Sunday, June 17, 2007

this expectation never surrenders, pretenders

I got to sit down with some of the guys from The Dear And Departed before their record release show at Chain Reaction in Anaheim. Take a few minutes to read this interview and see what these Australians and Brits have to say about friendship, passion, and drive.

PPJ: First, can you tell us your names and what you guys do in the band?

Dan Under: I'm Dan, and I sing.

David Williams: I'm David and I play bass.

Darren Parkinson: I'm Darren and I play guitar.

PPJ: What were your favorite bands when you were growing up?

Dan: Favorite bands growing up, that is a good one, because I think you go through different things in your life, and some bands tend to stick with you more than others, you know? I was lucky to have my dad expose me to some really great bands really early on. I was born in England, so it was a lot of English bands like The Jam and The Buzzcocks, Style Council, you know, stuff like that. He was always constantly playing The Beatles and stuff like that growing up. So a lot of that stuff was kind of subconsciously burned into my memory.

Darren: I'm still changing all the bands I'm listening to all the time. My mom played The Beatles all the time growing up, so that was probably the earliest band I ever heard. And Madness, also, and the Ramones and stuff like that. Anything from like that to Oasis to U2 and Morrissey, stuff like that.

Dan: I think when you get older you kind of, you know, everybody goes through phases; different bands. We kind of got into electronica and stuff as well and you know, it kind of took over the world for a split second. And then, you know, you maybe kind of go through some hard times in life and get into some softer stuff, and then you'll go the other way, you know?

Darren: There's ones that stick with you for years, and those are the truly great bands. Like the Beatles probably stopped playing before I was born, and they're still legendary. Bands like that.

Dan: David?!

David: My favorite bands growing up were bands like Eurythmics, and I listened to a lot of David Bowie...

Darren: Yeah, oh yeah, good one.

David: Yeah, he's one of my favorites, thanks to my mom as well. But yeah, teenage years and stuff...Nine Inch Nails and stuff like that.

PPJ: Can you tell us a little about recording your new album and what went into that?

Darren: That was a great time, and it was really stressful at some times too, but it was great. I'd never recorded a full album before, and to see it all come together was really cool. We had a great producer, Chris Vrenna, who worked with us, and Jade from AFI worked with us too. We just had a great team of guys with it. The whole process was really cool, seeing all the songs come together in the studio.

Dan: Yeah, we really couldn't have asked for anything better, you know? We got to work with musicians who are not only well-respected by other people but by us as well, and being total fans of someone's music and to have that much respect and then to have them work with you is pretty amazing. So, personally I though it was great. I loved the stresses of it, I loved the frustrations because it seemed like everything we were frustrated about led to something else that was maybe cooler or that we didn't expect we were gonna discover.

David: It was smashing.

PPJ: Did you do anything differently recording this CD than you did on your previous recordings?

Dan: Yeah, the songs we first recorded were just rushed and just basically hectic and we got them done as soon as we could. We just did them and got them out. So we had...hey, that guy's shirt says "I love nothing." That's awesome.

Darren: That's sweet! [laughs]

Dan: Um, yeah, we had a lot of time to write. You know with recording it's always money and time and there's always these restraints. Not that we had an insane amount of money or anything, but we didn't really have those restraints. We were well-prepared and I think everyone's personalities really came out and we kind of knuckled down and got on the job pretty much as soon as we got into it, so everything went really smoothly. We were able to just be creative and actually get the job done at the same time.

PPJ: What was it like to move from Australia and New Zealand to the States?

Dan: Well, have you got a spare couple of days? [laughs] Well, it is majorly different. It's majorly different there. A couple of these guys are from the UK as well, so I think between all of us we've experienced every difference there is to experience from where we grew up to where we currently live. But you know, I think it always comes down to the people you're hanging around with, and the people who are there for you and your friends that make any situation better. And no matter what happens, I think, if you have good people around you then you'll always get through the toughest of situations, which, unfortunately, we have seen a few of in our lives.

Darren: It's bigger over here.

Dan: Yeah, the main difference is that obviously it's bigger. Traffic.

David: Yeah.

Dan: Where I grew up there's no freeways, basically, so you don't have to leave your house, you know, a week prior to getting somewhere. You know, if you have an appointment, say, here in L.A., you have to dedicate the whole day to it rather than just nipping down to the post office.

Darren: In England, I could walk to everyone I know's house, and I have to drive everywhere here. Everywhere. That's so weird.

David: I don't have a car.

Darren: He doesn't know how to drive. [laughs]

David: So yeah, I'm 20 years old...

Darren: 21!

David: Oh, that's right, I'm 21 actually.

