May 31, 2008

Exercise Your Rights!

To vote, bitches! No, not in the presidential election! In the Riverfront Times St. Louis Music Showcase 2008!!!

Go here to vote. There are several categories, such as best local live show, best indie band, best americana/folk, best dj, best blues artist, best eclectic and more.


Kickin' it old school: SMD in 2003


Local "favorites" (read: friends) So Many Dynamos are nominated in both the best indie and best live show categories. And the best indie category is quite the doozy with SMD, Target Market, Bunnygrunt, The Hibernauts, Jumbling Towers,and Say Panther. If there were a way to vote for all of them, I surely would. Target Market has rocketed up in my top 5 local act list, as well as Say Panther and Jumbling Towers. All of them are amazing amazing amazzzzinnnngg groups.

So, even if you aren't from St. Louis...GO VOTE! The polls are open to anyone from anywhere up until June 1st.

June 1st in the Delmar Loop will be the celebration of all things awesomely local (musically, at least). $5 gets you into all the shows everywhere that day/night/afternoon/evening. The Main Stage will be at Vintage Vinyl and the festivites there will begin at 2p with Jon Hardy and The Public. Other groups on the main stage that you won't want to miss? 3p Gentleman Auction House and at 4p So Many Dynamos.

Shows will be EVERYWHERE throughout The Loop, and again $5 gets you into all of them. My vote (the show you'll see me at) goes to Cicero's (one of my favorite places ever) with the following line up:

6 p.m. Say Panther
7 p.m. Target Market
8 p.m. Jumbling Towers
9 p.m. The Bureau
10 p.m. The Hibernauts

I'm also DEFINITELY going to rock out with The Monads at 5p at Market in The Loop.
The Monads (via STLToday)

Come out. Have a GREAT time. Have some great beers (most likely found at Cicero's). Get some awesome records (most likely found at Vintage Vinyl). And kick ass/take names. The choice is yours.

May 26, 2008

A long weekend provides.

Sorry it's been so long, kids. I'm not one for lame excuses but I'll try to make mine sound as un-lame as possible. Radiohead fucking blew me away. It was truly a religious experience. I'm not going to blow my geeked out Radiohead load all over the blog. If you've seen them live at any time, then you know just how great it is/can be.

I was going to embed a video of their closer, "Paranoid Android", however after I decided to watch it first, I noticed that some dude was "singing" along with Thom. And sorry, but that's just a no-no. So, I'll give you this link to the A to Z Riverfront Times Music Blog where you can view the videos from the St. Louis show for the songs "Myxomatosis", "Idioteque" and "Paranoid Android" (again, I stress, this is under your own discretion due to the singing of a fan).

EDIT!: Instead I'll just post this sweet ass video of Thom Yorke busting out his sweet moves during "Idioteque".

Also, go here to view some great photos by Annie Zaleski of the A to Z RFT Music Blog.

All of the bloggers around the indie blogosphere (what a dumb term) have been posting the set list from their area, so I'll do the same. Obviously there is much overlap, but everyone has had a few unique surprises, so, without further ado:

1. All I Need
2. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
3. Airbag
4. 15 Step
5. Nude
6. Kid A
7. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
8. The Gloaming
9. You And Whose Army?
10. Idioteque
11. Faust Arp
12. Videotape
13. Everything In Its Right Place
14. Reckoner
15. Optimistic
16. Bangers and Mash
17. Bodysnatchers

Encore Uno:
18. Exit Music (For A Film)
19. Myxomatosis
20. My Iron Lung
21. There There
22. Fake Plastic Trees

Encore Dos:
23. Pyramid Song
24. House of Cards
25. Paranoid Android
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The new Ratatat full length, LP3, leaked about two weeks ago. Though tempting, I'm not going to download it, but I have listened to plenty of the mp3's found lying about the internerd and I've also heard two or three songs on various Blog Radio shows on Sirius Channel 26, Left of Center.

Anyway, this is a video that Evan Mast of said band (half of the band) has made for the song "Mirando" from the forthcoming album.

May 20, 2008

Back Tracking Volume 2: The Walker Brothers - "Deadlier Than The Male"

In 1966, Britain's biggest band was not The Beatles. Do I have your attention? Okay, now who might you guess was? The Rolling Stones? The Beach Boys, whose Pet Sounds was perhaps the most-beloved record released that year across the pond? Some Motown act whose crossover appeal influenced the burgeoning Northern Soul scene, like, say, The Supremes?

