Wow – that month went by fast. Probably because I was too busy and tired to keep track of it. Crayzey. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep up as well with music as usual due to my not being able to access the internet for most of the week. But I’ve been doing my best during the weekend, mostly just making sure to catch the big new albums, but still, I’m checking the blogs. Here are the highlights of September.
When you’re in a bad place and you lose some loved ones, if you’re a musician you make an album. Usually these super sad albums are actually amazing – look at albums like Arcade Fire‘s Funeral (inspired by deaths in the family), or Patti Smith‘s Gone Again (inspired by the death of her husband Fred Smith, her brother Todd, friends Allen Ginsberg, Robert Mapplethorp and former bandmate Richard Sohl). Fresh And Only‘s guitarist Wymond Miles recently lost a best friend and some family members and so he went and made an album called Under The Pale Moon. Haven’t heard the entire thing yet, but this song off it is really good and Pitchfork gave it a deece review.
There are times when you know you’ll like a band before you even hear them. Maybe it’s their name, something you read about them, or the album cover. When you actually do listen to them, they’re just giving you more reason to like them. They’re not even confirming what you thought, they’re just adding to it. I’ve fallen for this week’s band of the week like that. And the band of the week is…
If you read this blog you know I like weird, lo-fi stuff. You also might know that a band with an absurd conviction of their own awesomeness despite being out of time, out of place, out of fashion, and out of money, can charm me off my feet. White Fang is like that kid you knew in grade 1 who loved wrestling, spoke weirdly and was always getting in trouble, who never changed as he grew up, but simply became amazingly entertaining to be around, especially once he started drinking. And he has charmed me off my feet. Big time.
On the cover of their amazingly-titled album, Grateful To Shred, is a dude with long, curly stoner hair wearing a Slayer tanktop, crushing a packet of cigarettes in his right hand. Not only is it an amazing photo, but it is amazingly appropriate for the contents of the album, which are scuzzy, funny, scrappy, consistently entertaining and enjoyable, and entirely lacking of any kind of pretension or of-the-moment fashions. There are no synths or drum machines or fancy pro-tools editing. The only pedals used appear to be distortion pedals. Drums are loud and caveman-like. The vocals are usually yelled out by what sounds like an overexcited 14-year-old. There is a song with Van Halen-style fingertapping. There is a song called “Can’t Find My Weed”. It is amazing.
Though scrappy little bands of all genres from all over the world make their own little albums and post them online, many with no ambitions further than to have their friends or whoever may stumble upon them enjoy them, White Fang has created one of the most insular, characteristic, and well-put together albums I’ve heard from among the bajillions of like-minded bands who email me every day. It’s not too goofy to not be taken seriously, and it’s too off-kilter for the Thee Oh Sees/The Fresh and Onlys/Black Lips club of scuzz-rockers. It is it’s own thing, and yet it’s clear where this music is coming from. Yes, the 80′s, 90′s, punk, lo-fi, classic rock, metal and such. But also…the heart…
If you’ve never heard of Big City Nights (though you should have, because Gold Soundzposted a song of theirs a while ago…and that’s all it should take…harrumph…), they’re this cool lo-fi band from a Toronto suburb (or something) called Brampton. Gold Soundz guest contributor Paula JP interviewed singer/guitarist Danny Lindsay, see below.
Years ago, Dan was my contact when I went to audition for one of the bands he was in. After I nervously sang scales all day warming up my voice, I met him only to learn he was kicked out of the band the night before. So instead of me auditioning, we spent the day jamming and talking about music. Since then, Dan has given me every new release he makes.
When I walked into Dan’s room to conduct this interview, I saw a poster of guitar chords, a futon, CDs scattered everywhere, instruments resting against his computer, and lyrics scribbled on the walls’ chipping paint.
“[Sometimes] I’m out of paper and I don’t want to forget a line,” he explained.
P: You’ve made 8 albums now with so many different songs: which is your favourite so far?
D: My favourite would be a tie between “Ever Say Ever” and “Beach Music”. If I had to pick I’d take “Beach Music”. It’s just such a happy song.
