Archive | April, 2011

The Hussy-Cement Tomb Mind Control LP Review + Interview

30 Apr

The first thing I noticed about the new Hussy LP, Cement Tomb Mind Control, before I even began listening was the length of the songs.  Just two tracks reach the 2 minute mark, leaving the rest somewhere between 49 seconds and 1:59. “When we started as a band,” says Bobby Hussy, who plays guitar and sings on a large portion of the LP, “we wrote songs that came naturally and they’ve always been short bursts of pop mixed in with garage/punk/noise, and we sorta found our sound through that structure.” “I  would rather have someone wanting more of something than getting too much and bored with a song,” adds Heather Sawyer, drummer and 2nd singer of the Madison duo.

Perhaps there’s something in Sawyer’s statement.  The first song I heard off of Cement Tomb Mind Control was “Sexi Ladi,” a quick burst of 60s energetic pop equipped with summer sun and holding hands.  The song could not be contained to just one listen, not even two or three.  With each repeated listen, I found myself falling more and more in love with it.  Had it been three or four minutes, I doubt I would have had the stamina, nor the desire to stick with it for so long.

The LP starts off with the angry Stooges-style rant, “I’m Me.” “Go fuck yourself,” sings the duo in unison, not even giving the detestable subject of the song the satisfaction of a full 2 minutes of their attention, cutting out at 1:58.  There’s an urgency, not just musically in this LP.  There’s not much The Hussy care to have you hear lyrically, drowning the words out in a whirl of fuzz.  But when they have something to say, they make sure you hear it. “Let’s get it on,” Sawyer yells in “Baby Child.”  Similarly, the whistles come in crystal clearly in an otherwise distortion-drenched “Wrong/Right.”

“Demon Claus” breaks the Hussy mold set in the first four songs of Cement Tomb.  A bit lighter on the fuzz and not quite as into the red, this song ditches the fast-paced, upbeat pop of “Sexi Ladi,” and welcomes all things dark, both in the subject matter and the Jay Reatard by way of Electric Prunes approach to garage.

Both members of this Madison duo bring equally powerful vocals and song writing chops to this LP.  Though Cement Tomb Mind Control lags a bit near the middle with songs like “Pavement” and “Oh No” not quite carrying as much weight as songs like “Have a Say” or “I’m Me,” it’s definitely one of the best releases so far this year.

I recently talked to Bobby and Heather of the Hussy about the new LP, the Wisconsin music scene, and mistaken lyrics.  Read on for the full interview, and be sure to check them out Saturday, May 14th at WHPK’s Summer Breeze Festival held at the University of Chicago Commons.  The Hussy will also be playing with The Growlers at the Empty Bottle on May 26th.

1. When I interviewed Slushy, we talked about walking that line  between pop music and being sloppy, which you guys seem to take even  further (that’s a good thing).  Why do you think that formula works so  well?
Bobby: Yeah I think pop music that’s played live doesn’t have to have perfection to be relate-able, I don’t necessarily think we purposefully try to sound sloppy, but that happens sometimes. When we play live we tend to try to keep it pretty tight since there’s only two people on stage and when a two-piece get’s outta sync it’s a bit harder to handle than a 4 piece getting real loose. But yeah I agree, some of my favorite shows I’ve seen have been sloppier/messier shows.
Heather: i think it works cause sloppy=fun. and i like having fun.
2. The new LP doesn’t have a single song  that reaches 3 minutes.  Was it intentional that these songs sort of get  in and get out, or is that just how it happened?
Bobby: When we started as a band we wrote songs that came naturally and they’ve always been short bursts of pop mixed in with garage/punk/noise, and we sorta found our sound through that structure. I’ll let Heather elaborate on that…
Heather: it wasn’t intentional on my part at all. it’s just what happens when we write songs. i would rather have someone wanting more of something than getting too much and bored with a song. we just write short songs.

3.  I noticed you both sing.  What’s the songwriting process like?  Do you  both write songs separately?  Do you collaborate?  Or is it just one of  you?

Bobby: We both write songs. Sometimes I’ll bring a riff in with a certain melody, and Heather will play off the melody with her own, and then we’ll just see what we can put together for a chorus that brings the level up and really just what comes naturally or spontaneously. And other times, Heather or I will bring a song in that’s complete and we’ll just perfect the way it works between the two of us. Heather, how do you see it?
Heather: pretty much what bobby said. we write seperately and together. some songs are all one persons and sometimes the verses will be bobby’s and the choruses mine or vice versa.

