Since Detroit bands are allergic to promotion, it seemed worthwhile to share this track from the Cloud Nothings’ upcoming release Here and Nowhere Else. ‘Psychic Trauma’ hints at the band’s dynamic range…a Joy Division-esque intro that spontaneously ramps up into an even more ramped end. No word on upcoming Detroit dates, but the new album arrives on April 1st via Carpark/Mom+Pop.
Ryan Graveface, Elsa and Phaedra Greene are the spirits at the heart of Savannah, Georgia electropop group The Casket Girls. They’re playing a free show on February 23rd at Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids as part of the Graveface Road Show. With them will be Ryan Graveface’s shoegaze project, Dreamend, and dream pop outfit The Stargazer Lilies (who happened to put out one of my favorite albums of 2013). I’ll certainly be there and you should too. There will be some photos and an interview with Stargazer Lilies following the show as well, so stay tuned for that! Recently, I was able to ask Ryan and Elsa a few questions about their music, their influences and their ghosts. Let’s get into that…
JUSTICE: So, your tour kicks off February 14th in Georgia. Aside from playing in your home state, are there any dates on the tour you’re particularly excited about?
ELSA: Yes. Well, actually I have never been to Montreal and so I am most excited to practice my French. Otherwise Phaedra and I have always felt especially connected to New Orleans, so we look forward to that. Hmmm… Am I obsessed with the French? Warm weather and ocean water will also be welcomed with open arms. But really, every city and show is a new adventure that we are very much looking forward to.
JUSTICE: What can people who come out to the show expect?
ELSA: Expect good new fashioned live music, chrome, tea, and sympathy. And perhaps an elaboration on cardio work out warm ups…
JUSTICE: How did The Casket Girls form?
ELSA: Unlikely as it may be, my sister Phaedra and I met Ryan Graveface in the park. Truth be told, we mostly thought he was just hitting on us, but one thing led to another, (so to speak) and as fate would have it we started this threesome. (So to speak). We originally thought it would be a recording only project and never dreamed we would take it this far. But as we all know, life is funny.
JUSTICE: Where do you draw inspiration from when working on your songs?
RYAN: John Wayne Gacy and his paintings, homemade absinthe, heartbreak, ESP & Kuma’s.
ELSA: Fay and I are somewhat compulsively obsessed with breaking open this small perspective we have all agreed to share for so long, and exploring the idea of reality. We do a lot of dream analyzation, and spend a lot of time working toward true connection with the collective unconscious. So we draw from these ideas a lot lyrically. That and of course our common experiences of love and loss.
JUSTICE: How does sisterhood affect your writing process?
ELSA: I believe connection and understanding are what really affect the writing process in any collaboration. So we could have the same connection as best friends, which we also are, or as strangers that met and for whatever reason were magnetically drawn to one another… We have only known Ryan a few years and feel an unexplainable connection to him as well. But in our case the affect has been super positive and brought us even closer, if that’s possible. It’s always inspiring to see someone you know so well in a new light.
JUSTICE: There’s an element on mystery to your physical appearance from the photos we were able to dig up. Is there a reason for this?
ELSA: As I mentioned before we originally thought this would be a recording only project, so we never planned on performing. But as the project sort of grew legs of its’ own, and we began to discuss preforming and touring, Fay and I were utterly terrified. So we invented this physical diversion, and sunglasses etc. as a security blanket of sorts. And just like babies, we are now completely attached.
JUSTICE: One of my friends [and occasional contributor, E] here had an interesting experience driving through Georgia. She saw what she thought was a person appear in front of her vehicle, only to disperse into a cloud of vapor when the car hit “it.” She recounted the event to a friend later who insisted it was a “hot steam.” The only information we could find on it was in To Kill a Mockingbird when the term is used in reference to a spirit that sucks out people’s breath. Have you heard of this legend?
