Six Dumb Questions with Black Cowgirl

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 31st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

A while back, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, heavy rockers Black Cowgirl let me post one of the tracks off their self-titled EP for streaming (it’s still here, if you want to listen), and I was thrilled to do so, since the four-piece managed to touch on something pretty special with those songs. They were a little hurried-sounding, true, but Black Cowgirl achieved a potent and unexpected blend of riff and melody there — like earliest Fireball Ministry with a rural touch — that was all the more impressive for the lack of time the band had to make them.

The reason they were in such a rush was wanting to have a CD ready to go prior to a 10-date tour supporting CKY. Black Cowgirl managed to get the disc done, the tour was great and they all lived happily ever etc., and since I enjoyed the EP, I thought I’d fire up the old intertubes and see if guitarist/vocalist Ben McGuire (also of Electric Horsemen) had any interest in fielding a few dumb questions. Six or so.

McGuire was only too glad to oblige, and you’ll find the results below. Black Cowgirl is McGuire alongside guitarist Nate Rosenzweig, bassist Chris Casse and drummer Mark Hanna. Please enjoy the following six dumb questions:

1. How did Black Cowgirl get together? Did you know what you wanted it to sound like when you got going?

Back in 2006 I started recording instrumental songs under the name Time Travel Decelerator. I had a fantasy of a instrumental band that I did not have to sing in that was like Wishbone Ash meets Mystick Krewe of Clearlight. I recorded a bunch of guitar and bass songs on my four track and often thought about forming a live band but Electric Horsemen, the other band I play in, was really busy at the time and it never came together. I knew our drummer Hanna from playing shows with Backwoods Payback (great dudes/lady, by the way) when he was drumming for them and we had talked a couple times about playing together someday but we never got around to setting anything up.

In the summer of ‘08 I met our guitarist Nate at a show and we got to talking and by the end of the night I asked if he would like to add some lead guitar on my instrumental songs. Me and Nate live about a hour apart so for the next few months we started sending riffs, demos, and songs back and forth in emails and chatting on the phone like teenage girls for hours about music and guitar and found we had a lot of ideas that went beyond just instrumental songs. We had both been stockpiling ideas for songs that did not fit any of our previous bands for years and we had a ton of material between us to sift through and we decided to start a new band that had vocals as well. We looked for a singer for a while but had no luck and because I had sent Nate demos with me singing on them I became vocalist by default.

Once we had a couple of solid songs we wanted to find a drummer and the first guy we thought of was Hanna, and things came together one night at a party when the three of us jammed for about a hour and basically wrote two songs. Soon after that night we got together at my house and cooked some food and cranked out two more songs in no time. A little bit after that we added Chris on bass who fit in perfectly as he was a great bassist and already playing in Electric Horsemen and playing around with my sister (they are married and of consenting age) so that worked out great. Things went on like that for about a year (band-wise that is… I’d rather not think about the sister stuff which I guess is still going on), we would see each other every couple months, eat a ton of food, write a bunch of songs and talk about how much fun it was but we could never seem to get our schedules to line up long enough to record or play shows. Before the CKY tour we had only played maybe five times in public but the tour finally gave us a great reason to get into full productive mode.

2. Who picked the name Black Cowgirl?

We never thought about what the band should be called until we had our first show and had about a week to think of one. We tossed around a few other names like “Sharkcharmer” and some other terrible ideas until sticking with Black Cowgirl and we almost didn’t use that. For some reason some people thought it was racist which I thought was ridiculous. The name came to me in the middle of the night during a sleepy brainstorm and to me it represented the ultimate rebel. I imagined a black cowgirl who was a mix of ‘70s Pam Grier and Yul Brynner‘s character from the movie West World who would ride from town to town righting wrongs and shooting assholes in the face with her dual nickel-plated Peacemakers and sawed off lever-action shotgun. The ultimate rebel, the ultimate fantasy. So the name is a great litmus test for racists… if you think it is, you are.

