In this audio interview, Alex Kerns, Sheena Ozzella and Max Gregor of Buffalo, NY’s Lemuria talk about touring with Against Me!, songwriting, the response to their new album “Pebble” and much more.
Local punk band Josh David and the Dream Jeans will be releasing their first full length this Friday at Mac’s Bar in Lansing, entitled “Can You Believe We Landed On The Moon?”. Frontman (and reason for the band’s namesake) Josh David says there was never a master plan when it came to recording an album or even with the band itself. “ For the album or the band, just keep playing and writing and see where it takes us. I personally wanted to play as much as I could locally and go on tour and record a full length” David said.
The band, which began in 2009, was David’s way of being an active member of the Lansing music scene. “I had wanted to start a band for years, basically ever since high school. There were a few almost-projects that never quite panned out. Eventually I got tired of dicking around and watching all my friends make music while I sat on the side lines” he said. After David asked friend, drummer and “stunt monkey” in local rowdy punk The Cartridge Family, Matt Norton, to start a band with him, Norton had one condition. “‘If you get me Nich Richard, I’m in” recalls David of Norton’s request.
David says Richard, whom at the time he says he “barely knew”, surprisingly said yes to David’s offer. The band became complete when Good Time Gang Records co- founder Tommy McCord’s cousin Michael Boyes joined the band on bass. From then on, once a week, every week was spent jamming and writing songs. “Every week at practice we would come up with a fake working band name to use like “Scream Of The Dog” and “Pointless Dismemberment” (which I liked so much I turned it into our first song). One day The Dream Jeans made it into the rotation and stuck, then Nich added my name to it because they think it’s funny that I have three first names (Joshua Daniel David)” he said.
After playing countless live shows in and around the Lansing area, David and the rest of the Dream Jeans began to cultivate plans to record their songs. These plans were slightly altered when original drummer Norton quit the band, only to be replaced by friend Christian Urabazzo. “ We were going to do an EP since we only had like 8 songs. So we recorded those songs, then Norton quit” says David. After Urabazzo joined the band, demos began to circulate while the band were on tour and at home playing local shows.
Finally, in March, the band recorded their debut album “Can You Believe We Landed On the Moon?”. David says the recording sessions were pretty relaxed saying “it’s just four dudes hanging out with their friend Tommy, who just happens to be recording them” he said. The sessions had their heated moments but mainly because of David himself. “I’m a little high strung, a little intense. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to the band” he admits but says the band is about compromise. “I have a vision in my head, but the band isn’t just me. There’s four of us and once you stop being flexible problems arise” he said.
David said that although McCord recorded and mixed the band’s album, he thinks it stands apart from other sounds you might find on the GTG roster. “One of the things I like about GTG is that they have a wide array of bands on their roster, and that no two bands sound the same” he said. David says McCord has a basic recording approach but adjusts it to meet a particular band’s vision or sound they want to capture. David feels that their vision was captured just as equally as other GTG releases.
We here at Lansingmusic.TV are getting excited for Midwest Fest 2011 where a multitude of great bands and performers including Frontier Ruckus, Chris Bathgate, Elliot Street Lunatic and many, many others will grace Rubble’s Bar during the weekend of Sept. 28-Oct. 1st. LMTV will be providing you with a look into each band and what they’ll be bringing to your ears at Midwest Fest 2011.
First up is Frontier Ruckus.
Recently emerging from the European landscape on a month-long tour, Frontier Ruckus are now back home and touring stateside. They will be performing all across the South and Eastern US this summer with stops in their home cities of Detroit at the Wayfarer Festival on June 25 and Ann Arbor at The Blind Pig on July 16. Recently, they announced the release of their newest album, Deadmalls and Nightfalls, on vinyl via Lansing label Lower Peninsula Records. Along with Deadmalls on vinyl, a new EP entitled Way Upstate and the Crippled Summer pt. 2.
Ian Howell of Gull Lake, MI band Inflatable Best Friend has started a project called Demo Day. This event, held October 1st, will see the release of (by then) hundreds of demos, 7″ records and other pieces of music by a multitude of Michigan bands. In this Q and A, Howell explained to me the ideas behind Demo Day and discussed his record label, Obvious Records.
Can you give some background on yourself? Where are you from? Where do you currently live? What band (or bands) are you in? What other projects have you been involved in in the past (if any)?