RYAN: I have not but that’s pretty awesome. I once wrote a song called ‘Pig Man’s Bridge’ based on one of the only GA legends I know of. A man was part of a circus forever ago. He trained pigs and made them do tricks. It is said that he was mean to the pigs and that when he got too old to travel he settled under this bridge and built pigpens on the hill. The pigs ended up killing the man and now the man haunts the bridge and has a face of a pig. I should mention I really enjoy living in Georgia.
JUSTICE: Are there any particularly haunting experiences you’ve had throughout your lifetimes?
ELSA: Yes, Fay and I seem to attract the inexplicable. We have had several experiences that insist there is so much more out there that we don’t know or understand. But becoming friends with the unknown seems to make it much less scary. There was one night a few years ago, when it seemed we had a house guest. The experience lasted from about 8 at night until 5 in the morning. We kept hearing this voice calling our dog from inside and outside the house. We heard footsteps. Lights went on and off. We could just feel the presence of someone, but never saw them. But we welcomed them. It wasn’t scary, just bizarre.
JUSTICE: I had a chance to listen to the new album, True Love Kills The Fairytale, and found that the songs seem much more concise and, forgive me if you find this term offensive, but poppy.Sleepwalking and The Casket Girls EP weren’t lacking in melody, but True Love… seems danceable at times. Do you feel like this was a natural evolution of your sound or did you set out to write songs more in this vein?
ELSA: It felt and feels like a natural evolution to me. We didn’t plan anything at all. We just let ourselves be inspired by the music Ryan sent us. But I do agree, and am not offended that it sounds more poppy. It is very fun to rehearse.
JUSTICE: What have you been listening to lately? Any new albums or songs you’ve been enjoying?
ELSA: Honestly, I can’t stop listening to the Stargazer Lillie’s album, and am just thrilled to be touring with them. Also we toured with Trust for a week or so last year and although I listened to their album a fair amount at the time, it has had a strong resurgence in the house. It’s so good.
JUSTICE: What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen? Period.
ELSA: this morning when I woke up I found Phaedra curled up at the foot of my bed under the blankets in her winter coat with a ski cap pulled down over her face clutching her pillow from when she was a baby. Period.
Traits – Out Of My Mind Traits sent me their self-titled release for an early listen and was kind enough to allow us to premiere a new song here. I’ve been listening to the album quite a bit this past week and have to say the standout track is “Out Of My Mind” (which also happens to be the longest track on the album). Most of the tracks are concise and tightly written, but this one sprawls a bit and switches things up as the song goes on. I’m hesitant to label them a math rock band as the term brings to mind harsh, abrasive melodies and Traits reside on the more melodic side of the spectrum, but regardless the change-ups in this particular track pay ode to the genre. Have a listen for yourself and go see Traits do their thing this Friday. The band will be releasing their self-titled LP at their album release show at Loving Touch. They’ll be accompanied by Le Voyage and Awesome Jarvis And The Whales. There’s no cover and doors open at 8pm.
I’m not sure how appropriate it is for me to post this here when I missed out on a ton of Detroit-area releases and none of those I heard made the list, but I went through the trouble of making a list, so damn it, I’m posting it. Feel free to shame me and let me know what I missed in the comments. Here are my top 25 in no particular order:
- My Bloody Valentine – MBV
- The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanny Valley
- Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
- Teen Daze – Glacier
- The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual
- Radiation City – Animals In The Median
- Typhoon – White Lighter
- The National – Trouble Will Find Me
- Bill Callahan – Dream River
- The Blow – The Blow
- Blue Cranes – Swim
- Marley Carroll – Sings
- Okkervil River – The Silver Gymansium
- Phoenix – Bankrupt!
