Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Iowa City (Or, "Thunderstorms and Grain Belt are Chasing Me.")

Today I have a day off in Iowa City.

Last night we performed at this interesting little place called PS1 (not to be confused with PS1 in Long Island City). PS1 (Iowa) is a small public art space in the basement of the Jefferson Building, which is on the edge of Iowa City's UI Campus.

It is small, intimate and decorated with Christmas tree lights and an intensely neon mural on the far side of the room. It is filled with folding chairs and a few sofas and benches. The space isn't designed for music, the PA is small and the room is HOT. But they do what they can to make the artist comfortable and also use it to host fiction and non-fiction readings, art openings and other events of cultural import in Iowa City.

I would recommend it for artists who don't have a big rep and are low on the gear requirements. Two of the opening artists played without using the PA and the sound carried fairly well. If you've got a big voice, you can totally take this room on sans amplification.

The downtown of the city is dominated by a large pedestrian mall that has a crapload of bars lining it. Most of them are college-y, frat-type places that have cheap drink specials and horrible music playing (think John Cougar Mellencamp being enjoyed non-ironically).

All bars weren't lame though - we did stop by this one bar just off that main drag called The Picador, which was pretty rad. They had two dollar well drinks and both of my travel companions (RC and Greer) got pretty wasted. Me too. They also had a bottled beer for $1.50 that was called "Grain Belt". Not my favorite, kinda fruity aftertaste, but you could do way worse for that price.

The back of the bar is dominated by a medium sized beer garden, and our bartender, Colin (who has a band called Super Sonic Piss) was kind enough to lay off the hip-hop for ahile and play us a bunch of Mike Judge animated shorts that were freaking rad.

We are staying with a friend here, his name is Caleb Engstrom and he has a pretty impressive collection of visual as well as audio work that he has executed. Check him out on the myspace. He is also one of the kindest and best band hosts in the world. This morning I got coffee, cantaloupe, banana, clean towel and shower. So I am off to an awesome start.

Last night we got rained on hard and there was a giant thunderstorm. Pretty awesome mid-west type weather, but it was scary in light of the recent flooding and the giant piles of sandbags still floating around the town.

Since I have the day off today, and the weather looks like it is clearing up, I am going to try to find this mysterious "co-op" where people get really delicious looking sandwiches. If you have any suggestions on what-to-do or where-to-go in Iowa City, give me a heads up!

LINK : www.grainbelt.com
LINK : The Picador
LINK : PS! Iowa City
DOWNLOAD : Caleb Engstrom - The Happiest

» Read more on Iowa City (Or, "Thunderstorms and Grain Belt are Chasing Me.")

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kansas City (Or, "Fourth of July!")

Spent fourth of July in Kansas City, which was a blast. We played at this little gallery in what i presume is the "arts district" of the town as there was nothing but galleries and loft buildings around. The people were really friendly and they drank A LOT. Lots of hard partying. It really reminded me of the old days at H Street Studios in Fresno and a little bit of Williamsburg.

I guess there is a little bit of that everywhere. Art. Music. Beer.

If you're a small band coming through that part of the world (i.e. the midwest), I would highly recommend you try and hook up a gig there. I've played once before in KC at the Record Bar, which was alos a nice place, but I really prefer the laid back and ghetto environs. It is called the Skinless Gallery. The name was a bit of a turn-off for me, but the level of hospitality and the sheer number of friendly and interesting faces totally made up for the name's lack of appeal.

In Minneapolis now. Recorded this before we left.

Lyrics after the jump.

Last Year (mp3)


the road is clear and wide
the future looks bright
the sky looks like it could swallow us whole
we're on a roll

go directly to go
collect 200 dollars
it is california, dude, bro, we can just chill out
somewhere we'll find a couch
figure everything out.

hold your breath through the tunnel
clap your hands
make it all disappear
that was last year and this is another.

» Read more on Kansas City (Or, "Fourth of July!")

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Live From The Hi-Dive (Or, "No Teeth and No Hair.")

The band I am playing with this summer, the fantastic El Olio Wolof, had a show at the Hi-Dive in Denver last night (if you are in Denver tonight, go check out my pal, Nik Freitas's show at the Hi-Dive!). Overall the turnout was way disappointing, but the hospitality was really great and the staff were friendly and all that. Thanks Jenny and company. And we got a green room, which is a rare treat so far on this tour.

So I took the opportunity to write and record a little song. You can hear the openers in the background -- the Roger Green Band -- and i clipped a couple of times.

No time for "do-overs" right now.

DOWNLOAD : Put Me Down (mp3)

Lyrics after the jump.


If the future was tied up with ribbons and bows,
sky high hotel rooms and sold out shows
i don't know if i'd try quite as hard
as i do
to prove myself to you

not that i've never dreamt of success
one million sales or one million hits
but mostly i've dreamed of being the best
and a skyline with no regrets

if you're climbing a mountain
don't look down
hit a wall
don't give up no ground
can't find the party
can't find the door
just find the best spot
to sleep on the floor

and if you've got no legs
your arms will get strong
never leave love
you can't come to know harm
no teeth and no hair
no cross left to bear
just a chip on the shoulder
where you touched me there

put me down.

» Read more on Live From The Hi-Dive (Or, "No Teeth and No Hair.")

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Song #1 (Or, "Personism and Free Dinner, Drinks and Tips")

As life would have it, I am on the road, Highway 99 to be exact, in a van, an '86 (i think) starcraft. The interior is red, and relatively comfortable. I drafted the back seat, which is a long bench that lies half covered in gear and sleeping bags, but still leaving me plenty of room to kick my sneakers towards a window and lay down and stare at the wood paneled ceiling. And read.

I was just reading a Frank O'Hara biography that was given to me years ago by an ex-girlfriend. I only recently rediscovered this book.

A little academic (both the girl and the book), but the book is really fun when it comes to the parts that Frank wrote.

If you don't know Frank O'Hara, you gotta go read the guy. A true weirdo. One of the best. A poet.

Okay. Point II : I recently figured out that I can record directly into my laptop using the internal mic and a program called Audacity. Which is way super ghetto. My audiophile friends (let's call them Matt and Aaron) would for sure eschew such amatuerism, but being I have no choice, I am going to embrace it.

I have been writing songs, and in the spirit of my reading for the trip, and in tribute to Frank's totally rad movement (Personism! (The exclamtion point is mine)) I am going to dash off as many songs as I can while I careen around the country.

I wrote this one a couple weeks ago and just recorded in Joey's garage in Merced today.

DOWNLOAD : Free Dinner, Drinks, Tips

Lyrics and more after the jump.

You woke up in your old bedroom.
Woke up in your old bed.
Same glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling.
Same pillows under your head.

Same clothes you left hanging in your closet,
but they don't fit you no more.
Same notes you left in your top dresser drawer,
same view out the window,
same catch on the door.

Maybe there's no place like Booklyn.
No place like Queens.
No place left to go home to. No place left to fit me.

But I remember a day on the river.
I remember a day in the park.
I remember a restaurant with horrible service
where I would go to watch you play guitar
over the din and the clatter
and table-clothes spattered with cheap red wine from the bar.

The calamari was so-so
but time could move slo-mo
when you struck a note and it shimmered like a star.

It was a pretty good gig, I guess.
Free dinner and drinks and tips.

Sometimes I wanna go back,
look around for the address.
SOmetimes I wish time would move backwards.

Wish I knew which magic words would work best.

I woke up from a dream.

I saw your face in a dream.
A light turned on.
A door slammed shut.
I fell several stories.
Then woke up.

It was a dream.

My goal is to give you the real shit as I shit it. Take it or leave it. Right?

