March 2010

Black Tambourine Gets Compiled

Pam Berry, Brian Nelson, Archie Moore and Mike Schulman (Slumberland Records founder) aren’t really familiar names to most folks – above or below ground. And while their band, Black Tambourine, can’t really be thought to have informed generations following them, although that seems to be a concept that’s gaining momentum, the quartet did work out some scathingly distorted and nasty records – but with some pretty femme vocals dropped in for good mesure..

Alcatraz - Vampire State Building (1971)

Every social group has a single house the winds up being the focal point of gatherings. That’s just how human beings work for some reason. I had a friend, the owner of such a spot, that really enjoyed making guests food. No one complained, obviously. But one of his delicacies was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich augmented by the addition of Cool Ranch Doritos. It doesn’t sound like a sensible combination. And it might not be to some, but it did taste good. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that these sandwiches weren’t ever consumed before two o’clock in the morning. Either way…

The Mekons: On Historicity

Jon Langford isn’t a familiar name to folks even if they’re enmeshed in the most underground of underground sounds. Living in Chicago and working closely with Bloodshot Records, one of the cities innumerable independent imprints, hasn’t afforded Langford the highest profile. And he’s surely not expecting any widespread, mainstream acclaim after having worked in music for the last thirty years.

A Minute with Eric Allen from the Apples in Stereo (Pt. 6)

Alt: What are you guys doing when you’re not playing with the Apples?

EA: John, our drummer, has a band called the Deathray Davies, but also does music for movies. Robert producers other bands and does engineering, Bill does as well. We all have various bands we play in and also part time, day jobs.


Alt: That’s what I was getting at. Who has a part time, day job and what do they do? I can’t imagine going into a restaurant and having one of you guys ask me if I want a cup of coffee.

EA: That’s not outside the realm of possibility. I work at a university library in Denver. It’s flexible and I can go on tour.


Alt: Apples don’t pay everyone’s bills, so since SpinArt went out of business, what’s going on with your catalog?

A Minute with Eric Allen from the Apples in Stereo (Pt. 5)

Alt: In mentioning music from the ‘90s, the Apples worked with a sound that was in stark contrast to the Seattle thing that was going on. Did you guys play shows with any of those groups and what was that interaction like?

EA: Apples were touring for about a year before I started playing with them. Sometimes we’d get on bills and it’d be with grunge bands.  I’m sure the exact same thing happens today when a couple of small, unknown groups are coming through town on the same day and then just get put on the same bill together.


Alt: That was the main mode of pretend, underground music at the time, though. It’s surprising to me that you wouldn’t have run into any of those bands and had them be fans or detractors.

A Minute with Eric Allen from the Apples in Stereo (Pt. 4)

Alt: Robert talks a lot about his adoration for the Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Velocity of Sound, maybe because it was striped down, the Beach Boys’ pop stuff comes through more clearly. Is everyone in the band as big a Brian Wilson fanatic as Robert is or has he foisted that upon you?

EA: I would say Robert takes the cake for being a Beach Boys fan. I mean, we all like that band. The thing about Velocity is that we wanted a Ramones kind of thing. I never really thought about it, but the Ramones were Beach Boys’ fans. I guess it’s a Beach Boys approach via the Ramones.


Alt: In reading about how and when the Apples got together, there’s always a lot of talk about punk bands and how you guys were an anomaly within the scene. But I don’t think too many folks can name any thrashy punk bands from Colorado.

A Minute with Eric Allen from the Apples in Stereo (Pt. 3)

Alt: If you’re known for one style of music and then you release this stuff that’s wrong to your listeners are you trying to relate a different ideal to your fan base?

EA: I don’t know if we’re trying to relate anything except that we’re growing naturally as a band. We’ve been together for a long time. So, when we get excited about moving in a new direction with people that we’ve been playing together with for fifteen years, it’s a really good feeling. It’s like growing in any relationship.

The thing is I don’t think that Apples’ fans are going to hear the new stuff and think that it’s wrong. I wouldn’t even say that the ‘60s songs sound wrong, but in a way, it didn’t cut the mustard. They just weren’t as exciting.


A Minute with Eric Allen from the Apples in Stereo (Pt. 2)

Alt: I was going to ask if each disc was conceived as an independent entity. The songwriting credits, though, don’t seem democratic. It’s Robert’s name on most of the stuff. Should it be credited to the group instead of a single person?

EA: Some group’s do that regardless of who’s the impetus behind the song. For the Apples, Robert really is the one that comes in with most of the ideas. Like I said, sometimes he does have every part of the song fleshed out. We do all contribute stuff to production or editing, but that’s different than song writing credits.


Alt: New Magnetic Wonder (2007) was your last album. All of the interludes that are on that disc, did they just come up in the studio while you were playing or were they preconceived?

