Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

Interview with MC Lars and Weerd Science September 7, 2011

Interview by Angela Blasi

Ang:  So for the record you are…
WS:  I’m Weerd Science.
MCL:  I’m MC Lars, how are you?

Ang
:  Tell me a bit about what you guys what you do.
MCL:  We do independent hip-hop music.  We’re two different acts and on Warped, we teamed up to do a set together.  We have a label called Horris Records– punk based independent hip-hop music; really passionate, really independent and really dope.

Ang
:  How did you get into doing something that isn’t mainstream and makes you unique?
MCL:  I played in punk bands and then started MCing electronic beats and hip-hop beats.  In 2003 I started touring and have been ever since.  It was kind of an accident.
WS:  I was always a musician.  I was a drummer; that’s what I did as a kid.  I’ve been in a band my whole life.  I played in a band called 3 that was signed to Universal and like most young drummers, all I cared about was drum fills.  With hip-hop I always wrote rhymes as a joke; real gangsta shit.  I was a 13 year old fat punk kid and it started to become a real creative outlet.  Mobb Deep and Wu Tang’s records taught me a lot about the drums.  Then I went on to play in a band called Coheed and Cambria for nine years.  Hip-hop always played a big role in my creativity.  Coming from New York I guess that’s what kids did on the bus.  Once it became a real creative outlet, I took it seriously and it was a natural progression to make a record.  Eventually Equal Vision, Coheeds’ first record label, wanted to put out the first Weerd Science album and we did that still playing in bands.  I’m actually in another band on Warped Tour called Terrible Things.  I play drums and I try to work as hard as I can.  You know Lars heard Sick Kids my new record and put it out on his label Horris records.  Were one of the only groups that’s true DIY.  Lars has taught me a lot about that and I really believe in it.  What artist wouldn’t want to own their own record?  I might own pieces of 3 and Coheed and Cambria, but never do you own your own.  Horris Records are all about DIY.

Ang
:  What’s one thing you’ve learned from each other in this hybrid of a team?
WS:  Here we are on the same stage as bands with major labels, only we get to do what we want with the money and we funnel the money right back into the art.  I think Lars taught me that it’s very possible to take care of your art, do what you want to do and believe in yourself on the same level as the big boys but do it on your own.

Ang
:  Is it more liberating because you’re able to take your music places you might not have been able to without that kind of creative freedom?
MCL:  When you have someone investing in your music, that’s external; they always want to have the creative input, then they wanna make you feel small if you’re not delivering in a way that is profitable to them.  There’s a lot of manipulation.
WS:  With a major record label, you can never win.  I remember with Coheed we sold 100,000 records the first week and that it just wasn’t good enough.  The disappointment I felt from that felt like we let everybody down.

Ang
:  What do you find more satisfaction-wise in your own art, more personal gain or more personal satisfaction?
WS:  I definitely do every record solid.  It’s another person whose going to put it on and hopefully it touches their hearts.  That is deeply personal to me and I think it’s the way it should be.  I think the whole DIY thing can really be a convenient stance for a band.  It’s a lifestyle and it has more to do with art and creativity then being about a product.  It all comes down to creativity and I think that’s really important.  I could not believe in that more whole heartedly.

Ang
:  What can I expect to see on stage?  What kind of message and vibe do you try to send through your music?
WS:  For the Warped Tour set it’s short, so we try to keep it really high energy, do a nice mix of both our stuff and try to have fun.

Ang
:  Is it just you two on stage?
WS:  No it’s a full set; we’re trying to keep the rock alive.  We believe in this stuff and hopefully that translates to the crowd.

Ang
:  Do you guys have any influences that you draw from?
WS:  I mean, I still draw some of those records that became the foundation for me as a musician.  Wu Tang is a major influence and Snoop Dogs’ Doggiestyle got me into pfunk.
MCL:  I really like the independent people, like Atom and His Package.  He’s a huge influence and his stage show is so engaging.  He’s funny, tells stories and his songs were great.  Wesley Willis was this big keyboardist and his art was his sanity and his peace.  He was happiest on stage and everything is normal on stage.

