POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIERE: ANTON BARBEAU, “Secretion of the Wafer”

 

The joyful maven of neo-psychedelic pop and general weirdness, Anton Barbeau, is back again – hard at work on finishing up his newest release, an E.P. of covers – plus this one original, which Popdose is pleased to present to you visually.  Here’s Anton in his own words on the song and the video for “Secretion Of The Wafer”:

“Japanese sex robot in blonde wig sings the greatest song ever about crowd funding.”  There’s your headline. Meanwhile, about the video…  It’s got chickens! In slo-mo! And Jesus and Mary! And a Spanish band!  It almost has a pair of identical twins in as well.

This version of the song is from my new EP on Fruits de Mer, Heaven is in Your Mind.  The other songs on the E.P. include my covers of Bowie, Big Star and Traffic tunes, but “Secretion…” is as all-me as I can get. I wrote it on the shore of the lake pictured on the E.P. cover, in Graus, Spain, during the filming of a documentary about me that is, at the moment, all footage, no plot.  Oh, that’s my life story!

Hope you enjoy the film we made. It’s got chickens!”

What more can you ask for?  For Christ’s sake, it has poultry.  Now dig in…

Heaven Is In Your Mind is currently available

http://www.antonbarbeau.com/index_new.html

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Twenty One

Radio City with Jon Grayson and Rob Ross:  Twenty One!  (Which makes us legal…)

On this twenty first installment of the well-loved podcast, Jon and Rob jump into the fire with evaluating the new compilation of the late Chris Bell; the new album from the dynamic Chris Price; the overlooked quality of songwriting in the 1970’s; a deeper conversation about D.W. Dunphy’s Co-Op Communique Vol. 3, featuring a previously unreleased track by Rob Ross (!); the ongoing of musical vault raids and can it continue; the un-memorability of the pop music “heroes” of the last decade versus the timelessness of The Beatles; a review of the charity-focused tribute album to Sun Records; the disgraceful display of Chicago’s Pride Parade; politicians in New York City not doing their jobs (ahem); the topsy-turvy trip to Germany by Donald Trump and, of course, the free-form “In Our Heads”.

As per usual, kick back, relax, have a coffee and enjoy – it’ll make you think.

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Twenty One


The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

The Popdose Interview: Graphic Novelist Greg Ruth

Call them “comics” only if you need to. It’s the shorthand we’ve used for about a century for stories told through sequential art, but not all “comics” are alike. So it is with Greg Ruth, the acclaimed creator of The Lost Boy, co-creator of Indeh with Ethan Hawke, and highly prolific artist. His preferred mode: moody black and white, highly detailed, with each panel opening up to a world of its own. Ruth is embarking on a new project with Hawke now, and his 52 Weeks Project of art based on a single source of inspiration is neck deep in the White Lodge at Twin Peaks. Popdose spoke with Ruth on a number of subjects, which was more difficult than it should have been since we can hardly turn away from his artwork.

Your 52 Weeks Project this time is focused on Twin Peaks. First, could you explain a bit what the 52 Weeks Project is, and second, what drew you to Twin Peaks as the subject, aside from the revival at Showtime?

Well, I started the self-assigned weekly drawing thing, The 52 Weeks Project, as a kind of codified act of playing hooky a few years ago mainly as a way to keep the art-making fresh and interesting for me when it had become a full time 9-5 rigorous job, and was starting to feel like a grind. So it was a way for me to start off the work week with desert, rather than Brussels sprouts, if you know what I mean. It really did the trick and then of course ended up being such an essential and integral part of work… what was really supposed to be a lark, became a children’s book I did with President Obama, at least a dozen cover jobs, a music video gig, work for Criterion, and a bucket of other companies, and a weekly source of added income and a successfully overfunded  hardcover book we did through Kickstarter.
 
I guess I turned play into work again… but it remains a vibrant sandbox because at its core it’s still basically just drawing what I want regardless of need beyond that impulse. So the fun remained. I’ve done a lot of variances to date, Dune, Mummies, Gods, Coal Miners, etc… but essentially they’ve always been portraits. I’m a wild man for a good portrait, so that overall ethic has tied all of them together. And I do it whenever I want and cease it whenever I like- so it’s a set deadline that I also get to ignore when I chose. Usually that happens when a series runs its intended course, or if the steam dissipates. The recent Dune series, for example will be ongoing, been though I’ve had to put the brakes on it for a few months. The White Lodge– my Twin Peaks series, cycled through after about two dozen portraits from the original series and was recently revived as The Return began airing. So you just never know. 
 

