Thursday, May 18, 2017

Monday, May 08, 2017

"Kids like us are weird, and more, we’re brave": Why I Love Beach Slang

Recently I did something I'd never done before...I drove to Tulsa for a concert.  On Saturday April 8 I hoped in the car with a friend and made the nearly two hour drive to watch Beach Slang play at the Vanguard Music Hall. with Norman's Colorblind and Tulsa's Dead Shakes.  Over the years a lot of bands have come to Tulsa or Dallas and I'd never made the trek but I wasn't going to miss this show.  Last November, Beach Slang played the single most moving concert I've ever had the honor of experiencing and when it was announced that they were coming back to the Sooner State, I knew that there was no way I was going to miss it.

Three years ago to the day, I first heard Beach Slang.  I remember because I wrote my review of their debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? within minutes of getting the promo and press release from the fine folks at Beartrap PR.  Right from the start, I knew this band was something special.
Every once in a while a record comes along and blows you away with the opening chords of the first song and you can just tell that you are hearing something really special.  That was my exact reaction to Beach Slang’s debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?.  From the opening chords of “Filthy Luck” to the closing moments of “Punk Or Lust,” Beach Slang has put together the purest essence of the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that the outcasts of the 1980s and ‘90s found comfort in.  [...]  ...Beach Slang have tapped into something that has been missing in rock as of late…the voice of the outcast.  This voice rings so clear and hits you right from the get-go...  [...]  Here’s the thing, and I’m sorry for being so blunt but, Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? is fucking brilliant.  Seriously, this record is so good that it hurts and if I was able to make it down to The Fest this year, Beach Slang is THE band that I’d want to see above all others.  To quote Dillinger Four, this shit is genius.
Four months later the band released their follow-up EP Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street.  This record saw their Goo Goo Dolls-meets-Jawbreaker-meets-The Replacements sound expand to include touches of The Jesus & Mary Chain, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Joy Division, foreshadowing things to come.

A year later Beach Slang released the all-covers EP Here, I Made This For You (Beach Slang Mixtape Vol. 1) shortly before dropping their stunningly brilliant full-length debut The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.
Words like fantastic, excellent, brilliant, and moving fail to describe the utter joy and acceptance I feel when listening to this band. This band connects with me sonically with their pure unadulterated sound that is equal parts Replacements, Jesus & Mary Chain, and Jawbreaker driven by an energy and urgency that is beyond infectious. Lyrically singer/guitarist James Alex Snyder has found a way to express everything I've been feeling going all the way back to my days as a dejected and rejected teenager up to now as a middle-aged man with a wife and kids that still doesn't feel like he fits in or belongs. Being that misfit youth never goes away and Beach Slang embraces that fact, turning it into a battle cry full of power and promise. Snyder embraces being a misfit with such gusto, enthusiasm, and self-deprecation making The Things We Do... such an earnest record that it doesn't need to rely on irony or kitsch to drive its point home because it is so completely pure and honest. What's great about this record, and this band in general, is that it has created a sound, vibe, and aura that is completely timeless tapping into feelings and transcending genres to the point that everyone from a 14 year old high school kid to a 40 year old punk can hear this music and say “yup, this is mine.” But underneath all of that is a definite chord, ethos, and yearning born out of growing up in time that saw idealism traded in for consumerism all for the sake of the greater me. Without a doubt, Beach Slang is the last great musical gasp of Generation X and if it took growing up through all of that mess and an adulthood of getting squeezed out by those who came before and those coming after to get this music, then by God it was all worth it.  
2016 saw the release of the band's equally brilliant sophomore full-length album A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings.
From the moment I first heard Beach Slang's debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?, I knew that I'd found something special.  This was the kind of band that spoke so straight to my heart that I felt an immediate and intense personal connection with not only their music but with them.  They mixed the best elements of '80s college rock, '90s indie rock, and punk throughout the ages, creating a sound that was magical, powerful, and timeless.  Oh and did I mention the lyrics?  Those cathartic poetic moments that perfectly gave voice to the rage and heartache of the kids that never fit in and the adults that they became.  This was my band. 
From start to finish A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings is a spectacular record from a band that can truly do no wrong.  In three short years, Beach Slang has become one of the most important bands in rock 'n' roll.  The band's music (and its members) is earnest, brutally honest, self aware, and humble, creating an atmosphere that is welcoming and nurturing to all those who have ever felt unwanted, slighted, left out, or unloved.  This sound, these records, this band is something truly special and timeless.  You know an artist's music and story has connected with you when you find yourself brought to tears from reading an interview with the band.  So Beach Slang, I'm in.  Whatever you guys do, wherever you go, I'm all in.
Beach Slang has seamlessly mixed together everything that I love about music.  They have taken all of the elements and the styles of music that have touched my heart and saved my soul and wrapped it into one beautifully messy, devastatingly honest, and brutally emotional package.  I'm sure that this has something to do with the fact that James Alex and I are the same age.  We grew up in the same era, came of age listening to many of the same records, and face adulthood as people that more often than not feel completely and totally out of place.  