Ang
:  What is your definition a poser?
MCL:  I feel like a poser is someone who buys into mass media and a corporate way of being different and maybe not authentically follows what’s in their heart.  I don’t think that kids are always trying to find themselves, so I don’t know if you can judge someone who’s trying to find themselves.  A poser is someone who is not true to themselves.
WS:  Especially out here with Warped Tour- it was supposed to be the sub culture and not pride itself on following the trends.  I really dig what Lars said, that kids are trying to find themselves.  It’s an evolution.

MC Lars

Weerd Science

 

Venetia Fair at Warped Tour August 17, 2011

Filed under: Interviews,New Music,Vans Warped Tour — NVMP @ 7:36 AM
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I ran into Mike and Joe from Venetia Fair and talked about how things are going for them.

Mike:  My name is Mike; I play bass in the Venetia Fair.

Joe:  I’m Joe Brown; I play keys in the Venetia Fair.

Ang:  So how’s the tour treating you guys so far?

Mike:  Tough and awesome and hot and dirty.

Joe:  Definitely been dirty.  I’ve been wearing the same shirt for 32 days today.

Ang:  Is it lucky perhaps?

Joe:  No, more so that I have refused to acknowledge my body telling me that it needs to be washed and I’m ignoring any health signs more of a personal thing I have with myself.

Ang:  So tell me, what makes your music so different and great?

Mike:  A lot of people say our music has a burlesque kind of theme or a rag-timey feel.  The music is very intense, but it’s also very catchy.

Joe:  It’s definitely heavy and theatrical; cabaret-esque piano and waltzy parts that reminds you of a circus.

Ang:  Where do you draw your influences from?

Joe:  That’s an interesting question because none of us listen to the same thing.  I know when we used to do interviews we would always take people who would compose scores from movies and stuff.

Mike:  Like scores from Tim Burton films.  Any weird stuff that grabs people’s attention.

Ang:  Where are you from and how long have you been together as a band?

Joe:  Boston

Mike:  The band existed for about four years.  We started touring two years ago and this is our first year playing Warped.  It’s also the first time we’ve been on a tour that we’re playing everyday like a festival.

Ang:  What can we expect to see from your live show?

Joe:  Here’s what I tell people when they haven’t heard us: “I guarantee you our live show is the wildest set you’ve ever seen and we go crazier than any band.  If I’m wrong and you can honestly tell me that there’s a band that goes crazier, then I’ll just stand there and you can punch me in the head as many times as you want.  We pride ourselves on our live shows.

Ang:  How does that crazy energy translate into the crowd?  How do they respond?

Mike:  Our fans are awesome.  They’re the wildest people in the world, and we make sure they’re all wild too.

Ang:  Would you describe your music as high energy and up tempo?

Mike and Joe:  Yes!

Ang:  What type of message are you trying to convey to your listeners?

Joe:  Nothing matters.  Life is a toilet, deal with it.  Don’t be a baby, don’t let anything bother you.

Ang:  What is your definition of a poser?

Joe:  A lot of bands think that they want to be that band, so they’re posers.  I don’t think that’s true.  I think they just want to play music.  A poser would be someone who’s pretending to be someone that they’re not.

Mike:  I haven’t heard that term in a while.  I think it changed to hipsters.

Joe:  Poser used to have like a negative connotation to music in general.  You could just call someone a poser and they’d be like ‘fuck.’  I feel like now it’s actually turned into the word it’s supposed to be.

Ang:  What do we have to look forward to from Venetia Fair?

Joe:  We’ve got a couple of things we just put out.  A new EP, it’s called The Pits and we got it on iTunes, Amazon and on our Facebook.  We just put out a music video for “A Man Like Me.”  It’s on YouTube and all over the internet.

Mike:  We’re also putting out a whole bunch of tour dates soon.

 

Larry and his Flask Interview August 13, 2011

By Angela Blasi

I had a few minutes to catch up with Ian Cook and Jesse Marshall of Larry and his Flask Vans Warped Tour in Oceanport, NJ.  Check out their new album All That We Know that just came out on Tuesday 8/9/11.