Dan & Darren: [laughs]

David: And for someone 21 years of age out here, not being able to drive is incredibly weird, and back home it's really not a big deal. So it's definitely strange. There are three sheep to every one person where I'm from.

Dan: [laughs] And me. Maybe more, actually.

Darren: I love sheep.

Dan: Big on wool. Dear & Departed, big on wool, big on bricks. [laughs]

PPJ: How did you guys get hooked up with some of the big name bands like AFI?

Dan: Well, just through meeting them, really. You know, they're just amazing people and we were lucky enough to meet them, and it's just kind of how every basic kind of friendship blossoms. I met Dave at a Bauhaus reunion at the Glasshouse in Pomona about two, two and half years ago. We were actually just demoing some songs at that time in L.A., and he was recording Decemberunderground there, and I needed a lift to L.A. and he had a car and he offered me a lift, and we got lost and we ended up driving around for about two hours just talking like complete girls. We do that often. [laughs] And yeah, we just became the best of friends. They asked me to sing on the record, which was a dream come true for me. I think it's just the best feeling when people that you really respect turn out to be amazing people too. I know there's a lot of stories where people have met people that they really look up to and been completely disappointed. So yeah, pretty simple story, just friendship, you know?

Darren: We were all fans of that band before we even knew them. It's kind of crazy, becoming friends with a band you really really respect and really like. They've been awesome about it all.

PPJ: So I've heard you guys have shoes that were designed by Nike?

Darren: Just one pair.

Dan: Yeah, it was just a pair. Nike have been really awesome to us, and they have this really cool laser machine, laser etching machine, and we had our video coming up and they were like, "Hey, let's make a pair of shoes for you." So we kind of watched it in front of our very eyes how they do it. They put our logo and our name and stuff on a pair of shoes, and you can see Simon wearing them, I think, in our video for "Tonight's The Night," which should be out by the time this gets...

Darren: Whatever you do to it.

Dan: Yeah, aired or written or whatever...

PPJ: Posted?

Darren: Yeah, posted, or thrown in the trash, whatever. [laughs]

PPJ: What drives you to keep making music?

Darren: Some bands out these days that aren't really doing anything special, and just makes me want to take the reins, you know? Try and do something original and honest. I think music needs that right now. We're doing something different to a lot of things. Music, that's all I've wanted to do since I was a kid. Before I could even play guitar I just wanted to play in a band. I think that we all just share the same passion of wanting to do really great music and wanting to tour, and to be out there and doing it.

Dan: Yeah, it's just life for me. I don't really know any other way, you know? A wise man said a long time ago, "Sing your life," and that's kind of what I've been doing. It's all a journey, you know? It's a bumpy road, and I think if you can get out some of your frustrations or just release what's inside you, be it happiness or misery, it's the thing to do. I don't know any other way.

David: I think it's just the only way that I can communicate. I'm not very good at communicating with people.

Darren: As you can tell. [laughs]

PPJ: What do you guys do when you're on the road to keep your live show fresh?

Dan: I think if the music is honest, it kind of can't really ever stop being fresh. You know what I mean? I'm sure there's plenty of that get up there and say, okay, this is the 400th time I've played this song and we have to do it, and that's part of it, but I just think that if you're doing it for the right reasons every show that you play should be a release of the feelings of that song. If your heart's in it, it's definitely fresh.

Darren: I don't personally think, like, oh, I've gotta to this right now on stage, you just kind of do it. The song brings it out of you.

Dan: We're not really a choreographed band.

Darren: Exactly. We don't need to be doing silly guitar spins or anything like that, you know? We just do what we do. Like, dance with the music. If it's a good song, it'll take over you anyways.

PPJ: You guys are on a lot of Warped Tour this year, are you excited for that?

Dan: Yeah, definitely.

Darren: It's going to be good. It's going to be really hard, but to play on that tour is definitely a big deal. It's exciting to get out there.

Dan: Yeah, it's definitely the opposite to most of our personalities. None of us are beachgoers, none of us like to lay out and get a suntan. Most of us being from the UK and England, we have very fair skin, so that means we turn into a beetroot within a matter of minutes, so we're going to have to stock up on the sunblock, I think.

Darren: Yeah. But it'll be good. There's a lot of really good bigger bands that I want to watch. So playing on that tour is definitely...a lot of people want to do that tour, and we're lucky enough to get on that, definitely. It's gonna be a good time.

David: We get to go to a lot of new places.

Dan: Yeah. Canada.

Darren: Yeah, I'm excited for the Canada on that tour.

Dan: Yeah, I think that's what a lot of people forget. You're kind of in and out of a new place every day, but at least you're in and out of a new place.

Darren: Even if it's only a parking lot, it's still something new.

