Streaming: Lo-Pan Interview with Jesse Bartz

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on September 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lo-pan jesse bartz (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Lo-Pan just wrapped a month on the road alongside Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar and Quaker City Night Hawks. All told, between shows on that run (review here and review here) and an appearance back in June at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 (review here), I’ve seen the Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers three times in the last two-plus months. That’s how Lo-Pan do when they have a new album out. It’s how they’ve done for at least the last decade and probably longer if you actually put the math to it. They go.

The occasion this summer is Subtle (review here), their awaited fourth LP, released in May through Aqualamb. It follows a 2017 EP, In Tensions (review here), and several years of lineup change tumult in terms of the guitarist position now occupied by Chris Thompson, who at both the beginning and the end of the most-recent tour only seemed to fit excellently alongside bassist Scott Thompson (no relation), vocalist Jeff Martin, and drummer Jesse Bartz, who’ve pushed their earlier fuzz rock in more aggressive and pointed directions over their last few offerings, with Subtle being their sharpest execution yet. No doubt Thompson on guitar had a hand in that as well.

I’ve interviewed Bartz on a number of occasions over the last 10-plus years, but I don’t think ever in-person before. Their tour van was lined up next to the bus and equipment truck presumably shared by Crowbar and C.O.C. and Quaker City Night Hawks‘ own van around back of Starland Ballroom, and I sat in the van with the door open while he stood, seeming relieved to do so after a seven-hour ride from the prior night’s stop. It was the penultimate night of the tour — they’d wrap in Rhode Island the next night — and I wanted to get his take not just on how it all went down, but touring in general, the grind of it, the personalities at work in Lo-Pan and how one balances life on the road with life off it. I’m fortunate that, tired though he was, Bartz was kind enough to indulge me.

After playing The Blackout Cookout X in Youngstown, OH, this weekend, Lo-Pan will head to Europe at the end of this month to join Steak and Elephant Tree for a tour presented by this site and Sound of Liberation. You’ll find the dates included under the player below, on which you can hear the chat from out back of Starland.

Please enjoy:

Interview with Jesse Bartz of Lo-Pan

 

Lo-Pan, Steak & Elephant Tree tour dates:
30.09.19 London | The Garage (UK)** w/ Fireball Ministry
01.10.19 Bristol | The Old England (UK)** w/ Sigiriya
02.10.19 Swansea | The Bunkhouse (UK)**
04.10.19 Paris | Gibus (FR)
05.10.19 Pratteln | Up In Smoke Festival (CH)
06.10.19 Salzburg | Rockhouse (AT)
08.10.19 Linz | Stadtwerkstatt (AT)
09.10.19 Freiburg | Slow Club (DE)
10.10.19 Leipzig | Werk2 (DE)
11.10.19 Berlin | Setalight Festival (DE)
12.10.19 Munich | Keep it Low Festival (DE)
14.10.19 Wiesbaden | Schlachthof (DE)
15.10.19 Cologne | Helios 37 (DE)
16.10.19 Hamburg | Hafenklang (DE)
17.10.19 Bremen | Zollkantine (DE)
18.10.19 Leuwaarden | Into the Void Festival (NL)**
19.10.19 TBA | TBA
** Lo-Pan only

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

Lo-Pan on Bandcamp

Aqualamb Records on Bandcamp

Aqualamb on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Lo-Pan, Subtle: Everything Burns

Posted in Reviews on May 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lo-pan subtle

It’s kind of hard to believe, but it’s been nearly five years since Lo-Pan last released an album. The Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers issued Colossus (review here) through Small Stone in Fall 2014, and subsequently dove headfirst into a succession of years of touring and tumult. About a month after Colossus, they announced guitarist Adrian Zambrano (Brujas del Sol) taking over for Brian Fristoe; touring followed in the familiar ground of the US and on the then-uncovered territory of Europe throughout 2015. Talk began of a new record and the band hit the studio even as more touring ensued in 2016, and then Zambrano left and Chris Thompson joined, making his debut appearance in 2017 at The Blackout Cookout 7 in Kent, Ohio. The material that Lo-Pan recorded with Zambrano, meanwhile, was released in early 2017 as the In Tensions EP (review here) and would be that year’s best short release.

Again, Lo-Pan went on tour, the four-piece of Thompson, vocalist Jeff Martin, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz running hard in 2017 only to step back last year and write and record what would become Subtle with their new lineup. Like In Tensions, the band’s fifth full-length releases through Aqualamb Records, and it arrives as they once again make ready to hit the road hard and tour at home and abroad before the end of 2019. Their commitment to what they do is admirable. In the midst of chaos and clashing personalities, Lo-Pan emerge to put forth 11 tracks/47 minutes of cohesive and few-frills songcraft. The songs, rooted in riffs and compositions by Thompson and/or Thompson (who are not related), feel as though they’ve had everything extraneous chipped away, leaving the essential components of expression.

