Saturday, May 30, 2015

Release of the Day: Marc Merza - Selective Memory 7"

It's easy to confuse something innocuous with something relaxing or meditative. In music, there's an underlying assumption that if a piece works well as a backdrop then it is formless and vapid. In reality, the piece may simply wear many hats, so to speak. Take a trip to your local new age occult shop and you'll most likely see someone in loose-fitting robes that doesn't accept payment but does accept mandatory donations. In the background almost one hundred percent of the time is cringe-worthy smoooooooth jazz or theremin. For many people that smoke-and-mirrors-spirituality is representative of new age, drone, and ambient music all in one, but the truth is much heavier. Drone is profound as it is elusive. Drone is introspective as it is liberating. Drone is alchemy. Drone is exorcism.

Marc Merza wrote the two songs that comprise his Selective Memory 7" "during a very difficult time in [his] life." Where the first gathers power through melancholy tension, the second plucks a succession of single notes, at once a wind-up music box and a cradling mother. Together, the two become the give-and-take of constraint and respite. They're also illusory and perhaps a little conniving: as pleasant as the record is, there's turbulence beneath the surface. Marc, though more than proficient at driving home a single idea, dots his pieces with unrest, making each sequential listen a little more rewarding.

This is the purification process, the tempering of the spirit, the honing of the mind. This is a return to when things were better, though that seems so impossibly long ago.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Interview with Erica and Terence of Holy Circle

Freddie Gray died on April 12, 2015. He was a twenty-five year old resident of Baltimore who died in police custody the day following his arrest after being put into a coma and suffering spinal injuries. Shortly thereafter, people organized to protest police brutality and the more-than-a-little-disturbing, prejudicial practices of the Baltimore Police Department. Things got a bit sidetracked when a different group of people, largely high schoolers blowing off steam, began rioting, which is what the majority of news outlets decided to focus on, rather than systematic racism. These riots resulted in a city-wide curfew, which canceled a Holy Circle show shortly after premiering its debut single on Noisey, which goes to show just how far-reaching the effects a curfew foregrounding a shadowy police state are.

Holy Circle itself is an electronic band, the product of husband and wife Terence Hannum and Erica Burgner-Hannum who have been making music together for a long time, having teamed up in Unlucky Atlas before. Perhaps that's why it works so seamlessly. Though the one song they've released is drawn out and downtempo, I'm not quite willing to put money on this being the nature of their future oeuvre. They are putting out a 7" and tape in August on Accidental Guest Recordings and are working on more songs for a full-length record and are playing a show with Azar Swan and Clay Rendering on June 16 at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore.

Jordan Reyes: This is probably a very basic question, but what is it like working with your spouse on music?

Erica Burgner-Hannum: Terence and I have been doing music together for so long, even when we were dating. To me, it’s always been a part of our relationship. It’s just part of who we are and how we relate.

Terence Hannum: It’s in waves. Holy Circle is a new project within somewhat defined parameters in terms of what we’re performing. The creative element is kindled in our relationship for sure - we just needed to write songs together - in some ways we’re used to it, but in other ways it’s new and exciting.

JR: Had you guys been making the more slow-tempo synth music before you announced Holy Circle and made it official?

EBH: There were a few songs we had written or were in the process of writing for years at this point. We’d go away from it and come back and then take a break again. I feel like what we’re doing now started when Unlucky Atlas was coming to an end. There was this shift in songwriting that was happening with Terence, myself, and Andre from Locrian, who was also in Unlucky Atlas. We were getting noisier and incorporating more electronic instrumentation. We had made a lot of rules for ourselves, which I think became rigid and stifling. A lot of the early ideas for the songs that would eventually become Holy Circle songs were in response to that cage we put ourselves in, but I think if it weren’t for Unlucky Atlas, we wouldn’t be writing what we’re writing right now.

JR: The one song I’ve heard, the one you guys have on SoundCloud, is like a six-minute song. Are a lot of your compositions going to be at that length?

EBH: Either-or. We’ve always done this. [Terence laughs]. We’ve always done these epic, too-long-for-the-radio songs or succinct, shorter pop songs. We’re fans of the extremes. I’ve never been a fan of doing anything the same way twice, either. If anything strikes me while writing a song and it stays with me, I know it’s probably worth pursuing. That’s one of the things I’ve learned about myself, and one of the things Terence and I have learned about each other. We used to make a lot of rules and now I just want to make the music that I want to sing and listen to. If it makes sense to someone, then great, but if not, well, that’s what I felt like writing [laughs]. Weirdly, though some are six-minute songs and some are three minutes or less, they’re starting to make sense together, which is interesting. We aren’t necessarily trying to do that, but that’s what happens when you stop trying to write music and just write music.

JR: You guys have a 7” and a tape coming out. Do they share songs?

TH: The 7” will be two songs and the tape will be four, but the two songs on the 7” are on the tape, but each format will come with a download for all four songs. I think it’s around twenty minutes total, with one song being pretty long, a short, two-minute or so song, then four and five minute tracks.

JR: Did you record those yourselves? Do you have a studio of your own, Terence, or did I make that up?

TH: My basement! [laughs] It’s not much of one: we’re learning as we go. It’s stressful for me, but I’m pretty happy with how things sound. It’s part of the process to learn as you go - it can make the songs better if there’s something wrong that you have to fix, or if you have to redo a vocal take, or repair a connection. It ends up making me more confident. We haven’t gone into someone else’s studio yet. We want to soon, but things are more expedient at home, especially as the band develops. I’ve done that a lot on my solo stuff too, recording at home, either on my analog four-track, or my digital eight-track, or audacity.