PPJ: What are your favorite parts of the new album, and your least favorite parts?

Dan: I actually really don't think I have a least favorite part.

Darren: Yeah, it's good.

Dan: I love the diversity of the whole thing, and I think that's what I've always respected about the great bands. Like The Cure example, they can fulfill exactly what you're looking for when you're completely miserable, and they can do exactly the same when you're on top of the world. I think diversity in music is a key. I like to think that our music has that too. We have the hits, the rockin' hits, and then we kind of have the more reserved songs.

Darren: Yeah. I don't have a least favorite thing. I think if we didn't really like something we wouldn't have put it on the record. There's a few songs we did with some guest vocalists, and that was awesome. We did a song with Dallas Green from Alexisonfire, and Jessica from The Veronicas did "Under The Milky Way" with us, that's a cover song, and both those turned out amazing. Those are probably some of my favorite things about the album, but I really like all of it. I like what we did. I like what Dan said, the diversity of it. It's great, there's a little something for everyone.

David: Yeah, I don't think there's anything to dislike, really. I just like the whole thing. You can't really pick it apart because each song is individual. I think that each song has its own personality, and if it didn't have a personality it wouldn't be on the record. It's hard to answer that question.

PPJ: Alright, my last question is: what are three bands you think everyone should be listening to?

Dan: One each? Or three each?

PPJ: However you want to do it.

Dan: Let's do three each. You go first, Darren.

Darren: I'll try and do a couple new ones that I'm really into. I like this band called Silversun Pickups, they've been around lately and they're really cool. Alexisonfire, from Canada, good friends, I think everyone should listen to them. And I think everyone should listen to Oasis. For obvious reasons, you know? They're legendary. I think that's one band that everyone's probably listened to in their whole life and liked at some point at least one of their songs. So yeah, those are my three.

David: Dan, you go. I can't think of any bands I like.

Dan: You can't think of any bands you like?

Darren: Even old bands? You just named a couple earlier.

David: Oh, yeah, okay. Um, The Beatles. Yeah, The Beatles. You know, Uncle Paul. And probably Ultravox.

Darren: Who?

David: Ultravox. Vienna?

Darren: I don't think I've ever heard of them.

Dan: My three bands would be, one, Attack In Black, from Canada.

Darren: Oh, yup.

Dan: And...I don't know. It depends on what kind of a mood you're in, you know? Doesn't it?

Darren: We could list ten each, actually.

Dan: I think...that guy has got a Michael Bolton shirt on. [points through window] Time, love, and tenderness.

David: Oh, that should have been one of mine!

Dan: Michael Bolton is not one of mine.

Darren: It's one of David's apparently.

Dan: Um, I think Attack In Black, I think City And Colour, I think if I'm saying an old band just for the sake of it, probably, I mean without being stereotypical, probably The Smiths. If anyone can take away half of what I've taken away from a band like The Smiths or Morrissey, then that's a lot, and it's a lot more than a lot of other bands have ever given out, I think. Bands back then actually seemed like they were standing for something that just couldn't be stood for these days. It was going against society and what society was kind of throwing at them. It seems nowadays that society is just kind of totally turned around. You know, it's in every mall and it's all over the TV. You're not deemed cool unless you have this or that. My dad first gave me The Smiths' Meat Is Murder when I was a wee, wee lad and some of that stuff just stuck with me forever. So yeah, those are my three.

Darren: There's a lot of good music in Canada, as you can tell.

PPJ: Alright, well that's all I have. Thank you very much.

Dan Thank you very much for your time.

Darren: Yeah, good questions, thank you.

Thanks again to Dan, Darren, and David for taking the time to answer these questions for me, and thanks to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media for putting things together.

Make sure you pick up The Dear & Departed's new LP, Something Quite Peculiar, and catch them on the Hurley stage on Warped Tour from June 29th through July 28th.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I wanna sleep right through the summer.

Artist: Kleveland
Album: Kleveland
Label: Unsigned
Release Date: 2006

A lot of female-fronted punk these days is highly polished and glamorized, monopolized by bands like The Sounds. Not Kleveland. This Oregon-based band is raw, dirty, and straight up punk, and it's wonderfully refreshing.

Singer Stephanie Smith has a voice reminiscent of Sahara Hotnights' Maria Andersson, while the style of the music is much more like '80s punk - The Clash, Sex Pistols, etc. Add the attitude of The Donnas, and you've got Kleveland.

Starting off with the driving "Jonny Is A Klepto," (Ramones much?) the album easily hooks in anyone with a passing interest in punk. This song sets the precedent for the rest of the album: fast songs overlaid with energetic vocals from Smith. There is some background harmonizing, but for the most part, Smith powers through the songs on her own. While the production leaves a lot ot be desired, particularly on the drums, the songs themselves are rough enough to let that slide.

