Posted in Features on July 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
One could wax philosophical all day about the combination of weighted groove, lush melody, songcraft and tonal depth playing out across Elephant Tree‘s self-titled Magnetic Eye Records debut LP (review here), but as far as doing it justice, it seems like a futile enterprise. The album’s richness, the ease of its execution — nothing sounds labored, nothing feels overwrought — and its consistent sense of movement make it easily one of 2016’s best debut records, and one of the best records of the year overall. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to tell a friend they need to hear it, because invariably they do.
How’d they get there? The London-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (also Trippy Wicked), drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre offered up their debut EP, Theia (review here), in 2014 (also through Magnetic Eye), and showed immediately a penchant for laid back heavy roll and psychedelic flourish, but a few key changes took place in the short time between Theia and Elephant Tree, among them a shift in focus away from incorporating screaming vocals — I’ll say that the advent of a genuinely psychedelic sludge is an intriguing prospect, and they made it work well — and MacIntyre‘s sitar alongside Townley‘s guitar and Holland‘s bass.
Townley is quick to point out there are still screams on the record, they’re just buried for atmospheric effect, but even that is a change from two years ago. Part of the driving force behind that would seem to be MacIntyre‘s work as producer, steering the sonic concepts with which the band would work as well as contributing to the music itself. Indeed, Elephant Tree sounds like an album thought out beforehand and during the process, and while recording the basic tracks in the room together gives it a natural underlying character, the blues and greens of its tones and the harmonies in the vocals over them are emblematic of the willful progression the band has undertaken.
And perhaps most encouraging of all, that progression would seem to just be at its outset. It’s important to keep in mind as the melancholy piano notes close out “Surma” that Elephant Tree is still just Elephant Tree‘s first full-length. In speaking to Townley, I tried to get an idea both of how this record came together and how the next one might move forward from here. The interview took place admittedly a while ago, just before Elephant Tree teamed up with Bordeaux, France-based heavy psych forerunners Mars Red Sky for a run of shows in the UK — they’ve also done stints with Bright Curse and they’ll play Cardiff’s Red Sun festival on July 29 with Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Grifter, Desert Storm, Old Man Lizard and many others — and so there was much to discuss.
Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy. Thank you for reading.
Posted in Features on July 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Six months in, 2016 has been interesting to say the least. Every year provides its share of highlights — we’re fortunate enough to live in a crowded age when it comes to people doing quality work — but there have been a few unexpected offerings that have grabbed attention and held it well, and as we progress into the second half of the year, it seems entirely likely the pattern will continue.
All the better. As styles and scenes continue to develop, from Swedish boogie to West Coast psych to the party vibes out of the Pacific Northwest, bands are growing and changing. Everything is in motion, personalities are taking shape, and crucially, the new generation of groups is finding its footing building on the traditions of the past. Some of it is definitely formative, but individualism is rarely immediate, and I think we are at an interesting point as a crop of acts is figuring out where they want to be in terms of sound and what are their aspirations musically and practically. The question of the day might be, “How far can we push this?”
And of questions, that’s a good one to be working from. I’ve been asking it myself, but as the social media landscape continues to grow and integrate into the lives of a listenership that’s become accustomed to that kind of immediate access as well as the convenience of streaming outlets like Bandcamp, Spotify, Pandora and Soundcloud, the answer seems to be that the expansion will keep up, at least for a while yet. Frankly, it’s already gone on longer than I would’ve expected for how fickle trends are and the short attention span of the general public, but ‘heavy,’ as a worldwide concept, has continued to flourish.
Part of that stems from the excellent and progressive work being done by current bands — part of it is marketing — and at least for my own taste, those acts pushing the lines of genre seem to be doing so with a brazen confidence that they’ll be able to bring their audience along with them. So far in 2016, that’s pretty much how it’s worked out.
At the end of the year I’ll be doing a Top 30 list, and I expect many of these records will feature there as well, so I’ll try to keep this relatively brief in light of that, but here’s where my head has been at:
The Top 15 Albums of 2016 so Far
1. Mars Red Sky, Apex III: Praise for the Burning Soul
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow
3. Gozu, Revival
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
5. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again
6. Zun, Burial Sunrise
7. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
8. Comet Control, Center of the Maze
9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh
10. Conan, Revengeance
11. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
12. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy
13. Goatess, Purgatory Under New Management
14. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
15. Lord, Awake
Honorable mention (in no order): Curse the Son, Holy Grove, Mondo Drag, Joy, Black Black Black, Spidergawd, Beastmaker, High Fighter, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Droids Attack, Cough, Beastwars, New Keepers of the Water Towers, Conclave, Valley of the Sun, Throttlerod, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Ancient Warlocks, Bright Curse, Naxatras, Kaleidobolt, Atomikylä, Black Lung, Lord Vicar, Pooty Owldom, Vokonis, Electric Citizen, Stone Machine Electric, Graves at Sea, and Merchant.