Write now, and when I write songs in general, I feel like it is my job to navigate the tight-wire, take up the ball, and just work my ass off to arrive on the other side.

Some people say you shouldn't show anything until your finished with it.

Now that I have crossed the river, i mean i think i got the song, and i am no longer on "this" side of the song and I am now on the "canvas" so to speak, I feel like the remaining work is more like that of a painter.

Colors and such. Well. Here it is in glaring black and white.

Hey Aaron! Hey Matt! When I come home let's color.

» Read more on Song #1 (Or, "Personism and Free Dinner, Drinks and Tips")

Monday, June 23, 2008

On the Road Again (or, "I woke up this morning and put on Earlimart’s new disc, Hymn and Her.")

I think I started getting goose bumps near 3 minute mark on track two, Face Down In The Right Town, the part where they start singing “We’ll get back home.” And a little guitar starts comping in time with the snare and it gets all kind of 70’s sounding with the horns and the back-up vocals and then devolves into this kind of breathy throat singing thing. At that point I had definitely shifted my AM gears and came out of the bathroom and stood in front of the stereo speakers in my underwear, with a toothbrush in my mouth. A little dumbfounded.

When track 5 started, God Loves You The Best, and this swelling organ sound and giant drum sound came panning across my living room, I started pacing. Like just in little circles around the coffee table. I didn’t really know how else to relax. I especially loved the tag to the chorus, where they sing “God loves you the best … don’t he.” The “don’t he” bit blew my mind a little. Earlimart had created this great poetic song with really concrete lyrics and imagery and this epic feel, and then Aaron dropped in a little fucked up grammar and it kinda brought me back to reality, for a moment. Just jagged enough to make the experience even real-er.

By the time I got to track 6, Great Heron’s Gates, I broke my “no smoking in the morning” rule (as well as my “no smoking inside” rule) and when you get to track 6 on this record I highly recommend you do the same. Just relax. This song is one of the prettiest songs I have EVER heard and the barest I have heard Earlimart sound. Heartbreaking.

Every part of this song is delicious and perfectly off-balance.

Some would say it sounds like Sparklehorse.

But I would say this tune sounds like something an advanced race of aliens would broadcast thousands of light-years, across the stars, and directly into my stereo to communicate something absolutely important about the human condition that I NEEDED to know. Some kind of urgent warning. “Good on an other-worldly level”, is how I would describe it. To be fair, that is also how I describe Sparklehorse sometimes as well. But only when they are really, really good.

Let me say this : I think Great Heron’s Gates is one of the best fucking songs I have ever heard.

So that is how I fell in love a record this morning. More thoughts after the jump.

Then I kinda took a step back (I’ve spent all day with this record) and tried to analyze it a little more analytically. And one of the most critical parts of the way this record holds together is that it feels really “fresh” (for lack of a better term, ahem, it is hard to wax poetic AND be analytical). The production is keen, but not belabored, not over done. I am pretty sure I have heard every Earlimart record several times, from the really early, raucous, raw, Kingdom of Champions, sort of stuff all the way to the Treble and Tremble era piano-precision pieces.

This record isn’t either of those. It has a certain effortless grace. There aren’t a lot of fingerprints on it – mostly good performances and good songs. Which would seem like such a simple thing to do, right? But as a matter of personal experience have found is incredibly hard to actually accomplish. Keeping it simple isn’t always simple.

So it was a fucking pleasure this morning to put on this record and find this eery equilibrium in every aspect of Hymn and Her’s geometry: the artwork, the lyrics, the songs. It just made me realize that after all the transformations and hard work Earlimart have put into the music, they’re hitting a really good and “graceful” stride. I have always seen them as the "Carter Family" of LA indie rock, because they are an inspiring creative group that touches all the other LA indie acts, but now I feel like I would add the “Jedi Knights of LA indie rock” to their resume as well. If that makes any sense.

The record feels oddly perfect, classy pianos and strings, distortion, George Harrison type guitar solos, angelic choirs – just great ingredients to have in a record. I have listened to this record all morning, and I can’t help but feel that these sounds were not an accident. Earlimart had a game plan and they went out and accomplished it.

But they didn’t over think it, I imagine they just pointed into left field said “that’s where this one is going, “and then took a real big swing – and hit the sweet spot. Which just blows my mind, ‘cause I could NEVER do that. Or rather, have never been able to do that.

The final thing about this record that I love is the level of excitement that Aaron has about it. Usually when I am done recording something, I hate it. No matter how much I loved the song when I started. And I get all insecure and second guess-y and worried about whether it is any good or not.

And that makes it really hard for me to get earnestly excited about something I’ve done that is “coming out”. And I think that Aaron and Ariana have gone through some of that insecurity with previous releases.

But to listen to something like this, and later talking to them and seeing the level of excitement in the band about these songs, and having done all this other stuff and tons of tours and records and STILL being excited, well, hell, it is incredibly impressive and it makes me incredibly proud and truly happy.

It makes me want to play music.

Gotta go.

DOWNLOAD : For The Birds
LINK : Earlimart Myspace

» Read more on On the Road Again (or, "I woke up this morning and put on Earlimart’s new disc, Hymn and Her.")

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Interview : Jim Fairchild (Or, "Sorry I'm late.")

This interview was supposed to be posted on Friday, and look, here it is, Sunday already. Time flies.

I am going to write a brief introduction for this week's guest, Jim Fairchild. Jim is the mastermind behind the band All Smiles. Before that he performed with a number of other groups including the late, great Grandaddy and (if I'm not mistaken)the currently great Earlimart.

I've only met the guy once, but he has always been really polite and kind and nice and he is damn handsome. So watch out (Sorry for the lame intro but it is midnight in Albuquerque and time for bed a Tecate and then bed). Read the rad interview after the jump.

Hot Mess Magic: As many folks probably know, you used to be in a band called Grandaddy. Which was a big deal to me and a lot of other people and probably an even bigger deal to you guys, the guys in the band. When that chapter of your music ended, what made you want to get up and start your own thing? Do you ever feel like you're doing things over?

Jim Fairchild :
Thanks for letting us be a big deal in your life. We were a very good band. Then we weren't. The lines between starting my own thing and Grandaddy ending are very blurry. I had always made up songs, always felt the smolder and had taken it seriously. But I had never taken the time to turn a very insecure voice in to one I was comfortable with. Grandaddy's illness and subsequent death let me know that it was time to really prove to myself that I could finish something without help or the calm comfort of others.

And I am doing it over.

H.M.M. : You recently relocated to Chicago, right? Do you have any tips on how to deal with the cold? What is the one food item you would recommend everyone should try Chicago-style?

J. F. : The way I deal with the cold is to go to the West Coast; between family stuff, recording, and Santa's holidays, I've spent about three weeks in Chicago since the beginning of December. Elsewise, I variously:

stay inside, wear too many clothes on Michelin man bike rides, and make sure that my library card has enough non-overdue space for books and movies.

But I guess the answer to this question lies in the fact that we sold our house and are moving back to Portland in three weeks.

The food in this town can be crazy good. Chicago exclusive hits would be Hot Doug's on California. They are the encased meat emporium, but their veggie dogs are insane as well. Very careful applications of home made condiments to accompany the constantly shifting and invariably intriguing selection of what I think are also home made sausages. Find them here: http://www.hotdougs.com/

Also Lula on Kedzie is one of my favorite restaurants in America. Or anywhere. A seasonal menu that changes constantly. Thoughtful and you can eat cheap or spendy and keep it clean either way. They are an egalitarian establishment.

H.M.M. : I heard you recorded 10 readings of a warning on an old 8 track machine. When and where did you figure out how to record yourself? Are there any disadvantages to doing that sort of thing yourself?