- Sigur Rós – Kveikur
- Songs – Malabar
- Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
- Still Corners – Strange Pleasures
- Toro y Moi – Anything in Return
- Volcano Choir – Repave
- The Stargazer Lilies – We Are The Dreamers
- Toman – Postrockhits Volume II
- Washed Out – Paracosm
- Whirr – Around EP
- Teen Daze – The House On The Mountain EP
There were a couple reissues worthwhile too, but I don’t think you can include those on “best of the year” lists. Pretty sure the bloguminatti murder people for that sort of thing. Anyways, best reissues:
- The Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas
- The Verlaines – Hallelujah All The Way Home
This past Thursday I caught up with Doug and Bryan Enas, the two brothers from Bloomington, Indiana who make up the band Stagnant Pools. It was interesting seeing the dynamic between the two. Their back and forth reminded me of conversations with my own brother. Anyways, enough about the pretext. Here’s what they had to say after we headed next door to Sneakers to discuss the band’s history and future over some french fries. My friend and co-interviewer, E, joined me and threw in some commentary as well as helped me formulate some of the questions. I have to credit her for the last one.
JUSTICE: Being brothers, when did you first recognize one another’s musical talent and how did Stagnant Pools come to be as a band?
Bryan: Doug started playing drums pretty early. We had an older brother that played violin and guitar. I started playing bass guitar around 8th grade and we played in different bands together, so we were used to playing together from a younger age.
Doug: Stagant Pools started while [Bryan] was in college and I kind of having a rough time in high school. I talked to Bryan a lot and he started hearing some new music.
Bryan: I also started playing guitar instead of just bass guitar.
J: How did you guys come up with the band’s name?
Doug: Bryan named it and it just fit.
Bryan: I had seen the name in more than one place and thought it was kind of cool. Doing band names is always awkward and weird, but we just kinda went with that. I think we made a Myspace and we were like “oh, what’s the name going to be?” and we went with Stagnant Pools.
J: Have you ever played in the Detroit area before?
Bryan: No, not really. The closest would be Ann Arbor. We just got into town about 45 minutes ago actually.
Doug: We’ve actually never been to Detroit.
J: What’s your song writing process like?
Doug: It seems to be changing all the time. We live together and it has a lot to do with what’s going on at that certain time. We want the songs to feel real and evoke a real emotion. If something feels right that’s when it happens. Over the course of a year you feel a lot of different ways about a lot of different things and different stuff happens in your life. Bryan gets the melody down and then…
Bryan: It usually starts with a guitar part, but I might have something that one of us doesn’t like. If one of us doesn’t like something we’ll move on from it. We both want to be on the same page. If I come up with something and Doug is trying to think of a drum part and we know it’s not going to work we’ll just discard it. So, it’s pretty… I don’t know the word for it… It’s pretty straight-forward. We don’t light a candle and sit down and write songs, that’s kinda weird. I think for both of us when we play our instruments there’s no set mind that “let’s do some songwriting.” In our minds it’s not songwriting. We just let stuff come out. We want to play the instruments, so we don’t have the mindset “okay, we need to write a song.” We play around and if something strikes our ear, then we might be on to something.
J: What’s your favorite album of 2013?
Doug: I worked at a record store so I should know this. I really like the new Boards of Canada. The new Superchunk is pretty good too.
Bryan: The new Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin album.
Doug: Have you heard that? I just think it’s funny that you say that…
Doug: …We can talk about it later.
E: Those fries are pretty good, right?
Bryan: [Laughs] Yeah!
J: What kind of plans do you have for the future?
Doug: We should have an album out next year. It’s kind of been a hard time making it this year, but hopefully we’re going to be recording it in January.
You’re on Polyvinyl, right? Do you plan on putting out your next album with them?
Doug: Yeah, Polyvinyl. We definitely do.
J: Any sort of upcoming tour plans? I know you’re in the midst of one now, but how about plans for an international tour?
Bryan: That’d be nice.
Doug: We really want to do that.
J: Have you done a lot of touring?
Doug: Not really. Last year I think we played 70 or so shows.
J: That’s a lot of touring!
Doug: It’s just been so weird because this year we’ve played maybe 10 shows. We went to South by Southwest.
