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Sunday, December 08, 2013

A year in music



The following is a list of music I listened to over and over again in 2013. None of it was stuff I was pressured to listen to because I am very opinionated about music and some of my income is from writing about music. This is strictly the music I held in the highest regard over the last twelve months.
 

(I have created a Spotify playlist for your enjoyment if you'd like to check out these records.)



The Best Records I Heard This Year

Crash Of Rhinos, Knots
They have a silly name, but Knots is, hands down, one of the best records I’ve heard this year. Imagine Hot Water Music backed by Rat Scabies from the Damned spending time hanging out with . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

Suede, Bloodsports
When Suede reformed a couple of years ago for shows, the word was they wouldn’t put out new material unless it was worthy. Well, this is their best record since 1996’s Coming Up. Like Coming Up, this feels more like a singles compilation of great British pop-rock that screams for repeat listens.

Deafheaven, Sunbather
When I heard Sunbather, I became that guy who won’t stop recommending it to people. I’ve never compared a band to Carcass and the Cocteau Twins before, but somehow, this collection of blast beats, shimmering guitars, and demonic screams is a treasure.

Rika, How To Draw a River, Step By Step
A fantastic Austrian band that I would have never heard of if it weren’t for Keith Latinen at Count Your Lucky Stars Records. Recalling Midlake, Low, and Ida, this record is perfect for a rainy day or a quiet morning with the sun slowly rising.

The Dillinger Escape Plan, One of Us is the Killer
While I enjoyed many tracks from the band’s previous record, Option Paralysis, One of Us is the Killer is more of a return to form for this band. An assault on the senses, in the best kind of way.

Dream Theater, self-titled
Dream Theater’s second record with Mike Mangini on drums sounds more akin to ’97’s Falling Into Infinity. Meaning, there are far less songs over seven minutes in length, and there is very little room for repetitive noodling. The mix is up in your face, giving a chance for everyone (especially Mangini) a chance to shine. And the string section on the closing track plays one of the finest melody lines I’ve heard all year.

Placebo, Loud Like Love
Placebo doesn’t do anything technically new here, but this record is one of the strongest records they’ve released in a few years. Way better than Battle for the Sun.

Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
Take a compilation of some of the best Top 40 hits of the 80s and re-record them with even more overtly sexual lyrics and references to drugs. That might sound horrible, but Bruno Mars pays homage to the Police, Lionel Richie, and Michael Jackson in a very enjoyable way.

Into It. Over It, Intersections
Evan Weiss delivers a second proper LP as Into It. Over It that is more akin to his mammoth 52 Weeks collection. Great for early mornings or late nights when you think life seems so overbearing and confusing.

Sharks, Selfhood
Great jangle pop-punk from an English band that sadly called it quits this year. A band I recommended to those who wouldn’t venture so far as to listen to say, Lagwagon, but would listen to the Smiths in a heartbeat.

RVIVR, The Beauty Between
Latterman was a very energetic band that married caffeinated pop-punk with gruffy post-hardcore. Yet the band’s offshoots have produced even better material, like Iron Chic, Bridge and Tunnel, and RVIVR. Sequenced like a big song with multiple movements, The Beauty Between is most excellent, especially “Wrong Way/One Way.” 


Hello, Old Friends

Pearl Jam
There was never a time when I shed all of my fandom and appreciation of Pearl Jam. No matter how many Creed and Nickelback CDs I stocked while in college, the holy trinity of Ten, Vs., and Vitalogy never lost its luster. The thing is, I had a hard time getting over the fact that they tossed a technically accomplished drummer for one that appeared to be way less accomplished . . . back in 1994. Then they got a great drummer who opted to play his own way on the old material, eschewing a certain kind of flair in the process. Well, when the Twenty documentary came out, I tried to dig into the years I didn’t pay very close attention to the band. Binaural, Riot Act, Pearl Jam, and Backspacer have a wealth of goodies on them, but I doubt I would have truly loved them when they originally came out. With this year’s Lightning Bolt, I had very high regard for this record as well as the band’s entire catalog. The band has always sounded like the bands I loved in middle school and high school – it just took me many years to understand that.

Kings of Leon
When Kings of Leon first came onto my radar, I did not understand what was to love about this Strokes/Lynyrd Skynyrd hybrid. “Molly’s Chambers” sounded like a basic song hung up on the second fret of the E string. I heard great things about their second record from reliable sources, but I never investigated it beyond “The Bucket.” Then the band committed the sin of dressing like fashion models in hipster clothes. This reeked of the feared selling out, yet there was this added atmosphere to their music that was clearly attributed to U2’s influence on them. I didn’t care what people said about the U2 overtones as U2 is one of my favorite bands of all time. I enjoyed Only By the Night, but had not checked out anything since then. Watching their Storytellers episode of Palladia one afternoon, I was struck by how I liked all of the songs I had never heard before. This year’s Mechanical Bull is quite a joy even though it’s exactly what you’d expect from this band by now.

Catching Up On One of the Best Records Released in 2012

Everyone Everywhere, self-titled
Evan Weiss praised the hell out of this band in 2012, but I didn’t get around to giving them a fair shake until this year. This Philly-based band has two self-titled records to their name. While their first record is good, their second is a marvel. Smart emo rock that doesn’t sound like Cap’n Jazz or Sunny Day Real Estate with an unbelievably tight drummer to boot. 

Thank Jenny Hansen For This

Supertramp, Breakfast in America
Until this year, the most I knew about Supertramp was its two songs featured in Magnolia. The name of the band still sounds like a goof, but oh my, Breakfast in America is a stunner of a record. I was inclined to check this out after repeat early morning listens to “Take the Long Way Home” by my lovely girlfriend, Jenny. Expertly produced pop rock that still sounds fresh in 2013.

Boy Band Song That Is Better Than You Might Think

One Direction, “Little Black Dress”
Steven Hyden is one of my favorite pop culture/music writers. I’ve followed him loosely since he left the A.V. Club to become a staff writer at Grantland. When he praised this deep cut on the latest One Direction record as a Cheap Trick-esque song that garage rock bands need to “cover it immediately,” I was intrigued. Hyden doesn’t come across as a writer who praises things that are so terrible that it’s good. He genuinely praises something no matter uncool it might be to cynical and unhappy people under the age of 40. So it’s very safe to say that if “Little Black Dress” came out in 1982 on the heels of the Rubinoos and Utopia, it would be on a Rhino “Poptopia” compilation.

Great Songs On Albums That Didn’t Make the Albums Cut

Their / They’re / There, “Concession Speech Writer”
Evan Weiss (Yes, there’s that name again) has a side project with Mike Kinsella from Cap’n Jazz/American Football/Owen. They put out two EPs this year and they are worth your time if you like any of the bands these guys are involved with.

Killswitch Engage, “In Due Time”
At this point in their career, KSE seems to recycle riffs from their earlier albums. Reunited with their original singer Jesse Leach, the band made a much better record than their previous one. This tune might crib a lot from “Rose of Sharyn,” but Leach’s delivery and lyrics are most exceptional.

Coheed and Cambria, “Dark Side of Me”
Coheed and Cambria released the second half of their Afterman series in 2013 and this was its lead single. A slow, somber number with one hell of a great chorus.

Low, “Just Make It Stop”
I know a lot of people who love Low. I enjoy them to an extent but I can’t really bring myself to listen to one of their records repeatedly. However, a song like “Just Make It Stop” is something I can listen to over and over again this year.

Editors, “A Ton of Love”
Bouncing back from an unfortunate detour with synth-rock, Editors continues to grow and make satisfying music. With understandable comparisons to Echo & the Bunnymen and the Psychedelic Furs on “A Ton of Love,” I quite enjoyed this more than any other tune on the album it came with.

Balance and Composure, “Reflection”
I’m not going to lie: I saw Balance and Composure earlier this year and found them dull and boring. I was at the show to see the mighty Jealous Sound, so I wasn’t in the mood for the pretty-boy dreary sludge of B&C. Yet when a friend posted this tune on my Facebook wall asking for my opinion, I was struck by how good it was, even it sounded a lot (and I mean, a lot) like Cave-In circa Jupiter.

Marquis Toliver, “Control”
Jenny and I wake up to NPR every morning. More often than not, if they have a musical guest on, it’s somebody up my alley. Marquis Toliver has a very interesting story of being a classically-trained violinist with a pop R&B sound. Strings are all over his record and its lead single is a great stepping off point.

Stagnant Pools, “Dead Sailors”
The National might be cooler to praise openly, but I find the longer I listen to them, the more I feel drained by them. Stagnant Pools has a similar dour drone, but on a bracing song like “Dead Sailors,” I can get a lot of mileage out of them.