EBH: At this point, the basement studio has become almost a character in our songwriting. All these weird, external noises happen that become part of the finished product. “Basel,” the song we put up on Soundcloud has a lot of external sounds: we just made them part of the song. I like that happening as we record in the basement - it’s this other element in our music.

JR: Are you releasing the tape/7” yourselves?

TH: No, it’ll be on Accidental Guest Recordings.

JR: When does that come out?

TH: It looks like August. We got the artwork in, but still have to do some mastering, and one track needs a little bit of a touch up. Then we’ll be close, but the vinyl presses are so backed up. The target is August, but we won’t be upset if that doesn’t happen. It’s not Record Store Day or anything, but it’s still chaotic. It’s definitely stressful for some bands and labels. Hopefully with Record Store Day done, people can get a little bit of normalcy, but the demand is crazy.

JR: Yeah, I need some more Aerosmith reissues, though.

TH: [Laughs] Yeah, I need Jethro Tull Aqualung on a 3 LP, 180 gram. I mean, I’m sure House of the Holy sounds awesome, but I can buy it for $3 at a good grading. It’s such a fad, which is interesting, although it’s not very helpful to the people who have always been into it. If you’re into underground music, you probably have a hybrid collection anyway. Buying vinyl isn’t a thing - you don’t need a designated holiday - it’s just something you have at home.

JR: I feel like so much of what I have is only available on vinyl or a tape.

TH: Agreed. Or it’s like, well, you know, I’m an artist, so the artwork on a record really stands out. I’ll look at the art and try to figure out the printing process. I always dial in on that element because it just looks better.

JR: So who did the artwork for your upcoming release?

TH: Michelle Grabner. She’s an abstract artist from Chicago who taught at the Art Institute. She used to run this gallery, The Suburban, which is now in Milwaukee. She curated the last Whitney Biennial too. One of the things that Erica and I were talking about while picking the art was wanting a female artist to be on our cover. We have some of Michelle’s pieces at our house so we dropped her a line.

JR: You guys are about to perform with Azar Swan, right?

TH: Yeah, June 15th I think. We might be doing a few more dates with them too.

JR: How often have you guys performed live?

TH: Just once! Our other show had to be cancelled because there was the curfew in Baltimore.

EBH: Yeah, that was a little anti-climactic. We had just had the track premiere on Noisey and then the show was cancelled. Oh well.

JR: What was that like down there? The curfew and everything?

EBH: Well, we live North of the city itself, so we weren’t around any of the chaos, but many of our friends live in the city. The news didn’t do a great job of showing people coming together and helping each other out, though, bringing medical supplies or food to a neighbor who couldn’t get out. The protests became completely negative and destructive.

TH: It became about what CBS is going to bill, which wasn’t the guy who’s spine was broken and later killed. People had been protesting for two weeks. Those people were overlooked.

EBH: Everyone was portraying the rioting, rather than the protests on police brutality. They weren’t even the same groups of people. The sad part of it is that the rioting took the attention away from the very valid position of the people protesting the shady relationship between the Baltimore Police Department and people living in poor Baltimore neighborhoods. There’s this institutionalized racism happening and bias against people living in poverty. Also they were dropping the word “thug” quite a bit. You started to realize as you watched that the news was equating the people who are rioting and blowing off steam, mostly high school students clearly acting out and taking advantage of a situation, with these people who are peacefully protesting.

JR: When you say it that way, it does seem that someone used that to their advantage to not address the underlying issue.

TH: Well, it fed into the media using certain prejudices. Before this happened, the Baltimore Sun had produced a heart-wrenching report about police brutality and how much money the department has had to pay out to people who have been paralyzed and killed while in their custody. So, first off, there’s a track record to this. It’s been a big thing in Baltimore and I think that when you put it in perspective with what’s been happening in Cleveland, or Ferguson, or Staten Island, we’ve reached this point where people need to be more honest with what’s happening with police brutality and racial profiling. In Baltimore, yes, people can take advantage of it and the media can spin it to get away from an important conversation that needs to happen. I’m not the best person to helm that conversation, but I can also understand the disruption and the feeling that no one’s listening when there’s this high-profile violence coming from police and nothing’s changing.

TH: There’s the video of Eric Garner being choked on the street and you think “Well, of course, something has to happen there,” and yet there’s no consequences. You start asking “Why would anything happen?” and begin to feel the hopelessness and empathize. The sad thing is that the attention was taken away from the activists, who had been bringing heat to the police department and legal system.

EBH: One of the things I find interesting is the defensiveness on the part of certain police departments highlighted in the news for having these horrible practices. I’m a public school teacher. When something’s not working, we go to the data. We see where we’re falling short and ask ourselves how to fix it and make ourselves better. Maybe that’s happening, but it seems like a lot of police departments are more concerned with pointing fingers and laying blame. For the most part, it seems like they’re not addressing these things. Why is there this disconnect between police officers and the community they’re serving?

EBH: I think, “Well, I’m a public servant. If I have to use data and look at the facts to perform better in my job, shouldn’t you have to do that?” There’s a lack of common sense and transparency. Using the data, the facts, and what we know doesn’t end up affecting how things move forward. You have to wonder if people realize that pointing fingers doesn’t solve anything. Even as children, we’re taught not to blame other people, and accept responsibility for our actions: obviously, in the grown up world, that’s not really happening [laughs].