J. F. :
Yeah, it was recorded on a 1/2" 8 track machine, sometimes in Portland and other times in Los Angeles. I have been recording stuff on my own for years and definitely tried to pay attention while I was helping Jason on those first couple of Grandaddy records. Also Aaron Espinoza taught me a lotta shit.

I sometimes think recording alone is a pox on my existence, and sometimes find myself the happiest person in the world when I'm doing it.

H.M.M. : In your opinion, what is the most important part of the recording process?

J. F. :
Discipline. And the knowledge that your plan is about to change.

H.M.M. : For awhile it seemed like you had two "All Smiles" bands, one group of guys playing with you in Modesto and one group of guys in Chicago. Did they get jealous of each other? What are the important ingredients, or the elements that make a band "tight"? Who do you think is the tightest band you've ever seen live?

J. F. :
I'm certain there was no jealousy. Everybody that has played in All Smiles I think I'm very friendly with. The band recording this new All Smiles album is pretty dope: Joe Plummer, Solon Bixler and Nik Freitas. Good delegation and inspiration are the most important components to people playing together. My favorite live band was probably Vio-Lence some time around 1989.

H.M.M. :If you were in the New York Philharmonic, or let's say the Chicago Philharmonic (if they have one), what instrument would you want to play and why?
J.F.. :Bassoon. I think otters would like me playing it next to their coastal Oregon coves.

LINK : All Smiles Myspace
LINK : Dangerbird Records

» Read more on Friday Interview : Jim Fairchild (Or, "Sorry I'm late.")

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hot Mess Magic Showcase (Or, "Why the Monolators rule.")

I have written about the Monolators before. I wrote a short live review for Duke’s blog about the time I saw Eli Chartkoff do a back flip off a kick drum, tumble down a half-stack and play a guitar solo while practically standing on his head. That was at the Que Sera in Long Beach. Ashley Jex was playing bass, Mary Chartkoff was on drums and Tom Bogdon was hauling ass on guitar.

Surprisingly, despite the amount I had to drink, it has all remained pretty clear in my head.

I also remember the first time I saw them play in Fresno. At Tokyo Garden. They killed me with their tune, You Look Good On The Train. There is something so innocent and energetic and maybe a little spastic about the way they play, the way they write songs, and the way Eli’s thin frame shakes to the music. That night they got a nice size crowd of Fresno-folks up and moving around, drinks in hand, and afterwards everyone was out of breath and sweaty and the dance floor was covered in beer, gin and vodka.

I also learned that people with whiskey don’t dance often.

Well, I am pleased to announce that these kids will be returning to Fresno to perform at Club Fred on March 30th at our “semi-monthly” (whenever we feel like it) HOT MESS MAGIC showcase. Sweet.

Originally the Hot Mess Magic showcase started off as a show to display the talents of friends that I share a studio with in Fresno, and we used the proceeds to offset the rent we paid on the place. Then I slowly started to realize that most of the time, it was just me and James Brittain-Gore performing and organizing and promoting the thing … so this time we’ve decided to revamp the idea and have some out-of-towners and some great non-studio-sharing locals on the bill as well. And make it more of a fun night and rely less on OUR talent and more on others’ talent.

Needless to say, there will still be tons of talent on display.

So mark this stuff down in your calendar : Hot Mess Magic, Club Fred, March 30th, with The Monolators, Rademacher, and Brian Fucking Kenney Fresno. Starts at 9pm.

Most importantly, remember the Monolators. This is one of my favorite LA groups and I am really happy that they are able to come up on that date. They have some great records and some great vinyl on sale at their site and on the myspace. Check it out.

DOWNLOAD : We Fell Dead (mp3)
DOWNLOAD : TOp of the Stairs
LINK : The Monolators Myspace

» Read more on Hot Mess Magic Showcase (Or, "Why the Monolators rule.")

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

FYI : A Long Story About Losing Things (Or, "Remember to Niilo-check")

Sorry I missed a post yesterday. It was quite a retarded day for me.

See, last week I played a club in Los Angeles, and it was a fine show. We were playing one of those late-night midnight slots at a club. And traditionally when we finish a set and we’re the last band of the evening, we don’t strike our gear from the stage right away, we head directly to the merch booth (or maybe outside for a cigarette first) and try and unload as much stuff as we can and shake hands with as many folks as possible.

So the order of events looks something like this :

1. Sell Stuff
2. Load Out
3. Double check to make sure you didn’t forget anything
4. “Niilo-Check” to make sure you didn’t forget anything

The Niilo-Check is named after our old bass player Niilo who mistakenly forgot his bass at a house party, even after we requested that each member of the band do a double-double check. Luckily, he got his bass back the next day in Fresno, as one of the bands we were playing with at the party in Oakland played with us the next day in Fresno.

But we learned that you should always “Niilo-Check” after a gig. If you don’t, you might as well write “hubris” on your head in sharpie marker.

That night in LA, we had just finished loading out, Step 3, and I was starting to do a mental Niilo-Check and then I realized that I had left my ID and Credit Card at the bar, because I had started a tab. I went back inside. Most of the staff was mopping floors and wheeling around big trash cans on wheels -- one of the bouncers saw me and told me that they had locked all the IDs in a safe and that I would have to come back the next day during the day, as only the Day Manager had the key.

I was pissed.

I was pissed, but I realized that no one could really do anything about my problem. So I went home and I emailed the Day Manager the next day and got this reply:

Yes, your ID and CC are safe here at the xxx.
Feel free to call me or email me whenever you would like to pick them up. “

Which was great. I had wanted to see a friend play in LA the following weekend anyway. I emailed the Day Manager back and told him I would be there on Friday at 9pm and that was that. I thought.

The rest of the week comes and goes, meanwhile I can't use the ATM or charge stuff on my card or drive, and then on Friday, I went back to the club and requested my ID and stuff. No one there had the foggiest clue what I was talking about. What ID? What Card? The giant door guys and skinny teenage ticket takers were all defiant and standoff-ish and recommended I come back in the afternoon on Saturday.

Instead, I spent three hours in the club, tracked down the Night Manager, and reminded said manager about the email I sent to the Day Manager and a little lightbulb went off. I could tell. this person was gonna help me. I was told to wait 10 minutes by the bar and that the Night Manager would be back with my ID. I was stoked at this point.

30 minutes later the Night Manager returned and told me that the staff couldn’t locate it and they recommended I come back in the day and talk with the Day Manager. "The Day Manager was the guy who originally emailed me and told me that he had my card and ID," I explained.

At this point I was pretty pissed and I spent another night in LA, next morning I call the Day Manager, and after a few searches and a few minutes on hold, he told me that he was really sorry, but that he couldn’t find my stuff either.

Later, yesterday, I found out that on that Saturday $350 of expenses were charged to my card at a WalMart in Palmdale before the Visa folks shut down the card.

So, card canceled and with no ID, I spent all weekend in LA stressing out. Then all day yesterday in the DMV and at my bank, waiting in line, disputing charges and filling out paperwork. Then I went to work and band practice. So I didn’t blog. Shoot me.

I guess I am thankful this happened now and I’ll get to “learn” from it, and I was also in my home state, so I could go to the DMV ,go to my local bank and get it all taken car of before I hit the road next week. It would have really sucked if this happened in like, North Carolina.

And I don’t think that all the staff in the aforementioned un-named LA nightclub are vindictive, evil thieves, but regardless, people make mistakes and there are vindictive, evil thieves who WILL take advantage of you and STEAL from you. Which someone did along the line somewhere. Which sometimes seems like such a foreign concept to me. I don’t always make good decisions, but I don’t think I’ve STOLE from someone (except candy once when I was 10. and I got caught and cried like a bitch when they told me they were gonna take me to juvie for stealing a snickers).

