I spoke to Eric Ohlsson on skype the other day. Here it is – long and a bit awkward. Story on Millencolin for the Prague Post is up next.
I spoke to Eric Ohlsson on skype the other day. Here it is – long and a bit awkward. Story on Millencolin for the Prague Post is up next.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Punknews.org finally got my interview with Ki Seok So of the Geeks up on the site. Check it out here
Undoubtedly the most popular hardcore band based Korea, The Geeks should be one of the first coming to mind when you think of Asian hardcore. Among the “K-Pop” permeating the entire country – Rain, Big Bang, Wondergirls– the substantial hardcore scene causes a great sigh of relief. Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, The Geeks sit tight on both Korea’s Townhall Records and Florida-based Think Fast! Records. Their brand of positive melodic hardcore does well in both hemispheres. While they rarely get a chance to visit the West, their LP Every Time We Fall is available for your listening pleasure on their Punknews profile page, and they are currently working on a new EP. Recent Korea resident Stephanie Thornton talked with lead singer Ki Seok So about The Geeks’ reputation, the hardcore scene in Korea, and cultural differences playing into the same international scene.
You can click Read More for the interview.
Think Fast!’s website claims “The Geeks is to Asia what Youth of Today was to American Hardcore.” What are your thoughts on this heavy statement?
I agree with you that it is a heavy statement. I do not think we have changed the Asian hardcore scene as dramatically as YOT did to American hardcore. However, I am certain we did make an impact on Asian kids to some degree.
We put every effort we can into this and luckily we put out records on an American hardcore label and went on tours with leading hardcore bands around the world. I believe it showed the rest of the world that hardcore exists and how it is done in Asia and clearly left a positive impact on some Asian hardcore kids.
I mean, people love fast-core bands from Japan like Gauze, but it is a different scene from the one we are in. This scene existed for a long time but it wasn’t recognized at all. Call it old school hardcore, call it youth crew hardcore, call it straight edge hardcore, call it whatever it is, people generally do not know much about other hardcore scenes in Asia besides Japan. There weren’t many bands doing what we do before us and FC 5. In terms of that, I am proud of our achievement and some kids in Asia must feel proud of that. Asia Hardcore Pride.
You guys are on Townhall Records in Korea and Think Fast! Records based in the U.S. Since you can’t often make it out to the states, what is The Geeks’ “long distance” relationship like with Think Fast! Records?
The relationship between TF! and us has been really tight since day one. We still get in touch with each other pretty often. Sometimes I just call Larry from calling cards to see how he’s doing. For instance, Larry just sent me a message right after YE Yang’s surprise win. Even though we haven’t released an album nor been on tours in the US for about two years, we have been actively playing shows inside and outside Korea and gotten involved in many things – Hong Kong Tour, Japan tour. Plus we brought Have Heart, Terror , and Down to Nothing to Korea. Whenever we are on the road, we try our best promote TF! Records and let people know how sweet they are.
TF! has done a tremendous job getting our names out to the world over the past years, and we tried to promote TF! In other countries we were in – especially Asia. We always move forward to come up with new projects and it just worked perfectly for both of us. So I think it’s really mutually beneficial and solid “long distance” relationship.
I know it’s hard for you all to find much time off. How often do you get a chance to play abroad? Does this have any effect on your goals for the Geeks?
Yes, it totally affects us negatively [as far as] what we want to achieve with the Geeks. In our dreams, we should be touring all over the world as we speak, but you must face reality and adjust to it. The situation is really unfavorable in Korea where even taking more than three to four days off is a very tough task. I want to play abroad at least one or two times a year. If the schedule is set two months in advance, chances are better. We still need to come up with good excuses though because we can’t just tell them we will be on tour in a Korean working environment.
[It’s our goal to go to] Europe and South America, more countries in Asia where we have never been before — exchange views and make new friends. We all know that life is hard but we will try our best to squeeze as much time as possible for touring.
Where have been your favorite places to play outside of Korea?
Baltimore, Boston, Seattle, Florida, California, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Tokyo, Japan would be my personal favorites.
