Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We Were Here

About a month ago, I had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Jeff Ryan. Jeff has played with a ton of great artists over the years, like Sarah Jaffe, St. Vincent, Crushed Stars, and Pleasant Grove. Since he has a solo project called Myopic and has a new record called We Were Here, I figured I should interview him.

Monday, February 25, 2013

This Couch is Long & Full of Friendship

When I covered an Appleseed Cast show in a living room a few weeks ago, little did I know what I stumbled upon.

Denton has been a town that's hosted many house shows over the years. Back in the mid-90s, the famed Bonnie Brae house had bands like Braid and At the Drive-In long before they gained prominence in people's minds. With the house dubbed Macaroni Island hosting some great shows lately, I've been able to experience a modern take on this house show tradition.

I've seen house shows before, but not like the ones I've seen at this place. Two weeks ago, I saw a free show with a whopping five-band bill. Two of the bands were from out of town and the other three were from Denton. All of the bands were great, especially the out-of-towners Secret Plot to Destroy the Entire Universe and Tiny Moving Parts. This was music that came straight from the heart; not from a desire to become famous, wear eyeliner, and date supermodels.

But this kind of spazzy, cathartic post-hardcore circa the mid-90s is not on a lot of publicists' radars or easily found on iTunes or even eMusic. It's even hard to find in local record stores. You have to seek this stuff out, and if you're fed up with the crap that hipsters and pop music critics praise and eventually disown, you really have to dig. But it's a worthwhile dig.

So far with my digging, in addition to friends making personal recommendations, the site Bandcamp is a very valuable resource. The sound quality of their streaming material is top-notch and they offer high quality MP3s for a decent rate. Sure as hell beats the muffled audio quality that MySpace and RealAudio had for years. And I've found the blog Rotten Young Earth as a very reliable site for post-hardcore, emo, and pop-punk.

Now I'm at a point where I look forward to these young bands coming through town. I don't feel like the old man in the room when I'm around these folks who are reaching their second decade of life. Rather, I feel like the guy who got to see Led Zeppelin and the Who play live back in the day, but thinks these modern bands are worth seeing and following. Hence why I like to share stories of seeing Braid and At the Drive-In, but I try to avoid having a condescending tone. This about living life in the moment, but understanding where things came from, but also where they're going.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My (last) First Show

This week marks the final edition of My First Show. After two years, it's been put in the attic. For this one, Matt Pond and I had an early morning interview (for a musician's schedule), but I think we had a good chat.

I've always enjoyed talking to people about how they got into music. I will continue to do so, because I think it's a fascinating point of discussion. We all start somewhere, and usually it's embarrassing to look at now. But I'm all about embracing your beginnings.

As for what I'll be doing next on a regular basis for the Observer, I have some really great interviews in the can. Hopefully I will make some good stories out of them, and I will try to post my full Q&As with them here on this blog as a bonus.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Frustration can be gorgeous

Writing the third book has been slow, to put it nicely. I now understand why people write and write and never seem to finish a novel. But since I've made my writing of this book a public announcement, I have no choice but to climb that proverbial mountain. I know I'll be happy when I get to the top of it, and I blog to chart my progress.

What's helped me get back into the swing of things is having a working title. And it's a title I almost used for my first book: Forever Got Shorter. The title wasn't exactly right for my first book and certainly not for my second one, but this third one fits the title perfectly. I'm not trying to write a downer of a book here. Instead, I'm trying to capture how three different people try to accept adulthood. That's a topic I know plenty about, so I feel comfortable and confident in writing about it.

The phrase "forever got shorter" is a line from About Last Night, a movie I still haven't seen. But I know it more as a one of my favorite Braid songs. I love the phrase and how open-ended it is. Knowing this is the working (and quite possibly, final) title, I hope to steer this ship in a direction I'm happy with. How long that will take, I'm not sure. But I've found writing a book over time is much easier than popping something out in a few weeks.

As for When We Were the Kids, it's been finished for almost a year. I'm still making tweaks, adding and subtracting here and there, but it's ready to go once I finalize some full-time employment. And that's an ongoing process, hopefully with results very soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I turned 34 today. Thought I'd share some life lessons that I've learned along the way.

-No matter how hard you try, you can't fight adulthood.

-We all want to love and be loved. The harder one tries to fight that notion, the harder that person's life is.

-Hipsters live in the now and don't often think about the past. Historians try to live in the now by comparing it with the past.

-The wrong person dissuades you from fulfilling your potential. The right one encourages you no matter what.

-You don't have to be friends with everybody, but try to be as friendly as you can.

-Don't wait until someone's funeral to say how much that person means to you.

-One of the best icebreakers in a conversation is saying, "Hi."

-Like Mr. T says, if you can believe it, you can be it.

-Life is what happens when you're not on social media.