None of the above - or even close. In 1966, three Americans who jumped a ship to the United Kingdom hoping to turn their loose-limbed brand of Hollywood garage pop into piles of money outsold both the Beatles and Stones with a string of cinematic, tightly-controlled, producer-penned-and-engineered tracks. The Walker Brothers put "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" into both the U.S. and British Top Ten, but where their popularity at home waned, it exploded in the U.K. Scott Walker, nee Engel, and his make-believe brothers Gary [Leeds] and John[Maus] were the perfect American counterstrike to the scrappy British Invasion bands that washed everyone except Phil Spector and Louis Armstrong out of the charts in 1964: blonde, stage-ready crooners who took their vocal cues from the Righteous Brothers, their musical ones from... uh... The Righteous Brothers, and their fame just a LITTLE too seriously. But for all the pre-fab hits they cranked out (including the Bacharach/David number "Make it Easy on Yourself"), the rising songwriting talent of Scott Walker would not be fully constrained by his svengali-like management. In That Thing You Do! terms, Scott was Jimmy Mattingly. He just wanted to play HIS songs. He was alone in his principles. But he had the goods, too.

Almost seamlessly, the cinematic sweep of Walker's compositions fit in with the group's established sound -- a huge, reverb-laden, melodramatic take on baroque pop that stood in brooding contrast to the sunny variety of the baroque boomlet that turned both Los Bravos and The Zombies' Odessy and Oracle loose in that same year. At his most excessive, Walker oozes a kind of smug affectation in his delivery that recalls a pretentious, demonstrative sad sack playing "woe is me!" to win the heart of no one in particular, but when The Walker Brothers manage to balance pathos with playfulness, the sound is seismic. Booming drums and weeping strings balance against bright horns and loosely jangling guitars to create a surround-sound panorama (and before "surround sound" existed, no less) that pulls the listener in by his heartstrings. The musical flights of a good Walker Brothers single recall the emotion and stateliness of classic film, with Scott playing Humphrey Bogart as both a vocalist and narrator. There is a fine line between Casablanca and Dr. X that bears notice here, but luckily a few of Walker's early efforts captured Bogey shrugging on the airstrip and not simpering at the top of the sinister mansion staircase.

"Deadlier Than The Male," which was sold as the theme to the movie Heisse Katzen starring Elke Sommer, begins with the kind of orchestral filigree one might expect from a James Bond movie knockoff, but settles into an easy groove of drums, tambourine, bass, and string obligatto. The production of the song places Scott's vocal way out front but its straightforward arrangement leaves plenty of room for John Walker's easy harmony line into the chorus. Like many Walker Brothers songs, the rhythm and melody both vaguely recall an Ennio Morricone film theme. By wisely not overdoing the strings into a weeping, complicated mess (as heard in "My Ship is Coming In," among other Walker Brothers non-starters), arranger Ivor Raymonde - who, incidentally, produced Black is Black for Los Bravos shortly after completing this song for the Walkers - allows the group's strengths to step to the fore. Gary Walker's muscular drumming is one of these (he was the one Walker who played his instrument on most recordings by the group); another is the relaxed vocal interplay of Scott and John.

One of the stranger trends in Walker Brothers songs is that the darker and more dispondent the tone of the piece, lyrically, the happier Scott Walker sounds to sing it. On "Sun Ain't Gonna Shine," for instance, when his vocal soars into tenor range in the chorus, he seems positively beaming to explore the hopelessness of "when you're without love." Ditto horror-movie-flavored "In My Room," which neatly reverses the emotion of Brian Wilson's classic of same name -- Walker narrates a scene in which his lonely room is literally all he has sans his long-gone bride, and in the chorus the line "have all DIED" (referring to "the flowers she left") sounds downright triumphant. And when Scott Walker issues his stern warning about the antagonist of "Deadlier Than The Male," his line "take care, my brother... TAKE CARE" emerges from his deep baritone croon bathed in tones of celebration and exclamation. In contrast, when Walker sings of positive and/or meaningful futures - "Love Her," "First Love Never Dies," and others - he sounds like a cancer patient relating the prognosis to close friends. This, of course, makes sense in context of Walker's cynical and desolate solo work, but even on self-penned Walker Brothers songs like "Archangel" and "Orpheus," which are both pretentious and bloated where "Deadlier Than the Male" is direct and lean, the bathos of his delivery slows the pacing terminally.