When I think about my favorite bands of all-time, there's been a pretty consistent top 5 for nearly 20 years.  That changed around the beginning of the decade.  A band that I had followed religiously since the late '90s put out a record in 2011 that struck me as awful.  A few years prior to that, my tastes had started to change.  I rediscovered a lot of indie rock, reconnected with a lot of '80s college rock, and dove head-first into the troubadour, singer-songwriter, alt country, folk punk kind of stuff.  Granted none of this was all that far from the music I'd been listening to since high school but it was enough of a shift that I realized a band that I'd considered one of my all-time favorites was no longer one that I liked all that much.  So for a number of years I couldn't really nail down who that fifth band would be in my top 5.  Silly I know, but I love lists.  For a while that # 5 slot was filled by either The Replacements or Frank Turner (both of whom are still solidly in my top 10).  So as it stood, my top 5 favorite bands of all time included ALL, U2, R.E.M., 7 Seconds, and either The Replacements or Frank Turner depending on my mood.  

Lists of your favorite anything are completely subjective things but even so we all have certain criteria for what can and can't make the list.  With my top 5 favorite bands, I always thought they needed to be artists that I had loved and followed for a descent number of years.  For example I've been a fan of U2 since 1988 with R.E.M. and 7 Seconds following a few years later and ALL a year or two after that.  In other words I've been listening to all of those groups for well over 20 years.  The Replacements were a band that I've known since high school but admitted didn't completely get until their 2006 best-of Don't You Know Who I Think I Was and I discovered Frank Turner in 2010.  So in both cases I felt like I'd had enough time with their music to really consider them an all-time favorite.  But what about a band that's only been around for three years?  Even if you've been there since day one, is that long enough?  (Yes I contemplate these things.)  Well I gave it a lot of thought and finally came to the only logical and reasonable realization.

In some music you find your heart, in some your spirit, and in others you find your voice.  But sometimes you find music that is so special, so perfect that in it you find your soul.  Through those songs you not only find your heart and spirit and voice but you find yourself and you finally feel complete.  For me that is Beach Slang.  U2 changed my life, 7 Seconds and R.E.M. shared my rage and my hope, and ALL taught me about love but Beach Slang...Beach Slang brought it all together, my teenage dreams, my adulthood struggles, my need to feel like I'm a part of something, like I matter, am accepted, and loved, this band and their music does all of that and more.  

Beyond a shadow of a doubt Beach Slang is my favorite band of all time and more than that, I am a better, more complete person because of their music.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Oklahoma Lefty Podcast # 11

On this episode we have new stuff from The Gomes, The Addisons, Great Cynics, Benchmarks, and Dave Hause plus cult classics from Dag Nasty, Sinkhole, and 7 Seconds, and much more.

Find past episodes of the Oklahoma Lefty Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker.

Listen to "Oklahoma Lefty Podcast # 11" on Spreaker.