P: What initially drew you to play guitar and how long have you been playing?
D: I started playing in grade 7. I was a Kurt Cobain kid. I had a different Nirvana T-shirt for each day of the week. I wanted to learn every Nirvana song. All the guys on my street had guitars and I begged my parents to get me one but they refused because they thought I wouldn’t play it. It took months to convince them that I was serious, but finally my Mom got me a $100 Harmony (piece of shit) because I had a Penny Saver route that paid $5 a week. She probably realized I was never going to get a guitar getting paid that kind of money.
P: You’ve hit the road many times, hitchhiked across Canada; has the road been an influence on your writing?
D: The hitchhiking didn’t influence the songs in any huge way, but travelling and songwriting/recording both feel like methods of escape for me. Both get me out of my worried thoughts for a while.
P: You busk for the joy of taking your music outside…and when you find yourself in
a bind and need to eat. How generous are people and what is the best/worst response you’ve gotten to your music?
D: Some people are remarkably generous. On Commercial Drive in Vancouver in 2007 a woman gave me five cheese sandwiches (I was busking to get money for food so the sandwiches were perfect). The best response I’ve gotten was some guy screaming “I LOVE that song!” after I played a song, worst response was some woman walking by who yelled “That’s just TERRIBLE!”
P: Your lyrics are often convoluted (“Lost Polaroids”: “Said give me sweater September isbetter”) but you have straight forward song names (“Leave your man”). Are you leaving breadcrumb trail messages for people to decode something of personal significance?
D: Not deliberately, no. I do spend a fair amount of time on the words because it’s hard to write about the usual stuff like life and love without singing clichés.
P: What inspires you most at a live show (as an audience member and as the one in the lime light)
D: As an audience member, I love seeing the band enjoy themselves. I get really offended if a band acts entitled to your attention. Even good bands have to earn it, every single time they are on stage. I love it when bands love to play. On stage I love looking over at the other guys and seeing them really into it. It makes me feel like I’m part of a single organism.
P: “Make Up Your Mind” or “Feel It”, these minute(-ish) songs sound like you goofing off with your buddies, any reason you chose to include them on the album?
D: I always wanted this band to be a song dump for every idea I have, for better or worse. I like going back and seeing what kind of songs I was writing at a given time and what I was singing about. Admittedly this can result in some quality control issues (“Make Up Your Mind” is really fucking annoying and “Feel It” is even worse) but I don’t have enough fans to worry about alienating them or anything.
P: If you could have a private music lesson with any musician who would it be, on what instrument and why?
D: I would take a singing lesson from Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices. He sings like a more optimistic John Lennon and he always sounds like there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.
P: You told me you had writers block not too long ago, and then you came out with some pretty sweet songs. So how did ‘Stella get her groove back?’
D: I discovered a few bands I hadn’t heard like The Fresh and Onlys and New Radiant Storm King. Hearing stuff I haven’t heard before always helps me write better songs because it gets me excited.
P: Plan to dabble on any more foreign instruments?
D: I want to get better at drums and then relearn trombone (I played it in Grades 7 and 8). That’s about it for now. Definitely no sitar. I fucking hate the sound of that instrument.
P: Quite simply, what is your musical goal?
D: To be able to make a living playing music. Waking up on a Monday morning at 8 am, making coffee and then sitting down with a guitar to write songs sounds like heaven on earth to me.
P: What can we expect in your future recordings?
D: I’m trying to get away from using typical chords and song structures. I’m trying to use jazzier, uglier chords and still make things sound pretty. More major keys too. I’m working on a new Big City Nights record at the moment and there are some pretty weird songs on it. I’m excited.
Big City Nights‘ entire discography is available for free off their bandcamp. They’ll be playing Tiger Bar Groove in Toronto on Feb 24th with Persian Rugs, New Teeth, Sleepy Mean, and Gnar Tooth Shotgun Habit.
