End of a Year

Dudes just released a new album on Deathwish , and I talked to them for punknews.org.  Stay tuned for a post there!

After just wrapping up a tour of the U.S., End of a Year continues to celebrate their latest release on Deathwish, You are Beneath Me.  Heavily influenced by the Revolution Summer in DC, EOAY continues to offer something a little different in the world of modern hardcore.  As a fresh band on Deathwish, vocalist Patrick Kindlon has nothing but positive things to say about their new label since they allow EOAY to be weird, as he puts it. He also shared some thoughts with Stephanie Thornton about the response to the new album, lyrical inspiration, poking holes in Cruel Hand’s condoms, and receiving criticism from Gnarls Barkey fans.

How has the response been for the new album, You are Beneath Me and how does it compare to what you expected to hear?
People seem to like it, more so than we thought they would. The response to the first track has been a little overwhelming. We didn’t expect that at all. We thought that would be the alienating track that cuts half the listenership. <br><br>

How do you feel about the evolution of End of a Year’s sound up to this point and do you feel you all made conscious decisions to head in any different musical directions while recording You are Beneath Me?
I would have liked to have started our career sounding awesome, but whenever that thought enters my head, I think of the scene in Billy Madison where he gives a speech at his grade school graduation and he acknowledges that some people may think it’s pathetic that he’s just now graduating but “it was hard for me, so get off my back!” These things take time, I guess, man.

The album title is also the title of your tour blog from your recent US tour – What was the inspiration behind the titles and does it reflect any theme on the album?
Unofficial blog. We’ll call that one the unauthorized blog. Drunk roadie blog. The title of the album came from this notion of the ultimate dismissal. Once you assert something is beneath you and mean it, the thing loses meaning altogether. I’m interest in everything. I went to the manga store today and bought some freaky Japanese giant mecha shit, just because I realized I know nothing about it. I want to know about everything. I’ll read raver magazines. I’ve been to a Phish show. I follow the news in Africa. Just because the world is interesting and I want to know things. So if I actually think something is beneath my notice, it’s a pretty strong dismissal.

Album reviews have praised your lyrical skills.  What do you find as lyrical inspiration and what topics do you explore on this album?
That’s a weird trip, the praise the lyrics are getting. I’m grateful that people connect with the lyrics or just appreciate them, but I’ve got a long way to go. Right now they do what punk lyrics are supposed to do- they express where I’m at. But eventually I’d like to express those same ideas in a legitimately eloquent way. Right now it’s like talking to someone on the bus. You get a slice of their deal and maybe something pops out that sticks with you, but it’s not the same as sitting with someone and really hearing their life story. Whenever I write lyrics I like I go and listen to “Whole of the Moon” by the Waterboys or “Dress Sexy at My Funeral” by Smog and I feel challenged. I can’t touch that shit.

On this record I devoted a lot of time to boring life talk. What I mean by that is some people only want to sing about the most severe shit they can imagine. They’re thinking about Burma when they sing. I’m thinking about my electric bill. I’m not saying it’s not serious to me, but my life isn’t running from my car to my house in a zigzag because snipers are on me. My life is struggling to live like a normal first world dude.

How much exploration have you done with lyrics throughout your releases?
I used to go for big concepts, but for the past few years I’ve just written about where I was at at that exact second. Typically I wait until I read something about someone else that touches on how I feel, because sometimes you can’t see your own problems. You’re too close to it. But we’re all real quick to recognize other people’s problems. So now when I see that, I think about how it’s similar to my life and suddenly a song is done.

You recently finished up a tour of the US and the tour journal features the band expressing disdain for a lot of the country.  What aspects of our country does End of a Year despise the most and how do they correlate with the scenes you encountered and shows you played along the way?
Everyone in this country can joke about the other parts of the country and the stereotypes that we all have about each other, but when it comes down to it, we all assume people think like we think.  When you go on tour, you’re reminded that’s not the case. At all. And to a very large degree, I’m excited by that. But there’s a limit. It’s easy to get burnt out on how dumb people can be. The cute factor dies and all you’re left with is some turd you’re trying desperately not to condescend out of respect for him as a human. What I’m saying is, we all love these archetypes until we can’t escape them. One racist marine who thinks Ragu is high-end Italian food is a fascinating novelty. Being stranded in a 2,000mile stretch of land with only those people is not nearly as charming.