Songs like "ESP" and "Sleep At Night" will get fans out of their seats and dancing in no time. There are also a number of slightly slower songs, like "Cursed" and "King Of The Drama Queens," but even these songs are nowhere near ballads, and all are worthy of a shake of the hips. The album's final track, "No Heart, Go Heart" is the closest to a ballad, bordering on pop-rock rather than punk. While the music isn't as fun to listen to in this slowed format, Smith's voice is stellar on this track and makes it an enjoyable closer.

A lot of the tracks in the middle of the album tend to blend together due to the lack of a great number of hooks. However, upon further inspection, each song has its own personality and intrigue.

Kleveland would have done really well in the early '90s, as their influences clearly draw on bands like Cheap Trick and The Pretenders. While this makes me like them a lot, it also worries me that people might write them off as a bit of a throwback band. While Kleveland isn't doing anything groundbreaking, they're still making good organic punk rock. And what's not to love about that?

01. Jonny Is A Klepto *
02. Summer Fun
03. ESP
04. King Of The Drama Queens
05. I Got A Date *
06. Room In Your Name
07. Flat Tax
08. Cursed
09. Pills
10. Be Prepared To Stop
11. If Your Friends
12. Sleep At Night
13. No Heart, Go Heart *

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Blondie, The Donnas, Hole.

website | myspace

Monday, June 11, 2007

where is my death?

Artist: We Are Standard
Album: 3.000V-40.000W
Label: Minty Fresh
Release Date: 7.10.07

What's in a name, really? To people like my mom, a name is everything. She always wants to know why bands name themselves what they do, while I tend to never give band monikers a second thought. It's just a memorable handle for a group of people, right? Well, in the case of We Are Standard, their name sets the precedent for what we should expect.

Their name is extraordinarily similar to that of We Are Scientists, and they sound quite a bit like that band as well. Only more...well...standard. The beats aren't as catchy, the vocals not as smooth, and the lyrics not as good.

Actually, the guitar riff at the beginning of the first track, "On The Floor," sounds promising, as do the funny electro beats. But as soon as their singer begins to growl the lines "I got to know you in college / when the shops were all closed down / I thought I'd never meet you / but you found me one more time", it kind of goes downhill from there.

The sparse drumming on "Pressure" does little to alleviate the predictable dance beats. The singer begins to sound more like he belongs in a mid-'70s punk band rather than a trendy dance rock band. Unfortunately, the addition of backup vocals make his voice grate even more.

"Supermarket" is one of the most excruciating songs on the record - with its overly extended instrumental intro and painfully slow vocal cadence. Not to mention that it's a song about a rape in a supermarket. Yes, that's right - rape in the supermarket.

I always wanted to be his girl / Dry his tears and share my bed / But this is what he's done / I hate this supermarket / I fucking hate this supermarket

There is also a song that is inexplicably sung in German ("Frank"), even though the band is from Spain.

I really tried hard to find something about this band that I liked. Perhaps they had some innovative backing tracks? No. Impressive vocal gymnastics? No. Interesting lyrics? No. Actually, come to think of it, perhaps "We Are Standard" is actually too high a compliment.

01. On The Floor
02. Pressure
03. The Happy Song
04. Love Train
05. I Love You
06. Txusma Remix
07. Supermarket
08. Hippie
09. Frank
10. The Pill Song (Wowee)
11. Jam 256# (Belive In Yourself)

* - standout tracks

For fans of: The Bravery, the new Killers album, nails on chalkboard.

website | myspace

Sunday, June 10, 2007

6/10/07 recs

The Years Gone By.
Straight up pop-punk with obligatory gang choral bits and super catchy hooks - somewhere between Blink-182 and All Time Low.

Steve Moakler.
Acoustic pop that's just screaming to be signed. Reminiscent of Dave Melillo, Damien Rice, and early Dashboard Confessional. Just generally pretty songs. He's got a new track posted on his profile now.

Flight 409.
Very energetic piano rock, and their singer's voice sounds a lot like Andrew McMahon. Don't write them off as SoCo clones though, because they're a little more punk than that.

Don't forget to buy The Morning Light's EP, The Sounds Of Love, here!

Friday, June 8, 2007

every year you took in stride, to be carried away by city trucks.

Artist: Paper Route
Album: Paper Route EP
Label: Drama Club Records
Release Date: 8.29.06

Every once in awhile, you hear a band who sounds like they're trying to transport you to an alternate level or universe through their songs. Paper Route is kind of like that.

