Title Fight’s Spring Songs EP is one of the most interesting albums I heard in 2013. Though only four tracks, it marks such a growth and change for the band. Title Fight has taken an old school approach to this record, it was recorded on 2” analog tape, and I swear you can hear the difference and depth to each track because of it. Each of these tracks sounds different than the others, in this EP Title Fight embraced their diverse tastes and influences and explored the limitlessness of their sound. To add to all this, this EP is the band’s first release on the legendary Revelation Records.
The Spring Songs EP kicks off with Blush, a killer hardcore track that is everything we have come to love from Title Fight. Be A Toy is a bit distorted, a bit alternative, and a bit pop - think Weezer, when they were good. Receiving Line is a slow, delicate track with a slight drone and Hypnotize is an alternative song with subdued vocals, heavy music, and a haunting undertone.
I was a fan of Violent Soho’s Hungry Ghost when SideOneDummy released it last year, so I was super curious to see the WACO LP in my inbox. With this full length Violent Soho show off their maturity. This record is more polished, more intentional than Hungry Ghost. Where Hungry Ghost derived a lot of it’s power from it’s rawness, WACO attacks you in moved that are totally choreographed and refined.
WACO has a 90s indie garage rock vibe that mixes Nirvana’s Bleach with some London Suede or early Oasis. We are launched into the record with a scream and never dropped down for one moment. The guitars are aggressive, the vocals are powerful, and the vibe is menacing, all dashed with some feedback.
The stand out tracks are Like Soda, which build like I have never heard a song build, from almost folky to a scream. This track takes you on the roller coaster, “Cause we don’t complain enough but we never shutup”.Holy Cave begins slow and introspective, “I remember times, all those nights / when we drove so far away / take me there / fearless air, we can find a hideaway.” Until the music and vocals break free and explodes into the air.
Rules For Making Up Words by Ex Friends is a fast paced hooky punk rock explosion, with a gruff edge. It is the solid classic punk sound that we have come to expect from Ex Friends. The robust vocals and pounding music it will get you up and moving. Every sing one of these tracks has an underlying element of dissatisfaction and urgency that will get you riled up. That said, there are a few slower tracks on this album that somehow feel totally natural. Maybe it’s because that though they are a bit slower they are still full layered tracks that address issues like police brutality or maybe it is because they just fucking rock.
There are so many solid songs on this album, I can’t pick a favorite. Going Dark is a cool song but there is a small moment near the end where I swear I hear a laugh, and man, that makes the song that much better. This album will no doubt be one to turn on a new generation of punks. And I can’t fail to mention how much I totally adore Joel Tannenbaum’s voice.
Also, though I don’t talk about it much (probably because most of these promos that I get are via download) packaging design is so fucking important. Album covers and the overall design concept always sets the stage for an album. I don’t care how much space my record/cd/tape collection takes, I want to hold music in my hands. I love that Ex Friends’ packaging embraces the feel of real paper and gives a nod to the times when cut and paste and newsprint designs were what punk rock used to look like while totally adding flare and bringing it into the digital age.
This EP was tracked on 2” tape and (not to sound like a super nerd here) you can hear and feel it. That tactile feeling translated into the subtext of these tracks. They feel full and layered and almost as if they have a mass.
The EP is kinda gritty, kinda dirty, and kinda smooth. It has a great 90s vibe to it. These songs fall somewhere between indie, grunge, alternative, garage, punk, and rock. They are raw and distorted and melodic. Though out the whole EP it is the vocals that really grabbed me, they were almost hypnotic. There is something really exciting simmering in these tracks and it is going to boil, soon.
It kicks off with Know Secrets, a distorted track with some killer yelling sections and just as many moments that will grab you and have you singing along. See You Go is gruff and bass-y and will have you tapping your foot before you realize it. Hidden has a great grunge vibe to it, like the raw grunge vibe that was heavy, bass ridden, punky, and menacing- you know, before it went mainstream. Closing Windows is aggressive, the vocals and guitar will accost you and demand a reaction. There is an urgency to this track that will transfer so well into the pit. The distortion in this track is also pretty killer it gives the song another layer of voice. New Mexican Sunset keeps with the vibe of the record, but buried underneath the distortion is a great melody.