Oddly enough, the only two times I’ve had anything ripped off like that have happened while I was playing shows. Once in Fresno where someone swiped my favorite Korg Electribe Synth / Sampler ( I miss you baby! ) and the other this last weekend when my ID somehow walked out of the bar. So that’s a bummer.

The point of the story : always Niilo-Check and never leave your card or ID at the bar. If you lose it, you will be so fucked.

» Read more on FYI : A Long Story About Losing Things (Or, "Remember to Niilo-check")

Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Interview : Ted Stevens (Or, "God, Cursive is cool.")

Hungover. Last night I attended the Cursive show in Visalia, California. It was, needless to say, awesome. The last few years, I have gone back in forth in terms of how “in love” with the band I am, but seeing them last night in a tiny pizza parlor with an awesome crowd (chanting the lyrics to every song) was an experience that was almost on a spiritual level. Needless to say, I am currently in the I-fucking-love-Cursive phase again.

It is great to hear a band play in the absolutely perfect setting for their music.

During their set, I was standing next to my friend Shawn Covert, who is in a Fresno band called Primer Skyline, and he also happened to be the first person who ever played me a Cursive song. I still remember driving around in his car 8 years ago and him asking me to take a listen to The Radiator Hums. I heard that song for the first time and I was like, “What the fuck is this?” It was so heavy and so real and so well put together. It is a flawless song. And while I was standing next to Shawn in Visalia, listening to this awesome Cursive show, my thoughts drifted through all the little stories and life moments of mine that are attached to Cursive's songs and their music.

It really meant a lot to me to be in that room last night.

Before the show started, I was lucky enough to correspond with Ted Stevens via email. I had interviewed him once before for Fresno Famous, and – well – that first time I did a horrible job. I have some excuses : was really close to deadline and only had 15 minutes to talk. Granted, I had done a number of “good” 15 minute interviews in the past, but that Fresno Famous interview was not one of them.

The new, awesome interview with Ted is after the jump is wayyyyyyyy better. We talk about hangovers, “success” and his new project Shytbyrds. Seriously. Read on.

Hot Mess Magic : When did you realize that music wasn't just like a phase you were going through in your life? Or do you feel like it is phase of your life that you'll graduate from at some point?

Ted Stevens : I realized that music wasn't just a phase in my life around my mid twenties. Looking back I can remember causing my family a lot of pain and worry because I wouldn't stop touring and I would sacrifice just about everything to keep playing music on the road. I was aware that family members esp. were concerned, but I couldn't offer them any consolation. I just calmly stated that I was going to keep writing and touring and that's that. They still worry that music will leave me wrecked and penniless as a prematurely aged man, but not as much anymore, esp. since we've settled down a bit. There are people in my life who will always make me feel like it is some kind of immature hobby, and not a suitable "direction" for me. B.O.O. H.O.O.

H.M.M. : When you started playing music, what were your initial goals? Did you figure you'd be touring with bands like the Cure and stuff like that? Or were your goals more modest?
T.S. : I started out just thrilled as hell to be traveling and have a label to release records with. I never thought about the goals, I just stayed active. I also played in bands with members who were very organized and serious. They kept me very motivated and on-task, while I provided comic relief and companionship. I never in a million years thought we would ever tour (even in a Curiosa two stage mini festival kind of setting) with the Cure.

H.M.M. : What do you think it takes to achieve success as a musician? And I guess a bigger question would be, what is success for a musician?
T.S. : Success should be something beyond monetary rewards or units sold. I think it should mean that one's music is developing into something special and going somewhere in sense of composition and style. I feel the most satisfaction knowing that I get better at what I do each album, and that I have been quite open to the process of learning what I don't yet understand. Always.

H.M.M. : Last time we talked you were finishing up Bushido Karaoke, a record by your other band, Mayday. Are you working on any other projects of your own now? How is running your own band different than playing in Cursive or contributing to records by your other Omaha brethren?
T.S. : I'm working on a duet with a gentleman named Alex McManus who makes beautiful albums under his moniker, The Bruces. It will be a shorter album then most and feature nice sounding, creatively mixed, home recordings. We've called the project the Shytbyrds until now, but I want to drop that name for something conventional like our two real names with an "&" sign between them.

Running a band has always been hard for me, and Mayday suffered the most for it. I'd like to find a manager for future efforts and organizing my back catalogs.

H.M.M. : What do you think the best cure for a hangover is?
T.S. : That depends. The Mayo clinic recommends drinking less. Smartasses! The best I can come up with is drinking several glasses of water before you go to bed drunk. Alternating glasses of water between drinks throughout an evening will have tremendous results. But if you are just unable to drink water the night before a potential hangover, then . . .

Sleep it off. stay in bed until you feel better.
Vomit. Desperate times require extreme solutions.
Some friends believe greasy fast food, I say mineral water and a cup of tea.

or start drinking again.

DOWNLOAD : Mayday - Dave D. Blues (How to Make it Sting Like a Career) (mp3)
LINK : Mayday Myspace
DOWNLOAD : Cursive - The Martyr
LINK : Cursive Army

Ted's band Cursive is performing at Noisepop tonight in San Francisco.

» Read more on Friday Interview : Ted Stevens (Or, "God, Cursive is cool.")

Thursday, February 28, 2008

California : Places To Be (Or, "Big time rollers, part-time models")

I know I promised that I'd have that Tim Kasher footage up for today, but I lagged. Apparently, ripping and editing DVDs takes a lot longer than I estimated. It will be coming up soon though.

I thought I would post about several events that are taking place in California this weekend. Due to the fact that Noisepop, San Francisco's own little indie music fest, is taking place this weekend, the entire state has been inundated with grade A touring acts like Cursive, British Sea Power and Throw Me the Statue (a new fave of mine).

The benefits of an event like Noisepop seem to be marginal for the bands that participate -- and the why, what, how of who gets into the festival -- has always felt to me like a complicated hipster who-knows-who buddy system. And the required fees for sonicbid submission to these sort of festivals (CMJ, SXSW, Noisepop) have always seemed kinda sketchy

The benefits for the rest of us kids not on the roster of acts for Noisepop are pretty huge. There are a ton of bands in state and not enough places for them all to play. Blitzen Trapper and Tilly and the Wall are both playing LA tomorrow. Tonight British Sea Power is at Spaceland (after playing the Echo on Tuesday). Meanwhile, in San Francisco you could have your choice between the Walkmen at The Independent or Quasi at the Rickshaw Stop.

Following are my picks for what I would be doing if I could be in three places at once tonight. San Francisco, Fresno and Los Angeles.

Los Angeles

Like I mentioned, you've got options galore tonight, what with British Sea Power basically taking up residency for the last couple days along with What Made Milwaukee Famous. If those two bands moved in together, wow, what a reality show that would be. Crazy Brits meet soulful Austinites in lavish 6 bedroom mansion in the Hills... like Laverne & Shirley meets the Young Ones. That would be rad.

For my money, tonight, I would veer away from those big fancy shows and head to The Echo to see the Mezzanine Owls. Obviously I adore this band, but more than that, I like the venue and I like the whole line-up. Both as musicians and people. If you go, I think you'll be hard pressed not to have a truly great time.

San Francisco

You gotta go see Quasi!!! Do it for me! I love them and I have never gotten the chance to see them do the live thing! The Walkmen show at The Independent is already sold out anyway! Plus, the Rickshaw Stop is the best venue in San Francisco. It is All Ages, the staff is friendly, and they regularly stick their necks out to support experimental and independent artists. This place is a real labor of love and Quasi is the perfect lo-fi, dynamic, and incredibly interesting band to play the room. This is my second favorite place to see shows after Tonic in NYC. Very fun. Very open minded. very important.

