Monday, July 04, 2016

Currently Listening

I ran into an old friend yesterday.  We met through the Oklahoma City zine scene of the late 1990s, when we were young and ready to take on the world.  She wrote an excellent zine called Skinny and I put together Caught Off Guard.  We were two of a good half-dozen fanzines that were coming out of the local punk scene.  This was in the early days of the internet, so we're talking pre-blogs, pre-social media, hell we barely had email and maybe a site on GeoCities (for those that really knew what they were doing).  Bill Clinton was president, the economy didn't suck, and punk rock was alive and well.  We hung out at Music Dimensions, getting record recommendations from Jim and Page, and some of us pooled our money together and opened a DIY venue called The Hole.  It was a great time to be young.  This playlist is dedicated to those times of great music, good friends, and life-long memories.  Okay so maybe I'm seeing things through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia but that's what happens when you run into someone you haven't seen for nearly 18 years and you reminisce.      

1.  "Independence Day" by Down By Law (from All Scratched Up)
2.  "In No Time Nor Place" by Those Unknown (from Those Unknown)
3.  "Gates of Steel" by Skankin' Pickle (from The Green Album)
4.  "Leaner Days" by Sinkhole (from Gropping for Trout)
5.  "New Breed" by The Pietasters (from Willis)
6.  "Kathi" by J Church (from Camels, Spilled Corona and the Sound of Mariachi Bands)
7.  "I Need Feedback" by Swingin' Utters (from Five Lessons Learned)
8.  "Say Anything" by The Bouncing Souls (from The Bouncing Souls)
9.  "Good Times Gone" by Slapstick (from Slapstick)
10.  "Down the Block" by One Man Army (from Dead End Stories)
11.  "Bed for the Scraping" by Fugazi (from Red Medicine)
12.  "Boys on the Docks" by Dropkick Murphys (from Do or Die)

Saturday, July 02, 2016

10 Questions with No Fun

Hailing from Nürnberg and Berlin, Germany, No Fun is a power trio that plays high energy, fuzzy, pop punk.  The band released How I Spent My Bummer Vacation (Amazon, iTunes) in 2015 and appeared on the great four-way split The Great Thieves Escape II (No Panic Records, Flix Records, BandCamp) earlier this year with Walk the Plank, Such Gold, and Harker.

This interview was conducted via email with singer/guitarist Andreya Casablanca June 8-20, 2016.

For more information on No Fun check out their Facebook and BandCamp pages.

Dave:  How did the band get together?

Andreya Casablanca:  We've known each other since we were in 'High School' but never dreamt of having a band together. I moved to Berlin, the guys live in Nuremberg, and when I came back after a year of studying in California, we all were kind of in a place where we wanted to start something new. And this is how the story went.

Dave:  What’s the story behind the name No Fun?

Andreya:  After said year abroad, I came back very heartbroken and kind of thrown off by what I've experienced - in Germany I had a solid career plan, working really hard all my life. In California I finally realized that creating something and taking my time to be inspired by my surrounding felt so much better and healthier. Coming back to the things I now 'had to do' again, was just totally No Fun. In the beginning, we formed the band around this idea.

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

Andreya:  Our music surely polarizes hardliners…People totally into Punkrock oder into Garage-Music sometimes are like: Hmmmm what? There are a lot of different styles in our music and our recordings have a polished and still DIY Punkrock sound, so it’s never either / or. I guess it’s Chipmunk-Punk with a Sad Face on it.

Dave:  You were recently featured on the The Great Thieves Escape II four-way split with Walk the Plank, Such Gold, and Harker.  How did you get involved with the project?

Andreya:  It’s Katrin, our lovely booker, who made this beautiful thing happen, and we are very grateful. This summer, we will finally meet the bands and play a little Flix Festival in Germany for a week. I think it’s just really funny because we totally fall out of the Genre-Mix on that split, but it also makes it more exciting and interesting. I will ask the singer of Such Gold to give me a lesson in his vocal style, maybe I can even do a cameo, I am very professional with that - on the last Sass Dragons show I did a forward roll on stage.

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

Andreya:  We have a bunch of shows lined up that we planned in advance. Last year was really crazy, so we try to tone it down a little bit, since we also want to work on new material.
We are playing a few festivals and then go over to the states for FEST which Basti and Jens are already wetting their pants about. And generally we like to play anywhere where there's a good mood - seriously that's all that matters.