So, I’ve been hearing about the 120 Minutes archive for a while and always kept meaning to check it out, but life has this way of getting in the way. Well I finally snuck in some time and really dove into the archive, and man, it is awesome. I searched for all those videos that I only vaguely remembered and for the most part wasn’t disappointed (though there are a few instances where the linked videos aren’t the actual videos). This took me back to being 12 years old and feeling like I was discovering the world.
I was always the weird kid. I was raised on music and going to concerts instead of going to the movies. I would rock out to Heart and Joan Jett as my mom cleaned the house and I knew all the words to Tom Sawyer before I knew it was a literary reference. Music was always a presence in my life, I may have been the only kid to steal Nirvana Unplugged off my mom or Throwing Copper off my dad. Throughout elementary school I was always a bit different since I never knew what my peers were talking about when they referenced the latest movie and they didn’t understand when I talked about Soul Asylum (Somebody to Shove, Black Gold, Runaway Train) or Nirvana (Sliver, Heart Shaped Box). In middle school, though, I made a friend who loved the music that I did. We obsessed over Green Day, Oasis, Bush, Beck, Silverchair, andFountains of Wayne and every Sunday night from midnight to 2am we would sit on the phone with each other, glued to 120 Minutes. We found out about bands like Live, Nine Inch Nails, Rancid, Better Than Ezra and fell in love with the greatest era of one hit wonders (if you can even call their peak on 120 as a hit) The Cunninghams, Summercamp, Superdrag, and Sponge. We learned our history from T-Rex, The Stone Roses,The Replacements, and Suicidal Tendencies and went back to being kids with the awesome School House Rock reboot. All of our gossip came from Matt Pinfield and news from Kurt Loder, it was a golden age of being a young sponge desperate for alternative rock.
As a teenage girl bands like Veruca Salt, Garbage, (or this one, or this one) No Doubt, Elastica, Republica,K’s Choice, Tracy Bonham and Jill Sobule rocked as hard as any dude, provided excellent fashion icons, and independent attitude to spare. I was still an outcast, but I wasn’t alone, I had Sharon, I had these rock stars, I knew that at least somewhere there were people like me. Eventually I started to notice some kids wearingTool, Oasis, and STP T-shirts around school. There was the usual hesitation as we sized each other up but soon enough, everyone checked out as legit, friendships were formed, and mix tapes made and traded.
I kind of fell away from 120 Minutes when they started to go to bands like Barenaked Ladies and Eagle Eye Cherry (though those songs may appear on some guilty pleasures playlists)) and I went to bands like Bad Religion and Rancid. Though is was my springboard, in punk I found the real community that surrounded those bands, not just the theoretical ones that were also staring at their tvs, but 120 Minutes will always hold a place in my heart.
So…I was going to try to weave all these music videos into the narrative…then I realized just how many songs/videos/bands there were. How many of them that I couldn’t cut. How many of these songs are still on all my playlists. So I bring you a few best ofs, 1994 - 1998, what I think of as 120 Minutes golden years.
This is an unusual split because Football, etc and Plaids have very different sounds. Football, etc is a female fronted emo/indie band while Plaids is loud fast in your face punk rock. The pairing of these sounds is pretty cool and Football, etc will be touring with Plaids over in England.
Emo bands and female singers aren’t really my wheelhouse but Football, ect’s Down the Field is a pretty solid track with understated music and strong vocals. Plaids’ eleven and twelve are classic punk rock tracks full of piss and fury that will get you riled up and drive any pit into a frenzy.
I feel like I don’t have to write these intros anymore, when it comes to the Rentiers. Just reference this Rentier’s review, or this or this, from when Joel was in another band. So you get the point right? I’m a fan. You know what I think of his music and artistry. So lets just get down to the music on this EP, Black Metal Yoga / Drunks and Stoners.
Any punk kid in their late 20s and older knows Plow United, and we probably have an affection for at least one of their songs, if not all of them. Joel Tannenbaum, has grown as an artist and an individual since those days and his with last project (Ex-Friends) and his current, The Rentiers, he has become the voice of the aging punks. The punks who have grown a bit, those of who have gone out into the world, and can laugh at their young ideals. Laugh not because they were ridiculous , but because they were so unwavering. Yet, we are still not totally ready to adopt the total assimilation of “normal” adulthood.