Hey Sean, Thanks for sending me some interview questions. Let me start out by congratulating you on running Lansing music TV. You guys are doing a really really great thing up in Lansing. I am from Kalamazoo, Michigan. We moved here when I was just a little kid. We’ve moved around the county a lot, but I’ve always been really close to Kalamazoo. I’m getting ready to move into a house in West Michigan University’s student ghetto. I’m really hoping to open up a house venue and host some really cool bands.
Right now, my main focus is with Inflatable Best Friend. Tanner Boerman and Austin Mcquater have such a kinship. That really seems to come in handy when you’re making music with each other. It’s like we can communicate without really talking. We’re coming up to Lansing (Grand Ledge, to be exact) to play at a benefit show for a skate park. The day before we’re going to be playing at Skatopia in Rutland, OH. I’m going to be driving a mini-van all across the Midwest that weekend for skate park related events.
I don’t want to say that I have been in lots of bands, but I do play music with lots of people. I think it’s good to shake it up by playing music with some other people. I mean, we don’t go out playing shows. A lot of times I am just playing music for fun. We try not to take ourselves to seriously in anything we do, music included.
I have organized several compilations. That started everything with obvious records/obvious mail order. I want to foster a music community that is more inclusive than exclusive.
What led you to start Obvious Records? What kind of label is it? (ie Online downloads, phsysical product, both? etc)
Inflatable Best Friend went to go put out some Cds and I was really frustrated how we could just distribute them to my friends. I want to give other people the opportunity to hear this music as well. The question is….how do I get it out to these people? It was around the same time that I had the idea to put together my first compilation called “Everyone’s A Critic”. I had just been laid off and I didn’t have enough money (or patience) to burn 200 Cds, so I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea just to throw the tracks up on bandcamp for free. All of the ingredients kind of came together at the right time. I decided that I wanted to organize more compilations and everything just really took off from there.
It was around this time that I partnered up with Jake Kalmink. Jake is the guitarist/singer from The Overheaters and one my best friends. I pitched the idea for starting a label to Jake and he said it seemed like a really good idea! We both run everything together. I’m the only one being interviewed, but Jake is such a crucial part of this as well, I can’t stress this enough. Jake has a great taste in music and is always quick to suggest bands for compilations that I have looked over. He also has a recording studio and we are working on getting Brown Cow in the Studio. We’re going to have them record and we’re going to put it out as one of the label’s first releases.
I have a lot of connections from putting myself out there on dodiy.org and booking a mini-tour for Inflatable Best Friend. I usually do most of the organizing of compilations since I just know more bands. Jake has more of the technical expertise and keeps me organized. We really make a great team. Obvious Records/mail order would not be here without Jake Kalmink.
As a label at the moment we are sticking mainly to .MP3s and handmade CD-Rs of artists that are signed to the label. Obvious Records is looking to eventually put out a 7″ or two, and some legitimate Cds. That’s a little ways down the road though.
As a Mail Order Distributor we are looking to put out Cds, Vinyl, T-shirts, Patches, Books. No tapes though…Those are to hip for us!
What are the goals of Obvious Records? What do you see it becoming in the next year? How about 5 years?
Well that’s a great question. I’m not setting my sights to high, but I wold like the label to distribute as many bands as we possibly can. I was really inspired by No Idea Mail order. The entire idea of having a mail order distribution seemed like the Do-it-Yourself / Punk rock thing to do.
Who are some of the bands you are working with to release records?
Currently outside of Jakes bands (The Overheaters and The Scare Seasons) and my band (Inflatable Best Friend) we have signed our friends Brown Cow. We love those guys and we want to help them out. As I mentioned earlier we are working to get them into Jakes studio so they can work on recording their album. We have been checking out bands that are on the compilations. Right now we have our hearts set on this band from Lowell, MA called “The Sinbusters”. They have this crazy noisy garage rock. I asked them to sign to our label, they’re still mulling it over. We would love to put out some of their albums.
We would definitely be interested in putting out music by The Stockyards from Dekalb, IL, Sonic J from Milwaukee, WI, Tye Dye Massacre from Holland, MI.
What’s your philosophy/mission statement on running Obvious Records?
We don’t want to take anything to seriously as a record label. We also want to help create more of a positive culture in music. If someone sends the label music that I don’t think people will like…I encourage them to just go out and start their own label instead. Who am I to judge weather your music is good or not? I’ve always said…if they don’t like it…FUCK ‘EM!