1.  "Shizzy" by 7 Seconds (from Out The Shizzy)
2.  "Timing" by The Addisons (from Invisible Falls State Park)
3.  "M Team" by Step Into Red (from Heard It All Before)
4.  "Take My Heart With You" by The Bigger Empty (from Lakes & Oceans Vol. 1: Michigan)
5.  "Stoned Under a New Moon" by toyGuitar (from Move Like a Ghost)
6.  "All Ages Show" by Dag Nasty (from 85-86)
7.  "Next Year" by Benchmarks (from Our Undivided Attention)
8.  "Brooklyn Bridge" by Candy Hearts (from All The Ways You Let Me Down)
9.  "FOMO" by The Bombpops (from Fear Of Missing Out)
10.  "All I Want" by Bullet Proof Lovers (from Shot Through The Heart)
11.  "Wembley" by Beach Slang (from Here, I Made This For You [Beach Slang Mixtape Vol. 2])
12.  "Hypnotize You" by The Gomes (from Hypnotize You - Single)
13.  "Happiness, London" by Great Cynics (from POSI)
14.  "Leaner Days" by Sinkhole (from Groping for Trout)
15.  "Berlin" by Shallow Cuts (from Empty Beach Town)
16.  "Bury Me in Philly" by Dave Hause (from Bury Me in Philly)

*Note*  All music played on this show is done so with the express written permission of the artist, artist representative, and/or the record label.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Currently Listening

1.  "Bad Scene, Everyone's Fault" by Jawbreaker (from Dear You)
2.  "Red Hill Mining Town" by U2 (from Red Hill Mining Town [Steve Lillywhite 2017 Mix])
3.  "Sallisaw Blue" by John Moreland (from John Moreland)
4.  "Like Flowers Ache for Spring" by The Winter Passing (from Double Exposure)
5.  "One By One" by Cock Sparrer (from Forever)
6.  "Louder In Outer Space" by Skating Polly feat. Louise Post & Nina Gordon (from Louder In Outer Space)
7.  "June" by Tigers Jaw (from June)
8.  "Annie" by Carter Sampson (from Queen of Oklahoma and Other Songs)
9.  "The Violence" by Rise Against (from The Violence)
10.  "Fade to Black" by Northbound (from The Flaws In Everything)
11.  "Wedding Speech by The Flatliners (from Inviting Light)
12.  "Midnight To Morning" by Japandroids (from Near To The Wild Heart Of Life)
13.  "New Air" by Fire in the Radio (from New Air)
14.  "City of New Orleans" by Me First & the Gimme Gimmes (from City of New Orleans)
15.  "Your Wild Years" by The Menzingers (from After the Party)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

10 Questions with Dead Bars

Dead Bars is a catchy as all hell punk band from Seattle, WA.  The band released their full-length debut Dream Gig on No Idea Records in March 2017.

This interview was conducted via email with lead singer and lyricist John Maiello February 26 - April 3, 2017.

For more information on Dead Bars check out the band's Facebook, TwitterBandCamp, and Spotify pages.

Dave:  How did the band get together?

John Maiello:  I was a drummer in a bunch of bands on the East Coast from age 14-22. When I was 22, I moved to Seattle to start playing drums in a band with my friend Tom who was living out here. We played a handful of shows with that band, but in the end my vision for the band was not the same vision as the other members. I realized that as a drummer, it was difficult to grow a band the way I wanted to. I decided to pick up guitar and learn a few power chords and I wrote a few songs. I kicked them around for a few years and then in 2013, I put a band together to play one show. People thought it was good, so I decided to play more. C.J. joined on drums for show #2 and has been in the band with me the whole time since. We've had a bunch of friends join/fill-in/help/tour since the early days but we have a good group now. Blom on guitar and Oddo on bass.

Dave:  What’s the story behind the name Dead Bars?

John:  A long time ago, my friends dragged me to an overcrowded bar with lines just to get a beer. I told them that I would never go that bar again, and that the only places I will ever go for the rest of my life are dead bars. I thought it was a good band name, and it stuck.

Dave:  For those who have never heard the band, how do you describe your music?

