Plight of the Kool-Aid Man

Via Wooster Collective, a recent piece by Scott Van Den Plas…makes you think of the good times, doesn’t it? (also: remember when Dane Cook wasn’t one of life’s many pieces of evidence suggesting suicide to be a sweet relief?)


Henry Rollins and Infinite Potential

There are a number of reasons why I still pay attention to Henry Rollins and what he has to say, and even more reasons why I continue to revisit his spoken word albums and videos. This mp3 is an excerpt from a DVD I was watching a few weeks ago and it essentially conveys a point that I’ve tried to keep with me throughout the few years I’ve had alive on this planet: don’t give up. It’s amazing to watch someone who might not have all the looks or the smarts or the skills do so well, and Rollins is such a person. His drive has determined who he has become and he unapologetically continues to live his life, travel the world and bust his ass.

But this conclusion really hit me when I revisited it not too long ago - it hit me when I was in the early stages of some serious depression. Not to say that Rollins’ words perked me up and took me to a better place, but they gave me a bit of hope…they still do.

It’s hard to look at artists and people on television and people in magazines as normal, but for the most part they’re pretty much just like the rest of us…and Rollins has always appealed to me because he’s a nutbar…just like the rest of us. And now I find myself sitting in my place, attempting to pass this depression by - hoping, praying that life will turn around - and this makes me smile…because it makes me remember that I’m not alone. I know that I’m not living life to its fullest, but I’m still attempting to gauge what it is that I idealistically want life to be (and what I don’t want life to be). Suppose I’m going to have to start realizing my full potential…whatever that is. You with me?

Black Blondie Interview

Attracting attention both locally and nationally, the critically acclaimed Black Blondie continue to compel audiences with their tireless live schedule. Leading up to the band’s forthcoming First Avenue performance with Muja Messiah, M.anifest and Maria Isa the group took aim at a few questions about the upcoming show, critical obsession with labeling their sound and the group’s lineup changes for this week’s edition of Five Questions.

I love the line, “I can not be whispering words that I should be screaming” from “World’s Won’t Rest,” if only to be self-indulgent for a moment, are there any lines that you’ve heard in your music that have blown you away?

Samahra Linton: When I had to write the lyrics down for a performance that was hearing impaired friendly, I looked at them and some of them made me realize how hard my year has been, and also how depressed I became after losing my mother six months ago. If anything, I felt more proud of being able to accurately articulate my emotions so that I could grow to understand what the fuck was happening to me.

Liz Draper: “We drink for Real reasons” moves me every time. I mean everyone has their issues. “Can’t be sure if that’s how it goes but there’s a red road and black road” hits home with me because one is the road to life and the other the road to death in Sioux mythology. Stories of black elk and crazy horse and other important Lakota figures were important in my family growing up so every time I hear that line I think of climbing Harney Peak - Black Elk’s “center of the universe” at various times in my life and always with folks who are very dear to me at that time.

I really think that accessibility breeds influence - if you have a book, you can read the book and you have the opportunity to be influenced by it. So much emphasis has been put on labeling the group’s sound, but in the age of the iPod and having 20,000 songs at your fingertips it seems almost redundant to try and make a definition. What are your thoughts on this?

Samahra Linton: I am not afraid of being labeled…’cause we sound unique to me. We have to be labeled so that people who like R&B, or soul, or dancehall, or…can give themselves permission to say, “I like them.”

Tasha Baron: I am fascinated with this obsession that people/writers have with labeling our music. People are uncomfortable with things they cannot name. Honestly, the only time I have thought about labeling us was when writing our bio. It’s my goal that our music keeps a common thread weaving throughout…and that our album is a cohesive piece of art (vs. some tracks on someone’s iPod). Beyond that, I am completely unconcerned with any labels. Music is music. All I care about is how it makes me and others feel.

Liz Draper: I totally agree. We all come from various musical backgrounds and interests and it comes out in the writing process - but it’s all just music!

A year after Sarah White left the band what has been the most important lesson learned from the change?

Tasha Baron: We were only a band a year before that. New bands change and mold themselves until the ideal formation for what they want to create is attained. We had different drummers…guitar players…etc. We’ve now found that formation.

Samahra Linton: I feel really comfortable being a front woman and it was time.

Aside from any possible musical similarities, what has helped the group stay together and mature as time passes?

Tasha Baron: Honestly, love. It’s like a marriage of sorts. You only stick with people ’cause you love them. It’s not like we like each other all of the time. We are like family. We really have been through thick and thin together. We all love the music that we write but no matter what happens we will always be friends for life.