That’s not to say Subtle is raw — far from it. With production by James Brown (GhostNine Inch Nails) in New York, the band have arguably never sounded so melodically accomplished. That’s mostly evident in Martin‘s stellar and soulful vocal performance, but it’s there in the guitar and bass as well, and even Bartz‘s crash seems to have a tunefulness about it. At the same time, structurally, songs like the opener “Ten Days,” “Ascension Day” and the later and suitably rolling “A Thousand Miles” channel powerful verses and strong hooks to a sense of urgency that Colossus brought to the fore but that’s smoothed out here in its tone and less outwardly aggressive in its overall affect. Of course, “Bring Me a War” still has its edge of confrontationalism, and likewise the early highlight “Savage Heart” and closer “The Law and the Swarm,” but the guitar tone is warmer, and that makes a difference.

The balance between these various sides and impulses, as well as the dynamic range in the massive crash of “Everything Burns” and the quieter midsection build of the penultimate “Butcher’s Bill” — I’ve always been a sucker for those moments when Lo-Pan hit the brakes on tempo — helps the band add a feeling of scope to Subtle, and as a bid for one of the best albums of 2019, it’s a blend of songwriting and performance that stands them out among would-be peers in heavy rock and roll. Though it’s anything but, Subtle is the output of a band who have mastered their approach and who still see fit to push themselves to new ground. Whether it’s the relentless shove of songs like “Sage” or the chug-into-happytime-chorus centerpiece “Old News” or even the more brooding “Khan!,” Lo-Pan stand triumphant in this material, and though it sounds hard-won, that only seems to make the victory sweeter.

lo-pan

It’s easy enough to read Subtle as a touring album in cuts like “Ten Days,” “Ascension Day,” “A Thousand Miles,” “Butcher’s Bill” “Sage” and “Bring Me a War,” on one level or another, as well as the cover art that seems to draw the eye to the desert sunset like moving down a highway laced with rows of shark teeth, but if Lo-Pan are chronicling the last few years of changes in the band and in their own lives at least in some degree within this material, then fair enough. Whether or not that’s the case, I don’t know (the finished vinyl and art-book editions include a lyric sheet), but if it is, then even in the slower “Butcher’s Bill,” they don’t sound anymore bogged down than is intended by the song itself. The album is not a minor undertaking at 47 minutes, but it’s not meant to be a minor undertaking. Even with its general lack of indulgence — as a guitarist, Thompson doesn’t take particularly sprawling solos, and Martin keeps layering to a relative minimum, saving harmonies for “The Law and the Swarm” and double-tracking for emphasis elsewhere — Subtle wants nothing for substance.

I’ll readily cop to being a fan of the band live and on record. Does it matter? I don’t know. I doubt it. As I understand it, the thing about Lo-Pan in how they function as a band is that they’re all very different people. I can’t speak to how often they hang out on weekends when they’re not touring, but in terms of the group itself, they’re able to channel that friction or that personality-clash into something special. Lo-Pan have been and remain one of America’s best heavy rock bands for the last decade-plus. Their second album, Sasquanaut (review here) — first released in 2009, then picked up by Small Stone in 2010 — and their third album, 2011’s Salvador (review here), were formative but pivotal works that helped establish the methods that Colossus and In Tensions and Subtle have refined and built on. They write and perform with soul that bleeds through every riff, bassline, drum hit and soaring vocal, and despite the ups and downs the last few years have wrought for them, Subtle stands tall and clean, having conquered a mountain of bullshit.

So yes, one of 2019’s best heavy rock albums. Fine. What seems more important is that Subtle finds Lo-Pan having come through so much without being derailed from what they do — “Ten days inside/Won’t break my stride,” Martin intones on the opener — and their central process remains vital even after being so tested leading up to this record. This is a band worth appreciating while they’re there to appreciate and the immediacy of these songs begs a likewise fervent response. Get into it.