Their songs are of the slow, meandering variety, with gentle vocals and just the lightest electronic details. Most electronica bands I've heard tend to be very weak on slow tracks, but that is exactly where Paper Route excels. They know exactly where to add keys, when to bring in backup vocals, and how to match melody with machine.

When discussing his band, singer Chad Howat talks about how he wrote these tunes during bouts of insomnia. It's clearly no wonder that all his songs have such a dreamlike feel.

"Second Chances," the EP's first track, begins with a piano intro and melts gracefully into the vocal harmonization of Howat and his bandmates, JT Daly and Andy Smith. However, when Daly and Smith fade away, Howat can effortlessly hold the floor on his own. Kate York provides further backup vocals that push this song to beautiful atmospheric heights, which more than makes up for the slightly jarring drum track.

The first song flows into the next, "Tearing The House Down." This song has the faintest of country twang under the electronic layers, and the lyrics cover much darker territory than the opening track.

There's a place that burns for something else / I'll tear this house apart / It's not that hard / I'll keep on looking in / Look at me / a knock on the door / I'll always come running / Look at you / you call this a home / I'd rather be dying

"Only Words" mixes the piano of the first track and the country of the second with the addition of a harmonica. The chorale-like background vocals add an angelic touch to the song. "City Trucks" is much more guitar based than the other songs on the EP, and that actually works out very well. This song might even get you nodding your head or tapping your toes to the beat.

The next song, "Cityscape," is seemingly trying to make up for the lack of electronics in "City Trucks" with an extended programmed intro and long instrumental breaks between verses. While the mood the song creates is nice, I think I actually prefer the former song. However, "Cityscape" leads nicely into the EP's closer, "Let You Down." The longest track on the album, it really blends beats and guitars nicely, with Howat pushing to the top of his vocal range.

Paper Route's EP is filled with elegant programming and thoughtful lyrics. The music is soothing, but won't put you directly to sleep. Rather, everything plays out with kind of a slow burn, gently creating more and more sweeping songs. If these songs really were borne out of insomnia, I sort of hope that Howat continues to have a few more restless nights.

01. Second Chances
02. Tearing The House Down *
03. Only Words
04. City Trucks *
05. Cityscape
06. Let You Down *

* - standout track

For fans of: The Postal Service, Sleeping At Last, Lórien.

myspace | purevolume

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

kosher, yet revealing.

I got hooked up with the chance to ask a few questions of Moneen's Kenny Bridges. Moneen is pretty much one of my favorite bands, and I thought The Red Tree was one of the best albums of last year. Needless to say, I was stoked for this interview. So read on to see how Moneen do what they do, why they love the Hippy, and how to stay friends with other bands.

PPJ: To start with, can you tell our readers your name and what you do in the band?

Kenny: My name is Kenny...I play guitar and try to sing.

PPJ: What does the name "Moneen" mean?

Kenny: It means we stole a French girl's name and will never give it back.

PPJ: Tell us a little bit about your songwriting process.

Kenny: I sit alone in my basement getting really frustrated with myself until something good happens. Then I get really excited and keep writing until I get frustrated again. Then I stop. After that I take what is not terrible and show it to the guys...they either laugh or like it. Then we all argue a bunch about how the one is in a different spot for all our ears. After that we all agree that we are stupid and turn on our delay pedals which makes everything ok. Decide what we are angry or upset about in the world, write it down on a piece of paper then sing it over the still delaying guitars. At that point we think we might have a song.

PPJ: Did you do anything differently while recording The Red Tree than you did for your previous releases?

Kenny: We did not throw as many temper tantrums as usual. This recording was actually one of our favorite times recording. It was really laid back and creative.
Brian McTernan was a great allie for this recording. He encouraged us to try any idea we had without worrying if it was bad or not. We took alot of chances we would have not normally taken. We are proud of this record and would not want to really change anything about THE RED TREE.

PPJ: What bands did you listen to when you were growing up? Do you think those bands still influence you today?

Kenny: Yeah some of them do for sure. I had a long talk about one of them today. Jimmy Eat World was a huge influence on me. they were the band that I saw and said to myself, "I need to steal everything they do." Radiohead and Muse are both big influences as well. The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" changed my life. That record will always be a favorite of mine.

PPJ: How do you think Moneen has progressed over the years?

Kenny: We are kind of a good band now. We used to be not so good. We got better.

PPJ: What would you like to see Moneen become in the future?

Kenny: Still be a band making music the way we want to.

PPJ: What's your favorite song you've ever written?

Kenny: That's tough. It changes. I am usually the most proud of the quieter songs. That is why I wanted to do that "Quieter side" EP. I love moody quiet music with lots of dynamics. I love playing the songs with piano and lots of makes us feel a little more than just another rock band.

