Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Being in a Band is Supposed to be Dumb; Lousy Robot

Lousy Robot Bio

“Being in a band is supposed to be dumb.” Don’t expect Lousy Robot to take their music too seriously. Jim Phillips, the self-described “cock-eyed optimist” doesn’t. The songwriter, he digs into the universal with his intimate lyrics. 2005’s The Strange and True Story of Your Life, Lousy Robot’s debut album, is a translation of a trying year into fun songs. “Enough of my personal life is already out there,” says Jim. Small talk becomes a cover for tragedy, a bad relationship is summed up in one word, “Gone,” the song that defines the Lousy Robot sound. Distilling sentiment down to its core is Jim’s genius, but the music is total fun that recalls the best of the Ramones and 80’s alternative rock.

“We’re one bong hit away from being a jam band.” That’s not exactly true. Jim and bassist Dandee Fleming, the founding partners of the band, are also a bit obsessive about their music. When it came time to record their first album, Dandee went out on a limb and emailed John Dufilho of the Deathray Davies, known for complex, danceable, fun tunes. John’s “happy chords” fit Lousy Robot’s pop-punk sound. John suggested they record with Salim Nourallah, a good friend who had a studio at his house. Not exactly the recommendation Jim and Dandee expected, they researched Pleasantry Lane Studio before signing on. “Oh, look, that’s a Rolling Stone article,” quipped Jim. Salim’s backyard recording sessions were definitely good enough for the perfectionist leanings of Lousy Robot. Salim and John now consider them good friends, and John even put it in black and white when he thanked Jim and Dandee on his solo album.

In 2003 Jim’s former band, “Hey Dandee!” morphed into Lousy Robot when Dandee joined the group, after which Jim said, “The name was kinda weird, so we changed it.” Lousy Robot’s completing members are Michael J. Fox, the latest, and hopefully last in a Spinal Tap-like succession of drummers, and Jack Moffitt, the keyboardist. Michael is a university-trained, Berlios-inspired, classical percussionist. Brought together by Jill, their hairdresser, Michael and Dandee found their personalities fit well. “I hadn’t been in a band since I was in college in San Francisco, and I missed it,” was Michael’s excuse for signing up. “He’s got the most drums of anyone,” says Jack, who joined the band after answering an ad on www.rocksquawk.com, the Albuquerque music site begun by Dandee and other like-minded musicians. Jack brought his keyboard to a Lousy Robot rehearsal, was only a bit freaked by the compulsive personalities, and joined up. “Dandee said we weren’t going to find a keyboardist,” said Jim, “He was wrong.” Jack’s originally from Dallas, but likes the low-key life in Albuquerque. “It’s big enough to have everything, except traffic.”

Just back from Pleasantry Lane Studio again, Lousy Robot’s still unnamed second album is nearly ready to go, and its expected release is in early 2006. “This time, it’s more rock, more driven,” says Dandee. With backup vocals by Johnny Lloyd Rollins and Cory Watson of Black Tie Dynasty, the next album is an amped-up progression from their first effort. If The Strange and True Story of Your Life is baby steps, the new CD is a good hard run at danceable rock. “The new album, touring, that’s what’s next,” says Jim, who recently left the corporate world to concentrate on the band without distractions. Jim’s urge to hold an audience and Dandee’s charisma put the band in firm running for a break out of the Albuquerque music scene, though they claim to never want to leave. “Yeah, well, we’re all really good liars,” says Dandee.

Expect to hear more about this easy-to-love band when the new album hits the streets. Lousy Robot won’t be only Albuquerque’s favorite band any longer. They’ll be yours as well.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Hourly Radio - a tour diary

I begged them to keep a diary for me. I said I would do something with it. Uh, this is where I'm posting it? Yeah, not what I had planned on. Anyway, wanna know what it's like to tour with the best of Brit-pop-inspired Texas bands? Not all that exciting, ya know? But then, I'm sure I got the G-rated version.

Thanks to Aaron, Ryan, Adam, and especially Tim (whom I bugged mercilessly) for this.

THE HOURLY RADIO with stellastarr*

9/29 – En route to Austin

Having repacked the van, we hit the road for Austin. We’ve already broke-in the ’05 rental van, having scraped up the side while leaving Trees the night before. When we first arrived to load in at Trees stellastarr* was already on stage sound checking and setting up their lights. Being that this was our first time to meet them and their first impression of us everyone was a bit serious and stiff while loading in. So… as Adam carried his first load of gear into the club Ryan and Aaron purposely waited outside and pegged Adam in the back with the soccer ball just as he was walking past stellastarr* for the first time…properly setting the stage for tour etiquette.

We actually almost missed our set because we were next door sharing a $30 entree at Green Room. Hated having to rush to the stage, and somehow managed to spend $110 on a piece of beef. Besides being rushed, the show went smoothly and we played a short set in front of an enthusiastic Dallas crowd. Couldn’t help but notice an exceptional female homosexual presence in the crowd and attribute this to Amanda, Stella’s bass player. Can’t say I blame them.

Stellastarr* are very polite and polished. Shawn is humble and reserved. Amanda very quiet, but confident. Arthur and Michael are the most outspoken and I can tell they fit the more typical rock star mold. Reportedly, the Austin show will be sold out. Look forward to spending more “quality” time w/ Stella*.

9/30 – Back to Dallas

The Austin show was a huge success. The venue (The Parish) was a really cool room and the sound good. The stage was bigger than Trees and considering we have to set up in front of stellastarr’s gear we had some space to move about. The crowd response was great and we sold quite a bit of merch so we should have money for food tomorrow! About half way thru stellastarr*’s set the fire alarms started going off because of their smoke machine. They didn’t even notice that it was going off and continued playing the rest of their set with the alarm blaring and exit strobes going off. Nobody seemed to notice or care. After the show everyone hung out for a while and Stellastarr was kind enough to let us partake in the some of the amazing goodies on their rider: Stella beer, Jack Daniels, deli sandwiches, Kit-Kat’s and Goober peanut butter and jelly. At the end of the night they insisted that we take whatever food and drink was left…now we definitely get to eat tomorrow!

We are now actually making our way back to Dallas to play the local New Music Festival on what is supposed to be our “drive day” to Atlanta.

10/1 – the long road to Atlanta

As soon as we were done with our set at the New Music Fest we hopped directly in the van to head to Atlanta and catch back up with stellastarr. We left at about 11:30pm and drove the twelve hour drive all night taking 3 hour shifts. We did a coin toss to see who got to take the coveted first two shifts. Tim and Ryan knew that tails never fails and started off the drive. We arrived in Atlanta around noon, in a bit of delirious state as nobody was able to get any sleep in the van. We went straight to our room, ordered a 5:30..PM… wake up call and crashed out in the hotel for a couple hours.

The venue in Atlanta was a huge complex made up of several bars and venues. We took the elevator up to the second and floor and when the doors opened we entered a room full of smoke with fire alarms blaring… we knew we were in the right place and looked thru the smoke to see Michael onstage sound checking and he shouted at us “Don’t you know not to take the elevator in a fire!”.

Our set went really well and we tried out a few new songs that went over really well. As we were tearing down after our set someone ran up to the stage to let us know that people were just taking our CDs. We looked over towards the merch table and there was a huge line of people of were apparently helping themselves. Being the honest people that they are those who had just taken the CD’s actually came back over and gave us money for the CD’s and were asking us to sign CDs, our set-lists, etc… Stellastarr definitely played their best show yet. Amanda opens up a bit and joins in post-show festivities. Michael discusses the art of drinking, hangover preventions and touring. He is by far the partier of the band. Shawn rarely addresses the group, but sits on his computer. Michael and Amanda tell us stories of the eccentricities of ex-tour-mates Placebo; to which we all joyfully listen like a little children at story time. The bar staff is ready to close down for the evening and has tried dropping that hint several times as the backstage festivities continued on well beyond closing time.