3. How does the songwriting process usually work? Do you have something specific you try for going into putting together a song, or does it all come from jams?

There are songs that totally develop from jams that seem to write themselves and a lot of those ones end up being instrumental. We started and ended our set on the last tour with two of these style songs and they were different every night apart from a basic framework and so much fun to play for us because you had no idea where they were going to take you. Then we have songs that begin very structured with a vocal melody and chords but even those songs change drastically once the whole band gets a hold of it and we begin improvising sections. We all take part in writing and arranging. Once in while me or Nate will have a song that is basically done before we all get to hear it but more often than not writing is a collaborative effort. We are also very open-minded as far as trying many different things to see what suits the song best. It is exciting and tons of fun writing songs with these guys, very effortless and very easy to bring any idea you have in your head into reality. The only thing we go for when writing is to make the songs fun to play and trim the fat and filler until nothing is left but a well-balanced hearty riffy meal with a reasonable harmonized snack at the end.

4. Talk about recording the self-titled. Where and when was it recorded, and was there anything in particular you wanted to accomplish in the studio this time around?

We had arranged to record some demos with our friend John Brenner (from the great bands Against Nature/Revelation) early in the year before we knew about the tour. We headed down to Baltimore and did five songs with the amazingly cool-headed John in about 16 hours straight. We were not very picky with our playing and tracking because it was basically just a demo to help us develop our sound. The week after recording that demo we got wind of the tour and realized we needed a CD that was a little more focused that we could bring out on tour. We did not have the heart to put John through another marathon recording session (even though I bet he would have been kind enough to do it!) so we decided to re-record it ourselves and pay someone else to mix and master it. Going to John‘s was totally worth it though, not just because we got to drink a bunch of Mr. Brenner‘s homemade beer and hang out, but we had a better idea of what we wanted to sound like on record. We may put the original versions John did out someday, the guitars are cleaner and have some cool mellotron and organ tracks on some songs.

A couple of days after finding out about the tour we started re-recording for a couple of hours a night for three or four nights in a friends basement studio which is nothing more than a soundproof room we equipped with some mics and Nate‘s little Korg portable studio. Then we took the tracks to Rich Gavalis at The Dome in Royersford, Pennsylvania to record vocals, mix and master. Rich is a cool dude and he did a great job of making what we had recorded sound less like a demo and more like a legit release.

We did not have very much time to mess with tones, sounds, and different instrumentation on the self-titled. It was more about getting it done in the most straightforward way we could, and getting what we sound like across as simply as we could. I think overall we are all pretty happy with it as a first release and we cannot wait to spend more time tweaking and fine-tuning sounds on the next one!

5. How did the CKY tour come about? What were those shows like?

Our drummer Hanna is a longtime friend of CKY/Company Band/Viking Skull drummer Jess [Margera] and he has done work for CKY acting as stage manager for a number of tours and our guitarist Nate plays in Uncle Matt and the Shitbirdz with Jess. CKY had a string of shows coming up and were kind enough to ask us to tag along. I was worried at first that we would not be well received by CKY fans, who are like KISS fans as far as their level of dedication, but we figured Graveyard went over great when they toured with CKY last year and it was a good opportunity for us to play to a lot of people so maybe it would be cool.

Turned out the CKY fans were very kind across the board and we were very well received and had a amazing time, great bunch of people everywhere we went. We got to play a lot of places I never thought we would get to play, I am used to basements and small clubs (which I love, basements especially) but it was awesome to play some bigger places. I hope we get the chance to do it again… and again… and again. We also got to play some all-ages shows, which I had not done it a long time and that was really cool too. It feels good to know somebody likes the band not just because they are 15 beers deep into the night.

6. What’s next for the band? Will you tour more this year or focus on writing or recording?

We are looking for more shows and we are about halfway through writing our full-length. We are also toying with the idea of recording an acoustic CD as well, kind of like a Neil Young Harvest-era style release. We may combine those songs with what we have already and throw them on the full-length or do it as a separate EP, not sure yet. Right now we are just trying to find the time to get everything we want to do done. If the right tour pops up we would definitely be into that and we should have some shows popping up here and there soon. Overall we are just happy to be an active band finally and can’t wait to make more music!