Some quick notes on the list. First, it’s pretty fluid. On any given day, records from the honorable mentions list could be in there with the numbered stuff, and between the two, I find it striking and encouraging how many of these releases are full-length debuts. Just two in the top 10 with Elephant Tree and Zun — another will be added when King Buffalo‘s album is out in August; we’ll get there — but more in the honorable mentions between Holy Grove, High Fighter, Vokonis, Merchant, Graves at Sea and Bright Curse.
To go with that, there are some standbys. I’ve made no secret of my enduring affection for what France’s Mars Red Sky are bringing to the sphere of heavy psychedelia, so to have their Apex III: Praise for the Burning Soul as my album of 2016 so far doesn’t seem out of line. It’s why I booked them to headline the All-Dayer in August (tickets here), and I don’t see that appreciation diminishing anytime soon. The path they’re on seems to me to be one of the most crucial going worldwide, and in a group like Elephant Tree, we can already see the influence they’re having.
No surprise that Gozu would end up near the top — their 2013 album, The Fury of a Patient Man, featured highly on that year’s list as well — and Revival is an even more dynamic outing. It’s pretty much even with Greenleaf in my mind at this point, but I gave the Swedes the edge for the bold forward stride that Rise Above the Meadow represents in its sound and scope. Both of those records will be top-tenners at the end of the year as well, if not top five.
Speaking of bold strides, The Golden Grass‘ more progressive take on Coming Back Again and their melodic charm continue to resonate, and between the expansive desert soundscaping of Zun‘s Burial Sunrise bringing together Gary Arce (Yawning Man), Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, etc.), and the brooding darker heavy rock of Young Hunter‘s self-titled, it’s been a half-year covering a wide sonic range for sure. Comet Control‘s second album is still pretty fresh in my mind, having just reviewed it last week, but its quality is damn near undeniable and I can’t stop listening to it, so it goes in the top 10.
And rounding out to first 10 are two more mainstays in Wo Fat and Conan, who’ve had releases featured in lists around these parts for a while now but who still offer thrills in their newest collections, Wo Fat‘s Midnight Cometh bringing their jazz-jam-fuzz to new levels of exploration and Conan‘s Revengeance building on the aural crush of their prior work and finding founder Jon Davis with a hand-sculpted rhythm section (including producer Chris Fielding) very much suited to the band’s purposes. Their shifting instrumental dynamic made Revengeance almost like a second debut, but it was an album that couldn’t have been born except out of their experience and knowing what works in their aesthetic. Davis once told me he would never try to fix what wasn’t broken in Conan. As he’s lived up to that, they’ve become one of the most recognizable heavy bands in the world.
In the 11-15 range, a pretty broad cross-section between the flowing instrumental experiments of Causa Sui, the motor-ready space-psych of Black Rainbows — whose accomplishments seem to almost be coming too fast for the audience to catch up — the traditional-minded stoner-doom of Goatess, Blaak Heat‘s frenetic desert prog and reign-in-chaos sludge of Lord‘s Awake, but sonic diversity is a strength in the current and the upcoming generations of bands, and though some remain underappreciated as yet — Black Rainbows, Blaak Heat, Lord particularly so — it’s tough to ignore the sonic expansion underway in the US, Europe and beyond.
I’m not going to do a separate list for EPs, demos and splits before December, but thought there were more than a few non-full-length releases that warranted attention. From my notes: Mars Red Sky‘s EP, Dos Malés, Bison Machine/SLO/Wild Savages split, The Skull EP, Iron Jawed Guru, LSD and the Search for God, Cultist, River Cult, Karma to Burn, Wren‘s Host EP, Gorilla vs. Grifter, Goya, Brume‘s Donkey, Shallows‘ The Moon Rises, Sun Voyager/The Mad Doctors split, Earthless/Harsh Toke split, and the Ragged Barracudas/Pushy split. And many others, no doubt.
Still to Come
I alluded earlier to the King Buffalo album, Orion, which has significant top 10 potential for December. It’s officially out in August, or it would’ve been counted here. Some of these I’ve heard and some I haven’t, but also be on the lookout for: Foghound (out this week), Neurosis (album of the year potential), Worshipper, Monolord‘s new EP, Wight, Slomatics, The Wounded Kings, Electric Wizard, Geezer, Devil to Pay, Blues Pills, Baby Woodrose, Backwoods Payback, Beelzefuzz, Them Bulls, Cloud Catcher, Captain Crimson, and of course, Mos Generator.