TH: The violence is disconcerting, but the cynicism is too. A lot of people have died in police custody - something is wrong. People need the common sense to see this isn’t a one-time event.

EBH: We’re not doing something right. People are suffering injuries or dying in police care. Just some moments of frankness and honesty could do a lot of repair work for what needs to happen, but so far we’re not seeing that much. I teach in a high-poverty area in a country where the community is predominantly poor African-American and my students already have association with police. They bring in stories about “my cousin” or “my brother” or “my grandmother.” It’s always negative. This doesn’t help. How can I tell my students that the police are there to make them safer when I can’t, in good conscience, tell them that? My fifth graders are old enough to know what’s going on. We’ve talked about it a little bit, and I know that we’ve mentioned that there’s some sort of miscommunication that breeds unfortunate and sometimes tragic instances where people are not seeing eye-to-eye, which has led to some good conversations, but do they feel safer as African-American children about to be teenagers in their community? I don’t know. They probably feel even more insecure in their relationship with police officers than they did before this happened, and they certainly weren’t feeling super positive about them before.

JR: Umm…I don’t know how to segue this back into music. [All laugh]. I was trying to think of what sort of question to lead back, but I was just like “Dude, give up. You’re not going to get a good transition out of this.” So are you guys writing more songs for a full-length or something else?

TH: Yeah, we have written a few more that we’ve written and we’re developing new ideas.

EBH: We have plans to do proper recording in a professional studio too in the near future.

TH: And a full-length or conceptual record.

EBH: I think Holy Circle is being referred to as a “project,” but in my mind it’s not a “project” - it’s a band and we’re in the process of making a recording. We don’t think of it as a side-project alongside what Terence is doing with Locrian, obviously, because that’s not my band. We’ve been talking to people about Holy Circle and they’re surprised that we’ve got multiple songs written, but we didn’t just decide a month ago to go into our basement and record a song. This has been in the works for years now: it’s just that for whatever reason the time began to seem write to push it forward. Like I said before, I’m only interested in writing the songs I want to write and perform. The fact that the response to that so far has been positive is encouraging, but it’s a bit of a selfish act too. I needed this avenue to work through these ideas that I’ve had brewing for several years now - it’s finally starting to move forward.

JR: Do you think you guys would be able to tour? I guess you’re doing the Azar Swan one, but would you be able to do a full U.S. one?

TH: We’ve talked about it. Both of us teach: myself at the university, and I’ve got more free time and vacation time than Erica does, but it’s not out of the question. Obviously, it’s always logistics. Where do we put the two small children in our care?

EBH: And we’d have to make enough money at shows to pay the babysitter [laughs].

TH: We’re open to the possibility, and when opportunities come up like the Azar Swan shows, we try and make it work. We’re going to play some dates with our friends Ars Phoenix who are from Florida in August before Locrian does ten to twelve days on the West Coast. It’s a balance, but since Locrian’s record is going to be out, we need to give it some attention. With Andre and Steven having other obligations, it can be tough. I have a long summer off, though, [laughs] so Holy Circle can have a bit more fun.

EBH: We also don’t want it to be crappy, though, where there’s like two people in a basement that smells like cat urine. I’m pretty picky. That’s the first question I ask Terence when we’re going to play “What is the ratio of cat urine to people at this venue? What is the bathroom situation?” [Terence laughs] The public restrooms at some places where Unlucky Atlas or Locrian played in their early days were pretty disturbing. I’m just too old [Terence: “You’re not too old!”] for putting my hand up against a shower curtain so no one walks in on me when I’m using the restroom anymore. We need to be in a city where we can reasonably find a venue or have friends with a place to stay.

JR: Terence, I know you read a lot because we read a lot of the same stuff, but do you guys have much crossover with what you read and write?

EBH: Yeah, we do. I base a lot of the lyrics on things we read. Well, it’s like 50/50 in terms of personal experiences of myself or women I know and literary women that I find interesting. I draw comparisons between the two. My undergrad degree is in theatre so I find that I’m drawn to dramatic, tragic people with interesting stories. A lot of the lyric-writing I do is very character-based. I approach it the same way that I would approach play-writing. Terence tends to write music and experimental pieces based on ideas that come to him and it’s funny because he’ll play something to me that’s idea-based that he’s had and I’ll start thinking of lyrics, but I won’t share it with him right away. I might think “Oh, that would work with these lyrics I’ve been thinking of.” I’ll discover that we’ve been thinking along the same lines, which might be a symptom of being together for so long. It’s a huge benefit, but it’s funny too. It always surprises me in a good way that something I’ve been thinking of is along the same lines with what Terence has been thinking of.

EBH: One of us will say “this is this,” and we’ll both know what the other one of us was referencing. Like, if we brought in someone else to write a song with us, I think it would be a lot more work. We really do sort of read each other’s minds in that way, which is sort of…convenient.

TH: And I’ll come with ideas too - I might come in with something and Erica will say “That’s more of a Locrian riff.”

EBH: I call him out on that too [laughs]. I’ll let him know if something sounds more like a Locrian song or like a Terence Hannum solo piece.

TH: I don’t even try anymore. She’s always right [laughs].

EBH: We do gravitate towards noisy stuff, but it’s funny how we can distinguish the noise that’s appropriate to what we’re doing as Holy Circle and the noisy that is Locrian. The other thing that happens a lot is we won’t just share literary references, but New Wave references. I’ll tell Terence “That sounds like a Depeche Mode riff” and then we have to ask ourselves whether we can get away with using it [laughs]. There’s so many references we have, but we always step back and ask whether we can use it. “Is this too much Kate Bush?”