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

Andreya:  Probably a really terrible one. Since we don't live in one city we just collect ideas and then we meet and "jam" them out (I don't know if you can even call it jam) and then we get really excited and say things like "AND THEN DO LIKE THIS 'huuu huuuu huuuu huuu'".... yeah but somehow it works really well.

Dave:  What are your thoughts on the music scenes in Nürnberg and Berlin?

Andreya:  I can't complain. I don't have a good idea of how Nürnberg is right now - I guess you can name all the active bands there, which I think is a bummer, but the practice room situation is also really terrible down there. Berlin is flourishing with its micro-scenes and every now and then, someone breaks out of it, like KADAVAR for example. There are a lot of bands and musicians who moved to Berlin or play here frequently so you kind of get to know a lot of people from Europe and everywhere else, too.

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

Andreya:  OMG I love High Fidelity. Since I am here all by myself in front of the laptop I will selfishly answer that on my own:

TOP 5 Bands
- T-Rex
- Parquet Courts
- Thee Oh Sees
- Fleetwood Mac
- Ty Segall

TOP 5 Movies
- 3 Women (Robert Altman)
- Now and Then (Lesli Linka Glatter)
- Down by Law (Jim Jarmusch)
- Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
- Funny Ha Ha (Andrew Bujalski)

TOP 5 Television Programs
- Mad Men
- Fargo
- Inside Amy Schumer
- House of Cards
- True Detective

TOP 5 Books
- Cather in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
- Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes (Daniel Kehlmann)
- No Exit and three other plays (Jean Paul Sartre)
- Richard Yates (Tao Lin)
- The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende)

Dave:  What’s next for the band?

Andreya:  THE WORLD. No, we're playing a bunch of shows in July and then in October and then we're gonna meet again to discuss future plans and songs :) now we're still riding the wave of our debut album.

Dave:  Any final thoughts?

Andreya:  I want Nick Woods of Direct Hit! to have personal blog, series or whatever, because his Facebook Status-Updates are like one of my favorite things to read every day. you go girl!!!!

EP Review: 'E.P. III' by Broken Gold

Title:  E.P. III (BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Broken Gold (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTubeBandCamp)

Broken Gold is a band that perfectly harnesses the power, essence, and sensibilities of the college, indie, and punk rock of the late 1980s and early 1990s creating a sound that is equal parts modern, nostalgic, and timeless.  The Austin, TX band's latest effort E.P. III is a stunning and cathartic release of anxiety and desperation via tight hooks, great melodies, and incredible pop sensibility resulting in a hopeful reassurance that only great rock 'n' roll can give.  This record takes everything that was great about the band's previous EP, the awesome Turning Blue, and kicks it up a good 10 notches.  If you've never heard Broken Gold, the two cover's on this EP serve as an great way to describe/envision their music:  Guided By Voices "Motor Away" and the Ramones "Howling at the Moon."  Mix the vibe of those songs together and you'll have a pretty good idea of what you get with Broken Gold.  Sounds pretty good right?  It is!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Album Review: 'Empty Beach Town' by Shallow Cuts

Title:  Empty Beach Town (No Idea Records, BandCamp [Shallow Cuts], BandCamp [No Idea])
Artist:  Shallow Cuts (Facebook, Twitter, BandCamp)

Shallow Cuts' full-length debut Empty Beach Town is 12 songs of outstanding power pop punk rock 'n' roll.  Picking up where 2014's excellent Storm Watch left off, Empty Beach Town absolutely knocks it out of the park proving that Shallow Cuts are a band to be reckoned with.  Mixing elements of melodic punk rock, classic rock 'n' roll, and power pop, Shallow Cuts have created a sound that is unbelievably catchy, fresh, and familiar all at the same time.  If you've never heard Shallow Cuts, imagine if members of Latterman, Nothington, Superchunk, Leatherface, Sinkhole, Hot Water Music, and Material Issue got together and jammed with Matthew Sweet, Kurt Baker, and Eddie Money and you'd have a pretty good idea of what's going on here.  Even that description doesn't do this band justice because they are that damn good.  Empty Beach Town is a stellar full-length debut and easily one of the best records of 2016.