A common motif I’ve noticed in your online postings is to have a sense of humor, and not to be so uptight – this attitude shines through in the craigslist classified ads posted in each city during your spring tour – whose idea was this and what other pranks do you tend to do while touring?
I think that was my idea to actually go through with it, but I’m sure everyone had a hand in that. We’re not a prank-heavy band. Ask people who tour with us- we’re not “fun” we’re just funny. So we’re not diving into 4ft pools while shooting roman candles. We suck balls at that sort of fun. But if we’re sitting around long enough we’ll typically make each other laugh with some shit like finding MMMMMF sexual experiences on craigslist. If we’re fun at all, we’re quiet nerd fun. We’re not particularly good at pranks, but every time we tour with Cruel Hand we make sure to put holes in their condoms.

Are there any tour plans in the work right now?  What is End of a Year up to at the moment as you bask in the glow of the release of your new album?
I think we’re going out again for a short stint in the fall. Maybe go to some of these fests. We love fests. As fans of music we sort of hate them, but as a band they’re fun as hell. You play and then wander around. You don’t actually have to be anywhere. That’s relaxing. We’re recording again. I’ve got to finish vocals on one 7” then we start in on another. We’ve got some plans for the winter that will start to really close in on what I want from this whole band experience. We’ve gotten to do some of the weird shit we’ve wanted to do, but some of the plans this winter will push that commitment to weird shit to the next level. <br><br>

You signed to Deathwish last year.  How have they been treating you so far?
They let us be weird. I can’t really ask much more of a label than that. I call them up once a week and pitch them an idea for a record and they never say “no.” They may say, “you’re giving us ulcers, WHY do you want Roger Clemens to sing on your record? Is it really necessary?” But never “no.”

A recent post on your blog addresses giving and receiving criticism as far as music, success, and how it relates to goals.  Whose criticism are you most likely to value?  Does it often have an effect on what End of a Year chooses to do?
I do my best not to dismiss criticism right out the gate. Some people create that brick wall and insulate their feelings shitting on anyone who criticizes them. I can understand in certain situations. A few records ago, someone gave us a poor review so I click on his profile on the site. His favorite record of the year was Gnarls Barkley. What am I supposed to do for that dude? He shouldn’t be allowed to listen to music, nevermind review it. So it’s easy to just outright dismiss that bit of criticism. But I try not to do that, because even a broken clock is right twice a day. If Hitler told you to brush your teeth would you not do it because he told you to and he’s a shithead? So you’ve gotta at least hear people out. Sometimes they may be right for the wrong reasons, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re right. Like if some shithead criticizes my voice, it’s easy for me to deflect it and say, “oh, that dude must not come from a punk background, he doesn’t get it.” But instead of doing that, maybe it’s worthwhile to hear it out and reflect on it. Is this dude really a clueless idiot with no understanding of subculture? Probably. But that doesn’t change the fact that my voice is really bad.

What sort of goals do you hold for End of a Year at this point?

I’d like to make music well into my “adult” years. Punk music kicks you out after awhile. I read people on messageboards shit talk people involved in punk music by saying, “dude is practically 30!” As if age is an insult or the dude has less of a right to be there. But that seems to be the way it is. A lot of similarities between hardcore and hip hop. Both fear age. They either want to see you perform only your old material or they want you to disappear entirely so they can pretend they rediscovered you and talk about it on a messageboard. So eventually we’ll be ushered out of the thing we’ve been around for a long minute doing and I don’t know where that will put us. But that’s the great thing about being a band that has never gotten big- who we sell to has never been a concern. We’ll never have a “classic” period that people get hung up on. We’re always making things you can like or not.