If I’ve forgotten anyone in any part of this list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Otherwise, thanks for reading and here’s to a great rest of 2016!
Posted in Features on June 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
In the interview that follows, The Obsessed bassist Dave Sherman talks about his bandmate, guitarist/vocalist Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich, as one of the principal figures in doom. And no doubt he is. But what Sherman leaves out of that equation for the most part are his own contributions to the style. In his attitude and in decades of music in Wretched, Spirit Caravan, Earthride, Weed is Weed, King Valley and a slew of others, Sherman has come to embody the relentless pursuit at the heart of Maryland doom. Approachable, good natured and a lifer in his commitment to the heavy, he is no less a figurehead for that scene than Wino, Bobby Liebling of Pentagram, or anyone else. Maryland doom simply wouldn’t be what it is today without him.
Next week, The Obsessed — Sherman, Wino and drummer Brian Constantino — headline the second annual Maryland Doom Fest alongside Bang and Mos Generator. They just wrapped a full US tour with Karma to Burn and The Atomic Bitchwax (who cut their portion short due to injury and were replaced by Sierra), and announced along the way that they’ve signed to Relapse Records for the release of the first full-length by The Obsessed in more than two decades, tentatively-titled Sacred. It’s been a long, crooked road getting Wino and Sherman together as The Obsessed, even counting just from The Obsessed starting their reunion at Roadburn 2012 (review here), then dropping that to get back together and tour as Spirit Caravan before swapping one moniker for the other earlier this year, but to hear Sherman tell it, the journey seems to have been no less satisfying than it was complicated.
When we spoke a couple weeks ago, The Obsessed were getting ready to head into the final portion of the aforementioned tour, and were camped out in San Francisco waiting to go soundcheck at Slim’s. It was a relatively brief conversation, but in it Sherman talks about working with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand and Rob Queen on the new recordings — Queen also helmed the recently-unveiled “Be the Night” demo (posted here) — the signing to Relapse, the band’s place in doom history and more.
One would hardly call the ascent of Swedish heavy rockers Greenleaf sudden, considering their self-titled debut EP was released in 2000, but there was a clear point at which the band decided they would become a full-time act. It was sometime after 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here). That album was the band’s third for Small Stone after 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here) and 2003’s Secret Alphabets, and while for years Greenleaf had existed as a side-project for Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa and a number of other compatriots — among them early Dozer producer Bengt Bäcke and Truckfighters vocalist Oskar Cedermalm — the band very clearly decided it was time to hit the road, and to hit it hard.
This required some shakeups. Cedermalm out as singer, Greenleaf brought in vocalist Arvid Jonsson and drummer Sebastian Olsson for 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here), which offered an approach far more stripped down than its predecessor but was a crucial reset for the band in light of 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here). Their first for Napalm Records and recorded by one-time drummer Karl Daniel Lidén with Dozer‘s Johan Rockner on bass — Hans Fröhlich now has the role — their sixth album overall reinvents the band’s context, building on what Greenleaf was before to shape what they’ll become going forward. What’s without a doubt one of the finest heavy rock outings of the year, it’s marked by a standout performance from Jonsson as frontman and by the consistency of Holappa‘s songwriting, which has always served as the uniting factor in Greenleaf‘s work.
When I spoke to Holappa about the band, they were just off the “Up in Smoke” tour with My Sleeping Karma and Australia’s Mammoth Mammoth (both labelmates), and the guitarist talked about the lineup shifts in the group, the prospect of their making a long-awaited US debut live early next year, his view of the relationship between Dozer and Greenleaf at this point, establishing Greenleaf‘s dynamic and beginning the process of moving forward from Rise Above the Meadow.
It’s all the more fitting that the band should focus on their live presentation in their new video for “Tyrant’s Tongue,” for which I’m happy today to host the premiere, as they’ve become so much a live act and that’s a decent portion of where my conversation with Holappa was geared. About the clip, the band said, “This is a display of what we usually do on tours. Just in case you where all wondering. Hope you can dig it!”
Please find the video below, followed by the complete, 2,600-word Q&A of the interview, and enjoy:
Greenleaf, “Tyrant’s Tongue” official video
Greenleaf Interview with Tommi Holappa:
How was the “Up in Smoke” tour?
The “Up in Smoke” tour was really, really good. Especially, yeah. Two cool bands, My Sleeping Karma and Mammoth Mammoth, us. It was three different kinds of bands, but it all fit really well together. I think we had seven out of 11 shows sold out.
