Thursday, April 26, 2012

Whatever Brains Release Show @ King's Barcade

The Brains with their Pet Rock n Roll Chicken
If you're in the Triangle Area, you've heard of them.  The Whatever Brains.  They're Triangle Area royalty at this point, having released four 7"s and one full length album on Sorry State Records.  It got a great response from all over the country, including Pitchfork's review of it.  It's a big deal around here and is a fantastic surreal journey through some weird dudes' heads.  I think I likened it to being in Willy Wonka's factory where the candy is all LSD.  I still hold to that belief.

A Tall Guy,  A normal Guy, A Whatever Brains Logo
Tonight, they are having their LP 2 release party at King's Barcade in Raleigh and it's going to be awesome.  Burglar Fucker is opening for them.  It's only $5 for early access to their LP, new t-shirts, and the opportunity to buy the Record Store Day 7", which is extremely hard to find.  Their new LP and 7" were both released by Sorry State Records: you may have read the interview I had with Daniel Lupton of Sorry State before.  This is an exciting release and it's going to please!

The link at the top should go to their Tumblr, which has songs from the upcoming LP.  These guys are awesome and it's going to be a great show.

Dig it like a spigot

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Total Control Interview

I basically heard about Total Control through a combination of Chaz from Bull City Records and Maximum Rock N Roll’s year-end issue, wherein Total Control got a lot of mentions in peoples’ top 10 lists.  It’s different than the hardcore that they cover a lot, but it is kind of a mixture between a bunch of genres, which makes it difficult to pin down.  There are synthesizers.  There is aggression.  There is darkness.  There are drugs.  And ultimately, there is brilliant song-writing.  Their album “Henge Beat” came out in 2011 from Melbourne, but is also distributed in the United States.  It’s truly an album in the purest sense in the words.  It’s one of those pieces of work that can be admired in snapshots, and certain songs are much more conventional than others, but it can also be enjoyed as an entire experience.  That’s how I think it was meant to be heard.  As an album.  You put on Side A and when that’s done you flip it to Side B.  Cause that’s what these guys wanted and truly what they made.

A Nearly Naked Group of Total Control Members
I e-mailed the band after checking out their tumblr, which can be found HERE) and Daniel Stewart, the frontman pretty much, got back to me really quickly.  It was awesome working with him.  He’s a smart guy and answers in nearly academese.  He references Nietzsche and Philip K. Dick, which weirdly have a sort of overlap.  Maybe it’s the whole insanity thing.  I don’t know.  But there are a lot of influences on his songs, which he talks about and ultimately names it Henge Beat.  It’s a good name.  Henge.  Beat.  It’s a good name.

He also runs a zine called Distort.  It’s cool.  I haven’t got my hands on a copy yet, but I’m trying to.  I’ll let you know about it.

Anyway, he’s a good explainer and a good talker and smart.  So here’s what we said to each other

Jordan:  How did you decide on the sound that you guys wanted?

Daniel:  Any impression we have given of having made a decision regarding the sound of the band has been erroneous.

Jordan:  Have you all played in other bands before?  How do your experiences in music impact total control?

Daniel:  We have all played in bands before. I can only address this personally. Straightjacket Nation's effort to make pure, cold-hearted, aggressive and violent hardcore has had an impact on the lyrics I wrote for Total Control, which are less direct in subject and tone. The UV Race are an incongruent punk mess, and Total Control share an element of this affection for frantic punk that never wholly coagulates into that "tight" ideal of the nerd and the taxman.

Jordan:  How would you define the music that you make?

Daniel:  What you're asking for could only really be arrived at critically by someone engaged with the music we've made from the outside, and not elucidated from my own experiences. Not that I don't consider this stuff all the time - my existence is mired in hectic self analysis - but I'm not too sure any response I give is going to express anything true about myself or the music we make, just whatever cave I've dug myself into at that point will be illuminated.

An attempt at a definition of our music from my perspective would have to involve my understanding of what Georges Simenon was attempting when he wrote his romans durs, what John Brannon meant when he said "another day of nothing", that feeling of self assurance fractured by external chaos that Joan Didion captured in her early essays, Only Theatre Of Pain, "world peace can't be done", an anti-Village Green or a negation of sentimentality for the past or any kind of mythology about the "self", unpleasant use of hallucinogens, an affection for the dialogues of Salinger and his expression of the fad of psychiatry in the US at the time, dread, doom, apocalypse, Bladerunner, PKD's paranoia, Ray Brassier's confrontation with Nietzsche, Roxy Music, Low, INTEGRITY and most importantly, David, Zephyr, Mikey, Al and James

In short, henge beat.

Jordan:  I definitely thought there was a lot of punk elements in the new album, henge beat.  Did you guys come out of a punk background?

Daniel:  Sure, we all grew up playing music, have all played in hardcore and punk bands at some stage of our life, the record certainly reflects affection for UK punk, Rudimentary Penis and Wire.

Jordan:  What themes do you think that the album tackles?  Is there a story to it?

Daniel:  I'm not too sure I could adequately discuss what musical themes the album tackles, but lyrically the songs are concerned with sex and death.

Jordan:  I basically heard about the album from maximum rock n roll.  They gave your LP a lot of love.  How has that been?  Has there been a lot of good response?

Part of the Henge Beat Cover, but only if it were a Cube
Daniel:  I did not read the issue where they gave Total Control a lot of love. I haven't been reading music writ for a while, as I've been attempting to finish my own mag for the last year ( So I'm not too sure how that has been, if that's what you meant, and whether there has been a lot of good response, I could not tell you.

Jordan:  Do you all plan on keeping making music and releasing total control stuff? (please say yes)

Daniel:  Yes

Jordan:  What’s in the future in terms of recording and touring for the band?