Perhaps, then, for combining a glimpse of Walker as a songwriter with the sophisticated energy of the Walker Brothers as an entity, "Deadlier Than The Male" is exceptional. Despite only experiencing a limited run in the U.K. charts (and none in the U.S.), the song remains one of the more sophisticated singles of 1966 -- certainly not of the caliber of "Reach Out (I'll Be There)," "Paint It, Black," "God Only Knows," "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," or even its spiritual cousin "Walk Away, Renee" by The Left Banke, but an impressive cut above nonetheless.

Here it is in all its widescreen glory framing the credits of Heisse Katzen:

May 14, 2008

RADIOHEAD


RADIOHEAD

TONIGHT

ST. LOUIS, MO

7P

VERIZON WIRELESS AMPITHEATRE

May 13, 2008

New Thingz:


To celebrate their new release Narrow Stairs, out today, Death Cab for Cutie plays on The Late Show With David Letterman (CBS), check your local listings...because I won't. Sorry!

Pitchfork gives DCfC's seventh studio album release an even 6.0, Rolling Stone (as well as Spin, AP, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times and Kerrang!...) gives it a 4/5 stars, and Absolute Punk dotes on them with a 90%. While the album proves to be darker and a bit different compared to previous releases it still stands pretty strong on its own two feet. The literary themes still provide happiness in my heart, not to mention the fact that Chris Walla's production is outstanding. More on this album and my personal feelings later!

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Also getting around the late night talk show circuit this week? British cutie Kate Nash is playing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (NBC) on Wednesday and also on Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) on Friday.

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Tom Campesinos of Los Campesinos! has remixed Tokyo Police Club's "Tessellate" and it is now available on a brand new Tessellate 7 inch and also on the limited edition version of Elephant Shell. Listen to the Tom Campesinos! remix HERE.

In other TPC news, the guys have a new video out now for "In a Cave" which was part of "MTVU and Best Film on Campus" competition. Director Olan Rogers was chosen by TPC for his "cup on a string telephone" idea of directing. Here is the final result:



For our Canada friends (and always, friends elsewhere!) here are the remaining dates you can catch Tokyo Police Club live:
Wed-May-14, Kelowna, BC, The Habitat
Fri-May-16, Vancouver, BC, The Plaza
Sat-May-17, Victoria, BC, Sugar Nightclub
Sun-May-18, Seattle, WA, Neumos
Mon-May-19, Portland, OR, Hawthorne Theatre
Thu-May-22, Denver, CO, Bluebird
Fri-May-23, Omaha, NE, Slowdown

May 9, 2008

Back Tracking, Volume 1: The Chambers Brothers

When I was, briefly, an arts and entertainment columnist for OU Student Media's website (hub.ou.edu), I submitted two features on a semi-regular basis. The first, "Make Me a Mixtape!", consisted of themed mixes and song-by-song explanation that increasingly delved into ridiculous amounts of snark and detail as my tenure went on; the second, "Throwbacks Are In", examined albums that had been overlooked or newly revived by modern trends. Only one installment of "Throwbacks" ever ran (it was over Los Bravos), but in retrospect it was probably too much to sustain the interest of the reader to have a whole album conceptually dissected, historically explained, connected with artists who sound like they'd used it for source material, and advertised as suddenly relevant again. That's both overbroad and overbearing, so I consider it a lesson learned.

Yet my passion for music 20+ years old hasn't flickered. In this, which I hope to be a weekly series, I endeavor to put my thoughts about incredible SONGS, old (and underrated, and influential, and otherwise) as they may be, up for consideration.

The Chambers Brothers - "Time Has Come Today"

Last night, I found myself insomnia-stricken and did what I usually do: plant in front of my computer and rifle through iTunes for stray awesomeness. It arrived. The thoughts about this song, which I published on my personal blog, went like this...

"It's such a fucking gorgeous, gutty, nasty, soulful, badass, charismatic record. Joe Chambers sounds like an enraptured black Baptist preacher in full apocalypse mode (with call-and-response from Willie, Lester, and George Chambers), except he's basically singing about that moment when you look around you and you realize you can't do anything but run full speed at the rust-red horizon at sunrise because where you've been is the dispondent quiet after the storm. "The rules have changed today (hey!) / I have no place to stay! (hey!) / I'm thinking about the subway (hey!) / 'Cause a love has flown away... (hey!) / My tears have come and gone (hey!) / Oh, my Lord! I have to roam! (hey!) / I HAVE NO HOME! (hey!) / I have no home... (hey...) / Now the time has come! (time!) / I have no place to run (time!) / I might get burned up by the sun (time!) / But I'll have my fun!" The uneven syllables and variable stress on the words are vintage full-force-and-fury-of-the-sermon. Where can I join this incredible church?