JR: There’s never too much Kate Bush.

EBH: [Laughs] But we have to ask whether we’re referencing something or just like blatantly covering something.

TH: I’m sure that when we think of it, it’s more explicit to us than like someone from outside of myself or Erica.

EBH: We have a lot of musical and literary references, but I think it makes us work more efficiently.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Interview with Sharlyn Evertsz

Pop music's ubiquity is often reliant on fitting an ultimately hollow mold. Songs filled with major key Five One chord progressions, engineered to clear that mind and tighten that smile, leave no room for a world or mind in a chaotic state. But why would John Q and Jane Doe invite disorder anyway? People want innocuity and comfort, not mental gymnastics. Life is hard enough when you're told how to feel and what to think - why exacerbate things by turning off autopilot? Well, that's certainly a way to go through life, but is it the most fulfilling one? Most likely not. But, as Judge Smails said in Caddyshack, "World needs ditch diggers too."

A significant joy in noise is breaking from tradition, which is an asymptotic misnomer of sorts - as soon as the first person recorded static, there was a form into which "noise" could be fit - even if you don't lump noise into "music," it unequivocally falls into tradition, like all other categories of music, sound art, or whatever-the-fuck you want to call it - semantics is the faux-intellectual's favorite science, after all. But noise can be conceptual and smart without firmly resting its axis on an argument over meaning and catalog.

That's not to say it isn't still fun as fuck to talk about that shit, though. I met Sharlyn Evertsz at Churchill's while Pedestrian Deposit played, after becoming familiar with her debut cassingle on Chris Donalson's Drugged Conscience label. Sharlyn makes noise, but that's a bit of a sophomoric description. As prominent as distortion and dissonance are in her music, Sharlyn will frequently feature blues vocals or danceable beats. We met up a few days after the Pedestrian Deposit show to talk about noise, what makes music compelling, and her history as a sound artist.

Jordan Reyes: So you started with more singer-songwriter stuff and then moved into more experimental territory?

Sharlyn Evertsz: Yeah, I started making noise five or six years after my singer-songwriter phase. I was living in Kendall, which is somewhat suburban, and eventually gravitated towards Churchill’s, which is where I met Rat. He approached me out of the blue and coached me on singer-songwriter music. At the time, I didn’t realize that noise existed or that Churchill’s had anything like that. I would only come out Wednesdays when it was singer-songwriter night. In 2010, I went to my first INC and was blown away. It was irresistible. I started buying small pieces of gear soon after.

JR: What was your first set up? And how has it changed?

SE: My first set up was with a Korg Monotron, the cheap $50 one, and a Kaossilator. I eventually got a DSI Tempest. I figured that I needed something more reliable. The Tempest is analog, meaning I don’t have the limitation of presets. I needed versatility and a solid platform. I wanted my music to feel genuine and get rid of the “toy-ish” feel from earlier on.

JR: Does having an open-ended instrument help you craft your music?

SE: Totally! Well…I guess it’s music. [Kenichi & I] were discussing this in the car. It lets me have a greater hand in shaping my sounds and gives me more freedom. I can also make things from scratch, which is a plus.

JR: You guys were talking about noise being music? Any definitive answers?

SE: In my opinion, it’s one of the most honest and present forms of sonic expression. It’s timeless too, because it isn’t necessarily attached to genre or preconceived notion. There’s less nostalgia too, unless an artist is trying to mimic someone else, which is rare. It’s all about the now, which makes the act of making or seeing noise fulfilling and satisfying to me. There’s no resistance in my psyche. It’s also not overly emotional, which makes it therapeutic to me. I always come off a performance feeling awesome.

JR: I forget who said this - I’ve read a bunch of books about noise - in one of them, the author was talking about photographing a noise artist’s set up, which I think is kind of fucked up because noise performance can often be a discovery process. You have gear and it can go to shit or it can go really well. Even if it doesn’t work, it’s still a meshing of time, place, and composition. How many power electronics sets have you seen where some pedal doesn’t work? I think part of the joy is seeing things fail. It reminds you that you’re human and that noise is an organic form - it’s not just machinery doing everything.
SE: Ultimately, the performer is the conductor. It’s not about some static, programmed thing. Any time I’ve felt tempted to do something like that, I’ve just said “fuck it.” Literally, as cliche as that is, double middle-finger to that shit, I’m just going to do what comes out.

JR: So what is a good set for you? How do you know if you’ve had a good set?

SE: A good set for me is one experienced with heightened awareness. There’s a connection, an alignment of mind, body, and emotion. You end up having the honesty and courage to take what’s inside you and improvise. Obviously, if you’re experienced, you know the sounds to avoid, which ends up creating a defined aesthetic or desire. For me, a good set is one in which no part of me feels lost. I don’t care who critiques it or what they’re going to say, but for me, the goal is to be one hundred percent present. And, of course, having it be super loud and brutal.

JR: So when you put all of yourself into music, and forgive me if this sounds cheesy, do you think you end up building a relationship with your gear? Do you begin to love it?

SE: Well, not the object itself. It’s an instrument or tool used to access sounds that can satisfy yourself or others. I understand what you mean by building a relationship with your gear, though. For me, the Tempest is the most complex piece of gear I’ve known, and certainly a relationship has been built. I still haven’t learned it completely even after a couple years. It’s beautiful to see that evolution. It’s like “A-ha! You again! Let’s see what I can do this time!”

JR: I think in regards to the trajectory of noise, there’s this false projection that noise is untutored and wild. That’s total bullshit.

