The genre is called “Psychobilly”, a heady mix of punk, rockabilly and the psych spirit. JJ Jenkins, Rockin Rick, Dan Watson and Scary, collectively known as the Hellbillys, have been on the Bay Area forefront of this scene since the late 1980′s. They’ve toured the world and have several popular CDs out but are best experience sweaty and in-person. Your chance comes Sunday, October 7th at the Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz. Doors open at 8:30 pm. Hayride to Hell and the Thirsty 3 open. Think of it as the first Halloween party of the season.
The duo of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill will be playing Irish traditional fiddle tunes at two concerts this week, on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 7:30pm at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, CA and on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 7:30pm at the Chautauqua Hall in Pacific Grove, CA. Presented by the Celtic Society of the Monterey Bay, Martin is an outstanding fiddler from County Clare and a six-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, who has collaborated with Irish-American guitarist Dennis Cahill for many years, creating thumping good, spellbinding music together.
Tampa, Florida’s Merchandise don’t reinvent the wheel on this year’s Children of Desire. The wheel they’ve got is damn fine, though. Combining the synthetic beats of New Wave and krautrock with soaring guitars and vocals, they create something that feels both modern and familiar. Their songs make you feel nostalgic for memories you’ve never had. All this from a group of hardcore kids in the sunshine state.
The record opens with the brief “Thin Air”, a synth-filled ballad which creeps along, fading into the upbeat, song of the year-worthy “Time” (which you can listen to below). The lyrics cover classic themes of loneliness and getting older. “Time, you’ve bested me again/I keep trying but I can’t win/Tell me father where you’ve been/I’m alone but used to it,” vocalist Carson Cox croons over an infectious drum machine beat, while a mountaintop guitar riff swoops around the beat (in this metaphor, the guitar riff is a bird). Despite its repetitive structure, the song never wears out its welcome. In fact, its all-too-brief five minutes leaves you wanting more, and that more is brought by the following 11-minute opus “Become What You Are”. The first half of the song chugs along in a similar manner to “Time” – all big guitars and sparkling synths – but cuts out halfway through into a solitary guitar riff, which is followed by a fast-paced jam, complete with whooping synth noises and some big Kraftwerk vibes. It seems at this point, much like Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock before them, Merchandise can’t slow down, ramping up the speed yet again on the fourth track, aptly-titled “In Nightmare Room”. The melodies are darker and the beat more industrial, oozing reverb and skittering hi-hat. This frantic moment comes to a sudden close with the following track, a piano ballad titled, “Satellite”. Cox plays a sparse set of chords, joined slowly by (most likely synthetic) strings and horns, as well as echoing backing vocals. The record culminates in the eleven-minute slow jam “Roser Park”. A midtempo journey through mind of a man wearing a technicolor windbreaker, it sounds a bit like a Prince record slowed to a third of the speed and recorded underwater. It closes off the record in fitting fashion, a triumphant excursion into the 1980s of the future. It’s an incredible record from a band that keeps getting better.
You can get the album from Katorga Works (They have it up as a FREE DOWNLOAD, so no excuses) and you can listen to standout track “Time” below:
Known for her powerful lyrics and sultry voice, Aimee Mann is on tour promoting her new album, Charmer. “I’m fascinated by charming people and the whole idea of charm” Mann says. “It’s hard to remember sometimes that there is usually an agenda behind the act of being charming, and that is what I’m most interested in. Is someone’s charm being utilized just to try and entertain people, make them feel special and interesting, or is there a more sinister purpose behind it? Sometimes I think ‘charm’ can just be another word for manipulation.’” The concept sounds…charming. Find out for yourself as Aimee Mann takes the stage in Santa Cruz Friday, September 28th at the Rio Theatre. Showtime is 8 pm.