10/01 – En route to Orlando

In hindsight maybe shooting bottle rockets from our hands out the window of a moving vehicle isn’t the greatest of ideas. Apparently the Orlando Tourist Center is amazing every 20 yards there is another billboard for it. Florida is stupid. Rain without reason, warning or integrity.

10/02 – “Orlando is in shambles”

First things first- this is a dirty, ugly town and the roads have no rhyme or reason. The toll booths…totally unacceptable. We got to the club about 5:30 and unloaded our gear and watched stellastarr* sound check. Shawn had been looking forward to Orlando and telling us about this venue since we were in Austin saying it was one of his favorites. The Social in Orlando is a very cool venue. Its nearly the opposite of how most venues are laid out in that the stage and bar run along the long sides, so its really shallow. But they have a sort of pit area in front so you have people down below you and then a little balcony above that where the crowd is at eye level. And the set-up actually works extremely well and sounds great.

We then proceeded to our Days Inn “hotel” to clean up before dinner and the show. “Un-believable!” (we’ve been quoting Dane Cook the entire trip). The Days Inn looks oddly familiar, until we finally recognize it as the likely locale for several episodes of COPS. This place is a total crack-whore motel. So without even stepping foot out of the van, we leave searching for a new place to stay. We eventually end up finding an Embassy Suites in downtown—its closer to the venue AND closer to our basic standards of living and hygiene. So three cheers for upgrades.

We head up to our room- Ryan and Adam stay behind to check out happy hour and play a round of elevator tag. Big day for Ryan as he has his first shave with a real razor. Our little guys alls growns up now. We left the hotel, ate a shitty salad across the street from the club.

Our set went off really well and I believe it was our best show of the whole tour. The crowd was amazing and we actually sold enough records and shirts to pay for the van, gas and hotels! Stellastarr* played an excellent show as usual. Afterwards we hung out with stellastarr and their crew for quite sometime discussing recording philosophies and we could tell that they actually listened to our record quite a bit and that they actually DJ a couple of our songs back in NYC which was flattering to hear. We took photos together, said our goodbyes and loaded up. Stellastarr headed out, planning to drive for a few hours that night on their way to Philly.

We however weren’t quite ready for the evening to end and instead went next door to a bar and danced to Michael Jackson until last call. We headed back to the hotel where Ryan drinks a six pack of Stella (given to us by stellastarr*) entirely by himself back at the room, Adam crashes early, and Aaron makes out with two girls who followed us back. They’re referred to as “Hottie” and “Normie”.

10/03 – The long road home

After a late night we got off to a bit of a late start this morning but are now on the road and headed back to Dallas. It’is an 18hr drive back and we’ve decided on making it a non-stop drive. We’ve just stopped to eat at the lovely IHOP where Tim eats eggs that aren’t scrambled for the first time, and Ryan is unsure whether the painting in the men’s room is an early work by Chris Ofili, or has merely been subjected to years hanging on the wall at a truck-stop IHOP. I think the answer to that question best remains unsolved. The next 18 hours are filled with… driving… sleeping… man gas is expensive…where is a starbucks? … pizzahut jukebox…more fireworks out the window (it looks a lot cooler at night)…man this town smells weird... more driving…more driving… and we finally arrive back in Dallas at 6:30am.

Interview with Levi Smith

Levi Smith Band

Levi Smith looks fifteen, sounds forty, and is twenty-one. Just old enough to redeem his drink tickets, he’s mature enough to write lyrics that span the gap from teenage angst to mid-life crisis. Smith finds the pith of emotions and zeros in without wasting words. His show-ending song, “Bitterness is Sexy,” is classic, destined for breakup mix-tape glory: “We can still be friends; that’s the consolation prize you gave me in hushed tones over gourmet coffee… I am lonely, but I need another friend like you need another compliment.” He’s a writer at heart, and chose songwriting as his creative outlet because it was immediately gratifying. As he puts it, “What are pancakes other than an excuse to eat syrup?” For Smith, lyrics are the pancakes to convey the syrup of his thoughts. What inspires a universal song like “Bitterness”? “It was my first break-up not because of me doing something wrong, being apathetic, but because of her. Before, honestly, I didn’t care. But this time, I had exhausted all the tricks in my 19-year-old book. I was younger and she just wasn’t interested.”

Taller than he seems, older than he looks, Smith is still awkward on stage. Toes turned in, boots scuffed, and cartoon shirt rumpled, he is mussed just right for the front row of smiling groupies. Evidencing his “god-given ladykiller” skills (per his MySpace and website) he plays up the emotions in the songs to good effect. More rocker than singer-songwriter, Smith’s set is consistant and backed by the bass and drums duely noted in the album title, The One with Bass and Drums. “Young emo chicks seem to like the music, and old men love our bass player- something about his tone...and his high cheekbones. I want to put myself in the place of old men, to write from experience,” Smith says.

Smith has tatoos on one arm only. “Feel.” (with the period) is written in script along his inner arm where he can see it as he plays. “When you play mainly in coffee shops you can't depend on dancing or distortion to cover mistakes,” Smith says. The tatoo is there to remind him of what’s important to his audience. A modified Mexican flag with the Lone Star instead of a Golden eagle in the center is on his upper arm, and a Stephen Crane poem over a music staff encircles his wrist. "If I ever lose the other arm, people will either assume it had just as much ink as this one. If I lose this one, I’ll be instantly clean-cut,” Smith explains about his unadorned other arm.

He began composing at age sixteen, but “began writing decent songs at eighteen.” He’s a prolific songwriter and stays up all night. “I love it when no one but cops are out at 3am, and that’s OK, ‘cause I’m a speed limit kind of guy.” Smith is from the Rio Grande Valley and calls Lubbock home, because likes the small-town feel of the city. “I’ve never been in a traffic jam there.” He has lived briefly in Denver, North Richland Hills, Roswell, Abilene, Wichita Falls, and Corpus Cristi, which was the inspiration for “What Are You Waiting For?” “I’m the ‘you’ in the song. It’s my potential talking to me.” His songs are literal expressions of his emotions, in the tradition of Country artists. “I like the straightforward honesty (of Country). You have to admire them for not being subtle--there ain't much guesswork,” explains Smith, “Even if you don’t like the song, you know what they’re singing about.” Smith says he’s mostly influenced by Ryan Adams, Cory Branan, Dave Matthews, and Tonic. He laughs. “Yeah, Tonic, because...I'm not sure. I suppose they're just one of those inexplicable habits like watching The Weather Channel for comfort.” Simon and Garfunkel were also an early influence. Paul Simon wrote the first line of 'The Sound of Silence' in the bathroom as a kid and finished it when he was a grown man. I go through multiple drafts, and most of the time go back to the first draft because it was the best.”

Levi Smith has a new album out. He describes it as a departure from The One with Bass and Drums: “This upcoming CD is much more realistic, both thematically and musically. We've already played all the songs live as they are on the CD, minus a few guitar layers and harmonies. I seriously doubt we can ever accurately re-produce on stage the songs on the other album without a big budget and even bigger delusions. Lyrically speaking, The Songs That Might Take Us Somewhere is a more self-centered record. It's mostly self-loathing, but that's still narcissistic, it just looks better from an audience's perspective. Aggression and desperation are two main adjectives that cross my mind when thinking of the melodies and instrumentation. You never know when a CD might become my legacy; if I die, I want the last songs I recorded to sound like I knew it was coming. The lyrics are less playful, they may be come off more vague than I intended, but I know in my heart that I put more thought into them.”

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Column: Into Deep October 2005 (Pilotdrift, The Cavern, Allison V. Smith)

A commentary on the best of the Dallas music scene.

Essay question, Deep Ellum 101, first quarter final exam: What do a photographer, a club, and a band have in common? Answer: Everything good about the music scene in Dallas.