A few months ago, Joel released his first “solo” record, Here Is a List of Things That Exist, a 4 track EP that further defined the voice that was beginning to emerge in Ex-Friends. This latest EP, Black Metal Yoga/ Drunks and Stoners, the lyrics and attitude are instantly accessible and identifiable. Every song that Joel writes is not only fun and catchy, but it is also intelligent and a bit tongue in cheek. His voice is one of experience and awareness, but not one that takes any of it too seriously. Which is what all of us old punk rock kids need.
So, Black Metal Yoga. Before I even heard the track I realized that that is what my life was missing.
The opening thumping sound is a bit menacing but the vocals catchy and intoxicating. You’ll sing along immediately while scouring the internet to see if this is a real thing, and if it is, if there is there is a black metal yoga class in your town. Poignant lyrics are melded with an extended reference to Philip K. Dick and dystopian interspace servitude/imprisonment and Scandinavian black metal references. Black Metal Yoga speaks to all of us; we either identify or realize that we need to get off of our asses.
What ever keeps you out of the academy man
Just grab it and hold on to it with both hands,
It doesn’t have make sense, it doesn’t have to be good,
We’re doing black metal yoga in our neighborhood
Whatever keeps you out of a cubical girl
Just hold on to it like it’s the end of the world
It doesn’t have to be cool, it doesn’t have to be green
Black metal yoga is a legitimate scene
The other track on the EP, Drunks and Stoners is equally as hilarious as it is insightful. As long as I have been going to shows there has been this strange animosity between punks and hippies. This track, which has a mellow sound to it, asks why drunks and stoners can’t live together in harmony. This may not be as funny to some other people, but man, I am just visualizing all these punks that I knew back in the day cursing about the dirty hippies. Maybe the next “subculture of the 90s clash” we can examine is the skateboarders vs rollerbladers, now that was some serious hate.
Boiled down, funny or not, all of Tannenbaum’s songs are commenting on not wanting to live by the status quo. He has the right amount of self awareness and humor to make a really poignant idea totally accessible. He is a little bit totally serious about not taking anything too seriously.
Though this is technically a solo project, Tannenbaum treats it as a family affair, on Black Metal Yoga/ Drunks and Stoners he is joined again by Mikey Erg and Ankia Pyle and the cover art was done by former Ex-Friends bandmate, Leta Gray. It seems that he has figured out the secret to creating lighting is to surround yourself with electric people. Black Metal Yoga/ Drunks and Stoners will be released on vinyl (150 black and 150 black and blue splatter) and cassette. The cassette release will have a bonus track along with some super awesome experimental features - all thanks to Baldy Longhair Records.
As a recent transplant to Pittsburgh, I am still hesitant to think of myself as a local, and have a price in local bands, but man, I am super psyched that White Wives are a local band. At the very least, that means that they will play some Pittsburgh shows.
This two track EP is one of the most interesting records I have heard in a long time. It is raw and personal and leaves you in a different emotional space than you started.
From the first fucking note I was sucked in. Yours accosts you with a wall of sound sort of thing then these layered vocals enter that totally hypnotize you. It is noisy, distorted, layered, and so fucking catchy and sing-along-able. The music is intense and vocals are raspy and menacing and mesmerizing. Mid-song the vibe totally changes with a bit drop out and then the entrance of a passionate yelling and a bit more of a garage-punk rock sound. The vocals are a bit rawer in this section and totally worm their way deep inside your chest.
The B side, Nothing Is Real is a calmer track, though the music is intense, it is measured and regular and the vocals have a quiet intensity that commands attention. What I love most about this track is the poetry of the lyrics, all of them. These lines are beautiful, sad, and personal. Just a taste, “When you are lost in the stars on the hood of your car / I’m playing guitar in some flat broken bar” and I swear, they only get better.
I could ramble on about this record for pages, but that won’t do you much good. I imagine that this is what my personal pied piper would sound like. Fucking go check it out.
Another great split from Say-10 Records. One of the things that I love about the splits that Say-10 puts out, is that the bands usually have a different sound from one another, yet they share some element that makes their pairing sound natural. This split with Aspiga and Among Giants falls right in line. Each of these bands has an interesting vocal/music relationship that defies expectations.
Aspiga opens up the split with Direction, a song with super menacing vocals and inflections and music that seems to be egging it all on. It is slow and brooding and angry. The track alternates between these menacing vocals and great guttural scream/growls. Old Hobbies has a beat that will have you bouncing along, yet the vocals have an edge, only slipping into melody for a fraction of a second at a time. These tracks are much harder and darker than the Aspiga that you have heard up until now.