My goal is to pursue every weird opportunity and collaboration available to us. I want records of ours that people don’t like, but they stick with us until the next one because they know we’re good and they don’t have to like our entire catalog. I want an actual life in music. I almost said career, but career has a certain connotation for some people. I’m talking about actually expressing yourself as an adult. Something not everyone gets. Ever meet those people who are done? They put down their instrument with no intent of ever picking it up again. I’m looking for the opposite of that. I want to keep expressing myself until I’ve made something I feel can’t be topped. Since that may not happen in this lifetime, I keep it moving towards the next.


Fluff Fest/ Ruiner feature

My first article for The Prague Post

Summer in the Czech Republic brings heat, ticks and music festivals of all sorts. Typically, festival organizers scramble to put the best names in their lineup, jack up ticket prices and spread the word – though not always. Fluff Fest has the crucial lineup at a very reasonable price, but is intentionally slacking on the promotional front.

“We don’t do any press for the festival,” says organizer “Big Tomáš” via e-mail. “I know it’s weird, but that’s the way it is. We just do what we like, and we don’t seek a major audience.”

While refusing media attention is 100 percent punk, an event this good can’t stay under wraps. It features an international lineup headlined by 26 major names in hardcore, including Municipal Waste, Vitamin X, No Turning Back, Cruel Hand and Ruiner. Bands are coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France and Austria. Along with the music, there’s a weekend’s supply of vegan food and nonmusical events such as film viewings and a zine reading room.

This will be the last opportunity to see Ruiner. After six years of touring and three full-length albums, the American band is calling it quits with one last romp through Europe and a farewell show or two in the States. Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Ruiner plays fast-paced, melodic hardcore in the vein of Have Heart, Sinking Ships and Another Breath (also appearing at this year’s Fluff Fest). The band has played several times in Prague.

Fluff Fest
July 23-25
Where: Rokycany
Tickets: 600 Kč for all three days, available at the site
For a complete schedule and more information, check Fluffmusic.com

“We are very excited to come back,” vocalist Rob Sullivan says via e-mail. “We have always enjoyed ourselves there. Big Tomáš is an amazing man.”

While noting that festival appearances “are rather annoying for the bands and usually a hassle,” Sullivan says the invitation to play at Fluff Fest was special. “We appreciate the gesture and the show of respect it means for us to headline.”

Since their first East Coast tour in the United States six years ago, Ruiner has crisscrossed four continents, establishing themselves as important players in the international hardcore scene. “I’d say the amount of touring we’ve done is a great accomplishment for us,” Sullivan says. “We’ve been able to see the world, and for that we will always look back at Ruiner as a great part of all of our lives.” He names Australia as one of his favorite places to play, adding, “It’s tragic we won’t be heading back.”

In general, audiences overseas have shown Ruiner a lot of love. “It really comes down to appreciation,” Sullivan says. “Obviously, it’s easier for U.S. kids to see us. When we play abroad, we’re treated a bit better.”

The current tour will take them not only to the Czech Republic but Romania, Hungary and Slovakia, as well. “I am excited we will get to head further east in Europe, to some countries we’ve never been,” Sullivan says. “It should be rather interesting and different, I’m sure.”

His advice to audiences as Ruiner makes its way across Europe: “Have a good time and don’t take everything I say seriously.”

Other bands worth catching at Fluff Fest include Municipal Waste from the United States, whose skate-punk thrash is heaven for any headbanger; Holland’s No Turning Back, who have been providing heavy mosh soundtracks for 13 years; and Vitamin X, who play experienced Dutch thrash reminiscent of the ’80s style.

The newcomers deserve a listen, too, especially Comadre, from California, who offer catchy and aggressive punk that will keep you moving.

Since Fluff Fest’s debut in 2000, it has recruited more significant names for its lineup every year. The organizers are equally thoughtful about how they stage the festival, encouraging concertgoers to leave their dogs at home and clean up after themselves.

There’s a free campground, a public pool with showers close by and, if you’re not into roughing it, nearby hotels. So bring some fresh underwear, a toothbrush and, most importantly, earplugs.

Firewater feature for Prague Post

Find the article here.

Firewater, a punk, folk and world music band from Brooklyn, NewYork, is continually testing an idealistic assumption.

“Most people – not some governments, maybe, but ordinary people – will always choose peace over war, friendship over enmity and free expression over silence,” says frontman and guitarist Tod A. “I want to test that assumption.”