Daniel:  What we do is secret.

Jordan:  What's on your radar in terms of good stuff to listen to that's out or is coming out?

Daniel:  My radar has a shallow range. As far as new music, I stick with local bands I can see live. So the best stuff I've heard lately is from Dead Boomers, Repairs, Forces, The Zingers, Tax, Lakes, East Link, Lower Plenty, Ham Hock, Woollen Kits, Soma Coma, Royal Headache, Peak Twins and Nun. Everything else I listen to right now is from the 1960's (Love, Kinks, VU), or it is BLACK SABBATH. Most of my spare time is spent reading and writing, I don't do a lot of earnest tune chasing. I can tell you I'm excited to hear the new Boston Strangler LP, and Stab released a great single last year.

Jordan: Anything else you'd like to say?

Daniel:  I've been around this block twice now. Looking for something. A clue. I've been looking for clues and something led me back here. Yeah. So here I am. It could have been me, the one who was at Ringo's place when the shit went down. Hey. I know how it is. I've been there. We've all done bad things. We've all had those guilty feelings in our heart. I'm going to take your brain out of your head and wash it and scrub it and make it clean. I don't know. But I'm going to have to settle this. First we're going to check the hole and see what we can find. We're going to get nice and wet, and you're going to spread your legs. Oh, that's good. So you know me. You know my reputation. Thirteen inches of tough load, I don't treat you gently. That's right. I'm Brock Landers. So I'm going to be nice. So I'm going to be nice. So I'm going to be nice, I'm going to ask you one more time. Where the fuck is Ringo? I am a star. I'm a star, I'm a star, I'm a star. I am a big, bright, shining star. That's right.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mikal Cronin Interview

Mikal Cronin's Self Titled Album

I hadn't heard of Mikal Cronin until he released his self-titled solo album on Trouble In Mind this last year.  It got a lot of great reviews from all kinds of websites and music journalism and he played a bunch of shows with Ty Segall, including one at the Duke Coffeehouse.  His music combines surf-rock, melodic pop, and lo-fi garage into some kicking tunage that you cannot help but love.  Simply put, it's rooted in good feelings and hip-shaking rock n' roll.

In 2011, aside from his self-titled album, he put out a 7" on Goner featuring "Tide" on the A-side.  It was a single with longer songs, but with that same hooky melody that Cronin fans look to.  In 2009, he released Reverse Shark Attack, an experimental album-like-thing with Ty Segall that featured a more than 10 minute song with a b-side that had a Pink Floyd cover on it.  Cronin talks about the upcoming reissue later in the interview.  He also put out an LP with his band The Moonhearts on Tic Tac Totally that is totally fuzzed out glory.

I basically loved his album and thought ("what the hell?") let's interview him. Turned out to be a great move because we had a great conversation including about how we were both from the same area in California (I've since moved all over the country).  But he was a very personable and fun guy who really had a passion for the friends that he and his friends were making.  He's working on the new Ty Segall Band LP that's coming out next month and his own solo LP and other projects, lending me to believe that he's really a genius about this whole music thing.
Mikal Cronin With Buddy Ty Segall

His bandcamp website can be found HERE

But he talks about it way better than I do, so without further ado...MIKAL CRONIN!

Jordan:  So, how do you know Ty Segall?  Have you all been buddies for a while?

Mikal:  Yeah, we grew up together.  We went to high school together and started hanging out then and played in our first band together in High School.  I guess it was then that we became very good friends.  So it’s been many years that we’ve been playing music together and hanging out.

Jordan:  What was your first band like?

Mikal:   It’s kind of funny.  Ty played drums and sang.  Our buddy Coleman played bass and sung and I played saxophone.  It was what we were really into back in 2002-2003.  Dance punk kind of stuff.  Really dancy beats with keyboards.  It was really silly.  It was called “The Love This” and it was noisy at points with dance beats and ultimately some somewhat catchy songs.  We just played house parties, basically: we didn’t play out of town.  It was fun.

Jordan:  Did you guys end up recording or releasing anything under that name?

Mikal:  We recorded a little bit by ourselves and handed them out as burnt CD’s but never got past that point.  Listening back to the recordings in many years is weird.  They’re pretty bad recording (laughs).  They don’t sound good.  But it’s funny looking back to where you started.

Jordan:  What happened when you all broke off?  It seems like you and Ty make different-sounding music.

Mikal:  I don’t know, it just came with time and a musical taste change.  Even Ty’s stuff started sounding more punk with more noise and now he’s focusing on more songwriter stuff.   Moonhearts is definitely one style of music rather than my solo stuff.  I guess it came organically in terms of what I was listening to music-wise.  I began to focus more on songwriting and melody rather than volume explosion on my solo record.  I still love loud sloppy punk bands and still play with them, but with my solo music, I was obsessed with making it as personal and honest as I can and that’s the form it took.  That’s where my headspace was when I was recording.  It’s still where my head is.
Mikal Cronin Playing The Music

Jordan:  So do you still record stuff and play with Moonhearts?  Do you have anything coming out?

Mikal:  Since we’ve started the band we’ve all lived in different cities, even through college and other things.  Since very recently, we all started living in San Francisco, as of a couple months ago.  We just started playing again and recording new songs.  We just started playing new shows again.  It took a pretty long hiatus, but we’re working on stuff. I don’t know when we’ll release something but we’re talking about writing a new record together.  It’ll be fun.

Jordan:  I was recently lucky enough to get my hands on a copy and I really liked it, but I hadn’t heard Moonhearts before I heard your solo stuff so I wasn’t expecting something as fuzzed out and punky.

Mikal:  (Laughs)  It was definitely the direction we decided to take with that band.  More Ramones style than, I don’t know, Beatles style.

