Sunday, March 24, 2013

Interview with Tenement

I first got into Tenement when I read about them in Razorcake a while back, but I didn't get to see them until a few weeks ago at the Not Normal showcase, where Ralph from Not Normal was celebrating the release of his wonderful compilation album "Welcome to 13," a reflection on the world not ending in December of 2012, but continuing on (for better or for worse) at a time when that seemed just about all a body could do. The Not Normal showcase lasted over six hours in two segments that were roughly three hours each. About twelve bands played from the new gruffly aggressive Skrapyard to the frenzied fun-dripping Lumpy and the Dumpers. Tenement, as they later state, was kind of the odd man out, in terms of music style. Tenement plays a sound much more rooted in pop-sensibility.

What amazed me about Tenement's set was that even though the circle pit became less violent, the pogo of the punx simply changed to a different movement. And everyone at Swerp Mansion seemed to know all the lyrics of the songs, which was awesome. People were crowd surfing and moshing in one big conglomerate rather than the free form every man for himself pit I had been used to. It was really cool to see all the hardcore kids get into a band that was so different from the rest of the groups (and there were a lot of bands).

Tenement's album Napalm Dream is a furious blast of rock n' roll mixed with punk rock energy. The first song "Stupid Werld" is an anthemic rager ending with a sing-along chorus crooning "Living in, living, living in a Napalm Dream." For some reason it just makes a lot of sense. When I hear it, I think "yeah, I kind of am living in a napalm dream" (once again - for better or for worse). Tenement is a band that is really fun, first off, but it's a band that I find that people find impossible to dislike.

You can check out their Facebook page HERE, their Tumblr page HERE, and their bandcamp page HERE

Who all is in Tenement? How did you guys start? Did you know each other before starting the band for a while?
Jesse: Right now it's Amos, Eric, and I.  We've had some line up changes over the last 6 years but the core has been Amos and I.  I suspect we've found a stable line up.  We all grew up in Wisconsin. Amos and I went to the same high school in Neenah.  During high school we got into the typical punk/hardcore stuff and went to shows all around Wisconsin.  Around the time I was in my freshman year of college, Amos got ahold of me to play some music. And we've been playing in Tenement ever since.  We picked up Eric after some unfortunate shit happened and we needed a competent like minded drummer.

What was it like starting a band in Appleton, Wisconsin? Are there many bands there that you guys play with or enjoy listening to?

Jesse: We grew up in a small town and that was our scene and we don't really know any better.

Eric: I grew up in Hartford, about an hour south of Appleton. There were no bands except for crappy high school jam bands. There was a ska band called "Straight Edge Crack Whores" from the nineties. 

Amos: Jesse and I spent our adolescence going to crust/hardcore punk shows. And that was really the only kind of "scene" that existed in Appleton at the time. No less, it was really important to us, and what we probably took away from it most was the urgency in the sound and presentation. There was one really great pop group in the Appleton area when we were growing up called Yesterday's Kids. Their LP, "Can't Hear Nothin", is still one of my favorite modern Rock N Roll / Power Pop / Pop-Punk records. Lookout! released it, and to us, that was a mark of prestige, or something. That record is probably the reason why I wasn't ashamed to listen to stuff like The Beatles or Big Star even as I was so infatuated with punk and hardcore. They suffered a premature break up and reformed as The Obsoletes, with more alt. country influence. And they were still great. And as a seventeen year old kid, I spent alot of time sneaking into bars to watch them drunkenly slur through the songs that defined that period of my life and the town I grew up in. 

What all have you guys released? What labels have you been on? How has it been working with the labels or people from them?

Amos: Tenement has two proper LPs and a handful of singles and EPs. "Napalm Dream" was released on vinyl through Mandible Records from Brooklyn, New York. They approached us about releasing it after coming to see us at Death By Audio in 2007. That should give you a good idea of how long that record took to materialize. Hang Up Records from La Crosse, Wisconsin did the CD version which was quite a gamble, considering CDs are so difficult to sell in America right now. He straight up payed for us to record drums for "Napalm Dream", and we're very grateful to have worked with such a generous, honest guy. Cowabunga Records from Chicago did the vinyl for "The Blind Wink", after picking up a copy of the hand dubbed cassette version we were passing around in 2011. We met him in 2010, at a show in Chicago we played with some big shot pop-punk band that will go unnamed. Drugged Conscience, Burger, and Dead Broke have all given our full length records cassette release, and they're all really wonderful people that we've become friends with over the past few years. And I think that's important. You should be able to trust and respect them; whether they're making you millions or not. 