Obviously you all are a positive straight edge band, drawing comparisons to American bands like Youth of Today, but do you feel Korean culture has had a big impact on your attitude and lyrical content to a noticeable point? What, if any, differences do you notice between your lyrics and those of Western bands?
This is a really tough one. I have been to many countries and studied their cultures for both academic and personal reasons and I concluded that Korean culture is really unique in its own way. Very different from what is widespread in western culture. Due to hardcore music, I’ve had several chances to realize and compare the differences. Based on those assessments, I managed to create my own standard of what to take and what [to leave], what should be changed or kept.
I don’t want to get political in our lyrics although I do really care. Sometimes I feel that something must be done to an educational system in this country where kids are forced to sit at the table and study all day. So I try to address those issues in our lyrics.
As the country adhering to Confucianism more than any other, Korea’s society tends to be strict and conservative in various ways. How has your band managed to gain popularity under these conditions?
Your assessment as to Confucianism is absolutely correct. However, what Confucianism does to this difficult environment is small and limited. There are other factors combined with a historical and social background that created a tough situation for anyone involved in the music industry, including mainstream and underground scenes. As Korea went through a military government period and an economic development period (often referred as Miracle of Han River), our grandparents’ and parents’ generations had to sacrifice everything. Work, work, work to support family and speaking your mind can give you a hard time. I think there formed this typical view that considers chasing your dreams and living your life a bad and amateur thing to do in someone’s life. Mandatory Military Service definitely made an already bad situation even worse. I have given a lot of thought to how it is what it is, so I can go on and on, but the bottom line is it’s just tough. How did we manage to gain popularity? I think that’s because we never gave up, and people really appreciate that.
Drinking seems to be a popular evening and weekend past-time amongst most Koreans – is that fair to say? Although it’s not a major point in your lyrics, you’re still regarded as a straight-edge band. What sort of reactions to you get on the straight edge side of things?
Yes, it is absolutely fair to say that the whole culture revolves around drinking for the most part. The most common question I get whenever I tell people I don’t drink is “How can you live?” Korean people don’t understand the concept of living an alternative lifestyle (it can also be applied to the case of vegetarianism). I am not saying people are ignorant or anything like that. People just aren’t aware of those lifestyles.
It was really hard for me to keep my edge status in the first stage, especially in the first year of college and in mandatory military service. In the military service, I almost got beaten by this crazy old-timer for refusing to drink. It has been and still is a struggle on my end, but this is how I choose to live my life. Fun comes from taking control!
My perspective on Straight Edge is that it is a personal choice. People are entitled to choose how to live their lives and I do not want to force anyone into this lifestyle. I think other ideas floating in the scene are the same in that sense. Although Straight Edge is not a major subject of our lyrics, what I am trying to address in my lyrics is to make people open their eyes to these ideas that are shared in the scene and realize there is so much more in this world than just living a life carefree. I have massive hatred for ignorance that some stupid assholes have, though. I absolutely hate it when people are trying to mock me. But thank God things are changing now. With the internet generation, people have become more individual so it is getting gradually accepted. For the rest of my life, I think it’s my mission to make people understand that it’s ok not to drink!
How does the hardcore scene promote itself and grow in Korea? What are your thoughts on its current state?
Environment for any type of bands playing rock music in Korea is in a severe condition. There are not enough infrastructures and not enough people to understand and support this music. It is very closely connected with the drinking that was already mentioned. People rather just sit down in the bar and play drinking games to just get wasted until they pass out. They think spending 10 to 20 bucks on any creative and cultural thing is a total waste whereas I think spending 200 bucks on the bar is worthless. So we are struggling.
Even bands playing mainstream music are having a hard time. Needless to say, hardcore music has a worse situation. But our scene is great. It’s just pure and awesome. It is very frustrating sometimes but making our best endeavor to keep this scene existing is something we all are proud of.
What Koreans bands would you recommend to those unfamiliar with the scene here?