Jordan:  Do you have something you’re more focused on right now?

Mikal:  I’ve definitely been more focused on solo stuff lately.  I’m writing a new record right now. That’s where my focus has been.  Most of my time has been touring with Ty’s band for the last 6 months or so, maybe even longer.  Spending a lot of time on the road with Ty’s band and a little less with mine, but as far as when I go home and start writing songs, I’m focused on my own solo stuff.

Jordan:  What’s your writing process like for the solo stuff?

Mikal:  It’s really boring and cliché.  I’m sitting alone in my room with an acoustic guitar and plugging through it.  I always record demos of everything on my computer the easiest way I can, which is Garageband and end up writing the barebones.  From there I orchestrate for more instruments and end up trying everything.  From there, I just start figuring out what works.

Jordan:  Your self-titled LP was produced by Ty, wasn’t it?  Is that a staple or what happens?

Mikal:  That situation with me and Ty came through a really long working musical relationship.  I went and recorded at the same studio that Moonhearts used, which happened to be the same one that Ty recorded his last handful of records at.  I was living at San Francisco at the time and asked Ty for some help because we were on the same page musically and I wanted to make it sound as good as possible and he was really stoked to help out.  He didn’t have a classic producer’s role of a heavy hand, but he was a good advisor and a friend to ask if I thought something was or wasn’t working.  He was really helpful, so I just decided to give producer’s credit since he was hanging out and helping me record.  He played a lot of the drums while I was recording.

Jordan:  How do you end up deciding or choosing which labels to put records out on?

Tide 7" Cover
Mikal:  Well, Trouble In Mind happened because Bill and Lisa Roe, who run that label, had been good friends of mine and the Moonhearts.  During the first Moonhearts tour, we stayed at their house and we ended up seeing them every time we came through Chicago.  They’re awesome and great people.  One of the last times before I recorded my self-titled LP, I told Bill and he was really excited and basically offered to put it out before I even recorded anything.  They’re just good friends and really supportive.  I was even sending demos to them while writing and they gave me input.  Eventually they released it and I’m really grateful because they did such a good job.  Even promoting it and getting it out to people.  With my “Tide” 7” on Goner, it was a similar thing that happened after touring and knowing the guys from Goner.  I think I actually asked if they wanted to release the single that I had just recorded.  (Laughs).  It was a long-shot, just like “would you maybe want to release this?” and they said “sure.”  So it’s been a lot of happenstance of who I meet and who wants to work with me.  Both of those labels are great.

Jordan:  So what differentiates and influences each type of music that you play?

Mikal:  Moonhearts pretty much found our niche of what we wanted to do.  We were obsessed with early garage and punk music, just loud blown-out stuff.  For my solo stuff, I was listening to a lot of the Beatles and Del Shannon, even David Bowie: more on the pop side of the spectrum and that’s where my head was at.  When I wrote songs, I tried to focus on the melody with interesting chord changes, you know, like pop music.  Something like the Ty Segall band project comes from a bunch of places.  Ty wrote the majority of it, but we all worked on it together.  It’s a live recording of the whole band and it sounds like 70’s stoner metal, well, not metal, but rock.  It’s like longer songs that are a lot heavier and slower.  We were listening to a lot of Hawkwind and Black Sabbath and stuff like that.  We all listen to very different styles of music all the time and sometimes it’s more appropriate to apply it to a certain project.

Jordan:  Where did you record the Ty Segall band album, since you said it was live?

Mikal:  We recorded it in Sacramento at the Hangar.  That’s the name of the studio, with Chris Woodhouse who records a lot of Thee Oh Sees stuff and he was from the band the Mayors.  That studio is great.  It’s beautiful, it’s legit, it’s great.  It’s got a bunch of vintage equipment.

Oh My God, Would You Look At That Cleft Chin?
Jordan:  I’ve never been to San Francisco, but it seems like there’s this magical collaborative aspect to the scene there.  Could you describe it to an outsider, or at least how you all get to know each other?

Mikal:  I’m new to it.  I just moved up to San Francisco last summer, but I can say that it’s a small city geographically and a lot of people play music.  It’s a healthy environment.  Everyone seems willing to help everyone else.  There’s no negative competition.  People meet through playing local shows and become aware of what everyone else is doing.  It seems like an anomaly sometimes compared to somewhere like Los Angeles and New York.  There’s just a lack of negative competition with the bands we play with.  I’m still new to it, but that’s the sense that I’ve gotten.

Jordan:  So where all have you been living and playing since 2002 and has the area impacted your sound at the time?

Mikal:  I think so.  We grew up in Laguna Beach, which is a small town in Orange County, and there wasn’t any kind of music scene at all.  That place was really isolated.  If we wanted to go to a show, we would have to drive an hour North to Los Angeles just to see music.  You could say that a lot of our surf elements in our music came from growing up in a beach town where everyone surfed but it seems like the group of people I met and still play music with got together in a strangely cosmic way.  Almost like we found each other in a small community without much music going on and we had similar ideas with what we wanted to do with music.  It’s strange.  Hard to say what influences the music we’re playing except for our friendship and mutual love of the music we heard from other places.

Jordan:  Wait, so do you surf?

Mikal:  I did when I was a kid.  I kind of stopped.  But I was definitely a beach kid when I was young.  When I was like 10 I boogie-boarded a lot (laughs) and spent all my time at the beach.  There was a big skim-boarding community at Laguna Beach.  We all did that.  I wouldn’t call myself a surfer dude, but surfing’s a fun time in the ocean.

Jordan:  I was actually born at Hogue Hospital in Newport.  We lived there a couple years.  I feel this need to go back and get to know my, like, beach roots.

Mikal: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s an interesting way to grow up, right on the beach but it’s beautiful and it’s healthy to spend a lot of time by the ocean.