Lo-Pan, “Ten Days” official video

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

Lo-Pan on Bandcamp

Aqualamb Records on Bandcamp

Aqualamb on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Lo-Pan Post “Ten Days” Video; Touring with C.O.C. & Crowbar

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lo-pan

It’s been too damn long since the last time I saw Lo-Pan, but that’s something I’ll rectify at least twice as they head out in support of their new album, Subtle, due through Aqulamb on May 17. They’ll be at Maryland Doom Fest in June and then touring with Corrosion of Conformity and Crowbar in July/August. See you at Starland Ballroom, gents. Speaking of “been a long time…”

Anyhoozle, I’ve got Subtle slated for review on May 9 currently. Might move it depending on what comes along, but that’s where we’re at now, and so I’ll hold off getting too deep into the record, but the clip for opening track “Ten Days” tells a good portion of the Lo-Pan story. They have gone, and they go. Rain, sleet and snow. Their tour history is exhausting even to consider, let alone what’s ahead of them in heralding Subtle, but they are a live band to be sure. I won’t take away from their studio work at all, because golly their records kick ass up to and including the new one, but if you’ve ever caught them at a show, you know what I mean. They have a force to their delivery that is among the most potent I’ve caught in at least the last decade.

In addition to the shows below, they’ve also been announced for Up in Smoke and Keep it Low in Europe this October, so I expect more tour dates will be forthcoming, as those fests in Switzerland and Germany, respectively, run on consecutive weekends. I wouldn’t rule them out for Desertfest Belgium, which is Oct. 18-20 this year, either, but nothing has been announced. We’ll see. Either way they’ll be back over there in the Fall, and I don’t imagine the stint this summer with C.O.C. will be their only round of US touring either. Still the West Coast to hit, maybe in Winter or next Spring, depending on their timing. You never really know.

Until the announcement comes down the PR wire. Then you know.

But “Ten Days,” in addition to having a fervent thud and a brainmelter of a hook, captures a lot of the on-the-beat live energy Lo-Pan bring to Subtle. I’m a fan of the band and I won’t pretend otherwise either here or in the review to come, but even with what little objectivity I can muster, I’ll say that it’s righteous and they know it.

Clap your hands.

And enjoy:

Lo-Pan, “Ten Days” official video

The first single from respected hard rock band Lo-Pan’s new album “Subtle”, due May 17th via Aqualamb. Pre-order the new full-length LP now at http://aqualamb.bandcamp.com

“‘Ten Days” is a song about my ability to thrive just about anywhere with little or no preparation,” vocalist Jeff Martin says. “I have always felt that if you can survive 10 days of any uncomfortable situation, you can adapt, and adjust, and persevere. This song is a sort of reminder for me to follow through on my own bluster in that way. I talk a lot of shit. And sometimes I need to force myself to walk it like I talk it.”

This May, Lo-Pan will perform live as one of the featured acts at the 2019 Stoned and Dusted Festival, set for May 25-26 in the Southern California Mojave Desert. At the special gathering, Lo-Pan will share the stage with Black Mountain, Brant Bjork, King Buffalo, Yawning Man, Melvins and more. For full details, visit this location.

In additional news, Lo-Pan has announced a summer North American tour with Corrosion of Conformity and Crowbar. Set to launch on July 26 in Poughkeepsie, NY, the month long tour will criss-cross the country, running through August 25 in Providence, RI.

Lo-Pan tour dates:

May 26 Joshua Tree, CA Stoned and Dusted Festival
June 21 Frederick, MD Maryland Doom Fest

Lo-Pan w/ Corrosion of Conformity & Crowbar:
July 26 Poughkeepsie, NY The Chance
July 27 Syracuse, NY Westcott Theater
July 29 Kitchener, ON Dallas Nightclub
July 31 Louisville, KY Mercury Ballroom
August 1 Grand Rapids, MI Elevation
August 2 Milwaukee, WI The Rave II
August 5 Indianapolis, IN Deluxe at Old National Centre
August 6 Sauget, IL Pop’s
August 7 Omaha, NE Slowdown
August 10 Boulder, CO Fox Theatre
August 11 Grand Junction, CO Mesa Theater
August 13 Boise, ID Knitting Factory Concert House
August 14 Salt Lake City, UT The Complex
August 16 Tucson, AZ Encore
August 17 Albuquerque, NM Sunshine Theater
August 19 Austin, TX Come and Take It Live
August 21 Jacksonville , FL 1904 Music Hall
August 22 Jacksonville, NC The Tarheel
August 23 Virginia Beach, VA Elevation 27
August 24 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom
August 25 Providence, RI Fete Music Hall

LO-PAN is:
Jeff Martin – vocals
Skot Thompson – bass
Jesse Bartz – drums
Chris Thompson – guitar

Lo-Pan website

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

Aqualamb Records website

Aqualamb Records on Bandcamp

Aqualamb Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Lo-Pan Announce New Album Subtle out May 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Something tells me there will be very little subtle about it. I’ve heard odds and ends, heres and theres from Lo-Pan‘s impending fourth record. Just enough to tell you “it gonna be good” in however many words it takes me to type that out. The Columbus, Ohio, natives are due. It’s been five years since their third long-player, Colossus (review here), and though they released the In Tensions EP (review here) as a stopgap in 2017 — also their first outing for Aqualamb, which is releasing the new album as well — the forthcoming Subtle brings another level of intrigue entirely for being their first offering with Chris Thompson on guitar. And yeah, I think it’s gonna be pretty good.