Things We Say, No Excuse and Burn My Bridges are outstanding bands from South Korea. If you are looking for fast but melodic youthcrew, Things We Say is your answer. Revelation Records indicated that Things We Say is my side project band, but it’s completely wrong. I am more of like what Walter [Schreifels] was to Youth Of Today to Things We Say. If you are looking for mid-tempo hardcore, No Excuse and Burn My Bridges are your perfect choices. No Excuse is Ku Seok from Townhall records singing and J from Things We Say playing guitar. Burn My Bridges is pure awesome.
I know Terror was in Korea this September. How often do Western bands get a chance to play in Korea and what are your thoughts on that rate? What do touring bands do for the scene here?
When it comes to hardcore, it is not rare to have Western bands play in Korea. It just requires so much money and effort to do so. The real problem is we do not have scene that is big enough to cover the expenses. Even with bands covering some portion of their flight tickets, we lose so much money from doing it. It may sound like I am whining and bitching about this but it’s true that it costs us a lot. We do have a great scene here but that’s why we promote shows to normal rock audiences. Hardcore kids and normal crowd are aware of how hard it is for them to play shows here in Korea. So they are just very appreciative of that. Through these shows, kids were inspired and learned that hardcore is not about making money and becoming a rock star, it’s something we work for together. That’s the spirit of passion and inspiration. What they do for the scene is priceless.
What bands have been personal influences for you and what bands influence The Geeks overall?
I can’t speak for other members but Youth Of Today is the one for me and I am sure they have been one of the biggest influences for us along with other Straight Edge hardcore bands from 80’s and 90’s. But over the past years, bands that we became friends from touring and playing shows together have been bigger influences for us. I am not going to name all of them but we found the real value of hardcore by making unforgettable memories and exchanging our views.
The Geeks cover “Shiner” on the Kid Dynamite compilation. How was that opportunity presented to you and how do you feel about the finished compilation?
It was given by our good friend Charles from Get Outta Town Records who put out CDs for this project and also released our LP in the US. He’s the one of the best guys I’ve ever known and has always helped us a ton. I love Kid Dynamite and respect what they have done. Also I know they deserve all the respect shown in this complication. So we are honored to participate in this.
When can we expect to hear something new from the Geeks?
We are working on a new EP with Think Fast! (US) and Townhall Records (Korea). I don’t know exactly when it gets done, but hopefully soon. The process is really slow. It was supposed to come out around this time, that was our initial goal anyway, but things have delayed. The biggest constraint is that all of us are heavily occupied with our full time jobs, and even during our free time one of our member’s lives really far from Seoul. We will get things done soon. More details will be announced when it is ready.
The Geeks are in their tenth year. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Out of all our accomplishments, there are two things that I feel most proud of. Firstly, the Korean hardcore scene we have right now, no matter what the size is. We worked really hard with our friends and have put our every effort into this to keep that going. Sometimes it is frustrating but I just appreciate that I am surrounded by the people who care about the meaning of this music and its message. Second is the fact that we have positively changed (or inspired) some people’s lives around the globe on some level. You see it is really hard to influence just one person in your life so it is such a privilege to have that opportunity.
What sort of goals do you have for the Geeks at the moment? – short term and long term.
Short term : 10th anniversary show and a New EP
Long term: To keep playing shows as long as we can. To tour as many other countries as possible.
Shook Ones have really blown me away with the latest album, The Unquotable A.M.H (what does this stand for? anyone? no, seriously…get back to me on that)
It’s been called too poppy and whatever, but I’ve already probably jammed this latest one more than the last two combined. All my love for this album is poured into this review I did for Racketmag.com:
Amongst positive feedback, it only takes a couple message-board publicized disappointments to have your curiosity sparked and an expectation set. The new Shook Ones LP The Unquotable A.M.H. has already been deemed “too poppy” and been compared to Blink 182. While some wouldn’t find the latter to be insulting, it’s assumed the contributor meant it as such.