PPJ: Why did you decide to release The Red Tree on vinyl?

Kenny: We have always wanted to release vinyl...and now we finally did.
We also put a song we recorded with Red Tree but had to cut from the record due to too many songs. It is nice it has a home with the record now.

PPJ: Are you still planning on releasing the "The Start To This May Be The End To Another" DVD?

Kenny: Yes. We have gathered so much footage, we just needed time to put it all together. We are relasing it in the fall with live footage and all the clips we put up on our site.

PPJ: Can we expect any other songs from The Red Tree to be released as singles?

Kenny: We are finishing the last tour for the red tree right now in Australia. Not so bad if you ask me. It is also sad to say goodbye to the times we have had with this record. But as far as I know we are moving on now from this record and start working on the next.

PPJ: You've mentioned working on material for a side project. Has anything come of that?

Kenny: hahahaha. The side project has popped up again. This is something I work on completely on my own. But since we tour so much and it is all piano based I get no time what so ever to actually work on it. But we have the summer off and I have a piano in my only the constant fix em up jobs of the house and laziness can stop me now.

PPJ: Watching all the videos you guys have put on YouTube, it seems that you do some pretty crazy stuff while on the road. What are your favorite memories from being out on tour?

Kenny: There are too many. We have shared some great time with some of the bands we have toured with. Alexis and us always do weird things. We also make a big mess of the vagrant office when ever we go there too. That's tough. Too many to pick one. You said it...they are all on you tube, so they are kind of there for everyone to see for themselves.

PPJ: How long has Hippy been growing his dreadlocks?

Kenny: About 10 years or so. Friggin hippy. I just realized the other day that if I saw him on the street wihout knowing him that I would think he was homeless...that rules. I love the hippy.

PPJ: You do a lot of stuff with Alexisonfire. How did you guys get to be friends with them?

Kenny: We know them from before they were Alexis. Good friends stay good friends unless you sleep with their girlfriends.

PPJ: Do you think being from Canada has provided you with any noticeable advantages or disadvantages?

Kenny: For one we are Canadian. Canadians are usually nice so people dont want to fight us. That is not always true. A lot of security guards have wanted to fight me. I stick up for the little guy. Sometimes that little guy is me. We have had some good luck in Canada, Slowly it is spreading to be good luck other places, but that takes time.

PPJ: Have you written any new songs for a future album yet?

Kenny: Parts and bits...but nothing full yet. I always wait till we get home...I dont like to stretch myself thin.

PPJ: Do you know what your summer tour plans are yet?

Kenny: None.

PPJ: Lastly, tell us three bands you think we should listen to other than Muse.


PPJ: Thanks so much! -Casey Bridgers

Kenny: By the way...I love your last is better than mine.

Thanks again to Kenny for answering these questions, and to Eddie at Vagrant for setting it up. Make sure to pick up The Red Tree if you haven't already, and go watch some Moneen videos on YouTube or something.

website | myspace | purevolume

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

make me think but don't deceive me.

Artist: Maroon 5
Album: It Won't Be Soon Before Long
Label: A&M/Octone Records
Release Date: 5.22.07

I’ll admit it, I was one of those people who got bitter when Maroon 5 first appeared on mainstream radio, and then proceeded to become even more bitter when they got overplayed. I hated that I had been listening to Songs About Jane for a solid year before anyone else had ever heard of it. I hated that they kept re-recording those songs instead of writing new ones. However, I feel it’s been sufficiently long enough for me to come to terms with these things and to welcome a new album with open arms. Let’s see how It Won’t Be Soon Before Long plays out.

The album kicks off with the funky “If I Never See Your Face Again,” full of grooving guitars and high notes from singer Adam Levine. If Justin Timberlake used instruments instead of beats, this is what it would sound like. Accented with handclaps and harmonizing backup vocals, this track is pure awesome pop.

Levine’s lyrics are still as intensely sensual as ever, but never so that you catch it on the first listen. Once you decipher his falsetto and think hard about the lyrics, you might be taken aback at how sexual it is. I think this is great. Finally, someone in mainstream radio realizes that you can put sex in a song without resorting to crude terminology or coarse advances.

“Little Of Your Time” is a fast-paced, heavy hitting track with a percussion line oddly reminiscent of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” Levine’s cadence is much more rapid on this song, a style I didn’t know he was capable of. It’s great to see him show some versatility.

“Won’t Go Home Without You” is the album’s first ballad and is very much in the vein of “She Will Be Loved.” While much of the lyrical matter on the album still focuses on women and relationships, I still feel that Levine has become a better lyricist than on the last album. The songs are not so straightforward and storylike, and he’s better at pairing words with hooks.

