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Genre Archives: Rock
Festival-storming trio Highly Suspect returned with second album The Boy Who Died Wolf on November 18th, 2016. The moving, jubilant LP from the Brooklyn alt-renegades follows two Top 10 Mainstream Rock hits (“Lydia,” “Bloodfeather”) and two Grammy nominations (Best Rock Song, Best Rock Album) just one year from the release of their 300 Entertainment debut, 2015’s Mister Asylum. For the follow-up, the band — Johnny Stevens (guitar/vocals), and fraternal twin brother rhythm section Rich (bass/vocals) and Ryan Meyer (drums/vocals) — are reappearing stronger, livelier and more mature. The effort earned the boys a third Grammy nominated for “My Name Is Human” (Best Rock Song.)
“The title The Boy Who Died Wolf, it’s like, we were so young and now we’re adults,” says Stevens. “I went through a lot of issues that I had to sort out and sometimes I can’t believe that I’m alive. And now here I am traveling the world with my best friends, making music, and living the exact dream that we had set out to accomplish a long time ago … We’re learning a different lifestyle. And it’s good, it’s positive. But it’s also hard to let go of everything that happened in the past.”
That new lifestyle comes in the wake of success that’s snowballed since 2014, featuring Grammy nods; radio smashes; stops at major festivals (Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Reading and Leeds and so on); tours alongside Scott Weiland, Chevelle and Catfish & the Bottlemen to name a few; tours around the world including Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the UK as well as multiple headlining tours in the United States one of which is currently underway. The feeling of celebration infuses The Boy Who Died Wolf, while still heading into haunted regions of Steven’s past, yowling somewhere between the metronomic robot metal of Queens of the Stone Age, the bluesy wallop of Jack White and the feedback-shrieking noise-pop of In Utero-era Nirvana.
To record the LP, the band traveled far from their New York comfort zone to Bogotá, Colombia, recording with Mister Asylum producer Joel Hamilton (The Black Keys and Wu-tang, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello,).
“Normally we would record in New York or L.A., and when we’re in those places we just have too many distractions, too many friends,” says Stevens. “When you’re trying to make art.. pure art, it’s good to be secluded. So we were literally in a fortress, 20-foot walls all around this compound in the middle of Bogota.”
“The energy around you, the culture that you’re taking in, will affect the songs,” he continues. “We were really enjoying ourselves. So I think there’s a little more step to this album. There’s happier tones. There’s some dark stuff too but there are simply more uplifting moments on this album. I think we finally realized we are supposed to be here making music. That people like what we do. We had more trust in ourselves and each other and just let the music come out.
The upbeat vibe begins to show its face lyrically in the lead single “My Name Is Human” (“I’m feeling the way that I’m feeling myself”), and then appears full force on the blazing desert-rock dynamite of “Postres” (“I’m havin’ fun for the rest of my days”), but takes a back seat in their dreamy cover of Real Life’s 1983 new wave swooner “Send Me an Angel” and on the anthemic “Little One” which reminds us all of the hopeless, lovelorn pangs that most have undoubtedly felt in the pit of their guts somewhere along the lines. But even the more serious songs are steeped in an unrelenting optimism. A great friend of theirs took his own life while the band were in Colombia, to which they responded with “For Billy,” a beaming post-grunge burst.
“The song is not a downer, it’s sad, but it’s a charged up anthem,” explains Stevens. “It’s what he would have wanted. It was a really sad moment but he was such a happy person. So that song is something he can blare through his Harley speakers wherever he is now .”