After Greenleaf wasn’t ever a full-time touring band for so long, it’s great that now you’re getting out and doing that. Have you gotten any gauge as to the response to the material?
I think the response has been good overall. I don’t know how many reviews we’ve got so far but it’s been a whole bunch, most have been really good.
How has the process been for you, of taking the band out on the road? You had to rework the lineup, can you talk about putting Greenleaf together to the point where you can go on tour?
You know how it is, we’ve been changing members (laughs) I don’t know. Especially after Bengt left and when Johan joined the band, it was like, “okay, this is the lineup.” I told him that we would tour a lot, we would have a lot to do next year when the album comes out, he said “no problem, I will work it out.” He’s studying, has two kids and he has a job also. But he said he would work it out, so I said, “okay you’re in.” He was in the band for like six months and then it was more like, “can Bengt do this show? That show? I can’t really do this show,” and so on, so we had to sit down and talk with him and say this really didn’t work for us because we need to/want to play a lot. So that’s when we, yeah, we contacted Hans from Grandloom because we’ve known him for a few years. He’s a great guy and an amazing bass player. When we asked he said yes right away. At the moment, I think this is, I will not say this is the lineup that will last for a few years but I hope so (laughs). It feels really good at the moment and Hans is totally into it. He really wants to tour as much as possible, write albums and songs. He’s totally dedicated to Greenleaf now. That’s what we need, we need four guys that are dedicated to do this, this Greenleaf thing.
After Nest of Vipers, when you brought Arvid in, was that something you did building towards getting the band to be more full-time?
Yeah, me and Bengt have talked about that. We did one tour with Oskar. It was sometime after we release Nest of Vipers. We did one tour with him and we felt like, yeah, this is fun we should do more touring with Bengt! Sebastian had just joined as well for that tour. So we said yeah, let’s tour more. We knew that OsKar is yeah – Truckfighters all the time pretty much. So just before Arvid joined the band we asked if he’s ready to tour, and he said yeah, sure. As long as — he was still in his other band at the time. The Humphrey Bogarts, the more pop-rock band he had. But he said he can be in two bands. I don’t know if they really toured but they did a bunch of shows in Sweden. He said we can organize that we tour and then they do their shows when we don’t tour, you know what I mean. Then we said that yeah, you can join the band if you want, and if you can tour, we will do it.
The thing that struck me most when listening to Rise Above the Meadow was how much it really built off of Trails and Passes.
I think that kind of happened naturally for us, because Trails and Passes was the first album with Arvid and Sebastian on drums. That was when we started to get to know each other pretty much. We wrote a bunch of songs and now this feels good, we were really satisfied with Trails and Passes and then we started writing songs for Rise Above the Meadow — we’ve been together for a year at least, almost. So we knew each other and Arvid brought in more of his influences. I guess it’s just natural growth for the band.
Do you feel playing more shows has been a part of that too? Solidifying that chemistry with basically a new lineup?
Yeah. I think that’s — playing a lot of shows, of course we get to know each other or musically getting tighter, working out better. Playing shows and songwriting, yeah, I don’t know (laughs).
How was the time in the studio for Rise Above the Meadow compared to Trails and Passes? Bengt wasn’t on the album or he was?
Was it weird to be in the studio without him?
Not really because I’ve been in the studio with Johan so many times. (laughs) But in a bit, it was because when Johan joined the band, we had already written pretty much half of the songs with Bengt in the band, he joined the band — in the studio — yeah, we didn’t have as much time to rehearse as we wanted to, so some songs he knew and some songs he had to improvise a little bit on in the studio, so it took a little bit longer time that we were used to. Bengt usually knew exactly what to play when he got into the studio. Bengt is a machine. He knows that — I don’t know if I can say this but he knows that you’re supposed to rehearse and be prepared when you go to the studio (laughs). But I know [Johan] was busy with studying and kids and all that. It all worked out fine in the end. Maybe took a few hours more than we were — because we were on a tight schedule. We had four days in the studio and I’m the last one — we recorded everything live, drums, bass and guitar and then when that was done, we go back and fix the bass if there are any mistakes, we’ll redo the bass if there’s any mistakes. Then after the bass, it’s the guitarist. So the longer the fixing the bass takes, the less time I get (laughs). So usually I have the last hours and last half a day in the studio to stress out the solos and everything.
So a little pressure.
A little bit, hopefully next time we can afford to have one more day in the studio (laughs).
You can’t argue with the results.
I’m really satisfied. The experience for this record, it was all a good vibe in the studio. We all had fun and you can hear it on the record, I think.
