it wasn’t the escape I was hoping for. I stopped after the first one, a song called “Miss Amelia” inspired by McCullers’ Ballad of the Sad Cafe.
I haven’t deserted the idea entirely though. I think I read that Lisa Hannigan has done something like this already so it’s not necessarily an original idea but it’s still an interesting practice.

I’m also a bit of a history buff. I’m fascinated by the cultural impact and complexity of the American Civil War. When I went back to school it was with the intention of becoming a teacher. I earned my BA in history with a minor in African American Studies in an effort to gain a more objective view of this country’s history. Unfortunately by the time I graduated the economy had tanked, the public education sector in NJ was decimated and there was no way I could pay back my student loans and support myself on a teacher’s salary.
It’s something I may return to though should the conditions ever be favorable.

James: Any closing words or wisdom you'd like to share with our readers?

Cindi: Do what you love.

For Part I of my interview with Cindi, click Here

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rye Coalition: The Story of The Hard Luck Five Documentary Premeire

Documentary Premiere 

An intimate and fiery rock documentary tracing the rise and fall of Rye Coalition
Premieres May 30, 2014 at the New Jersey Film Festival & June 8 in NYC

     When they signed with one of the world’s biggest record labels, Rye Coalition was primed to finally get their glory, or so it seemed. Like countless rockers before them, childhood best friends started a band in a basement with a couple simple goals in mind: have fun and play good music. As one of the first bands to develop the new “emo” sound, they were at the forefront of a movement that included Shellac, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker and Karp (with whom they later recorded a legendary 12" split). Rye Coalition’s first recording was a demo cassette tape (1994's "Dancing Man", self-released), backed by an East Coast tour in a beat up schoolbus long before most of them had their driver's license. As their talent and fan base grew, they released albums on indie labels and toured the country for over ten years on bigger and bigger bills: (Mars Volta, Queens of the Stone Age,
Foo Fighters). After gaining momentum from 2002′s “On Top” LP, engineered by
Steve Albini, they were signed to Dreamworks Records and none other than Dave Grohl (Nirvana) came on as their producer. Then, it all imploded.

     The filmmaker has continuously documented these singular rockers for over a decade, brazenly chronicling choice moments with Rye Coalition (and those who know them well)
on tour, at home and in the studio. Although the band was praised by critics and supported by an absurdly dedicated grassroots fan base, somehow these Jersey rockers never got their due. Until now.  Dir: Jenni Matz, 2014; 77  minutes.
Featuring: Steve Albini (Shellac), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Tim Green (Nation of Ulysses),  Jon Theodore (Mars Volta), Jared Warren (Melvins).

Documentary World Premiere: May 30, 2014

New Jersey Film Festival in New Brunswick, NJ at Vorhees Hall.

Tickets available day of show $10, advance tickets available via Paypal email for information.

Documentary NYC Premiere: June 8, 2014
New York Premiere in Brooklyn, NY at the Knitting Factory 361 Metropolitan Ave
2pm doors $5 at door or available at:

For more information, please contact:
Jenni Matz @
Trailer at :

Feral Babies Final Show - Full Set

If you're familiar with the blog you'll know that Dave and I have a mutual admiration for Tampa's Feral Babies. I was lucky enough to see them live and hang out with them a couple of times and I can honestly say they're some of the best people around. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to book my private jet to attend the bands final gig. Thanks to modern technology and Christian Costello of the band Station Cases, It's all here for your listening and viewing pleasure. Thanks to Christian and The Feral Babies for the music, 
the memories and the good times. I'm looking forward to new projects, side projects 
and post projects. Until then, enjoy the set. James Damion

Dead Ending - S/T

If it were not for the fact that I've been stalking Jeff Dean on Facebook for years,
I might not have even heard about the formation of Dead Ending.
Lucky for anyone reading this,
I keep tabs on things.
To say the very least, this record is far too good to let slip through the cracks or be considered as just another side project by former/ current members of Articles of Faith, Alloy, All Eyes West,
The Bomb, Alkaline Trio and
Rise Against