I guess what drew me to the subject of Twin Peaks was simply an enthusiasm for the material- it began airing back when I was a freshman/sophomore at Pratt, and was a total phenomenon. It was by miles, the most artful and insane piece of tv we’d seen since The Prisoner, and none of us could believe it was on network tv. (For you kids out there, back in those days we still really only had three or four stations to chose from. Yes, cable had it’s thing, but they weren’t making original content yet). It was amazing to see how this campus literally shut down for a couple of hours as everyone scrambled around whoever had a tv in their dorm room for us to crowd around to watch an episode. The visual language of the show was so rich and became so iconic, as did the characters and so it was a natural thing to want to do portraits of each of them for the original series. The Return is a whole different animal in many ways, and inspired an unexpected reviving of The White Lodge drawings entirely by accident. I had done this one drawing of Cooper footing in the box that Jeff Lemire grabbed, and I honestly thought that would be it. But each week I’d come away wanting to do another, and so without planning, I had a whole new series rolling out- I think I’ve done ten now to date. 

Unless my information’s incorrect, I hear you might be planning a new project with Ethan Hawke. You and he collaborated on the graphic novel Indeh. How did that pairing come together?

Ethan saw Conan: Born on the Battlefield in Forbidden Planet in NYC, was struggling with how to tell this story of the Apaches he’s been working on for years, and had an a-ha moment I think in looking at the book. He reached out, we had lunch- I always like to talk about how I didn’t intend or expect to be doing this with him, but really just thought we’d have lunch, it’d be a nice moment, snd then we’d get back to our lives, etc…. Well that one hour meeting turned into a 3+ hour meeting of the minds and I walked out of there committed to the project. We got on like a house on fire- I think as a surprise to is both. We were and still are like two kids in a sandbox together and all these years later, he’s like a brother to me. I personally, had not planned to partner up like this- I had just come off of The Lost Boy, and was eager to continue assuming the lonely life of a creator-owned comics guy… he’s such a brilliant story guy. We’re both share a real passion for reading, watching, editing and constructing these stories, digesting them, parsing them out, etc. It’s likely a terrible bore for others around us. But it’s been a total partnership- unlike most projects like this where some celebrity drops a story off at the editor’s desk and then returns to his thing, Indeh was a hand in hand walk until the very last moment. I never expected to have so much fun working with another before; it’s a very intimate and vulnerable thing, and this new one even more so.

We fully intended to follow Indeh up with its second part, largely on the basis that we supremely desired to tell Lozen’s story that got cut from the first book, but while we were doing the book tour for Indeh, we started writing a new father/son coming of age crime story that grabbed us fully and now that’s what we’re doing next, again for our amazing editor, Gretchen Young at Grand Central/Hachette Books. It’s very reflective of our parallel lives as fathers to 15 year old boys, autobiographical in terms of it’s setting and time in Texas where we were both born, and is a great bit scary for us which is what attracts us to it so strongly. We could have never made it without having first proven the level of trust we instilled in the process of Indeh, because it’s so damned personal and close to the bone. We’re writing the script now. It’s called Meadowlark

I’ve seen a few things that discussed your art process and it is both fascinating and a little scary. You don’t pencil sketch first — instead, you go straight to the paper with ink and brush. That seems like there would be a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong, but it clearly works for you. How did you come to adopt this regimen?

It’s called “impatience.” The thing that grabbed me so fully about the sumi — particularly as a response to having done a 5-issue graphic novel thing in ballpoint pen, which was tedious beyond comprehension — was its immediacy. True sumi dry brush drawing is just instantaneous, though doing a good one takes a lot of practice getting there. It’s immediate, gestural involving the whole arm, and always yielded surprises. So, coming off something so microcosmic and fussy as ballpoint pen into sumi was like a dive in a cool pool during a hot summer. Twenty years in now and here I am, though I confess to having returned to the microcosmic in some way through this new graphite series I’ve playing with these last two years. 
 

Things go wrong all the time with the sumi, but you just wad up the paper and throw it over your shoulder to do it again.  It’s different each and every time, and I’ve done innumerable cover paintings with it, two graphic novels, both Indeh and The Lost Boy, and a video for Prince with it. The 52 Weeks Project itself was largely a sumi thing until very recently.  

The other thing is that (also, unless I’m mistaken), the panels for your stories are done full-size, and then scanned and placed onto a page digitally. That sounds like a really interesting way to get maximum detail into each panel. How do you go about coordinating the pages to work out the compositions?

My editor for The Matrix comics, and dear friend, Spencer Lamm, and the Wachowskis thought it was bugnuts crazy. I actually made the switch over after doing my last on-page comics panels for a short story for them entitled A Path Among Stones. The second 22-page story I did, Return of the Prodigal Son, was my first go at this new full-scale single panel drawing, and computer assembly experiment. The sumi just lent itself to larger drawings, and since I would invariably screw up at least one or two of the panels on the page before, doing it this way didn’t mean having to glue down replacement panels.
 