Jordan:  So what do you all do outside of music and stuff?  Do you all have hobbies or anything?
Mikal:  We all like to skate a bit.  We’re all pretty obsessed with music.  I spend most of my time playing music, but we do spend time outside of practicing and playing music (laughs).  We’ll all drink beers and listen to records and watch stupid movies.  I don’t feel like I have any interesting hobbies any more because I’ve become so obsessed with making music.  I guess I’ve become kind of boring in that aspect.  I like to ride bikes around and hang out.

Jordan:  Do you write anything other than music, like poetry or short stories?
Mikal:  I used to write more than I do now.  I never felt comfortable writing poetry but there was a time when I would explore writing music.  I’ve become interesting in writing a story or a comic and having a musical accompaniment, like a record with a comic book or short story.  When I was in school, I wrote a lot of music for short films, which was interesting.  I wish I had the skill to make my own films.  I’m really interested in film but have never had the means or know how to make them.  The idea of mixing music with other mediums is really interesting to me.

Jordan:  Do you draw too or would you focus on the writing?

Mikal:  I don’t know, I’m not good at that, but I have a lot of talented friends who would be able to help me out with that.  I’m definitely not a good artist or drawer.  Right now at this point in my life and for the last many years, my artistic output is all musical.

Jordan:  It seems like it’s been just a lot of stuff recently.  Just kind of blew up recently when you and Ty played the Duke Coffeehouse recently.  I had listened to Ty for a while but hadn’t heard your stuff and known you were thick with him, but was definitely happy to see that awesome show there.  I think there are a lot of people getting into you and Ty and stuff from San Francisco.

Reverse Shark Attack
Mikal:  That’s awesome.  That’s good news.  There’s a lot of music revolving around our group of friends.  We all started working with each other and having collaborations.  Even I have a hard time keeping up, so I can only imagine someone outside keeping up, but it’s fun.

Jordan:  So right now, what are you especially working on putting out? What can we expect this year from you in terms of releases?

Mikal:  Things are up in the air in terms of release dates for my stuff, but, like I said, I’m totally focused on writing a new LP right now, which, hopefully, I can get out by the end of the year.  There’s a reissue of an album me and Ty made together called “Reverse Shark Attack”   ::Jordan Breaks in like a Total Jerk::

Jordan:  Oh man!  I love that thing, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it!

Mikal:  It’s coming soon.  I’m excited because they only pressed a limited amount of it and I know there are people who want to get a hold on it.  So, yeah, it’ll be coming very soon.  As far as stuff I’m associated with, the Ty Segall band project is coming out next month.  Right now, I’m just touring a lot and trying to write and hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll have another LP out.

Jordan:  Where all will you be touring?  I saw there were a bunch of European dates up this summer.

Mikal:  Yeah, I’m going to Europe for the first time, which is exciting.  I’m going in June.  In May, I’ll be touring in Ty Segall’s ban around the U.S.  In June, I’m going to Europe.  In July, Ty’s going to Europe.  In August, I think we’re doing another U.S. tour and then I might do some East Coast dates towards the end of the year in my band.  We’re still working it out.  After these next couple of tours, I will probably take a break until I have another record to tour with.  Yeah, but I’ve been working on Moonhearts stuff and Ty and I are about to work on something soon.

Jordan:  Well, anything else you want to say to your adoring fans?

Mikal:  I don’t know (laughs).  Come out to shows?  Thanks for the support.  This is all going way better than I thought it would as far as people and positive response to the record.  That’s awesome.  I’m really excited for the future.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Interview with Daniel Lupton from Sorry State Records

Sorry State Records Logo

Sorry State Records is one of the premier punk rock labels in the country at this point, though it seems to have miraculously been started simply in the right place at the right time.  Daniel Lupton, the brains behind SSR, believes that he released his first 7" in 2004 and has since released about fifty records.  The bands at Sorry State are largely punk-rock based but vary from there a lot.  Some of the best known bands from there are Double Negative (Raleigh Punk Royalty), Libyans (a poetically-sound hardcore band from Boston) and Whatever Brains (one the triangle areas staples in new music).  And these bands are all completely different.  Listening to Whatever Brains is kind of like being in that weird tunnel in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory if the chocolate were all LSD.  The members of Double Negative have been floating around in hardcore bands for a long time and have a straight up balls-to-the-wall punk rock show that is transcendent. I've never seen Libyans live, but they're more melodic, crafting punk songs shouted by a wonderful frontwoman.  The only thing these bands have in common is that they're released on Sorry State Records.