Central Valley

Folks in the middle know exactly where they should be. Visalia. Tonight Cursive will be playing in a pizza parlor to 200 lucky kids. If you have a ticket, you're in good shape. If you don't, well, that really sucks. there will be a limited number of tickets available at the door, better get in line now.

» Read more on California : Places To Be (Or, "Big time rollers, part-time models")

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Read / Write (Or, “Why books make better music .”)

Yesterday I received a fantastic package in the mail. The package contained several books that were published by TNI – a now more-or-less defunct publishing house that was based out of Seattle, WA.

There were a lot of books. I started in at lunch with a collection of Ichiro-isms called "Baseball is just Baseball" -Ichiro Suzuki being the superstar Japanese outfielder for the Seattle Mariners. A lot of the humor in the quotes lies in the fact that Ichiro doesn’t speak English and relies on a translator, so a lot of the interpretations of his statements are partly mangled. But there is a real sense of intelligence and warmth and wisdom that comes out of what he says as well. Which is surprising. And since I work in a bilingual environment, I deal with these sorts of things all day. Made me laugh, hard.

The second book I started on was Adam Voith’s Bridges with Spirit. I am on page 54.

While it isn’t fair to review a book I haven’t yet completed, I can’t seem to think about much else since I started it. Voith shows a knack for storytelling and the book flows in a very conversational way. I read the first chapter, a semi-true story about the author’s father's encounter with The Beatles in 1964, out loud last night to a group of friends as we drank wine and dozed off to sleep in my living room. And it felt like there was someone in the room telling a really good story. Which was a perfect fit for the evening.

Having grown up in Fresno, often dubbed the Midwest of the California, I can really relate to the sense of isolation Voith articulates as a middle class artistic, punk-rock-type in a town full of not artistic, not punk-rock-types. I think most of the folks who read this blog probably went, or are going through something like that, and I think we can all agree that it is not the worst sort of isolation one can go through. It could be argued that it actually helps build character. Either way, I do believe that a true sense of camaraderie develops amongst those who have gone through that kind of "ugly duckling" life experience. I feel like we’re in the same club.

Hopefully we're all swans now. Right?

Voith’s accounts of road trips, ex-girlfriends and adventures in record stores all seem eerily parallel to the way I grew up. The little hurdles I had to clear to become “me” are all based around the same basic premises : girls, travel and music.

Since I can’t really “review” the book (though I highly recommend it up to page 54 for sure), I thought I would instead mention a few other music related books that have struck a chord with me in the last couple years. Joe Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned and Donnell Alexander’s Ghetto Celebrity.

Hairstyles of the Damned

I did an interview with Joe Meno for my old website, Fresno Famous, a couple years back. At the time, Meno was a regular contributor (or maybe a staff writer?) for the now defunct Punk Planet, from Chicago and was embarking on a book tour with a bunch of fellow novelists and zinesters. They made a stop at the Barnes and Nobles in Fresno, which is probably the least punk rock spot in the world, but I was impressed by the way he “toured” behind his book. It was all laid out really similar to the way a punk band would tour – he pulled together a bunch of his writer friends, piled them into a van, and then made easy one day drives to every town he could -- and not necessarily shooting for “big” shows in “big” cities. He was pretty much happy to “play” wherever they would let him.

I wish I could remember the names of the guys he was on tour with.

Meno and his friends read several chapters from the books they were working on, the tone ranged from outrageously funny to morbidly depressing, but they were all really, really reading. It was a blast to see 3 older punk guys sitting at a little table in front of the children’s section in a corporate book store reading some pretty heavy stuff out loud to a group of soccer mom’s and less than subversive young adults.

It was totally punk rock.

If you would like to read my interview and review of the book (which is good), you can still read them on Fresno Famous.

LINK : www.joemeno.com

Ghetto Celebrity

Written by Donnell Alexander, Ghetto Celebrity is another novel I reviewed while working on the Famous site. We had been running the site for a couple months and our editor got an email from Alexander that basically stated, “You have to write about my book.” As it turns out Alexander had attended Fresno State and part of the novel was set in our town of Fresno, which is what we were covering, but we had this thought in the back of our heads which was like, “We’re nobody, why should you be so adamant about us covering your book?”

I never figured out exactly what drove him to write us, or to be so persistent about us reading and covering the book, but I admired the tenacity and it was one of those propositions that you can’t refuse. I often wish that more people were like that, where they basically want something so much and feel something is so important that they convince you of the goal’s importance. Does that make sense? I much prefer that type of person, that type of writer, to the sort of person who can go “either way” on a topic. Even if he is not the best writer in the world, I feel like Alexander has something really important to say, and I think part of this impression was created by his sense of his own importance.

This concept carries over into the book as well. Ghetto Celebrity, Alexander’s memoirs, was penned by Alexander at the ripe old age of 33 and details his time as a music writer, sportswriter and a husband and father – in all these endeavors Alexander gives a detailed explanation of the successes, failures, pitfalls and crazy fucked up shit he went through. It is a roller coaster of a ride that has you questioning his sanity as well as his moral conduct.

Despite the fact that both the book and Alexander have some deep flaws, I walked away from both impressed with the fact that they also represent something really beautiful and it was amazing to me that Alexander could pull something beautiful out of the giant, don’t-look-now-sort-of-shitstorm he landed himself in.

It is funny, deep and important.

LINK : www.donnellalexander.com

P.S. Here is a great song by my friends The Henry Clay People that I wanted to share with Voith as a I read his book. I shall dedicate it to all you part-time suckers who struggle everyday to pluck the beauty of the shitstorm of life. That’s a mouthful.

DOWNLOAD : Henry Clay People - Working Part-Time (yousendit link)

P.S.S. Remember when Cursive came to Fresno last year? And how Tim Kasher just hung out at Livingstone’s (local bar, FYI) and randomly there was a television crew there shooting a local nightlife segment? Remember? Well, I found the footage. Should be on the blog tomorrow. Way less entertaining to watch than it sounds right now. But funny.

» Read more on Read / Write (Or, “Why books make better music .”)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The indie rock troubadour (or, “Dudes who spend a lot of time alone”)

The theme of this post is related to the one I wrote last week about some of my friends who post music on their myspace – but don’t play shows, have bands, or release records. At least not yet. I called them closet autuers, which I realize now is a pretty horrible name.

The point of writing about this is to spark a conversation about the different ways musicians can do the DIY thing and make it work, both financially and artistically. It is painful to watch a band work their ass off, produce good music, and then just slide into debt. It is also painful to watch all those bands that have so much talent fall into the trap of writing in a style because they feel they have to hit a home run with every album because their financial machine now employs all their friends as sound people, press people, or tour managers. That's a lot of responsibility for a band in the fickle music making business.

One of the most effective DIY concepts I’ve see, which a few of my friends employ these days, is “going solo”. This basic approach to music harkens (is harken really a word? mys spellcheck says no, I say yes) back to the singer-songwriter movement of the 70’s that spawned acts like Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt, some people are just cutting the band loose and focusing on writing great songs and covering lots of ground on tours. We'll call them indie rock troubadours, and I’m loosely defining the DIY indie rock troubadour as someone who has no home, or travels more often than they are home, often doing the gig solo and the traveling solo as well.

One of the reasons I think this method would be super effective financially is because you’re not having to compensate for a ton of band members who would normally be cutting out of work to come on the road with you. You can rent a small car or use your own and not spend a fortune on gas or van rental. You can play a variety of venues, some of which might not be an option for a full band : you can squeeze into a coffee shop, a living room, or even play out on the street. The recipe is simple and time tested : just get a guitar (or ukelele) and go.