Venue: The Cavern, Renewed.
The Cavern isn’t a new bar on Lower Greenville, but it was slipping a little. Bands hated to play there because the stage was dinky, the sound system unreliable, and the floor miniscule. Listeners had to either find a booth and get blocked in there for the set or jam up against the bar in the long, narrow club. All that changed this past August. Revamped by Spune Productions, The Cavern is back as one of the “Best of Dallas.” A robust sound system was put in, the booths were ripped out, and the stage expanded. The Cavern Upstairs still has its cushy couches, perfect for relaxing between sets and for intimate conversation, when the DJs’ speakers aren’t working overtime.

Spune found the most knowledgeable audiophiles in Dallas to man the Upstairs turntables (or iPods): Monday belongs to DJ CeePee, Chris Penn, co-owner of Good Records; Tuesdays it’s DJ Hard to Pronounce AKA Sam Machkovech (that’s Muh-SKO-vitch, in case you’re wondering), the music editor of The Observer; Friday is Up! with DJ CJ MacPhie & DJ El Macho in up-and-coming bands Blackheart Society and Belafonte, respectively; and guest appearances by Josh Venable of KDGE’s Adventure Club radio show. The taste-setters of Dallas give you an insight into what they’d rather listen to on a weeknight.

Texasgigs.com has showcases at The Cavern, spotlighting some of Cindy Chaffin’s favs from around the Metroplex. But the best thing Spune does for the bar is book in the bands Dallas wants to see: Minus the Bear, Headphones, Criteria, The New Trust, Fruit Bats, Ghosty, Fishboy, John LaMonica, Tiebreaker, Chris Holt & The Egos, Fishing For Comets, The Gloomadeers, The Hundred Inevitables, Belaire, Loxsly, Student Film, Black Lights, Devendra Banhart, Peter Schmidt & His Gentlemen Scholars, Doug Burr, The Octopus Project, Saxon Shore, The Deathray Davies, Record Hop, Cordelane, Kissinger, The Happy Bullets, Salim Nourallah, BOOM, Bosque Brown, Unwed Sailor, The Lonelies, [DARYL], Snowdonnas, Cerulean, Saboteur, Levi Smith band, and that’s just some of last month.

It’s a shame The Cavern and the Granada Theater aren’t within walking distance of each other, as they would be less destinations, more of what Deep Ellum should be. Pilotdrift chose The Cavern for their CD release party, a surprising choice, considering the venue’s official capacity of 55. “Its size made for a unique and intimate experience for us and the audience,” says Ben Rice, Pilotdrift’s drummer and official email-answerer. “DJ CeePee had already established a good relationship with the club; he and the Good Records crew were able to work with people who were excited about having us, and who were very supportive.” That’s what it’s all about.

Band: Pilotdrift, Rediscovered.
Pilotdrift began 2004 as a small, arty band out of Texarkana with a small, arty following. On New Year’s Eve they played an instore at Good Records in Deep Ellum that attracted a full crowd, most of whom had heard good things about the band. They crammed all six band members and their myriad of instruments into the back of the store and gave the best performance they could without knocking over anything. It was good enough. Tim DeLaughter, formerly of Tripping Daisy, current lead of The Polyphonic Spree, and owner of Good Records declared them “Awesome.” Seven months later, he signed them as the first band on the Good Records label that isn’t a DeLaughter-lead endeavor. Pilotdrift first toured with The Spree, then toured with Eisley, and then headed into the studio. Their arty following isn’t quite so small any more. Loyal Pilotdrift fans packed the sweaty Cavern on a Monday night and waited for more than an hour for the band to play.

The release of Water Sphere, Pilotdrift’s second CD, and their first album on a label, required a party. It suffers only slightly from the loss of co-lead Micah Dorsey, who amicably split with the band after touring. “Bubblecraft” nearly begs polyester and a martini in hand, and is more reminiscent of a 1970’s made-for-TV movie theme song than rock of the Augties. But that’s what this band should be doing anyway: scoring the big licensing pay-off. Their money’s in feature films, TV shows (serious ones), and commercials for SUVs. Even I’d consider a Hummer if the drum solo from “So Long” played each time I opened the garage door. If the now out of print Iter Facere is already firmly imbedded in your record collection, Water Sphere may not add much, as it minimally reworks five songs from Pilotdrift’s self-produced effort. “Passenger Seat” could otherwise be known as “Picturesque” Revised, and “So Long,” “Caught in My Trap,” “Rings of Symbols,” and “Elephant Island” are essentially the same, only lacking Dorsey’s vocals. “Bubblecraft” is worth the purchase, if only for quirk, but “Comets,” a lovely, floaty instrumental, justifies it. “Jekyll and Hyde Suite,” a nearly ten minute opus, is a bit much to take through earphones, but is absolutely stunning live with its theatrical changes. Kelly Carr shines on stage, growing taller and maniacal as the music moves him. As good as the band is in the studio, the albums do not compare with their live performances. The Cavern is a great venue to watch the musical chairs Pilotdrift plays with their myriad of instruments, but the small space was not especially suited to their sweeping music. “Live at Nokia Arena” is really the tag that belongs after their band name. However, Carr took advantage of the intimacy of the audience and shoed the rest of his band out for a solo performance of “Auld Lang Syne/Swing Low Sweet Chariot” in tribute to the victims of the recent hurricanes in the Gulf.

When asked about the influence DeLaughter has on the fledgling band, drummer Ben Rice was quick to clarify, “We don’t want to be categorized or stereotyped as a 'shadow Polyphonic band' or as a 'kid brother band’ that is a part of his label. We don't want any of our originality or distinctiveness to be derived from comparisons to the Spree.” However, there are distinct benefits to being attached to a successful band. Rice concedes that “having that kind of support, and that kind of drive behind us, to put in place great things such as a solid booking agent, solid financial support, and respect for artistic control… I'd say that Tim has a great impact upon us, and to say that would be putting it lightly.”

It’s hard to mention Pilotdrift without gushing about their album art. Iter Facere’s cover, designed by Micah Dorsey, is the perfect accompaniment to the music. The new album’s graphics are a deeply colored, fictional depiction of the world of Water Sphere. Kelly Carr once said, “My big thing is artwork, I have to know what the music looks like.” Visual art that leads to a deeper understanding of the music is exceptional. Pilotdrift’s world is as much vision as sound. When choosing a photographer to document their image, they chose wisely when selecting Allison V. Smith.

Support: Allison V. Smith, Revered.
Allison V. Smith is a genius with a lens. Currently a staff photographer for the Dallas Morning News, she has photographed Slick 57, [DARYL], Sorta, Sparrows, Radiant*, and many more. Her website, www.allisonvsmith.com is an inspiring visual tour. Click on “Rockstars” for a view of nearly all of the Metroplex’s favorite bands and even Willie Nelson, Tom Hanks, and a melt-your-heart photo of John Travolta. Her client list reads like a subscription sale for popular national magazines. She is another of Dallas’ hidden gems. Smith specializes in simple, graphic imagery, saturated with color and rich in depth. One of my favorite images - though it’s hard to single just one out of the many incredible captures - is of Creede Williams standing in the middle of a downtown street. Smith captured the depth so precisely that she creates the illusion that Williams is floating in the city, but with his feet firmly planted on the ground. Smith’s photos are like the best poems; they are spectacular and reveal their secrets slowly.

Smith did a photo project for Good Record’s Fifth Birthday Bash in March and the results are on www.flickerland.com. If you are a MySpacer, you’ll recognize a few of profile shots of the people who were lucky enough to be caught by her camera. Her “Rock-and-Roll Photo Booth” at the Meow Bow Wow benefit at Sons of Hermann Hall (which raised funds for the animals caught in the Hurricane Katrina disaster) was a great success, and again, there were new MySpace profile shots all around. Smith is an integral supporter of the Dallas music scene, and a valuable asset to it as well.

Good Records, Pilotdrift, Allison V. Smith – three key names to know around Deep Ellum. All are players at the peak of their niche. In this column, every month, a band, a venue, and a support person will be profiled. Mostly, they will be integral to each other, a trio that moves music in the right direction. Do you know a band that has a good network? Tell me about them. You can find me online at www.myspace.com/katemackley. Think of this column as the Cliff Notes to music in Dallas.