Double Negative Logo

Recently, Sorry State released 2 killer LPs (I mean, these suckers are glued to my turntable).  Joint Damage released their album "Strike Gently" earlier this year and Stripmines released "Crimes of Dispassion."  These are absolute modern classics.  They're both fun North Carolina bands that wax and wane to a unique emotional spectrum.  Fucking smart.  The Joint Damage LP has a bit of controversy following it, as a "Juggalo Rap" group was named the same thing and issued a cease and desist to the band.  It's ludicrous!  On the back of the Joint D/ album (they had to change their name), we understand the reason for this lawsuit.  "As a juggalo...I found it an anti-juggalo record" says one of the members of clown rap group Joint Damage.  That thing had me cracking up for days.  The LP comes with the letter of the cease and desist order.
The albums are also always really cheap and come in sweet packaging.  The Double Negative "Daydreamnation" LP is a shiny dude with lyric sheets and a sweet logo.  These records can be found all over the place from The Sorry State Website to local record shops like All Day Records and Bull City Records.
I was pretty curious about the record label and e-mailed Daniel Lupton about it before we settled on a time we could talk about his vision and record label.  Daniel had a lot of good things to say about his view on punk rock, the triangle area, and the creative process in music and music marketing.
Jordan:  So, Daniel, when did you end up starting Sorry State Records and how did you know that you wanted to release punk music?
Daniel Behind Ketchup, Milk, and Water
Daniel:  I think the label started in 2004.  A lot of people have asked me that lately and I’ve been meaning to check, but that’s my best guess.  As far as punk music goes, it’s kind of the only music I’ve been super interested in.  I like plenty kinds of music, but most of my favorite music ever comes back to punk.  I’ve been both influenced by officially punk bands or bands that have the punk ethos.  It’s really the world I know from going to shows, making friends, and being part of the scene.
Jordan:  Which bands in particular have formed your opinion on punk?
Daniel:  The band from when I was a kid was Minor Threat more than anything.  I think I got the CD with all of their stuff on it when I was around fourteen years old.  It was one of the first punk albums I got and it blew my mind.  I was straight edge for years and years pretty much because of that record.  So much about it.  And as I started reading about it, the whole Dischord attitude of being fair to bands and the punk scene being big, productive, and revolutionary, rather than something  to consume or being the stereotypical nihilistic punk.  I was an art kid and that whole ethos was immediately attractive to me.
Jordan:  So what would you say Punk’s role is now in terms of the spectrum of bands with positive qualities or, like you said, the more nihilistic version?
Daniel:  There’s always bands with different people and I definitely have a healthy appreciation for the more nihilistic end of it; bands like Black Flag and the Germs that are darker and scarier, and there are still people who push that angle and there are still people who push the positive and productive angle.  I think there’s room for both and punk has that dynamic where the two poles play off of each other and I think that’s why it’s remained vital.  Either of those takes would get stale on their own if they were left to just grow, but there’s always the push and pull between those two founding tenants of punk.
Jordan:  So, in the case of Sorry State Records, do you find that you release one version of punk music more than the other?
Libyans -  A Common Place (Cover)
Daniel:  No, I think my tastes are pretty wide and the label is often a reflection of what I like and am interested in so there are bands like Shards who are this drug-fueled, nihilistic mess, really.  Then there are bands like Libyans who are composed, poetic, and thoughtful in a way that I think a lot of people don’t associate with punk.  Frankly, either of those things can catch my ear and I think as long as I’m putting out records, I’ll be pulling from everything that punk is, and punk is really just about anything when you get down to it.
Jordan:  Are most of the bands whose records Sorry State puts out from North Carolina?
Daniel:  I don’t know what the percentage is, but it’s close to half and half at this point.  I think I’m kind of the default punk label if you’re in North Carolina.  A lot of bands will send me a demo.  This comes from a lot of different experiences, like touring with my own band, getting to know people, even from all over the world.  A couple of our bands are from Sweden.  We have one band from Japan. But I like that punk is fiercely local.  There’s a lot of hometown pride and I’m incredibly proud of what we have in North Carolina, but I want to also use this global connection.  Basically, any moderately sized city in the world, I can have loads of fun and someone to hang out with and drink a beer with.  I think all of those things are great.
Jordan:  The Whatever Brains in particular seem like a totally different band than the typical punk-sound.  How did you get connected with those guys?
Daniel:  Actually, I wanted to put out their first record.  They started playing shows and I immediately loved them.  I basically said if they ever wanted, then the door was open: if you need anything, I’ll do it.  I put out the Crossed Eyes’ 7”, which has members of Whatever Brains, which was garage, but I think at the beginning, I think at first they thought they would get labeled as a hardcore band, not that anyone who listens to five seconds of their music would ever do such a thing, but they didn’t want to go that standard route.  I don’t know what changed but, if I remember correctly, their fourth 7” was coming out and their label was needing some money and very last minute, they proposed doing this release and I basically helped pay their pressing plant and they slapped my logo on the back of the record and sent me a couple hundred copies.  That went really well.  I don’t know if that got rid of the band’s reservations, but now they record something and send it to me.  I’m on the band’s listserv and I get the demos when they send it right out.  I just loved that band from minute one.
Daniel:   I think a lot of the retro-hardcore scene has lost a lot of its energy in the past couple years and I was definitely caught up with that, and I was in a band called Cross Laws and our goal was to make music like it was 1982 and we never heard a record after that.  I think that puts you in a corner and after a couple years of that, we got bored.  I think that a lot of people start like that and get better at their instruments and decide they want to write a song instead of an explosion and it’s a natural progression.  I think when you look at the history of punk, there are times when everyone coalesces around the same idea, like the ’77 punk scene in Britain or the early 80’s hardcore scene.  There are times when there’s an excitement around a certain idea, and then there are times when people start to value creativity and artistic ambition, rather than fulfilling a template, like post-punk or the 90’s hardcore scene, and I think it’s a natural dynamic when you go through a cycle.  I really love them both.  I like feeling like I’m part of something that everyone’s on board with.  But I’m also an art person at heart and I love to see people being ambitious aesthetically.  I like that too and I’m glad I have a label that can handle those changes and I’m excited about the bands we  have and what they sound like.
Jordan:  Have you always been located in the triangle area while you’ve had this label?
Daniel:  Yeah.  I grew up in Virginia and went to college in Richmond and moved early to Chapel Hill in 2002.  I started the label around 2004.  I remember sending off the order for the first 7” in my apartment and getting the record in the mail shortly after I knew how.  It’s been a North Carolina thing from the beginning.  And that was part of the name too.  The first 7” I put out was by this band Direct Control and they were based in Richmond, but all three were from North Carolina.  And it seemed like we were all saying “Hey, we’re all from the same Sorry State.”  There wasn’t a lot going on at the time, so it was a little bit of a pun.  Now it’s not like that at all.  There’s tons going on.
Jordan:  What has the expansion of the label been like?
Daniel:  It’s been really organic.  I put out a record, then sold those records, then the money came back and then I put out another record.  It goes on and on.  There have been times when I’ve got a little ahead of myself.  Last summer I put out, I think, four LP’s and 2 7”s at once, which was completely obscene.  I didn’t really have the money and found some way to scrape it all together somehow.  But there have been times when I’ve had to push further to expand a bit more, but really it’s been totally organic.  Since I’ve made the label into a proper business and registered with the state and started paying taxes, I’ve been reading about business a bit and it seems like I’ve actually done it in a smart way.  Measured growth and not doing more than I should at any given time.
Jordan:  So how does the distribution fit into the whole scheme of everything?  Do you only distribute your own records?
Brain Flannel Live