With the passing of summer comes a slew of records coming from the some of the biggest names in metal. Converge, Neurosis, Devin Townsend Project, and Deftones all have new albums that sound very promising, but they’re not quite as headbang inducing as Between the Buried and Me’s newest prog masterpiece, Parallax II: Future Sequence. With the continuation of the concept they laid out with last year’s EP (which I thought was worthy of a #4 spot in my Top Ten Records of 2011), they bring many new additions to their already massive reservoir, and at 74 minutes, there’s a whole lot of groundbreaking material to go around. I got a great opportunity to sit down with BTBAM’s bassist and rhythm guitarist to chat a little about their new album, the recent djent craze, and even some Jerry Seinfeld.
Bröötalisk: BTBAM is very well known for combining different musical elements, from blending metalcore and prog to my personal favorite “new wave polka grunge”. You’re the only band that I know of who’ve broken out into full on bar fight metal. Where do you get all these crazy zany ideas, and how hard is it to execute them and flesh them out into a comprehensive song?
[Dustie]: Well, it has to do with our sense of humor.
[Dan]: Yeah, I feel like as serious as the music is, as complex as it is at times, that might be the one time where people really understand that we’re just a bunch of doofuses and to not take us too seriously. Jamie King (album producer) adds a lot to those parts as well. He’s just as goofy as we are. He encourages us. He’s all about it. That’s just kind of a natural part of us too. The goofiness, the quirkiness, in writing or in every day life. It’s just how we are.
Bröötalisk: It seems to me that progressive metal has been gaining extreme popularity over the last few years. What’s your opinion on the direction it’s taking?
[Dan]: It really depends on who it is you’re referring to. The term gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes it’s kind of sad to see it used as more of a genre and less of bands really trying to do something new. There’s a whole group of bands that try to sound like Between the Buried and Me. But are they progressive or just a band that sounds like another band? There’s always going to be great bands that are pushing it and doing new things. The Faceless is one of those bands on this tour right now. They’re fucking phenomenal. I love them. There’s the bigger groups of course; Opeth and Mastodon. They always kind of move further and further from what the public would generally see as being metal, and those bands go way out there. And that’s great. It’s inspiring to see how well they do.
Bröötalisk: What do you think of the whole “djent” phase that everybody’s in right now?
[Dan]: I think it’s a phase, like you said.
[Dustie]: I don’t understand the craze.
[Dan]: Meshuggah’s been around for a long time!
[Dustie]: Yeah but I don’t understand how it’s become it’s own thing. They’re all bands just playing heavy shit. I think people focus too much on trying to classify people. It took me a long time to know exactly what they were talking about. It’s more of a sound then a style.
[Dan]: It’s so silly.
[Dustie]: I heard of thall? It’s like, the sound or something?
Bröötalisk: I think it’s interesting that people are basing their bands around a guitar tone, and not necessarily how the whole thing comes and flows together. Where do you think it’ll end up 5 or 10 years from now?
[Dan]: Oh, I don’t know man. At that time we’ll probably be a progressive bluegrass surfcore band.
[Dustie]: I want to be on tour with String Cheese Incident by then. With Widespread Panic. laughs
[Dan]: Yeah, Paul’s (guitarist) gonna be 42. No, 43 right?
[Dustie]: He’s gonna look like shit. Smell all fucked up.
[Dan]: laughs We’ll see man. No one can tell the future. We’re still gonna be writing weird shit and trying to do something new every record.
[Dustie]: I hope it never ends. I want to continue writing weird shit for the rest of my life.
Bröötalisk: How does The Parallax II continue the concept that was laid out by last year’s EP?
[Dan]: It continues it seamlessly. As far as the story and stuff. Musically it’s something completely new. There’s a couple small things that are very recognizable from the EP that carried over and have a new life. The EP laid the groundwork for the story and it gets pretty wild in this new record.
Bröötalisk: So would you say it’s a lot more different then last year’s EP?
[Dan]: Yeah, we just had more room to do stuff…at 74 minutes!
[Dustie]: It’s a very long record and it’s my personal favorite too so far. There’s a lot going on. We got to do a lot of stuff that we’ve never done. Even going all the way down to guitar tones and different instruments.
[Dan]: Yeah, we got some violin on it. Some tuba. Saxophone. Flute. All kinds of stuff.