Deep Details
• Good Records was established in 2000 as a storefront for the Good Records Recordings.
• Radio Good internet radio, also known as Daisy Radio, aired from 2000-2003.
• “Team Zissou” - Tim DeLaughter’s pet name for the interns at Good Records – is borrowed from The Life Aquatic.
• Aaron Burch of Grandaddy designed the t-shirts for Good Record’s Fifth Birthday Bash, and he’s the one musician allowed to smoke during an instore performance.
• DeLaughter made a card with the name “The Polyphonic Spree” for the store’s CD rack before he founded the band.
• DeLaughter’s only business advice to current Good Records manager, Rubberman? Always have flowers outside the front door.
• Allison V. Smith’s grandfather is Stanley Marcus and a large poster of him hangs in the Gypsy Tea Room band room.
• Former Pilotdrifter Micah Dorsey dated Chauntelle DuPree of Eisley during the bands’ tour.
• Iter Facere was the name of drummer Ben Rice’s online diary.
• Rice bought John David Blag’s drums before they knew each other. Later, after Blag joined the band, they realized it was the same set.
• Micah Dorsey was front and center in all of Pilotdrift’s press photos – and was photoshopped out after he left the band.

Originally published in Venues magagine

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Best Rock Show Ever (according to the T-Shirt)

Benefit for the American Red Cross, Hurricane Katrina Relief

Slick 57, Centro-Matic, Happyjack, [DARYL], Sorta

@ The Granada Theater – September 10, 2005

There’s something about Dylan Silvers. It’s not his looks, because he’s a little doughy, a bit pasty, kind of like a brunette Cousin It when he’s up on stage with his long sweaty hair covering his face completely. You don’t see his smile, you don’t see his eyes, you barely see him singing the words. There’s something about Dylan Silvers, but it’s not his image.

Maybe it’s his musicianship, because he writes some of the best pop songs coming out of the DFW music scene. On Ohio, one of the most acclaimed albums of last year, Silvers found a voice for his band, [DARYL], which is no longer '80’s retro synth. He loves to play the guitar. When he’s up on stage he’s expressing his innermost thoughts through six strings. But that’s not it, either, because there are a lot of good musicians in Dallas/Ft. Worth; numerous creative, talented, productive songwriters. It’s not his musicianship, though that is part of his persona.

Maybe it’s his personality; it’s who Dylan Silvers is. He’s no longer the miscreant who trashed the Bronco Bowl back in 2003, he’s responsible now. Somehow, this young guy, because he’s barely creeping out of his twenties, has brought around him the best musicians in North Texas. They want to play with Dylan Silvers. They want Dylan Silvers to play with them. When he’s down in the audience, they call him up on stage, and when he’s putting together a show, they’re there. That’s exactly what he did for the victims of hurricane Katrina. He put together a show to help those affected by the storm that wiped out New Orleans, a benefit for the American Red Cross, for the families of the hundreds who died, for the thousands of refugees who are homeless and living in Dallas, Houston, and anywhere they can. Dylan Silvers said, we have to do something. And he did. He took the best venue in Dallas, the Granada Theater, called up the best bands, living and dead, and resurrected Deep Blue Something. He got Toby and Todd Pipes to put together their band on short notice. “If he had given us more time to think about it, it wouldn’t have happened,” said Toby Pipes. “Dylan asked, we said yes, and they printed it in the paper, and then we had to play.” That’s exactly what happened. Silvers asked, and musicians said, ‘yes.’

Sorta said yes (and played at 8pm when The Drams cancelled), Centro-Matic said yes, and Slick 57 said yes. Centro-Matic had an online auction of their catalog and merchandise and heavily promoted the show. “Centro-Matic made the show,” said Silvers, “Mark (Hedman) drove this. He tagged it and took it home.” To add to that singular bill, three days before the benefit, Silvers formed a Who cover band that had never played together. Silvers was Roger Daltrey, Chris Holt was Pete Townshend with windmills, and they were backed by the uber-talented Carter Albrecht, Eric Neal of The Jones Thing on bass, and the “sickest drummer in Dallas” Scott Churilla from the Reverend Horton Heat. They formed a band that never existed, Happyjack, and may never exist again, and rocked the house. “This was the most fun thing I’ve ever done musically,” said Silvers, “We hadn’t even met before and we threw together three songs I could maybe sing, and the rhythm section knew those walking in. These guys are amazing musicians; badasses.”

Slick 57 played, the last band, it was one in the morning, almost nobody left, except the die-hards and the press and the photographer. Despite knowing that they’d be on after the last of Centro-Matic’s crowd had left, Slick 57 rocked it. Then John Pedigo and bassist Ward Richmond called Silvers up on stage. Though he’d already been backstage knocking back the celebration, he went out to jam with his friends and drive the show home.

Silvers is modest about his role. “I was lucky to be able to do something so fast. You give what you can, when you can, and this is the one thing I can do besides entertain people. I can put together a show that makes a difference, with music.” Resurrecting Deep Blue Something, that was pretty impressive. Putting together Happyjack, that was just plain fun. Putting it all together at the Granada and raising more than $4700 for our devastated neighbors, well, that’s just it. That’s just the something about Dylan Silvers.






Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Chemistry Set: The Chemistry Set

The Chemistry Set’s self-titled debut CD moves through space, the American heartland, and self-discovery in Stephen Duncan’s introspective journey. Beginning with the twinkling “Into the Light,” Duncan crafts childlike images of resurrection and lends charm to the entire album, even the angry “Lee Minor 7.” Unsubtly suggesting bombing Oklahoma, there’s no actual instigation of violence, rather it’s wishful thinking. With his naïve voice and the backing of Meredith Knoll’s xylophone and keys over jazzy percussion, he crafts the traveling miseries of “Gypsies and Vagabonds.” The Chemistry Set creates a world of overheard melodies and familiar words paired with unexpected contrasts. Pink Floyd-like passages and alt-country sounds work well together on this CD. Even homages to the Beatles and Bowie fit right in. This may not be the band’s “million dollar day,” but it’s money in the bank.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

[DARYL] and Black Tie Dynasty: Bloody Basin (Idol)

Idol Record’s Dallas-based [DARYL] and Ft. Worth darlings, Black Tie Dynasty, have crossed the DFW Metroplex to pump out a joint CD that just begs to be tour merchandise. The gruesomely named Bloody Basin actually isn’t at all scary, brimming with songs that are pure pop. If you’re expecting a fusion of the two bands, this ain’t it. Both retain their very individual styles, but bond in what’s basically a songswap. Two collaborative songs begin and end the EP. “Bloody Basin,” played with all ten members of both bands, is the closest to synthesis. Don’t miss their tour just to see this song performed live; that is, if the club’s stage can hold everyone and the sound engineer doesn’t have a meltdown trying to mix two vocalists, three background vocals, two keyboard players, two bass players, and four guitars. Oh yeah, and two drummers? Worth the ticket.

“Gloria” sadly isn’t a cover of the vintage U2 song, but a ballad on which lead singers Cory Watson of Black Tie and Dylan Silvers of [D] are instantly recognizable. Their vocal styles are distinctively different, with Watson the smoother crooner and Silvers stretching out the emotion of his words. Laid over ethereal guitar, “Gloria” ends in a blown breath.

Black Tie’s new tracks bring out more of the group’s inherent darkness, but are as danceable as ever. Watson’s songwriting expresses deep cynicism with elegant lyrics such as “You can’t love like you said you could, and the part that is human is the part that wants to lie,” and “If you can’t say it with feeling, say something revealing now” from “The Letter A.” “Signs” is slightly more hopeful, but nails are still going into coffins. Brian McQuorcodale’s just right keys and Blake McWhorter’s energetic bass strike the bouncy balance with Watson’s pessimism. If you don’t listen too closely to the words, these are fun songs.