Black Cowgirl’s BigCartel store

Black Cowgirl on ReverbNation

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Van Cleef Put Their Labcoats to Good Use

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 31st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Here I was, wondering when someone would make a song that included — nay, featured — the line “Cryogenics won’t mend a broken heart,” when along comes weirdo Aussie four-piece Van Cleef with the song “Dalek Gulch” to impart that very knowledge. Ask and ye shall rock.

The track comes off the Adelaide outfit’s self-released (I think) full-length debut, Where the River Meets the Rock, which was issued in December and is available now and for a limited time on Van Cleef‘s Bandcamp page as a pay-what-you-want-including-nothing download. The video — which rules, as you’ll see if you haven’t yet pressed play — was made completely by the band with no outside directors or anything like that. Good on them and their video editing skills. As vocalist Lord GordNords (yup, really) says in the song, “Science: It can be your friend.”

So yeah, bring on the Devo comparisons. I think this stuff is fun.

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The Maple Forum Update: 26 Copies Left of Blackwolfgoat’s Dronolith

Posted in Label Stuff on May 31st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Click here to buy.


I’m thrilled to update that Blackwolfgoat‘s Dronolith sold nearly half my portion of the total 100 pressed in its first week. As of today, I have 26 copies left of The Maple Forum‘s third offering. If you want one, you can buy it using the Paypal button above or at the official Maple Forum webstore.

Thanks so much to everyone who’s made a purchase so far. Your support is hugely appreciated and I can’t say that enough. It’s awesome to see the names of people who also picked up the Kings Destroy and/or the Roareth discs coming back for more, and it’s awesome to see new names coming through as well. Point I’m trying to make here is that it’s awesome, I guess. Much appreciated on this end.

I was held up this weekend doing thesis work and the post office was closed Sunday and yesterday for the holiday, so I’ve got a handful of discs that will go out tomorrow morning, but the first bunch should have already landed for most (reports are they made it to the UK already). If you haven’t gotten yours yet, it should be coming soon, and if you have, I’d love to know what you think of the album. Feel free to leave a comment here or drop me an email through the contact page. Or if you’re too busy kicking out the drones, that’s fine too. In any case, thanks again.

In other Blackwolfgoat news, Darryl Shepard (the man behind the band) has set up a Bandcamp page where you can listen and buy the album — download or physical — directly from him. Anyone who hasn’t checked the record out yet can do so there, or on ReverbNation.

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Lights at Sea, Palace Walls: House of Noodles

Posted in Reviews on May 31st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Hailing from the oh-so-pastoral climes of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the four-piece Lights at Sea traffics in a kind of wispy ethereal instrumental post-rock. It’s a sound most commonly associated these days with acts like Explosions in the Sky, but as Lights at Sea’s full-length debut, Palace Walls (Mind over Matter/Barrett Records) has some crunch to its low-end, I’m inclined to cite earlier Pelican as well, the two guitars of Scott Adams and Ryan Harig playing off each other in rhythms and echoing tonality. The album, which is a full-length at a bit under 35 minutes, is comprised of seven explorations that feel somewhere between improvised jamming and pointedly linear structures. Doubtless the band, which is rounded out by drummer Rob Burt and bassist Nick Rhodes, had some direction in mind for these tracks before pressing record, but with this kind of effects swirl, there are bound to be moments and sounds that pop up as part of the studio experience that simply couldn’t have been foreseen, and these are often some of the most magical stretches that albums like this have to offer.