What is the recording process of songs like? Do you guys have specific roles in terms of songwriting and recording?

Jesse: The song writing process is funny. Most of the time Amos writes the bulk of the material, which is then filtered through  the rest of us. I'll do my own bass parts or add/subtract to a suggested one Amos might have in mind.  Then we might record it right away and never play it live, or Amos will just write and record the entire thing by his lonesome. Alternately we may write it then play the hell out of it and through that process change the song in some regard. The recording process for the last LP was that Amos recorded a bunch of demos, and I provided a song that Amos helped with.  We then went through the demos and got them ready for studio treatment if you will. I personally really like writing a song, then playing it a lot live and making those changes and finally recording it.  But I also know Amos has a different outlook on that type of stuff than I do.

Amos: Sometimes a recording will be a really compulsive thing that I undertake by myself, while writing the song. If it ends up with some sort of exciting quality or energy, it might end up on the final record eventually. I'm of the opinion that a song should be dealt with in a way in which suits it, even if it means that some of us play something unusual or don't play at all. Drums are my first instrument and my most natural creative outlet, so I can be rather picky about the drum parts. Which is probably hellish for Eric. 

Eric: It's kinda funny, but everytime I record drums for a song, I learn it the same day. I have not had any creative input toward songwriting so far, but my brain is churning.

What do you guys record on?

Jesse: A little bit of everything really. Refer to Amos.

Amos: Whatever suits the song, or is most available at the moment... be it eight track machine, Pro Tools, or cassette. 

Do you guys record in a studio? Your records sound pretty polished. Would you ever record in a studio if you have not?

Amos: We sometimes record in a studio setting, if it's decided that it will be the proper treatment for whatever we're working on. Napalm Dream was recorded at several studios around Wisconsin by our friend Justin Perkins, who has produced alot of other great records too. He puts his mark on everything he does, and It's a mark I've come to love over the years. It works really well for some of the music we write.

When I saw you guys perform at the Not Normal showcase in Chicago, you played a house show with a bunch of hardcore bands. Is this indicative of a Tenement performance?

Jesse: We'd gotten some practice in and the backlined gear sounded a lot like our own. I think it was a good example of a Tenement set.  However, it lacked a "Moment".  But i'm glad all the hardcore kids got into it. I felt we were the odd band out that night.

Eric: My favorite style of music is hardcore, so getting to play with HC bands all the time is great. It makes us play harder; maybe faster. 

Amos: Out of tune...out of key...RAW POWER. Most of the punx are tone deaf anyway, am I right???

You guys are clearly punk influenced and rock n roll influenced. What or who do you think has impacted or influenced your songs or recordings the most?

Jesse: Early on I think the really obvious stuff stuck out a lot, but at this point we're really influenced by a ton of stuff outside of the punk/HC/pop realm.  We've always been into the visceral power of a live hardcore band and feeling of Black Flag, which has informed the way we play live.  But now 6 years down the line we're all into some wild bullshit music nerd shit, be it skronky free jazz, house, R&B/SOUL, rock, pop, experimental classical, whatever... it all manages to show up some where.  

Amos: Black Flag and The Ramones have been very stationary influences with this band since day one. They probably always will be. Some of the more subtle influences that are no less important right now are folks like Ray Charles and Charles Mingus. Masters in mood. I've been listening to alot of lounge, exotica, third stream jazz, and ballad vocal stylings by the likes of Clyde McPhatter and other soul/jazz singers of the period. Those will all probably have an effect on our next record in some way or another. Some people probably won't like that. It's been a long time since I stopped caring about what everyone else liked. 

What do you think of the punk scene that you guys have encountered so far? I personally think it's alive and vibrant with people who really care. But do you think there's anything missing in it or stuff that your band can do that other bands don't do as much?

Jesse: A lot of punks are ignorant people in some regard.  Punk at times feels like a rigid dogma.  But at the same time it has undefinable qualities that still attract me to it.  This might sound silly, but I think punks in general should develop a stronger understanding of jazz music. It's more like "punk" than one might think.  Obviously this isn't the rule, and most of my friends I've made in my adult life have been through some affiliation with punk. 