Daniel:  I have hundreds of hundreds of records that I carry.  That end of things kind of supports the label.  If you just did a label and didn’t also distribute other records or trade with other labels, it would be really hard to make that financially viable.  It’s cash-intensive.  You press a record for 500 copies and send out 300 or 400 copies to distributors and that money doesn’t come back, at the very least, for months and months and months.  So distributing records and trading in small quantities with labels keeps money flowing through the bank account and it actually is kind of profitable, whereas just releasing records is, at best, a break-even proposition and usually not even that.  It’s also cool just having a ton of packages sitting on my porch every day when I get home and I’m able to see what’s happening with new music.  If I’m curious about a band, it isn’t like I’m spending $15 to order that LP; instead, I’m just thinking that I’ll order 5 copies from the label and listen to a copy.  If I like it, I may take it and if not, I’ll just sell all 5.
Jordan:  Yeah, today, when I was getting done with my day, I had Maximum Rock N Roll sitting on my porch and it was a godsend.  I just needed it.
Daniel:  Yeah, I got mine yesterday and definitely just sat on the porch and read it (laughs)
Jordan:  Exactly!  So, something that I’ve been cracking up about a lot recently has been the Joint Damage thing with the lawsuit.  Can you talk about that at all or is that something you’d rather brush under the rug?
Joint Damage - Strike Gently
Daniel:  It’s just sort of a bummer.  This band who, from everything I can see, thought of the cease and desist order seems to have the emotional intelligence of a three-year-old and whenever he comments on my facebook page or the label’s, I just think that he’s just making himself look like a complete idiot, and I never say anything because the person’s doing a just fine job of making himself look (pause) stupid.  Really, I just want the whole thing to go away.  It sucks because they threatened me with a lawsuit and I don’t even have the money to fight a lawsuit.  That’s the thing.  When someone does this to you, it’s going to be thousands of dollars right away.  If they win the case or not.  Just the threat of it is enough.  I had a lot of sleepless nights and grinding of teeth, but I haven’t heard anything about it for a while.  We changed the band name and did what we needed to do so hopefully people don’t keep harassing that band on their facebook page and people will forget about it.
Jordan:  Do you find that you have to stick your name out for your bands a lot of the time or does stuff like this just not really happen?
Daniel:  I know at least one person well from pretty much every band on the label and if there is ever someone in a band that I don’t want to work with, I just won’t put out a record for them.  Stuff like the Joint Damage situation doesn’t really happen and even this wasn’t Joint Damage’s fault.  Who looks up to see if someone has a band with the same name?  Who cares?  There are probably 15 bands named Double Negative and 10 named Shards.  When I first got the letter and called the guys in Joint Damage and said “I wish I could be totally punk with this and say ‘Fuck you,’ and fight this, but I can’t afford it.  I don’t have time and I can’t hire a lawyer”  Fortunately, I’ve never been in this kind of situation and hopefully they don’t come around very often because it wasn’t fun.
Jordan:  Do a lot of bands on your label have a lot of crossover in terms of people being in multiple bands either on your label or elsewhere?
Daniel:  Yeah, it’s a bit of both.  It’s a natural cycle of bands at one sense.  I know the same thing happened with Crossed Eyes morphing into Whatever Brains.  My old band Cross Laws turned into Devour and now we’re not playing anymore and we’re all in different bands.  Really, I’ve put out around 50 records at this point and it seems like it’s been permutations of about a dozen or fifteen people, especially if you look at the North Carolina people.  These are the people who are on the same wavelength and it seems like we’ve almost grown up together or at least have the same reference points. They just do what they’re trying to do and I respect that.  I’m happy to just stick with this and the people I have and know what I’m getting from a personal angle in terms of commitment and morality even.  I know they’re ambitious and know that they’re going to blow my mind every time.  Seems like I’ve just developed a bunch of great relationships and I’m really lucky.
Double Negative's Scott Having Fun With His Friends
Jordan:  Does live music affect your business at all?  What are the effects of a band on your label wanting to do more shows?
Daniel:  I don’t ask bands to do anything.  In terms of live shows, it can make a difference.  If I know that a band is going to do a lot of touring, I know that the band is going to help get the word out about their record and I know that I need more copies.  At the same time, for instance, Joint Damage plays Charlotte, Raleigh and Atlanta and I think that’s probably all the three cities they’ve played and it’s probably not going to change.  It affects me in the sense that I only press 300 records with a pretty high wholesale price and I’ve almost sold all of them already.  Some bands love to tour, but some bands don’t.  It may affect how many records I press or whether I am into doing super deluxe packaging, but I don’t really care (laughs).  Bands can tour or not, but I still get to see bands that are close by, so that’s what I really care about.
Jordan:  Can you say anything about releases for Record Store Day?
Whatever Brains LP 2 Cover
Daniel:  This year was my first one.  It’s a limited Whatever Brains record.  I had the idea to do it about six weeks ago or something and quickly e-mailed the pressing plant to see if I could get the records on time.  They’re showing up tomorrow (April 17, 2012) and Record Store Day is Saturday.  I just got it in the nick of time.  I e-mailed the Whatever Brains and they recorded the song that night.  Then they had some odds and ends and outtakes that they used for the rest of the EP.  It’s a cool thing to do.  For the first six or seven years of the label existence, there was no local attention.  The tightknit hardcore scene bought our records but no record stores sold my stuff.  SchoolKids never took my stuff.  CD Alley didn’t.  Chaz of Bull City Records was the only person who was super supportive from Day 1.  Besides that, people didn’t care.  But then Bryan C. Reed started writing for the Independent and wrote about Sorry State releases and shows and I had this big show two years ago when the Libyans came down from Boston and I did a big show for them.  The Independent wrote about that and there was a big crowd and I put out limited records and tote bags.  Then I did the Whatever Brains record and they’re such a big local band.  So Sorry State’s on the radar now and people have heard of the label.  It’s strange to meet people who aren’t a punk or local who have these records that we’ve put out. People will say “Oh, I have that Double Negative LP” or “I have that Whatever Brains LP.”  That’s super weird to me and I used to be distrustful and even scared about it, but since that happened, it allowed the label to get bigger.  All Day Records has been extremely supportive.  The Whatever Brains and Brain F (Brain Flannel) have become local phenomena.  They’ve sold tons of those records and really personally recommended them to people.  I wanted to do something to say thanks.  So the Whatever Brains record is only available in North Carolina and Virginia record stores.  The idea was just to make local people excited and get out to the stores.  We’ll see how it goes.  I just hope the stores all sell them.
Jordan:  Yeah, I’ll definitely be picking that one up.  I got on the Sorry State train last year because Chaz basically played Double Negative and Libyans for me and they blew my mind and he was like “yeah, this is a local label.”
Daniel:  Awesome!  (Laughs) Yeah, Chaz is the best.
Jordan:  So what can we expect for the future of Sorry State?
Daniel:  I don’t know.  I’m just taking it one day at a time.  Right now I have a pretty solid roster of bands.  I basically put out a record and by the time I’m ready to put out a second record, the next band has recorded one for me, so I’m pretty settled in the cycle.  Next month I have Bukkake Boys, Double Negative, and the new Whatever Brains LP and after that a bunch of bands are starting to record like Manipulation are starting an LP, Dark Ages are starting on a new LP, and this one new band.  I keep telling myself I won’t put out something by a new band, but there’s this new band called Broken Prayer and they’re from Chicago and I’m putting out an LP from them and it’s just awesome.  It’s sort of like hardcore mixed with postpunk mixed with synths.  I don’t know if you’ve heard that Total Control yet?
Jordan:  I love that album!  (I’m actually interviewing them later)
Daniel:  Yeah, this sounds like Total Control mixed with early 80’s hardcore.  It would have a hard time picturing that in my mind what that means, but they’re doing it and it sounds original and exciting. So every day I’m just waiting and hoping they send me rough mixes, but they haven’t yet.  I’m going to keep putting out records and get better at selling them and not losing money, but, you know, I’m doing my best.  (Laughs)
Jordan:  Nice!  Any last words for the interview?
Daniel:  Yeah, I just want to say thanks.  Yeah, it’s awesome to have people doing stuff like this locally.  It gets me excited