What’s holding Palace Walls back, then, is the ease with which it can be pigeonholed into a genre. Cuts like the title-track, which follows a softly droning, minimalist intro dubbed “Fireside,” set up an effective build across their span, but it’s simple to write these and many of the other moves Lights at Sea are making here as derivative. One of their most engaging cuts is the centerpiece “Mantracker,” and even here Lights at Sea aren’t accomplishing anything in their encompassing all of sound that Red Sparowes wasn’t doing with their Godspeed You! Black Emperor influence on their own first album in 2005. To Lights at Sea’s credit, the flow from one track to the next on Palace Walls is immaculate, but I’m not convinced even after multiple listens that that alone is going to be enough to save them amidst fickle ears or heads bored of spaced out noodling. It’s a young sound anyway – one half expects to hear someone start post-hardcore screaming at several intervals on the album, “This is a House of Learned Doctors” among them – but even so, it’s one long since established, and Lights at Sea don’t bring much to it that wasn’t there to start with.

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Live Review: Orange Goblin, The Gates of Slumber, Naam and Kings Destroy in Manhattan, 05.27.11

Posted in Reviews on May 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the crowd this past Friday at Santos Party House, knowing that a few of NYC‘s usual suspect-type show-goers had made their way down to Maryland Deathfest, which was also running this weekend, but by the time Orange Goblin went on, the place was packed, and even for Kings Destroy, who opened the night up at around 7:45PM, there was a good, eager crowd happy to soak up as much doom as possible.

In that regard, Kings Destroy completely delivered. I know I’m nowhere near impartial when it comes to these guys, having released their (fucking excellent) And the Rest Will Surely Perish album on The Maple Forum (the band still has copies for sale here), but they just keep getting better. Their new bassist was right in the pocket, and of all the times I’ve seen them, I don’t think drummer Rob Sefcik has ever sounded better. He kept the pacing of the songs down and gave Chris Skowronski and Carl Porcaro‘s guitars plenty of room to breathe, but still hit heavy and clean on the toms, adding no shortage of thunder to the proceedings. You could feel the air move.

They had one yet-unnamed new song on offer, which was their closer, and though vocalist Steve Murphy later told me they played it too fast, the track had a cool, later-Sabbath vibe that sat well next to album cuts like “XXY” and “The Mountie.” I dug it, anyway, but I guess that was bound to happen. Kings Destroy groove like few are bold enough to do in New York, and I’m even gladder to call them friends than I am to plug the hell out of their record every chance I get. They’re only getting better.

It was kind of a funny circumstance, but I’ve only been to Santos Party House twice now (this show and when Weedeater came through in February), and Brooklyn psych outfit Naam played both shows. The trio — who are on most if not all of the tour with Orange Goblin and The Gates of Slumber — had a synth organist on stage with them, and it really filled out their sound. They said he was doing a couple shows as part of the band, and Naam are a force on stage anyway, but this put them in a different league altogether, with guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lugar‘s tone being excellently complemented and filled out by the sustained organ sounds.

And as regards Naam, I can’t think of another way to say it: bassist John Preston Bundy has one of the best doombeards in NYC. That thing is good, and he clearly knows it. As Naam wound down their set with the epic title-track from their Kingdom EP, his vocals complemented Lugar‘s and the resultant swirl was even more visceral for the organ sounds. Naam was probably the odd band out among the three doomier acts on the bill, but if it bothered them, they never let on, and the hometown crowd — which unless I’m mistaken included a few family members who gathered around for pictures after their set — ate it up. I don’t think there was anyone there who needed convincing, but if there was, they were duly convinced.

I had been looking forward to seeing The Gates of Slumber since picking up their newest installment, The Wretch, at Roadburn and reveling in its doomly snail’s pacing. When last I saw them, it was in the small room under Webster Hall, and they were good then, but there’s no denying guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon is completely in his element rocking out mournful total-doom songs about drinking and losing at life. They were killer. Hard not to hoist a claw or two to such rampant musical misery.