Eric: Punk will always be like mold growing. If you remove yourself from the underground, the underground will still always remain. The internet has ruined going to shows in a sense. Instead of having to go to a show to hear what a band sounds like, you can have their whole discography downloaded in a few minutes. There is nothing we can do that other bands can't. Make sacrifices and take chances. 

Amos: The punk scene in America has been very kind to us, and we've got to be grateful for that. However, I feel like alot of folks involved with DIY punk have really self righteous attitudes and morals, and the social cliques at alot of punk shows have made them feel no different than the halls of a high school, or any other facet of normal society.

What have been some of your best experiences playing live? How do you judge a successful live show?

Jesse: The best times are when we have a moment... where something unique and unscripted takes shape.  Sometimes it's when an audience expresses their distaste for us. Like when we played with screeching weasel and some people didn't like some noise. As long as we leave an impression on someone, good or bad.

What is in the future for Tenement? More live shows and records? Any specifics?

Jesse: More music.

Anything else you guys would like to say?

Eric: Listen to Uh Oh (WI), White Wash (Canada), and Lumpy and the Dumpers (MO).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Interview with Ashlie White, the curator of Pet Tich Eye

I've always heard the phrase giving back to your community. I've thought a lot about what that means. Which community? What sort of giving back? How sustainable should this gift action be? Each one of us comes from a plethora of communities and some are worth giving back to and some are not. As individuals, it becomes important to differentiate the worthwhile communities. For instance, I spent my adolescence in the Northern suburbs of Chicago, but was born in Los Angeles, and in between lived in Washington, D.C. That's three communities. And I don't think I really have any loyalty to any of them or feel the need to give back.

But when I heard about Pet Tich Eye, a collaborative art project curated by Ashlie White, I was very excited. Pet Tich Eye takes more than thirty musicians, ten photographers, ten visual artists, and ten community organizers from the Triangle area of North Carolina and makes it into a cohesive unit - one that is sustainable. I found out about the project through their KICKSTARTER, but the idea had been in the works for a while. It's truly a moving idea, indicative of the feeling anyone gets while going to a local show in the Triangle, spending an hour in a coffee shop on ninth street, or seeing the fliers on the walls at All Day Records.

The triangle area is a community worth giving back to, and it's blowing up with art from the full-frame documentary festival, to DPAC's world-class theatre, to the many great bands springing up throughout any of the three cities. This is a project worth supporting and it's something that I think many cities could try and emulate, though perhaps with different results. That being said, I see it as a method of uniting artists and a community, and should be a beacon of what those of us in the art community should strive for.

You can check out their Facebook page HERE

Jordan: What is Pet Tich Eye? How did it come to fruition and how long has it been in the works?

Ashlie: Pet-Tich-Eye is, at this very moment, a collaboration of more than 30 musicians, 10 photographers, 10 visual artists and 10 community organizations. We hope that the release of this 10-song record will be just the beginning of many collaborations to come. The website will be an outlet to release original music with this same collaborative structure in the future. We are encouraging musicians who want to record a collaboration to partner with a community organization and release the song through our website. Perhaps, if the interest is there, we'll put another vinyl out in the future.

J: I read that Pet Tich Eye was something of an enigma from the Triangle area. What's the story behind the man and the name of the project?

A: I read about Pet-Tich-Eye in Durham, A Bull City Story by Jim Wise. Pet-Tich-Eye was the nickname of the son of a historical Triangle trouble maker named Ben Peeler. I haven't found any other writings about Pet-Tich-Eye or any references to his real name. I saw his name in the book and it caught my eye. I thought it was obscure enough that, when searched for on the web, the term "Pet-Tich-Eye" would only ever populate results for our project and for history books about our area. I thought that was a cool link between our project and our community.

J: I moved from Durham in May, but I remember that the music scene in the Triangle area was incredibly tightly-knit, friendly, and fun. How do you think the Triangle area impacted the project? Do you think the project could have come from anywhere else?

A: I grew up near the Triangle and went to high school in Raleigh and undergrad in Chapel Hill. I've travelled a lot and lived in several other cities/states before moving to Durham in 2011. I've never experienced this type of creative enthusiasm in any other area. The music scene here is exactly like you said, tightly-knit and friendly. One thing that makes the Triangle music community different than other music communities is the support the musicians provide for each other. There is a humbleness about most Triangle musicians that comes from the recognition of the immense talent surrounding them at every turn. The show up in numbers at each other's shows and are always the faces seen near the front of the stage. Here the creative community understands that we are living off the same lifeline. The same people who care about this community and support the community organizations are also the people who come out to support the music and arts. 