Bryan: We just did some dates too.
Doug: Right, so 10 or 15. Either way, we went from doing a ton of shows to almost nothing and living in Indiana it’s a reality check of what it means to be in an indie rock band in the Midwest. It’s not New York where there are bands popping out of every corner. I don’t know, I found myself digging deep this year to keep wanting to make music.
J: If you had to limit yourself to 3 albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Doug: Neil Young’s Harvest, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde.
Bryan: The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned, Talking Head’s Remain In Light and The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat.
(We got into a brief discussion about the best Velvet Underground album… I won’t bore you with the details.)
J: Alright, last question: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen.
E: Ever. Ever in your entire lives.
Doug: Probably when we were young eating Superman ice cream and shitting rainbows.
Bryan: The coolest thing I’ve ever seen…
(Bryan is a bit more hesitant with his answer and pauses for some time to think.)
What have I seen that’s cool?
Doug: You gotta think really quick. You’ll sit here forever.
J: You can pick something that’s sort of cool from the past few years.
E: Sometimes there is no answer.
J: I still don’t have a good answer.
Bryan: I’ve seen some cool movies in the past year.
J: What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
Bryan: What’s the name of that lady who did the documentaries about space?
J: Oh, Gravity!
Bryan: No, no. I haven’t seen that.
Doug: This is a bad question for Bryan.
Watch Stagnant Pools perform “Solitude” off their latest album, Temporary Room:
Photos: Stagnant Pools / Cymbals Eat Guitars / Beach Fossils – The Loving Touch – November 14th, 2013
Photos 1-6: Stagnant Pools
Photos 7-10: Cymbals Eat Guitars
Photos 11-18: Beach Fossils
Check back Sunday for an interview with Bryan and Doug Enas of Stagnant Pools!
“Drinking while sleeping strangers unknowingly keep me company.”
These were the first words out of Bill Callahan’s mouth on the stage at Trinosophes last night and rather appropriate ones. He is an enigma in the current world of indie rock. Whereas most artists now strive for attention in the increasingly crowded market and have no lack of banter for their audiences, Bill Callahan seems at a loss for words in between songs. At one point while telling us what a beautiful city we have (“There’s something magical about it…”) an audience member inexplicably shouts “Lake Superior!” Bill mishears at first and replies “Like Siberia? Like Sibera… Lake Superior.” A small smile crosses his face and he’s onto the next song.
The music more than speaks for itself though. Many of the tracks performed came from his new album Dream River although there were a few from Apocalypse and Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle. A couple songs in he tells us this is Lonnie Holley’s last date on their tour and invites him on stage for a 10+ minute rendition of a song from Dream River. It was truly beautiful hearing the interplay between Callahan’s monotone crooning and Halley’s soulful back-up vocals.
I should rewind a bit here and note that I unfortunately missed a good chunk of Lonnie Holley’s set. However, what did I see was very impressive. Holley is an artist, art educator and musician from Birmingham, Alabama. His music can best be described as experimental spoken word, but really his style seems to be all over the place. I was lucky enough to catch one of his last songs where Bill Callahan and his band mates came out to back him up for a jazz-influenced odyssey.
Now back to Bill. Anyone who’s ever heard either his solo work or his lyrics during his time with Smog knows how plain-spoken and straight-forward he can be. Yet, there’s a certain beauty in this simplicity such as at the end of “Too Many Birds” where he sings “if you could only stop your heartbeat for one heartbeat.” Often, he references situations that his characters, troubled and heartbroken individuals, stumble their way through in a simple sort of way. The narrator in “Winter Road,” for instance, remarking “I have learned when things are beautiful to just keep on.” It’s not hard to picture Callahan, the performer and the man, having these same thoughts and it’s hard not to know where he’s coming from.