John:  Punk Rock band with fun sounding songs about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

Dave:  You recently released your debut full-length album Dream Gig on No Idea Records.  What's the story behind the record?  How did you get hooked up with No Idea?

John:  Dream Gig is supposed to take the listener on a journey. Its supposed to sound like a young band finding and refining their sound as the record progresses. It starts off with an idea, the overture, and then by the end the title track is seven minute opus of drunken bliss. We did it all live in C.J.'s living room. Its not perfect, but it's beautiful.

As far as No Idea, early on in 2013, we recorded a demo and thought that it would fit on that label. We got really fucked up one night and sent them an email with a link to our songs. The next morning we woke up and got a response that they wanted to release our records. They released our first two seven-inches and then a tour split with The Tim Version last year. Over the last few years we were crafting Dream Gig. We're lucky to be apart of No Idea Records.

Dave:  Do you have plans to tour in support of the new record? What are some of your favorite places to play?

John:  Yes, we will definitely tour both coasts. I'd love to get back to the Mid-West too. I don't know where or when, but sometime in 2017. Our favorite places to play are the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, NYC, Boston, Chicago, and Gainesville, FL.

Dave:  Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?

John:  I sit down with an acoustic guitar and just start playing chords and see what clicks. Every single Dead Bars song is about something real that actually happened to me. If it didn't happen to me, then it's not going to be a Dead Bars song.

Dave:  What are your thoughts on the music scene in Seattle?

John:  I think Seattle has a great music scene. I guess like any big city, it is kinda split up into different smaller scenes. There are also bands that are what I like to call "Seattle Big" which I don't really understand. They play really big shows and have a lot of fans in town but I don't think anybody cares anywhere else. We are lucky enough to play in a bunch of different scenes with a bunch of different bands.

Dave:  This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?

John:  This is tough one. I'll just give you one of my favorites from each category cuz this question is kind of stressing me out!

1) Band: Bouncing Souls
2) Album: "Blue Album" Weezer
3) Movie: Dumb and Dumber
4) TV: Seinfeld
5) Book: Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerad

Dave:  What’s next for the band?

John:  Gigs. Sleep. Writing more songs. Some beers. Recording new stuff. Probably touring.

Dave:  Any final thoughts?

John:  Never Give Up On Your Dreams

Monday, March 27, 2017

Currently Listening

1.  "Indoors" by The Flatliners (from Indoors)
2.  "Kernel" by Seam (from Kernel)
3.  "Guardian" by Tigers Jaw (from Guardian)
4.  "Wrong" by Archers Of Loaf (from Icky Mettle)
5.  "Only Shallow" by My Bloody Valentine (from Loveless)
6.  "No Halo" by Sorority Noise (from You're Not As _____ As You Think)
7.  "No Exception" by Chris Wollard and The Ship Thieves (from Chris Wollard and The Ship Thieves)
8.  "Thick as Thieves" by The Menzingers (from After the Party)
9.  "Show Me Mary" by Catherine Wheel (from Chrome)
10.  "Midnight To Morning" by Japandroids (from Near To The Wild Heart Of Life)
11.  "Why Do You Have to Put a Date on Everything" by Superchunk (from Foolish)
12.  "Anything Could Happen" by Bash & Pop (from Anything Could Happen)
13.  "Chasing Heather Crazy" by Guided By Voices (from Isolation Drills)
14.  "Dear Trouble" by Bleached (from Can You Deal?)
15.  "Constructive Summer" by The Hold Steady (from Stay Positive)

Video of the Day: "As They Sleep" by Lights & Motion

Song:  "As They Sleep"
Artist:  Lights & Motion (OfficialFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SoundCloud, BandCamp, Spotify, Deep Elm Records, Wikipedia)
Album:  Dear Avalanche (Deep Elm Records, BandCamp [Deep Elm], Amazon, iTunes, Spotify)

We have partnered with Deep Elm Records to give away 10 digital copies of Lights & Motion's brilliant new album Dear Avalanche.  In order to get your copy, all you need to do is follow me on Twitter @OklahomaLefty and send me a tweet with #OklahomaLeftyGiveaway and I'll hook you up with a download code.