The bands debut EP features a stripped down, early 80's Hardcore sound delivered by one of the genres great voices Vic Bondi. Though just a small sample of this bands organic sound, Vic's voice serves as somewhat of a mission statement. A blueprint for the often overstated Supergroup. Each of the five songs on this EP work perfectly together to quicken the pace and get the blood pumping.
However, Dead Ending save the very best for last with the rousing and anthemic
"All the Way Down". Solidifying Dead Ending's presence as one of the best things the genre has produced in years. James Damion

Bridge 9 Records Buy it Here

Ink & Sweat / Caseracer - Split 7"

I've always enjoyed a good split EP. An appetizer best savored when the ingredients feature uniquely different flavors. Here, Ink & Sweat and Caseracer team up for a five song split that perfectly showcases each bands approach, style and muscle.

Tampa based Ink & Sweat deliver a mix of impressive guitar prowess and sing along choruses. Each of the two songs presented here,
from the opening lead on "Brickwalls and Pitfalls" to the sing along chorus of "Our Words as Swords" leave a lasting impression on the listener. Hardcore swagger is one thing, but when  backed by excellent musicianship and good song writing ability, you've got something really special to build on.
Delaware/New Jersey's Caseracer deliver a sound that can easily be compared to
New Brunswick legends Lifetime, with their quick start/stop approach to Hardcore.
Listening to their side of the wax transports me to my younger days standing eyeball to eyeball with Ari Katz at some undisclosed New Brunswick basement show.
That can't possibly be a bad thing.  James Damion

Bandcamp Buy it Here

Lovechild - S/T 7"

If there was ever a clean cut case for
"Don't let the name fool you." Massachusetts' Lovechild would be walking out of court with their collective arms raised in a celebratory "V".

Following Boston's legacy of hard as fuck, rip your face out and eat the innards bands. Lovechild hit us  with an eleven song hatchet job that refuses to leave my turntable. The band takes on a stripped down, bare bones approach to Punk with raw, high pitch screams and driving relentless guitar noise.  Whether that's your bag of tricks or not, what Lovechild produce here is worth merit and deserving of your attention. The intensity on this record more than matched their live performance. The band followed their recent stop in New Jersey with a short tour of of Canada.
Recorded at Maximum Sound in Danvers, MA. The record comes on color vinyl.
(My copy is on Red.) James Damion

Mayfly Records Buy it Here

Thursday, May 22, 2014

FEAR Perform Beef Bologna and New York's Alright if you Like Saxophones on SNL

Some rarely seen footage of FEAR's 1981 Halloween performance  on SNL. Cast member and all around bad ass John Belushi is credited for getting the band on the show. 
Belushi was a big fan of the band and Punk Rock in general. Lorne Michaels had no idea what he was getting himself into. Footage of their performance was never again aired in 
SNL reruns or network television. Here the band performs the songs "Beef Boloney" and 
"New York is Alright if you Like Saxophones." Enjoy. James Damion

Thursday, May 15, 2014

BoySetsFire / Funeral For A Friend - Split "Covers" 7" Inch EP

It's not an original idea. Surely, getting a couple of A-list bands to head into the studio and record a track or two from the others catalog has been done, done and did. Come to think of it. It's not a bad idea at all. Bringing together two bands who not only play in similar genres, but have a genuine admiration for one another.

No Sleep records did just that by bringing together two heavy hitters in BoySetsFire (NJ) and A Funeral For A Friend (Wales) to exchange covers and ultimately walk in each other's shoes.

My first go through with these two songs left me feeling pretty flat. The second and third spins only solidified my first impression. Though these covers aren't terrible.
They certainly didn't do anything to quicken the pulse or evoke any strong reaction within me. The reasons why I was disappointed with this split are simple. One of my absolute favorite bands (BoySetsFire) covers a song from a band I really don't like
(Funeral For a Friend). All while a band I don't really like cover one of my absolute favorite songs (Rookie) from one of my absolute favorite bands. If you're a fan of either band.
I wouldn't sway you from giving this a spin. Personally, I plan on passing this on to someone who might. The record comes on grey vinyl and includes a download card. James Damion

No Sleep Records Get it Here

Friday, May 9, 2014

An Interview with Raleigh NC's Static is a City

With a 7' EP on it's way from the pressing plant and a number of shows neatly tucked under their belts I reached out to Raleigh, NC's Static is a City to learn more about the past, present and future of a band whose momentum seems to grow by the day. Thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer my questions.