Depending on your stance on poppy-ness, an initial anxious listen might prove to be relievable. While they’ve infused guitar riffs with more harmonies, slowed the tempo and pumped some extra melody into the “whoa-ohs”, but they haven’t changed their signature sound. It’s still fast-tempo melodic hardcore, but rather than prominent Kid Dynamite influence, this album leans more in the direction of None More Black and Self-titled-era Lifetime, and hey – most kids went apeshit over the latter mentioned pop-a-thon.
If you’ve deemed The Unquotable A.M.H. too poppy – don’t forget about Shook Ones liberal implication of “Whoa-ohs” and rhythmic hand-clapping on the previous two full lengths – Sixteen and Facetious Folly Feat. According to their myspace, Shook Ones are self-proclaimed “hardcore and pop-punk”, and that’s the simple truth – they’re formed from the ashes of prominent hardcore bands, showing the fun, light-hearted side of hardcore kids. They’ve found an awesome medium between pop-punk and hardcore. Both genres have been loud and clear in every Shook Ones release. In the pop department, The Unquotable A.M.H. doesn’t up the ante too much. While it’s not something you’d expect to hear on Deathwish records, it’d still be startling from Drive-Thru records.
The most prominent change can be seen by glancing at the track lengths. The Unquotable is at least doubled in length because the tempo has slowed, hitting the mid-tempo mark. The tempo change is most apparent on tracks “Birds on Ice”, “ Double-Knot That”, “T. Monk”, and the closer “Tip The Weatherman”. Shook Ones typically push their tempo to the limit – so decline was the only option for change. This decision has allowed Shook Ones to more establish their own style and begin pulling away from that cloned Kid Dynamite sound. The tempo change made room for more creativity, harmonies, emotions, and clearer vocals. Scott Freeman’s vocals still manage to charm while simultaneously hoarse and slurred – similar to the influential Lifetime. This LP has allowed for clearer vocals, making nearly a fifth of lyrics decipherable – exciting!
Third time’s the charm. While the previous two made for fun background music, this LP demands attention and has earned the “Repeat: All” setting on iTunes this week. A standout track is “T. Monk”, otherwise the entire album is a standout track. If you’re into old Saves the Day, Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, None More Black, or Latterman – you want to hear this – it’ll only take 31.4 minutes of your time.
I think I found my favorite album of 2009! Get into it, and if you’re in Europe check their space for tour dates. Also look for them at Sound and Fury fest.
…curse my desire to travel keeping me from a zillion awesome shows constantly. *self pitiful sighhhhhhhhhhhh*
Despite New Jersey being a fairly crappy state with cold dirty beaches and no left turns, they consistently house a lot of good music – I mean, hello…Bon Jovi! fuck yeah!
Seasick is my latest discovery that merited a blog post.
While typically on the quicker/ thrashier side of mid-tempo, Seasick is not too fast, not too slow – just right in my book. Mid tempo f.t.w.!
They’ve combined bits of metal, thrash, and melodic hardcore – albeit pleasing devout circle pitters.
They’re not exactly breaking any mold, but it’s a fun listen.
I won’t attempt to compare this band to anyone because I usually hate thrash and I don’t want to offend.
blaaah I haven’t reviewed music in a WHILE.
Timber – s/t demo
Sorry if the major-label comparison is offensive, but imagine that somewhat annoying fan-based Interscope-act Brand New took speed then destroyed all their acoustic guitars, danced around to some Velvet Underground, Hot Snakes or Death from Above 1979, and probably a little Black Flag. So it’s a really emotional act with some impressive sad lyric-writing ability, and they’re hyped on amphetamines, plugged in with the gain turned up and the bass drowning out the guitar; so they still may appeal to teen girls because of their catchy rhythm and melody at times, but the heavy bass, quick guitars, and eclectic drumming can pull in a wide range of listeners.
Timber is melodic and progressive, downbeat and emotional indie stuff that’d you’d dance to if it wasn’t so sad and weird. Inconveniently further from DC than a great up-and-coming band would like to be albeit – they’re straight out of Gaithersburg, MD (woo!). Congratulations to Timber for completely stumping me in the accurate musical comparison department – the Brand New scenario is the best I can do. Seeing as the band members are all pretty young, they’ve got a ton of room for improvement and elaboration on their already unique theme.