Ang:  How was your performance today and the turnout?

Ian:  It was cool, we’re kind of one of those bands; we’ll start out with a small gathering of people and by the end, people walk by and they’re like “what?”  They see this guy jumping around with this huge standup bass, and there are banjos and mandolins, so they stop and want to watch.

Jesse:  Today a lot of parents came up to us and said “Thank you so much, I hate all the music on this tour, I’m in pain being here.”

Ang:  How long have you guys been together?

Ian:  It’s kind of a weird story.  We’ve been together for seven years and started out as just a straight up electric punk rock band and it kind of evolved.  In the last three and a half years, we’ve been playing more traditional instruments, more like a full gear sound.

Ang:  How’s New Jersey been treatin’ ya?

Jesse:  The Saint in Asbury Park was awesome and we played The Wellmont Theatre in Montclair with Dropkick Murphys; it was really great.

Ang:  Are there any bands your fond of touring with?  Any bands here you’ve hit it off with?

Ian:  Foxy Shazam.  They’re off the tour now and left at the Montreal date.  They were amazing.  We made really great friends with them, nicest guys.

Jesse:  We bonded immediately.  Our van broke down in Michigan and they let us ride in their tour bus, they’re great guys. Also, the Aggrolites are awesome.  We’re definitely going to be playing with them in the future.  We’ll be touring with Lionize in the fall.

Ang:  For someone who’s not familiar with your music/stage show, what is something the new-comers can expect?

Ian:  I would just say come prepared to have a party.

Jesse:  It’s an explosion of energy.

Ian:  We just try to play at every show like it’s the last one we’re going to play; give it everything and see if we get anything back.  If we get twenty percent back from what we’re giving out, then we’re happy.

Ang:  As far as your music and song writing goes, is that something done collectively as a band?

Ian:  It’s different from time to time.  Most often one person will bring the song to the table and it’ll change drastically once we get it into the practice space and start hashing out things.

Jesse:  There are also things we’ve written completely collectively, the lyrics and the music, but a lot of times one person will write the lyrics, bare-bone skeleton of the song and then we’ll all go in and add.  Maybe a horn pop would be cool here.

Ian:  Kind of throw it around.

Ang:  Do you guys have a method in getting together and writing, or do you find that your influences have any sort of bearing when you get together and write?

Ian:  Yeah, definitely.  Me personally, I write a lot of songs by myself just with my acoustic guitar and definitely my influences have an effect.

Ang:  Same for you Jesse, is there a particular kind of music that brings out a flare to the music?

Jesse:  I don’t know, punk rock and gypsy music; a lot jazz.

Ian:  We listen to a lot of music.  We’re huge fans of music in general from metal to hip-hop to jazz.

Ang:  Are you on for the entire duration of the Warped Tour?

Jesse:  The tour ends in Portland, which is like two hours from my house.

Ang:  Aren’t you guys from Oregon?  That worked out well.

Jesse:  Yeah.  Everybody else is like ‘I have to drive back to New Jersey.’  Luckily, we go home, do a couple of shows and a couple of festivals.  We do a festival in Seattle called Soundfest, a couple of home-town shows, then we go to play Riot Fest in Philly and Chicago and FEST 10 in Florida.  Finally, we do a full US/Canada tour, go home for a little bit, then we go to Hawaii

Ang:  Sounds like you’re always touring, how are you physically enduring all the traveling?

Ian:  It’s how we all grew up.  We started touring while still in high school and we got used to it more and more.  The first time we went out, we were out for two weeks and played like four shows.  Then it got bigger and bigger and we got used to living on the road.

Jesse:  Luckily we’re all younger, our twenties and stuff.  None of us have any kids.

Ian:  None of us have any ties at home other than girlfriends.  We kind of built our lives around the band.

Ang:  What’s your favorite area to play?

Ian:  I like Florida a lot.

Jesse:  I really like Colorado and it’s always fun to go to the city- New York or San Francisco.

Ang:  It seems like you guys have been everywhere.