Best shows

Ken Stringfellow, Club Dada, March 8th  
There’s some great mojo about Club Dada. The most fun I’ve ever had playing a show was there (a thrown-together band doing Rolling Stones covers), the best show I saw last year was there (Converge/Torche), and now I can add this. I’ve appreciated Ken’s solo work over the years, but his stuff with the Posies is always worth revisiting. Playing to ten people without a microphone, he played his heart out, sang his voice off, and pounded on his keyboard and guitar. Just a powerful show as a whole, and one where I could talk to Ken before and after it like a normal human being.

Ash, House of Blues Cambridge Room, March 10th  
Seeing Ash play to 40 people in Dallas was a whole lot easier than seeing them at a festival in England. With a great career-spanning set opening for the View, I was over the moon to finally see this great band. And I truly hope to see them again when they come back to Dallas in February. 

Blake Schwarzenbach, Three Links, June 18th
I don’t know what the deal was, but there was something moving about seeing frontmen from bands I love play solo shows. Blake played a lot of great new material from his .forgetters project yet also played Jawbreaker’s “Chemistry.” And as much as people want to paint him as this mythic figure, I found him to be a very charming, down-to-earth guy who’s incredibly well-read and sharply funny.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why did you move there?

Every now and then, when I run into a friend I haven't seen in a while, I talk about how I moved up north. Most times, the response is very understanding, as a number of people I've known who hang around Deep Ellum/White Rock Lake live farther up north. Yet there are times when I get this baffled projection from somebody about how I've moved north of 635. It's as if I've moved to Oklahoma.

To put 635 in context, it is about fifteen miles north of downtown Dallas. The drive from my house to downtown, with minimal traffic, is about 22 minutes. Not a hassle of a drive, by no means, but it seems like a dividing line of ideologies. As in, the farther north you move, the farther you enter a zone of squeaky clean suburbia where there isn't any crime and the Republican party is the only way to go. Understandably, it's a fantasy world that a lot of people have tried to escape for years. Including me.

Well, I'm stubborn of the worst kind, and I'm here to tell you that I cannot fight adulthood. And part of adulthood is trying to find an accommodating living situation that equals or betters the soon-to-be-former living situation.

In our case, we couldn't fathom moving into an apartment or cramped house/duplex that would charge an enormous amount for a pet deposit. Having three dogs would do that, and since we love our dogs so much, we wouldn't have this any other way. We tried to find places in and around the White Rock Lake area and the M streets. That resulted in a lot of unanswered e-mails and phonecalls. Alas, our current landlord was the first to call us back and was OK with us moving by the first of October. And the pet deposit was only $200 total for all three dogs.

Given the notice of moving out from the last place, we needed a place as quickly as possible, and we really lucked out. Our landlord is fantastic, as are the neighbors and the neighborhood. I don't think I've changed my personality or ideologies for the worse. We are surrounded by a neighborhood with character, locally-owned restaurants that are better than chain restaurants, and people are a bit more friendly. And they don't look like they came from a town called Stepford.

Sure, I'm less likely to go to the "cool" part of town a handful of times during the week, but I still go there and have a great time. Matter of fact, I feel more comfortable going out than ever before. How is that a bad thing?




Join the Army

Taken by Jeremy Hughes
The show with the Silver Saint Guitar Army was, for the most part, a success. Cory Graves of Central Track did a well-written review that summed up the whole evening. As I've said before, it was an honor to share the stage with members of Record Hop, Jack With One Eye and Maleveller. And I would be happy to play with Wanz again if he asks me.





Here are some thoughts I came away with from the show.

-In all my years of playing drums, I frequently heard guitarists say, "I couldn't hear myself." Now I know exactly what they were talking about. I have a small, 15-watt amp that is perfect in a practice setting, but onstage with thirteen other (some bigger) amps, it was easy to get lost in the shuffle.

-The fun, spontaneous nature of playing music that's almost as new to you as the audience was in full effect. We only really had one run-through for the half-hour set. It was really easy to play the final piece as it was made up of the guitars tuning up and down. I tried to get my guitar back to standard tuning.

-Somehow, I was able to tune my low E string all the way up to B without popping the string. Here, after all these years where I thought you'd pop a string tuning it up beyond G.

-I didn't feel out of my element with only a guitar strapped to me. Sure, I've had the barrier of a drum set in front of me for many years, but it didn't feel much different with a guitar instead.

-I listened to the power pop of the Rubinoos on the way down to the venue. I also ate way too much vegan Hawaiian pizza beforehand. It was my first time to have a sit-down session at the Double Wide restroom.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guitar Mafia

This Saturday will mark the first time in two years that I have played music in front of an audience. It has been a long time since I played a blues jam for fun one night. And it's been a very long time since I've played guitar in front of anyone.

My primary instrument is the drums, but when a musician I've admired (and interviewed) over the years asked me to play guitar with fourteen other guitarists, I didn't hesitate to say yes. Wanz Dover has played in a variety of bands and I've seen a number of them play live in the past ten years. Whether it's Stooges-like insanity, trippy shoegaze, raw soul, improvisational jamming or cut-up electronic music, he goes where his muse takes him.

Revisiting his experience playing with Glenn Branca's guitar orchestra, Wanz has created the Silver Saint Guitar Army. I'm very honored to be a part of the show and I'm pretty excited. We are due to have a long rehearsal before the show, so it will be fresh and raw at the same time.

I've played guitar almost the same amount of time that I've played the drums, so strapping on a guitar is not a foreign experience. But in a live setting, this will be technically a first.

Back when I played in the 11:30s, we finished a rehearsal one night with the vocalist/guitarist on drums, the lead guitarist on bass, the bassist on guitar and vocals, and me on lead guitar. The song we came up with was a simple droney piece that could go on and on, for however we wanted. We did it as an impromptu encore at one show and then played it again as the opening song at the next gig. That was almost thirteen years ago and I've never played guitar in a band ever since.

I love playing music, but for many reasons, I haven't played in a band situation for over a year. I don't know if I will play with Wanz after this show, but I certainly will make the most of it. That's a big part of the thrill: go in, have fun, and not worry about the business side of playing in a band. I can handle that.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Psycho Shanon

Given my time in radio, it's not far-fetched for me to interview radio personalities for the Observer. I've done a handful of stories before and I have no problem doing more of them. My editor was gracious enough to let me write about "Psycho" Shanon Murphy, a member of the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show. She currently has a brain tumor on the stem of her brain and surgery is the only option.

Prior to yesterday, I had never met or interviewed her. We have mutual friends in the industry, but she was very open and honest with me on the phone yesterday afternoon. We talked for about ten minutes while I was between call reports at my merchandising job, and almost all of those minutes are in the interview that is now on DC9.

This was a very tough interview to do. I couldn't help be speechless while she explained to me the timeline of this and the severity of the issue. Extremely heavy stuff, but I was extremely impressed with her bravery and strength to get through this.

Johnny on the Spot

I've listened to many podcasts over the years, and I've secretly hoped to be on one someday. I'm a big fan of the Dig Me Out podcast as Tim and Jason review obscure albums from the '90s that never made it beyond college radio or 120 Minutes. They sound like guys I knew at the college radio station I worked at, something I have fond memories of.

A few months ago, I sent a copy of Post to Tim and he really enjoyed it. He had sent me a copy of his book, Power Ballad, and I enjoyed it as well. He asked me to be on the show and to suggest an album to review. I gave them the options of Do You Know Who You Are?, No Division, and Nothing Feels Good. They went with Do You Know Who You Are? and we talked a two Wednesdays ago.

If I sound like I'm talking a little slow, it's because I'm being very careful with my words. I love Texas is the Reason and I wanted to make sure I had all of my facts straight. I had spent a few hours reading the Texas chapter in Brian Peterson's Burning Fight as well as listening to podcasts and interviews with members of the band. Plus, I was nervous.

So if you have an hour to spare and want to hear me, Tim and Jason talk about this record, click here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Juliet

Yesterday was not the first day I dealt with the loss of a dog. We always had a dog in my family growing up. When one died, we got another one. The breed was always a wire hair fox terrier and always a male. The dog stayed outside in the backyard (save for cold nights and my mother put him in the laundry room), and I usually feared the dog because of a terrier's usual desire to jump up on its hind legs when you walked towards them.

J.W. and Rocky were integral dogs of my childhood, and Bailey was a wonderful dog during my high school/college years. But when I first lived on my own, I didn't live with a dog for three years. When I decided to move in with Jason in 2004, I was a little concerned about living with a dog under the same roof. Until then, I thought all dogs that lived indoors chewed up valuable material possessions and always peed on carpet.