Bröötalisk: I remember listening to a preview of the album on Amazon, and when I got to the song Bloom it sounded fucking weird and awesome and…really really cool.
[Dan]: Oh yeah, the Amazon preview is up…I’m curious what it’s actually showing! laughs Just wait till you hear the whole record man.
Bröötalisk: I have to ask, who is the genius behind the Parallax 2 Space Suit?
[Dan]: That was me and Tommy (vocalist). It just seemed so obvious. Why haven’t bands done that before!? We actually just put in our order for our own personal ones today for our crew. We’re gonna make them dress up on stage.
Bröötalisk: Is your new side project Trioscapes just a one off, or are they a more permanent band?
[Dan]: It’s hopefully a permanent thing. We’ve got a tour after I get home from this. I’d like to do more in 2013 and release a new record at some point. That’s one of those things where I feel like we can get together in 2 days and write half a record. That stuff came about very organically. It was just basically Walter (saxophonist) telling me that he wrote these two or three sax melodies, and then I wrote a bunch of different rhythmic variations for them, and working out a lot of different things with the drummer. It’s just a fun new different outlet for me. It’s guys that are into totally different and weird shit.
Bröötalisk: Trioscapes seem very similar to another side project, T.R.A.M. Are you familiar with the band? Did the two bands come together and say, “We should both write random jazzy fusion records!”
[Dan]: It was strange because last year in Europe with Animals as Leaders we were sharing a bus together, and we hadn’t seen each other in a while. And we asked them what they’d been up to, and they said, “Oh, we started a fusion group this summer with a saxophone player! What have you been doing?” And I said, “…I started a fusion group with a saxophone player!” It was very weird, but it’s great because we have a lot of similar influences. Ever since I met Tosin (guitarist for Animals as Leaders) we talked about John McLaughlin (composer for Mahavishnu Orchestra) as being a very big influence. I hope, if anything, to introduce that kind of music to some people who aren’t familiar with it. On the Trioscapes record we actually straight up did a cover of a Mahavishnu Orchestra song, although it’s a way different interpretation of it. Hopefully that will lead people to time travel back to the 70s and see where people actually began being weird. They think it’s weird now? No, go back then. They were crazy.
Bröötalisk: Is it safe to say you and Tosin are BFFs?
[Dan]: Yeah, we’re buds. These guys go back, even before Animals as Leaders.
[Dustie]: My other band, with me and Blake (drummer), toured with them in 2003.
[Dan]: We’ve known those guys for a long time.
[Dustie]: Evan Brewer was in the band with them too.
[Dan]: We’re taking Animals as Leaders to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in November. It never ends. We’re trying to hit the whole world with them. We still gotta go to South America, Africa, gotta get up to Iceland.
[Dustie]: We should play Greenland. Play on a glacier.
Bröötalisk: Finally, just out of curiosity, I ask every single band I interview this: what are some of your favorite bands out there right now?
[Dan]: Well, I’m really excited about the new Faceless record. I love this band called Astra who’s on Metal Blade Imprint. They’re a totally psyched out 70s band. It’s really great.
[Dustie]: I’m not really listening to anything heavy at the moment.
Bröötalisk: I surprisingly get that a lot actually. A lot of people I’ve interview say that they don’t listen to too much metal.
[Dan]: I listen to a lot of Cab Calloway (jazz singer) and old music.
[Dustie]: Anything with Jerry Douglas (resonator guitarist) on it.
[Dan]: The Jerry Seinfeld album was awesome. laughs
[Dustie]: [In his best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation] What…was that? What’s…the deal… Well this guy…
This summer Hudson Mohawke and Lunice collaberation TNGHT released TNGHT EP. It is filled with 5 intense hip-hop based “electronic bangers.” Filled with unique samples that will satiate the dancer as well as the casual at-home listener.
keeper tracks are: Easy Easy, and Bugg’n. But the remainder of the EP is not to be thrown aside. All the tracks have their own spark and appeal and I like them all, however, those two are my favorite.
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