Jesse:  Yeah, we’ve played in 44 states.  We haven’t done North Dakota, Alabama, Hawaii or Alaska.  We are playing Hawaii and Alaska coming up soon.

Ang:  Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Ian:  We just released a brand new album.  It’s called All That We Know.  It’s available digitally now on Amazon and iTunes and released in stores on 8/9/11.

Ang:  Finally, what is your definition of a poser?

Ian:  Somebody that’s lost in any sort of false idea of what should be true.  Somebody who should be following their heart and they’re not.

Jesse:  Kind of just pretentious, trying too hard to fit in I suppose.

 

REPUBLIC OF LETTERS: The Band that Broke this Camel’s Back May 1, 2011

By Orin Louis

Ohhhh dammit.  After Wiki-ing “indie rock,” I can say that, from this genre, I enjoy and regularly listen to Elliott Smith, Interpol, Arcade Fire, and MGMT – but have only heard pieces of others, including The Killers, Modest Mouse, and The Get Up Kids.  Yes, I am one pathetic loser, because these bands are huge.  They sell out shows to tens of thousands of screaming little bastards; they are crucial links in our musical zeitgeist – indelible landmarks on our cultural landscape…blah blah…I know, and am hesitant to reveal this ignorance to you.  But I suck at lying.

So why is my opinion here worth a turd?  I’m rational, skeptical, and most importantly: fucking hard to please musically.  There’s a solid reason I’ve avoided this style so long – it’s often sappily two-dimensional.  I can’t ever tolerate country music because my dog hasn’t screwed my wife in the old Chevy pickup on the farm; likewise, I simply don’t relate to most indie.  It just doesn’t speak to me.  I was raised on classical, classic rock and a tinge of electronic.  Truth be told, I rarely enjoy music with any words at all, especially anything current.  High quality instrumentals plus meaningful prose is as common as hetero unicorns.  Lo, WTF – suddenly, my car’s been blasting an indie rock album on repeat for weeks?!  Republic of Letters’ new EP, Painted Hour, packs the emotion of Arcade Fire, the wisdom of E. Smith and the punchy pulse of MGMT.  The resulting sound floats past those less desirable, but all too familiar, indie rock traits, while staying true to the genre.  Artists of any medium who consciously work toward stretching a cluttered style in new directions – and are successful at it – are the only ones worth experiencing.  ROL’s music addresses common themes – love, hope, loss, desire, frustration, but from new angles.  Profound lyrics over meaty, hungry instrumentals take me somewhere else, somewhere I want to be.

In my favorite track, “Running From,” a reverby piano accompanies lead singer Chris Venti’s mellifluous voice so perfectly.  Picture “November Rain” vs anything Radiohead.  “Running From” never loses energy as it effortlessly builds and breaks, hitting me deep in the gut.  Lyrics like, “Cause the writing on the walls today / yeah I don’t know just what they say / was stolen from a haunted past,” do not entirely make sense to me, but jeez, I don’t want to understand immediately.  Robert Frost said: “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”  I say the most valuable art is not that which is immediately accessible, but that which reveals clear intention, while leaving room for discovery.  Every track on Painted Hour has this effect.  The music is intelligent; it holds back the right amount to keep me engaged yet, with each play, I hear something new.

I meet the band at The Red Fox Room in North Park, CA.  I’d expected lanky, drugged-out assholes; yet, to my relief, they are sharp-witted and genuinely personable (but still lanky).  They’re also snappy dressers.  I ask them to start at the beginning.  Guitarist Adrian tells of when he was a kid, watching his parents’ band: “She dressed up in cheetah print…they played so loudly, I’d go up the stairs and try to play along with them on keyboard.  But I really wanted to be a drummer, and began by playing bells.”  I asked if that was a helpful experience.  “Hell no!” He retorts.  “Carrying around a bell kit, you’re a target.  I got beat up a couple times.  But I used the bells on the last record for one tiny part.  Nick gave me shit, but it worked, ya know?  Now I practice guitar usually around eight hours each day.”  An aspiring, yet busy, guitarist myself, I can’t help but envy the guy – perks of being a professional.