You started Demo Day. This event, which will be held October 1st, will see the release of (by then) hundreds of demos and other material by a multitude of bands. What led you to come up with the idea?
I work at a restaurant where on tuesday nights I spend at least 3 and a half hours just cutting up chicken wings. The task is so monotonous my mind often wanders from what I’m supposed to be doing. As I was rhythmically cutting up chicken I began to think about the label. I wanted to start thinking as an innovator. What has no one ever done before? What could really make this label take off? I began to think of all of those compilations. I thought of divorce partys demo that they are trying to get out there. It hit me.
As a musician you want other people to hear your demos. As a music lover you want to hear new music. I feel like a lot of music people don’t know where to go hunting for demos. I’m hoping to have them all in one place and let people go crazy and discover lots of new bands that they enjoy.
What do you hope the event will accomplish?
I’m hoping to have a massive impact. I want this to spur interest not only in Obvious Records, but in Independent music in general. So much of it is so great! I want bands that are involved to have a good experience and maybe (just maybe) send obvious mail order some stuff to distribute!
It is my sincerest hope that people who check out these bands start coming out to shows. I want to get people thinking outside of mainstream music, we all need to open up our minds to all of the possibilities.
Why do you think an event like Demo Day is appealing to not only bands, but fans of music (especially local, regional music)?
I think that Demo Day is appealing to bands because it give them an opportunity to get their music out into the general public.
On the other hand….I think that the concept of demo day is appealing to fans in general. Lets take ,for example, Nirvana’s Box set with all of those crazy Demos. Mrs. Butterworth, Even in his youth, Mexican Seafood, Spank Thru (Pre-Bleach Version). I love seeing bands that are just starting out…these demos/early recordings just showcase all of this fresh emotion and something that isn’t super polished. I don’t want to go as far as to say that every demo is spectacular, but I’m sure there will be some diamonds in the rough here. I really hope that curiosity will spur people to come check out this event, they’ll find something they like and they’ll start coming to check these bands out live!
OK, so I had intended to review this a long time ago but I could never fully put into words my thoughts on the album. Now, almost a year since I obtained the album from Johnny Unicorn during this interview, I feel like I can review it now…finally. So here we go.
The opener, Lady Drives, within the first 30 seconds sets you up for what you’re in for with a Johnny Unicorn album. As synths pulsate and the glockenspiel rings, a sudden burst of drums and saxaphone leave their mark. Then it returns to the synth/glockenspiel motif. Throughout the song, swaths of calming spacey noises engulf your ears. But this doesn’t last long. Unicorn sings “lady drives her car into a ditch” as harmonic guitar lines string along, drums kick and Unicorn’s vocals take you on a ride.
“A ride” is a good and simple way of describing a Johnny Unicorn album (it might be an understatement). On Date Movie Fever, he belts out “date movie fever/I’m running in the wrong direction” while guitars rock out then all of a sudden a breakdown with the synth comes into play as Unicorn then utilizes his falsetto vocal range. Many musical movements and ideas are key to understanding Johnny Unicorn as a musician. Growing up on Frank Zappa and, later on, listening to They Might Be Giants, quirkiness is a great quality that Unicorn possesses and it shines on this album.
Science is my favorite track on the album. Drums kickstart the song like a heartbeat as Unicorn sings “We can travel in machines that take us to where we need to be”. As the chorus comes in, Unicorn has autotuned his voice which gives a robotic tinge perfect for the song. It’s geek rock personified. The music seethes with a quirkiness and twitch that fans of They Might Be Giants would love.
A close second for favorite track is 50 Times. The drums have a swing feel to them. They are my favorite part of the song. Their commanding high-hat/snare combo is so infectious. Unicorn sings “the moon is out of orbit” as guitar chords dryly wring themselves out. As the chorus comes in, synths march along and the guitar tremolos a quick line. Quick, dancy and to the point.
If you’re a fan of bands like They Might Be Giants or musicians like Weird Al, you will definitely love Johnny Unicorn.
Dizzy Dearest, a Lansing area indie/psych pop band, have released an EP entitled “All These Flowers”, which you can download for free at this link.
Here’s a review.