And it's not so much Joe Chambers is singing as he is stomping his voice's foot so hard he could put that vocal through concrete. It's glorious. The guitar is by turns hauntingly chiming and sneering. Brian Keenan's heavy bass drum foot/snare drum hand are punishing. I've not yet found another song so psychotic but so on the light side of The Force. Fuck you, Sly Stone. The time has come. TODAY!"

That sums up my personal reaction to the song very neatly (and much of this column must be personal in order to say anything unique) -- but I think it's a hugely exciting article out of time. When it was released in 1968, the charts were a free-for-all of weirdness. '68 was the year that Friend and Lover hit with "Reach Out of the Darkness," a chipper piece of Canadian baroque-folk-pop, but it was also the same year in which Arthur Brown got to #2 with the marginally insane "Fire" (sample vocal - "I am the god of hell fire! And I bring you!") - and '68 was the year the cities burned in the wake of Martin Luther King's slaying, and "Say it Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" was the top hit of the summer - and also the year Led Zeppelin minus Robert Plant convened behind Donovan for the trippy, semi-sinister "Hurdy Gurdy Man". The Hot 100 was loaded with duality, with pop trifles like "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by The Ohio Express and "Hello, I Love You" by The Doors; with vitriolic protest music like "Unknown Soldier" (also by The Doors); with the simplistic, breezy bossa nova pop of Sergio Mendes and Dionne Warwick placing three songs in the Top 10 between them; with out-and-out odd pastiches like Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men" and "Green Tambourine" by the Lemon Pipers. And "MacArthur Park" was a #1 hit. So a shouting, bashing, incendiary, vaguely anti-establishment slice of pristine soul-rock, for the one time ever in Billboard history, doesn't look terribly out of place. And that's not the craziest part.

The song's slow burn through a six-minute psychedelic breakdown-buildup-explosion, punctuated by the Brothers' shouts of "TIME!" and Lester Chambers' rock-steady cowbell work, makes it a particularly bold genre "tweener". As a gospel-inspired song by a black band with a group vocal, it obviously qualifies "soul," yet the straightforward guitar attack and booming drums suggest "garage rock," and the middle six minutes of guitar solo jam and haunting hook definitely scream "psychedelic rock." Yet its uncut version became the bigger FM hit of the two edits included on Time Has Come Today. The band's leanings weren't hippie-unsympathetic, as they had recorded a shelved session as Bob Dylan's backing band, but for a group of Mississippi black boys and their white New York drummer to crank out a soul-rock document on par with the Oakland Stroke of Sly and the Family Stone seems fairly incongruous. Therein lies the record's greatest virtue: it defies you not to believe, and if you're hearing it clearly, it wins every time.

Here's a brief performance video of the band doing their hit on Ed Sullivan.

Shout Outs and Re-Arranging:

I'd like to take this time out to give shout outs to Amarillo, TX, La Jolla, CA, Vencente Lopez in Argentina, Karachi in Pakistan, Melbourne in Australia and our friends in Canada. I'd also like to thank the people who actually check daily or even every-other-daily. It really means a lot to me and I thank you muchly.

Just wanted to remind everyone that everyone's favorite daughter toting band, Mates of State, will be releasing their fifth full length album "Re-Arrange Us" on May 20th. Being one of my favorite "all time" bands (which constantly changes and they've been there for about 4 or so years now) I have my order filled in at my local record store. I've mentioned it here before, but their blog serves as a way to keep up with Kori and Jason as a band and also as parents of two cute girls.

Sunday, June 8th - Mates of State @ The Bluebird

I will sadly be out of town during most of their midwestern shows and perhaps MOST upsetting is that I'll be out of town the day they play St. Louis. I honestly cheered and ran around my apartment like a 4 year old child giddy over candy and about .4 seconds later was on my couch crying, heaving like...something that heaves a lot because I realized I'd be out of town/country at the time. PISSED. So, I'm calling on my local friends and fans to attend that show, take video, audio...anything. Just pictures, please. I'm considering driving east just to see them. The first and last time I saw them was SXSW 2006 at The Parish and it was just perfect.