I got to talk to American Steel last night.
Rory – vocals/ Guitar
Scott – Drums
*Scott didn’t contribute too much, but when he did, it was always awesome! His quotes are marked.
This was before their set in Baltimore at Ram’s Head Live on July 11, 2008 during their tour with Alkaline Trio and The Fashion.
How’s the tour been so far with Alkaline Trio? How do you guys get along with them?
It’s not our first tour (with Alkaline Trio). We did kind of a small tour six or seven years ago and we’ve been friends for a long time. Matt and I were actually roommates for a while . . .back in the day.
When he was in San Francisco?
Yeah when he first moved out he moved in with me. So we get along great.
Your album Rouge’s March was listed along with Blink 182 and Green Day as one of the best punk albums in 2000. I honestly wasn’t aware of American Steel at that time but I was obsessed with Blink. How do you feel about being compared to those major label bands with a sound, in my opinion, much more radio-friendly? Are there any bands you often get compared to that you disagree with?
All the time. I think most bands would say that, but I think there are plenty of apt comparisons to greater or lesser degrees. I don’t personally care either way, you know?
On the other hand, any bands you’re flattered to be compared to?
Well. Yeah . . . it’s always sort of . . . when people compare you, they don’t compare you to initially how well you play or write so I think that would be the kind of thing that I’d be more flattered by . Usually it’s just more like ’You kind of sound like them . . ‘ Not really making a qualitative comparison. So I guess no. laughs
Your sound has undergone a lot of change since the self-titled, how do you personally feel about the evolution of your sound?
Basically we’ve always just done what we felt like and that sort of just translates into having each reacord sound kind of different than the next. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy it that we. We sort of shoot ourselves in the foot, not just in that way but in other ways just because we’re sort of militant about just doing exactly what we want. It hasn’t translated any commercial success – there’s no saying it would’ve, but I think you can kind of alienate some fans and gain others. In the end I don’t know how it really works out, all I know is that at the end of the day you just gotta be happy with what you’re doing, you know?
How do you feel about the audience reaction to “Destroy Their Future”? I know it’s been out for a while now . . .
Yeah it’s been out for about nine months so far. We’re really happy with it. We weren’t really sure what to expect from people who’ve been fans for a while, but it’s been overwhelmingly positive and that felt really nice. I feel like it was a successful record in that sense.
That’s when I heard of you guys. I think the record was streaming on punknews and I was like, ‘Oh wow, who’s this new band?’ I felt bad ‘cause you guys have been around for a while . . .
We hear that quite often – Scott
We are an underground punk band . . . we’re not in everyone’s face – Rory
How has the audience responded to the news that Ryan Massey won’t be joining this tour?
I’ve only really heard back from a few people and they’re sort of like . . .I think some people are disappointed because there’s a few songs that Ryan sings lead vocals on and they don’t get to hear them, but generally people have been cool.
And Chip’s doing a good job too, so that makes a difference. If he was just packing it up it would be different. – Scott
What kind of plans do you have for recording again?
We’re thinking about maybe recording again this winter. Maybe doing a summer release.
Do you guys work on songs while you’re on the road?
Yeah I’ll often times write a lot on the road just because it’s inspiring more than just being around at home. So it sort of ends up that way. I sort of write whenever it comes to me.
Way to pass time on the road.
Yeah it certainly is.
Any idea what direction will you take the sound of American Steel? It’s sort of eclectic the way you pull from all sorts of genres . . .
It’s kind of forming right now. I have a handful of songs and they all have a similar sort of quality to them. At this point it’s kind of hard for me to summarize, but it will be different . . .again. laughs.
Ok, It’ll be different again.
Yeah I think that’s at least something that’s reliable about us.
I think it’s a good thing.
Yeah it’s good once you get people to expect that . . . then it’s kind of liberating.
Can you explain the relationship between Communique and American Steel?