Johnny describes Billy as an “original crewmember” of MCID, the collective shouted out on Highly Suspect’s jackets, hats, lyrics and tattoos. “That’s our ethos,” says Johnny of the acronym that stands for “My Crew Is Dope.” “We’re trying to invite any and all positive people to what was once exclusively for us. We’ve realized its bigger than us; as long as you’re not a racist, not a homophobe and you have good intentions then we welcome you to join the family and spread the love.” In turn, Wolf’s “Viper Strike” namechecks MCID in a venomous, knives-out attack on bigots: “We’re all equal except for you/’Cause you’re an asshole with an ugly point of view”
“It’s a family of positivity that we’re really trying to build,” says Johnny. “Our whole purpose is not just about being some famous fuckin’ band, but kind of making a movement. Making a difference for our generation who are so constantly misled. We barely made it out of the wrong mentality. We want to help. We’re no fuckin hippies, those days are gone. The irony is that now you have to “fight” for positivity. Which is crazy but so be it. We’re strapped and ready to defend free thinking. When you come to our shows, it’s kind of like this family affair.”
Boston alternative popsters The Push Stars are led by songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Chris Trapper, with bassist/keyboardist Dan McLoughlin and drummer Ryan MacMillan rounding out the lineup. The band debuted in 1996 with an album for the now-defunct Imago label, “Meet Me at the Fair”; from there, they self-released the 1997 EP “Tonight” and landed a spot on the soundtrack for the popular romantic comedy, “There’s Something About Mary” with the song “Everything Shines.”
As the buzz grew on the band, Capitol Records signed them up, issuing their major-label debut album “After the Party” in 1999. “Opening Time” followed in spring 2001. As each member of the band approached 30, The Push Stars took complete creative control. They signed to the San Francisco imprint 33rd Street and joined producer/engineer Greg Collins (No Doubt, Matchbox Twenty, Jewel) in spring 2003 to begin recording The Push Stars’ fourth album. Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas heard the band’s work in progress and was so impressed, he brought the Push Stars on the road for Matchbox Twenty’s fall tour of North America.
In March 2004, the band released “Paint The Town” to much critical acclaim and fanfare. After more than a year of touring in support of the album, the band decided to go on indefinite hiatus. Since that time, Chris Trapper has recorded and released nine albums and toured the world over as a solo acoustic performer. Dan McLoughlin currently owns a recording studio in Hoboken, NJ and is much sought after as a producer and engineer. Ryan MacMillan now works as a session drummer/drummer for hire and has toured and recorded with several high profile bands, most notably Matchbox Twenty and Tonic.
While the band never officially broke up, live performances have been few and far between in recent years. However, talk of a new album and fresh tour dates have re-energized the trio’s still-passionate fan base, demonstrating the band’s lasting appeal and enduring legacy.
Brent Shuttleworth is a Nashville-based artist whose music is an effortless mix between Americana and Hip-Hop. He has toured with and opened for such artists as: George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, Pete Yorn, Carlos Andrés Gómez, Sixpence None The Richer, Kellie Pickler, K-Flay, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Emerson Hart (Tonic) and Saul Williams.
The 25 tracks on ‘Yellow,’ conceived as a 2XLP double album from day one, were self-recorded steadily throughout 2015-2017 at various locations. Much of the material was derived from what the group called ‘The Scorpion Suite’, a state of mind reached only by the alternative version of Naomi Punk they call ‘The Scorpions’ (disambiguated). Many ‘Scorpion Sessions’ were conducted by The Scorpions, each member performing their predetermined roll in a project half-aspiring to the register of licensing music, half-aspiring to musical novelty.
The self-referential musical language of The Feeling (2012) was wrung out into the starker, live-informed Television Man (2014). On ‘Yellow’ this language becomes a means, not an end.
Integrated into the album are glimpses of live recordings, sounds of equipment being pushed around, hard rock sample libraries, sounds of the flapping wings of the album’s host (“I Found My Angel Wings” is embedded in thematic variation throughout), windy field recordings, emulsive synthetic woodwinds, a busted car stereo, a few four-track acoustic ballads, and more than a few puzzles and jokes.
Yellow begins with two introductions. The first sound of the record is a sample of a bass guitar, an instrument that those familiar with Naomi Punk will know doesn’t exist in their lineup. The stage is set with alien props.