It also really opened up the whole editorial side of comics making in that by working this way the story could be changed and edited fully all the way up to press. If I didn’t leave enough room for a word balloon, or the text changed, no sweat. If a panel worked better cropped, or an image reversed, or zoomed or simply needed a fix, it was so much easier to do. It meant the writing of the book continued well through the entire process where it used to get stuck once the art was being executed. It’s a lot more work to be sure- a lot more drawing, as my bulging flatfiles will attest, but it’s what was absolutely best for the books, which always has to be the leading edge.
 
The Lost Boy seems like a movie waiting to happen (or, as the current case may be, three movies). What was the impetus to write it?
 
I’ve heard that a lot with regards to The Lost Boy, and likely with my work generally: that it’s very cinematic. And my comics really are informed by cinema, absolutely. Unlike, I think, comics that are trying to emulate movies, by relegating themselves to wide screen panels like a storyboard for a film, I aim to be more true to the medium unto itself, but import over some of the cinematic language, cutting of scenes, layout of the world building in those terms. I’m a kid parented by a shit-ton of tv and old movies growing up and that bell rings still through all I do in art. 
 
I guess the impetus was a combination of feeling like kids weren’t getting enough thoughtful and serious storytelling they deserved. I had just had my first son and it changes your priorities a lot. I had begun to delve into children’s picture books at the time, but since I always think of these grand gestures and long form narratives, and I had formed some strong opinions about the place of scary stories in children’s literature.
 

(I wrote a pair of long form articles on the subject called Why Horror Is Good For You, And Even Better For Your Kids originally for Muddy Colors, and then again for Tor.com.)

While currently there’s just the first book out there, I did draft and map out the full trilogy all the way to the end. The second book following in part Walt’s post-villain life as an outcast living alone in the Kingdom, and the aftermath of the events at Harker’s Drop, particularly what really came back with them looking like Tabitha, and book three, which ties the entire secret history of the town and it’s relationship with the Kingdom culminating in this terrifically massive confrontation with these ten story tall Willow Tree women. Let’s just say whatever weirdo notes were sounded in the first one gets ramped up by a factor of ten.

These last two books, if I get the opportunity to do them, are really one big story split in half, and structured in a way with the first so if they were all put together they would read rather seamlessly as a whole epic.

The Scholastic Books of my day are much different than the ones of today, post-Twilight. When you delivered The Lost Boy to them, what was the reaction? While the story is meant for younger readers, it is a dark kind of story.

Well, initially when I brought The Lost Boy to Scholastic, Graphix!, its graphic novel imprint was literally just getting off the ground, the entire structure there was different, Harry Potter was just rolling out, and then we had the crash in ’08 which fundamentally changed everything. Not sure how or if Twilight had any impact whatsoever to be honest, certainly not with me in any noticeable way. I still haven’t seen the films or read the books to be fully honest.
 
So the calculations about it were never something that existed insofar as I recall. It was received extremely well, but only after a long series of insanities to get us to the end game. I think it went through at least 6-8 editors? The crash just upended the whole industry and things were really unstable for a good while after… layoffs, hirings, staff changes, market changes… it was like surfing a pair of conflicting tsunamis some times.
 
But David just acted as this incredible lighthouse through it all and brought me in, assigned Adam to the project, and it just took off like a rocket after. It was a herculean task wrestling this story down. I often refer to it as having to take the Black Forest in Germany, and turn it into a single bonsai that still felt like the whole forest. Adam was incredible to that purpose, and we became good friends  as result. The whole of that team at Scholastic really feels familial in a lot of ways. I always make sure to stop in and see them whenever I can.
 

But it brought me my first NY Times bestseller listing, and really changed a lot for me in a million different ways. It is a dark and challenging complex story, but I think kids are such sophisticated readers- especially these days- and are rarely rewarded with such material, I just couldn’t resist putting my money where my mouth is. Scary stories aren’t for every kid no doubt, but for those who really love them, it’s a special kind of honor to please them. The support, the letters and cosplay and all the support from Scholastic has been such an incredible affirmation. Kid’s lit is still an area I am really devoted to and look forward to returning to after Meadowlark– which, despite centering around a kid, is in no way whatsoever meant or intended for children — it’s a rough edged frenetic noir piece that literally pulls no punches. 

You’ve said previously that you were never really into comic books per se. You didn’t like the open-ended, soap opera nature of them. But Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns changed that. The idea that you could tell a single story that starts and conclusively finishes got your attention. What did that change in your mindset?