I like Trails and Passes, and I’m a fan of your songwriting. I feel like Rise Above the Meadow has more energy to it, which I was attributing to the band being more of a live presence. It’s interesting to hear you say that you recorded mostly the basic tracks live, it really comes across.
We did that with Trails and Passes also, recording it live, but it might be like you said — if we played more live, there you have it. Maybe that’s the way the real live song comes from this time. I haven’t really thought about it, but it could be.
The title, Rise Above the Meadow I know is from “A Million Fireflies,” was there something more particular that made you guys take it as the title?
Arvid wrote the lyrics for “A Million Fireflies,” he sent them to me and I saw the line “rise above the meadow” and thought that’s a good album title. I wrote him and asked what he thought and he liked it too. That’s why we chose it. It felt right at the moment as the album title.
Was there any significance to it? Something that made it stand out?
We were talking about still continuing in the same, like the trails and passes — it’s about forests and there’s a mountain on the cover. We still wanted to have the same theme, so when we decided the album would be called Rise Above the Meadow we thought about, yeah, we should definitely have a bear on the cover. It didn’t start with a bear but some animal on the cover because, yeah, we’ve walked into the woods and now we want an animal and then we decided on a bear. After we decided that Sebastian Jerke was doing the cover art, we told him our idea and gave him the album title and song titles, lyrics and of course we don’t have any imaginations and we said yeah, meadow and a bear and he was like. That’s a good idea, give me a couple of days, is it okay if I put a little more of my own ideas in there and be a little more psychedelic? Yeah sure. Do whatever you want. Then he gave us a rough sketch of the cover and I was blown away by it. For me, the album cover is really — I don’t know, have you seen the vinyl?
It’s amazing. There’s a 16-page booklet in it and everything, all the artwork he has done for it, every song has a different picture, it’s amazing. You should tell Mona from Napalm to send you one.
Will you be touring this summer?
Last summer we did so many shows. I think I had one weekend off in like, two or three months last summer. So this summer we will have four weeks off in the middle of the summer, just to keep our girlfriends happy (laughs).
What will you do with that time?
Vacation! I love fishing and I will actually try and fish something. Last year I only fished twice I think. Back to your question, we have some festivals in June and then in August also but in July, maybe one or two shows at the end of July.
I don’t know if you’ll be able to sit still that long.
We’ll see! But it’ll give me some time to write new Greenleaf songs.
Ah! There it is.
I can’t stop playing. We don’t have full songs but we have riffs for four to five new songs already. Keep working (laughs).
What’s the relationship in your mind between Dozer and Greenleaf? It’s almost like they’ve switched where Greenleaf is the centerpiece project.
That’s how it is now because with Dozer, I told the guys whenever you want to do something I am there. If you want to do a tour, we can do that, but Fredrik [Nordin, Dozer guitar/vocals] is not really into doing a tour. So it’s pretty much up to Fredrik what we would do with Dozer if he wants. When he’s up for doing a few shows he just tells us or if we get them like we did Up in Smoke, or if we get a good offer I ask Fredrik if he wants to do it, he says yes or no and that’s it. I know we did Desertfest in Belgium last year and Johan and Olle [Mårthans, Dozer drums], they were like we should write some new songs, we should really do something. I was like sure, we can do that. They talk to Fredrik after a few beers also, (laughs). Frederick was like yeah, we can try. Then we decided — Johan, me and Fredrik we live in Borlange all of us and Olle lives in Örebro so we told Olle just — and his parents still live here. So he’s here every once in awhile, contact us when you’re here and let’s rehearse and see what happens. But, nothing happened. (Laughs) He didn’t contact us, but we will see. We have been talking about maybe writing, we will not do a full album but maybe a few songs and just release it digitally or maybe do a 7″ or something. I think we need to do that, if we want to do more shows we can’t just keep on playing the same songs over and over again. We’ve done that now for three or four years, three or four shows a year. Time to give the fans something new. I think it will happen, but it will take some time. Maybe not this year, or next year.
But having built Greenleaf as the focus, do you feel like there are lessons you’ve learned on how to manage a band internally that from Dozer that you take to Greenleaf?
Of course I’ve learned a lot with Dozer. How to do things and how to work with other people (laughs). In the early days there weren’t discussions between band members — you do too much stuff! You decide all the time which riffs are good and which are bad. But with Dozer, those years were — it was the same feeling we have in Greenleaf. We do everything together. That’s how you keep everyone in the band happy, just writing songs together. I come up with the riffs, then we play it, jam it at the rehearsal room and if it feels good, it feels good. If one person is not happy with the song, than we will not finish the song. When everybody feels it’s good, that’s a new Greenleaf or a new Dozer song. Try to keep everybody happy and everybody involved, and then everybody will be.