[DARYL]’s feedback-rich rock complements their buddy band, just as on the live tour. “Exploding Hearts” is the original contribution and is prime [DARYL] with the chantable one-liner, “If you get too close you might get infected.” Seems that Dylan Silvers still isn’t feeling any more comfortable in his own skin, even after the critical success of their latest full-length album, Ohio. [D] manages to take over “Happy,” the Ned’s Atomic Dustbin cover, and make it punkily their own, thanks especially to the inspired drumming of Michael “Spammie” Lamm.

The product of two original bands having some recording fun together, Bloody Basin doesn’t drip a bit on the floor.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Interview with Flickerstick

Flickerstick came back home to Dallas to launch their critically acclaimed latest album, Tarantula. DMG caught up with them backstage at the Lakewood Theater and chatted them up about airline price gauging, Ryan Cabrera’s hair, and casseroles.

Only six years ago, when Deep Ellum bands played to packed venues, when the music scene wasn’t fractured into cliques, there rose a band called ‘Flickerstick’ for no good reason. Then they got famous with their friends, Tripping Daisy, the Toadies, and The Spree, and took it all away with them. Back at the Lakewood Theater for their Tarantula CD release party, DMG sat down with Brandin Lea, Rex Ewing, Fletcher Lea and new drummer, Todd Harwell, formerly of Doosu. We even caught up with Cory Kreig a little later. Relaxing in the obscenely florescent lighting backstage, the guys of Flickerstick were mellow and looking forward to their hometown crowd, even if that meant sharing a couple extra beers with their friends.

Dallas Music Guide: Your music has been described as ‘accessible’.

Brandin Lea: ‘Accessible?’ You think that?

DMG: You tell me.

BL: I haven’t heard anyone say that. I don’t know if we’re accessible.

Rex Ewing: Maybe the first record, I don’t really think this new one is.

Tarantula is a little more intricate than the first record was. I don’t know. It’s nice that we’re called that, but I’ve never heard that.

DMG: Your fans want to know when you’re touring again.

RE: We just got back; we were gone for a month. We just got back a week ago. We toured the eastern half of the States in October and we’re about to do a few West Coast dates next week. Actually, until January we’re just playing regional, then Florida.

RE: Somewhere it’s not cold!

DMG: It’s mainly your U.K. fans wanting to know when you’ll come back.

RE: (laughs) Tell them to send tickets!

BL: As soon as possible!

RE: It’s expensive to tour the U.K., to get all the… It was easier before, before the restrictions with airlines, but as far as getting your stuff over there it’s hard. It’s not even your amps or anything. They charge you for extra weight now; ten times more than they used to, so it’s just phenomenal to get the equipment over there.

DMG: Tell me about Flickerstick as a band. Describe your sound.

RE: Uh, Brandin? What is your sound?

BL: Man! (shakes head) I have no idea. I know that’s a ridiculous answer, but… It’s melodic, it’s rock, it’s unique, it’s… got some theateresque parts.

Fletcher Lea: I’ll go with alternative rock.

BL: Mainly I write songs that are all over the place. I don’t really know. I’ve asked that question a lot and some bands can go ‘we’re metal’ or ‘we’re this,’ ‘we’re that;’ we dabble in a lot of different areas.

DMG: You have fans that run from hardcore to indie to pop. I’ve seen you listed on blogs where the other bands are all Foo Fighters or U2 or Skinny Puppy. Where do you put yourselves in that mix?

BL: I never considered us a pop band. The closest we’ve gotten called is psychedelic pop. I’m more for that term than just … Pop bands to me are like that Ryan Cabrera, that’s a pop band. To be a pop band, we’d need more dancers. You know, I never knew anything about that guy- the first thing I knew about him was how he did his hair. (laughs) That was the very first thing I got, then his guitar. He does have great hair. And the second thing was that his girlfriend was Ashlee Simpson.

RE: Nothing about his music.

DMG: Any local bands you’ve been hearing buzz about?

BL: Black Tie Dynasty, Radiant* -they’re playing with us tonight, Red Animal War.

DMG: Which song on Tarantula is indicative of the direction Flickerstick will follow in the future?

BL: Every album should be different, and this album as whole speaks for itself.

DMG: The future of music looks like no more radio. How do you think bands will get in front of fans?

RE: The radio sucks; all ClearChannel stations play the same song all day long.

BL: The internet is a positive for bands. So many are able to get heard. But young 14- and 15-year-old listeners have short attention spans; they buy four or five songs that they like, where we used to follow the bands that we really liked over years. We’d buy everything they put out. Now the kids are bombarded with so much music that a band’s shelf life is shortened. There are way too many bands you can dive into next week. The younger fans’ attention span is so short. There’s always something new.

DMG: Bands on the Run was a blip of popularity on your steady rise. Do you see it that way, did you expect more?

BL: BOTR was three and a half years ago, I don’t remember it.

RE: Christmas is my favorite time.

BL: We got word of mouth from fans that saw the show.

DMG: What’s the plan for the future?

BL: Making good music, continuing to play. The band is what it is; anything else is out of our control and it’s handled by people who help, or not. That’s how it goes. We’re a band that likes to tour and put out records. Any more than that comes from others and is out of our control.

DMG: How was working with Keith Cleversley (producer for Tarantula and Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips)?

BL: He’s good at what he does. It was an interesting experience, a battle, but that’s what producers do.

DMG: You’re shedding and adding musicians and crew, not to mention management and record labels. What’s up?

BL: With Dom, everyone knows about that. And we fired our manager and that was our decision.

RE: Blood sucking leeches! They should die and burn!

BL: I wish it wouldn’t be that way. Not everybody gets along together.

DMG: Your lyrics have been described as ridiculous.

RE: Yeah? Bunch of haters.

BL: Sometimes there’s a hint of that. No more than 90%. I’ve tried not to write clichés and something out in left field. “Catholic Scars and Chocolate Bars” is ridiculous if you don’t know the meaning behind it.

Fletcher Lea: “Milk Shake”; that’s not a good song.

BL: Though supposedly the reviews (of Tarantula) have been positive.

RE: Tarantula- you gotta buy it. Say to all fans it’s the best record.

DMG: Thanks guys!

Brandin, Rex, Todd, and Fletcher left after their early soundcheck and about an hour later, Cory Kreig wandered in, dressed in a German army jacket that was the rage of the 80s and old cowboy boots. We had a few minutes to chat backstage before he joined the rest of the band….

DMG: Is it good to be home in Dallas?

Cory Kreig: Yeah, it’s good, um, fun and nice. Good, fun, nice. (laughs) Great answer, right?

DMG: You’re having your CD release in Lakewood. It’s not exactly NYC. How do you feel about that?

CK: We technically had a CD release there as well. We’ve had a few. This is just the Dallas version.

DMG: Anything different about this one?

CK: Yeah, more people are backstage drinking our beer here.

Manager Troy Ostensen wanders in and surreptitiously stares at a little bald nick in Cory’s closely shorn hair.

TO: Do the mohawk yourself?

CK: Yeah, thought I’d make it easy with the clippers.

TO: You got a little close in a spot.

CK: OK, stop looking at it, dude.

DMG: Have you heard of any good local bands?

CK: Locals? No, we’re not around here very much, with touring. The only time we’re ever in a bar is when we’re paid to be. In ’98 we were playing our first shows and Tripping Daisy, the Toadies, bands like that were around. We were playing six years ago. Now what we’re seeing is that not as many people go out as used to, generally. We’re seeing that everywhere, all over country. Even well-known bands that open for us in their hometowns have no attendance. When we were here, everyone was playing Deep Ellum. It was packed every night of the week with good bills, good attendance. There wasn’t as much crime then.

DMG: What’s your plan for the next five years?

CK: Retirement? (laughs) No, I have no idea.

DMG: Your fans want to know what kind of casseroles you like. They want to feed you on tour.