Static City is:
Chris Skelly - Vocals  Sean Husick - Drums
Robert Trout - Guitar  Todd Robert - Guitar Channing Azure - Bass

James: Most people reading this may or may not know the band consists of former members of Dahlia Seed and Milemarker. Can you tell me how you guys met and what made you decide to start a band?

Chris: Sean ( Milemarker ) and I met several years ago through a Craigslist ad. Both of us have similar tastes in music, and we're both looking for a similar situation in which to make music. After a few false starts due to not finding the right people to play in the band, we solidified the line up  in June of 2013, and have been moving forward ever since.
As far as why we wanted to start a band?'s a passion that never goes away. I am not speaking for Sean here, but I believe we feel the same way in that making music is intrinsically in our DNA, and no matter the circumstance, or time, or location.....we will both always move towards creating music because it's the singular passion in our lives.

James: How quickly did things gel for you?

Chris: This current line up gelled immediately...that's how we knew we had the right people in the band to move forward. We started writing in the first "jam" we had, and by the third practice it was decided that this was the band. Rob ( Guitar ), Todd ( Guitar ) and
Channing ( Bass ) were the exact musicians both Sean and I had been looking for, and each of them bring a unique talent and creativity to our sound.

James: The bands name reminds me of how toxic city life feels for me these days.
What does the name mean to you? What does it suggest?

Chris: That's an interesting take on the name of our band James, and one I don't disagree with at all. The story of the band's name is rather average....we were throwing possible band names around and we couldn't all decide on which one we liked best, but we sort of settled on the name Red Static, but then we found out that there was a band from England that had that name already. At the same time....I had just watched a crime noir movie from the 60's called "Hell Is A City"...and I really liked that title, but hated the word "Hell" as it tends to conjure images of a metal band. I mentioned this same idea in practice one night, and we decided to merge the names and came up with Static Is A City. Unconsciously...the name does tap into a rather anti-modern theme of technology becoming a monolithic entity, but we certainly didn't plan it that way.

James: You released a self titled EP  before you even began playing out.
What was it about these particular songs that ....

Chris: Well.....those are the first three songs we wrote together, and we just wanted to have some recorded material to share with friends and such. The recordings came out way better than we had all expected, so we decided to put them out.

James: How did the label "Ideas" come into the picture?

Chris: Sean had a small label back in the 90's that had put out some local NC punk and hardcore bands, and he had been thinking about starting a label again. We had these 3 songs that we had just recorded, and Sean saw this as an opportunity to launch his label. He got things up and running rather quickly, and we had our EP released in early March.

James: What's holding up the records pressing?

Chris: Goddamn Record Store Day held up the pressing.....haha. Ugh, the pressing plant was swamped with orders for RSD and unfortunately we fell to the bottom of the list. We just received the test pressings last week, so you'll see the record in the next few weeks.

James: Is having a hard copy document of your music, such as vinyl, important to you as a band? As opposed to offering the EP on Bandcamp or the many digital options made for bands these days?

Chris: I think having your music available in all formats is important. People lately seem to get hung up on the medium, and not the message. At the end of the's the music that you want to hear, and frankly I couldn't care less what format it comes on? To someone sitting in let's say....Borneo, who only has an internet connection, and knows nothing of the hipster vinyl fetishism that is currently occurring in the Western World...finding the
"Static Is A City EP" on Bandcamp is awesome, it's the only avenue for them to hear our music. To limit people's exposure to your music, just to satisfy a current trend such as vinyl fetishism is ignorant and selfish....but that is just my opinion.

James: I know you've been involved with many bands and projects since the 80's, but this is the first time I recall you signing? What made you want to take on that role?