A 2005 road test resulted in Firewater’s sixth album, The Golden Hour. Starting in Delhi, Tod traveled through India and into Pakistan, recording with an array of musicians he met along the way.

“Being a musician is rarely an easy life anywhere, but it’s particularly challenging in the parts of the world in which I was traveling,” he says. “But all the musicians I met were enthusiastic about collaborating with a foreigner. While they weren’t big fans of the American government, in general they seemed to be quite fond of Americans. Like me, most people didn’t feel their government really represented them. We bonded on that.”

Wednesday, Aug. 4, at 7:30
Where: Klub 007 Strahov
Tickets: 190 Kč, available at the door

Which inspired Tod to dream even grander dreams: “Wouldn’t it be great to see Israelis and Palestinians playing together? Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots? Iranians and Americans?”

Tod’s interest in world music was initially inspired by a box of old records he ran across in a Russian junk shop on the lower East Side of New York. Formerly the front man of the band Cop Shoot Cop, he decided to combine his love of punk rock with the newfound inspiration of East European Gypsy and klezmer music – long before bands like Gogol Bordello and Beirut were working the same turf.

On Firewater’s first release, Get Off the Cross, We Need the Wood for the Fire (1996, Jetset Records), Tod’s punk roots shone through with his raspy voice and angsty lyrics, but the melodies were clearly Gypsy – and klezmer – inspired. The follow-up albums (The Ponzi Scheme, Psychopharmacology, The Man on the Burning Tightrope and Songs We Should Have Written) increasingly earned praise for having a unique and somewhat dark sound, and songs dealing with heavy topics such as religion, often in a light-hearted fashion.

The Golden Hour (2008, Bloodshot Records) features musicians from five different countries. “I was a little surprised myself how well the record came out,” Tod says, a sentiment echoed in the media. “I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but thankfully the reviews were very positive. The record got quite a bit of attention from the press and more outward-looking radio stations.”

Still, he’s looking forward to touring in Europe. “World music is still a ghetto in America; there’s very little support for it,” he says. “That’s slowly changing, but European audiences can be more open-minded.”

Firewater will be playing a good amount from The Golden Hour on this tour, along with some old favorites. Backing Tod will be Igal Foni on drums, Ravinder Sanhu on dhol and percussion, Reut Regev on trombone, Adam Scheflan on bass and Jaro Milko on guitar.

Beyond this tour, Tod is looking forward to resuming his travels through western Asia and the Mideast. “I really want to finish the road trip I initially set out to do, and maybe go a bit further,” he says. “This time I plan to start in Afghanistan and end in Palestine.”

He will be accompanied for part of the journey by Canadian filmmaker Andrew Coppin, who will document the trip. “Coppin’s film will follow the journey from Kabul through Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, Greece, Palestine and Israel,” Tod says. “Traveling overland on all forms of local transportation and staying in low-budget accommodations should ensure lots of local flavor. The cast of characters will include everyone from well-known musical performers to local street musicians to whoever we meet along the way.”

The ultimate goal is to “continue to tour around the world, meet interesting people, taste delicious food and live life – while it lasts.”

For now, the 12-city tour of Europe will keep the band busy. Asked what he’s looking forward to, Tod says, “Italy for the coffee, Spain for the swimming and [the Czech Republic] for the pilsner!”

Adam Turla of Murder by Death

When the name ‘Adam Turla’ showed up on our caller ID last month, I got pretty fuckin nervous.  Turned out to be alright and they stole the show later that evening at the 9:30 Club.

This was finally posted on punknews.org


So you were playing shows throughout Europe over the summer, how were those tours and did you have a particular place you preferred playing in Europe?

We mostly just like going over there because it’s really wild to jump from one sort of cultural style to another. I think the fun of touring Europe is being somewhere new everyday or every couple days. You go to Italy which is such a culture of food and a certain attitude and a look to the land. Then you go to Germany and it’s completely different in every way and there’s something exciting about getting to jump between these various cultures that we love. We had a great time and then we toured Greece about a month and a half ago which is gorgeous. We played in front of Mount Olympus and we played in Athens in view of the Acropolis. It’s just crazy to find yourself in this sort of foundation of Western civilization while you’re playing a rock show.