Well, largely that was a response to the time I grew up where being able to follow a comic through on a monthly basis was near impossible for me. There wasn’t the direct market like the one that exploded on the scene later in the ’80s, so it wasn’t possible to follow those long arching stories. But generally I do like endings- I think like the way death stalks our lives, each and every one of us, and brings it focus and value, stories that just run forever lose a lot of punch. If you know Superman won’t die, or even if he does will come back, than your ability to relate to him gets cleaved by half right away. The dispensing of mainstay character safety in George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books really changed things for me when I first read A Game of Thrones. Killing Ned was like ending Captain Kirk, or murdering Bruce Wayne: it just shook the foundations of what stories could do, and made everything dangerous and threatened in a way that brings a terrific level of meaning and value to the story. 
 
So The Dark Knight Returns, Mai The Psychic Girl, Watchmen, etc. were pure revelations for me, and helped reintroduce me to the medium of comics in a way that lives on today. The way the market changed, the old comic shop market collapsing and the reduction of Marvel and DC into essentially being IP farms for their parent corporation’s film divisions really afforded and opportunity for the book world to take the medium under its wing and start to finally, after generations of insane self-immolation, take the medium seriously and start growing up and catching up to where it has been driven in other cultures like Europe, Japan and Latin America; where it has such a vibrant and diverse playground to run about in.
 

I could never have sold Indeh or even The Lost Boy, or Meadowlark in the old comics industry dominated world, and we’d have never seen such legitimately literary masterpieces come like Persepolis, Essex County, March, Boxers and Saints, Smile, or the dozen other excellent genre busting stories we get to have now. While the mid 1980’s-early 90’s were a true renaissance period for comics, and an incredible time to come up in, there has been no better period in American history to be making graphic novels than right now. Forget the superhero stuff, the myriad of other environs has never been richer. Indeh‘s been out just a year now and has already been translated into, I think, six different languages. It’s an amazing time. 

Could you go into the materials you use?

Pretty simple really: paper, sumi ink, or graphite pencil. Scan and assembled in Photoshop. I will often use watercolor, crayon or color pencil, and gouache too, but all of it get scanned in to be dealt with digitally. Even though I letter my comics digitally, it’s via a font I built based on my handwriting, with word balloons and tails also hand drawn and scanned in so that there’s a consistency throughout the story, and everything is of a piece with itself.
 
But I am pretty minimal and uncomplicated or precious when it comes to materials, which I suppose should be clear by my years-long experiment with ballpoint pens. There’s a tendency with artists to indulge in the minutia of materials, the hand-pressed linseed oil aged in the skull of a family enemy for a decade, and the siphoned through a laudanum spoon that makes it responsible for your work excelling. But I honestly think it doesn’t matter what you work with as long as you work with something. You can make a book a million times more resonate with ruled paper and a Ticonderoga #2 pencil than one made with the most Ferrari of materials.
 
It’s not the hammer you bang, but the arm that wields the hammer that really matters. So, I tend not to be too reverential about materials. That said I do love the Blackwing Palomino, Pearl, and 504 pencils to death because they are like drawing with compressed velvet, and that liquified sumi ink that comes in those green grenade shaped bottles from Aitoh. When I find a material that works, I tend to be extremely monogamous about them clearly. 
 
Thanks to Greg Ruth for sharing his work and process with Popdose.com. You can learn more at www.gregthings.com and Greg’s books are available at Amazon.com.

POPDOSE PREMIERE: Tremble, “Thorns”

A collaboration of a high-powered trio, each with his or her own unique musical perspective, singer Kelly Sweet, and songwriter/producer/musicians Haywire (who’s worked with Miley Cyrus) and Ajax (Collective Soul, Duran Duran) came together after a backyard fete to become Tremble.

As you might imagine just from their resumes, the sound they add to the mix is eclectic but not entirely disparate. Take their latest single, “Thorns,” for instance. Its driving pulse echoes what might have been pumping out of nightclubs in the ’90s. In fact, the whole track has just the perfect late-’90s/early-2000s tilt to reawaken a bit of nostalgia, but it’s wholly wedged in today’s musical landscape. (It probably helps that the ’90s are in a renaissance, too!)

Sweet’s mega-pop vocal lends itself well to the lyrics, particularly the driving chorus with its optimistic method: “If you don’t know darkness, then you can’t see the light / When the shadows fall, I won’t leave your side.” In the video, that dark/light dichotomy is explored well through the black-and-white filter. Sweet dances in a desert, flanked by her two collaborators; in a somewhat simplistic setting, the song really shines.

Take a peek at Tremble’s “Thorns” below — making its Popdose premiere today!

What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?: Green Day, “Jesus of Suburbia”

And there’s nothing wrong with me, this how I’m supposed to be, in a land of make-believe that don’t believe in me. What’s THAT supposed to mean?

Not all concept albums are created equal.

Some classic songs are dependent on the context of the concept for any deeper meaning. Without the context of Tommy finding his place in the world, Pinball Wizard is just a song about pinball propelled by two classic Townshend riffs. (And the lyrics to We’re Not Gonna Take It would make no sense at all.) Without the context of The Wall as a metaphor for so many of the things that divide us, including socially constructed class structure, Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) might be just something ironically yelled by frustrated college students.