Yet for the five years I lived with Juliet, a schnauzer/terrier mix, she never chewed anything up and rarely peed on the floor. She was the epitome of a great dog: friendly, upbeat, and usually told you when she needed a bathroom break. She was a perfect pet during parties (even though she was accidentally let out a couple of times) and very importantly, she was there for me when I was the only one home.

I took to Juliet very quickly once I moved in. I voluntarily walked her every single day -- no matter what the weather was like -- helping me stick to a regular routine of walking. That routine led me to walk even farther, then eventually jog, and then get back into riding my bike. Essentially, Juliet gave me the opportunity to keep exercise as a lifestyle, not a nagging hassle.

When Jason moved out and took Juliet with him (she was his dog), I lived exactly one month without a dog. That was a very long month, and things picked up when I brought Victory home four years ago. Now Victory and I live with Jenny and her two dogs, and I can't imagine me and Jenny without dogs in our house.

All of this came from living with a dog for five years. Juliet lived to eighteen, which is an amazing age for any dog. I knew she was going downhill for the past few years. Every time I went to Jason and Dana's house, I made sure I said hello to Juliet and pet her, thinking it might be the last time I see her alive. She was hard of hearing, could barely see, lost a tremendous amount of weight, and was very aloof. She never minded petting, and I was always happy to see her.

I used to not understand why people would be so torn up over the passing of a dog. Now I get it, and I don't regret becoming close to one. I made the most out of every day I had with Juliet, and I make the most of the days I have with Victory, Truvy, and Sunny. Life has been very random with all kinds of difficulties and triumphs in the past two years, and having a dog greet me when I come home always has a healing effect.

And this path to the present was because of one dog. Yes, a dog. They're that important.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Barbeque and banana pudding

I have the Internet to thank for solving a longstanding mystery in my family. For decades, we have never known the biological family my grandmother came from. All we knew was that she was adopted, but that was it.

My uncle David loves genealogy. The guy gives the gift of a family tree to people as a wedding gift. He loves looking up people's history, but not knowing where his mother came from always made him wonder. He finally got his answer this year.

Mainly in part to the Internet and a lot of research, he found out that my grandmother had five siblings she never knew existed. Two of them are still alive, and they don't live too far away from where I live. Since a lot of the family was in town last weekend for a cousin's wedding, a group of us went down there and met as many as we could.

With plenty of barbeque and desserts (including a delicious banana pudding), there was no shortage of people to talk with and share pictures. I freely admit that the experience was overwhelming due to the amount of people involved. I knew there would be a ton of names and faces to remember, something I'm terrible about, even with people I see out and about in the music scene. But I figured I should share my interests and personality and hope I'd meet a few who shared them.

Not only did I meet a few who knew me from my traffic reporting life, I found out that there is nearly 30,000 vinyl LPs behind the house where we all met up. Taking over an old record store from a family friend, some of my relatives have cataloged a bunch of these records and sell them online. Since I have a library of music in my house, I was more than happy to see a library that greatly dwarfed mine. I've been asked to come back and help catalog the records, and I'm up for it.

Coming away from the experience, I'm quite happy I went. I hope I can go back soon. You can learn so much about your family from older generations. We aren't the products of strangers, and whatever older generations have overcome before, those solutions certainly can help the younger generations. 

Radioactivity

This is the life I live these days. Yesterday, after a handful of hours dealing with the various tasks involved with my field marketing job, and ironing out some upcoming traffic fill-in dates, a ton of rain came down and a cold front came in. As I got home, getting into my slippers, I finally read a mass message sent by my editor at the Observer about Radioactivity. Turns out, the bass player from the band is someone I have a friendly rapport with since I interviewed him last year.

So, without further ado, here is my interview with Mark Ryan on the new band, the Marked Men, and Mind Spiders.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Everywhere in Denver

In the past few weeks, much has been made by people I keep in touch with via social media about an "emo revival." This came from when Stereogum posted a helpful guide called "12 Bands to Know From the Emo Revival" and was widely read and discussed. I didn't take issue with the "revival" tag, but certain writer friends of mine did, and they made their voices heard via Facebook posts and tweets. (Things got to the point where Dan Ozzi wrote this for Noisey called "There's No Emo Revival, You Just Stopped Paying Attention.")

It's taken me a long time to understand that there will always be people who think genres disappear and reappear. I accept it and don't begrudge people who think that way. It's like those who said, "Hey, disco is making a comeback" in the '90s, while others were adamant that it never went away. There are plenty of people who seek far and wide for what they want, but more people just want what's easy to access. As in, instead of spending hours searching blogs or streaming services for exactly what they want, they go with what a friend posts on Facebook or what's on a commercial.

There's no wrong or right way to find new music; we all have our ways to finding it. If it looks like a certain genre has left a relevant spotlight due to lack of popular interest or declining concert attendance or record sales, it's understandable if the tides turn down the line. If you have your ear very close to the ground, no genre completely goes away.

I held out hope while I wrote my book that a younger generation would take to Rites of Spring or Braid instead of Fall Out Boy, and that happened. Only now are we seeing the fruits of this. That's why I couldn't help pass up the chance to contribute to a list of Top 20 Emo Albums for the LA Weekly West Coast Sound blog (20-11, 10-1). If somebody wants to know more about the roots of this "revival," I'm more than happy to help. Be it the context of when Dear You or Clarity came out, it's all important to telling the ongoing story. 

And yes, this is an ongoing story. Whether it's underground or mainstream. 


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Intersections

After not writing anything for the Observer for a while, I present you with two links from the past few days.

-Russian band Louna was robbed in Dallas while the band ate at a Souper Salad. I had received a press release about it earlier in the evening on Friday. A few hours later, right as I was about to go to bed, I was asked to write something about by 10 the following morning. I figured to strike while the iron was hot and this is what I came up with.

-Back before we had to move, I had a nice chat with Evan Weiss, who performs as Into It. Over It and also plays in a number of other great bands. We've talked before and have a friendly rapport. I look forward to seeing him play with a full band at Trees.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Moved in

Well, it took five hours, five movers, and almost $1,000, but Jenny and I finally moved to our new place a couple of weeks ago. And we're still not completely unpacked.

There's a reason why I don't like moving: it's transferring the stability that is your home to a new place that's hopefully as stable as the last one. I moved so many times in college (apartment to dorm, dorm to another dorm, dorm to apartment) and that was enough for me. I'm thankful that I have moved only three times since college.

So far, we really enjoy our new place and neighborhood. Turns out, it's a neighborhood that I spent many holidays in as I had relatives who lived just a couple of streets away. It's a quiet neighborhood that thankfully has not had a problem with my sporadic muted drum playing. I consider ourselves lucky, and life these days is a mixture of a lot of work and some leisure time. The motivation to write comes and goes, but when it strikes, I have to remind myself to sit down and type. The way things are going, I could put out a new version of Post with an afterword before I put out When We Were the Kids. We'll see.

But for now, Jenny and I hope to unpack everything this weekend, hang up everything that we can, and make our home more of a livable situation. I'm happy to say it will be our home for at least the next year.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Goodbye Swiss Avenue

In my time of blogging, this has been the longest stretch I have not blogged about anything. Nothing. Not even posting links to articles I've written elsewhere. I could blame laziness on this reason, but the truth is, life has been so busy that I've preferred to not share everything as it has developed. Things are still developing as I type this, but I'd like to share something.

I am moving for the first time in nine years. Despite efforts to get into a new lease before the sale to new landlords last month, they decided to not grant us a new lease. Previously, speaking through their realtor, they expressed an interest in putting us in a new lease before they bought the property. Jenny had just moved in at the end of July, and was halfway unpacked when a 30 day notice e-mail landed in my inbox on the first of September. Telling us that we had 30 days to vacate, we were crushed. When I called one of the landlords about this, all I got was, "We wanted to live on the property when we bought the place. We changed our minds on where we wanted to live, and since you weren't in a lease, we want your duplex."

Frankly, I'm more than happy to severe ties with people who conduct business this way. It's business, I know, but it also comes across as spine-less and soul-less. This change of mind has added a sour, final note to a long and fruitful time living on a beautiful street. I moved in as a single 25-year-old and am moving out as a 34-year-old who is in a stable and happy relationship.

This was the house I grew very attached to, mainly because of the abundance of positive memories. Parties, band practices, late-night talks, movie-watching, falling in love, out of love, and back in love -- all in a duplex with a foundation desperately in need of repair. This was my home, my own home separate from my parents' home.

As I continue to pack, memories come back to me from all kinds of places. All the Halloweens and Christmases. The two times I was laid off and the times I started new jobs. All the time spent wondering where my life was going while listening to Genesis's Seconds Out and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. And I clearly remember finishing Post and starting When We Were the Kids and Forever Got Shorter in this house.