-If you're going through hell, just keep on going.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My First Show + notes

This week's edition is with Blair Shehan from the Jealous Sound. A few notes about this interview:

-I saw the Jealous Sound live before I was familiar with their music, or even a fan. I was aware of Knapsack, but I didn't know much of their material. A band I briefly played with in college worshiped Knapsack, and to this day, I still see at least one of the members of my old band at Jealous Sound shows.

-The first time I saw the Jealous Sound was at the Gypsy Tea Room. Spitalfield frontman Mark Rose introduced me to Adam Wade at that show, and Adam was tremendously excited about my book project. Just the thought that someone still cared about Jawbox meant the world to him. Eventually I interviewed him and he helped me set up interviews with William Goldsmith and Jeremy Enigk.

-The second time I saw the Jealous Sound, they opened for Sunny Day Real Estate. I finally got to meet William Goldsmith and Nate Mendel. Both were very gracious and friendly to me. The thing with Nate is that, if you never knew his other band was one of the biggest rock bands in the world, he certainly doesn't act like it. He doesn't carry any rock star baggage and is a true gentleman.

-If this conversation sounds really personal, well, it comes from the fact that I had a long chat with Blair after their last show here in October. We hit it off and talked for a while. Definitely a nice guy with plenty to share.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

My first show

This week's edition is with Dylan Silvers and Ryan Hartsell from These Machines Are Winning. I've known Dylan since college, back when he was in a band called Post from Vermont. I've stayed in touch and seen all of his bands since then. So this interview was a natural thing to happen. I'm definitely excited for what he has in store with this project.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Middle States

I had the pleasure of seeing the Appleseed Cast in a living room last night. Much like how David Bazan did a recent tour, there were no tickets at the door. Everything was done in advance over PayPal, e-mail, and .pdfs. This was my fourth time to see the band, but my first time to review them. And I took pics, including the set list.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Our First Taste of Escape

A few days ago, while digging through Count Your Lucky Stars' artist page, I came across a band I hadn't thought about since college: Penfold. Thinking this was a different Penfold than the one I knew in college, I was happy to see that it was the same band. I thought about why I had slept on this band for all the years. Then it hit me: over-saturation.

Working in college radio between 1999 and 2002, I saw firsthand bands like the Promise Ring and the Get Up Kids gain much more exposure, beyond the regular crowd that would see them in basements, garages, or living rooms. This was post-Very Emergency and post-Something to Write Home About, and people who didn't care for emo were listening to these bands. As a result, the mailrooms at college radio stations across the country received a lot of records that came with some nice pushes via a handful of publicists. With bands like Sinclaire, Filmmaker, and Chore, I was designated as the Guy Who Liked Emo by my fellow co-workers at KTCU. I received plenty of freebies because nobody else wanted them.

By then, I was getting tired of all these bands who sounded a little the same. Some things were getting a little too cutesy. Sinclaire's Attention Teenage Girls reeked of this, especially, even though I really liked the song, "Life at 24 Frames a Second." Keep in mind, this was before Taking Back Sunday and well before Fall Out Boy.

Listening to this stuff every few weeks, I'd get excited about a few records here and there, but dismissed a number in the process. One of the dismissed was Cursive's Domestica because I thought it sounded like a Fugazi rip. Years later, I realized how great this record was, especially its lyrics, despite the obvious nods to Fugazi.

Now with rediscovering Penfold's Our First Taste of Escape (and finding out about the even-better, Amateurs & Professionals via CYLS), I can see why I can enjoy this now as compared to a decade ago. Since I'm not engulfed by hearing new bands every week and having to deal with people who hated emo/post-hardcore, I can enjoy. Sure, the band certainly sounds like Elliott and Christie Front Drive, but they did things in a way that sounds really fresh to me now.

If you've never heard of bands like this or wonder why anyone would bother with records from the past, imagine this scenario. Say your favorite band right now is Mumford & Sons. You listen to their records regularly, you hear about upcoming tour dates, read about them in articles and interviews, and you're painfully aware of how much critics and certain people your age hate them. You discover acts that have a similar sound to Mumford & Sons and you enjoy them as well. Then you get to a point where your ears and mind need a rest from all this music. It could be a few days, months, or even years.

For whatever reason, you find yourself listening to the band again and some of those similar-sounding acts. In my case, listening to Penfold and Sinclaire is a lot easier to take in when I'm also listening to Richard Hawley, Jay-Z, and the Menzingers as well. Mix Penfold and Sinclaire with Into It. Over It and Everyone Everywhere, you'd hear plenty of noodling guitars, twisted drumming, and near-screeching singing coming from my office or car stereo. It's all about indulging in what I'm loving in the now.

And boy, am I happy to be in the now, even if it's listening to records that came out ten years ago.