The material from The Wretch was some of the strongest they played — that’s not to discount the impact of “The Ice Worm’s Lair” — and new drummer “Cool Clyde” Paradis has a clearly natural ability to play slow and still make it sound heavy. Between him and bassist Jason McCash, Simon had formidable backup, although maybe that’s underplaying their roles in the band a bit, since each third of the trio brings so much to the whole. Either way, their songs managed to sound empty and minimalist and still without actually being boring or inaccessible, and they showed that their latest lineup is their strongest yet.

And then, after three already killer sets, there came Orange Goblin. The foursome had been wandering through the crowd for most of the night, back and forth between backstage and the bar, the can, etc., and they came out introduced by AC/DC‘s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll).” Santos was long since packed out, and it was more of a party (as the name of the venue would suggest) than a show by the time they were a few songs in. The songs from Orange Goblin‘s last album, 2007’s Healing Through Fire, went over especially well — “They Come Back” and “Harvest of Skulls” being high points — but even through classics like “Cozmo Bozo” and “Aquatic Fanatic,” frontman Ben Ward had the crowd eating from his hand.

There was a mosh pit, if a friendly, old-school-metal, “let’s all bump into each other and not throw punches,” one, and a single diver took the stage no less than four times, singing along with Ward and even once trying to grab the vocalist’s beer, which was where the line seemed to be drawn. As it’s become my motto for existence, “Some You Win, Some You Lose” was a special boon, guitarist Joe Hoare putting the song’s awesome main riff to good use for the crowd singing along to Ward. There was a three-song encore of “Time Traveling Blues,” “Quincy the Pigboy” and “Scorpionica,” all of which sent the audience apeshit, though maybe a little less so for the former, which is a slower cut. Nonetheless, Orange Goblin were amazing the whole way through.

It had me thinking back to the last time they were in town, in 2006 with Scissorfight at the now-showless Continental, and how even though they’ve only been back to the US once since then (for the Planet Caravan fest in North Carolina in 2009), their reputation has grown enormously. I recall the Continental being crowded, but nothing like this. Santos is a much bigger room, and it was full, so there’s no doubt the last couple years have brought well-spread word on their unique and boozy brand of mayhem. All the more exciting, then, to think what they’ll be able to accomplish with their next album. Ben Ward called the NYC show a “life-changing moment,” and maybe it was.

Orange Goblin was nonetheless headed south to Maryland Deathfest and then out for more shows with Naam and The Gates of Slumber, so once it was over, it was over. Someone suckerpunched Tommy Southard from Solace outside the venue, perhaps out of jealousy of Solace‘s last album, A.D. (which was my pick of the year in 2010), but I didn’t stick around to watch the drama unfold if there was any. With a long-enough drive back to Jersey, some late-night empanadas and subsequently my humble river valley ahead, I split out for the car, rife with the kind of energy only a really, really good night can provide.

I know this was a long one, but if you’re still reading, thanks for that. More pics after the jump.

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Sat-r-dee Sabbath

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been insanely jealous of Bill Ward‘s Never Say Die-era double-braids ever since watching the above video for that title-track from Black Sabbath‘s 1978 Ozzy Osbourne-period cap-off, and finally, after so many beers on last night, The Patient Mrs. saw fit to grace me with the aforementioned braids, and in case you’re wondering: Yes, it’s all I could ever want from a hairstyle.

In honor, we close out this week with Sabbath doing “Never Say Die” from Top of the Pops in ’78. Someone posted the video on Facebook earlier this week too, I think it might have been Joe Hasselvander. And if it wasn’t, I’ll give him credit for it anyway, since  he deserves it. The song was stuck in my head anyhow since reviewing that Karma to Burn album earlier this week. Here’s that review, in case you didn’t see it before.

I actually started this post last night as “Frydee Black Sabbath” but “fell asleep” before finishing it. A four-hour office happy hour led to a trip to the bar led to the hangover I woke up with not so long ago. Nonetheless, tonight in Manhattan, the mighty (and recently interviewed) ORANGE FUCKING GOBLIN are set to lay waste to an unsuspecting Santos Party House, and you can bet your ass I’ll be there early to catch Kings Destroy opening the show. Righteous times shall be had. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the dude with the braids.