SE: That is total bullshit. We were talking about that last night too. I told [Kenichi] that the beautiful thing about noise is that even the most amateur artist can perform. By the same token, there’s also a level of mastery, higher-mindedness, and experience. That’s what I admire in a performance. I’m impressed by consciousness. It’s chaotic, impulsive, and the gear might fail, but a good performer still has a handle on it. There’s a weird balance between chaos and control - it’s taming a wild beast. The best performers aren’t defeated by it - they’re conquering this unyielding force.

JR: I think you’re right. So, how many releases have you had?

SE: I remember having one through Tom Anderson productions, which was on a website. The only physical release I have is the cassingle you wrote up

. I post stuff online frequently. I guess having something on the internet makes it more informal. I have some pending releases I’m working on. It comes down to real life, which isn’t an excuse, but jobs and situations arise and get in the way, and sometimes that deters me. My music project sometimes can’t be my only focus, unfortunately.

JR: Yeah, you gotta pay bills.

SE: I know! I feel like I have to explain myself because it’s been such a long time - I think the tape I put out is from 2013. It feels like ten years ago.

JR: The cassingle was the first thing I bought at Sweat. I came in asking for some noise and Emile was like “Get this.” I was surprised because it was clearly “noise,” but it had R&B elements too.

SE: I’ve always been a fan of the blues, soul vocal. I have a deep appreciation for that display of emotion. As nerdy as this sounds, I love the blues scale. I like the notes and mood - it’s a reflection of an emotion. At the time I made that song, I was feeling that way.

JR: So what are you working on now?

SE: I hate labeling shit, but I think it’s unavoidable. It’s noise - it’s always noise for me - that’s where my heart is, but I’m a fan of incorporating that with beats. I like the gung-ho aspect of noise, but I like order too. Anything that I’m working on is a mix of noise, heavy beats, and vocals. If I’m going to put a name to it, I’d say it’s techno-noise.

JR: So what do you think makes a piece of music compelling?

SE: For me, what makes something compelling in music or performance is the artist’s intent. I’m moved by the degree of intensity in an artist’s presentation - it becomes a genuine reflection of who they are. The artist performs because he or she has to perform. The creation process is one of survival. How much does the artist mean this?

JR: Do you feel you have to create?

SE: I’ve had periods when I’ve felt creatively paralyzed, but yes, I do. That’s a driving force in my life.

JR: Well, that’s all I’ve got. Anything else you’d like to say?

SE: I’m grateful for the artists unafraid to explore new territory, disregard preconceived norms, and express emotion publicly. When I stop seeing people perform, my inspiration goes into a lull or a limbo. I’ll go out and see an awesome performance and be reignited. I feed off artists. Forget me. If I get the chance to perform or do something musically, I’m thankful, but without others, I’m nothing. To me, that’s the importance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Release of the Day: Clotting - Malignant Nation

Malignant Nation, Shea Hardacre's second tape in his power electronics moniker Clotting, is more solidified static discomfort, like being trapped in a burning house. "Malignant" often means infected or virulent, but I think, in regards to what's described, the phrase "fixin' to die" is most apt. Though that adjective sets the tone, the noun is the identifier. The title lends itself to some heavy, pretty widely-acknowledged ugly truths about the reluctantly shattered, so-called United States of America, the word "United" being a bit of a misnomer - structurally perhaps, but ideologically, socio-economically, or even physically (thanks a lot, Alaska), well, not so much.

The tape itself begins with a sample of two men speaking - one explains and directs as the other indignantly, quasi-rebelliously takes it up the ass, so to speak. "Freedom" becomes dangerous. "Happiness" becomes a method of control. And authority becomes total control. It's an excellent foreground to Shea's dissatisfaction and honest dissection of a broken system, which make up the lyrical side of the release. Who dies for whom? For what? When do people become commodities? Does the value of a human life rest only in the security it can give?

There are some seriously fierce sections. Clotting is dissonant by nature, but Shea's subject matter and vocal delivery seal the deal. This shit isn't make believe. It's observant and poignant. It's someone sadly tapping you on the shoulder to shrug, smirk, and say "You're fucked! You're totally fucked!" Thanks, Shea. Look at what you did, you little jerk.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Interview with Snakehole

Lisa Marten-Owens Photography
Back in January, before taking up residence in Miami, I e-mailed ZZ Ramirez from Ukiah Drag asking if he knew what was cool in Miami. Where are the weirdos? What bands should I check out? This was his response: "If you get a chance check out the band Snakehole - they are my favorite down there and the coolest girls in total Miami style. Go to gigs at Churchills. If you hang around long enough the weird will come to you." This was eerily accurate. My hat's off to you, Mr. Ramirez.

Snakehole welds the dirge of a witch's funeral with the noise-enriched-snot-rocketry of a band like Flipper. The two women behind the project, Autumn Casey and KC Toimil, are, for all intents and purposes, symbiotic, which shows in their performances: their sets are as inspiring as they are mesmerizing. Like many duos reliant on eye contact and body language, Snakehole transitions through sets with little verbal communication strangely seamlessly, reason enough to see the band. But the band also writes really fucking good songs with really fucking good riffs - the kind of mental residents that buy a La-Z boy, and don't care about knocking over the flowers when they put up their feet.

They've got an upcoming 12" in the works with one of my favorite contemporary labels Wharf Cat Records. I believe their self-titled EP is out of print, but you can still order their tape on Kill/Hurt.