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spider Bags/Terry Malts/Gross Ghost at The Pinhook 4/17

Spider Bags - Dan McGee Sports a Bandana
It's Tuesday night and you've seen everything on Netflix and don't feel like exercising (at least in the stereotypical way) and you're just plain old bored.  Fret (pronounced Fray, cause you're classy and French) not!  The Pinhook is offering wonderful Rock n Roll Goodies at 9 PM!  And the contents of these goodies are Spider Bags (but not drugs, you creep), Terry Malts, and Gross Ghost (interviewed HERE).  It's gonna be a rowdy rock n' roll show.

Spider Bags are basically triangle royalty at this point.  They've released two full-length albums, a slew of 7 "s, and are working on a third album.  Lately, they've been playing a lot of songs off of their upcoming album and it's a real rock n' roller.  These guys put on a great show with a lot of energy and a great amount of songs.  If you haven't seen them before, it's time that you did so now.  If you've seen them before, it's probably time you saw them again, or at least these other bands.

Terry Malts Hanging Out in Hats and Clothes
Terry Malts are garage punk in the best way.  They're coming all the way from California to play for you and only you, so you ought to support them.  The last time they came here, according to the Pinhook, they stage-dove a bunch and crowd-surfed and exuded general rowdiness.  Their music has that old-time pop sensibility that any fan of Ramone-influenced bass lines and fun melody will appreciate.  Their album "Killing Time" is fantastic and a must-listen for any fan of rock n' roll.

Mike and Tre from Gross Ghost
Finally Gross Ghost.  If you don't know 'em, dig 'em.  I just interviewed them last week and the link to the post is up in the first paragraph if you're too lazy to scroll down.  These guys play great garage rock with some psychedelia and punk in them too.  Their debut LP came out on Grip Tapes and I loved it.  It's going to be my first time seeing them live, so I'm very excited and you should be to!

Best of all, it's only a $7 show!  It's gonna be a lot of fun and a great way to spend an otherwise uneventful night.  Do yourself a favor and get hip!

The Logo of The Pinhook With Its Address in Mini Type

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greg Cartwright Interview (Plays Motorco April 19)

Greg Cartwright Doing The Rock N Roll

Greg Cartwright (AKA Greg Oblivian) has been playing music for a long time.  And it's good music.  Like.  Really really really good music.  Greg has been releasing music since the 80s and played in several bands in the Memphis Rock n' Roll scene, eventually making it to a national scale while playing with the Oblivians, a garage rock band that released several records on a bunch of labels like Sympathy for the Record Industry, In the Red, and Crypt Records.  Some of these records are harder to find, but they are well worth the effort to get your hips shaking and your mind happy (See: effects of Rock n' Roll.)