4. What’s the recording  process like?  Has it changed for this new LP?

Bobby: The recording process for this LP HAS changed drastically. Previously we worked in real studios with engineers and under tight time restraints, and we typically finished anywhere from 6 to 9 songs in 8 to 12 hours (from the point of recording to mixing, everything). For this LP I did the recording over the course of 4 months in a basement in Madison and in my apartment there. We then mixed it with our friend from Madison, Todd Ostertag and then Justin Perkins mastered it like he does for everything we do.
Heather: i like that we record everything ourselves now. we do what we want and i can’t wait to record new stuff. like bobby said, the old stuff was recorded in studios and it was such a rush to get stuff done cause that just gets really expensive.

5. Do you think being a 2-piece limits you or gives you more freedom?

Bobby: Yeah. Can’t get too drunk before shows or things get a little too loose for my liking, Right heather?
Heather: yeah. i like the freedom of only having 2 people on stage gives you. i don’t find it limiting really. 

6. What’s the story about the message in “Peace, Bro?”

Bobby: HA! Well I was at a friend of mine’s apartment, Matt from the Midwest Beat, and he got a call but he doesn’t like to answer calls without seeing who they are first, so he just let it go to the answering machine. And then Chris also from the Midwest Beat just started rambling about an e-mail that Matt wanted to send to someone that they were discussing (because it dealt with the Midwest Beat). But the whole time Chris was just acting like he was totally baked, so at the end he said “Peace, Bro” and I instantly told Matt he had to save that message for me for something. And then we created a song around it.
Heather: it’s our friend chris leaving messages on our friend matt’s answering machine. it was a funny message so we had to use it.

7. Who are some of your influences?

Bobby: Current and Semi-Current influences for me include Sex Church, Black Time, Jay Reatard, most of the other shit In The Red puts out, The Catholic Boys…I really like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall (especially what they bring to the table live). As for old influences….The Beatles, The Stones, BOC, Love Battery, Verbena, etc…
Heather: i love catholic boys, ty segall, thee oh sees, jay reatard, beatles, so on and so forth.

8. What’s the garage scene like in Wisconsin?
Bobby: I think it’s pretty healthy. There’s a lot more garage going on in Milwaukee than in Madison, that’s for sure. I dig on Head on Electric, The Midwest Beat, Trent Fox and the Tenants, and the now defunct Goodnight Loving, all from Milwaukee. In Madison I dig on what Dead Luke, The Midwest Beat (half from Madison, Half from Milwaukee) and the Honey Slides are doing. There’s a really good venue/scene up in Appleton that deserves more attention to. It’s all based around this one house show venue, the Vault.
Heather: Yeah, Milwaukee is a great scene! Lots of good bands and always good ones starting up too. It’s always fun to play there.
9.  When CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” came out, the lyric, “There’s a bad moon  on the rise” was mistaken for “There’s a bathroom on the right,” which  leads me to a question I have to ask: Are you saying, “Sodomy” in “I’m  me?”
Bobby: I wish. That’s more absurd and honestly better. I guess the lyric insert in the Hussy LP will put that to rest once and for all! I think the lyric yr thinking of is probably “Silently…” but I’m not sure….haha.
Heather: it’s not. but i can guarantee you that it will be from now on.
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An Evening with the Reigning Sound and Last Year’s Men

29 Apr

I have a tendency to build my heroes up in my mind to a point where they could not possibly meet my expectations.  It happened the first time I saw Bob Dylan in concert.  I watched as he dropped his harmonica mid-song and kicked it across the stage in an attempt to bend over and pick it up.  Then there was Jack White. He played just fine I’m sure, but I had made him into such a myth-like figure that I don’t think anything he did could have satisfied my impossible standards, and so I left unsatisfied.  Since those encounters, I’ve made myself unavailable when certain people come to Chicago.  So it was no surprise that when Thursday night rolled around, I told my friends, who had made plans to go with me days earlier, I was “too tired” to go. Thankfully, they didn’t buy it.

As we walked into the Empty Bottle, Last Year’s Men, from Chapel Hill, was just about ready to start.  They had the recklessness of the Black Lips, though they seemed more in touch with their influences (I’m assuming The Seeds and maybe DC5?). They finished their set, tackling each other on stage during the final song.

With what seemed like a 5 minute wait, Greg Cartwright and the rest of the Reigning Sound popped out of a door that read “Bands Only,” and walked to the stage.  From the very first second they plugged in, the requests came pouring out. “Stormy Weather” is clearly the fan favorite.  The set list for me is a giant blur, which I can only attribute to the $2.50 Old Styles, but the Reigning Sound played several songs off of Too Much Guitar, my favorite album of any Greg Cartwright project.  It took only a moment for Greg Cartwright the myth to exit and for The Reigning Sound to enter. With his spastic head shake, Greg ripped through just about every Reigning Sound song a fan could want to hear, as well as a few favorites from his past bands, The Compulsive Gamblers (“Stop and Think It Over”) and The Oblivians (“Bad Man”).

One thing that was missed in an otherwise flawless set was the backup singing on songs like “Stormy Weather” and “Your Love Is a Fine Thing,” but the packed Empty Bottle crowd was obliged to help out.