Thankfully, Jenny and I have a chance to start in a new place together. It's about 20 minutes north and in a great neighborhood. It's not 100 percent suburbia, but it's close, and that's totally fine by me. I know the area pretty well since I had an aunt, uncle and two cousins live only a few streets away for almost 20 years. But there's much more to discover, from restaurants to biking/running paths. We haven't taken a step down -- it's just different.

The duplex we're moving to has an abundance of storage space, something we're in need of. For the first time in my adult life, I will have a garage and a working ice maker. That's huge when you've lived so long without them. There's plenty of room for our dogs, including a backyard area.

Calculating all the pluses up, I think we will all be happy there. It feels like this is the logical next step in my life, even though it feels like we made the most of an awkward and frustrating situation.

I'm so happy I'm making this step with Jenny, who's been a source of strength and love since we started dating over a year ago. This loop we've been in has made things difficult and stressful, but we see a bigger and better picture ahead of us.

Still, none of this closure will start to sink in until we're all moved out of the old place and settled into the new one. Sometimes life isn't where you'd thought it would be, but accept what you have, what you've lost, and what you want to gain in the future. I don't think I could have said that nine years ago, so I chalk that up to growth and gratefulness to learning new things in life.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Why I'm back on the air

Life has been incredibly busy these days, which has been great. A big reason why is that I have started a second part-time job, and it's something I've done before: traffic reporting.

Yes, I'm back on terrestrial airwaves after two years, and I've enjoyed being back. A primary reason why is that I'm with a different company, filling in on radio stations I've never been on before. Plus, my financial situation demanded some kind of secondary source of income. Getting hired with this company was very simple and brief after a couple of e-mails and phone calls. After I did my first report on the air, I was relieved that I had not lost my ability to speak with authority about accidents, disabled vehicles, and construction. It was as if the two year layover never happened.

There is a cliche in radio that no matter what else you do professionally, you always come back to radio. I own up to that, but no matter what people think, I will always want to do more than be a radio personality with a deep voice. I enjoy being a writer and a field marketing rep as well, and I am recognized as such. I don't believe I'm someone who will always do one thing well; I think I can do well in a variety of fields.

As I do my part-time jobs, I will continue to find full-time employment. Receiving rejection letters (or no responses at all) are easier to take when I have a stable income. There have been many promising leads since October 2011, but they've all fallen through. That doesn't mean I should give up and pretend that broadcasting is the only field I can be in.

Right now, I'm working with good people who recognize my abilities and strengths in what I bring to the table, whether it's traffic reporting, field marketing, or writing. I'd like to keep working with good people in a full-time job environment. Whether that job is in one of those three, I'll stay patient and see what happens.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Deluxe

Randomly on Monday, I was asked by editor if I wanted to interview a member of Better Than Ezra. The following day, I interviewed Tom Drummond, the bass player. Since I was born in New Orleans, I thought it would be a good fit with this New Orleans-based band. He was great and our conversation went well. Here's the Q&A.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tribute to Kidd

I never met Kidd Kraddick, but I knew a handful of people that worked with him. No one said bad things about him when he was alive, and nobody said a bad thing about him at his public memorial. I covered the show for the Observer and came away deeply moved. Ben Folds' two-song set tore the living daylights out of me, but in a good way. I was quite happy to cover this.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Josh Venable Returns

Josh Venable announced where he's going next, in terms of a radio station. I followed-up with him about it and wrote an article on it.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Warped

My review of the Dallas Warped Tour date is live. If I sound a little torn and perplexed about what to say, it was mostly because of the heat. Long day.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Good Good Things

Looks like I, along with about a hundred people, got to witness something last Thursday that people all over the world are clamoring for: seeing Filmage, the documentary on the Descendents/All.

I do what I can to spotlight local filmmakers with my connection to the Observer, but I wasn't expecting thousands of Facebook "Like"s and dozens of tweets about my brief Q&A with the filmmakers. I don't write for stats, but I'm well aware of them when a story goes live.

Coming out of the screening at the Texas Theatre -- which I can safely put on the same level as the original Alamo Drafthouse in Austin -- I couldn't stop gushing about the film. As in, this is a documentary that should be seen all over the world. And I'd love to see the film again.

The story of the Descendents (and its off-shoot All) is not something that could fit in a documentary like, say, American Hardcore or Hype! The Descendents might have been on one of the coolest punk rock labels in the '80s, but they were too melodic to be considered angry. All might have put out a record on a major label in the '90s, but they were not one of the casualties of the post-Nirvana/Green Day boom. The band is a story to itself, and I'm really happy a documentary on them exists. And it's a pretty definitive one at that, given the people interviewed for it.

The film looks beautiful, features a ton of great songs, and moves at a pretty even pace. Yet when the pace slows to a crawl (I won't say where or why), the film becomes much more than a retelling of a band's history. This part adds tremendous emotional depth that you rarely see in these kinds of films, especially about fast punk rock bands.

As I walked out of the theater and into the lobby, I talked with a number of people. One of the first things I said was, "I want to go home and pull out Milo Goes to College, Somery, and the All compilation on Owned and Operated." I've listened to the Descendents and All for many years, but it had been a while since I listened any of those. A great documentary on a band can make me want to listen to them again, and Filmage did just that.

I can't stress enough how good this is. While the filmmakers need to get music licensing taken care of, I hope they can commercially release this version as is. Whatever hurdles they need to get over, I believe it will be worth it in the long run.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When I Get Old

I'm alive and still pretty busy, but blog posts may continue to be scattered for a while. In the meantime, here's a brief Q&A that I did with one of the fillmmakers for Filmage, a documentary about the Descendents. I'm very proud of these guys and happy to share what they've been up to.

Monday, July 08, 2013

When I Got Busy, Things Got Better

There's a phrase I really like and think about almost everyday now: "When I got busy, things got better." I don't interpret this as being a workaholic. Rather, breaking a cycle of frustration by doing something productive.

Taking on the part-time job that I have now, I was able to pull myself out of a regular pattern of job searching. Networking and looking for openings online are still the best ways to find something, but I kept falling into a pit of frustration when I'd receive rejection letters or no responses at all. Then I had this time to fill, but not a lot of motivation to fill it up to the max.

With the position I have now, I can spend a healthy percentage on job searching that doesn't afford me to fall into that frustrating pit. Most weeks I work less than thirty hours (last two weeks, though, were a total near one hundred) so I balance work, play, and finding a new full-time job well. And my weekends are pretty relaxing. Believe it or not, I don't find them too long or too short.

One of the unforeseen benefits I've experienced with this job was hearing the Man of Steel trailer over and over again. Superman as a character was a huge influence on me as a kid, and I was quite interested in seeing what Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David Goyer could do with the material. Hearing the minute-long trailer a (no exaggeration) few hundred times since the trailer played on a loop with other commercials, I kept reminding myself to stay busy and not be afraid to accomplish goals I set out for. I feel like I'm closer to that goal now, and I'm not so sure I'd be here otherwise.

The main thing for me is to stay busy, and I'm thankful that my job keeps me busy by keeping me on my feet. I'm not planning on donning a red cape anytime soon, but I certainly want to maximize my full potential sooner rather than later.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Digital liner notes

Now that the first Thirteen Conversations release is out, I thought I'd share some background info on it. I love it when bands do this, so I figured this would be fun to do.

-The recording of these songs came from a suggestion my old bandmate Dave made. He wanted to test out some vintage equipment he acquired and asked me to record with him. He said the music could be any style, so I jumped at the chance to record some emo-tinged stuff.

-A majority of the riffs on these songs were written in 1999. I was in the middle of college and spent a lot of time in my dorm room playing guitar. I kept coming back to these riffs over the years, and they are almost exactly like how I originally wrote them.

-I recorded all the drums and guitars last year. I also recorded vocals and bass lines, but I didn't feel very confident as a singer and played a bass with dead strings. I wrote new lyrics and used a brand new bass when I recorded again. Only some backing vocals in the bridge of "Born to Run Away" were from last year.

-"Born to Run Away" is absolutely an homage to Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." My spin on it is running away from your life and finding yourself in a state of flux.

-"No Future, No Furniture" as a title is an homage to the often-used Sex Pistols lyric of "No future for you!" The title also pays homage to Everyone Everywhere's "No Furniture." Just a fun fusing of things in a song about being forced to start over.

-The drums were recorded first. I tried to play to a click track, but my playing was way too stiff, so I trusted my instincts. I slowed down in a couple of spots, but I think only one time is very noticeable.

-Both songs have layers of guitars. I believe "Born to Run Away" has four on the choruses.