Three of us that are in American Steel were in Communique during the time when American Steel was on hiatus.
Well, that was simple. So what’s the status of Communique right now?
It’s sort of on hold. We may or may not pick it back up. We’re having a good time with American Steel right now, so . . .
If you had to list some major influences music-wise who would it be?
Um . . .*Rory’s phone rings to generic ringtone*
Ringtones – Scott
I’d say within the general genre of punk, bands like The Clash, Television, The Jam are all early favorites. Of course the East Bay punk scene of the late 80s and early 90s – that’s when we all grew up – so that was a big influence. Bands like Operation Ivy. From childhood, my parents listened to a lot of Motown and Irish folk music, so I’d say that punk and Motown and folk music in general are my favorites consistently over the years. They have a lot in common when they’re done well. They’re all folksy and they’re all soulful in their own ways . . . when done well. Laughs
What are some of your favorite bands right now, is there a band you’d love to tour with right now?
This Alkaline Trio tour is a great tour. Me and Matt have been talking about doing it for years, so . . . we’re all pretty stoked to be doing it right now. We’ve had some pretty good fortune with touring with bands last year and this year. There’s a lot of cool bands out there that I’d like to tour with and I don’t know if there’s any that like I’m just chomping at the bit to tour with.
Do you have like a newer favorite band that’s out there right now that you like a lot?
It’s sort of hard for me to place, um . . .I’d have to pull out my Ipod . . .
Laughs. Well if you feel like it. . . No you don’t have to!
So what do you like to see in an audience?
Smiling faces. That’s a good start. I like to see people having a good time. I don’t have any expectations from people with how they want to experience moments from us or any other band. I mean, they paid money to be entertained so I would hope that they would try to take advantage of that.
Definitely. Good point. How do your audiences typically react? I mean do they dance? Do they mosh or stand still?
Well it kind of runs the gamut. On a tour like this where everyone’s pretty much Alkaline Trio fans, it’s pretty much. .you’ll get fairly polite responses. A lot of people are hearing us for the first time so it’s like a political posture that they have where they think ‘Hmm do I like this band?’
Yeah. Laughs. ‘They kind of sound like this . . .’
Exactly. And that’s what the point of the tour is for bands like us because you’re trying to play for people that have never heard of you before, but when we play our own shows, when we’re headlining, definitely a lot of singing along. Fist pumping, and the finger pointing thing that kids do. Imitates finger point gesture. I don’t’ know when kids started to do that.
I think I do that and I don’t mean to! Like, I do this gun thing. Makes gun with fingers and flings hand back and forth.
Like, (as if it means) ‘I know the words right now!’ Flings gun around.
I’ma pop a cap in you! – Scott
Yeah I don’t even understand it . . .laughter. So how do you feel if you’re doing a tour like this and you have some fans who come up to the stage and they’re like doing the fist pumping . . .?
Oh there always is. There’s always a little enclave of fans that tend to sing along and stuff.
It’s nice to have the enthusiasm. – Scott
A lot of times they’ll feel out of place, you know, ‘cause there’s so many people there hearing us for the first time so it’s a little awkward for them. I enjoy it when they have the ability to get over that self consciousness.
It should be awkward for the other guys, you know? Like ‘hey why don’t you know anything about this band that’s playing?’
Laughs. That’s a good attitude to have.
So where do you typically find inspiration for lyrical content?
Well, a lot of songs tend to be more personal. Obviously they come straight from my personal life. I do tend to write a lot about non-personal issues . . . a lot of people will call them political songs but I sort of see them as being philosophical. Philosophical musings. Sometimes I’ll even just be asking questions. Sometimes I’m just pondering out loud.
I think honesty is really important in lyrics, too.
So what lyricists do you admire and why?
Van Morrison is definitely one of my favorites.
I get that a lot.
Yeah he did this whole mystic thing that I’m not really into myself but I like it a lot. I always love Joe Strummer’s lyrics . . .Bad Religion – I always like their political songs.
Yeah I’m sure you grew up listening to them too.