When they had finished their set, Greg went back through the “Bands Only” door from which he came, leaving the other two members mingling with friends in the crowd.  I took the opportunity to throw in a request to the bass player, David Wayne Gay.  I asked for “If You Can’t Give Me Everything” during the encore.  His response showed me that even Greg’s bandmates put him on a pedestal.  He said, “You need to talk to the man with the guitar.  I’ll tell him, but we haven’t played that one in a long time.”  They didn’t play it, but I have little to complain about.

If the cheapest seats weren’t over $100, I might now have the nerve to see Elvis Costello in May.

Interview with Secret Colours’ Dave Stach and Tommy Evans

22 Apr

Secret Colours

As I sat at a table in the back of Bottom Lounge, I could feel the drone that seamlessly ran through each song during Secret Colours’ Record Store Day set. This wasn’t my normal show-going experience of listening and responding with applause.  Though the only substance I indulged in was a few overpriced Heinekens, I could definitely feel something running through me that most likely connected me to the rest of the standing audience.  This leads me to a question I’ve posed a million times to my friends.  Why are stoners and takers off other hallucinagens  so prone to jam bands as musical accompaniment?  Sub-par singing and predictable jams that go no direction that Phish hasn’t already exhausted long ago seem like a pale substitute to what I felt at the Bottom Lounge.

Anyway, read on to see what Tommy and Dave have to say about the recent buzz surrounding their band, their SXSW experience, and what makes their perfect mixtape.

Crowd at Secret Colours' SXSW Set at Emo's. Photo Courtesy of Lenny Gilmore (Red Eye)

1. How do you guys handle all of the press that seems to have happened so quickly?Dave:  Sometimes it gets pretty overwhelming.  But so far we’ve gotten mostly positive reviews for everything.  It’s definitely easier to sleep at night knowing people are digging what we’re doing.  
2. I saw some pictures from your SXSW show at Emos.  What was it like to play for over a thousand people?  Were you nervous at all?
Tommy: That night was indescribable.  We were a lot of things that night.Dave:  Best feeling ever.  That’s easily the biggest crowd we’ve played to.  The cool thing was, everyone was digging it.  It felt phenomenal.  We got to share the stage with bands that we dig so much, like Christian Bland and the Revelators, Shapes Have Fangs, and The Night Beats.   What else could you ask for?
3. You’ve been together for about a year and a half, yet you have a full length and 3 singles already released and you’re going into the studio to work on a new full length album this summer.  At a time in music where bands seem to be taking more and more time between releases, why do you feel the need to be so prolific?
Tommy:  We’re just trying to do as much as we can with the time we have on this planet.  

Dave:  We’re just doing what we love.  We have songs done, so why not share them?  Since we’re all still in school, we can’t really go on tour or anything like that.  So we just bide our time by putting out releases. 

4. BJM or Dandy Warhols?
Tommy:  LSD or Ecstasy? 

5. Digital or Vinyl?
Tommy:  Convenience or Quality?
6. Are there any Secret Colours traditions?
Dave:  Well, we practice back in the suburbs where we grew up.  We usually go back on a Saturday, party all night, then wake up Sunday and practice all day.  I guess that’s kind of our pre-practice ritual.  

7. What 5 songs make the greatest mixtape?
Tommy: Damn, that’s hard.  I Am the Walrus – The Beatles, I Am the Resurrection – The Stone Roses, Mellow Song – Blur, Dry the Rain – Beta Band, and Boat Song – The Black Angels. 

Dave:  Vicious – Lou Reed,  Evil Eyes Again – The Warlocks,  Citadel – Rolling Stones,  The Sniper – The Black Angels, and Who?– The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
8. If you could tour with one band, who would it be?
Tommy: The Black Angels.
9. What’s the best year in music history and why?
Tommy: 1967.  Brilliant, influential albums came out, and great music festivals happened… I wish I had a time machine.
10. The Beatles have Magical Mystery Tour, the Stones have Rock and Roll Circus.  What’s the name of the Secret Colours movie?
Tommy:  Haha, I don’t know.  Probably something that wouldn’t even compare to those movies.
11. What local bands should I interview next?
Tommy:  Radar Eyes, Great Society Mind Destroyers, Hollows, Panda Riot, Rabble Rabble, Verma, Calm Palm Vapor.  

Sleeptalkers-Cruise Control (at SXSW)

22 Apr

Just as quickly as Andrew Langer left the Redwalls, formed the Sleeptalkers, released an LP, Back to Earth, and played a few shows around Chicago, he seemingly abandoned the project, perhaps to focus on Ezra Furman & the Harpoons.  Glad to see the Sleeptalkers, now consisting mostly of Harpoons and Jason Roberts from Hymns (I think), are playing a few shows here and there.  Here’s a video of their SXSW performance of “Cruise Control.”