Any chance of a US tour?
With Greenleaf, yes. In [early 2017].
I heard a rumor of Greenleaf and Clutch.
That’s probably rumors but I know that Clutch have invited us to come, if they are on tour when we go there, yeah they invited us to play with them but I don’t know if they’re touring because we got the dates. If Clutch isn’t on tour at the time, maybe we can do some shows with them. I know we’ll do both coasts and everything in between. More than that, I don’t know.
Glad you’re coming over.
Finally. People have been asking us for two years, maybe next year. But finally we have decided, let’s do it now. It’s about time.
Will you do more in Europe before that other than the festivals?
Yeah, we’ll do a headline tour in September / October — a four-week tour, a lot of shows. I think we have the four-week tour, then three weeks at home and then we do the US tour after that. I don’t expect to make a lot of money to do the US tour so we have to play Europe to be able to pay for the US tour.
Bring a lot of t-shirts to sell.
Yep. We need to bring a lot of merch to pay for the flights.
What is the timeline on writing?
Yeah, hopefully. Then, I know after the US tour, it’s not confirmed yet but we might go to Australia in February next year. But after that, we will take two months off and finish our new songs. I’m pretty sure there will be a new Greenleaf album next year, after the summer sometime. That’s just my guess, but after the summer next year.
Posted in Features on May 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Next Thursday, May 26, Radio Moscow, The Freeks, Albatross Overdrive and Grand Old Evils hit The Federal Bar in Long Beach for a show put on by Knitting Factory Presents. Leave a comment on this post to be entered into a giveaway to win a pair of tickets to the show.
Now, if you know this site you know I’m broke as shit, so don’t even think travel is included. But if you’re in SoCal or you’re going to be, the lineup pretty much sells itself. Please make sure that if you enter you’ll be able to attend, and please make sure to put your email address in the comment form so I can contact you if you win. Your email will not be stored, or remembered, or sold, or any of that other shady shit that people do with email addresses these days. The only time you’ll hear from me is if you’re a winner.
So, as you’ve got nothing to lose and a night of kickass rock and roll to gain, I say have at it. Show poster, info, ticket links and so on follow here, and you can leave a comment at the bottom of the post.
Thanks to all who enter:
KNITTING FACTORY PRESENTS
Thursday May 26:
Radio Moscow, The Freeks, Albatross Overdrive, The Grand Old Evils
The Federal 102 Pine Ave Long Beach, California 90802
The power trio led by the Stratocaster genius Parker Griggs have found THE formula: Crunching, heavy Sabbath-style chords topped with fiery solos that earn the right to be called Hendrixian. RN plants their flag firmly in the territory where psychedelic rock and cranked-up blues meet. The sound is unabashedly retro (think Cream, Blue Cheer, Led Zep or Jimi Hendrix Experience)’ so it’s easy to see how it caught the ear of the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who produced Radio Moscow’s 2007 self-titled debut.
With Brain Cycles, their second album, Radio Moscow proved they’re not a cheap time machine but a direct descendant from the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. In 2011, Griggs continued his psychedelic trip with The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz released by Alive Records. In June 2014, and still with Alive Records, the band released their most recent album Magical Dirt.
Led by Ruben Romano (founding member of FuManchu and Nebula) and supported by Bob Lee on drums (Claw Hammer, Backbiter, Mike Watt), Tom Davies on bass (Nebula), Esteban Chavez on keys, and Jonathan Hall on guitar (Angry Samoans, Backbiter), the Freeks deliver raw, unrefined, screaming fuzzed psychedelic rock’n’roll music that is dream bent with tension and laced with Full On passion.
Albatross Overdrive is a heavy rock band incorporating influences from Sabbath to James Brown. A definite bluesy undertone is present in the earthquake like songs with just a hint of funk. The diversity of melodies will keep the audience focused while the live show will demand respect.
Grand Old Evils:
The Grand Old Evils is Southern California’s newest oldest band, born to drink beer and melt your face with ear blasting dirty rock and massive sound!
Posted in Features on May 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Philadelphia’s Crypt Sermon made one of last year’s most impressive debuts with Out of the Garden (review here), a full-length of driving and metallic substance that recalled a heyday before doom and metal could really be thought of as separate entities. To call it a “powerhouse” effort would not be overstating it, since the five-piece’s command ran so strongly through the material as to betray the album’s being a debut at all. The response it earned after its release on Dark Descent Records was suitably fervent for a group brazenly lending a sense of freshness to a traditional style that so often prides itself on being stale.