-The intro to "Born to Run Away" is in mono. That's a direct lift from Motion City Soundtrack's "Everything's Alright."

-The cover photo was taken behind my house. Since this release is my first few steps into putting my own music out there, I thought this was fitting. Pure coincidence that it looks like an E.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thirteen Conversations

I've teased this before and now it's available for the Internet to hear. This is Thirteen Conversations, my new musical project. I play all the instruments and sing. The audio is a little choppy due to .WAV conversion, but you can hear where I'm going.

Enough talking, let's get to rocking here!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My three dogs

My beagle Victory has been an only child for almost four years. She gets along with every person that visits our humble abode, but one day in the near future, she'll have two other dogs around her at all times.

Jenny has brought over her two dogs, Sunny and Truvy, for weekend visits. Aside from a brief "Who the hell are you?" exchange and a minor tussle during in their first meeting, Victory got along great with Sunny and Truvy. Sunny is an old dog, but she's still lovable. Truvy is still very young and a firecracker upon seeing you. Yet she calms down and is glad to snuggle with you at any time. That leaves 9-year-old Victory as the middle daughter.

When it comes to feeding the three dogs, we feed them all at the same time. Amazingly, all three chow down and don't try to eat each other's food. When it comes to sleeping for the night, we will absolutely need a bigger bed. No doubt about it: a king-sized bed has to be the way to go. Sleeping in a double bed with Victory and Truvy (Sunny always sleeps on the floor) has made for some light sleep nights, awkward sleep positions and sore back muscles.

I never had more than one dog when I was younger. Now looking at a future with three dogs under one roof, I'm not overwhelmed. I'll certainly look more where I step and my lap will almost always be occupied when I sit on the couch. I can handle that, and I look forward to it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

45

I was fortunate to cover the first public screening of 45, a documentary on Spector 45, last night. This is my first movie review for the paper, but it's written more like a concert review. I definitely came away from the screening moved and touched by what I saw.

Read my full review here.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Priorities

I'm happy to say that I have found some steady employment after my layoff in 2011. This is not a full-time job, but it certainly is steering me in the right direction towards one. I have enough time during the week to work my job and find a new full-time job; meaning, I don't spend hours at home wondering and pondering what more I can do.

As my schedule has become a little busier, I want to keep doing the positive activities that helped my mind stay afloat during my post-layoff period. Be it walking the dog, doing improv, or writing new material, I want to keep those priorities in check. Those are some of the things that helped me through a long rough patch in my life, a patch I hope to see further in the distance in the next few months.

Life has thrown me a lot of obstacles in the past few years, but I prefer to not let them derail me from what I want to achieve in the future. My seemingly-lowly existence has been elevated by wonderful people around me, and they've inspired me to see a more realistic and brighter view of tomorrow. It's more about "can" than "cannot."

I'll add this: whatever fears I've had in the past about achievement was just phony insurance. There are no guarantees things will work out tomorrow, but that doesn't mean things won't work out either. So I make time for the things that really matter in my life: a loving relationship, friendly dogs, desires to stay mentally and physically healthy, good ties with friends and family. Those closest to me have seen me at my lowest, and I certainly want them to see me at my highest.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rise Above

Had I not been asked to cover this show, I'm not sure I would have gone. I have mixed feelings about Greg Ginn and his business practices, but I tried to go into Black Flag's show at Trees with an open mind. My thoughts wound up here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Push Thru

I've known Glen Reynolds since college because of my uber-fandom of his band, Chomsky. I've seen him dress up as Liam Gallagher and sing Oasis songs, and I've seen him in regular clothes singing Weezer songs. Last year he told me about his collaboration with Talib Kweli and I thought he was pulling my leg. He was not. Now that Kweli's latest record is out and Glen has a new solo album, I figured it was time to get the rundown.

You can read the whole story here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Q&A with John Clardy from Tera Melos

Tera Melos might be based in Sacramento, but their drummer lives in North Texas. Since the band is coming to Club Dada this Friday, I wanted to ask John Clardy about his early experiences in the area and how he wound up in this buzzed-about act. I figured I'd get some good stories and an explanation on he makes it work living in another state from his band members.



Do you currently live in North Texas?
I do, actually. I live in Fort Worth when the band is inactive. I’ve been home a lot since I got back from Europe. When the band is inactive, I’m usually for here for about six months.

How long have you lived in the area?
I was born and raised in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I grew up in Colleyville, but not the real swanky part. There’s one section that’s on the edge of Bedford. It was country land, then all those fancy mansions got built up just north of that area. I grew up in the Mid Cities and started going to shows in Deep Ellum when I turned 15. When I turned 16, I didn’t have to bug my dad to drive me to Deep Ellum Live.

Any shows in particular that stick out from this particular time?
I got to see Hagfish at Trees when I was 15. I was underage for Trees’ standards, but my mom convinced the doorman, “Oh, he’s 17. He forgot his ID. I’m his mother. It’s totally fine.” That was a really, really cool one. Tony Barsotti is my favorite drummer from the Dallas area. He’s been one of my favorites for a long time now. Let’s see . . . I got to see Weezer right before The Green Album came out at Deep Ellum. That was pretty insane.

I remember that time so distinctly because Casey Di Iorio of Valve mentioned getting Weezer tickets when I saw Valve play the Aardvark. The kind of excitement for that show, you would not see it now because of all the records Weezer has put out since then.
[laughs] Exactly! That was the time when Pinkerton had been out for a few years and they weren’t doing shit, so it was this long-lost hope to see Weezer again. Yeah, they did not sully their good name. They put two perfect records at that point. That was a cool time. I definitely have fond memories of that time. I used to go see bands at LazerTracks in Arlington.

Would you see bands like My Spacecoaster?
You know, I never really got into the Club 412 scene. Some of my friends were and I never had anything against it; I didn’t end up getting a ride out to any show, so I only heard about those shows. It was more LazerTracks, Deep Ellum, and once I got a little older, Trees and Galaxy Club.

So, how in the world did you jump from living in this area to playing in a band that based out of Sacramento?
It’s kind of a funny story. Prior to Tera Melos, I was in Fishboy for about three years. The label that Fishboy is on is based in Athens, Georgia. Back in ’06/’07, the guy that runs the label put on Athens Pop Fest. He’d get the bands on his roster to play, and that was a staple through those years. We’d go out to Athens in August, usually. We were out there in 2006 and they were having an unofficial “noise night.” Deerhoof was the headliner, so I had to catch that show. One of the opening bands called Bit Brigade who take an old NES game, like Mega Man or Castlevania, and they would have this guy play the game on the NES, it was projected onto a screen, and the band would play the soundtrack to it in real time. I saw that and was like, “Holy shit! So rad!” I talked with one of the guys in the band. It was about a year later, Fishboy was playing Athens again at a venue that Brian from Bit Brigade owns. He saw me play and he came up to me. We became buddies while we were in town. He mentioned he was really into this band. Tera Melos. My brother had seen them in Denton a few years ago, but I hadn’t listened to them. Fast forward to summer of 2008, I was on tour with another band and we were playing Athens. I called Brian to invite to the show. He couldn’t come, but he told me Tera Melos was looking for a new drummer and I should try out. I looked at their MySpace page and I read what they were looking for in a drummer. I basically fit everything except for living on the West Coast part. I sent them an e-mail that I was interested. They called me two days later. They came to meet me at the San Francisco show on the tour I was on. When that was over, I flew up to Sacramento about two weeks after that. Tried out and got it, and here we are today.

Do you hope to stay in the area or relocate to Sacramento?
It’s a tricky thing. I think me relocating makes sense as far as the band. We’ve been able to make things work for the past few years. Whenever it’s time to record, tour, or write, I’ll fly out to Sacramento and stay on friends’ couches. Up ’til now, it’s not been that big of a deal. At some point I think I do need to get out there. I really enjoy the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I have a lot of close friends. A lot of great bands come through. I’m a big ice hockey fan, so I like going to Stars games every now and then.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Naming names

While it's been pretty easy to come up with new songs, one thing that's been very difficult: coming up with a name for this one-man band that I have. Theme Park Experience was a name I suggested to one of the bands I played with in college, but when that was shot down, I kept it for later. When the time came to name this blog, I found the name to be fitting.

Now I'm faced with the dreaded "untitled Eric Grubbs solo project" title. That name is not gonna cut it.

I like it when an answer comes to me. Coming up with the titles for all three of my books came naturally. I didn't force it or stress about it. I simply thought about a few names over a short amount of time and bam, there was the answer. Post came to me when I was in the bathroom of my old apartment in north Dallas, the same apartment complex where a pile of shingles fell onto my head and I got the idea to write the book. When We Were the Kids was a no-brainer, but I can't seem to remember exactly when or where I chose the title. And Forever Got Shorter came while I drove to Jenny's place one night.