A Minute with Eric Allen from the Apples in Stereo (Pt. 1)

Alt Music Talk: When was the last time you were on tour – after the last record in 2007?

Eric Allen: We’ve played festivals and odd dates here and there since then. We went to Taiwan a year and a half ago and were in New York recording a record when we actually played a tribute to R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall. That could have been our last show. Maybe it’s been about a year since we’ve played. We’ve been recording since then, but that might have been our last show.


Alt: The new record, Travelers in Space and Time, took an entire year to complete? Was that you guys laying tracks down or Robert trying to produce it to no end?

The Red K(C)rayola in the Mind's Eye

There’s a certain mystique that surrounds Mayo Thompson, singer, songwriter and all around front man for the Red Krayola.

Over the last five decades the musician, artist and educator hasn’t strayed from doing music. And it’s resulted in an unruly back catalog of work that’s as broad as it is dense. Even putting in a bit of time with Cleveland’s Pere Ubu during the ‘80s didn’t slow the pace that Thompson set for himself. Will it ever stop? Yo, I don’t know. But regardless of the incessant release schedule – now through Chicago’s Drag City as opposed to various smaller imprints – Thompson can focus on craft with the business side of things being cemented since the early ‘90s.

Home Blitz: Pop Cum Feedback

The lo-fi thing has created a mass of works that have been shoved into a single idea of what the ‘genre’ should be – note those ironic quotation marks. I don’t understand now, nor did I in about 2005 when I was suckered into watching Times New Viking paly, why all of this isn’t being label punk. There’s really not a tremendous chasm between the two. So when bands like the Television Personalities get checked as punk related, but Home Blitz is lo-fi or crappy garage rock, nothing makes sense.

It’s all a confounding mess. But the situation simply points to the fact that there isn’t really a pure genre left on the face of the earth. It remains to be seen whether or not that’s gonna push music forward or not. What’s certain, though, is that the result has been a buncha new recordings.

Derek Bailey: A Six String Story

It’s interesting that in being able to completely deconstruct a music, it’s really pretty helpful to possess an degree of familiarity with proper rules and regulations associated with it. In pursuing an education in music, it becomes imperative to learn and imbibe an entire history of composition, performance and theory. But, of course, all of that is eventually used to tear down what’s come before you.

So Cow: International Travels

The last five years or so has seen a return to simplicity weaseling its way into the downer pop market. For a time, during the early portion of that aughties, it seemed as if power pop’s punkier side, replete with garbage picked keyboard nonsense, was poised to take over the underground. For whatever reason, folks quickly found themselves tired with that dystopian sound – thank God.

But in its wake a slew of bands claiming some connection to New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records have begun issuing work that should make folks dance and smile slyly. For the most part that stuff works out. With record stores glutted, differentiating one group from the next isn’t always too simple. And really, why bother? There’s not too much of a difference between one poppy group that used to listen to the Germs and the next. People love it though. And So Cow specifically.

Nick Riff's Suburban Psych...

Beginning work as a section editor a few weeks back, I’ve already found that there’s a depth to each genre of music that I’d not be privy to except for the fact that the folks who write for my publication are as weird as I am.

In Cleveland, as one grows up, paying attention, even in the lightest sense of the word, to bands around town yields some unruly list toted around in the mind. I don’t think I ever saw Songs: Ohia, but I remember seeing bills for that group pretty regularly. Regardless, my proclivity for psych stuff should have secured a rather extensive view of the going’s on in Northeastern Ohio. Apparently, that was a faulty perception.

Real Estate x Woods: Almost Live in Chicago

The pervasive nature of the most recent releases from the Woodsist label point to an endeavor that has as much to do with art and business as it does with a singular passion.

Beginning in 2006, Jeremy Earl, who fronts the band Woods, has worked towards solidifying an outlet for all of the downer and lo-fi folksy stuff that might not have a chance at a wide audience without his assistance. Issuing work from bands as radically different as Magic Lantern, Psychedelic Horseshit and Ganglians, Woodsist has become a relative success in a marketplace that doesn’t sport too many bold and persistent new comers.

The Rip: Pop is a Downer

The reemerging interest in Flying Nun and the entire New Zealand scene comes on the heels of a digital ability to find out basically anything with just a moment’s notice. With the Flying Nun imprint changing hands a few times over time, the thirty some odd year old label sports a pretty deep catalog for music foragers to wade through. And with a great deal of talent accompanying each one of its releases, it’s understandable that a few acts from the Flying Nun stable haven’t met with the same sort of enthusiasm as the Dead C or the Tall Dwarfs. Seeing as there was somehow an aural similarity amongst most of the Flying Nun releases, lesser bands still deserve notice.