Comprised of vocalist Brooks Wilson, guitarists Steve Jansson and James Lipczynski, bassist Will Mellor and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga, the story of Crypt Sermon is really just at its beginning point. Prior to Out of the Garden, the band issued 2013’s Demo MMXIII (review here) to serve notice of their arrival and intent, but while their denim-and-leather, fist-pump-ready doom seems to have arrived fully matured, Out of the Garden tracks like “Into the Holy of Holies” and the classically chugging “Heavy Riders” signaled as well that Crypt Sermon have begun a creative progression that, one hopes, will continue to play out as they move forward.
They’re keeping busy in the interim, of course. Local shows in Philadelphia with luminaries of various repute — they recently opened for the Philly date of the Decibel tour with Abbath and High on Fire, among others — plus strategic slots at major fests as they spread the word about who they are and what they do. Maryland Deathfest is booked for later this month, and they’ll be at Psycho Las Vegas in August. This spring, they also participated in Metal Blade Records‘ Metal Massacre 14, hand-picked to do so by curator Alan Averill, frontman of Primordial.
The upshot is Crypt Sermon, in addition to having songwriting and performance on their side, are putting in work-smarter-type work to spread their darkened, sometimes extreme gospel. I had the chance recently to chat with Jansson about the band’s latest doings, and you’ll find that complete Q&A after the jump.
Posted in Features on May 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
To run down the list of accolades that the Boston-area music scene has (rightly) foisted upon producer/engineer Benny Grotto of Mad Oak Studios over the last however many years would take a really, really long time, but suffice it to say that when an opportunity to watch him work is afforded, it’s not one you want to neglect. It’s a pleasure I first had six years ago, as Grotto — who also until recently was drumming in Slapshot — was mixing what would become Solace‘s long-awaited A.D. full-length, but of course his production credits go much further than that, including an entire pantheon of releases through Small Stone Records by Dwellers, Roadsaw — whose Craig Riggs is an owner of Mad Oak, along with Grotto and PK Pandey — Sasquatch, Gozu and The Brought Low, as well as local luminaries like The Scimitar, Black Thai and Second Grave, among many others.
But most of that, apart from the Second Grave, which is forthcoming, was done in the old Mad Oak. In January, the studio opened a new facility at 390 Cambridge St. in Allston, MA, and immediately set about filling the calendar with clients, among them reunited New Hampshire burl rockers Scissorfight, who were there tracking five songs for a new EP to be released sometime later this year. It will mark their first offering in a decade and their first with a new lineup including Doug Aubin on vocals and Rick Orcutt on drums alongside bassist Paul Jarvis and guitarist Jay Fortin that recently made their live debut to a sold-out Shaskeen in Portsmouth, NH, the first of many more live shows to come. The appeal of hearing new Scissorfight in-progress under Grotto‘s care was too good to ignore, so I headed into Allston last Wednesday to check out the tail end of the session.
Greeted outside by Jarvis‘ dog, Anna, who spent most of her time lounging on a bed made of an old flannel shirt, and Jarvis and Aubin, I made my way into the place to find Grotto, as ever, in front of a monitor filled with waveforms. A large tv on the wall behind him allowed anyone sitting on the plush couch nearby to see what he was doing, and from the spacious, clean layout of the room, it was clear that the studio had only been living in the redone space for a couple months. The floor, the ceiling, the giant monitors embedded in and in front of the wall to blast from a small stage in the control room — none of it had yet been kicked to hell by time, and the same went for the high-ceiling live room, which, if the sound of Orcutt‘s drums was anything to go by, is going to make a lot of percussionists very happy.
“From my end, I wanted to basically steal all the cool things I liked about the other studios I’d been working at, as well as minimize or eliminate the negative things that those places had,” Grotto explained. “For me, the general vibe and level of comfort were the primary issue. I wanted to set the place up in a way that really facilitates creativity and a relaxed atmosphere. We have unbelievable sight-lines throughout the whole studio, lots of comfortable places to relax, and a wealth of instruments and gear that are all easily accessible, which helps artists to get ideas down quickly before the inspiration dries up.
“One of the big advantages to the new space is that we got to design it to our exact needs, from the ground up. So we were able take all the lessons that Riggs learned building the first place, combine them with my experience over the last couple years working in a variety of studios as a freelancer, and combine all that with PK‘s extensive experience as a studio building consultant, and really dial the whole thing into what is more or less our dream studio.”
The layout of the space reminds of a complex piece of software designed to look and operate simply. The live room is flanked on either side by isolation booths, there are big doors for load-in, the control room, a break space/kitchen, bathroom, etc., but from the cork in the ceiling to Grotto controlling colored LED lights from his phone and the acoustics as tracks were played back, what Mad Oak has become is clearly the result of meticulous work.