A second criteria would be that the kids that fall into this category as DIY folk are not on a label and book their own shows. For example, I know that Dave Dondero did stuff like this for years – but now he has support from his record label, in terms of getting his records out there, and from a talented booking agency (Ground Control – who are the same folks who do Bright Eyes and Sonic Youth, among others…). I think it is really important to know HOW to book your own shows even if you’re lucky enough to not have to do it very often. And starting in this vein, as a solo guy/girl, affords you the opportunity to play a lot of strange places.

For example, last April Dondero played in an alley in Fresno. I’m proud to say I booked that show.

But this isn’t about Dave. I actually wanted to share some tour dates and some MP3s from two of my favorite songwriters – Paleo and Peter and the Wolf, who currently exemplify this ideal for me.


I met Paleo here in Fresno (or on the internet, depending how you look at it) and his real name is David Andrew Strackany. He was working on a songwriting project where he went on a national tour and wrote a song a day for 365 days. Which is a feat that he not only accomplished, but that he religiously documented on his website. This effort resulted in a ton of press and Paleo's creation of the longest album EVER. The record, called simply the "Song Diary", features 17 hours of music available as MP3s that are burned onto a DVD. Crazy.

Since completing that ambitious project, Paleo has begun touring a little less and doing a good job of booking his tours in a more paced manner. He actually has a pretty novel way of doing it : he spends several weeks on the road and then parks his car at an airport and catches a cheap flight home to rest up for a week, then flies back out and continues traveling. This gives him some downtime, and allows him to take a break from the road even if he is on the other side of the country.


Mar 4 2008 Baltimore, Maryland - The Frisby House
Mar 11 2008 Brooklyn, New York - Glasslands
Mar 20 2008 New York, New York - Knitting Factory (Old Office)
Apr 3 2008 Brooklyn, New York - Galapagos
Apr 16 2008 New York, New York - Piano’s (Upstairs)
May 10 2008 Seattle, Washington - Dearborn on Woodland
May 15 2008 Fort Collins, Colorado - Bean Cycle
May 18 2008 Williston, North Dakota - TBD
May 20 2008 Madison, Wisconsin - The Project Lodge

DOWNLOAD : Paleo - Heatseeking Heart (written in Fresno,CA)
DOWNLOAD : Paleo - Thinking Outside of the Box Office (written in LA, CA)

Peter and The Wolf

Peter and the Wolf is a singer-songwriter named Red Hunter. I am not sure that that is his real name. I met him for the first time in Fresno and I thought he was a horrible douche -- I had arranged a show for him here because he had a day off between SF and LA. Somewhere along the line I had ran across some of his songs, probably Aquarium Drunkard, because almost all the good music I hear these days is coming from that site. Anyways, the guy's songs are absolutely gorgeous, but when he showed up for the gig he came off really arrogant, conceited and lame. Until he played...

Red has a great voice, a great talent for arrangement and he can hold a crowd's attention with very little bravado. He just has a very natural and comfortable vibe that immediately engaged me and totally turned around all the preconceived notions I had about his character.

Peter and the Wolf
also has an interesting method putting together a tour. Rather than, uhm, for lack of a better word, "plan" a tour, it seems to me that he hits the road and asks questions later. As you can see, he has a number of TBAs on the books, but I don't think that is a bad thing when it comes to this type of gig. The TBAs could end up being concert halls or bedrooms. Who knows. But since the overhead, assuming your tastes don't run to expensive, is minimal, chances are you'll still come out on top if you run into a few generous and excited listeners.

Feb 26 2008 Cincinnati, Ohio - TBA
Feb 27 2008 St. Louis, Missouri - TBA
Feb 28 2008 Columbia, Missouri - True/False fest
Mar 1 2008 Columbia, Missouri - True/False fest
Mar 2 2008 Columbia, Missouri - True/False fest
Mar 3 2008 Lawrence, Kansas - Rock House
Mar 4 2008 Springdale, Arkansas - Pontiac
Mar 5 2008 Dallas, Texas - DFW
Mar 12 2008 Austin, Texas - NPR/Soundcheck Live from Austin
Mar 12 2008 Austin, Texas - SXSW Showcase at Central Presbyterian
Mar 23 2008 Nashville, Tennessee - The 5 Spot
Mar 30 2008 London, London and South East - Black Cab session, UK
Mar 31 2008 London, London and South East - Channel 4 London
Apr 1 2008 London, London and South East - TBA
Apr 2 2008 Brighton, London and South East - TBA
Apr 3 2008 Leeds, Northeast - TBA
Apr 4 2008 Manchester, Northwest - TBA
Apr 5 2008 Sheffield, Midlands - TBA
Apr 6 2008 Edinburgh, Scotland - TBA
Apr 7 2008 Dublin, Northern Ireland - TBA
Apr 11 2008 Paris/tba - TBA
Apr 12 2008 Berlin/Hamburg/etc. - TBA
Apr 13 2008 Berlin/Hamburg/etc.
Apr 14 2008 Berlin/Hamburg/etc.

DOWNLOAD : Peter and the Wolf - Strange Machines

» Read more on The indie rock troubadour (or, “Dudes who spend a lot of time alone”)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Releases : Mezzanine Owls

It has got to be tough to come from a neighborhood that is becoming increasingly associated with indie rock – guitar, driven, dramatic, artistic indie rock. Which is what the hipster, East Side of LA seems to be celebrating these days. An awesome group of LA guitar bands – that range from shoe-gaze to pop – have been popping up that all feature aggressive and awesome guitar work. The Happy Hollows, Death to Anders, Silversun Pickups and Radars to the Sky all come to mind.

And while the “indie scene” in the first half of this decade (let’s say 2000 to 2005) seemed (by me) to be dominated by bands from the East Coast of the US (or maybe just Brooklyn?), more and more of the national buzz seems to be shifting west to LA.

We’ll see if any bands break as big as the Silversun Pickups did last year -- but I sure am hopeful/fearful that that’ll soon happen to one of the above mentioned bands. On the other hand, the increased number of bands and the increased attention from national media has made it tough for all the good LA bands to succeed locally, much less succeed on a national level. ‘Cause let’s be honest, there is only so much spotlight to be had. And there are a lot of LA bands.

One of the bands that seems poised for something bigger, and hungry for national attention, are The Mezzanine Owls. A four piece indie rock band based out of LA’s east side scene. I saw them for the first time in ’07 and I wrote a little live review of their show last year at the Make Out Room on Duke’s blog, You Set The Scene.

In case you didn’t read that thing on YSTS, I’ll reiterate the basic sentiment here : I think The Mezzanine Owls are some of the nicest, hardest drinking, flat out coolest people you will ever meet. They are a blur of whiskey and good times and great rock songs.

And … the point of this post is to announce that the group has a new record. They will be releasing a vinyl 7 inch single this week on Ashley Jex’s Jax Art label. While I haven’t been a big fan of many of her past releases, she’s recently put out several good records by local LA acts like the Pity Party, the Henry Clay People and the Mezzanine Owls.

Of the three releases I’ve heard, the Mezzanine Owl's single, Snow Globe is by far my favorite. Soooo good. And like I said before, while I am not a big fan of Ashley’s releases, these last three feature some cool pieces of music wrapped up in great cool, vinyl, limited edition artwork. More info about the release and an MP3 are available after the jump. Go!

These are the stats about the release : the vinyl is a limited release of 500 copies and you get a free digital download card with each purchase. Limited edition vinyl is one of my favorite things, I guess it is something of a fetish, and I am excited that I will be able to add this 7” to my collection LA band vinyl (the only other current LA group that I have on vinyl is the Monolators, I think...).