Here's the video for "Get Better", which I've been playing non-stop when =p= leaves for work. Their 4 year old, Magnolia, makes an appearance in the video and couldn't be more adorable. Look for her during the soundchecks at their live shows.


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Also, blahblahblah everyone is freaking out over some of the newer leaks like Weezer's "The Red Album" (blech), Oasis (ask =p=, not me, he's the resident Oasis fanboy), and Death Cab for Cutie's "Narrow Stairs" (which is pretty good).

And I'm in love with the new Portishead album, "Third".

International Appeal

Welcome to our new, burgeoning international readers.

May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo: Dispelling Gringo Drinko Myths

Mas tequila?
The very basics of this Fifth of May are that Cinco de Mayo commemorates a victory by Mexican forces over the French on May 5, 1862 in the Battle of Puebla. The French, along with the English and Spanish, sent troops to Mexico because the previous government had rung up a sizable debt and they intended to collect what was owed to them. The English had occupied the port of Veracruz and the French occupied Puebla, which is roughly half way between Mexico City and Veracruz. The Mexicans had managed to expel the French from Puebla on May 5, but, shortly thereafter, 29,000 troops were went to Mexico by Napoleon III. It was a brief upswing in a very turbulent period of Mexican history.

An important point to make is that when new regimes come to power, it is very unwise to unilaterally decide to cancel debts made by the previous government, lest they be occupied. Cinco de Mayo is a slightly regionalized event in Mexico, with the state of Puebla, unsurprisingly, celebrating the event the most.

In this country, however, Cinco de Mayo is portrayed as this day of celebration of Mexican heritage as a whole. Most Americans would be hard pressed to tell you what exactly happened on the Fifth of May that was worth celebrating and would assume it was some kind of Mexican St. Patrick's Day. All manners of Americans use this day as a means to an end: to drink terrible Mexican beers like Corona or drinking terrible Mexican tequila like Jose Cuervo (usually in margaritas, or, not uncommonly, taken tequila cruda by licking salt off ones hand, taking a shot, and then biting a lime wedge) with the sole intent of making this Cinco de Drinko the best one they will not remember. It is not dissimilar at all from doing shots of Jameson, drinking Guinness, or oddly celebrating the Irish Republic Army by drinking the explosively named Irish Car Bomb, but completely similar in the co-opting of one ethnic group's holiday and making it into an awkward celebration of the very essence of being a member of that group even if you are not.

As one whose ancestors were a part of the ethnic group who were defeated in the Battle of Puebla, I'll spend my day trying to find passable Mexican food in St. Louis and probably having a margarita.

May 1, 2008

May Day is always day of most greatest celebration!

Well, it's that fair day of glorifying the Soviet Blogosphere. Since we don't have any tanks to roll through the square, or any terrifying bombers to cast imposing shadows on the giddy throng, we bring you...

SEA POWER!

l-r: Martin Noble, Yan Wilkinson, Hamilton Wilkinson, Matthew Wood

I caught up with guitarist Martin Noble of British Sea Power after the band's The Rock-bringing set at last weekend's Norman Music Festival, in which the band shared the bill with The Polyphonic Spree, Chainsaw Kittens, The Evangelicals, Colourmusic, and others. He had plenty to say about the show, his band's swell new album Do You Like Rock Music?, Cracker Barrel, and the perils of being a scaffold-climbing plant-man in the United Kingdom:

Slam Dunk Stalin: You guys just inaugurated the Norman Music Festival. How was the experience?

Martin Noble (guitar): Brilliant. I liked the stage down on the end of the street. It was a lot like this festival we played in London one time on Denmark St., it was open-air and free. That’s a lot of fun.

SDS: So you like playing the outdoor shows?

M: Well, yeah, except the one bad thing is you can’t always tell when your guitar pedals are on with the sunlight. But other than that…

SDS: Is Norman the smallest U.S. town you’ve ever played?

M: Yeah.

SDS: Very cool. Was the crowd reaction on the level you’re used to in this part of the world?

M: Yeah, when it’s outdoors and free and everyone’s a little drunk, it’s just a great party atmosphere.

SDS: I know you guys are friendly with The Flaming Lips. Did you run into any members on their turf?

M: No, and we had to leave the day Wayne got back to town. They’ve got this big circus tent that they’re taking to the festivals this year to play in, and I guess they played a show in Wayne’s backyard, but we missed out on that. I’m sure someone called the cops about the noise.