What’s going to be the best part of sharing such a unique and talented bill for Muja Messiah’s upcoming release party at First Avenue? Are you friends with any of the other artists? Who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Samahra Linton: Muja is a close personal friend of mine and he is really talented and I think all the others are as well.

Tasha Baron: This bill is a lot like our band. I am looking forward to seeing everyone on this bill as a friend and because I have utmost respect for each of these artists’ altogether distinctive music!

Liz Draper: I think it’s safe to say we are friends with everyone on the bill. I am most excited to see the sexy First Avenue wait staff.

Alltruisms "Blindfolded" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. Here in the second episode featuring Chicago’s Alltruisms the emcee remarks on the rush of excitement he gets when completing a solid rhyme; in this case that featured on “Blindfolded.” Including also that this rush can be pure on its own without adding any external hype, Alltruisms concludes that by keeping the scope of any external contributors to within his own crew he can define the success of the track by the rhymes alone.

On “Blindfolded”:

Verbal Kent got that beat from J-Zone, along with the two other J-Zone beats that were used on the Giraffe Nuts album “Eat Them”. J-Zone’s an underground legend who’s made a lot of great music, so I’m psyched to have a beat of his on my album. The title comes from the line that sums it all up to me, “I do Sudoku’s blindfolded.” After that, I don’t really give a fuck about some mopey dude with no stage presence on Leno talking about he can ride his bike with no handlebars…I wrote the first verse in one sitting, which is somewhat rare for me. The verse was actually written to a different, faster beat, so it was great to discover that it would work for this beat too. I knew I had something special as soon as I came up with “Set it off like my alarm clock in the morning / decided today that I’m not going / need a totally new career, lead the new holy Eucharist.” By then I had that rush, the excitement of creating something from thin air that’s the whole reason we, me at least, ever started writing raps, playing music, taking photos, writing books, whatever it is we do.

I knew right away the track needed a scratch chorus. Scott Evil laced it nicely, Scott also did the cuts on “OH” and “Nutcamp” on the album. This is the most “traditional,” bragging/battle rap song on the album, and even though some listeners might find it less “different” or “original” than “OH” or “Nine Digit Number,” it means just as much to me. That said, I wasn’t interested in doing any solo battle rap tracks on Culsterbombs. I’ve thus far limited it to collaborations and tracks on the Giraffe Nuts and Unhappyest albums. We considered getting a “name” guest rapper for the 3rd verse, but decided it wasn’t necessary, and rapped eight bars each for it instead, my eight was the end half of a sixteen I had stockpiled, and that was it, “Sisyphus successfully just lifted his boulder over the mountain.” I’m sure I’ll collaborate with non-crew rappers at some point, but I kept the guest appearances in house for my album, and I don’t think it’s missing anything for lack of a name guest. - Alltruisms

Bodies of Water Interview

Los Angeles quartet Bodies of Water has attracted an abundance of online support, much of late has been aimed at the band’s forthcoming release A Certain Feeling( scheduled to hit stores July 22nd). Preparing for a twenty one date tour that hits both Canada and The United States, singer and guitarist David Metcalf answered some questions ranging from the levity of comparing artists to playing with an expanded lineup for this week’s edition of Five Questions.

Last year the band contributed to Stereogum’s R.E.M. tribute with a rendition of “Everybody Hurts.” What have your impressions been of the band’s latest album, Accelerate, and how does it compare to the music of the era you were covering?

David Metcalf: I haven’t heard anything from Accelerate yet, I’ll have to check it out. I read somewhere that R.E.M. has “returned to full speed” with this album, but I can’t say yet if I believe it.

Speaking of comparisons, the band has received a wide-spread likeness to Ennio Morricone. And while I can certainly see the Spaghetti Western influence on a track like “Doves Circle The Sky” I also feel that the song focuses on a layered approach akin to The Polyphonic Spree. What do you make of such comparisons?

David Metcalf: I can’t help but feel like any comparisons to Ennio Morricone may be more apt than those to the Polyphonic Spree, if only because I listen to Ennio Morricone’s music and I haven’t heard much of “The Spree.” Does anyone call them “The Spree?” Isn’t that a candy of some sort? There are a few things Morricone’s songs may have in common with ours; modal variety (within and songs), human voices doubling instruments, a wide dynamic palette, escalating melodic lines, etc. These may just as well apply to The Spree - but I don’t really know.

What are the benefits of performing as an expanded act on stage as opposed to maintaining a simple lineup?