Bassist Martin began on the recorder “‘Hot Cross Buns,’ dude,” he tells me (now regretfully).  “I played trumpet, then got good at baritone horn.  Even got to play in a Charger halftime show.  One day, my dad told me, ‘Get good at bass and you can be in any band you want.’  I started going to shows, even if I didn’t know which bands were playing.  I spent all my money on CDs.”  I ask if playing for a pro football stadium was difficult.  “It’s much scarier playing for friends intimately.  That’s the nice thing about touring—you can be whatever you want in front of people you don’t know.”  I imagine meeting ROL in a few years to see if they’re still pretending, or if they will have become these alter egos.
 The Venti brothers’ (singer and drummer) mother is a classically trained pianist and vocalist.  Nick recalls, “Music was always around.  We were always in a creative environment.”  I ask about how/when he knew he wanted to be a musician.  He tells me of a night in his teen years, at a Bad Religion show: “Riding the mosh pit, I got thrown into that space between the stage and the crowd.  Security was walking me out when they became distracted by two punks climbing the rafters.  Everyone rushed over there and I had a moment to decide…I jumped up on stage while they were playing.  My friends were like, what the fuuuu?!  Was just one of those moments.”  He reminisces on ROL’s early days: “We were a piece for a year, until Adrian came in to raise up the musicianship, and we finally found that sound. All our music now is about creating a mood. If we all like that mood, we’ll continue with it.”

I ask Chris from where he gets his lyrics. He explains: “I go through notebooks of crap to pick out a few winners. I’ll build a song after that. I’m always trying different writing methods to grow, like maybe starting with the idea in a chorus and then going to verses. Although, I’m not totally bound to that because there are songs I love that I have no idea what the words are about, but they’re my favorite songs.” I ask why. “Probably because you can attach your own meaning, and then start to build a story around it. You connect the dots in your own way. The interaction between music and listeners…I always thought that was cool.” His brother adds: “For our sound, the song is the most important part of the song, if that makes sense. The music around it should be tasteful and interesting, but if you were to strip down one of our songs and play it on the acoustic, that’d be the most important thing.”  ROL is not an acoustic band; they play electric guitars, basses, and keyboards.  I am still digesting this idea, that the song is the most important part of the song.  Something profound here.

Nick tells me, “It’s not real methodical.  We all look at it like, how can we write a better song?”  I ask, “What’s a better song?”  “Cliché, but one that pulls on the heart-strings.  It’s a never-ending process.  If you feel it…the song will create an emotion in you.  It’ll make sense.  I mean we don’t wanna make people cry, but hopefully the song connects and make sense.  There are rules, but it’s cool to break ’em if you can do it.”  Chris adds, “It’s enjoyable when things click with four people.  You don’t have control of the other people but, from nowhere, you all tap into something and it just starts to work.  You might have heard that from other artists.”  Adrian interjects, passionately: “What was burning behind all of it was this feeling, this energy, this basic drive from the beginning.  We didn’t know how to write a song…we just kept putting one foot in front of the next and here we are.”

I ask their thoughts on the San Diego music scene.  Nick says: “It’s great.  Small, everybody knows each other, real supportive.  SD’s missing real industry though—labels to help bands move from here to there.  LA has all that, but it’s not real inviting.  You come to LA to play, just to do your thing.  SD’s more communal…supportive radio and people.  In the 90’s there were a few labels here…but there’s just not a lot of good deals anywhere out there anymore.  People who that think the music industry is dying are wrong.  It just needs to evolve.  It’s in that middle period.  I know groups who’ve signed to labels and it works for them…but the label takes a cut of everything…which is fine if they’re making you a lot of money, but often it’s not like that.  A band now gets momentum on its own.”  I ask him, “Advice for those trying to break into it?”  “Don’t quit,” he says.  “Every band that started when we started is not around anymore, at least on the local level.”  I can’t help but marvel at their determination.  Although, it doesn’t hurt that they rip and, should they ever forget, they will be quickly reminded by their massive local following.  They invite me to a rehearsal.