“Can’t Stop” also contains a foot-stomping beat. With so many songs on this album, Maroon 5 show us that they excel at faster tempos, something that we didn’t get to see much of on their original album.

“Goodnight Goodnight” may be the best ballad the band has ever written, with floating choruses and Levine sounding wistful throughout. It sounds like it would make for an excellent single.

The album’s final track, “Back At Your Door,” displays a wonderful jazzy melody that again shows us the wide musical range of the band. The song acts as a perfect closer: it winds up the album nicely, while still leaving you wanting more.

Originally, I was annoyed at the band for making us wait for so long to hear new material. While I still don’t think they needed to take that long, if this album is what we get for waiting, I’m more than happy to wait a few more years for the next one.

01. If I Never See Your Face Again *
02. Makes Me Wonder
03. Little Of Your Time
04. Wake Up Call *
05. Won't Go Home Without You
06. Nothing Lasts Forever
07. Can't Stop
08. Goodnight Goodnight
09. Not Falling Apart
10. Kiwi
11. Better That We Break
12. Back At Your Door *

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Black Eyed Peas, The Goo Goo Dolls, Red Hot Chili Peppers.

website | myspace

Sunday, June 3, 2007

fire on the disco floor!

So I open up my messages at absolutepunk and see this in my inbox:

hey how's it going? this is Jeff from The Drugstore Cowboys. your review of our record was amazing! thanks so get it! alot of people dont understand where we're coming from and you do!!! so awesome. so i was wondering if you'd like to do an interview with us!

How could I not?! I love the Cowboys, so here's a look at what it's like to be in the craziest, most inventive band out there today.

PPJ: First off, please tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Jeff: I'm Jeff Scott and I'm the words and most of the vocals of the band.

PPJ: How did the Drugstore Cowboys get started?

Jeff: Well according to my recalection we met at a bethel house in Singapore during the fall of the British Army to the Japanese Amry in 1942. It was recorded as the bloodiest battle in British history. We were getting massages in the neighboring room when a bomb exploded and we had to rush out and save each other's life. But from what Philippe tells me it was due to the amazing electronic works of Test Icicles, Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, WHAM!, ect.

PPJ: You guys have a very unique sound. How did you arrive at the type of music you're making now?

Jeff: We were tired of everything that's being created in the music industry today. We wanted to take the elements of everything we've ever loved musically and combined them into one huge catastrophic star explosion. We really hate regurgitation.

PPJ: How do you usually go about writing songs?

Jeff: Philippe programs all the music tracks and i tell him what i like, don't like, or i'm neutral on. Then i go and write lyrics to the tracks. So it's pretty much completely a 100% collaborative effort.

PPJ: Your style of music is not one that most people "get," but you've been able to build up a fanbase and get signed to Lujo Records. How did you go about accomplishing all that?

Jeff: Our live show hands down. The music is fun and different and a breath of fresh air, but when you get to experience it in real life it's 25x better then the record. It's a nonstop, off the wall party bonanza!

PPJ: Your live show is intense. How do you manage to be so crazy and not hurt yourself or your bandmates?

Jeff: Philippe and I's bodies are equipt with ultra violet ray sensors so we're shocked with a small buzz when we get close to one another on stage but as for the rest of the band...good luck to them. By the way, i get hurt just about every show. But it's totally worth it!

PPJ: How important do you feel a live show is to a band's image?

Jeff: I feel like every element is as strong as the next. If we were just crazy live and didn't have the music to back it up it would just become a novelty, and that's exactly the complete opposite of what we represent.

PPJ: What's your favorite song on your record and why? Which is your least favorite and why?

Jeff: My favorite changes everyday. So far the most consistant favorite is Coyote Confessions becasue i feel like it's a true look at where we were in our lives when we wrote the song. My least favorite is Eulogy Of A Friendly Foe because i feel like it drags along...that's the only reason i can say i don't like any of our songs haha. i listen to our album all the time still and we've had it for well over a year now. It's pretty sweet.

PPJ: How did Matt Thorsen and Niku Azam become permanent members?

Jeff:We asked and they were into it so they hopped on board. It's some what musically challanging to play certain parts that were originally programmed on a computer. Because you can reach beyond the normal average humans capabilites.

PPJ: A lot of your lyrics focus on urban life and its decay. Where does that influence come from?

Jeff: Everything that i see everyday. It's what's around us every second and most of us over look what's truely going on. I'm fully aware of my surroundings and it truely disheartens me to see human life spiral into hopelessness.

PPJ: Your songs are always pushing the boundaries and preset notions of music. Do you have any new sounds or styles you're experimenting with now?