The two Among Giants tracks are very stylistically different from one another and show two totally different sides of the band. In the Jungle is an emo-ish track with classic vocals filled with a sense of urgency, yet the music hard hitting. I Care About Everyone I Meet starts off with a bit of an emo style, but quickly gets hard and punk/screamo-y. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the, “Maybe I’m not punk enough for you / because my mom and dad are great / and I will always love them too” lyrics. I love when punk pokes at the stereotypes and unspoken rules of acceptance.
So, before I said that these dudes were super nice guys, and I really mean it. I didn’t just get an generic press release and an album download. Nope, I got some emails and a chance to ask the band a few questions about punk rock, their writing process, and of course, themselves.
First off, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. Let’s start off with introductions, who are you guys and what is your role in the band? Anthony - Guitar/Vocals, Bobb - Guitar/Vocals, Duke - Drums, Tim, Bass/Vocals
How long have you been together? This past November makes it four years.
Why make music with these people? The strengths and weakness we have balance each other out. And we have become really good friends, and everything is more enjoyable when you do it with friends, right?
Why are you doing this whole playing music thing, why punk rock? It is very fulfilling to express one’s self creatively. Music, like all art, can help you process and deal with good and bad parts of your life; punk rock showed us how to do that on an individual level and what introduced us to each other.
As a writer, I am always curious about a band’s writing process. The lyrics on Guts & Black Stuff are poignant and identifiable and real. I really connected with them immediately. They are very cohesive moments of strength within heartbreak. Is there a primary song writer or lyricist? Is it a collaborative effort? Tim and Bobb are the primary songwriters and anthony writes a lot of lyrics - sometimes numerous verses that go unused - and whoever’s singing will edit everything that exists into something cohesive that also sings well.
Speaking of poignancy, how does your song writing process work? The lyrics and the music really play off one another to make the other more powerful. Does one element usually come before the other? The music comes before the lyrics. Most of the time the song is presented to the band with the basic structure, chords, and melody, in place. Then together it is added to tweaked, and adjusted as needed. Some songs have lyrical themes already attached to them when Bobb or Tim introduces them. Sometimes it is a whole chorus, sometimes a line or a repeated word. Most of the time the lyrics will be written by one person, and then edited by who is singing to fit their phrasing or personal idea preference.
Throughout Guts & Black stuff you play with a lot of different sounds and elements of different punk genre, sub-genres, or closely related genres. There are elements of metal, punk, rock, indie, emo all combined in really interesting ways. First, are you influenced by a wide variety of bands and styles? And was the varied sound something you consciously explored or was it something that manifested itself naturally? The spectrum of music we listen to is very wide. And that influences us all in different ways. The sound is a healthy mixture conscious decisions, natural expression and four people writing together.
Was Guts & Black Stuff conceived to have a distinct flow and order or was it simply as a collection of songs? Some of the songs on the record or much older than others. But we knew that they fit together in a certain way. There was about a week of us exchanging multiple ideas on the order and then we got together one night at Tim’s house and listened to a few different orders till we found the right one. We wanted the whole album to flow. And if you listen to it on vinyl, each side of the record has a flow as well.
Do you have a favorite track on Guts & Black Stuff? (And if you do, why is it your favorite?) Can’t Win. Don’t Try. is one of our favorites to play live lately.
And for the fun questions….
Dream line up for a show that you are playing? Anthony - with a time machine: the Guns N Roses / Metallica show in Montreal in 92 that turned into a riot after James Hetfield got burned and Axl left the stage mid set, because that would be crazy. Or Hot Water Music, Jets to Brazil and our friends Horror Squad.
As a fan, what is the best show you have been to? Tim - years ago it was The Gadjits, at the empty bottle in Chicago. I just saw Todd Hembrook and the hemispheres over Christmas and that was the best show I went to all 2013. I’ll never forget seeing Prince.
First album/tape/cd you ever owned? Bobb - the Space Jam soundtrack Tim - first 7" was Queen's Another One Bites the Dust, first tape was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack, first cd was Bush's Sixteen Stone.
Worst job you ever had? Tim - customer service in men’s clothing at a department store. I’ve waited tables and painted houses and that was the worst thing ever. Anthony - I worked at Papa John’s for 3 days.
Describe the band in 5 words. Bobb - rocking and fucking rolling. yeah. Tim - we love playing together. cats.