Answers come to me when something is on my mind, but I have other things on my mind. The cliche of coming up with the best ideas while on the toilet is absolutely true. When you're on the can, your priority is not music, lyrics, or character motivations. The focus is getting your bathroom business done. The same is true with walking a dog after writing and editing and slaving away at something for hours.

I've tried to come up with creative names for my new "band," like looking at a list of Robert Pollard releases and mixing names up. When I thought I had a good name, turns out, there was already a band with that name.

With almost all of the bands I've been in, the naming process was a non-event. My favorite band name was the 11:30s. One of the guitarists wrote out a long list of names on a yellow legal pad. "Eleven Thirties" stuck out to me. He came up with the name due to the time of night he wrote this list. I thought it was a great name, as did the other band members.

Keeping in this tradition, I'm not going to force things out. I've been down that road before, and the results are seldom satisfactory in the long run. Since I want to keep doing this for a long time, I best let the answer flow out of me naturally.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Nothin' But a Good Time

When Rock of Ages was a Broadway hit, I rolled my eyes. Hair metal turned into a Broadway smash? Kill me, said my punk rock purist attitude.

When Rock of Ages was made into a movie, I anticipated Razzie nominations and mocking upon its release. This isn't a movie I should ever consider seeing, said my far-flung movie tastes. And this was coming from somebody who loves the movie version of Mamma Mia!

I don't necessarily know what compelled me to rent Rock of Ages from Netflix, other than the fact that I tend to have dry spells. As in, I want to watch something I've never seen before, and I'm usually up for something different . . . even if it's something I initially found forgettable. No matter how many hair metal songs were in it.

I embrace the fact that hair metal was a crucial element in me appreciating modern rock music when I was a kid. Songs like "Wait," "Here I Go Again," and "Carrie" might have been made into cheesy videos for MTV, but the melodies, polished sound, and somewhat aggressive style certainly helped bridge a gap between James Taylor and Nirvana. I couldn't have understood the importance of Nirvana had it not been for Steelheart, Trixter, and Slaughter.

Rock of Ages is filled with songs that I remembered hearing all the time before I became a teenager. Hair metal was awesome when I was in elementary school, and it was a point of constant mockery in middle school and high school. Now I'm at an age and a truly comfortable place in my life where I openly acknowledge myself as a music enthusiast. Melody and perceived passion weigh heavily into what I react to. Doesn't matter if it's a Jay-Z song, an ABBA song, or a Dillinger Escape Plan song, my tastes are all over the place and unpredictable. So it's not too far-fetched to say that I can enjoy "We Built This City" and "I Wanna Rock" without irony or cringing.

Am I biased in finding enjoyment in songs I loved before puberty struck me? Of course. Did this weigh heavily with finding value in this movie? Absolutely.

With the Rock of Ages movie, I knew there would be lots of sexual innuendo and one-liners, just like all the songs that are featured. A number of the jokes felt flat to me, but that didn't deter me from enjoying the movie. It's probably the best adaptation one could expect from the source material. Really good actors who can sing to various degrees of success, mixed with faithful modern recreations of 80s hits. And given the satire of the PMRC and kid-friendly hip-hop, I couldn't help be pulled in. 

I have no illusions how my assessment would fall on deaf ears. This movie isn't Ikiru, nor is it Baby Geniuses. It's entertainment, folks. We have our Nick Drakes and we have our Taylor Swifts. You get to choose what you want to hear and see. Having the choice is better than no choice at all.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

RSD

For the past two years, I have resisted the urge to seek out the exclusive pieces of vinyl released on Record Store Day. I didn't think the time and effort would be worth much: standing in a line for hours, hoping to find something that I wanted. Plus, there haven't been many items that I really wanted. Matter of fact, the only RSD exclusive that I wanted was that Foo Fighters 12-inch featuring cover songs they had done over their entire career. When I saw the line to get into the record store closest to me wrap around the block, I turned my car around and went home.

This year, there were a handful of records that I wanted to get. A couple of them were modern classics that I wouldn't mind owning on vinyl, even though I already owned them on CD. I still try to stick to a relatively strict code of vinyl purchases (as in, I try not to own something on vinyl and CD), but there are times when I cannot resist. This happened with Bruce Springsteen's catalog between his debut album and Tunnel of Love. Having iconic works like Born to Run and Nebraska are worth the double-dip, in my opinion.

Going into yesterday's event, I had At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command, Braid's Frame & Canvas, and Cave In's Until Your Heart Stops on my list of wants. I also wanted to pick up the debut EP by Their/They're/There, a new group featuring members of Cap'n Jazz and Into It. Over It. I had received some great intel from a record hound friend of mine that a couple of stores in my area usually had smaller crowds and better quantities than other stores. I had to give this a shot.

I woke up at 6am yesterday and got out the door a little after 7. While the first store that I went to had plenty of stock, there wasn't much room to move around. Fifteen to twenty anxious audiophiles were stuffed into an area that was maybe six feet wide. To get your hands on a record, you had to be comfortable with leaving your comfort zone and (somewhat) grope the people around you. I smelled plenty of coffee breath as well as sweat, but if this was my only chance to get these records, I told myself that I could always shower later.

I grabbed the sole copies of Frame & Canvas and Until Your Heart Stops and one of the many copies of Relationship of Command. As I tried to make my way to the T section, I saw my friend Brian holding what turned out to be the only copy of the Their/They're/There EP. Brian is a great guy who loves the kind of music that I love, so seeing him hold this sole copy was fine by me. Better him than some person who is going to sell it unopened for triple the price on eBay.



After talking with a few more friends who came out, I decided it was time to plunk down my cash and get the hell out of there. My grand total was a whopping 90 dollars. Since two of the records were double-LPs, that made the price much more than I usually spend on vinyl. (Usually, I spend about 25 dollars a month on books and vinyl because I like to eat food on a daily basis and have a roof over my head.) Given that I received some wonderful news on Friday about something I can't quite address publicly yet (it involves me working a regular schedule for the first time in sixteen months), I figured, why the hell not?

I came home happy, but I couldn't stop thinking about another store in town that also participates in RSD. When they opened their doors a few hours after most of the other stores opened, I dropped in to see what was available. At a few minutes after they unlocked their doors, the scene was like throwing scraps to a kennel filled with hungry dogs. This place had much less stock and none of the other releases I wanted to check out.

Getting back home, I marveled at the vinyl I got. The Braid 12-inch was on clear vinyl while the other two were on brown marble swirl. I'd say this was worth doing, but I am OK with not stepping into a record store again for a few days. To help fight the temptation, I spent the rest of the day on a golf course. Surrounded by great company and playing in gorgeous weather, I had a wonderful 4/20.

As for next year's Record Store Day, all bets are off, but if they have a few things I'd really like, I'm willing to do this all over again.

Friday, April 19, 2013

For You

Last year, while I watched the Revival Tour for the first time, I noticed the guy playing the first solo set of the night. I didn't know if he was local or not, but I certainly remembered his curly hair. A week later, I saw him at LaGrange and introduced myself. The guy's name was Corey Howe. Not much later, I interviewed the band for My First Show.

Now with their debut record coming out this week, I wrote a story on the path they've taken to get there. Definitely was a fun one to write. I hope it's a fun one to read.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don't Talk to Strangers

My introduction to Rick Springfield was not through General Hospital or hearing "Jessie's Girl" on the radio. It was Chipmunk Rock, an album mostly made of of cover songs with Alvin and the Chipmunks. While I can't really stomach Alvin, Simon, and Theodore's version of "Jessie's Girl" these days, there were roots laid in my mind. The same went with many of the other songs on the album, like "Take a Chance on Me," "Whip It," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," and "Leader of the Pack." That's the kind of stuff I went on since we didn't have MTV in our household until 1987.

I've heard the original "Jessie's Girl" many, many times in my lifetime and I still enjoy it. Yet thinking there was anything more to Rick Springfield was not really on my mind until recently.

I had seen the Behind the Music episode on Rick a few times and I knew he had a very frank memoir out on in bookstores called Late, Late At Night. I thought of him as a pop star trying to retain his rocker image. This desire was not too far off from Rod Stewart, believe it or not. A song like "Don't Talk to Strangers" doesn't really rock, but I still like the chorus.

Leave it to Dave Grohl with showing me how much more Rick Springfield is as an artist. Yes, an artist.

In Grohl's documentary, Sound City, a number of other hits besides "Jessie's Girl" are featured. "I Get Excited," "I've Done Everything for You," and "Love is Alright Tonite" came to my attention, making me way more interested in Rick, beyond what I had heard before.