Amongst electronic beats and swaths of distortion, blips and blotches of quirky noises and (not to mention) the harmony vocals, Dizzy Dearest (synth player Jarod Emison, vocalist Maggie Emison and guitarist Nick Fox) make something pretty incredible here. On “Vacation (Flowers)”, a slow bassy drum beat pulsates among a sea of vocal harmonies, guitar bits and synth fluctuations. I almost have a hard time following everything going on all at once, which actually suits the band’s name and aesthetic quite well. The music leaves you in a blissfully bizarre state of mind. It’s almost best to concentrate on one piece at a time and come back later, and after multiple listens, everything will come full circle.
A favorite of mine from this offering is “Bell Oak Rd.” I absolutely love the blasts of guitar noise that occupy the breaks in this song. It adds an element of spontaneity to the band’s sound and allows them a bit of musical freedom to let loose from the confines of a beat (if only for about 16 bars). Maggie Emison’s harmonies through the noise add a beauty unheard as of yet on this offering. Her (as well as Jarod Emison’s) abilities to harmonize with pure noise is a great way to latch onto what little pop sensibilities that noise provide on its own. By adding that little bit of harmony, it makes it listenable and not overbearing.
The electronic beats found on this EP are creative and work well with the rest of the music. In an almost hip-hop fashion, the beats are just another part of the sonic collage that they’re creating (a la New Jersey experimental hip hop group Dalek). This is evident on “Light Pollution”. As a guitar strums along calm chords, the off-time beat is high on the snare adding a well-deserved punch.
“Capture Me” defines the band’s sound as they are looking to show it to the world. Full of almost 8-bit sonic entanglements in the intro and as guitars-like-clockwork stream along, Maggie Emison sings her way through the sonic jungle (although there’s too much reverb on them for me to intelligibly understand the lyrics). She sings “So capture me/behind the lens of a camera/I wanna see every little thing”. In the way that cameras capture a moment in time, Dizzy Dearest capture a lot of their emotions via sonic collages of noise, beats and harmonies on this EP.
Check this out. It’s worth it.
Lansing’s favorite bunch of hoodlums with hearts of gold, The Plurals, have released a new album entitled “The Plurals today, The Plurals tomorrow: A Futrospective”. Here’s a review.
I have a few contrasting opinions on this record. On one hand, the poppy and noisy blend the band is known for is in full force here. To some, it may be more of the same from the band and to others it may be a breath of fresh air in the midwest alternative/punk scene. I find myself struggling with what side of the fence I’m on. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
“La la la” is a great opener. As drummer/vocalist Hattie Danby starts off with a roll across the drum kit, the song kicks into full gear. The guitars slice through the song like a laser beam. Vocalist/guitarist Tommy McCord croons out the chorus of “la la la, let it out” with a sense of relief, which would fit the lyric perfectly. Vocalist/bassist Nicholas Richard pulsates the bass lines just enough to get you to notice them. Everything about the song makes you want to keep listening to the rest of the album.
“Life’s a Mess”, fronted by Richard, who grunts out “you only wanna talk about problems” as the guitars chop along with quick power chords. I really love the chorus here. Richard sings “the questions I’m asking myself when no one’s around/how much do you think is true?” as Danby and McCord supply the backing vocal. Really great contrast with the sharp instrumentation and soft vocals.
Probably one of my favorite songs from this album is “Crush”. Sung by McCord, I love the (again) contrast in heavy, noisy guitars and great vocal melodies. “You make my crush/I blush/but blame it on the sun” sings McCord. You can’t help but sing along. The drums keep the tempo and the bass is doing its job here. The “do-do-do-do” vocables by McCord add to the pop factor. This is just a great alt-pop song.
“Alma Mater” is the album’s quick, noisy cacophony. “Just enough is all you are” is the vocal here. It takes on about 5 different personas, from the early melodic take by McCord to the screaming of Richard and the crooning of Danby. I love that the band is able to morph their vocal takes via each member’s take within a given song. It adds to the spontaneity of the band’s songs and overall creativity.
Just as the vocal is the star here, the guitars are the star on “Run”. The opening features the Plurals trademark run-up-the-guitar noise and screeching. The main guitar line reminds me of Sebadoh’s “Ride the Darker Wave” from Sebadoh 3. A great lick. As Danby takes over vocals about half way through the song, she is supported by guitar feedback. Other times, power chords. Shows the cohesiveness of the band as a unit.