Chris: Actually, the first sort of functional band I was in was a hardcore / thrash band in the 80's called Selective Outrage, and I sang in that band, so singing in Static sort of feels like coming full circle after 20 plus years of playing guitar in bands. The reason I chose to sing in Static was pretty simple....Sean and I had an idea of what we wanted the band aesthetic to be, and in the simplest's hard to convey your own personal aesthetic to a random vocalist, and it is not really fair to that vocalists own creative expression to have them do what you think they should, to avoid all that mess, I just decided to sing.
Guitarists are frankly a dime a could open your window, throw a rock and hit a guitarist, but finding someone who can lyrically and expressively deliver a shared aesthetic is a bit tougher, so I opted out of guitar and picked up the mic.

James: You've already began to rack up shows in and around the Raleigh area. Are there any plans to make it back up to the New York, New Jersey area?

Chris: We would love to come up to NYC / NJ to play some shows. Admittedly....after being in Raleigh for close to 8 years now, I am out of the loop as to where to play, and who to contact for shows in NY / NJ hopefully we can hook up with some friends bands for our first shows in the area.

James: What does Raleigh offer for upcoming bands. Though I hate to use the term,
What's the music scene like at the moment?

Chris: Raleigh is an amazing city, with a fantastic local music scene. The thing that is most apparent in Raleigh is the sense of true community within the local music scene. Bills are diverse, and clubs are super supportive of local bands....almost every out of town, headliner show in Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill always features one or two local support bands. There is a very thriving hardcore / punk scene with several shows a week at a variety of venues, but the indie scene is pretty big as well, and I am beginning to notice a lot more weird / experimental bands popping up which is in keeping with Raleigh's past of being a hot bed of off kilter sounding bands.

James: You recently played a show with Richmond's Positive No. A band that features your former Dahlia Seed bandmate TKW. What was that experience like?

Chris: The show was great, and Tracy's band was terrific. I referenced the idea of "coming full circle" earlier, and in the truest sense...the show had that feel and appeal. The guy who booked the show Chris DeFusco, who runs the local Negative Fun record label was a huge Dahlia Seed fan back in the day, and he was super excited to have both of our new bands on the same bill.

James: How long had it been since you crossed paths?

Chris: I don't see Tracy as much as I would like to, but we do cross paths at least once every year and half or so. The last time we did ( before the show ) was when she came to Raleigh for the Archers Of Loaf reunion show in 2012.

For further review:

Overlake - Sighs

I’m not really a music critic. I’m more of a music free-associator. When I listen to something new, it often conjures up memories or feelings; and that’s what I try to put into my “reviews.” Sighs, the debut album from Jersey City trio Overlake, had me doing quite a bit of free-associating over the course of its 36 minutes.

Tom Barrett (guitar / vocals), Lysa Opfer (bass / vocals), and Scotty Imp (drums) steep Sighs in the sounds of early 90s shoegaze and alt/indie rock, delivering an atmospheric collection that features dreamy vocals punctuated with bursts of explosive guitar noise. As I listen to the record, I can’t keep myself from thinking back to the times when all of Sighs’ influences formed kind of a soundtrack to my life.

Sighs opens with the instrumental and appropriately-titled “First.”  Barrett’s guitar chimes and reverberates, bolstered by a slow, steady driving rhythm section. I was really into
Hal Hartley movies in the late 80s, early 90s -- The Unbelievable Truth, Simple Men, and, most of all, Trust. “First” had me thinking of the soundtracks to some of those films –
Adrienne Shelley or Martin Donovan staring blankly, delivering deadpan dialogue -- and how my future wife and I first saw Simple Men at a bar on Hoboken’s Washington St. that used to do Tuesday indie movie nights.

“First” eases right into single and one of the album’s standouts, “Disappearing.” As the verse progresses, it sounds almost like a continuation of the opening track; but the building tension becomes more and more apparent until things explode into the chorus.
The accompanying riff, if you can call it that, sees Barrett making his guitar sound like another instrument entirely, making me think “Only Shallow.” Similarly, “Back To The Water” embellishes things with some of that tremolo assisted strumming that I love so much.

Things turn a little more post-punk on “Fell Too Far,” which sees Opfer contributing vocals on the verse. The bell-like guitar tones and chugging bassline recall some of the sounds I’d turn up in the car on my drives down to Sea Girt to work the snack bar during my high school summers. “Our Sky” combines pop and noise into a Mascis-like stew that had me waiting for the big solo to cut through all the fuzz. About two and a half minutes in, we almost get it.