The pair ‘Cookie’ and ‘Cardboard’ are hot off the assembly line culminations of the prototypes designed by ‘Television Man.’ They are exceedingly agile pop constructions with drumwork designed to throw off the bots, and guitars assimilated into the machinations of Coster’s notably present, proto-philosophical spoken verse. This is CGI Beefheart resurrected in post-production for a few scenes.
‘Tiger Pipe’ demands the user, “destroy all money.”
Much of the record conjures this notion of the undoing of ‘society’, at least in a western societal sense, and its supercession via the natural world; the revenge of Mother Earth.
‘Gotham Brake’ illustrates this particular crux of ‘Yellow’ in an interesting way — a requiem for humankind’s ‘harmonious’ relationship to the natural world. Industrialized society has reached a level of atrophy so severe that it must be completely dismantled. Walden’s Cesspool. ‘Gotham’ is an advocation for a new way forward. The fourth way. You can hear the sounds of the gears shifting, wheels turning. A narrator’s voice steps in then and again from the vantage of Mother Earth. Breaking out of the stasis.
‘Scorpion Glue’ is a chimera of many of the species encountered in ‘Yellow.’ Its contorted guitars and drums are tangled with synthetic mirrored versions of themselves, in dialogue, neither coming to primacy.
On first listen ‘Chains’ appears like a monolith in the darkness of side-C. On repeat listens its stark minimalism is revealed to be almost crystalline in form, shifting chords beading against a vantablack passacaglia, a trio for the end of time. Coster drags us into the grinding chorus in androgynous deadpan: “Ecology … doesn’t follow your system … so I’m chasin’ … chasin’ my dreams.”
If Rock and Pop music are instruments of the Neoliberal period, then they must be repurposed and reorganized. Not just formally, but politically. Coincidentally, the structure of ‘Yellow’ (in spite of the so-called difficulty of its 2xLP format) is no different than recent confessional documents from Frank Ocean, Solange, Kendrick, etc., thus owing much more to the Pop format than its length would suggest. ‘Rock’ and ‘Punk’ have become so conservative that they are rendering themselves obsolete as they fail to provide new ideas and solutions for anything other than ‘self-expression’ and fake posturing. The ‘Yellow’ structure constructs a three-dimensional listening experience, and while it does not pretend to know all the answers, it at the very least (and perhaps most importantly) posits a serious alternative.
Naomi Punk are from Olympia, Washington.
We love making awesome jams.
For fans of: NE-HI, Big Thief, & Frankie Cosmos
Whitney make casually melancholic music that combines the wounded drawl of Townes Van Zandt, the rambunctious energy of Jim Ford, the stoned affability of Bobby Charles, the American otherworldliness of The Band, and the slack groove of early Pavement. Their debut, Light Upon the Lake, is due in June on Secretly Canadian, and it marks the culmination of a short, but incredibly intense, creative period for the band. To say that Whitney is more than the sum of its parts would be a criminal understatement. Formed from the core of guitarist Max Kakacek and singing drummer Julien Ehrlich, the band itself is something bigger, something visionary, something neither of them could have accomplished alone. The band itself is something bigger, something visionary, something neither of them could have accomplished alone.
Ehrlich had been a member of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but left to play drums for the Smith Westerns, where he met guitarist Kakacek. That group burned brightly but briefly, disbanding in 2014 and leaving its members adrift. Brief solo careers and side-projects abounded, but nothing clicked. Making everything seem all the more fraught: both of them were going through especially painful breakups almost simultaneously, the kind that inspire a million songs, and they emerged emotionally bruised and lonelier than ever.