A: I've wondered if this project could be done anywhere else; I'm certain it could be, but I'm not sure any community would approach it with the same enthusiasm and commitment as this group of musicians did. 

J: What role has the South played in the creation of the project, especially in an area that, to me, seems to be a bit of an anomalous Southern area, in terms of industry, art, and many incredible universities?

A: I'm very proud to live in a community that embraces its Southern roots while simultaneously supporting such an openminded and creative community. Many of the amazing people on this project are not from the South but have found beauty in our area that has kept them here. I was raised in a rural North Carolina community and it doesn't take long to hear it in my voice. I am proud of where I come from, but I am also painfully aware of the stereotypes about the South. For me and many of the people around me, our community is special because there are some amazing things happening here and a bunch of amazing people making those things happen.

J: What has been your role in the Pet Tich Eye project?

A: I am the curator of the project. I also photographed Ivan Howard, Heather McEntire and JYU in the studio when they recorded East Coast/West Coast Time.  

A: I came up with the concept and talked it over with Ivan Howard, a dear friend and inspiration,  who encouraged me to proceed with the idea and make it a reality. 
I asked 10 of the musicians, who I knew personally, to be a part of the project. I asked each of them to choose two musicians to collaborate with, a photographer to document the creative process, a visual artist to create album art for the song and a community organization to be a beneficiary. I organized studio schedules and worked closely with the engineers through the recording, mixing and mastering of the record. Once we release the record, I hope to continue curating collaborations to release on the website. 

J: What have been the roles of the different photographers and musicians? Do most people focus on just the art aspect, or do people take on more responsibility?

A:  I think the photographers knew that they were witnessing and documenting something special when they were in the studio. It was really nice to see the musicians so open to having the photographers around all day. Some of the photographers brought in lights and some did portraits. It was interesting to see how each of the photographers worked in the space. 

A: Most of the artists (musicians, photographers, visual artists) just focused on their one task or contribution to the project. Everyone has been tremendously helpful in helping me promote the project, but for this first recording it was hard to wrap my brain around delegating responsibilities. Moving forward, I know there are a lot of people who want to see this concept work and a lot of people who are invested in doing what needs doing to make it work. 

J: What are a couple memorable moments that you've experienced from the project?

A: Wow, it's hard to narrow that down. I was fortunate enough to attend portions of all of the studio sessions, so I have very specific and special memories from each day recording. One of the most memorable moments was towards the end of the mastering session with Brent Lambert at Kitchen Mastering. I realized that the project was real, that we had accomplished our goal to create something special and I got pretty emotional.   

J: Contrarily, what has been especially hard working with so many people and getting everything worked out? Are there any specific obstacles you've had to deal with?

A: Scheduling was the hardest thing to organize and nail down. Another challenging part of the project was trying to decide whether or not to do a Kickstarter and how to announce the project to the world. 

J: What is the show at Motorco going to be like? I wish I could take a flight to Durham and see it! So many great musicians in one room!

A: We are going to set up the garage space as a gallery of all the album art and photographs. We want people to get a feeling of what this project actually encompasses besides the music. The art and photographs that have not sold through the Kickstarter campaign will be up for silent auction that night in order to make some money for the musicians. The gallery will open at 6 pm and the music will start at 8pm. Several of the musicians will be on tour but we have confirmations from five of the groups who will play their songs. We also have an exciting announcement about the two bands that will be joining the bill that night, which is coming soon. 

J: Is this going to be a one-off project or do you have more stuff to come from such great talent?

A: We've built this project to be sustainable. The website will be an outlet for future release and if we see the interest for another physical release, we will definitely consider doing one. The community has to want it and the musicians have to be willing to do the collaborations, but we really hope to see this project move forward. Really, there are no limits to the awesomeness that can happen. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Interview with Kym Register of Loamlands

The last time I talked to Kym was at the Subterranean in Chicago. I remember staggering in there after going to Emporium Bar and Grill and having one too many Union Jacks. Midtown Dickens had put out their swan song album "Home" by Trekky Records out recently in April. I don't know how many times I've seen Midtown Dickens, but I do remember both the first and the last times that I saw them. The first time was at the short-lived Troika music festival in Durham, which should continue by the way (in case anyone is reading who would like to start that back up). It was my first time in Fullsteam Brewery my junior year, at a time when my mental state didn't allow for me to drink. But Troika changed my life. It made me believe in community for beginners - it gave me a sort of geographical loyalty to my music, (one that I still hold dear [as anyone can probably see judging from the amount of North Carolina bands featured on the blog]).