It’s not every band I’d put together a news post for after I’ve already closed out the week. Most types, they wait until Monday. Lo-Pan aren’t most types.

From the PR wire:

lo-pan subtle

Lo-Pan to Release New LP, ‘Subtle’, May 17

Alt-Metal Bigs Blend Billowy Heaviness and Consummate Catchiness on Ambitious New Album

Respected hard rock band Lo-Pan will release its new LP, ‘Subtle’, on May 17 via Aqualamb Records. The Ohio group, known for its dichotomic sound which merges sturm und drang heaviness with relentlessly catchy, AOR laden melody, recorded the new album at both NYC’s Reservoir and The Union studios with Grammy Award winning producer James Brown (Foo Fighters, Ghost, NIN). Lo-Pan’s fourth record, ‘Subtle’ was mastered by famed engineer Ted Jensen (Alice in Chains, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Mastodon) and is the highly anticipated follow-up to the unit’s 2017 release, ‘In Tensions.’

It’s hardly a secret that some of the most potent hard rock ever rocked comes from the American midwest; places like Detroit and Cleveland, after all, have proven to serve as perfect inspiration for first-rate heavy music. Formed in 2005 and forged from the fire of more than 1,000 white hot live performances alongside peers such as High on Fire, Torche, KENmode and more, Lo-Pan’s “secret” is its unfuckwithable ability to create immersive rock music born of dynamic dazzle, progressive pummel and emotional energy. Silky, yet punishing.

With their fourth full-length, bassist Skot Thompson, drummer Jesse Bartz, guitarist Chris Thompson and singer Jeff Martin have pushed Lo-Pan’s already high ceiling straight through its proverbial roof. ‘Subtle’ opening track “10 Days” begins with the unmistakable static of a guitar being plugged in; an entryway to a beautifully gnarly riff that heralds an album built on heavy walls of sound and feeling, underpinned by the familiar collision of Bartz’s heavy hitting and Thompson’s sleek basslines, all in service to Martin’s transcendent vocal performances.

And as regards those vocal performances, the next cut, “Savage Heart” contains one of Martin’s most exceptional. The LP continues its flow with “Ascension Day,” a title that can’t help but recall post-rock progenitors Talk Talk at their most opaquely experimental, but Lo-Pan’s song of the same name is in an altogether different zone, moving forward on the strength of an unyielding groove while Martin’s frictionless vocal floats above it all. Things take a turn for the doomier on “Everything Burns,” a long slow-burner that relentlessly advances at a pace that makes every note hit HARD.

“This band has always been four corners coming together,” said Martin. “Nobody in this band comes from the same background, we often disagree on a lot of fundamental things, but it’s undeniable when we get together and it coalesces into the product of the four personalities. It hits me in my heart, and whenever I sing these songs I relive what I’m writing about. These are our most overtly and unapologetically hostile lyrics to date. I have always written what I think and feel.”

“Chris’ songwriting is more of an organic process while mine’s very robotic,” offers Skot Thompson. “And those two wiring processes tend to blend themselves together. There’s been a handful of songs on [Subtle] in particular where those two processes have melded into something beautiful. A lot of these songs are me, Chris, and Jesse putting things together, with Jeff layering things on top to make it more of a solid form.”

Track listing:
1.) 10 Days
2.) Savage Heart
3.) Ascension Day
4.) Sage
5.) Everything Burns
6.) Old News
7.) Bring Me A War
8.) A Thousand Miles
9.) Khan
10.) Butcher’s Bill
11.) The Law & The Swarm

Pre-order ‘Subtle’ at this location. The album will be released on LP with a sleeve designed by Eric Palmerlee, and as always for Aqualamb releases, as a 100 page art book/digital download package.

LO-PAN is:
Jeff Martin – vocals
Skot Thompson – bass
Jesse Bartz – drums
Chris Thompson – guitar

http://www.lopandemic.com
http://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
http://www.aqualamb.org
http://www.aqualamb.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/aqualambrecords

Lo-Pan, Subtle album teaser

Tags: , , , , ,