The vinyl A side is Snow Globe and the B side is a tune called Temporary Health. For those not into the vinyl, there is also a digital ep available for purchase that contains those two songs as well as the songs Ghost Ship and Drift.

The only tune I’ve heard from the record is Snow Globe, but as far as singles go, I think this is one of the better ones I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t mean to draw comparisons toooo much, but it has that same instinctive like-ability that Silversun’s Lazy Eye had – I heard it the first time and already felt attached to it. Like I had heard it a hundred times (in a good way).

One of the things that has always stood out for me with the Mezzanine Owls, and on this track as well, is Pauline Mu’s drumming. Slightly off-kilter and with lots of clever snare fills, Mu does a great job of subtly shifting the dynamics of Snow Globe from “big and tight” to “big and open”, like an expert truck driver shifting gears to make a really steep grade and then shifting back, grinning, as she comes careening down the other side at 100 miles per hour.

Jack Burnside’s lead vocals on Snow Globe are loose and little yelp-y, and the lyrics are often poetic in tone without being academic or dramatic and on the Owls make great use of backup vocals on the track -- at about 1:00 the backup vocals drop in, like some kind of stereo chant taking place in a big room. I imagine that they recorded them with druids (does that even make sense?).

I love this band. And this limited edition is going for $7 right now - no shipping - so I would recommend you drop by and purchase it and that you go see them at their big release party the Echo on February 26th at if you can!

UPDATE : Shit! I just listened to the Henry Clay Single -- Working Part Time -- so good. Listen to this shit on the imeem :

BUY : Mezzanine Owls - Snow Globe 7"
DOWNLOAD : Mezzanine Owls - Snow Globe (MP3 via zshare.com)

LINK : Mezzanine Owls Myspace

» Read more on Releases : Mezzanine Owls

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Interview : David Dondero (Or "Sham-sham-a-ling-a-whoa-dipty-dip")

I first met Dave Dondero in Champaign, Illinois when he was on tour with Tilly and the Wall. I remember watching him soundcheck and knowing right then that the guy was a total pro. Articulate and accurate, he has a good ear -- and since that night he has become one of my favorite songwriters in the world. There are few folks that can write songs with the depth, the humor and the level of fun that he musters.

After that show in Illinois, we traded CDs. I got a copy of South of the South (Team Love) and his Live at the Hemlock (Future Farmer) record. It took South of the South a little while to grow on me, but his Live CD -- wow -- I will listen to the record over and over again. And I did. I think we drove 15 hours the next day, and during that time I think I memorized every song he sang and every joke he told.

I find it really rare these days that music can impress me in a, for lack of a better term, life-changing way, but Dondero really did shake me up. And I think I've become a better musician by listening to his songs.

I was really excited that he agreed to do this interview, and I am also excited because Dondero will be on tour this Spring. Dates and interview are after the jump.

Hot Mess Magic : What do you want to hear on the weather report in the morning before you step out the door?

David Dondero : severe thunderstorms giving way to whispy clouds and sunshine. i love the after the rain smell in late spring.

H.M.M. : I had a really talented music friend who woke up one day and decided he wanted to become a banker -- and I'm sure that happens to musicians everyday, they decide to go back to school or start a family or whatever and they stop being musicians in a certain sense. They become dads or bankers who play music. What makes you wake up in the morning and still want to be a musician?
D. D. : well sometimes i wake up in the morning and wonder why the hell i'm a musician. i curse it then i find myself in a spat with myself. due to self esteem or feeling down about it... thinking i suck.. i beat myself up and wanta quit, because maybe someone said something negative about what i do or maybe because i just lose the passion for it if i do it too much. then i get it back if i put it down too long. something makes me wanta come back and i don't know why.

then i take a step back and look at the whole situation and realize nothing can ever be so good all the time. a good night and people liking it along with myself will get me going again. i can't tell you how many hair brained career ideas i've had other than music because it's hard to look at music as a career. it's never seemed like a job. when i start getting into the money part of it i start to feel sick but then realize i need it to pay my stacks of bills. then again.... all my friends who are bankers or lawyers or computer people have the same varying levels of bills and everyone feels inundated...

i feel lucky to be a musician. lucky to have people who believe in me enough to help me.. to still travel and see new places.. .sometimes though i am envious of those friends of mine who have straight jobs and nice places to live. i don't have those things. i don't own those things. so it's a quality of life issue and my lack of success in music equates to the lifestyle i lead. my spotty resume at this point is like a trap steering me back to music. saying.. ok buddy, this is all you can do now or completely start over. the reality of that is pretty bleak but then again can be pretty sweet and exciting.

H.M.M. : The first time I met you I asked you where you were from you said "everywhere". Which is a fair answer. But if you were required to settle down in one place, where would you want that place to be?
D. D. : no where. ....i don't know.. how bout my top ten and i can just ramble between the ten for all eternity... here they are... alaska, in summer during salmon season, duluth, minnesota,,, wilmington, nc. ,,, new orleans,,,,porto, portugal., stockholm, sweden,, san francisco,,, hobart, australia (tasmania) hanna, maui, montreal... i could live any of those places for awhile.

H.M.M. : When Herbie Hancock won the Grammy this year he mentioned the "shoulders of the giants" he had stood upon -- guys like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I know Hancock was in a band with Miles for awhile -- which is probably the best school you could ever learn in -- was there anyone who showed you the ropes? Or a group of folks? How did you figure out how to do what you do?
D. D. : tony tidwell in south carolina, kenny roby of north carolina. both good friends and great songwriters. my friends in the band sunbrain. kind advice from jonathan richman. watching townes van zandt perform shortly before he died in atlanta.

H.M.M. : You're coming to SF for Noisepop at the end of the month. Is there a restaurant in that city somewhere you always look forward to eating in? A favorite stop?
D. D. : tommy's joint.... pancho villas and puerto allegre in the mission, and arinell's pizza. muddy waters coffee. can't wait.

H.M.M. : You are on Team Love Records now. What is the cool thing about being on a well-known label versus a smaller less-known one, or just doing it on your own? Are there any disadvantages that come to mind?
D. D. : it's always nice to have a little more pull from a label. not required. i never had it through the first several records and did ok. diy years were really fun. although at times frustrating and expensive. i accrued a huge credit card debt in the diy years. still digging out of. i'd do it again that way if necessary but as long as people are willing to help me i will gladly except and be thankful their support and the exposure. team love has been really good for me. but i still sell about the same amount of records as i did when i was on future farmer. no matter what label you are on it all comes down to if people wanta hear it or not.



Sat 03.01.08 San Francisco, CA The Independent(Noise Pop)
Sat 03.22.08 Houston, TX Walter’s on Washington
Mon 03.24.08 Baton Rouge, LA Spanish Moon
Tue 03.25.08 Hattiesburg, MS The Thirsty Hippo
Wed 03.26.08 Pensacola, FL Sluggo’s
Thu 03.27.08 Tallahassee, FL Florida State University - Club Downunder
Fri 03.28.08 Gainesville, FL Common Grounds Coffee House w/ Travis Morrison
Sat 03.29.08 Orlando, FL Backbooth
Sun 03.30.08 Tampa, FL New World Brewery
Mon 03.31.08 Jacksonville, FL Jackrabbits