David Metcalf: It’s interesting to watch a large group of people; when you get tired of what the drummer is doing, you can look at the trumpet player, and then look at who’s singing, and then look at the guitar. It is hard to get everybody together to practice, though, so we are paring down the group a little. It seems like everyone is busier lately, but maybe it is just our friends. I wonder if people actually become busier and busier as they age. Maybe they feel busier because they have less energy. Maybe they just take longer to do things because they aren’t as reckless.

At what point in time did Unicorn of Death run its course as the band’s name, and what made Bodies of Water a suitable replacement?

David Metcalf: We only played two shows as Unicorn of Death. We got tired of it very quickly. Amusing band names are more fun to hear than to wear. Bodies of Water seemed like a nice respite from novelty.

As the group becomes more well known and the band continues to find new fans what would you say is the goal that everyone is collectively working towards this year?

David Metcalf: I’m not sure. Maybe we should have some kind of band conference where we figure out what we’re actually doing. It seems like there’s an unspoken agreement among us to enjoy ourselves and to do good work. I guess that’s about the best one can hope for.

Metermaids "Nightlife" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. In the second of two editions featuring New York City’s Metermaids, Sentence breaks down and divides the title track from the duo’s recently released Nightlife. Mentioning that the song’s synth-base helps to embody the duo’s approach to the album, Sentence’s words parallel those of Swell’s who said that Nightlife is their starting point when meshing “indie rock with hip hop in a way that took the best from each style of music.”

On “Nightlife”:

“Nightlife” is one of those songs that started with a beat that Swell and Stine made one night. When I heard it, I was blown away. See, Metermaids have an unhealthy attraction to synths. It’s always like, “can we add synth to that?” So when this beat was done, it was something we felt really good about. I think we even referred to the beat as the “Bravery” beat for a while - in reference to the band and their heavy synth usage.

My first impression of it was something cinematic and grand. It gave me the feeling of stepping out of a subway tunnel after the world above had been annihilated. You know, Cold War apocalypse, or zombie attack, or whatever. From there it got much less George A. Romero and evolved into this tangible feeling of times when life changes and the quickness in which it can change. Like for example, the night you want to last forever verses the next day. I think that says it all. - Sentence

Metermaids "Feel Alive" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. In the first of two editions featuring New York City’s Metermaids, one of the group’s two emcees Swell explains the basis for his favorite track on the recently released Nightlife. Relating the feeling of amaze when hearing that of his partner, Sentence’s verse, Swell concludes that the song is essentially the most comfortable starting point when attempting to introduce others to the Metermaids.

On “Feel Alive”:

“Feel Alive,” to me, is the most important song on the album. It started us down a path we had been talking about for a long time - really starting to mesh the indie rock, with hip hop in a way that took the best from each style of music. The song also does the best job of summing up, topically, what the entire album is about.

I had the idea for the hook before we started creating the music, and a basic idea of what I wanted the music to feel like. Matt Stine (our producer/label head) and his equally enormously talented cousin Cody took my vague ideas and put together the bulk of the music in something like twenty minutes. It felt magical how quickly it formed and how dead-on they were in bringing to life what had been floating around in my head.

I don’t remember anything about writing my verse. I remember hearing Sentence’s verse for the first time while he was recording it, and feeling like he had blown me out of the water (again). It’s still my favorite verse of his. “Feel Alive” is the song that I feel most comfortable playing for people when I am trying to explain what Metermaids sounds like. It’s all in there. - Swell

N*E*R*D “Seeing Sounds” Review

Seeing as how Fly or Die was what it was (a fairly poor album) Seeing Sounds should be considered a triumphant return for N*E*R*D…but…in reality it’s not too distant from its predecessor. Sporadic, over-reaching and inconsistent - Seeing Sounds is exactly what N*E*R*D should be distancing itself from. There are songs that make sense on the album, “Love Bomb” for instance, is guilty of being irritatingly sweet but it still sounds really damn good. Likewise, “Everybody Nose” is a banger worthy of its hype. On the whole, however, the album isn’t - it peaks and it crashes. I’m not sure that Pharrell Williams is comfortable, yet, with knowing what he’s good at when it comes to his own material and not as a producer of someone else’s craft. N*E*R*D is an honest band in that they’re never shying away from music they feel, but they haven’t yet adopted music that is characteristic of their ability. With each album the band has focused on one or two songs that show up on the charts, relenting in the idea that there will be room to experiment because the focus isn’t on the remainder of the album. That being the case, at what point in time does the band decide to make an album worthy of their talents, not just an album that explains their willingness to explore? Unfortunately, with Seeing Sounds, it appears that now is not that time.