That’s got to be pretty breathtaking . . .

Yeah it’s just crazy. I think when we started our band there was no thought we’d ever find ourselves in Greece because of the band. You hope that you’ll get to travel to see the world… you’re sort of thinking of travel as sort of a generic thing, and then you realize how many opportunities you have to see crazy stuff. I mean this summer we played Italy and we were taking a ferry to the island of Sardinia and on the way we stopped at Pisa and saw the leaning Tower of Pisa. You know, it’s like “What?! Alright!”

How is the tour with Gaslight Anthem going? Is this your first tour together?

Yeah, this is their first bug headlining tour. They were going to come out with us a year ago when they were starting to get some buzz, so they wanted to be the second band, but we had already confirmed a band. So we went with another option and we were like, “Oh we’ll just go with them next time,” and then when the next time rolled around they were asking us.

Oh man, that’s wild.

Yeah, so it’s been a good tour. The shows have been really big. And you know it’s always incredible to play a big room that sounds great. We’ve been able to play places we wouldn’t normally have been able to do on another tour.

Cool. So, how do American audiences compare to the ones you had in Europe?

It’s funny, in some ways it’s more complicated and in some ways it’s even similar than I would’ve expected. For one, American audiences sing along more. They speak English better (laughs). It’s so simple, but even if they are rowdy, or super into the show, or really respectful in Europe, you don’t get the amount of singing along. I love that about American shows – they’re always a little crazier. But even when you go to Europe, their attentiveness is incredible. We’ve played shows that were a 20 song set, and they want us to come on for an encore, and we’ll do that – we’ll do two songs. And then they want us to come on for another one, and we’ll do two songs. And then they’ll just keep clapping and they won’t stop clapping to the point where we’re standing there saying, “Do we know any more songs?” Then we’ll be like, “Alright this is the last song we know how to play.” And that’s kind of hilarious. Obviously they do an excellent job of stroking our egos… its fun. It’s interesting to compare because when we’re in Europe we’ll be the only band – there’ll be like one band opening for us instead of like a whole tour package.

Yeah they want more out of one band. So, Gaslight’s style is pretty different from Murder by Death. Are you all fans of Gaslight Anthem?

We weren’t as familiar beforehand. We had just heard a little bit. But yeah, we have come to be, certainly. I guess it’s different. There are certain songs that make more sense to their audience. They have a really upbeat, nostalgic sound. We have a much darker thing… some upbeat songs, but more downers and slower instrumentals. We have been testing out the material and seeing what people respond to. Trying stuff that’s really different from what they do, trying stuff that’s more similar. We’ve been experimenting over the course of two months what we should do, and how people will respond to each style.

Yeah, I was going to ask about that. This tour has a pretty varied line-up featuring Gaslight Anthem, Murder by Death, The Measure (SA), and the Loved Ones. So, what advantages can you find in such a diverse tour and are there any disadvantages?

This tour has changed a lot. There have been different openers. The Measure has only played one show so far… and before that it was Broadway Calls which is a punk band from Portland. Before that it was Frank Turner from England… and we have the Loved Ones who are like smarter, older dudes playing rock ‘n’ roll punk… they’d all get the audience into a excited frenzy, and then we’d play and maybe depress them a little bit.

Yeah (laughs)

We’ll do our drinking song thing, but we’ve had a great response. And then Gaslight will come up and obviously it’s their tour… It’s kind of nice with the diverse tour because then we can meet bands that we never would’ve met. We never would’ve played with any of these bands if we were headlining a tour because it’s just a tour of a different circle. It’s definitely more of a punk tour than we usually play. It’s been cool to kind of branch out.

Yeah I was going to ask a question about that. You guys are praised for having a unique style that incorporates a cello and an electronic keyboard. What type of fans are you able to draw with that style? Do you feel you can kind of steer people in a different direction from what they’re typically used to?