The following week, we meet at their studio, a room in a building made specifically for bands.  Walking down the hallway, I hear and see musicians all over, smoking and jamming out.  To my surprise, Republic of Letters sounds exactly the same or better than they do recorded.  I try hard not to lip-sync, though by now I know most of the words.  I enjoy a private show for myself and two photographers.  I don’t intend to stay long, since I’ve other assignments beckoning, but I end up staying the couple of hours through their entire set.  Each musician is focused, professional and deliberate.  It is clear in their expressions and through their playing.  I leave feeling extra special, having experienced this young band, no doubt soon to be a household name.  Imagine seeing the Stones before they were the Stones.  Yeah.  Feels like that.

Sigh.  Guess I’m into indie rock now.  Not ready for the tight jeans yet (I’m not lanky), but I am eager to check out some of the band’s other musical recommendations, including Louis XIV and Transfer.  At the bar earlier this week, Nick described Republic of Letters’ songs as “new kids, which we get to see grow and grow.”  Pick up their new album ASAP, catch them live and witness their talent and notoriety grow and grow.  Hendrix said: “Music doesn’t lie.  If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”  This band has something to say and the skill with which to say it.  If their music doesn’t change this world, at worst, it is guaranteed to alter the entire indie rock genre forever.

 

A Word with Alan Wilder October 31, 2010

Filed under: Interviews — NVMP @ 8:15 PM

NVMP: Back in February of this year, you appeared as a special guest with Depeche Mode, performing a song with Martin Gore at Royal Albert Hall.  Now, Martin Gore is guest DJing at a Recoil after-party.  How did this come about?  Has it opened up the possibility of a renewed professional relationship?

Alan Wilder: Martin and I enjoyed a good chat on the Albert Hall day, and he was in impressive shape having been on the wagon for about 3-4 years.  He seemed like a completely different person – much more confident and outgoing.  I liked the new Martin, so I just e-mailed him and asked if he would be interested in doing a spot, since he lives in that part of the world and I heard that he enjoys DJ-ing occasionally.  It doesn’t imply any further work together, it’s just something fun for everyone attending hopefully.

 

A Word with Alan Wilder October 28, 2010

Filed under: Interviews — NVMP @ 11:00 AM
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NVMP: Why do you think that record companies still refuse to dig deep within their own musical rosters to push any artist making music that is viewed as “experimental” or “difficult”?

Alan Wilder:  I’m sure in an ideal world, any record companies would like to see all of their artists sell plenty of product.  The reality is that some are always going to shift more units than others.  There can be any number of factors, including luck, which determines how popular an act is.  The trend these days with the companies (even more than in the past) is to ‘chase the ball’ and follow-up on whatever bites.  It’s become a more rare thing to see an unknown act taken by the scruff of the neck, and to have money thrown around in an effort to break it big.  Mute in particular are not that kind of record company, and we rarely see that kind of rash and often misguided approach.  But it does still happen.  Take ‘Hurts’ for example.  I’ve no idea how an act like ‘Hurts’, who seem to have come from nowhere, are suddenly splattered across my TV and radio, being marketed everywhere from sports adverts through to national newspapers.  That can only mean they are the pet of some A&R guy with a lot of power – or, somebody in power has made an executive decision to take a gamble, throw as much shit as possible at the wall, in the hope that some of it sticks.

11/1 – Recoil ft. Alan Wilder at Highline Ballroom, NYC!

 

A Word with Alan Wilder October 27, 2010

Filed under: Interviews — NVMP @ 8:41 AM
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NVMP:  What does your iPod playlist feature?

Alan Wilder:  I have always enjoyed many areas of music, from different eras – mainly older stuff.  A few old and current faves would be: U.N.K.L.E., Radiohead, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Elbow, Massive Attack, Morrissey, The Who, Goldfrapp.  Latest purchases include Gill Scott Heron, John Foxx, ‘Odelay’ by Beck (the remixes), Architect, Boards of Canada, Johnny Cash, Howlin‘ Wolf, Grinderman.  I also listen to a lot of film soundtracks.