Recently, Greg has been releasing Records on In The Red as The Reigning Sound and The Parting Gifts.  These records are great as well.  Greg goes into some of the reasons why he created other bands than the Oblivians in his interview, but it's all really fun to listen to.

He moved to Asheville fairly recently and played a show with Last Year's Men at the Local 506 before appearing on a split 7" with them on behalf of Scion's strangely cool garage rock emphasis.  Greg will be producing the next Last Year's Men LP, which is bound to be swell.

Greg will be playing a show at Motorco Music Hall this Thursday with Mac McCaughan and The Mountain Goats to promote advocacy against the North Carolina Constitution Amendment One.  The cost is $20 for general admission and $100 for VIP.  It's a great cause and going to be a great concert so do yourselves a favor and purchase a ticket HERE!

I got to talk with Greg about his role in music in the past and today and about the show and amendment one, which has been a blessing.  He puts the reasons for defeating amendment one very clearly and with the most common sense possible.  It's been great hearing his view.

Here Goes!  Greg Cartwright!

Jordan: How did you get into the music business?

Greg:   always loved music as a kid and that led to collecting records, that led to playing in bands and then the next thing you know... I'm in the music business.

Jordan:  Which artists have influenced your music?

Greg:  All of them. Even the bad ones. Maybe the bad ones the most. They're the ones that help me decide what I don't want to sound like.

Jordan:  Do you listen to mostly rock n' roll stuff or does your taste go all over?

Greg:  I like all kinds of music. I get obsessed with things and bop around from decade to decade, all genres. Mostly older stuff. My stock answer used to be "GOOD MUSIC". It's still true. I don't care who, what, when or where. Alls I want to know is "is it good"? I don't listen to much current music unless I'm in a club, seeing and hearing it. Being in a band though, this exposure is quite frequent. So that's a good dose of current musical ideas. Keeps me from getting stale but limits how much I will unconciously take a melody or riff and later think it's my own. As a songwriter that's something I'm always mindful of. Sometimes to the degree of phobia.

Jordan:  What has the move between places like Memphis and Asheville been like?

Greg:  Like night and day.

Jordan:  Which bands have you been in and how do their styles of music link up?

Picture of an Oblivians' Album
Greg:  Painkillers, 68 Comeback, Casey Scott and The Creeps, Alluring Strange, Compulsive Gamblers, Oblivians, Deadly Snakes, Detroit Cobras, Greg Oblivian and the Tip Tops, Reigning Sound, The Parting Gifts... I'm sure I'm leaving something out but that's all I can think of at the moment. As for linking them stylistically, I don't think you can. Link them that is. Even within each band there are wildly shifting styles and ideas from album to album. The common factor is personal compatability. Personal dynamic between the players. It was good for all those bands. That's what kept me hangin' around.

Jordan:  What was it like playing in the Oblivians and how have the members changed what they're doing since? 

Greg:  I don't think anyone's changed fundamentally. Matured probablly, but what I'm always struck by is how little people change, and how I kinda' love that. We just recorded a new Oblivians record. First one in 16 years or so. And I knew that I could count on them when it came to the dynamic that we share as a band. that's a good feeling.

Jordan:  Do you have a particular band or time-frame of music writing that you are proud of?

Greg:  I think all of it will stand, for different reasons. Some because it's idiotic but exciting and some because it's mature and well made. My opinion of it doesn't matter much though. It's like asking me if I'm a good parent, only my kids could tell you with any meaningful perspective.

Jordan:  Do you find that you focus more on producing or making music nowadays?

Greg:  Ha, ha! I'm a scatter brain so it gave me a giggle to think about me focusing on something. Seriously, if it were'nt for my wife I would live in a lean-to in a field with a pile of records... in the rain. I love recording music, whether it's mine or somebody else's though, I love helping to make it happen and helping someone get their music sounding like they want it to. I'm always writting but production work is a nice break from messing with my own music.

Jordan:  Do you have your own studio to record, mix and produce?

Greg:  No, I just go where the band is.

Jordan:  I didn't get my hands on the split 7" with Reigning Sound and Last Year's men, but I got your Abdication 12", how was it working with Scion?

Greg:  It was actually quite pleasant.

Jordan:  I heard you're producing the new Last Year's Men LP, how's that going?

Greg:  It hasn't started yet, but they're a great band.

Jordan:  What projects are you working on in terms of your own music?

Greg:  Another Reigning Sound LP, maybe a new Parting Gifts record too.

Jordan:  How did you end up becoming a part of the Motorco Show with Mountain Goats & Mac against Amendment One?

Greg:  Mac contacted me about participating. I'm glad he did.

Jordan:  What can you say about your views on Amendment One and what people can do?

Greg:  There is absolutely no reason to make this piece of legislation a state constitutional ammendment. I guess if you're afraid of the inevitable evolution of American society, it makes sense to attempt something so assinine. But it will not deter the love that people have for one another. It will only reinforce to a large part of the population of NC that their state does not respect them as individuals nor will it afford them the rights that others enjoy.   

Jordan:  Who will be playing with you on your set during your performance?

Greg:  Likely just me.

Jordan:  What songs will you be playing at the show?  Primarily one band or solo stuff or what?

Greg:  Not sure yet. I'm pretty off the cuff. Donate $100 to the cause and I'll play whatever you want!

Jordan:  Anything else you'd like to say to those who are reading?

Greg:  Be good to each other.

Please consider going to the concert or at least voting against Amendment One on May 8th.  You can learn more about Amendment One and how bad it is for all families in North Carolina HERE!