Tue 04.01.08 Atlanta, GA The Earl
Thu 04.03.08 Athens, GA Caledonia Lounge
Fri 04.04.08 Wilmington, NC Soapbox Laundro-Lounge
Sat 04.05.08 Clemson, SC Clemson University
Sun 04.06.08 Chapel Hill, NC Local 506
Mon 04.07.08 Charlottesville, VA Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
Tue 04.08.08 Arlington, VA IOTA Club and Cafe
Wed 04.09.08 Philadelphia, PA North Star Bar
Thu 04.10.08 New York, NY Knitting Factory
Fri 04.11.08 Brooklyn, NY Union Hall
Sat 04.12.08 Portland, ME SPACE Gallery
Sun 04.13.08 Buffalo, NY Mohawk Place
Mon 04.14.08 Ypsilanti, MI The Elbow Room
Wed 04.16.08 Chicago, IL Beat Kitchen
Fri 04.18.08 Omaha, NE Waiting Room
Sat 04.19.08 Denver, CO Larimer Lounge
Sun 04.20.08 Salt Lake City, UT Kilby Court
Wed 04.23.08 Seattle, WA The Comet Tavern
Thu 04.24.08 Portland, OR Holocene
Fri 04.25.08 Corvallis, OR Iovino’s
Sat 04.26.08 San Francisco, CA Hemlock Tavern #
Sun 04.27.08 Santa Cruz, CA The Crepe Place #
Mon 04.28.08 Merced, CA The Partisan #
Tue 04.29.08 Visalia, CA The Cellar Door #
Thu 05.01.08 Fresno, CA Tokyo Gardens #

# - w/ Nik Freitas

DOWNLOAD : David Dondero - When the Heart Breaks Deep
DOWNLOAD : David Dondero - Rothko Chapel
BUY : David Dondero - Simple Love
LINK : Team Love Records

» Read more on Friday Interview : David Dondero (Or "Sham-sham-a-ling-a-whoa-dipty-dip")

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Modesto : Off the Air

I guess this post is vaguely self-promotional. My band Rademacher is playing a showcase in Modesto on Friday called Off The Air. The show is at the Deva Café. In short : be there.

More importantly, I wanted to talk a little bit about Modesto and the Deva Café and Off The Air (and the man behind the showcase, Greg Edwards) and let y'all know how cool these places are and warmly recommend that as many traveling musicians try and get shows there as possible.

The City of Modesto has been home to a number of great bands (Grandaddy, Fiver, Built Like Alaska), and then related to this scene by extension are the Chicago band All Smiles, fronted by Jim Fairchild (formerly of Grandaddy) and the LA based Tigers Can Bite You (led by Modesto native, Dave Woody, formerly of Fiver) -- and Modesto is sure to play host to a number of others in the coming years. There is a wealth of young talent in the neighborhood. While I wouldn't necessarily consider Modesto a cultural hotspot, there are enough people there, who earnestly enjoy music, to make any stop there worthwhile.

Let’s start with the Deva Café. It is a little coffee shop located in the downtown of Modesto, which is a really polished neighborhood with nice landscaping and restored buildings, not like Fresno’s downtown (all rundown and silent). It is surrounded by posh wine bars and good restaurants and is a great destination for a meal, a cup of coffee or a show.

It is only open to 11, which kinda sucks for us late night sorts, but if you’re driving through Modesto to somewhere and need to use a little wi-fi, this place is really easy to get to from Highway 99, and the food is nothing short of phenomenal. I can highly recommend almost all their sandwiches : The Euphoria (chicken breast and pesto), the French Dip, the Warm Veggie sandwich. Everything is well-prepared and delicious and just under $10. Sooo good.

In the evening, they have shows here. They are all ages and the crowd is an eclectic mix of teenagers, scenesters and older folks just looking to listen to good music. There is no stage, and you, or the promoter, have to bring your own PA, but the vibe of the spot is pleasant (if not the acoustics).

If you manage to land a show promoted by Off the Air, well, than the whole atmosphere of the place tends to shift up a couple gears. They regularly reach capacity. We have played several of these showcases the last few years, and while the venue has changed (from the 500+ capacity Fat Cat Theater, to the 200 person Deva Café) the crowds and the organization has just continued to grow and get stronger.

Off the Air is promoted and put together by Greg Edwards a poet, artist and all around great guy that works his butt off to make each and everyone of his shows extra special. Most bills are usually made up of two local bands and a mid-level national touring band. One of my personal favorite Off the Air experiences was when we shared the bill with Division Day and Great Northern. Division Day is just a great band in general, but to see them brandish their keyboards and guitars in front of a large audience that didn’t know what to expect – well – it was pretty rad to see two hundred people totally swoon over a band at exactly the same time.

The hospitality that Edwards and his crew lavish on the artists is also really great – he’ll often provide food (vegan!), beer and a green room to touring bands as well as create awesome posters for each and every one of his shows. If you ever visit the Deva, just take a short tour around the interior and you’ll see a collection of some of the coolest contemporary poster art on the West Coast.

Deva Cafe
1202 J St
Modesto, CA 95354
(209) 572-3382
Get directions

LINK : www.offtheair.net

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why I Am Poor (Or, "Nobody needs a record label to make music.")

I don’t know how many of you guys ran across this article in Wired by David Byrne. I ran across it via The Daily Swarm, which is one of my fave music industry sites. In it, Byrne basically lays out six financial / management model for bands working in today’s market conditions. In it, he covers everything from the big Madonna-like equity deals to the DIY methods of distro and promotion. He has also includes some awesome charts.

Basically he lays out the things that a label is supposed to do for an artist, or what they have traditionally done, which are (if I read this thing right) :

1. Front the money for the artist's recording and manufacturing costs

2. Promote the release

3. Do the accounting.

And then he discusses the different ways these arrangements have changed in today’s industry.

As kind of an addendum to Byrne's article, I wanted to expand on the different DIY models I have run across – and this will post probs just be the first of many on the topic.

I have been thinking a lot about my friends who are musicians and write songs, but that don't have bands. I guess they are in a non-commercial (not about money or fame) class of DIY musician that doesn't really fit the commercial models Byrne expounds on, but I think they're as good a group of subjects as any to launch a discussion about contemporary DIY methods with. I guess you can call them “closet auteurs”, and I will classify them as the folks who don’t tour, don’t release CDs in the “traditional” manner, and just make little recordings – either just for themselves and/or their friends on myspace.

For musicians in this category there is no need for distro, promotion, or any “record label” beyond their myspace account. They are self contained and cost effective – since they don’t tour or print CDs, they are not spending money on gas, CDRs, packaging, press – and I am convinced that because of these advantages, they will slowly take over the world.

Below the cut are MP3s from some of my fave closet autuers. Passive Disaster, Pasture and Reid May. Take a listen and let me know if you think they are going take over the world.

Passive Disaster

Based out of Seattle, WA, Passive Disaster is a one woman synth-drum-machine project. Aggressive, angular and caustic; the songs have a rough edge to them and the lyrics showcase snide remarks, clever put-downs and a sparkling wit. Much like early Bob Dylan in lyrical tone, the overall effect is less sentimental and nostalgic than Dylan – Passive Disaster tends to be much more gritty and beat up and irreverent.

DOWNLOAD : Passive Diaster - I Hate Parades


Pasture is Matt Orme – he has played drums in Rademacher (most notably on our record Stunts) and has recorded, or helped record, most everything I have ever worked. He has also amassed an amazing collection of songs that he has assembled in his studio. Everything from Wilco styled alt-country songs to dark synth metal. A very talented guy. I just wish he’d update his myspace page more often.

DOWNLOAD : Pasture - Not Country

Reid May

Probably the weirdest out of all these guys, Reid May is a super productive and creative musician based out Oakland, CA. Working off a home studio full of crappy mics, a beat up PC and a ghetto ass keytar, Reid manages to heap together epic piles of noise that somehow remain completely detached and compellingly interesting. His pieces can be really hard to listen to, but rarely are they unrewarding.

DOWNLOAD : Reid May - Naked

» Read more on Why I Am Poor (Or, "Nobody needs a record label to make music.")