But that’s not to say you have to buy into the whole concept of an album to enjoy the songs. Tommy is a difficult listen all the way through, but if you know the general storyline, you can appreciate the songs. Rush’s Clockwork Angels is one of their best works, but I’m not rushing to buy the book.

And that’s OK. As previous installments make of this series make clear, music gives words more power. (Maybe I should start reading these pieces into my iPhone and adding some loops in GarageBand …) Knowing a bit of the album’s context may or may not add another layer of interest.

So that brings us to the album that proved “punk-rock epic” didn’t have to be an oxymoron — Green Day’s American Idiot and its majestic centerpiece, Jesus of Suburbia.

Maybe if I saw the musical, I’d think more of the overarching American Idiot story. But as it stands, I think the individual songs are stronger without the “Saint Jimmy” plot that loosely ties them together. One article cited (confusingly — is this a book or a magazine) by Wikipedia points to Green Day drawing a link between American family dysfunction and American political dysfunction, and that makes a bit of sense.

The “Saint Jimmy” character is undermined by the song’s misogynistic video — particularly the long version that makes us wonder why we’re supposed to sympathize with this dude who takes out his frustration on the women in his life. Just a bit of male privilege on display here …

So let’s get back to this song and go through it without a whiny hormone- and drug-addled dirtbag wrecking a bathroom like he’s responding to the Rutles’ commentary on sewage systems as civilization.

Certainly not all “suburbia” is the same. Just as downtown Detroit differs from downtown New York, the “suburbia” in this song and video are different from the suburbia where I live. My suburbia is full of hyperachieving professionals who are helicoptering and snowplowing and other-machinery-ing their kids’ paths to be able to afford to buy the house next door one day. Saint Jimmy thinks no one cares; kids in my suburbia feel smothered. The “suburbia” in this case looks more like a small town that gave up on itself long ago, and if Green Day wrote this today, it might be riddled with opioids rather than pot and cocaine.

But it’s relateable. We get it. It’s a powerful portrait that fits perfectly with the mostly major chords and stadium-rock drum fills that propel the song.

At its heart, punk rock is populist — sometimes prey to the same shenanigans that pervade populist politics, but generally grounded in an appeal to the common man. So while this epic mimics the song structure of a Yes or Rush classic, you’re not going to hear a lot of dazzling solos or complex chords. If you can play a C, Am, F and G progression, you can make it through most of this song. An A-flat power chord and a D will get you the rest of the way.

And that makes sense. This song wouldn’t work with Steve Howe noodling away. It might work with Neil Peart — this is a virtual highlight reel for Green Day drummer Tre Cool.

Some of the lyric-analysis sites provide no help here. SongMeanings’ top-rated comment hails Jesus of Suburbia as a “Marter.” But Genius isn’t bad.

Let’s go through it …

PART 1: JESUS OF SUBURBIA

An outstanding scene-setter. A child of soda pop, Ritalin and dubious religious undercurrents sits in front of the TV, pondering “a land of make believe that don’t believe in me.” And Billie Joe Armstrong sings “To fall in love and fall in debt” like a patriotic pledge rather than going with the too-easy punk cliche of sneering.

The question to ponder through the rest of the song: Is there really “nothing wrong with me”? Is this “how I’m supposed to be”? In other words, is Jesus’ cynicism inevitable?

PART 2: CITY OF THE DAMNED

The tempo slows and a piano comes in as the protagonist searches for beauty. There’s a bit of nonconformity brought in — “everyone’s heart doesn’t beat the same” — which is, along with other parts of the song, undercut by the video showing a bunch of lookalike kids. The video makes us wonder why our protagonist doesn’t just ditch the punk dress code and try something a little different.

But the lyrics paint a better picture of futility. “The end of another lost highway / signs misleading to nowhere.” Where does one go from here?

PART 3: I DON’T CARE

From the yearning of Part 2, we get a fast, thrashing section in 3/4 or 6/8 time, a sort of violent waltz repeating the simple phrase “I don’t care if you don’t.”

And then we get the reasons. “Everyone’s so full of shit.” Hypocrites. No one doing the actual emotional labor to build something real beyond being cogs in the machine.

PART 4: DEARLY BELOVED

Another part, another rhythmic style — it’s a jaunty, almost vaudevillian movement as he starts it like a religious pronouncement (“Dearly beloved …”) but has far more questions than answers. Can therapy help? Am I seeing things wrong, or are they wrong?

PART 5: TALES FROM ANOTHER BROKEN HOME

From questions to answers. At least, a temporary answer, which is the confirmation that he’s not going to find what he’s looking for in this town of emotionally and perhaps intellectually stunted people. He has to at least see something else.