Whitney was born from a series of laidback early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the harshest winters in Chicago history, after Ehrlich and Kakacek reconnected – first as roommates splitting rent in a small Chicago apartment and later as musical collaborators passing the guitar and the lyrics sheet back and forth. “We approached it as just a fun thing to do. We never wanted to force ourselves to write a song. It just happened very organically. And we were smiling the whole time, even though some of the songs are pretty sad.” The duo wrote frankly about the break-ups they were enduring and the breakdowns they were trying to avoid. Each served as the other’s most brutal critic and most sympathetic confessor, a sounding board for the hard truths that were finding their way into new songs like “No Woman” and “Follow,” a eulogy for Ehrlich’s grandfather.
In exorcising their demons they conjured something else, something much more benign—a third presence, another personality in the music, which they gave the name Whitney. They left it singular to emphasize its isolation and loneliness. Says Kakacek, “We were both writing as this one character, and whenever we were stuck, we’d ask, ‘What would Whitney do in this situation?’ We personified the band name into this person, and that helped a lot. We wrote the record as though one person were playing everything. We purposefully didn’t add a lot of parts and didn’t bother making everything perfect, because the character we had in mind wouldn’t do that.”
In those imperfections lies the music’s humanity. Whilst they demoed and toured the new songs, they became more aware of the perfect imperfections of the songs, and needing to strike the right balance, they eventually made the trek out to California, where they recorded with Foxygen frontman and longtime friend, Jonathan Rado. They slept in tents in Rado’s backyard, ate the same breakfast every morning at the same diner in the remote, desolate and completely un-rock n roll San Fernando Valley, whilst they dreamt of Laurel Canyon, or maybe The Band’s hideout in Malibu, or Neil Young’s ranch in Topanga Canyon.
The analog recording methods, the same as used by their forebearers, allowed them to concentrate on the songs themselves and create moments that would be powerful and unrepeatable. “Tape forces you to get a take down,” says Kakacek. “We didn’t have enough tracks to record ten takes of a guitar part and choose the best one later. Whatever we put down is all we had. That really makes you as a musician focus on the performance.” The sessions were loose, with room for improvisation and new ideas, as the band expanded from that central duo into a dynamic sextet (septet if you count their trusty soundman). And that’s what you hear — Whitney is the sound of that songwriting duo expanding their group and delivering the sound of a band at their freest, their loosest, their giddiest.
Classic and modern at the same time, they revel in concrete details, evocative turns of phrase, and thorny emotions that don’t have exact names. These ten songs on Light Upon the Lake sound like they could have been written at any time in the last fifty years. Ehrlich and Kakacek emerge as imaginative and insightful songwriting partners, impressive in their scope and restraint as they mold classic rock lyricism into new and personal shapes without sound revivalist or retro. “I’m searching for those golden days,” sings Ehrlich, with a subtle ripple of something that sounds like hope, on the track “Golden Days”. It’s a song that defines Whitney as a band. “There’s a lot of true feeling behind these songs,” says Ehrlich. “We wanted them to have a part of our personalities in them. We wanted the songs to have soul.”
For fans of FIDLAR, White Reaper, The Orwells, L.A. Witch, Jacuzzi Boys
together PANGEA do rock ‘n’ roll as it was meant to be – raw, unpredictable, and probably dangerous, but also blazing with intelligence, emotion, and edgy experimentation. The Los Angeles-based trio made their bones as purveyors of post-millennial punk, but with their third full-length release – and Harvest Records debut – BADILLAC, they pay their debt to the supersonic 90s rock that first inspired them. The band has not sacrificed a spurt of precious energy, instead integrating nuance and dynamic momentum to songs like “No Way Out” and the undeniably badass title track. The volcanic riffs and massive melodies are matched by an equally provocative lyrical stance, with songs like “Sick Shit” and the album-closing “Where The Night Ends” casting an acerbic eye over the wreckage of the party they helped start – it’s 3am and the drunken fun has given way to sexual panic, anxiety and self-doubt. Slightly stoned but by no means slack, BADILLAC reveals together PANGEA to be both confident and surprisingly committed, their audacious ambition already impossible to contain.
“It might be confusing for people, assuming we’re like this garage punk band and then hearing this record,” says singer/songwriter/guitarist William Keegan. “But we really don’t want to get trapped at all.”