Video of the Day: "Concrete" by Spanish Love Songs

Song:  "Concrete"
Artist:  Spanish Love Songs (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BandCamp)
Album:  Giant Sings the Blues (Wiretap Records, BandCamp [Wiretap], BandCamp [Spanish Love Songs], AmazoniTunes)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Monday, June 06, 2016

Great Band Alert: Grieving

Cambridge, England's Grieving is a powerhouse of a new band.  Mixing elements of post hardcore, melodic punk anthems, indie rock, with great pop sensibilities, Grieving have created a sound that is distinct, powerful, poignant, catchy, and familiar.  To date the band has released three songs: the stupidly catchy anthem "No Sleep," the slightly angular "Owning," and the broodily subdued "My Friend, The Ghost."  All three songs are distinct and pull from varying influences but all three are obviously Grieving.  This band has perfectly mixed influences as disparate as Jawbreaker, Fugazi, Guided By Voices, and "Don't Change" era INXS into a sound that is something to behold.  These guys obviously have incredible taste in music because it shines through in these songs.  This is a band to watch and I for one can't wait to see what they do next!

For more information on Grieving check out their Facebook, TwitterBandCamp, and SoundCloud pages.

EP Review: 'The Great Thieves Escape II' by Walk the Plank, No Fun, Such Gold, Harker

Title:  The Great Thieves Escape II (No Panic Records, Flix Records, BandCamp [No Panic])
Artists:  Walk the Plank (Facebook, BandCamp), No Fun (Facebook, BandCamp), Such Gold (OfficialFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr), Harker (Official, Facebook, Twitter, InstagramBandCamp, SoundCloud)

The Great Thieves Escape II is a four-way split from No Panic and Flix Records featuring Walk the Plank, No Fun, Such Gold, and Harker.  The EP opens with Walk the Plank's blistering melodic hardcore number "Dying on the Vine."  Hailing from Washington DC, the band obviously went to the school of DC hardcore and now are bringing their own twist to the genre.  Next is the insanely catchy "Cheesecake" by Germany's No Fun.  The power trio's sound is a brilliant mix of sun-drenched California pop with early '90s indie rock, late '70s power pop, garage, and pop punk.  The result is a song that is so infectious that it hurts.  Such Gold is next with their grinding modern melodic hardcore in "Choosing Cages."  Hailing from Rochester, NY the band's sound is that of barely contained fury and rage.  The EP closes out with Harker's outstanding anthem "Sometimes Dead is Better."  The Brighton, UK trio's sound is that of melodic and catchy anthems that inspire the pumping of fists, the singing along at the top of one's lungs, big smiles, and hope for a better tomorrow.

What's great about splits like The Great Thieves Escape II is that they introduce you to bands and artists you might otherwise have missed and if you're lucky, you find a new favorite band or two in the mix.  That happened for me years ago when I discovered One Man Army on a four-way split and completely fell in love (and have been following them and their exploits since).  The Great Thieves Escape II has introduced me to two bands that I have immediately fallen for in No Fun and Harker.  I can't wait to explore their other releases (which I have already picked up via their BandCamp pages) and anxiously await whatever it is that they do next.  These are two bands to watch.  The other great thing about The Great Thieves Escape II is that every track was different.  Often splits get crammed with a lot of bands that have similar sounds and that is simply not the case here.  Even the two melodic hardcore bands, Walk the Plan and Such Gold, have drastically different sounds and that makes for a much more compelling listening experience.  Hats off to No Panic and Flix Records for putting together this great release!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Currently Listening

1.  "Aether Theories" by Deforesters (from Deforesters)
2.  "For All To See" by Buffalo Tom (from Besides)
3.  "Home" by Hot Water Music (from Till the Wheels Fall Off)
4.  "Anyway" by The Lemonheads (from Lick)
5.  "23" by Harker (from A Lifetime Apart)
6.  "What Happened" by Sicko (from You Are Not the Boss of Me!)
7.  "Until My Heart Explodes" by No Fun (from How I Spent My Bummer Vacation)
8.  "Wrong" by Archers of Loaf (from Icky Mettle)
9.  "F.E.F.E." by Tender Defender (from Tender Defender)
10.  "Helpless" by Sugar (from Copper Blue)
11.  "Easy Target" by Stay Clean Jolene (from Stay Clean Jolene)
12.  "Kernel" by Seam (from Kernel)