I’ve seen the term “nihilism” thrown around a bit in discussing this song. I don’t think so. Nihilism would be accepting that there’s nothing more to life than taking drugs (prescribed or purchased), watching TV and hanging out at the 7/11. Leaving home is actually an act of optimism.

(Shhh … nobody tell him it’s no better in the rest of the country, and he might have to go to Europe.)

I’ve read (and even written) stories about Millennials and Gen Yers going back to their hometowns to try to preserve what’s good about them and bring them into the 21st century where needed. That’s great. But maybe people have to leave first to figure out what’s needed. And maybe we Gen Xers and Boomers should quit filling rundown suburbs with false politics and false religion that even the most addled youth can see through.

Enjoy the live version:

ALBUM REVIEW: BODIES OF WATER, “Spear In The City”

Bodies Of Water don’t have much of a story to reveal, it seems – the basics is that they hail from Los Angeles; this is their 4th overall release and their first in six years and in a roundabout way, Spear In The City is almost a concept album; a travelogue through the stranger side of America.  Which, at this particular time in history, does not surprise me.  There is an air of mystery surrounding Bodies Of Water, which makes this all the more intriguing.  Because the music then does the talking and that’s what it’s about.

So to tackle this album is an interesting prospect – what would this sound like, given what little information I know?  My first thoughts, after listening through to the first few tracks is that it’s a highly ponderous and serious collection; the lyrics have an air of disappointment, curiosity and religiosity mixed with social commentary – case and point, “Here Among You”, which has a spiritual yet voyeuristic feel – like the subjects are being observed and reported on by a soul from on high – it has a somewhat spiritual feel as well, musically speaking.  Also, one of the most noticeable things about this band is that the vocals of lead singer David Metcalf reminds me of Scott Walker (albeit slightly less intense).  The country feel of “I’m Set Free” is no less serious – certainly in the delivery, although the lyrics detect a wryness and the most striking thing about this particular song is the starkness of the music – predominantly rhythm, with the occasional guitar stabs and a quietly subtle keyboard carrying the melody.  “Hold Me Closer” has the vibe of a ’60’s-styled spy themed track but with not-standard time signatures and “Echoes” has a nice groove and a great group vocal – easily my favorite track from this collection.

The great thing about this album is that it was a challenge – not knowing much about the band; the seriousness of the lyrics (at least, I take them seriously) offset by the structure of the melodies.  Which makes this a very good album by my standards.  This is one you may want to check out – you can sink your teeth into it, deeply.

RECOMMENDED

Spear In The City will be released on Friday, August 25th, 2017

https://thebodiesofwater.squarespace.com/

The Popdose Interview: Mick Chorba of The Successful Failures

The Successful Failures have been serving up a casserole of power pop, punk, and crunch-Americana for some time now, and they’re not done yet. A new album is coming soon with a lot of extras attached to that. And as ever, the band is ready to play just about anytime, anywhere. Just put up the signal. Band captain Mick Chorba knows the drill. His previous band, The Dipsomaniacs, was one of the hardest working units in New Jersey, although to hear Chorba speak of it, he’s managed to ditch the dread and the drudge out of “work” and just live out this rock and roll dream. Popdose was able to grab him in-between tons of production work to hear about the band, what came before, and what’s on the horizon.

The Successful Failures are now working on new tracks, some of which have filtered out to the public. How far in are you with it?

The album is done. It’s title: Ichor of Nettle. 15 new songs plus a bonus track. We also have a 4 song live in-studio ep recorded in Red Bank, New Jersey (live versions of 4 tunes from the new album). And a plan to release a limited 10” vinyl featuring a song not on the album as well as some other surprises. We also recorded a live video at the studio in Red Bank featuring 3 of the songs from that live EP. The release date is October 20 so all this stuff will be out soon!

How will people be able to get a hold of all the new stuff?

The album will be available for a listen on all streaming sites like Spotify… downloads can be purchased from Amazon, Itunes, and others. The physical CD can be purchased via Amazon or directly from the band at www.thesuccessfulfailures.com Also all download purchases and physical album purchases can be made via my label FDR – www.fdrlabel.com The physical CD will also be for sale at mom pop stores such as Bordentown’s Record Collector and Randy Now’s Man Cave, Princeton Record Exchange, Tunes in Hoboken, as well as many other stores.