I think I found the answer to my conundrum at the beginning of the review. There seems to be the complete balance of noise and pop the band has been looking for. Their formula works wonders here, so I say, keep sticking to it. At the first couple listens, I was feeling jaded because I had heard this sound over and over again from the band. But I realize that this is what they do best. Politicians are good at selling their ideas to people. Baseball players are good at swinging bats and hitting balls. The Plurals are good at punk rock.
I’m not really sure if I can honestly say that I’ve heard a take on Americana so different than what I hear on “May You Never”. I love the musical territory covered here. “Exercises in Self-Loathing” is the standout track on this record. The whole song has the feel of a hoedown breakdown where the energy is in full swing but in this case, the energy is in full swing throughout the entire song. Vocalist and guitarist Gabe Liebowitz reminds me of Josh Caterer of fellow Chicagoans, The Smoking Popes. The song just has that powerpop kick to it. The stand-up bass is thumping and the drums make you move. The backing vocals courtesy of Sarah Morgan are a nice, soothing touch. The spacey, canned electric guitar solo during the breakdown is something that I didn’t expect but (along with the banjo coming from the right channel) makes it all the more interesting.
Things take a turn for the bizarre on “Creepy”. These lyrics like “I’m Creepy/I’m in the doorway/I listen closely to every sentence/And they don’t know that I’m even alive” is just as the title of the song suggests: creepy. Along with the slowly strummed banjo, acoustic guitar and the tremolo, noisy electric guitar this song makes me very uncomfortable. I’m sure that was the band’s goal; you don’t name a song “Creepy” without trying to make the listener feel, well, creeped out. The chorus of vocables in the middle is a nice, yet ironic touch to the song. It tries to make you relate to the musical landscape with a soothing breakdown, but it just makes everything else all the more disturbing.
“Crystalized” has the same driving feel as “Exercise..” with the pumping kick drum (a la Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons). I found a particular moment at 1:34 in the song to be very jarring and misplaced. As vocals by Sarah Morgan soar anthemically, the drums kick in and Liebowitz’s vocals pop up. It just was a little out of place. Not a bad song, just a little jarring in the arrangement.
If you’re a fan of the new wave of indie folk like Mumford and Sons or Frontier Ruckus, you will love this band. If you’re discovering this band for the first time, I recommend only checking out a few of their songs in particular “Exercise in Self-Loathing” and “Villian”. Check these guys out on Saturday at Scene Metrospace.
After a three month hiatus, Ryan Horky is back with another Rant. This time it’s Small Brown Bike‘s newest album (after a lengthy hiatus) in Fell and Found. Catch Small Brown Bike with The Casket Lottery and Lansing’s Cheap Girls at The Subterranean (buy tixs here) in Chicago, IL this Saturday.
Small Brown Bike
Fell and Found
Some of the absolute best shows I’ve ever seen have been Small Brown Bike shows. I’ve probably seen them more times than any other band living or dead, more due to geography (I live where they live) than raging fandom. (Although I do own all of their releases and have piles of demos, and if that ain’t raging fandom, what is?) So it with a heaping hunk of trepidation that I approach this new LP. After years of disappointment, Ive come to embrace the maxim that REUNION RECORDS SUCK. Sure, there are always exceptions. In the end though, most bands should probably stay broken up. After seeing the too slow, no-energy show that SBB played at Mac’s Bar last winter I figured they might be edging into this category as well. It’s always a bummer when a once-great band makes the slow slide into mediocrity and/or general suckiness. The two 7”s they released prior to Fell and Found didn’t do much for me either. (They weren’t bad, necessarily, but not the high quality I’ve come to expect from the Bike.) But hold on a minute—this record ain’t so bad! Folks that hated The River Bed or expected a return to Our Own Wars/Dead Reckoning aren’t going to dig it, but those of us who enjoyed seeing the band progress and change will find a lot to enjoy on Fell and Found. The sounds on the record are a little like the band themselves these days—a little more relaxed, not as much tension, but still pretty solid and enjoyable. If you’re a fan of the Bike you should pick it up. I probably won’t reach for Fell and Found in the future when I need an SBB fix, but it’s a generally enjoyable record with some decent tunes. I know this seems like I’m damning it with faint praise, but I really expected to hate this. Remember-reunion records suck. In my book, being just generally solid is a victory here.
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