Giving a listen to the Essential Rick Springfield, I can't tell if Rick wants to be Sammy Hagar or David Cassidy. Maybe that's the thing that's plagued him for his entire career. When you're too good-looking to be a rocker but too rocking for a pop crowd, one end of the spectrum is gonna win over the other one, depending on the song.

I recently read Late, Late At Night and found it pretty open and honest. He makes no bones about his life-long battle with depression and sex addiction. Not exactly dinner-table conversation, but his songs make more sense to me after reading the book. Not many memoirs are this blunt.

I've already begun my hunt for my favorite LPs at the local record stores. I found Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet and I hope to see Working Class Dog soon. Those are two that I consider "essential" and his other records are not too tempting for me. Something clicked perfectly on those two records and I'd like to dig into the other non-single tracks.

Funny how this journey started with an Alvin and the Chipmunks cover. I hope to meet somebody someday who got into Modest Mouse because of Kidz Bop.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Take the Long Way Home

When I first heard a Supertramp song, I thought there was irony in where I heard it. Featured on the thirteen-song Magnolia soundtrack, "Goodbye Stranger" and "The Logical Song" seemed out of place between the low key pop songs by Aimee Mann. It was like a couple of Bat Out of Hell songs from Meat Loaf were featured on a compilation dominated by Clouds-era Joni Mitchell. As in, bombastic, multi-layered songs tacked on a collection of moody, Sunday morning songs.

Plus the band had a silly name. Supertramp? Really?

With the insanely-high vocals and jazzy beats of "Goodbye Stranger," I passed off the song as a product of excessive late 70s/early 80s production aiming for the same audience that made Styx and REO Speedwagon household names.

Well, I still feel that way about the band, but after hearing "Take the Long Way Home" a few times, I've decided I need to invest a lot more time into this band's catalog. Given how much I love Ben Folds' sense of pop melody and songwriting, Supertramp sounds like the bridge between Elton John and Ben Folds. And Steely Dan. And Todd Rundgren. And, to a small degree, Air Supply. All artists I un-ironically love. Yes, I love Air Supply.

In other words, I have a lot of Supertramp music I need to listen to.

Just this morning, I took a listen again to "Take the Long Way Home" as one of Jenny's favorite iTunes playlists was on shuffle. The song's pre-chorus really grabbed me and I wanted to hear it again and again. So I later took a listen to Matt's copy of  Breakfast in America on vinyl. Already I'm in love with the aforementioned "Take the Long Way Home," but also "Just Another Nervous Wreck." It's like Burt Bacharach interpreted for a Broadway musical. And that's something I can dive head-first into.

Still, with a silly name like Supertramp, I should put the music on and not care about the band's image or album covers. I should just enjoy the tunes.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Josh Venable

There are other freelance writers at the Observer who have worked in radio, but I seem to be the one who writes about radio and fellow radio personalities. I met Josh Venable years ago at a show at the Gypsy Tea Room and we talked about Ash. When Ash came through town last month, I talked to him about doing a story about his life after Clear Channel cut him loose. Here's what I wrote.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Finding the voice

It's been a long time since I've played music in front of people. The last time I did, it was an immense joy. Jamming with guys I didn't know, in a bar I'd never been in before, and playing a slow blues song and then Bill Withers' "Use Me." Various reasons are why I haven't played live since, but it's not because of a lack of want. The opportunity has not presented itself since that September 2011 night.

I formed a band last year that practiced for a few months, fleshing out styles I had never really played in a band before. I loved the material, but when we couldn't find a permanent bass player and one of the key members didn't want to continue playing with us, everything stopped. Once again, I had to start over and set my drum set back up in my office with sound-deadening pads.

While I was practicing with these guys, who I still consider friends to this day, I had an opportunity to record a couple of songs with my friend and old bandmate, Dave. He wanted to try out some vintage studio equipment he had recently acquired and suggested I record with him. He advised me to write whatever I wanted to and I'd play all the instruments and sing. I had played all the instruments and sung before, but I was so mortified by my singing voice that I never played the material for anyone. I recorded two songs and got some very satisfying drum tracks and guitar tracks. I, along with Dave, felt the vocals and lyrics were not strong or confident enough, so the tracks remained on his hard drive.

This wasn't surprising given my previous experiences with trying to sing and write coherent lyrics.

When I was in college, I liked the creative process up til hearing the playback, so I set the self-recording desires aside. I had originally taken inspiration from Dave Grohl. He was the first guy I knew of that wrote, sung, and played almost every note on the first Foo Fighters record. If he tried something he had never done before, then it wasn't too far-fetched to consider trying it myself. But since I'm not an accomplished singer, I'd approach the vocal microphone with a certain amount of fear. Strangely, fear never held me back from singing with a couple of thrown-together bands in high school. Years of over-thinking and self-consciousness held me back from trying until I got things right in my head.

I'm still not convinced I have a great singing voice, but after talking with singers I greatly admire, like Blair Shehan, I'm going to try once again very soon. I hope to re-record my vocals with Dave in his new studio and present this to the world found on the Internet. Whatever I will call this, it will be of my hands, feet, and vocal cords.

In addition to these two songs, I have five more songs in various stages of development. Four of these songs are made of riffs I have played for many years. While I might consider myself more a drummer than anything else, there were always times I would pull out my guitar. Some of these riffs turned into songs I did with a previous band. Many other riffs were not right for the musical styles of my various bands. For those that know me, the influences on these riffs/songs will be very obvious.

I'm not against playing in a band situation again. That said, I can't help the desire to really express myself where I play all the instruments and sing. And helping me get closer to that desire comes from Dave Grohl's recent keynote speech at SXSW. Hearing one of my main influences be so self-deprecating about his abilities as a singer and a songwriter, I completely agree with his assessment: doesn't matter if your voice is good or bad; it's your voice. And when I recently saw a friend play live and I was convinced he had no desire to stay anywhere near the stratosphere the guitars were in, I thought, "I should at least try singing again."

I think I have all the inspiration that I need. Now to follow through.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Q&A with Matt Pryor

Here's my full Q&A with Matt Pryor as he hits the Revival Tour tonight in Dallas at Trees.



Is this the first time that you’ve played the Revival Tour?

Yes. I’ve been talking to Chuck about it for a couple of years of now. Could never get it to line up because the Get Up Kids were touring or I was touring. All that kind of stuff. It’s just fun and random. I was just, “Man, what am I going to do in March?” And then I got an e-mail from Chuck and it was like, “Perfect!”

When Chuck calls, you don’t want to turn him down.

Well, that’s unfortunate [how] I’ve had to turn him down.

Have you seen the Revival Tour before? Has it come through St. Louis or Lawrence?

I’ve seen clips of it on YouTube. I’ve never been to one of the concerts. I know the gist of it. I know a lot of people who have done it and have given positive feedback.

It’s kind of an awesome thing you don’t see anywhere else.

Yeah, it’s interesting because I had a similar idea to do something like that with my band, the New Amsterdams. And I just never did it. [laughs] Other things kept coming up. And now if I wanted to do it, [people would say] “Oh, you’re just ripping off Chuck’s idea, huh?”

You did something similar last year with the Where’s the Band? tour.

Yeah, but that’s just . . . When that came up, originally, I wanted to take out the New Ams drummer and bass player because they can play anything and they can back everybody up. My agent was like, “No because then the name of the tour doesn’t make any sense. It would still be a band.” Any he’s the one who came up with the name of that tour. That was more of four dudes stripped down, you know what I mean?

Mm-hmm. Can you remember the first time you encountered Chuck?

I met Chuck in 1997 because Doghouse Records released the first Get Up Kids and the Hot Water Music record, Forever and Counting. I’m trying to think where was the first place we met. Maybe in Germany? Of all places. [laughs] Or probably . . . Probably playing in Gainesville. I don’t remember. We never toured with Hot Water. We always bumped into each other at festivals or just random places. Wait, we did tour with Hot Water one time! On the Honda Civic Tour in 2004 and Chuck sliced his hand open and they had to leave the tour because he couldn’t play guitar. I remember they had Dustin from Thrice fill in for one show.

Yeah, that’s right! Wasn’t it towards the end of . . . Well, the band’s broken up a few times. But this was towards the beginning of their second break-up, I believe?

Yeah, I don’t ever know when or what their status is. They’re doing shows now. Don’t you know bands never really break up? [laughs]

Oh, I know. Just to let you know, in case you hadn’t picked up on it yet: I was that guy who wrote a book about where a lot of emo and post-hardcore came from.

OK.