Next week we’ll wrap up May with the numbers, and I’ll have a sales update on Blackwolfgoat (thanks to everyone who’s bought so far, and if you haven’t, you can here), a brand new interview with T-Roy Medlin from Sourvein, plus reviews of Lights at Sea, Faces of Bayon and several others, not to mention some live notes from the aforementioned Orange Goblin show tonight, to which I’ve been very much looking forward, if you couldn’t tell. It’s also getting on podcast time, and if I don’t do it this weekend, I might try and make it happen sometime this week, so either way, sooner than later.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. If you’re in the States, happy Memorial Day, and please drive safe. See you back here next week.

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Buried Treasure: Into the Next Phase with 35007

Posted in Buried Treasure on May 27th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Although I now own all their albums, I still consider myself very much a novice when it comes to Dutch psychedelic instrumentalists 35007 (aka Loose). From 1994-2005, they released four full-lengths and one EP, and though I’d already coasted my way through everything but their final release — 2005’s Phase V — I didn’t quite understand what the big deal was. And it was one of those things where, all along, all I heard was, “You need to get the last album.” Well, last week, I did just that.

I’ve had my eye out for a reasonably-priced copy of Phase V for a while, and it’s taken a while to find one. Where their prior albums like 1994’s Especially for You and 2002’s Liquid are readily available for anyone who’ll have them, Phase V is more elusive. Finally, it was eBay that came through, and I wound up paying about $20 for it, which is just about as high as I was willing to go. Copies are around for twice that, when they’re around at all.

And now, I get it. From its elaborate braille digipak packaging to the oozingly jammed sound of its five tracks, Phase V is hands-down the definitive 35007 release. All of a sudden it makes sense that everyone I’ve spoken to about the band says this is where it’s at: because, legitimately, it is. The band is relaxed, confident, still rock-minded, but able to weave in and out of a given structure with jazz-like dexterity, and man, I’m digging it. On this sunny afternoon in late May, I must have been through this album three times already today, and I have the feeling I’m not done yet.

So basically you can consider this a note to both say thanks to everyone who planted the seed to check out Phase V and a recommendation passed along to anyone else who may not have checked it out or who, like me, is perhaps otherwise wondering why everyone’s so on 35007‘s junk. Heavy jams that are more than just jams, and now I too find myself wishing the band had done more.

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On the Radar: Sadgiqacea

Posted in On the Radar on May 27th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

When a band’s logo comes complete with its own pronunciation guide, you know you’re in for a phonetic treat. Not to be confused with the happy-giqacea you might find elsewhere, Philly guitar/drum duo Sadgiqacea specialize in oppressively dark and bleak post-doomcore, all lumber and crash and heavy and pummel the way the kids like it these days. There are some vague touches of psychedelia in the far-off echoing clean vocals of “Nature’s Antidote” — the second of two crushing tracks Sadgiqacea donate to the cause of a split with Phanatic countrymen Ominous Black — but mostly they’re just mean and dark, and that works out just fine.

The two songs were recorded, mixed and mastered by Mick Mullin at Super 8, whose impressive discography includes Total Fucking Destruction, Fight Amp and Javelina, and in about 13 minutes, they effectively cloud the mind in a wash of malevolent sounds. Even the surf-esque opening guitar lines of “Thy Will be None” feel as though they’ve been run through a hellish alternate dimension, and as the vocals once again change from yells to echoing clean singing, there’s an underlying melodicism that I can’t imagine Sadgiqacea won’t continue to develop going forward.

In the meantime, there’s enough low end in their sound to likely please everyone but bassists, and enough of a genre mix happening in the material to hold even the most fickle of attentions. You can check out Sadgiqacea on Thee Facebooks here, or if you’d rather not travel, here are “Thy Will be None” and “Nature’s Antidote,” courtesy of a fancy-type Bandcamp player:

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