One of the last songs the band performed was a fantastic cover of Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone To Love.” The original is only a couple minutes and right around that point is where they veer off a bit and Bill introduces the band in a very cordial and old-fashioned way. “Matt Kinsey on guitar” he speaks as Kinsey breaks into a small bit of showmanship. Callahan goes around introducing the rest of the band this way and each time the crowd breaks into applause for the members. It’s not entirely surprising when Bill skips himself in this round of acquaintances.
As the set came to a close I was satisfied and my expectations had been far exceeded. I had heard most every Bill Callahan song I had hoped to hear and thought maybe he’d play some obscure b-side or perhaps something from the dub-influenced 12” that came out earlier this year. What he closed with for the encore was even better. Two classic Smog tracks, “Rock Bottom Riser” and “Say Valley Maker,” both off A River Ain’t Too Much To Love. It was an interesting juxtaposition having the set open with the words of a lonely, reserved bar patron and ending with such defiant words:
So bury me in wood
And I will splinter
So bury me in stone
And I will quake
Bury me in water
And I will geyser
Bury me in fire
And I’m gonna phoenix
I’m gonna phoenix
Tons of shit has been happening. Kwame got 28 years. The government is shutdown. Tigers are going to the ALCS. Time to get black-out drunk and kick out the jams. Let’s all have one of those weekends where you wake up covered in vomit in a car that isn’t yours.
Get the weekend started by pronouncing your love for America. Ignore the large-scale genocide of Native Americans and the sociopaths who lead us…that’s just freedom at work. And you know who gets that? The Soaring Eagles. They churn out some meaty-riffs and embrace the decrepit mess we’ve created. Amazingly, the Shelter is having shows again. Of course, maybe they never stopped having shows. Is St. Andrew’s even still open? Details: The Shelter @ 9 p.m., $5
After you’re finished being all righteous and marching against Monsanto in Ann Arbor, head over to the new North End Studios. Fallout Fest is going on over at New Dodge, but there’s no one playing there you can’t just go and see next weekend. The exception is Mexican Knives, who are a great band but…over at North End there’s an event simply called You’re Going To Hell. Fish With Human Heads are playing as are some other bands and DJ’s. You’re encouraged to wear a costume. Details: North End Studios @ 9 p.m., $5
Amazingly, there’s nothing really going on music-wise. Herego, let’s head over to the Ye Olde for some Lions action and then stick around for the Tigers game. They’ll have $1 beers and $1 burgers. What more could you want? Details: Ye Olde Saloon @ 1p.m., whatever your tab works out too
Apparently Prof. Reid actually heeded the advice of Gloria Estefan’s The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You and opened a specialty asylum for those who can’t stop dancing. AlunaGeorge, the electronic English dynamos, shot their new video for Best Be Believing there. The video contains some fun homages…namely a Nurse Ratchet look-a-like and a nod to that iconic photo of all those Russian kids receiving light therapy. In my infinite wisdom, the video is embedded below.
Amidst concerns over the new Electric Needle Room album, House Republicans and Senate Democrats failed to reach a consensus for a continuing resolution on spending that would allow non-essential governmental operations.
Earlier, the Kansas band had announced a poll to name their latest album. However, after tallying the results the band chose to ignore popular opinion and named the album It’s Getting Personal. Fans had selected the title Magic Is Fake (Sorry).
“I will stay standing here after 14 hours. Standing on your feet, there’s sometimes some pain, sometimes some fatigue that is involved. But you know what? There’s far more pain involved in rolling over … far more pain in hiding in the shadows, far more pain in not standing for principle, not standing for the good, not standing for integrity,” said Texas Republican Ted Cruz.
Approximately 800,000 government workers may face furlough as a result of the band’s decision. Oblivious to the controversy, Electric Needle Room announced a show October 22nd at the Record Bar in Kansas City, MO.
“Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, ‘Accept the Nazis. Yes, they’ll dominate the continent of Europe but that’s not our problem. Let’s appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We can’t possibly stand against them.”
It’s Getting Personal has a planned January 2014 release date.