Midtown Dickens released three incredible folk records that incrementally grew. They featured something home-centric by way of both lyric and music. Their music came across as sincere and precise, which was (and still is) a winning combination if I've ever seen one.

So yeah, I was sad when that band broke up, but just reading their statement on Facebook gave me a sort of pause by making me think that they were people who had places to go, things to do, and sometimes we can't all take the same path to paradise. So when I saw that Loamlands was coming into existence, I jumped. They have yet to record, but that doesn't even matter. A lot of people listen to music for enjoyment. Some people listen to be told how to live. Some people listen to critique. For me, it's a little different. I listen to music to get to know people and to believe in people. That's something that I got from Midtown Dickens and folk music in general. I can't wait to hear what Loamlands have in store.

You can check them out on their Facebook page HERE

This is what Kym said

Jordan: What is Loamlands? Where did the name come from? Who is in Loamlands?

Kym: Loamlands is a band formed out of the mutual love and respect that Will and I have for each other as people and musicians.  Playing with Will for the past, what like 20 years (so it seems) has been really fun.  I've been supported and challenged musically, and am really excited to keep that going.  It's an extension of what I was writing in Midtown, but there's a lot more energy put to both the music and how I'm singing... I'm really trying to focus here. It's also got a bit of a more rocking feel.  I'm playing electric guitar about half the time so far (my grandads, and his amp!) and banjo and acoustic the other 50% of the time.  Will is writing with me, harmonizing and playing guitar / mandolin so far.  We're still feeling this one out.  So far it's Will and I, and filling in for the first few shows are Kyle Kegan from Lost in the Trees (and a million other bands) on drums and Brad Cook for Megafaun on bass.  

J: Why did Midtown Dickens break up and how did this project stem out of that?

K: Midtown was doing really well, and I think through that each of us felt empowered to really search out our own interests.  We toured a lot last year, and had been a band for around 8 years.  I think we each needed to hold that project near to our hearts, embrace the love of our community and move on to other projects that inspired us.  Catherine is traveling a lot and still playing music, Jonathan has been touring and recording with Kairaba, and Will and I are really excited to get this new / old sound out in the world.  

J: What kind of music does Loamlands make? Where do you get your inspiration for this project?

K: It's still folk music, without a doubt.  It still tells a story, but I feel more honed in.  I'm playing with strings now, and really focussing on song structure and singing.  I feel grounded and focussed in what Will and I are putting together.  It seems almost effortless and natural, in the way that it embrasses what I learned in MTD but takes that to another plane. 

J: Have you guys written any songs? How does your music get made?

K: We've almost got a record written!  I'm so excited!  I'd been toying around with songs for the next MTD record, so there were a few riffs and what not that I took from those ideas into Loamlands, but not really.  This is a new sound and a natural progression, but it's all mostly new material.  Basically what's happening now is that I'm writing basic song outlines with melody / lyrics etc, and bringing that to will. Then we collaborate.  He's amazing at fine tuning the folk songs I bring in and figuring out melodies and structure.  He's dreamy. 

J: Do you guys plan on recording some songs or possibly an album? What are some of the first things that you guys are working on?

K: We're definitely planning on recording, and almost have enough material for a full length.  What are we working on... hm.  Music mostly.  Getting our gear the way we want it.  Pairing down.  Having fun.  Eating good food.  Making sure we don't get electrocuted on stage.  My Grandpa's amp wasn't grounded, so ... that was an issue.  But thanks to Russ @ Bull City Sound, I have a styling power cable and no new near death experiences. 

J: You guys have a few shows coming up. Can you talk a little bit about those?

K: VERY excited about the shows we have coming up.  One is on 4.11 w/ William Tyler @ The Pinhook.  He's such an inspirational musician.  One of those that you watch and then immediately want to go home and start writing music.  It is an honor to play with him.  

K: Also Shakori!  It's going to feel like going home, playing there.  Such a sweet festival full of supportive folks and talented musicians.  

K: A few more are in the worls, but the are yet to be announced :) 

J: Anything else you'd like to say?

K: I'm just really excited for this project.  It feels like such a natural extension of what I was / am doing musically, and feels good to grow into.  I'm glad to get a chance to do this.  

J: Thanks!

K: Thanks Jordan!