Jordan Reyes: Let’s talk first off about the light-up mirror that you use to perform. What’s the deal with it?

Autumn Casey: I got that mirror from a former stripper that is in the Keys. KC has a house down there. We’re thinking about making our performances weirder, where we weave in other elements. The mirror seemed creepy, I guess. It’s supposed to be played in tandem with the piano. We can’t obviously bring this (points to large piano set up) with us.

KC Toimil: I recorded Autumn playing it on my tape player, which I press before we start. I put in some echo too - it sounds really cool.

AC: It’s fitting too because it has this glowing circle of light. I was thinking of Snakehole in conjunction with this menacing look in the mirror. We had just got capes too that our friend Kyle made for us.

KCT: Kyle is also the devil in our music video.

JR: I haven’t seen that video yet.

AC: You should see it. Kyle painted himself to look exactly like the devil. The music video has us practicing. Then Kyle as the devil paddles up on a surfboard, and comes in. KC is the only one who doesn’t trust him so he chases her around with a flyswatter, but we all become friends.

KCT: We tried to make it like a bad dream.

JR: You guys have something you’re doing for Wharf Cat right? Is that happening now? Are you guys writing it?

KCT: Yeah, we were working out a song today. We’re almost done.

AC: We just need to do our last song - we worked it out to do a pretty long noise jam. We were talking to Trip and he said if we got it to twenty minutes, we could do a 12” at 45 rpm, which will be super loud and heavy. We’re going to record it next week. We’ve been taking our time since he first approached us because we went on tour, which is a hard time to sit down, write music, and pay your bills.

JR: It’s hard to pay bills without music in the mix! You guys seem to play out every week or every two weeks?

KCT: Yeah, April was weird. I don’t know how that happened. We don’t want to play any this month. We play Churchill’s a lot in general, though.

JR: That place is awesome. I heard someone call it the CBGB’s of the South.

AC: It’s pretty much a historical landmark at this point, but it makes no sense. It’s a British pub in the heart of Little Haiti.

KCT: One of the comedians I saw there recently brought that up. “What the fuck is up with the name Churchill’s? Winston Churchill probably had no idea that Miami existed.”

AC: The former owner, Dave, was from England. I worked there for like six years or something crazy when I first moved to Miami - it was like the second job I got and then I just never left.

JR: You still work there?

AC: No, I eventually had to quit - it became too much of a love-hate relationship. For a while, it was like the Wild West. It wasn’t the healthiest situation. It becomes a little black hole-ish if you’re there six days a week. When I wasn’t working, I was going to play, or see bands. But I love the place.

KCT: Yeah, I’m in a similar place.

JR: You work there?

KCT: Sort of. I do sound sometimes. I’m earning my stripes - it’s been an interesting beginning.

AC: And people are sexist - they’ll be like “I don’t want a female sound person.”

KCT: I often get “so you’re the sound man?”

JR: I feel like in Chicago there were way less women performers than here. I don’t know.

AC: I’ve noticed that too.

KCT: It probably has to do with Miami being such a whirlwind of a place. People are just like “Well, if everyone’s so crazy, I’m just going to do my shit too,” but still people say stupid, sexist things.

JR: When you guys tour, you were saying that you guys do the noise circuit. How’d you get looped into that?

KCT & AC in unision: Rat.

AC: He was like “You want to go on tour?” and we said sure, but the only shows he’s going to book are noise shows with people he knows. Usually when he goes to a city, he already knows where he’s going and who he’s going to play with.

KCT: I was supposed to go on tour with him doing my solo noise project, but then I just said fuck it, let’s do Snakehole instead.

JR: So do you guys play the same kind of set that I’ve seen here?

KCT: Yeah, but we’ll mix in different songs every once in a while.

AC: The first time I went on tour was with Scraping Teeth, which was Rat, and Gavin and Betty from Holly Hunt. It was improvised noise rock every night. When I went with Rat a second time, I played noise guitar with him. Then we went as Snakehole with Rat in December and Sylvia Castel.

JR: What kind of music is she?

AC: She’s electronic from Italy.

KCT: She does a lot of sampling and looping. She’ll say something, sample and loop it, bring out a kazoo, loop that. She also does a lot of sexy dancing.

AC: She’s definitely a babe. This time we went to Austin we played as Snakehole, but we also squelched with Rat afterwards.

KCT: I fucked up my finger squelching.

JR: What do you mean squelching?

AC: It’s what you call it when you play with Rat. He goes by “Laundryroom Squelchers.” Sometimes it’s that and sometimes it’s “Rat Bastard.” Squelching is just like throwing things at the audience, running around, rolling on the floor, literally doing whatever you want. You could just stand there if you wanted to.

KCT: When I started squelching, I just lifted up my floor tom and started yelling in it. The less you think, the better.

JR: So Snakehole was originally a three-piece? How has the lineup changed?

KCT: Well, our bassist became a mom, so we understand. We miss her, but we can’t stop Snakehole. 

AC: She couldn’t go on tour with us, so we had our friend Bootsie [Castillo] fill in for the first tour. Bootsie couldn’t go this tour so we just did it ourselves. We have ambition and have to keep going, but it’s hard to find someone that can run alongside. For us, we just want to practice too, which is easier since we live together.

KCT: There’s been times where I’ll come home, it’s three in the morning, and I'll knock on Autumn’s door and just be like “let’s practice.” We try to play together every day.

AC: We’ve started to get psychically connected. She’ll throw a drumstick and I’ll pick it up and throw it back at her without stopping.