Jeff: The new record, whenever it will be done, will be very "soundtrack-esque". Alot of different atmospheres and textures we didn't try on this record. We just want to expand ours and everyone else's minds while making music that's still understandable.

PPJ: Has being from DC given you any noticeable advantages or disadvantages?

Jeff: No. It's the deadest music scene in the world, and it's the saddest thing in the world. Kids only go to shows if your band's the touring flavor of the month. No one wants to support their scene. Sad.

PPJ: You guys played SXSW this year. What was that experience like?

Jeff: AMAZING! It was one of the best shows we've played as a band. It was something that i won't soon forget.

PPJ: What's your favorite venue to play and why?

Jeff: The Delancey in NYC! The people in NYC respond in the most amazing fashion. We love playing there more than anywhere....well there and in NC! I was surprised how amazing the shows were that we've played down there! The Brewery RULES!!! Every band should play there. The kids are the best. NYC and NC are dead even!

PPJ: Do you have any tours in the works?

Jeff: Yep, a few I can't disclose but you'll know of them very very soon. If you're in a band and want to tour with us let us know. We love playing shows with everyone...even you.

PPJ: What do you hope people will take away from a Drugstore Cowboys show or album?

Jeff: I just wanted people to know that we're not here to write songs that are meaningless. I want people to know what music should really be all about. And i want people to know our live show is sweet.

PPJ: Lastly, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.
Jeff: Bad Brains
Cutlery (from Washington, DC check them on Myspace:
Oh.....and us! ( [shameless promotion])

Thanks again to Jeff for wanting to do an interview. Make sure you check them out on Myspace, pick up their record, and keep your eyes peeled for a tour date near you.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

I cannot sleep without the radio.

Artist:Circa Survive
Album: On Letting Go
Label: Equal Vision Records
Release Date: 5.29.07

With every new release, bands must find a way to balance progression and familiarity. It’s a fine line to walk: if they change too much, fans call them sellouts. If they stay too much the same, fans berate them for not taking chances. Circa Survive are trying to find that line with On Letting Go.

Beginning with a guitar blast on “Living Together,” the album soon dives headfirst into frontman Anthony Green’s unique vocals. The entire album leans very heavily on Green’s stylings, and rightfully so. His voice is a major selling point for the band, and it is mainly what helps them stand out from the rest of the world’s experimental rockers. With the new album, Green maintains the high-pitched, ethereal qualities he has always shown. While he’s not stepping very far outside his comfort zone, he gives a solid performance on every track. Out of all of Green’s musical projects, I think his voice fits best with the swirling guitars and pounding rhythms of Circa Survive’s songs.

The band keeps up the energy with “In The Morning And Amazing,” a pit-inducing anthem where both instruments and vocals soar. Steve Clifford's drumming is a particular highlight on this track, punctuating Green’s strains perfectly.

Circa’s music has an otherworldly quality to it that is hard to find in most music. Listening to it feels like falling through space, or wandering through a dark forest alone. Alone is a key word is describing Circa’s sound – there’s a sense of desperation, an intense need to find others to connect with. At the same time, one can feel deeply connected to Green and his band when listening carefully to their songs.

“Mandala” sounds promising with its distorted guitars, but on closer listen it disrupts the flow of the album a bit. It is not really a bad song, but it may have done better placed elsewhere in the tracklisting.

Things don’t pick up again until partway through “Semi Constructive Criticism,” when the guitars crash and Green lets loose with the eerie wails he is so known for. However, even better than this track is “Kicking Your Crosses Down,” which has a heavy, clear beat unlike most Circa songs.

“Carry Us Away” incorporates some beautiful guitar work, as does “Close Your Eyes To See.” The album’s closer, “Your Friends Are Gone,” has a slow buildup to a final minute or two of organized collapse, with Green’s voice soon fading into nothing.

So the question remains: has Circa Survive found that line?

Yes. However, they have a very faint grasp on it. While On Letting Go is an astounding album, almost nothing recorded here shows any great departure from Juturna. So if you were looking for Juturna Part 2, this album will be no disappointment. If you were looking for more experimentation from the man who is known for it, you’ll have to wait for his next release.

01. Living Together
02. In The Morning And Amazing *
03. The Greatest Lie
04. The Difference Between Medicine And Poison Is In The Dose
05. Mandala
06. Travel Hymn
07. Semi Constructive Criticism
08. Kicking Your Crosses Down *
09. On Letting Go
10. Carry Us Away
11. Close Your Eyes To See
12. Your Friends Are Gone *

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Chiodos, The Fall Of Troy, The Sound Of Animals Fighting.

website | myspace | purevolume