CK: Yeah, people bring us a lot of food. They think we’re hungry; I don’t get that. (laughs) It’s not like we’re emaciated or anything. Anything’s great. You need to eat. As long as it’s made with love, that’s the most important ingredient in music as well as casseroles, right?

DMG: Have you grown as writers and what direction do you see Flickerstick going?

CK: As songwriters? I’d like us to be recognized, by the Grammies, the American Music Awards. If you don’t say that, what’s the point? You’re the next Richard Marx – he’s got a new album coming out- but I need to curtail my remarks.

DMG: I’ll ask you the same thing I asked Brandin and Rex before; your music has been described as ‘accessible.’

CK: Yeah? Well, not many people are accessing it. I mean, the internet is accessible; our music’s not so accessible.

DMG: You think that the internet is the future for music?

CK: The internet saves bands. Radio is owned by two companies and they pick what goes on it.

DMG: Do you consider yourselves outside of radio?

CK: Well, we’re not on it. I’d like for our songs to be on the radio, but that’s a crap shoot these days.

DMG: Is the internet how people get introduced to Flickerstick?

CK: We’ve moved beyond introductions, at least I hope so.

Cory headed off to find the rest of the band after passing along some tips about chicken tetrazini and lasagna. After all, touring isn’t just about chocolate bars, beer, and trail mix. Flickerstick, while preferring the warmer states this winter, will most likely be somewhere near you, sometime soon.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Interview with Ken Bethea, Old 97s

Ken Bethea, lead guitarist of the Old 97s, lives the life musicians aspire to: he doesn’t have a day job, can make a call and get his band on a Starbucks compilation, and not play SxSW because they can get better gigs. Life’s good these days for the “97s.” Even with half the band split between the coasts with bassist Murry Hammond now living in LA and lead Rhett Miller recording an album in NYC, the Old 97s are doing just fine. Solo projects and touring haven’t changed the band, though kids and wives may have. In a candid conversation with DMG, Bethea looks back on where they have been and gives some practical advice to new bands just cutting their teeth on the DFW scene.

DMG: You guys just had a DVD come out, right?

KB: I haven’t seen it, I don’t own a copy; it wasn’t something that we had a lot to do with. What I did have a lot to do with, is we have a song on the Valentine’s 2005 Starbucks compilation, Sweethearts. I was at the Casa Linda Starbucks last summer, and it was raining, I stopped in to get a cup of coffee. We’ve been on a couple compilations, but none in five years. I always liked those Starbucks compilations; I always picked them up and looked at them, to see who’s on. I picked one up and I saw all the usual suspects, but us, that are in this whole thing. You know; Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, and I’m like, ‘Why are we not on this? It’s stupid.’ It’s because our former management didn’t push. I went home that day, immediately sent an email to our current management and said, ‘We need to be back in the Starbucks loop.’ Of all the little one-of things you do, it gets noticed; people buy those things. By the end of that day, we were on that compilation. It took four hours and two months later, we’re over on lower Greenville and recording that song. And I was happy: you know what? Got something done!

DMG: Just from walking into the Starbucks at Casa Linda?

KB: Just from saying I want to get this done.

DMG: So how is that now? Does that feel nice that you can make a couple phone calls and get what you want to happen?

KB: (blows raspberry) Yes, of course! Compared to the beginning, when you didn’t have anything? The whole thing in the Old 97s has been amazingly cool. Every single stop along the way, from the days that we played for tips, to the days when we paid our own, did what we could do to go on tour, and just humped it and lived on people’s floors, to these days where we make money -we’re not rich, but we’re not poor- and we can live in a decent neighborhood and we don’t have jobs. I don’t have a boss. (under his breath) Well, my wife. (laughs) But I don’t have any other kind of boss. I haven’t had a boss since 1993. Feb 26th, 1993, as a matter of fact. My anniversary’s coming up! It’s amazing to be part of the national music community, where you make two phone calls and you make something happen and not have to pander. When you’re in a band that ultimately can’t make somebody else some money, you always have to go, ‘Come on… Come on….’ You feel like you’re always asking for a favor. But when you can carry your own weight, even if it’s not the weight of Paul McCartney, it’s still weight. You don’t have to go, (dejectedly) ‘We’re having a hard time getting a gig in Austin…’ It sucks being in that position. We were in it for about four or five years. I’ve got buddies, like the Deathray Davies, and while they’re a great band and all, they’ve still never quite crested into that world where they’ve been able to have their own elbow room and just call somebody and bam, it’s done. It sucks. ‘Cause I know those guys pretty good. Phillip’s also the drummer in I Love Math, John (Dufilho’s) other band and I play guitar with them sometime, actually. But it’s nice to know where you stand.

DMG: What’s your advice to young bands?

KB: Promote your shows when you play ‘em. Make posters. Play as often as possible and if you can play for free, that’s good. Because when you play for free, you can invite all your friends, your friends can invite their friends, and you can actually have a scene. You can have forty-five people show and you won’t have to feel guilty, and you won’t have to deal with the guest list, and they can come. Everybody can come. And at that point, if your music is any good, they will become fans. If your music’s not good, you’re screwed anyway, doesn’t matter. But if it’s good enough… That’s how we got fans. We played at (ticking them off on his fingers) Chumley’s, the Barley House, Bar of Soap -constantly- for a year and a half, and became everyone’s favorite neighborhood band that was not a big band, just a little band. But the fact that all these people could come see us for free, instead of going, ‘well, you know, they’re playing at Trees, and that’s $6…’ That’s not good, because you have to realize you ain’t worth six bucks in the beginning. You’re just not. You’re worth free; you’re worth fifty cents or a dime. You’re worth the tip bucket. And then, promote your shows. ‘Cause songwriting and all that, the creative process is what is reality with you. You gotta deal with that yourself. You can’t do anything … if your songwriting sucks, it just sucks. I mean, you can go to songwriting class, or something (chuckles), work on that. But you can always make posters, book the gigs.

DMG: What’s the future of the Old 97s?

KB: Record every two years, touring every summer. Then a lot when records are out, occasional things like Starbucks. Right now the immediate future is a Christmas album to come out this Christmas and a live album to come out either in the fall or next winter. I just had a call on that Friday, so the wheels are in motion. I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas album, so hopefully we won’t screw it up, because I love Christmas music. We’re trying to do the live album recording in April or May. There’s a place called Green Hall, which is down in New Braunfels. It looks like Sons of Hermann, but it’s in a little town called Green. It’s very cool. If we could get two nights there, that’s where we want to do it. It would be spectacular. “Old 97s, Live at Green Hall”; that means something. That’s something to show your grandkids. Not “Live at some bar,” I mean, that’s OK…

DMG: You mentioned that Sons of Hermann Hall is your favorite venue in Dallas.

KB: That’s one of them. I like the Granada and Gypsy. And I like Sons. It depends; I liked the Barley House when we were playing there. I liked Bar of Soap. I don’t really have a favorite one here. I liked Barley House because it’s old, it is what it is. I’m sad that it’s moved. It was a great place, it’s always free. Lot of great bands play there. It’s always been kind of a hole in the wall, but we just have a lot of memories at the Barley House. We had three or four of our stickers on the wall, and they were old ones from ’94, ’95.

DMG: What’s your best memory from there?

KB: The night we played with John Doe from X and all the power went off. Us four and John Doe on stage, playing an X song and the power went off. It was great, I mean it was cool, it was so much fun.

DMG: So, what’d you guys do?

KB: Stood there, just like we always do. It happened four months ago in L.A., too, at a big place, 1500 people there: power went off for 20 minutes. And so we just dealt with it and Rhett and Murry sang a couple of songs with acoustic guitars and I sat down and entertained all the people in front of me. We got an email from our management via the promoter of the place and it was the nicest email saying “You guys totally handled it.” Stuff like that doesn’t bug us, but in the world of music you have people who, hey, they’d have left. They’d have went, got their shit on the bus, said (imitating a British accent very proficiently) “Fuck this place, we’re outta here, can’t get your lights on, you fucking pieces of shit, voom... Johnny is gone!” What else are you going to do? I felt stupider leaving, plus at least there was some light, it was all our sound that went out. But at the Barley House with John Doe, it was dark. Everything went out. It happens. It’s happened at least ten times in twelve years.