Slushy: Giving Pop/Punk Its Good Name Back

19 Apr

Nowadays, for a band to be labeled “pop/punk” is a stigma.  Just look at bands like New Found Glory or Sum 41.  But I have always found it hard, nearly impossible to find any correlation between true pop music or true punk music with any modern pop/punk bands. So when I asked Slushy whether they considered themselves a pop band or a punk band, I was surprised by their response. “Both. The best punk bands are just bands that wanted to remind everyone how good pop music is. We write pop songs, but then we only half-learn them and play them fast and loud, because that’s how music is supposed to be played.”

And why shouldn’t Slushy embrace both sides to their music.  I’m tired of taking the long way to describe a band like Slushy to my friends.  “Well they write pop music, but it’s sloppy, and it’s loud.”  Finally, I’ll just give up, settling on, “They sound like the Ramones.”  But it’s not just the Ramones I hear with Slushy.  I can’t be sure, but I suspect someone in the group may own Children of the Nuggets.  Slushy’s “Wrong Words” recalls The Point’s “All My Life” with its early 60s structure and 80s sentiment.  (If you don’t own Children, don’t try to find this song…I looked for you already. No luck.)  For Slushy at their best, check out  the bubblegum pop of “I Wanna Die Young,” or the Ramonesy “SF Gals.”

Read on for an interview with Slushy and be sure to show up early enough to see their set at the White Mystery Blood & Venom Release Show tomorrow at Panchos.

1. How did the band come together?

Slushy started around August of 2010. Chris was playing shows on
his own, and Max and Jason were in a band together. Their band broke
up, so Max started playing with Chris. Brent saw them play, and
started helping them get shows. After a while, they decided that the
four of them should play together, so they did, and became Slushy.

2. How did you decide on Slushy?
It’s sloppy and poppy and catchy and summer and syrup and all good
things happening at the same time.

3. What are your top 3 influences?
The Beatles, Tony’s Pizza, and stoops.

4. Would you call yourselves a punk band or a pop band?
Both. The best punk bands are just bands that wanted to remind
everyone how good pop music is. We write pop songs, but then we only
half-learn them and play them fast and loud, because that’s how music
is supposed to be played.

5. Describe your recording process?
Well, we don’t really have anything out, so we don’t really have a
recording process. We recently went to Strobe Studios in Humboldt Park
and recorded together as a band for the first time. We played
everything live in the room and recorded to tape, then did overdubs to
make it all even more awesome. So far we’ve just put out some CDR
demos that Chris and sometimes Max recorded at home with a drum
machine and a broken guitar amp.

6. What part does Chicago play in your music?
Chicago has some great people and great bands who motivate us to keep
making more and more awesome music. Chicago winters are terrible,
which is why we have songs about having fun in the sun and going to
the beach and girls from San Francisco.

7. Buddy Holly or the Ramones?
Oh man, this is like Sophie’s choice. Gotta go with the Ramones, but
only because of Riff Randall.

8. Describe Slushy to a 90 year old woman.
Guitar music. Like the Beatles but more handsome.

9. What are your plans for the rest of 2011?
We’re putting out a record with Slow Fizz, and maybe a couple of other
labels by the end of the year. Playing shows around town and around
the midwest. Wearing shorts for a while, and then switching back to
long pants. Getting slices at Tony’s as frequently as possible.

10. What local bands should I interview next?
All of these if you haven’t already: The Hussy, Tyler Jon Tyler,
Sleepovers, BIgcolour, Wild

A Wednesday’s Never Looked So Good

18 Apr

While usually 4/20 is a holiday that celebrates laziness (in a way), you need to get your ass out of your house for a great night of garage celebration.  First, get yourself over to Century Centre Cinemas for the screening of Scion’s  New Garage Explosion: In Love with These Times. You do need to RSVP for free entry, but entry is not guaranteed with RSVP.  Get there early to ensure a seat.

4/20/11 7pm-9pm
Century Centre Cinema
2828 N. Clark St.
Century Shopping Center
Chicago, IL 60657

The show ends around 9, leaving you plenty of time to head over to Panchos to celebrate the release of Blood & Venom with White Mystery.  If you didn’t pick one of the select few copies available early for Record Store Day, I suggest picking one up at the show.  Also on the bill is Rabble Rabble and Slushy.

Record Store Day at Bottom Lounge (17+)

14 Apr

Saturday, as a part of this year’s Record Store Day, head over to the Bottom Lounge with a ticket stub from any independent record store (for 4/16) and get into the show for FREE.  If the price isn’t incentive enough, check out the lineup:

Michael Lux & the Bad Sons – 8:30-9:00
Hollows – 9:15-9:45
Secret Colours – 10:00-10:40
The Light Pollution – 10:55-11:35
SUNS – 11:50-12:40