KCT: We can only pull that off when we’re here, though. (laughs).

AC: It’s like when you have sex with somebody a lot. The more you do it, the better you get. It becomes more natural.

KCT: Every time I play music, I feel like I’m orgasming or something. It’s definitely like fucking at times. I guess that means I’ve fucked a lot of people…musically.

JR: Yeah…um…(laughs)…I guess I’m not that prolific of a fuck, then? I've only jammed with people a couple times. I've never been able to get things focused since I was traveling for my last job and here I’ve just been working a lot of hours. The one good thing about running a blog is that you can sort of do it anywhere as long as you have something to record, and you're not reliant on people. So you guys also have a bunch of tapes?

AC: Yes, but we have two that are distributed by a label.

KCT: The first one was with Kill/Hurt and there was one we didn’t put out - we just recorded it with Rat, but never did anything. This third one we recorded with Jesus and we put it out with No Work Records. Then we just have weird shit that we recorded on my tape player that we'll put out for just like a show.

AC: We also recorded a demo to send to Trip just being like “Hey, this is kind of what it’s going to sound like. Are you still interested?” And he was like “Hell yeah!” We only made six of those so we put our demo on six tapes and we took those when we went to Austin and just gave them away to six lucky people (laughs).

KCT: Yeah.

JR: Did you guys play Suxby?

AC: Yeah, we played with Rat that night, not as Snakehole, but we played a house show on a porch that was about to get demolished because of the whole gentrification process.

JR: Yeah I just interviewed this woman who used to live there who moved to Providence, RI and she wanted to move back to Austin but couldn’t because it had gentrified so much - she couldn’t afford it. Also, she said there was nowhere she’d want to live.

AC: It’s a natural constant cycle. The festival started there and it used to be awesome and then the greedy music industry comes in to take down the scene that made it.

JR: So did you guys play the actual South by Southwest part of it?

KCT: Just that house show, but Rat wanted to go check out some stuff he said was “classic shit.” So we had to go see it.

AC: When you go to Southby you can buy tickets, but you can also just be in Austin and not pay for anything and see what you want. You walk around and can probably see any band you want at least once or twice.

KCT: We also went to New Orleans and played there, which was so cool. It was my first time and it was fun.

JR: I haven’t been there. I actually haven't been to many places in the South - I haven’t been to Texas, Alabama, or Louisiana.

AC: Have you been to Gainesville?

JR: No I have not.

AC: Gainesville’s pretty cool. Our friends have a space there called “A Space,” which just started this past year but now they have to move. It’s like every time a space pops up, it’s usually got about a year.

JR: Are there many DIY spaces in Miami?

AC: Last year I was doing running one called “Space Mountain.” We were doing art and music shows there, but it only lasted about a year. We do some shows here [at their house]. We’re going to start doing a little more, but it’s rough. People come over and trash the place and then leave. Then we’re left cleaning the mess. It's weird too because you don’t want to charge money - it’s your house. You want to just be like “Yeah! Cool! Freedom! Shows! Love!” but then people come over and fuck shit up to be rowdy.

JR: Well, it means a lot that you guys let me over - your place is really cool. So you guys do everything in this [music] room? Demos and stuff?

AC: Well, we record for ourselves here on our cellphones, but we usually just go to Rat’s house on the beach. He’s got a studio in his house. You should come over some time.

KCT: We jam there a lot.

AC: Rat let us stay in his house for two weeks last time he went out of town. It was like heaven. His apartment is insane. It’s like every square inch has a musical instrument or music memorabilia and it’s a one bedroom apartment.

JR: So who does the lyrics?

AC: We’ve become more of a joint effort now, which is cool. In the past it was just me, but now since the energies have shifted to the two of us, it’s become a more direct conversation.

KCT: It’s like when you jam and have two instruments - they’re talking to each other. I try not to think about it too much - my lyrics are really short because that’s just my preferred musical communication.

AC: I’ll write what I want to sing and she’ll write what she wants to sing basically. It’s not like “I came up with this part for you.” When we’re singing at the same time then we’ll do it more together.

JR: I didn’t really even think about it like that. Like telling someone else what to say.

AC: You’ll hear bands say “the drummer wrote this song” and like, why doesn’t the drummer sing it then? I feel like you connect more to what you’re singing if it came from your own heart or mind.

KCT: Sometimes when I play music people will tell me “Do this” and like, I’m not just a human metronome. The other day I made a rhythm in my head and I played it to Autumn just to see what she would do. I can’t wait to record it.

JR: That would be for the Wharf Cat record?

KCT: Yeah. At the same time, if we don’t see each other for a couple days since we’re so busy and on our own, when we do see each other, we’ll get together and be inspired by each other.

AC: Everything’s one montage. The newer stuff is getting so weird, structurally, and with the beats. It sounds like it’s from Egypt or something.

JR: You guys have gotten progressively heavier, right?

AC: In the very beginning, it was more pop-punk or surfy. Then we took a hiatus, which is when we all three went through some shit. Julie had a baby and we both had some pretty terrible relationships. The darkness definitely started to take over a bit. Since Julie left, we’ve had less structure without a bass player.

KCT: It was like being in Nirvana if the band had broken up but Kurt Cobain was alive when we weren’t playing and all I could think was “I’m an asshole!” (laughs). This should be happening! Nirvana's inspiring. They’re so cool and heartfelt. That’s why I thought of that. It was like if Dave Grohl had Kurt Cobain here right now, what would he be doing, huh? (laughs)

Interview with Andrew Flores of Jock Club

Chicago starts to get cold in October - sometimes even September. The trees magically drop their leaves, car accidents become more commonplace, and people who once left their apartments hesitate before making a decision. For a city that's often described as the biggest small town in the United States, Chicago can also be intimidating: even the most chipper person begins to look slightly haggard and hunched as the wind and cold take their tolls. But the winter also provides a common enemy, allowing for some overdramatized "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" opportunities.