What has the process been like in terms of getting new songs/albums off the ground? I know some artists have a bit of a cycle they move through, and on the other side of it, it’s time to get back to writing and recording mode…

I am always writing but the process of getting the material to the band, working arrangements, rehearsing, recording, etc… takes so long that I always feel behind. I also love to play live to keep the band in good shape but we actually stopped playing any shows for a few months to focus on finishing this album. For the past 20 years or so I’ve done at least one album every other year, sometimes more. In the middle of this one our drummer, Rob Martin, messed up his shoulder and needed surgery. So when he was back in action I had a new batch of tunes, so that’s somewhat why this album took longer to come out and also why it is a bit longer in content. 15 songs… and that was pared way down from the material we had to choose from. To get back to your question, we definitely work in a cycle and I love it because each part brings more meaning and relevance to the next part.

The Successful Failures came about after your previous band The Dipsomaniacs. Was there overlap between the two bands initially or just a hard stop and something new?

The two bands overlapped for about three years, and I was not very popular at home! The Dipsomaniacs’ last show was in 2009. SF started as a side project for my extra songs but has stuck around. The Dipsomaniacs played for about fifteen years and things were just winding down.

Do some of your Dipsomaniacs material sneak into the Failures’ sets or do you try to keep the boundaries up between the two?

The Dipsomaniacs, like SF, was a unique entity in which all the band members contributed to the process so I wouldn’t feel right playing any of those songs in a different band. That being said, the song “Goodbye 3 AM” from the Dipso album Whatever Planet is a regular part of SF acoustic sets – so I guess that one song is an exception. I’ve also played some Dipso songs in solo acoustic sets though I’ve been doing less and less of those as SF has a great acoustic configuration.

Like a lot of bands right now, The Successful Failures are doing things for themselves, which can mean a lot of freedom to do as you want. It also means that virtually everything must be accomplished in-house. What’s involved with keeping the band on its feet and moving, especially with that level of responsibility?

It all revolves around our passion for music and love for what we do. Plus, we are always trying something new… trying to keep out of ruts, keep putting ourselves in situations we may or may not be comfortable in. The band has evolved quite a bit and that keeps us from getting rusty.

A couple of examples… a couple of years back we played a special show for a friend’s birthday incognito in which we played only 80s cover songs (it was a fun diversion and the band was named “Members Only”).

About three years ago we started playing a bunch of shows in March featuring classic and modern Irish tunes. Our bass player Ron Bechamps has gotten really good at the mandolin and we are both fans of the Pogues and other Irish artists. This allows us to do something different for one month each year – the crowds are usually big and enthusiastic at these gigs and the pay is good. I play acoustic guitar and harmonica, our drummer plays a Cajun drum. Ron takes over a lot of the lead vocals at these shows. Now a few Irish songs have found their way into our regular sets which add something different too.

Another way our “internal dynamics” have changed is we brought on a new guitar player for this latest album. Our long time guitar player, John Williams, left 3 years ago and I played all the guitar parts on our last album, Captains of Industry. For our live shows, Pete Smith, from Pine Hill – a life long pro guitar player who has done it all – joined us and he stayed on to be an integral part of this new recording. It’s been a joy working with him.

Lastly, at least once or twice a year the band ventures out for small tours. We’ve been up to Madison, WI; and Chicago, out to Tennessee, down to DC, Virginia, and North Carolina, lots of places in between. Getting out of just your local scene is really helpful in breaking up the monotony and is really good for the band’s attitude and morale. We’ve been really lucky to play a Rhythm and Roots festival in Bristol Virginia/Tennessee each of the last three years. During these shows, we’ve played with Steve Earle, Buddy Guy, Jeff Tweedy, Emmylou Harris, Dr. Dog, Houndmouth, and so many other amazing artists. One of our goals for the upcoming years is to play more festivals – best way to make new fans and play to receptive crowds.

A lot of independent bands are pretty hamstrung when it comes to their degrees of promotion. They’ll record and play out, and that’s about it. To be fair, most members of such bands are not at a place where the work is life-sustainable so they have day jobs and night jobs. But The Successful Failures is fairly consistent in getting out in the NJ/PA/DE circuit. It always seems the band is pushing forward. What’s required to make that happen?

What’s going on here is a commitment to each other and pride in our craft. If it gets to be something that is not fun we better figure out pretty quick what’s going wrong and make some changes.

If someone is coming to the band with absolutely no ideas or preconceptions, where would you advise they start? What is the clearest example of “This is who we are”?

The blessing and the curse for this band are that we are hard to categorize… we’re not just one thing. So to answer this question I would direct listeners to three songs from our new album: “Misguiding Light” – a melodic rock song that has a total proggy mid section and just ballistic drumming. The song goes on close to five minutes and just rocks. Then I would ask them to listen to “Tennessee Boy” which features our bass player, Ron Bechamps on mandolin and our guitar player Pete Smith on bass. The tune is folky, twangy, and has no chorus but is a proud moment for me from a songwriter’s point of view because it captures the main idea from the novel The Grapes of Wrath and does it in under three minutes. The idea is that no matter how low down bad the economy is, no matter how bad politicians try to suck the life out of you, people will always find joy in music. You can’t hold us down! The last song I would direct people to is the super power poppy tune “All Wrapped Up.” It’s hooky and melodic and I got the idea for the harmony guitar part from the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing”.