DMG: You write, on your website, that “Drag It Up” is your most personal album.

KB: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I would definitely think it’s more introspective. Different albums have a tendency to take on a little bit of a life or a personality. We’ve had some albums where we’ve worked on energy and lifestyle, like drinking and chasing girls and partying and all that kind of stuff, and we’ve had some albums where we worked on song technique and how to actually make cool songs, like good-sounding songs. It doesn’t actually make the fans like it any better, but from a musician’s point of view, we wanted to get to that. Which is what we did with “Fight Songs” and “Satellite Rides.” We tried to get some emotional depth recorded on this album. We let some vocal sections spill out a little longer, whereas we had to lop that off on “Fight Songs” and “Satellite Rides.” We had to tighten those songs down to three minutes, on purpose. Because that’s what pop songs are, like classic Beatles pop songs are, bam, 2 minutes 45 seconds, or whatever. We let the songs on the album exist, and tried not to cram them, either pump them full of energy and speed, or tighten them into pop. Just put more acoustic, strummy stuff on it, so it’s good. I enjoy it. I was real happy with it.

DMG: Do you feel like your songwriting style has changed since you’ve had a family?

KB: I think more than anything, our lives are so different. A lot has to do with family. Yeah, it has changed a lot. In the beginning you really are playing in your band, drinking, and chasing girls. I mean, that’s what you’re doing. We were all single, and it’s representative. You listen to our first three albums and that’s what every single song’s about. I don’t know if we’ll ever be musicians that are gonna write songs directly about our children, but the fact that your life is stable and you have a nice neighborhood… it comes out, you know. You’re not writing about hoping you can cover rent.

DMG: I work with a lot of bands that are just starting. In fact, I’ve been asked why I want to cover local bands. You guys are a little more popular than I’m used to.

KB: You know, most people equate a band they’ve never heard of with ‘music must not be good,’ or that local bands must not be good. That’s totally, totally wrong. I went to college at UT and got into that world of little indie local bands that it was a big deal if they sold 500 records. And when I got over that hurdle that they could still be good, that they were just as good as these [major label bands], it was totally liberating. You’re like, ‘Hey, it’s good music.’ It’s just better than Phil Collins or whatever was popular at that time, or Prince. Dallas has a good music scene. Most people don’t realize it who live here. Even a lot of the other musicians don’t. Most cities have non-existent, not crappy, but non-existent music scenes. I mean look at Houston. That’s just not a music town. There’s always going to be little, small, micro-scenes anywhere; like Tyler has a micro-scene. Dallas is definitely top ten; it’s close to top five. Chicago and New York, San Francisco. Seattle. Austin. But you know, you go to Cincinnati and I’ve never had any feeling there’s a local music scene that was producing, say, ten good bands. Like Deathray and Chomsky and us, Polyphonic Spree and pAper chAse; good bands. Bands that have a chance, you know. It may not happen, but they have an opportunity, it could happen.

DMG: Do you think that the music scene in Dallas has changed recently?

KB: Not recently. It changed in the 90s; it went from non-existent in the 70s, or very dinky in the 70s, to the burgeoning Deep Ellum community that started in about ’85, to mainstream in the 90s. But not any different between now and what it was ten years ago, I don’t think.

DMG: I get the feeling from other bands that there’s a little bit more of a momentum, just recently, just in the past year.

KB: Well, I think that maybe at the micro-level, you know, maybe if you’re down there and you’re sweating it out at the level of Deathray and Chomsky or whatever, or maybe a little lower than that, you’re much more in contact then with the ebb and flow. But from -for lack of a better term- from the top of the heap looking down, it’s still... it’s healthy. I think that maybe they probably thought it might have been worse three years ago, ‘cause in their mind maybe their band wasn’t doing as well. Whereas, now “Hey, man, a little more momentum...” and really it’s more personal. Most of the time when you’re measuring anything in life, it’s real personal. I talk to fans who tell me, “Your set’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen” and you talk to the next one and they say, “You guys were a little bit off tonight” and if you really get down to it, one of them had a double espresso on the way in and the other one drank four beers and ate a giant burger and dude, you’re worn out, you’re done before you even got here!

DMG: So it’s hard to judge how you’re doing?

KB: In the beginning, you suck. There’s just no way around it, all bands suck. I sucked, I was horrible. My first band with Phil, it was beyond horrible. Just terrible. Rhett sucked when he was 15. That’s just part of it, you get better, and the difference between a good live band, like Deathray Davies, and Eisley is miles apart. Everybody does studio tricks. It’s not like somebody’s more legit than somebody else. It’s what you do in there. Everybody’s been cheating for years in the studio. But Eisley has potential to be a great studio band, ‘cause their songs are cool-sounding. They look great, so the potential for them to be big is bigger than Deathray. I don’t think they have any tour base at all.

DMG: Well, they toured with Snow Patrol…

KB: Doesn’t matter. That’s zero. If you’re opening for anybody, that normally is zero. No, it’s not zero, it’s point five. I mean, so what, so you’re opening up for some band, you go up and play there and five thousand people come? You go back a month later, you play your own band, your own gig, you’ve got two hundred people there. If they have fun, the next time you come, you’ll have four hundred people there. But if they don’t have fun, the next time you come, you’ll have 75. If that. It’s point five. Opening is completely nothing. We opened for big bands and not once has it ever made any real difference in anything. We sold an extra thousand records. It doesn’t change your life, normally. It’s rough, in the beginning. Like Dylan Silvers and [DARYL]; I’ll think well, they’re just getting started. They’re not. They’ve made four or five albums and been at it, and know what a tuner is. In the beginning, most bands are all like, ‘I don’t know what a PA is.’ It’s like one time, this band was opening for us at Sons of Hermann... normally, now we take control of who opens for us, but for whatever reason we didn’t, and the band that was opening up literally was a brother-in-law of somebody at Sons. We’d never heard of them, but what was very -in the band world- in poor taste for them, was that they’d never heard of us. That doesn’t get you anywhere with the headliners, to kind of walk in and go “You guys are from here?” and you’re like, OK, so you’re not really part of the Dallas music scene because hell, if you were, you’d at least know who the hell our band name was. Come on, I’ve heard of every band in this town, I may not know them but I’ve at least heard of them, of the ones that sell a few tickets. And then these guys were up there looking around, and the drummer asked Phillip something about his drums, and Phillip said “No, you’re going to have to set up over there, ‘cause I don’t want to strike” and then he goes “Strike?” and Phillip goes, “Move your shit after you get through.” We only strike if we’re playing with somebody we like, like Deathray we’ll strike, or Chomsky we’ll strike. But we ain’t gonna strike after the no-name Addison band, and it was just funny. They were so green and so…. You’re just like, “Guys, enjoy it. ‘Cause it’s going to be a while before you get to play for this many people again.”

The Old 97s are gassing up the blue van and heading out on tour again. Check their website for details on the summer schedule and more ‘97s site updates as soon as Ken finishes up doing his taxes.


© Dallas Music Guide 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

WALL OF SOUND #1 by Spune Productions


@ Hailey’s - April 9, 2005

WALL OF SOUND, Spune Production’s 27 band amalgamation of the best area musicians took over Hailey’s for a 14-hour endurance run. Billed as “a music and arts festival dedicated to the genres commonly known as shoegaze, dream pop, experimental/avant garde, no-wave, neu-wave, lo-fi & noise pop,” the Wall of Sound was exactly that. It began at noon and ran without interruption until 2AM. Two stages were set up across the room from each other, facing each other. Immediately after one band finished, the drummer from the other hit the kick drum, and the whole crowd pivoted 180 degrees. Too funny. There was no silence, all day. Not kidding- two minutes between sets and the whole thing ran on time, all day. Lance Yocum, Spune’s mastermind, is one driven man, managing this thing late into the night and giving the bands something to think about. I heard more than one band say, “No, no, we can’t right now! We’ve got to load in/load out/get moving or Lance’ll be pissed!” This was a dream bill, with some of the best of our regional acts. Bands from Austin, Denton, and DFW filled the lineup. It was relaxed, but loud. It was, well, a wall of sound that didn’t stop. Here’s the list, in order of appearance:

Fra Pandolf
Until They Arrive
Shiny Around the Edges
The Black Lodge

OK, I’ll fess up, I wasn’t there for every band, just most of them. I missed the above, so I’ll leave it to others to comment on the breakfast crowd.