“Is this something we’ve heard before?” asks Barrett on the reminiscent of Sonic Youth album-closer “Is This Something?” Well, yeah. But that’s not a bad thing here. I don’t get the sense that Overlake are cynically mining the sounds of their influences in order to cash in on “The 90s Revival” or whatever. Instead, they obviously have a great love and encyclopedic knowledge of these sounds and employ them to tap into some deep corner of the listener’s psyche.

For an old guy like me, that takes me back to my post-college years in NYC / Hoboken, when I met my wife and started making my way in the world. For someone who didn’t grow up listening to this stuff, I can only imagine where this expertly delivered dose of mind expansion will take them.

Sighs is out now on Killing Horse Records. James Appio

Sighs  Here

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Punk the Capital, Straight from Washington D.C.

Punk The Capital is a documentary that explores how Punk took hold in Washington DC from 1976 through the early 80's. Looks like a pretty cool project to get behind. Hit the Kickstarter link below if you would like to help fund the documentary...Dave G.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Heroes of Toolik - Aquarium School 7" 2014

I'm not sure I am really qualified to review the Heroes of Toolik, and I can honestly say that I'm not sure they have anything to offer to the readers of UBRS, however the band was kind enough to submit  physical copies of their recordings, therefore I am going to do my best to describe their sound.

The first thing I noticed about the bands new 7" Aquarium School is that is was produced by Wharton Tiers whose name was familiar to me as he has worked with a long list of excellent bands over the years including Quicksand, Sonic Youth,Helmet,White Zombie, Dinosaur JR and numerous others. Wharton was also a member of the early New York no wave scene as a member of Glorious Strangers.  Heroes of Toolik also consists of members who have serious musical pedigrees...bassist Ernie Brooks was a member of  The Modern Lovers, and other members have played with Lounge Lizards, Glenn Branca and more.

Anyway, on to the music. The 7" opens with Aquarium School which is a nice mellow song with smooth sung/spoke vocals laced  with trombone, accordion and pretty female backing vocals. The flip side of this 7" Dances With Elsa moves along at a bit of a more forceful pace with nice boy/girl vocals sung mostly simultaneously.  My overall impression is that Heroes of Toolik is the type of band you might stumble upon playing at a local art gallery or chill lounge or at a  local watering hole in NY/NJ on a week night surrounded by people eating, drinking, chatting and just having a nice night out with friends , think Maxwells in Hoboken when they used to have the Jazz band play in the restaurant area.

So in closing, while I'm still not sure UBRS is a good fit for this style of music, I think Heroes of Toolik are a good band who should appeal to a wide range of listeners. Check out the link below for more detail, show dates etc...Dave G.

Heroes of Toolik

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"A Ballad From Hell", "How To Rob a Bank" and More with Those Mockingbirds Tory Anne Daines

With a couple of new singles, a tour behind them and a debut full length on the horizon,
I decided to reach out to Those Mockingbirds violinist / keyboardist Tory Anne Daines
to get the scoop on the band, the music and how the year's been treating her.

James: You just finished a short tour. Where did it take you? Did you head out alone?

Tory: We took ourselves out for a tour of New England and surrounding areas, which subsequently turned into a farewell tour for our guitarist Jon Gianino.
We kicked it off at WDHA with an interview by the fantastic
DJ Lindsay Klein
and ended in our hometown of Montclair NJ.
The road from start to finish was eventful for sure. We played, gambled, and encountered everything from ribbon dancers to goats to sugar gliders to frat guys so drunk all they could do was roll on the ground and ask for ‘Kishes' (Kisses). We lost Jon but we gained a fantastic new guitarist, that we’re set to perform our first show with Saturday March 3rd at Mexicali Live in Teaneck with Trophy Scars.

James: Was Jon’s departure sudden, unexpected? Is there now a contract out on his life?