Thanks again to Mick Chorba for taking the time to discuss The Successful Failures. You can learn more at their website, www.thesuccessfulfailures.com

The Vinyl Diaries: Goodbye, Tina

Ah, Tina, what became of us? Incarcerated together in Christian school … lovers of music that was forbidden us by those nattering fools … for a while there, we’d talk every night, then we stopped … then you left school, got married, had kids … when was the last time I talked to you? I called you a few times from college, once or twice from Mom and Dad’s place … when I needed to hear an old friend, and/or a southern accent … When your dad died, I had it in my mind to call you … would’ve been easy; Mom had the number … but I was too busy and forgot … I regretted that … then, what, two, three, four months ago, got word that you were sick … had it in my mind to call you again, but didn’t … you were in and out of the hospital; you had other things to contend with; didn’t need an old voice that only materialized when things looked bad …

You used to say, “I swanee,” when you meant “I swear” … we both said “Oh Lord,” because saying “Oh, God” would’ve gotten us into trouble …

I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I remember February 25, 1984 … your Sweet Sixteen birthday party … a bunch of us Christian school kids in your parents’ basement, lights low, slow dancing … Air Supply’s Greatest Hits, Billy Joel’s “This Night,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (the long album cut) and “Tears” off that Bonnie Tyler record … whoever was closest to the record player when they ended had the duty of lifting the needle and playing them again …

Adolescence teaches us all things that are vital to our future lives as adults … damned if I can remember most of it, but the earliest things that stumbled across my consciousness did so while we were friends, good friends, maybe best friends for a while …

I slept in this morning … got out of bed at 10:30 … at that moment, five hundred miles from here, you slipped away in your sleep, with your mother and sons around your bed … no more suffering …

It’s cliche, but I think part of me went with you … part of me that grew up a little at 13 or 14 … part of me that still drifts off to a basement in Raleigh when I hear a Bonnie Tyler song …

I’m sorry I never called you … you were on my mind, though … I guess I didn’t learn enough …

I love you, Tina … my old friend … rest easy …

POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE SINGLE PREMIERE: ARRICA ROSE & THE…’s, “Whole Lotta Lows”

Popdose is pleased to premiere “Whole Lotta Lows,” the first track from Arrica Rose & the …’s latest full-length release, Low as the Moon (available September 8th). This new album is a collection of 13 originals that nod to the past, while sounding thoroughly rooted in the present.  It doesn’t neatly fit into one specific genre and it’s difficult to draw a direct comparison, but that’s precisely what has come to define the sound of Arrica Rose. As the songs flow from delicate Americana balladry to rock ‘n’ roll to retro-tinged pop, the dreaminess of the instrumentation, the sultry vocals, and the artful songwriting allow one track to cohesively weave into the next. The album has a core sound quality and it’s a warmth and fidelity we associate with old records – but with the addition of omnichord, ambient synths and textures, it makes Low as the Moon more than a nod to the classics. The album also has a unifying perspective driven by Rose’s imaginative lyrics; lyrics that paint vivid cinematic imagery. Picture the dark lit by a persistent optimism, a hope that balances the despair and calls into focus the silver-lining.   You’ll see – or hear, actually.  

So listen now to “Whole Lotta Lows”

http://www.arricarose.com/

 

The Dead Daisies Cover ‘We’re an American Band,’ Kill It

Like the Christmas season kicks off mid-September (ugh), July has begun to extend Independence Day all month. Don’t believe me? Come to my apartment and listen to the gunshot-like fireworks still waking me up and scaring my cat. Yeah. So it’s apropos that we have some sort of tunes to celebrate America n’at — y’know, other than the George M. Cohen standards and Lee Greenwood.

Luckily, the Dead Daisies have unleashed a live cover of one of the most overlooked USA-centric anthems particularly relevant to us music lovers. I have to admit; my first encounter with Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” was when I was literally in one — my high school marching band. But after getting a little older and refining my palate, I’ve grown really fond of this out-and-proud rocker.

In a video that’s shot-for-shot similar to anything you see on MTV Classic (or on MTV in the good ol’ days), the band rocks out with their long hair out while on the road all over the country, capturing footage at iconic ‘Murrca pit stops like Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, and… Universal Studios. Lead singer John Corabi gives former GFR frontman Mark Farner a run for his money with his powerful vocal performance, and the rest of the band rocks just as hard as the originals did in 1973.

If you’re still feeling the patriotic spirit, or if you need a new tune to add to your summer BBQ playlist, take a listen to Dead Daisies’ version of “We’re an American Band” below!