That’s kind of the idea. That’s what we’ve done since we started playing as a national touring band. We would just take tours, just take whatever the best option was, and sometimes we’d just take the only option. So we’ve just played for a huge variety of fans. We’ve played with metal bands, we’ve played with indie bands, we’ve played with artsy bands, goth, emo, punk, stoner, rockabilly, we’ve done it all. It’s been our angle – you go up there and you play for these people and you try to win them over no matter what their genre is.

It’s been an advantage for our career, since we’re sort of a unique band, we do go up there and people are surprised, people who have never heard of us. They’re surprised by the sound, and you can see them and they’re either like, “Eh, whatever” or they’re like, “Wow, this is unique, I like this”. We’ve actually won a lot of our fans by playing in front of other acts. It’s really helped us. But then again, you don’t have an identity in the same way. Like, if you’re a young punk band and you’re going out with an older punk band you know that fans are going to respond really well to you. It’s an identity that they’ve already committed themselves to.

Yeah, totally. You kind of touched on another question I was going to ask just for fun. People are quick to judge a band by their name rather than reading a review or listening to myspace tracks for a few seconds. I’ve seen a lot of hilarious assumptions made about Murder by Death’s style. Just for fun, are you more annoyed or amused at these assumptions?

These days we’ve been playing for over nine years together. We’re not really worried about that anymore because we have a pretty good thing going and I guess at this point it’s so easy to go online and in 30 seconds you’d know that we’re not a death metal band or something.

(Laughs) Right.

It’s pretty clear with the fact that we have a cello and the way that we sing . . .so it’s kind of one of those things where I’m not like annoyed or amused. I’m just kind of like, “Yep.” It’s just part of the deal . . .

So getting back to the tour, although it seems to be rarely updated, I enjoy the food blog on your website, especially Sarah’s most recent haiku about a feta wrap. What was the inspiration behind turning your tour blog into a food blog?

It’s just that when you tour as much as we do, you eat every meal at a restaurant. And so, the idea is that Sarah and I especially are both really into food. It was before we were in a band; we both come from families that love to cook for fun, you know? So when you are eating out at every meal, it becomes an important part of your day in that it’s an opportunity to sort of escape from the idea of being on the road – to go out and have a good meal. It can totally change your mood . . . I started going out and I’m like “Man, that meal was awesome!” We just went to some random restaurants that were some of the closest ones to the club and they turn out to be really good. I finally decided I needed to start writing them down. Then I realized, I could just write a review about each of these meals… and people liked it. People responded to it and thought it was fun. A lot of people these days are really into going out and trying new restaurants. It’s been a fun thing to write about, and it gives you something to do on the road.

And Sarah’s doing an anti-food blog. For all the worst meals of the tour she writes a haiku.

Yeah, that’s the one I read. I think that’s a pretty creative idea.

Yeah, we’re doing that for fun, just to make ourselves feel a little better about the awful meals we had.

So tell us a little about the book soundtrack for Finch. How did you get involved with that?

The author, Jeff Vandermeer, reached out to us. He said “I’m a big fan. I’ve got this new book coming out in November. I listened to your records pretty much the whole time I was writing it, so I would love if it makes any sense at all, for you to write a soundtrack. I would include it with the special edition copies of the book.” We read that e-mail and our publicist got back to us and said “This guy is for real. He’s got a lot of fans and he’s got a whole lot of science fiction awards…” So we wrote back saying “It’s such a weird idea, that we like it, we really like it. So send us a copy of the book, and if we like it we’ll move forward.” So we all read the book and we thought it was really cool. So we went into the studio – we rarely have time to do stuff like this, but it happened to work out. We went into the studio in August and we took five days and we wrote music to go with the scenes of the book. We wrote like it was going with a movie almost, and we scored those scenes. It’s all instrumental, and we got to experiment and try something we had never done before – to write to a book, and also to do an all instrumental release. It was really fun. It just worked. We just wrote and wrote and recorded. It’s just something totally new for us.

It seems like something totally new in general. I had never heard of something like this before.

Right, neither had we. That’s what we thought was cool.

Your lyrics tend to be honest and heavy. Who are some of your favorite lyricists, what do you admire in lyrics, and how do you incorporate that into Murder by Death?