Keegan first started writing and recording in his Santa Clarita bedroom, his teenage tapes eventually coming to full flower with the aid of bassist Danny Bengston and drummer Erik Jimenez. Known then simply as Pangea, the band played countless beer blasts in and around CalArts, their boozy mayhem and breakneck pop hooks quickly earning them frenzied crowds throughout the Southern California DIY scene and beyond. A string of seven-inches, cassettes, and LPs – including 2011’s ace second album, LIVING DUMMY, released by Burger Records and The Smell’s Olfactory label – followed, as did gigs alongside a veritable who’s-who of like-minded rockers, including Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, Wavves, and The Black Lips (not to mention 2013’s epic “Burgerama Caravan of Stars” US tour).
BADILLAC was recorded with their longtime producer/engineer Andrew Schubert over three intensive sessions at his Tarzana studio, their roster augmented by second guitarist Cory Hanson (of the electronic pop outfit, W-H-I-T-E). While many bands in their position would have simply continued banging out the party punk, together PANGEA decided to throw a curveball at themselves and their fervent fanbase.
“We wrote like 30 plus songs for this record,” Bengston says, “half of which have the same punky bubblegum vibe of our last record. Then we had this other batch of songs, a little more melancholy, a little heavier, a little darker. I think in the end we just decided to try to not make the same record twice.”
“When I write, there are certain songs that I feel fit the band,” Keegan says, “and then there are songs where it doesn’t feel like they fit. At some point, I was like, maybe we should try some of the songs that don’t necessarily fit. Because I realized that they do fit – they’re just different.”
Though Keegan cites such unexpected heroes as Pete Seeger and 21st Century K Records artists like Little Wings and the Microphones, he fully fesses up to BADILLAC’s most primal inspirations. Indeed, songs like “Why” and the cello-laced “No Way Out” fuse classic post punk ambivalence with fist-pumping stadium rock, their neurotic hooks, throat-rending vocals, and fat, distorted riffs hearkening back to the glory days of the alternative nation.
“To me, the album is so obviously influenced by the shit that I was listening to when I was 16,” Keegan says. “Growing up in the 90s, all that stuff – Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer. It wasn’t conscious, the album just sounds like that. It feels like that music is etched in deeper that music I’ve listened to as an adult. For whatever reason, the music you listened to when you’re confused and young gets in deeper than anything you might listen to later.”
BADILLAC also sees together PANGEA stepping away from their association with a much-hyped scene they believe too often revels in its own idiocy, Keegan’s wry lyrics pushing both their music and subject matter towards unsettling themes of impotence, fear, ennui, and detachment.
“We think less and less about how we fit into this garage punk scene that we never even technically felt a part of,” Keegan says. “We just kinda get lumped into that. I’m not really stoked on what a lot of those bands are saying, there’s a lot of misogyny and stuff I’m not into.”
Like any angst-ridden tunesmith worth his salt, Keegan also directs his gaze inwards, coming to turns with his own cynical view of relationships on songs like the mordant “Offer,” their cracked melodies and jaundiced skepticism fueled by his recent romantic struggles.
“I went through a really difficult relationship where we were breaking up every three months for four years,” he says. “At the end of it, I was just like, “This is never gonna work.’ It was pretty intense and I think that informs a lot of the songs on the album.
“It’s kinda funny,” he adds. “As soon as we finished this record, we broke up for good.”
BADILLAC will drive together PANGEA through 2014, their imminent plans essentially consisting of touring until they drop. Nevertheless, the band finds themselves in the unprecedented position of having to ponder the future.
“We’ve been discussing where the next record is gonna go,” Bengston says, “we still haven’t put our finger on it yet.”
“It’s weird,” Keegan says, “because we never had to have those formal discussions, like, ‘What should the next record sound like?’ It’s always been pretty natural. Hopefully that’s what’ll end up happening again.”