There was a chapter devoted to the Get Up Kids and one devoted to Hot Water Music, and what happens after the book comes out? Almost all of them get back together. [laughs]

[laughs] What was the book called?

Post.

Post?

Yeah! It’s cited on Wikipedia, surprisingly. I interviewed you over e-mail. I also interviewed Rob, Ryan, and Jim.

Oh, OK! I remember that!

Yeah, so I’m that guy.

Right on, man! Small world!

It was a humble effort document something that nobody else really wanted to document properly at the time. So, there’s some stuff that’s very dated now, but hey, that’s what happens. Wanted to ask, how did you get into podcasting?

Well, for years, I had always listened to stuff like NPR shows, like This American Life and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! Last year, I got really, really burnt on music and I really thought that I wanted to switch careers. I was like, over it. So I went to go work on a farm. I’m really into growing a lot of my own food in my house. It was like, “Well, I like cooking and I like food,” so I was able to work on a food truck and then I was able to work on a farm. You know, when you’re picking vegetables for eight hours, it’s kinda boring and repetitive. I had heard about Marc Maron and Jay Mohr. I’m a big Kevin Smith fan, so I started listening to his thing. All of sudden, I was like, “These are awesome!” It’s total long-form conversation. It’s not an interview; it’s people hanging out and telling stories. That’s something you do backstage or jam on the bus. [I was] like, “Well, if comedians can do it, I know a lot of people in the music industry.” That’s where it started.

I texted Todd [Bell] when your interview with him went live and I asked what you guys recorded it on, because it sounded pretty good. I know y’all weren’t in the same room, but he said it was Skype. Is Skype what you interviewed Evan [Weiss] on?

Yeah! I’ve actually done more Skype interviews than live ones because the live ones are kinda tough to wait for people to either come to me or me to come to them, which is less likely. [laughs]

The one that you did with Bob [Nanna], was that also Skype?

That was Skype, yeah. It’s interesting: you have to be in the mindset for it, in the same way that you and I are talking and not seeing each other. You just have to pretend. Especially if you speak with your arms a lot. You know, you do a lot of gestures when you speak passionately about something. You start realizing that you’re doing that to a computer. You know, they can’t see you. I specifically don’t do video chats because those are uncomfortable.

I don’t blame you.

Besides, it’s not a visual medium anyway.

Correct! I have to say, the interview that you did with Evan, even though he touched on things that I talked with him about last year, was inspiring. It’s nice to hear people younger than us not wanting to take the path of Fall Out Boy or the All-American Rejects. They want to take the route of the early Get Up Kids.

I know! Isn’t that fuckin’ awesome?

Yes it is!

I met Evan when he was here. I was like, “What’s this kid? Some kind of emo throwback guy?” The more I got to know him, the more I talked to him about it, I was like, “Holy shit, it’s kinda like ‘The Dream of the Nineties’ is alive in indie rock! These are my people!” Obviously I am older and have a family, but it still is the sensibilities that I was attracted to with punk rock. You know what I mean? It makes me so happy.

It’s obvious that this music is coming from a truly genuine spot.

Well, yeah! Recording technology has come so far that they can make decent-sounding records for very little money.

Even the stuff he recorded for that 52 Weeks project, where he said the total cost was $2,000 by the end of it, pretty much all of those songs sound good.

Yeah, I was surprised that he did them all . . . That was another idea I had at one point. I’ll just do a song a week for a year, but that would mean do an acoustic guitar and sing it into GarageBand. You know what I mean? He went all-out with it.

Do you young bands contact you? Here’s where I’m coming from with that. When I interviewed Ryan about young bands that were coming into Black Lodge. He said they reminded of him when the Get Up Kids started, but at the same time, they had this eye on a prize. So I’m curious what you have seen in the last few years.

I actually don’t have my ear to the ground that much as far as new bands. It’s one of those things where like, I find out about things really randomly. I’m trying to get this together in Lawrence and there’s a lot of great local talent here. So I’m trying to get something that’s like a weekly residency somewhere. I can play new stuff and bring in a local band that I like and we collaborate. It’s a way to get back in touch with the local music scene. I do listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen to less music now than I have.

I’ve heard from a fellow local band that Ryan has moved back from France and Robbie is back from Brooklyn. Is that, in any way, indicative that there are Get Up Kids shows or projects coming.

No. [laughs] If Robbie is back in Lawrence, I haven’t seen him. I know Ryan’s back in town, but his wife is still in Paris and gonna finish school. But no. We’re very much . . . You know that kind of thing where the band broke up and took a three-year-break?

Mm-hmm.

We’re taking a long break and not really worrying about it. Doing other things. It’s a healthier thing to do than to break up.

Oh yeah. With other bands, when they break up, there’s all kinds of hurtful things said in the press and then when the band gets back together, there’s a thought that everything is cool. Then you realize everything is not all water under the bridge.

That was something I was conscious of when I quit the band in 2004 and we broke up in 2005. At least for me, I didn’t want it to be like, “We’re breaking up because James is a dick!” I wanted to be like, “Well, it’s run its course. We want to leave it as friends.” But we said hurtful things to each other and behind each other’s back. [laughs] It’s kinda the, don’t fight in front of the kids. You know?

I understand. Besides the Lasorda record, you’ve done stuff with James [Dewees].

He and I are actually working on an album.

And the podcast. What else do you have time for doing?

The last New Amsterdams record is coming out March 5th, which is a collection called Outroduction. It’s a collection of all the songs over the history of that band that I always really liked, but for one reason or another, didn’t fit on whatever record I was putting out. Some of favorite, favorite songs, but it would be the one big rock song on an all-acoustic/sad record. So it would get shelved. It’s kinda like having leftovers in the fridge. I wanted people to hear those songs.

Something that’s been wracking my brain every time I listen to the podcast: What is the intro music that you use?

It’s a song called “Dear Lover” that’s actually a New Amsterdams song. It’s one of my favorite New Ams songs. It’s actually Dewees playing the piano on it. It’s always killed me that it never fit on anything. We’ve actually recorded it four times; that’s the first one. That’s on Outroduction. It’s the second track.

Something cute that you did last year was when you and your kids recorded a version of “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home.” Any plans to do that again down the road?

Well, I’ve released two albums for kids.

Oh yeah, the Terrible Twos!

I’m finishing up the third one right now. Hopefully that’s going to get finished before I leave for the Revival Tour. I don’t know when that will come out. Fall, maybe?

I had never heard the Terrible Twos’ music until last year. I was riding around suburban Chicago with some married friends of mine and they have a seven-year-old and a two-year-old. They kept singing “I Am A Rake.”

[laughs] It’s not too far off from early New Amsterdams stuff. It’s just the lyrics are about dinosaurs and bugs.

And chocolate milk.

Yeah! Those are really fun to write, but then you find yourself recording them . . . Time management is kind of a big thing for me because I have kids. You’re re-doing the vocal take of a song about chocolate milk and you’re like, “What the fuck am I doing with myself?” [laughs] It’s great when you start meeting those kinds of people in that kid’s music type of world. There are people who take it really, really seriously. It’s always really funny to me. Because I’m like, “These are songs for kids, right?”

On a related note: do you watch Portlandia?

Oh yeah! I love it!

Did you see that episode where Carrie and Fred are convinced that they must create a band they would love to play in and play it for kids? They make all this drone-y noise and all these kids sit there baffled.

[laughs]

And then comes in a band where the singer had a handlebar mustache and singing really poppy stuff. In a way, it was like Yo-Gabba-Gabba! I thought it was perfect. Talking about those friends who played “I Am A Rake” for their kids, the husband played in Allister and they put up Boxer and At the Drive-In.

Punk rockers grow up and have families too, you know? I don’t know. What’s interesting is that my kids are getting older so it’s becoming less intriguing to me. I’ll at least do this last one. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll get a Nickelodeon show out of the deal.

Could it be in the next few years that your oldest would want to sing “Coming Clean”?

She’s really into female singers. Like, she really likes Tegan & Sara and Neko Case. She hasn’t gotten into the angsty thing yet. But I’m sure it’s coming. [laughs]

Are your kids more familiar with you from the Get Up Kids or the New Ams?

They’re more familiar with New Ams because that who they toured with. New Ams and solo stuff has been more of the focus since they’ve been cognizant of what’s going on. I don’t really listen to my stuff around the house anyway, so I’m sure they’ll find it. [laughs]

I’m sure at some point you’ll be asked how awesome it was to record Four Minute Mile in 48 hours.

[laughs] I’ll tell them the same thing I tell everyone else.

I remember Rob, Ryan, and you telling me about how the only times you took breaks was when The Simpsons was on. But there weren’t many breaks

[laughs] No there were not!