AM Syndicate (Austin)

I hate to begin with a bad review, but AMS did nothing for me. Dreamy, rock-y pop with a cute Asian girl on keys, I wished they wouldn’t be quite so loud. So far, not enough bodies in the crowd to break up the wattage.

The Chapters (Austin)

Up from A-town, they rated a ‘doesn’t suck’ with me. Maybe it was the early time, but I couldn’t yet get into the music. Grooving in the bright light of day is a bit intimidating. Not too exciting, not too bad, they played to a mostly industry crowd, but put on a solid show.

Red Monroe (Dallas)

I love this band. Despite a few technical glitches, these guys do know how to groove in daylight. Jazzy, dark, tonal melodies with hot riffs and all-out rocking songs, they brought people out of the woodwork. Any venue that introduces these guys to a new audience is alright with me. Snap up their ‘Sin City Serenade’ on CMJ’s New Music Monthly comp CD this month.

Bellaparker (Austin)

I had heard about Bellaparker from all my Austin connections and this was the #1 ‘Can’t Miss’ band on my list. They were exactly what I had heard; dance-y, fun, swinging rock that drew and kept the crowd. Granted, the crowd all seemed to be related to them somehow, but this was 3:30 in the afternoon, remember. Now I really, really want to see them at a dancing hour. ‘Cause I’m gonna.

What Made Milwaukee Famous (Austin)

Another of my favs since I caught them at the Double Wide. This is the most schizoid band I know. I looked away for a moment and thought there had been a stage switch, but then I saw that John had taken over from Michael as lead singer. They change styles radically. Punk? Gotta be John. Pretty ballad? Must be Michael. And you know what? They rock them all. Excellent live band. Don’t miss them.

Student Film is from Norman, but they didn’t show, car problems, I heard.

The Golden Falcons (Dallas)

What do you get when you combine a 7-foot-tall lead singer, a bald guitarist, and the strangest group of misfits to ever grace a stage? Peeling guitar tunes. Golden Falcons must freak people out the first time they see them and then they blast that power rock they do and blow everyone away. Disco balls are not safe with Rob around. I’m sure it took all his willpower not to boot that thing off the stage.

The Hourly Radio (Dallas)

Ever since The Lord Henry left, THR has taken over the title of ‘Most Beautiful DFW Band.’ These guys should have been billed immediately prior to Black Tie, and then the pretty crowd could have stuck around between sets. The club had some mixing issues, with Aaron Closson’s vocals a bit too out there, but it was fun hearing them, as always. They played new songs, and the thirty minute set for once seemed too short.

The Danes (Dallas)

This was a reunion gig for The Danes with Brandon Carr coming back from England and The Earlies for the festival. They made excellent tempo changes from free-floating melodies to hard-hitting tunes proving that no talent has been lost in the interim. A treat for everyone there to catch it.

Black Lights (Dallas) & The Southern Sea (Dallas)

Sorry guys, but it was time for a break from amp feedback and kick drums. If you’re ever at Hailey’s, the shrimp-bacon-cheese sandwich from the little grill around the corner is amazingly good. Add a little guac, and you’ve got every cholesterol group covered.

Black Tie Dynasty (Dallas)

With tunes so infectious they invade my brain every time I even think ‘Black Tie’, this band has the scene going on. Actual dancing occurred. “Crime Scene,” their foundation song, is one part 80’s retro, one part pop pleaser, and all excellent. These guys are what dancing in the dark is all about. Set to release a split EP with [DARYL], their labelmates and musical older brothers, the two bands will perform at least one song together- all eleven members of both on stage at the same time. Sign me up; that I just gotta see.

Snowdonnas (Dallas)

Beginning with the ever-popular “Edison” just so people would go, ‘Oh, this is that band…’ (Tim White’s words, not mine) Snowdonnas moved on into new songs from their about-to-be released self-produced sophomore CD. More biting, more angular, still a shoegazer’s dream, I can’t wait to hear the polished-up version.

The Silver Arrows (Denton)

The word “Bubblegum” just sticks in my head. It’s part of their lyrics and describes their sound. They were a new band for me, the first I had heard or heard of them. Fun, loud, fast, but not yet a headliner. Especially an interesting pairing because they were followed by…

Pilotdrift (Texarkana)

No interviewing during Pilotdrift! The edict came from TexasGigs that no way could we talk over this band because people would be tuning in just to hear them. That says it all. I’ve seen these guys do their stuff many times, and they never fail to be great. Their winding, elliptical art rock weaves musical landscapes and cinematic grandeur in your head. Let go and listen, and let it take you places. Escape from Texarkana.

Experimental Aircraft (Austin)

Soft, dreamy pop, they would have fit nicely in the morning. Right after Bellaparker, I think. Or with Snowdonnas. Rachel Staggs’ subdued voice is lovely for shoegazing.

Comet (Dallas)

I was interviewing during their whole set.

Jetscreamer (Denton)

Whenever a name so aptly describes a band’s sound it’s serendipity. Screaming guitars and a new drummer who wasn’t quite as intense as the axes required, Jetscreamer blasts guitar rock away. Or should I say rawk? I love taking photos of Will Kapinos; not a boring one in the bunch as he becomes one with his instrument. He and Samantha Moss work it well.

Radiant* (Dallas)

Oh, Radiant*. They come with their own (very polite) groupies, lightshow, and lovely sound. Give me ‘That Girl’ any day over whatever you’ve got and I’m happy. Trippy, melodic rock with that Southern sensibility that just oozes gentility, Radiant* takes a pop song and makes it live deeply. Watch for good things from them soon as their new CD takes shape.

Super Love Attack (Dallas)

Out interviewing, again.

Record Hop (Denton)

I said I didn’t get them. Sam Machkovech made me watch them. Sam was right. Ashley Cromeens is DOMA nominated for Best Female vocalist and she showed us why tonight. A bit angry, a bit animated, she pumped out a good show. Freaked out, manic guitar and a pissed-off girl; what could be better?

The Angelus (Denton)

They enter, walking, with bells. Not little jingly bells; big, ominous bells. Haunting, universal, sprawling, The Angelus is not to be taken lightly. I didn’t see Emil Rapstine smile, not once, the whole day. Maybe he did, I’m just saying, I didn’t see it.

Midlake (Denton)

It’s a tribute to Lance Yocum that this band, the last of 26 in a day of continuous music began their set at 1:06AM. Folks, that’s SIX minutes late. This is rock-n-roll, where normally the opener begins with fifteen minutes, half an hour leeway. Not a Spune production. Even the Oscars don’t run this tight a ship.

The last time I saw Midlake, they were climbing over themselves on a teeny, tiny stage at SxSW. Tonight, they had room to spread, and they took it, literally and figuratively. Whispers flew all night about ‘the best band here’ and Midlake set up their video and let it roll. Movies about babies in presents in the woods, a monocled man in a futuristic bubble-mobile, and searching, searching, searching, accompanied their expansive technical rock. Lovely melodies with meaning bubbling up occasionally, Midlake ended the night grandiosely.

Fourteen hours of indie rock, an excellent club, and much good company, the Wall of Sound was an amazing festival. It was what SxSW should still be; a day to hang out with your friends and hear the best of musical artistry in your area. Cheers to next year! Lance, I owe you a beer.