I like unique lyrics. My favorite thing to do is to write about stuff in a different way. I try to stray from love songs because it’s such a traditional material and there are so many people that have an entire career of like relationship songs. I jut didn’t want to get sucked into that world of sort of repeating yourself. I mean some people do it so well. That’s just not where we saw ourselves when we were writing material. We were trying to get it to more of a fictional approach, which is a weird idea and we totally just write about weird subjects. Who Will Survive… is about a devil getting shot in a bar fight, and it’s a whole album based around the idea of revenge and it’s sort of a fun story that you can kind of immerse yourself in. We always would try to make the music fit the lyrics. So we kind of look at the lyrics and we’re like, “How do we communicate this musically?” and that’s kind of just the aim of the band is to kind of unite the words with the music in a way that’s much more thought about than a lot of acts do. I think we really wanted to make sure that it’s not just words over music. They exist together and really function off of each other. That’s been a major step in writing. We’re going to go home and do a lot of writing a recording in about a week. I’ve got all the songs and melodies done, but what we really need to do is set it to music.

So do you think the upcoming album will have a theme to it as well?

I didn’t want to do a concept record the way we have done in the past because I didn’t want to repeat my self and I knew the guys would probably enjoy something different from a writing perspective. This album has some themes, but it’s not about one thing. I wanted to have more isolated tracks. That’s creatively what sounded more fun.

I wanted to ask about the evolution of your sound overall. When you look back on the four full lengths and the latest project with Finch, what are your thoughts on Murder by Death’s musical progression over the last nine years from Like the Exorcist, but More Breakdancing to Red of Tooth and Claw?

The main thing about the band to us is to try and keep it interesting. We wanted each album to feel different and also fit under the banner of Murder By Death. We wanted to sort of create a world of Murder by Death, but yet make each album have its own thing. Our first album we were just trying to figure out what sort of band we wanted to be. Our second album was like an accidental concept record that told a story. Our third album, we were trying to make it like a book of short stories where each song just had a certain feel. On our fourth album the idea was to do a linear story but a very consistent rock record. We wanted it to be more of a rock record than our past records. And so the Finch record is totally different. It’s funny because at times we try to make homages to kind of older styles or songs. I think in some ways the Finch record, which is the latest thing we’ve done, starts out like a full release. I think at moments on it, fans of our first release will identify with it most, more so than our more modern fans. That’s something I saw – that musical tendencies that we had on our older records were coming up as we were working on that, which is pretty fun. We were kind of able to bring back some old style. The whole thing with us has been kind of moving forward while occasionally making nods to the past.

I’ve heard a few people compare your voice to Johnny Cash. Did he play into your major influences at all or Murder by Death’s influences in general and what other artists have had a profound impact on Murder by Death?

Yeah I’ve been getting that one a lot. Probably thousands of times. It’s one of those ones where I feel people naturally when they hear something that want to find a frame of reference. They say “What is this like, what does this remind me of? Ok, this.” And that’s great. I think I like Johnny Cash just as much as anybody, but I don’t really listen to him a lot or anything. I certainly didn’t mean to sound like him or something (laughs). It’s a very big compliment to be compared to someone that is one of the major recording artists of the last century. For me though, the singer that I always wanted to be about to sing like, that I really like, is Eric Burdon of The Animals. His style, where he sings like a very low part and then he kind of yells. It’s sort of ballsy shout-singing. That really attracted me as a style, and that’s been something that I’ve been enjoying. I love the idea of a very dynamic song vocally. It’s just so much more fun to sing that way than to do a flat, straight forward song. I love dynamics with singing.

Mindset – Real Power

Relentless fast-paced positivity from start to finish.  Maryland’s Mindset keeps youth crew alive with their positivity throughout these four energetic songs.

Empowering vocals from Ev don’t let up for these seven short minutes.  As his lyrics challenge apathy and ignorance, topics on this album include self-motivation, changing for the better, compassion for one another, and of course their commitment to straight edge.  Although mostly slightly angry shouts, his vocals are clear and comprehensible.  Audible lyrics can be a rarity in hardcore, so Real Power is a treat for us who want to sing along.  Not to mention the slew of gang vocals on each track that will have you grasping for the mic at live shows.