Tory: No contract but Jon left to pursue other avenues of his life. He told us about halfway through the last tour he was out but he played out the remaining dates with us.
We even made a farewell show for him out of the last show on the run. It's sad but we're all excited for what Kyle is bringing to our writing style.

James: You got sick just days before the tour. How did that turn out? Did it affect you overall performance?

Tory: I got sick far enough out that I was better by the first date but I was still only halfway through the antibiotics so I had to watch my drinking because beer would affect me much differently. I’m glad I caught it when I did because it could have easily affected my singing.

James: The videos you've produced in the past have been impressive to say the very least. While "How to Rob a Bank" showed off the bands sense of humor and ability to make fun of itself. "A Ballad from Hell" exhibited a darker, more sinister side to the bands personality. Can you fill us in on what went into the planning and execution of both?

Tory: Both videos were well thought out, but only one of them was intended for release.

Our video for “A Ballad From Hell” was initially shot as a music video for “Coast to Coast” that was never released. We didn’t want to simply scrap it so we made it into something just for us, leaving behind the initial plot we shot the video around. I’m going to keep that plot private because it’s interesting to see how this video has taken on a life of it’s own.

With “How to Rob a Bank” we wanted to tell a complete story, beginning, middle, and end.
It wasn’t just us doing everything though we needed someone to help us flesh it out, film it, edit it, and tell us if something wasn’t working; John Komar couldn’t have been a better to work with on that.

We also released a video for “Destroy My Love” that we filmed in a warehouse.
The song is actually the first song Those Mockingbirds ever wrote.

James: You also ran a successful campaign to get "How to Rob a Bank" on MTVU.
In all honesty, I had no idea MTV still provided a platform for music.
How did that opportunity come about?

Magic and a whole lot of fan support. We were up against some serious competition for the spot, including some bands we really liked prior to going into this like Red Fang, and
Steven Wilson. The Freshman competition was the first time I really felt the weight of our fans. They were the ones that tilted the scales for us.

James: Your EP "Fa Sol La" was released by "Star Beat". Are you working with any labels at the moment? When can we expect to see the album?

Tory: We are not working with any labels at the moment but we’re working hard to introduce this album to the world in the right way. We’ve already given away a few secrets, including the fact that cellist Daniel de Jesús from Rasputina guests.

James: "Coast to Coast" had been my go to song for so long, my wife threatened a cease and desist order to keep me from repeatedly singing the chorus.
Is there a song on the new album worthy of taking it's place? What are your favorites?

Tory: There is definitely more than one you’ll like. “Penny The Dreadful” is a different beast from “Fa Sol La” and also one that translates very well live. If you don’t walk out of one of our shows with a new favorite song I’ll sic some ferrets on you.

Photo: Shawn Arlington Photography

James: I think it's safe to say, you've had a trying year.

Tory: Oh yeah definitely instrument problems. With the exception of my five string electric, I've been playing on the same instruments for more than fifteen years. The glue dried up on the fingerboards of two of my acoustics and in one great act of defiance they just fell off. The big plus out of this year, were all the Helicore strings D'Addario thrown my way.
I've been making great use of them.

Instrument debacles aside this year has been full of so many highs and lows as a band.
I feel good about it though because most of this year was full of highs. We recorded our first full length album, won mtvU's "The Freshmen" because of our incredible fans, and did quite a bit of touring. We got a new van with working heat & A/C and in the same respect a new practice space with a window and working A/C. It's the small things.

As for personal problems, my cars comes to mind. Back in June, a man with dementia took his family's car out for a spin, only to total my parked car. Ever since then I've been trying to buy a working car. However, the universe had other plans. Including neighbors totaling my next newly fixed parked car and four months of loaner cars. When I sat "loaner cars",
it just highlights the fact that no one seems to be able to sell me one that actually works.
I'm glad to have been mobile and I did get to drive some sweet rides through all this. Including a brand new jet black Dodge Challenger. I recall thinking "Really, you're gonna let me drive this thing?" "That's how it is?" "You know, I do know how much this costs."

Those Mockingbirds will be performing this Saturday, May 3rd at Mexicali Live with
Trophy Scars, Science and NettyRose. For tickets, go Here

You can find out more about Those Mockingbirds below.
Band Site