SDS: Speaking of cops… and people… you almost kicked me in the face riding around on [some guy’s] shoulders at the show Saturday.

M: Really? Well, that’s a big ALMOST, yeah?

SDS: Right, it’s what makes it a “funny concert story” and not a “’dammit, Martin!’ story”. But about that, do promoters ever tell you guys to tone it down live because someone might get hurt?

M: Sometimes, certainly. The worst thing like that was during this show in the UK with Polyphonic Spree – that’s how we met them, at that show – well, after our set, I was a little “out of it” and the guys taped all these branches to my arms and so I climbed up the scaffolding while Polyphonic Spree was playing and was waving at them, and they were waving back. But then when I got off the scaffolding security got me in a headlock immediately and threw me out. I was like “I’m in the band! I’m in the band!” And nobody believed me! (laughs)

SDS: Like you were just some random plant-man climbing the scaffold?

M: (laughs) Yeah!

SDS: Do they have that problem a lot or something?

M: (laughs) Right, right. But then when we played with Polyphonic Spree on Saturday, the keyboard player took out his laptop and showed me his screensaver, and it’s me up on the rigging with the branches taped to my arms.

SDS: So, about your album… “Do you like rock music?” definitely sounds like a rhetorical question when you listen to it. Was that the intention? Was it an honest question that you guys were trying to answer?

M: It’s really left open. We don’t like having single meanings to things and the title stuck on a few levels. We’re trying to bring new things into rock music, you know, with the plants on stage and stuff like that, trying to make rock music what we want it to be. Plus, you know, our other albums have had kind of pretentious titles – “The Decline and Fall of British Sea Power”, that sounds REAL serious – so we thought this would be a nice name for the album, very straightforward.

SDS: So it was kind of a riff on your other two album titles?

M: It was, I suppose, in addition to all of that.

SDS: I should ask about the lyrics. Does Yan [Wilkinson, vocals and guitar] do all of the writing or is it more collaborative?

M: Well, Yan and Hamilton [Wilkinson, bass and vocals] sing all the songs on the new album and they usually write what they sing, though sometimes they help each other out.

SDS: It seems like there’s a lot of literary and historical allusions in the songs. Do they read a lot on the road?

M: Yeah, they have these books and when they get a though they just sort of jot it down. I know back home, they listen to a lot of the science and historical programs on [BBC] Radio Four. BBC Four broadcasts these stories and, for instance, they did two stories on Canvey Island F.C. and what happened in 1953 in I think the same week, and they definitely wrote that stuff into “Canvey Island”. It’s really quite interesting.

SDS: You guys have had a really big year so far: you did Letterman, you did Noise Pop, you did South-By-Southwest. Does it feel like things are blowing up, or is it just another progression?

M: It’s another progression. We’re not one of those bands that’s going to “blow up,” I don’t think – not like we’ll have one song on the radio. We just pick up more fans with each album, which I like so far. I don’t think we’re ever going to be Celine Dion.

SDS: Well, thank God you won’t be Celine Dion (laughs).

M: But wouldn’t that be a brilliant world, if instead of Celine Dion being everywhere, it was all the bands you like?

SDS: I think part of the fun of liking a band like British Sea Power is it’s kind of like a cool thing that not everyone might know about. And if they do find out, and like it, it’s because they think it’s quality music and not just that it’s everywhere.

M: Well, still, I think it would be brilliant if all the bands you like were big instead of Celine Dion.

SDS: This is – what, your fourth U.S. tour?

M: Sixth, I believe.

SDS: Does touring America still feel kind of alien to you?

M: Well, this is the longest tour we’ve ever done. We’re here three months. But yeah, I mean, we’re always getting used to little differences in the language and things, expressions we don’t recognize. And from state to state there’s such a different attitude. But I guess since we’re here so long this time it feels like we’re a part of it and not just touring through, so that helps. I used to get mad at truck stops because there’s no fucking fruit ANYWHERE.

SDS: I know! Everything they sell is either made of meat or sugar.

M: Right, and so I was like, “where can I get a banana?” But now they have these Naked juices and things, so it’s easier to eat healthy on the road.

SDS: And when you’re on the road, how do you guys entertain yourselves?