The most obvious influence is Youth of Today.  While Ev doesn’t aim to imitate Ray Cappo (aside from an occasional “Ooh – wah!” or “Pow!” leading into a breakdown – see “Think Again” and “Before I Sleep”), the musical structure is very reminiscent.  The most enjoyable aspect of Real Power are the fun and powerful breakdowns featuring quick palm-muted guitars and stand-out bass lines fronting powerful drums.  These come amongst mid to quick-tempo energetic melodies.

This positive energy will grasp your attention and keep you wide awake.  Fans undoubtedly are ready for more considering this album’s 2008 release date.

Check their myspace for more information and tour dates.


(this review can also be found on Punknews.org and Mutiny Zine)

Cheap Girls – My Roaring 20s

Offering a solid progressive follow-up album, Cheap Girls are the current experts on paying homage to 90’s alternative and powerpop – if not the only experts in the field today.  With last year’s debut Find Me a Drink Home, you might be reminded of 90’s greats The Lemonheads, Archers of Loaf, and sometimes Dinosaur Jr.  My Roaring 20’s offers familiar comparisons as they don’t stray far from that original style, but Cheap Girls really shine on this album with an added twangy, bluesy acoustic element to their alt-powerpop. Compared to their debut, this album gives off more of a southern vibe (despite their Michigan location).

As they seem to really be coming into their own on this release, there’s good energy from start to finish on this album.  Steady mid-tempo to fast drums behind poppy strumming and catchy, melodic guitar riffs keep the album upbeat yet mellow from start to finish.  Cheap Girls still retain that 90’s alternative influence and mash it with a more folky drinking-song style for an overall feel-good experience.

While he’s not the most talented vocalist, Ian Grahm’s unique smooth and folky style is consistent; leaving a lasting impression.  Just as with Find Me a Drink Home, lyrics remain honest and creative as they stick to the album title’s theme.  While they’re a bit meloncholy, the catchiness of the tunes offers sing alongs throughout the entire album. Stand-out catchy lyrics are in the end track, “One & Four” as he belts with melodic sadness “Where did you come from?  Where did you go?” in each catchy chorus.  “Hey, Hey I’m Worn Out” offers a sing along of the track’s title a few times throughout.  Over the twangy guitars, Grahm’s voice is nearly intoxicating, fitting well into these perfect drinking tunes. 

My Roaring 20’s is the perfect follow up album.  Cheap Girls retain their awesome influences as they take on their own unique style and bring something new to the table in today’s independent music scene.


Mutiny Zine

No Friends – s/t

A fine first effort from supergroup No Friends -Municipal Waste’s Tony Foresta on vocals, and New Mexican Disaster Squad’s Richard Minino (drums), Sam Johnson (guitar, vocals), and Alex Goldfarb (bass, vocals).  These tunes might sound more familiar to New Mexican Disaster Squad fans – while it’s nothing super unique, this album offers some quality hardcore with melodic tendencies.  While Municipal Waste might fuck you up, No Friends will simply get you to bounce around, sing along, pump your fist, and have a lot of fun.

After a few spins, I’ve come to appreciate the lyrics and vocals most of all.  While they’re not all the most ingenious, they’re not to be taken lightly as they challenge our society.  Addiction to material possessions is denounced in the aptly named “Material Addiction”, “Loaded Question” confronts political figures and their agendas, and “Never Ending Fight” describes an ending relationship.

Vocals are mostly angry shouts from Foresta with more melodic back-ups from Johnson and Goldfarb.  The dynamics in vocals match the music on this album.  The fast drumming and riffs push through the whole album accompanied by prominent bass lines giving off the apparent 80’s hardcore feel, until a breakdown brings a more mid-tempo and melodic vibe to the table.  The bass lines stick out during the entire album as almost every breakdown stems from a  bass solo.  The musical attributes brings  Paint it Black’s CVA to mind, but No Friends maintains a distinct quality especially through lyrical style.

The dynamic sound here will pave the way for a wide fan base.  For fans of: Black Flag, Dillinger Four, Paint it Black, Descendents.


This review can also be seen on punknews.org