“Craig really wanted to focus on the construction itself. He’s been on-site every day, basically working as the contractor, making sure everything is getting done to his very high standards, but he’s busting ass as a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, everything. Very hands on. The work he and his guys have been doing in here is out of this world; the craftsmanship and attention to detail is really unlike anything I’ve seen in a recording studio.
“PK has a massive amount of experience as a studio building consultant, and we were able to make use of that experience in a major way. Specifically by tapping the Walter Storyk Design Group — which is the studio architectural firm responsible for an incredible list of studios all around the world, including Hendrix‘s Electric Lady — to design the control room. That really elevates us to a whole new level in terms of prestige — not to mention, the acoustics in here sound incredible.”
I wouldn’t argue. Fortin was about to lay down some acoustic guitar flourish on a maddeningly catchy track with the working title “Beaver Fever” — the twist: it’s actually about Giardia — but already the material sounded huge, with the trademark crunch in his and Jarvis‘ weighted tones that became a staple of Scissorfight‘s sound in their initial run. Over top, Aubin brought his own edge to sardonic lyrics, snarls and growls about drinking beaver piss. The band called it a public service. I’ll assume the same applies to “Tits Up” and “’70s Boobs,” another working title.
Those three were mostly done. Jarvis put some banjo on “Beaver Fever” that may or may not make the final cut — was cool but might’ve been a bit much with the acoustic already there; would need to hear it mixed — and Aubin will have to go back in for “Ol’ Taint Rot” and “Stove,” but the basic tracks were finished to the point that Grotto, grumbling about the response time of his wireless mouse, was already compiling tracks for rough mixes to send the band. The mental organization involved in that process is not to be understated. At the same time he was cross-fading two tracks joining together, he was also running hard drive backups and drawing on markers so he knew where preamp dials were, for the next time the band are in, or maybe just to keep a record of it. Either way, there’s nothing haphazard about the process.
Grotto told me in a not at all complaining fashion that he’s had one day off since January. Watching him work again, I believe it. The drive and the passion he puts into what he does is inspiring, and as Scissorfight step up to claim the utter dominance of New England that has basically been theirs for the taking for the last decade, there are no better hands they could be in. With smartass jokes a-flying, Fortin, Jarvis and Aubin (Orcutt wasn’t there) were completely at ease at Mad Oak, and it was clear just from being there for the few hours I was how much that was also part of the intricate design.
“The new space sounds amazing,” said Grotto. “It’s made my life so much easier. Every drummer who’s done a session in here so far has told me it’s the best drum room they’ve ever played in. The room just sings. And we laid out the gear and infrastructure in a way that speeds up the workflow, so we’re just flying through setup, and the bands play great. It’s been fantastic.”
Scissorfight‘s new EP is called Chaos County and will be out later this year. Thanks to Jay Fortin for letting me use his photos of the session.
Posted in Features on April 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
One would be hard pressed to name a single city that has contributed more to the sphere of American heavy rock in the last half-decade than Portland, Oregon. I’m not even sure there’s any competition, even from places like San Francisco or San Diego. The challenge this presents new bands at this point is how they go about distinguishing themselves from their peers, and that is something that hard-driving four-piece Holy Grove would seem to have solved early.
Their self-titled debut (review here) is out now on Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds, owned by Gabriele Fiori of Black Rainbows/Killer Boogie, and basks in wide-cast grooves and a crisp but natural tonal warmth captured by stuff-of-legend producer Billy Anderson that puts the powerful vocals of Andrea Vidal front and center atop the riffs of guitarist Trent Jacobs, the rumble of bassist Gregg Emley and the roll of original drummer Craig Bradford (replaced by Adam Jelsing). That’s a big risk for a relatively new band, Holy Grove started in 2012, but it’s still their first album, but Holy Grove takes classic cues and updates them with a modern thickness of sound that would seem to hold an appeal for fans of then and now in heavy.
Holy Grove play Psycho Las Vegas in August (info here), joining in international and interstellar array of groups, and have a European tour in the works for the fall to further support the album, as well as work already underway on the follow-up, which is probably a ways off, but still in progress already. In the interview that follows, Vidal talks with good humor about her experience joining the band, how they got together, needing to buy a microphone after the first practice, starting work on the album after releasing the Live at Jooniors (review here) two-songer, recording with Anderson and much more, including finding her voice as a lead singer and the importance of commanding a stage and bringing a show to life.
The complete Q&A tops 3,200 words and can be found after the jump.