One such moment was in the basement of the Babylawn in late November in the Year Of Our Lord 2014 when members of the Ascetic House crew, Jock Club, Gila Man, Encapsulate, and Memorymannn, rolled through to remind us frozen midwesterners what it was like to dance. Though each act makes electronic music of some form, Jock Club's was perhaps most appropriate for the setting - after all, Chicago has some history of House Music. Jock Club has less Kraftwerk elements than the early house pioneers. It is, however, one hundred percent as danceable as anything Frankie Knuckles or Jamie Principle were doing back in the day.

Last year, Jock Club just released his first piece of wax called After Hours on 540 Records, though he has roughly a dozen or so releases on tape and CD-R. They're all worth hearing. He's got more planned down the pipe, but I'll let him take over from here.

Jordan Reyes: I read the interview you did for Noisey back in December and I remember you saying you had studied classical and jazz music in school. I don't hear too many cats saying they studied music in the DIY circuit. Do you think it's been important to you? Are you happy to have studied it?

Andrew Flores: Yeah! I think it was immensely important to my musical evolution. Jazz music is really all about the study of improvisation; creating something meaningful out of complete nothingness. That is a very valuable thing. The art of thinking on your feet. I also observed the hive-mind relationship between myself and other musicians. Rhythmic communication through sounds. I apply this to my everyday life; very important to me in producing Jock Club music or DJ’ing.

JR: Destruction Unit and Jock Club are pretty different entities, but do you think that the drumming that you do for DU informs your music as Jock Club?

AF: Definitely 100% without a doubt. Rhythm is everything for me. House / Techno music is really all about the drums; if club music doesn't groove in a certain way, I almost want nothing to do with it.

JR: You’ve been making music as Jock Club for a few years now. Has the equipment you use to make music changed at all since you begun?

AF: In those few years, I've grown and evolved as a person. I can say no one ever stays the same. Music especially is always changing so yeah the equipment I've used has changed along with my style. 

JR: What about the method? Is there anything you do to get into the headspace of making new music now that you've gotten more comfortable with it?

AF: Now more than ever I've been finding new methods to create music with. I really enjoy the idea of taking a sound from an unconventional source; creating a sculpture out of sounds from all over the place. And I don't ever set out to make "the best track ever" I'm trying to document every part of my life. Through music, you can create a timeline of life events, interests, and struggles. I try to stay true to my interests, I like music to have that raw, unmastered, damaged, 'out-the-bedroom' kind of vibe.

JR: You got to release your first Jock Club record on wax last year - the stellar "After Hours" 12" on 540 - why did you decide to put it out on vinyl rather than a tape or CD-R?

AF: I really like putting out tapes and CDs because it is super low profile and easy to produce. Some of my finest moments are on cassette. But as a lover of House and Techno I've always wanted to put out some tracks on vinyl. For the past few years i've been friends with Timmy from 540 in Austin and when he reached out and wanted to put something out, I was like "Hell yeah, lets do it!" I was also pretty intrigued in the fact that I would be releasing a record on a predominantly punk label

JR: I got to catch you on the tour with Memoryman, Gila Man, and Encapsulate in Chicago last year. How was that? Do you have any plans for another Jock Club tour any time soon?

AF: That tour was dope, we played in a some cities i've never been before and in a bunch of different settings: clubs, venues, warehouse space, art galleries and basements. I love touring with Ascetic House acts, and hope to do it again soon.

JR: In my limited experience, I feel like a lot of the crowd that comes out to a Jock Club show might come from a more punk-oriented background. I certainly wanted to check out more house music after seeing you. What's it like playing to a crowd like that? Do you ever think of the expectations and how you might be opening people up to new music?

AF: It has been a complete blessing to be able to bring music to people that maybe haven't heard it before. That is a beautiful thing. We are at a point now where musical boundaries are being knocked down, and everyone is enjoying each others tastes. The last few years has been the grand melding of genres. There is a very large community of people that work on all opposite ends of the spectrum (ex. Punk, Harsh Noise, Techno / House, Experimental) Without this community support, I don't know where I would be today.

JR: For someone like me, a house music novice, who would you recommend for getting your feet wet in the genre?

AF: I get frequently asked this question. The way I see it and explain to others is to focus on the label instead of focusing on the individual artists. When I think of "the essential" labels i think of Strictly Rhythm, Nice n' Ripe, Dancemania, and Henry Street. But overall, the 3 labels that dominate my music tastes are:

-Music is Love records
-Slapfunk records
-My Love is Underground records

JR: I know you're also heavily involved with Ascetic House. What can you say about what's coming up from that camp? Anything we should be on the lookout for?

AF: A full scale interstellar takeover is in the works. I'm not legally obligated to disclose any information

JR: What all is in the future for Andrew Flores and Jock Club?

AF: Some more traveling. New music coming soon

-5/13 - Output NYC - Panther Room 
-6/07 - Threshold AZ (w/ Shifted, Silent Servant, Deep Pill)
-6/21 - Suoni Per Popolo II Fest - Montreal, QC - Secret Location 
-8/14 - Beserktown Fest - Los Angeles

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

AF: Thanks for your time