So, really, for me, this is day one, since I arrived on Friday, the second day of Northside. I had a show on the 24th that I had to run so I missed Thursdays happenings. So yeah, there’s no ‘day 1′ review. Sorry Now that that’s cleared up…
I arrived in Brooklyn at around 2:00 PM Eastern Time from Toronto, but it took me and my compadre/photographer/bandmate Will till nearly 5:00 to get to our hotel.
From the airport we took a taxi to the nearest subway, hopped on and managed to get to 14th, from which we transferred over to the famous L Train (a.k.a. the ‘hell train’ according to The Besnard Lakes, apparently not the biggest fans of Brooklyn). Our hotel was on MEEKER St., so we asked the nearest person on the subway – some hot chick who looked, shall we say, reasonably hip (she was wearing cool sunglasses, but not the plastic kind hipsters wear) – how to get to Meeker. She thought we meant BLEEKER St., and told us we had to go back to 6th and walk from there.
When we got out, we asked people where Meeker was and everyone thought we meant Bleeker, and we didn’t even realize we were on the wrong street until we got to the hotel address and it was a clothing shop. Then we noticed our mistake and mapquested the actual location on my iPhone, proving definitively that Apple technology is superior to human beings.
A few words about Williamsburg, Brooklyn: it’s like the coolest place on Earth. Everyone looks cool. The girls are all amazingly dressed. 65% of the people here look like they’re in a ‘Rising’ band. Will noted that there’s barely any corporate presence in Williamsburg – a Subway (sandwiches) here, an American Apparel (of course) there. Amazingly though, no Starbucks, no Urban Outfitters, no H&M.; The buildings all look really beautiful. It’s hard for me to describe exactly how considering I’m not an architecture expert, but they look so classic and homey, old but as though they’ve been maintained incredibly well. The entire place, as well, has a very bold, confident vibe about it. Hip and proud.
We picked up our passes at the Northside HQ on Bedford and then sat around enjoying the FREE BEER (not the band, actual free beer) for a while. We still had plenty of time to kill before the show we were planning on seeing so we went record store hopping. We were kind of disappointed that most of the record stores in Williamsburg aren’t particularly special, surprisingly (still) placing a large emphasis on CD sections, whereas in Toronto the CD sections are already practically an afterthought in most independent record stores. The only store that really impressed me was Academy, which had a huge selection of vinyl, singles, local cassettes, turntables on which you could listen to stuff, and a helpful staff that turned me onto the two records I left with, one the debut by Brooklyn melodic thrash-punk band Nude Beach, the other a Florida band called (to be updated later with name and myspace link).
Shout outs as well to North Highlands, who set up streetside in front of Northside HQ and gave a solid one-song acoustic performance.
Past 9:00 we made our way over to the Williamsburg Hall Of Music for the Woodsist showcase. The increasingly impressive Warwick, NY label assembled a solid bill for the night that included Moon Duo, Sic Alps, Fresh and Onlys, Woods and Real Estate.
We arrived towards the end of Moon Duo‘s set but saw enough to be impressed by the San Francisco psych/drone band, which actually gave one of the more exciting performances of the night.
Sic Alps brought the energy but their lack of distinguishable songs, vocals, lyrics and/or melodies apparently didn’t help them in with the audience. It was cool to listen to more as stylish, noisy background music than anything else.
The Fresh and Only‘s surprisingly seemed to have the opposite problem. Their songs, melodies, vocals, etc. were great but they didn’t quite have the energy you would expect from a band that sounds so exciting on their lo-fi albums. That being said though, they did play a very respectable set.
Woods played a fine, if somewhat too jammy, set. If I was high though – which I probably should have been – it would’ve been really fucking cool. They sounded like the cool homey stoners you would think they’d be, not too charismatic but nonetheless very much in the moment. Especially dude on the floor making sound effects who looks like he’s just smoking a weird hookah the entire time. I like that guy.
Closers and so-hip-right-now indie rockers Real Estate sounded great live, their twin guitar interplay sounding even better in the flesh than on record. However, as on record, their often too-leisurely songs acted as less of a comedown for the crowd, and more like a lullabye. However, that might be my take on it because I was exhausted by the time they came on. I mean, I like the band, but I’m kind of holding out for them to grow as songwriters.