M: Well, we have a DVD player in the van so we watch movies… we do these exercises, which we call “vannercize”, to try to stay in good shape and everything. Oh, and any time we see a Cracker Barrel out the window we yell “CRAAAAACKER BAAAAAARRELL” and we get a good laugh out of that.

SDS: You must yell that a lot in this part of the world.

M: Yeah, I notice that.

SDS: I’m pretty sure the Cracker Barrel image came from slavery…

M: Really?!

SDS: Yeah, unless I’m wrong, they started out as this really down-home restaurant chain, only the whole “country” thing was tied to images of the antebellum South and so they had caricatures of African-Americans up on the walls and stuff. And then, in about 10 years in the 1970’s, that became really un-PC and they had to take it down.

M: (laughs) That’s crazy. I wouldn’t think if you walked into Cracker Barrel…

SDS: Yeah, you won’t see, like, replica yokes for slaves up on the walls.

M: That might make yelling it funnier.

SDS: Now, was there a conscious thought process on Rock Music to make it sound big and epic, or would consider it more an elaboration on the other records’ sounds?

M: I think it’s an elaboration. There are songs on the first two albums, you know, that have those big choruses and things. It’s kind of like…

You know, bands from cities tend to play really angular, kind of straightforward, tight rock. Bands from London and Detroit and all that. Well, some of the guys in the band are from the Lake District in southwest England, where there’s these big spaces with mountains and lakes and things. So these big, open spaces that sound kind of grandiose… that’s just the sound of where we came from. Like, Wordsworth, the poet – he was from the Lake District. He tried to do that with all his poetry about the countryside.

SDS: Does it seem like it’s translating well live?

M: Yeah, we’ve got lots of reverb pedals (laughs)

We were rehearsing and writing in these big towers back home, like, 30 meters tall and made of concrete, and we got great reverb [on the demos] and so when we went into the studio, we tried to get the record to sound kind of like that.

SDS: It seems like there’s a lot of positive buzz on the album lately. Is it meeting your expectations?

M: Yeah. We didn’t have massive expectations, you know, but we always hope we don’t bomb.

SDS: I meant more along the lines of “is this a pleasant surprise?”

M: Sure. You always start off with low expectations and hope for the best (laughs). Like, with the first album, we had no idea what to expect. And then as you put out more albums, you hope that people who bought the last record will buy this one, and you’ll attract more people.

SDS: It would be hard to consider this album a critical disappointment, anyway, huh?

M: Absolutely.

SDS: Okay, since we’re winding up here… what’s your best tour story so far from this trip?

M: It’s not really exciting, but there was this day off we had in Florida and we went down to the beach. And I saw a sea osprey, which are really rare, and a whole bunch of pelicans were there and they dug a massive hole in the beach. So when the tide came in, we sat in there like it was kind of a Jacuzzi and tried to get some girls to come sit with us, but they didn’t.

SDS: I imagine it’s not usual that girls on the beach in Florida have British guys yelling at them to come sit in a hole in the ground.

M: (laughs) When you put it THAT way…

SDS: “We’re rock stars! We promise!”

***British Sea Power: State Heroes of the Great Patriotic Media Blog***

Unfortunately, due to a bad case of tendinitis for drummer Matthew Wood, the band was teetering on the brink of cancelling their Columbia, MO show when I got ahold of them. However, the band sails bravely on in their trek across the United States, with upcoming dates out the stern:
May 1 Columbia, MO @ Mojo’s w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis* possibly cancelled
May 2 Oxford, MS @ Proud Larry’s w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 3 Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 4 Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 6 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 7 Charlottesville, VA @ Satelite Ballroom w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 8 Washington, DC @ Black Cat w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 9 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 10 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis (sold out)
May 11 Brooklyn @ Music Hall of Williamsburg w/The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 13 Boston, MA @ Paradise w/ The Rosebuds, Jeffrey Lewis
May 15 Montreal, QUE @ La Sala Rossa w/ The Rosebuds
May 16 Toronto, ONT @ Lee’s Palace w/ The Rosebuds
May 17 Buffalo, NY @ The Tralf w/ The Rosebuds
May 18 Pittsburgh, Pa @ Mr Smalls Theatre w/ The Rosebuds
May 19 Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell’s

Martin getting a lift, 3/21/2008
@ The Triple Rock Social Club
(all photos courtesy of World's Fair Promotions)

More great news

An interview with British Sea Power is being conducted tomorrow. We're all three very stoked to be breaking new ground on our site with such excellent artists. It's really incredible.